Papa John's has put a lot of work into its gluten-free pizza. The chain's new "Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust" launched nationwide this week, and it took chief ingredient officer Sean Muldoon over two years to "perfect" the dough's recipe. “Eating a gluten-free crust doesn’t have to mean eating a bland, tasteless product,” said Muldoon in a press release. “Our Gluten-Free Crust took more than two years to develop and perfect because taste and texture were key factors in the dough development. The fact that our pilot customers told us they loved the taste proves that we made the right decisions.” Cool cool cool. The only problem? You shouldn’t eat it if you have a gluten sensitivity. Uh, what?!
Although the dough is gluten-free (it's made of quinoa, sorghum, teff, and amaranth), the chain "doesn't recommend" the pizza for those who have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant. In the release, the chain essentially stated that anything can happen:
“Operationally, Papa John’s employs procedures to prevent contact with gluten, and while the crust is prepared in a separate, gluten-free facility before being shipped to stores, it is possible that a pizza with gluten-free crust could be exposed to gluten during the in-store, pizza-making process. Therefore, the brand does not recommend its Gluten-Free Crust made with Ancient Grains for customers with Celiac Disease or serious gluten intolerances.”
Nikki Ostrower, a nutritional expert and owner of NAO Nutrition, told CNBC that it’s “very confusing” for Papa John’s to send such mixed messages. "Anytime a company advertises that a product is gluten-free then anyone who has celiac or gluten intolerance should be able to enjoy it,” she said. “It sounds like Papa John’s is trying to get in on the gluten-free craze in an inauthentic way."
As CNBC highlights, gluten-free food sales have grown over 175% between 2013 and 2016, so this isn’t a good look for Papa John’s.