I was fortunate recently to have the opportunity to visit the US to see how the gluten-free food market differs from that in the UK.
The Natural Foods Expo in Anaheim is a staggeringly huge event. I know Americans tend to do everything on a bigger scale than we do on these shores, but I really was taken aback by the scale of the event.
The first observation to make is that just as in the UK, the American gluten-free food market is growing rapidly and accelerating.
Genius bread has been available in the US for nearly a year and the response has been fantastic. We demonstrated in the UK back in 2009 that gluten-free bread could taste delicious. Since then Genius has introduced 20 new products and other large food producers have followed our lead in developing a huge range of different products.
In the US the situation is similar. There are no standout leaders in the gluten-free space, but there are dozens of producers who are introducing pioneering products. Consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to cookies, cereal bars, pizzas, crackers and snacks. Unlike the UK most bread in the US is sold frozen. However, there are signs that gluten-free food companies are looking increasingly at making fresh bread.
I was particularly impressed with cookies from Mary's Gone Crackers and tortillas from a company called Lundberg. I also enjoyed sampling some bread from the wonderfully named Kinnikinnick. These companies are rivals to Genius on one level, but we are all striving to give coeliacs new and exciting things to eat so I am delighted to give credit where it's due.
As in the UK, there are now new gluten level regulations that will give coeliacs greater confidence to try new products. The US federal government has said that any food that is marketed as gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This could have far reaching implications for a great many companies in the US and some could go out of business if they are unable to quickly meet this new demanding standard.
Fortunately for Genius customers in the US our bread, made with the support of our manufacturing partner - Smartbalance - already contains less than 20ppm of gluten.
I came away from the Expo inspired to see what products might work in the UK market and the Genius team is looking at several possibilities.
And speaking of new products, hopefully you will have seen our new pitta breads, naan breads and lemon and raisin pancakes on the shelf of your local Tesco. Lots more yummy things to follow!