Thaxted nutritionist rises to gluten-free bread challenge with launch of MannaVida

Dan Jennings and Davina Steel of MannaVida exhibiting at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair

Dan Jennings and Davina Steel of MannaVida exhibiting at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair - Credit: Archant

A professional nutritionist who found herself facing a restricted diet has launched her own business, producing gluten-free bread and flour mixes.

Davina Steel, whose career has included spells as sales and marketing driector of a health and diagnostics company and managing editor of a biotechnology journal, was treated sucessfully for an invasive cancer three years ago but was left with a number of intolerances, including to gluten.

“My husband and I love good food, love it with a passion,” says Davina. “I would dream of artisan bread with some lovely cheese and wine, but that was no longer to be.

“One day, whilst bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t find any bread I was happy to eat I resigned myself to being wheat and gluten free for the rest of my life.

“My husband’s reaction was ‘You’re a nutritional sientist who spends her life in the kitchen. If you can’t sort it out ...’.”

Challenge accepted, she carried on with her writing while developing a product range before launching her business, MannaVida, which she now runs with her husband, Dan Jennings, and a part-time assistant, from a unit at Stanbrook, near Thaxted,

The couple raided their pensions to overcome the initial cash-flow challenge but, since the business began trading in November, sales have built rapidly and it has now launched on Ocado as well as signing up with three major health food distributors.

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“We have a whole bundle of export opportunities too,” adds Davina. “The plan is to build sales with our existing range, but my focus is very much on new product development.”