Five minutes with: Helen Ward of Ward McKenzie


Five minutes with: Helen Ward of Ward McKenzie
MiNDFOOD catches up with Helen Ward, of the esteemed Ward McKenzie brand, to discuss the global influence of Australian produce and what the year of the pulse has in store.

Grains have always been a big part of Ward McKenzie’s focus. How has your production and focus changed over the years?

Originally most of the grains Ward McKenzie’s produced were oats and peas. Production has grown to include a more varied range of pulses, including lentils, beans and peas, as well as more added value pulse products (for example our SuperBlend range). This change has been driven by the need to cater to the changes in consumer consumption.

This variety also ensures we continue to meet changing consumer trends, including a higher interest in home cooking and ethnic cuisine as well as a heightened interest in minimally processed foods and high nutrient foods.

How is the market changing?

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the health benefits of pulses and how easy they are to incorporate into their diet. Food media are also utilising pulses in more recipe ideas and pulses are appearing in more restaurant menus.

This year being the International Year of the Pulse is also helping to create increased awareness of pulses, particularly their health benefits.

How important are Australian grains on a global stage?

The vast majority of the Australian pulse crop is exported to various markets around the world.

You pride yourself on having a strong tie with farmers and suppliers. How does this set you apart?

Our relationships with the growers, some of which we have been dealing directly with for over three decades, is based on respect and mutual understanding.

The main way it sets us apart is because it ensures we can maintain our strict quality standards which are of utmost importance to the business. We work closely with farmers from planting of crops right until the product is harvested and delivered to our site to be milled and packed.

McKenzie’s upholds an “Australian-grown policy”, only importing pulses that are either not grown in commercial quantities here or when poor seasons reduce local supplies or make it not commercially viable.

What are the greatest challenges in the industry?

The greatest challenge in the industry is being reliant and at the mercy of the weather and environmental conditions for raw material. Secondly, the greatest challenge is to ensure the business is kept going for the next generation.

What does the future hold for Ward McKenzie?

Hopefully continued growth for the business and everyone involved with the business including farmers and employees. Like everything in the food industry, the future is difficult to forecast, but hopefully we’ll be around for a long time to come!


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