SIAL: Genius "in talks" on European expansion
Genius says Europe is "an obvious opportunity" for the company
UK gluten-free specialist Genius Foods is in talks with European customers in order to grow its business in the region.
Genius believes the introduction of its "step-changing products" could help unlock the potential of free-from markets on the Continent.
The company is the largest gluten-free manufacturer in the UK and the group recently secured listings with Carrefour in Spain. It is exhibiting its portfolio of products, such as gluten-free croissants and pain au chocolate, at this year's SIAL exhibition in a bid to open up European markets, including France.
"Europe is an obvious opportunity but where our priority lies within that is probably too early to say," Genius commercial director David Shaw told just-food in Paris yesterday (24 October).
"France is a very interesting one and we have products that would naturally meet the French market so we would be foolish not to look at opportunities in that area. The rest of Europe is under investigation."
While some of Genius' products are "transferable" between markets, Shaw said the group would also work with European partners to develop products suited to local taste preferences.
According to Shaw's assessment, the gluten-free market in Europe is still maturing and Genius hopes to lead the development of the sector - much as it has done in the UK.
"The gluten free market is less developed in Europe than in the UK and therefore represents a fantastic opportunity for Genius," Shaw observed. "The European market is more similar to the UK market four years ago, before Genius introduced its step-changing bread. I believe if the step-changing products are there the opportunity in Europe is huge."
Meanwhile, Shaw said Genius also remains focused on expanding its domestic business.
Genius is likely to benefit from the continued incremental growth of gluten-free sales, which have trebled over the last three years. This expansion is being driven by a rising awareness of coeliac disease and higher diagnostic rates coupled with an increasing penetration among non-coeliac sufferers which, Shaw said, "opens up whole new markets".
He said: "We are still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gluten-free [in the UK]."
However, Shaw stressed the company is also working to extend its leading market share through an emphasis on quality and innovation.
"The expectations of consumers are incredibly high. We will not allow anything to come to market unless it is of a really high standard. Genius has to stand for quality," Shaw insisted. "We have a fantastic NPD capability. We have some very exciting European customers that we can work with to further that development as well as the UK which is - and will always remain - our core market."
Genius said it could also consider expanding the brand into complementary categories, work which started with the introduction of products such as Genius pizzas and frozen pies.
"We already operate across the various sectors in bakery. We obviously produce pizzas and we produce pies as well. We have expanded our brand outside of just pure bakery....There are some natural extensions for us that we would always look at, but we would only want to go into categories where we would do a great job with the product that we offer. Genius has a long-term ambition to become a global leader in gluten-free food industry."
On Thursday, two of the world's largest food retailers will report their 2012 financial results and, more importantly, try to convince investors their moves to improve their operations in key markets ...
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