Why Aren’t More Gluten-Free Products Nut-Free?

I’m not a marketing guru, or even a product development guru. I did a pretty mediocre job in AP Economics in high school (though, in my defense, my class was before 8am, I had zero friends in it, and the teacher used to say “thousand” like “thousthand” which was distracting. And he only spoke in terms of the supply and demand of apples, which always got me thinking about other foods, other possibilities, and why he couldn’t be more creative).

The point is, I don’t know very much about targeting a consumer base, but I do know this:

It makes no sense for the only gluten-free oat flour and gluten-free oats available in LA to contain traces of tree nuts.

The backstory:

I’m invited to attend a Shabbat dinner at a friend’s house. Said friend asks if I can bring dessert. I say sure, because I make killer pumpkin oat muffins. Turns out another friend, with a wheat allergy and celiac is attending the meal as well.

“Great,” I think. “She can never eat dessert, but since oats don’t have gluten, and I only bake with oats, I can give her a treat. How wonderful for us all.” (Sometimes, I think like an old woman who might think she’s in a terrible rendition of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”)

So I ask my gluten-free friend which oats to buy, because I know some oats contain traces of gluten (would it kill them to put it on the package though? #complaintsforanother time #thisisn’ttwitterwhyamipretendingitis?

She tells me Bob’s Red Mill is the only brand, and maybe something “Valley” but that’s harder to find. Bob’s it is!

So I go to Whole Foods, where said flour and oats presumable are stocked, and I can’t find any that say Gluten Free. Awkward. But I pick up the regular Bob’s and it’s manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts and soy. I get it. Because they make like almond flour or whatever. But it seems silly that they can’t take more precautions to ensure lack of cross-contamination, like a different floor in the facility or a neighboring one, or something. Anyway, I look for gluten-free oats – just rolled oats – thinking I can adapt my baking to use no flour, or just make flour from my oats in my food processor (I have gotten creative, crazy, and ballsy). But every single gluten-free rolled oats was connected to tree nuts in some way. And every non-gluten free oat? Not connected to tree nuts.

Notice the allergen information.

You’d think a company that fills such a niche need would a) want to make sure they cover the entire niche, ie gluten free people with nut or soy allergies or sensitivities and b) want to cover multiple niches to expand their market base (ie tap into the people who need nut-free flour and the people who need gluten-free flour.

But alas. We don’t live in that world, yet. So even though I can only bake with oats, I still can’t bake for someone who can’t have gluten, because my oats are glutenous. That is beyond lame.

It also begs a question I’ve been thinking for a while — can’t all products with nuts just be manufactured in a facility that processes nuts, and all products that don’t have nuts be manufactured elsewhere? Like a nut factory that all the food companies share so that the nut-free population can eat foods that don’t have nuts themselves and no longer have traces of nuts? There are just so many random products that may contain nuts or are processed with nuts (salsa, for instance, WHY?), and it seems silly. I wonder how much nut isolation would increase sales, compared with the costs associated with a nut factory.

I’m half kidding.

Any donors?

(ps I love Bob’s Red Mill, as they introduced me to teff and anasazi beans, two of my favorite new foods. So no hard feelings, Bob.)

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