True blue favourite flatbread wraps up market
In the vibrant regional Victorian community of Maryborough, True Foods Managing Director Mark Thurlow finds himself “the luckiest man on Earth” to be “surrounded by people who would do almost anything to support the business and local jobs”.
Since 2001, the 100 per cent Australian family-owned and operated business has grown to become the town’s largest private employer. This is a far cry from its original establishment in a tiny factory south of Melbourne which rapidly outgrew its subsequent sites before settling on 11 hectares in Maryborough, home to True Food’s 12,000 square metre facility.
With retail and food service customers ranging from all major supermarkets and international franchise groups to health food chains as well as high street bakers and cafes, True Foods is also the largest Australian-owned manufacturer of tortilla wraps and flatbread products, having set out to transform supermarket aisles and re-invent the use of tortilla as an everyday staple in the Australian diet.
“We just love the fact that an Australian-owned brand has been so well-accepted in the face of such stiff competition in the wrap space with global companies of multi-billion-dollar turnovers,” Mr Thurlow told The Cultivator.
It was more than a decade ago when True Foods first helped push tortilla out of the Mexican aisle and into the bakery category in Australian supermarkets.
Rather than being seen as an international cuisine, the market shift to wraps as a healthy alternative to sliced bread to meet the demands of increasingly educated consumers revealed they were not always getting the health benefits they sought, said Mr Thurlow.
“Hence the move into the developing our Better For You range, which provides additional benefits from lower carbohydrates and higher protein, to the use of prebiotics and inclusion of proprietary fibre blends, lower sodium and various grains,” he said.
Catapulting the Simson’s Pantry brand into the premium health and wellness space with the launch of the Better For You range in March 2020 “really resonated with health-conscious consumers seeking alternatives to bread they can really feel better about,” said Mr Thurlow.
The consumer sentiment has been reflected in recent accolades for two Simson’s Pantry products from the Better for You range. Accolades include Retail Product of the Year finalist in both the Food and Beverage Industry Awards, and industry awards for the High Protein Low Carb warps – which rocketed to top-seller in Coles’ premium wraps segment within just four months – and in the Australian Healthy Food awards for the Super Barley wraps.
Most recently, True Foods was awarded Coles Sustainability Supplier of the Year and was a finalist for Coles Bakery Supplier of the Year. As with most bakery inputs, consistency is critical when making flatbreads.
“As a longer shelf-life product susceptible to sticking and passing through a very long national supply chain, we have a lot of variables to manage, so making sure our production team is provided consistent ingredients is just one way we can support their work,” said Mr Thurlow.
“I don’t think any bakery can underestimate the cost of inconsistency on production time, waste, and ultimately on finished product quality.
“Working with Manildra Group on this forms a critical part of our relationship – especially in the months prior to changing to new-season wheat. Knowing what is coming and working on ways to minimise the impact is critical to managing what can be a very tricky time in the production calendar.”
Manildra Group Victorian Account Manager Sean Pendlebury said close and enduring working relationships with customers enabled a complete understanding of specific product goals and needs “and allows us to provide the very best ingredients to bring to life the finest-quality products” exemplified by the Better For You range.
“The strength of this relationship built on mutual trust and open communication also ensured all support required for True Foods to deliver quality products to consumers during “some very trying times,” added Mr Thurlow.
“We would not have been able to respond to the COVID-19 issues without the flexible approach to our ever-changing needs by Manildra Group, who continue to show their interest and support in our further growth plans and make it clear that they want to partner with us in transforming innovative concepts into retail realities.”
With bonds forged between the two Australian family-owned companies through many common contact points, Manildra Group further plays a critical part in True Foods’ ongoing training program by providing unparalleled access to dough specialists in site visits and hands-on sessions at Manildra Group’s Narrandera flour mill along with tours of wheat growers’ farms, which Mr Thurlow said combined knowledge and experience of the process from paddock to production line.
“This understanding and the relationships that such visits foster is critical to True Foods producing the best products we possibly can,” he said.
“Both sides get a lot out of these training programs visits and we are able to better understand the needs of our customers and better support their operations,” said Mr Pendlebury.
“As more than just a flour supplier, we strive to be a partner that can offer more to every aspect of business growth.”