Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, driven by both medical necessity and lifestyle choice. For those who need or choose to avoid gluten, finding tasty gluten-free baked goods can be a challenge. Major retailers like Walmart can be a convenient one-stop shop for gluten-free shoppers. But does the ubiquitous big-box store offer gluten-free bakery items?
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It acts as a glue that helps baked goods maintain their shape and texture. For most people, gluten is harmless. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms and health issues.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is eaten. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity refers to individuals who get sick from eating gluten, but do not have celiac disease. The only treatment for both conditions is adhering to a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
The growing demand for gluten-free foods
In the United States, it’s estimated that around 1% of the population has celiac disease. However, many more people are choosing to go gluten-free for perceived health benefits or because they feel better without gluten in their diet. This has led to a rapid expansion of the gluten-free food market.
According to Statista, the U.S. gluten-free food market was valued at $5.6 billion in 2020. That number is projected to grow to over $8 billion by 2027. As more consumers seek gluten-free options, restaurants, food manufacturers, and grocers are responding by increasing their gluten-free offerings.
What counts as gluten-free?
For a product to be considered gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Foods labeled “gluten-free” must comply with this standard. However, there can still be some risk of cross-contamination with gluten during processing and preparation, even when foods are certified gluten-free.
Those with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity need to be especially cautious about consuming products that are labeled gluten-free but have an increased chance of cross-contamination. This includes items from bulk bins and bakery cases that store gluten-containing products alongside gluten-free ones.
Gluten concerns with bakery items
Bakery items are one food category that tends to raise red flags for strict gluten avoidance. Breads, cookies, muffins, and other baked goods traditionally contain gluten. Wheat flour is a core ingredient in many classic baking recipes.
Even when a bakery item is prepared intentionally gluten-free, there is still a risk of cross-contamination occurring in facilities that also handle gluten-containing ingredients. Trace amounts can get incorporated through shared equipment, airborne flour dust, and other means.
For these reasons, bakeries have been slow to expand their gluten-free offerings compared to other categories like packaged snacks. Creating delicious gluten-free baked goods can require more specialized knowledge and strictly controlled procedures. Large-scale production heightens the difficulties.
Walmart’s gluten-free choices
Walmart provides extensive gluten-free choices across its packaged grocery aisles. But for the in-store bakery department, selection is much more limited. The availability and variety of gluten-free bakery items can differ between locations.
Based on reviews and customer reports, popular gluten-free picks from Walmart bakery sections include:
- Canyon Bakehouse breads – like white, wheat, and everything bagels
- Kinnikinnick donuts and muffins
- 1-2-3 Gluten Free pizzas, bagels, and snack foods
- Katz gluten-free baked goods – like chocolate chip cookies and brownies
However, these gluten-free brands are often shelved separately from regular bakery items. Cross-contamination risks from open display cases may still deter very sensitive shoppers.
Availability of gluten-free choices can be hit-or-miss. Some locations get frequent shipments of popular products like Canyon Bakehouse breads, while others rarely stock them. Higher demand typically increases reliable availability. So customers seeking gluten-free bakery items may need to check periodically or request special orders from store managers.
Walmart gluten-free bakery options by category
Gluten-free breads are one of the more common bakery items stocked at Walmart. Canyon Bakehouse, Kinnikinnick, Schar, and Udi’s are the major brands carried. Loaves, buns, bagels, English muffins, and tortillas are usually available on shelves or in the freezer section.
Walmart offers some gluten-free muffin options, including mixes that customers can bake at home. Kinnikinnick is the primary brand for pre-made muffins stocked in individual packages. Flavors may include blueberry, chocolate chip, banana walnut, lemon poppyseed, and more.
Gluten-free donuts are a huge treat for those avoiding gluten. Kinnikinnick is Walmart’s main supplier of packaged gluten-free donuts. Round cake and yeast-raised donuts are baked with rice flour and typically cost $5 or more for a 4-pack box.
Cakes and cupcakes
Full gluten-free cakes are rarely found in Walmart’s bakery section. But the stores sometimes carry individual-size gluten-free cupcakes, like versions made by Katz Gluten Free. Occasionally, larger special order sheet cakes may be available.
Gluten-free cookies from established brands like Katz, Kinnikinnick, and Enjoy Life are commonly stocked on Walmart shelves. Chocolate chip, sugar, and double chocolate are classic flavors shoppers can find packaged at many locations.
For customers craving gluten-free pizza, Walmart has ready-to-bake pizzas from brands like Against the Grain and Sonoma Flatbreads. At least one location also offers take-and-bake pizzas made in-house using Udi’s crusts.
|Gluten-Free Bakery Category
|Typical Brands Available
|Canyon Bakehouse, Kinnikinnick, Schar, Udi’s
|Cakes and Cupcakes
|Katz (cupcakes only)
|Katz, Kinnikinnick, Enjoy Life
|Against the Grain, Sonoma Flatbreads, Udi’s crusts
Are Walmart’s bakeries gluten-free friendly?
Walmart does carry some gluten-free baked goods, but selection is sporadic. Most locations do not have fully gluten-free bakeries. But based on customer experiences, some stores demonstrate better practices for safely offering gluten-free items:
- Dedicated preparation areas and equipment to reduce cross-contamination
- Regularly scheduled shipments of popular gluten-free brands
- Shelving gluten-free items separately from glutinous products
- Cleaning surfaces thoroughly before preparing gluten-free orders
- Staff training on gluten-free protocols and awareness
These measures help reassure sensitive shoppers that gluten cross-contact risks are minimized. However, Walmart does not guarantee a 100% gluten-free environment. Customers with celiac disease or wheat allergies should still exercise caution when selecting bakery items.
Other grocery stores with gluten-free bakeries
While Walmart’s selection is inconsistent, other grocery retailers have made more significant investments in gluten-free bakeries:
Whole Foods devotes gluten-free bakery cases in its stores. Shoppers can find a range of breads, desserts, and pizza crusts with detailed ingredient labels. Recipes are free of wheat, barley, rye, and cross-contamination risks.
Sprouts markets feature an entire gluten-free bakery section with clearly labeled treats. All items are prepared in a dedicated bakery with strict protocols to prevent cross-contact. Extensive product variety and availability makes shopping easy.
While Trader Joe’s doesn’t have in-store bakery departments, their packaged gluten-free bread and snacks have a loyal following. Affordable prices appeal to shoppers on a budget.
Publix received recognition from the Celiac Support Association for its gluten-free programs. Stores have designated areas for gluten-free foods. Bakeries prepare gluten-free goods daily using separate equipment and procedures.
Other tips for finding gluten-free baked goods
In addition to grocery chains with gluten-free bakeries, here are some other ideas for locating tasty gluten-free baked goods in your area:
- Search for dedicated gluten-free bakeries – some independent bakeries exclusively make gluten-free items
- Check farmer’s markets for gluten-free vendors
- Look for gluten-free offerings at local cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants
- Find gluten-free meal delivery services that provide fresh baked bread
- Order gluten-free baked goods online from specialty retailers
- Make customize requests at neighborhood bakeries willing to accommodate dietary needs
- Bake gluten-free items at home using purchased mixes and your own recipes
Is Walmart expanding gluten-free bakery choices?
While Walmart has room for improvement, the retailer has taken some steps to meet growing demand for gluten-free foods:
- Introduced Open Nature line of gluten-free pantry staples
- Expanded freezer section offerings with gluten-free brands like Schar and Feel Good Foods
- Highlighted gluten-free callouts on shelves to help shoppers identify products
- Added dedicated gluten-free areas in some Supercenter locations
In 2019, Walmart announced plans to increase its assortment of affordable organic and gluten-free groceries. The retailer may extend this strategy to provide more gluten-free in-store bakery choices.
Introducing gluten-free private label lines could be one way Walmart improves access to budget-friendly options. With its massive store footprint, Walmart has the scale to significantly expand gluten-free bakery selection – if consumer demand continues rising.
Walmart provides some gluten-free bakery options, but its selection falls short of dedicated gluten-free grocers. Availability of brands and items varies widely between locations and over time. While Walmart has signaled interest in growing its gluten-free offerings, customers seeking the greatest variety and strictest standards still rely primarily on specialty retailers.
Carefully checking labels, being aware of cross-contamination risks, and calling ahead to verify availability are key strategies for successfully shopping at Walmart. With extra care, shoppers can likely find at least a few gluten-free bakery items. But the limited assortment means it may not be the ideal one-stop solution for all gluten-free bakery needs.