Kebari™: The ultra-low gluten barley

Kebari™ barley is a new grain that meets the World Health Organization's recommendation for classification as gluten-free. The first commercially-produced product made with Kebari grain is Radeberger’s Pionier gluten-free beer, now available in Germany.

The Challenge

New grains to meet the demand for low gluten products

There is a large and growing global demand for food and beverage products to meet the needs of people with coeliac disease and people who are gluten intolerant.

People with these conditions need to follow a life-long gluten free diet, and these diets are often expensive, high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre, minerals and vitamins, which in turn can contribute to adverse health conditions.

Our Response

Kebari™ barley grain

Using conventional plant breeding methods, our researchers have developed Kebari barley, a world-first barley grain that has 10,000 times less hordeins (the type of gluten found in barley) than regular barley.

Co-inventor Dr Greg Tanner (retired) in a field of Kebari barley

We have named the barley Kebari, in honour of an archaeological discovery at the Sea of Galilee, where evidence of the Kebaran people growing, harvesting and processing barley 23,000 years ago has been found.

The gluten content of Kebari barley is less than 5 parts per million (ppm), well below the limit of 20 ppm recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for classification as gluten-free.

While it is 'ultra-low' in gluten, and does meet the WHO recommendation for classification as gluten-free, Kebari barley cannot be called 'gluten-free' in Australia or New Zealand under the current Food Standards Code as it is a barley grain. Regulations in Europe will allow products containing Kebari grain to be called gluten-free.

Kebari barley was developed through the Coeliac Friendly Cereals project, co-funded by CSIRO and The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The Results

Pionier beer: the first of many products

Kebari barley has been used to make the first commercially brewed, full flavoured, barley-based, gluten-free beer. The Pionier beer, produced by German brewer Radeberger, was launched in Germany in April, 2016.

German brewer Radeberger's Pionier gluten free beer, brewed using Kebari barley

In Germany the production of beer is regulated by the German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) which allows only water, barley, yeast and hops to be used in beer making. By using Kebari grain, Radeberger have been able to release the first ever gluten-free beer marketed in Germany, a fitting celebration of tradition and innovation in 2016, which is the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot. 

Pionier beer will hopefully be the first of many new Kebari barley products suitable for people with coeliac disease and people who avoid gluten in their diets.

Kebari ultra low gluten barley

Show transcript

[Music plays, CSIRO logo appears on bottom right hand corner of screen and text appears: Kebari barley, A CSIRO innovation]

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt and text appears on screen: Dr Crispin Howitt]

Dr Crispin Howitt: One in five people in the Western world avoid gluten in their diet, some by choice, and some through necessity, such as Coeliac’s. Their diets are often nutritionally poor, high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre. To help solve this problem we’ve developed the world’s first gluten free barley.

[Image changes to show a man inspecting barley plants]

Using conventional breeding we’ve reduced the gluten content in this grain over 10,000 fold, such that it more than meets the World Health Organisation’s recommendation for classification as gluten free.

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt standing in a field]

This field behind me came from a single barley grain that we developed in 2009.

[Image changes as camera pans across the field]

[Image changes to show Dr Phil Larkin and text appears on screen: Dr Phil Larkin]

Dr Phil Larkin: We’ve called this barley Kebari, and that’s, too, in recognition of quite a remarkable archaeological discovery not so long ago at the Sea of Galilee. There was a community there called the Kebaran, 23,000 years ago they were growing and harvesting and processing barley, so we call it Kebari in honour of that very ancient use.

The first version of Kebari we’ve produced is a hulled version, that’s got the husk still on it, and that’s used for malting and making beer, and stuff like Milo as well.

[Image changes to show Kebari grains in the palm of a person’s hand]

We’ve got naked grain versions coming on behind that, which will be used for food.

[Image changes back to Dr Phil Larkin]

Kebari has been used by a German brewer called Radeberger, who have made the world’s first commercially brewed, full flavoured barley beer labelled gluten free.

[Image changes to show a beer bottle appearing to the right of the screen]

And that’s now available in Germany. We’re excited about that.

[Image changes back to Dr Crispin Howitt]

Dr Crispin Howitt: From a single seed came all of this.

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt holding up a seed in his hand, then spreading out his arms, and the camera pans out to show the barley crop growing in the field behind him]

[Image changes to show beer being poured into a glass from a bottle labelled Pionier Glutenfrei Pilsener]

[Text appears on screen:]

[CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here]

Hide transcript

Read more about the Kebari™ barley: Frequently asked questions 

Kebari™ is a trade mark of CSIRO.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and The Royal Melbourne Hospital were involved in the early stages of the ultra-low gluten barley project.


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