I was in Vancouver yesterday demonstrating Nonuttin’ products for the various chefs, caterers and suppliers who will be very busy during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and Paralympics next February and March. Few of these professionals will actually be feeding the athletes at the games as the majority will be taking care of the vast business surrounding the games: sponsors, corporate guests, media, governments, visitors, etc.
Talking to the executive chefs at many of the top hotels in Vancouver, I saw that there is a keen understanding of special dietary needs for all meals of the day although we were focusing on Nonuttin’ products as an option for breakfast and snacks. Some smaller caterers that I talked to though, felt that the the requests that they got for various food allergies and gluten intolerances were too overwhelming. Add in the concerns about cross contamination and they’ve thrown up their hands in despair. Instead, they’d prefer to indicate to their patrons that nothing they produce for different catering events are safe for any of those with Celiac or food allergies.
I do think that things will change. Take vegetarian meals for instance. At one point, no caterer would offer a vegetarian entree, but now we see (at least here on the West Coast) at least one vegetarian and perhaps even vegan options offered at every catered event.
Running a manufacturing company, I do understand that the controls required can be overwhelming but I don’t think that they are insurmountable. I’d rather see the fear taken out of the equation and some education to occur from our regional health inspectors so that caterers can see that offering at least some options for specialty diets is doable. And given the increase in food allergies, Celiac disease, cultural and religious dietary needs, any caterer who doesn’t keep up may find themselves with few clients left to serve.