Customer-centric. Diverse. Gender-equitable. Environmentally conscious. Riverina Oils is leading a very tasty revolution.
Tuning into customer needs creates marvelous opportunities for growth and success, but it’s not always an easy or direct path to take. Companies willing to listen, learn, and change course can reap benefits whilst improving their industries. That willingness is propelling Riverina Oils and Bio Energy to unprecedented levels of innovation, rousing customer acceptance, and industry transformation.
Established in 2013, ROBE is the leading national processor of 100% Australian, non-GMO canola oil and its byproduct, canola meal. Their fully integrated, leading edge processing plant in the heart of the Riverina region of southwestern NSW has a daily production rate of roughly 250 tonnes of high quality canola oil and 340 tonnes of canola meal used to feed the region’s poultry, dairy, and other livestock.
Company founder D.D. Saxena saw that Australia’s agribusiness sector was ripe for disruption through the adoption of value-added business models. “We hard-tacked two years ago and moved into a place where we focused on providing value added, application focussed products as opposed to commodity products,” said Scott Whiteman, who in 2018 shifted from his role as company CFO into the CEO chair. ROBE collaborated with customers to learn their needs.
“Do you want canola oil that has a longer shelf life? Do you need a canola oil that fries longer or fries with a less oily residue at the end? Do you need a canola oil that has a lower absorption into the food? There are all different elements that you can consider if you care about your customer,” he noted. “We've been on a journey to do that, and our initial success is continuing because we're providing customers with great value at market prices. We’re delivering great things for our amazingly loyal customer base because we produce better products for them.”
Attention Creates Abundance, As Does Equity
ROBE’s canola oil fries significantly longer than traditional canola oils, and in less fry time creates crispier, less oily food. ROBE introduced it to local pubs, restaurants, and fish and chip shops, where it became an instant favorite. But producing superior quality oil was only one part of the equation, Whiteman stressed. “We're very happy that we have a fantastic oil, and we said, ‘Right, that's not the only thing we need to do.’ We need to take care of other factors.” To that end ROBE revisited the way restaurants receive their oil and devised technology to keep the oil fresher, healthier, and safer for chefs to handle.
ROBE wanted to replace 20-litre tins or bulk oil delivery by tanker truck and fire hose.
“A major current problem with delivery is that many restaurants don't completely empty their oil trolley. They will fill their fryers and refill the oil trolley each week. There's nothing worse than contaminating new oil with old oil.”
Their Good Drop Smart Trolley is an elegant piece of portable stainless steel kitchen equipment—a dispensing trolley with fresh oil delivered every time until it is empty and swapped out. “The Smart Trolley effectively ‘gift wraps’ the oil under vacuum seal until the precious oil reaches the fryer, removing any chance of contamination.” It’s a wheeled trolley, which easily doubles as a prep station, and contains a poly liner bag that fills via vacuum pressure through a pump and nozzle system that eliminates exposure to air or other contaminants. The design keeps the oil hygienic, and the vacuum system gets every last drop out of the container.
“As a result of the stepped improvement in the quality of our frying oil and due to the absolute food safe delivery solution, we genuinely believe we will produce changes in food quality that patrons will rave about across Australia,” he said. “But that’s not just our view, it is already shared by highly decorated chefs and restaurant managers.”
Oil in environmentally and ergonomically friendly 15-litre “Jug In Box” is provided as an optional alternative.
Equipped with state-of-the-art telemetry, the Good Drop features a GPS tracker that pinpoints the system’s location, and its built-in flowmeter feeds exact usage data back to ROBE so their customers’ oil can be accurately and efficiently refilled. Existing trolleys are powered by 240V electricity, which isn’t ideal when using a rolling trolley in a busy kitchen.
“A compact power pack is housed within the trolley, and customers just wheel it anywhere, press the button, pull the trigger, and away they go.”
ROBE is collaborating with BASF and Sealed Air Corp to transform the poly liner to be compostable and therefore ensuring there is zero waste. That liner is only one aspect of their commitment to sustainability. A biomass boiler fed by construction waste reduces emissions by 60%, and solar and wind power is helping them advance their zero emissions goal. Equipped by Desmet Ballestra, the plant operates with zero liquid discharge at the lowest emission norms in the world, making it one of the most cost- and energy-efficient oil manufacturing plants in Australia. ROBE's CO2 emission is approximately 150 kg/tonne seed crushed, which is better than the global emission standard.
To popularise the ingenious Good Drop and the premier oil that fills it, the company has enlisted a group of celebrity brand ambassadors, including MasterChef Australia 2010 winner and UNICEF’s national ambassador for nutrition, Adam Liaw.
A passionate women’s sports advocate, Whiteman also enlisted Carlton Football Club’s Darcy Vescio and Wagga Wagga’s Olympic gold medalist, Alicia Jane Quirk (Lucas), in the effort. “We've got about 75 people from 16 countries working for us, and diversity and gender equality are very important to us. We are committed to making the changes to make it possible.”
Whiteman concluded, “We’re here to create products that make a difference for our customers. It’s amazing how passionate we’ve become about canola oil, but it’s a very exciting thing.”