CHANDLER, Ariz. — As part of a strengthened effort to help those with celiac disease, Bashas' participated in a gluten-free expo for the first time.
The retailer had a table at the Greater Phoenix Gluten-Free Expo on May 22 at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel. Sponsored by the Celiac Disease Foundation's Greater Phoenix chapter, the expo showcased 75 companies and restaurants that offer gluten-free items.
More than 650 people attended the event. The admission price was $5.
“The event was a success and we had some great feedback,” said Bashas' registered dietitian Barbara Ruhs.
The Bashas' table included samples and coupons for such products as Riviana Foods' Minute Rice; Crunchmaster baked rice crackers from TH Foods; and cookies from Pamela's Products.
Other companies that had a table at the event included Bob's Red Mill, Hain Celestial Group, Happy Baby, Ian's Natural Foods and Nana's Cookies.
Two nutrition students from Arizona State University manned the Bashas' table. The students have knowledge about Bashas' because they interned for Ruhs. One even helped the retailer create two gluten-free directories: one listing all Food Club-brand private labels, and the other highlighting branded selections.
The students spoke with attendees and took down their contact information. Ruhs followed up by emailing a gluten-free weight-loss meal plan; recipe suggestions; and Bashas' gluten-free product directories. The email provided contact information for Ruhs and encouraged shoppers to contact her with any comments or suggestions.
Bashas' participation in the expo is one of many ways the retailer is catering to those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten. Gluten can be found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye.
Ruhs emphasizes to shoppers that even items labeled as “wheat-free” may contain gluten. She encourages them to look for ingredients on the food label that may contain wheat. These include stabilizers, emulsifiers and starch.
Among other ways it educates customers about living a gluten-free life, Bashas' devoted the May issue of its “Health Styles” newsletter to celiac awareness. The newsletter even included a recipe for gluten free taco dip. Ruhs also ran a gluten-free promotion in October.
The goal of such efforts is to spread the news that those who follow a gluten-free diet can do their shopping at Bashas'.
“People don't realize that there are a lot of options and affordable choices in traditional grocery stores,” she said.
Bashas' has been catering to those living a gluten-free life in other ways. This past Thanksgiving, Ruhs emailed a gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner guide to customers who previously had made inquiries about gluten-free items. The guide included recipes for each course of a Thanksgiving dinner, from appetizers to pumpkin pie.