Oat mills are seeing an unprecedented rise in consumption of oats over the last ten years and trends in other countries like the UK show consumers continue to switch to healthier food options, particularly oats.

Why? Oats provide a slow and sustained energy release.

With diseases like type 2 diabetes on the rise – 50 people are diagnosed everyday – plus increasing obesity rates, New Zealanders are likely to follow similar trends in searching for foods that assist in maintaining healthy stable blood sugar levels.

Oats are wholegrain, low in fat and high in fibre both, soluble and insoluble, economical and easy to prepare.  Oats can be used in hundreds of ways as porridge, muesli, in biscuits, slices, bars and cakes plus toppings like crumbles and also instead of breadcrumbs in meat loaf, meatballs and patties.

A handful of oats in smoothies provides long lasting energy and savoury garlic flavoured oats as sprinkles on salads and rubs on meat roasts provides interesting flavours and textures.  Oats can be added to pastry and breads to provide more substance.  Meals with higher oat content are more likely to be sustaining providing slow energy release resulting in smaller portions and less snacking between meals.  By using oats as a staple ingredient you can increase your daily fibre intake which may re-absorb cholesterol, oats work a bit like blotting paper on cholesterol gently removing excess from your system.

So we know oats are healthy and good for you, they do not contain the gluten Gliadin protein that is present in wheat, they can be milled to different flake thickness and then cut into smaller pieces and sieved to get fine oat flour or more granular oat bran.  The oat grain has similar distribution of proteins and carbohydrates in all parts so there is no value in splitting the endosperm from the germ or bran. All oats are wholegrain.  Oat bran can be created by putting rolled oats in your blender.  However the flaking of oats uses steam to soften the groat which then can be flaked to a specific thickness without cracking  Oat flakes are easily cooked in comparison to an oat grain that is cut and not rolled like steel cut which takes longer to cook.  Rolled oats even though they have been with us a long time now are a vast improvement on the gruel that our Scottish ancestors would have eaten.

Milling oats is an interesting process and a real craft as each year the crop will be have some variation and the millers work with the grain over the year to produce quality flakes in range of different sizes, for use by other manufactures and in our own Harraways brands.  All oats are grown in Southland and Otago as the soils and climate are very suited to this crop.  Harraways NZ has a long history and in the past has milled flour and still produces other products like soup mix and flakes small volumes of purple wheat and organic oats.

Harraways have been collecting information about their history to celebrate 150 years of Harraways – an enduring brand that kiwis can be very proud of.

Harraways and NZ oat growers still have many challenges to face: competing with food giants like Nestle who own the Uncle Toby’s brand and Ceres who import cheaper Canadian organic oats; Youths who prefer to skip breakfast or drink it; Supermarkets who desire new products, but only if they sell as much as Coke; Governments who want our products to compete with those from countries with cheaper labour.

These are issues that most NZ food manufacturers are faced with. Harraways rely on food writers to encourage consumers to consider food types, brands and raise awareness so supermarkets will want to have a responsibility code that places healthier products in the line of sight, allows shelf space of sufficient quantities that consumers are encouraged to select sensible products.  The publication of imported food growing conditions, use of sprays, growth hormones, preservatives.  Packaging and printing environmental standards are vastly different in some other countries to New Zealand and yet some manufacturers think it is really smart to import pre-printed packs, yet fail to understand that the slack environmental controls in these markets result in continued pollution of waterways that end up in our oceans.

Food is beautiful, yummy, fun, and social and crosses numerous aspects of our lives, so eat more oats!

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