In search of environmentally friendly shopping bags

Free plastic carrier bags will disappear from Australia’s two largest supermarkets in 2018. There are many arguments for and against this change, as it is important to look at the all environmental impacts of their alternatives. Dr Carol Kilcullen-Lawrence writes.

Free plastic carrier bags are often referred to as single use; however, this doesn’t take into account their downstream use as bin liners for example. Studies show that, in South Australia when this change occurred, sales of bags for refuse massively increased. In many cases, these bin liners are heavier than carrier bags, so more plastic reaches landfill. Additionally, if light-weight supermarket bags are replaced with thicker bags that customers pay a small fee for, while these are designed to be reusable for a while, if they eventually end up as bin liners the negative environmental impact is even greater.

In Europe they have taken some steps to avoid this use of the sturdier bags for refuse, by describing them as a ‘Bag for Life’ so when they are no longer suitable for carrying groceries, they can be returned to the supermarket for recycling and replaced with a new one free of charge. It’s important to point out however that the colourful branding with supermarket logos etc. provides another negative environmental impact compared to plain light- weight bags.

Many would be surprised at the findings when sustainability of different carrier bags is assessed throughout their full lifecycle. A common reaction is to assume paper bags have the lowest environmental impact. In fact, although studies vary, all agree that paper bags have higher or equal environmental impact (depending upon which specific impact is being measured) as light- weight plastic bags and fabric reusable bags. Paper is only more favourable if measuring eutrophication, as manufacturing and recycling paper carrier bags has a lower impact on our waterways in terms of release of nutrients. In considering other types of environmental impact, resource use, energy and greenhouse gas production, the most favourable carrier bags are light-weight plastic and reusable fabric bags.

Looking more closely at reusable fabric bags, focus clearly needs to shift to how many times they are actually reused. To ensure their impact remains the most favourable they must be reused at least 100 times, with some analysis claiming this can be as high as 175 times. This varies depending on their actual composition, be it PP, PET, cotton or hemp and the like. Many are not sturdy enough to last the distance, in terms of stitching etc. Some customers also raise concerns about hygiene and no studies have taken into account the impacts of regularly washing bags.

While not as numerous as supermarket bags, it would be good to see investigations into other types of free shopping bags at retail outlets. The formats of these are wide and variable – high quality, heavy- weight, paper and plastic – many with elaborate ribbon and cord handles so that when customers recycle them, they are unlikely to deconstruct them into separate components that are compatible with recycling together.

Many DIY stores are giving customers access to cardboard packaging that their goods have been delivered to the store in. This was popular for groceries in many parts of the world years ago. While this could be acceptable to many customers, space is premium in supermarkets and this may not fit with the in-store image large chains want to portray.

Once light-weight carrier bags are gone, will the focus shift to the smaller light-weight grocery bags used for customers to select their own loose produce? Increasingly, there are options emerging to buy fabric reusable versions of these and in reality they could themselves be reused several times as they are not subject to the stresses put on carrier bags.

There are so many factors that come into play when assessing which carrier bags are truly best for the environment. An Australia-wide approach is more likely to achieve the best outcome, rather than individual states and supermarket chains making random decisions. Light-weight plastic carrier bags are not necessarily the worst environmental option, so perhaps the focus needs to move to offering customers effective ways to recycle them. Essentially, their composition is almost identical to many soft plastics used to package all types of products used in the home, and courier bags from online shopping. We shouldn’t accept that these are destined for landfill. Light-weight plastic carrier bags can be diverted into schemes that are emerging for such household waste.

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Dr Carol Kilcullen-Lawrence FAIP PhD is National President of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP). 

Teff: from ancient grain to gluten-free food products

Teff (Eragrostis tef) is the world’s smallest grain and one of the oldest plants, originating in Ethiopia at least 5000 years ago. It is a major food crop in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Outside Ethiopia, teff is grown in Nevada and Idaho, USA, with about 1,200 acres grown each year. Apart from the McNaul family, it has been grown in Australia in experimental quantities in areas of Tasmania and around Tamworth in northern New South Wales.

Teff is a gluten-free wholegrain and as such it has the potential to become in high demand as suitable for consumption by gluten intolerant and health conscious consumers.

Teff’s nutritional content

The scientific literature shows that teff is highly nutritious. Its protein content typically ranges from 8.7 to 11 per cent, similar to wheat, and it has a good balance of amino acids.

Teff flour has a high fibre content (8 per cent dry basis) – several times higher than wheat and rice, higher than sorghum, lower than oat and rye. It also contains the fermentable fibre, resistant starch.

The high fibre content is thanks to its small size. The bran and germ aren’t separated during the milling process thus it’s always consumed in wholegrain form.

Teff is also a good source of minerals and vitamins. It’s high in iron – around two or three times higher than wheat, barley and sorghum. It is also high in calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc and magnesium. Teff presents in various colours, from white to brown, which is due to the high content of phenolic compounds.

Outback Harvest and product development

Rice has been the traditional crop for NSW Riverina farmers, son Fraser and father Shane McNaul, and they also grow corn and a variety of winter cereals and legumes. But they decided a couple of years ago they needed to diversify their cropping program to become more sustainable and innovative.

The agriculturally rich and diverse Riverina, with its warm to hot climate and ample water supply, makes their farm the perfect place to grow the ancient grain emerging onto the Australian market, teff.

The McNauls planted two varieties of teff, brown and ivory, three years ago. They started a company, Outback Harvest, and approached CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia Ltd (FIAL) to help them develop Australian-grown, gluten-free teff baked goods and extruded snacks that could bring this nutritious grain into the mainstream western palette.

“Without CSIRO and FIAL all we’d have been able to do would be a grain and a flour product,” Fraser said.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do the value-added products so in the long term we’re vertically integrating and that’s helping us out as farmers.”

Fraser has moved to Melbourne to concentrate on developing packaging, marketing and distributing the first retail products, which have been endorsed as gluten-free by Coeliac Australia and Coeliac New Zealand.

Food applications and new markets

Teff flour is traditionally used to make injera (fermented flat bread), kitta (sweet flat bread), chibito (unleavened kitta in balls) and anebabro (double layered kitta).

Unlike flat breads, because gluten is essential to form the spongy texture of baked leavened bread, developing acceptable bread texture with gluten-free flours is an on-going challenge for food technologists. Bread high in teff flour appears to be no exception. Further research into thickening agents or structural ingredients would be needed to successfully develop a gluten-free bread with a high proportion of teff flour.

Teff grain and flour are being imported to the US, Europe and Australia from Ethiopia into the health food store and supermarket sectors and used for making biscuits, cakes, flat breads and muffins in the home. Brown teff produces a darker coloured flour that has a chocolate-like look and taste to it and so is ideally suited to a product like muffins. The ivory teff produces lighter coloured flour with a nutty flavour and is perfect for something like pancakes.

Value-added teff products such as ready-to-eat or convenience foods for retail markets or at commercial scale are emerging. At the time these products were under development for Outback Harvest, there were no others on the market in Australia, although some have come on since.

Owing to its documented nutritional properties, potential new markets for teff could include specialty products for weight management and high nutrient content products like baby food, traditional medicines or supplements. 

What CSIRO did

The aims of this work were to demonstrate it was possible to prototype several new gluten-free products using teff as the main ingredient, and to investigate the impact of teff flour on the texture, colour and flavour of new products. CSIRO developed muffin premixes, bread and a crunchy extruded ball, which has potential as a new snack product or breakfast cereal. The McNauls have just commercialised the muffin premix and launched it onto the retail and wholesale health food sector nationally, and in cafés in Melbourne, Geelong and the Surf Coast in Victoria. Other products CSIRO developed are currently being patented.

“There’s been a lot of interest in the products because they’re Australian-grown and certified gluten-free,’ Fraser said.

“With CSIRO’s expertise in food innovation and new product development, and their facilities and expertise helped make it all happen,” Fraser said.

“We’re also looking at other value adding opportunities like snack bars, tortillas and flat breads, and exporting to Asia.”


From the boardroom to the farm

Last year the Food & Beverage Industry Awards introduced a number of new categories. One of these was the Paddock to Plate award, won by El Cielo.

The Food & Beverage Industry Awards’ Paddock to Plate category celebrates companies that source their product direct from the producer and maintain freshness while meeting a consumer demand, such as longer shelf life and/or ease of preparation and cooking.

The winner of the award last year, sponsored by Chr. Hansen, was El Cielo for its White Corn Tortillas, Totopos and Tostaditas.

As Cesar Duran (pictured), managing director of El Cielo told Food & Beverage Industry News, putting the Paddock to Plate philosophy into practice was no easy task.

“It’s a continuing work in progress. You’re bringing together two worlds which are very different. The language is very different; the expectations are very different,” he said. “It took a lot of communication, a lot of understanding and a lot of time to get everybody [farmers, manufacturers and retailers] on the same page.”

Despite the difficulties, the Paddock to Plate dream started to come to fruition in 2016 when the company started to grow and use its own white corn in northern NSW.

In conjunction with the farm, extensive research and planning was undertaken in order to establish the best location for growing high-quality white corn in Australia. This also required extensive planning with regards to logistics and ensuring the white corn would reach the production facility fresh.

Upgrades and development of processing machinery were required in order to facilitate the production of the products, while providing the fresh products to restaurants (including El Sabor) meant the dream was realised. In order to maintain freshness, the grain is harvested in NSW, then immediately transported to a production facility in Port Melbourne for processing. The products are then delivered directly to restaurants and independent retailers for sale.

The end result impressed the judges of the aforementioned awards. “El Cielo has taken the concept of paddock to plate one step further – deciding to grow the corn themselves to ensure the best quality for the product. Their impressive supply chain sees them grow the corn, process it in their Port Melbourne facility and then deliver direct to restaurants as a fresh product,” they commented.

Does El Cielo have any advice for businesses hoping to follow in its footsteps?

“The hardest bit is to develop trust and understanding. The advice I would give them would be to come down from the boardroom and be closer to where ingredients come from,” said Duran. “It’s about relationships and getting off our high horses in the cities to actually go to the farms and see where food comes from.”

Founded in 2012, El Cielo (which translates as ‘The Heaven’) employs over 20 people. The company was established with the aim of promoting ‘The True Taste of Mexico’, offering the flavours of traditional Mexican cuisine.

According to Duran, the company plans to grow into 2018. “Soon we’re launching a range of full-flavoured tortillas. Also we’ll continue to develop our Mexican range next year. We have new salsas and new products coming,” he said.

While at this stage only the company’s corn products (White Corn Tortillas, White Corn Totopos – corn chips, and Tostaditas) are ‘Paddock to Plate’, all other products use elements of the philosophy.

According to Duran, the company intends to maintain close relationships with those on the land. “We need to be more grateful to farmers. We should probably be more grateful to farmers than doctors.” he said.

Click here for more information on the Food & Beverage Industry Awards.

Sage partners with Nord over waste

Container Deposit Systems Australia (CDSA) approached SAGE Automation with an unusual automation challenge. Recent environmental legislation has seen many recycling plants facing the same problem – reduced efficiencies and increased costs thanks to the purchase of an expensive sorting machine from Europe, coupled with expensive, unreliable labour.

With the machine using barcodes to sort, waste was of major concern as damaged products could not be read. NSW Environmental Protection Authority’s “Return and Earn” scheme has come under fire for accepting only perfect rubbish. The “Return and Earn” website says “containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached”. This is so that each container’s barcode can be scanned. All of these factors had put a strain on their customer satisfaction.

At the core of its business, CDSA looks to optimise recycling facilities through decades of experience. CDSA harnesses technology to improve productivity within recycling depot facilities where the manual handling of materials is still prominent.

“CDSA works with current and prospective operators of recycling facilities seeking to grow businesses and sets best practice in the industry. We position recycling facilities to realise significant productivity gains, improved customer relationships and highly secure and auditable product management” says Brett Duncanson, Executive Chairman of CDSA.

Brett continues: “Priding ourselves on customer satisfaction, the issues that we were facing was hindering our business and we were turning customers away rather than make them want to take on the task of recycling and collecting money”.

Understanding the issues that CDSA was facing, SAGE Automation worked closely with automation partners such as leading drive technology supplier, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS to improve efficiencies through immaculate accuracy via a prototype. SAGE Automation developed a range of counting and sensing technologies to accurately determine the container types being retained – even when containers were not in their original condition. What’s more, answering to the calls for IoT technology, the system provides valuable data which is delivered into the cloud and used for reporting.

At the heart of the machine was the vision system which was provided by UniSA. The camera uses an algorithm to identify what each item is and sorts them into the correct skid. This includes not just identifying cans and bottles, but also colour.

Paul Johnson (pictured), General Manager of Operations at SAGE Automation says that by providing customised, innovative solutions, SAGE looks at developing commercially viable solutions for OEMs. “SAGE incorporates various component suppliers into an integrated solution for customers. The challenge with CDSA’s request was that the plant was already operational and customer required that the solution be installed easily and very quickly on-site. It also had to require minimal maintenance and provide intelligence about the facility operations.”

Johnson continues: “We looked for ways simplify the installation. Five skids with twenty six conveyors needed to be installed within a day so we looked to a ‘plug and play’ solution to get it up and running as fast as possible”.

A distributed drive solution was used to achieve the brief. It required a 240V drive which used EtherCAT and could be Beckhoff integrated. SAGE partnered with leading drive manufacturer, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS who were the only provider who could provide this unique solution.

“We hadn’t worked with NORD previously and we were really impressed with the way that the team listened to what we wanted. They understood our needs and their engineering team configured the unit to ensure seamless integration with Beckhoff – literally overnight!” says Paul.

“The solution was exactly what we wanted and the local stockholding, price point and engineering expertise sealed the deal. The products used were of the highest quality and latest technology. The motor gearbox drive is distributed so that inverter sits on top the gearbox and it is neatly daisy chained together” comments Paul.

In the end SAGE Automation was able to install 26 conveyors with five skids in just one day.

With the second prototype underway and recognising the formation of what hopes to be a fruitful and strengthened partnership, Nord Drivesystems sales manager for the region, Vinod Pillai, looks forward to more exciting projects with SAGE Automation. “It’s an honour to be associated with a South Australian-founded company such as SAGE Automation. SAGE is known across the industry for its expertise and quality, and we hope that this is the beginning of a very successful partnership.”

“Nord’s decentralised solution looks to modular assembly for ease and reduced downtime during component failure. It also offers a decentralised inverter which is economical and robust. The site did not have access to three phase power and as such, the project made use of a Nordac base – a single phase input supply option for 0.25 – 1.5kW,” said Pillai.

With their development team NORD managed to engineer plug connector solutions for both power supply and EtherCAT connection.

“In keeping the footprint compact, the Nordac base offers assembly of an internal EtherCAT field bus card. The flexibility of being able to assemble dual plugs on the Nordac Base for both power supply connection as well as M12 connectors that enabled field bus communication, in turn allowed for simple daisy chain topology to be realised for the inverter modules” he concludes.

For Duncanson it is all about the war on waste. The new development comes just ahead of the national legislation roll out of new Government Recycling Program. It places CDSA in the fortunate position of being able to help recycling plants to be up and running and ready for the new program in no time.

“We are more than pleased with the solution and are currently busy with the second prototype,” says Brett. “What we do is extremely important to both our customers and the environment. The solution supplied by SAGE Automation and its partners will make a big difference to our customers by helping to improve productivity

CSIRO gene silencing technology continues to benefit agriculture worldwide

RNA interference (RNAi), a technology patented by the CSIRO, has given the world potatoes that don’t go brown, animal feed that’s easier to digest, safflower with high oil content and more.

Global forestry company, FuturaGene is the latest of public and privately funded organisations worldwide to license the technology which enables scientists to reduce or switch off the activity of single genes, with enormous benefits, especially in agriculture.

CSIRO has provided research materials to 3700 laboratories around the world and has issued more than 30 research and commercial licenses for RNAi to-date.

FuturaGene, a leader in plant genetic research and development for sustainable plantation forestry, will utilise RNAi technology to develop more resilient forestry crop varieties, primarily eucalyptus and poplar.

Technologies for preserving and enhancing yield in renewable plantations are an imperative for meeting growing wood demand in the face of climate change and increasing pest and disease threats, while preserving natural forests.

Other uses of RNAi technology include developing potatoes that don’t go brown, animal feed that’s easier to digest and an improved industrial oil.

Senior Research Scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Ming-Bo Wang, was one of the scientists involved in RNAi’s development in the mid-1990s, and together with colleague Peter Waterhouse, received the 2007 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for the work.

“One of the projects we were working on at the time was with the potato chip industry; we were trying to develop a virus resistant potato,” Dr Wang said.

“We discovered that when plants are attacked by viruses they use double-stranded RNA to mount a counter-attack.

“We realised we could make use of this ‘virus immune’ response to develop a mechanism that would stop individual genes from passing on information.

“At first we didn’t think much of it but when we realised we’d uncovered a fundamental mechanism for silencing genes, we knew there would be widespread applications.”

The RNAi mechanism was used by US company, Simplot to develop the “Innate” potatoes which bruise less than other potato varieties.

The potatoes also produce less acrylamide, a chemical which can accumulate in starchy foods such as potatoes when they are cooked at high temperatures.

Simplot is hopeful non-browning potatoes will reduce the costly and environmentally damaging issue of waste in the industry.

Forage Genetics has licensed RNAi to develop an animal feed that is more easily digested.

Alfalfa (or lucerne) is an important source of cattle feed in many countries.

One major challenge for farmers is that if harvested late, alfalfa can contain high levels of lignin, the fibrous material that is important for binding cells, fibres and vessels in plants.

Animals are unable to digest lignin.

HarvXtra alfalfa has up to 20 per cent less lignin, making it much more digestible for cattle. It can also be harvested seven to 10 days late without sacrificing quality.

CSIRO itself has made use of RNAi to develop a safflower seed oil that contains over 93 per cent oleic acid, a valuable component in industrial chemicals and lubricants.

Super high oleic oil safflower is being commercialised by GO Resources.

Dr Wang said that while there are more recent gene editing tools, RNAi will have a major role to play for many years to come because of its ability to silence multiple genes at the same time and tone down the expression of essential genes without killing a plant.

He said that CSIRO was continually developing new tools, technologies and techniques to improve RNAi delivery, potency and ease of use.





Water analysis instruments

Thermo Scientific Orion and Thermo Scientific AquaSensors products are well-known around the world for excellence in water and liquid analysis in drinking water, wastewater treatment, food and beverage manufacturing, and elsewhere.

The Orion and AquaSensors product lines include a full range of complementary liquid sensing and measurement products that include:

  • Portable and benchtop pH, ISE, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen measurement
  • Laboratory electrodes and sensors for sampling pH, ISE, dissolved oxygen, ORP, conductivity, and temperature
  • Online process analyzers and sensors for measuring pH, conductivity, ORP, dissolved oxygen, dissolved ozone, chlorine, turbidity, sodium, chloride, silica, fluoride, and calcium

The Thermo Scientific Orion product line is well-known around the world for excellence in water and liquid analysis. These meters, electrodes, buffers, standards, and solutions are designed for a number of applications and industries.

Thermo Scientific Orion 2111LL Low Level Sodium Analyzer protects your turbine against destructive sodium levels finding applications in Power Plants, Wastewater Treatment Plant and Process Water Analysis.


Total Tips – design and building advice for food & beverage makers

Welcome to Total Tips, our new regular column by plant building and design provider, Total Construction. Over the coming months, we will hear from this industry leader about how to ensure businesses have well designed, well-functioning manufacturing facilities that give them the best chance to prosper.


Selecting new premises is a big step for any food manufacturer. Think about the last time you moved house and (depending on the size of your business) multiply the effort involved several times over.

If the physical logistics involved in uprooting plant, machinery, furniture, IT equipment (plus employees) is enormous; the amount of planning involved can be even more daunting.

Price is the obvious consideration. There is no point in relocating to a facility your business can’t afford. Digging a financial hole that you have no chance of getting out of is never a good move.

Also, as in the residential market, “Location, Location” is a good philosophy to follow. Food and beverage manufacturers need to locate their plants in the right place. The right place, that is, in terms of transport (be it by road, rail or air); as well as easy access to supply chains and logistics. And, of course, they need to be easily accessible by the people who actually keep the business going, employees.

The importance of utilities
However, when choosing new premises, there is one important consideration businesses often overlook. It is important to find somewhere that includes a sufficient, reliable supply of basic utilities (electricity, gas, water), not just for today but for the future.

Far too often, Total Construction sees examples of businesses who neglect to include this in their relocation check list. Then, sure enough, when they move they find they don’t have the utilities they need to run their operations. After the move is made is too late to realise you need more power or gas.

Increasing energy supply is not always an easy thing to do. The task of upping the power supply may involve the creation of a new substation. Even in industrial areas, this does not happen overnight. We have seen cases where the installation takes as long as eight months. On top of the high costs and planning involved, this is bad news for any business.

Planning & estimating future utility needs
When planning a move, businesses should study past gas and electricity bills to establish average usage. However, we recommend adding a further 20 per cent to this figure to allow for future growth. Any figure beyond that mark will likely be years down the track and can be addressed at that later date.

In our experience, many businesses who don’t factor in their energy requirements actually find that their “dream facilities” don’t have sufficient utilities to support them into the future.

In many cases, this comes down to who were the previous tenants. It’s important to keep in mind that, even though they are located in industrial areas, many buildings have never housed manufacturing businesses. Many were used as warehouses and therefore didn’t require anything like the amount of electricity or gas that manufacturers need.

While they may tick all the boxes in terms of price, location and size, they may not actually have what it takes to get your business running today, let alone grow into the future.

Setting the standard in traceability

Food safety scares and product recalls are unfortunate facts of life in the food sector. GS1 Australia provides the standards to enable organisations to effectively keep track of where our food comes from and help implement recalls quickly and efficiently.

In China back in 2008, six babies died and thousands more became seriously ill after consuming infant formula tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make dinnerware, laminates, flooring and the like.

On top of the horrendous human cost, the scandal significantly damaged China’s food industry. Imports of Chinese dairy products were banned in many countries and, as the huge demand for Australian infant formula in China illustrates, the reputation of Chinese formula producers has yet to fully recover.

The lessons here are obvious. Food safety is the top priority for food and beverage manufacturers and recalls are to be avoided. When they do occur, they need to be implemented and resolved as quickly as possible.

In large part, this comes down to traceability.

As Peter Chambers, head of supply chain improvement services at GS1 Australia told Food & Beverage Industry News, increased consumer awareness coupled with “an ever increasing channel called the Internet” mean that traceability has become flavour of the month.

“The time is right to talk about traceability, not just in food but in all areas. Anywhere where people can get injured, get sick or die, traceability is very important,” said Chambers.

Supply chain complexity
Chambers explained that true traceability is the ultimate goal. “This involves the ability to exchange information with all the actors up and down your supply chain community. Once this occurs, information of the whereabouts of affected product can be interrogated at any time,” he said.

In the real world, however, the complexity of the food supply chain makes this difficult.

“The supply chain comprises many different stages or types of organisations (or actors) who often either distribute or manufacture product that is sold to consumers,” saidChambers.

So, when food safety issues do arise, recalls can be complicated because the products involved have been widely dispersed.

On top of that, he said, different actors use a range of processes and systems to record production information. Data capture is typically manual and either stored in private ERP systems, in spreadsheets or paper- based recording systems.

“While traceability exists, it is mostly very disjointed and requires manual intervention and interpretation of data. In the case of a recall, the process of notification, product identification and so on can take days, if not weeks,” said Chambers. “The opportunity exists to improve both the notification and recall process and reduce times and accuracy of recalled products significantly.”

Chambers also pointed out that, traditionally, there has only been limited information available from each step in the supply chain.

“We now have the ability to add event data – information starting with the transformation of raw materials and produce into commercial product and the aggregation and de-aggregation, as well as the physical whereabouts as it moves though the supply chain to point of sale,” he said.

This data includes the what, where, when and how of supply chain events. It provides visibility at each point up and down the chain.

Standards are important
“GS1 is a global standards organisation. Our role is to help companies and industries collaborate in areas where a common standard, language or solution would help every participant achieve a better outcome,” said Chambers.

“Having quality traceability and product recall capabilities are critical areas that can assist any organisation deliver product safely to consumers.”

GS1 Australia provides a range of training and education services to organisations in areas such as item identification, data capture, traceability, to name a few. The company’s GS1 system of standards provides global unique identification keys for products, locations, shipments, assets, documents and so on.

On top of that, the organisation recently released a new updated version of its Global Traceability Framework to help industries and businesses implement traceability solutions across supply chains.

“Because there are major capability and even requirement differences between sectors, we are now preparing additional sector based guidelines on how to apply the framework. For example, the fruit and vegetable sector is vastly different to beef which, in turn, is different to consumer packaged food,” said Chambers.

Recall portal
One of the key benefits of having a strong traceability system involves a company’s preparedness to conduct a product recall or withdrawal. Identification of the affected product is only one part of this process.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) Food Industry Recall Protocol outlines the legal requirements and responsibilities of food businesses with regard to product recalls and also offers advice and assistance in this area.

In 2011, GS1 Australia launched GS1 Recall (formerly GS1 Recallnet), a portal developed in collaboration with FSANZ, as well as the Australian Food and Grocery Council, (AFGC), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), national retailers and a number of local and international food and grocery manufacturers.

According to Chambers, the portal is a community based mechanism intended to improve the communication between the two main stakeholders in recalls, namely the initiator or sponsor of a recall or withdrawal notice and recipient organisations (wholesalers/distributors, retailers, hospital networks, etc.).

The aim of the portal is to facilitate the identification and potential quarantine of affected goods as quickly as possible. It’s the link between identifying the affected product and removing it accurately.

“We are quite excited about the growth of ‘Recall’. We have well over 600 subscribers across food and beverages, general merchandise and healthcare and that is growing at 25 per cent per annum.

“This involves many major recipients including the supermarket giants, smaller grocery providers, and hospital networks, as well as many food production and distribution companies,” said Chambers, adding that food relief organisation, Foodbank is one interesting recent addition to the portal.

New technologies
Blockchain (the technology used in the crypto-currency, Bitcoin) has been much discussed of late. Because it allows users in a network to share information without it first passing through a server, it has potential for implementation in the food supply chain.

The hope is that it will help overcome the problem of data fragmentation and provide the data integrity needed to not only carry out recalls, but also prevent fraud.

Blockchain purely addresses the security of exchange of information, particularly between anonymous parties, while GS1 is more concerned with the standardisation of information within the blockchain.

Nevertheless, recognising the importance of the technology within this space, the organisation recently announced a collaboration with IBM and Microsoft to leverage GS1 standards in their enterprise blockchain applications for supply chain clients.

There are also other new technologies on the way. For example, GS1 Australia has developed a Visibility Sandpit solution that makes it possible to trial a community- based network solution that captures traceability event data at each point in the nominated supply chain using the GS1 EPCIS standards. EPCIS (Electronic Product Code Information Services) is a GS1 standard that enables trading partners to share information about the physical movement and status of products as they travel throughout the supply chain – from business to business and ultimately to consumers. According to John Szabo, manager – consulting at GS1 Australia, this will enable communities to cost effectively evaluate what does and doesn’t work in proposed traceability solutions.

He added that the organisation also provided standards for Radio Frequency ID (RFID) technology that can help capture product IDs at each point in the supply chain without direct line of sight.

“There are developments for more commercial use of RFID in food and grocery, particularly with meat which is a high end item. The higher the value and the higher level of packaging, the more cost effective the RFID solution becomes. Active tags also enable additional data to be captured such as the temperature variances suffered en route. RFID will also help traceability solutions which tie into visibility and event data. It is much better to track and trace a product,” said Szabo.

“There are a number of ‘newer’ data carriers (bar codes) that have been introduced that allow these data carriers to include additional information such as batch numbers, expiry dates and so on. One of these barcodes, GS1 DataBar, will allow the capture of batch information at point of sale in the near future. Being trialled by major supermarket chains for use with loose fruit, this has demonstrated significant benefits over the current identification,” added Szabo.

Chambers pointed out that coordinating complex supply chains is difficult and stressed that true and effective traceability requires the full participation of everybody in the chain.

“Use of global standards facilitates that adoption but at the end of the day it comes down to the preparedness of each stakeholder to understand the change, see the benefits both for them and for the greater good, and want to participate,” he said.

Still, where this is achieved, it is now possible to cut recall notification times from days or weeks down to minutes, and more importantly, the safety of the end consumer or patient is enhanced.

Think local, act global

In September, Adelaide-based HMPS was named winner at the Impact Awards 2017, an event that recognises companies that assist with the globalisation of the South Australian economy. Read more

Environmentally friendly, cost saving hot water solutions

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia has released an innovative sanitary hot water solution that addresses two of the biggest issues facing manufacturers, sustainability and energy costs.

Given its use in everything from plant wash downs to pasteurisation, access to a reliable hot water supply is a must-have for many food and beverage manufacturers. The problem is, the traditional means of producing readily available water has been both expensive and environmentally unfriendly.

In response to this, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia (MHIAA) has released the Q-ton – a highly efficient, air-to-water hot water solution which utilises CO2 gas as a refrigerant. According to the company, the unit uses a safe, natural and environmentally responsible refrigerant. This has natural accruing properties that give the Q-ton advantages over conventional refrigerant heat pumps.

MHIAA describes it as a breakthrough in terms of both sustainability and reduced running costs.

Suitable for use by food processors, distillers and other manufacturers, the unit features a coil of cold refrigerant that absorbs heat from the outside air, as well as the world’s first two-stage compressor (combining state-of-the-art rotary and scroll technology).

A hot water solution with high efficiency rates and low carbon emissions, the Q-ton delivers outstanding performance as a solution based product. The product recovers heat energy from the air and can perform in extremely cold temperatures (down to -25°C).

“Q-ton supplies hot water from 60°C to 90°C at 100 per cent capacity at an outdoor temperature down to -7°C and will continue to produce hot water down to -25°C,” Trent Miller, Air-to-Water Manager for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia, told Food & Beverage Industry News.

Essentially, the pump forces air through an evaporator that contains CO2. The heat in the air is then passed through the evaporator before being absorbed by the CO2. The refrigerant is circulated in the system via the compressor causing its temperature to rise as it passes through the compressor and a heat exchanger. This heat is then transferred to the passing water before being delivered into the storage tank.

The Q-ton produces hot water at off peak electricity times and stores it in a tank for daytime use, offering a large cost saving for operators and is considered a direct replacement for boiler systems as it controls the water supply and storage temperature as well as the output capacity.

According to Miller, it offers a number of important advantages compared to the conventional alternatives.

“When you use a normal hot water solution, the conventional refrigerant can’t achieve the high temperatures of hot water. Furthermore the conventional alternatives cannot perform in lower temperatures and require the use of an electric element in heating,” he said.

Miller explained that, before the arrival of the Q-ton, there was no way for such units to manage highly compressed gasses. “The CO2 in the Q-ton has a resting temperature of about 5500 kPa while a conventional refrigerant may only have a couple of hundred. As soon as the compressor starts up, we will be getting pressures of up to 12000 kPa which is a lot of energy,” he said.

Heat pumps are rated by their Coefficient of Performance (COP), which is the ratio of the energy output over the energy input. The higher the COP ratio, the more efficient the unit. The Q-ton boasts an industry-leading COP of 4.3. According to Miller, depending on the application, that figure can be even higher.

“In a distillery in Tasmania, the Q-ton was installed instead of their originally planned electric line heater because of the projected energy savings and proven COP that the Q-ton gives. The 4.3 COP is actually a conservative estimate that is based on the standards in Japan where the ambient temperature of the water is much lower,” he said.

“In warmer climates like say Cairns, depending on the incoming water’s ambient temperature, it could require a lot less energy to heat and the COP could be a 5 or 6.”

Improved sustainability

The innovative hot water solution also offers significant environmental benefits.

“Because we are not using conventional refrigerants, we are eliminating the emission of hydrocarbons which can damage the atmosphere. This is the main reason why we should be using natural refrigerants,” said Miller. The Q-ton has been rated as having Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) of zero.
Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 9.09.23 AM

Miller explained that, as a by-product of the refrigeration process, the unit simultaneously produces cool air. Manufacturers can take further advantage by using both to their benefit.

“If you had an abattoir you could mount the units in the cool rooms. Each unit has 20kW of cooled air. So if you had five units there’s 100kW of cold air coming off the top of it,” he said.

For example, you can produce hot water to perform plant wash downs while, at the same time, using the cooled air to refrigerate your cool areas and keep product fresh.

Safety and predictive maintenance

Miller pointed out that safety is another key selling point for the system. “The refrigerant charge is only 8.5kPa per unit which is roughly what’s in a fire extinguisher. It’s a very small charge. Safety wise, it gives businesses a lot of control over their hot water,” he said.

For example, where businesses want to reduce the chances of Legionella they need to heat water to 90°C.

“Rather than keeping everything heated to 90 degrees all the time, they can elevate the cycle, run it to that heat, and then come back down to something that’s safer to work with. Unlike a gas boiler it ramps up then ramps down. Normally people set it and forget it,” said Miller.

“We’ve got a touch screen remote or you can do it remotely through your computer and change the temperature to within 0.5 of a degree so that’s really going to change how people work with hot water.”

This remote monitoring capability, combined with inbuilt sensors within the unit, allows operators to oversee the operation of the unit system as well gather a lot of useful data such as the amount of hot water produced and energy used on a per day basis.

“With this information, customers can then have more visibility on how efficiently they are running their manufacturing processes in, let’s say, an abattoir or a dairy plant,” said Miller.

The fact they can use the data to deliver predictive maintenance programs is another reason the unit represents a step forward in heat pump technology and can help businesses looking to increase operation efficiency and improve their bottom lines.

While Miller conceded there is a competitor in this space, he pointed out that those are larger units than the Q-ton.

“We have a unit that can be modulated together. The versatility of our unit and our ability to increase the capacity size required for the job means that users have more control over the system. Other systems tend to have larger size units which do not allow for modulated flexibility within the product,” said Miller.

He explained that this, in combination with the company’s rich history in variable flow refrigerant technology (air-to-water) found in the VRF systems, gives the Q-ton system the edge in the market in providing a sanitary hot water solution to commercial spaces.

“With the Q-ton it’s not a split system, it’s all self-contained. You’ve got no one welding in the system. It’s all water in, and water out. That means we’ll get a lot longer run hours and a lot longer design life out of ours just because there’s no interaction with the refrigerant circuit from the tradesmen. It comes pre-set,” said Miller.

Businesses caught short by new food labelling laws

Time is running out for businesses unprepared for strict new food labelling laws, with an industry expert warning many are at risk of being slapped with fines of more than $1 million for non-compliance.

New country of origin labelling laws are due to come into force from July 1 next year, requiring food manufacturers and importers to clearly identify where products are produced, grown, made or packed.

Design execution services company Task by Kirk has been working with large and small businesses to prepare them for the change, but warns that many businesses are unlikely to meet the deadline to comply with the new Australian Consumer Law act.

“I would estimate that only half of the required changes across product brands have been completed or are in the process of being completed,” Task by Kirk General Manager John Kapiniaris said.

“It’s the small-to-medium-sized businesses that are falling behind because they either don’t have the resources available or don’t have a proper understanding of the requirements under the new laws.

“Any recall or disposal of non-compliant goods may run from the thousands to the millions of dollars, so it’s important to get it right,”  Kapiniaris said.

Task by Kirk has been working with major manufacturers such as Simplot, Riviana, and Cerebos to relabel products, and is preparing for a flood of businesses rushing to comply with the new laws as next year’s deadline approaches.

“The changes aren’t really that complex and we have been able to step businesses through the necessary changes,” Mr Kapiniaris said. “The fact that we provide a design-to-print process saves clients money – up to 40 per cent in some cases – but just as importantly in the world of fast moving consumer goods, we help get products to shelf in half the time.”

Simplot Australia creative services manager Paul Fenech said the new country of origin labelling laws presented a huge undertaking for manufacturers and importers.

Simplot engaged Task by Kirk to relabel hundreds of products across its 14 household brands, including Leggo’s, Birds Eye, John West and Edgell.

“The costs of putting everything back to design agencies and getting it to press was just too expensive and time consuming for us, so we looked for ways we could cut out steps and minimise costs,”  Fenech said.

“Task by Kirk has really been driving it to get it done in time for next July. If companies haven’t started now and they have hundreds of products, they are really going to struggle,” he said.

“If you lose food product off the shelf, it is so hard to get it back on there, so it’s not just costly fines or dumping non lawful product, the real cost for companies can be forfeited future earnings.”

From next July, food made, grown or produced in Australia will feature the image of a kangaroo in a triangle and a bar chart that shows the proportion of Australian ingredients. Food packed in Australia will show the proportion of Australian ingredients, and labels on food imported into Australia will be easier to find.

Corporations who fail to comply with the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 face penalties of up to $1.1 million, while individuals can be fined up to $220,000.

The missing piece of the recycling puzzle

As Australia’s population and waste levels continue to rise, recycling matters now more than ever. This year Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week (13 – 19 November) highlights why recycling is only part of the battle. To help win the War on Waste consumers and businesses need to properly close the recycling loop by purchasing products that contain recycled content.

In the 20 years to 2015, Australia’s population increased by 28 per cent and waste levels grew by 170 per cent (i). The good news is that recycling is growing at an even faster rate than waste. What happens to those materials once they have been recycled and how everyone plays a part in the process is a key focus of this year’s National Recycling Week campaign.

Currently the Australian manufacturing economy is predominantly linear, which can be summarised as ‘take, make, use and dispose’. This is not sustainable. A circular economy on the other hand, replaces ‘dispose’ with ‘recycle, reuse and repurpose’ and keeps important materials from being wasted in landfill.

“Since the introduction of kerbside recycling in the 80s and 90s Australians have really embraced recycling. But to truly close the recycling loop, and keep valuable resources like plastic, metal and paper in circulation and out of landfills, we need to buy back the products that have been made from our recycling,” says Ryan Collins, Planet Ark’s Recycling Programs Manager.

New research (ii) from Planet Ark’s new guide What Goes Around: Why Buying Recycled MattersMatters shows 88 per cent of Australians already purchase products that contain recycled materials, and 70 per cent said they would be more likely to purchase products and / or packaging if they contained recycled materials. Most Australians also have high awareness of some products that can be made with recycled materials including office paper (83 per cent), toilet tissue (75 per cent) and paper towels (78 per cent).

However, the new research also shows there is less awareness about other products that can be made using recycled materials, such as road surfaces, printer cartridges, paving and carpet underlay.

“We’re actually surrounded by products made from our recycling, and people may be surprised by some of the recycled products out there, like wallets and purses made from tyre inner tubes; surfboard fins made from ocean plastic; eye glasses made from milk bottle lids; fencing made from printer cartridges; as well as shampoo bottles and shopping bags made from recycled PET plastic and even pet litter made from recycled paper. Also, inspiring discoveries from research and development projects are finding more and more ways to utilise waste, so the list of products made from recycled materials will continue to grow,” Collins says.

Some of those innovations include using the unique qualities of problem waste, like tyres, to create synthetic hockey or soccer pitches, or even green steel, which reduces electricity consumption and delivers productivity improvements. Other inspiring stories include research into new uses for glass, which can be used in road bases and construction.

“When consumers and businesses purchase products that are made from recycled materials, they create a demand for recycling, which supports Australian industry, allows new recycled manufacturing opportunities to flourish and creates jobs. As well as being good for the environment, the financial benefits of this closed loop cycle are significant. It’s estimated that by 2025 the circular economy in Australia could be worth $26 billion,” Collins says.

High consumer support for products that contain recycled content will grow that market and strengthen the circular economy in Australia. To make it easier for consumers and businesses to buy recycled, Planet Ark has created a handy online directory to raise awareness that these products are available and plentiful.

i) MRA Consulting Group 2016, ‘State of Waste 2016 – current and future Australian trends’

ii) What Goes Around: Why Buying Recycled Matters. A Guide for Households, Businesses and Councils, October 2017

Manufacturing in Australia is not dead – it’s transforming

Despite the shutdown of the automobile industry in Australia after almost a century of car making, manufacturing is alive and well, says an industry expert.

Mr Harry Mulder, the Marketing Manager for Omron Electronics, says Australian manufacturing has been going through a significant restructure in recent years.

More manufacturers are now embracing automation and new technologies to increase productivity and improve profitability.

At a special presentation at Macquarie University in Sydney last week, Mr Mulder said manufacturing in Australia still employs nearly one million people – about 7% of the total workforce.

“It’s certainly not dead,” Mr Mulder assured students from the Faculty of Business and Economics.

“In fact, some sectors, such as food and beverage are thriving,” he said.

“The bottom line is there are many opportunities out there, particularly as markets become more global.”

But manufacturers now are facing a number of challenges, he says.

“It’s no secret that Australia, like Europe and North America, has high labour costs. And with a population of less than 25 million it is a relatively small domestic market.

“Also, manufacturers often face substantial barriers imposed by would-be trading partners including import tariffs and duties and restrictive embargoes and other restrictive practises.

“They are also faced with high shipping and transportation costs due to the long distance from major markets.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom, says Mr Mulder.

Australian manufacturers can remain competitive on the global stage by producing better quality products – and making them at less cost.

“We can achieve this through innovation and improving production lines.

“Innovation is the key – and Australian manufacturers are punching above their weight in that regard.”

Mr Mulder gave students a broad overview of the Omron Group, which employs some 36,000 people worldwide and turns over more than US$7 billion annually.

Omron, a world leader in automation, has a proud history spanning 84 years.

With its headquarters in Kyoto, Japan, the company specialises in the manufacture of automation components, equipment and systems as well as medical equipment and social systems solutions.

Since its inception Omron has achieved several significant world firsts including developing the first contact-less proximity switch to detect metallic or non-metallic objects, the ATM cash dispenser, electronic ticketing gate and traffic response electronic signalling.

Omron uses its own technology in its factories, resulting in a 15% increase in production.

Over the last 250 years, there have been four main distinct stages of manufacturing, each providing a quantum leap of improvement in methods.

The industrial “revolutions” include:

  • Steam and mechanisation
  • Electrification and process line
  • Computerisation
  • Digitisation, robotics and AI

“With the new Industrial Revolution we’ve seen an explosion of connectivity and networking,” says Mr Mulder.

“This includes connection to the Internet and the advent of Cyberphysical systems. Physical locations have become less important,” he says.

New technology including handheld computing, iPhones and tablets have been a game changer.

So how does connecting to the internet help manufacturing?

“Mainly through the storage and analysis of Big Data,” says Mr Mulder.

“This data is logged (huge files stored in the cloud) and it is analysed by computers, running 24/7 which look for anomalies.

“By monitoring and analysing equipment manufacturers can find inefficiencies and improve quality.

“AI (Artificial Intelligence) means computers thinking for themselves – and there has been much development currently in this area.”

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to devices that collect and transmit data to the internet.

According to Forbes, in 2008, there were more devices connected to the internet than there were people – and this number is rapidly rising.

And according to some estimates, the IoT will add $10-15 trillion to global GDP in the next 20 years.

“Big Data will determine how efficiently a machine operates so that anomalies can be detected which could lead to breakdowns or other problems. Preventative maintenance can then be carried out.

“It is now also used for traceability where a product can be traced throughout its supply chain, for verify its origins and authenticity.

“This helps to prevent anti-counterfeiting, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Mr Mulder admits robotics and automation will cost jobs – but these are mainly dangerous, dirty or tedious jobs which humans don’t particularly like to do.

“It will mean a reskilling – humans can use their brains to take on more meaningful jobs, requiring higher level, abstract thinking.

“The main aim is for machines to work with humans, not to make humans redundant,” he told students.

Mr Mulder said there are many opportunities still available for Australian manufacturers, but some changes in the way they think may be needed.

“Quite simply, manufacturers need to adapt and innovate in order to succeed.

“But we can expect some exciting times ahead.”

Omron Marketing Manager Harry Mulder with Dr Rob Jack (Faculty of Business and Economics) at Macquarie University in Sydney.
Omron Marketing Manager Harry Mulder with Dr Rob Jack (Faculty of Business and Economics) at Macquarie University in Sydney.

Repackaging the impact of food waste

As consumer awareness of the magnitude of food waste grows, Sealed Air’s Ron Cotterman says the time for retailers to implement more effective preventive measures is now.

Across the globe, one-third of the food we produce is wasted each year. That equates to some 1.3 billion tonnes of food, causing both economic losses and significant damage to the environment, according to the United Nations.

Where and how that food is wasted differs from country to country. In developing nations, most of the food waste occurs during the production phase (due to lack of sufficient refrigeration and poor infrastructure), with very little waste on the consumer side. More developed countries are very efficient at moving food to the point of processing and retailing, but large amounts of waste is occurring at the consumer side.

To highlight this growing issue of food waste, and to explore the opportunities that using innovative packaging can bring to retailers and consumers, leading packaging company Sealed Air recently released a report, Taking Action to Tackle Food Waste Challenges, as part of its commitment to reducing food waste.

The report highlighted the current impact of food waste in Australia and New Zealand, which currently stands at 8.3 million tonnes annually, at a retail value of $9.5 billion. In the average Australian and New Zealand household, consumers are essentially throwing $1000 worth of food in the bin each year.

The leading cause of consumer and retail food waste, according to Sealed Air’s vice president of sustainability Ron Cotterman, is the increasing amount of fresh foods demanded by consumers and their inherently perishable nature. “When you look at fresh food there is more wastage because a portion of the food will typically spoil or expire before it can be consumed,” he said. “So when it comes to opportunities to reduce food waste, [one solution] is actually to protect food so that it stays fresh for longer.

“In other words, increase the shelf life or the freshness of that food that otherwise might spoil. If you could make that last a week, two weeks or even longer, and maintain that freshness, you have a greater chance of reducing the amount of food that gets wasted across the supply chain. That is either in retail or food service but also increasing the amount of food that gets consumed in our households.”

According to Sealed Air’s study, 83 per cent of retailers in Australia and 90 per cent of retailers in New Zealand believe shelf life is critical to reducing shrink. When it comes to an increase in profits by controlling shrink, Australian retailers forecast this to be four per cent, while retailers in New Zealand forecast six per cent.

Sealed Air is taking action to address this is by offering food processors and retailers packaging solutions that extend shelf life, improve food safety and consequently lower costs. One example of this is Cryovac Darfresh; a vacuum packaging that provides a unique combination of longer shelf life and more dramatic product presentation. In this innovative package, the food product itself enables the finished package to have a smooth, skin-tight appearance that appeals to consumers while also giving them more time to enjoy the fresh product.

But packaging is just one solution to the food waste problem. Today, most retailers respond to the crisis when products are close to expiration and need to be consumed or donated in some way. However, Cotterman said alternative action can be taken. “We are seeing a number of retailers participating with organisations to donate food so that it doesn’t end up going to a landfill or disposed of in another way, but there is another action that retailers can take,” he said.

“That action is to look at the food they are wasting and prevent that waste in the first place. In other words, better analytics, better inventory management to know what food categories are spoiling and why, and to then work to extend shelf life so that food ultimately does not need to be donated,” he said.

Darfresh on Tray by Sealed Air.
Darfresh on Tray by Sealed Air.



“The ability to be ahead is key to extending shelf life, labelling food properly and then informing the consumer about the best ways to store and use that food.”

Traditionally, Sealed Air has focused on its state-of-the-art methods of extending the shelf life of foods through packaging solutions. But more recently, it has been trying to understand how data from the supply chain can be utilised and what kind of data and measurements it can make within its customers’ facilities. Ultimately this will flow through to retail, and hopefully in the future to consumers to ensure transparency in the entire supply chain.

“We talk a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) and data, but let’s apply that very specifically to the amount of food that is being wasted,” said Cotterman. “Let’s use the techniques that are available in other market sectors and apply them to the food industry to manage one of our most valuable resources:  fresh, nutritious food.”

“The retail supply chain will have a key role in reducing food waste; predominantly that’s through data management. So, understanding the sources of food waste across the supply chain and the interventions that can occur across those points is going to be absolutely key.”

When it comes to the role of consumers in reducing food waste, education is pivotal in helping them recognise the problem and to consequently drive behaviour that will result in less waste. As part of this effort, Sealed Air is investigating how it can address consumer misconceptions around packaging and its effect on the environment.

The company conducted a Harris Poll that revealed nine out of 10 consumers view packaging to be worse for the environment than food waste. In reality, said Cotterman, the opposite is true.

“If you do a very analytical study and look at the environmental impact of food waste, and compare that to the environmental impact of packaging, you can show that food waste is significantly worse, almost an order of magnitude greater than the environmental impact of the packaging used to protect it. So we have been looking how we can use information on the packaging that informs the consumer why certain products are packaged the way they are.”

“We think that by educating the consumer on the value of increasing the shelf life and providing extra time and convenience in the use of that food, will ultimately give them the ability to reduce the amount of food that they waste,” he said.

Confusion over labelling is also a big contributor to food waste. Terms such as ‘use by’, ‘sell by’ and ‘best by’ are used interchangeably by processers, and create a lot of confusion, causing consumers to throw food away before it is actually spoiling.

One solution being addressed today by governments and industry experts is standardising and clarifying food date labelling.  As a result the two standards occurring globally now are ‘best if used by’ and ‘expires on’. The first is used for food that reaches a maximum freshness by a certain time period but is still safe to consume for some period after that date.  The second tells the consumer that after that date, the food may no longer be safe to eat and consequently should be discarded.

The driving message around food waste, concludes Cotterman, is that no single company or country is capable of tackling the issue alone. Governments, businesses and organisations need to collaborate to ensure a more sustainable future.

“We are seeing large groups forming and coming together to try and determine where and why food is being wasted across the supply chain. [They are looking at] what sort of interventions, what sort innovations and what sort of technologies can be applied to the food waste they are identifying, how this can be prevented and how more food can flow through that system to the consumer,” he said.

“Innovation, education and collaboration.  By aligning efforts to prevent food waste, we can work together across the supply chain to come up with methods to reduce the amount of waste and its impacts.  This is good news for consumers, for the environment and for business.”

IoT has a role to play in reducing food waste.
IoT has a role to play in reducing food waste.

Helping build the factory of the future

Industry 4.0 is revolutionising manufacturing through the utilisation of cyber connected systems, which monitor factory processes to maximise efficiency and reduce downtime. Insignia’s Domino Cloud and Ax-Series are part of this global change.

Industry 4.0 is a global reality that is affecting nearly every industry worldwide, and is transforming how businesses operate. It introduces a ‘smart factory’, where cyber-physical systems monitor production processes and are capable of making decentralised decisions – for example, monitoring consumable levels in a printer and alerting users that a consumable changeover is required.

In an Industry 4.0 ready factory, every machine and computing device is integrated and connected to the internet, enabling them to send and receive data – this process is what’s commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT). The interconnectivity of these smart devices is empowering a step change in productivity, efficiency and customer-centric innovation for manufacturers.

Domino Cloud

The release of Domino’s i-Techx platform and the Domino Cloud service tool are shaping Industry 4.0 in the areas of coding and marking. Both are built into Domino’s latest continuous inkjet technology, the Ax-Series. Designed from the ground up to be industry 4.0 ready, the series easily integrates into existing production lines and supports a variety of standard factory automation communication protocols such as PACK-ML and OPC-UA.

Additionally, an array of integrated sensors automate system monitoring, allowing for proactive and predictive diagnostics and remote service support through the IoT and connection to the Domino Cloud.

The Domino Cloud provides powerful remote diagnostics, remote monitoring and customer reporting capabilities. For example, Domino’s i-Techx platform collects a vast array of data on printer operation – from running performance to ink and makeup levels, to wear and tear on components. This data is can be accessed through the Domino Cloud dashboard where it can be viewed by the customer at any time, regardless of the location. This enables the customer to be alerted to any issues and forecast ink and consumable orders.  Additionally, this data incorporates Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) calculations and printer usage changes to provide insights for line improvement and lead manufacturing initiatives.

How does Domino Cloud help manufacturers?

Domino’s i-Techx platform and the Domino Cloud service tool provides manufacturers with error-free coding and system integration, as well as remote access and monitoring. This results in a smart and interconnected network of machines and processes that centralises and simplifies coding processes.

The consumption of ink and make-up can be monitored in real-time, utilising the Domino Cloud dashboard. Additionally, complications can be diagnosed from a distance by the helpdesk team and either fixed remotely or through an Insignia service technician who can find the problem on-site.

Moreover, through automation, streams of information for OEE calculations and cost structures can be closely monitored to maximise efficiency, resulting in reduced downtime and increased production at the lowest possible cost.

Decentralised systems can increase profitability for manufacturers by streamlining and speeding up decisions, resulting in increased revenue, market share and profits for many businesses.

For coding and marking processes, Industry 4.0 means that inaccurate codes and unplanned downtime caused by equipment will no longer be a problem faced by manufacturers. Coding and marking machines will become part of a single intelligent factory operation, capable of monitoring performance and assisting team members with making informed decisions.

Domino Cloud is already shaping factories of the future and empowering a step change in productivity and efficiency for manufacturers.

“We highly recommend Domino Cloud as a user friendly remote tool that gives us useful management information insight into all our connected production lines,” affirmed Dorin Cimpu, manager strategic projects, Continental Tyres.


Natural food colouring as the way of the future

More than just a trend, the move to natural food colouring is here to stay. Now is the time for food and beverage manufacturers that still use artificial colouring to make the switch to natural. BASF can help them do this successfully.

According to a report by Zion Research, the global natural food colouring market accounted for $1.66b in 2015 and is expected to reach $2.25b by 2021, growing at a rate of around 5.2 per cent.

In addition, Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest natural food colouring market, due to an increase in consumption of processed food in this region.

As Harry Haikalis, BASF’s business and sales manager, nutrition and health Australia & New Zealand (pictured below) explained, these colouring products fall into two categories – natural colourants and nature-identical colourants.

“Natural colourants are what you source from nature, colourants that come from plants, minerals, and so forth,” he told Food & Beverage Industry News. “With nature identical colourants you’re replicating a naturally occurring molecular structure. You’re taking a natural pigment or colourant and you’re basically synthesising it.”

Making the change

Given the move toward natural colourings, food and beverage manufacturers still using artificial colourings in their products would be well advised to consider making the change to natural.

Harry Haikalis, BASF’s business and sales manager, nutrition and health Australia & New Zealand.

Haikalis explained that there are challenges associated with choosing and then using a natural additive.

“The major challenges centre around light stability, oxygen stability, shelf life and colour matching,” he said.

“It takes significant expertise to be able to recommend an appropriate natural product or a nature-identical formulation. It’s both a science and an art form. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy to try and make sure we can help our customers.”

Natural colourings are, as you would expect, naturally derived. They come from plants, animals or minerals and are sourced from various locations around the world.

Manufacturers who use them need to have a reliable supply, independent of seasonal or annual changes. And they need suppliers who can help them include those natural colours into their formulations.

“This is where BASF has a lot of expertise. We offer a wide range of colours and various grades for different applications, anything from powders to oils depending on what our customers want to formulate with,” said Haikalis.

Ease of use is another important consideration. Food manufacturers should be seeking products which are not only easy to add, but also deliver consistency of colour.

“They need to be able to access colour matching,” said Haikalis. “We can provide this through several applications labs across the globe.” Only by covering all these bases can manufacturers supply the reliable, stable, consistent colours consumers demand.


BASF produces a broad range of natural colourings, from yellows through to deep reds.

“The applications are very broad. They can be used on anything from sparkling or still beverages to confectionery, gummies and hard lollies, ice cream, cake mixes, breads, pasta and noodles, cheeses, yoghurts, spreads, margarines, butters and cheeses,” said Haikalis.

He explained that BASF was an early convert to natural colouring, having produced beta-carotene, which is from algae (Dunaliella salina), that’s naturally occurring in Australia, for over 25 years.

“This product uses natural algae, sunlight and carbon dioxide. We grow it, we mechanically harvest it so there’s minimal processing, then we concentrate it,” he said.

The company also offers Xangold, a natural colouring derived from the Marigold flower (Targetes erecta) and sourced from Ecuador; and Lycopene which is typically derived from tomatoes.

“We offer proven solutions through many decades of experience and know-how,” said Haikalis. “We welcome the conversion from artificial to natural and nature identical and recognise it for what it certainly is – the way of the future.

The food factory of the future will be smart, connected and collaborative

Smart factories with efficient and fully connected supply chains are critical to manufacturing innovation.

Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution – has opened new market possibilities and enabled manufacturers to be more responsive to customer driven trends.

Manufacturing is undergoing a digital transformation.

Significant advances in technology, including big data and analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and additive manufacturing, are changing manufacturing operations globally.

“It’s all about collecting and analyzing data to improve efficiency,” says Chris Probst, Omron’s Automation Technology Product Manager.

“The amount of data doesn’t matter – it’s what you do with the data that counts,” he says.

This was one of the key messages from Omron’s Food & Packaging Seminar “Smart Factory Solutions with IoT Technology” held in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane last week.

At the seminars Omron, a global leader in automation, unveiled its latest smart factory solutions encompassing Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

This included the latest applications in robotics, machine vision, safety, big data, traceability, PackML and IO link.

Omron’s team of experts showed how the new technologies can increase productivity and improve profitability in the Food & Packaging sectors.

Mr Probst said many Australian companies are now talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) technical revolution, but not many are prepared for it.

“Companies that embrace new technologies will be better positioned to adapt to changing marketing conditions and customer needs,” Mr Probst said.

They can also boost productivity by up to 30 percent.

“This is the next generation of manufacturing where people and machines work together,” said Mr Probst.

Mr Probst has no doubt collecting data – and using it to measure performance – holds the key to the future for Australian manufacturers.

Hal Varian, professor of information sciences, business, and economics at the University of California at Berkeley and Google’s Chief Economist agrees.

“The ability to take data – to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualise it, to communicate it – that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decade,” he says.

Mr Wei-Jian Ong, product manager for Omron’s Sysmac controllers based in Singapore, said data collection and analysis can help manufacturers streamline their operations.

“The collection of data is now vital for industry,” Mr Ong told guests at the Sydney seminar.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is basically a network of devices with network connectivity for the collection and exchange of data.

“With IoT you can Monitor, Analyse and Act – you can coordinate and monitor your production line. All machines work together to perform at optimum level.”

An estimated 13.5 billion devices will be connected by 2020 worldwide.

Programs such as PackML, or Packaging Machine Language, are now being widely adopted by industry globally, Mr Ong said.

PackML is a universal programming standard defined by the Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC) and by the International Society of Automation’s Technical Report 88 which defines a common approach, or machine language, for automated machines.

The factory of the future will be smart_Omron smart factory2

The primary goals are to encourage a common “look and feel” across a plant floor and to enable and encourage industry innovation.

Omron PLCs can work seamlessly with databases such as SQL, which is the standard language allowing manufacturers to communicate with a database. The SQL database can collect huge amounts of data (Big Data), that can be used to measure the performance of each machine and increase yield.

With Omron’s NJ SQL version controllers you can send the OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency) data from machine to database and then use that data with MES and ERP systems.

“Smart factories need to be more efficient and fully connected to their supply chains,” says Mr Probst.

“Omron offers the industry’s first complete and fully integrated robotic automation solution.

“All of the components are designed to work together.

“Our solutions are developed with Omron’s unified concept – to develop connected, smart, collaborative factories.”

And this is how the concept helps to boost productivity:

  • The Connected Factory – seamlessly integrating machine automation and corporate IT to generate, collect and exchange relevant data
  • The Smart Factory – intelligent data analysis and evaluation to predict maintenance issues and implement improvements to reduce resources, energy and waste
  • The Collaborative Factory – enhancing the interaction between humans and machines.

Omron’s automation solution oversees the entire packaging line, with horizontal and vertical integration, ensuring line coordination and monitoring.

To improve efficiency and improve productivity more factories now turning to robotics – using fixed (Articulated, SCARA and Parallel robots) and mobile robots (AIVs – Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles).

Omron AIV mobile robots use laser scanners and other advanced technologies that allow them to determine their own path, avoid obstacles and be re-tasked quickly.

They are now being used in a wide variety of applications across warehouses, distribution centres, manufacturing, automotive, food & beverage, hospitality, logistics, health & medical and other challenging environments.

“AIVs not only save on labour costs, they can increase operational efficiency,” says Mr Probst.

“Mobile robots are easy to deploy, with no facility modifications required.

“They work safely around people and can operate 24/7.”

Mr Probst said Smart Factories were also helping to significantly improve workplace safety.

And with improved safety employers can minimise worker injuries, machinery downtime and loss of production.

They can also save on worker’s compensation payouts, compliance fines, court costs and legal and insurance fees.

“The Smart Factory of the future will improve workplace safety, improve yield and traceability, drive down production costs and eliminate errors, says Mr Probst.

“This will enable a ‘flexible’ manufacturing revolution.”

The factory of the future will be smart_Omron-smart factory mobile-robot

High volume, high speed stretch wrappers

Food manufacturers looking for pallet wrappers that deliver speed, reliability, economy and safety need look no further than the Octopus Ring Pallet Wrapper from Signode.

The last step of many food manufacturing processes, pallet wrapping helps ensure products are not only secure and ready for shipping but also that they arrive at their final destination in good condition.

Businesses which use pallet wrappers want the process to be completed with a minimum of fuss and without putting staff in physical danger. In summary, they are looking for machines that are reliable, accurate, fast and safe.

Haloila, a member of the Signode Industrial Group, has been manufacturing the Octopus automatic rotary ring stretch wrapper for over 30 years. With over 6,000 units installed world-wide, these high speed systems are capable of wrapping up to 135 pallets an hour.

“Businesses which use the Octopus want to achieve a higher level of reliability, whether to cope with their current demand, or due to increased production necessitating a faster solution,” Andre de Wet from Signode (the exclusive suppliers of the Octopus range in Australia and New Zealand) told Food & Beverage Industry News.

Fully automatic, the machines employ the “Octopus ring method”, whereby the wrapping film reel is suspended from a ring and it revolves around the pallet. The ring is raised and lowered according to the wrapping program.

Because the pallet remains stationary throughout the process, the system can easily handle unstable or lightweight products. There are no centrifugal forces to cause stress or strain on the load or equipment.

As the ring can be accurately positioned in the vertical direction, wrapping can be started and finished at any height required. In addition, the Octopus provides optimal load containment while optimising film usage.

“We have a range of different Octopus machines, in various sizes to cover different sizes of operation,” said de Wet.

“We can spec a machine to particular needs, by modifying the ring diameter to match the ring size and different rotation speeds and/or dual film application to match required production output.”


De Wet warns against businesses opting for cheap pallet wrappers. “If people are driven purely by price they will get what they pay for,” he said. “Very often we go into a facility and see that the company has invested in a machine that is not delivering – at some point in time someone has convinced them that the cheaper alternative will do the job when actually it doesn’t.”

Reliable pallet wrapping is important because it sits at the end of the production line. “If it fails, if this area stops, or is slow, everything behind it is limited. Because if you can’t get it out, there’s no point in producing it,” he said.

Features of the Octopus Ring Pallet Wrapper include a load stabiliser to ensure unstable loads remain intact throughout the wrapping operation and an integrated top sheet dispenser which provides automatic weather-proofing without taking up floor space.

Optional add-ons include the “Logowrap System” which automatically inserts printed stretch film to a pallet load during the normal wrapping cycle and the “Octomax” performance monitoring system which is designed to reduce film costs, eliminate downtime and simplify maintenance.

Safety and service

“Safety is a big thing in Australia. When I came here I was truly impressed by the attitude to it,” said de Wet. “Octopus includes multiple features, such as the RCS automatic reel change system, that keep the operator away from the machine during operation without hampering production.  We also have locking mechanisms that ensure safety during maintenance and easy access to motors by driving the ring down to a comfortable working height.”

As part of the installation process, Signode provides training for operators and in-house maintenance staff. This includes direction in the safe use and proper care for the equipment.

De Wet pointed out that service is an important part of the equation. “The fact that we have a local presence across Australia and New Zealand also assures that we fully understand the customer’s requirements when setting up the machine’s specifications,” he said.

Another recent development in this is “Octoface”, a solution that allows the company’s experts to interact with an Octopus machine anywhere in the world over a secure Ethernet connection.

“The way the world deals with data and interacts with equipment has changed significantly in recent years,” said de Wet. “Octoface allows our customers to monitor their machines wherever they may be located, allowing access to useful information about the wrapper’s efficiencies and production rates.”

Fully automatic, the machines employ the "Octopus ring method", whereby the wrapping film reel is suspended from a ring and it revolves around the pallet.
Fully automatic, the machines employ the “Octopus ring method”, whereby the wrapping film reel is suspended from a ring and it revolves around the pallet.





Increasingly, food and beverage products are being delivered to retailers in “shelf ready” packaging. Spices, sauces, potato chips and so forth are packed by the manufacturer in branded cartons which are opened by supermarket staff, then placed directly on shelves for display.

“We just completed an install for a company in the food industry where the problem was damage to cartons,” said de Wet.

“The problem was that when the stretch wrapper was applying the film to the pallet, it was applying it too tightly and was corrupting the edges of the carton. They couldn’t find a happy medium between relaxing the film pressure, and still maintaining a safe product/secure pallet.”

Octopus machines were able to solve the problem by changing both prestretch of the film and lay on force. By getting both variables right, they were able to keep a stable pallet without damaging the cartons.

“What’s special about our machine is we can control that lay on force within a load, so we can start high and reduce and increase within one single pallet wrap. Our prestretch is very accurate,” said de Wet.

Cost-efficient logistics drives in three preferred configurations

In plants with many drive units, the total cost of ownership can be reduced by up to 70 per cent through intelligent management of variants. Therefore, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS has established three preferred sizes for efficient variable-frequency drives in materials handling and conveyor applications. These cover the typical functional and performance requirements in postal hubs, intralogistics applications, and baggage handling systems. The standardized drive systems greatly simplify purchasing, engineering, commissioning, and spare parts stocking. Moreover, they are particularly easy to install, operate, and maintain.

Limiting the number of variants can yield greater total cost of ownership (TCO) savings than any other measure except for lowering energy consumption. Therefore, drive manufacturers should be able to provide viable drive system standardizations for specific industrial segments. Preferred variants will also benefit customers by simplifying the procurement process, from the first drive purchase to any orders that may follow. Fewer variants also make inventory management much easier.

Furthermore, they make planning and engineering processes less complex for everyone – the drive supplier, the OEM, and the end user. The challenge is to select as few drive configurations as possible in such a way that they adequately fulfill the varied tasks without being oversized. Drive engineers therefore need to thoroughly analyze sector-specific patterns of drive operation and application-specific needs.

NORD DRIVESYSTEMS has been designing efficient drive technology for intralogistics and airports for many years. Based on this wealth of experience, the German manufacturer has developed the LogiDrive line of three preferred drive variants optimized for these applications. LogiDrive systems ensure leaner purchasing, engineering, system maintenance, and staff training processes. Only very few spare parts must be kept in stock. As a result, the TCO in postal hubs, warehouses, and baggage handling systems can be reduced by up to 70 per cent.

1.LogiDrive systems are equipped with IE4 motors which pay for themselves very quickly in applications with frequent partial-load operation.
1. LogiDrive systems are equipped with IE4 motors which pay for themselves very quickly in applications with frequent partial-load operation.



Three variants, much flexibility

The LogiDrive line is the solution for conveyor systems spanning many hundred meters. The variable-frequency drives (VFDs) allow for simple daisy-chaining; short power lines can be connected from one drive to the next. NORD has tailored this line to intralogistics and airport technology. Three geared motor variants meet all typical performance requirements. IE4 permanent-magnet synchronous motors with power ratings of 1.1 kW, 1.5 kW, or 2.2 kW are combined with efficient two-stage helical-bevel gearboxes in two sizes for torques up to 260 Nm. Robust frequency inverters from the NORDAC LINK series enable a wide range of speeds. The systems feature a high overload capacity and offer a uniquely versatile range of functions. Interfaces for all commercially available communication protocols are available, including PROFINET, Ethernet POWERLINK, EtherCAT, and EtherNet/IP.

Extremely user-friendly and efficient

LogiDrive systems are easy, quick, and safe to install thanks to coded plug-in connectors. Maintenance switches, key switches, and direction switches on the devices allow for flexible direct access to individual drive axes for setup or service. Sensors and actuators can be connected via M12 plugs. Sensor data collected by the inverters can be passed on to higher-level systems, which reduces otherwise necessary wiring. Plug & play, pre-parameterized inverters also simplify maintenance. Drive components can be easily replaced. Instead of swapping out entire drive units, for instance, only the geared motor can be exchanged. Thanks to their light-alloy housings, the compact drives are easy to handle as well: on average, they are about 25% lighter than steel-alloy drives. The LogiDrive systems’ IE4 or Super Premium Efficiency synchronous motors take their energy-saving potential to its full extent in conveying systems with frequent partial-load operation. By consuming significantly less energy, they pay for themselves in a very short time.

Integrated safety

LogiDrive systems efficiently and safely power horizontal, inclined, and vertical conveyors. A load monitor protects the driven equipment by stopping the motor in case of blocked applications. NORD can even implement the STO and SS1 safety functions according to EN 61800-5-2 for every single drive axis by means of TÜV-certified electronic modules. Employing field-oriented vector control, the inverters achieve high-precision control. In hoist applications, for example, they provide full torque from zero speed and reliably deliver set speeds even under load fluctuations. Standard inverter features furthermore include connection options for incremental and absolute encoders. The drives manage absolute and relative positioning as well as smart braking. Positions and distances can be programmed via the bus or directly on the device. Multiple drives in master/slave operation can synchronize speeds or positions. Featuring integrated PLC as well as PI controller functions and a wide range of sensor interfaces, these systems can even be used to drive fully autonomous modular equipment in a larger installation.


NORD DRIVESYSTEMS has extensive practical experience in the field of conveyor technology. The drive manufacturer has designed efficient drive systems for hundreds of intralogistics plants and airports worldwide. The company draws on a large modular program of drive components that are manufactured in-house. The energy-saving motors are suitable for worldwide use and available in all common efficiency classes. The NORD gear portfolio comprises numerous gear types and covers an extremely wide range of torques and gear ratios. The VFDs provide enhanced intelligence in plant segments and ensure high efficiency especially in partial-load operation. Furthermore, electronic inverters enable highly flexible speed adjustment. This allows for limiting the drive variants in a larger installation to only a few sizes and gear ratios. The new LogiDrive systems for airport and other logistics applications demonstrate the benefits of greatly simplified variant management and the major cost savings associated with it.