Aldi’s gluten free fail

10th August must have been a busy day at Aldi HQ.

First, a press release from their Consumer Press Office announcing their limited ‘Specialbuys’ gluten-free offer, available in stores from that date, including green pea and red lentil pastas and quinoa bars. There was the usual battery of statistics that tend to accompany these sorts of releases – there’s been a 44% increase in GF food sales in the last two years, etc – and lots about how expensive gluten free can be, and how much cheaper Aldi options were compared to its competitors.

No mention of coeliac disease.

Then, I was forwarded that day’s consumer newsletter from Aldi. “Try gluten free for a week” it urged, below the faces of the smiley triathletic wonders, the Brownlee Brothers, who we learned were “trying a gluten free diet to see if it helps them compete even better”. Later in the newsletter: “Many athletes choose a gluten free diet and it’s easier than you think with a few simple swaps.”

No mention of coeliac disease.

The newsletter directed consumers to the Going Gluten Free page on their site. There, we find lots of tired banalities – “gluten-free doesn’t have to mean fun free” – and vaguely troubling talk of gluten the ‘glue’ and of intestinal troubles and health issues, which “more and more people” are ditching gluten for, making it all appear quite popular and normal and inconsequential.

No mention of coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease doesn’t sell gluten-free food, does it? Not even discounted gluten-free food.

What did Aldi’s PRs have to say?

Aside from the lack of advice to readers to consult their doctors if they feel they have health problems, the casual encouragement to pursue a gluten-free diet is irresponsible. I wrote to their PRs to tell them so.

“Gluten free diets are generally lower in nutrition than non gluten free diets, and dietitians advise against experimentally trying a GFD. For people who may have undiagnosed coeliac disease (ie gluten intolerance), it is important gluten is retained in the diet prior to diagnosis.”

I asked for an interview. After some chasing, they replied almost two weeks later. I was told:

“The newsletter was intended to raise awareness of different dietary choices and needs, and let subscribers know about Aldi’s gluten free range. We acknowledge that the email could have been worded differently, and have passed your feedback on to the marketing team.”

Nothing of interest or value there, and I asked again to speak to a spokesperson about the misleading newsletter content. I had previously asked them whether a dietitian had been consulted before the ‘go GF’ encouragement had been issued.

“Aldi have asked us to respond on their behalf … They don’t have anything further to add to this.”

So no interview.

This is really crap. After a worryingly slow response to warnings about the absent allergen labelling on their Brasserie Gluten Free Beer earlier this year (recap: barley was not mentioned on the label, they were alerted to it at least as early as 7th May, yet the recall was not issued until 25th May), you’d have thought that Aldi would have sorted their free from game out.

They haven’t. Low prices can only get you so far. Pandering to fads won’t get you much further. Because when the next fad comes along and GF is done, the GF customers remaining will be those following the GFD for medical reasons. And if you then stop supplying them the nice buckwheat fusilli which they’ve got used to buying from you, they’re going to want to know why.

5 Comments

  1. Anna Jacobs

    I too contacted Aldi. I make a point of ‘informing’ people who should have known about the various intolerances, not just coeliac but non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, which has more allergens to fear.

    Reply
    1. Alex G (Post author)

      Did they respond at all?

      Reply
  2. Gavin Ayling

    I don’t agree. If you feel better on a gluten free diet, fad or not, there’s no advantage to getting diagnosed by a medical professional (since prescriptions stopped providing food). More here: https://gavinayling.blogspot.com/2017/08/gluten-free-food-or-coeliac-food.html

    Reply
    1. Alex G (Post author)

      Some advantages are: access to a dietitian, membership of Coeliac UK, security of a firm diagnosis, possible prescription food. A firm diagnosis is also empowering: it gives you motivation to find out about your condition in order to manage it well.

      Feeling better on a GFD could be down to a/ placebo effect, b/ FODMAPs (far more likely), c/ other wheat-related intolerance / allergy, d/ other dietary changes / improvements made as a consequence or yes, e/ undiagnosed coeliac. There are too many possibilities and variables and self-diagnosis is not reliable.

      AG

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Marks and Spencer | Allergy Insight

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close