Going gluten-free leads to a new venture

Lucy made hundreds of loaves to get the recipe just right. Photo: Catherine Fry.

Lucy Donaldson first came onto our radar when she started her Instagram page, @gardentales.

A mum of three small children she shared her quest to become self-sufficient on their Raglan lifestyle block.

She posted photos, growing tips, shared recipes and had a popular sourdough bread recipe.

The garden and food forest are still producing plenty of food for the family, but Lucy has less time to spend out there.

Since Covid-19, her time has been focused on a new venture.

Going gluten-free

­­­“When I had my third baby, he was really colicky and unsettled so I decided to try and become dairy and gluten free myself to see if it helped,” says Lucy.

During her quest for gluten-free products, Lucy couldn’t find a gluten-free bread that she liked.

“The texture, taste and use of preservatives didn’t appeal to me.”

Undeterred, Lucy bought some gluten-free flour and baked hundreds of loaves which rather perturbed her husband Elliot. She laughs when she looks back at the experience saying, “I was a little bit obsessed!”

Checking the rising dough. Photo: Catherine Fry.

Her perseverance paid off and she finally developed a gluten-free sourdough that had a good consistency and taste that could be eaten without toasting it first.

“I have always enjoyed Volare’s bread and one day I picked up the phone and called one of the owners, Ed Hemming and discussed why Volare didn’t do a gluten-free bread.”

It turned out that Ed and co-owner Ryan Simmons had always wanted to produce a gluten-free option but hadn’t had the time to invest in researching and experimenting themselves. Lucy took one of her loaves to a meeting with Ed and Ryan and the rest is history.

A new venture

“During our meeting we decided we would look into starting a business together making gluten free bread. After I had a bit of a panic as I hadn’t thought the logistics through - I had a six month old baby and two toddlers at the time!”

In this instance, the timing of the Covid-19 lockdown was actually fortuitous. By the time life was back in some semblance of order, Lucy’s baby was two, and her other two were at kindy and school. It also gave Lucy time to keep experimenting with her recipes.

Ed and Ryan were still interested in a joint venture and “Lucy’s” was born.

“Lucy’s is a separate business to Volare and needed a separate building to process gluten-free products with no cross contamination. We use a building close to Volare’s factory.”

Baker Lydia Henderson,left,  director Lucy Donaldson and baker Jade Foster at Lucy’s bakery. Photo: Catherine Fry.

The team prepared and painted the premises, and it was equipped with new machinery. No gluten has ever come over the threshold. They started production in April 2022.

“We started off with three bake days and distribute through the Volare stores as they are already set up. They became our main wholesale client and were a good platform for feedback.”

Lucy’s now bakes five days a week and makes around 1200 loaves a week.

They have three bakers plus Lucy who is still very much hands on in the production side. There are two packers and a marketing person, with Ed and Ryan there as consultants.

Every loaf is handmade, and batches are kept small. No preservatives are used so Lucy concentrates on customers that can be reached within 24 hours of baking using perishable postal services.

“We produce a traditional sourdough, a seeded loaf, a fruit loaf and our most popular, a white sliced loaf, which really does offer coeliacs the ability to enjoy a sandwich.”

In the first year of production, Lucy’s won two gold, and one silver medal at the 2023 Outstanding NZ Food Producer awards.


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