Here's the press release I received about this exciting news:
Aramark's gluten-free food stand at Coors Field in Denver sells wheatless, barley-free food to people who suffer from Celiac disease.
Developing a menu of gluten-free items and finding a bakery that could make them taste comparable to traditional ballpark fare were challenges. “We went for the top three sellers in baseball, which are hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches,” said Aramark Regional Executive Chef Rik Kiessling. Aramark researched and taste-tested bakeries. “I’d have to say for the most part [gluten-free foods] aren’t very impressive,” said Kiessling, whose experience with gluten-free foods comes from having Celiac disease. However, Aramark eventually found Deby’s Bakery, a local Denver store that baked daily, and won the taste test hands-down.
In addition to hot dogs ($7), hamburgers ($9) and chicken sandwiches ($8.50), the stand also sells Boulder Canyon chips ($2), Deby's Gluten Free Bakery cookies ($3) and brownies ($3), and soda, water and gluten-free Redbridge beer ($6.25). The beer is made by Anheuser-Busch and contains sorghum.
Not only do gluten-free foods often differ in taste, but they are also more expensive. “There is a little bit more cost involved,” said Kiessling, “The gluten-free community understands that. They’ve been exposed to that for as long as they’ve known they had the disease.” A regular Rockie Dog in the park is $6, hamburgers are $6.75, grilled chicken is $5.75, a cookie is $1.50 and beer is the same price as the gluten-free Redbridge at $6.25.
Aramark did a soft roll out of the gluten-free cart for three games. During that time, the stand sold about half a dozen items per game. After a media blitz, the stand began selling over 100 items per game. "We have a lot of folks who haven't been to a game in years that are coming back because of it,” explained Kiessling. In order to gain feedback, Aramark is currently taking surveys, in hopes that next year the stand will have more offerings.
In addition to Coors Field, Aramark also catered a Celiac Awareness Night, now in its second year, hosted by the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The game sold out, and roughly 700 people bought tickets for a special section dedicated to Celiac awareness, including fans from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and The Greater Philadelphia Area Celiac Support Group. Tickets sold for this section were up 300 from last year's event.
While Citizens Bank Park offers some gluten-free items all season at Bull's BBQ, they had a dedicated gluten-free concessions area for that night. The special gluten-free items were not priced differently than general concessions. Some offerings included hot dogs ($3.75), hamburgers ($7), chicken fingers with dipping sauce ($8.25), gluten-free kids meals ($4), cookies ($4), chips ($2.50) and rice pudding ($2.50).
"We try to have something for everyone at the ballpark regardless of diet — it's such an important part of the ballpark experience," said David Lippman, director of concessions, Aramark at Citizens Bank Park. Lippman added that the new gluten-free chicken fingers were hugely popular at this year's event, and hot dogs are always popular.
The various efforts to offer gluten-free options for fans with Celiac disease are due to phone calls and emails through guest services at each of the venues. "I've been in contact with the NFCA folks since last year and they've been letting me know of the customer feedback, both positive and constructive," said Lippman. "As requests continue to increase, we’ll continue to evaluate how to better market and make gluten-free items available to accommodate more requests", Kiessling said. — Linda Domingo