This post was sponsored by Quaker Oats, however, the opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Gluten-Free Blogger Summit hosted by Quaker Oats. In January 2016, they are launching gluten-free oats nationwide in three varieties: 18 oz. Quaker Quick 1-Minute Oats and Quaker Instant Oatmeal in both 10-ct. Original and 8-ct. Maple & Brown Sugar flavors. The gluten-free varieties will be labeled under the Quaker Select Starts line. They are taking great pains to ensure the oats are gluten-free and wanted to share their process with the gluten-free community.
The first day was mainly social. There were 10 gluten-free bloggers in attendance. It was so nice to actually meet some other gluten-free bloggers in person! As you can imagine, most of our interaction is online so it is sooooooo exciting to actually meet face to face! Thank you Quaker. We also got to meet our hosts from Quaker which included representatives from nutrition sciences, milling, PR and marketing. We had a lovely dinner, gluten-free of course, which impressed even this jaded New Yorker.
Day two was really the nuts and bolts. We started the day with a gluten-free oatmeal bar, I mean, really, would you expect anything else? The oatmeal tasted just like the original because, well, it is, and no one with celiac disease reported any symptoms. Whew, OK we’re off to a good start. Next they gave us a full “oatucation” (cute right?) led by Alan Koechner, director of global milling research and development for The Quaker Oats Company.
Now, let’s address the pink elephant in the room…I, and apparently everyone else, was really nervous about what Quaker would say. We were all concerned with the Cheerios recall and what if this was another big company thinking they had made some kind of breakthrough, but were completely missing the mark? What would I say? I was pretty freaked. Well, apparently I had no need to worry. Quaker has been making oatmeal for nearly 140 years and there was no way they wanted to endanger their trusted brand. They are damn sure their products are safe.
So first let me clear up some confusion you may have. Oats are NATURALLY gluten-free. However, during farming, transportation and storage, gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, barley and spelt may be unintentionally introduced. These stray grains contaminate the oats so they are no longer gluten-free. So how does Quaker address this dilemma? In this initial state they “clean” the oats. Now that term scared me but apparently “cleaning” is just industry lingo for sorting. So no washing. No chemicals. Nothing to affect the flavor. Whew. They simply (well, not so simply) remove the stray grains by using both mechanical and optical sorters to identify these strays based on density, color and length.
Then if that wasn’t impressive enough, they have multiple checkpoints throughout every stage of the process. And here’s the part that sold me on…perhaps a big company is better suited to make gluten-free oats…if at any point the groats (that’s an oat with its hull removed, before it is cut and flaked) do not pass the test, the entire lot gets sent over to the non-gluten free side. No issues about losing money, they simply move the oats over and start again. The only exception is, if there is an issue when it reaches packaging. Then the whole lot gets tossed. However, once again, that is really not that big of an issue for a huge company. Conversely, a small producer would really feel the pain.
Next, we were treated to a cooking demonstration from Sam Stephens from OatMeals in NYC. Yes, there is an entire restaurant devoted exclusively to oatmeal. Now before you say “only in New York,” Sam signed a franchise deal, so one may be opening near you soon. Did you know that you can use oatmeal to make savory dishes? Think risotto but use oatmeal and you have a wonderful side dish for your family or next dinner party. And during the demo we also realized that even though these were quick cooking oats, they held their shape like old fashioned oats. So you get the advantage of saving time without your recipes turning to mush. Kudos on the quality Quaker. Impressive.
We ended the day with a cooking challenge. I got to partner with Lauren of The Celiac Diva. We made a salty and sweet oatmeal inspired by the South. In addition to oatmeal, it had chocolate chips, goat cheese, turkey bacon and maple syrup, sprinkled with a little salt. I could not believe my good fortune to be paired with someone who also believes chocolate chips make everything better. Everything. Apparently, I found someone else as crazy as I am!
Now my only disclaimer, and I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you, oats are high in fiber and a gluten-free diet is often times low in fiber. So go easy. Start with a small amount and work your way up. If you haven’t enjoyed oatmeal in years, you may be inclined to overdo it and create intestinal symptoms.
With that said, I advise each person to use their best judgment when deciding whether or not to try Quaker’s gluten-free products. I have presented the facts as they were presented to me, and I hope they help you make the right decision for yourself and your family.