Seed sensation

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Bakery franchisees are getting ahead in the healthy bread market with the launch of a home-grown super-seed bread at Bakers Delight, so now getting a daily dose of nutrients has become easier for the average Australian.

The 650 strong Australian and New Zealand franchise business has developed a loaf and roll choice using chia, a little known ancient seed, first used by the Aztecs.

The chia plant produces a tiny seed that is the richest plant source combining Omega 3, dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants making it the most nutritious grain available and it has emerged as an Aussie hero thanks to fourth generation farmer John Foss.

A Western Australian grain farmer, Foss recognised the demand for a functional food crop and set about researching global trends impacting food production, water availability, energy and consumer health and wellbeing. Impressed with the nutritional attributes of the chia seed - and with a history of agriculture innovation - he established The Chia Company in 2004 and successfully harvested the first crop in the Kimberley region five years ago.

The exclusive partnership between The Chia Company and national bakery network Bakers Delight, will see the production of chia in the Ord River region double in 2010 with the industry on track to be worth $20 million in just five years time. It will help provide an established industry perfectly suited to the Kimberly region and a profitable crop option for local farmers that will help them see a significant return on their investment.

Foss, managing director of The Chia Company, explains: "Compared to countries where chia is grown such as Bolivia, Mexico and Peru, the distinct advantage we have growing it here is our climate and quality control systems. The Kimberly region is the ideal location to grow chia."

An ample water source from Lake Argyle ensures a sustainable supply of the seed all year round and maintains its purity and nutritional profile, says Foss.

"Chia should be consumed regularly, so it makes sense that we are able to incorporate chia in an everyday product. The supply to 650 Bakers Delight bakeries across Australia and New Zealand gives us the confidence to keep growing our business and delivering the health benefits to the population," Foss adds.

Chris Caldwell, general manager at Bakers Delight, reports the business was pleased to be able to support the Australian farming and agricultural industry through this exclusive national supply partnership and ultimately bring the health benefits of this ancient seed into Australian homes.

"Chia is considered one of nature's complete super foods and will be included in our new range of daily baked chia bread in its whole seed form," Caldwell reveals.

The bread and roll choice was launched at the end of January, with month long in-store promotions, and remains an ongoing product line. A television ad campaign focused entirely on the new chia bread was rolled out across the nation too while in-store posters, banners and decorations featuring orange, the colour attributed to the Chia Company's brand, inform the customer of the health benefits of the bread at point of sale.

Kendra Teasdale, communications manager of Bakers Delight, says the chia range is well priced to appeal to consumers: a loaf costs $4.20 (compared to a white block loaf at $3.50) and rolls retail at 70c each.

"Chia bread is part of our traditional bread range, it's an everyday bread. The seed is soft, it has general appeal," she explains. "We expect over the next year to sell 11.4 million loaves across Australia."

The bread offers a point of difference to the franchise network, adds Teasdale. "No other large producer will be baking chia bread fresh daily. It's part of our commitment to offer healthy products to the customer. And as an Australian owned and operated company, this is a great fit because the Chia Company is truly Australian agriculture."

Such a partnership allows the Chia Company to fulfil its vision to supply Australians daily, reports Foss. "We've been growing the seed for five years and the first year was 95 per cent exported."

Thanks to publicity across the US when the grain was featured on an Oprah Winfrey TV show, awareness across the Pacific made the chia grain an international success story in the US and Canada and then Europe, so exporting the ancient grain was an obvious move for the company.

Foss hopes this will change with the link to Bakers Delight. "First of all this gives us confidence to increase production, we have grown 100 per cent each year, and it gives us confidence to invest in the industry and services."

Chia has more than twice the omega 3 content than the average supermarket loaves, and 60 per cent more fibre, so expect to hear more about the little seed packed with nutritional value.

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