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Domino’s to Let You Go Gluten-Free

The Exchange

Domino's Pizza (DPZ) is joining the ever-growing gluten-free movement, saying it will start offering pizzas with glutenless crusts in most of its U.S. stores.

The crust, Domino's said in a press release, is "appropriate for those with mild gluten sensitivity," but it's not recommended for people who have celiac disease. Domino's consulted with National Foundation for Celiac Awareness on the new recipe, which will be available on the small, 10-inch pizzas and cost about $3 more, USA Today reports. The pizza chain has almost 5,000 stores in the U.S.

The NFCA says that one out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease, or about 3 million in all. Another 18 million have a less serious "sensitivity" to gluten, the organization says. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease is a condition in which the immune system responds to gluten intake by damaging the small intestine. In turn, that can inhibit the absorption of various nutrients.

Gluten avoiders should be aware that the crust will be prepared in the same kitchen as the regular, gluten-containing crusts, so some risk of gluten exposure will remain, the company said. Even so, the NFCA said it was happy to have Domino's on board.

"The NFCA is thrilled that Domino's Pizza has developed a product that will improve the quality of life for many of the estimated 18 million Americans who are gluten sensitive," said Alice Bast, the group's founder and president. "Not only is Domino's Gluten Free Crust a huge win for much of the gluten free community who can now get pizza delivered to their door, it's also delicious. Customers aren't going to believe they're eating a pizza made on a gluten free crust when they try it. And the variety of fresh toppings that are available is a giant leap ahead."

The amount of gluten out there in pizza crusts is potentially significant. Domino's says it delivered some 400 million pizzas last year. In the U.S., about 3 billion pies are sold every year, according to data from the National Association of Pizza Operators.

In addition to Domino's, several other chains have at least a few options for diners who want to avoid gluten, including Carrabba's Italian Grill, P.F. Chang's (PFCB) and Legal Sea Foods, and even at independent restaurants it's becoming more common to see menu sections detailing gluten-free meals.

Domino's, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., says it's the first national delivery chain to provide the choice of gluten-free crusts with its pizzas. Pizza Hut, part of Yum! Brands (YUM), is the largest pizza seller in the U.S., followed by Domino's. Papa John's (PZZA) is No. 3, according to PMQ Pizza Magazine. All told, the magazine says pizza in 2010 was a $35 billion business in the 50 states.

Would you eat a gluten-free pizza crust? Or do you think the gluten-free movement is bound to fade? Are fast-food chains doing the right thing by aiming to have healthier menu options? Weigh in below.