The Business of Family

HOW QCAMEL IS ‘MILKING IT’ (SUSTAINABLY AND RESPECTFULLY)

These days it’s pretty common to overhear a variety of milk types coupled with the usual coffee order… “I’ll have an almond latte please”, “an oat milk flat white” or a “coconut milk macchiato”. And just when you could barely keep up with the array of milky offerings, here’s another one to add to your list — camel milk.  It may sound new to us, but Camel milk is in fact the oldest of all and has been used for centuries by Nomads and Bedouins. 

As highly resourceful mammals, camels are able to withstand arid conditions and their milk is said not to contain a lot of the allergenic properties of cow, sheep or goat milk. So, with an increased awareness of our health, combined with a need to diversify dairy farming — the camel’s hump seems to hold the answers we’re all looking for. 

MEET THE BRISBANE FAMILY, FROM BRISBANE

In the foothills of Sunshine Coasts’ Glasshouse Mountains, the Brisbane family own 1500 hectares of farming land, occupied by their hard working herd of camels. Headed up by Lauren, QCamel became accredited producers in 2014, and now they own 60 camels all producing between four to six litres of milk per day. At this point, you’re probably asking the same question we were… how does one get into camel milking? Well, there’s a fairly straightforward answer to that. As Lauren explains “about 10 years ago we were in agriculture, we had competition horses, and our business partner had wagyu beef. I’d done some research on co-grazing the stock with camels. It was all pretty fascinating, and I ended up doing a two-year study on the development of the industry, with some assistance from the DPI in Queensland.” 

It was during this time that Lauren discovered the many benefits of camel milk, both for us and for our farming land. Not only are camels built to live in hot and dry conditions (of which many Queensland farms exist within), but their milk is also incredibly good for you. And, you don’t have to look too far to find information that substantiates these claims. Lauren’s daughter Yasmin reveals in an article for SBS that “it’s the closest milk to breast milk, it’s easily digestible and soothing on the tummy, suitable for lactose-intolerant people, low in fat and cholesterol but high in iron, vitamin C, calcium, and [a protein called] lactoferrin.” So why isn’t camel milk a commonly featured item in fridges all over the world? According to Yasmin, “one of the biggest hurdles with camel milk is getting over the mental ‘hump’ of it coming from an animal other than a cow.”

The Brisbanes are certainly doing all they can to overcome the public hesitations around introducing camel milk into their diet. From creating camel milk chocolate, to educating us about the flavour (which is apparently not dissimilar to cow’s milk, with slightly sweeter notes) and inspiring us with their passion for ethical farming. Unlike the common practice found in the dairy cow industry, the Brisbanes don’t separate their camel mummys from their young. They’re free to roam around the farm as they please, and the milking process is as un-intrusive as possible.

With QCamel products now found in over 60 retailers throughout Australia, including the prestigious David Jones, and the company shipping product to New Zealand and Singapore — it’s safe to assume that they’re doing a mighty fine job helping people overcome their own personal ‘humps’ when it comes to consuming camel milk. And that’s not all the Brisbanes have introduced to the world… 

CAMEL MILK EVERYTHING… 

Being the innovative, entrepreneurial family that they are, it wasn’t enough to just be the world’s first and only producer of organic camel milk. The Brisbanes wanted to go a step further. To work with their product in every way possible, utilising the benefits inside and out of the body. So along with their consumable range of milks, chocolates, smoothies and cheeses, QCamel now also has its own skincare range. Of course, the creams, washes, soaps and masks are all made using their camel milk — with the added ingredient of native Australian botanics. They’re “a fusion of ancient cultures, native ingredients and an ethical approach to skin and wellness”. 

ENTERING THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION

With business booming, happy camels and a passionate working team — QCamel was ready to share the benefits of camel milk with our Singaporean friends beyond the border. And with the help of some training and guidance from the coveted Farmers2Founders program (F2F), QCamel is now distributed to the asia pacific region by Corlison “the largest privately owned personal, home and healthcare distributor in Singapore”. 

Cracking the overseas market (specifically the asia pacific region), with a dairy product is a pretty mean feat. Notoriously not an area of the world that uses dairy in their cuisine, QCamel had to not only overcome that barrier — but while doing it, educate this brand new market on why they should choose camel milk as their dairy element over the far more widely available cow’s version. Lauren attributes their success with infiltrating this market to the F2F program. Unashamedly admitting that “if it weren’t for F2F  helping us realise how important it was to promote the ‘clean green’ and health elements of the product across all our packaging, marketing and storytelling. We would still be bumbling along.” 

Well they’re certainly not “bumbling along” now. With a highly lucrative business, producing a product that is not only hugely incredible for your health, but is produced with absolute minimum environmental impact and with respect for the animals on the front line — it’s clear that ethical farming and sustainable practices can co-exist with large scale production and financial success. These are the kinds of stories we need to be hearing more of. This is the kind of business model we all need to be working towards. 

A huge thank you to the Brisbane family for taking a risk and leading the way with an unfamiliar product, educating existing and potential customers about why trying something different is worth it and inspiring us to do the same. 

Words: Phoebe Carden

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