When you’re trying to sell your products into a niche market, there is always the risk that as each new player enters the field, you’ll all be chasing after smaller slices of the same pie. That doesn’t appear to be the case for Peter Cuddy, owner of Organic Works Bakery, in London, Ont. Cuddy says that in the two years since he delivered his first shipment of gluten-free breads to The Big Carrot, an organic food store in Toronto, the demand for gluten-free products has continued to expand, even as more players enter this niche market.
Gluten-free products are needed by customers who have Celiac Disease and therefore cannot digest the gluten in wheat products. This means that for most of them, bread, cookies, cakes and even pasta dishes are out of the question, explains Cuddy.
Besides supplying a long list of gluten-free products to more than a dozen independent organic food stores in southern Ontario, Cuddy now sells his product line through 13 Sobeys’ Urban Fresh stores in the Greater Toronto Area, a smaller five-store grocery chain in Toronto, and a six-store chain of coffee shops in London. “I don’t think we are carving up an already small niche,” says Cuddy. “We are actually growing the niche – it’s not growing exponentially, but it is expanding.”
Gluten-free products now make up approximately 60 per cent of Organic Works’ output. In addition to the breads, which retail for $6 per loaf, other gluten-free products include cookies, a raisin-cinnamon bread, scones and brown rice buns. All of Organic Works’ specialty products are lactose, nut and peanut oil free, and are vegan.
Cuddy believes the growth in gluten-free products stems largely from heightened public awareness of the nature of Celiac Disease, and the understanding that it can be managed successfully by removing wheat products from the diet.
He also thinks the niche has lots of growth potential. “The key is to understand your niche,” he says. “If it starts to look like the pie is getting cut up into too many smaller slices, you have to be able to provide a niche product, which is different enough that yours stands out in the crowd.”