This week Down Under

First gluten-free barley beer ships out of Australia to Germany

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags World health organisation Bottled water

A science-based Aussie invention has succeeded in taking the world's first gluten-free barley beer to German supermarkets.

Kebari​” barley, which was developed by Csiro, the government scientific research agency, has been used to make the drink, which will come as especially good news for beer-lovers with coeliac disease who could soon enjoy a greater variety of foods and beverages.

German brewer Radeberger used the Kebari barley for the beverage, which it named Pionier, to become the first such beer to conform to the German beer purity law, Reinheitsgebot.

Csiro, with co-funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, bred the Kebari grain, a new variety of barley with ultra-low levels of hordeins, the type of gluten normally found in the crop.

"Using conventional breeding we've reduced the gluten levels to 10,000 times less than regular barley, which more than meets the World Health Organisation's recommendation for calling a grain gluten-free​," principal research scientist Crispin Howitt said.

In the future, this will provide more variety for those with coeliac disease, and for people who avoid gluten, whose diets can be nutritionally poor, high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre.

"It's really exciting seeing the first product made with the malted version of our Kebari grain; we hope it's the first of many products​," Dr Howitt said.

"We're also working on a hulless version of Kebari which is preferable for use in a range of foods like breakfast cereals, soup, even pasta and flatbreads, which will be the first part of the next generation of gluten-free products helping people with coeliac disease to increase fibre, promote bowel health and enhance nutrition in their diet​."

While Pionier beer is currently only available in Germany, Csiro is continuing to explore commercial opportunities with Australian brewers to develop a local beer using the barley.

Once development of a hulless version is complete, there are plans to work with manufacturers to bring a range of foods containing Kebari barley to Australian consumers.

While it is “ultra-low​” in gluten, it still cannot claim to be “gluten-free​” in Australia or New Zealand under current regulations.

However, the gluten level is well below 20 parts per million, the level recommended by the World Health Organisation for classification as gluten-free, so in some other countries, including Germany, products made with Kebari barley can carry the “gluten-free” claim.

More stories from Down Under…

Sales of ‘healthy’ bottled water still growing among Australians

Bottled water consumption is on the rise in Australia, where some 400,000 more consumers went “eau natural​” in 2015 than in the previous year.


Last year, some 5.3m Australians—or 27.1% of of the population over the age of 14—drank bottled water in an average week, compared to 4.9m in 2014.  

The most popular brand by far was Mount Franklin, consumed by nearly 40% of all bottled-water drinkers, followed distantly by Coles Natural Spring Water (14.0%) and Pump Pure Water (12.8%). 

France’s Evian was only the tenth-most popular brand, consumed by 1.6% of the population in an average seven days. 

Overall, a higher proportion of Australian women (29.7%) than men (24.5%) drank bottled water in a pattern that was evident across most of the top 10 brands. 

Cool Ridge and Fiji Water had the most pronounced gender skew towards women, while only Peats Ridge was consumed by slightly more men than women. 

Australians under 50 were markedly more likely than older Aussies to pick bottled water, with its popularity peaking among the 25-34 year-old bracket—a third of whom would consume a bottle in an average week. 

Consumption was most widespread in Western Australia, where 30.2% of residents drank some each week, followed by New South Wales. Tasmanians were below average at 22.3%. 

Selling something we can drink for free from the tap is a big ask, but by emphasising the natural and untouched quality of their water, these brands are implying, without stating outright, that they are better for the consumer than tap water​,” said Andrew Price of Roy Morgan Research.

By illustration, a theme emerges when considering Australia’s 10 most widely consumed bottled waters, said Price. There are brand names that evoke images of nature, such as Mount Franklin, Cool Ridge, Peats Ridge, Fiji Water; or purity, with Aqua Pura, Coles Natural Spring Water. 

This message appears to be resonating with more women than men: not only do they drink more of it, but slightly more of them [2.2m women compared to 2m men] agree that ‘bottled water is better to drink than tap water​’.” 

However, Cool Ridge’s particular success with women, who comprise 64% of all its drinkers might also have something to do with its ultra-cute advertising campaign featuring puppets of native fauna brainstorming ideas to market their brand!

The challenge for brands in such a crowded market is to stand out on a shelf full of blue plastic bottles with similar labels and virtually indistinguishable contents—to distinguish themselves from a sea of competitors​,” Price added.

NZ FGC announces new chair following board elections

The New Zealand Food & Grocery Council has welcomed its first female chair with the election of Veronique Cremades-Mathis, Nestlé New Zealand’s country manager, who replaces Pierre van Heerden of Sanitarium, who steps down after completing his three-year term.

Veronique Cremades-Mathis
Veronique Cremades-Mathis

Cremades-Mathis has more than 25 years’ experience in the food and beverage industry, having worked in corporate and product development functions in Europe, key Nestlé accounts and business leadership in Asia, Oceania and Africa.

She has been a FGC vice-chair since 2013 and chair of its Health & Technical working group. 

FGC’s members represent more than NZ$34bn in domestic retail sales, more than NZ$31bn in exports, and directly or indirectly employ about 400,000 people, and so it plays an absolutely vital part in the economy​,” Cremades-Mathis said. 

My aim is to ensure our focus remains on ensuring that our industry produces the best and safest food and grocery products available anywhere​.”

Three new board members were elected at an AGM: Leon Clement, managing director of Fonterra Brands NZ, Sharna Heinjus, general manager of Kimberly-Clark NZ, and Shane Webby, director of Twin Agencies.

The full Board new features: Veronique Cremades-Mathis, chair; Scott MacKay (Design Print Partners), vice-chair; Gerry Lynch, (Mars NZ) vice-chair; Pierre van Heerden, immediate past chair; Leon Clement; Mark Hamilton (Bell Tea & Coffee Co); Sharna Heinjus; Shane Webby; John Kippenberger (Manuka Health); Tim Deane (Goodman Fielder).

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