Rising demand

The free-from market is rapidly growing, and Welsh Hills Bakery has been leading the way in the sector with its range of baked goods

Welsh Hills Bakery, an established bakery for nearly 60 years, started making gluten free cakes and short crust pastry pies in 2001 and was the first to supply two of the UK’s major supermarket chains with an own brand of gluten free products.

Thirteen years later the company is still supplying those same products to these retailers, as well as adding further supermarkets to its customer portfolio.

2008 saw the birth of its own brand of gluten free products named Lovemore Free From Foods. Lovemore has grown steadily to include a range of shortbreads and cookies, along with the traditional apple pies and Cherry Bakewells and fruit slab cakes along with mince pies for Christmas. Lovemore products can be found across the globe in countries including the USA, Australia, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Hungary Malta, Finland, and the Middle East as well as the UK. They will also soon be available in Bulgaria, France and Germany, demonstrating the international reach of the brand. Central to the appeal of its goods is their taste, but also the fact that all Lovemore products are approved by the Coeliac Society and carry the coveted Crossed Grain symbol for verification and to give peace of mind to the consumer.

Welsh Hills Bakery has something for everyone; from those with an allergy or food intolerance to those who have chosen to avoid gluten or wheat as part of a healthier lifestyle, and with Christmas fast approaching, it means everyone can find something special over the festive period.

Managing Director Peter Douglass discussed the exciting ranges of Lovemore products: “At this time of year, our mince pies, gingerbread men and rich fruit slab cakes prove very popular, although they are available all year round. We also have marzipan and icing for these lines. At the moment, we are flat out producing everything in timefor the holiday. Our other big sellers include our chocolate chip cookies, chocolate brownies, jammy wheels, lemon cakes, and the chocolate celebration cakes which customers can decorate themselves and indulge in a bit of creativity at home.”

The free-from market is expanding, and shows no sign of slowing down. While around two per cent of the population can only eat free-from foods due to allergies, there is also a much larger proportion that are choosing to go gluten or wheat free. This number varies, but around 16 per cent of the UK is doing it out of choice. Some research even suggests that over the past six months around 33 per cent of shoppers in the UK have bought or eaten free-from foods. This growing demand for free-from foods is something that Welsh Hills Bakery foresaw all those year ago when in 2001 it made the shift to this market. It is now well placed to become the baked food provider of choice for this growing number of free-from customers.

The company’s success has no doubt come from the company’s commitment to making its free-from baked goods just as tasty as its conventional rivals. It does not want its consumers, which due to allergies cannot eat many of the standard products, to have to settle with foods that do not taste great. That is why the company goes to immense effort to utilise various ingredients, research, and testing, so that the range of free-from baked goods will meet the same levels of taste that its mainstream counterpart reaches, and often exceed it. Through working hard to achieve this, the company has made itself stand out in the free-from market, and a favourite of many that buy free-from foods. It clearly has a well-respected reputation as it has a long list of major companies that it supplies, including names such as Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Ocado, Morrisons, and many others.

In addition to the quality of the goods that the company makes, there has also been a recent rebranding of its Lovemore products. This decision was taken to appeal to the changing tastes and trends of its consumers across the world, from Canada to China, once again demonstrating the company’s willingness to adapt and improve. Peter discussed this new direction: “We are spending heavily on marketing a completely new brand image to appeal to our growing international consumer base, and we will have recently launched this new look at the SIAL food exhibition in Paris. Our previous packaging looked good years ago, but we have now gone for a bright look to bring a bit of sunshine to the packaging.” Welsh Hills Bakery is always looking to improve and invest, to help maintain the prominent position the company has in a fast expanding niche market.

An example of the distance that Welsh Hills Bakery has come within the free-from food industry is the amount of recognition, nominations, and awards that it has received including being shortlisted in the recent Made in Wales Awards and the Food Awards Wales awards and winning Exporter of the Year in the Welsh Business Awards where it was considered one of the best food manufacturers in the country. The award wanted to recognise the hard work and efforts of the company in the free-from foods sector. Welsh Hills Bakery won another award in 2016 for the business as a whole, taking note of the large investments it has made into the factory and the detailed research that goes into new markets and products.

Awards are always a useful indicator at how a company compares with its competitors and within its market in general, and it is clear that Welsh Hills Bakery stands today as a leader and innovator within the free-foods industry. Lovemore looks set to become the product of choice for all those that want to enjoy all the taste of baked goods without any of the gluten or wheat, and with the addition of new equipment, a revitalised branding currently being rolled out, plus a Christmas and everyday selection, the company looks set for a positive year to come.