Americans who want to be gluten-free now will have another option: Dunkin’ Donuts announced Wednesday it will begin offering gluten-free doughnuts and muffins in all its U.S. locations this year.
“At Dunkin’ Donuts, we recognize the importance of providing our guests with many options, including alternative choices for people with food and dietary restrictions,’’ said Michelle King, director of global public relations in an email.
The Canton-based company tested the new products in a handful of locations around Boston and Miami, generating buzz on social media. They are currently available in Hartford.
The gluten-free diet is the latest craze in the food industry. According to a 2012 report from Packaged Facts, gluten-free sales in the U.S. are expected to reach more than $6.6 billion by 2017. Another recent study from research firm The NPD Group, Inc. found about one third of American adults say they want to cut down on or eliminate gluten from their diets to improve digestion. Meanwhile, about 1 percent of the population has been diagnosed with celiac disease, which causes gluten intolerance, but others have allergies to the protein without having the disease.
The protein is commonly found in rye, wheat, barley, and similar grains — popular ingredients in baked goods. Grain-free, however, doesn’t mean fewer calories. Dunkin’s wheat-free cinnamon sugar doughnut clocks in at 320 calories, compared to 260 calories in a regular glazed doughnut. The gluten-free blueberry muffin is 400 calories — 60 calories less than the standard version. The company said the pastries will be packaged separately to avoid cross-contamination.
Other major chains that have capitalized on the trend include Domino’s Pizza, which offers gluten-free crusts and Burger King, which serves gluten-free French fries. But gluten-free isn’t always a hit. Starbucks Coffee Company discontinued its gluten-free coffee cake after just three months due to concerns about taste and quality, according to a spokeswoman.
Craig Sherman, who was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, said gluten-free products often fail to mimic the texture and flavor of wheat-based items.
“I look back fondly on the Dunkin’ Donuts chocolate-glazed doughnuts and the bavarian kreme doughnuts, those were my two favorite,’’ said Sherman. “One thing I look for […] is does it taste like something I remember?’’