Food industry to benefit from RFID

The results of a pilot program to test integrated electronic product code (EPC) and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology across a number of industries, including the food industry, were presented at a seminar in Sydney as part of the SMART 2007 Conference.

The National EPC Network Demonstrator Project Extension, carried out by a multi-industry Australian consortium, including MasterFoods and Procter & Gamble, demonstrated how RFID using the GS1 global standards can provide opportunities for streamlining operations and improving supply chain collaborations.

The consortium achieved a 100% EPC/RFID tag read rate and reported customer productivity gains of 22.2%.

While the technology is relatively new in Australia, results of the recent RFID pilot, including improved productivity, delivery processing times and visibility throughout the supply chain, point to numerous advantages for the food industry.

As well as improving logistics efficiency, the implementation of RFID technology will allow for on-shelf tracking of individual consumer items that is not possible with barcoding.

According to a new report by IDTechEx, the use of RFID technology within in the food industry is expected to rise in the next 10 years.

GS1 chief operating officer Mark Fuller said the food industry will benefit from using RFID.

“As well as increasing the visibility of stock and being able to physically track pallets and cartons as they move from one site to the next, RFID will improve the management of products, on-shelf replenishment and tracking promotions,” Fuller said.

Food manufacturers and retailers can also expect this technology to improve food safety and product recalls.

“What is important for consumers is that the products they are eating are safe,” said Fuller.

“RFID allows manufacturers and importers to ensure the ingredients being used are what they should be, which is of particular importance considering the counterfeit products entering the market.

“In terms of recalls, individual tagging of consumer items in the future will allow for selective removal of spoilt products as opposed to clearing entire shelves,” he said.

Despite obvious benefits, there are factors impeding industry-wide implementation of RFID including the cost of tagging, currently around the 7.5 cents mark for bulk purchases, as well as the cost of software, process changes and weighing up the return on investment.

“Implementing RFID is not a simple thing to do, it is a major move for an organisation but a move that is inevitable,” Fuller said.

“The major retailers have said for certain it is going to come and it’s not far away.”

The GS1 advisory group, comprised of industry leaders such as Woolworths, Coles and Visy, are currently devising a road map to assist the food industry in implementing RFID over the next few years.

LabWare wins award

Laboratory Automation software specialists, LabWare, has won the Scientific Computing and Instrumentation’s Readers’ Choice Award in the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) category for the eighth consecutive year.

Labware’s flagship product, the LabWare LabStation, which is built into LabWare LIMS’s, was also awarded the Instrument Integration category award.

As the leading LIMS journal, Scientific Computing and Instrumentation conduct an annual Readers’ Choice Award survey, asking readers to rate various laboratory applications and instrument categories.

With its ability to provide a wide range of support for instruments, combined with its advanced connectivity features, the LabStation proved more popular than other Instrument Integration products in the market.

Cheese exports to South Korea increase ten-fold

There was a ten-fold increase in cream cheese exports from Australia over the three months to the end of June, resulting from a strategic shift to non trans-fatty foods across South Korea’s 420 Dunkin’ Donut stores, says Austrade.

With the core of its product being fried, Dunkin’ Donuts revised its menu and recently developed a bagel and cream cheese menu for its Korean customers.

Austrade senior business development manager, Hae-Sook Chung said the Australian cream cheese deal with Dunkin’ Donuts was the result of the company purchasing cream cheese from WhiteCheese, a Korean company that had bought the cheese from Australia’s leading dairy manufacturer, National Foods.

Austrade maintains it was instrumental in introducing National Foods to the Korea-based suppliers of the cheese to Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Austrade’s Seoul office has worked for ten years with National Foods providing in-market support,” Chung said.

National Foods cheese export manager Tony Gunnis said specialty cheese products were an important part of the company’s international growth strategy, together with its milk and juice categories.

“The partnership with WhiteCheese to supply Australian cream cheese to Dunkin’ Donuts stores in Korea has represented an extraordinary growth opportunity,” Gunnis said.

According to Austrade, Australian products are making a significant impact in South Korea; currently Australia’s third biggest merchandise export market.

As a highly brand-oriented society, ‘Brand Australia’ is an important marketing and business platform in Korea.

Innovative closure technology for beverage industry

Erie Plastics has launched an innovative closure technology and turnkey solution for the beverage and health drink markets. The Pop N’ Shake is an advanced, dispensing closure technology, allowing consumers to create their own blended drink on demand.

A range of flavours, ingredients, vitamins and minerals are dispensed into a bottled drink with the turn of a tamper-evident dust cover and ‘pop’ of an inner-cap chamber. The closures are customised to meet a wide range of beverage needs across the bottled water, juice, dairy, tea, coffee and health drink markets. The closure is also well suited for nutraceutical and organic applications.

Key features of Erie’s Pop N’ Shake closure include a PET chamber that works with both liquid and powder; dual tamper-evident design; and an innovative patent-pending moisture and oxygen barrier, providing secure separation from active and inactive ingredients.

“Our strategy was to focus on superior design and full functionality, and to launch the closure once we established a vertically-integrated closure system and turnkey solution for beverage producers,” Erie’s chairman and CEO P.C. Hoop Roche said.

“From what we’ve already heard from a number of global beverage and nutraceutical companies, the Pop N’ Shake closure is in the lead when it comes to both functionality and readiness for market.”

To provide a turnkey solution for beverage manufacturers, the company recently developed and installed a fill, seal and assembly production line in a food-grade processing/filling white room, which is also equipped to run leak testing and metal detection operations. The Pop N’ Shake closures are currently available in a 26mm size, with development of a 38mm closure in its final stages and due for release in late August.

Unistraw’s Sipahh straws an international success

Unistraw International’s Sipahh Milk Flavouring Straws have gained international success since its launch 18 months ago. Since late 2005, contracts with food and beverage distributors in more than 100 countries, including all the G8, have been successfully negotiated.

Austrade’s regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Leith Doody said Austrade has been working with Unistraw in many markets.

“The G8 economies are all large, highly competitive and established markets, so innovation and tapping the resources that exist for companies in those markets will help your business achieve success in these regions – as Unistraw has discovered,” Doody said.

Unistraw’s CEO, Martin Chimes said the company is determined to make history by changing the way people flavour and fortify beverages globally.

“The Unistraw Delivery System straw technology has a multitude of applications. It also fits with the current growing consumer trend for products that combine health and convenience,” Chimes said.

According to the company, the research and development team are finalising a number of unique products including straws that will flavour water, as well as deliver medication, probiotics and neutraceuticals.

Unistraw’s trading model has attracted interest from overseas partners who represent Unistraw branded products in a specific country or market. In the near future companies will be able to license the Unistraw Delivery System to deliver their own product formulations and brands in new ways. Several international market leaders are interested in engaging Unistraw as a platform to revolutionise their own food, beverage and pharmaceutical product brands.

George Weston Foods strengthens portfolio

Leading Australian food manufacturer, George Weston Foods (GWF), announced earlier this month that it acquired Australian Garlic Bread (AGB) in Capalaba, Queensland.

Having commenced operations in October 1994, AGB is now the largest producer of garlic bread products in Australia, with customers including Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, Woolworths, ALDI, Coles and Franklins.

“The acquisition of AGB will provide GWF with an opportunity to extend into the chilled bread category — strengthening the company’s existing portfolio comprising some of the nation’s most loved brands,” GWF’s banking divisional chief executive, Richard Meagher said.

The company maintains the acquistion forms part of their committment to the growth of the Austalian bakery industry and intends for business to continue as usual for all staff and suppliers at AGB.

Innovative solution for LCL frozen cargo

Shipping and logistics provider, OOCL will launch Reefer LCL Plus in mid-August, a service for transporting less than container load (LCL) quantities of frozen cargo to Hong Kong and Tokyo.

For many years exporters and importers of frozen cargo between Australia and Asia have not had a regular, scheduled sea-freight service for LCL quantities and have had to opt for more expensive options such as airfreight or freight full-sea freight container loads.

OOCL said the Reefer LCL is a new opportunity for exporters and importers of small loads of frozen cargo to ship them on a regular basis at economical costs, meeting the needs of a growing frozen cargo market with Hong Kong and Japan.

“Operating through our accredited and approved cold stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Tokyo, our customers are assured of a first class professional service”, OOCL Australia’s national sales manager Tim Mason said.

“Customers can be confident that their cargo is in good care as OOCL will be managing their shipments from time of receipt to the time of delivery”, he said.

Weekly services will be available from both Melbourne and Sydney on an alternating basis.

Interested customers can access this service by phoning OOCL customer service on 1300 662573.

Register now for National Retail Forum 2007

Australia’s leading retail conference, National Retail Forum 2007, will be held from 14 to 16 August at Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

Featuring more than 25 leading industry experts and strategists from across the retail spectrum, including Peter Alexander, founder of Peter Alexander Pyjamas; Bernie Brookes, CEO of Myer; and Pierce Cody, director of Macro Wholefoods; the forum will cover topics including the retail environment, the consumer and differentiation in a crowded retail segment.

National Retail Forum delegates who pre-register online before Tuesday 24 July will receive a voucher for a free pair of Peter Alexander pyjamas.

The National Retail Forum will run concurrent to Retail Expo Australasia, Australia’s largest retail exhibition.

14th Annual HACCP Conference approaches

The 14th Australian HACCP Conference Series will take place at the Radisson Resort Gold Coast from July 30th to August 3rd, 2007.

Issues to be discussed at the Conference include foodborne pathogens, food hygiene and safety, food labelling, food packaging to ensure food safety and pest management.

The Conference will include Lectures/Discussions, Workshops, Conference Dinner, HACCP Awards, Inaugural HACCP Golf day, Trade Exhibitions and the two day conference.

Download the Program and Registration Information or Register online.

For further information, email or call 02 9898 0344.

Royal Melbourne Wine Show gets underway

After thousands of bottles of wine from wineries across Australia were delivered to the Melbourne Showgounds for The Royal Melbourne Wine Show, judging started yesterday, July 16.

The Royal Melbourne Wine Show is one of Australia’s largest and most prestigious wine shows and the annual awards are recognised by the wine producers as an important competition in which to benchmark their produce.

More than 490 Australian wineries sent in whites and reds amounting to more than 3,845 entries.

The Royal Melbourne Wine Show is introducing two new classes of white wine and a single vineyard class to the award categories in 2007.

Amcor’s new retail packaging initiative

Amcor Australasia has launched a new retail packaging initiative to showcase emerging technology and innovation in primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

Retail 2010 — Packaging the Future, is a physical and virtual tour of a simulated retail supply chain from the perspective of a package, presenting Amcor’s unique capabilities to create integrated packaging solutions including packaging design and development, retail-ready packaging, point-of-sale displays and RFID.

Simulating communication between Amcor, its customers and other members of the retail supply chain, the Retail 2010 demonstrates the latest in retail solutions, while facilitating the development of practical solutions to meet changing retail packaging requirements.

Based at Amcor’s Research and Technology centre in Alphington, Melbourne, Retail 2010 makes use of Amcor’s world-class packaging design and testing services including virtual computer simulations, primary and secondary packaging prototyping, forensic laboratory testing and transport simulation.

A scaled-down physical retail environment was also purpose-built by Amcor, including back-of-store, a mini-supermarket and point-of-sale check-out portal. A guided tour takes less than three hours and is divided into four key elements, including design, manufacture, distribution and sale, each held in different locations throughout Amcor’s Research and Technology unit.

Believed to be the first of its kind outside Europe and the USA, Retail 2010 was officially launched in early 2007 and feedback from retailers and customers has been positive.

Price increases to hit growers, manufacturers and consumers

As input costs continue to rise across a range of food and grocery categories in Australia, growers and manufacturers are finding it difficult to contain costs, resulting in a likely price increase of consumer products.

“There have always been fluctuations in prices, particularly for fresh products due to seasonal issues such as drought and floods, but there are other factors that are now impacting on the cost of producing items,” Food and Grocery Council Chief Executive Dick Wells said.

Wells commented that while suppliers and retailers are sensitive to consumer sentiment on price increases and seek to reduce costs, increases remain inevitable.

“Input costs for fuel, fertiliser, labour and other inputs have increased substantially, but the fact is that farmers and manufacturers along the supply chain have been absorbing these costs for a long time”, Wells said. “At some point this becomes unsustainable and to remain viable companies have no choice but to seek to pass some of the costs on.”

According to the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the alternative use of grains and oil seeds to produce bio-fuels has contributed to the rising cost of inputs. Despite being an unpopular reality for consumers, increased food and grocery prices are necessary if the supply is to be maintained and improvements in food safety, traceability, innovation, range and quality are to continue.

Frutarom Switzerland opens Innovation Centre

Global flavour and fine ingredients company, Frutarom Switzerland has opened its new Innovation Centre which will serve as the European site for innovation projects, inviting customers and Frutarom staff from the various sites to jointly work on creative new solutions that combine flavors, food systems, herbal extracts and other functional ingredients.

The centre is made up of modern conference facilities, flavour analysis and flavour creation areas, sensor technology, and application-related confectionery, baked goods and beverages departments, as well as a ‘show kitchen’, enabling the company to present its products to customers in an imaginative way.

Frutarom develops, manufactures and markets an extensive variety of high quality flavors and natural fine ingredients for customers in the food, beverage, flavor, fragrance, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, food additive, and cosmetic industries.

Frutarom’s 15,000 products are sold in 120 countries around the world. The Frutarom Group has 1,200 employees worldwide and manufacturing facilities in Europe, North America, Israel and Asia. Frutarom operates through two divisions: Flavors Division, which develops, produces and markets flavor compounds and food systems. Fine Ingredients Division, which develops, produces and markets natural flavor extracts, functional food ingredients, natural pharmaceutical/nutraceutical extracts, specialty essential oils, citrus products and aroma chemicals.

FoodWorks advances in NSW market

Leading independent supermarket group, FoodWorks, continues to strengthen its presence across New South Wales (NSW), with FoodWorks Coonamble opening on schedule this week, and an additional three stores in this state secured to be operational soon.

The opening of FoodWorks Coonamble, bringing the FoodWorks Group’s total number of NSW stores to 57, with over 710 nationally, adds to the company’s recent success in internal capital raising, generating in excess of a targeted $10 million. According to the company, the Group’s recent achievements have provided tangible resources to strengthen their positioning in the competitive NSW market.

“The Australian supermarket industry is undergoing a significant restructuring with long-term changes, seeing one of the powerhouses crumbling and changing ownership, and the independents ready to surge and grow their market share,” FoodWorks national business development manager Simon Thompson said.

While the capital raised will go towards key growth initiatives that are yet to be finalised, the Group’s growth has already commenced, with 30 new stores from competitor brands joining FoodWorks over the past 12 months in addition to 16 new-to-industry stores. Plans to open a further 49 new stores over the next 12 months have been secured.

FOOD Awards dinner event dazzles guests

This year’s FOOD Challenge Awards dinner event was a huge success. Over 210 guests celebrated the achievements of 20 companies at FOOD Magazine’s third-annual FOOD Challenge Awards, held on July 11 in Sydney.

The Awards, held at Doltone House on James Bay Wharf, showcased the large amount of innovation and excellence within Australia’s food and beverage industry today. A winner and highly commended were awarded in each of the categories, which included snackfood, confectionery, soups and prepared foods, ready meals, meat and smallgoods, dairy, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, baked goods, and health and wellness. An award for best in show was also given to the winner that had demonstrated outstanding innovation and excellence.

Guest came from various sectors within the food and beverage industry, representing brands belonging to Heinz and Simplot, as well as smaller companies. Other guests came were suppliers to the food and beverage industry. As well as being attended by finalists, the event’s sponsors Amcor, Danisco, Flavour Makers, Kerry Ingredients, Heat and Control, Insignia, Imaje and Earlee Products, Tronics and Peacock Bros were present. Ibex Group was unable to be there.

Guest speakers Dick Wells from the AFGC, Marcus Lui from the One Centre, and Peter Baron from Uni Straw offered some valuable and entertaining insights into different trends, developments and innovations within the industry, while Master of Ceremonies, Jamie Wade of Reed Business Information, ensured the event was enjoyed by all.

All winners of the 2007 FOOD Challenge Awards will be revealed and featured in the August issue of FOOD Magazine.

Food and beverage export programme announced

The government’s work programme, partnering with industry to grow New Zealand’s high-value food and beverage exports, was launched yesterday at the Villa Maria Winery in Auckland.

The work programme is the government’s response to last year’s Food and Beverage Taskforce report Smart Food, Cool Beverage and is comprised of six initiates including $19 million for in-market assistance for the sector offshore.

“Thanks to its innovation and scale, the food and beverage sector will continue to have a long term and major positive impact on New Zealand’s economy,” Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard said.

“This sector is central to New Zealand’s economic performance. Half of New Zealand’s exports are food-related and the sector employs one-in-five people. The growth in the sector’s productivity in both on-farm production and in food manufacturing has been consistently above the average for the whole economy.”

This package exists on top of budget and other recent initiatives to assist the food sector including $8 million for research into increasing productivity and sustainability across primary sectors, and $14 million for research into innovative foods and other products.

Mallard commented that the programme’s initiatives aim to lift New Zealand’s exports and help grow more firms that are export-capable and internationally competitive in this area.

“When we talk about economic transformation, this is what we mean — using our existing strengths and capabilities to move into high-value but related areas of export activity that deliver us higher wages and a better standard of living.”

AFGC welcomes new Coles Group

Food and grocery manufacturers in Australia have welcomed the prospect of new stability and certainty for retailer Coles Group Limited.

While the process of considering a new owner for Coles has inevitably caused some uncertainty across the entire industry, the announcement of the recommendation by the Coles board removes a considerable degree of uncertainty from the market.

“Comments by Wesfarmers, the buyer recommended by the Coles board to shareholders, indicate a commitment to be part of a secure, growing Australian food retail sector focused on serving consumers,” Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Dick Wells said.

According to Wells, consumers and those along the supply chain, including manufacturers and distributors, all benefit from a dynamic and competitive retail sector.

“Australians rely on the food and grocery chain to keep up the supply of quality products, well priced and consistently available on retail shelves,” Wells said.

“Food and grocery manufacturers will continue to work alongside all parties throughout the supply chain to keep delivering consistent, quality and competitive products to the Australian community.”

Jesters pies given the Tick of approval

Jesters pies have been approved with a Tick by the National Heart Foundation (NHF) under their strict new regulations for meals eaten out, becoming the first café chain and the only national pie franchise to gain the Tick for a range of pies.

By reformulating five of its pies, Jesters removed two tonnes of saturated fat and nearly one tonne of trans fat from the food supply in 2006, reducing the trans fat levels in their Tick pies by an average of 82%.

With over 150 million pies being eaten out of the home each year, there are many Australians in need of a genuinely healthier alternative.

“It’s a common misconception that pies are an unhealthy meal. We’re delighted that the Heart Foundation Tick recognises the nutritional content of our pies to be that of a healthier standard,” Jesters Manufacturing Manager Norm Nugent said.

The NHF said Jesters are to be congratulated for taking in the challenge of meeting the Tick standards.

“Jesters will be subjected to regular random audits that will assess their pie preparations, ensuring the highest standards are maintained,” NHF Tick Manager Susan Anderson said.

National Foods switches to Linde

One of Australia’s largest food companies has begun a major upgrade of its materials handling capabilities as it progressively switches over to a fleet of Linde equipment.

National Foods (NFL), a wholly owned subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation, has core activities in milk, fresh dairy foods, juice and specialty cheese, with 3500 employees and 20 processing plants around Australia and New Zealand.

“With the acquisition of National Foods Limited by San Miguel and the integration of Berri Juices, the acquisition of King Island and more recently Lactos, the group had a number of material handling equipment (MHE) suppliers,” Logistic Development Coordinator, Jody Hussey said.

“There was also a mixture of owned and leased equipment, so our aim was to rationalise that situation and ultimately select a single, national preferred MHE supplier.”

After an extensive selection process over several months, National Foods chose Linde to be that supplier and the company is now rolling out more than 200 Linde pallet stackers, forklifts and reach trucks.

“The decision came down to four key areas: occupational health and safety issues, productivity, repairs, and maintenance and battery management for our electric forklifts,” Hussey said.

Linde’s equipment came out ahead in all four areas.

Linde will assist NFL by supplying materials handling equipment as well as being a fleet management company.

“We are not MHE experts and therefore we are looking to Linde to assist in obtaining improvements in areas such as battery management, equipment utilisation and reduced down time,” she said.

“Safety initiatives are also a high priority.” As current equipment leases expire across all NFL sites, the units are being replaced with Linde equipment in a process expected to be completed within 18 months.

Although the total number of units involved is expected to be around 200, a final number has not yet been determined.

Amendments made to food standards

Changes to food regulations will significantly improve the assessment and consultation procedures for new and amended food standards.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Brett Mason, said the amendments would make the regulation process more efficient, while improving consultation with stakeholders.

“The new arrangements recognise the changing environment for food safety and food innovation, while reducing red tape,” Senator Mason said. “The Australian Government is committed to food regulation that is transparent and accountable, while providing the greatest protection to consumers.”

Until now, Food Standards Australia New Zealand has been required to use a ‘one size fits all’ model for assessing applications to amend food standards, regardless of the scope of the proposed change. This has resulted, at times, in a significant backlog of applications.

Amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991, passed in the last sitting of Federal Parliament and which became law this week (on July 1), remove this problem by allowing three different streams for applications, based on the level of complexity.

An appropriate amount of time and a corresponding level of public consultation will be introduced for each assessment stream. Although major changes to a food standard or the development of a new food standard will take up to 12 months, minor changes will now have to be processed within three months. Most changes to food standards will now take nine months, down from an average of around 16 months previously.

Senator Mason said the new process would apply to all applications received from October 1.