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Menu Items, Food Package Labeling Add Variety

Domino’s has announced that it will be offering pizzas with gluten-free crusts, adding to the list of companies that are featuring these specialty products on their menu. The gluten-free-eating population is a $6.2 billion market and between six and eight percent of U.S. consumers are on a gluten-free diet.

Celiac.com is warning, however, that these pizzas are for people with celiac sensitivities, not for those with full-on celiac disease. That’s lame.

Companies like Frito-Lay and Anheusher-Busch, which has introduced gluten-free Michelob Ultra Light Cider, have also jumped on this culinary bandwagon. Chuck E. Cheese has added gluten-free pizza and chocolate cake to its menu.

Selling gluten-free products is just one way to add a special something to the menu these days.

Burger King announced a couple of weeks ago that it would become the first national chain to only use eggs and pork cultivated from cage-free animals. The company aims to reach that goal by 2017. It’s a move supported by the Humane Society of the U.S. Chipotle, McDonald’s, and other food companies have also pledged to purchase goods from farms where animal welfare is taken into account.

With more consumers taking a closer look at what they eat at home and in restaurants, companies are going to greater lengths to provide variety, which will not just satisfy the taste buds, but sustainability, CSR, or philanthropic concerns. McDonald’s has taken the CSR stuff out of the equation with its plan to increase the number of “limited-time offers” that it features. The Cherry Berry Chiller (above left) is one such offer.

But you can’t just slap a label on the menu or dietary guidelines grid and think that’ll work.

One word that’s gotten a bad name is “artisanal.” Gawker went off on Tostitos for its “artisanal” tortilla chips a couple of months ago. And more recently, Lewis Black went off on Dunkin’ Donuts for its “artisan bagels” and Domino’s for advertising its “artisan pizzas.” One company, Davidovitch Bagels, has gone so far as to file a complaint against Dunkin’ over the use of the word. (Tostitos was sued for its use of the words “all natural” on Sun Chips and Tostitos.)

Even an insinuation can cause problems. We’re told that Michael Jordan downed some Gatorade when he was sick in one of that brand’s ads and went on to win a basketball game. The framing of the story, according to an FTC complaint, seems to be selling the drink as a cure for the flu.

And certainly none of these things address the obesity epidemic that rages on in this country. Only today, the Institute of Medicine proposed that the deep-rooted nature of obesity requires systemic change, which could even mean imposing a soda tax. Of course, the Center for Consumer Freedom, which gets its money from restaurants and other members of the food industry, hate this report.

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