You Can Thank Schär Brand For The Rise Of Gluten-Free Bread

Anyone who has visited Austria or Germany knows that while the German speakers of Europe are known for earthy foods like cabbage and potatoes, they also have a deep and abiding passion for bread. Go into any grocery store and you'll find a vast array of breads, from malty Roggenbrot (rye bread) to dense and chewy Dinkelbrot (spelt bread), with their own unique cultural histories. Loaves err on the side of small and dark, a far cry from the fluffy white batons found in nearby Italy and France. And it's common to come across tiny loaves of bread, known as Vollkornbrot, which are studded with so many seeds and nuts that they hardly seem to contain any flour at all.

It's not surprising, then, that the first major breakthroughs in gluten-free bread came from a culture where alternative types of flour and bread ingredients were already part of the local Brotkultur.

Even 30 years ago, the concept of tasty gluten-free bread seemed like wishful thinking and people suffering from Celiac's disease had limited options when it came to avoiding the dreaded gluten. But by the early 20th century, one man was poised to open up an entire culinary field that made bread products available to the gluten intolerant.

The first gluten-free bread

In the 1920s, on the Austrian-Italian border in the heart of the Alps, Dr. Anton Schär took on the unprecedented project of studying the effects of alternative diets on children with digestive issues. He experimented with developing gluten-free products like rice cream after he discovered that removing wheat from the diets of his subjects helped soothe some of their gastrointestinal discomfort and other symptoms.

In the late 1970s, Austrian health food store scion Ulrich Ladurner took over Schär, expanding the company and producing a variety of ready-to-eat gluten-free products like cereals and cookies, as well as gluten-free flours, which were made from ingredients like tapioca, oats, and rice. The company later began selling its popular gluten-free bread, which is made with ancient grains and ingredients including chia seeds, buckwheat, sourdough, millet, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Schär remains the leading manufacturer of gluten-free foods in Europe and has been growing steadily in the United States since acquiring the American gluten-free product manufacturers Glutafin and Trufree in 2007. The company has continued to expand their research in gluten-free breads by setting up an international scientific committee where doctors, gastroenterologists, and nutritional experts can study and share information about Celiac's disease.