Is a bread revolution following the gluten free fad?

Posted February 18, 2016

“I love bread,” are the words heard 'round the wheat industry. Oprah shared her passion for all things bread in January with enthusiastic and passionate commercials and tweets for Weight Watchers (WW), a points based weight loss system. This statement is amongst the boldest things the “Queen of Media” has said, not because bread is intrinsically taboo, but because other trendsetters think it is. After years of the gluten free trend, is Oprah enough convince the public to turn back to bread?

Oprah’s weight loss journey with a side of bread might be the sign of a turning tide that the wheat industry needed. Just a few weeks ago, the new season of The Bachelor, the show that helps beautiful people find love, premiered. The contestants included a woman who promoted herself as a “nutritional therapist.” To grab the attention of the man who’s heart she longed to steal, the woman requested to “break bread” with him. Instead of buttering his biscuits, the woman promptly started bashing baguettes on the sidewalk while declaring that “gluten is Satan.” This pickup line probably didn’t impress you much, and the same could be said for the bachelor who sent her packing at the end of the show.

That spectacle showcases the hostility felt for gluten in the media during the last five years, but the tide seems to be turning. Articles from institutions like Time, Consumer Reports, BBC, New York Post and The New Yorker and from popular digital media like Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and Slate are bringing science into the gluten free conversation. These articles paired with Oprah’s emotional narrative and an episode of South Park’s satire might just be indicators that the diet fad has officially “jumped the shark.”

All signs are pointing toward a bread revolution. In addition to the influx of diet-skeptical news articles, according to Google Trends, searches are down across the board for terms like “gluten free,” “gluten” and “gluten-free diet.” During Winter Storm Jonas, photos of empty bread shelves emerged from across the East Coast showing that there may be no such thing as gluten-free when there’s even the hint that there might not be any bread.

Oprah’s Instagram feed seems to show many bread appearances in the last few months, but she isn’t an impartial voice of reason in the debate. Last fall, the media mogul purchased 10% of Weight Watchers stock and landed herself a position on the board of directors. While the love of bread is probably very real for Oprah, using it as a cornerstone in a new marketing plan for the company also makes sense monetarily. According to MarketWatch.com, Oprah tweeted a video declaring that she has lost 26 pounds while not denying herself bread, and within the hour WW stock had risen more than 16%. This increased Oprah’s portfolio worth by more than $12 million in that hour alone. While the stocks have since fallen a smidge since the late January campaign, WWs’ stock worth is still nearly doubled from what it was in the pre-Oprah days. This only makes sense, because people love a company that lets you have your bread and eat it, too.

By Jordan Hildebrand

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