Corporate Catering Trend Alert: Pasta is Going Gluten-Free

Posted by on Thursday, April 17th, 2014 with Comments Off on Corporate Catering Trend Alert: Pasta is Going Gluten-Free Comments

If you attend (or plan) a lot of business lunches or all-day conferences, chances are good you’re an accidental expert on catering trends. Pomegranates. Acai berries. Korean fusion tacos. Fancy cupcakes. Cake pops. Bacon in/around/baked into everything. And now, you might be encountering a new corporate catering trend at business meetings or during your menu planning: wheat-free pastas.

catering table at office event

Gluten-free dining – especially pastas – is a top catering trend this year.
Image source: Flickr user Alpha

Don’t tell your Italian grandmother, but it’s true. Thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of gluten-free diets, pastas made without wheat are becoming downright ubiquitous on restaurant and catering menus. While some people must avoid gluten (a protein found in certain grains, including wheat, rye, and barley) due to celiac disease, most estimates show that celiac suffers are less than 1% of the population. Many more claim that going gluten-free helps alleviate digestive problems; still others are giving up gluten as part of a weight-loss plan. While nutrition and health experts are divided regarding whether gluten-free diets are actually useful for those without celiac disease, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. Americans want to buy and eat gluten-free foods, and are literally paying billions of dollars to do so.

It only makes sense that corporate catering would make an effort to, well, cater to this demand. And while there are plenty of opportunities, given that pastas are a catered-lunch staple, it explains the new prevalence of wheat-free varieties showing up in conference rooms across the country. Whether you help plan and organize office meals or just eat them, here’s a basic rundown on what exactly you’ll be encountering when it comes to gluten-free pastas:

quinoa pasta salad in bowl

Quinoa pasta is a nutrient-packed alternative.
Image source: Flickr user Jackie Newgent

Talk about a one-two punch when it comes to trends: one of the most popular varieties of wheat-free pastas are being made from quinoa, an ancient grain that’s recently been experiencing a resurgence in its own right. Quinoa flour can be used in all kinds of pasta, from spaghetti to elbows to fusilli. While the texture is noticeably different from traditional pasta, quinoa pastas do have the advantage when it comes to nutrition: they offer substantial servings of protein and iron.

brown rice pasta mac & cheese

This mac & cheese is made from brown rice pasta.
Image source: Flickr user Sarah R

Brown rice pasta might sound weird, but it’s supposedly more forgiving during the cooking process than other gluten-free pastas. The downside? Many taste-testers affirm that both the texture and the flavor of brown rice pastas can be off-putting.

corn pasta wrapped around fork

Corn-based pastas have a comparable texture to traditional wheat pastas.
Image source: Flickr user Whitney

The same taste-testers who didn’t particularly enjoy brown rice pastas found corn pastas to be a much preferable alternative. One of the most frequently used gluten-free pastas, corn-based noodles almost seem like a no-brainer: after all, corn is in practically everything these days!

uncooked buckwheat noodles

Buckwheat noodles, or soba, have been used in Japanese dishes for centuries.
Image source: Flickr user Anna

Noodles have been made with gluten-free ingredients like buckwheat (which, counterintuitively, contains no wheat) for centuries — but only in Asia, not Italy. Buckwheat noodles, often called soba, are earthier than traditional pastas, but also contain a hearty dose of fiber. Buckwheat noodles are particularly well-suited for cold pasta dishes, but can be served warm as well.

So should you consider gluten-free pasta a passing trend or a healthy alternative to the traditional, gluten-filled varieties? In the end, if you’re planning a corporate catering order for your office, that question isn’t as important as whether your colleagues or employees want it provided. Honoring dietary preferences is key to ensuring every employee feels included and valued during office meals… and happily, unlike bacon or cupcakes or bacon-wrapped cupcakes, you can serve up quinoa pasta or buckwheat noodles without compromising on employee wellness!

When it’s time to arrange for corporate catering or just a laid-back office lunch, you’ll find all kinds of options available at — from gluten-free food delivery to mainstays like Chinese takeout or pizzas!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

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