Case study: Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne

Founder of Genius Foods and Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence

“Every job you have helps you get to where you want to be in the end. Every experience is valuable and I would never have known that with a physiology degree, training, working and teaching as a chef, I would end up creating a global gluten-free bakery business.”

I founded Genius Foods in 2009 when my son, aged three, was diagnosed with severe gluten intolerance and gluten-free bread was poor quality and hard to find.

Having studied Physiology before training and working as a chef I had an unusual skillset in science and cookery and decided to solve this family problem by developing tasty gluten free bread in my kitchen at home. Today we sell over 45 gluten-free products around the world. Bread is the ultimate convenience food and we have made a great difference to people avoiding gluten.

The science of free-from food and ingredient innovation is developing fast. Gluten-free bakery is a nascent sector, and pioneering products and processes is in Genius’s DNA. While scientists remove gluten from wheat grain using genetics, and develop gluten intolerance vaccinations, we are optimising the nutritional value of our products by adding prebiotics, protein and fibre. Our next challenge is to replace egg with vegetable proteins to successfully set the structure of our bakery products.

To deepen our knowledge of ingredient functionality and interactions in our formulations we collaborate with scientists, and my science background helps me understand their perspective. The physics and chemistry is fascinating as we learn to create stable bubble structures without gluten. Every product type brings its own structural challenges and creativity and lateral thinking are key to finding solutions.

My A-levels mixed arts and sciences and I didn’t leave school with a firm view of what to do. Studying Physiology at Queen Mary University of London, I wanted to do something that helped society but realised medicine wasn't for me.

After my degree, I trained as a chef at Leiths School of Food and Wine. My family advised against food as a career, but I worked as a chef in a Michelin star restaurant before going back to teach at Leiths, then wrote two books on the science of cooking. However, it wasn’t until I turned 35 that my mission became clear, when my sons were diagnosed with allergies. I have taken a winding path, but each job taught me more about myself and what I wanted to do.