Originally Posted by WhyNot
All of the above PLUS:
People who would never have heard of gluten intolerance or celiac disease now have a world full of people they can chat with who have similar symptoms.
How about a chef's perspective? I do banquets for conventions and other large groups, and for the five years I've been doing this kind of work (been in foodservice for 27 years, but 5 in banquets/conventions), I've seen definite patterns.
Groups that skew toward membership with higher education levels and, usually, a more "liberal" or "left-leaning" tendency (environmental groups, women's groups, advocacy groups, Democrat Party fundraisers, any
group where the women far outnumber the men, etc.) tend to have a much higher percentage of members with "special" dietary needs, including gluten-free, all manner of allergies, vegans/vegetarians, lactose-intolerant, etc., while lesser-educated, more conservative types of groups and groups with more men than women tend to cheerfully eat whatever the hell we put in front of them.
Confirmation bias, sure, but food is my livelihood.
Of course, you also get the occasional person who claims a whole battery of food issues, obtains the menus in advance, and then provides us with an itemized list of what they can and can't eat at each meal we'll be serving them so that we can concoct alternatives for them. And then when you actually stop and look at their list you start noticing how it contradicts itself from one meal to the next, and you realize you're not dealing with a "special dietary needs" person, you're dealing with an attention whore