Founder Focus: Genius Gluten-Free
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. That’s the saying that comes to mind when we met with Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne who created Genius Gluten-Free Foods after her son was diagnosed as gluten intolerant.
Convinced that creating delicious gluten-free bread was possible, Lucinda spent the best part of two years baking until she landed on a winning formula. Proof that persistence pays off.
How did Lucinda put gluten-free food on the map with Genius? We asked her.
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
When I realised there was no fresh, nutritious and tasty gluten-free bread on the market for my gluten intolerant son, I knew there had to be a way.
Bread and sandwiches are the ultimate convenience foods, eaten all through the day, for packed lunches at work and school, while travelling, at children’s birthday parties and on picnics. Living without fresh bread makes life difficult, and sometimes isolating for people. As a trained chef and physiologist I realised I might just be the person to solve that!
WHAT WAS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
Ten years ago, our pitch was simple – Genius was the first soft, fresh and delicious gluten-free bread on the market. At the time, gluten-free bread had a 60 day shelf life and in some cases needed microwaving before you could eat it!
Today, we continue our mission for better gut health for all. Our delicious gluten-free bread and rolls have 2x the fibre of best-selling wheat-based equivalents.
HOW DID YOU TEST YOUR IDEA?
After spending many hours in my local health food shops looking for gluten-free ingredients, I set about creating a recipe for gluten-free bread that would be as tasty as mainstream. This meant designing a product that ate and functioned just like wheat bread in every way – how the bread sliced, toasted, tasted, buttered and smelled.
After baking thousands of loaves and breaking 2 ovens (it took 2 years!), my children (chief tasters!) finally said, “mum, wow, this is delicious – is there anymore?” Children never lie and great friends confirmed they would buy the bread too.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING A BUSINESS ON THEIR OWN?
The best way to attract interest in your business is to put a fully functioning product into peoples’ hands. The power of presenting a product you have created and scaled, that offers something new and better, is an extremely powerful way to create interest from future partners, employees, customers and investors. It sparks people’s imagination and their respect for the commitment you have displayed getting so far.
WHAT IS THE BOOK YOU WOULD RECOMMEND THAT EVERYONE READS AND WHY?
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – A book about humankind, how far we have come yet how little we know and how many opportunities there are still to explore.
WHAT ONE FAILURE ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
We often have failed trials while we scale our new products (bring our products from the test kitchen into the bakery). They are often pioneering gluten-free versions of mainstream bakery products that our gluten-free consumers have been desperate to eat for years.
The result of these failures is to create a business culture where people are not afraid to share their ideas for solving an issue, even if they are completely wacky. Often the wacky ideas are spot on! Even replacing an ingredient grown in Vietnam with the same ingredient grown in South America can make the difference between a fantastic loaf and one that cannot be sent out to consumers.
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN B?
I don’t have one, I am completely committed to the business I started. I fully expect I’ll still be in the bakery when I’m 80!
WHAT PIECE OF INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU OFTEN HEAR THAT YOU DISAGREE WITH AND WHY?
There are always things that people say ‘should be done,’ but that you have to challenge. Ask yourself if it’s true to the mission you started.
For example, retailers are always pushing for longer life from our products but what we know our consumers want is fresh, delicious gluten-free bread and moving to longer life would take us back to the old days of dry, microwave bread.
So this is somewhere we have to stay strong and show all the reasons for keeping our bread on the shelves, even at shorter life. The lesson: never forget what the heart of your brand or product is about!
TALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNING ROUTINE
I feel I have already done a day’s work even before I start work in the morning! I generally get up at 6 am and stand under a hot shower until I have woken up. I live on a hill above the sea, so I often take a moment to marvel at the ever-changing water below.
There is normally a manic moment, searching for my sons’ missing school books or shoes before chasing them out of the house at 7:30. I breathe for a second then leave myself, briskly walking 2 miles into central Edinburgh for my first meeting or I go out to our bakery to work on the next invention! Fresh air and exercise, no matter what the weather, gives me thinking time at the start of the day.