To put this into context, Arla’s lactose-free brand Lactofree - another high-profile entrant to the free-from market - has taken five years to build sales to a similar level.
Genius, which is manufactured by Finsbury Food Group at its United Central Bakeries (UCB) factory in Bathgate, was launched in Tesco last May, and has since secured listings in Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the Co-operative and Starbucks (which stocks gluten-free sandwiches using Genius bread), UCB commercial director Paddy Cronin told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“When we launched, the whole gluten-free bread market was worth around £8m and we exceeded that in a year with one new brand, so things have gone better than we could have hoped. As soon as we saw how well it was doing we also invested more than £2m to increase capacity.”
Several extensions for the brand, which is made using corn flour, rice flour, tapioca and potato starch, rice bran, egg white, rice bran and xanthan gum (to give the dough the stretchy texture gluten-free loaves often lack) were in the pipeline, said Cronin.
“We are aiming to launch several new products under the Genius brand early next year, but we are not going to rush into anything. We have set the bar very high with the bread, so people will expect the other products to be just as good.”
Historically, retailers have been reluctant to stock fresh gluten free loaves because of low rates of sale and high wastage, which has meant coeliacs have had to put up with longer-life products that have to be toasted or ‘refreshed’ before consumption, and lack the bounce or texture of a standard loaf.
But Genius offered a win-win for retailers and coeliacs, said Cronin. “High wastage hasn’t been a problem for Genius. It’s got a very good rate of sale and is actually outselling some standard bread lines in many cases, which is a first for gluten-free.”
The fact that Waitrose had chosen to stock two fresh gluten free brands of bread – Genius and Honest from Downpatrick-based Honest Cakes – was a sign that the market was going places, he said.
“I don’t see it that we are going ‘head to head’ with Honest. We have grown the fresh gluten-free market very significantly so it’s not surprising that other companies are seeing opportunities.”
Honest Cakes director Andrew Watt said Honest was moving into fresh white bread and rolls next year on the back of the success of the brown bread, which is stocked at Waitrose and Ocado.