45 flavours and pass the bagel

Australians' multicultural tastes in food show no signs of abating. Take, for example, the testimony of one Sydney bagel manufacturer, who reported that demand for this tasty boiled bread product went up 500 per cent last year alone.

GRDC Managing Director John Lovett noted that the capacity for growers and their industries to react to changes in market demand is demonstrated by the changes in the wheat crop during the past decades.

"The 45 grades of Australian wheat available to market needs in the 1990s are a far cry from the 'Fair Average Quality' of the 1930s," Professor Lovett said. "It shows an incredible diversification and specialisation, particularly in the last few years."

Despite the fact that Australian per capita consumption of grain-based foods has not changed since before World War II, Australians have shown an increased demand for specialty products. A decline in bread consumption of 20 per cent since 1990 has been offset by an increasing emphasis on wheat for biscuits and cakes, followed by the development of wheats to meet the needs of pasta and gluten markets.

And there's big and growing demand for specialised wheats for noodles, specialist breads and other products to meet the needs of the Pacific Rim and elsewhere.

When it comes to marketing, the pulse industry might do worse than look to the recent history of wheat for inspiration.