The company, which has been boosting its freeze-dried inclusions capacity in France and the US, has factories in Derby and Hull, where its headquarters is, making bread snacks, breadcrumbs, sprinkles and croutons.
It employed 100 workers at the Hull site and now planned to add another line there and set up a plant next door to make gluten-free bread products, ceo Andy Ducker told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“We have two lines and are adding a third,” said Ducker. “Our expectation is to take on additional premises in Hull as we launch the gluten-free business towards the end of this year. We hope to add 20–25% more workers in the next 12 months.” The workforce there had already swelled by a third in the past year, he added.
He said the firm had been exploring the potential of branching out into gluten-free for the past two to three years and believed the category would continue to rise in popularity.
Breadcrumbs and sprinkles
Chaucer Foods aimed to launch items such as gluten-free breadcrumbs for sausage mixes and gluten-free bread sprinkles for salad toppings for manufacturing and foodservice customers, he said.
The company would take another six months to finalise the technical process necessary to develop gluten-free variants of existing offerings, plus a further three months to set up the plant, said Ducker. He estimated that the development would cost £300,000–£500,000.
He explained the firm was devising technology to make the bread substrate stable when products were converted to gluten-free, to prevent them disintegrating.
The initiative would be the major focus for the business in terms of UK product development in the short term, he said. However, it would also look to extend its freeze-dried inclusions into areas such as bakery, tea and confectionery, he added.
Traditionally, the bulk of its freeze-dried business had served breakfast cereal manufacturers, he explained. The company already supplies products such as freeze-dried oats for the hot oat sector and freeze-dried fruit, vegetables and yogurt.
Ducker said Chaucer Foods also aimed to boost export sales from the UK in all product areas from one third of its business to half of its trade.
In addition to UK production, Chaucer Foods now has three main manufacturing bases, having announced the launch of a £40M freeze-dried facility in Portland, Oregon, in the US, in January. Its other two global processing divisions are in France and China.
The firm also acquired a controlling stake in US freeze-dried healthy snack specialist Crunchies Food Company in October last year. That move has enabled it to strengthen trade in US freeze-dried consumer products.
“It has given us a firm foothold in the B2C [business-to-consumer] sector to supplement Europe, where we have fledgling B2C brands,” said Ducker, although he stressed Chaucer Foods did not intend to compete with existing manufacturing customers.
The US offered much greater potential to expand sales of freeze-dried fruit, vegetable and dairy products to processors, foodservice businesses and retailers, he said.
Existing global customers include Unilever, Starbucks, Kellogg, PepsiCo and Weetabix.