SE oats take on Asian markets
A Keith cropper is taking locally-grown oats to national and international markets.
Upper South East oat grower Sam Densley is helping health-conscious Australian and Asian consumers start their day with a highly nutritious breakfast.
Four years ago, he began the burgeoning brand Quality Wise Oats and has gradually been growing sales of rolled oats and the more finely milled quick oats.
Mr Densley, a former agronomist, began the venture to attract a premium for himself and other local growers.
He says oats were the ideal choice, being widely grown in the area.
“We had a fantastic local processor in Blue Lake Milling (at Bordertown) who processed oats for many brands but no local brand,” he said. “I really wanted to make one that had its processing and production origin here.”
For the past two years he and another Bordertown grower have been sending their processed Bannister oats to Malaysia and, more recently, China.
Quality Wise Oats has also gained a foothold in Foodland and IGA stores across SA as well as distributors in NSW, WA and Vic and some online sales.
Mr Densley admits value-adding is a challenge, especially competing for supermarket space and retaining a margin, but he estimates they are achieving a 15 per cent to 20pc premium.
The focus for the 750 gram re-sealable packs is high-end niche markets where consumers are “motivated to give something back to farmers”.
The brand is also drawing on the growing consumer desire to know where their food has come from.
“We thought the way to do it was to have a brand that you could tell the consumer how they are grown, where they are grown and any agronomic benefits you have used to make them healthier,” he said.
Each pack is fully traceable with consumers able to enter the barcode number on the Quality Wise Foods website and see the agronomic treatments as well as harvesting, transport and milling dates.
“It is a fair amount of work but they can see the oats haven’t been sitting in a silo for years,” he said.
Mr Densley says it is a highly nutritious breakfast – low in sodium and fat, high in fibre and high in cholesterol lowering beta-gluten.
“It is a great healthy option for cold winter mornings or for kids before a big day at school,” he said.
In the coming year or two, he hopes to grow demand to export containers rather than pallets.
“If we can get to a stage where we are regularly exporting containers, we can start getting some economies of scale and being able to have better distribution of our costs,” he said.
“We promote SA origin wherever we can because that name is starting to gain momentum”.
OATS are a great fit for Sam and Rebekah Densley on their 800-hectare property at Keith, agronomically on their sandy soils and for weed control in the first year following a pasture rotation.
The Densleys are selling about half of their annual production into the Quality Wise brand but have gradually grown the area sown each year in their mixed farming business.
Mr Densley says growing a dual-purpose crop such as oats provides added flexibility to take paddocks through to grain, cut them for hay or graze them.
“The thing about oats is we will always use it some way or another and it fits well no matter what sort of season you have,” he said.
“And we run sheep as well so anything not up to the high quality we need can be fed to them.”
After trialling several varieties Mr Densley said they decided on Bannister oats for the brand due to its superior texture.
“There is not much difference between them but it is a high yielding oat and seems to be very consistent in the qualities we’re looking for,” he said.