UK bakery business Warburtons has ambitions to boost the gluten-free category and grow its market share as it rolls out gluten-free thins.
The recently launched White and Seeded Sandwich Thins (thinner, low-calorie bread slices) are part of the firm’s gluten and wheat-free Newburn Bakehouse range.
The thins launched in January in Tesco supermarkets, then Waitrose and are rolling out into 1,250 Tesco Express convenience stores, reflecting the popularity of the free-from market and also the sandwich alternatives category.
“Our distribution continues to increase with White Thins now in Asda and both White and Seeded Thins due to launch in Sainsbury’s in May,” said Chris Hook, director of Newburn Bakehouse by Warburtons.
“We are the second biggest brand in the gluten-free bakery market and are aiming to be number one.”
Warburtons invested more than £5m ($8.4m) in building its dedicated gluten-free, wheat-free bakery in Newburn.
Hook said that the company continues to invest in technology, “in order to provide innovation such as the first gluten and wheat-free Square Wraps and Sandwich Thins in the UK”, with 12 products launched in the past year.
Hook added: “By focusing on product development, quality improvement and distribution gains, we hope to further grow both the category and our market share.”
In addition, Warburtons is to build a £20m (€33.7m) factory in Burnley, Lancashire, dedicated to its sandwich alternative lines, including Wraps and Sandwich Thins, due to become operational in January.
According to Kantor figures, Newburn Bakehouse has 24% of total branded share in the UK bakery and cake market. Genius Foods is the market leader.
Mintel data shows that between 2012 and 2013 the gluten and wheat-free market grew 9.4%. Meanwhile 13% of UK consumers bought into the gluten-free category in 2013 - up from 8% in 2012.
A Mintel report highlighted a rise in ‘lunch-friendly’ food entrants.
One example is Ginsters which revamped its branded sandwich portfolio last summer with the launch of 50% more products, including flatbreads with ‘exotic’ fillings.
Within the last year, the sandwich alternatives category has seen the largest growth in the free-from market, with Newburn Bakehouse Wraps accounting for 70% of overall sales in its first year, according to Nielson data up to February 2014.
Hook said: “Free from is one of the fastest growing categories in multiple grocery, and is becoming increasingly mainstream.”
“This growth appears to be driven by increases in diagnosis for coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity and allergies, plus a growing health trend whereby consumers are buying into free-from for general health reasons.”
He added that availability was key to consumers and its distribution extension reflected the growing demand from free-from consumers and the increase in popularity of sandwich alternatives.