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Wilton Cafe Takes Bite of Gluten-Free Market

Local shops have had to carve their own niche to ensure success with nationally known coffee shops popping up on seemingly every corner. That is why Regina Shula, owner and chef of Cogolulu Café & Catering in Wilton, began serving food and drinks that are gluten-free. The move, which she made last May, may have been a bit drastic, Shula says.

"I have jumped off the cliff," Shula says of creating food without gluten and without sacrificing taste. Shula made her kitchen into a scientist's lab, always experimenting and trying to find ways to add more items to her menu. This process has at times left her scratching her head when recipes turned out nothing like planned and sent her back to the drawing board.

Staying afloat as a local coffee shop in the 21st century is no small feat, with venti-size competition such as Panera, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks flooding the market. But market watchers such as Espresso Business Solutions estimate that the independent coffee market in the United States accounts for about $12 billion in annual sales. But with Americans drinking 400 million cups of coffee a day, there doesn't seem to be any shortage in demand.

Most independent coffee shops offer more than just coffee. Some, offer food as well, whether it's breakfast, lunch or just a darn good doughnut. Independent coffee shops also add a dash of ambiance, doing business in a different way, offering something not found in franchises.

Since Cogolulu went gluten-free, Shula said profits have gone up for both her café and her catering services. A total of 12 million Americans have food allergies. Wheat is one of eight foods that account for 90 percent of those allergies, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network says.

Have you tried any of Cogolulu's gluten-free delicacies? Can you tell a difference between the gluten-free and the real thing? Share with us below.

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