Five generations of farming stand behind quality products at Pangkarra Foods. Since 2011, the Maitland family has strived to add more value to their produce, which consists mainly of germ wheat and pulse grains. Initially, pasta excelled as Pangkarra’s staple product; but, since then, it has evolved to accommodate many more varieties along the wheat and grain spectrum.
“From there, we added more products to the range, which included wholegrain lavosh, wholegrain flour and wholegrain grissini, and then this year we officially launched some pulses,” says Marketing Manager Kathrine Maitland. “Cooke chickpeas, roasted chickpeas, roasted faba beans and a combo pack. We have fettuccini, penne, linguine, spirals, lasagne, pappardelle and spaghetti, then we have two gluten-free pasta shapes: a gluten-free penne and a gluten-free fettuccine. We have a wholegrain lavosh cracker, a one-kilo flour, a 450-gram pouch of cooked chickpeas, and then three of the roasted snack packs, which are all 200 grams.”
Pangkarra’s developed range of products has certainly gained them some deserved attention in their last few years of operation. In 2013, they were a finalist for the delicious. Produce Awards, and they have also won regional and product awards for their original pasta. “These have all been really, really proud moments for our business,” says Maitland. “But, I think the milestones for us are really just being able to see the product on the shelf, knowing where the product has come from, and to see it go through the supply chain. It’s a great sense of achievement – not only as food producers, but also as farmers, to be able to see something grow and end up on a plate.”
Commitment to sustainability plays a key role in productivity, and Pangkarra Foods is no stranger to this notion; they value sustainable agriculture, and make sure that everything possible is done to achieve that goal – including correct nitrogen levels and proper crop rotations. “That’s really important right from the beginning of the supply chain, I think. What we grow here is some of the best produce, which ends up being the best product.
Sustainably starts at the farm, and we monitor that throughout our chain; we stone-mill the flour – which is a traditional way to mill the grain – and then the pasta’s made in a very slow process, so it’s allowed to air-dry on trays. Similarly, with our other products, they’re all hand-made or very slow-processed. There’s no heat involved, there’s no chemicals – it’s all very natural. Sustainability, in our mind, is about quality – ensuring that we have the best quality from paddock to plate.”
Another contributing factor to Pangkarra’s quality products is their relationships with business associates; production and manufacturing of their product is outsourced only to the most trusted industry bodies. “We have a fantastic relationship with the people that make our pasta, lavosh and chickpea products; through this, we rely on their expertise with their quality assurance, and they also have all the accreditations in place. They have HACCP food standards and they basically retain samples, and what they do is very, very detailed, and quite an extensive process. We rely on them to deliver, and we have a fantastic relationship with them all.”
The Maitland family is thankful for the present industry bodies that have been able to provide assistance to businesses like theirs, including Food South Australia (Food SA) and Brand South Australia (Brand SA). The support, advice, and overall presence provided by these organisations have meant a lot to Pangkarra. “If we wanted to launch a new product, and we didn’t know what packaging was required, we could always just ask someone at Food SA or Brand SA – those sorts of associations. So, they have been invaluable.”
Spreading awareness and education are important to the future of quality foods, according to Maitland; it’s important for the customer to be aware of their options when choosing local food products. “A lot of people don’t know the difference between wholegrain and wholemeal – and when we are launching all these pulses, a lot of people don’t know what pulses are. So, that’s an education thing that we need to do through our own branding. From an industry perspective, I think it’s important that we educate people, again, to eat Australian-produced, packed, sourced food from our own backyard. I feel that we need to support what we do here in Australia, and support the producers and the brands that are here.”
There’s a lot to be learned from both ends of the farming production industry; with a background in marketing and public relations, Maitland has gained a whole new range of skills since she came to work with her husband’s family. “I worked for a winery here in Clare Valley, and when you’re just in that specific role, you just do specific jobs under that title. But, when you have a small family business, you are the jack of all trades. You end up doing everything, and you end up having graphic design skills that you never knew you had – logistics – and dealing with all of the issues on a day-to-day basis. But as people in family, small, boutique businesses, part of the parcel is being able to do everything well – not just one thing.”
While the emphasis on supporting small, local businesses is there, plenty of background work must also be done in order to solidify their success. The business itself must remain avid in its practices, and that’s something that Pangkarra Foods clearly recognises. “It’s certainly a challenge, and you just have to persist – as long as you’ve got your values and your core brand established, so you’re not getting distracted or confused by what you’re actually trying to sell or what you’re trying to produce.
Throughout our branding, we’ve always had those values of natural, traceable, single-origin products that are premium and boutique. We’ve never swayed into the mass volume, larger-scale products. So, that’s been important for our branding and our image. Finding that point of difference with a business, just sticking to your guns and your goals, and meeting those objectives every year is really important for any business, really.”