FAMILY bakery Warburtons is looking to double sales of £5.7m from its Newburn bakery after re-launching its wheat and gluten-free range.
The company, which has given its free-from bread the sub-brand Newburn Bakehouse, is to expand its gluten-free range from seven to about a dozen products by the end of the year, starting with a new baguette and seeded loaf.
It is also working on smaller pack sizes to target coffee shops and other food service outlets.
Warburton’s ambition is to double its free-from sales over the next year and become the number one free-from bakery brand.
The range has a dedicated business manager, Chris Hook, who has over 20 years of experience in food, nutrition and healthcare.
He built up his own gluten-free business, Nutrition Point, from nothing to a turnover of £30m before selling it to an Italian firm in 2010.
Driven initially by the struggle to find suitable food products for his son who was wheat intolerant, Hook is passionate about promoting the free-from brand.
Ahead of its free-from re-launch last week, Warburtons improved the product recipes and conducted market research with consumers.
“Our customers wanted a major food brand in the area but wanted to see it taken really seriously,” said Hook. “Creating the Newburn Bakehouse sub-brand allows us to really concentrate on a separate free-from bakery, with a dedicated team.
“We are now into the new financial year and we have an ambitious target of doubling turnover this year on the back of our re-launch, our new range of products and then pushing them into as many retailers as possible.
“Warburtons has been baking bread at its Newburn site for many years, but this gluten and wheat-free range is made in a completely separate bakery on site. We needed to differentiate the brand from the core bakery and that’s what this re-launch is all about.
“It’s also a platform for Warburtons to stretch into other areas such as ready meals, biscuits and other snacks, which they haven’t touched in the past.”
All of Warburton’s free-from products are made in a gluten-free and wheat-free bakery in Newburn, which employs 30 master bakers.
The brand already supplies to most of the major supermarkets, with Sainsbury’s being its only remaining target.
“There has been significant growth in the free-from products market in the past 10 years,” said Hook. “Celiac UK believes from research that the incidence rate of Celiac disease is one in 100. That means we’re looking at potentially 600,000 Celiac sufferers out there.
“There is a greater awareness from a GP level and more and more people are electing to follow a gluten-free diet.
“We are in every single major retailer, bar Sainsbury’s, but we’re working on that. As we expand our range of products, and if we secure the Sainsbury’s account, we will be employing an additional 10 or 12 staff to cope with demand.”
It’s also a platform for Warburtons to stretch into areas such as ready meals, biscuits and other snacks