The Profit Potential of Free-From Foods

Published on: 04/15/2018 in Menu Claims

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While consumers continue to educate themselves on the foods they eat, operators are looking for new ways to meet expectations for menu transparency. Non-GMO, antibiotic free, sugar free and dairy free are just a few of the claims that have become more widely accepted, and in some cases consumers are willing to pay more for them.1

In recent years, consumers have taken a greater stand on GMOs as they continue to be a hot topic in the business and politics of food. Meanwhile, the demand for gluten-free options has been spreading throughout the foodservice industry.  Here’s what you need to know to leverage the free-from movement.


There’s no doubt about it—the subject of GMOs matters to many Americans. With growing concerns around the impact of genetically modified foods, many consumers have decided to go GMO free. This has led many restaurant operators to rethink their menus and how they source ingredients. Offering non-GMO menu items could also lead to greater sales—Mintel reports that three in 10 consumers say they would pay more for non- GMO dishes.1 In fact, retail sales of food labeled “non-GMO” grew more than $8 billion between 2012 and mid-2016, reaching $21.1 billion.2

Many restaurants have already taken a stand, demonstrating their commitment to serving non-GMO ingredients. TownHall in Cleveland has revamped its menu to accommodate customers seeking organic, non- GMO items. Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill showcases its commitment to high-quality ingredients by sourcing natural ingredients like local organic salad greens, non-GMO organic corn and Non-GMO Project verified & U.S.-grown organic tofu.

It’s important to remember that organic and non-GMO do not mean the same thing. USDA organic regulations prohibit any genetically modified (GMO) ingredients in a certified organic product. However, a food marked with the “Non-GMO Project” label only verifies that a product doesn’t contain genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. It does not provide insights into what the food contains, how it was produced or where it came from. Therefore, you cannot assume it’s organic.


Did you know that 20 million Americans see gluten-free diets as healthier, and 13 million have cut gluten from their diets to lose weight?3 It’s not surprising that the demand for gluten-free food products is predicted to double over the next three years in the restaurant industry.4 Statista said its data indicated that by 2020, gluten-free and so-called "free-from" foods will total $23.9 billion in retail food sales in this country.4 David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts in Rockville, Md., said “Much like veganism and flexitarianism or going low-carb or dairy-free, avoiding gluten has become a true lifestyle choice for many Americans.”5

The demand for gluten-free foods has swept across the foodservice industry, impacting both commercial and noncommercial segments. For example, last April, Kent State and Cornell University launched the first certified gluten-free dining halls in the U.S., catering not only to students with celiac disease or similar disorders, but also to those who have simply chosen to live gluten-free lifestyles.1 Many restaurants, especially where customization is available, are increasing their gluten-free offerings. Depending on the menu, operators use a few different methods to indicate what does and doesn’t contain gluten on their menus. For instance, Lyfe Kitchen serves an array of the menu items featuring a GF symbol while sweetgreen identifies each menu item containing gluten with an asterisk.3

Antibiotic Free

In recent years, growing concerns around the exposure to unnecessary antibiotics has led many consumers to seek alternatives to conventional meat products. Motivated by personal health, animal welfare, and quality concerns, today’s consumers are increasingly demanding chicken, turkey, pork and beef with no antibiotics ever. More than 70% of consumers specifically say that antibiotic-free meat is healthier7 . In fact, between 33% and 42% would pay more for antibiotic-free foods7 and 32% claim antibiotic-free foods taste better.8 Look for suppliers who offer antibiotic-free proteins raised on a 100% vegetarian diet with no animal by-products. This can further elevate your customer’s protein offerings and reinforce that they are dedicated to serving better-for- you ingredients.

Ingredient Sourcing

While the demand for free-from foods is growing, it doesn’t need to be a pain point. Address diner concerns slowly by integrating various non-GMO and gluten-free products onto menus as LTO’s and then watch how they do. If they become popular items, then it can be assumed that clean ingredients are important to your customers. Just remember, when it comes to menu integration, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Perdue Foodservice understands the importance of serving healthy, transparent ingredients to meet your customers’ needs, which is why you can feel confident turning to Perdue to meet your protein needs. With PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® USDA Certified Organic fresh and frozen chicken, your customers can easily add non-GMO* and organic to their menu offerings. Gluten-free options like PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® Gluten- Free Breaded Chicken Breast Chunks or Gluten-Free Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders make it easy to satisfy diners who have adopted a gluten-free lifestyle. Operators who menu PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® all-natural Turkey can feel good knowing they are serving high-quality turkey products that contain no artificial ingredients, are minimally processed, contain NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, and are raised on a 100% vegetarian diet with no animal by-products.

*USDA organic regulations do not permit the use of GMOs.

1 Bingle, Stacy, Jumping on the “Bannedwagon:” Free-From Goes Mainstream, Mintel, May 17, 2017,
2 Hofbauer, Randy, “Non-GMO Demand Soars Despite Lack of Consumer Understanding,” Progressive Grocer, Aug. 18, 2016,
3 Adams, Kerri, How Fast Casual is Catering to Gluten-Free Diners, Foodable Network, Jan. 5, 2016,
4 Whitehead, S.A., “Why Gluten-Free isn’t a dying trend,” Fast Casual, Jan. 13, 2017,
5 Berry, Donna, “Special Report: Gluten-free enters the mainstream,” Food Business News, Jul. 17, 2017,
6 National Resources Defense Council, Meat Raised Without the Routine Use of Antibiotics Is Going Mainstream, June 17, 2016,
7 Technomic, Consumers want food additives subtracted from menus, finds Technomic’s Consumer4Sight, Jun. 24, 2015,
8 Technomic, “Consumer & Restaurant Menu Trends: The Clean Label Influence,” March 2017,