A RANGE of gluten-free cookies and savoury biscuits is on track to become another Scottish food and drink export success story.
Angelic Gluten Free, which began life in Inverness, has started exporting to Portugal and Malaysia within 18 months of first commencing operations, and has ambitions to quickly build more markets overseas after making promising contacts with distributors at the Anuga trade show in Germany. It has built overseas distribution through a Surrey-based wholesale partner, which took the range to Anuga, and through listings with UK wholesalers that export.
Angelic already supplies its products to about 300 shops, delicatessens and cafes throughout the UK and Ireland, including Whole Foods Market in Giffnock, on the south side of Glasgow, and attractions run by the National Trust of Scotland. Listings have also been secured with the Booths grocery chain in the north of England, and Irish supermarket Superquinn.
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Angelic founder Kirsty Gillies, who left her job as an accountant with Ernst & Young after suffering from a gluten intolerance, has aspirations to turn Angelic into a genuinely international business.
Ms Gillies, who is now based in Auchterarder, Perthshire, said: "We are just over 18 months old [and] have already made quite
significant progress within the UK market. We have ambitious growth plans to become fully international over the coming years.
"We made the investment in the direction of going into the export market at an early stage of the business."
Ms Gillies has no formal training in the food industry, and relied on the expertise of her mother, a cook, to help develop the recipes.
Initially working out of her kitchen in Inverness, they trialled no fewer than 200 product prototypes before settling on the first product range - four flavours of cookies that are distributed to retailers and farm shops boxes, for display on shelves, and a snack pack containing five biscuits for cafes and restaurants.
Ms Gillies and her mother remain firmly in charge of product development, but as a result of increasing demand, they out sourced production about a year after the business started.
Its products are made by commercial baker JG Ross in Portsoy, whose infrastructure has allowed Angelic to ramp up its output level.
Ms Gillies said the firm had no immediate plans to develop its own production facility, explaining: "It is not something we are planning for at this stage.
"We find that, the way our business model works is that, through the outsourcing, we have limited capital in play, which allows us to focus our resources into growth through sales and marketing."
To date the company has been financed by the owners' resources, in addition to some debt funding from Royal Bank of Scotland.
It has not received any grants from the public sector, but is about to embark on the Smart Exporter scheme with Scottish Enterprise to help develop exports further.
Ms Gillies said Germany, Denmark and the US were among its export targets, explaining: "The German market is set to experience quite high growth in the [gluten-free] sector.
"Germany is Scotland's fourth largest export market as it is and I think it could be quite a big opening for us. It is just securing relationships with the right distribution partners, who we're in discussion with at the moment through our partner.
"The US market is also significant - that is where the highest growth is for global gluten-free. It is a market we are looking to tackle and target in the coming years, but it is not in our immediate plan."
Ms Gillies declined to provide specific numbers on the firm's financial performance, but said she expected turnover to double over the next year. By the end of 2014, she believes exports will account for 40% of sales.
Angelic's rapid ascent illustrates the potential of the gluten-free food market, which has already been demonstrated by Genius Foods.
That business, established by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne after she developed a bread for her gluten-intolerant son, now exports to the US, Canada, Spain and The Netherlands after setting up in 2011.