Blazing a trail through wheat into the states
Manildra Group wanted to take control of its destiny when first setting out to directly market superior Australian wheat products to United States bakers.
More than half a century ago, when Manildra Group Chairman Dick Honan went to North America to be the first Australian company to break a stranglehold on the vital wheat gluten market, there were five major manufacturers to contend with.
It was 1966 and Mr Honan wanted to directly market Manildra’s 100 per cent Australian-owned, grown and made premium wheat gluten to US bakers.
“What we wanted to do in the US was to control our own destiny,” said Manildra Group General Manager Peter Simpson of Mr Honan’s initial acquisition of a manufacturing facility, in the city of Minneapolis, to establish Manildra Group USA in 1974.
“Like everyone in Australia, we were selling our gluten to US producers. We used to pack our product in their bag for sale – which is never a good idea, because they’re your opposition. Dick went over to set up our own operation and we’ve controlled our own destiny since.”
Today, Manildra Group USA is renowned by major bakers as the benchmark for selection of the highest quality and most consistent vital wheat gluten. But the world-class reputation of Australian wheat is not the sole factor behind the American appetite for Manildra’s superior products over all others.
As consumer demands and industry trends began to evolve, so did Manildra Group USA by opening a manufacturing facility in 1994 in Hamburg, Iowa – which still stands unrivalled in its ability to create specialty value-added products.
“We were the first to market with organic gluten in North America in the early 2000s – providing a solution to a market that would not significantly expand for another decade – and now we’re looking at modified glutens that improve processing, replace eggs and boost protein in applications ranging from bread and frozen dough to biscuits and pasta,” said Manildra Group USA President Neal Bassi.
“But it’s our ability to create customised, highly functional proteins and starches that make the Hamburg facility truly one-of-a-kind. Our GemPro® line of proteins continues to expand to meet new consumer demands for added protein, clean label ingredients, and organic markets.”
The four main product lines – Gem of the West®, GemPro®, GemStar®, and GemGel® – go into foods ranging from bakery to frozen goods, plus a range of industrial applications.
Mr Bassi said Manildra Group USA had seen “tremendous growth” in the past 10 years by adding value to commodity ingredients.
“One way we show commitment to value-adding is by building the state-of-the-art Innovation and Research Centre we moved into last year, which has been specially designed for collaboration with our customers in pioneering product development, as well as to continuously monitor quality,” he said.
“It includes a test bakery, laboratories and an office – giving our customers the opportunity of information and training sessions, such as training apprentice bakers and product developers in the use of wheat proteins.”