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National Restaurant Association - Organic, natural, gluten-free foods draw interest at 2013 Show

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Organic, natural, gluten-free foods draw interest at 2013 Show

Conference attendees visited the Organic and Natural Foods Pavilion at 2013 NRA Show looking for products to help satisfy customers’ growing preferences for such foods.

Exhibitors displayed gluten-free and dairy free foods and desserts, naturally raised meats, and specialty teas, all of which have seen increased popularity in recent years. According to the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2013” Chef Survey, locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, gluten-free cuisine and other health and nutrition-based menu items remain among the top trends in restaurants this year.

Operators visiting the pavilion confirmed that they are receiving more requests for organic, natural and locally grown fare. Nicholas Zabel, owner of Dexter’s Pub in Madison, Wis., said customers are more willing to pay the higher price for locally grown foods than they were a few years ago.

“All of our fish is wild caught,” he said. “The menu has evolved. We couldn’t have put the fish on the menu two years ago. Now, people love it.”

Exhibitor Erica Hoffman of Foodservice Express, a supplier of specialty diet items, said she’s seeing more interest from restaurants in gluten-free pasta, pizza crusts and desserts.

“It’s much more prevalent,” Hoffman said. “Three or four years ago, we weren’t selling much gluten-free to restaurants. Now they’re learning more about it and trying to add more to their menus.”

Angelo Khoshaba, owner and general manager of Cravinc Hospitality in Vancouver, Canada, was at the pavilion looking for a supplier of gluten-free bread. Currently, his restaurant bakes its own because it hasn’t been able to find a supplier.

“These are the kind of products people are searching for,” Khoshaba said. “For people who are lactose-intolerant or gluten intolerant, there aren’t many options.”

Daiya, a supplier of dairy-free, gluten free pizza and dairy-free cheeses, used samples of gluten-free, dairy-free pizza to attract visitors to its booth. Darren Turik, Daiya’s North America business development manager for food service, said menu offerings aimed at meeting specialty dietary needs are a factor when customers choose where to eat. “It’s certainly a growing area,” Turik said “It has hit every facet of foodservice—restaurants, hotels, caterers. Even sports bars now serve veggie burgers.”

Aleta Williams, owner of Loquacious Catering in Chicago, said many of her clients request all organic orders or orders to meet specialized diets. As the availability and quality of such products has improved, she is able to prepare more orders entirely with gluten-free, dairy-free or organic foods as opposed to preparing separate orders for those with dietary restrictions. “I have a lot of gluten-free clients,” she said. “Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan have grown a lot.”

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