GF Oats are uniquely grown and processed in gluten free facilities to ensure they maintain certified uncontamination from the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley.
However current Australian labelling laws prohibit a product that contains oats to claim to be gluten free. So a conundrum was presented to Kylie Hollonds as she has personal experience with coeliac patients being diagnosed in her family, knowing the GF Oats are truly gluten free has been pivotal.
Since achieving a ‘gluten free status’ in the USA over 10 years ago, GK Gluten Free Foods introduced Gloriously Free Uncontaminated Oats (GF Oats) to Australian consumers in 2009. Kylie found consumers were eager for her oats despite this being seen by some as a controversial move.
Me: To date what has been your best business decision for GK Gluten Free Foods as a whole?
Kylie: In 2011 we refined the range to only focus on the oats. For our first marketing campaign we produced a 40g sample pack and gave it to our distributors, they loved it and consumers did too. With our packaging we started with stickers on pouch bags and once we had built our turnover, a loyal following of consumers and finalised labelling compliance with relative departments, we moved to the film with a box bottom bag. We also did extensive market research in 2015 and got very clear feedback that consumers linked the blue colour on our labels with our brand. We knew then that the film bag design had to be predominantly blue.
Me: Looking back what would you consider to have been the best opportunity GK Gluten Free Foods has had?
Kylie: The best opportunity we have had was partnering with a company who were the growers and were also a family of coeliacs in the USA. Their compliance approach and quality assurance to the purity protocol matched our values which made our idea of bringing premium ‘gluten free oats’ to Australia possible. Since the growers understood inherently the importance of being truly gluten free all safety concerns were alleviated and in 10 years we have never had a problem.
Me: What has been the biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?
Kylie: Communicating what the product is while being restricted by Australian labelling laws. We have overcome this hurdle by educating our distributors, retailers and customers. Here we have had to be creative in the way we communicate the value of its purity and the fact that it IS gluten free but we can’t label our products as such. We want to be very transparent with our customers so we test each batch that comes into Australia and display these results on our website. We also go to great lengths to supply retailers with a variety of marketing material to support their staff to enable them to share the correct information about this product to consumers.
Me: What do you think will help you grow the business in the years ahead?
Kylie: Extending our lines. Twelve months ago our growth came from our Organic line. Recently we have value added with a Chocolate Muesli and the new breakfast Go Pack which has provided access into different consumer segments. Our Mix Spice Muesli will hit the shelves in October. In the future we would like to source Australian farmers who are willing to grow gluten free oats so we can source locally, now that we have proven there is a demand from Australian consumers we are confident this is just a matter of time. We hope that will then open us up to export opportunities too.
Me: What are your best 3 tips for new manufacturers?
- Don’t try to have too many sku’s. Pick your top 6 products and see which is the hero and which you should grow. Be prepared let go of lines that are not advantageous.
- Do your market research. Really hone in on why your product is different or better than what else it out there. Find out what problem your product solves for your consumer.
- Keep your brand and packaging very simple – this has been your advice along the way Renee. It’s true, make it really easy for the consumer to understand what you sell – keep it really simple.
Me: Why do you continue working with Evolve Brand Design?
Kylie: You understand the industry, what packaging needs to communicate on a retail shelf for the best impact. I just know when I get designs back from you it will be what I wanted and you will communicate the quality I am looking for.
Final comment from Kylie: If you have a product that is expensive, people will always use this as a barrier to purchasing until they understand what the value exchange is. We have found consumers are prepared to pay for quality when they see this value. Be very honest and transparent with consumers. Just know who your customer is, don’t worry about the people challenging your price, today’s consumers really are prepared to pay for quality. Premium products are different to commodity products.
For more information about Gloriously Free Oats check out www.gfoats.com.au