In the days when porridge dominated the country's breakfast tables, Sgt Dan reigned supreme from the home of good porridge - the Creamoata mill, in Gore.
The Gore District’s rich agricultural soils and climate created the perfect location for growing most of the country’s grains for the better part of the past 150 years, creating solid employment options and boosting the Southland economy.
Oats were a major part of that growth, and in 1893 Fleming’s opened its Creamoata Mill in Gore, the biggest mill of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere at the time. The cereal processing plant helped Gore to thrive and in 1915, the focus on the Fleming’s brand grew even more thanks to the creation of a brand representative called Sgt Dan.
Said to be inspired by both a boy scout and a war time soldier, Sgt Dan strikes a youthful militant-type pose, with an angelic face. What started as an advertising promotion soon turned into an icon known to be based in Gore. A large Sgt Dan was positioned on the corner of the building of the mill, overlooking operations and becoming a landmark on his own accord.
The advertising spend on the campaign over the following two decades and subsequent trademark of the name and image of Sgt Dan was worth about $1.8million around the mid-1930s, which is hard to comprehend in the dollars of today.
At its peak, more than five train wagons a day were filled with the processed Creamoata and sent for packaging. As the years went on, the Flemings Creamoata Mill began to wind down, with production moving to Australia in 2001. It operated under the Uncle Toby’s brand until 2008 when the creamoata-style oats were no longer produced for market.
Sgt Dan is part of our agricultural history and represents the hard work and traditions behind the food gathering site of the Mataura Valley, past the furthest reaches of the District and throughout the Southland region.
The building’s famous Sgt Dan remains on site at the old mill, now a home to a stockfeed business, to remind locals and travellers alike of the iconic brand, and how it was once considered the National Breakfast of New Zealand. Meanwhile grains, particularly oats, are still a mainstay within the local arable (plant) producers for the region.