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Dunkin' Donuts adds gluten-free doughnut; this is a good thing?

June 20, 2013|By Mary MacVean
  • Dunkin' Donuts plans to introduce a gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut and a gluten-free blueberry muffin by the end of the year.
Dunkin' Donuts plans to introduce a gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut… (APF / Getty Images )

Is the impending gluten-free doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts the holy grail? Or, to take this opportunity to use another cliché, just the tip of the fast-food iceberg?

Many people who don’t eat gluten are practically dancing in the streets at the news that, by the end of the year, Dunkin’ Donuts will start selling a gluten-free cinnamon sugar doughnut.

Can there be any question now of the power of the gluten-free market? Can a gluten-free Big Mac be far behind?

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"At Dunkin' Donuts, we recognize the importance of providing our guests with many options, including alternative choices for people with food and dietary restrictions,” Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands, said in a statement.

“We understand that sensitivities to food ingredients such as gluten are a serious concern for certain guests, so we plan to introduce a gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut and a gluten-free blueberry muffin that will be available as an option at participating Dunkin' Donuts restaurants by the end of 2013."

The new pastries are in a few stores in Hartford, Conn., a spokeswoman said.

“It’s the age-old problem," Jan Phillips told the Los Angeles Times. Phillips,  mother to a young woman with celiac disease, is co-founder of the website Gluten Freedom Project, which provides information and resources.

Just one bite of an ordinary doughnut could make a person with celiac disease sick for a week. For many such people, it may have been decades since they have felt comfortable in a Dunkin’ Donuts -- or any doughnut shop or bakery, for that matter.

For people worried about cross-contamination, the Massachusetts company said its gluten-free items will be made and packaged separately. So much for that guy who fries doughnuts all night?

About one in 135 people are thought to have celiac disease. But many many more people avoid gluten -- some for less severe intolerances, some because they believe it’s more healthful to do so. (Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye.)

“It’s great for celiac people to feel that they can go into a shop with everyone else and buy something," Phillips said. “But on the other hand, someone with celiac disease does need to eat healthfully.”

Gluten eater or not, of course, not too many people would recommend a daily doughnut habit.

And Dunkin’ recognizes that. In her statement, King said that “to help our guests eat better and keep running smartly," Dunkin’ Donuts sold “better-for-you options,” with fewer than 300 calories, such as egg white sandwiches and wraps.

“I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but someone in a disease state needs to eat healthfully,” said Phillips, who lives in Durango, Colo., with no Dunkin’ Donuts near her. The chain is not in L.A., either, although there are plans for shops in a couple of years.

But she understands the idea of feeling included. "It’s definitely that feeling of not being the victim,” she said.

Carol Blymire, a writer in Washington, D.C., who cannot eat gluten but has a wry sense of humor, said:  “Enjoy your obesity, America!”

“For those who choose to go gluten-free, I'm sure having this choice will make them feel virtuous," Blymire said in an interview with the L.A. Times, "even though gluten is what make doughnuts taste so dang good and they'll likely be disappointed by the taste.

“People with celiac have strong memories for what doughnuts taste like, and I'm guessing these won't live up to the memory.”

The towel has been thrown down, Dunkin’.


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