Spreading the message about the health and wellness benefits of chia seed and the ease of incorporating it into the daily diet is the aim of John Foss and The Chia Co. And, as they say, it’s positively simple.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the possibility in every difficulty,” Winston Churchill said. He could have been talking about John Foss, the West Australian wheat farmer who, a decade ago, saw a difficulty and turned it into the opportunity to realise his vision of making a positive contribution to the community’s health and wellness. Foss grew up on his family’s farm. Awarded a scholarship in 2001, he travelled the world looking at food production trends and for a crop that could be developed as a product rather than just a commodity.
STUDY OF THE SEED
Back in Australia, Foss saw a documentary about Mexicans with high rates of obesity, diabetes and cholesterol. The healthiest were those who drank lemon juice and chia seeds daily. Studying the plant – part of the mint family – he found chia grows best around 15˚ from the equator. That was the first inspiration. Foss convinced several farmers in the Ord Valley in the Kimberley region of WA to tear up their sugar crop and start growing chia.
“The growers were frustrated at being at the whim of commodity prices and were looking for new options themselves,” Foss says. “I already had a relationship with them when I introduced them to the crop. They were happy to take the risk – they liked having more direct access to the consumer and being involved with something with health benefits rather than sugar.”
He began exporting to the US, Canada and South Korea, where there was already awareness of chia’s health properties. Then, as Australians began to seek out healthier foods, Foss saw another opportunity. Another inspiration. Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day but, because it’s eaten when many people are at their most time-poor – rushing out the door, commuting – it can be the most poorly planned. “Chia is the perfect answer,” Foss says. “It’s healthy and simple.”
QUICK & HEALTHY
Not content with just exporting the seeds, The Chia Co. produces a range of chia-based, ready-to-eat breakfast foods. Chia Pods, made with chia seeds and coconut or almond milk, are a perfect natural energy breakfast or snack – and have been a runaway success in Australia, the US and Britain. The Chia Co.’s recently launched Oats+Chia and breakfast and salad boosters provide ease and convenience for consumers.
Although The Chia Co. is best known for its range of seeds and powdered seeds, in distinctive orange packets, the company also likes to work with ethical food and beverage producers. One very successful partnership began in 2010, when Bakers Delight launched the Chia Bread range, baked fresh daily. Soft to the bite, the chia seed bread is highly appealing to the entire family. Foss describes The Chia Co.’s philosophy as “a global farmers’ market. We can tell our consumers where the crop was grown, which farm, which field; how it is grown and why it is good for them. It’s just we do it using global networks and social media rather than standing at a stall in the farmers’ market.”
JOHN FOSS: FOUR REASONS TO EAT CHIA
1: You will simply feel better. Chia seeds are the richest plant-based form of omega-3, soluble and insoluble fibre and protein. The fibre gives a feeling of fullness and stabilises blood-sugar levels – you’ll feel fuller for longer.
2: Chia seeds are simple to use and prepare. Sprinkle them on cereals, yoghurt or add them into salads without changing the taste.
3: You will be making a positive contribution to your health and wellness, either by eating the seeds on their own or choosing product that contains them. They are very easy to access and can be found in most supermarkets.
4: Chia seeds are a safe, clean food.
This story was written and published in Mindfood magazine, March 2017.