The gluten-free guarantee is a voluntary campaign from Coeliac UK that calls on retailers to stock eight core staples – white bread, cereal, flour, cereal bars, rolls, crackers, pasta and one other bread (brown or seeded). Coeliac UK consulted healthcare professionals and celiac consumers to develop the product list earlier this year.
Sarah Sleet, CEO of Coeliac UK, said the nationwide pledge from Asda was exciting for celiac consumers but also for the future of gluten-free.
“Hopefully it means that the industry will continue to go from strength to strength. This is increasing the supply and that supply needs to be met from producers, so I think that can only mean good things for the industry,” she told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“I think it’s also going to bring more players into the market."
One gluten-free supplier had already contacted Coeliac UK about the Asda pledge.
“I think there will be innovation and I think there will be a broadening out of what is available, because once you start to put the core products in consumers want an increase in breadth and depth of ranges.”
Coeliac UK CEO Sarah Sleet: “We know it’s not an insignificant thing for a large retailer to guarantee this..."
Flour and crackers pledge hardest to meet
The gluten-free staples would be filled with a mix of private label and branded items dependant on the retailer, Sleet explained, but work to source all products had not been easy.
“It was flour and crackers that proved the most challenging in terms of ensuring they [retailers] had the right supply. It was probably the most challenging across all supermarkets,” she said.
However, it was important for celiacs that these two products were made widely available, along with the other six on the list, she said.
“We know it’s not an insignificant thing for a large retailer to guarantee this. It takes work and commitment to make sure the supply chain is there; the stocking regime is there; and space on shelves is created. So we know it’s really a challenge and a lot of work has gone into delivering that.”
Waitrose, Tesco and M&S hot on the heels…
Waitrose already stocked the eight staples across all of its supermarkets and smaller convenience stores. The retailer would have the gluten-free range available in its Welcome Break motorway service stations from September 22.
“Waitrose are just tying to tie up loose ends there… With these very small stores that are often in the motorway service stations, shelf space is really tight and store relationships vary,” Sleet said.
Tesco will stock the eight staples across Tesco Extras, Superstores and Metros by October 2014 and across its entire network by summer 2015.
Marks & Spencer has pledged to stock six of the eight gluten-free items in all 500 of its own stores (not franchised stores) by the end of 2014.
“We’re really pleased with seeing some of the supermarkets coming up behind [Asda] – they’re on their journey. It’s quite clear in the industry there is a real commitment to improving customer experience,” Sleet said.