FENTON (WJRT) -
(06/12/14) - Celiac disease affects about one percent of the population, but the gluten-free diet trend has grown significantly among American's without diagnosed gluten allergy.
While some with Celiac claim their disease is being treated like a fad, others see a bright side to the popularity.
We now spend $4.2 billion a year on gluten-free foods.
Trendy? You could say that.
"There's definitely been people who have jumped on the bandwagon because they want to lose weight or they think it's a fad," said Marjie Andrejciw, owner of Marjie's Gluten Free Pantry.
The gluten-free market has exploded. More and more products are stocking the shelves in grocery stores, and specialty markets like Marjie's Gluten Free Pantry in Fenton are seeing sales skyrocket.
"We increased by 100 percent that first year," Andrejciw said.
That was four years ago. Since then, the store has seen close to 30 percent growth in sales each year. Andrejciw opened the gluten free pantry to help people who, like herself, suffer very serious reactions to gluten.
But what was once a very niche market, is becoming more mainstream.
"I do feel it's a good thing because the quality of the food has also significantly improved because the food manufacturers are becoming aware that there is a lot more people reactive to it," Andrejciw said.
That allows Andrejciw to stock new products every week.
"We are always bringing new products into the store. Just this last week, we've brought five new products in," she said.
If only a small percentage of our population have been "officially" diagnosed with Celiac Disease, who is buying up all these gluten-free goods? A lot of people with gluten sensitivity or intolerance - and more and more who are just experimenting with a gluten-free diet.
"I've helped a lot of people feel better," Andrejciw said.
The allure of better health draws people to this store, the first of its kind in the state.
Whatever caused the gluten-free fad, it's the reason that Andrejciw, and many others, can once again eat pizza, and ice cream - and that certainly counts for something.