Pulsetta seeks cash for growth overseas

Karsten Karcher with some of the lentils used in Pulsetta bread. He is looking to raise cash from trade investors or venture capitalists. Picture: Robert Perry
Karsten Karcher with some of the lentils used in Pulsetta bread. He is looking to raise cash from trade investors or venture capitalists. Picture: Robert Perry
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A GLUTEN-FREE bread brand from Aberdeen is unveiling plans to raise a six-figure cash injection to fund a UK-wide expansion and a push into overseas markets.

Pulsetta, which has developed bread made from pulses such as lentils and peas, is already on sale at more than 100 stores in Scotland, including bakeries, delicatessens and farm shops.

Now chief executive Karsten Karcher is looking to raise cash from trade investors or venture capitalists. Karcher, 46, spent three years carrying out research and developing the recipe for Pulsetta, which began trading in April.

The company’s bread is being produced by Inverurie-based baker JG Ross, which has invested £300,000 in converting one of its factories to produce gluten-free products.

Karcher said: “JG Ross has over 50 years of experience and turns over £10 million a year, so having its support has been a big boost.

“We are in talks with two supermarket groups and the Scottish Investment Bank is interested in principle in match funding.”

Karcher came up with the idea for Pulsetta – which counts as one of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – after being diagnosed as lactose intolerant, which sparked his interest in other food intolerances.

He worked for Telewest and Austrian hotel software firm Tiscover before setting up his own company, with support from Strathclyde University.

The business is based in Aberdeen and has won a clutch of awards, including two “great taste” accolades from the Guild of Fine Food and a pair of Scotland Food & Drink “excellence” gongs.

As part of the fund-raising, Karcher aims to bring on board expertise as well as cash.

“We are at the stage where we are looking to bring on board non-executive directors or even a chairman with experience of the food industry,” Karcher said.

“We are expanding our sales into cafes, hotels, restaurants and food service companies. I’m particularly pleased that we are in bakeries, because previously these would have been shops that people with gluten intolerances would have avoided.”

Lyn Calder, corporate finance director at accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael, which has been advising Karcher, said: “All the initial fundamentals are in place with Pulsetta – a great product, early success in the local market, a patent pending and a chief executive with real drive to take it to the next level.

“With additional resources and some further support at board level, there is no doubt that this business can become a huge international success.”

Pulsetta’s fund-raising will come as a further boost for Scotland’s fast-growing gluten-free food sector.

In March, Edinburgh-based Genius Foods bought the Free From business from Aim-quoted Finsbury Food Group for £21m, including the Livwell bakery in Hull and United Central Bakeries (UCB) in Bathgate.

Genius – which was founded in 2009 by chef Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne and has Cairn Energy chairman Sir Bill Gammell and former Scottish & Newcastle chief executive John Dunsmore on its board – aims to become “one of the largest food groups in Scotland” following the deal.

Karcher said: “A rising tide lifts all ships. It’s good to see other companies operating in this sector. JG Ross has one of only two gluten-free bread bakeries in Scotland and so I think there is room in the market for us.”

Edinburgh-based oatcake maker Nairn’s also reported in February that the growing demand for gluten-free snacks has boosted its business.

The firm built a factory to exclusively bake biscuits, muesli, oatcakes and porridge pots that are suitable for coeliacs, who have an intolerance for gluten.

Earlier this year, Martyn Gray succeeded Mark Laing as managing director at Nairn’s, with plans to expand the company’s operations in the United States. Laing, who led a management buyout at the firm 17 years ago, is the son of Hector, Baron Laing of Dunphail, the chairman of United Biscuits.