Make a fresh start with your fridge in 2017: apps to reduce food waste and save money

I have never been good at sticking to New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s to floss my teeth more or to join a gym, I just don’t manage to keep them up. But this year I am setting myself a better goal – one that will save me money, time and be good for the planet. I’m going to start using a meal planning and pantry inventory app.

If you barely have time to scribble together a shopping list, let alone browse recipes or check cupboards before leaving the house, then meal planning apps are a great tool to help manage shopping, cooking and eating.

They have a range of features that help you track what’s in your pantry and fridge, import recipes, create meal plans, generate shopping lists, and sometimes all of the above. They take a bit of time to set up, but once that’s done they can make your life a lot easier.

Why plan meals?

It doesn’t sound very sexy, but planning meals and knowing what’s in your fridge and pantry when you go shopping is a great way to reduce food waste and save time and money.

Globally, one-third of edible food produced is wasted. This puts a strain on scarce resources such as land and water, and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions.

If food waste were a country, it would have the third-highest emissions after China and the US.

Menu planning also means fewer trips to the supermarket and less impulse spending, as well as helping you use leftovers more efficiently.

So what are these apps?

To get you started, I’ve put together an overview of a few useful apps that I came across during my research. Results of a recent survey by MenuForMums in the UK found that 90% of members saved time and money (and by default reduced food waste) by using its online meal planning service.

1.) Pepperplate is a mobile app that helps you to compile and organise your recipe collection, create meal plans, generate shopping lists and cook the recipes that you want to try.

Recipes can be imported by pasting their URL from the web or by entering them manually. They can then be used to create meal plans and interactive shopping lists which allow you to tick off items as you go and share with others. When cooking, Pepperplate will walk you through the recipes, complete with cooking timers. Other similar meal planning apps are BigOven and AnyList.

Recent research has shown that Melbourne wastes 200kg of food per person a year.
Food waste image from www.shutterstock.com

2.) Cloud-Freezer helps you create shopping lists like Pepperplate, but focuses on inventories rather than meal planning. It allows you to keep track of the items you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry, including expiry dates so you can plan what you need to eat first to reduce food waste.

Items can be added to shopping lists from a library of previous entries, moved between shopping lists and inventories, and between the inventories themselves (for example, if you move something from the freezer to the fridge to defrost). The app has a barcode scanner function connected to user-driven databases to help you enter items quickly. There are similar but less sophisticated cross-platform apps called GrocerEaze and Out of Milk.

3.) MealBoard offers the most features and could be life-changing if you take the time to set it up. It’s a combination of Pepperplate and Cloud-Freezer because it enables you to import recipes, plan meals, generate shopping lists and do inventories. Integrating these features turbocharges your ability to organise food activities because it automatically populates shopping lists with what you have to buy, taking into account what you already have at home.

This could save a lot of time and effort, and prevent a lot of duplicate shopping. If you’re prepared to do that, it’s a powerful tool. Another cross-platform app, FoodPlanner, boasts the same features as MealBoard.

So if you have some spare time in the holidays, after recovering from your food coma and before you join that gym, maybe take one of these apps for a trial run. Between Christmas leftovers and forgotten items in the back of your pantry, you may not need to shop for weeks.

The time you save might make it easier to stick to all your other resolutions, and your wallet and the planet will thank you for it.

The Conversation

Seona Candy, Research Fellow: Food and Urban Systems, University of Melbourne

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

Nescafé moves to Tumblr to entice a younger generation

Nescafé has become the first global brand to move all its international and local websites to the Tumblr platform, with the aim of building stronger relationships with younger consumers.

The change reflects its position as Nestlé’s top-performing brand on social media, with more than 35 million fans worldwide. It will allow Nescafé to further develop consumer-led communications and its e-commerce offering in formats optimised for mobiles and tablets.

Tumblr, which hosts more than 250 million blogs and 110 billion individual posts, is a cross between a micro-blogging site and social network.

The new global Nescafé Tumblr platform allows fans to share images, videos, GIFs and other coffee-related content uploaded by the Tumblr community.
It is the latest in a series of recent innovations from the Nescafé brand, following the 2014 launch of a new, unified look and feel across all of its products in the 180 countries where it is sold.

These include the Wake-Up app, a ‘mobile social alarm clock’, the ready-to-drink chilled Nescafé Shakissimo range, and a new flagship store in Tokyo, Japan.

The why behind the buy

Image recognition technology can help food manufacturers understand the marketplace and react in real-time.

Understanding what and why consumers buy is a tricky science. While purchase patterns can be obtained from cash registers with relative ease, understanding the consumer’s behaviours and preferences and the circumstances behind the purchase is much more complicated but equally important. As much as 80 percent of the consumer’s purchase decisions are made while he or she is in front of the shelf.

In a complex and competitive landscape such as retail, food manufacturers are grappling with audits that are expensive, manual and time-consuming, with shelves and store promotion lagging behind real-time changes and customer demands.  To audit one food product category takes approximately 15 minutes and involves physical measurements that are prone to human error, inaccuracies and inconsistencies. The number of food brands and sub-brands, design changes (for example, regular versus “Limited Edition”) and SKUs make auditing a colossal and very costly task. Food and beverage manufacturers can spend as much as US$12 million annually in a single market to employ a sizeable sales force to undertake these audits. 

Despite the massive efforts and costs, food manufacturers can only be content with basic statistics and KPIs, which offer little value to the business. Even if reports can be generated from the data collected, they can take weeks or months to produce, rendering them of little or no use to manufacturers. Such limited reporting not only hinders timely and effective responses to tackle the ever-changing taste buds of fussy consumers, it prevents manufacturers from making more intelligent, accurate and profitable business decisions in a highly competitive marketplace.

Businesses around the world are realising that technology is paramount to driving growth and enhancing customer engagement. Having the ability to capture and manage huge amounts of customer or product data and transform them into pieces that can be actioned upon, will give them a leg up over the competition. It is no different for food manufacturers. They are beginning to see the benefits of image recognition technology and are starting to aggressively pursue the technology to allow for greater efficiencies in their audit and execution processes and drive more intelligent and profitable business decisions as a brand.

Reducing auditing time

Image recognition technology—a combination of fine-grained recognition algorithms and contextualisation models—allows manufacturers and retailers to leverage and manage the huge amount of data collected in-store to understand the marketplace and react in real-time.

Food sales representatives simply use a smartphone to take photos of relevant store shelves, which are stored, analysed and reported in real-time. Within minutes, the food sales rep has actionable reports in the store, detailing key metrics such as share of shelf, competitors’ share, shelf standards, planogram compliance, pricing and promotional materials.

The use of the technology can save up to 60 percent of audit time in stores, freeing the reps’ time for other sales activities. Imagine the cost savings food manufacturers such as Nestle, which have as many as 6,000 brands, can achieve in just one grocery store.

Accurate, multi-faceted data in real-time

Not only does image recognition remove human error out of the equation, it also delivers accurate and reliable data on product distribution and availability. Using image recognition can provide at least a 20 percent improvement on the accuracy level achieved by manual auditing and can reach an accuracy level as high as 99 percent.

By leveraging image recognition, a rep can get over 50 different measurements, such as share of shelf (market share), planogram compliance, pricing and competitive insights, just from a few images of the shelf. This is a giant leap for food manufacturers, who have to contend with today’s auditing methods that only consider merely four or five KPIs.

Unearthing more opportunities to sell

Food manufacturers are facing shrinking margins and limited opportunities for horizontal growth. As competition intensifies, the emphasis has turned to vertical growth or new customer segments.

Image recognition technology can support this strategic focus. A rep can identify and process all the category opportunities available for the store in real-time to upsell, cross-sell and provide range extensions in-store. In some markets, companies like Coca Cola have successfully leveraged the data they have gained through the use of image recognition; they have seen three percent gains in market share, better performance of their brands in-store and a positive impact on their bottom-line.

Future of image recognition apps is bright

Newer and more innovative technology such as image recognition on all smartphones, tablets, analytics and wearable electronics are quickly becoming a reality. The technology is also leveraging video capabilities, which is better suited for modern trade channels, i.e. big supermarkets with long aisles, as it does not require reps to take as many images and they can simply scan the shelf.

Although current applications of image recognition are mainly benefitting businesses, it is evolving into the consumer space, enabling them to shop faster in a time-poor world. Mobile applications with real-time information on shoppers’ favourite food and other products in the store are available to help them make smarter and more informed purchase decisions. It allows shoppers to check if their favourite products are in stock and receive targeted promotions and discounts. For consumers, wearable electronics allow them to engage directly with manufacturers at the shelf, make informed purchase decisions and receive targeted sales promotions.

While the retail market is huge, the industry’s ability to grow and compete has been challenged by infrastructure, increased competition, and most importantly, ineffective tracking and analysis tools at the shelves within stores. Image recognition not only resolves these challenges but also provides a better yardstick of how consumers react to brands.

Joel Bar-El is the CEO of Trax Image Recognition.

 

New wine industry software to improve efficiency

A team of students have developed a software system that could save the food and wine industry millions of dollars a year.

A team of University of Adelaide students have developed a software system that could save the wine industry millions of dollars a year – and their work could also be applied to global food production.

The team, called Seer Insights, has developed the GrapeBrain software system, which they hope will improve the efficiency of production in viticulture.

The system captures a greater and more reliable volume of information about grapegrowing and winemaking processes, enabling those in industry to more accurately assess annual yield levels and the resources needed.

“Not being able to accurately predict the grape yield from one year to the next is a major and extremely costly issue for the wine industry,” said Seer Insights team member Harry Lucas, 20, who is studying Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Adelaide. The other members are Petros Bakopoulos, 21, a Mechanical Engineering and Finance student, and Liam Ellul, 23, who is studying for a double degree in Commerce (Marketing) and Law.

“At the moment we’re working with the wine industry and applying this technology to both growers’ and winemakers’ operations. It could potentially save the industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” Lucas said.

“There is also the potential for our system to be expanded into other industries. It’s the kind of technology that could improve global food production, helping to feed the world.”

The system won the Tech eChallenge competition run by the University of Adelaide’s Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC) and School of Computer Science in conjunction with Microsoft.

As the inaugural winner of the Tech eChallenge, Seer Insights will receive prizes valued at more than $20,000, including a trip for all three team members to Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, USA. The trip will provide a unique opportunity for the team to pitch its technology to Microsoft executives.

“Seer Insights is to be congratulated for their innovative software project, which is highly relevant to the needs of industry,” says the Director of ECIC, Professor Noel Lindsay.

“The inaugural year of the Tech eChallenge has already proven to be a great success, with a staggering 65 teams entering the first round of the competition. We are pleased to be partnering with Microsoft to foster new technology ideas and new talent, such as in the case of Seer Insights,” Professor Lindsay says.

 

Internet of Things scanning technology and the future of food

Demands for food safety and traceability can make it difficult for manufacturers to ensure they maintain the quality of their produce.

Following the recent frozen berry hepatitis A outbreak, the Australian food manufacturing industry has been under the spotlight with increasing demands for better food quality and labelling. 

These demands, coupled with a wide range of transportation and storage facilities that differ across Australia, makes it difficult for manufacturers to ensure they maintain the quality of their produce. There is increased pressure on manufacturers to ensure that existing processes allow them to fulfil customer orders in an efficient and safe manner.

A global Internet of Things (IoT) study by Forrester Consulting  in 2014 revealed that senior IT decision makers inside key industries like food manufacturing believe that the IoT will be  transformational and will play a key role in streamline the process in the food-chain.

Benefits of location tracking and traceability

Food manufacturers today recognise the need for real-time visibility of their products as they move through the supply chain.  One of the best ways to address the need for visibility in the supply chain is through the implementation of IoT scanning technologies such as RFID and Real Time Location Services that can provide manufacturers with greater visibility over the entire supply chain, and better manage their assets.

For example a Zebra Technologies customer in the baking industry reduced their inventory and distribution costs by $3 million in the first year after installing an automated pallet labelling and identification system. The company, which operates six warehouses and previously was not able to measure and balance inventory throughout its operations, began printing and applying barcode labels to all its cases and pallets and then scanning the bar codes to capture quantity, location and product identification numbers, including lot codes.

The system enabled the company to gain an accurate, timely view of inventory and to increase the average number of pallets per shipment from 47 to 61, a 30 percent improvement. By increasing load yields, the company significantly reduced the need for less-than-truckload shipments to customers to fulfil orders.

Shortly after implementing the system, the company recalled some products because it received a bad batch of ingredients from a supplier. Using the lot number information captured from bar code scanning, the company traced its shipments and conducted a highly targeted recall by contacting only those customers who had received the affected products. The recall was completed quickly, with minimized cost, and without having to pull unaffected products from store shelves.

1. Streamlined warehouse management

Food manufacturers can use bar coding and RFID with warehouse management system (WMS) software packages, to improve labour productivity, documentation, and efficiency within the supply-chain. For example, a basic function of a WMS can calculate the most efficient picking and put away inventory sequences, which will reduce required labour and handling. When supported with timely, accurate information, a WMS scan can manage inventory by expiration dates to reduce spoilage. 

2. Simplify returns management

Distributors need to have plans and processes in place to execute recalls quickly and efficiently. The degree of traceability that suppliers and distributors have over their products is what determines the size, scope and expense of a recall. Having clear visibility over the entire supply chain allows for product recalls to be completed in a more expeditious manner as the source of the problem in the manufacturing process can be detected almost instantaneously.

Production control systems and auditing procedures using RFID technology can enable manufacturers to isolate quality or compliance problems at the lot level. By making lot-level traceability available throughout the supply chain with a barcode scan, businesses can recall specific quantities and shipments. This degree of traceability limits the logistics handling costs and administrative burden, so recalls can be resolved more quickly. 

3. Tighten container management

Automatic identification systems can track pallets, milk cartons, trays and other returnable containers which can provide a strong return on investment by lowering operating expenses. Many producers and distributors lack accurate information about the quantity and location of their shipping containers because the assets often dwell at customer facilities, and are not returned promptly. As a result, food manufacturers can purchase more returnable containers to ensure they have an adequate supply, creating excess capacity and locking capital into fixed assets.

Identifying returnable containers and tracking them to customers provides the information businesses can use to improve returns and recoveries. The first step is to permanently identify each asset with a bar code label or RFID tag. Workers can scan the assets when they are loaded onto trucks at the distribution centre, or in the field upon delivery. Systems could record the information in the customer record or order management system, or in a separate database. Returned assets would undergo scanning to check them back into the distribution centre, similar to a video rental return.

Managers could consult the system software to get a real-time view of container availability. The customer could track outstanding containers, with documentation provided to aid return and recovery.

David Arkles is ANZ regional sales director, Zebra Technologies

 

Prometheus Group partners with SMEC

The partnership will combine Prometheus Group’s leading edge enterprise asset management software with SMEC’s asset management consulting group.

The partnership initially will focus on the food, beverage and grocery industry and other asset intensive verticals.

The Prometheus Group and SMEC partnership will provide the tools to improve asset performance and the critical processes to drive dramatic and sustainable improvement in asset care throughout the food, beverage and grocery industry.

Prometheus Group general manager of sales for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific, Dr Bernhard Schwister, notes the possibilities that the partnership has to offer, “Our software has gained unprecedented acceptance in the marketplace because its ease of use, rapid implementation, and intuitive nature.  By offering an integrated solution with SMEC, our customers gain a distinct competitive advantage through asset optimisation that is fully realised and effective.

SMEC’s chief operating officer for asset management in the Australian/Asia region, Thomas Hynes said the new partnership has much to offer the food, beverage and grocery sector specifically.

“When Prometheus Group software is combined with SMEC’s integrated asset management solutions, sustainable and ongoing long-term operational improvements can be achieved, positively impacting both productivity and earnings,” Hynes said.

“Our dedicated asset management function delivers solutions that balance risk, performance and cost.  We experience demand for solutions that can unlock and extend the value derived from the investment in SAP that has been made by many asset intensive enterprises. This partnership enables us to offer Prometheus Group’s SAP expertise to drive value for customers together”.

Together, Prometheus Group and SMEC will identify and develop process improvement needs across an enterprise platform, improve production and asset reliability while enabling enterprise wide roll-out of standardised process improvements for the Australian food, beverage and grocery sector throughout the Australia and Asia regions.

 

Diageo virtually opens its doors with Google 360˚ technology

Four Diegeo distilleries in remote parts of Scotland can now be toured from laptops, iPads and other digital devices using Google Business View.

Diageo has worked with Google Business View, a 360˚ virtual tour that will allow people to see inside Diageo’s Single Malt Scotch Whisky distilleries: Cardhu, The Singleton of Glen Ord, Talisker and Lagavulin.

Nicholas Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach, comments: “All of our whisky distilleries are unique and all happen to be located in some of the most beautiful places in the world.  Many aspire to visit, but only a few can. So we’re delighted that this technology can open doors for whisky fans across the world, to give enthusiasts an insight into the craftsmanship and hard work that goes into creating these whiskies.”

Venky Balakrishnan, global vice president, digital innovation for Diageo, said: “People travel from all over the world to our distilleries in Scotland to learn about the heritage and provenance of their favourite brands. Google Business View brings the immersive experience of visiting these famous landmarks to people regardless of where they are in the world. Seeing & feeling the incredible history, craft and quality first-hand will bring them closer to the brands they love. This is a great example of how we are using cutting-edge technology to pay tribute to centuries old traditions.”

Ed Parsons, geospatial technologist at Google UK, said: “The processes that are involved inside these landmark Scottish distilleries are of interest to a wide range of people, in terms of their history, heritage and craft. Now anyone can explore these places in detail, and we are thrilled to be able to share this with users from around the world through Google Business View.”

 

Norco teams up with Authenticateit

Norco has signed an agreement with Authenticateit, which will allow consumers to check the authenticity of Norco milk.

Norco has signed a three year agreement with Authenticateit, which will allow consumers to check the authenticity of Norco milk by scanning the product’s barcode using an app.

The front end of Authenticateit is a free, smartphone application that provides consumers in China with a way to check the authenticity of Norco milk by scanning the product’s barcode.

The app also verifies if the product has not been recalled via a live integration with the global product recall portals. The app also automatically detects the language settings on the mobile phone and presents all the information in Chinese to the consumer in China.

“GS1 Australia has been a key part of the development of brand protection platform, Authenticateit. The solution adopts the GS1 numbering system with the application of the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) on GS1 DataMatrix. This offers a complete track and trace solution and product identifier for Norco milk products,” said Gennady Volchek, chief executive officer at Authenticateit.

Maria Palazzolo, chief executive officer at GS1 Australia said, "Authenticateit has a Business Alliance partnership with GS1 Australia that has seen Authenticateit become a fully compliant industry system. GS1 Australia is proud to support this local business with an inventive, cost effective option to address counterfeiting.”

In September 2013, Norco began preparing to send a trial batch of fresh milk to China.

Since early 2014 Norco has transported fresh milk to Chinese consumers within seven days via airfreight, which was significant as it previously took 21 days for milk products to pass Chinese quarantine.

 

Results for Mondelēz’ Mobile Futures program released

Mondelēz International has announced the results of its Mobile Futures program, as the brand and startup partners conclude the final pilot stage.

The program saw some of Australia’s most innovative technology startups partner with iconic brands, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Favourites, BelVita, Marvellous Creations and Philadelphia cream cheese.

After a competitive pitch process, five local startups, Issue, Proximiti, Snaploader, SkyFii and MyShout were chosen to partner with some of Australia’s biggest and most popular brands to address a brand challenge in just 90 days.

During the three month program, the teams unlocked significant market and customer insights, using the startups’ respective technologies to create new mobile concepts. Initial results indicate the program has gone beyond its goals to deliver ongoing innovation for the global business and future opportunities for the startups.

Anthony Ho, head of marketing services, Mondelēz International said, “The results from each of the pilots have already surpassed our expectations and we’re looking forward to seeing how these startups can help us create new experiences for Australian consumers with our brands.

“Working with these incredibly innovative startups to challenge ourselves and embrace new thinking, we have been able to foster a culture of ‘intrapreneurship’ within Mondelēz. The project has started the shift to make us more agile and change our thinking across all levels of the business. We've seen our brand managers start to embrace some of the startup qualities, which is making real difference in their day-to-day jobs in how they approach tasks, problem solving and collaboration with other teams."

Pilot Results

Cadbury Daily Milk and Snaploader

Cadbury Dairy Milk partnered with Snaploader, an image recognition and augmented reality app, to unlock the joy within consumers through a campaign that brings to life the range of Cadbury Dairy Milk flavours.

The pilot launched in early November supported by in store activation in 20 Victorian Woolworths stores and a high reach Facebook campaign. The pilot featured a competition to “win your height in chocolate” to encourage consumers to download Snaploader and unlock joyful branded content within the app. Consumers entered the competition using the Snaploader app to “snap” an image of a Cadbury Dairy Milk pack. Once in the app, consumers discovered an augmented reality feature to bring the Cadbury Dairy Milk flavour personalities to life and could access a variety of different recipes.

Snaploader has had a successful start to the pilot with 1,100+ app downloads in the first week of launch driven by the targeted advertising campaign on Facebook. The point of sale executed in Woolworths also assisted with the path to purchase for Cadbury Dairy Milk in store – a key pilot objective.

Cadbury Favourites and SkyFii

Cadbury Favourites is leveraging startup partner SkyFii’s Wi-Fi technology to help understand their consumers and engage with them via mobile, in real time. The pilot focused on the understanding that consumers were more likely to purchase Favourites as a last minute item, using SkyFii’s platform to better understand shopping behaviour.

The first pilot test in November centred on a promotion for Favourites Christmas large pack. It measures shopping patterns to identify the right time to connect with consumers and drive them in store and measure the conversion rate. Later phases are in development and will expand the scale of tracking to provide deeper shopper insights and measure purchase conversion. SkyFii are currently in discussion with Cadbury teams in South East Asia to explore potential applications for international Cadbury brands.

Philly and Issue

Philadelphia cream cheese and Issue, a platform to create beautiful mini-magazines for mobile and tablet readers, were the first to launch their pilot in market in September, just 23 days after partnering. The pilot created a mobile magazine with shoppable stories, sharing Philly food inspiration through mobile content to inspire and engage consumers. The first phase of the pilot was created in partnership with Smudge Publishing. The first branded Issue reached more than 75,000 consumers in three weeks. The team is currently exploring retail partnerships to bring the mobile magazine experience directly in-store to engage with consumers at the point of purchase.

belVita Breakfast Biscuits and Proximiti

belVita Breakfast Biscuits and location-based services platform, Proximiti, collaborated to personalise content and use geo-analytics to learn more about the behaviour of belVita consumers.

belVita also used the startup’s technology to geo-target consumers on mobile to amplify its “morning wins” campaign by connecting with consumers and sending geo-targeted offers to direct the path to purchase, resulting in click-through rates of 32 percent. The team launched the first phase of their pilot on October 14th near Flinders Street train station in Melbourne, with a geo-targeted offer for a free coffee and sample of belVita to nearby commuters, recording 43 percent redemption rates.

The partners are currently assessing new opportunities to scale location-based consumer engagement through retailer partnerships and amplify the campaign through major publishers.

Cadbury Marvellous Creations and MyShout

Cadbury Marvellous Creations partnered with MyShout, an app that allows consumers to ‘shout’ vouchers to their friends at participating outlets that can be redeemed via their mobile device.

Using the MyShout platform for redemption, Marvellous Creations set out to reach their target demographic and explored a new, potentially more cost efficient sampling method via mobile coupon redemption. The small scale pilot trial in Sydney CBD achieved an above target click through and overall 11.7% claim rate. Marvellous Creations is also looking to understand how the brand could transition the established behaviour of buying drinks/meals for friends and colleagues into the chocolate category.

 

GeoSLAM and CSIRO partner for 3D mapping technology

Manufacturers will be able to create faster and more accurate 3D simulations of their factory production lines due to a partnership between GeoSLAM and CSIRO.

Awarded $2 million through CSIRO’s Australian Growth Partnership (AGP) program, UK-based start-up GeoSLAM is partnering with CSIRO to enhance and add features to Zebedee’s underlying simultaneous localisation and mapping technology.

“We’re investing in developing this technology so that GeoSLAM, the leading player in the field, will continue to grow and enter new markets,” said the CSIRO digital productivity flagship’s Nick Marsh.

“GeoSLAM is a true start-up success story. It was established in 2012 as a joint venture between CSIRO and 3D Laser Mapping to commercialise our technology, and has since achieved major worldwide sales and recognition,” said Marsh.

Zebedee enables users to create accurate 3D maps simply by walking through a desired location.

“There’s real value for companies in mapping dynamic environments in real-time. For example, manufacturers can use the technology to map components on a production line and track their progress to improve efficiencies and flow,” said CSIRO’s digital productivity flagship director Michael Brünig

“There’s also the opportunity to use these technologies to create real-to-life simulations of the factory floor for training and quality control activities.” 

The AGP funding was awarded to GeoSLAM through a competitive process, in recognition of the company’s rapid early success and the potential to advance the technology through CSIRO – which has Australia’s largest field robotics research centre.  

 

Does your production line make the grade?

Comply and produce. It is that tricky balance at the foundation of food manufacturing.

Comply with quality and safety regulations without sacrificing productivity. In the technologically-driven modern commerce landscape, product inspection equipment, such as metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems, can play a crucial role in helping food producers achieve that balance between compliance with stringent safety standards while actually maintaining or enhancing output.

But what happens when the regulations change? It is vital that food manufacturers have production lines capable of responding to future developments in food safety standards. Updated International Featured Standards (IFS) Version 6 quality regulations, recognised in major global markets, came into effect in July 2012 and require manufacturers to maintain tighter control over processing lines. 

Food manufacturers must adhere to these new regulations as well as other guidelines approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) to continue to supply their products to lucrative markets. Launched in 2000, following a number of food safety crises when consumer confidence was at an all-time low, GFSI is an initiative for the improvement of food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide.

Guidelines approved by GFSI, including IFS Version 6, are based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program, which requires manufacturers to audit their lines to identify potential risks to product quality and integrity. The introduction of foreign body contamination during processing could be one such risk. Once identified, the manufacturer must establish a Critical Control Point (CCP) to check product quality and remove any substandard packs to uphold quality and protect consumers. As well as demanding the adoption of the HACCP program, IFS Version 6 includes a number of other amendments to enhance consumer safety.

Key regulatory changes

The key changes in the latest IFS regulations affect global food manufacturers, most critically in the areas of senior management responsibility, production process, and measures, analysis and improvements.

The updated requirements for Senior Management Responsibility relate to ensuring that personnel are sufficiently trained, understand their individual responsibilities in food safety and know that their performance is monitored.

IFS Version 6 puts the onus for ensuring optimum food safety on every person involved in the production process, not just on the machine operatives. Product inspection systems that offer comprehensive monitoring and data collection software as well as options for remote access to contaminant detection records can enable manufacturers to demonstrate they have exercised due diligence in their processes and have adhered to food safety guidelines in the event of a contamination event. Inspection technology with enhanced security features, such as password-protected reject bin locks and touchscreen displays and recording of login attempts optimise manufacturers’ control over their production lines.

There are also new requirements designed to mitigate the risk of contamination of food products from foreign bodies, such as metal and broken glass. These include comprehensive training on any product inspection equipment, such as metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems, used on the processing line for all employees as well as regular changeover of machine operatives to prevent fatigue from affecting food quality. It is important, therefore, that product inspection systems are easy to use to simplify the training process and build operative confidence when using the machine. Product inspection technology with features such as touchscreen Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), intuitive software and pre-set functions for product changeovers can reduce the amount of training necessary to ensure optimum detection sensitivity and minimise the risk of reputation-damaging product recalls.

IFS Version 6 stipulates that food manufacturers introduce and document procedures describing the steps to be taken in the event of breakage of glass and other brittle material near the production line . These measures should include isolation of affected product batches, which can be achieved with the use of an x-ray machine or metal detector featuring an automatic rejecter and lockable reject bin to quarantine non-conforming food packs. This technology allows manufacturers to re-inspect isolated products, enabling them to be reworked to reduce product waste.

Product labelling is another key focus of the new IFS Version 6. All information must be legible, indelible and meet customer-applicable product specifications . Importantly for food manufacturers, the updated standards stipulate that there should be a process in place to ensure that all product labelling complies with the current legislation of the destination country . This includes the display of ingredients, product weight and expiration date. All information should correspond to the product inside the packaging as well . Food manufacturers can fully automate this process using advanced vision inspection technology, minimising the risk of non-conforming packs reaching end consumers. These systems are capable of examining labelling information at high speeds and removing sub-standard packs from the line. It is important that any vision inspection equipment has easy-to-use HMIs to facilitate the setup of the machine with new information both for product changeovers and for the guarantee of compliance with new legislation in the future without the need to invest in new technology.

IFS Version 6 for the first time contains guidelines regarding traceability of food products to identify the relationship between product batches and their labels . Manufacturers must now store samples of each product batch appropriately until its expiration date and, if required by retailers, for a determined period beyond.

Advanced vision inspection and serialisation technology installed at key points on the production line can help manufacturers comply with these standards by enabling products to be tracked from the raw ingredient stage, through processing to packaging and palletisation until they are ready to be transported to the retailer, storing the information for later use. This ensures manufacturers can easily identify which sample belongs to which batch in the event of a product recall or request by the retailer. Such equipment is already in use in the pharmaceutical industry and optimises food manufacturers’ oversight of the entire production line, helping them demonstrate due diligence in the event of a product recall.

Additionally, the guidelines in IFS Version 6 relating to maintenance and repair of product inspection equipment have been amended, as have those regarding the use of third party service providers. Food manufacturers are now obliged to ensure that all product equipment processes are in good condition without any negative influence on food safety. Where manufacturers require maintenance from a third party, all the manufacturers’ specified material and equipment requirements should be respected by service providers. Food manufacturers can maintain the integrity of their food safety procedures by sourcing maintenance and other services from trusted suppliers. To ensure optimum performance of product inspection systems, they can take advantage of the dedicated service offering of their equipment providers. Service engineers can make necessary repairs, conduct audits or carry out product verification while the machine is in operation, enabling compliance with standards and boosting productivity as well.

Finally, and most importantly for food manufacturers, IFS Version 6 stipulates that all measuring devices be tested regularly for accuracy, adjusted, and calibrated as necessary under a comprehensive monitoring system. Furthermore, the results of these checks, adjustments and calibrations must be documented and any necessary corrective action on weighing technology or production processes carried out. To comply with these standards, it is important that the product inspection system used be easily recalibrated or re-set in the event of a failed test. Systems with easy-to-use displays and dedicated test procedures built into the software can facilitate this process for properly adjusted equipment. Remote monitoring services can test many product inspection system performance parameters and undertake corrective action in real time without the need to disrupt production. In this way, manufacturers can ensure optimum production line security without compromising downtime.

Being aware of the Standards
Food manufacturers must adhere to the changes to regulations to ensure growth and to retain access to important global markets. Complying with strict quality and safety standards, such as those featured in IFS Version 6, does not automatically mean manufacturers must sacrifice productivity. By selecting the right product inspection technology for your needs, such as metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems, manufacturers can meet regulations while maintaining or enhancing efficiency. To do this, it is vital that manufacturers develop a rapport with an equipment supplier that understands global food safety regulations who will be able to advise them on the most suitable solution for their production lines and to ensure their processes comply with standards well into the future.


Neil Giles is Marketing Communications Manager at the Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection Division of Mettler-Toledo, based in the UK. He currently specialises across all four main product inspection technologies, which are x-ray, metal detection, vision inspection and checkweighing.

About Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection
Mettler-Toledo Safeline is the world’s leading supplier of metal detection and x-ray inspection solutions for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Together with Garvens Checkweighing, CI-Vision and Pharmacontrol Electronic GmbH (PCE), Mettler-Toledo Safeline forms the Product Inspection division of Mettler-Toledo.

Serialisation: protecting brands and supply chains

Serialisation is not new. It’s the process of putting a unique number on a product. While the idea has been around for a while, its use has come back into the spotlight because of the benefits it offers in an increasingly complex global supply chain.

At the consumer level particularly, a serialised unique identification process enables traceability and authentication via systems such as chain of custody, chain of ownership, product identifier authentication or recall – and readily available technology can be used with all of these.

The pharmaceutical industry has quite well developed serialisation, but changing regulations in various countries around the world will most likely see mass serialisation become a reality across a host of industries.

So why is it necessary?
There is a lack of real-time transparency with products changing ownership a number of times. Serialisation gives complete traceability and enables authentication at every level in the supply chain — especially at the consumer level.

Along with the complexities of an increasingly world-spanning supply chain, counterfeiting is another major reason why serialisation is becoming necessary. Counterfeiting affects not only company bottom lines, but in the case of foods and pharmaceuticals, poses a public health risk.

Business benefits
While there’s consumer-level and supply chain justifications for serialisation, there are also several business benefits:

  1. Brand protection: it gives the ability to detect and manage counterfeit product threats
  2. Reverse logistics and recalls: it gives greater granularity of data to aid recalls, returns, withdrawals and rebates, and shrinks loss recovery.
  3. Inventory control and supply chain visibility: it improves visibility of the exact item and quantities delivered at each point in the supply chain, so provides a better insight into raw materials ordering as well as process scheduling. 
  4. Consumer connection: it gives the ability to build consumer trust through product verification or authentication, and, therefore, the opportunity for the brand to connect directly with the consumer.
  5. Returns: it gives the ability to detect returns that were not originally sold to the customer.

Implementing serialisation
To effectively implement serialisation and traceability, a business needs to understand the requirements from a compliance perspective, as well as their brand objectives. Typically, a traceability/serialisation system has these building blocks:

  • unique identification codes
  • data-capture mechanisms
  • managing links across the chain
  • data communication across the supply chain

Flexibility is key. A system that meets current regulations is great, but it should also be able to accommodate change if regulations alter in the future. (With the way regulations have changed so far, that’s really “when” regulations change.)

Serialisation can be implemented in three stages:

  1. At the consumer level, with a unique number on the unit using a data carrier (e.g. data bar, 2D code, numeric code).
  2. Using the existing Global Trade Item Number (GTIN); a serialised GTIN can be used for a more integrated approach.
  3. Across the supply chain, including cartons and pallets, for complete supply chain visibility and end-to-end track and trace.

Considerations
Here are a few things to think about before implementing serialisation:

  • review data management from an enterprise level (ERP/MES), a plant level (MES), line level (SCADA) and machine level (PLCs and equipment)
  • consider the impact on your existing processes and line speeds
  • determine the code’s location and permanency
  • choose the right data carrier (i.e. QR, Datamatix, GS1 Datamatrix barcodes)
  • use GS1 standards
  • think of aggregation strategies when serialising beyond the consumer-unit level
  • choose a technology partner who understands serialisation and can provide serialisation-ready devices and solutions

From our experience with serialisation, here are a few more things to think about:

  • move 2D barcodes away from other barcodes on the packaging so your scanning is efficient
  • use a data reader for online verification
  • make sure any rework or removing samples for QA doesn’t cause serial number linking to go out of sync
  • test print on several substrates
  • use barcode grading
  • control pallet aggregation and avoid cartons being moved around before a pallet is completely wrapped up and labelled
  • control products being picked up from the line
  • make sure your existing network can handle the data flow
  • ensure your existing systems can inter-operate with serialisation-control software
  • have clear processes on how will any rework (if needed) will be handled
  • use validation processes in line (vision inspection, data readers)

Serialisation has many business and supply chain benefits. As with every new process, make sure it really is right for your business. If you’re unsure, start with a pilot program and evaluate from there.

Mark Dingley is chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association and heads operations at Matthews Australasia. Contact him at info@matthews.com.au

Image: www.outsourcing-pharma.com and www.businessnewsdaily.com

 

NZ honey brand allows consumers to check quality with QR code

In what’s believed to be a world first, Aiborne Honey has unveiled a new tool which allows consumers to look up specific details about its honey.

The New Zealand brand has launched TraceMe, a QR code which gives consumers access to information on the honey’s pollen percentage, colour, conductivity, glucose levels, whether or not it’s been heat damaged, and where it was harvested.

“This technology allows us to be completely transparent,” said Peter Bray, Airborne Honey managing director. “We are giving customers and retailers everything they need to identify their honey – whether it is manuka, clover or any other honey in the range – as being true to variety, undamaged and traceable. The “traceable” feature will also make it easier for consumers and importers overseas to identify counterfeit honey, something that continues to be a problem internationally.”

Users just need to scan the QR code on the honey label with their smartphone and enter the honey’s batch number into the TraceMe section on the Airborne Honey website.

TraceMe’s launch follows The New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries’ release of an Interim Labelling Guide for Manuka Honey last month, which list the information recommended to print on honey labels including pollen presence, HMF (a measure of heat damage) colour and conductivity.

 

Digital tools boost profits for SMEs: survey

A survey of small and medium businesses in Australia has found that 48 percent recorded profit increases as a result of using digital tools.

The survey polled 172 state and territory winners and finalists of the 2014 Telstra Business Awards and found that new technologies are helping to boost customer service, workplace flexibility, staff retention and profitability.

The findings were:

  • 78 percent of businesses reported improvements to customer service capabilities as a result of using digital tools
  • 77 percent use cloud computing to set up more flexible virtual offices and collaborate remotely
  • 41 percent have lower operating costs
  • 84 percent of businesses are using Facebook and 62 percent of businesses are using LinkedIn to attract and retain customers and enter new markets. One fifth of respondents credit more than 10 percent of their total annual sales to their social media activity.
  • 48 percent of businesses reported profit increases and 41 percent reported  lower operating costs as a direct outcome of embracing digital.

Managing director of specialist cheese brand, Bruny Island Cheese Co, Nick Haddow, said embracing digital tools has helped customers to make online purchases, and Peta Fielding, CEO of Burleigh Brewing, said “Embracing new digital technology for forecasting and managing our operations has contributed greatly to our rate of business growth – and in particular, has enabled us to cope with that growth.”

 

Taylor’s Wines turn data into insights

Taylor’s Wines will be the first Australian winery to implement performance management system ‘BOARD’.

The program will help the winery bring together business data from several different states and multiple teams to achieve a shared vision of performance across the entire organisation.

Data currently residing in various separate systems, including its; vineyard, e-commerce, ERP system (SAP), production, sales CRM and marketing systems, will be streamed into a central data warehouse to be analysed and represented by BOARD.

Managing director of Taylors Wines, Mitchell Taylor said the system will play a huge role in the company’s long term success.

“Being a winery, we have many sources of data which can be both the lifeblood and scourge of our business. BOARD is an investment in our future and offers our family winery an effective solution for the large amounts of data we have. Not only will we be able to manage this better, we expect to see real business results with its implementation,” Taylor said.

Director of operations at BOARD Australia, Steven Kellar said BOARD allows users to spend time analysing data rather than spending time gathering it.

“Manual processes are labour intensive and result in too many inconsistencies. With data volumes doubling every two years, organisations need to ensure they remain up-to-date and seize any opportunity to gain deeper insights into their performance,” he said.

 

Coles releases App update under ‘Celebrate Specials’ campaign

Supermarket giant Coles has released a new version of its mobile app as part of the wider “Celebrate Specials” campaign.

The app enables customers to create a “My Favourite Products” list which highlights ‘favourited’ items in a personalised feed when any of the selected item go on special.

In addition, customers will also be able to register their flybuys card within the app, giving them personalised specials based on their shopping history.

Coles senior digital marketing manager, Mat Medcalf, said that the personalised format of the Coles app update is a win for consumers.

“We know Australians love using their smartphones for shopping and this latest update is an even better way Coles delivers more value to Australian customers every day,” Medcalf said.

“Adding more personalised features to the app allows shoppers to easily access their favourite products they purchase on a regular basis, and be notified as soon as they go on special.”

The Coles ‘Celebrate Specials’ campaign is now running nationwide.

 

Ashland launches new website to address ingredient development challenges

Ashland Specialty Ingredients has launched a new US website which aims to provide answers to the most challenging formulation questions that food and beverage manufacturers face.

Drawing on its background as a global player in developing products, technologies and resources for solving formulation and product performance challenges in the food and beverage space, Ashland’s new website will enable manufacturers to quickly find solutions to their toughest challenges via its “Ask us!” section.

Headed up by a team of the company’s cellulosics experts, Jeff Rogers, global leader, Ashland Global Nutrition, Home and Agriculture Specialties, said that the new site provides an invaluable resource for manufacturers within the food and beverage manufacturing space.

“The new web site is organized around Ashland’s key applications and products, making it more convenient for formulators to find the information they need and to be able to contact us directly with their questions,” he said.

Ashland’s key products include Aquacel, Aqualon, Aquasorb, Blanose and Bondwell cellulose gum; Benecel, Klucel and AeroWhip modified cellulose and Supercol guar gum which are developed using natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic polymers derived from plant and seed extract, cellulose ethers and vinyl pyrrolidones.

The launch of the new site coincides with the opening of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo in New Orleans which commences on 21 June.

 

Track and trace – the benefits of global standards

GS1 Australia’s Andrew Steele reports on the importance of traceability standards and other emerging local and global supply chain initiatives.

Enhanced product traceability, faster recalls and improved consumer safety should be at the top of the agenda when an organisation is detailing its supply chain process.

Traceability is key to consumer safety and an important part of any organisation’s product recall management plan, particularly in the food industry. It makes recalls and withdrawals more efficient. It ensures proper information about unsafe products can be given to consumers in the case of a recall. Not having an effective traceability process is one of the leading causes of product recall incidents escalating into a crisis.

A Product Traceability Expert Group set up by the European Commission released the Research Support for an Informal Expert Group on Product Traceability Report in December 2013, recognising the adoption of GS1 Standards as a best practice for improving supply chain traceability and consumer product safety.

GS1 was selected as one of the 15 expert members of the Product Traceability Expert Group, which was established in 2011 by the European Commission’s Directorate General Health and Consumers to address traceability and product safety issues.

Adoption of traceability standards was just one of several recommendations highlighted in the report, released by the group following two years of industry-wide dialogue. These recommendations focus on benefits for not only businesses and consumers, but also for market surveillance authorities with the common goal of protecting public safety and health.

As supply chains continue to span the globe and consumers purchase more products online, the ability to track and trace products helps properly identify dangerous products and remove them from the supply chain more effectively.

The group’s report outlined the following recommendations:

  • For economic operators, the group recommends labelling consumer products with product identification codes and automating traceability systems using global standards such as ISO and GS1 Standards for product identification, data capture and exchange in order to strengthen consumer safety and improve traceability between trading partners across multiple countries.
  • For market surveillance and other authorities, the group recommends including the use of barcodes in training and conducting traceability assessments in cooperation with private sectors as well as developing best practices to collect information about dangerous products when they cross EU borders.
  • For consumers, the group suggests raising more awareness on the importance of product identification and helping consumers alert authorities about suspicious or potentially dangerous products.

How can the employment of global standards help improve traceability and adhere to new regulations around traceability?
GS1 Standards are used around the world to identify products and capture, record and share data about these products. This information is key in laying the groundwork for traceability. Reliable data cannot exist if traceability systems are not automated. These automated systems rely on a common language of standards in order to “talk” to each other when capturing and sharing data.

How do consumers benefit from improved product traceability?
In the event of a safety issue or recall, dangerous products can be properly identified and removed from the market faster. In addition, efficient, standards-based traceability systems improve the accuracy of product information and labels.

As supply chains often span the globe across different industries and involve raw materials, additives, other ingredients and packaging through to Point-of-Sale (POS), ensuring traceability throughout the whole supply chain has become more challenging.

The ability for a company to successfully track and trace their products through their supply chain and retrieve them from the marketplace is a key component of a product recall event.

GS1 Recallnet is GS1 Australia’s secure web-based portal for the management of recall and withdrawal notifications. Based on global GS1 Standards and best practices, GS1 Recallnet simplifies and automates the exchange of information between suppliers, distributors and retailers as well as government agencies such as Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

By increasing the speed and accuracy of recall and withdrawal notifications, introducing global standards for traceability significantly decreases business and consumer risk, reduces costs, protects brands and ultimately helps improve food safety in Australia.

Why be standard?
Well-designed supply chain standards play a very important role in day-to-day business operations because:

  • They reduce complexity between and within organisations.
  • They make it easier to make the right decisions about purchasing hardware, software and equipment.
  • They reduce the costs of implementation, integration and maintenance.
  • They facilitate collaboration between trading partners in the supply chain, in a many-to-many relationship, making it quicker and easier to identify items, share information, order and receive parts or ingredients from suppliers, or ship goods to customers.
  • They help improve patient safety and reduce medication errors.
  • They enable global traceability and authentication.

Andrew Steele is Industry Manager – Food & Beverage at GS1 Australia.
 

New app aims to combat counterfeit wine in Chinese market

As the presence of counterfeit wine continues to rise in China, WA-based Linkar Group together with the Guangdong Guangxin Information Industry Development Co have developed an app and tracing technology to help distinguish fake wine from the genuine product.

A new labelling system on the wine bottles enables a tracing system to be activated and the wine tracked. The tracing system comprises a collection of search engines that enable consumers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and suppliers to access data related to their wine, and the wine labels feature coding that can be scanned within a smartphone app.

Margaret River’s McHenry Hohnen Wine will be the first winery to utilise the technology, with its first shipment scheduled to leave for China next month, The West reports.

Co-owner of McHenry Hohnen, Murray McHenry says that in addition to a direct loss of income, counterfeit wine has the potential to damage the integrity of a wine brand.

"As a small premium producer, it is vital that wines sold into the China market are protected from being copied, which destroys the integrity of our crafted product," McHenry told The West.

"By having a tracking system on each carton and bottle we will be able to ensure our premium wines are what the consumer is purchasing.

"Australia is the second-biggest exporter to China, and growing."

Operating director of Linkar, Max Ma said that as the Chinese market is still relatively new to wine, consumers find it difficult to distinguish between a genuine product and a fake.

"Bottles use the original label, artwork and trademarked name, but the name and logo are altered slightly to look like the original, and it's different enough not to be a counterfeit and yet, still fool consumers,"said Ma. "The inability to read French or English makes it even more difficult for some unsuspecting buyers.

"Another method is for counterfeiters to buy empty wine bottles and simply refill them with cheap wine. Or they use a syringe to remove some or all of the wine from a bottle and refill it with cheap wine.

"Today, high-end restaurants, hotels, collectors and auction houses regularly smash empty bottles after consuming them to avoid their re-entry into the marketplace."

Ma believes that the Chinese government will eventually enforce a similar system across all food and wine products to ensure authenticity.

A number of key Australian brands including Penfolds and Henschke have fallen victim to the Chinese counterfeit market of the past number of years.

Pinghui Xiao, PhD candidate, Business division, University of South Australia said that prestige wine brands are easily found in the Chinese market and can be copied with inferior ingredients to make an attractive profit margin.

According to Xiao, an emerging domestic wine region in China was exposed for making counterfeit popular wine brands by using no grapes at all. Instead they added alcohol flavours into water to make ‘fake wine’ which caused the entire region to suffer heavily.

 

Virtual mouth to help CSIRO develop healthier foods

CSIRO has developed the world’s first 3D dynamic virtual mouth, with researchers hoping the technology will help them understand how to reduce fat, salt and sugar in food products.

Demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today (17 April), the virtual mouth was tested with a caramel filled Easter egg.

“In polite company, we can’t see inside someone’s mouth while they’re eating and, until now, it has not been possible to view how the chewing process alters food,” said CSIRO biomechanical engineer and computer modeller, Dr Simon Harrison.

The mouth was developed using a technique called smooth particle hydrodynamics and real data about the physics of chewing. The technology predicts how a particular food breaks down and how flavour is released in the mouth, while also showing the distribution and interaction of components such as salt, sugar and fat.

“Through this technology, we can view and analyse how food at the microscopic level works in the mouth, and how it influences our taste perception,” Harrison said.

According to the CSIRO this data is helping to develop foods lower in salt, sugar and fat without changing the taste, which could represent significant benefits for the food industry.

“This technology will give food and ingredient manufacturers the ability not only to model the breakdown of a complex food product, but also the individual components,” said CSIRO food materials scientist, Dr Leif Lundin.

“It can also model the costs of making changes to a product, and then calculate the cost benefit. This will save time and money, compared to using the traditional ‘cook and look’ approach.

“Our research should also help create new taste sensations that could find their way into new products on our supermarket shelves,” Lundin said.