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Winner: Too Good To Be Gluten Free Pork Pie, Addo Food Group

The idea for a free-from brand came from Sam Benjamin and a fellow trainee when they worked in the test kitchens at Nottingham-based Addo Food Group.

Brand manager Benjamin researched the gluten-free market and realised its huge potential for growth and the need for great-tasting products.

“I presented the concept of a new gluten-free brand, centred on taste, to the Addo team,” he says. “They gave their full support and provided a new dedicated free-from facility.”

The core element of Addo’s recipes is a high-quality gluten-free pastry base. “To develop this took eight months of testing, trial and error,” explains Benjamin. “We invested a huge amount of time in creating a pastry that had to be benchmarked against the best standard pastry, with no discernible taste difference.”

The Too Good to be Gluten Free Pork Pie uses high-quality British pork, seasoned and encased in a hot water crust pastry. “Our pork pie has seen an incredible response, selling in more than 300 Sainsbury’s stores and being listed with Ocado,” says Benjamin. “It has contributed 40% growth to the brand in the past year and has helped drive our best year yet, with 118% growth in sales volume and a 74% increase in turnover for the brand.”

Finalist: Organic Gluten-free Vegan Bread, Good Grain Bakery

As a professional baker, north London-based Good Grain Bakery director Tara Taylor (pictured) set herself a challenge.

There are 14 recognised allergens that can be avoided in free-from, of which one is gluten. Taylor was determined to make an organic loaf that was free from all 14 after suffering from several allergies and intolerances herself, and meeting a friend’s daughter who was a coeliac and suffered with other allergies.

After experimentation, Taylor sourced her own blend of grains and starches for her recipes. Feedback from the early loaves she made was helpful. “The hydration needed to remain high, but I needed the dough to be pliable for scaling-up,” she says. “I discovered a few more techniques to increase shelf life naturally, without compromising the brand’s integrity and values. Our gluten-free bread is also suitable for vegans, as the protein is not substituted with eggs or emulsifiers.”

Major retailers, she says, have told her the product ticks many boxes when looking for a clean label, good-quality, organic, free-from bread with the right texture and flavour.

Finalist: M&S Super Seeded Sandwich Thins, Village Bakery

Having made gluten-free products for the past eight years for the UK and Europe, Village Bakery tapped one of the success stories of recent years with this launch.

The Made without Wheat thins, developed for Marks & Spencer, contain a blend of seeds plus rice, tapioca and potato starch. They are also fortified with a source of vitamin D and calcium, then topped with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds.

“We had a desire to bring an exceptional product to market that could not be distinguished from a conventional wheat flour-based product,” says project director Christien Jones (pictured), adding the thins contain no wheat, gluten or dairy.

“The gluten-free customer wants products the whole family can enjoy without comprising on texture or quality. Our super-seeded variety, with 150 calories per thin and a seven-day shelf life, is a convenient alternative to sliced free-from bread.”

Village Bakery is winner of this year’s Bakery Innovation category.