The market for gluten-free foods and beverages in the United States continues to grow even faster than anticipated, standing now at $4.2 billion. That is an expansion of 30 percent in the past year, and it is carrying over to a food that is a staple in the U.P.
Irontown Pasties in Negaunee created a gluten-friendly option last March.
"The U.P. is known for pasties, so I'm a pasty maker, and that's a different world that I've tapped into," said store owner and chef John Cizek.
It took Cizek six weeks to perfect his gluten-friendly crust recipe. Gluten-free flour lacks the molecules that makes regular dough stick together.
"This crust is not easy to work with, it's probably the hardest thing I'll ever deal with because it rips easy," he said.
Cizek carefully schedules time in his kitchen to make his four types of gluten-friendly pasties because regular flour can float in the air for up to a day.
"We watch out for cross-contamination as well, we're constantly changing gloves, we have a different spatula," he said.
The insides of the pasty are the same. The gluten-friendly pasties have a more tan appearance.
The idea for the new product came to Cizek as he watched his sister deal with Celiac Disease. Some days, Irontown sells only three or four gluten-friendly pasties, but other days, they sell dozens.
Gluten-free products are becoming increasingly popular at Super One Foods in Marquette Township, and the store is responding to the demand by integrating the products into existing aisles. They even carry gluten-free beer, according store manager Robert Delongchamp.
"It's a rice beer, they have that," said Delongchamp. "And then there's flours, a different flour they make. Pretty much all the categories are starting to be covered now with gluten-free."
Twenty-five million Americans must have gluten-free items per the prescription of their doctor, and another 13 million Americans will choose a gluten-free item, if offered, to support their choice of lifestyle.
Expanding to the gluten-free world is good for business and customers, said Cizek.
"I've had a few people tell me that it's been ten years since they've had a pasty, it's been this long since they've had a pasty...they thank me," he said.