Wholegrain Milling’s Craig and Renee Neale speak with Manufacturers’ Monthly about their family business and how it has grown with the Gunnedah Shire community.
Craig and Renee Neale see flour milling as a family affair.
More than 40 years ago, their family-owned and certified organic flour mill, Wholegrain Milling, was born out of a desire to find more healthy, nutritious, and chemical-free food.
“The business was started primarily by my mother 43 years ago, predominantly from her desire to find food with far less symptoms of allergy in what she was eating, because she was suffering from the effects of chemicals in food,” Craig said.
“So, she was quite ahead of her time. We started experimenting with chemical-free food way back in the late 70s, which was unusual back then.”
Wholegrain Milling’s headquarters are in Gunnedah; the centre of one of Australia’s richest agricultural regions – the highly productive Liverpool Plains. Agriculture is currently leading the way in Gunnedah Shire, with the sector representing more than $1.76 billion in economic value per annum. This season the area will come alive with golden wheat fields across the plains, much to the growers’ delight.
Gunnedah Shire Council has prioritised the development of an investment attraction campaign to market the region as the first choice to live, work and invest. Mayor of Gunnedah Shire, Jamie Chaffey, said the campaign will promote Gunnedah Shire and local investment opportunities to regional, national and international markets. “Wholegrain Milling is a fantastic success story of a family finding opportunities within the unique resources available in our Shire,” Chaffey said.
Gunnedah has been experiencing a boom in development and there is keen interest in the Gunnedah Shire for businesses involved in heavy industrial, value adding, and manufacturing associated with primary production.
Gunnedah is a highly desirable location for business, lifestyle and industry. The area represents a major opportunity for further development of food and beverage manufacturing to make the most of the fantastic logistics connections and close proximity growers in the surrounding region.
Nowadays, Wholegrain Milling is connected with more than 60 growers around Australia dedicated to producing organic or sustainable grains.
When the grains come into the mill during harvest time, the crop is segregated relative to quality and bakeability.
“One of the reasons we do have a premium platter is we are very meticulous with varieties and with quality flour that go into our blends,” Craig said. “We have a slightly higher flour ash content in our white flour than the norm, purely because we try to keep more of the traditional benefits of some of those things that are still in the flour.”
The flour is either roller milled or stone ground then packaged.
“We do some 35 products, 35 different styles of flour, varieties, it gets distributed to up to 180 small bakeries throughout Australia,” Craig said.
Wholegrain Milling’s stone ground flour is milled in the traditional way – by putting grain in and flour out. There is no mechanisation or modernisation to the stone milling process, which produces a traditional nutty flavour and texture.
The Neales are grateful for the support of the Gunnedah community, with whom they share a strong connection.
“The support of the locals is huge. I think they love the flour, but also the bread,” Renee said. “There’s a really strong connection between us and the community and for the support, we’re always so grateful.”
After working on the family-owned mill for many years, Renee began her own bakery business, Reverence Sourdough, which is currently selling the family business’ wholegrain flour. The shop makes and distributes 450 loaves of bread every week to the local community.
The Wholegrain Milling business employs more than 30 employees from the Gunnedah region.
“We’re grateful for the people that work for us, and we try to make it a family concern,” Craig said.
Both of Renee’s brothers work in the mill, while her mum and 91-year-old nan are employed in the bakery. “We’re all very close that way,” she said.