Shelf Labeling of Gluten-Free Products

Katherine: I am a Stay at Home Mom. I have been married to my husband for 11 years and have a son who just turned 10. I have recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and have started cooking gluten-free meals for my family, which has been an enormous adventure and learning experience and I am eager to share all of my discoveries and tips with other families. Our family is also living with autism. My son has autism and seizure disorder, and we have been very involved with the use of applied behavioral analysis teaching at his wonderful school, and at home, since he was two.

- Katherine writes a weekly column about gluten-free information for MadameDeals.

I started looking at my grocery store quite differently after getting the diagnosis of Celiac disease about six months ago. Of course, as a new gluten-free consumer, there were two places in the grocery store that did not change much in terms of what I could eat: the produce department, and the meat department. But for the rest of the store —where were the gluten free products to be found? Many grocery stores put most of their gluten-free or specialty products together and then a few gluten-free products are distributed throughout the store as well. I believe that what I am seeing in the grocery stores I have visited recently is a move towards total integration of gluten-free products through the store, with shelf labels to make it easy to see where the gluten-free products are located as you walk down the aisle.

I was very excited when I initially discovered that several grocery stores in my area were shelf labeling the gluten-free products so that I could find them easily. This shelf labeling was helpful in order to not have to pick up and scour countless product packages for the gluten-free or GF markings. I am thankful that more and more brands are putting these gluten free statements on their products but these statements are usually not visible from the front of the product and can sometimes be difficult to find on the product. (Some products do put them prominently on the front of the package but many do not.) However, as I have become more familiar with gluten-free products I have discovered that even at the grocery stores that put a strong focus on shelf tagging gluten-free products, many gluten-free products go under the radar. I found it interesting that many of the more mainstream products that are gluten-free are the products that are not shelf labeled.

For fun today I decided to conduct a little informal research in a few grocery stores in my area. I chose four products that are mainstream items that you wouldn’t normally think of as gluten-free, and I decided to locate them in a few different grocery stores to see if they were identified as gluten-free. The products I chose were products I buy and like as follows:

  • Tostitos Stoneground White Corn Restaurant Style
  • Ore Ida Tater Tots
  • Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Yellow Rice
  • Bolthouse Farms Smoothies

There was no shelf labeling of gluten-free products at all in one of the stores I visited. The other three stores shelf tagged many gluten-free products. But in all the grocery stores I went to there were many products which were clearly marked gluten-free on the packaging but not shelf labeled. I should note that the markings on the packaging for three of the four items in my survey are on the side or back of the packaging and not visible without picking up the package. Zatarain’s has a gluten-free statement on the front of their products and you can see this statement from the aisle.

Here are the results of my fun mini survey :

For simplicity I have just used Yes and No.

No = No Shelf Label

Yes= Yes there was a Shelf Label.

Tostitos Ore Ida Zatarain’s Bolthouse Farms
Store 1 No No No Yes
Store 2 No Yes No No
Store 3 No No No Yes

You know, looking at the mainstream gluten-free products I chose for my survey, it occurs to me that these are products that lots of people like, whether they are eating gluten-free or not. It would help if these types of products were identified clearly as gluten-free!

While I was at the grocery stores I stopped the managers to ask about the gluten-free products they had in inventory, and where they were located in the store. I also asked what they thought customers wanted in terms of placement of gluten-free products. It was a mixed message. It sounded like they thought that many customers like to have a section of gluten-free products but that the reality is that there are so many new good gluten-free products, that anyone might want to buy, whether they are eating gluten-free or not, that segregating gluten-free products was not necessarily still the best option in terms of sales. I mean, who would go looking for Tostitos or Zatarain’s rice in the gluten-free specialty section?

I am curious what you think! (Do you think that gluten-free products should have their own special section or be integrated with all other products? How is your grocery store set-up? Are your gluten-free products labeled on the shelf? What things might be helpful to you as a gluten-free consumer in terms of your grocery store experience? ) So, I have put together a survey with Survey Monkey. There are only a handful of questions, but if I get a good response I will follow up this blog with a more detailed look at gluten-free product identification and shopping for gluten-free products. Perhaps we can have input into how grocery stores tailor our gluten-free experience! Or at least get all of the products properly identified in our stores! Please share this blog and survey with your friends and family and other blogs that involve gluten–free living. I will collect the results and post them in a couple weeks on Madame Deals.

Click here to take survey

If you have some specific ideas or experiences that you would like to share beyond the survey I would love to hear them. Or if you decide to conduct your own fun mini survey please write me to tell me about it! You can write to me directly at [email protected] Happy shopping!!

Check out more Health articles and our Ask a Nurse posts.

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