Going gluten-free: Even Betty Crocker wants to help

After two workers at Betty Crocker discovered that they needed to switch to a gluten-free diet, the popular baked goods manufacturer started a long and tricky quest to produce gluten-free desserts, on the reasoning that no one should ever have to go without a birthday cake.

The Wall Street Journal
(subscription required) credits the rise of gluten-free products to an increase in the diagnosis of celiac disease, as well as more families limiting their intake of gluten for general health reasons. Others say gluten is the new cholesterol, and it's becoming trendy in some circles to avoid it.

While Betty Crocker is finding it easy to market the gluten-free foods to customers, creating a gluten-free dessert that was actually tasty proved to be quite the challenge. "From September to December, General Mills (which owns the Betty Crocker brand) food scientists baked more than 1,000 pans of brownies, cookies and cakes while conducting about 75 experiments with different formulations." Rising above the limitations it faced, Betty Crocker now offers four gluten-free desserts mixes; Brownies, Cookies, devil's food cake and yellow cake manufactured in a gluten-free facility.

The mixes which began showing up on store shelves in June will average $2 more than those which contain gluten, due to the higher cost of gluten-free ingredients. To find a store near you that carries the new mixes you can visit the gluten-free product finder at Betty Crocker's Gluten free page, which also has plenty of recipes to jump-start your gluten-free baking.

While Betty Crocker is making it easier to find gluten-free foods and rolling out new products like gluten-free frosting later this fall; shopping for a gluten-free diet remains a challenge thanks to complicated labels. After listening to users who wanted an easy way to find gluten free groceries, Zeer.com is launching Zeer Select, a new service that helps shoppers find more than 30,000 gluten free products in a matter of minutes. The new service costs $14.95 and is available Tuesday July 7.

Zeer's product database is immense and the gluten-free results are served up in the same user friendly interface that drew me to Zeer in the past. The product database outperforms Google search results for gluten-free foods because its gluten-free ratings are determined by a board of experts with a cumulative 40 years of experience. These experts examine ingredient lists instead of relying only on manufacturer's claims.

Products are labeled as gluten free, appears to be gluten free, may contain gluten and contains gluten, making it simple to find new foods to enjoy. Each week 500 products are added to or upgraded in the service and you can request an update for any item that hasn't been revisited in the recent past. Another cool feature, especially for those new to gluten-free dining, is the ability to get suggestions of substitute products to replace old favorites.

While I haven't had to deal with the challenges of a gluten free diet my cousin suffers from celiac disease and cannot consume gluten, which meant that when he visited my grandparents, shopping was a challenge. Now with Zeer Select his mom can email my grandparents a shopping list of gluten free meals and products that they can find on supermarket shelves almost anywhere. Not only does this save time, but it takes the guesswork out of cooking safe meals for someone they love.

There are many food blogs dedicated to gluten-free cooking as well. Gluten-free Girl is a popular place to start.

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