BFree: the Irish free-from bread brand making its mark in US retail

By Vince Bamford

- Last updated on GMT

BFree launched in the US with rolls, loaves, wraps and bagels
BFree launched in the US with rolls, loaves, wraps and bagels

Related tags Retailing

Irish allergen-free bakery business BFree Foods is ramping up its presence in the US after making its mainstream debut last year.

Dublin-based BFree – whose products are free from gluten, wheat, dairy, egg, nuts and soy, and suitable for vegans – has rolled out to around 200 Meijer stores in the Greater Chicago area in the past few weeks and will be launching into other retailers in the coming months.

The Meijer launch comes three months after the brand rolled into 200 Ralphs stores on the West Coast with a selection of loaves, rolls, bagels and wraps.

BFree was launched about five and a half years ago and has grown in the UK market to secure listings in major supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and, as of last week, Morrisons.

A long journey

It’s been a long journey but we are making great progress​,” BFree Foods general manager Alex Murphy told BakeryAndSnacks.

The business began its expansion into the US two years ago, researching the country’s retail market and the product mix. BFree also attended a number of consumer events with its products to learn what worked – and didn’t – with US shoppers.

BFree US line-up

BFree Soft White Rolls HR

The product range launched by BFree comprises:

  • Soft White Sandwich Loaf
  • Brown Seeded Sandwich Loaf
  • Soft White Rolls
  • Brown Seeded Rolls
  • Multigrain Wraps
  • Quinoa & Chia seed Wraps with Teff Seeds and Flaxseeds
  • Plain Bagels
  • Multiseed Bagels

We found out what consumers wanted before we approached the retailers​,” said Murphy. “You get one chance at this market and if you mess up you don’t get a second one - so we have to do this strategically and carefully​.”

Made in Dublin and California

The business slightly reformulated its products ahead of the US launch, removing all preservatives and added sugar, and recruited a local sales team. Products are manufactured in Dublin and through a US manufacturing partner in California, and are delivered into warehouses on the West Coast and Chicago.

We can cater for whatever the retailer needs​,” added Murphy. “Whether that is delivering straight into the retailer or through specialist distributors, we are set up so we can do both​.”

BFree’s products are sold from the freezer in Ralphs, but the retailer has also begun merchandising fresh BFree goods in the bakery department.

While we are on the planogram in the freezer, we are also in mainstream bakery as a fresh offering​,” said Murphy. “We have a rack in the mainstream bakery aisle so we are branching out of the Celiac and food intolerance market and into mainstream​.”

Sampling and couponing

BFree has supported its US launch with activity including couponing, instore sampling and social media, and has been pleased with consumer response to the brand.

BFree in US bakery
BFree is sold from freezers and the bakery fixture

We are the only brand suitable for vegans, and we are free of the top allergens but - moreover – the feel and taste of the products compared with mainstream lines is second to none​,” said Murphy.

The business is now developing new lines and formulations to target the US consumer and different US regions, but the business is to concentrate on building performance with its existing customers.

“We could go for everywhere in the States, but our main focus is to get what we have working as well as we possibly can​,” she added. “The next stage is to build loyalty and recognition in the established accounts we are in​.”

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Hugo Cabret

Posted by Casey Sunley,

You probably love sugar too. Just because something is edible doesn't make it good for you. "Too many doctors use celiac disease as a default" - clearly you are not talking about US doctors. They'd rather prescribe gastro and rheumatoid drugs for inflammation than reveal the source of the problem.

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Posted by Breadtastic,

Great story and products! I wish continued success to them!!

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One Born Every Minute

Posted by Hugo Cabret,

P.T. Barnum would be so proud of the marketing blitzes catering to consumers' so-called "needs". There seems to be no end to claims made to quench the hunger for "health and wellness". From the barrage of adverts, one would think that celiac disease in a pandemic and gluten is more of a health threat than AIDS, Ebola, and Zika combined. Too many doctors use celiac disease as a default and even more individuals self-diagnose based on social media hype and hearsay.

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