A gluten-free for all drives product sales

Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:36pm EDT
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By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles voice actor Nancy Truman landed a new role as a full-time gluten-free baker after she tweaked her recipes to replace the wheat that was making her feel miserable.

Truman is among the estimated 18 million people in the United States who are sensitive to gluten -- a hard-to-digest protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Another 3 million-plus Americans are thought to have celiac disease, a potentially life-threatening autoimmune disorder that is treated by eliminating dietary gluten.

In business, as in acting, good timing proved crucial for Truman.

Sales of gluten-free products have been booming despite the weak U.S. economy. Health advocates and gluten-free celebrities such as 2011 U.S. Open champion Novak Djokovic, Chelsea Clinton and TV host Elisabeth Hasselbeck have helped drive demand by raising awareness about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Truman also had the good luck of being a friend and neighbor to Waylynn Lucas, one of Los Angeles' most celebrated pastry chefs, who is a fan of her gluten-free goodies.

The two now are partners in (fonuts), a new coffee shop that sells baked, not fried, doughnuts. Gluten-free options account for half of sales at (fonuts).

Lucas said customers are either avoiding gluten themselves or "have a friend, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a cousin, a father, a mother, a whatever, who is gluten intolerant."   Continued...

<p>Co-owner Nancy Truman prepares a box of donuts for a customer at Fonuts bakery, which offers unfried, gluten-free and vegan donuts, in Los Angeles, California September 19, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>