Special edition: Gluten-free
Weston Bakeries: I’m not sure there is a ceiling on the gluten-free market; if there is, we haven’t reached it yet
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as part of our gluten-free special edition, Sumit Luthra, VP, marketing, innovation, and business development, Gluten Free at Weston Bakeries said this was the start of something big for the company, which launched All But Gluten in the US last November with 15 products from bread and muffins to granola bars.
“The gluten-free trend/diet will be more pervasive than any other diet in the last 20 years. I’m not sure if there is a ceiling on the gluten-free market, if there is, we haven’t reached it yet. I think we’re going to see growth for the next 5 – 10 years.
“The gluten-free market has also had success with lifestyle consumers who give up gluten to be healthier, as this trend continues; the lifestyle consumers will continue to share with the general population. The market may slow a little but it’s still growing significantly, and we expect growth rates to continue.”
There are two types of people who eat gluten-free; those who need to and those who choose to, he said: "All But Gluten makes sure to satisfy the needs of both.”
Our hope is to give a product to consumers for every eating occasion throughout day
The products were initially launched with key customers on the West Coast, says Luthra, but are now gaining listings across the country: “We are currently available in over 1,000 stores and plan to be in many more in months to come.
“We have high ambitions; we’ve invested in capital and are setting up our own manufacturing… and we may start a line of frozen foods. The gluten-free category is growing so rapidly that right now consumers and retailers need more offerings.
“Our ambition is to become a one-stop shop for consumers. We’ll have products that range from traditional core bakery to granola bars to salty snacks, to sweet goods. We are one of few brands with a full assortment of offerings, as our hope is to give a product to consumers for every eating occasion throughout day.”
We’ve worked hard to differentiate All But Gluten from the first generation of gluten-free products
Formulators focused equally on taste and nutrition, said Luthra, who says the first generation of gluten-free products scored pretty badly on both fronts.
“We’ve worked hard to differentiate All But Gluten from the first generation products, which were very dry, lacked in flavor, and crumbly.
“Other brands specialize in breads/rolls/sweets or they’re a grocery type of a brand, and our consumer insights have told us consumers feel frustrated in the overall experience with gluten-free products; most GF bakery products are found in the freezer section, which is not how consumers were brought up shopping when it comes to bakery.
“As we designed the products, we focused on taste, texture and products which could be merchandised fresh. We believe it’s important for retailers to support that. We also add vitamins and minerals to the core products."
We want our bread to toast, feel, look and taste like a regular slice of bread
He added: “All But Gluten had brand and product developers spend more than a year perfecting recipes. It also critical for our product range and taste to come as close as possible to the traditional bakery experience. We want our bread to toast, feel, look and taste like a regular slice of bread.
“Our whole grain bread is very moist, with a blend of different grains, and it toasts well, but is equally as delicious on a sandwich; you couldn’t make a sandwich out of first generation products. We are also making various snacks which were not available during the first generation of gluten-free products, such as snack cakes, brownies and macaroons."
The products have been selling really well
So how successful have they been, and is it hard convincing retailers they will get a sufficient rate of sale to warrant taking up space in the fresh bakery section?
“The products have been selling really well,” said Luthra.
“But it’s too early in the game to determine wastage. You also have to keep in mind the learning curve for store personnel, as they get accustomed to merchandising.”
Club stores, c-stores and foodservice
So where are the next big opportunities for gluten-free?
Says Luthra: “There are a few upcoming opportunities that I think we will see the gluten-free market break into. Club stores are beginning to carry gluten-free products, widening the availability and awareness; selective assortments will be available even in convenience stores.
“Restaurants will continue to add gluten-free options to the menus and I think will see gluten-free options in schools and institutions.”
Don't miss The FoodNavigator-USA Forum: Gluten-free in Perspective
11.30am EST, April 30, 2014.
Find out more about gluten-free market trends and growth opportunities; the science behind celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergy; the technical challenges of formulating great-tasting gluten-free products; and the latest consumer research.
This LIVE online panel debate moderated by FoodNavigator-USDA editor Elaine Watson brings together world-renowned celiac disease researcher Dr Alessio Fasano; TJ Mcintyre from leading gluten-free manufacturer Boulder Brands (Udis, Glutino);DrDavid Sheluga, director of commercial insights at food and ingredients giant ConAgra Foods; and Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Datamonitor.
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