Putting the focus on consumers

When former Sydney marketing executive Meg Bennett moved to the Macquarie Valley with her husband, wheat farmer Michael, she wanted to know everything about graingrowing. "I would constantly ask what varieties do we grow? Why do we grow that? Is that what the mills want? What varieties are wanted for export?"

Ms Bennett is now two years into a project working with a team of growers in which a new wheat product, Macquarie Premium, has been developed to meet precise mill requirements.

She says the development, by Macquarie 2100, a community organisation set up to enhance economic agricultural sustainability, has demonstrated just how crucial it is to understand the customer"s needs.

"The market is clearly changing. The demand now is for a number of streams of varieties and grades, and for a widening range of end-uses."

A trial was undertaken with local wheat growers to match a particular mill"s requirements by using and blending particular varieties to see if they could create extra value for their wheat. Two one-day wheat workshops were also held with representatives from BRI Australia, the Grain Foods CRC, the mill and a NSW Department of Primary Industries grain expert. "As a result of these workshops we were able to establish which wheats were right for different markets," she says. This led the group to test samples, which growers followed to Sydney to see first­hand how they performed.

Ms Bennett says the pilot milling and baking trial showed the parcel of Macquarie wheat was slightly better than a standard commercial grist, indicating there was value-adding potential by delivering a segregated supply to domestic millers. Macquarie Premium was born. "The experience has made us all change focus from supplying a commodity to creating a value-added product."