Are in-store bakeries set for free-from boom?

Ulrick&Short: gluten-free products are

Gluten-free presents a big opportunity for in-store bakeries, say industry experts, but there are barriers to overcome.

Ingredients supplier Ulrick & Short this week said it was working with producers to develop gluten-free products including speciality breads for in-store bakeries.

“There is immense potential for speciality products such as Continental breads,” said director Adrian Short. “The next few months will see breakthroughs that will revolutionise free-from production.”

Key to this, he added, was the better understanding suppliers had of how ingredients responded to different production methods.

“Gluten-free is no longer niche, and the demand for such product now justifies the time and expense required to develop them,” he said.

Latest Kantar Worldpanel data shows sales of free-from bakery products are up 15.2% year-on-year to £63.3m.

Stores couldn’t manufacture gluten-free bread on site because of the risk of contamination from products containing gluten, Short said, but frozen or part-baked products presented a practical option. Even then, it might be necessary to use a separate oven for gluten-free products, or only bake them at certain times of day, he conceded.

Supermarket in-store bakeries would also be concerned about the risk of waste, said Mintel global food analyst Chris Brockman. One thing that would work in favour of such products was the fact much free-from growth was fuelled by consumers buying it as part of a healthy lifestyle choice rather than as a medical need.

“The contamination consequences are less relevant for them,” he said. “Where in-store could really be of interest is as a point of difference/PR opportunity for one of the major chains.”