It’s a Japanese company who decided to invest in this operation. Hakubaku Australia started in 1998 and is the only factory in Australia. We have 35 people in our workforce and both our Australian and European markets are very strong.
The noodle manufacturer needed a few key functions to set up. We use wheat flour to make the noodles, so having a good milling facility is one of the most important things. We chose Allied Mills across the road in Ballarat because we buy organic wheat from around the Swan Hill area, so it’s close to the grower. And then we export overseas; therefore we needed to be close to the port (Port Melbourne), which is only 90 minutes by big container trailer.
All the transport is done by a local company and our warehouse is local. Our tradie, maintenance, all those services are local businesses.
Hakubaku has the biggest market share in Japan for barley, like roast barley tea, mixed grains, those sort of things. They have three noodle factories, but this is their only operation overseas, and their only organic operation.
Initially we built the factory in Australia because most Japanese noodles manufactured in Japan use Australian wheat. We tested the wheat and identified a few varieties, but it was very difficult to source those overseas, so the best way was to source locally, make locally, and then send back to Japan. We struggle to obtain factory workers in Ballarat. The unemployment rate is not low in Ballarat, yet it’s still very hard to find good workers. Work ethic is big for us, because the right skills can be taught, but the right work ethic you can’t teach.
Initially we had a lot of Japanese expats building the factory and there was a lot of help from the City of Ballarat, even finding a house for them, they were very helpful. The story behind the product is very important.
Every single pack of Hakubaku noodles you find in Coles, Woolworths, wholefoods in the US, or the supermarket in France has exactly the same statement written on it;
“A world‐wide search for premium ingredients brought Hakubaku Japan to Australia’s fertile lands. They found the finest organic wheat for authentic Japanese noodles – a traditional favourite. Ballarat, Victoria has become the Australian home of Hakubaku.”
Story courtesy of More than Gold, an initiative of Committee for Ballarat.