This week, I trudged up and down each and every aisle of the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and tried an overwhelming number of food and drink samples, all in the name of finding the tastiest, weirdest, and newest products out on store shelves.
Besides subjecting my taste buds to way too many different things, I also noticed an interesting trend in packaging that I hadn't seen much before. Can you guess what it is?
Instead of things being labeled gluten-free (which, according to FDA labeling rules, must have a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million), I saw lots of packages with "grain-free" labels. Or packages that had both — gluten- and grain-free. There were tons of grain-free granolas and snack products, such as OHi Superfood Bars, Wildway Granola, and Bubba's Snack Mixes. Not entirely sure what grain-free meant, I did a little digging to gain a better understanding of what it is and how it it's different than gluten free, and here's what I found.
What does it mean if something is grain-free?
Gluten-free products don't have grains like wheat or barley that naturally contain gluten, but grain-free products go one step further and don't have any grains at all, including gluten-free grains like rice and oats. This increase in grain-free labeling seems to fall in line with the popular Paleo and Whole30 diets, both of which omit grains entirely. The grain-free snack products I saw usually contained dried fruits, nuts, and seeds instead.
So what does this mean to you when you're in the store? On the one hand, those eating Paleo and Whole30 will probably have an easier time finding compliant foods, but it may be confusing to those who are shopping for more traditional snacks or things like oat-based granolas. As always, read ingredient lists carefully before purchasing so that there are no surprises when you actually open up the package and start eating!
Have you started seeing this label on groceries yet?