Toowoomba’s GF Oats founder’s journey began with a simple desire to provide Australians with a gluten-free option that could truly transform lives, especially her family, who were diagnosed as gluten intolerant.
She didn’t anticipate that the Australian labelling laws, unlike the rest of the world, prohibited her from labelling gluten-free oats, and after 14 years still stands today. In her mission to help others, she faced unrelenting abuse and attacks from those who disagreed.
After over ten years of lobbying and fighting to have oats declared gluten-free in Australia, Kylie Martin’s persistence and dedication were rewarded when Coeliac Australia confirmed, after an extensive study, that oats are gluten-free and suitable for coeliacs to eat and have backed GF Oats.
Kylie was always looking for healthier alternatives after starting her flour brand, Brighter Life Wheat-Free Foods. In 2007, she stumbled upon a game-changing revelation: in the United States, oats were certified pure and uncontaminated, making them safe for coeliacs to consume. Kylie couldn’t help but wonder if this discovery could also benefit her fellow Australians.
This discovery opened the door to years of trolling across social media. Not the outcome she expected.
“The prevailing belief at the time, both in the media and among food standards, was that oats were not gluten-free. The Australian food industry had not yet grasped that oats could be cross-contaminated with gluten during processing, leading to adverse reactions in those with coeliac disease,” Kylie said. “Despite showing the data and research, and the many studies showing uncontaminated oats are a great whole food for coeliacs, the abuse continued.”
Undeterred, Kylie embarked on a journey to learn more about oats. “I believed that introducing uncontaminated oats into the Australian diet could make a significant difference, especially for people with coeliac disease, as studies show that lack of fibre in the diet causes other health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis,” she said.
In 2009, Kylie decided to take the plunge and establish GF Oats in Australia. She started small, initially bringing in a pallet of gluten-free oats. Despite initial resistance from some quarters, Kylie persevered, firmly believing these oats could have a positive impact on people’s lives.
“I imported 750kg in 2009 and have been fighting ever since against the labelling issues for oats here in Australia, despite numerous international studies and research saying otherwise. The Australian Food Labelling Authority states that any product that contains oats cannot be labelled gluten-free,” she said.
“Coeliac Australia embarked on a study to show that only 5% of coeliac patients react to a protein in oats called Avenin, it is different to the glutinous grains wheat, rye and barley. While we waited for this to be completed, we kept lobbying and trying to educate people about how good oats are and how safe they are for coeliacs and people with intolerances.”
Kylie coined the term “Gloriously Free Oats” (GF Oats). “I wanted to show our commitment to quality and transparency, which ensured that GF Oats adhered to the highest standards of gluten-free certification,” she said. “The oats were sourced from certified gluten-free growers, processed in dedicated gluten-free facilities, and rigorously tested to ensure minimal gluten content. GF Oats became synonymous with uncompromised quality and safety. I want GF Oats to be the gold standard, which follows the Global Oats Protocol standard.”
To supply nutritional and wholefood products to fill the gap in the gluten-free breakfast and snack category, which currently lacks nutritional options, Kylie’s Aussie Oats brand is creating a new industry, supporting Australian farmers. “By helping farmers understand the requirements for growing uncontaminated oats, they can dedicate land to grow this new crop, providing Aussie grown oats, creating access to a new product for consumers looking for Australian made and Australian grown products.”
GF Oats’ new Aussie Oats range are the first oats in Australia sourced from farmers who specialise in growing and processing oats in a clean, uncontaminated environment, ensuring they test to nil gluten.
“We’ve lots of farmers interested in growing uncontaminated oats to meet our growing demand domestically and internationally. It is a great opportunity to get a premium price for a product, and we are working with Avena Mills in WA,” she said. “Now we have the tick of approval from Coeliac Australia, we can work with more farmers.”