When one of the Gerhardsen family’s boys fell ill with coeliac disease in 1999, high-quality gluten-free bread and pastries were hard to come by. After visiting a gluten-free bakery in Sweden, the family decided to take matters into their own hands and started the gluten free Klæbu Håndbakeri in Klæbu, south of Trondheim.

“It was a tough time for our family, but we were fortunate to see our son receive the greatest care and correct diagnosis straight away,” Frode Gerhardsen recalls, explaining how his then one-year-old son had grown increasingly ill when starting to eat solid foods. The illness swiftly changed the day-to-day activities of the family of five. “We learned how to cook gluten free food from scratch that our son would actually like, and we had to be diligent when reading all food labels.”

Changes, challenges – and a solution found in Gothenburg

There were significant challenges involved with the change. As the family experienced, it was not necessarily the finding of suitable gluten-free foods for their son that was the problem: it was the social exclusion the diagnosis brought, and the difficulties of finding good-tasting products outside of the home. “Going to a restaurant as a group can be a real challenge. The waiter has to run to the kitchen and check if there is flour in the gravy, as many don’t know. If there is a gluten free alternative on the menu, it will not necessarily fit the appetite of a young boy,” says Gerhardsen. “This can result in the restaurant losing an entire party of guests, or the person with the special diet feeling excluded from the meal.”

While on a family holiday to Gothenburg in 2005, the family experienced an encounter that would spark the dream of a lifetime. When visiting an all gluten-free bakery in the city, they realised there were places that had made a business out of catering to people like their son – and were doing so with high-quality, homemade and flavourful products. “We couldn’t believe it,” Gerhardsen says, admitting that the memory still makes him emotional. “Our son definitely couldn’t believe it. Being able to tell him ‘here, have anything you’d like!’ was a moment I will never forget. Not only did they have what we were looking for, they provided an inclusive experience and sparked our son’s appetite.”

Going for the dream

With a background in computer science, Frode and Ingrid Gerhardsen were no strangers to entrepreneurial start-up culture. Ingrid soon took up baking classes with the Norwegian Celiac Association to learn about baking techniques and ingredients for gluten-free breads and pastries – classes she would later go on to lead. The oldest son in the family, Karl, had always wanted to become a chef or baker, so when Frode was scrolling through a classified advertisement site and came across a gluten-free bakery for sale, the stars aligned. “A woman was selling her bakery set-up – two ovens, a kneading machine and a vacuum sealer, all for gluten-free baking. Of course we had to go for it!”

After spending most of 2012 researching how to start and maintain a bakery, the family of five was in business – with three of its members included in the day-to-day operations of Klæbu Håndbakeri. The family home provided the first production space of a humble 20 square metres, before the bakery moved into new, custom-built facilities, in 2014. At this point, Klæbu Håndbakeri was delivering products to more than a dozen grocery shops and was selling freshly baked breads and pastries over the counter. From making 24 breads per 24 hours in 2012, the bakery is now able to produce thousands of delicious, homemade loaves, buns and sweet treats every day.

Providing joy and inclusiveness across the counter

Last year, the Norwegian Celiac Association awarded the business the accolade Best Business in Gluten Free Production. “It’s been a dream come true, it really has,” says Gerhardsen with a smile, explaining that the business is currently expanding to accommodate growing demand. “We now have – on a weekly basis – that same experience of the Gothenburg bakery. We have the joy of being on the other side of the counter. Parents of children with coeliac disease are thrilled when they find us, and send pictures of their happy kids digging into a cinnamon roll. Or, they send our gluten-free hot-dog buns with them on the school trip, so that they can partake in the fun just like anyone else. Nothing beats that,” says Gerhardsen.

Klæbu Håndbakeri delivers high-quality gluten-free products to grocery shops across Norway. Products are also delivered to several restaurants, hotels, commercial kitchens and catering businesses.


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