The UK firm has signed a retail contract with Spinney’s in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Khaimah to supply seven products, including gluten-free loaves, naans and pita bread. The company plans to expand further into the Middle East and has more new product development in the pipeline.
This move into the UAE forms part of a much wider expansion plan, said David Shaw, international commercial director at Genius.
“[It’s] part of our key plan and strategy for quite an ambitious international strategy,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“We are in conversation in lots of markets around the world. We are suitably busy.”
The expansion into UAE was in planning for around six months.
Asked why Genius chose to move into the UAE, Shaw said: “It’s a combination of factors. Market to market research we do highlighted this as an opportunity and through social media we received lots of requests. These factors combined with forward-thinking retailers meant the move made a lot of sense.”
“The wonderful thing about the UAE is that it’s really internationalized and people are constantly moving in and out – it’s very diverse.”
What will drive gluten-free in UAE – celiac consumers or lifestyle choice?
The gluten-free market obviously caters to celiac consumers and those with gluten intolerances, but what has gained traction over the past couple of years is the appeal among health-conscious consumers who perceive gluten-free as an option to better manage health.
The proportion of celiac consumers versus consumers making a lifestyle choice to consume gluten-free differs hugely across the globe, Shaw said. Some countries developed celiac disease analysis earlier and others are significantly driven by lifestyle choice – take the US or UK, for example, he said.
Asked how UAE consumers were split, he said: “We’ve only been in the UAE a couple of weeks, but my expectation is that there will be a higher proportion of lifestyle consumers in this market.”
Will the gluten-free bubble burst?
Gluten-free has seen phenomenal growth over the past few years and market research Mintel estimates the global sector will top $6bn by 2018.
“Frankly, gluten-free is just about the hottest category in food across the globe… And we are a leader in that,” Shaw said.
The commercial director said that future, continued growth of the category would be strengthened by better tasting products, developed by stronger research.
“The more we know about this food category, the better we’ll be and the faster it will grow. It will grow faster and faster the better educated people are – both consumers and companies.”
Knowledge on production methods and innovative ingredients and formulations will stimulate growth, he said.
Gluten-free research must focus on certain topics, he said, such as strengthening understanding of the nutritional elements in products, the science behind making them and how to improve the quality and taste.
The next big gluten-free markets
Shaw said that there remains huge potential to grow gluten-free bakery in mainland Europe and also Asia Pacific due to its sheer size.
Genius is present in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Spain, Holland, UAE and Australia.