UK gluten-free biscuit manufacturer Northumbrian Fine Foods is to invest GBP1.2m (US$1.7m) in baking production at its Gateshead facility as a result of “soaring demand”.

Northumbrian said the decision, which follows an 80% increase in turnover during the past five years, will create around 40 jobs at Gateshead.

A new baking oven, which is set to start operating in September, will increase production capacity at the facility by 40% and “will principally focus on the manufacture of indulgent cookies, rotary moulded biscuits and bake bars such as Granola”, Northumbrian said.

Managing director Stewart McLelland said: “We have seen significant growth in the free from market for our indulgent cookies and other biscuits, especially from the multiple retail sector. The new baking oven will play a key role in meeting current demand and also ensure that we can continue to grow the business significantly over the coming years.”

In addition to supermarket own-label products, Northumbrian also manufactures biscuits under the Prewett’s brand, which it said had enjoyed recent success with a “significant expansion” in its range to include milk-free biscuits, all-butter cookies and individually wrapped chocolate coated biscuit bars, all of which are gluten free.

McLelland said the company is planning to expand its range further to “focus on everyday favourite biscuits in a variety of formats”.

According to Northumbrian, around 60% of the UK’s gluten-free sweet biscuit production is carried out at its Gateshead site. The company announced last March that it was extending its Prewett’s brand with the launch of milk-free biscuits, all-butter cookies and individually-wrapped, chocolate-coated biscuit bars, Chocoful.