"At Dunkin' Donuts, we recognize the importance of providing our guests with many options, including alternative choices for people with food and dietary restrictions,” said Michelle King, spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands. “We understand that sensitivities to food ingredients such as gluten are a serious concern for certain guests.”
People with celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disorder, avoid gluten because it attacks the small intestine and inhibits the absorption of vital nutrients into the body. It affects 1 in 133 people in the United States, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.
However, gluten-free food has become increasingly popular with health enthusiasts because it’s believed to have fewer calories, according to Nielsen.
A lot of gluten-free eaters are cutting out gluten not because they have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten but for weight loss," said Julie Kennel, program director and dietician for the Education and Human Ecology and College of Nursing Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University.
"The diet seems to be the latest in a long line of well marketed dieting trends that eventually fade in popularity."
Because the diet cuts out foods like bagels, pasta and crackers the weight loss has more to do with eating less carbohydrates than cutting out gluten, Kennel said.
Dunkin' Donuts' gluten-free cinnamon-sugar donut will contain 320 calories and blueberry muffin will have 400 calories. In comparison the company's glaze donut has 260 calories and their regular blueberry muffin has 460 calories.]
While the Canton, Mass.-based chain isn’t available in Southern California, it has plans to open franchises in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties starting in 2015. Dunkin’ Donuts had a small presence in the state, but shuttered all of its California shops in the late 1990s.
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Dunkin’ Donuts customers like Debi Secunda were excited about the prospect of gluten-free options.
“I heard that you will be offering Gluten Free goodies? Is that really true? I sure hope so!” Secunda of Phoenix wrote on the company’s Facebook account.
But others were concerned about contamination.
“Will they be made safely to avoid cross contamination?” asked Mindy Stoltz of Grandview Heights, Ohio.
The company said the cinnamon-sugar doughnuts and blueberry muffins will be prepared in a dedicated facility and individually packaged to avoid contamination.
Dunkin’ Donuts is also dumping its foam coffee cups in favor of more eco-friendly paper cups made with recycled material. It’s expected to phase out the foam cups in the next two to three years.