“I came to recognize that the market needed a great product, because the word about ‘gluten-free bakery products’ is that they tasted like sawdust,” Bob Goodman, founder and CEO of Goodman Gluten Free, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He had 35 years of experience in the baking industry under his belt, working in baking representation and consulting, and he’s watched the industry evolve front row. “Being an in-store bakery person my whole life, that was my area of concentration, [I realized] there was no offering in the in-store bakery where people can enjoy a fresh [gluten-free] product,” he said. The void nagged him out of retirement, and he started researching for market opportunities and strategized.
Goodman met with some in-store bakery managers in Connecticut, where he’s based, and learned from them that people come in all the time looking for gluten-free products at the bakery. “They really hadn’t pursued it because of shelf-life issues and quality issues,” he said.
How to make a gluten- and dairy-free in-store bakery product
Two years after the company launched in 2015, it struck a deal with Ahold USA grocery brands in the East Coast. Its products, which range from brownie cookie bites to blueberry muffins to cinnamon raisin bread—all gluten and dairy free—can now be found in 2,000 stores, including Ahold Delhaize stores Stop & Shop, Giant of Maryland, Giant of Pennsylvania, Food Lion, and other banners.
The taste test and sampling process, Goodman said, was very informal. “We’d go to dinner with friends, I’ll bring some products with me, and I put it out for dessert, and nobody commented about the product tasting any different,” he said. “In fact, they’ll say that it tasted good. And then I’ll tell them that it was gluten and dairy free.”
The recipe was developed based off of experimentation done by one of Goodman’s former consulting clients. “I met these gentlemen that were developing recipes and building a bakery to make gluten and dairy-free products,” he said. “So I took the recipes and products, and sampled it to probably about 100 people, both in trade and friends and family.”
The primary substitute for wheat flour used in Goodman Gluten Free’s product is brown and white rice flour. The products also contain tapioca flour and potato starch, and the rest of the ingredients depend on product. They were all designed to be shelf-stable in ambient temperature thanks to a naturally derived enzyme.
Going national, gluten-free category
Striking a deal with Ahold USA is one sign of current opportunities in the crowding gluten-free category. Though Google Trends data, which collects the frequency of internet searches, shows that ‘gluten-free’ interest has tapered off since a peak in 2014, its normal level is still six times higher than it was a decade ago.
In other words, gluten-free may not be ‘hot,’ but as food analyst Pınar Hoşafçı of Euromonitor wrote, it’s “fast becoming new industry standard in baked goods.” This wide acceptance is propelling Goodman Gluten Free to go national; the company recently opened a new baking facility in Texas to better fulfil orders west of the Mississippi.
Beyond the individual web orders and smaller retailers, Goodman has stuck a deal with another large retailer he still needs to keep under wraps. “We’re about to add one of the nation’s largest supermarket chains, but we’ll just tell you we’ll add anything between 1,000 to 3,000 stores nationwide in the coming months,” he said.