Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Value Chain
GROUND COVER VALUE CHAIN Sunflower snacks ALTHOUGH SUNFLOWERS ARE generally associated with cooking oil, it is their use as a snack food like potato chips that may provide an alterna- tive market for Australian growers. The 'split and spit' market, so called because the snack sunflower seeds are eaten by splitting the seed hulls and spitting them out, is well established in South-East Asia and the Middle East, and is seen as a market of interest for the Australasian seed production company Lefroy Seeds. Mr Neil Weier, marketing director of Lefroy Seeds, says it has been a challenge to import the particular variety of sunflower seeds needed for this market. "Quarantine restrictions require all imported sunflower seeds be grown and tested under quarantine, which slows the introduction, breeding and evaluation process," he says. Nonetheless, Mr Weier says the company hopes to be releasing 'split and spit' seed varieties to growers in the next two years. For the 'split and spit'market, the visual appearance of seeds is more important than it is for oil-producing varieties or varieties used in the de- hulling market for addition to muesli and muesli bars, Mr Weier says. For example, the 'split and spit' sunflower seeds need to have a shell that is at least two centimetres in length -- significantly longer than those of the seeds for the other markets. "Also, to be aesthetically pleasing, they must have clean, clearly-marked stripes running along the shell." One of the drawbacks previously experienced with these snack variet- ies of sunflower is that they tend to be lower yielding and have a greater susceptibility to diseases than the sunflower varieties for the oilseed and de-hulling markets. "We are working on germplasm development to produce varieties with greater yield capacity and disease resistance, which is showing good promise" says Mr Weier. "We have a number of hybrids with improved characteristics, and we are looking to test one or two of these in small trials on growers' proper- ties next year." For more information: Mr Neil Weier, 0429 622 056 Know your product -- and who buys it Knowing your customer and your product intimately are vital to improving profitability within the grains industry, according to Tim Wirth, chief operating executive, protein division, for industrial wheat processor Manildra. "Value-adding for us is all about offering the appropriate functional wheat protein to our customers, giving them a unique advantage in the market. You have to know their processes and how our proteins will interact in their system," he says. Manildra is Australia's largest user of wheat for industrial purposes, processing about 1.5 million tonnes a year. Its product range includes flour, bakery pre-mixes and products derived from flour such as modified and native wheat starches, glucose syrups, maltodextrine, vital wheat gluten, isolated wheat proteins and ethanol. It has recently developed technology that produces functional proteins from wheat, which while retaining their nutritional value, also allow food manufacturers a cheaper alternative to dairy and soy-based proteins. A meticulous understanding of both its core product and its customers has been key to ensuring success in Western and Eastern Europe and the US. "Most of the functional proteins we now produce have evolved into market leaders through ongoing customer input," Mr Wirth says. "We have been able to produce a protein that acts in the same way as animal-based proteins. Manufacturers have been looking for alternative proteins with excellent emulsification and water- binding capabilities. The wheat proteins that we have developed now compare favourably with caseinates, whey concentrates and soy proteins." Its success in manufacturing 'isolating wheat proteins' resulted in an $885,000 Food Innovation Grant in 2003, to develop defatted wheat proteins with improved flavour characteristics. "The idea was to create a super-functional, low-flavoured, isolated wheat protein and take it from the concept to pilot plant ... construction of the pilot plant has now commenced." The project aims to fill a gap in the market for a stable-priced protein that can compete with more volatile dairy proteins. It is anticipated this new end-use could be worth an extra $100 million a year to the grains industry. 5 Sunflower seeds: the two large varieties are those suitable for the 'split and spit' market.
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