On the cutting edge

In addition to its conventional products, Village Bakery makes gluten-free bread, distributed throughout the UK and shipped frozen to European markets.

In the UK, patients diagnosed with celiac disease can receive a doctor’s prescription for gluten-free products at no cost, but that’s only a small portion of who’s buying the products. “The growth in the UK on gluten-free comes from a lot of people who are self-diagnosing — not because they have celiac disease, but because they’re making a lifestyle decision,” Christien said.

Only 27 employees work in the company’s highly automated gluten-free facility, which is BRC Grade A certified. “In the UK, our retailers’ codes are very, very strict,” he said. “It’s good for food safety and makes you a sharper company.” The bakery operates 24 hours a day, five days a week, with downtime built in for necessary sanitation and preventive maintenance.

After passing through a divider modified by its engineering team specifically for gluten-free bread, the panned dough pieces enter a Gouet/Mecatherm modular tray proofer and a Gouet Double Action tunnel oven. The bakery operates a Gouet needle depanner. “If we used a vacuum depanner, the bread would break apart because it doesn’t have the strength and structure of regular breads,” Christien said. The products are packaged for fresh and frozen distribution. The bakery also has a Multivac modified atmosphere packaging system.