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Finnish coeliac expertise under spotlight


Sitra and Finpro join forces on UK project

The market survey conducted by Sitra and Finpro on behalf of Finnish companies catering for the coeliac product markets shows clear potential for Finnish specialised products in the UK. The UK has a strong “free from” boom, which shows particularly in a rapid increase in the demand for gluten-free products. The markets have quadrupled in five years and grocery retail chains, restaurants and pharmacies have taken keen interest in them.

To gauge the market potential for coeliac products in the UK, Sitra’s Coeliac Cluster and Finpro collected market data, which helps Finnish companies specialising in coeliac-related competence to try out their potential in the UK. As part of the Sitra-Finpro project, a networking event, in which Finnish researchers and enterprises introduce the latest innovations to British experts and retail chains, will be held in London on 6 February 2008. The strong turnout for the event tells of the good reputation of Finnish functional food production in Europe. Finland is also known as a major producer of lactose-free products.

Extensive market research conducted in autumn 2007 analysed the structure and operators of the UK gluten-free product markets as well as the distribution channels, competitive situation and trends. On the basis of the research, targeted test marketing actions were taken through retail chains, specialist product distributors, catering distributors and the pharmaceutical sector.

“There is a clear ‘free from’ boom in the UK. The growth in the past five years has been 400%, which is amazing. We have also received very positive feedback on Finnish competence in the coeliac sector,” says Annaleena Soult, Senior Consultant from Finpro, who is also in charge of the project.

Gluten-free for shops and restaurants – home tests for pharmacies

The project also involves Coeliac UK, the coeliac charity, which this year will focus a special campaign on improving the availability of gluten-free products in restaurants and catering. The wide availability of alternative products in Finland for customers with dietary restrictions has been praised internationally and the achievements of the Finnish Coeliac Society in this respect have attracted wide interest. Finnish gluten-free innovations – beer, cereal products and chocolate – could also be success stories in the UK. Pure oats are also among the approved coeliac products in the UK, so Finland’s pure oat products can be expected to have market potential.

The diagnostics and treatment of coeliac disease are of a high standard in Finland, while in many countries the disease is fairly poorly known. One reason for this may be in the difficulty of making the diagnosis. A home test developed by Finnish scientists and enterprises has made its diagnosis dramatically easier. The UK is among the 20 countries where the home test is available to consumers. The Ani Biotech home test kit is available from chemists and the test can be done at home. The test will reveal in a couple of minutes, whether a person’s stomach and skin problems are due to coeliac disease. Those suffering from the disease are intolerant to the gluten in wheat, rye and barley. Coeliac disease is life-long and suffered by approximately 1 per cent of the population.

The Finnish Ambassador hosts a meeting of coeliac experts

The networking event hosted by Jaakko Laajava, the Ambassador of Finland to the UK, for some one hundred coeliac experts will feature a number of notable speakers, among them Professor Markku Mäki, a coeliac specialist from the University of Tampere, Marjo Jokinen product specialist from the Finnish Coeliac Society, and Norma McGough, the Head of Diet & Health from Coeliac UK. Enterprises involved in the Coeliac Cluster will be presenting their products, and the event will be participated in by leading scientists, managers of large grocery retail chains and pharmacies and the media.

Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA aims at increasing the internationalisation of the food industry by such means as increasing co-operation between companies and scientists. The Coeliac Cluster involved about a dozen enterprises in the field. The cluster is researching the markets for Finnish gluten-free products in selected countries and is implementing various marketing projects. “The model currently being applied in the UK, which involves market research, a networking event and test marketing, is really viable and provides companies that have developed coeliac products with real opportunities to expand their markets,” says Markku Mikola, Project Manager from Sitra’s Coeliac Cluster.

Further information

Annaleena Soult, Senior Consultant, tel. +336 1714 2331
Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA
Markku Mikola, Project Manager, tel. +358 40 771 8030
Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA communications
Seija Kurunmäki, Communication Specialist, tel. +358 400 460 894

The following Coeliac Cluster companies will make presentations at the networking event in London on 6 February 2008

Ani Biotech Oy – Biocard Home Test
Dammenberg – Free from chocolates
InnoFoods – innovative gluten-free frozen foods
Laitila Brewery – gluten-free beer
Oy Moilas GF Ltd – Finland’s leading gluten-free bakery products
Raisio Oyj – Provena pure oat product family
Oy Sinebrychoff Ab – Saxon gluten-free beer

Read more about Sitra’s Coeliac Cluster »