Beyond intolerance: Malaysian bakery firm highlights rising gluten-free trend among carb-cutting consumers

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Malaysian bakery company Fresco Grano has observed a rise in demand for gluten-free products among consumers who want to cut down on carbs. ©Fresco Grano
Malaysian bakery company Fresco Grano has observed a rise in demand for gluten-free products among consumers who want to cut down on carbs. ©Fresco Grano

Related tags gluten free bakery Bakery Malaysia

Malaysian bakery company Fresco Grano has observed a rise in demand for gluten-free products among consumers who want to cut down on carbs, as well as those with special dietary needs such as gluten intolerance.

Fresco Grano produces a range of bakery products including bread, cookies, cakes and granola, and has both organic non-gluten-free and gluten-free items. As of late, the firm has observed a rise in demand for its gluten-free products, and not just amongst consumers who ‘have to’ eat these due to special dietary needs.

“There has definitely been a rise in demand for gluten-free products following increased awareness amongst consumers with gluten intolerance and allergies. [This is expected to a degree] as with medical testing pertaining to this becoming more available, they are able to pinpoint the severity of their condition and what needs to be done to remedy it, [such as going on a gluten-free diet],”​ Fresco Grano Founder Ryea Sankaran told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“For those who need to be on a gluten-free diet, avoiding gluten would improve their gastrointestinal health as well as quality of life as consuming gluten could result in varying degrees of bloating and in some cases extreme discomfort.

“[But in addition to this group], we have also seen a rise of awareness amongst many consumers [who are not suffering from gluten intolerance] to cut down on carbs and to replace it with healthy proteins as part of a good diet – [we have noted that many of our consumers have cited this as a reason for] choosing to purchase a mix of both gluten and non-gluten products.

“Carbohydrates are both delicious and necessary in traditional baking, this is true, but if consumers were given a choice to enjoy a nice cupcake [and be sure that it is] also healthy and nutritious at the same time, [they may] opt for the gluten-free option.”

In a price-sensitive country like Malaysia, this is significant because gluten-free products are generally priced more expensive than regular ones – for example, Fresco Grano’s gluten-free bread loaves range between RM12 (US$2.83) to RM18 (US$4.25), whereas its regular bread loaves range between RM7 (US$1.65) to RM9 (US$2.12).

The other trend that Sankaran has noticed on the rise in Malaysia is that of convenience, likely linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in response the firm has created breakfast kits and sets to meet this trend.

“It always used to be our bread that was the most popular [and now] we have curated breakfast muffin sets and breakfast kits (made from oats, chia seeds, dried fruits, and granola) - It seems that products that are not just healthy, but also convenient [and] will last for weeks at a go for stay/work from home families, have become increasingly popular,”​ she said.

Fresco Grano’s products are available in multiple large grocery store chains in Malaysia including Jaya Grocer, Ben’s Independent Grocer, Village Grocer, The Food Company and more; as well as online.

Thwarted expansion plans

The firm’s main consumer base is in Malaysia and particularly in the country’s most populous area, the Klang Valley, and although Sankaran holds out hope for overseas expansion, the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia - which is averaging over 17,000 cases daily at time of writing – makes this seem bleak at least for the near future.

“Given the uncertainties of operating in a pandemic, we have had to put [our expansion] plans on hold for the moment – though we definitely would love to be able to bring Fresco Grano to the whole of Asia one day,”​ she said.

“For now we will focus our energies to keeping operations running as smoothly as possible.”

She also pledged to continue the firm’s commitment, even through the tough times, to using only organic and natural ingredients and omitting artificial colouring, preservatives, flavours, dough conditioners or enhancers.

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