As Tracy Perry and Beth Armour discovered (see part 1 of this spotlight article) when they first rose to the challenge of making gluten free oats available to celiac sufferers, the challenge of finding a solution to a problem is often easier than making it commercially available. After overcoming numerous obstacles in the production, storage and processing of oats to deliver a gluten free product, taking the product to market proved to be the biggest challenge of all!!
Since no one had previously been able to deliver gluten free oats before, the whole question of what to label the product in Canada and other potential export markets such as the USA, became a point of contention. Should the product be labelled "pure oats", "wheat free", "gluten free" or some other designation? As a Canadian based company, 'Cream Hill Estates' decided to focus on getting clarity regarding what it could legally call its product in the domestic market, since the sooner it could get a label that satisfied the law and other stakeholders,it would be in a position to start selling its product.
By the fall of 2005 the accepted description for gluten free oats sold in Canada was agreed to be "wheat free oats". This paved the way for the distribution and sale of the 'Cream Hill Estates' product all accross Canada. Unfortunately Tracy and Beth learned that this breakthrough would not in itself translate into a demand for their product from celiac sufferers.
It soon became clear that celiacs from coast to coast needed to be convinced that the product would be safe to consume. Starting with the Quebec Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association, Tracy and Beth gave talks, mailed information, engaged medical experts, government officials and family members of celiac sufferers from Halifax to Vancouver. Their message pointed to research from reputable sources and results from those who had already been eating gluten free oats for some time, that the careful introduction of this product into the diet under medical supervision in most cases will not result in any negative health issues.
As the message sank in celiac sufferers have been willing to consume gluten free oats. The uptake has been slow, but after five years of hard work 'Cream Hill Estates' sells product in Canada, USA, Australia and Israel.
Having won over sceptics and obtained the support of a number of leading celiac society bodies around the world for the inclusion of gluten free oats in one's diet, there are further challenges that need to be tackled. These include widening the distribution of the 'Cream Hill Estates' product, making the product more affordable so greater numbers of people can enjoy it and creating a cost effective communications plan that clearly re-inforces the integrity and values of the 'Cream Hill Estates' brand.
Given the obstacles that Tracy and Beth have already overcome in the short time their company has been going, there should be no doubt that these two pioneers will meet these latest challenges head-on and succeed.