A leading bakery has launched a recruitment drive for staff after investing £500,000 to make a new range of wheat-free products.
According to the Wrexham-based Village Bakery, the response to news they were planning the new range has “exceeded all expectations” and attracting international interest.
As a result they will be supplying several big name UK retailers who have already placed orders for the wheat-free products.
The investment is going into their bakery on Wrexham Industrial Estate which was originally opened in 2008 to make gluten-free bakery goods.
The contract with the Switzerland Hero Group ran out at the end of June and the family run Village Bakery has seized on the opportunity to expand into the rapidly-growing wheat-free market.
The bakery, the most modern in Europe when it opened, is being adapted and upgraded to make the new products.
They are now looking to take on an additional 16 people so they can create a second shift to cater for demand.
The family-run firm has a total of more than 400 staff and has two other bakeries, one in nearby Minera and another one on Wrexham Industrial Estate.
The new wheat-free range was developed at the Village Bakery’s Innovation Centre which, together with their Bakery School, was officially opened by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Managing director Robin Jones said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to expand into the wheat-free market which is growing more rapidly than any other sector in the bakery business.
“We’ve had eight successful years with our old customer and we needed to make some changes in the bakery because we’re going to be wheat-free not just gluten-free.
“Unfortunately we had to let a few people go when we finished our previous contract but we’ve been able to retain the vast majority of our staff. We’re looking to take on an extra 16 people which will mean the wheat-free bakery will employ a total of 42.
“Previously, we manufactured with wheat starch products which were gluten free, but wheat free is a wider audience so we’ve had to re-equip the bakery.
“We’ve put new equipment in, new packaging equipment, and we’ve totally revamped it to get it retailer ready.
“We’ve developed some excellent new products and we launch with some major retailers in September and October.
“We will be making everything from bread to pizzas and flat breads. We’ll be making a wide variety of sandwich carriers.
“We’re not just looking at retail sales. We’re looking at business to business as well. We’ve had requests from Ireland and other parts of Europe already. The world’s a huge place and we’ve got a big opportunity so we’re trying to choose the best customers to work with in the short term.
“The potential is massive. The wheat-free market is experiencing phenomenal growth. Every Hollywood A lister wants a wheat free diet. It’s a lifestyle choice now.”
Operations director Simon Thorpe was equally excited.
He said: “It’s a real opportunity to take the market on again. We’ve had a lot of experience making gluten free products over the last eight years, but now really represents a time we can take things to the next level, and certainly the investment that we’re making here is going to enable us to do that.
“We’ve got a track record making fantastic gluten-free products so it’s been very comparatively easy to make that transition to producing wheat-free products. This is very much the right thing at the right time.”