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Nairn's Sees the Future in Gluten-Free Oats

Gluten-free oats key to growing business for oat giant Nairn's.


Oat giant Nairn's is looking to gluten-free oats to grow its sales. Photo: CC--Kari Csaba

Celiac.com 08/17/2017 - Anyone who knows their oats will tell you Nairn's is a familiar name in the industry. The iconic Scottish grocery brand began making that name as Nairn's Oatcakes in 1896, when John and Sarah Nairn set up a village bakery in Strathaven, Lanarkshire. More than 120 years later, it has grown from cottage industry to large-scale production, with about 150 workers, and revenues in excess of £27 million this past year.

But consumer tastes, and challenges in production, retail and marketing all press the firm to adjust operations to keep pace, according to managing director Martyn Gray.

Gray says that, as business has grown, the company has "had to look at specialists in each department because, it's not just a small family business now, we are a good medium-sized business that needs to adapt to the markets that we're now in."

In addition to its core oatcakes and biscuits, the firm also sells products under the Simmers header, including Abernethy and Butter Biscuits, with an additional gluten-free range providing a key growth driver.

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Nairn's has said it is in the process of investing £6m in a new gluten-free manufacturing operation after the existing one proved unable to meet growing demand. However, with manufacturing becoming increasingly automated, the company saw a notable reduction in both permanent and temporary staff.

In addition to being the UK's top oatcake producer, Edinburgh-based Nairn's, has become the UK's second-largest gluten-free producer according to Mintel, having entered the sector in 2010 from what Gray calls a "standing start." Gray says the new gluten-free facility will meet demand and "bring a pipeline of new products currently in development to market. In turn, this will protect and enhance the sustainability of the entire business."

Gray admits that such expansion is a double-edged sword, offering both the chance to accelerate revenues, but with other players keen to take a cut themselves. "The market is very, very competitive," he says, but sees its long-term viability as highly positive.

Nairn's also said the UK gluten-free market was worth nearly £500 million and was expected to see growth of more than 40 per cent in coming years. Much of that growth will be driven by gluten-free oat products.

Read more at: Scottsman.com

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