Gluten-free options are expanding even into pizza and beer.
Starting January 26, 2,400 of Pizza Hut's 6,300 U.S. locations will begin offering 10-inch, gluten-free pizzas.
The cheese-only and pepperoni gluten-free varieties have 150 and 170 calories per slice, respectively.
The crusts are being supplied by leading gluten-free brand Udi's.
The Gluten Intolerance Group, a nonprofit verification organization, helped Pizza Hut establish in-store preparation procedures and training. The gluten-free crusts and other ingredients will be kept in separate, designated areas, and staff prepping the pizzas will wear gloves, bake on parchment paper and use a special pizza cutter. Still, Pizza Hut is advising customers to check with their doctors, since the restaurant environments as a whole aren't gluten-free.
For customers looking to reduce rather than completely avoid gluten, Pizza Hut will offer pizzas prepared on the gluten-free crust, topped with select ingredients.
Marketing for the gluten-free launch will include public relations, promotion on Pizza Hut's Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, and paid digital advertising, according to a brand spokesperson. No television advertising is planned at this time.
Pizza Hut will debut the gluten-free varieties at an A&E party following the 20th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards broadcast on Jan. 15.
Rival chain Domino's has been offering a gluten-free crust since 2012, but doesn't claim that the overall pizzas are gluten-free. Some packaged foods brands, including Pillsbury and Amy's, also offer gluten-free pizzas and/or crusts.
Meanwhile, MillerCoors has announced that it will begin offering a naturally gluten-free version (made with brown rice and pea protein instead of barley) of its Coors Peak Copper Lager, although only in Seattle and Portland, Ore.
In November, Mintel reported that U.S. sales of gluten-free foods surged 63% between 2012 and 2014, to reach $8.8 billion.
All gluten-free segments showed growth, with snacks logging the biggest increase: up 163%, to $2.8 billion, driven by a 456% jump in potato chips. The second-largest segment, meats and meat alternatives, grew 14%, to $1.6 billion. Sales of gluten-free bread and cereal products increased 43%, and are expected to reach $1.3 billion this year. Mintel notes that bread and cereal are "ripe for gluten-free growth," since just 1% of these products are currently gluten-free.
Although 44% of Americans think that gluten-free diets are a fad (up from 33% in 2013), 41% agree that such diets are beneficial for everyone, not just those with a gluten allergy, and 22% say that they're on a gluten-free diet (up from 15% in 2013).