Article appeared in issue 3, 2022
A chance encounter introduced Goodness Grains to the private label category
Goodness Grains was set up in 2013 to fill the gap in the market for quality gluten free products. Geraldine O’Shea, marketing manager, explains how the path to producer was a fortuitous one. “In 2010, a customer came into our family restaurant and asked for gluten free bread to go with his lunch. We didn’t have any, but we listened to what he had to say and the following day we had gluten free bread on our menu.
“We began to slowly extend the gluten free options on our restaurant menus. However, at that time, we found it difficult to source good quality gluten free products, so we began to develop our own gluten free bakery products in-house. Over a period of 24 months and with the help of our customers through continuous tastings, focus groups and surveys we developed the Goodness Grains product range and launched the brand at Catex 2013.”
Nine years on and Goodness Grains now operates from a 20,000 sq. ft bakery in Longford. The product range comprises gluten free breads (loaves, bagels, burger buns, 2 slice packs), muffins and baked goods (cakes, scones, tartlets), croissants and Danish pastries, and seasonal lines. The full product range is certified <5ppm gluten free and, in addition, all of the bread products are suitable for vegans.
“We are one of the largest suppliers of gluten free bakery products to the foodservice sector in Ireland. We also supply our retail range to all the major retailers including Dunnes Stores, Tesco, SuperValu, as well as many independent retailers and lifestyle shops. The company’s entry into the private label category has been equally serendipitous. “We were exhibiting at Anuga in 2016 and our neighbour at that show was one of the largest bakeries in the world. Following lots of chatting at Anuga and follow-up discussions, we entered into a business relationship with this company and now produce gluten free bagels for this well-known global brand.”
In Ireland, the company works with both Aldi and Lidl in private label and, she says, it is ready to be more proactive in the category. “We want to start growing our business in exports, and if that includes private label, then that’s the business we will go after. This channel is where we see our main growth coming from over the next five to 10 years. The next step for us is to grow into the UK and European markets where we have a small presence currently. We produce a madeira cake and an authentic hand-formed brioche, both under private label, for a French distributor, and they are stocked in supermarkets in France such as Carrefour. In the UK, our private label business is currently split between 75% retail and 25% foodservice.
Consumer trends and feedback, which sparked the origin of the company, continue to inform its development. “We continuously gather category insights both independently and from Bord Bia supports. When we started the business, we worked for about two years trialling different products. As stated earlier, we set up focus groups comprised of coeliacs, and mainstream consumers and we return to these same focus groups at each stage of our new product development process.”
The market has changed in the intervening years since, with gluten free now very much part of the mainstream category. “‘Lifestylers’ who hopped on the trend in 2014 now buy a gluten free loaf of bread or gluten free muffin as part of their main shop. Veganism is a growth area, too, and the fact that we can offer some products that tick the vegan box, within a niche category, is something that we hope will be of interest to retailers in Europe. An example of this is our gluten free croissant, a unique product within the ‘free from’ category. We are currently working to add a vegan call-out to this product which should certainly pique the interests of buyers at PLMA.” Current category insights reveal that consumers want to have their cake and eat it too. “There is a big drive on healthy, good for you, gluten free, low carb, vegan, low sugar, etc. At the other end of the scale, the trending insights are showing that people want indulgence, with a treat.”
The pandemic gave Goodness Grains room to focus on new innovations to address these trends. “An example of a new product process during 2020/2021 was a gluten free traybake range that we worked on for a UK company. This range includes Rockin’ Road, Millionaire Shortbread and Chocolate Orange Tiffin. It was introduced into selected retailers in Ireland in 2021 under the Goodness Grain brand.” Ongoing innovation and the ability to meet new needs has been the backbone of Goodness Grains’ evolution, and it’s something Geraldine believes Irish food and drink manufacturers work hard to achieve. “I would very much agree that Irish producers are good at pivoting. When we started out, we knew nothing about running a gluten free bakery. We attended workshops through Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland and met great producers through the years. It is great to have a network of like-minded business contacts to seek guidance from (or offer guidance to) on any aspect of operating a small or medium business. There is great positivity amongst Irish producers, there is a great will to want to do well and constantly grow. And let’s face it, we have to work hard to do well. Ireland is a small island, and in order to have our businesses grow and be successful, we have to keep pivoting and diversifying to get new business.”