As Black Sea wheat becomes increasingly competitive in Australia's main $2.5 billion wheat market, the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) is taking action to help the industry preserve and increase value for Australian growers.
South-East Asia accounts for almost half of all Australian wheat exports, the lion's share of which is used for instant noodles and fresh yellow alkaline noodles.
It is crucial for Australia to understand the wheat quality requirements of South-East Asian flour millers and to continue meeting those needs in the face of mounting pressure from low-cost competitors.
Looking and feeling good
When we talk about wheat quality for noodles, we mean looking good(noodle colour and colour stability) and feeling good (noodle texture and mouthfeel).
AEGIC wheat quality technical markets manager, Dr Larisa Cato, says previous AEGIC research has confirmed noodle texture (firmness and elasticity), colour and colour stability are among the major factors that flour millers look for when making wheat purchasing decisions.
This research, a GRDC investment, involved collecting and analysing the wheat quality preferences of more than 250 flour milling staff in 40 flour mills across Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.
"Thanks to this market insight, the Australian industry has a detailed understanding of what flour millers look for when buying wheat," Dr Cato says.
"We know Australian wheat has the best colour attributes for noodles - better than wheat from any other origin in the world.
"While the noodle textural properties of our wheat are good, there is room for improvement."
We know Australian wheat has the best colour attributes for noodles - better than wheat from any other origin in the world.
In the light of these findings, AEGIC is now focusing on enhancing the noodle textural qualities of Australian wheat.
"Noodle texture is related to mouthfeel - in other words, the balance of firmness and elasticity - and is unique to each noodle type and each market," Dr Cato says.
"AEGIC's objective is to develop measurable texture targets for each of our wheat classes to support Wheat Quality Australia classification and wheat breeders in new variety development."
Improving noodle appearance
Dr Cato says there is also an opportunity to further improve noodle appearance (noodle colour and colour stability).
"This will help widen the gap between Australian wheat and wheat of other origins and help to maintain the premium status of Australian wheat," she says.
AEGIC is also ramping up in-market technical support and engagement.
This year alone, AEGIC has hosted Australian wheat technical seminars in six South-East Asian countries:
- The Philippines;
- Myanmar; and
The seminars were presented in collaboration with:
- Wheat Quality Australia;
- Breeding companies;
- EdStar Genetics;
- The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council;
- Chopin Technologies; and
- Victorian grain producer and GrainGrowers director Julia Hausler.
Dr Cato says the events were all very well attended, with most major flour milling companies involved.
"This type of technical support and engagement is extremely important in helping customers understand the value of using Australian wheat for noodles and other products, thereby influencing their purchasing decisions," she says.
Back in the laboratory, AEGIC is benchmarking major APH, AH and APW wheat varieties for their suitability for premium yellow alkaline noodles and instant noodles, and will soon establish a trained sensory evaluation panel to assess noodle quality attributes such as appearance, texture, mouthfeel and taste.
AEGIC's noodle experts are also developing objective ways of measuring noodle texture.
Why Australian wheat?
Flour millers across Asia prefer to buy Australian wheat for noodles. The combination of excellent noodle texture and colour attributes is unique to Australian wheat.
White Australian wheat results in high milling yield at low flour ash, meaning more profit for the flour miller. The starch and protein quality of Australian wheat is ideally suited to Asian noodles.
Noodle appearance is very important in Asian markets. Fresh noodles should have a bright, clean appearance with good colour stability. In other words, noodles made today will still look appealing tomorrow. Specks of bran or noodle colour discoloration is a 'no-no'.
The texture and mouthfeel of noodles is also very important.
While preferences differ between countries, generally speaking, noodles should have a 'clean bite' with good elasticity.
Good quality noodles don't go soft too quickly in soup; in other words, good textural stability is important.
AEGIC is an initiative of GRDC and the Western Australian Government.
More information: Dr Larisa Cato, 08 6168 9908, email@example.com