Rocking the oat: innovative oat products in China a potential opportunity for Australia

Friday 25 August, 2017

AEGIC’s oats research team and Dr Xiaoping Li with AEGIC house-made oat/wheat noodles. L-R: Mark Tucek, Dr Li, Regina Buswell and Dr Sabori Mitra (high resolution available).

An Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre research project is investigating whether the emergence of new oat products in the China market – such as oat noodles, oat rice and even oat milk – could have the potential to increase the value of Australian oats.

AEGIC is collaborating with Shaanxi Normal University (Xi’an, China) on a research project identifying oat varieties suitable for oat products for the Chinese market. The project is a co-investment between Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and AEGIC.

One of the project’s objectives is to benchmark Australian and Chinese oat varieties by documenting their relative composition, functionality and suitability for Chinese oats-based foods, such as flaked oats, oat noodles, oat rice and oat milk. A key aspect is sensory evaluation – i.e. taste, mouthfeel, appearance and other sensory characteristics.

In August, AEGIC hosted Dr Xiaoping Li, a specialist in sensory oat product evaluation from Shaanxi Normal University.

Through multiple sensory training sessions, Dr Li trained AEGIC staff in how to evaluate oat products to better understand the acceptable and preferred sensory quality of oats-based food products among Chinese consumers.

AEGIC Barley & Oat Program Manager Mark Tucek said Australia was a major supplier of export oats to China.

“Australian oats already have a good reputation and consumer presence in China, with advertisements spruiking Australia as the source of oat products.

“This project could potentially increase the value of Australian oats by supporting their use in new and innovative uses for this wholesome grain.”

Shaanxi Normal University’s oat research team leader Professor Xinzhong Hu said Chinese consumers were becoming more and more health-conscious.

“Driven by an expanding middle class, Chinese consumers are looking for new, more nutritious products to complement staple foods such as rice and wheat noodles,” Prof. Hu said.

“Products such as oat noodles, oat rice and oat milk, which already exist in China on a small scale, could be an opportunity for Australian oats as these consumer health demands continue to grow.”

AEGIC researchers Dr Sabori Mitra and Mark Tucek learn how to make hand-stretched Chinese noodles overseen by Dr Xiaoping Li (high resolution available)

Oats fact file:

  • Oats are among the most nutritious of cereal grains. They are high in vitamins, minerals and protein, and are rich in fibre – in particular beta-glucan, which has been shown to improve blood glucose control after a meal and improves insulin responses as well as decrease cholesterol levels (Grain and Legumes Nutritional Council).
  • In line with trends in other Asian countries, diets in China are evolving, with consumers demanding more nutritious foods and moving increasingly towards Western-style diets.
  • China has significantly increased oat imports in recent years (see table – data source: USDA).
China Oat Imports – metric tonnes (mt) (source: USDA)
2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
116,000 mt 162,000 mt 172,000 mt 250,000 mt

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Media contact
Keir Tunbridge
0409 991 817