Grocery Guide

Going Gluten-Free At Walmart

At the risk of reigniting the gluten-free debate once again, I mentioned in yesterday's post on gluten-free pancakes that I'd found a trove of cheap GF products at -- of all places -- Walmart. I don't know why I was completely surprised by this discovery, but I was.

It makes sense when you think about it, though. Walmart has long been the No. 1 grocery store in Houston, with a 29 percent market share. (In case you're wondering, Kroger is No. 2, with 25 percent.) It didn't reach that point without offering exactly the products its customers need, and it won't retain that kind of market saturation without continuing to update its products in keeping with current health trends.

For families who have gluten-sensitive children (I know a family who has four daughters, all of them with celiac disease) or for someone with celiac disease who's on a budget, Walmart's large GF section can be a blessing. The prices here were on average $1 to $2 less than at stores like Georgia's Farm-To-Market or Whole Foods, and the selection seems very much targeted toward families. On the shelves were items like GF macaroni and cheese, kids' cereals and cookie mixes.

This was my first trip to a Walmart with an expanded grocery section. There aren't any Walmart stores inside the Loop and the ones closest to town only have limited grocery options. This is exactly what led me to question how Walmart can have the No. 1 grocery store market share in Houston without having any stores in one of the densest areas of the city (the Inner Loop) or stores with grocery sections that aren't miles outside of town. Have you seen how many Krogers are in Houston? They breed like rabbits! But seeing how crowded the Walmart at Westheimer and Kirkwood was on this past Saturday afternoon put that question to bed.

Now if only Walmart would do something about its abysmal produce section. That's an area in which Georgia's Farm-To-Market easily beat them in both price and quality over the weekend...

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Katharine Shilcutt