THE owner of a Scottish gluten-free food brand has targeted Canada as its next big export market after travelling across the Atlantic to exhibit at one of North America's biggest trade shows.
Kirsty Gillies, founder of cookie and savoury biscuit maker Angelic Gluten Free, used a £50,000 prize from the Scottish EDGE (Encouraging Dynamic Growth Entrepreneurs) awards to travel and take a stand at SIAL Montreal last week. The show attracted 14,000 exhibitors from 61 countries.
Former Ernst & Young accountant Ms Gillies, who developed the business after being diagnosed as gluten intolerant, said she held talks with a sales broker which could pave the way for Angelic to secure listings in North America later this year.
Ms Gillies said: "We have just secured a new relationship with a sales broker in Canada and on stand we were approached by some of Canada and America's top retailers.
"We're facilitating between the retailers and the broker at the moment with a view over the six months to a year to having some quite substantial listings in the market."
While the market is competitive for gluten-free products in the US, Ms Gillies believes there is "good scope for entry" in the Canadian market. However she conceded logistical reasons mean both markets are challenging to break into.
She noted: "The reason that we went west is because there is such high growth in the gluten-free market. The US is the highest-growth market for gluten-free, and that trend of what effectively happens in America makes it way to Canada.
"Within Canada at the moment it's very much high on the agenda. People are very much interested in the nature of a product which is gluten-free."
Angelic's push into Canada will build on the export markets the brand has already built in countries such as Germany, Italy and Ireland.
The company, whose products are made by baker JG Ross in Portsoy, was due to begin shipping to Finland last week. It also recently struck a deal with Giant, a Malaysian supermarket chain which is part of the pan-Asian Dairy Farm Group, and is due to dispatch its first orders next month.
Angelic operates on an outsourcing model, with work generated by the firm effectively supporting seven jobs at Portsoy and a further member of staff working on its packaging design.
Although Ms Gillies is currently its sole direct employee, the firm taps into mentoring support through membership of the Entrepreneurial Spark's "nest" programme, and from industry body Scotland Food & Drink. It was recently short-listed in the bakery category in the body's awards, which will be announced in May.
In the UK, the company's products are listed by retailers such as the Whole Foods Market in Giffnock, Glasgow, outlets run by the National Trust of Scotland and the Booths supermarket chain in the north of England, while in Ireland they appear on the shelves of the Superquins group.
Recent listings include deals with Ireland's Supervalu chain, and British Corner Shop, which distributes goods to ex-pats around the world.
Although the firm's current focus is primarily on building sales in North America and Europe, with the aspiration to be "first to market" in the markets it enters, Ms Gillies added: "We're hoping to secure some further listings in the UK as well."
Ms Gillies anticipates the company, which began trading in 2012, will turn over £140,000 in its current year.
Ms Gillies added: "We've been doing a lot of groundwork. Hopefully by the end of the year we will have some fairly major deals that we can report on."