Fast-track to accurate checkweighing

A new checkweigher from A&D Australasia will allow smaller operators to upgrade their production line to cater for increasing demand. Isaac Leung writes.

With a new consumer focus on organic and fresh foods and exotic ingredients, supermarkets are increasingly turning to small-to-medium sized Australian food manufacturers for their products.

While these contracts are lucrative, they also increase the demands on the manufacturers’ processes, necessitating faster production while still maintaining accurate portioning.

Accurate weighing of products is critical: it ensures manufacturers are not giving away too much of their product, and at the same time, are not short-changing their customers, which can lead to loss of contracts and fines.

According to Tom Armstrong, managing director of A&D Australasia, many smaller players in the industry tend to start by having operators manually sort product into packaging, and using static scales to weigh units individually.

However, this labour-intensive process can be costly, and slow. The obvious next step when scaling up operations would be to transition to an automatic process line and checkweigher system.

Fast and accurate
Checkweighers weigh products that are moving on a conveyor belt at very high speeds. A&D’s latest checkweigher, to be launched at AUSPACK PLUS 2013, for example, can weigh up to 200 0.5kg products per minute at a 0.1g resolution.

But with the speed of the checkweighers also comes issues with noise and vibration. These can obscure the actual weight of the package.

“As the package goes across the checkweighers, all sorts of variables are fed back to the indicator: the belt moving, the shaking, wind et cetera,” Armstrong explained.

An alternative approach
While competing checkweighers on the market tend towards preventing these variables by engineering very rigid and expensive mechanical structures, and dampening the loadcell, A&D’s approach uses the Japanese company’s expertise in analogue to digital conversion and digital signal processing (DSP) to quickly and accurately filter out the variables.

“For the last ten years, A&D has focused on digital signal processing, which is essentially looking at the variables coming from something under test, monitoring and measuring and simulating scenarios based on that information,” Armstrong said.

Previously, this DSP capability was used for testing and simulating automotive engines in Japan, but its application to the checkweigher means the electronics within the unit can “see” the process in slow motion, successfully isolating the actual weight of the package in under one-third of a second, as it speeds through on a conveyor belt at 120m a minute.

The flat pack advantage
Armstrong says the relaxed mechanical requirements of the A&D checkweigher poses many advantages to food manufacturers.

With an entry level price, small-to-medium sized food manufacturers can quickly upgrade to an automated production line without a massive initial outlay, but Armstrong says the specifications of the product will appeal to larger manufacturers as well.

Delivery, installation and maintenance are also made easier and cheaper.

“With conventional, rigid checkweighers, they come in big crates, and expensive technicians are needed for installation,” Armstrong said. “Our technology allows A&D to deliver it flat-packed, to be assembled on-site.”

“It’s all about reducing costs to the customer. Rather than have to have specialists travel out, with a big crate, this checkweigher can go in the back of someone’s car, and one of our retail partners can go out and do the installation.”

According to A&D Australasia, its sister company A&D TechEng can also help during installation if integration of the checkweigher with a PLC/SCADA system is needed. A&D TechEng is an approved Siemens Solution Partner and Rockwell Recognised System Integrator.

The checkweigher is designed to require minimal maintenance, and can be serviced by local weighing service companies without requiring special service tools or equipment, making it cost effective to run in the long term.

Australia will be the first country to get the new A&D checkweigher, when it is launched at stand 200 at AUSPACK PLUS 2013.

 

Soy versus dairy: which milk is better for you?

There are good reasons why people may want to swap soy with dairy milk. The carbon, water and phosphate footprint of soy milk is a fraction of the latter. But the main reason for the increasing popularity of soy milk seems to be health concerns, such as inflammatory bowel disease and lactose intolerance.

First, let’s look at what these milks are. The milk from a cow (or goat, or sheep) is complete food for the growth and development of a young animal. It contains all the essential amino acids (the protein building blocks that your body is unable to make for itself) as well as a complex mixture of fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals including calcium, phosphate and vitamin B12.

A soy bean is also complete food – for the growth and development of a soy plant seedling. The nutritional needs of plants are obviously quite different from those of animals, and accordingly, the nutritional profile of unadulterated soy milk is very different from that of animal milks.

Fresh soy milk, made from grinding and then straining soaked dried soy beans, has less fat and carbohydrate than animal milks, and only a small amount of calcium. And it’s missing some of the vitamins present in animal milks as well.

The protein content of soy milk is similar to cow’s milk, and all the essential amino acids are present but in smaller amounts than in cow’s milk. Because it’s plant food, soy milk contains small amounts of fibre, and twice as much folate as animal milks.

 

The milk from a cow (or goat or sheep) is complete food for the growth and development of a young animal. jenny downing

 

The contrast between the two products is significantly reduced when comparing the commonly-available commercial brands of soy and cow’s milk. Both types of milk are heat-treated as part of production, to destroy bacteria and enzymes that may be harmful to health or shorten shelf life. They’re also nutritionally similar.

Supermarket soy milk products are mostly made from soy protein isolate powder (rather than ground whole soy beans), reconstituted with water and adjusted with oil and often sugar, to bring the fat and carbohydrate content to levels comparable with full-cream cow’s milk. A similar vitamin and mineral content is achieved by adding vitamins (including B12) and calcium.

Once this is done, the main differences between the products are in the type (rather than the amount) of carbohydrate, protein and fat.

The carbohydrate in cow’s milk is lactose, the milk sugar, which is digested by the enzyme lactase. In most animals (including human ones), the amount of lactase in the intestine naturally decreases after weaning. Once this has happened, milk cannot be digested properly, causing flatulence or diarrhoea.

In humans who continue to consume lactose-rich dairy products throughout their lives, lactase enzymes are maintained in the gut. But some unlucky individuals become lactose intolerant and, for them, soy milk is a useful alternative as it contains no lactose.

For everyone else, though, lactose has some advantages over other sugars because it has a very low glycaemic index. This means that it is released slowly into the blood, avoiding abrupt spikes in blood glucose levels.

 

Soy beans are the complete food for the growth and development of a soy plant seedling. Quinn Dombrowski

 

Both soy and dairy milk are good sources of protein, with different health advantages. Soy protein appears to have its own protective effect on heart health, possibly due to its content of phytochemicals (beneficial plant substances). Some of these include phytoestrogens, whose weak oestrogen-like action can help soothe hormonal swings during menopause.

Cow’s milk consists of two proteins, casein and whey, both of which are popular among body-builders as effective muscle-building proteins. In controlled diets, dairy foods appear to promote fat loss, possibly due to the effect of their calcium content in conjunction with the dairy proteins and other substances in milk. This effect is not seen when the same nutrients are consumed as supplements.

The fat content is similar in both cow and soy milk, and low fat or “light” varieties are available for both. The type of fat in full-cream cow’s milk is butterfat, high in saturated fat, while soybean oil is mostly polyunsaturated. The fats added to soy milk are usually canola or sunflower oil, again rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. This means that soy milk is a source of “good” fats.

The Heart Foundation recommends we avoid saturated fats in order to control our cholesterol levels, but interestingly full-fat dairy foods don’t appear to increase the risk of heart disease in the same way as other sources of saturated fat. This may be due to the protective effect of other complex elements in milk (such as the proteins or minerals) or the unsaturated fats present.

Fresh, raw soy milk and fresh, raw animal milk are very different foods. But in the form usually purchased in the supermarket, there’s little difference in their nutritional profile. So rest assured that if you choose to replace some, or all, of your dairy milk intake with soy milk for environmental reasons, you will not be nutritionally disadvantaged.

Suzie Ferrie 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.

Soy good: dairy alternatives make inroads

Dairy-free alternatives to regular milk products are experiencing significant growth across the globe.

While dairy alternative drinks accounted for a relatively small five percent of the total dairy launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of October 2012, the market is definitely growing.

Soy milk is leading the dairy alternative race, representing 78 percent of dairy-free launches either as a main or secondary ingredient. Next in line are plant-based alternatives including cereals such as rice, oats and barley as well as nuts like almond, hazelnuts and walnuts.

The second most popular ingredient – albeit a long way behind soy – is rice with 17 percent of introductions. Oats had 11 percent and almonds came in with 10 percent of introductions in the 12 months to the end of October.

Despite its fourth place ranking, almond milk products have been labelled as the ones to watch by Innova Market Insights, jumping from three percent in 2005 to its current 10 percent.

Most dairy alternative beverages use health as a marketing platform and point of difference, with three-quarters of launches recorded by Innova featuring a health claim of some kind.

The most popular health claims relate to lactose-free offerings (over 35 percent), organic ingredients, low cholesterol content and additive- or preservative- free content.

Health is definitely a focal point for the marketing team at Sanitarium, which makes the So Good dairy free range of products.

Marketing general manager, Daniel Derrick, told Food magazine many consumers prefer how they feel after consuming dairy-free products, regardless of whether or not they medically require them.

"I think yesteryear was all about the [dairy] intolerance and it was almost a medical approach to milk, but thesedays many consumers are just wanting a wellbeing beverage, so they want products that give them all the goodness of a glass of milk without the bad stuff. So non-dairy beverages are free of cholesterol, they're free of saturated fat, they're free of lactose. That way it just allows people to enjoy their favourite breakfast without the guilt. It allows people to go back to enjoying what milk gives them.

"There's nothing wrong with milk, necessarily, but there are better alternatives," he said.

Derrick said two key factors have contributed to the growth in dairy-free drinks: technological developments which have improved the beverages' taste, and a rise in the number of people saying they feel better after drinking dairy-free beverages.

"When people drink non-dairy milk a lot of them are quite surprised at how light they feel. There's an effect that dairy has on a lot of people where it gives them congestion or bloating. And previously I think it's fair to say that non-dairy milks didn't taste great, but thesedays a lot of the technologies employed allow us to have really good tasting non-dairy milk," he said.

Almond milk is responsible for a wide number of consumers making the switch to dairy-free, Derrick says, with one in five Australian households stocking non-dairy milk in their fridge. And it's a similar story in the US where almond milk has been the most popular non-dairy milk for the past two years.

"Non-dairy milk is still an evolving niche. It's certainly still emerging, but what's helping emergence is the introduction of other non-dairy milks such as almond milk. So if you try our unsweetened almond milk it has 55 percent less calories than light milk. So it tastes great, it works well on cereal, but if you want to enjoy your cereal, enjoy your coffee, enjoy your drink without the calories, you can with our unsweetened almond milk," Derrick said.  

"I think the current trajectory will continue, where people discover how to offer really great tasting, healthy alternatives to dairy.

Not only are dairy-free drinks becoming more popular for consumers – regardless of whether or not they're lactose intolerant – Derrick says more and more men are embracing dairy-free.

"I think more people are discovering that very normal people can enjoy non-dairy milk. It's not the domain of people that have a medical need. This is a product that has universal appeal."        

Click here to see a range of dairy-free drinks available across the globe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Food mag awards in focus: Dairy

The Food Magazine awards will return in 2013 and with entries closing on 24 April, now's your chance to have your product recognised by industry peers!

In this preview of the annual awards, we're looking at the Dairy category, which is sponsored by Tronics.

Products eligible for this category include those that comprise cow, milk, buffalo or goat milk as a main element. Products that can be entered include cheese, milk, ice cream, yoghurt and custard.

The entry process for this category is simple; all you need to do is submit details of your company and the product (name, website, address etc) as well as information on how the product is processed, its significance in the market, any details on export opportunities and what measures were taken to ensure food safety.

Images also need to be provided upon submission.

In last year's Food magazine awards, the Dairy award went to five:am Life for its Organic Yoghurt

About the winner
Lauren Kempler from five:am says that being organic is a key part of the brand and its success.

"Eating organic is in a way the essence to our brand identity. The concept behind five:am is one of 'conscious deliciousness;' that means that we are conscious of hand-picking the finest, organic and all natural ingredients for all of our recipes," she said. 

"We produce our superior tasting yoghurt with a clear conscience – knowing that not only is the product good for you but that every aspect of five:am's production preserves the environment. This means our cows are free to roam, that they, and the fruits used are free from all things nasty (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics…) Eating organic is key to a healthy lifestyle."

David Prior, the creator of the five:am brand has had extensive experience in the food manufacturing industry as the co-founder of Baroda Manufacturing, he was responsible for the growth of the business, overseeing its expansion from a start up into one of Australia's fastest growing businesses within 10 years. Boasting an annual turnover of $25 million, Prior led the company's acquisition by VISY Packaging in 2007 before starting five:am a little over two years ago.

"Organic and preservative free, five:am yoghurt is one of the few 'free-from' foods you will find in the mass market.  There's no two ways about it.  Our product is as good as you can get.  The way we make it is superior to other products on the market, which is evident in the taste and better still, it is purely organic," David said.

Sustainability-wise, the production process aims to minimise energy and waste as much as possible. Packaging is all made from one material and designed to ensure the least detriment to the environment while still being 100 per cent recyclable.

"We started our pack design process by selecting a material with a relatively low carbon footprint. We then designed the container sizes to get the best use of the pallet, meaning less trucks are required to get our product to you," said Lauren. 

The brand has also engaged the public by offering samples in supermarkets, school fetes and the Royal Easter show as well as utilising social media.

"We've managed to increase distribution dramatically, keep up communication with our loyal Facebook community and are thrilled to launch our new iPhone app in our 'it's about time' campaign in the next few months," Lauren said.

David plans to expand both globally and in terms of product range in the near future, noting the introduction of organic drinking yoghurts and baby friendly options as avenues the company will explore.

For information and entry details, click here.

The 2013 Food Magazine Awards are proudly brought to you by Platinum sponsor Heat and Control. Other sponsors include Flavour Makers, Janbak, HACCP Australia, Kerry Ingredients, Newly Weds Foods, Tronics, APPMA, Earlee Products and Kurz.

 

Four ways to ensure your packaging packs a punch

Reaching consumers these days is difficult. No longer do traditional methods of advertising and marketing warrant their attention or their dollars. Creating an effective package design is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to capture a consumer's eye but it requires ingenuity, creativity, and the ability to connect with your target market.

Ingenuity
Let’s face it; consumers aren't particularly open to changing their purchasing habits or experimenting with new products. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? When introducing your product to consumers, you have to display ingenuity in your packaging design. Consumers look for packaging that's visually pleasing and representative of the actual product. Your package should demonstrate your company’s ability to uniquely display your product through color, size, or logos.

Creativity
Just as with people, packages that are different tend to stand out. Using unusual colours, containers, and catch phrases are all effective ways to catch consumers' attention. You can reap huge rewards by using packaging design to market the same product to multiple target groups.

Product packaging can give new meaning to the same product for different consumers. It is important to note however, that creative packaging is no substitute for a great product. You don’t want to be known for being all action and no satisfaction.

Connecting with consumers
Consumers will purchase products because of a perceived need for them. Therefore, your package design must demonstrate a fulfillment of a need of some sort, as well as the benefits of choosing your particular product. Your package should elicit emotion from your consumer, whether it is happiness, serenity, or even hunger.

If there isn’t a feeling of excitement or necessity, you can bet your product will remain on the shelf. Consumers like to feel that a company is in touch with their specific needs and offers them something special. You must connect with your target audience.

Your package design is your product’s business card. For better or for worse your packaging design will be a significant deciding factor in whether or not your product is purchased.

 Sustainability
Sustainability continues to be a buzz word and has become a major factor affecting operations in packaging.

Considerations in this area are now a fact of life with bioplastics and renewable resources such as sugar cane being serious participants in the event. But, it seems consumers still require greater clarity around what sustainable really is.

We are increasingly interested in our personal impact on the environment and are demanding more from manufacturers.

Australia’s packaging industry needs to participate seriously in co-ordinated and co-operative efforts around global packaging sustainability and to develop some honest measurement tools for the manufacturing industry to consider.

While we wait for strong leadership in this field to come to the fore, I challenge individuals to make sustainability a serious consideration; no matter the area of packaging in which you’re involved. I challenge you to ask your company what its stance is on sustainability and what its relevant policies are.

In the meantime we need to continue designing with the 3 Rs in mind: reduce, re-use, recycle.

 Reduction ought to be considered in terms of light weighting and down gauging. Reduce the ullage in packs as well as the flap area of the pack.           

Packaging designers should take into consideration potential changes in the distribution chain in order to balance package designs with the distribution environment. This will often result in good pallet utilisation.   

Re-use refers mainly to domestic re-use for a range of purposes. Re-used by the consumer for the same or a similar purpose. For example woven polypropylene bags with handles can be used as a carry bag. These bags can also be used as building material especially in third world countries.

Recycle in terms of using both recycled materials for packaging end products and regularly using materials that are recyclable.

The packaging is to be designed to assist recycling. Where recycling facilities exist it should incorporate the appropriate recycling logo to encourage consumers to recycle the package. Look alike packaging in different materials should be avoided.

If the packaging is to be recycled it should be designed to be easily compressed to minimise the volume where possible. Practicable recycled material should be incorporated in the packaging material. If and where practical, the packaging should use only one material, or material which can be sorted, separated and reprocessed.
 

Plastic packaging should be clearly identified with the Plastics Coding System.

I found it interesting that at the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa, Brazil, Portugal and The Netherlands wore jerseys made entirely from recycled polyester. Each jersey was produced from eight recycled PET bottles. Nike sourced discarded PET bottles from Japanese and Taiwanese landfill sites and then melted them down to produce new yarn used for the jerseys.

This process saves raw materials and reduces energy consumption by up to 30 percent when compared to virgin material. Nike prevented nearly 13 million plastic bottles from going into landfill sites. This is just one example of what companies and individuals are doing out there to help our environment.

I would like to add another R: that of re-filling. Supermarkets are trialling machines that allow consumers to fill reusable pouches with fabric conditioner pumped from a 1000 litre container in the laundry aisle. What about cooking oil, fruit juice, shampoo? This could cascade to flour, sugar, cereals, the list goes on. Watch this space.

Pierre Pienaar MSc, FAIP
AIP Education Coordinator
educate@aipack.com.au
www.aipack.com.au

Images: www.stocklandcommunitiesnsw.com.au

 

The future of flavour: 5 ingredient trends to watch

In a world where imitations, counterfeiting and fakes are commonplace, authenticity is becoming both highly sought after and, in cases, hard to identify – not just in terms of fashion and entertainment, but in food too.

Spotting emerging ingredient and flavour trends can be difficult work, and if food manufacturers get it wrong , it can do more than leave a bad taste in consumers’ mouths.

McCormick this month launched its annual Flavour Forecast report, which aims to select culinary trends several years ahead of the curve.

Taking into account both macro and micro trends in the political, demographical and economical spheres, McCormick has put ingredients and food into a global context.

In its thirteenth year, the worldwide report brings together chefs, sensory scientists, dieticians, and marketing professionals to research and provide insight into up-and-coming ingredient trends.

In a statement, McCormick said its global exploration process has revealed the search for authentic ingredients is the common thread connecting food cultures around the world.

Perfectly seasoned

In the past the company has been credited with elevating once relatively unknown ingredients like chiplote, which really started making it mark in the ingredients industry in 2003.

In 2008, McCormick also included cocktail-inspired flavours in the Flavour Forecast. Since then about 3,000 new grocery products have hit the shelves with flavours like whiskey, ale, bourbon and brandy.

With this in mind the company has pinpointed five flavour predictions it believes will drive new product development and provide inspiration for menus across the country.

“Around the world we’re seeing a fascinating collision of tradition and innovation. Authentic, real ingredients are still at the core – though now they’re being enjoyed in unique updated ways that reflect a much more personalised approach to cooking and eating,” McCormick executive chef, Kevan Vetter, said.

1. Global my way 

katsu-oregano-1.jpgAs travel becomes less expensive and we become a globalised, ‘borderless’ world, flavours are merging and evolving.

People are discovering ‘ethnic’ ingredients and finding ways to incorporate them beyond their traditional uses.

“Don’t be surprised if in the next few years Japanese Katsu, a tangy cross between BBQ and steak sauce, and Cajeta, a Mexican caramel, gain the broad appeal that once-regional tastes like Asian hot chilli sauce has achieved,” Vetter said.

Discovery is what is driving this trend. With infinite flavour possibilities available, McCormick have paired Katsu sauce with traditional and widely-used oregano; and star anise with Cajeta, a sweet and rich combination.

2. No apologies necessary burnt-orange.jpg

With so much uncertainty around in terms of economic instability, climate change, and political unrest, it is natural for people to look for gratification and escape. The food industry is seeing this trend through the development of sumptuous and rich flavours.

The ever-increasing demands of the modern world and a fear of being disconnected has sparked a “rational rebellion”, in food lovers and food professionals alike.

The rebellion is epitomised in an unapologetic escape from technological and enterprise demands as one makes a concerted effort to savour the detail of the eating experience.

This trend is all about giving into guilty pleasure and cravings in a bid to regain balance.

McCormick has highlighted a decadent dark chocolate, sweet basil and passionfruit combination as well as a mix of black rum, charred orange and allspice to lead this movement.

 3. Personally handcrafted smoked-tomatos-chilli-peppers-and-paprika.JPG

A DIY approach to food can be incredibly healthy, soul cleansing, and often economically friendly.

As such, society has witnessed the emergence of the home-cook – a concept that has been captured (and created by) television series like My Kitchen Rules, Masterchef and The Cook and The Chef , not to mention the plethora food blogs popping up left, right, and centre on the world wide web.

This trend has fed people’s interest in authentic ingredients and true flavours.

McCormick’s research pinpoints the rustic and comforting ingredients of cider, sage and molasses as centrepieces of this grouping.

But what is exciting is the combination of smokey, sweet and spicy flavours, which McCormick presented in the form of smoked tomato, rosemary, chillies and sweet onion. The versatile and complex amalgamation energises sauces, jams, and marinades alike.

4. Empowered eating flavor-forecast-dukkah-500.jpg

People are becoming highly educated about health, wellness and the affects different foods have on the body.

This shifting relationship with food and ingredients has spiked a trend of clean and empowered eating.

Achieving “food zen” through a highly personalised and sustainable food harmony is at the heart of McCormick’s fourth tip for 2013.

The core ingredients which round off empowered eating includes the ancient faro grain, blackberry and clove mixture.

A play on textures promotes fresh eating with the coarse Middle Eastern inspired Dukkah – a blend of cumin, coriander, sesame seeds and nuts like macadamias or cashews. Added to this, unusually, is the bright crunch of market-bought broccoli.

5. Hidden potential flavor-forecast-artichoke-500.jpg

In a time where the world is pulling the purse strings, a waste not mentality is being enshrined in chefs’ kitchens, utilising previously discarded or less familiar cuts of meat or stalks of vegetables and subsequently unlocking the hidden potential of such ingredients.

Coaxing the full flavour out of every ingredient, McCormick has formulated a new take on meat and potatoes, transforming the connotation with hearty meat cuts, plantain and fragrant cinnamon quills.

This year’s Flavour Forecast flips what food professionals thought they knew about traditional ingredients and reinvigorates age-old favourites, like the fusion of ornamental artichokes, smoky paprika, and smooth hazelnuts.

A year of food excitement

Saving the world from boring food, McMcormick’s 2013 Flavour Forecast is in some cases surprising but in all cases exciting.

Zeroing in on trends is the easy part, McCormick chef Mark Garcia explained. It’s coming up with the recipes to match that’s tricky.

“One of the worst things we could do is just come up with a recipe where the ingredients don’t make sense but we thought they sounded cool together,” Garcia told Smithsonian.com.

“We clearly have to bring some techniques as well as some artistry to the process so that we create combinations that are both relevant but also make sense from a culinary standpoint.”

The front runner this year is expected to be Dukkah, simply because of its versatility, ability to add depth to a dish, and the fact that it is easily accessible.

Garcia said Dukkah is “one of those ingredients where literally the term ‘all-purpose’ comes to mind.”

Acceptance is another measure that needs to be considered when developing the yearly forecasts, a job that rests with McCormick’s senior scientist, Ami Whelan.

Whelan painstakingly conducts a sensory analysis of people’s responses to food, in an effort to reveal the likelihood of consumer acceptance.

“The senses help us make decisions about the foods we eat. For instance, the appearance of a strawberry helps us make a decision on whether the fruit is ripe,” Whelan said.

“The chefs and culinarians on the team have an extensive intrinsic knowledge of the basic sensory properties of foods and flavours and innately know, even prior to tasting, what might work well together and what likely does not,” she said.

“All of us on the team are foodies by nature, meaning that food and flavour is not just our job, but also our hobby and favourite past-time.”

The hosemeat saga explained [infographic]

The discovery of horse meat in a range of food products in Europe and the UK has – and continues to have – far-reaching effects on the global food manufacturing industry. This infographic goes back to basics, explaining how this whole sorry story started, and which countries have been hardest hit.

Here are a few links to help you catch up:

Horsemeat Scandal [Infographic]

Via: The Australian Institute of Food Safety

 

Sugar Vs Stevia: What’s in store for the future?

In a world where diabetes and bulging waistlines are reaching epidemic proportions, food makers and consumers are increasingly on the lookout for a solution to the sugar 'problem'.

For those who want to make a healthy change whilst keeping their sweet tooth intact, artificial sweeteners are seen as the way forward.

While there are already a host of products to choose from one sweetener in particular, stevia, has recently won a host of big endorsements.

Earlier this year beverage maker Nudie joined many of its peers in releasing a new range using stevia, and soft drink giant Pepsi recently used the additive in the Australian release of its low-sugar Pepsi Next.

The sweetener, derived from the stevia plant, has built up a small but loyal following over the years and advocates say it's the 'natural' alternative to the more popular artificial sweeteners like Saccharin.

But this natural claim is one of many controversies that still surrounds the product, with health concerns, political disputes, and taste problems hampering its progress, especially in overseas markets.

To this day stevia accounts for only a small share of sugar-free products and remains unknown in some consumer circles.

But with large brands increasingly incorporating it into their sugar-free products we're likely to be drinking and eating more of it in the future, and analysts say its popularity will only grow stronger.


The stevia plant. Image: Flickr

What's in a name?

In Australia stevia is regarded as a natural sweetener, and brands like Nudie have embraced the plant in order to stick with a 'nothing but fruit' message.

But Euromonitor International analyst Lauren Bandy said nitpicking over stevia's definition continued, and the European Union still banned products using it from making natural claims.

“Steviol glycosides, the sweet compounds of the stevia leaf, are not consumed as a food on their own and are added to food and beverage products to perform a technical function,” she said.

“Therefore, by definition stevia is an additive, and cannot be labelled as a 'natural ingredient' in the EU.”

Apart from its use as an additive, the argument behind stevia's naturalness also stems from how the plant is processed.

Steviol glycosides are extracted using solvents and resins, and the process is performed on an industrial scale quite different to the 'natural' environment some consumers imagine.

Nevertheless the product has gained a relatively healthy perception closer to home, and Bandy said its popularity was rising, despite growth moving slowly.

“We forecast growth rates for stevia ten times higher than those of its competitors aspartame, saccharin and sucralose,” she said.

“That said, in absolute terms the stevia market remains relatively small.”


A range of sugar-free sweeteners already exist, and have a much larger market share compared to stevia. Image: Flickr

Taste problems

Health concerns haven't been the only roadblocks to a wider adoption of stevia.

While most of the issues have since been ironed out, in its early days stevia battled a more practical problem related to a bitter after-taste, which still exists in products for some consumers.

On the more technical side, stevia sweeteners hit different parts of the palate compared with sugar, and manufacturers have had to work hard to balance the flavours.

Overall stevia has a slower onset and longer duration than sugar, and one analyst told Food Magazine the product had to be mixed with another sweetener, such as saccharin, in order to mimic the full effects of sugar.

They also said the stevia/saccharin mix was particularly attractive for soft drink makers looking to make zero-sugar products.

So far brands in Australia have largely avoided this mix, preferring to use stevia by itself in order to market products as 'naturally sweetened'.

In the case of Pepsi Next, the soft drink giant has elected to mix stevia with sugar to retain taste whilst boosting the health profile.


So far stevia has been unable to mimic the full taste of sugar. Image: Flickr/ Uwe Hermann

The final word

While the wider debate around natural and artificial sweeteners will no doubt continue, stevia has long since received approval from Australian regulators, and its influence continues to spread through local products.

Nevertheless scientists and health experts remain divided on the issue.

Just last month a paper from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research suggested sugar-free drinks may actually increase the risk of diabetes.

But our own regulators have found no problem with the product, and have even marked it as a possible growth area for local farmers.

Overall most research shows such innovations don't intend to act as a replacement for a balanced lifestyle, and artificial or not, sugar-free products can't replace a healthy diet.

 

‘As a matter of fact, I’ve got it now’: alcohol advertising and sport

 

Sport is generally a healthy activity that transmits important societal values, such as fairness, perseverance, and teamwork. Unfortunately, it’s also the primary vehicle for marketing alcohol to the general population.

At its best, sport can provide participants and fans with a sense of identity, pride and self-esteem. But a visitor to Australian shores would be forgiven for thinking that sport is a subsidiary of the alcohol, fast food and gambling industries.

Indeed, the majority of alcohol advertising and sponsorship both in terms of frequency and time of advertising, and in alcohol marketing expenditure, occurs in and around sport. In 2009, two of the world’s largest alcohol producers, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, spent approximately $350 million and $212 million, respectively, on television advertising during US sporting events alone. We are unable to obtain figures for Australia.

There are several reasons for the alcohol industry using sport for the promotion of alcohol consumption.

First, placement of alcohol sponsorship and advertising in large televised sporting events allows the alcohol industry to bypass regulations prohibiting alcohol advertising during times when large proportions of children may be watching television.

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Victoria Bitter’s sponsorship of Australian cricket, for instance, means that children are exposed to alcohol advertising from ten in the morning to the end of play. And it’s difficult to miss the alcohol brands on signage and boarding around Australian sport stadiums. Or, the VB signs either side of the electronic score board each time a third umpire decision is needed.

Another feature that attracts the alcohol industry is sport’s ability to evoke strong emotion and social identification. Products presented within these sporting contexts are more likely to be remembered, liked and chosen.

Pairing a healthy activity, such as sport, with an otherwise unhealthy product, such as alcohol or fast food, makes that product seem less unhealthy and more acceptable and normal. Many of us will remember tobacco advertising in sport but I suspect that even smokers wouldn’t welcome that back.

Simply put, alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport works in terms of increasing sales, and of course, alcohol consumption.

Para Olympians Justin Eveson and Brad Ness at a Bundaberg Rum event in Perth ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Tony McDonough/AAP

Reviews of research on the association between exposure to alcohol advertising and subsequent drinking intentions and behaviours shows that exposure to, and/or recall of, alcohol advertising and sponsorship by children and adolescents predicts their future drinking expectancies, norms, drinking intentions, and hazardous drinking behaviours.

A study from the United States also found that ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise by children and adolescents (such as football shirts and sport caps) was associated with their early initiation of drinking. Similarly, alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople has been found to be associated with more hazardous drinking levels among Australian, New Zealand and UK sportspeople.

Beyond these outcomes, alcohol industry advertising and sponsorship in sport and other settings, creates a culture where children perceive alcohol consumption as a normal everyday part of life. And they see it as something associated with sporting success or indeed, being Australian.

Given the known relationship between alcohol advertising and youth drinking, researchers who assess drinking norms, peer influence and parental influence as predictors of young people’s drinking, are in effect measuring people’s exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

Most of us didn’t grow up in a culture void of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, which makes it difficult for us to imagine sport without them. But given the high rates of hazardous drinking and associated problems in young people (violence, suicide, motor accidents), we probably don’t need to be giving them more encouragement to drink. The same was true for tobacco advertising and sponsorship in sport and few would now question the wisdom of banning such promotion.

New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart (centre) speaks to his team after their defeat by Brisbane at the State of Origin 3 in July 2012. Dave Hunt/AAP

The alcohol industry’s self-regulation of advertising has been shown to not work, and stronger regulation is clearly needed. Effective action is possible.

France has had a complete ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship since 1991. Sport has not suffered and alcohol consumption has decreased in the past 20-odd years. Indeed, France even hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup with this ban in place and enforced.

Similarly, Norway and Turkey have strong restrictions on alcohol advertising in sport, and South Africa is currently drafting a bill to ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport. It would be simple to do the same in Australia.

Naturally, “big sport” (AFL, NRL and cricket) and the alcohol industry will object to the removal of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, citing that grassroots sport will suffer. But the experience of nations where bans have been imposed suggests otherwise, such as Norway and France.

The Australian National Preventative Health Agency has successfully negotiated the removal of alcohol sponsorship from most of Australia’s major sporting codes (Football Federation of Australia, Netball Australia, Swimming Australia, Basketball Australia, Cycling Australia, Hockey Australia). But AFL, rugby league and union and cricket are resisting change.

Danny Beasley rides Fashionsafield home to victory at the 2005 Tooheys New Easter Carnival at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse in 2005. Sam Mooy/AAP

Sport in Australia could still be funded by the alcohol, tobacco, and fast-food industries, but through the ring-fencing of a small portion of the tax gathered from their sales. This would allow sport to thrive without the downside of also promoting unhealthy products to our children.

This is the fifth part of our series looking at alcohol and the drinking culture in Australia. Click on the links below to read the other articles:

Part One: A brief history of alcohol consumption in Australia

Part Two: Social acceptance of alcohol allows us to ignore its harms

Part Three: My drinking, your problem: alcohol hurts non-drinkers too

Part Four: Alcohol-fuelled violence on the rise despite falling consumption

Kerry O'Brien receives funding from the ARC, ANPHA, and VicHealth. He also has a honorary position with the University of Manchester in the UK.

The Conversation

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

 

Food mag awards in focus: Packaging Design

The Food Magazine awards will return in 2013 and with entries closing on 24 April, now's your chance to have your product recognised by industry peers!

In this preview of the annual awards, we're looking at the Packaging Design category, sponsored by APPMA.

This category is to recognise and reward creativity and innovation in food and beverage packaging.

For this award, your company, if it is not already part of a broader food processing group, will need to be producing packaging for the food or beverages industry.

The packaging product will also need to have been launched/ developed in Australia or New Zealand during 2012 or 2013.

Products that can be entered include bottle designs, packaging artwork and portion control solutions.

In order to nominate your product, you simply need to fill out the Food magazine awards nomination kit, providing simple details of your company (website, contact details, its core product offering and markets etc), as well as an overview of the design, detailing its best features. This will need to include details on the packaging design's need, implementation, effectiveness and how it's different from other designs on the market.

The design's materials, processing, sustainability and marketing will also need to be considered in your nomination.

In last year's Food magazine awards, the Packaging Design award went to O-I for its O-I Vortex Bottle.

About the winner
O-I took out the Packaging Award in 2012 for its unique internal embossing on the new Wahoo Premium Ale beer bottle.

Peter Sexton Bruce from O-I Australia said that it is the innovative design of the bottle that sets it apart from other makes.

 "It's an innovative design whereby you have the embossing on the inside of the bottle so it provides a unique positioning in the market for the customers in terms of packaging and glass solutions packaging," he said.

O-I partnered with Western Australia's Gage Roads Brewing Co. to launch the Australian- first application of internal embossing in May 2011. 

The impact of the new bottle design as well as secondary labelling changes coincides with the recent announcement that Gage had experienced a 25 percent year-on-year increase in Wahoo Premium Ale sales since the introduction of the Vortex bottle.

It also allows the use of the full label surface and is 100 percent infinitely recyclable. 

Gage Roads Brewing Co.'s former CEO, Nick Hayler, said internal embossing provided a distinct point-of-difference that was difficult to replicate by Wahoo's competitors. 

"When you consider consumer purchasing behaviours, it's easy to appreciate the importance of capturing their attention and standing out from the retail noise," he said. 

"Our experience in recent years has taught us that packaging which appeals to the consumer and grabs both their attention and imagination is vital," said Hayler.

It is not just within Australia that O-I has had success, the bottle has been adopted by Miller Lite beer in the United States where it was credited with improving Miller Lite's sales by 6 percent, a significant margin in the highly competitive beer industry. In addition, DB Breweries was the first company to launch internal embossing technology in New Zealand, after applying the Vortex bottle design to its Tui Blond Lager in 2011. When asked what the benefit of the internal embossing is, Sexton Bruce said, "Uniqueness is probably the main thing and also that they can identify with the actual brand and therefore differentiate in the market and have shelf presence."

O-I is also proactive in managing its carbon footprint and has launched a list of sustainability goals to be met by 2017. 

These include aims to reduce global energy consumption by 50 percent, reduce carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions by 65 percent and nearly double its use of recycled glass so that a global average of 60 percent of each as well as eliminating workplace incidents.

For information and entry details, click here.

The 2013 Food Magazine Awards are proudly brought to you by Platinum sponsor Heat and Control. Other sponsors include Flavour Makers, Janbak, HACCP Australia, Kerry Ingredients, Newly Weds Foods, Tronics, APPMA, Earlee Products and Kurz.

 

24 hours with Byron Bay Cookie Company

Gordon Slater, chairman of Slater International, owner of Byron Bay Cookie Company takes Food mag's Q&A and sheds some light on the joys and challenges of running a food brand.

Name: Gordon Slater

Company name: Byron Bay Cookie Company (owned by Slater International)

Title: Chairman

How did you get first get involved with the brand?

"About 12 years ago I was looking around at different business opportunities and a friend of mine said I had to have a look at this one as there was a possibility of buying into what was originally the Byron Bay Cookie Company. I suppose one of the key deciders was when I took along some of the product to my lawyer with the contract and asked for him to take a look at it, after a while I noticed that he’d eaten a whole container of cookies and was looking for more, so I thought that was a good thing to go off!"

Do you have experience in the food or manufacturing industries?

"No, not really. I'm actually an orthopaedic surgeon, so I guess the main overlaps in those industries would be discipline and organisation of skills, and also minimisation of risk. In surgery that's one of the things that gets taught very well.

"In both industries you have to work well with people. When you're a doctor you're always speaking to people and explaining things and I think that's one of the things that business leaders do – they not only lead but they also teach… Whenever someone has interface with me, my expectation is that I would have taught them something in that interface every single time, so every time they turn around hopefully they've learned something from me."

What tools and/or software are you finding most useful at the moment?

"I'm no computer expert but one of the things that I'm looking at a lot now is social media, especially in terms of brand communication and also in terms of gathering information from our consumers.

"Previously a little business wouldn't have known who was buying its product, but now with social media you can interface with your customer directly and you can find out who they are, what they buy and so forth. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, we’re also active on LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.”

What's a moment that your most proud of in your career at Byron Bay Cookie Company?

"There's been so many. Most recently it would be launching the Anzac biscuit … We have a lot of decadent flavours and flavours that we've developed and put to market over the years, so to come up with a product that's an old family favourite was kind of fun.

"We started baking the Anzac in January and our product was launched on-board Qantas in February. So far the uptake has been amazing. The feedback on the product has just been fabulous.

"When we started selling to big players like Qantas and McDonalds, our organisation moved to the next level in terms of production scalability. When such big corporations come to us it’s always flattering as we obviously know about them and admire their business models, so we think 'This is fantastic' because they now recognise that we've reached a certain level in terms of our quality control and our ability to supply that they're comfortable buying from us. We recently launched six lines of Byron Bay Cookies in Woolworths supermarkets across the country and this another significant step for us in terms of our growth plan."

"Growing our international distribution is also on the cards and we've just gone through all the hoops and hurdles to get into Indonesia. The next step will be to send out our initial test product to them."

What's one of the big challenges facing the industry at the moment?

"There are enormous challenges in business at the moment. With the high Australian dollar, and without very much productivity growth all of a sudden we're not as competitive from an export point of view. As such we’re potentially looking at entering into joint ventures or turning up production if possible.”

"Payroll tax is another challenge – I was over in Europe recently and they laugh at our payroll tax. They say 'We want to employ people, we'll give you a grand if you will employ these people for us!' and we're kind of crazy in Australia – we're creating a situation where it's difficult to employ people. With the mining industry doing so well, it creates a whole lot of imbalances for the rest of manufacturing because the costs of getting somebody in are quite high.

"It's a good thing that people get paid fairly, but from a business point of view we also need to ensure we remain profitable. So for example, when we're thinking about launching into a new offshore environment I would like to use our local facilities to do that, but sometimes we might have to consider an offshore facility in order to get the right price point."

What's your next big goal for the brand?

"We've been named as an iconic Australian brand … and that to me is a sign of success, that we're known really well. So we'd like to take that notoriety and translate that into sales so that we're in every pantry in Australia, like Vegemite. That's a local challenge, but we'd also like that to be the case in Europe and the US so the brand is equally well known here as it is in those markets."

If you'd like to be part of Food mag's Industry Map Q&A, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.

 

 

Masterol Foods rising to the challenge despite tough times

The high Australian dollar and competition from foreign imports hasn't stopped Masterol Foods expanding its range of products in the hope that its customers will soon see the value of home grown, healthier alternatives.

Masterol Foods manufactures and distributes vegetable oils, processing aids and ingredients to food manufacturers, from local operations through to national and international brand names.

While Nathan Cater, managing director at Masterol Foods, says the family-owned business is smaller than some of the giant manufacturers in the industry, Masterol has developed a number of products previously unavailable in the Australian market including a range of fluid shortenings for the baking industry. The new range of shortenings are healthier, and perhaps most importantly, Australian.

“They are essentially a different spin on normal bakery margarines and shortenings which are traditionally palm-based products. Instead of being palm-based, which often equates to 50 to 60 percent saturated fat, our pastry and biscuit shortening is Canola-based so saturates are down to 25 or 26 percent, and it is predominantly Australian grown and made content,” said Cater.

“Another advantage is that a liquid formulation means manufacturers are able to use significantly less when compared to traditional shortenings or margarines. It enables manufacturers to design healthier bakery products because you can use up to 20 percent less and the shortening itself has around half the level of saturated fat.”

The pastry and biscuit shortening is suitable for a range of applications and Masterol is hoping to get some of the big brands onboard, hopefully giving imported palm-based products a run for their money.

"Many bakery margarines and shortenings come from Asia, and as a result of the exchange rate, they're cheap too. We have been able to develop Australian grown and manufactured alternatives while remaining competitive with the price of imported product,” said Cater.

"[Palm-based products] are the incumbent in these sorts of applications, so we're more selling our products based on them being an innovative approach – number one, the pricing is competitive. Number two – they’re suited to medium- and large-scale operations because there is no need for cutting and weighing blocks of margarine or shortening, and three – it's going to offer your customers a healthier product because bakery products tend to have a lot of saturated fat in them.”

Other than that, Cater says manufacturers can continue doing what they're doing, making top quality bakery products, but with the knowledge that what they're producing is healthier and is supporting the local food manufacturing industry.

"The main thing that I think will impress people is that the products they're making and the quality they're currently getting from their formulations won't change," he said. "It will taste as good or even better than what they're making now."

While Masterol prepares to release its new range of shortenings to the market, it also has a range of locally designed and manufactured products for the confectionery industry which, again, offer alternatives to imported products.

"We are heavily involved in the confectionery industry with regard to glazing agents for confectionery and chocolate products – products such as jellies and scorched almonds.

“For example, the jellies are coated with an oil to stop them from sticking together and drying out," Cater told Food magazine. “We are the only people in Australia that make most of these products. All panned chocolate and confectionery, for example scorched almonds, liquorice bullets and chocolate-coated sultanas, need to be glazed. We are the only people in Australia that make the shiny stuff."

While proud of these industry-leading products, Cater says Masterol’s biggest accomplishment is simply the fact that it manufactures top quality, home-grown products for use both here and abroad.

“We’re designing and manufacturing these products here as opposed to importing them. Without innovation, I don’t think it’s possible for local manufacturers to make significant inroads in the current market – the only way to succeed is if there is a commitment to research and development and a degree of innovation in what you’re doing.”

 

Inquiry into supermarket bullying misses the real issue

 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced last week that it is investigating claims that Coles and Woolworths are bullying suppliers. The issue is serious, but the ACCC investigation only treats the symptom and diverts attention away from the real cause of the problem: supermarket power.

ACCC enforcement action against the duopoly for “unconscionable conduct” is nothing but a skirmish on the edge of supermarket power. It would be much better to spend time and money on creating alternative ways in which the eaters and producers of food can connect with each other outside of the major supermarket chains.

Chances are the ACCC will not win any unconscionable conduct case against the supermarkets. They have had very limited success in taking action for such conduct in the past. The relevant provisions poorly define unconscionable conduct and leave it to the courts to make a moral judgement in the circumstances of each case.

Here, the allegations are certainly serious. Suppliers claim that Coles and Woolworths require them to make payments above and beyond that negotiated in order to stock their products, and that the supermarkets impose penalties that do not form part of any negotiated terms of trade. Suppliers also claim that the duopoly does not pay the prices agreed and that they discriminate in favour of their own home-brand products.

These tactics may be unattractive, even uncivilised. But they are exactly what we should expect when two retailers hold 80 percent of the grocery market. Coles and Woolworths likely have a bevy of lawyers ready to show that their terms were set out in contracts that suppliers freely agreed to; any deviations were the rogue acts of individual bad apples. The supermarkets will argue that this is nothing more than robust competition in the interests of low prices for consumers.

It will be difficult for the ACCC to prove otherwise. In a competitive marketplace, why not ask for the lowest possible price from suppliers and demand extra payments for shelf space, in-store advertising and so on? Why not prefer home-brand products if they make more profit for the supermarket?

The real worry is the fact that these two supermarkets have gained so much power in the first place. We should not be wasting precious public resources fighting over particular instances of the abuse of that power. Instead, we should use every ounce of imagination and creativity we have to challenge the Coles and Woolworths duopoly over grocery retailing and therefore over the very relationship between consumers and their food.

The tragedy of the Coles-Woolworths duopoly is the narrow, greedy, profit-oriented way in which they control and manipulate the relationship between all of us who eat food and those who produce it. The supermarkets say that they are just delivering what consumers want – cheap, reliable, accessible food. Squeezing producers on prices is supposedly part of that equation.

Yet it is the supermarkets and processed food companies that present food to us as something that should be cheap, plentiful and industrial – devoid of any connection with the earth, sun, animals, plants and people who produce it. They barely give us a chance to find out about where our food comes from, let alone at what cost to humans and ecosystems it is produced and sold. If we knew, we would be shocked.

Take “free range” eggs as an example. Woolworths claim to be continually improving animal welfare standards throughout the supply chain. Coles claim to be helping customers switch to “free range” by cutting their prices on cage free eggs.

Yet both are demanding that producers supply “free range” eggs at a price that can only be delivered by an industrialised, concentrated egg production and retail system. This system does not and cannot match the glossy pictures of happy hens on the carton, yet consumers are told that this is what “free range” must mean.

Many consumers turn off “industrialised supermarket free range” as soon as they realise the conditions that the hens are actually kept in. They are even more likely to do so once they meet a farmer at a farmer’s market and taste a day-old egg from a truly happy hen for breakfast. The story can be repeated for any number of foods on the supermarket shelves.

Duopoly supermarket power is stopping us seeing and imagining alternative ways of producing and buying food. The supermarkets like to tell us that they are giving us affordable choices. Instead of spending money fighting over who they bully to deliver us those low cost choices, let’s spend time and money finding, celebrating and developing alternatives such as local, organic or wholefood stores, farmers' markets, exchange at community food hubs and backyard and urban gardens.

If we spent public money on creating alternative retail spaces and developing affordable ways to make tasty, fresh, sustainable food then there would be some true competition for Coles and Woolworths. Instead of asking the ACCC to occasionally thump the duopolists, let’s try to imagine how to nurture thriving small scale social enterprise to build healthier local relationships between us and our food. Then we can figure out what we need to do to make sure that Coles and Woolworths don’t undermine creative alternatives.

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.

 

How Uncle Tobys led the way with new health claims

Earlier this year the federal government enforced tough new standards for food brands, which aimed to ensure health claims were only displayed on healthy foods.

The new rules were part of the broader movement to keep consumers informed, and brands were given three years to comply with the new measures.

Last month the entire breakfast cereal range for Uncle Tobys met the nutrition guidelines, way ahead of the government's time range.

But compliance was no easy feat, with the changes representing the culmination of a five year program to reduce fat, sugar, and sodium across the entire range.

Food Magazine sat down with Uncle Tobys’ nutrition manager. Nilani Sritharan to get an insight into what happens behind the scenes when major brands modify recipes and make healthy changes.

Slow and steady
Sritharan told Food Magazine one of the key challenges to making any change was ensuring customers stayed on-side.

Consumers grow to expect a certain taste and texture with food products, and changing a winning formula can be risky, even if the change is for the better.

In order to keep customers on-side Sritharan said Uncle Tobys, like other brands, had made healthy improvements in small steps instead of introducing an immediate change.
“If we make the whole change in one go it's just too much for customers to find acceptable,” she said.

“But if you make those changes gradually you may find people don't detect a change in taste.”

Marking Cheerios as a good example, Sritharan said since 2008 Cheerios had seen a 40 percent reduction in sodium, and a fall in sugar from 20 percent to just under 15 percent.
Fibre has also been increased by about 25 percent, and wholegrain content has risen by a similar margin.

While Cheerios customers still place an emphasis on taste, Uncle Tobys was able to introduce significant changes without driving off customers, and Sritharan said the improvement was in-line with broad trends in the breakfast cereal category.

“Overall consumers do expect an Uncle Tobys cereal to be a healthy choice, and these changes are about ensuring we continue to push for what consumers expect,” she said.

Show me the money
While Uncle Tobys has been able to make the transition without losing customers, Sritharan said the changes still required a significant investment of time and money.

“It can be quite a challenge, particularly when you're making quite significant changes over time or you want to keep the shape of the product,” she said.

Part of the challenge stems the balancing act brands play in building the same product with different ingredients.

But Sritharan said in most cases healthy improvements meant tweaking existing practices rather than developing entirely new procedures.

“I don't think it fundamentally changes the manufacturing process but you may find there are changes in texture or stickiness that we would have to work through and adjust for,” she said.

“For example with Cheerios increasing the wholegrain content can sometimes make the Cheerio a bit softer or affect the loop shape itself.

“So looking at some of the mixed grains we have in there, we have to try and balance that out.”

Sritharan said managing the manufacturing process was not the only challenge Uncle Tobys faced in improving nutrition.

"There's a significant cost not just in terms of more expensive ingredients, but also in resources,” she said.

“There's a lot of time spent developing new recipes to try and work towards the nutrient criteria, as well as examining shelf life and other important conditions.

“We've got to spend quite a bit of time developing the recipe and getting it to work once it goes to factory trials.”

A healthy conscience
On top of responding to demands from consumers and regulators, Sritharan told Food Magazine Uncle Tobys introduced healthy changes based on its own corporate values.

“There is an element of responsibility, sodium is probably a good example of that,” she said.

“It wasn't so much that we wanted to make a big song and dance about it, but we simply wanted to be reducing sodium in cereals where we felt we could do that.”

And while not all products react well to healthy changes, Sritharan said Uncle Tobys cereals had continued to stay popular in the market, with consumers supporting the changes.

“At the end of the day, we make 44 cereals and our impact is quite significant and we take that quite seriously,” she said.

 

Horse meat scandal is about breach of consumer trust

 

Woolworths has announced it will conduct DNA tests on its home-brand meals in response to horse meat contamination in Europe. The uproar follows revelations by Irish food inspectors in mid-January that horse meat had been detected in burgers sold in UK supermarket chains.

The story intensified when some Findus and Aldi products labelled as beef were found to be 100 percent  horse meat and may now involve as many as 16 European countries. In response to the growing evidence for widespread mislabelling, the EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg has now urged all EU member states to implement random DNA testing of processed beef products, for a three-month period beginning 1 March.

By saying it will test what it sells here, Woolworths is indicating to both the government and the public that it recognises the issue has become an identifiable risk. And it wants to assure customers that its products are legitimate.

Still, there’s no sign of a problem in Australia that’s similar to what’s happening in Europe, which seems to be in the grip of what is ostensibly economic fraud – the substitution of horse meat in products sold as beef. There don’t seem to be any specific food safety issues involved, although some commentators have raised the possibility of contamination with veterinary pharmaceuticals, which could have a negative impact on human health.

The issue is economic rather than nutritional. People eat meat because they enjoy it – they enjoy the texture and the flavour. Often people become accustomed to the flavour of the meat they eat, so horse meat may taste different, possibly “gamey”, but it’s easy to become accustomed to this.

Horse meat is generally very lean but otherwise nutritionally similar to beef or sheep. It’s a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals (especially iron) and healthy fatty acids (omega-3).

So, at the heart of the issue is a breach of trust for economic gain rather than being fed something unthinkable. Products have been labelled as containing beef, when they may in fact contain up to 100 percent horse meat. But let’s go back to the problem of veterinary pharmaceuticals. Some of these compounds are painkillers and since the human body responds differently to such drugs compared to horses, we get into dangerous territory for human health.

The substance causing the most concern is phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug given to horses for the treatment of lameness, pain and fever. It’s no longer used to treat humans and is not supposed to enter the food chain because it may cause a range of side effects. Some of these are quite serious, such as aplastic anaemia (bone marrow failure) in some people. But authorities in the United Kingdom have declared the illegal horse meat in the food safe to eat.

The difficulty for any regulator, such as the UK Food Standards Agency, is the same as the public faces. There has to be some degree of trust, let’s say, truth in labelling. If a supplier indicates that a food contains particular ingredients, then one can expect it will. Once again, what we’re talking about here is a breach of trust and that’s what’s unacceptable.

For food standards authorities around the world, the question is, does any agency have the ability to test everything? We think that’s what lies at the heart of the matter here. No agency has the resources to test everything and compliance with accepted food standard codes and labelling is vital.

But Europe will recover. Generally speaking, recovery from a scandal of this kind begins with a phase of greater accountability, and a requirement for food manufacturers to provide more independent evidence substantiating the authenticity of ingredients. Rogue operators shown to be breaching trust and behaving fraudulently are punished and banned. This is what we can expect to happen in the coming weeks. The EU Health Commissioner’s announcement suggests that the cleanout has begun.

CSIRO receives funding from Meat and Livestock Australia for research concerning the safety and quality of beef and sheepmeat.

Robyn Warner 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.

 

Food mag awards in focus: Food Safety and Innovation in Non-Food

The Food Magazine awards will return in 2013 and with entries closing on 24 April, now's your chance to have your product recognised by industry peers!

In this preview of the annual awards, we're looking at the Food Safety and Innovation in Non-Food category.

For a company to be eligible for this category, the product or service needs to be directly applicable to the Australian or New Zealand food and beverages industries; offering an aspect of safety within the food processing environment.

This benefit may be realised through design, improved sanitation or additional contribution to food safety. Products that can be entered include protective clothing, sanitation products and services, monitoring equipment, materials handling products and facility fit out products and materials.

Areas of assessment include (as appropriate):

  1. Design, Materials, Specifications and Claims
  2. Innovation in terms of application/ use/ function
  3. Contamination risk reduction and consequence of error
  4. Contribution to food safety /HACCP conformance

In last year's Food magazine awards, the Food Safety and Innovation in Non-Food title went to Make Safe's BaitSafe product.

About the winner
BaitSafe can be installed in ceilings, walls, flat roofed areas and between floors, and eliminates the dangers associated with climbing ladders to gain access to hazardous areas.

It's been designed to be installed easily by the home owner or a pest control professional and can be done in less than 15 minutes.

The system has also been designed with aesthetics in mind as it has a flat contour design and the base unit is virtually invisible within its surroundings. It can even be painted to match existing room colours.

The company do not currently export as it has only recently been released into the market but there has been interest from distributors in New Zealand, Japan, UK, Europe, Taiwan and South Africa.

Gary McMahon, Make Safe CEO, said "We do have plans to export and we are being courted by some of the biggest companies around the globe which is fantastic."

The dangers of disease transmission from rodents are well known and have been associated with over 55 diseases to humans, ranging from viruses to parasitic worms, including choriomeningitis, mild meningitis, weil’s disease, infectious jaundice, tapeworm, skin disease, rat bite fever or relapsing fever. However the most the most common of all is food-poisoning, like salmonella bacteria, which is why a product like BaitSafe provides peace of mind for homeowners.

"It provides a safe barrier which helps to reduce the risks associated with pest control and is also the first of its kind in the world, with a Global Patent filed and the most awarded in [its] class," McMahon said.

For information and entry details, click here.

The 2013 Food Magazine Awards are proudly brought to you by Platinum sponsor Heat and Control. Other sponsors include Flavour Makers, Janbak, HACCP Australia, Kerry Ingredients, Newly Weds Foods, Tronics, APPMA, Earlee Products and Kurz.

 

Amcor acquisitions broaden horizons for IPG

Almost one month after the completion of the Integrated Packaging Group's (IPG) acquisition of three Amcor facilities, the stretch film wrap manufacturer is looking forward to what the $22m deal will bring.

In October last year, IPG acquired the three facilities (in Cheltenham, Chester Hill and Kirrawee) from plastic and paper manufacturing giant Amcor as part of its Aperio acquisition.

The next step, according to Rob Archibald, general manager, sales and marketing at IPG, is to ensure that business continues smoothly for both IPG staff and its clients.

IPG has a 100 day plan to review the business and implement a number of synergies.

"An example would be that at the moment we have a separate sales office and warehouse in Sydney at Regents Park and that will close down and those sales people and all that stock will move over to Chester Hill. So we'll be looking to do some things like that," Archibald told Food magazine.

"Other than that, our priorities are probably two-fold: the new employees and making sure everything's operating efficiently there, and secondly our customers. We'll have a range of things we'll need to do in the short term in regards to new supply agreements and getting suppliers set up because they might not have traded with IPG in the past … So lots of communication with the customers, advising them of the acquisition and the new details in terms of ordering and invoicing and those sorts of things," he said.

In addition to these synergies, IPG will also be capitalising on the broader product range it now offers, with further penetration in food and beverage manufacturing a top priority.

"That's a major market for both our current business and the new business. Particularly now we have new capability which includes extrusion – polyethylene essentially is the main extrusion product and we also, through the new acquisition – have printing, laminating and converting opportunities.

"Also, with the Kirrawee acquisition, that plant produces PVC food wrap films. That, for us, is a new product and market so it takes us into both the industrial and commercial side of food wrapping, so that's things like meat trays and catering packs," said Archibald.

"And the two largest customers for Chester Hill are the breweries, so at that site we do the printed shrink films for Lion and Fosters and plenty of others. There will be customers that we've dealt with as the traditional IPG and there'll be customers that the new businesses deal with that IPG didn't in the past and they're the customers that we'll be looking to really offer a broader product offering to – be it stretch film, printed films, shrink films, laminated films. So that's right through that food and beverage area."

 

Inside Forst’s brand new brewery [images]

After 40 years and 25 million hectolitres of beer, European brewer Forst needed something new to get up-to-date with modern energy requirements and emissions considerations.

It designed an entirely new brewery, and cut costs while doing it.

The new brew house, powered by NORD Drivesystems, aided the brewer in reducing primary energy consumption by 30 percent.

Five large vats, a newly designed water supply, and a malting plant with twelve silos (and three separate storage vats) needed to be built in a space of just 16 months at the 154 year old brewery in Algund, in the Germanic region of Italy.

NORD Drivesystems assembled the geared motors for all the vessels according to the specific requirements of the various applications, from the grinding mill, which gently grinds the malt at the start of the brewing process, to the screw conveyor removing the spent grain.

Mixing malt and spring water in mash tuns and heating involves thermally optimised conducting surfaces at the bottom and the frames of the tun.

A frequency-controlled NORD helical bevel gear motor, equipped with a temperature sensor, drives the agitator inside the vessel.

In turn the liquid is pumped into the lauter tun, where liquid and solid parts are separated in a fully automated process.

As the spent grain settles on the floor of the vat pressure sensors at the bottom of the vessel detect the spent grain’s consistency, and the drive adjusts the machine’s speed accordingly, with flow rates between nine and 14 litres per minute.

To check whether the system is running smoothly, speeds, current consumption, and the motor temperature are centrally monitored continuously a custom-tailored NORD drive unit, a combination of a motor, industrial gear unit, and a helical bevel gear unit, with a maximum torque of 96,000 Nm.

Later stages are handled by various NORD drive motors and drives.

Dr. Walther Unterthurner, Technical Director at the Forst brewery, says the various measures have already reduced the consumption of primary energy by 30 percent.

 

Food mag awards in focus: beverages

The Food Magazine awards will return in 2013 and with entries closing on 24 April, now's your chance to have your product recognised by industry peers!

In this preview of the annual awards, we're looking at the Beverages category.

The entry process for this category is simple; all you need to do is submit details of your company and the product (name, website, address etc) as well as information on how the product is processed, its significance in the market, any details on export opportunities and what measures were taken to ensure food safety.

Images also need to be provided upon submission.

Criteria for the Beverage category is:
Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included in this category that any company, regardless of size, can enter. The product must be developed and/or launched in Australia in 2011 or 2012.

Products that can be entered in this category include beer, fruit juice, tea and pre-mixed spirits.

In last year's Food magazine awards, the Beverage title went to Rebello Wines for its Cheeky Rascal Cider with Mulling Spice Bag.

About the winner
Rebello Wines innovative decision to attach an easy-to-use mulling spice bag to its cider range is what has set this company apart in the art of cider making.

In June 2012, Rebello launched the mulling cider which is the first of its kind on the Australian market. It comes with a spice bag attached which contains a combination of cinnamon, star anise, orange, clove, nutmeg, vanilla and all spice berry.

Ruth Gallace, CEO at Rebello Wines said that a member of the company saw an opportunity to pick up on the cider trend that has taken off in Australia in recent years.

Ruth then went on to expand the idea so that the product could be sold in store and is practical and easy for customers to do at home.

"I can't take the credit myself, one of our team managers is from the UK so he teaches us a lot about cider. Cider is new to Australia and last winter we were putting together mulling spice bags for a lot of our on-premise customers – so literally measuring out the spice and putting it in a calico bag, tying a piece of string around it and teaching them about mulled cider," she said.

"It was pretty cumbersome and it got us thinking, 'how can we make this easy?' Then, over a cup of tea, I thought 'just put the spices in like a tea bag!’'

"So that’s what we've done, put our own mulled spice recipe into a pyramid tea bag as apparently it moves around in the triangle space and infuses better and then we’ve attached that to the necker of the bottle and introduced that to Australia, so hopefully now Australians can very easily make a mulled cider."

2013 – is this your year?
This year's awards will be presented at Sydney's Luna Park on 26 July, and will be a great opportunity for all finalists to not only have their product(s) on display, but also network with other industry members. Finalists will also receive coverage in Food magazine and on its website, including its twice weekly e-newsletters.

For information and entry details, click here.

The 2013 Food Magazine Awards are proudly brought to you by Platinum sponsor Heat and Control. Other sponsors include Flavour Makers, Janbak, HACCP Australia, Kerry Ingredients, Newly Weds Foods, Tronics, APPMA, Earlee Products and Kurz.

 

Food contamination – a weighty issue

Looking out for certain features of weighing equipment can help food manufacturers maximise their return on investment, and minimise the risk of contamination. Isaac Leung writes.

Food contamination can occur via any number of vectors, so constant vigilance is required during every step of the food supply chain.

One oft-overlooked source of food contamination is weighing equipment, a fundamental part of portioning in food processing.

Current international standards which govern hygiene in relation to weighing equipment in the food industry include the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) guidelines, BRC Global Food Standard, SQF program, ISO 22000, and the NSF 3-A/ANSI 14159-1 standard.

Locally, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code relating to Food Premises and Equipment stipulates that equipment needs to be designed, constructed, located and installed to ensure there is no likelihood they will cause food contamination, and can be easily and effectively cleaned.

In the case of food contact surfaces, for example, where a scale has foodstuff set on it during the portioning process, the rules are even stricter: in addition to the above, they need to be able to be sanitised, and be unable to absorb grease, food particles and water, and made of material which will not contaminate food.

Similar requirements can be found in the policies of food retailers. For example, Woolworths’ Quality Assurance Standard pertaining to Manufactured Foods require well-documented procedures for the microbiological and chemical cleaning of processing and handling equipment. These cleaning procedures are backed up by visual inspection, residue testing, and quarterly microbiological swabbing of surfaces and equipment.

Woolworths also requires planned preventative maintenance programs which include clean in place (CIP) operations utilising documented chemicals, hot water and energy like scrubbing or high pressure hosing.

According to Phil Hyland, project manager at Mettler Toledo, the last three to four years have seen a tightening of hygiene controls as a number of high-profile food contamination cases have emerged globally.

Weighing equipment manufacturers have kept an eye on these stringent demands, and designed their equipment to be correspondingly easier to clean, with less food traps and areas which could become sources of cross-contamination.

Materially-speaking
By virtue of their function, weighing equipment consists of a mix of direct food contact surfaces and non-contact surfaces.

On a scale, non-product contact surfaces can include the terminal, housing, and feet, but these can cause indirect contamination. Depending on the type of food being weighed, the feet of scales can also be in direct food contact.

Contact surfaces are defined as surfaces in direct contact with food residue, or where food residue can drip, drain, diffuse or be drawn. The scale platform is the most obvious direct food contact surface.

These surfaces need to be smooth, non-porous, non-absorbent, impervious; free of cracks, crevices, pitting, flaking, and chipping; corrosion-resistant; durable and maintenance-free; non-toxic, non-contaminant; cleanable and non-reactive.

The standard material for contact surfaces is stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant and durable. 316 steel is preferred, while 304 stainless steel is also adequate.

To attain the requisite hygiene ratings, the surface needs to be polished to a smoothness of 0.8 micron or better. Rougher surfaces prevent effective cleaning as microorganisms become trapped in the surface, becoming a bacteria trap.

Of course, cleanability can also be dependent on the finishing technology, which can affect the surface topology.

Where other materials are used, plastics should be food grade, and smooth ceramics is also a common material.

According to Hyland, the common approach to use silicon-based potting material to protect sensitive parts of weighing equipment, such as the load cell, is insufficient for food-grade equipment. Certain cleaning products can shorten the life of silicon potting materials. A better approach is to protect the load cell with a welded, IP69 rated seal.

Designed for cleaning
The ability for equipment to handle heavy washdowns is one of the things which differentiates food-grade industrial weighing systems from, say, a kitchen scale. But Hyland says customers who only focus on the washdown capabilities of equipment may be overlooking other important factors.

“They often haven’t looked at the ability to clean the equipment properly, such as ensuring there are no food traps,” Hyland explained. “The converse applies: you could have a machine which is open and able to be washed down but the equipment eventually suffers from the cleaning.”

“We’re looking for something that can be cleaned to a satisfactory standard and yet be able to withstand that process.”

Equipment which is poorly designed may require more severe and prolonged cleaning. Aggressive chemicals and longer clean/decontamination cycles increase maintenance cost and downtime, and in the long run, can reduce the life of the product.

To avoid food traps, equipment should not have sharp corners and crevices, and mated surfaces should be continuous and substantially flush. Construction should allow easy disassemble for cleaning and inspection.

Internal angles should be rounded to standards-specified radii. Most standards specify the avoidance of sharp corners, less than 90 degrees.

Particular features which allow for easy cleaning include full stainless steel construction, smooth surfaces, continuously welded and completely closed columns with no disturbing cables, and ingress protection of IP68 or IP69K.

“IP69K sealing gives our food industry equipment very good protection against hot, high-pressure hosing,” Hyland said. “When you are in a meat room or a food processing area, the temperature often changes. If a freezer comes on, for example, you can have a large change in air temperature.”

To combat condensation within equipment due to temperature changes, the machines should be well-sealed, and properly vented.

“Food equipment in high-condensation areas will have Gore-Tex vents, which allow a balance of air pressure, so it doesn’t try to suck in moist air, but also does not allow moisture in through the vent,” Hyland explained.

Holistic approach
While the design of equipment is an important aspect of food safety, food safety auditors say many manufacturers often spend millions of dollars on equipment, only to find themselves out of step with their core customers’ requirements.

Standards like the Woolworths Quality Assurance Standards and the Coles Housebrand Supplier Program specify a comprehensive set of requirements, which relate to factors beyond equipment design like equipment placement, calibration, cleaning, interfaces with other equipment, and data retrieval and analysis.

By having a good understanding of all aspects of these requirements, in addition to equipment design, food manufacturers can minimise the risk of contamination, and ensure they are compliant with relevant standards.