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We’re proud that in 2004, Green’s launched both the first gluten free beer and the first made from ancient grains available in Europe. It’s a part of our history that Green’s began as our founder Derek was told that, as a Coeliac, he couldn’t drink beer again. This wasn’t acceptable to him, so he found a brewery to collaborate in making something new, exciting and importantly, gluten free.
A lot has changed since then and awareness of dietary requirements and intolerances – Coeliac disease included – has improved. Diagnoses of problems is quicker and more accurate thanks to an increase in awareness, which has in turn raised questions about the amount of gluten in our diet. Modern grains have been bred to be hardier and more abundant, increasing the gluten content and making them cheaper. This has led to gluten being effectively used as a food additive in everything from curry to ketchup.
The concern over the amount of gluten we consume goes further than Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, people are now taking steps to reduce gluten in their diets. Gluten in known to have inflammatory effects, so gluten free products have shifted from the fringes to the mainstream and almost every supermarket has a ‘free from’ section. The movement to reduce gluten is very popular and people without Coeliac disease notice an improvement when they take steps to reduce their intake. To support this, food and drink makers are tailoring recipes and there’s been an explosion of ‘gluten free’ products – but is this actually just causing confusion?
In particular, the number of gluten free beers in the UK and Europe has jumped in the last few years, aided by an awareness that gluten can cause digestive problems. Green’s make ten beers, split between naturally gluten free and gluten removed so drinkers can make an informed choice. Those with Coeliac disease can choose beer that has never contained gluten, while those looking to reduce their intake have an additional option for a beer that’s been treated to remove and reduce the gluten content.
Not all ‘gluten removed’ products are as easily identifiable, however. Everybody from micro-brewers to big name mega-breweries are putting gluten-removed beers onto the market, labelled as gluten free and it can take a bit of research to understand what you’re drinking. While for most people, de-glutenized products are perfectly fine and serve the same purpose as gluten free, the 1% of the UK population with Coeliac disease are still sensitive to even minuscule traces of gluten proteins and the risk of making them sick is very real. The sudden popularity of gluten reduced, removed or treated products can leave Coeliacs with a difficult proposition, confused as to which products will be safe and which won’t.
While it’s great that diet problems like Coeliac disease are at the front of people’s minds, it’s worth remembering that ‘gluten free’ isn’t a fashion choice, it’s one made of necessity. While some companies may see gluten free products as a way to ‘get a piece of the action’, there’s a risk that big name companies could flood the market with products that aren’t suitable for Coeliacs, squeezing out smaller, genuinely gluten free food and drink makers. There’s definitely a place for both gluten free and gluten removed products and a market for each, but Green’s will always remember that we began as a solution to a Coeliac’s problem and we will always brew beers that are suitable for all beer lovers, Coeliac or not.