Cheeky Rascal Cider takes out Beverages category at Food awards: video

Two years ago, Rebello launched Cheeky Rascal Cider – the country's first apple and pear cider to be blended with fruit wine and made entirely from real, fresh, local strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. And this year, the company won the Food magazine awards' Beverages category for its new varietal range.

Rebello's market research indicated that cider consumers were always looking for something new and interesting, and in November 2012, the company added a new limited edition range of real fruit ciders to the Cheeky Rascal portfolio, based purely on creations requested by the consumer.

CEO Ruth Gallace, said the research findings have "allowed us to bring experimental batches of new and interesting ciders to the consumer without disrupting the consistency and reliably of our well-loved core range."

The seven new varietals are made from real apples from Victoria and include Passionfruit Pink Lady, Apple Guava, Gingerberry, Ginger Apple, Strawberry Apple Mint, Honey Apple and Apple Mint.

With the introduction of herbs and honey, new processing methods had to be developed, posing a number of challenges for the company. Gallace commented that the process was "very time consuming and complicated… involving much trial and error."

Even with the associated complications that naturally occur when introducing a new product line, the new varietals proved to be a wondrous success. The Passionfruit Pink Lady cider pre-sold out before it was even on the market.

Gallace said one of the flavours in particular, Honey Apple, turned out to be highly controversial – "people either love it or hate it," she said.

"When we're provoking such extreme responses to our experimental limited editions, this confirms that we're pushing the boundaries and really giving consumers something interesting."

Craig Wilson, distributor for Rebello Wines and Cheeky Rascal, said the key to the brand's success was innovation and keeping ahead of the competition.

"It's about keeping at the forefront of the market; it's about releasing new products," he said. "It's always about keeping ahead of the game."

Another point of difference for the new varietal Cheeky Rascal ciders is that they are the first, and only, 100 percent real fruit blended ciders in Australia, with no additives, flavourings or concentrates and all apples are sourced from within Victoria.

A further testament to the company's success, Rebello is current working closely with the Victorian government's Department of Business and Innovation on export opportunities in Asia, and is also considering entry into the US and UK markets.

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New plating system from CMActive claims packaging award: video

CMActive's Torus Pak was a stand-out contender in the Food magazine awards' Packaging Design category this year.

In all traditional meal trays, the base is a solid integrated part of the container, but the Torus Pak has a unique flexible base with a folded pulling tab, enabling the meal to be presented on a porcelain plate exactly the way it's intended. 

After removing the packaging, the meal will appear freshly cooked, as if plated by the chef and all traces of industrial production will be erased. As the top film will not be removed during the transfer of the meal, the Torus Pak also has an important safety element as no hot steam will burn the user's fingers.

CMActive imports and distributes the Torus Pak in Australia and upon claiming the Packaging Design award, a company representative told Food magazine "It's probably a world first. It's the first time ever that a piece of packaging allows you to actually plate and present a meal, whereas traditionally, if you had any form of foodservice packaging, and you want to eat off a plate you have to take the meal out of the packaging and put it onto the plate, which is usually in reverse to how it went in. So it might look nice in the packaging but by the time you've finished [plating] it looks like a dog's breakfast. 

"But with Torus Pak, the base of the product removes so the meal drops straight through and however it looks in the pack is how it ends up on the plate.

"You can maintain the chef's integrity right throughout, so I think the Torus Pak has some great labour saving and cost saving benefits for the foodservice industry. We pay a lot for labour [in Australia] and there's labour shortages in foodservice so if you can simplify that, extend shelf life and improve product safety as well, then I think the Torus Pak has some great opportunities," he said.

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Springhill Farm wins Prepared Foods category at Food awards: video

Springhill Farm's Real Bread Mix took out the top spot in the 2013 Food magazine award's Prepared Meals category.

Springhill Farm originated on a sheep and grain farming property near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, where the Barber family farmed for two generations. The family hosted kindergarten and school children for a country experience, where they could feed the animals, watch sheep being shorn and collect stalks of oats to observe, taste and smell the grain being transferred into flour.

The muesli slice was their final taste of the country before heading home, and it was this modest muesli slice that won the hearts of these school children and fuelled the idea of moving the focus of the business to baking.
Now, 25 years later, Springhill Farm has been passed on to the next generation of family bakers, the Whatleys, who have spent years determining the right ingredients, flavours and textures to create a range of slices, biscuits and gluten-free products for consumers, both with and without food allergies.

With its Real Bread Mix, Springhill Farm wanted to prove that, despite what many think, gluten-free products aren't always dry and tasteless. To do this, the company added flaxseed flour, psyllium and pea protein to its bread mix, ensuring the resulting bread is not only gluten-free, but also has a fluffy texture and what the company refers to as "as-good-as-the-real-thing taste."

In early 2012, Springhill Farm further developed its range, adding 'Seed' and 'Fruit' varieties to The Real Bread Mix foundation, with the added benefit of also being wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free. 

These mixes can not only make bread, but can also be substituted for traditional wheat or fruit flours to make hot cross buns, a variety of puddings, biscuits and cakes.

Accepting the award for the Prepared Foods category at this year's Food magazine awards was Fiona Whatley, co-owner of Springhill Farm. She said "We've got three flavours: Original, Fruit and Seed. It's gluten-free, egg-, wheat-, nut-, dairy- and soy-free. It can be used for bread, pizzas, biscuits, cakes, muffins – all sorts of things. So it's really versatile and applicable to lots of lots of different people."

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Gluten Free Grain Free range wins industry health award: video

Taking home the Food magazine Health and Wellness award for 2013 is Gluten Free Grain Free's Food for Everybody – Cake Premixes range.

The company's founder, Tania Hubbard, says that the Cake Premixes range is an Australian first and the ultimate allergen-free offering as it's gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free and dairy-free. The range is also free of preservatives and additives while being high in nutrient-dense ingredients.

The new range is hand-milled in a dedicated gluten-free and grain-free production space on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and comprises flavours including chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, date & cinnamon and ginger, with a completely sugar-free variety currently being finalised.

The product consists of organic coconut flour, organic pumpkin seeds, coconut sugar and organic spices and has been made to bake like a normal every day cake.

The Cake Premixes offer a fantastic solution for the school system where children and staff are often required to eat nut-free food. The range is also as a great tasting treat for celiac- or gluten-intolerant children.

Gluten Free Grain Free was founded four and half years ago as one of Australia's first gluten-free and grain-free cafes. Hubbard says that it was in this cafe that the business completed its market research for their winning product range.

"In that cafe we did probably about 1,000 blind tests on this particular product and we developed it with our customers in mind," said Hubbard. "Now here we are four and a half years on, and winning a totally cool award."

Sustainability is also a key feature of Gluten Free Grain Free's business model. The company uses Fair Trade raw ingredients where possible, employs local designers and printers for its recycled, recyclable labels and packaging and also negates the use of glue in its packaging.

Although the company has plans to export its products to New Zealand and European markets, at this stage, Gluten Free Grain Free is focusing on firmly establishing itself in the Australian market, after which the company will assess export opportunities.

In keeping with the company's innovative nature, Hubbard explains that Gluten Free Grain Free's next product will satisfy her personal goal of making an almost entirely allergen-free product.

"At the moment I'm working on, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, dairy-free, yeast-free bread. It's my goal to cover all of the allergens but it is still food for everybody, it's completely about eating great food that's good for you."

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CST Wastewater Solutions wins sustainable manufacturing award: video

CST Wastewater Solutions claimed the Sustainable Manufacturing award at this year's Food magazine awards, for its Chok Chai Starch RAPTOR.

CST Wastewater Solutions is an Australian company and a member of the Global Water and Energy Alliance, a group of companies around the world committed to providing solutions in waste and wastewater treatment for the recovery of green energy and water.

The RAPTOR anaerobic wastewater technology with ANAMIX thermophilic digester, for the processing of waste cassava pulp and its conversion into biogas, has been installed by Global Water Engineering at the Chok Chai Starch tapioca starch plant in Uthai Thani, Thailand.

CST says the technology, broadly applicable to food and agricultural industries in Australia, is an environmental boon in that it processes and converts the leftover fresh cassava pulp, which starts to ferment once stored, into useful green energy. The rotting organic material would otherwise generate a considerable odour and release heavily polluted wastewater from mountainous pulp piles.

Chok Chai Starch's Thermophilic RAPTOR – the world's first plant to incorporate the thermophilic biological digestion process for cassava pulp – not only greatly reduces leftover pulp, but boosts the plant's existing biogas production to replace fossil fuels and to generate electricity. 

The Chok Chai Starch RAPTOR starch plant produces enough biogas to generate 3.3 to 3.4 MW of renewable electricity for sale to the local grid, while the biogas produced by previously installed ANUBIX B reactors is heating the factory's two thermal oil boilers using green energy produced from digestion of organic matter in its wastewater.

"Advanced anaerobic technology such as that installed at Chok Chai Starch is also strongly applicable to any factory or process with one or more digestible solid waste streams," said Global Water Engineering CEO, Jean Pierre Ombregt. "Such plants – including breweries, fruit, food waste, agro industries, and energy crops including corn, can easily use this technology to generate energy. It opens the door to environmental and production efficiency gains globally."

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Passage Foods’ pumpkin curry named Ready Meal of the Year: video

This year's Ready Meals category winner of the Food magazine awards, Passage Foods, won for its innovative ready-to-eat Pumpkin Curry Side Simmer Sauce.

The inspiration behind the new line came from a collaboration between Passage Foods and market research company, AC Neilson which found that Australian consumers are demonstrating a growing interest in the Indian tradition of sharing multiple meals at the dinner table. 

It was this information that prompted Passage Foods to develop its Passage to India sides range – a ready-to-eat/heat and serve side simmer sauce featuring Australian pumpkin and a balance of spices. 

The product is the first ready-to-eat Indian pumpkin meal on the Australian market, made from all natural ingredients while also being gluten-free and vegan friendly.

While traditionally Indian curries require spices to be fried in order to achieve the right flavour profile, Passage Foods has managed to replicate authentic flavours by using a retort process.

The company spent months tweaking with the recipe to ensure that the taste and consistency was just right, and are now extremely proud to have the product on supermarket shelves. 

The side simmer sauce is packaged in a shelf stable pouch, sold throughout Woolworths, Coles and IGA supermarkets, with a shelf life of up to two years.

Chris Doutre, sales and business development manager for Passage Foods, said that Passage Foods has now become the market leader in Australia's Indian simmer sauce industry and also exports its products to the US, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Malaysia and Taiwan.

In addition to the success of the Passage to India line, Passage Foods also offers a host of other simmer sauces from varying cuisines, with a number of new products in the pipeline.

"There are new products coming up all the time," said Doutre.

"We have a number of new projects happening and we don't just only produce strictly Indian, because Passage Foods is all about a journey of cuisine, so we've got Passage to India as well as Passage to Asia, Passage to Morocco, Passage to China and Passage to Indonesia."

Doutre believes that the company's success in recent times is due to its commitment to innovation and product development.

"I think today, to be able to stay on top in the industry, you've got to be innovative. You've got to be able to come up with new ideas all the time."

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Dyson claims food safety title at Food mag awards: video

With two entries in this category, it was Dyson's Airblade Tap that came out on top and claimed the Food Safety and Innovation in Non-Food category at this year's Food magazine awards.

The Airblade Tap is a touch-free appliance that combines hand washing and hand drying in one unit. The product is the result of nearly three years' intensive R&D by a team of 125 Dyson engineers and an investment of $60m.

Dyson says the Airblade Tap is the fastest, most cost- and environmentally-efficient way to wash and dry hands hygienically, with its compact design also providing a space saving solution for food manufacturing facilities.
In the food sector, the Dyson Airblade Tap is one of only two products approved by HACCP Australia for use in food environments as a hand drying alternative to costly paper towels. 

In terms of its sustainability credentials, the Airblade Tap produces 5.8g of CO2 per dry compared to 17.8g of CO2 per dry for other hand dryers and 15.5g of CO2 per dry for paper towels. 

Another impressive feat for the company, the product's V4 digital motor is the world's smallest, most efficient, power dense and comprehensive 1600W motor ever developed. 

The Airblade Tap also eliminates a number of safety hazards in the workplace including water on a facility's floor, created by users moving from the tap to the hand drying area; the paper towel supply running out; and having overflowing bins of soiled paper towels. The touch-free operation of this all-in-one tap and hand dryer also means the potential for micro-organism transference is reduced.

"Our Dyson Airblade Tap is a fantastic new technology that really looked to solve the problem of things like water on the floor in bathrooms," said Tom Davie, finance and operations director for Dyson in Australia and New Zealand.

"What we did with the Airblade Tap is use the fantastic technology that we'd already developed for our Dyson Airblade product, and integrate it within the tap. So therefore you don't have that situation where you're dropping water on the floor, now you can do it all in one place," he said.

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CO YO named most innovative at Food mag awards: video

For the second year in a row, CO YO Corporate has taken out the Food magazine awards' Ingredient Innovation category. 

Last year, the praise went to its Coconut Milk yoghurt, but this year the focus was well and truly on the new Coconut Milk Ice Cream Alternative.

Manufactured from pure coconut milk instead of dairy milk, the Coconut Milk Ice Cream Alternative presents consumers with a dairy-free and vegan alternative to a dairy-based ice cream. 

Traditional ice cream must contain 10 percent milk from a mammary gland in order to use the product name "ice cream", so CO YO had to name its new product an "ice cream alternative." 

The company describes the Coconut Milk Ice Cream Alternative as "almost velvety in texture, with a unique smoothness on scooping." 

It's available in Natural, which is just pure coconut cream without any additional flavouring, as well as seven other flavours including Cacao; Acai and Blueberry; Mango and Lime; Pina Colada; Sticky Date and Tamarind; Cherry and Raw Choc Nibs; and Vanilla and Nutmeg. 

CO YO also uses tapioca and pectin instead of the usual egg and gum emulsifiers and where possible uses coconut nectar to sweeten the dark flavours, and organic raw cane sugar for the lighter coloured flavours.

In its award nomination form, CO YO said, "There are many consumers in our population who have been deprived of the pleasure of eating ice cream because of an intolerance to dairy products and now, finally CO YO provides that choice. The flavours are innovative and exciting; the texture is smooth and velvety. The use of pectin and tapioca as an emulsifier is safe for those with allergies and the use of unrefined sweeteners makes for a guilt-free treat, well almost!

"The challenge for CO YO's Ice Cream Alternative was to produce a smooth product with good scoop ability. This was difficult because coconut has a low freezing point and is inclined to be very hard unless large quantities of gums are used and we didn't want to do this, so finding the right balance of tapioca, pectin and the nectar was very important. The fruits we use help the texture, particularly the mango and lime and sticky date and tamarind which provide more natural sugar."

CO YO's Ice Cream Alternative is distributed throughout Australia and will soon be exported to New Zealand.

In other exciting news for the company, the product will also soon be on shelves in the US, in a deal similar to that in the UK, where since 2011, a company has manufactured CO YO products under licence in London and distributed them throughout the UK and Europe.

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Bakers Delight takes out Food mag award: video

This year, the winner of the Baked Goods category at the Food magazine awards was bakery franchise, Bakers Delight, for its Chia and Fruit Loaf.

Made from Chia wholemeal dough with dates, sultanas and a hint of mixed spice, the Chia and Fruit Loaf contains no preservatives and, like all Bakers Delight products, is made from scratch every day.

The key point of difference to other fruit loaves is that the Chia and Fruit Loaf contains no added sugar and, thanks to the chia seeds, has added health benefits.

An ancient seed, the chia seed was first used by the Aztecs in South America. Now grown and harvested in Western Australia's Kimberley region, this tiny seed contains omega-3 ALA, dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants making it the most nutritious grain available.

Bakers Delight is also supporting the Australian food manufacturing industry, with the franchise partnering with the Chia Company in Kanunarra back in 2010 to ensure a sustainable supply of Australian-sourced chia seeds.

New Zealand bakeries also stock the Chia and Fruit Loaf, and outlets in Canada will soon follow suit, with both regions adhering to the Australian recipe. When launched in Canada, the Loaf will be available in over 700 bakeries worldwide. 

In its nomination form, Bakers Delight said its Chia and Fruit Loaf, launched in August 2012, is a leader in the baked goods sector.

"We see the Chia and Fruit Loaf as an evolution of 'fruit bread', not just a flavour variation," the company said. "In terms of marketplace competition, very few fruit toast varieties offer any additional health benefits to their loaves. Whether they are fresh baked or factory manufactured, most fruit toasts are marketed as indulgent or decadent options for consumers. We have positioned Chia and Fruit as a healthy option for consumers to eat whilst still enjoying the full flavours of fruit and mixed spices."

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New facility puts food on the menu for Multipack

Contract packager, Multipack, is celebrating the opening of its new accredited food facility, allowing the company to expand its offering to include primary and secondary packaging for FMCG food brands.

Extending its footprint at Sydney's Moorebank, Multipack now has a fully commissioned, fully functioning food facility to complement its non-food packaging lines.

The facility comprises a washroom and three clean rooms, each independently air-conditioned with positive air pressure to ensure contaminants are kept out. The three separate areas mean Multipack can also run different food products with different packaging requirements at the same time.

Brad Devine, sales and marketing manager at Multipack, told Food magazine, "This new facility represents the future for our business. It’s the culmination of several years of investigation and testing of our strategy in the FMCG food area."

It means Multipack is now accredited for secondary and primary food packaging, and further down the track the brand also plans to expand into liquid filling and wet fill products.

Multipack's key clients in the food space include multinational brands such as Unilever, Nestle, Wrigleys (the Mars Group) and Lion Dairy and Drinks.

The new facility is expected to inject new life into Sydney's contract packaging industry, which historically has been overshadowed by Melbourne.

"It's been a long time since we've seen any significant investment in food contract packaging in the Sydney market," Devine said.

"We'd like to think that this now gives those guys – the FMCG brand owners – an opportunity to package their product in Sydney without having to do it in Melbourne, which is what they seem to have done for a long time."

It's also a good news story for Australia's manufacturing industry in general, which hasn't been short of struggles in recent times. Devine hopes Multipack will now be able to capitalise on Australia's food-producing potential.

"We've been in business for more than two decades and we've seen in that time vast amounts of business go offshore, particularly to China. We recognise that Australia is still a large food producer, and we figured that food that's grown and processed in Australia is very, very likely to be packaged in Australia, and very unlikely to be lost offshore to China.

"That's not to say that Australia isn't under pressure from imports, it certainly is, but Australia produces some of the best food in the world and it gets processed and packaged right here in Australia, so we figured that one of the least at-risk categories for us to invest in would be Australian grown and processed foods," he said.

Promoting Australia's top quality food products and partnering with leading food manufacturers is a top priority for the brand moving forward, Devine added.

"We're in it for the long haul. We wouldn't have gone and invested like we have if we thought it [food manufacturing] was a fleeting opportunity or a fad. We've seen a long term trend and we want to provide a long term, viable, low cost solution to FMCG food companies."

Food magazine visited Multipack's new facility in Moorebank. Click here to see the pics on our Facebook page.

 

GrainCorp and the thorny issue of foreign ownership

No other product category generates as much emotion as food. This should come as no surprise as nations have fought to protect and to provide a reliable supply of food for their burgeoning population since the very dawn of civilisation.

These very same emotions are being triggered now as agribusiness in Australia struggles with the challenges and opportunities that foreign ownership presents. The latest chapter is the proposed takeover of Australia’s largest agribusiness, Graincorp, by US giant Archer Daniels Midlands (ADM), one of the world’s largest integrated grain handlers.

Now the government is in caretaker mode, any takeover deal will have to be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, and ultimately the Treasurer, following the election. The Nationals are opposing the deal, although they have stopped short of publicly calling for their Liberal coalition partners to announce their position.

The benefits of foreign ownership, which are well documented, include access to capital, superior technology, superior management and marketing skills, as well as reduced costs (in part through the economies of agglomeration) and improved market access.

But at the heart of the negative response to the takeover bid lies a perception that foreign ownership will potentially reduce or restrict the supply of product to the domestic market. However, with an agribusiness sector worth in excess of A$46.7 billion and a population of just 23 million, Australia is a net exporter (A$36.7 billion) of food, primarily to Asia.

Even in the worst-case scenario, there is very little likelihood of Australia facing a grain deficit, for in what is largely a free market, any company, irrespective of the country of ownership, will endeavour to sell its goods for the highest returns. Market forces will ensure that sufficient grain remains in Australia to meet the domestic demand.

The other and perhaps more sinister issues relate to transfer pricing and anti-competitive behaviour. Transfer pricing enables multinational firms to sell the goods they have produced in Australia to themselves or to an overseas subsidiary company at predetermined prices which minimise tax. These goods are subsequently resold in other markets at significantly higher prices where tax rates are lower.

In this instance, as grain prices are largely determined on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), there is an element of price transparency. Farmers know what they should be getting at the farm gate, minus the costs of storage, transport, grain assessment and receival costs, freight to port, storage and fobbing and currency hedging.

As trading is very much a numbers game (the more grain you handle the cheaper it becomes), ADM’s costs will be lower, so it should therefore be in a better position to pay higher prices to Australian grain farmers. However, to expect ADM to pay any more than they need to in order to remain price competitive is unrealistic, just as it is to ask the supermarket duopoly to pass on more of their profits to producers, or the banks to pass on the full rate reduction to borrowers.

Concerns around anti-competitive behaviour centre around ADM’s potential ownership of the port facilities, sparking fears that it may exclude other users. However, with as much as 70% of the grain on the East Coast being handled by other exporters, it is not in ADM’s best interests to exclude other parties.

Furthermore, ADM have recognised the need to make a substantial investment in these same grain handling facilities. After years of neglect, transportation and logistics systems in rural Australia require an immediate investment to improve the efficiency of transport, especially rail – an investment that both State and Commonwealth governments will struggle to make in the short to medium term.

While we have welcomed such investments from the private sector in the mining industry and indeed, in the construction of toll roads in the major metropolitan cities, there is a reluctance to support parallel private investments in our food logistics system.

In any event, government has the power to ensure that any public-private infrastructure investments – especially at the ports – are available for anyone who wants to use them. How these facilities might be shared and the costs apportioned to those third parties who want to use them should not detract from the need to encourage that investment.

Peter Batt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

How group buying deals improved my food business

Handmade chocolate shop owner, Hanna Frederick explains how group buying deals have boosted her business, and shares tips on to get the most out of this marketing platform.

As a small business owner, I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to reach a greater number of people and bring more customers into my business. There are many ways to achieve this, from  pounding the pavements to handing out brochures and sponsoring community events. However, all these methods were either too expensive, too time consuming, or both.

Then I found a way to overcome these challenges, LivingSocial’s group buying site. This definitely boosted my business and now I want to explain how you can achieve similar results.

After being a food chemist and later promoting the use of technology to small businesses, in 2006 I took the plunge and followed my dream to pursue my love of creating boutique artisan handmade chocolates. I have always loved chocolate and the wonderful traditions of chocolate making from Hungary, where I was born and raised. This is what inspired me to build my very own chocolate laboratory in New Zealand.

Locals quickly fell in love with my unique flavour creations such as Maori Horopito, beer truffles, deer velvet chocolates and, perhaps the most alluring, venison salami chocolates. I also created a delicious line of adult chocolates with 10 different types of alcohol as well as an ever pleasing aphrodisiac chocolate, all handmade from my boutique laboratory. Then we up and moved across the Tasman to Australia in 2010. 

The food capital, Melbourne excited me to mix traditional European tastes with Down Under flavours to produce an incredible line of unique chocolate treats. It is such a pleasure to be taking these traditions and reinventing them for Australian tastes in my Mamor Chocolate Szalon in Collingwood.

I knew that once people tasted a new generation of flavours they’d be instantly hooked. The big question was how to get them through the door. I knew that increasing my chances of business success required two things: the first was to grow my online presence, and the other was to find a way to communicate my offerings to locals quickly. 

LivingSocial gave me the ideal way to get paying customers through the door for that first impressive visit to my szalon. We’ve tried it twice with great success. The first one was two years ago when I just launched my shopfront. I couldn’t believe that I sold 200 Chocolate Tasting High Teas in two hours!  It was a long haul in the beginning to ensure all our customers were satisfied, but the word-of-mouth and the reputational results were impressive and enduring. The way I see it I was buying publicity. 

Then I tried it a second time leading up to Mother’s Day this year. I advertised a champagne and chocolate tasting deal for two, four or six people that was 50 percent off the usual price, and then watched the number of deals sold continue to rise.

Thanks to these deals, positive reviews were spreading quickly among our customer’s family and friends, and it wasn’t long before word spread quickly throughout Melbourne and country Victoria. I was delighted to learn that posting a deal on a group buying site offers ongoing success, rather than just a peak in customers for that particular month alone as I initially anticipated. I was equally thrilled to discover LivingSocial also provides continual assistance with my public relations, even organising half a page in Melbourne’s highest circulating newspaper as well as some radio commentary about Mamor.

The results helped me add scalability and new clientele so well, that I am into my next group buying campaign for Father’s Day!

As we are creeping closer and closer to the festive summer season, I know that many of you who, like myself, own a small business in the hospitality industry will be searching far and wide for innovative ways to bring in those much desired customers. If you’re interested in using a group buying site for your business but are a bit overwhelmed with how to go about it, follow these tips to ensure you’re prepared:

1. Have a strategy in place and know exactly what you want to achieve as your end goal.
By mapping out exactly what it is you wish to achieve both you and your staff will be able to stay motivated. Aligning your whole teams interests will have positive effects on staff morale, and in turn will ensure your customers enjoy the best service your business has to offer.

2. Ensure that your business is able to provide the volume of service that your deal may attract.
Think big! You’d be surprised how many people are on the lookout for discounted offers at new places to go so make sure you’re prepared for a storm of customers. Cover all your bases; make sure you have enough products and enough staff to provide the best possible service.  Give 110 percent service.  This is an opportunity to showcase your best assets; you don’t want this to be ruined by being unprepared.

3. Be prepared to upsell.
You have the client in front of you, now show them everything you have to offer. Don’t make the mistake of treating these customers like one-hit wonders. Go above their expectations by offering them extra products or services than what was advertised on the group buying site.  Because they paid small for your deal, more often than not they will be keen to try some additional extras on the day, giving you the opportunity to make some extra money while flaunting a larger variety of what you offer.

4. Showcase your best assets.
What makes you unique? Push your mediocre products and services aside; this is your chance to shine. Dazzle them with your best selling products and house favourites along with anything else that makes you stand out from the crowd. It is important to leave them wanting more.

5. Have a follow up plan in place.
You cannot simply rely on your products alone when it comes to bringing back customers. So while you’ve got them inside your doors, offer return discounts, capture their email addresses for your database, or provide giveaways on the day to increase your chances of seeing them another day.
 

Meat trends – what’s getting the chop?

There are many different factors influencing the sales of meat, poultry and smallgoods.

Seasonality, product availability, the type or cut of meat, consumer diets and religious events all affect when, where and which types of meat Australians consume. But, somewhat unsurprisingly in today’s day and age, the most pressing factor influencing which protein we put on our fork is cost.

Although the popularity of specialised meats such as Wagyu, Angus, Hereford and  organic varieties appear to be popping up at restaurants and bars all over town, it’s the price conscious cuts that are leading the pack.

Both the foodservice and retail sectors are demonstrating a growing interest in ‘non-prime’ cuts of meat due to a price sensitive market, and chicken, with its distinct price advantage, is just as popular as ever.

So what does this mean for the meat and poultry industries? Will Australia continue to travel down the path of ‘cheaper is better’? Will the sentiment of quality over quantity kick in, and will chefs and food manufacturers have to be more inventive by experimenting with non-prime cuts to maintain brand equity and competitiveness?

What do the stats say?

2013 has been a rough year for Australia’s meat industry. The ongoing cattle crisis in the nation’s north, animal cruelty accusations – particularly within the poultry industry – and live export suspensions have made headlines around the globe.

A recent report from Meat and Livestock Australia stated that drought-induced adult cattle slaughter drove record-breaking increases in production from 2012-2013.

Australian beef and veal production surged six percent year-on-year, reaching 2.2 million tonnes – breaking the previous record which was set back in 2007-2008 by one percent, or 15,296 tonnes when similar climatic conditions were being experienced.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics meat production figures for the June quarter 2013 state that while each meat category has experienced an increase in production, (with the exception of lamb) beef has retained its position as Australia’s largest meat commodity, followed by chicken.

  • Beef production in the June quarter 2013 increased by one percent to 564,000 tonnes when compared to the previous quarter
  • Veal production in the June quarter 2013 increased by one percent  to 10,000 tonnes when compared to the March quarter 2013
  • In the June quarter 2013, mutton production increased by 16 percent to 58,000 tonnes, compared to the previous quarter
  • Lamb production in the June quarter 2013 remained steady at 115,000 tonnes when compared to the March quarter 2013
  • In the June quarter 2013, pig meat production increased by two percent to 91,000 tonnes, compared to the previous quarter
  • Chicken meat production increased by one percent to 263,000 tonnes when compared to the previous quarter

Although Australia produces a huge amount of red meat, the majority of it is exported overseas with figures in 2012 sitting at 62 percent, valued at $6.3b billion, according to Meat and Livestock Australia.

Industry’s cut on trends and demand

So when it comes to what Australians are actually consuming, a number of factors are driving current trends. Demand for more Australian meat and poultry products is growing, specialised cuts of meat are becoming increasingly popular and an increase in convenience food solutions are also on the rise amongst time-poor consumers.

Rod Miller, sales and product development manager for Sydney-based food manufacturer, P & H Fine Foods, says that above all else, price is the most determining factor in which meats Australians eat.

“Price is the main determinant in the general food market. If you are talking about specialised foodservice it’s different, but for general retail, it’s very price conscious at the moment,” Miller told Food magazine.

“People who want quality products will still pay for it, but at the same time, there are less and less people going down that market because there is no money in it for them.

“Everyone including the big name chefs are downsizing their style of cuisine to offer to wider markets, and that affects us as well because when they say, ‘we don’ t have a need for your product’ – we then have to change our range a little bit to suit the current trends.”

In order to keep up with market trends, Miller admits that P & H has had to adjust its product offering accordingly.

“Changes that we have had to make include [a focus on] lower quality products – it’s the price point basically. We look around general markets and everyone unfortunately, not so much the restaurants, but every other food outlet like pubs and clubs always have chicken schnitzel on the menu and you think why? Once again, it’s the price point.”

No matter how you slice it, cost leads the way

Miller says that within the foodservice sector, convenience and readymade solutions are becoming more popular due to a lack of skilled labour.

“Skilled labour and the cost of labour has affected the market in a big way and this is where our business comes into play more and more because of what we do. We make products that simplify things for the chefs – unskilled chefs – so the job is done to a consistent standard.”

When it comes to the types of meat currently in demand, Miller says that specialised cuts are popular, but chicken still reigns supreme.

“With the different cuts of meat it’s all in the naming of the cut – the wagyu, the angus, grass-fedproducts – they are quite popular and they look good on a menu”

“Duck and quail are popular only in certain markets and turkey is only a Christmas thing, but chicken is cost effective. You look at the price of a chicken breast compared to a steak, or to a duck or to a quail. You know, it’s value for money.”

Miller explains that an increased interest in nose to tail consumption has proven to be a valuable opportunity considering the industry’s push towards lower cost solutions.

“High end restaurants look for the non-prime cut of quality meat and think, ‘what can we do with this cut to make it special?’ And that way they can still command that higher price point by really using the chef’s ability. In the old days you would get a nice piece of fillet steak, now chefs have got to think, ‘what can I do with that bit of beef brisket? What can I do with it to make it really, really special?’”

Andrew Cox, group marketing manager for Meat and Livestock Australia agrees that a growing interest in non-prime cuts and the cost effectiveness of chicken are the driving trends in meat consumption today.

“I would say the key trends are increased interest in less traditional cuts and new flavours,” Cox told Food magazine.  “There is growing interest in non-prime cuts in both foodservice and retail. Beef brisket, beef cheeks, short ribs, chuck, flank, skirt, ox tail,and lamb neck and shoulder.”

“Chicken has a distinct price advantage so while that remains, it will be consumed the most – however beef is actually the largest fresh meat when you take into account the money spent on the product.”

Cox explains that the cost isn’t the only factor when it comes to meat consumption. Religion, lifestyle choices and demographic backgrounds also play are large part.

“There is increasing fragmentation in the core audience – less traditional families and more men cooking, people from Asian backgrounds, young singles/couples and empty nesters,” says Cox. 

“I do think there has been an increase in [demand for] convenience and ready made products but not an explosion, and only to the extent where the quality is as good as something cooked fresh.”

Chicken is the meat that continues to ruffle feathers

Sam Phylactou, group general manger at M&J Chickens, told Food magazine that when it comes to poultry, chicken will always remain on top.

“Firstly, our growing population and the tendency of white meat to be more popular than red meat, in my opinion, will keep chicken at the top in terms of poultry popularity,” he says.

“A few factors affect this – for example continued migration of Asian cultures and their preferred use of chicken in their cooking, cultural and religious influences also make chicken the preferred meat, as well as the dietary benefits of chicken.”

Phylactou adds that the health benefits of chicken as well as its price advantage are the main driving factors.

“Chicken in particular is viewed as a high source of protein, low in fat and part of a balanced diet which has been helped by a growing marketing campaign promoting chicken in Australia. It is also easily digested by the older population – which has resulted in an increase in sales amongst hospitals and the aged health care industry.

“Chicken is also competitively priced, which is a major influencer when it comes to poultry consumption over other meat options – the latest statistics indicate that chicken consumption in Australia is up to 45kg per capita.”

Despite chicken holding the crown as one of the most versatile and widely consumed meats, Phylactou says bad press and a push for free range products over recent years has also influenced sales.

“There have been some negative influences over the years which may have contributed to the overall sales of poultry, such as the bird flu outbreak, the treatment of chickens as portrayed by the media, as well as the media’s ]coverage] of growth hormones being used in chickens – which has in fact been banned in Australia since 1972.

“There has also been a growing demand for free range chicken, however the majority of our product is still barn-raised which continues to take preference over free range.”

So the consensus is clear: cost is king when it comes to Australians’ meat-eating habits. While nose to tail consumption is gaining traction as shown through the increased interest in non-prime cuts, consumers and manufacturers can’t go past the humble, low cost chicken at the checkout and on the menu.

 

Allergy labelling – how transparent is yours?

Accurate allergy labelling is a pertinent issue for food manufacturers. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) states that between four and six percent of children and one to two percent of adults suffer from serious food allergies.

Mandatory declarations regarding the presence of allergenic ingredients were introduced in Australia and New Zealand in 2002, with rigorous declaration requirements considered to be the most appropriate risk management option.

However, precautionary statements such as ‘may contain traces of…’ or ‘processed on the same equipment as food that contains…’ are not regulated in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) and have been criticised by key allergen groups and academics.

A recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia questioned the wording of a host of allergy declarations, concluding that ambiguous terms such as ‘may contain traces of’ can lead to varied levels of caution by consumers – regardless of the actual risk.

The study was a collaboration between the Victoria University, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Royal Children’s Hospital, and focused on whether the wording of allergen labels influenced purchasing decisions.

The study surveyed 250 parents of children with a history of anaphylaxis and found that 65 percent of the sample ignored warning labels stating that the food was ‘made in the same factory’ as allergenic foods and 22 percent of respondents ignored labels warning that allergens ‘may be present’ in the product.

Lead author of the study, Victoria University PhD Giovanni Zurzolo, said that results of the study were quite alarming and highlighted inadequacies in food labelling legislation.

“Although these warnings may actually represent the same or similar levels of risk, consumers perceived different risks based on the different wording of precautionary labels,” said Zurzolo.

“Policies that promote greater clarity and consistent use of precautionary statements may help to deal with this complacency.

So what is the value of voluntary precautionary statements? Should they be regulated to ensure transparency for both consumers and manufacturers? How does different wording affect purchase decisions and what are food manufacturers and industry stakeholders doing to combat ambiguous allergen labelling practices?

 Allergies: a threat to your brand and your buyers

A vast number of foods threaten to cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis.

According to FSANZ, the majority of food allergies are caused by the consumption of peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy, wheat and other sources of gluten.

Each of these ingredients must be declared no matter how much of the ingredient is actually present in the food, under Standard 1.2.3 of the Food Standards Code.

In July this year, Australian bakery, Sunfield, was fined $48,000 and $21,000 in legal costs for failing to declare nut and egg contents in its cakes, and last year pre-mix cake company Duncan Hines was in hot water over undeclared tree nuts, resulting in nationwide product recalls.

FSANZ, along with key allergy consumer groups, is currently working with industry to make precautionary labels more helpful and transparent for allergy sufferers – this includes the potential inclusion of precautionary labelling as part of a broader review of the Regulatory Management of Food Allergens (2010). 

FSANZ together with government, industry and consumer groups, launched the Food Allergy Portal in May this year. The portal was developed by the Allergen Collaboration, which was established by FSANZ in late 2011 in an effort to strengthen engagement amongst key stakeholders involved in food allergen management.

"Consumers with food allergies continue to benefit from the food manufacturing industry’s long and successful track-record of working collaboratively to ensure safer food choices,” Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO, Gary Dawson, said.

"This new allergy portal is an important addition to the information and tools already available in promoting awareness about food allergies and how to manage them. The portal also allows new best practice resources to be promoted, as well as filling gaps in education materials," said Dawson.

In addition to the Allergy Portal, the AFGC established the Allergen Bureau in 2005 to assist the food industry, consumers and the wider community to understand food allergen issues and provide consistency and transparency in labelling requirements.

The Allergen Bureau launched a new initiative, in conjunction with Anaphalaxis Australia named VITAL – Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling.

VITAL was designed to assist industry to better communicate the presence of non-intentional allergens and acts as a full risk management approach designed to minimise the potential impact of incidental allergens including everything from ingredient management to factory design.

VITAL uses world-leading assessment tools to manage incidental allergen risks, and if labelling is required, provides a single statement to communicate that risk: “MAY BE PRESENT: (list of allergens). This single statement was developed in conjunction with allergy sufferers and was specifically intended to avoid confusion arising from ambiguous statements such as ‘made in the same factory.’

While Zurzolo believes that VITAL is a step in the right direction, he says the system has its limitations.

“We have previously reported that since its establishment, uptake has been low”, Zurzolo told Food magazine.

“A limitation of the VITAL process is that it underpins another precautionary statement, the ‘may be present’ statement, which is similar to the other precautionary statements.”

Zurzolo also adds that there is no information on food products alerting the consumer that products bearing this statement have undergone a different risk assessment.

“Other countries such as Japan and Switzerland have banned the use of precautionary statements on food products. Instead, they use established threshold levels as a basis for recommendation to determine if an allergen is labelled in the ingredients list or not,” he says.

“In the current Australian situation where there is no law forbidding precautionary statements, VITAL is a step in the right direction. In order to make these statements more transparent, consumers need to be made aware that products that bear the VITAL statement have undergone a different risk assessment and may be potentially safer for them to consume.

“We urgently require all manufacturers to implement VITAL into their risk assessment, and for VITAL to label their food products so that any risk is clear to the allergic consumer.”

You can never be too careful

Keeping up to date with regulatory changes and voluntary agreements can be a challenging matter for food manufacturers especially for SMEs.

Adelaide based chocolate manufacturer Haigh’s chocolates has taken precautionary statements to the new heights by listing a particular allergen, milk, as an ingredient.

A few years ago, the chocolate manufacturer expanded to  two manufacturing plants and while restructuring, they temporarily combined the milk chocolate and dark chocolate manufacturing lines.

A number of the dark chocolate lines do not contain milk as an ingredient, however due to the nature of the new manufacturing line, the risk of milk contamination increased, and varying trace levels of milk were recorded. From this, Haigh’s decided to declare milk as an ingredient in order to eliminate any potential risk for allergen sufferers.

 Haigh’s has now completed the upgrade and moved  back to separate manufacturing lines for the milk and dark chocolate products which will avoid the risk of milk contamination and therefore labelling will be readjusted over the next 6 – 12 months.

To add to the company’s commitment towards food safety, Haigh’s will also be implementing a new initiative aimed at promoting transparency within allergen labelling in-store. Labelling will also be changed on all of Haigh’s products to promote transparency by listing all allergens under the ingredients list.

Maintaining best practice in allergy labelling

In order to keep abreast of best practice in allergen management, food manufacturers need to implement effective risk management programs.

FSANZ states that food manufacturers are responsible for managing the unintentional presence of food allergens. Keeping up with voluntary standards and changes in legislation may be a challenge for today’s manufacturers (who already have an abundance of red tape to deal with), but ignorance or complacency are no excuse for non-compliance.

The key recommendations that the FSANZ website lists for those food manufacturers determined to be proactive in allergen labelling are:

  • Implement an effective allergen management plan
  • Train staff in food allergen risks, management and communication
  • Provide clear and accurate information on the allergen status of your product

When it comes to allergen labelling, it pays to be transparent. The vaguely specific precautionary statements that the industry has  adopted up until now won’t cut it for much longer.

Who knows whether or not the government will legislate precautionary labelling? But regardless of the legal requirements, food manufacturers are highly encouraged to implement VITAL and be vigilant with their allergen declarations to ensure that any and all risks are clearly conveyed to the end-user.

ys to be transparent. The vaguely specific precautionary statements that the industry has  adopted up until now won’t cut it for much longer.

Who knows whether or not the government will legislate precautionary labelling? But regardless of the legal requirements, food manufacturers are highly encouraged to implement VITAL and be vigilant with their allergen declarations to ensure that any and all risks are clearly conveyed to the end-user.

 

Waste not, want not: how packaging can help tackle food waste

With the global population set to soar and the growth of our agricultural industry threatened by climate change and competing land uses, Australia needs to toss out food waste – and packaging is the key.

Around 40 percent of all food intended for human consumption in developed countries ends up as waste.

In Australia, 4.2 million tonnes of food sees its way to landfill each year: 2.7 million tonnes from households and 1.5 million from the commercial and industrial sector.

And with the global demand for food expected to jump 77 percent by 2050 (compared to 2007), food and beverage manufacturers need to reassess not only how they go about making their products, but what they’re doing to ensure they survive the supply chain and, at the end of the day, are consumed, not wasted.

RMIT University recently released a report, commissioned by CHEP Australia, titled The Role of Packaging in Minimising Food Waste in the Supply Chain of the Future, which examined where and why food waste occurs along the food supply chain.

An Australian-first, the research draws on an international literature review as well as interviews with representatives from 15 organisations from within Australia’s food and packaging industries, focusing on food waste that occurs prior to consumption.

Australia’s food manufacturing industry is the second largest non-domestic contributor to food waste, sending 312,000 tonnes to landfill each year, beaten only by the food services sector, which generates 661,000 tonnes of food waste annually.

But this doesn’t mean our food and beverage manufacturers are wasteful or negligent – most of the food waste that occurs in the industry is unavoidable, and almost 90 percent is recovered and used as animal feed, compost, or energy.

Helen Lewis, adjunct professor and environmental consultant at RMIT University, told Food magazine, “The recovery rate in the food manufacturing sector is already very high, so the focus needs to be on reducing the amount of waste that is generated in the first place.

“Most manufacturers can do more to reduce the amount of waste they generate in distribution and at a retail level by looking more closely at where and why this occurs. For example, if manufacturers don’t specify their distribution packaging carefully, it may fail during transport or handling and result in products being damaged and thrown away. There is definitely an opportunity to improve the level of packaging expertise within companies to ensure packaging is specified correctly,” she says.

Report recommendations
The study lists a number of reasons for food loss and waste at each stage of the supply chain, including damage from pests and disease as well as unpredictable weather conditions in agricultural production; products not meeting retailers’ quality and/or appearance specifications; and issues in distribution including damage in transit/storage due to packaging failures and inadequate remaining shelf lives.

The report then went on to identify a number of opportunities to reduce food waste through packaging improvements. These include:

  1. Distribution packaging that provides better protection and shelf life for fresh produce as it moves from the farm to the processor, wholesaler or retailer
  2. Distribution packaging that supports recovery of surplus and unsaleable fresh produce from farms and redirects it to food rescue organisations
  3. Improved design of secondary packaging to ensure that it is fit for purpose, i.e. that it adequately protects food products as they move through the supply chain
  4. A continuing shift to pre-packed and processed foods to extend the shelf life of food products and reduce waste in distribution and at the point of consumption
  5. Adoption of new packaging materials and technologies to extend shelf life of foods (see table below)
  6. Education of manufacturers, retailers and consumers about the meaning of use-by and best before date marks on primary packaging to ensure that these are used appropriately
  7. Product and packaging developments to cater for changing consumption patterns and smaller households
  8. Collaboration between manufacturers and retailers to improve the industry’s understanding of food waste in the supply chain, with greater attention given to where and why this occurs
  9. More synchronised supply chains that use intelligent packaging and data sharing to reduce excess or out-of-date stock
  10.  Increase use of retail ready packaging to reduce double handling and damage and improve stock turnover, while ensuring that it’s designed for effective product protection and recoverability at end of life.

This list of recommendations indicates that improvements can be made to both primary packaging and secondary/tertiary packaging in order to protect a product up until it’s on a retailer’s shelf, while also boosting its longevity once it’s there.

CHEP Australia has a significant interest in the study’s findings, not just because it commissioned the report but also because it describes its pallet, container and crate pooling services as an inherently sustainable business model, preventing one-way packaging and mimimising resources.

Phillip Austin, president of CHEP Australia and New Zealand, said the company’s reusable plastic crates are a good example of both primary and secondary/tertiary packaging that can extend shelf life.

“CHEP’s reusable plastic crates eliminate the need to repack produce as it moves through the supply chain, which reduces the opportunity for damage during handling. The strength of the crate and better ventilation and cooling rates also help to protect the produce,” he told Food magazine.

“Reusable packaging is more robust than one-way cartons and less susceptible to piercing by sharp objects or crushing as it moves through the supply chain.”

Austin said an independent life cycle assessment of CHEP’s reusable plastic crates shows they save 8,000 tonnes of solid waste, 64,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and 460 million litres of water from the supply chain every year.

An Australian grower interviewed as part of the RMIT University study (all of whom remain anonymous), agrees that reusable plastic crates can improve efficiencies and extends produce’s saleability.

“Plastic crates allow for better ventilation and better protection. They also support better transport utilisation because the pallets can be stacked higher. They don’t require as much stretch wrap. There is less handling, although the crates aren’t used as much for retail display as they were originally. Plastic crates allow us to wet the product, which helps extend shelf life (unlike cardboard),” the grower said.

Primary packaging
While of course secondary/tertiary packaging technologies such as reusable plastic crates can have a positive influence on reducing food waste, a large proportion of the industry’s focus, as the issue of sustainability becomes more and more prominent, will be on developments in primary packaging, as this is where shelf life is a key consideration in packaging design.

Confusion surrounding the meaning of ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates is a significant contributor to food waste in Australia. Consumers often dispose of products when they’re still of a good, edible quality, and poor stock rotation systems or materials handling processes could see perfectly good foods discarded by manufacturers, which not only wastes food but comes at a significant cost to the company as well.

“There does appear to be a lot of confusion about the difference between use by and best before dates, and when a food is still safe to eat. It’s a problem for consumers, who may get the two mixed up and throw away food that is still edible,” Lewis says.

The NSW’s government’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign is managed by the Environment Protection Authority and run in partnership with retailers, food manufacturers, local government authorities and community groups in an effort to reduce food waste in the state.

While 97 percent of respondents in its Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark study believed they store their food correctly and poor storage doesn’t contribute to food waste, those that did identify poor storage as a contributor to waste cited a lack of understanding of storage instructions/conditions and not using food before its used by or best before date as the main contributors.

Sixty-four percent of respondents knew the difference between use by and best before dates, but the Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark study concluded that more work can be done to clarify these definitions and reduce consumer confusion.

“Food manufacturers can help by ensuring that the dates are clearly marked on the packaging, not hidden under a seam or written in tiny font. They need to be readable. They can also provide more information to consumers about the meaning of date marks and how to store food correctly to extend its life,” Lewis says.

Where today’s use by and best before dates sometimes fall short, ‘intelligent’ or ‘interactive’ packaging technologies represent opportunities for both manufacturers and consumers to be given real time information on a product’s quality.

The RMIT University study says “Supply chain collaboration and data sharing could be facilitated by ‘intelligent’ or ‘interactive’ packaging technologies. Intelligent food packaging can provide real time use-by or expiration data, product tracing and temperature indicators, which are either time-based, activated by certain chemicals, driven by radio frequency identification data (RFID), or have thermal sensors, to provide better ‘on demand’ feedback to various supply chain stakeholders.”

Helen Lewis agrees that these ‘smart’ technologies could be a game-changer in the food manufacturing industry.

“Smart labels will become more important as technologies improve and costs come down. They can help companies to track and manage inventories to reduce waste in the supply chain. They can also be used by manufacturers, retailers and consumers to identify when a food has spent time outside of its required temperature range,” she told Food magazine.

Will more packaging help?
It might seem a little ironic that one of the strongest themes of the RMIT University study is the need to extend shelf life and reduce food waste by increasing the amount of packaging used on food products.

If food manufacturers and producers are to curb the amount of waste they send to landfill, shouldn’t they be reducing their reliance on packaging, not increasing it?

The RMIT University report says that the industry can reduce food waste by supporting a growing shift towards processed and pre-packed foods, while also considering product and packaging developments that cater for single or smaller serve products, therefore reducing waste by meeting the needs of single and two person households.

But this theory of using packaging to enhance shelf life extends beyond processed foods. Despite what many may argue, keeping fresh produce in its natural state isn’t necessarily the best option when it comes to product longevity.

The challenge, according to the study, is to find a balance or establish “trade-offs” between convenience, packaging, shelf life and product waste.

However it’s a case by case, or rather product by product, situation. A fresh produce supplier interviewed for the research noted that plastic film around a bunch of fresh herbs can extend its shelf life from two to five days. Packing fresh herbs in punnets (another growing consumer trend) doubles this again.

However, some cut vegetables that are washed, peeled and cut before hitting retailers’ shelves suffer a reduced shelf life thanks to faster physiological deterioration and microbial degradation.

If Australia follows current trends in countries such as the US, we will soon be seeing a lot more pre-packed fresh produce, says Helen Lewis.

“This is already happening, partly in response to consumer interest in convenient and pre-prepared foods such as salad mixes, which use multi-layer and modified atmosphere packaging. More sophisticated packaging is being developed for specific product categories, such as seafood,” she says.

“The trend towards more packaging, particularly for fresh produce, involves a conscious trade-off. We will end up using more packaging to reduce food waste, and some of this packaging is not yet widely recyclable. However, in most cases the benefits appear to outweigh the costs from an environmental point of view. This is because we know that the environmental footprint of food is so much greater than the impact of the packaging, when you consider all of the energy, water, land and chemicals that go into growing, processing and transporting food over its life cycle.

“A small amount of packaging can extend the product’s shelf life and ensure that it gets consumed rather than thrown away. To manage this trade-off it’s important that all packaging is designed to minimise environmental impacts and to be recyclable at the end of its life.”

So less isn’t necessarily best when it comes to packaging and sustainability. No doubt consumers in Australia are becoming more environmentally-conscious, but they’re also seeking convenient, affordable meal solutions, so as The Role of Packaging in Minimising Food Waste in the Supply Chain of the Future suggests, food manufacturers need to establish “trade-offs” to ensure all parties – consumers, businesses and of course the environment – are not only happy and healthy, but are getting the most out of their food – for the long term.

Examples of primary packaging technologies to extend shelf life

Images: healthyalternatives.co.nz,

 

Fonterra crisis dents NZ’s ‘100 percent Pure’ image

Although Fonterra has tracked down the contaminated whey protein used in some varieties of infant milk formula, and batches of affected products exported to countries such as China have been pulled off supermarket shelve​s, the long-term ramifications for New Zealand’s image as a safe producer of food and beverages could be severe.

The incident is the third food quality problem to have hit New Zealand’s largest business venture, and the world’s largest exporter of dairy products, in the past five years. In 2008 a jointly-owned company in China was implicated in a melamine contamination scandal which resulted in nearly 300,000 infants becoming ill and six dying. In January this year dairy farmers had to stop spraying the anti-water pollution chemical dicyanimide onto pastures after traces were found in New Zealand milk.

In recent months meat exports to China have been held up twice because of certification errors and Zespri, the country’s largest kiwifruit exporter, was implicated in a scam to avoid paying full Chinese import duties.

A study, which some of my colleagues co-authored, casts some light on why mistakes by food and beverage exporters could have wider ramifications for New Zealand’s broader image. The researchers discovered that imported milk brands that were perceived to have closer business relationships to the guilty domestic brand implicated in the Chinese melamine scandal in 2008 were more likely to be considered by consumers to be guilty by association than more distant brands.

If one extrapolates this finding to a wider country context, then guilt by association could influence overseas consumers’ perceptions of New Zealand’s clean and green image. The possible impact would have to be assessed through market research, but one could hypothesise that the level of negativity is likely to be related to how closely overseas customers and visitors associate problematic New Zealand food and beverage exporters’ actions with other aspects of the country’s image, such as the “100% Pure” branding campaign designed to attract tourists.

The study also produced insights into the psychology behind negative brand perceptions. Consumers initially react to quality problems with spontaneous judgements or heuristics based on emotion and experience. Longer term, these emotional responses might be tempered by more deliberate and rational analysis of the situation. If the situation stabilises, the threat is neutralised and the guilty firm appears to take corrective action, then consumers might forgive a transgression and resume buying the affected brand. This implies that the severe dent to New Zealand’s clean-and-green image might also recover, but is likely to take a long time.

The latter point also resonates with public relations and marketing research into corporate reputation and crisis management. For example, a study into the recall of infected non-pasteurised cheese in Quebec highlighted the need for firms to develop crisis management procedures that emphasise prevention, preparedness and recovery. The latter requires immediate response to failures and disasters, compensation for affected consumers, and on-going communications to assure stakeholders that the guilty firms can be trusted to act responsibly in the future. In other words, as I wrote in an article with Sabrina Helm, reputation is based on anticipated future conduct.

The question in the current crisis is whether the New Zealand government, companies and industry groups can commit to long-term reductions in water pollution and other food safety hazards and ongoing communications to repair damaged corporate and country reputations.

Brendan Gray does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Packaging a milestone: AIP celebrates 50 years

For half a century, the Australian Institute of Packaging has been serving the education and training arm of the Australian packaging industry, writes Ralph Moyle.

The starting date was 12 September, 1963. Fourteen industry experts had a vision to create a packaging institute that would provide a professional identity for packaging technologists in Australia.

To put this date into perspective, do you remember what you were doing in 1963? Petrol was $0.29 per gallon (yes, gallon) or today that is $0.06 per litre. A new band called The Beatles released their first album. Diet Coke hit our shelves, Channel 9 was founded and Robert Menzies was re-elected Prime Minister.

The Australian Institute of Packaging, this year celebrating a remarkable achievement of longevity, was put into motion by the foundation president, Noel McLennan, together with Arthur Harris, Frederich M. Flentje, Edward R. Dann, William A. Ross, Marcus Heselev, Leslie Buck, Ray Cox, A. Hislop, J. Trotter, G. Jeudwine, W. Smith, F.H Ottaway and E.G Davis. These individuals are recognised as the official foundation members of the AIP, and without their vision, the Institute would not be as relevant today.

Ever since that memorable day in September 1963, the AIP has moved forward to provide a professional identity for individuals within the industry. For 50 years, the primary function of the Institute, which is not-for-profit and based on individual- not company-membership, has been to enable professional development of its members and to disseminate technical knowledge of packaging throughout the industry via education and technical training as well as providing cross-functioning networking opportunities.

Don Ferguson FAIP – national president of the AIP between 1985 and 1986.

AIP members come from a wide range of industry segments; some are energetic and youthful, others are more mature and knowledgeable. Regardless of who they are and where they’ve come from, one of the AIP’s core reasons for success over its half century is the continual exchange of knowledge and sharing of experiences. Packaging is a diverse field and no person knows it all.

Education is at our core. We continually speak to our members and the industry about what is relevant at that time. Our members tell us what topics our monthly seminars should cover; as well as the topics required for training industry staff at our half-day training courses. Students who undertake our tertiary studies at internationally accredited Diploma and Certificate courses (available for the past 32 years) gain support from a network of fellow members.

From the beginnings in Melbourne 50 years ago, the AIP is now a respected part of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO) and conducts training courses across Australia and New Zealand and more recently in Asia and Africa.

Our objective is simple – knowledge is growth.

The AIP Mission Statement is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago and it will be the basis of our continual growth moving forward.

  • To serve as an independent professional body of packaging specialists
  • To promote professional standards of competency through education and training
  • To advance and promote the standing of packaging specialists as a profession
  • To serve and establish the confidence of the community in the packaging profession
  • To aim towards professional qualifications for all members
  • To uphold professional integrity and ethics within the profession of packaging

If your company or staff is looking for education and training within the packaging industry, the AIP can help you. We’re here for the individuals who make up this industry, fostering their growth and development in this dynamic industry. We look forward to working with you in the future and to representing our beloved industry for another 50 years.

Ralph Moyle is national president of the AIP.


 

The truth about free range eggs is tough to crack

Queensland recently changed its regulation of free range eggs, lifting the number of hens allowed per hectare from 1,500 to 10,000. This is more than a six-fold increase.

Choice and animal welfare and free range farming advocates are in an uproar about the changes. Queensland “free range” no longer means free range at all, they say.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says that the new figure is necessary, so that the Queensland egg industry won’t be disadvantaged compared with other states.

In fact no other states have a legislated definition for free range, or minimum stocking density. The department says industry practice is to stock free range egg facilities well in excess of 1,500 birds per hectare.

So, how are we to know that our free range eggs are really free range?

Standards galore

The Primary Industries departments of all Australian state and federal governments work together to set animal welfare guidelines for egg production in the Model Code of Practice for Poultry. The latest version was agreed in 2002 and is now under review. Currently it states that free range can mean up to 1,500 birds per hectare standard, but this could change.

The industry services body that represents producers, the Australian Egg Corporation, admitted last year that some free range egg production facilities stock up to 30 or 40,000 hens per hectare.

The Egg Corp has proposed an industry standard for free range of up to 20,000 birds per hectare. Their proposed standard was assessed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioner as likely to mislead and deceive consumers.

In January 2013 supermarket giant Coles announced that it would only stock cage free eggs in its own brand range. For Coles, “free range” would mean a maximum of 10,000 hens per hectare outdoors.

The 10,000 figure was not based on any particular evidence or science. Rather it is based on a combination or balancing of what animal welfare requires, what industry say they can accomplish, and what Coles believes consumers feel they can afford based on extensive consumer research.

The new Queensland regulation is still better than other states. It set a limit on outdoor stocking density lower than the 20,000 per hectare proposed by the Egg Corp, and the currently unlimited industry practice.

It also states that production facilities can only go above 1500 up to the 10,000 if hens are moved around and the ground has 60 percent vegetation cover.

So, what should Australia do?

The big problem with the new Queensland regulation is that it seems to accept that supermarkets in consultation with industry can ultimately decide what animal welfare practices are acceptable. In the absence of government regulation, supermarkets decide what free range means and what choices are available to consumers.

In fact consumers who buy “free range” in supermarkets are actually buying something that would be more accurately described as “barn” or, in more Australian vernacular, “shed” laid. These hens live and eat in large crowded industrial sheds with some access to an outside ranging area that is often bare and uninteresting.

By contrast many consumers, animal welfare advocates and food activists probably think free range means eggs from hens that largely range outside in paddocks, with ground foliage and tree cover and access to an indoor area to nest and perch.

Rather than letting supermarkets and industry dictate what “free range” means in the absence of government regulation, all Australian states and territories should mandate compliance with at least the minimal animal welfare conditions in the Model Code of Practice.

They should also legislate definitions of cage, barn or shed, and free range that make it clear that what often currently counts as free range in the supermarkets is actually barn or shed with outside access, not a truly alternative free range production system.

Consumers need to recognise that the only true free range eggs currently available are premium products that cost more than supermarket brand free range eggs.

An Australian state that really wanted to help its egg industry might do more to help consumers get direct access to farmers outside of the supermarket system.

The South Australian government’s recent proposal to introduce and support its own voluntary “South Australian Free Range” with more stringent standards is a step in this direction. What a pity Queensland chose to loosen its standards rather than market its difference.

Christine Parker does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Explainer: the good, the bad and the ugly of botulinum toxin

It might be fine for us to inject ourselves with Botox in a quest for eternal youth, but when the microorganism that produces this potent toxin is found in whey powder that might end up in baby milk formula, there’s reason for great concern.

This is exactly what’s happening in a number of countries right now, after representatives of the New Zealand dairy company Fonterra said on Saturday that a batch of whey powder produced last year could contain the bacteria. The powder was exported to Australia, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.

Vietnam, Russia and China have banned imports of both whey powder and infant formula from New Zealand although no cases of infection have been reported so far.

The organism at the centre of the controversy is Clostridium botulinum, a food-borne pathogen that causes a severe form of food poisoning called botulism. Botulism is caused by the production of botulinum toxin, the most potent neurotoxin known to man.

The toxin is at least a 10,000 times more potent than sarin, the nerve gas used by the Japanese doomsday cult in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack, which killed 13 people, severely injured 50 others, and caused harm to thousands of others.

What happens

Botulinum toxin causes flaccid paralysis (the inability of muscles to contract) by preventing the secretion of the chemical messenger acetylcholine, which tells muscles to contract; hence Botox’s power to deliver a smooth and wrinkle-free face.

Botulinum toxin paralyses muscles, hence Botox’s power to deliver a smooth and wrinkle-free face. Bella Medspa/Flickr

At first, an infected person may experience difficulties in focusing and swallowing. Progressive muscle paralysis develops and finally causes respiratory paralysis, which leads to death.

There’s an antitoxin for neutralising the botulinum toxin. But someone suffering from botulism might also need supportive measures, such as mechanical ventilation to help them breathe.

Up to 65 percent of people with botulism die if they are not treated immediately and properly. Even with treatment, recovery takes weeks and most people never recover fully. Long-term effects include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath and difficulty performing strenuous tasks.

Types of infection

Botulism is usually associated with improper food handling, especially in the preparation of home-tinned foods of low-acidity, such as green beans and mushrooms.

The toxin is so potent that the amount found in one bean from a contaminated can would be enough to kill an entire family. Thankfully, modern methods of food sterilisation and preservation, as well as tight control measures mean that classic food-borne botulism is very rare nowadays.

Wound botulism is another rare form of the illness where C. botulinum causes an infection through the use of contaminated needles in intravenous drug use.

But the most common form of this kind of poisoning these days is infant botulism (one of the causes of floppy baby syndrome).

As babies don’t have a fully developed gut microbiome, C. botulinum can easily colonise their large intestine; there aren’t enough “good bacteria” around to out-compete such pathogens.

The toxin is so potent that the amount found in one bean from a contaminated can would be enough to kill an entire family. Steve Hankins

Once it’s settled in, C. botulinum excretes botulinum toxin that’s slowly absorbed. Early signs of infection include constipation, feeding problems, lethargy and poor muscle tone, followed by full muscle paralysis.

Thanks to proper treatment and early diagnoses, infant and wound botulism currently have case fatality rates of approximately 15 percent and one percent, respectively.

Origins and uses

C. botulinum is commonly found in soil. To enhance its survival, it forms dormant cells known as endospores.

These spores are extremely resistant to a range of environmental pressures, and can survive boiling as well as resist chemicals used to kill bacteria. So, even if the bacteria are killed by normal heating of food, the spores will survive and start to germinate.

The spores can also be ingested through contaminated food and then grow to produce the deadly botulinum toxin. For this reason, raw honey, which is a known source of C. botulinum spores, isn’t recommended for babies less than a year old.

Botulinum toxin is not only used in the cosmetic industry; it has many medical uses from the treatment of severe muscle spasms to preventing excessive under-arm sweating.

But the susceptibility of infants, especially, to botulinum poisoning and the ability of C. botulinum to form heat-resistant spores means that contaminated food sources pose a great risk to humans.

Rietie Venter does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

24 hours with Caramelicious

Name: Breena Tremsal

Job title: director/accounting & marketing manager.

About the company: Caramelicious (a finalist in Food magazine's confectionery category for 2013!) is a French artisan caramel production outfit in Victoria. A family owned business, Caramelicious produces four varieties of caramel: Cocoa, Cocoa Hazelnut, Vanilla and of course the famous Salted Butter, all with no artificial flavours, no colouring, no preservatives and gluten free.

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life. 
I am involved in day-to-day running of all aspects of the business. Balancing the family life around Caramelicious is quite challenging; and not every day is the same.

My job mainly involves:

  • Processing and replying to emailed, posted, telephoned and faxed inquiries
  • Process orders
  • Organising promotional activities such as food fairs and expos
  • Contacting media to spread the love of Caramelicious
  • Doing lots of research, contacting other businesses which we can work with and send samples to
  • Improving business processes and production processes
  • Combining my photographic skills with illustration and design to create marketing flyers, recipes and promotional brochures.
  • Website editing and updating
  • Paperwork – accounting and bookkeeping, bills to be paid, money to be collected!!
  • Staying up-to-date with the social media platforms
  • The fun part: add and date the labels onto the jars
  • Business planning – keeping track of what we’ve been doing, and coming up with new ideas to develop the business

What training/education did you need for your job
My family runs their own business back in Mauritius, so from a young age I was learning how to start a business and develop it. Mainly I’ve gained my experience on the field, by sharing ideas with others, and doing lots of research. My motto is “learn as you go”, my vision is to produce a lifestyle where work and passion are practiced feasibly through my ‘can-do’ assertiveness. I’ve combined my creativity with a degree in multimedia design and business management.

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.

  • Graduated from high school in 1999
  • Studied at Curtin, Perth in 2000
  • Back to Mauritius work and studied Business Management 2001-2002
  • France, School of Communication Design 2002-2003
  • Back to Melbourne Degree in Multimedia Design 2003-2005
  • Worked at P.I.C Management, looking after the design, Admin & Marketing 2005
  • Involvement in Volunteers Association Inc; Administrative Assistant/Volunteer Program Co-ordinator. 2005-2007

When my baby was on the way, I started working from home and started a new business, selling handmade paintings for kids’ room as well as wedding stationery.

In 2011 when Remi [husband] hurt his back I went back to the real world; worked for Sensis Pty Ltd, as Online Production Specialist in 2011.

At the same time we founded Caramelicious and since then I’ve concentrated all my energy into developing the new business. It’s been exciting!

What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?
Photoshop, excel, illustrator.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
I'm most proud of being an entrepreneur and making it happen, by expressing respectful opinions, with a conscientious attitude, and being hard working. I have always remained true to who I am.

The fact that I have taken risks and have created a business that is aligned with who I am as an artist and being able to work alongside my husband to create a business we would gladly pass on to our boys.

Biggest daily challenge?
Feeling awkward about chasing an invoice! You feel like you’re the “rude” one when you have to call people who have to pay their bills. Getting the accounts up to date is a challenge.

Balancing the family and work life – it’s hard when working from home. For example, I’m on the phone with some clients, and might have my son dancing in front of me or asking a question just at that right moment! Or I might have to feed the baby! Having sleepless nights, but still needing to keep going.

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
Finding time to manage so many things at the same time. Getting my husband to do one task for me – he keeps postponing it!

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
Our products are quite new to the Australian market. Because our product is a soft caramel in a jar, we have to increase the awareness of Caramelicious; educate the customers of our products and increase the demand among stockists and consumers.

Sustainable growth, meeting current demand and still having the capacity to greatly increase productivity.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
It’s rewarding to work with my husband, my best friend. We created Caramelicious together as a team. It’s important to acknowledge that not all your ideas will work and you need to be ready to let go and move on when it’s time.

I am the customer service rep, marketing manager, business development manager and my own cheerleader.

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