Woolworths removing additives from breads baked in-store

Supermarket giant Woolworths has announced that more than 70 lines of its bread bakes in store will soon be free from artificial colours, flavours, emulsifiers and preservatives.

Woolworths said the move was indicative of consumer demand for “more natural products.”

The will further increase the power and presence of the private label brands on supermarket shelves, which has seen major bakers in Australia struggle to compete with the major supermarkets.

Goodman Fielder and George Weston Foods have reported difficult trading conditions as a result of the supermarket price wars.

In June, Goodman Fielder announced that it would be forced to slash more than 500 Goodman Fielder jobs across Australia as it restructures the business to reduce costs.

'It is expected that 115 roles will be removed from the baking division as a result of the consolidation of the three bakery facilities,' Goodman Fielder said in a statement.

'This brings the total number of roles removed across the company to 541 this financial year.'

As the impacts of the drought across the US began to show in the form of increased grain costs, Goodman Fielder revealed it regrets its choice to manufacture $1 bread for the Coles private label, as it is already unprofitable.

Like so many other industries, including the dairy, produce and food manufacturing, the bread sector is suffering the impacts of being forced to sell their products at prices less than the cost of production for the sake of supermarket private labels and their war on price.

“Dollar bread is at a loss,” managing director Chris Delaney said.

''This was not a good investment and I wouldn't do it again if I had a choice.”

Countless industry insiders and experts have labelled the current private label environment as unsustainable, as farmers and manufacturers leave their sectors because they can’t break even, let alone make a profit.

While Goodman Fielder says the flow on effects of the grain price increases will flow on to consumers, it remains unclear whether the supermarket giants will actually change the shelf price.

They could absorb the costs within their own businesses, but if past experience is any indication, that would be unlikely and it would be more probable that the bread companies and others impacted by the cost increases would absorb the costs within their already struggling structures as Coles continues to sell bread for $1.

The baking company’s private label contract with Coles is up for renewal in the first half of 2013.

The latest announcement from Woolworths, which will include new bread recipes that will see vegetable emulsifiers 471, 472 and 481, acidity regulator 297 and antioxidant 306 removed from the fresh bread that is baked in 560 Woolworths stores every day.

“ Our customers have provided very clear feedback that they are concerned about additives in their food, so we have made our in-store baked bread free from these artificial additives,” Alex Holt, Woolworths’ Head of Bakery said.

“Parents are particularly concerned about the presence of artificial flavours, colours, emulsifiers and preservatives in the food they give their kids, so we are proud to be able to say that Woolies’ fresh baked bread is now free from these additives and reassure our consumers that they can feel good about purchasing it.”

Anti-gay group claims milk packaging encourages homosexuality

An anti-gay group in Russia believes a milk carton featuring a rainbow on the packaging encourages homosexuality and is now campaigning for it to be removed.

In what surely must be one of the most bizarre and ridiculous claims in history, the People’s Council want prosecutors to investigate the packaging.

It says the label of the Vesyoly Molochnik milk, owned by multinational dairy company Pepsi Co, which shows a jolly milkman and a rainbow in the sky is in breach of St Petersburg's anti-gay propaganda law.

"A rainbow appeared on the cartons, a world-renowned symbol of the gay movement," Anatoly Artukh from the People’s Council said.

"That immediately put me on alert."

Artukh said State prosecutors are now investigating if the label is attempting to promote homosexuality to youth, but his mind is already made up.

"I have no doubts about Pepsi Cola," Artukh said.

"This is a company renowned for actively and aggressively financing and promoting homosexuality."

While the claims seem as ludicrous as the anti-gay propaganda laws, gay and lesbian groups are not amused.

Polina Savchenko, director of advocacy group Coming Out, told the ABC that the atmosphere in the city since the anti-gay propaganda law was passed has been difficult, and this investigation is indicative of the treatment of gay and lesbian people in Russia.

"Our life has been quite funny in the last year or so with the introduction of the homosexual propaganda law in November," she said.

"You know, it could be funny. It's so ridiculous, and so middle-aged, that it could be funny.

"But unfortunately it's not funny because we know that they're serious."

"People are afraid.

And this is actually the bottom line of what the effect, the grave effect of this law is," she said.

Even Madonna is being targeted by the anti-gay legislation, after appealing for gay rights at her recent concert in the city, the singer is now being sued for more than $10 million for inflicting moral damage.

"Her huge popularity might affect some young people who don't realise the danger of the gay movement," Artukh said.

Children seeing same number of junk food ads as before regulation

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

Despite the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) introducing the Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative (RMCI), the number of junk food ads aimed at children has not slowed, according to a new study by the University of Sydney and the Cancer Council.

The researchers have come out swinging at the food industry, saying the findings of the first comprehensive review of the effectiveness of self-regulatory pledges by food brands and industry show the industry has no credibility and has failed to protect children against obesity, and that there are no incentives for food manufacturers to avoid targeting children.

Despite the introduction the RMCI and other self-regulation pledges in 2009, the frequency of junk food ads remained unchanged from last year, the researchers found.

In a separate study published this month in BMC Public Health, researchers audited food and beverage ads during peak children's programming times, and found various ads which went against mandatory and voluntary advertising regulations.

There were a total of 951 breaches of combined regulations in just two months of data collection in 2010 and more than 80 per cent of all food and beverage ads shown in Australia were for items defined as ''extras'' in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

On of the researchers, Kathy Chapman, said there was barely any independent monitoring to ensure guidelines and codes were enforced, and more needs to be done to ensure companies are abiding by the rules.

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.”

Many slammed the AFGC’s RMCI after it was implemented, saying companies would not voluntarily self regulate, but rather, government needed to step in to implement regulations.

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

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 changed.

“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.

“We’re not part of the problem, we’re part of the solution and I think the more that we can collaborate the better our outcomes will be in the future.

“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.

While many argue that the only way to improve such marketing in the industry, as well as other issues, is to get the government to legislate around it, Leemhuis thinks the industry can be responsible without such intervention, as is evident from the number of manufacturers and fast food outlets already making significant health changes.

“It’s not voluntarily, the consumer is demanding it,” she said.

“Consumers push these businesses, so they’re responding to that consumer demands.

“I’m a fan of minimum effective regulation if we do need it lets go down that track, but let’s see what we can do without the regulation to start with.

“Can we actually address the issue without regulation?

“That’s the path we should take first.

“If that doesn’t work then we should step into these other areas, but we really need to try this other area first before we just straight down to [regulation].”

While the latest reports have found the industry is not doing enough to self regulate itself, the director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute in Western Australia, Mike Daube, said he was ''profoundly pessimistic'' that governments would be heavy handed with food manufacturers.

''The food industry is so large and powerful that it will get away with the cynical pretence of self-regulation for the foreseeable future,'' he said.

Daube slammed the codes, saying they had no credibility, were not well enforced, and failed to protect children from obesity.

The AFGC maintain international regulations of advertising to children have not resulted in positive public health results so they would not work in Australia and chief executive Gary Dawson, said industry has been successful in removing non-core food advertising that was directed at children.

Another egg producer on Name and Shame list for misleading ‘free range’ claims

An egg farm in Western Sydney is the latest producer to be added to the NSW Food Authority’s Name and Shame register for misleading ‘free range’ claims.

Paul Galea and Son Egg Farm, run by Glensung Pty Ltd has been found to be making false claims about its eggs, labelling ‘barn eggs’ as ‘free range.’

The company has been fined $4620 for the misleading labelling and added to the Name and Shame register after receiving three warnings from the NSW Food Authority.

It found that the chickens producing the eggs at the Paul Galea and Son premises did not actually have any outdoor access or space to roam and therefore did not meet the industry-set guidelines for what constitutes ‘free range’ or ‘roam free.’

Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said the fine handed down to the egg producer was necessary to ensure national standards for free range labelling were being met.

Farmers and suppliers who produce actual free range eggs want a crackdown on the definitions of ‘free range,’ after leading national suppliers were found to falsely make the claim.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye has also called for better regulation of the egg industry, saying the model code is not ‘legally binding,’ leading consumers continue to be ‘misled.’

In August the poultry industry copped criticism for its attempts to change the definition of ‘free range,’ to allow more than 140 000 birds per hectare, with activist group GetUp! who calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to uphold the current standards. 

Last year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it would be taking a number of chicken suppliers to court, claiming they wrongly advertised chickens as free range.

It was also revealed in July this year that Australia’s largest duck producer was being sued for misleading advertising which claimed the birds were raised in ‘open range’ farms.

Activists filmed the birds at Pepe’s Ducks, showing not only that they were crammed into metal crates, but also that some of them were covered in faeces and had their wings stuck in the metal grates, despite labelling claiming they were “grown nature’s way.”

Earlier this year it was found that Steggles chickens were still being advertised as “free to roam” despite the consumer watchdog labelling such claims by the company as misleading and deceptive last year.

Do you think the 'free range' labelling needs tougher rules? 

Hershey bows to pressure, commits to 100% certified cocoa by 2020

US confectionary manufacturer Hershey is the latest company to declare its commitment to ending child labour in West Africa, by pledging to use 100 per cent certified cocoa in all its products by 2020.

Activists have slammed the company, who say Hershey is the only major chocolate producer in the world that hadn't made a commitment to use certified cocoa.

Mars, Arnott's, Nestle are amongst other confectionary makers who have previously announced their commitment to ending child labour in the cocoa growing regions in West Africa by using only certified cocoa.

Last September, research found that the Australian chocolate industry has taken huge steps towards using accredited cocoa products.

Following the pressure, Pennsylvania-based Hershey confirmed its plan to use certified cocoa on Wednesday.
Certified cocoa is produced according to certain social, economic and environmental standards. 

West Africa produces about 70 percent of the world's cocoa and currently, certified cocoa accounts for less than 5 percent of the world's cocoa supply, according to Hershey.

According to the fourth annual report produced by Tulane University under contract to the U.S. Department of Labor to monitor progress in the protocol, about 1.8 million children, aged 5 to 17, work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The report revealed 40 percent of the 820 000 children working in cocoa in Ivory Coast are not enrolled in school, and only about 5 percent of the Ivorian children are paid for their work.

Hershey earlier this year said it would invest $10 million in West Africa to reduce child labor and improve the cocoa supply, as part of its commitment to reducing the harsh working conditions in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The commitment by major manufacturers to only use certified cocoa is a huge step in towards fairer conditions for the workers in the region.

Hershey has also pledged to continue its support of community development programs, including village school construction, mobile phone farmer messaging, training in modern farming techniques and literacy and health programs.

"Consistent with Hershey's values, we are directly addressing the economic and social issues that impact West Africa's two million cocoa farmers and families," J.P. Bilbrey, company president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"I am confident that we can make a substantial difference in West Africa by 2020."

Independent auditors will verify the certified cocoa was produced by the highest labor, environmental and farming practices, the company said.

Coca-Cola Amatil overcomes ‘difficult trading season’ with big profits

Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) has continued its trend upwards, reporting growth of almost 6 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

The beverage giant’s growth in net profit in the period was $247.1 million, in what many have labelled a ‘difficult trading season’.

Despite the tough market conditions, CCA also managed more than three per cent volume growth and earnings before interest tax (ABIT) was up by almost five per cent in its Australian market.

CCA’s shareholder report showed that Australia’s EBIT growth to $294.8 million was the result of significant ‘momentum turn’ in spending habits during the second quarter, as well as ‘effective promotional strategies’ in May and June 2012.

The iconic beverage maker announced last month that following on from the unprecedented success of its ‘Share A Coke’ campaign last year, it would be expanding on the promotion this summer by embracing the nostalgia of music.

Joining with Facebook and Spotify, CCA will allow consumers to unlock top music hits from the year listed on individual bottles using a QR code and share the playlist with friends.

It also revealed in August that it would be increasing the size of its glass bottles and adding a resealable lid to appeal to the consumer demand for more convenient and portable.

CCA is also experiencing success in its Indonesian and PNG businesses, with the EBIT in the region at more than 19 per cent.

It attributed to their 12.9 per cent volume growth on its ‘significant cold drink cooler footprint’ in the region, saying it has ‘positioned them well for future growth.’

CCA is continuing to expand in Indonesia, and now has about 235 000 cold drink coolers and100 sales and distribution centres there, which has provided over 8000 jobs in the company.

Despite the surge in profits for the company, CCA still believes the ‘weak consumer spending’ in Australia, will likely result in its capital expenditure increasing by about $100 million to $470 Million in the last quarter of 2012.

CCA is also all but confirmed to re-enter the Australian beer market in late 2013 in a joint venture with Casella, which will give CCA the ability to sell, manufacture and distribute beer in Australia at the end of their restraint, which expires on 16 December, 2013.

Aussies buying less private label products

In a small win for Aussie food companies, big-brand grocery item purchases have increased, while private label products have decreased.

A new Neilson poll shows that private label grocery items have fallen for the first time in five years.

The big food companies who have been struggling against the rapid increase in home brand products will surely be hopeful the 0.7 per cent drop in private label grocery sales from this time last year is possibly an indication that Australian consumers are committed to keeping these companies alive.

The Nielsen report found ‘household penetration’ of the supermarket’s own ‘home brands’ have dropped from 95.5 per cent in 2011 to 94.8 per cent this year.

The findings back reports in recent months that found nearly half of all shoppers go out of their way to buy Australian-made produce, while more than a third buy Australian wherever possible.

The news comes after previous studies earlier this year found the number of private label products being purchased in Australian supermarkets is increasing.

The report also found that while consumers are becoming more dedication to food brands, they are not demonstrating the same loyalty to the supermarkets, with the rate of cross-shopping increasing to over 88 per cent in 2012.

Supermarkets ‘providing an enjoyable experience’ and ‘staff service’ were factors impacting store loyalty, Nielsen Retail Industry Group Executive-Director Kosta Conomos explained.

“As retailers continue to focus on the same initiatives such as private label, loyalty reward cards or low shelf prices, shoppers are increasingly seeing them as ‘hygiene factors’.

“Unless further differentiation occurs among Australian retailers, we’ll continue to see very high penetration levels and cross-shopping, with low levels of loyalty.

Facebook and Starbucks to launch physical gifts trial

Facebook is preparing for a push into online retail in the US by running a trial which allows users to send friends real gifts including Starbucks gift cards, cupcakes and other merchandise.

Under the new trial, Facebook users can choose a gift, write a message and then post it to a friend’s wall or send it privately. The sender is able to pay for the girft upfront or add payment details later.

The recipient is then able to unwrap a preview of the gift and enter the address where they want the physical version sent.

The trial is only available to a small number of the US population and a timescale has not been set for an international rollout.

Facebook’s entry into the physical gift market comes as the social network tries to generate more revenue from advertising.

Clever marketing strategies and promotions are being developed by companies world-wide as the fight for customer’s attention and brand loyalty intensifies.

In an unprecedented marketing move, Nestle have embedded GPS trackers into chocolate bar wrappers so that it can find and surprise competition winners with cash prizes. The promotion is currently only being run in the UK.

Meanwhile back at home in Australia, ice cream maker Streets launched a facial recognition billboard to allow passer-by to simulate biting a Magnum.

The billboards, placed in high pedestrian traffic areas in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, instruct people to pretend to bite the picture of the new Magnum Infinity.

A camera inside the billboard recognised the movements and imitates it with a bite out of the ice cream.

Users can even pose for a photo which is instantly uploaded to the companies facebook page.

Nestlé loses appeal against Cadbury’s purple

Food giant Nestlé has lost its court battle with Cadbury over the colour purple.

The UK High Court did not uphold Nestle’s appeal that has gone on for four years.

In 2008, Cadbury, which is now owned by Kraft Foods, won the right to exclusively use the particular purple colour Pantone 2685C, the colour used Dairy Milk packaging.

Nestlé challengeed a ruling from December 2011 that covered chocolate bars and drinks., arguing that colours could not be protected as a trademark.

Judge Colin Birss did not agree, ruling yesterday that colours are "capable of being signs."

He determined that the "Cadbury purple" had become synonymous with the company's chocolate for more than 90 years.

"The evidence clearly supports a finding that purple is distinctive of Cadbury for milk chocolate,” he said.

The original ruling from the Intellectual Property Office found sufficient evidence Cadbury had used the colour since first making Dairy Milk in 1914.

But since the trademark did not cover chocolate cakes or assortments, Nestlé's boxes of Quality Street contain the brazil nut chocolate wrapped in the purple colour, which has been a bone of contention between the two confectionary makers.

What do you think of the ruling? Do you agree that colours should be trademarked?

Parents unable to recognise when children are obese

The rapid increase in childhood diabetes is the result of parents rewarding their children with junk food, according to a new report.

The University of Sydney study found 20 per cent of children are overweight of obese by the time the start kindergarten.

Public health experts say the obesity problem in the home extends beyond what parents are feeding their children, but also in their attitude, with most parents unable to recognise when their child is overweight.

Researchers studied more than 500 children and found that the home environment is overwhelmingly to blame for children’s weight.

Changes to the traditional family behaviour is also impacting the weight of our children, with 30 per cent of those studied saying they have a television in their room, and almost 50 per cent eating dinner in front of the box more than three times per week.

The researchers found that overweight boys were more likely to eat dinner in front of the television and watch it for too long, while overweight girls were more likely to have a television in their bedrooms and be rewarded with sweet treats.

Leader of the study, Dr Louise Hardy, from the university’s school of public health, said children’s exposure to television before they were five was ''horrifying.''

''Perhaps parents are upgrading their TV and don't want to toss out the old ones, so they're ending up in kids' bedrooms,'' she said.

''Kids are also being rewarded for good behaviour with sweet food. They are drinking sugar in soft drinks and fruit juices and once these negative health behaviours are established, they're very difficult to change.

''It may sound draconian, but why are we rewarding children for good behaviour at all?''

The study found more than 60 per cent of children, both healthy and overweight, were rewarded for good behaviour with treats.

More than one-fifth of the overweight and obese children studied did not eat breakfast.

Hardy said parents need to recognise that by rewarding their children with sweets, they are being introduced to bad habits very young.

She also called on parents to have a more realistic perception of their children’s health and weight.

''We asked parents whether they perceived their child to be overweight, healthy or underweight and found 70 per cent of parents of overweight kindergarten children thought their kid was the right weight,'' she said.

''And 30 per cent of the parents of obese children thought their child was the right weight.”

Hardy said health policy makers continue to be accused of creating a “Nanny state.”

''It's a very difficult situation, but this is happening before children enter school and we need to get the message across while also not offending parents,'' she said.

Miners turn attention to chocolate making

Some prominent mining executives have embarked on a new acquisition. But it’s not for a new mining operation, but rather the chocolate brand Yowie.

Perhaps in a bid to provide mining workers a burst of energy while doing one of the more laborious jobs available in Australia, the Perth Mining executives have irged investors to back their intended acquisition of Yowie.

Waratah Resources’ William Witham and former non-executive director of Gleneagle Gold, Greg O’Reilly, are both directors of GFS Corporation, which has released a prospectus to raise up to $4 million as part of its acquisition plans for the chocolate maker, according to The West.

GSF said in a deal announced in July that it would acquire Yowie Enterprises from the current private owners in return for shares.

But since the deal was dependant on GSF raising at least $2 million through a public share issue, the directors are calling on the shareholders to back their plans.

The Yowie treats comprised of hollow chocolate, in the shape of a Yowie, characters loosely related to mythical Australian creatures.

Cadbury was championing its environmental and sustainability cause with the brand, as each Yowie character in the range had a unique personality and primary environmental concern.

Rumble the Redgum Yowie guarded the plains and deserts, Ditty the Lillipilli Yowie looks after the flowers, Nap the Honeygum Yowie was concerned with trees, Squish the Fiddlewood Yowie keeps the rivers clean, Boof the Bottlebrush Yowie loved the bugs and butterflies, and Crag the Mangrove Yowie watched over the wetlands.

It’s unclear if CSF’s intended acquisition is based on Yowie’s environmental awareness and edication.

Each Yowie had a toy inside, similar to the long-standing Kinder Surprise option.

Cadbury produced the Yowie chocolates in the late 1990’s, but ceased in early 2000’s after a court battle which saw the a Canberra naturalist who refers to himself as 'Tim the Yowie Man' awarded the right to keep his name, after Cadbury Schweppes lost a legal challenge at the Australian Trademarks Tribunal.

GSF chairman O'Reilly that while he never expected to get into the chocolate business, the offer is too good to pass up.

"It's something that doesn't come around too often – a product that's really well known that we can bring it back into the marketplace," he said.

GSF is offering 10 million shares at 20 cents with the option for oversubscriptions of a further 10 million units under the prospectus.

GSF shares are currently in suspension, having last traded at 0.1 cents.

If the acquisition bid is successful, as part of the restructure, and prior to the equity raising, GSF's shares will be consolidated on a 150-to-one basis.

What do you think of the mining executives chocolate plans?

From $4.5bn profit to $2.7bn deficit: Aus food sector in crisis

New figures released this week have proven what most in the food processing sector already know: the industry is close to collapse.

Financial specialists KPMG and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) joined together to compile the report that offers a snapshot of Australia’s food sector.

And the figures are frightening.

Seven years ago, the sector was one of the most successful and profitable in Australia, producing an excess of $4.5 billion.

In the 2010-11 period it recorded a deficit of $2.7 billion.

In groceries alone, the deficit was almost $10 billion as Australia exported $4.6 billion of product and imported $14 billion in the 2010-11 year.

Australia a net importer of food

A recent Food Alliance report showed that Australia has become a net importer of processed fruit and vegetables, as the price is lower, but unfortunately, the quality often is also.

The Food Alliance report labelled local producers "vulnerable,” as they struggle to compete with the cheap imports, but if the Australian dollar fell to US55 cents, those cheap imports would suddenly become far more expensive.

A $1 tin of Italian tomatoes could become a $5 tin of tomatoes, Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman warned.

Australia’s peak produce representative body AusVeg has been warning of this for some time, as has the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

In February, AusVeg’s Simon Coburn told Food Magazine that a decision by Coles to slash the price of produce “had the makings” of becoming the next milk price wars.

National Manufacturing Workers Union’s Jennifer Dowell also warned that produce and dairy farmers cannot afford to wait around, losing money, as supermarkets import products, in the hope that they reverse the behaviour and start using local products instead.

“My concern is that if we lose food sovereignty, if we lose control of our food chain we become hostage to other countries supplying our food,” she said.

“How ridiculous is that? In Australia we have the ability to produce the best food in the world, so how are we getting into this situation?

“Once these companies go, they won’t some back, they’re not going to come back and rebuild factories and businesses because Australia is upset after it basically kicked them out in the first place.

“If we rely on imports, and a country decides it is going to give its own market priority, as it very well should, what do we do? Where do we go?

“At a time when the world is saying Africa needs to have food sovereignty, we’re actually participating in a process where we won’t be able to feed our own people.

“We will be reliant on importing food.

“When we finally hit the wall and find that everything is coming from overseas and we no longer have any Australian food industries, it will be too late.”

How much is actually imported?

The supermarkets like to trumpet their success stories and gloss over their failings when it comes to local produce and their treatment of suppliers.

Coles made a song and dance about its decision to use Australian-grown produce in its own brand frozen vegetables, but omitted the fact that none of its 13 private label tinned fruits and vegetables are imported.

For its part, Woolworths imports 13 of 14 home-brand frozen vegetable lines, and 19 of its 21 private label tinned fruit and vegetable lines, according to the most recent report.

Woolworths released a statement labelling the Choice findings “inaccurate,” while a spokesperson told Food Magazine this morning that “we’re working very closely with the Australian agricultural sector, and we buy lot of produce from Australian farmers.”

“96 per cent of our fresh fruit and veg is from Australia.

“71 per cent of our own label products com from Australia, and that’s increasing.

“We’re now importing home brand rice from NSW and our focus is on increasing Australian grown products.”

The spokesperson did not answer questions, however, on whether the price the supermarket is paying local producers for those products is fair, or whether it shoulders some of the responsibility for the dire state of the food sector.

Coles accused Choice of pursuing a "public policy agenda on labelling” when the report was released, but did not respond to requests for comment by Food Magazine this morning.

"We know farmers are struggling": Coles GM

Last week Coles’ corporate affairs general manager Robert Hadler did acknowledge that local processing was in trouble, telling an agribuiness summit in that the high Australian dollar and increased labour costs were "catching many food manufacturers in a cost-price squeeze".

"We're quite concerned … we want security and sustainability of supply, particularly in processed product, so we've upped our game in working with local food manufacturers," he said.

Jackman has warned that it may not be just the supermarkets that are to blame for the state of the industry, but rather popular television shows, including Farmer Wants a Wife and Masterchef, are causing the damage.

"If we're not careful, MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules will all be made with produce produced overseas," he said.

“Long-term investment in agriculture, skills and people working in the field were needed to "drive the future.

"We can't afford to see production and food processing disappear out of Australia because the high Aussie dollar is making imports so much cheaper," he said.

He said food producers and processors needed to educate the public about why they should be willing to pay more for local produce.

How can we fix this important Australian industry? How would you make it profitable again?

Wal-Mart offers discounts on healthy foods: should Australia follow suit?

America’s largest supermarket has teamed up with a leading insurance company to offer healthy foods at a reduced price.

Supermarket giant Wal-Mart’s collaboration with Humana Insurance will allow eligible shoppers to get a 5 per cent discount on healthy products, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and low fat dairy.

All the eligible foods, including eggs, wholemeal bread and almonds, will be marked with a “Great For You” icon, allowing shoppers to easily spot the discounted, healthy products.

The offer, to start 15 October, will be available to more than 1 million eligible customers currently covered by Humana insurance.

The grocery giant said the move is part of its plans to make healthier foods more accessible for Americans, which have the highest rate of obesity in the world.

Last year it announced plans to lower salts, fats and sugars in thousands its private label products and agreed to cut produce prices by 2015.

Australian is also struggling with its collective weight, with latest figures showing one in three children and one in four adults is overweight or obese.

The Food and Grocery Council (AFGC)’s Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative (RMCI) has reduced the number of advertisements aimed at children promoting unhealthy foods, and a number of manufacturers have voluntarily begun reducing sugar, fat and sodium content of products, but the problem still remains.

Many experts believe more education is needed to curb the rise in obesity, which poses a threat to Australia’s healthcare system, which will struggle to handle the rates of obesity-related conditions if current rates continue.

The high price of healthy food choices as opposed to low-cost unhealthy alternatives has also been slammed in Australia and there have been suggestions we should adopt a "fat tax" or "sugar tax" to improve current obesity rates.

Do you think Australia needs a similar initiative to the one Wal-Mart is implementing? Could it help improve the nation’s health?

GPS trackers in chocolate wrappers: clever or creepy?

In an unprecedented and revolutionary marketing move, Nestle has embedded GPS trackers into chocolate bar wrappers so that it can find and surprise competition winners.

The somewhat creepy advertising campaign “we will find you,” shows military-like operations which deploy the bearers of good news to the unsuspecting winners.

The promotion, which is currently only being run in the UK, is an example of the new ways companies are embracing technology to create marketing campaigns that stand out.

When a customer opens a winning wrapper, the GPS navigator inside notifies the prize team, who then track the person down within 24 hours to deliver a cheque for £10 000.

"Inside six lucky packs, there will be a GPS enabled bar which, when the winner pulls the tab, notifies the prize team who will leap into action locating the winner within 24 hours,” Nestle explained.

A Nestle spokesman added that "inside their wrappers, the GPS-enabled bars looked just like normal chocolate bars."

And the global food giant isn’t stopping there with its UK promotion, also using the QR Code craze to encourage consumers to engage with the brand.

About 3000 posters feature a QR code, which when scanned with a smartphone, directs the person to a competition on the company’s website, whereby they can win £10 instantly.

The website will also tell consumers how many of the six £10 000 chocolate bars are still available.

Graham Walker, Nestlé UK's trade communications manager said the company is looking to tap into a new market, using unexpected measures.

"We believe this promotion will particularly appeal to men, attracting them to the chocolate singles category and thus driving incremental sales,” he said.

"Nestlé Confectionery is delighted to be first to market with this highly innovative GPS based promotion."

Check out the video below, and tell us…do you think this is entirely creepy and stalker-like, or is this marketing genius?

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Children encouraged to try alcohol by booze companies: AMA

Australia’s leading medical body is again calling on the government to ban current advertising practises, which it says are encouraging children to try alcohol.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says marketing of alcohol flavoured chips, biscuits, lip gloss and chocolates is contributing to the binge drinking culture.

A report by the AMA exposed the tactics being used in the industry to promote alcohol to children, including online, where alcohol branding is used during games played by youngsters, promoted on Facebook pages and contained in secret online party invitations.

The report will be officially released at a conference today in Canberra, and the AMA is calling for new laws to be introduced to stop the practise.

As well as being promoted online, mobile phone apps sponsored by alcohol companies that provide cocktail recipes and use satellite technology to recommend bars and clubs nearby are at the top of AMA’s list of concerns.

It also says in the report that the food industry shares some of the blame, by helping children develop a taste for alcohol through Malibu flavoured chocolate, vodka flavoured lip gloss, Tim Tams flavoured with Tia Maria and Jim Beam flavoured crisps.

"By flavouring sweet or salty foods that are popular with children, alcohol companies such as Jim Beam are introducing young consumers to their brand at an early age, encouraging them to develop familiarity with, and loyalty to, their product,'' it says.

The AMA is gravely concerned that in the midst of the current issues Australia is facing with binge drinking and alcohol-related violence, alcohol and food companies are attempting to “normalise” it.

"It's sending a subliminal message that everyone drinks…. your first drink could be a Tim Tam," Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton said.

While the Tia Maria flavoured Tim Tams were a limited edition that ended in 2004, and the amount of alcohol contained was miniscule, the AMA is concerned that nothing is stopping Arnott’s, or any other company, from introducing similar concepts.

The report also mentioned some more frightening statistics about youth drinking, following on from various other findings over the last couple of years.

By their 15th birthday, about 90 percent of people have tried alcohol and five Australians aged between 15 and 24 die each week from alcohol related injury, while 200 more are hospitalised.

"Young people are starting to drink at an earlier age, and most drink in ways that put their health at risk,'' the report states.

In July, and report released by Victoria's Auditor-General, Dr Peter Frost, found the number of alcohol-related assaults in Victoria have risen rose by almost since 2001, while the number of ambulance attendances to deal with incidents related to alcohol more than tripled.

In May, an Australia-wide study found that people living in rural areas are more likely to consume alcohol and be overweight and obese, while another revealed almost 80 per cent of Australians think that, as a nation, we have a problem with alcohol.

Following government are attempts to crack down on alcohol-related violence by introducing earlier lock outs at pubs and clubs and raising the price of alcohol, the AMA says self regulation by the alcohol industry on its advertising is no longer appropriate.

Similarly to the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative (RMCI), which suggests to food companies that it should not market unhealthy foods to children, the current regulation in the alcohol industry is voluntary.

The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code, administered by the alcohol companies themselves, states that companies should not encourage underage drinking, but they have no power to enforce it.

The AMA wants those rules changed so that governments will be able to introduce laws to regulate alcohol advertising, and enforce penalties if they breach them.

It also wants alcohol sponsorship phased out of sport, and alcohol sponsorship of youth music and cultural events banned.

What do you think of the AMA's calls for tougher rules on alcohol advertising? 

Little World Beverages shareholders approve Lion acquisition

Japanese-owned beverage giant Lion will officially take over Little World Beverages (LWB), after the majority of shareholders voted in favour of the purchase.

Of the 502 shareholder votes, 475 supported the takeover of the Australian company, which brews brands including Little Creatures and White Rabbit beers, as well as Pipsqueak cider.

It is expected that the Japanese company will take control of LWB on 8 October.

"This has been a couple months getting to this point in terms of this scheme," Little World Beverages co-founder Howard Cearns said.

"I think there's a little bit of emotion amongst the guys affectionately remembering what the staff tend to call themselves as creatures."

"A process of their horsepower getting behind what's been created and hopefully taking it to new levels.”

Cearns says 13 years of hard work has paid off and expressed hope that Lion can take the company to new levels.

For its part, Lion has previously committed to retaining current LWB staff and breweries, and pledged to keep the beverages the same.

Coke’s newest marketing campaign shares the nostalgia of music

Further expanding on its hugely successful ‘Share A Coke’ campaign, Coca-Cola will incorporate iconic music from years gone by in its next marketing campaign.

The beverage giant has teamed up with Universal Music and Spotify to offer consumers access to songs from every year since Coke’s introduction in Australia in 1938.

The company believed the campaign will be one of the most ambitious and innovative COKE campaigns to date, connecting people with the power of music, and being activated across digital, social, outdoor and television.

The ‘Share a COKE and a Song’ campaign will run until December 2012.

Packaging of selected bottles and cans of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero will feature a year and a QR code, which when scanned, will allow consumers to unlock 50 popular songs from that year.

Carrying on from the unprecedented success of the original Share A Coke promotion, which saw the beverage company print the most popular names in Australia on the labels of Coke bottles, the new extension of the campaign will again have a huge social media presence.

Consumers will be encouraged to use Facebook, Twitter and email to share their unlocked music, according to Lucie Austin, Marketing Director, Coca-Cola Asia Pacific.

“Music is not only a universal connector for people across cultures and generations; people often associate songs with emotions, people, and places they’ve experienced in the past,” she said.

“We’ve all heard the first few bars of a song and been instantly taken back to a special moment that was shared and enjoyed with others.

“This unique campaign taps into people’s love of singing, dancing and sharing memories.

“By putting years on Coca-Cols packs and linking to 50 popular songs from that year, we are giving people the social invitation to celebrate and share those special moments linked with a particular year.

“This is a fun way for our consumers to find a year that is special to them, and then enjoy sharing a Coke and a song from that year with their family and friends.”

From 24 September, Coke will encourage Aussies to select and share the song that made their music festival, reminds them of their first kiss or a great night out.

All of the moments and songs will then be collated on Spotify to create playlists – searchable by moment and a year.

What do you think of Coca-Cola’s latest marketing campaign? Will you tune in to listen to some golden oldies?

Water water everywhere: should Australia adopt WHO bottled water standards?

Australia’s bottled water representative body wants local producers and sellers to adopt the World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for chemicals in bottled water.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has received an application from the Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI) to adopt limits to the amount of chemicals, as set out In WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality.

The ABWI said the move would benefit the packaged water industry and bring Australia and new Zealand onto the same international playing field.

“This application will reassure consumers that chemical constituents in packaged water are regulated on a mandatory level to the same levels as those set internationally,” the submission said.

“The inclusion of such limits will also enhance the ability of the industry to compete in export markets overseas.
If the changes were to be adopted in Australia, there would be six times more mercury allowed in bottles water sold in Australia.

Arsenic and lead levels accepted would drop significantly though, and organic matter would be less acceptable.
Dr Chris Schyzens, Senior toxocoligst and risk manager at FSANZ told Food Magazine the changes would put the Australian industry at the same level as other developed countries.

“Very simply, currently we have 17 chemical analysed in the standard, WHO’s limits has 90, so there is a large increase in chemical detections required.

“Having 90 tested as opposed to 17, from talking to industry, and they are the applicants, they’ve said that their voluntary code, the model code, already follows WHO guidelines, and they’re testing about 49 chemicals.”

Ben Dutton, general manager of brand marketing at Noble Beverages, which captures and distributes H2O water brand, told Food Magazine that tightening the code will not make any difference to companies doing the right thing.

“Consider the landscape three or four years ago, the industry was almost non-existent compare to now.

“The point is that we do have some smaller bottled water companies that might not be taking quality control as seriously as they should be so if WHO standards makes these operators lift their game, that’s a good thing for food consumers.

“Maybe, and only maybe operators that are drawing tap water off, putting it though filters and bottling it, would have problem if they had to ensure they met these standards.

“If it means these companies have to life their game, overall it is good thing.”

“We’ve seen over the last four years or so that it has been a race to bottom as far as price is concerned and most manufacturers are cutting prices dramatically to maintain their place in the market and smaller companies have felt a lot of pain.

As to whether the adoption of WHO standards would improve the waters that are imported to Australia, Dutton was cautiously optimistic.

“I don’t know, I do know [Australia is] importing water from Indonesia and Malaysia and certainly we have mineral water imported from Europe and the US, but I would be inclined to see most bottled water imported would be regulated.

“The challenge in Australia is that even though the bottles water industry has gone through a huge period of consolidation over the last three years, we have this situation now where a lot of small operators have gone out of business or been bought by major companies.”

Schyzens agrees that the huge increase in the bottled water market in Australia has led to some smaller, dodgy companies creeping into the sector, but for the most part, Australian water companies are all doing the right thing and just want to ensure the industry is regulated.

“I think that’s the intention and this has been a call from the industry body the  industry are the ones who have come to us and said ‘here’s a set of values we think would be good for water and that gives consumers peace of mind’”.

“They are the ones who want this, because they already highly regulate themselves, so they want to ensure everyone else is doing the same.

Dutton told Food Magazine that for the companies doing the right thing, which most of them are, there is nothing to be concerned about if the WHO standards are introduced.

“In the Australian industry, there are a lot that are already testing to quite high specifications, whether that’s because they’re trying to get into supermarkets or retailers, they have so many reasons, including the safety of consumers, to do so.

“One New Zealand company is trying to enter the New York market, for example, and their specifications are incredibly high.

While Dutton and Schyzens both agree on the vast majority of the potential new guidelines, there is one issue where their opinions differ.

FSANZ wants to accept all the chemical standards except for the fluoride standard, which it wants to maintain at the current Australian level.

“There’s probably two main reasons for that, and it is important to note that the [WHO)] document allows for nations to make a call based on local consumption of fluoride so we’re not ignoring WHO advice.

“In 2009, after a lot of research and consultation, we determined the maximum should be 1.0 milligrams per litre, which is the same as one part per million.

“So we thought if you have fluoride in packaged water, fluoride is fluoride, wether it’s naturally occurring or added.
“Everyone should be confident standard is at 1.0.”

Dutton explained Noble’s stance on fluoride is about offering consumers choice.

“Our brand is a 100 per cent fluoride free brand and the reason we remove it is because we believe people should have a choice whether they drink fluoride or not.

“People don’t have a choice with government water, but we believe naturally occurring fluoride, not added fluoride, should be the only kind.

“Mass medication is an interesting exercise, but when you deploy mass medication through water, people don’t have a choice as to whether they take the medication or not and there are a million and one studies done into this and the way you look at them can support or disagree with fluoride.

“FSANZ has already allowed bottled water companies to add fluoride but I don’t believe any brand has gone ahead and done that.

“Which makes sense, because consumer are buying it because they don’t want added fluoride, however, naturally it can occur in some streams.”

Schyzens did assure, however, that FSANZ would not be implementing minimum fluoride standards, only a cap on the maximum allowed.

“Added fluoride is just for dental reasons, and is such an incredible public health utility, whilst at same time, we recognise some people are strictly opposed to it, and we’re not saying people have to add fluoride to water, just that they can’t go over one part per million.”

Do you support the tougher regulation of the bottled water industry in Australia?

Buying local food most important to Aussies, research finds

Australians are more likely to buy locally grown foods than any other products, new research has shown.

Research conducted by the Australian Made Australian Grown campaign has shown that while more than 50 per cent of Aussies will buy cheap imported clothes, hardware, furniture and household appliances, 9 in 10 prefer buying food grown and manufactured here.

The Roy Morgan research commissioned by Australian Made Australian Grown found that for many products, consumers don’t care about buying local or imported.

Australian Made Australian Grown Campaign chief executive Ian Harrison said that while the findings were "extremely worrying" and warned more jobs would be lost unless consumers change their attitude across the downward trending sectors, it was good to see that buying local food and drink is at the forefront of Australian’s minds.

He said confidence in the safety and quality of local produce grown in Australia is one of the main reasons the majority of the 1200 adults surveyed buy local produce.

The AMAG campaign is working to educate consumers about the use of the Australian Made logo, and the definitions of Australian made products.

Only one in three surveyed knew that the products had to be substantially produced or manufactured in Australia to be able to use the logo, and four in 10 consumers surveyed said they find it difficult to identify whether a product is Australian made.

Harrison told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit in August that the organisation wants the definitions and legal parameters of using the label to be stricter, as more companies are able to find loopholes to promote their products as Australian, when in fact they are made primarily from foreign ingredients.

“Tighten up the definitions of substantial transformation, I think one of the problems we find in the industry and one the consumers don’t like is ‘maybe’ particularly in the area of food,” he said.

“You have to substantially transform the product in Australia, and you have to have more than 50 per cent value add in Australia.

“Substantial transformation, we believe, offers a very important way forward for the government to put a bit of strength and predictability into food labelling.

“We think you can actually make some fundamental changes to what constitutes substantial transformation.”

The iconic image was an initiative of the federal government in 1986, and is a certification trademark, as Harrison explained at the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit.

It is a “very legal instrument, which has a set of rules behind it and those rules can’t be changed without agreement between us and the government,” he said.

For 10 years up to 1996, the symbol and its use was run by the Advanced Australia Foundation, before a change in government saw the funding that was set up for the logo removed.

“We’re non- for profit, we’re a public company limited by guarantee,” he said.

“In 2007, the federal government introduced Australian Grown.

“We rewrote our rules at that time and we changed the name of the symbol from the Australian Made logo to the Australian Made Australian Grown logo.

“It gets a bit more complicated for us because last year we introduced Australian seafood driven by the seafood industry, and internationally we introduced Australian to be used offshore.

“I’m happy t o say has grown significantly in the last five or six years.

“We’ve got about 1,700 companies using it just over, and on about 10, 000 products, so there’s a very, very wide usage across all sectors, and of these companies, 44 % of them export.”

Earlier this month consumer advocacy group CHOICE released the results of their survey into the country of origin of product ingredients, comparing home-branded products from Coles and Woolworth’s private labels with leading supplier brands, which found  just 55 per cent of Coles’ products and 38 per cent of Woolworths’ products were grown or manufactured locally, compared with 92% of market leader groceries.

More than 100 000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector in the last five years, an industry task force released last month revealed, and the rapid increase in private label products on Australian supermarket shelves is reducing the amount of choice consumers have, while also significantly impacting farmers.

A study earlier this year found that one in four products sold in Australian supermarkets is now private label, and of those, one in two is imported.

What  products do you make sure you buy Australian Made? 
 

Makers of ‘pink slime’ sue TV network

The manufacturers of the now infamous “pink slime” used in American meat products has sued ABC News in the US for defamation over its coverage of the creation.

The Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based meat processor owned by Beef Products Inc. (BPI) is seeking $US1.2 billion ($1.14 billion) in damages over about 200 of what it calls "false and misleading and defamatory" statements about the product.

Officially, the meat product is known as lean, finely textured beef, according to Dan Webb, BPI's attorney.

The lawsuit, filed in a South Dakota state court, names several individuals as defendants, including ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and the local Departure of Agriculture microbiologist for creating the term "pink slime."

The coining of the phrase and the subsequent reporting by the ABC "caused consumers to believe that our lean beef is not beef at all – that it's an unhealthy pink slime, unsafe for public consumption, and that somehow it got hidden in the meat," Webb said.

In the 257-page lawsuit, BPA also names American Broadcasting Companies, ABC News, and ABC correspondents Jim Avila and David Kerley as defendants.

Gerald Zirnstein, the USDA microbiologist who named the product "pink slime," Carl Custer, a former federal food scientist, and Kit Foshee, a former BPI quality assurance manager who was interviewed by ABC, are also on the defendant list.

The "defendants engaged in a month-long vicious, concerted disinformation campaign against BPI," the lawsuit claims.

In the lawsuit 11 reports that aired on television and 14 that appeared online between March 7 and April 3, are listed to support their claims.

BPI's director of food-quality assurance, Craig Letch, claims the company lost 80 per cent of its business in 28 days due to the reporting.

While some of the customers have returned, BPI still doesn't have the customer base that would allow it to rehire former employees, he said.

The company was forced it to close three of its four US plants and fire more than 650 workers due to the fallout, which was further fuelled by the ABC publishing a list of grocery stores that had stopped selling the product.

This action, he said, pressured others to end their business relationship with BPI over fear of customer backlash.

The reports created the false impression "that it's some type of chemical product, that it's not beef. It led people to believe that it's some kind of repulsive, horrible, vile substance that got put into ground beef and hidden from consumers,” he argued.

"The result of that has been catastrophic for this company," he said.

The ABC has vowed to fight the claims in court, saying it has done nothing wrong.

"The lawsuit is without merit," Jeffrey W. Schneider, ABC senior vice president, said in a brief statement on Thursday.

"We will contest it vigorously"

“Pink Slime,” or "meat glue" is made up of bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria, a common practice used for many years.

While the processes meet federal food safety standards, many consumers were understandably shocked to see images of the product, looking highly processed and unhealthy.

After the ABC and Zirnstein coined the phrase, it spread quickly, with the The New York Times using it in a 2009 article on the safety of meat processing methods and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver publically campaigning against it.

As a result of consumer pressure, McDonald's and other fast food companies stopped using it, and major supermarket chains also said they would cease selling beef containing the product.

An online petition calling for the banning of the product from school menus drew hundreds of thousands of supporters, as parents grew increasingly concerned about the impact of the low-cost product used to make small amounts of meat go further and ensure continuity in products like hamburger patties.

Only three states in the US, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, now order beef that may contain it, while the rest refuse to use ground beef with “pink slime” in it, according to the US Department of Agriculture.