Is Low FODMAP the New Gluten Free?

    October 31, 2018
    Annette Maggi

    By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

    Consumer insights data showcases heightened awareness of and interest in Low FODMAP foods. This interest has industry trend watchers suggesting that Low FODMAP may be the new gluten free.

    For a variety of reasons, this simply isn't true. The Low FODMAP diet is misnamed, as it isn't a "diet" that people follow for extensive periods of time. It's a screening tool, where all food sources of FODMAPs are eliminated from eating habits for several weeks. Then one grouping of FODMAP foods is reintroduced to see if it triggers symptoms of IBS or other digestive problems. This testing is done one FODMAP grouping at a time, with the end goal of individuals identifying the carbohydrate types and their food sources which trigger digestive distress. Only these groupings need be avoided by the individual moving forward; the non-trigger groupings can be reintroduced into eating habits.  

    Given the real intent of the Low FODMAP diet, there are a variety of ways in which retailers can leverage shopper interest in this trend, including:

    • Offer individual consults.  Given the complexity of the Low FODMAP diet, it's unlikely consumers can tackle it on their own, making the services of a RD essential for successful determination of the individual shopper's FODMAP triggers.  Significant ROI can come from this level of shopper engagement as the process will take several individual appointments, and a shopper who has received this level of support from a retail RD is likely to have high loyalty to the retailer.
    • Create consumer interest program. Start with blogs and articles that discuss the potential benefits of the Low FODMAP diet and how it's done.  Follow this with a store tour highlighting the various FODMAP groups, including discussion on how to move through the FODMAP screening process.  Offer group classes for those interested in learning more.  At each step, offer discounts to those who sign up for individual RD consults.
    • Secure pharmacy referrals.  It's likely that shoppers may address their digestive health concerns with the pharmacists in your stores, so partner with this department to develop a referral program to you and the services you offer.
    • Develop Merchandise Displays. At FNCE earlier this month, several new LOW FODMAP food brands had booths in the exhibit hall.  In the Health Market section of their stores, Hy-Vee has launched four-foot merchandising sets of brands and foods labeled as Low FODMAP.  Follow their lead, creating a convenience solution for your shopper seeking these food options.