And today in news that will likely have many folks with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities jumping for proverbial joy, we have this: Dunkin’ Donuts finally has a gluten-free bakery item on the menu. However, it’s, uh, not a doughnut. The arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts’ gluten-free Fudge Brownie marks the first time ever that a gluten-free item has appeared on the Massachusetts-based chain’s menu nationwide — but while a brownie might seem like an odd choice of item to bear that distinction for a shop that specializes in a totally different baked good, it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.
The Fudge Brownie is part of the brand-new Dunkin’ Run menu, which is essentially the Dunkin’ equivalent of a dollar menu. The offerings are limited to just five options right now, but all of them are priced at $2 and available all day. They include Ham & Cheese Roll-Ups, Pretzel Bites & Mustard, Waffle Breaded Chicken Tender (which, yes, are chicken tenders coated in waffle batter), the previously limited-edition Donut Fries, and the aforementioned Fudge Brownie. Dunkin’ describes the brownie in a press release as “an indulgent and chocolaty gluten-free fudge brownie individually wrapped for guests.”
“We know that the ‘Dunkin’ Run’ is a daily part of many of our guests’ lives as they keep themselves and their friends running, so we’re excited to launch a new menu offering fresh ways to satisfy any craving any time of day,” said Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Tony Weisman in a press release. Additionally, he directly addressed the gluten-free brownie, stating, “We also recognize the importance of providing alternative choices for people with dietary restrictions or who choose a gluten-free diet, which is why we’re pleased our new menu offers guests a gluten-free Fudge Brownie, which is so chewy and delicious we think everyone will love it.”
According to the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center, about 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease. That may not sound like a lot on its own, but when you consider what that figure actually means, the significance of it becomes clear: The U.S. population currently sits at about 328 million people, which means that a whopping 3 million Americans are affected by celiac disease. Meanwhile, according to research conducted by Dr. Alessio Fasano of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, non-celiac gluten sensitivities could affect even more people — around 6 or 7 percent of the U.S. population, or around 20 million people. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the number of people eating gluten-free diets has been going up; according to Forbes, the figure tripled between 2009 and 2017.
Not everyone is convinced that gluten intolerance is actually a common-enough issue to account for the rise in low- or gluten-free diets seen over the past few years; indeed, one study published in 2015 found that 86 percent of people who said they experienced gluten-related symptoms did not have celiac disease, wheat allergies, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity — or, as U.S. News and World Report put it, that “86 percent of individuals who believed they were gluten sensitive could tolerate it.”
But there’s a lot we don’t know about gluten sensitivities, too, so there could be as-yet-unidentified ailments at play here; much more research is still required to unravel the questions of who responds to gluten poorly, how, and why. Besides, I would argue that being able to “tolerate” gluten isn’t the same thing as “being totally unaffected by gluten” — so if some folks avoid eating gluten not because they suffer severely when they do it, but because they simply feel vaguely ill afterward, that’s totally their call. Let’s, y’know, not police what other people choose to eat or not eat when it’s none of our beeswax.
So, hey, at least there’s finally an option for people who don’t eat gluten, but love Dunkin’, right? It’s just a start, though. The big question for Dunkin’ is this: When are gluten-free doughnuts coming to the menu? True, there are probably a lot more hurdles to leap to make gluten-free doughnuts available than there are for options that are easily individually-packaged, like brownies… but still. Gluten-free people like doughnuts, too.
In the meantime, though, you can check out the full Dunkin’ Run menu here.