The gluten free diet: how many people need one, and why do we care?


I am not sure if thats the article @nwoll27 because i read it way way back, but it could be that i am misremembering and that was indeed the same article or derived from the same study atleast because i didnt find an article that explicitly states that 30% people are on a gluten free diet. In that case its my mistake to have said 30% are on a gluten free diet. I shouldnt have said it unless i was sure.

But i will stick to my original point people…it could be a good business opportunity to go gluten free by ‘bringing gluten levels little more lower in order to claim the gluten free label’. This could be a good ‘selling point’. Maybe not for the next version, but for soylent 2.0? It could make soylent consumable for more people like the person whose post was just above my original comment about this. And this will also help in soylent competing with other products like it.


I believe there is also a factor of location and your circle or “friends” being different that those of are gluten free crazies.


Actually, the circle is pretty inclusive, and I’ve spent the last year living in or near Manhattan, which has plenty of “gluten free” nonsense.

I know a fair number of people who limit their gluten intake because they fear it’s unhealthy, but none go so far as to make their diet gluten free. They’re probably the type to have responded positively in the survey cited in the article above, but none of them really eat gluten free.

I do know three people who truly go gluten free; I believe two of the three may well have celiac, while I think the last one just has an undiagnosed food allergy that’s being confused with NCGS. But I haven’t personally seen or eaten with any of them in years.


My Dad developed celiac after some lower back surgery (possibly due to some antibiotics or painkillers he was given??) but now his diet has been completely upended… A very small amount of gluten (volume equivalent of a few grains of rice in actual gluten/grains) can tear up his gut for months. I’ve seen the effects and can understand the desire for this small minority of people to avoid gluten 100%.


Going back to the question that is the title of the thread, I think perhaps quantity is not the only factor that we ought to be considering here. At my old job, we essentially had 2 kitchens separated by a wall to ensure that there was no contamination in our gluten free products. The reason given was not that a majority of the population had celiac, but that when a person with celiac found how careful we were to make their food safe for them, they often became loyal customers. And it wasn’t really just theoretical, the place pretty quickly acquired a lot of regulars, many of whom had celiac (or at least believed they did, which from a business perspective is functionally the same). With the main business model of soylent being customers who are routinely satisfied with their product and eat it regularly, specifically those who find the conventional diets available difficult to manage in one way or another, shouldn’t people with rather debilitating allergies be way up there on the list of target customers?


First, GregH, I’m sorry about your dad. Suddenly imposed dietary requirement is a terrible burden especially as the only way to perfect the requirements is from experimentation which is a painful way to live.

Gluten free was an initial goal of the Soylent project. There is a thread where they discuss their attempt:

That was where things stood last April. A quote from the first post:

Unfortunately, initial gluten testing indicated a gluten content around 20 ppm, the upper limit for gluten-free certification. Given these trace amounts of gluten, Soylent 1.0 is not certified gluten-free. We are sourcing a gluten-free oat flour to resolve this issue.

That was how things stood then. They were almost at a state where they were functionally gluten-free from the point of view of the market. I don’t know how the picture differs now because I haven’t been following the flour debate.

But my point is that there are many commercial products that are “gluten free” but would be intolerable to Greg’s dad because the definition of gluten-free is not strict medically. There is a further discussion from about then about how strict the definition has to be:

The tl:dr version is that Soylent is probably already gluten free enough for people who are severely restricting their gluten, but may not be adequate for Greg’s dad.




Celiacs are something like 1% of the population. Anyone else avoiding gluten is just delusional.

At the same time, last I checked, 28% of the Soylent customers were dissatisfied with the taste or texture.

Which would you concentrate on?


If (hypothetically) RL had to pursue only one of these routes, it makes economical sense to go gluten-free.

The sum of new global customers attracted to a gluten-free is hugely larger than the number of customers lost via 28% of customers dissatisfied by tase or texture. It is a matter of casting a much larger net. Better to market to 72% of 100 million customers than 85% of 70 million customers.

[Under the scenario presented, even though celiacs are only 1% of the population, gluten-free would appeal to another 29%, or 30% total of the population that would rule Soylent out because it contained gluten. Hence 100 million vs 70 million (or any same ratio). And 85% taste an arbritary number representing the increase if RL improved taste and texture, because RL will never approach 100% taste-and-texture satisfaction. I think 85% is the ceiling, but you could substitute any number you think realistic; the overall math remains the same.]

I realize this was a hugely hypothetical (and rhetorical) scenario presented, as RL never has to focus on just a single aspect of Soylent or marketing. And I believe RL when they say they will only go with science, not pseudo-science such as GMO-free or gluten-free. But under the hypothetical presented, the numbers support gluten-free. Again, the sum total of a smaller percentage of fish from a large net is greater than the larger percentage of fish from the smaller net.

(I’m so lonely… )


I’m not saying they shouldn’t go gluten free, they should cater to the widest audience… I’m just saying the vast majority that want gluten free are doing it for no reason and I bet most of them eat pasta or pizza.

Anyway, the new agers and hippies driving the food chain is a problem. It’s a problem for the vast majority of us. Just like accupuncture or TCM.

GMO is much more sustainable than “organic”. I put that in quotes because organic doesn’t mean what most people think it means.

RL should meet the needs of the most people it can. But it shouldn’t cowtow to the whims of idiots who are worried about trends. Gluten is not a bad thing for 99% of the people. Neither is meat. Although, I strive to become vegetarian, not for health reasons, but for ethical reasons. However, I find it difficult.

Enough rambling from me. :slight_smile:


lol… Watch a decent show like Breaking Bad on Netflix. That will break your addiction to this forum. I promise. :slight_smile:


What does going gluten free have to do with taste and texture?


It doesn’t. Read the discussion Ric and I were having. We were discussing what RL should be prioritizing.


While it is true that only 1% of us have Celiacs, its not quite accurate that gluten isn’t a problem for everyone else. I understand the gluten sensitivity studies done, however there are separate genetic studies being done on celiacs. "The DQ2 gene haplotype appears to be one of the biggest risk factors for celiac disease. 25% of Americans carry the riskiest DQ2.5 isoform that also associates with juvenile diabetes. " [1] [2]

As far as we understand celiacs currently, you need both a genetic predisposition and continued exposure to gluten to develop celiacs. Other than making wheat flour dough elastic, there isn’t any real health benefit to having gluten in your diet while there is certainly a risk for at least one quarter of the population. When you are designing food from the ground up it should contain, in my opinion, the fewest risks possible.

Also gluten adds absolutely nothing of value to soylent as it is generally used as a drink.


I only buy products with loads of gluten in them!!

I’m on an all gluten diet!


For the 99% of the population that doesn’t suffer any allergy to it, gluten does provide a benefit - it’s protein.

And there is no gluten in Soylent as an ingredient. They add no gluten, nor any ingredients that contain gluten. They simply use common oat flour sources which occasionally have a grain of wheat in the mix - either from the field or from the processing facility - so the flour ends up at just over 20 parts per million of gluten. As a result, they cannot be certified “gluten free.”

The extraordinarily low gluten content of Soylent cannot be argued to “expose” people to gluten nor to induce gluten sensitivity. It’s simply a hair above the level at which it can be certified “gluten free.”


I think your argument is wrong. Much more cost effective to focus on people who are already Soylent customers than to focus on people who are not customers, satisfy their special needs, THEN try to convince them to buy a lot of strange powdered food they may have never heard of.


If only someone knew a PhD doctor that could clear up all this confusion.


All of us (including you and me), were once people who had never heard of this strange powdered food, but are now customers.

Should they have stopped marketing to new customers after the release of v1.1, and only focussed on those already existing customers?

Just a matter of economics. Even disregarding the foreign market, does it make more sense to focus on the 8,000 Soylent customers (maybe 2,000 which were turned off by v1.4 compared to v1.3), or the 320,000,000 people who may have never heard of this strange powdered food.

Again, clearly RL is focussing on both, so this is a question of an “either/or” hypothetical.

Your definition of cost effective is shortsighted. Yes, more cost effective this month to focus on the relatively tiny customer base. A good example can be found in direct-mail fundraising. When you mail your house “existing donors,” your can expect a return rate of 4.4%, which pays for the mailing and nets you quite a profit. If you mail a "prospect list,"you can expect a return rate of approximately 1%. A near-term financial loss. But that 1% is now part of your house, and in the months and years to come, they net you large profits.

The way to growth is to mine the prospects, increase your base. :chart_with_upwards_trend:


I think you are ignoring the current unique situation. A pretty large segment of the current customer base professes to hate 1.4 and most of them professed to like 1.3.

This is like, there’s a riot in your school bus and you decide to pick up more passengers. First quell the riot, or eject the uruly mob, then get the new passengers.

You’d think that quelling the riot would be easy, since 1.3 is not some distant hypothesis. Ignoring the insurgency doesn’t usually work out well. Maybe there is an unbridgable gap between 1.3 and 1.4, but I hope not.

We know that word of mouth is a hugely important sales factor. To focus on the problem at hand does not mean to ignore new customers; I didn’t advocate turning off peripheral vision and just using tunnel vision. But a fairly happy customer base is important, especially for a new product.