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Firm focuses on gluten-free

Stoked Oats: A game changer for gluten-sensitive diets.
Farmers who sell certified organic, gluten-free oats to Stoked Oats must follow specific protocols.

WESTERN PRODUCER -- Having guaranteed gluten-free oats has been a game changer for many celiac or gluten-sensitive consumers.

Many can now eat a varied-nutrient meal with Canadian-produced products.

Calgary-based Stoked Oats is one of several Canadian oatmeal companies dedicated to producing gluten-free oats. President and chief executive officer Simon Donato said he started the company in 2011 with an eye on the cereal market and how there was a gap in the quality of oats delivered to grocery stores.

“It all started with a need to create a better, healthier oatmeal blend. Then… it was the need to serve gluten sensitive and celiac customers,” Donato said.

The company sets out several stipulations for Alberta and Saskatchewan farmers from whom it buys its certified organic, gluten-free oats.

“(They have) got to follow a number of protocols set out by the mills in order to meet their requirements … then obviously the mills are required to test and they’ve got their own thresholds that have been provided by various third-party agencies.”

The more specialized the grain, with more certifications required, the higher the price farmers get for it. This price is passed on to the customer.

Donato said the company has carried out forecasts to reduce possible supply chain risks.

“Consequently, we’ve been able to hold our price, even while other companies chose not to for various reasons or were simply unable to if they wanted to, to remain solvent.”

Stoked Oats provides a line of plain oatmeal, of various cuts, as well as blends, and granola. It tries to keep things as local as possible, so it sources the flax for the oatmeal blend in Alberta and Manitoba. The packaging for their flexible plastic pouches is made in Canada.

The more exotic ingredients in Stoked Oats’ mixed blends are sourced from within North America as much as possible, such as almonds from California and apples from Washington. More exotic items like chia seed and mulberries are imported from overseas suppliers.

Stoked Oats has a core office staff of 10 at its Calgary headquarters, but uses several facilities and mills across Canada.

“We’ve got brokers working for the company. We’ve got our co-packers working…. We’ve got mills. We’re (processing) millions of pounds of oats a year. That keeps these mills busy,” Donato said.

The company runs under a “grain from rain” commitment, in which oats are grown only with rain water, but it has has been difficult to maintain, Donato said.

“The reason (we are not at 100 percent) is we’ve got to be honest, in 2021, for the most recent example, the Prairies were scorched. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of acres of grain (were) lost because of the drought. In situations like that, even we would flex our standards in order to produce and be able to feed people….”

Donato said the introduction of oat milk changed the industry.

“When Oatly came to North America and blew up the plant milk market by introducing oat milk, it started drawing a tremendous amount of oats that previously had ei