Bowan Island Bakery on the rise in Southeast Asia

Bowan Island Bakery is working with Austrade to take its sourdough, coffee and baked goods to Southeast Asia. 

While new to exporting, Bowan Island Bakery has been crafting sourdough since 1989. Its sourdough starter was formed more than 85 years ago in 1938. The artisan sourdough bakery is now sharing its delicious baked goods with Southeast Asia.

Bowan Island Bakery has a strong presence in Sydney’s inner-city and waterside locations. It boasts a state-of-the-art central bakehouse, where bakers produce pastries, granola and sourdough bread. The 70-person company supplies a growing number of bakehouses, cafés, farmers’ markets and retailers. The company has expanded beyond Sydney to Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.

With local success, Bowan is now growing its international business. In May 2024, the company launched into Singapore’s Little Farms with Austrade’s help. Little Farms’ grocers offer clean, organic, high-quality goods.

Singapore is Bowan’s first international market, with discussions underway in Thailand, China and Korea.

‘Bowan came to us in September 2023,’ says Austrade’s Global Engagement Manager, Chloe You. ‘The company is new to exporting, but I could see the passion and potential in the product. Bowan Island Bakery is committed to becoming a successful Australian exporter.’

Baking with ‘beautiful’ international ingredients

Bowan’s story began in the isles of beautiful British Columbia. While exploring Canada, Bowan’s founder David Cummings accepted a sourdough starter gift. Cummings returned to Sydney, selling his first loaves at Sydney’s Rozelle Markets.

As many Australians know from COVID-19 lockdown baking, making sourdough can be a challenging endeavour. Made from wild yeast and good bacteria, a starter produces sourdough’s tangy flavour. From years of learning and refinement, Bowan’s products have a mature, depth of flavour.

‘Curating a healthy starter is a full-time enterprise,’ says Bowan Island Bakery’s, Chief Executive Officer, Vincent Liew. ‘Bowan’s starter has the advantage of age as well as constant care and attention. It is nurtured daily, with precisely measured flour, water and careful mixing.

‘Today, we are proud to be taking this premium Australian product to the world.’

Pre-baked sourdough on a bench, with flour bursting from a baker's hands.

Bowan Island Bakery's Sourdough in production.

Launching one of Sydney’s oldest sourdoughs into Singapore

Bowan started working with Austrade in September 2023. Conversations became more active, and the staircase to exporting opened later that year. Austrade provided export advice on branding, packaging, product quality and logistics.

‘Ahead of exporting, Austrade gave us some feedback on our packaging,’ says Liew. ‘By the next call, we had reworked it completely. We also reviewed our branding, design and packaging and refreshed our website. We developed our products in terms of flavour, texture, quality and diversity.

‘Austrade has not only the horizontal network but also the knowledge and industry expertise on the vertical.’

Today, Bowan is exporting par-baked frozen sourdough, premium-roasted granola and frozen croissants to Singapore. It has evolved its process for international markets to ensure consistency and quality of flavour.

With Austrade’s support, Bowan is networking to build new leads and in-market connections. The company is attending international tradeshows including THAIFEX, Seoul Food & Hotel and Bakery China with Austrade. The company objective is to grow its international business beyond its domestic operations.

‘Austrade has turbo-charged this process for us,’ adds Liew. ‘They help us to maximise our time, effort and resources.’

Exporting Australian culture to Southeast Asia

Bowan also has an in-house coffee blend. This supports its growing number of cafés and outlets. In 2024, the company will pilot a coffee program in a premium Singaporean retail chain. The intention is to export coffee, build capacity and share Australia’s quality coffee culture.

‘Our vision is to share Australian food and beverage culture with Southeast Asia, China and Korea,’ says Liew. ‘We are sharing Australia’s much-loved products, because food and culture is life.’

With Austrade’s support, the company is also exploring export opportunities in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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