By Melissa Keogh
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of thinking outside the square.
That’s exactly what fifth generation Clare Valley farmer Jim Maitland did in 2011 when he value-added his family’s durum wheat by launching a line of wholegrain pasta.
The Pangkarra Foods brand included a stone milled wholegrain flour and lavosh, giving the Clare Valley family a chance at a secondary income and launching them into the world of fine foods.
But the length of the boutique enterprise didn’t stop there.
In 2016, Pangkarra released a paddock to plate range of ready-to-eat snacks that are now sold Australia-wide.
The line includes an Australian first in cooked and ready-to-eat chickpeas, as well as a trio of snack packs featuring roasted chickpeas, faba beans and broad beans.
Managing Pangkarra Foods is Katherine Maitland, Jim’s wife, who also has a background in media, marketing and public relations.
She says the range of snack pulses now make up to 50-60% of Pangkarra’s total sales, while a small portion of the range is exported to Asia.
“Paddock to plate-style, healthy snack ranges are really growing in popularity, especially with the nut free and gluten free (movements),” Katherine says.
“With the snack range there is less competition and a growing market – it’s been very successful.”
While Jim and Katherine are at the helm of Pangkarra Foods, Jim’s parents David and Margot head the family’s farm, Anama Park.
The farm, which also exports hay, has been in the Maitland family since 1866 and is the unit’s “core business”.
“We’re only starting to break even and make a small profit (from Pangkarra Foods), but the idea is that we’re building something for future generations,” Katherine says.
“It’s about not being a one trick pony, having another means to the end and controlling the supply chain a bit more.”
Pangkarra products are now sold in 150 stores Australia wide and online.
The name Pangkarra is an Aboriginal word which holds great significance to the Kaurna people and means a small piece of land that has been sustained for generations.
The family practices sustainable farming methods such as the use of organic fertilisers and crop rotation (changing the type of crop grown in a particular area).
Jim’s decision to branch out from a reliance on traditional farming has also benefited two other South Australian businesses.
Once harvested, the grain for the Pangkarra products are milled at longstanding establishment Laucke Flour Mills in Strathalbyn.
Laucke uses traditional stone milling methods to grind the grain into flour.
The grain is crushed, not cut, meaning that more than 80% of the nutrients are kept, resulting in a stronger, nutty flavour and a more wholesome product.
The flour is then made into pasta by L’Abruzzese in Glynde in Adelaide’s north east using traditional Italian methods.
While the Clare Valley is mostly recognised as the home of Australian riesling, Katherine says it’s also emerging as a valued food bowl.
“We’re very lucky to live here in Clare, which is very well known for food, wine and tourism and it’s emerging as food destination,” she says.
“We’re working with our cool climate … which is good for growing crops and wine grapes.”
Katherine stresses the importance of choosing SA and says local shoppers have backed Pangkarra since day one.
“The products might be more expensive, but the process is of higher quality,” she says.
“Our best sales are here in SA.”
Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.