Genius brioche buns

Genius expanded its portfolio into the gut health category last year

Gluten-free bakery Genius Foods has been taken over by Katjes Greenfood, the investment arm of German confectionery group Katjes.

The terms of the deal remained undisclosed but Katjes Greenfood said it was its largest acquisition to date.

Founded in 2009 by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne after her son was diagnosed with coeliac disease, Edinburgh-based Genius has grown to become the number-one gluten-free brand in the UK, with its range stocked by all the mults and across the foodservice channel.

It also has a leading presence in France and was increasingly represented in the US, Australia and Germany, Katjes said.

The business generated revenues of €40m (£34m) last year, according to the announcement by Katjes.

However, Genius has seen its retail sales shrink as Warburton’s expands its portfolio further into the free-from category. Genius value sales fell 9.1% to £30.4m last year, according to The Grocer’s annual Top Products Survey [NielsenIQ 52 w/e 11 September 2021].

Katjes Greenfood managing partner Tobias Bachmüller said the global market for gluten-free products was growing at double-digit rates year on year.

“This makes gluten-free an ideal category for Katjes Greenfood, which, as a legally independent part of the Katjes Group, is investing in the future of nutrition outside of confectionery.

“The opportunity to become the market leader in a future category purchase is a unique opportunity for us.”

As well as loaves of bread, Genius’ range of gluten-free baked goods includes rolls, bagels, wraps and pittas.

Last year, the business expanded its reach to tap into the growing consumer interest in gut health with the launch of what it claimed was the UK’s first bread baked with active cultures.

Genius CEO Peter Quinn said: “We believe that Katjes Greenfood is a strong investor, who will support us in leveraging our great market and brand potential in short-term. At the same time the family-owned company also shares our long-term values of creating a healthy and sustainable future of the food industry.”

Genius was backed by Verlinvest following a significant injection of capital in 2014, with European investment firm now exiting the business.

Katjes Greenfood was set up to invest in sustainable businesses and usually acquires minority stakes, most recently backing vegan start-ups Unmilk and Ohso Lecker.

Investment bank Houlihan Lokey acted as financial advisor to Genius Foods.

Shaun Browne, managing director and co-head of UK corporate finance at Houlihan, said: “We have followed Genius since it was founded in 2009 as the first fresh gluten-free bread in UK that actually tastes like bread.

“Over the years, whilst retaining its gluten-free recipe, it has developed more products and become a successful gut wellness business – a key area in the move towards healthy eating. Katjes is an ideal long-term family-owned home for Genius.”