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True Foods sees the benefits of innovation

A large audience gathered at the Victorian Manufacturing Showcase in Ballarat to hear from business leaders about challenges and opportunities in emerging growth sectors, writes Hartley Henderson.

Key factors considered central to success in today’s changing manufacturing environment included an ability to adapt, the development of a competitive risk-taking culture, and exploiting collaboration with other companies and universities.

Also highlighted was the critical role of strong leadership, involvement of employees in seeking new ideas and productivity improvement, and recognising the importance of consistently delivering quality added value products for clients.

True Foods is an Australian owned family business that was established in 2001 as a specialist manufacturer of flat bread products.

In 2011 the company purchased a major production facility in the Victorian regional town of Maryborough which consists of 27 acres with 3 acres under roof.

True Foods Director, Mark Thurlow, says the company has experienced enormous growth in its production capabilities, now employs some 250 people, and has an annual turnover of around $50 million.

“We have grown to become the largest Australian-owned manufacturer of Tortilla Wraps, flatbread products, and bakery snacks such as crumpets and pikelets, and this is supported by a supply chain that distributes significant volumes of shelf stable, ambient and frozen products nation-wide,” he said.

“Innovation is a driving force in our success and we continue to invest in new capabilities and capacity to bring innovative new products to market for our customers, which range from large multi-national supermarket brands and international franchise groups to weight-loss companies and health food chains.

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“Our culture of innovation is aimed at finding unique solutions across the entire value chain – from new product development, to purchasing of raw materials, and finding new production and supply chain efficiencies. We are always looking to invest in new capabilities that are synergistic with our existing purchasing, production and supply chain efficiencies.

“The focus on innovation is backed by an R&D team that is equipped for rapid prototyping to help us quickly focus on a clients’ specific brief, and our multiple production lines have all been modified to make slightly different products. This in turn means that the company has some of the broadest capability in Australia to offer a range of products, with or without inclusions, and to make multiple health claims.

“We are constantly increasing the range of products we offer, and because of our ability to run segregated production lines, allergen-free, gluten-free, organic, Kosher or Halal products can be effectively processed.

“It is people that make a business and development of a loyal culture and a highly reliable workforce is essential. We have established a diverse management team with backgrounds in food manufacturing, food technology, logistics management, corporate finance and marketing, and a key feature of the company’s culture is to encourage and listen to employee ideas.”

Collaboration benefits

Thurlow says great emphasis is also placed on collaboration, communication and the sharing of ideas, both internally, with suppliers, and with valued customers.

“For example, True Foods enjoys a wonderful working partnership with the team at Laucke Flour Mills, with significant collaboration on many of the technical aspects of flour right across the supply chain – from sourcing grain, to developing technical specifications, right through delivery and final use in our facility,” he explained.

“Both companies have invested considerable time to better understand the requirements of the other, and through this transparent and collaborative approach we have built significant trust.

“Through their hands-on approach, world-class equipment and technical knowledge, we have developed a flour that consistently meets our specialised needs, and we continue to work on cross-seasonal strategies.

“Actively engaging with our partners at all levels is a central feature of our operations. This includes identifying emerging trends and working with our partners to develop market leading products, achieving supply chain efficiencies, and utilising lean manufacturing to drive costs out at all levels of our production process.”

According to the General Manager of Laucke, Peter Cobb, locality is a key factor in enabling strong collaboration between Laucke and True Foods. “We are positioned at Bridgewater on Loddon, which is only about 40 minutes by road from True Foods in Maryborough,” he said.

“This assists many areas of collaboration, including in product development because we are able to instantly run samples from our laboratory to True Foods and thereby help our client to keep ahead of the game.

“Close geographic location also applies to logistics where collaboration with another partner, CVT Transport, which is located in Maryborough, provides very fast and reliable delivery of the main bulk ingredient flour in specialised tankers from Laucke storage containers to True Foods, where the flour is blown into their bulk storage facility.

“In this way, raw materials supply is managed in an extremely efficient and reliable manner to give True Foods comfort in its scheduling, which in turn also benefits effective scheduling at Laucke.

“Strong collaboration is providing a strategic advantage by enabling differentiated supply options to be offered to ensure the management of quality as well as efficiency in delivery of tailored products to our client.

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“We have developed a flour specific to True Foods requirements to ensure that it goes through its automated plant in a certain way, ensuring for example that the correct amount of water is absorbed by the flour and that specific requirements for consistency are met.”

Cobb says Laucke is able to tailor the flour to end user requirements in niche markets, which includes the supply of specialty flours such as certified organic, and differentiates the company from big multinationals.

“At the planning stage we work closely with True Foods product development team and are also able to provide ideas and feedback on marketing and sales strategies for specific products.

“The relationship between Laucke and True Foods is multi-tiered and there is an understanding about how each other’s factories operate. Information is shared openly including between CEO’s, production schedulers and planners, and often across both organisations by people of equal job function.”

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