Article for The South Wales Argus Food & Drink
Content courtesy of The South Wales Argus:
Whether its cakes, sandwiches or even fish and chips, the catering industry has seen a boom in the gluten-free food market in restaurants, bakeries and wholesalers in recent years including in Gwent.
Providing for people with coeliac disease – an intolerance to gluten – more and more people are now developing their business and products to ensure they meet the needs of this food group as much as everyone else.
One of these is ex-Pontypool teacher Rhys Thomas who turned to baking on on a personal quest to create more products for people with food allergies.
Mr Thomas, 35, said: “The idea of starting my own bakery came about when my dad was diagnosed with coeliac disease and we soon realised that there wasn’t much in the way of sweet food.”
“So I thought I could bridge a gap in the market and decided to take the plunge and become my own boss.”
Based in a unit in New Inn he worked with The Food Centre Wales in West Wales to produce gluten and lactose free products.
Starting with a Welsh Cake, that took 29 recipes to get to the final product, Mr Thomas has now created nine products that include carrot and walnut cake, coffee cake, Victoria sponge, sticky toffee and date pudding, chocolate muffin, and banana and walnut loaf cake.
Bakestone Bakery now supplies customers and businesses such as cafés and delicatessens from Chepstow to Cardiff and has a small shop for the public at the Polo Grounds Industrial Estate.
Mr Thomas said the demand for gluten-free products is growing.
He said: “The new up and coming chefs and pub owners are keen to include gluten-free products on their menus.”
And without giving away his kitchen secrets he said: “The key to making gluten-free products premium products is to throw the recipe rule book out and use a different process.”
Mr Thomas said his products are also popular with people who choose to have gluten free cakes.
The business is proving a success with Mr Thomas preparing to launch a new website and celebration cake next-day delivery service nationwide.
The business has been shortlisted for its gluten-free Welsh cakes and vegan choc chip muffin in this year’s FreeFrom Awards which celebrate the innovation and imagination shown by the food industry in creating foods that are free of wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soya, sulphites and other allergens.