Be Natural spreads across supermarket floors

Be Natural is launching the largest in-store execution installed in an Australian supermarket, with a floor decal that stretches the entire length of the cereal and snack aisle in Woolworths.

The trial installation, run by Torchmedia is in 10 Woolworths supermarkets around Australia and includes a number of messages promoting a healthier lifestyle and growing your own fruits and vegetables.

General manager of TorchMedia, Kirsty Dollisson, said “We want to own the aisle more than we do, raising the profile of this format and displaying the enormous strength of in-store advertising.”

Torchmedia ran a similar aisle campaign in 2012 for Pepsi Next, but of a smaller size.

The campaign begins in early May and runs until the beginning of June.


Mondelez launches new mobile marketing campaign

Mondelez International has launched a new mobile marketing initiative, where five big Australian brands are paired with five start-ups to accelerate and scale existing mobile innovations in 90 days.

The five brands getting involved in ‘Mobile Futures Australia’ are; Cadbury Dairy Milk, Marvellous Creations, Cadbury Favourites, Philadelphia cream cheese and belVita breakfast biscuits.

The initiative was launched last year in the US and Brazil, and aims to ignite the company’s consumer connections by collaborating with some of the most innovative minds in the mobile space – start-up entrepreneurs.

The program is about understanding and embracing the startup entrepreneurial spirit. Start-ups will work one-on-one with the five brands to customise and accelerate their mobile platforms, and activate pilots within 90 days. Brands will start by spending one week working side-by-side with their start-ups and their headquarters, immersing the company’s marketers into start-up culture.

Bonin Bough, vice president of global media at Mondelēz International said “around half of Australian consumers’ online activity occurs via mobile or tablet devices, but there’s a big gap between that mobile usage and where companies are investing their ad budgets”.

“This program will further drive innovation within our own organisation and create a culture of ‘intrapreneurship’. Out of that new culture will emerge new, innovative ideas that will shape the future of mobile,” Bough said.


Wilmar to establish own marketing company

Australia’s largest sugar miller has announced plans to establish its own selling and marketing company.

Singaporean-owned Wilmar Sugar operates in North Queensland, producing more than two million tonnes of raw sugar a year, ABC Rural reports.

Wilmar Sugar will sever its marketing ties with Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL) and create a jointly-controlled marketing company that is equally owned by growers and Wilmar.

Wilmar’s executive general manager for north Queensland, John Pratt said “We’re very confident that we can create greater value than the current arrangements.”

Growers are still coming to terms with a different marketing landscape, and many are angered by the idea.

The chairman of Canegrowers Burdekin Phil Marano said growers weren't consulted about the move away from QSL. "Until we see what they have to offer or what their proposal is, we're uncertain who this can be transparent, how we can be assured growers are getting the best price for the cane they supply."

Grower and contract harvester, Gary Stockholm is one of the 1,500 growers meeting with Wilmar to find out what exactly will be offered. "We want a guaranteed price for our sugar, how they're going to market it, how they're going to sell it and make sure we do get paid for it, how're they going to do the advances and all that, like QSL looks after us,” Stockholm said. "That's what we grow sugar for, to get paid so we want guarantees that when we put it on the line, we get our share, we get our good price for it."

The announcement is less than a year after Wilmar was forced to abandon an attempt to access a greater share of the production from its mills after it was met with fierce resistance from growers wanting to stay with QSL.


Support grows for tax on unhealthy foods and ban on junk food ads

Australian consumers support a tax on unhealthy foods and many support bans on junk food advertising, despite the food industry claiming such measures would be wildly unpopular in the public arena.

The SMH today reported that more than two-thirds of 1500 primary grocery buyers surveyed are in favour of a tax, while 'traffic-light' labelling on all packaged foods also received strong support.

The government and food industry have to date both refused to implement these publically supported measures claiming ‘traffic-light’ labelling wouldn’t work and have instead asked a committee to put together a new labelling system that doesn’t include the ‘traffic-light’ idea.

Jane Martin, leader of the Cancer Council of Victoria study and a member of the committee told the SMH ''they've said there is not enough evidence for it, so we have been asked to instead create something with no evidence behind it whatsoever''.

Martin said that researchers were surprised nearly 90 per cent of respondents agreed food manufacturers should be forced to cut fat, sugar, and salt levels in processed foods.

''I was shocked at the high public support for regulation, yet that sentiment is not something that has come through so far in this debate,'' Martin said.

According to a survey of 1200 people conducted by the Australian National University on attitudes to food security, and reported by Food Magazine, more than 75 per cent of Australians support a ban on junk food advertising in children’s television, and almost 20 per cent support a total ban.

Timothy Gill, principal research fellow and scientific programs manager at the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney, said restricting junk food advertising is a way to give parents more support when it comes to combating childhood obesity.

“You only have to experience the trauma of trying to shop with young children in the supermarket, and being pulled every which way by a child demanding a particular food product that has been marketed to appeal to them,” Gill said.

In October, Food Magazine reported the introduction of the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative (RMCI). The RMCI is a self regulation policy created to reduce the number of junk food ads aimed at children.

The policy was slammed by health experts when research conducted by the University of Sydney and the Cancer Council found the effectiveness of self-regulatory pledges by members show the industry has no credibility and has failed to protect children against obesity.

The researchers also highlighted that there are no incentives for food manufacturers to avoid targeting children and despite the introduction the RMCI and other self-regulation pledges in 2009, the frequency of junk food ads remained unchanged from last year.

The AFGC blamed a scheduling error after the number of junk food ads targeted at children last year actually increased rather then decreased.

Further changes to the voluntary industry codes, reported this week by Food means junk food will not be promoted during television programs that attract a child audience of at least 35 per cent, a reduction from the previous 50 per cent benchmark.

However critics say the restrictions do not go far enough and warn that children will still be hounded by unhealthy food ads, reported.

Nestle, Mars, Campbell Arnott's, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, McDonalds, and Hungry Jacks are all companies who support the industry's Responsible Children's Marketing Initiative.

"It does not go far enough to reduce exposure because it won't actually pick up programs that are watched by the greatest number of children overall," Martin said.

Earlier this year, Cristel Leemhuis from the AFGC said the industry needs to work towards improving obesity rates if it wants to avoid being forced to make changes.

“The food industry is definitely part of the solution, particularly when you look at overweight and obesity,” she told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit.

Junk food advertising aimed at children takes another cut

Changes to voluntary industry codes means junk food will not be promoted during television programs that attract a child audience of at least 35 per cent.

The campaign to stop junk food advertising will be widened by some of Australia’s largest food companies in a bid to cut childhood obesity.

The current Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) restrictions apply to programs with a child audience of 50 per cent.

However, critics say the restrictions do not go far enough and warn that children will still be hounded by unhealthy food ads, reported.

"It does not go far enough to reduce exposure because it won't actually pick up programs that are watched by the greatest number of children overall," Obesity Policy Coalition executive manager Jane Martin said.

It is believed shows like Big Brother, The X-Factor and Junior Masterchef , all have a high number of younger audiences.

Company websites will also be affected with those directly marketing to children under 12 only able to promote healthy alternatives.

Nestle, Mars, Campbell Arnott's, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, McDonald's and Hungry Jack's are all companies who support  the industry's Responsible Children's Marketing Initiative.

However, health experts have slammed the self-regulation of the food industry, saying children are being bombarded with advertisements for junk food.

According to a new study by the University of Sydney and the Cancer Council the number of junk food ads aimed at children has not slowed.

The study looked at all ads on three television channels over five years and found children were exposed to the same number of advertisements for junk food brands now as they were before ''regulation''.

''We know that parents have the most important role to play in terms of what kids eat but it is a bit like road safety,'' Chapman, a nutritionist and director of health policy at the Cancer Council, said.

''Parents can teach their children road safety but it doesn't mean we don't also have speed limits and crosswalks to make their job easier.

“Messages for unhealthy foods on television, the internet … means there are lots of ways messages from parents are being undermined.

''These studies combined show industry codes of practice are not having an impact and we are seeing such big loopholes for the food industry to get away with this.”

Meanwhile, a poll by the Australian National University on attitudes to food security found more than 75% of Australians support a ban on junk food advertising in children’s television, and almost 20% support a total ban.

Earlier this year, Cristel Leemhuis from the AFGC told Food Magazine the industry was part of the solution in improving the rate of childhood obesity.

“Responsible marketing to children is absolutely essential, so we do limit what children see in this area, and the research is very much showing that marketing in those areas decreased dramatically since we implemented that in 2010,” she said.

Woolworths fast food court opposed by residents, Heart Foundation

Plans by supermarket giant Woolworths to develop a centre food court for fast food chains is facing opposition from local residents and the Heart Foundation.

Woolworths wants to develop a 121-seat food court in the new Woolworths complex in Western Australia’s Margaret River.

Woolworths said in a statement that the food court would be a “necessary” change to allow bakery products, hot food, and a fish and chips store in the centre.

But the residents are not happy about the potential development, with 350 submissions arguing against the proposal already received.

Some argue that the coastal town known for its wineries, fresh produce, high quality dairy and, which make it a prime tourist and retirement destination would be ruined by the fast food court.

The WA Heart Foundation has also offered its support to the submissions from residents opposing the Woolworths food court, saying the proposed location is too close to the local primary school.

“While fast food is unhealthy at any stage of life, young children are targeted by junk food marketing and should be educated about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle,” Swanson said.

The Heart Foundation WA has also issued a statement urging people from Western Australia to boycott the fast food plans by the supermarket giant.

Western Australia has the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in Australia, with almost 70 per cent of adults overweight or obese according to Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistics obtained by WA Heart Foundation.

The Woolworths full proposal is expected to be considered by the Margaret River council before the start of 2013.

What do you think of the proposal? Do Woolworths have a responsibility to look after customer's health?

John West orders Greenpeace video off YouTube

The dispute between Greenpeace and John West continues to gain momentum, with the environmental campaign group accusing the tuna company of “censorship” after it was forced to remove a video from YouTube.

The Greenpeace spoof ad, which according to the campaign group, showed edited raw and bloody footage of the fishing method used by John West incorporated into the latest John West television commercial.

But John West has complained that the spoof video is a breach of copyright and ordered Greenpeace to remove it.

“Today’s censorship proves that John West would rather cover up the fact that they needlessly kill threatened juvenile tuna, sharks, rays and even endangered sea turtles than live up to their sustainability rhetoric and update their fishing practices,” Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said in a statement.

“Greenpeace is demanding John West commit to stop using ‘fish aggregating devices' (FADs).

”Fishing with FADs and giant nets is indiscriminate – at least 10 per cent of each haul is 'bycatch,' such as baby tuna, sharks and turtles.

“This rate is ten times higher than nets set without FADs.

“Australian brand Safcol has already switched to more sustainable fishing methods.

“Greenseas and Sirena have also pledged to stop using destructive FADs.

“The biggest brand John West, however, has refused,” Pelle said.

“Even John West UK and John West Germany has listened to its consumers and committed to tuna fished responsibly. Meanwhile John West Australia is denying the gruesome reality that they needlessly kill marine life for every can they produce.”

Pelle slammed John West’s primary advertising slogan, “John West picks the best,” saying it is misleading.

“Unfortunately for them, the John West myth is busted. John West don’t pick the best, they pick whatever is cheap even if it is at the cost of sharks, baby tuna and turtles,” he said.

This incident comes just two days after John West tuna owner Simplot responded to its negative listing on the Greenpeace canned tuna guide 2012, saying it “has been working towards improving the sustainability of John West’s products for many years.”

The annual list compiled by environmental campaign group Greenpeace ranks tuna brands according to their efforts to implement and maintain sustainable fishing practises.

This year it ranked John West towards the bottom of the list, saying “John West is the largest seller of tuna caught using destructive FADs [fish aggregating devices] in Australia.”

“It is having the most damaging impact on marine life so John West is the stand out culprit of Australia's tuna industry,” Greenpeace continued.

“It has a responsibility to do better."

What do you think about FAD's? Should fish companies be forced to comply with more sustainable fishing practises?

Peach growers to lose thousands from SPC Ardmona cuts

Australian peach growers say they were only informed of SPC Ardmona’s decision to cut its peach quota by almost 20 per cent after they had begun preparing for season.

The growers say the short notice will leave them out of pocket, with some individual businesses set to lose tens of thousands of dollars.

SPC Ardmona, Australia’s last remaining major Australian-owned fruit processor, says it genuinely believed it had informed all growers in advance, and will work to ensure communication methods improve in future.

The company cut its peach quota by 17 per cent due to “significant fall” in consumer demand.

It said the cut was necessary due as sales have decreased by 14 per cent, despite increased activity and promotion.

SPC Ardmona also pointed to the high Australian dollar as part of the reason for the cut to the quota, as well as the cheap imports flooding the market as a result of the supermarket price wars.

Furthermore, the high Australian dollar has impacted on export opportunities for the products, while increasing competing pressures from cheaper imports.

SPC Ardmona is a subsidiary of Coca Cola Amatil which has announced expansion plans in its drinks business as previously reported in Australian Food News.

Earlier this year the company announced it would be embracing new packaging technology to reduce costs.

Toblerone’s confusing labelling lands it on Choice Shonky List

There’s a lot of debate around lately about the labelling laws in Australia, but Toblerone really takes the cake with its strange claims, which made it the only food product to make it onto Choice’s Shonky Awards 2012 list.

The 400 gram bar of the famous Swiss chocolate says on the label that there are 16 serves of deliciousness inside. But there are actually on 15 pieces!

The consumer watchdog was baffled by the labelling but maintained their sense of humour about the head-scratching portion sizes.

“Picture, if you will, a gathering of 16 people, ready to tuck into their 400g bar of Toblerone, which conveniently contains 16 serves – according to the packet,” the Choice report says.

“But as servee number 15 takes the last pyramidal piece, a problem becomes apparent: 16 serves but only 15 pieces.

“Clearly this logistical nightmare of mountainous portions can only be solved by breaking out the Swiss Army knife (which is why they were invented*), cutting one-sixteenth off every single piece and giving the resultant nougaty-chocolate crumb collection to the sweetless sixteenth.

“Either that, or it’s all-out chocolate war.”

The 200g range has 15 pieces and 8 serves, the 50g has 11 pieces and 2 serves, neither of which can be divided equally easily.

“Yep, it’s as cuckoo as a clock!” Choice says.

“But still we buy them, leaving Herr Tobler yodelling all the way to the Swiss bank.
“Only the 100g mountain range can be divided in the sane, diplomatically neutral and mathematically pleasing manner of which we might imagine the Swiss would be proud, having 12 pieces and 4 serves.

“No knives, no war, no crumbs.”

John West hits back over place on Greenpeace sustainable tuna list

John West tuna owner Simplot has responded to its negative listing on the Greenpeace canned tuna guide 2012, saying it “has been working towards improving the sustainability of John West’s products for many years.”

The annual list compiled by environmental campaign group Greenpeace ranks tuna brands according to their efforts to implement and maintain sustainable fishing practises.

This year it ranked John West towards the bottom of the list, saying “John West is the largest seller of tuna caught using destructive FADs [fish aggregating devices] in Australia.”

“It is having the most damaging impact on marine life so John West is the stand out culprit of Australia's tuna industry,” Greenpeace continued.

“It has a responsibility to do better.

“Improvements in traceability are welcome, but John West has taken a step back on labelling.”

While Greenpeace recognised that John West has “good traceability,” “supports marine reserves” and has “100 per cent skipjack tuna, mostly from the Western Central Pacific Ocean, it noted the company’s failings as “the biggest seller of tuna caught using destructive FADs with purse seine nets,” and that its “labelling does not include the catch area or fishing method.”

Woolworths, Coles and Sole Mare were also at the bottom of its list and Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said in a statement that while tuna companies worldwide have made the improvement to their operations reduce by-catch of marine life, Greenpeace hopes that “major Australian companies such as John West will do the same” this year.

John West released a statement saying it is a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) position on FADs and that all its tuna products will all be sourced sustainably by 2015.

“We are aware that Greenpeace has made claims to the media regarding the sustainability of John West tuna products and in particular the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs), a device used to attract fish,” a John West spokesperson said.

“John West has been working towards improving the sustainability of John West’s products for many years and in 2012 we were proud to announce our partnership with the world’s largest independent conservation organisation, WWF.”

John West slammed the Greenpeace statement that it had 10 per cent by-catch, labelling it false.

It said that the current level of John West by-catch from FADS was 2 per cent.

“The majority of tuna used in our products is sourced from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean purse seine fishery (tuna used in our Pole and Line range is sourced from the Maldives),” the spokesperson said.

“Data collected by independent scientific observers shows that non tuna species comprise less than 2 per cent of the catch in this fishery.

“In addition last year over 60 per cent of fishing activity was undertaken without using FADs – a device used to attract fish.”

“Sustainability is a journey that we embarked on many years ago and is something that we are passionate about. We will continue to work towards improving the sustainability of our seafood products in order to reach our 2015 goal.”

What do you think of John West's statement? Do you think fish companies need to do more to improve sustainable fishing practises?

Changes at the chocolate factory

Nothing untouched

“Look, in the last 12 months, there won’t be nothing we don’t touch and improve with efficiencies in manufacturing,” Klark Quinn, the 30-year-old in charge of overhauling the iconic confectionary maker Darrell Lea and making it profitable again said.

Quinn, the son of VIP Petfoods owners Tony and Christina (whose fortune BRW this year estimated at $350 million), is no stranger to getting his hands dirty and to turning a factory’s operations around.

At the time of writing, Darrell Lea has just started to be stocked on the shelves of selected IGA supermarkets, and the Quinns are trying to get DL into Coles and Woolies, too. Are deals with other supermarket chains just waiting to be inked?

“Pretty much; first thing of all we set up meetings with all Australian retailers and we’re pretty open and public with the future of Darrell Lea,” said Quinn when Food Magazine visited the Kogarah plant, which opened in 1962, in Sydney’s south.

“The need for Darrell Lea from the Australian public – the prime minister talking about it on national TV [when it went into administration in July], the amount of media attention, proves how iconic and strong the Darrell Lea brand is. So we need to capitalise on that.”

When the 85-years-old, fourth-generation family-owned Lea – famous for products like its soft eating liquorice and Rocklea Road bars – announced its collapse in July, everyone from prime minster Julia Gillard to septuagenarians who had grown up with the brand were disappointed. Comments on another Australian icon gone and the sad end of an era – and more headlines involving a pun on “rocky road” than you could possibly count – were hard to miss. Sales of their products all shot up as consumers flocked to the closing retail outlets to stock up in what they thought was their last chance to do so.

Saving an Aussie brand

But in early December, DL found a buyer: the Quinn family, who stumped up an undisclosed sum (estimated at $25 million) to rescue the brand and its manufacturing operations. Not surprisingly, there was a lot that needed changing and will require further changes.

First of all, getting Lea into the supermarkets is a big step. Refusing to be a supermarket brand but not quite positioning itself as a premium confectioner (like Haigh’s, for example) meant Lea limited itself.

“Yeah, tradition killed them to some extent,” explained Quinn.

Further than that, there was a mountain of improvements that needed to be made to the way Darrell Lea cranked out its sweets.

“It was very fat and inefficient before, so we need to make it into a lean manufacturing process. With a mind to

looking after the brand and not compromising the quality or upsetting any of the loyal Darrell Lea customers.”

What to keep?

When we spoke to Quinn last week, it was early days in the company’s revamp. He says they’ve only retained 186 out of 700 products, with many performing poorly and some, for example boiled lollies, being produced at a considerable loss. Despite the aggressive shedding of loss-making product lines, he’s moving cautiously in other ways.

“You can’t build Rome in a day, and you can’t make too many changes,” he explained. “You have to be mindful as well, that a lot of people have been here for over 40 years, and an exceptional amount of people have been here for 30 years, so people are part of the furniture, and if you start changing the furniture too quick, you’re going to upset a lot of people.

“But at the same time we have purchased machinery and equipment. And as soon as last week we started setting new equipment to help product efficiencies… So in the next six months we’re planning to touch 50 per cent of all production lines and improve them by 20 per cent. So that’s already happening. We don’t want to make too many quick decisions, too early.”

Also part of the rationalisation process was doing away with anything that wasn’t completely Australian-made. Quinn gave the example of Bo-Peeps. Despite their sentimental value with some, the foreign-made sweets aren’t part of the new Lea.

“And the way they’re produced and having them produced overseas is not part of our vision. So firstly, to keep them Australian-owned and Australian-manufactured is our number one priority.”

Getting involved

Quinn, who begins his day at 7 am and who often retires to his bachelor loft (the ironically-named “Penthouse”) around midnight, is currently spending as much time as he can, involving himself in all the aspects of the factory’s operations. “It’s extremely important that I understand every facet of the business.”

The general manager considers his experience in 2009, when VIP bought Bush’s International (now Australian Pet Brands) for $45 million, a valuable lesson. The family placed Klark at Bush’s Dubbo factory and brother Kent (at the Ingleburn site) in charge of reviving the troubled manufacturer.

“Being on the floor certainly helped and straight away we gained a lot of respect from the employees on the floor, and that helped change the business,” he stated.

“With that culture change, getting people to trust and respect you goes a long way. And that’s really important in any takeover of a business; you need to very quickly gain the respect and trust from the employees. And that, just by our natural demeanour that the family has; we’ve all worked on the floor, we all know what it takes to pack product into a box and drive a forklift and run a machine – we’ve all done this before – so we have a very healthy respect for what it takes to do that.”

After throwing himself into Bush’s, the Quinn brothers managed to stem the bleeding (the company was losing $400,000 a week, says Klark after five months. Within a year, it was turning a tidy profit again.

The future

The Quinns now plan to relocate the factory’s operations. The factory, which currently sees 160 tonnes of liquorice (and is the largest liquorice producer in Australia) and 20 tonnes of chocolate produced each week, on a site with a 5,000 pallet storage capacity, won’t be doing what it does now in 18-24 months.

“Part of our sale and purchase agreement was to purchase the Darrell Lea site at Ingleburn, which it previously planned to relocate many, many years ago, but they had had the opportunity to.

“So we’ve got about a 7,000 pallet controlled environment warehouse on a 40,000 square metre block of land. We plan to build a world-class facility. And that will be a far more efficient and ergonomic plant.”

For the time being, Quinn will continue learning about the Kogarah site. He admits his current schedule is unhealthy but necessary for getting the job done properly. And for the time being, chocolate lovers should keep an eye out for Darrell Lea on supermarket shelves when they’re shopping for Christmas supplies.


Nestlé buying additional 5 300 tonnes of Fairtrade cocoa

Nestle UK and Ireland has pledged to double its commitment to Fairtrade making its two-fingered Kit Kat bar certified by January.

Nestle's four-finger Kit Kit has been using Fairtrade certified cocoa since 2010, and its latest commitment will see the Swiss confectioner purchase an additional 5 300 tonnes of Fairtrade cocoa from the Ivory Coast.

Most well-known chocolate brands have been committing to certified fair trade cocoa in recent years, in a bid to end the child labour and abuse in poor cocoa-growing regions.

Earlier this month, Hershey’s bowed to pressure to become more ethical in its sourcing of cocoa, committing to 100 per cent fair-trade cocoa across all its products by 2020.

Nestle has pledged to invest GBP65 million over ten years on plant science and sustainability initiatives to support small scale cocoa farmers globally.

The Nestle Cocoa Plan which was launched in 2009, and the new farmer co-operatives will benefit from the certification when they join the scheme.

"Today's news is the next step on our journey toward a sustainable supply of quality cocoa and our commitment to certify all our Kit Kats in the UK & Ireland," Ciaran Sullivan, managing director of Nestle Confectionery UK & Ireland, said.

"Farmers in the Nestle Cocoa Plan receive benefits such as new plantlets, farmer training and new schools for their communities. Ivorian farmers badly need our support and this move will help even more cocoa farmers and their families build a positive long term future," he added.

In November last year Nestle announced it would conduct an investigation into the presence of child labour in its business, following accusations children are employed on cocoa farms that supply to its factories.

Maggie Beer slams supermarket dominance

Celebrity chef and food producer is the latest industry insider to accuse the major supermarkets of failing to support Australian food growers and manufacturers.

“So many Australians seek the cheapest alternative in food, and perhaps this is exacerbated by the big two [Coles and Woolworths], our duopoly, that pits one against the other in price wars, that see the farmer suffer. We have to do something about that,” she told the International Year of Co-operatives conference in Port Macquarie last week.

Beer’s pate, quince paste and ice creams sell through major supermarkets and independent retailers at a higher price than other comparable item, due to their high quality standard and use of Australian ingredients.

She said that while most Australians say they support Australian made and owned products, their purchasing behaviour proves otherwise.

''It's interesting Australians say they will support Australian-made and Australian-grown, but will we?”

“We support what's marketed most, and we so often support what's cheapest, especially with food.''

Beer was awarded an Order of Australia this year, after finding recognition for her cookbooks and television series focussed on cooking.

Beer has echoed the statements of Independent Queensland MP Bob Katter, who earlier this year told Parliament that the major supermarkets are killing our farmers.

''If we don't support our farmers, we will not continue to enjoy the freshness and the diversity of the produce we have now,'' she said.

''I have to say flavour, seasonality, ripeness, can not travel a long way.

Beer is in a good position to comment on the realities of farming, since she owns a farm in South Australia’s Barossa Valley with vineyards, olive groves, quince orchards and a soft fruit orchard.

“I know we live in a global market, but our local farmers can not compete against the imports of a global market when it comes to the cost of our labour.

''It's important that we pay a proper wage to a farm worker that not only sustains a family but sustains farming communities – whole communities.''

Terry Toohey Australian Dairy Farmers Director, told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit earlier this year that the impact of Coles and Woolworths’ price wars will continue to drive farmers away.

"The retail actions are certainly impacting the dairy farmers in a negative way, this combined with the uncertainties and other factors [impacting] dairy or other farming, it's making it unattractive for the next generation, because it's not profitable for my children,” he said.

"If I was old and had children ready to take over the farm, I will tell them blue in the face not to come into agriculture.

“And that's pretty sad after 107 years on the one farm."

“It’s an unfortunate reality that milk price is a dollar.

“[It’s] simply unsustainable for all involved in the fresh food market.

“You can see the dairy farmers’ dairy families already suffering for Coles’ tactics.

“Given the sheer size of the supermarket duopoly, over 75 per cent of the market is between the two powers, and they are wielding that Australian marketplace and the majority of Australian suppliers, particularly to the fresh food industry,” he said.

“In NSW, my state, I see farmers being asked to sign contracts for 3 cents a litre than their previous contracts," he said.

“This will have astronomical effects on fund and profit margins.”

“In my case I’ll have 40 per cent of my tier 2 of milk [purchased] at 18 cents [per litre].

“The cost of products is 40 cents [per litre].

“So, you start to look and say, I’m only one person, there are 800 dairy farmers in NSW alone.”

Beer also joined the myriad of critics of Australia’s current labelling laws, saying they make it very difficult for consumers to understand which products are locally-grown.

''We were bottling some of our olives,” she explained.

“The salt came from South Australia and we had some of our own red wine vinegar in the jar and we were labelling it and then we found out we could not say 'Produce of Australia' because the jar came from overseas.''

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith, who launched his own food company over a decade ago, has also voiced his concerns about the ability for local companies to compete against cheap imports.

“The freedom we’ve usually had in Australia is that you could go to a supermarket and decide if you wanted to buy Australian, imported, high-quality, low-quality, it was up to you," he said earlier this year.

“ALDI has taken that decision away.

“The problem is that because so many of us go to ALDI because the prices are cheaper, Coles and Woolworths will copy.

“The reason ALDI’s so successful is you can’t compare a price.

“What Coles and Woolworths will do to compete with that, which they must do because they have Aussie mums and dads as shareholders and the board will get the sack if they don’t keep making profits each year, so they will go to more and more products where you can’t compare a price.

"I call that ‘extreme capitalism,’ and it’s a disadvantage to consumers."

Do you agree with Maggie Beer's comments? How can we fix this problem?

Image: Australian Traveller

Consumers should make own choice on caged eggs: industry body

A leading representative group for the egg industry has slammed announcements from leading supermarkets and other retailers that they will sell only cage-free eggs.

Australian Egg Corporation Limited has labelled the decision by Coles and Woolworths to refuse to sell eggs from one egg production system as “misguided.”

It believes the decision whether or not to purchase caged eggs should be based on a consumer’s personal choice and not a forced decision.

The AECL says consumers are being “manipulated” because cage eggs do actually “deliver welfare benefits to hens.”

Woolworths has announced its removal of caged eggs from its Woolworths Select brand line, and true to form, Coles also decided to follow suit this week announcing that by January it will have the same rules.

Coles had previously committed two years ago to banning caged eggs in its private label line by 2014, but will now bring that forward by a year.

The Animals Australia television campaign currently being shown nation-wide is misleading consumers by using emotive language and well-known personalities to promote their message, according to AECL.

James Kellaway, AECL Managing Director said the proof is in the figures, with current statistics showing 55 per cent of the Australian egg market is made up by caged eggs.

The remainder is made up by barn-laid and free-range eggs.

The government has it wrong on alcohol’s role in chronic diseases

The Commonwealth government looks set to lose its top position in preventative health measures. Despite its world-first efforts on tobacco control, when the government next steps onto the world stage, it will be not be as a leader – its position on alcohol is out of step with the World Health Organization and contrary to evidence.

It’s decision time in the global effort to prevent and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the leading cause of death in this country. The United Nations General Assembly reached an historic decision in September last year, when, for only the second time in its 67-year history, it met to discuss a health issue.

Member countries agreed on a 25% reduction in chronic diseases by 2025. And on 5 November, they will attend a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting to reach agreement on a global monitoring framework for these diseases.

Non-communicable or chronic diseases include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease. They account for 60 million deaths a year worldwide, and share four main risk factors – unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption.

The WHO was given the task of designing and adopting a comprehensive global monitoring framework, including indicators and a set of voluntary global targets. It has published three discussion papers on the subject this year.

The latest discussion paper proposes to identify nine outcome and exposure targets, including alcohol, fat intake, obesity and tobacco, and eleven indicators of outcomes and exposure to risk factors, including adult per capita alcohol consumption.

The WHO meeting is still a couple of weeks away but the Australian government has already indicated its position on the issue of targets and indicators around alcohol.

Its response to the WHO papers (some dating back to February, but only now made available publicly) has been to oppose the adoption of per capita consumption as an indicator and not support adopting global alcohol consumption reduction targets.


The government’s position is at odds with the WHO. AAP


Excess alcohol consumption is one of the leading risk factors for death and disease globally and there’s a strong link between alcohol and chronic diseases. There’s also strong evidence to suggest a reduction in alcohol consumption at the population level will reduce the rates of health and social harms caused by alcohol misuse.

The government’s position is out of step with the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, which emphasises that the harmful use of alcohol and related public health problems are influenced by the general level of alcohol consumption in a population, drinking patterns and local contexts.

It’s also at odds with science. Its critique of an earlier WHO discussion paper claimed that per capita consumption “does not reflect risk of NCDs”, and added that adult per capita alcohol consumption is “not a target measure that focuses on the primary area of concern with alcohol, namely, long term harm”.

The latest WHO discussion paper directly responds to this, noting “the risk of most alcohol-attributable health conditions is correlated with the overall levels of alcohol consumption…. The available data indicate that the overall levels of alcohol consumption, measured as per capita alcohol consumption, correlate with major alcohol-related health outcomes”.

It would be difficult to find an alcohol researcher in Australia who would disagree with the WHO position and agree with the government.

The failure to support what the evidence shows and what experts agree on puts Australia in a ridiculous position. And it undermines the UN initiative and risks jeopardising Australia’s international reputation.

There’s less than two weeks between now and November 5 for the government to move to a defensible and forward-looking position – a position that supports a reduction in alcohol consumption in the suggested targets and the use of adult per capita alcohol consumption as a relevant indicator for progress.

Robin Room is a technical advisor to the World Health Organization.

The Conversation

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

UK govt launches traffic light labelling

The UK government has officially introduced the controversial traffic light labelling system on packaged foods.

Last year there was much debate within the Australian food and packaging industry over the design and layout of a mandatory front-of-pack nutritional labelling scheme.

The government pledged almost exactly a year ago that it would have a design ready in one year’s time, but currently there is no sign of such a scheme.

It did say at the time that it would not be the traffic light system, which the Australian Food and Grocery Council deemed “too simplistic to work.”

But the UK government obviously has a different view, with the Public Health Minister, Anna Soubry, unveiling the scheme with the promise that shoppers will be able to make “healthier choices” about the food they buy.

The labels, which are intended to be in use by the next UK summer, will combine the traffic light colour-coding along with other information.

The new labels will also show how much fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories are in each product.

Currently the system is voluntary for UK but the local Department of Health (DH) has carried out a three-month consultation with retailers, manufacturers and “other interested parties” on what the consistent, clear front of pack label should look like, according to The Telegraph.

Up until now in the UK, where private label saturation is even higher than in Australiam supermarkets have used their own systems, to display the information. 

The DH believes this system is confusing for consumers and that the new labelling scheme will harmonise the industry. 

“The UK already has the largest number of products with front of pack labels in Europe but research has shown that consumers get confused by the wide variety of labels used,” Soubry told The Telegraph.

“By having a consistent system we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake.”

The UK has a very similar problem with obesity as Australia and Soubry said the current cost to the public medical organisation the National Health Service (NHS) is costing one billion pounds each year.

“Making small changes to our diet can have a big impact on our health and could stop us getting serious illnesses – such as heart disease – later in life,” she said.

Do energy drinks need warning labels? Teen’s death linked to Monster

The maker of energy drink Monster Energy are being sued by the family of a teenager who died from heart complications after consuming two cans of the product.

US teenager Anais Fournier, 14, consumed two of the energy drinks in two days and died less than a week later from heart arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity that complicated a diagnosed heart disorder.

The family argues that there was not sufficient warning about the impacts of consuming the drinks, which are particularly dangerous in large volumes or even in small amounts for those with pre-existing heart conditions.

The company has denied the drink was responsible for the teenager’s death but the US Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating five other deaths linked to Monster Energy.

Energy drinks including Mother, Red Bull, V and Monster, which have more than triple the amount of caffeine as standard cola, in addition to guarana, have been the subject of much debate over the last few years.

Early this year a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found the number of people reporting heart problems, tremors and chest pains from drinking the beverages has increased dramatically and the poisons helpline received 65 calls in one year from people concerned about their consumption of energy drinks.

As the highest consumers of caffeinated energy drinks, teenagers experience the reactions most frequently and the authors of the study say the findings are a “warning call” for people who drink the beverages.

More than half the reported cases were teenage males.

The study lead to Australian medical experts calling for mandatory warning labels on all high-energy drinks and this year a working group was established to review the guidelines surrounding the addition of caffeine to food.

"The review of the policy guideline on caffeine has been and will continue to consider global developments in information relating to caffeinated products, including energy drinks, and regulatory approaches being taken in similar countries,"  a Department of Health and Ageing spokesperson said in a statement.

The working group's paper will be made available for public comment early 2013.

Do you think energy drinks need warning labels? Should there be an age restriction on them similar to alcohol?

Aussies confused about sustainable seafood

While most Australians will say they are environmentally aware and want to improve sustainability, new research has found it is not often a factor considered when purchasing decisions are made.

When consumers purchase goods in Australia they are almost always more concerned with taste and price, rather than sustainably sourced products.

Research commissioned by John West Australia and conducted by Lonergan Research in August 2012 found sustainability ranks low on the list of priorities for Australians purchasing canned seafood, with just 4 per cent saying it as the most important purchasing consideration.

That is the same level of consideration given to the size of the can, with 4 per cent also saying that is the main factor considered when purchasing seafood.

Taste was most important to the highest number of the 1 034 respondents, with 30 per cent saying they regard that factor over all others, while 25 per cent said taste topped the list as the most important considerations.

One of the main reasons consumers aren’t giving sustainable foods the recognition they deserve may be due to the lack of education around what the term means.

Because while the term ‘sustainable seafood’ is often used in advertising, marketing and reporting, the research found that just under a quarter of Australians actually understand what it means.

Despite this, when asked their opinion, 83 per cent of Australians believe it is important that tuna sold in Australia is caught in a sustainable manner, even though they rank it lower than other factors when making a purchasing decision.

Interestingly, men are 6 per cent more likely than women to know what the term ‘sustainable seafood’ means.

Almost 85 per cent said that unless it is labelled they have no idea which brands are sustainable and which are not and 60 per cent agreed they would avoid purchasing tuna if they knew it was caught in an unsustainable manner.

Four in five respondents believe labels about sustainability should be compulsory on seafood and almost 80 per cent believe that there should be incentives to reward companies who are doing the right thing and ensuring their tuna is caught sustainably.

Only 1 in 10 Australians surveyed can name at least one specific species of tuna they believe is at risk of being fished unsustainably, with the two species mentioned most frequently being Bluefin and Yellowfin.

Nearly 9 in 10 Australians do not know what other species (besides tuna) are being overfished or at risk of extinction due to the canned tuna industry.

How much do you know about sustainable seafood practises? Do we need better education on the subject?

Woolworths reports big sales growth

Woolworths Limited has reported a huge first quarter, boosted by its supermarket and liquor dominance in the Australian market.

Sales in the period were up almost 5 per cent from the same period last year, and above “comparable store sales for the quarter [which had] increased 2.3%.”

From last year’s first quarter sales of $12 564 million, this year the group saw $12 993 in sales in the same period, attributed to an increase in the supermarket giant’s market share and increased consumer numbers and sole items.

The recent commencement of Sunday trading in Western Australia, which began at the end of August this year, has also been a contributing factor the increased sales.

While sales were up, Woolworths reported a fall of almost 3 per cent in average prices, which it says is resulting in “customers taking advantage of the fact that Woolworths continues to lower its prices for their benefit.”

But while the price of a number of items may be down for the average shopper, many don’t understand the impact of the price war on the food industry and its future.

Food manufacturers and producers are going out of business and struggling to make ends meet as they find it impossible to compete with cheap imports.

But experts have warned that the prices are unsustainable, as once the Australian dollar goes back down, prices of imports will increase and there will be fewer Australian companies able to provide food.

Woolworths opened eight Australian supermarkets during the quarter, meaning they now have 879 throughout the country, while the opening of six new Dan Murphy’s took the total to 165.

Smaller retailers have criticised the supermarket giant’s determination to continue opening new stores, saying they are opening larger than necessary outlets in a deliberate bid to wipe out competition.

Overall, the Woolworths group sales increased more than 4 per cent in the quarter, bringing it up to $15.2 billion for the quarter.

Chief executive Grant O’Brien said online sales had increased by 30 per cent for the quarter.

“This was a pleasing start to the year with momentum created towards the end of the last financial year continuing through the first quarter,” he said.

“While we have made progress against our strategic priorities, there is still a great deal to do in our business transformation programs.”

Calls for labelling GM food reveal attempts at market domination

Australia has one of the more rigorous food labelling systems in the world for genetically modified (GM) attributes. All foods with more than 1% GM in any ingredient are required to be identified as “genetically modified” on the label, other than at restaurants.

But some stakeholders are demanding more extensive labelling. Given that the current system is already quite tough, we need to ask why more is needed. But first, let’s look at what we do right now.

Peculiar attention

There’s a great disparity between how different foods are labelled in Australia.

Non-GM food products with very real serious risks of containing allergens, such as nuts, are allowed on the market with no more than a “may contain” label. And we still accept artificial food ingredients with established health risks, such as trans fats, without a labelling requirement.


De Cora


But lobbyists and consumer interest groups have focused on the labelling of genetically modified food. This seems to be much more of a political and commercial marketing campaign than one based on science, the environment or health.

There’s no scientific evidence for health or environmental risks from genetically modified crops. To the contrary, there’s scientific consensus that foods from GM crops are at least as safe as foods from conventional crops.

And, in contrast to genetically modified crops, conventional plant breeding is not routinely evaluated for unintended effects, even though detailed evaluation consistently shows GM crops to be less risky than conventionally bred crops.

Despite the greater riskiness of conventional breeding, there has been no major campaign for special labelling of new crop varieties.

What’s more, there is no concerted campaign for compulsory labelling for other food-related issues of concern to consumers, such pesticide use or child labour. Indeed, despite international concern about child labour in cocoa production, there is no required labelling of chocolate for such disclosure.

The Greens can’t even get much support for a campaign on country-of-origin labelling for food. It seems odd that if you want to eat GM-free in Australia for whatever reason, you can make choices more easily than trying to find foods sourced from Australian farms.


Canola crop in Australia. Jan Smith


Consumers already have access to a range of labels and information allowing them to avoid foods grown from genetically modified crops. And even though there are no genetically-modified fresh fruits or vegetables in Australia, you’ll see plenty of “non-GM” labels if you take a quick walk through the supermarket.

This is peculiar in itself because there are such labels on canola oil even though genetically-modified commercial canola oil is not detectably different from oil originating from plants that are not genetically modified.

Consumer choice?

Consumer choice is clearly not the most important value here. So, what else could be going on?

The leading Australian promoters of campaigns for GM labelling don’t reveal their funding sources. But information about the financial interests behind the same push is available in California, where there’s a current ballot proposition to require labelling of GM foods.

The leading funder of the labelling campaign in California, businessman Joseph Mercola, is refreshingly honest about his motivation – and it’s not consumer choice. Mercola has contributed more than $1.1 million to the campaign so far, and also does business in Australia.

Mercola has said, “Personally, I believe GM foods must be banned entirely, but labelling is the most efficient way to achieve this. Since 85% of the public will refuse to buy foods they know to be genetically modified, this will effectively eliminate them from the market just the way it was done in Europe.”


Protests in the United States for GM labels on food. Alexis Baden-Mayer


Mercola is a colourful character. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 warned him against making illegal claims regarding the usefulness of his alternative medicines for detecting, preventing and treating disease.

It seems his campaign is not about better consumer choice, but rather elimination of consumer choice. Consumers tend to believe that labels warn of unspecified dangers and people such as Mercola seek to exploit their fears.

Retailers of organic food and other “natural products” also gain a marketing advantage from frightening publicity about genetically-modified foods.

Besides Mercola, the major funders of the GM labelling initiative in California include Nature’s Path Foods, the Organic Consumers Fund (which includes 3000 cooperating retail coops, natural food stores, and farmers markets) and Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps. All these companies contributed between $300,000 to $985,000 each to the campaign.

Debate about GM crops and their labelling will undoubtedly continue. But we need to be honest about the motivations of at least some of the business interests behind these campaigns. And we need to be aware that the campaign to go further than what is already a rigorous labelling regime is more complicated than just giving consumers choice.

More than 10 years ago, Richard Roush was part of a team that was given $20,000 in total from Monsanto and Bayer in partial support (about 20% of the research budget) for a project on pollen flow in canola. He currently has a grant from the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation (which is part funded by the Australian government) for risk assessment for GM canola. The GRDC is not opposed to GM crops per se.

David Tribe does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article except the University of Melbourne, where he is paid for teaching research and community outreach by a standard salary arrangement with the University. He has no relevant affiliations that might entail a conflict of interest in scientific analysis.

The Conversation

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