It’s not just a business name, Naturally GlutenFree is also a lifestyle choice for these Central Coast entrepreneurs, and perfectly embodies the quality of their products.
Long before they started a successful business together, Ash Ghahramani and Brendan Miotello had something in common – a strong family connection to good food.
Brendan’s Italian heritage saw him grow up surrounded by wonderful produce, prepared with love and care and enjoyed together as a family. Growing up in Griffith Brendan was apprenticed to his uncle’s business, the famous Bertoldo’s Bakery, before moving to Canberra to become a pastry chef.
Ash’s Persian heritage instilled a similar love for good food, its preparation and the enjoyment of sharing it. Persian cuisine consists of delicately balanced dishes with spices, fruits and nuts and, like Italian cuisine, relies heavily on quality fresh produce.
Ash is foremost an accomplished businessman. His business acumen and love of food saw him become the youngest franchisee for Gloria Jeans in Australia, eventually carving out a career training other franchise owners.
After marriage Ash and his wife Kirsty travelled overseas for an extended period before returning ready to do something new. Their extended jaunt had re-ignited their passion for good food and clean eating and saw them move to Canberra to take up a consulting role with a boutique bakery. There they met Brendan and wife Sue-Ellen.
By this stage Brendan had a pretty impressive baking CV. Ash and Kirsty had a personal interest in baked products with Kirsty suffering from coeliac disease and unable to consume products containing gluten. The couple had found it almost impossible to source good quality gluten free breads that fit with their healthy lifestyle and clean eating.
While working together, Ash and Brendan became passionate about the challenge of producing a great tasting gluten free bread. They nailed it and the seed for Naturally GlutenFree was planted. The explosion of ‘gluten-free’ as a health fad tag-line didn’t necessarily have the expected effect of increasing the availability of good gluten-free products. There were many more products labelled as gluten-free, but it wasn’t always helpful – you could label frozen peas gluten-free if you thought it would help sales. What actually resulted was the market being muddied by these ‘false’ products as well as a flood of inferior gluten-free baked goods, jumping on the bandwagon.
Ash and Brendan felt strongly that you should be able to look at a product’s ingredients list and interpret it. That it should have as few ingredients as possible. Bread for example, at its best, should consist of not too much more than flour, water and yeast. Luckily Ash had an ace up his sleeve – his father had a background in food technology and was able to help them navigate the confusing world of additives.
Ingredients like modified starch, commonly used as a thickener in processed foods, and which is broken down with hydrochloric acid, is often used to create a soft texture in gluten-free breads. Another common culprit is sugar, also used to add flavour and softness (with a dash of addiction for good measure). Plus, up to 40% of the gluten-free bread sold in Australia has been baked months before and is shipped here frozen or in gas-flush bags, a system whereby gas is injected repeatedly into packaging to eliminate oxygen.
If you pick up a loaf of supermarket gluten-free bread and look at its ingredient list you can find up to 20 listed for some products. In contrast, the ‘Classic Loaf’ Ash and Brendan created has seven – water, tapioca, non GM corn, organic quinoa, yeast, sea salt and guar gum (a thickener made from the guar berry, a much better option than modified starch).
Dovetailing with the idea of this new business venture was the dream of finding the perfect place to not just establish the business but to raise a family and put down roots. After a few reccys both couples fell in love with the Coast and saw it’s potential as the headquarters of Naturally GlutenFree which was launched in 2007.
With Naturally GlutenFree Ash and Brendan committed to creating gluten-free products that are clean (free of any harmful additives or preservatives) and handmade on their premises using premium ingredients. Ash is quite open about the fact that the profit margin is probably much slimmer than that of other products in the marketplace. In fact recently a huge hike in the price of the premium quality organic quinoa they rely on heavily for their breads saw profits take a battering, but at no point was it an option to accept a lesser substitute. Naturally GlutenFree is part of this extended family’s lifestyle, not just their livelihood.
Brendan and Sue-Ellen now have son Jayden and daughters Charli and Mia. Ash and Kirsty have daughter Isabella and son Max. Both families are heavily into sports and active within the community. Their clean eating is an extension of this active lifestyle and the products they create are an integral part of it.
After being courted by Coles and supplying their stores for several years Ash and Brendan took a brave step back from the slightly soul destroying supermarket industry to concentrate on supplying smaller retailers more in tune with the quality of their products and to also supply wholesale to restaurants and cafés.
Their products are extensively stocked in Sydney and they also supply Bondi Pizza’s gluten-free bases. Locally you can find their bases at Four Hands Pizza, Terrigal and The Supreme Pizza, Kincumber and Kariong. Many restaurants also use their breads and buns, as far afield as Matt Moran’s Aria Restaurant
in Brisbane. Try it locally at The Tame Fox, Erina.
Naturally GlutenFree celebrated 10 years in business in 2017 and have grown to employ over 10 locals. They have just purchased a larger premises at Tuggerah to accommodate future growth – something of a birthday present!
Their range includes breads, buns, pizza bases, biscuits and pantry items, available from selected retailers across. Even better, you can have your gluten-free products speedily delivered straight to your door, ordering via their website.