Six mistakes Australian food manufacturers are making

Michael Carp, the founder of baked goods brand Kez’s Kitchen, says local food manufacturers need to reassess their branding and product development if they’re to remain competitive and grow market share.

Carp said that while Australian consumers are becoming more patriotic with their shopping habits, manufacturers can do more to promote the fact that their products are Australian made.

“Consumers may well be more aware that ‘Australian made’ gives them the freshest shelf ingredients, supports local jobs, and helps the economy, but with customers being more committed to buying Australian made, local food brands risk becoming less active in their product development and marketing. Being ‘Australian made’ is only one factor among many that influences a customer’s choice to purchase, as well as a buyer’s decision to stock the product on shelves.”

Carp lists six common product and branding mistakes Australian made companies make:

1. They don’t offer anything different.
Consumers look out for new products that will excite and engage them. “If ‘Australian made’ brands offer products that emulate many others produced locally, there’s little motivation for consumers to switch brands. They will go with a lower cost item or the one they’ve always been buying. Food businesses must remain innovative,” he said. 
 

2. They focus on price, not quality.
Consumers don’t always go for the lowest price shelf item – and recent research that more Australians are buying locally made regardless of price, is proof, Carp said.

“Businesses need to be less concerned about reducing shelf prices and instead focus on producing a product of high quality, with a unique point of difference. A quality product is one that incorporates the best ingredients, is high in taste and texture and sometimes even offers a health benefit.”
 

3. They don’t work on their brand.
If consumers and buyers know and trust a brand, they’re more likely to buy it. But these days, strong brands go further: they tell a story. Brands with a story can better engage customers, and create brand loyalty.

“Many businesses have a great story but don’t tell it,” Carp said. “Ours is the growth of a biscuit business that my sister Kez began in my mum’s kitchen 23 years ago – and we take just as much pride in our products today. If food businesses don’t develop their brand image – whether they have a story or not – they’ll have a tough time reaching consumers, as major supermarkets will be less likely to stock their products. Strong brands can set a higher price and remain confident that buyers and consumers will purchase.”
 

4. They don’t deliver on promises.
If your brand and packaging makes bold statements about the products inside, you need to follow through.
 

5. They don’t invest in packaging.
While delivering on promises helps ensure repeat purchases, it’s the packaging that initially draws consumers in.

“Packaging is the most visible part of a food business, and businesses need to invest in research, development and design of the packaging. The packaging is also the most important platform for telling your brand story.” 
 

6. They don’t adapt to change.
Perhaps the easiest mistake is simply standing still, Carp said.

“Not only are consumer needs and tastes changing, but competitors are getting better at what they’re offering. If you don’t adapt your brand and product you’ll be left behind. In a country as competitive as Australia, we need to get out of our comfort zones to continually improve.”

 

Renewed calls for country of origin labelling

Industry groups have called for better product labelling to highlight Australian-produced foods.

Roy Morgan research has indicated that consumers are “aware of the benefits of buying Aussie products, and of the impact that their purchasing behaviour has on jobs, local business and future opportunities,” the Herald Sun reports.

Apple and Pear Australia Limited industry services manager Anna Farrow said stronger labelling laws are necessary so that consumers can make informed decisions.

“The current ‘Made in Australia’ label can be a little confusing, if not outright misleading,” she said. “It can actually mean that all the ingredients are imported, and simply mixed or packaged in Australia.

“Worse, under current legislation ‘Made in Australia’ can be used in labelling processed fruit or juice if more than 50 percent of the value of the product is added in Australia, regardless of where the fruit comes from.”

Ritchies Supermarkets have rolled out Aussie-branded bays to highlight SPC Ardmona’s locally grown and made canned fruit and baked beans.

Coles and Woolworths said 96 percent of all fresh produce they sell is grown in Australia and Coles said its SmartBuy frozen vegetables and potato products are now 100 percent Australian grown.

Woolworths has teamed with SPC Ardmona to source Select brand tinned fruit and tomatoes. Its Select frozen vegetables will be 100 percent Australian-supplied by May.

Despite these efforts, $2 billion worth of foreign fruit, vegetables and nuts were imported last year.

The calls for clearer  country of origin labelling are amidst a push for labelling which helps consumers make healthier purchasing decisions. Last week, Monster Health Food Co became the first to introduce the Health Star Rating System, where processed foods are given a rating out of five stars based on their nutritional content. Products high in nutrition value receive more stars, while those foods lacking nutritional value have fewer stars.

Last week it was revealed that federal, state and territory governments committed $11 million to the Health Star Rating System before a cost benefit analysis was performed and despite being advised it didn’t comply with best practice guidelines.

 

Australian Made Campaign welcomes country-of-origin labelling inquiry

The House of Representatives Agriculture and Industry Committee has announced that it will be conducting an inquiry into country-of-origin labelling for food, a move that has been welcomed by the Australian Made Campaign.

Chief executive of the Australian Made Campaign, Ian Harrison said that the inquiry was ‘very important’ for the Australian food manufacturing sector, and that he was ‘thrilled’ that it will be conducted within the House of Representatives structure.

“The Australian Made Campaign has submitted comment to and appeared before a number of Senate Committees on country-of-origin labelling in recent years and certainly will again with this inquiry,” said Harrison.

“Our intention is that the food labelling requirements under Australian Consumer Law will fall into line with the more stringent rules for using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo. This would be well received by consumers because of the recognition and trust the logo enjoys.”

A number of Australian manufacturers including SPC Ardmona, have been significantly impacted by ambiguous country of origin labelling legislation, resulting in decreased market share and profitability.

“The Australian Made Campaign does not support the use of qualified claims such as ‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’ unless the product meets the full ‘made in’ test, and has previously proposed that regulations be introduced to make it harder for food products which have a high imported component to pass the ‘substantial transformation’ test,” said Harrison.

“Clarifying the concept of ‘substantial transformation’ and specifying processes which, by themselves, do not satisfy this test, would close some of the existing loopholes surrounding the use of the words ‘Australian Made’ for food products.”

 

Australian Made launches new video

The Australian Made campaign has launched a new video explaining its brand’s role promoting local growers, processors and manufacturers.

The brand was launched by former prime minister Bob Hawke in 1986. Its campaign commissioned research in 2012 by Roy Morgan, showing 98.8 percent of Australians recognise it and 88.6 percent trust it to identify Australian products.

The iconic logo can be found on over 10,000 products worldwide.

See the About the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo in 45 seconds video below.

{^youtubevideo|(width)560|(height)340|(rel)True|(url)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD59lWf5-_w|(fs)True|(loop)False|(autoplay)False^}

 

$70m partnership for SPC and Woolworths

A new $70 million partnership between SPC Ardmona and Woolworths has been announced and will see an extra 24,000 tonnes of navy beans, tomatoes and other fruit sourced locally.

The additional volume generated by the partnership will require the equivalent of 86,000 fruit trees in the Goulburn Valley, where the livelihood of growers has been in doubt recently, following SPC’s struggles to compete against cheap imports and the high Australian dollar.

The agreement will also triple the tonnage over the next five years of Australian grown tomatoes that SPC supplies to Woolworths, with a new range of Woolworths Select and SPC Canned Tomatoes available in stores this October.

From 2015, SPC will begin supplying all fruit for Woolworths Select fruit snacks and jelly snacks, and for the next five years, will continue to supply 100 per cent of fruit for the Woolworths Select Multi-serve fruit range.

SPC managing director Peter Kelly said the new partnership shows that Woolworths acknowledges Australian consumers’ growing interest in where their food comes from, and will give certainty to growers trying to rebuild their capacity.

The agreement with Woolworths will help to repair the major decline in SPC’s profitability caused by illegal dumping, unfair tariffs and the strong Australian dollar, Kelly said.

"The share of Australian tomatoes has declined 67 percent in the last 10 years. SPC’s new partnership with Woolworths means the tonnage of Australian grown tomatoes will triple over the next five years which will help resurrect our tomato industry so it’s a particularly great day for tomato growers.”

SPC has seen a massive surge in sales recently with more Australians supporting local companies and buying Australian made and grown products, Kelly said. This was partly driven by the #SPCSunday twitter campaign started by a Newcastle consumer, Linda Drummond.

"In Woolworths alone, we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in sales of SPC fruit in the first two months of this year so we’re hoping this will continue and move to our other great brands like Taylor’s Soups and sauces, IXL Jam and Goulburn Valley," he said.

Last month, Coca-Cola Amatil (SPC Ardmona's owner) and the Victorian government announced a $100 million investment plan, following the federal government's rejection of SPC's calls for assistance.

 

Australian Made CEO confirmed as 2014 Food Magazine Awards guest speaker

Ian Harrison, chief executive of the Australian Made campaign, has been confirmed as the guest speaker for the 2014 Food Magazine Awards, which recognise and reward innovation in the food and beverage manufacturing sector.

The awards will be held at Sydney’s Luna Park on 8 August, and this year will mark the 10th anniversary of the highly regarded industry event.

Comprising 14 categories as well as a Best of the Best award, the Food Magazine Awards recognise innovative new products that have been launched between March 2012 and March 2014.

Not only does the awards night give industry members an invaluable networking opportunity, it also allows them to see (and even taste test!) some of the finalist products at the Product Showcase, before the winners are announced and dinner is served.

Entries are now open and information and nomination kits can be downloaded from here. Entries close on 1 April.

Click here to view the winners from the 2013 Food Magazine Awards.

 

Buy local or lose jobs: Australian Made

The Australian Made campaign is calling upon consumers to buy local or face further job losses in light of the recent announcements from Ford and Holden that they will no longer be manufacturing cars in Australia past 2017.

Key food manufacturers in Australia including SPC Ardmona, Simplot and McCain have felt the pressure from cheaper imports resulting the slashing of local contracts in order to cut costs and compete in the marketplace.

Australian Made Campaign Chief Executive, Ian Harrison said that Ford and Holden have now joined the long line of companies that have made the decision to manufacture offshore rather than locally – including food giant Heniz.

 “The real disappointment is that consumers in Australia seem not to understand that there will be consequences when they elect to buy imported products, as they have done with motor cars,” Harrison said.

“Continuing on this trajectory will have dire consequences for Australian industry, Australian jobs and Australian communities.”

Harrison says that it is imperative that consumers support local manufacturers and buy local to secure a sustainable future for the Nation’s manufacturing sector.

“Our message to consumers is to invest in great Australian products and produce, to help build a sustainable future, or risk losing more industries and more jobs, putting pressure on the entire economy and families all over the country,” says Harrison.

“We hope that this confronting truth will make consumers stop and think about the knock-on effects of their purchasing decisions before buying.”

 

Australian Made launches new food and agricultural resources for schools

The Australian Made Campaign in association with Kids Media has launched a new range of resources that are designed to teach school students about farming and food manufacturing.

The initiative known as Where does it come from? Farming and manufacturing in the school curriculum was created in response to research undertaken by the Primary Industries Education Foundation in March 2012.

The research found that primary school children generally have a poor understanding of where their food comes from and the new program aims to educate children on how produce and food products get from farms and factories to their plates.

Australian Made chief executive, Ian Harrison said that the program will provide children with an awareness of the effort that goes into farming produce and manufacturing products, as well as the importance of buying local.

“Australian Made and Australian Grown products are manufactured and farmed in our clean, green environment to our high quality, health and safety standards; and every purchase has a ripple effect on jobs, industry and the environment,” said Harrison.

The resources will be inclusive of an animated e-book, animated activity sheets, interactive activity sheets, lesson ideas and fact sheets on the green and gold Australian Made, Australian Grown logo.

“The Australian Made Campaign is all about ensuring a better future for Australians, particularly for young Australians and generations to come,” said Harrison.

“We are proud to provide these resources for teachers and students, and hope they help to instil a better understanding of, and appreciation for, Australia’s great products and produce.”

 

Former NFF director elected to Australian Made Campaign Board

Former Chairman of Canegrowers Australia, Alf Cristaudo was elected to the Australian Made Campaign Board of Directors at the organisation’s AGM last month.

Having recently completed his term as director of the National Farmers Federation, Cristaudo has played a pivotal role in advancing Australia’s sugarcane industry while holding senior positions with peak industry bodies and advisory committees throughout his career.

Cristaudo was nominated for the position by the National Farmers Federation, with the Australian Made Campaign’s chairman, David Gray stating that Cristaudo was selected based on his long history of active grower, industry and community representation.

"We are delighted that Alf has agreed to join the Board,” Gray, said.

“Mr Cristaudo’s appointment will help strengthen the ties between the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo and the agricultural sector, and his insights into the Queensland business community will be greatly valued.”

In addition to his new position on the Australian Made Campaign’s board, Cristaudo is also currently a director of Austsafe Superannuation and Ravensdown Fertiliser Australia.

The AGM also saw the directors Glenn Cooper and Allyn Beard re-elected for a further term and causal vacancy appointees Nicki Anderson and Michele Levine formally elected. 

 

Free Trade Agreements are a concern for local industry: Poll

The third Cirrus Media Industrials poll reveals that industry is concerned about the impact of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which the Government is attempting to forge with China, South Korea and Japan.

The total annual trade with these countries is worth more than $250 billion and the stakes are high as the Australian government manoeuvres around the negotiating tables in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo.

Over 42 percent of the respondents to our poll believe the FTAs will flood Australia with cheap goods against which, local companies can’t possibly compete.

Although only 14.2 percent of the respondents believe the FTAs will provide opportunities for local manufacturers and growers, they could well be on to something as the deals may offer local companies access to key export markets.

And some experts concur.

Chief executive of Australian Made, Ian Harrison, notes: "It is important that Australia enjoys the same access to markets, such as China, Japan and South Korea, as is enjoyed by other countries which already have FTAs in place with those three economies – so it is important that FTAs are concluded with them as quickly as possible."

It all comes down to the implementation and what's in the fine print. For instance, China is unlikely to lift the many restrictions it has placed on wool, sugar and wheat. Nor will it open up the financial services and resources investments sectors.

Over 13.7 percent of the respondents believe that more open FTAs will better link us to the rapidly growing Asian middle class. And they may have a point, especially in the food sector.

An interesting survey conducted recently in China indicated that 41 percent of Chinese consumers think the safety of their food is a big problem. And this number has risen more than three times in the past four years.

Australia has a unique opportunity to meet this demand. As reported in the Australian Financial Review, KPMG Asia business group leader Doug Ferguson said: “Consumers [in China] have choice and are concerned about the safety of their food. They prefer foreign-produced and imported processed food, due to low levels of trust in locally grown and made products.”

The Australian-made "brand" does carry weight.

Harrison explains: "A crucial element of all of Australia’s trading relationships must be the recognition and protection of intellectual property, so that country-of-origin branding is regulated and able to provide a framework within which Australian exporters can benefit from this country’s very strong nation brand."

However industry isn't exactly brimming with optimism and confidence. Only 16.2 percent of the respondents believe, "FTAs will help encourage Australia to export things other than iron ore and coal."

The votes were registered at the Ferret Group of Sites which include Manufacturers’ Monthly, PACE, Ferret, Food Magazine, Logistics & Materials Handling and Factory Equipment News websites.

Roy Morgan exec joins Australian Made board

The chief executive of Roy Morgan Research, Michele Levine, is the newest member of the Australian Made campaign board.

Roy Morgan Research is Australia's leading consumer, industry and market research company, and a statement issued by Australian Made said the board of directors selected Levine because of her deep understanding of buyer behaviour and extensive knowledge of the Australian marketplace.

"We are thrilled that Michele has agreed to join the Board at a time when the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo is becoming increasingly important to our manufacturers, processors and producers,” Australian Made Campaign chairman, David Gray, said.

"Ms Levine will provide invaluable guidance on the campaign’s marketing initiatives, and her insights into the Australian marketplace will be greatly valued. She will be a tremendous asset to the team."

Andrew Broad, former VFF president and NFF board member, departed the board this month after being elected to the federal seat of Mallee in NSW.

Other Australian Made campaign directors include:

  • David Gray AM (Chairman), Managing Director, David Gray & Co. Pty Ltd
  • Glenn Cooper AM (Deputy Chairman), Executive Chairman, Coopers Brewery Limited
  • Neil Summerson FCA (Treasurer), Director and Former Chairman, Bank of Queensland
  • Peter Anderson, CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI)
  • Allyn Beard, Marketing Director, A.H. Beard Pty Ltd
  • Nicki Anderson, Managing Director, Demo Plus
  • Robert Gerard AO, Executive Chairman, Gerard Corporation Pty Ltd
  • Robert Hutchinson, State Manager, Queensland, ParexDavco (Australia) Pty Ltd

The Australian Made campaign received a significant boost earlier this month, announcing the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo had been formally trademarked in South Korea.
 

Australian Made logo trademarked in South Korea

In what is being described as a major breakthrough for Australian exporters, the Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo has been formally trademarked in South Korea.

The AMAG logo is Australia’s registered country of origin trademark for genuine Australian products and produce.

Having the logo officially trademarked in South Korea means that for the first time ever, Australian exporters have a symbol which can be used on their locally made or grown exports that both establishes their products as genuinely Australian and is legally protected under South Korean law.

Australian Made chief executive, Ian Harrison, said that the registration process had commenced in 2011 in response to the growing importance of South Korea as a market for Australian products.

"The Australian Made, Australian Grown logo’s formal registration in South Korea now provides an essential legal framework which exporters can rely upon in the event that the logo – or product carrying it – is copied or used without proper authority," he said.

The registration covers a range of products including cleaning products, pharmaceuticals, furniture, food and beverages, as well as use in activities such as education and sport.

 

New director for Australian Made

Nicki Anderson is the newest addition to the Australian Made campaign's board of directors.

Australian Made said it selected Anderson, who is also managing director of Demo Plus, the largest sampling, demonstration and events organisation in Australia, because of her knowledge and understanding of the Australian manufacturing sector and experience in marketing FMCGs.

Anderson has previously worked as managing director for Kraft Foods; marketing and innovation director for SPC Ardmona and McCain Foods; and general manager beverage marketing for Cadbury Schweppes Australia.

"I am thrilled to be joining the Australian Made campaign’s board of directors," Anderson said.

"Throughout my career I have worked for companies that have strongly supported Australian manufacturing. Buying Australian means that we are helping the Australian economy, supporting local jobs, investing in our community, and, importantly, helping to ensure the sustainable future of Australian industry for our kids."

Other Australian Made campaign directors include:

  • David Gray AM (chairman), managing director, David Gray & Co. Pty Ltd
  • Glenn Cooper AM (deputy chairman), executive chairman, Coopers Brewery Limited
  • Neil Summerson FCA (treasurer), director and former chairman, Bank of Queensland
  • Peter Anderson, CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI)
  • Allyn Beard, marketing director, A.H. Beard Pty Ltd
  • Andrew Broad, former president of the Victorian Farmers Federation
  • Robert Gerard AO, executive chairman, Gerard Corporation Pty Ltd
  • Robert Hutchinson (state manager, Queensland, ParexDavco (Australia) Pty Ltd)

 

New website promotes Australian manufacturers

The Australian Made campaign has launched a new website aimed at helping consumers find genuine Australian products.

The website, www.australianmade.com.au comprises more than 10,000 products from Australian manufacturers, processors and producers, and allows consumers to easily search for locally made, grown or caught products.

Only products certified to carry the Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo can be featured on the website.

"Australian shoppers are looking for local products and they are looking for them online – this website provides a gateway for Australian businesses of all sizes to connect with those shoppers," Australian Made chief executive, Ian Harrison, said.

"Consumers can be sure that the products they source via the Australian Made website are grown and manufactured right here in Australia, in Australia’s clean, green environment and to Australia’s high health and safety standards."

The website's launch is part of a broader media campaign encouraging consumers to support local manufacturers. It features real manufacturers encouraging Australians to buy local and will run across TV, print, radio and online throughout the remainder of 2013.

According to recently released research by Roy Morgan Research, 87.4 percent of Australians want to buy food produced in Australia and 88.5 percent are more likely to buy Australian made products over products manufactured in other countries.

"We need to continue to support local products and produce – and the manufacturers and growers behind them – because reinvestment in our communities is the key to securing local economic development; jobs, training and career opportunities for our kids; and a better future for all Australians," Harrison said.

 

Australian Made rejects proposed changes to food labelling

While accepting the shortcomings of Australia's current labelling regime, Australian Made has rejected proposed changes put forward by the Greens.

The Australian Made Campaign stated its case yesterday before the Sentate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee hearing into the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Food Labelling Bill) 2012, which is looking to address country of origin labelling laws.

Ian Harrison, chief executive of the Australian Made Campaign, said changes need to be made to the current labelling regime and welcomed conversation on alternatives, but said the proposed Bill falls short of what Australia needs.

"The proposed Bill is a step in the right direction, but misses the mark on some very important issues, including substantial transformation, which is all about where products are made," he said.

"For consumers to be able to make educated decisions about the food they purchase, that information must be made available."

Australian Made called for the definition of substantial transformation to be restricted so it's becomes more difficult for products with high imported content and minimal processing in Australia to pass themselves off as Australian.

"At present, the rules for using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo on food products are more stringent than the rules applied by the ACCC," Harrison said.

"We are calling on the government to follow the Australian Made Campaign's lead, to make it easier for consumers to identify genuine Aussie products and to build greater consumer confidence back into Australia’s food labelling system."

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) also rejected the Green's Bill, arguing it has the potential to mislead consumers and drive jobs offshore.

AFGC CEO Gary Dawson, said "The Greens' Country of Origin Labelling proposal fails its own test in protecting Australian jobs by effectively ignoring the economic value-add of the nearly 300,000 Australians employed directly in the food and grocery processing sector, including 8,000 in Tasmania."

 

Mixed reaction on new health labelling laws

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation has approved proposals to regulate food manufacturers' products nutrition content and health claims.

These new regulations will create stricter controls over on-pack health claims, including the need to provide scientific evidence to support claims and meet specific eligibility criteria including nutrition criteria.

The move came on the same day the Gillard Government announced a range of measurers to bolster the strength of Australia's manufacturing sector – promising the first round of the $236 million Industrial Transformation Research Program will focus on food research.

Meeting in Brisbane on Friday the various ministers considered the review report for the draft Standard for Nutrition, Health and Related Claims provided by the Board of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and agreed to enact new laws early next year that will regulate the voluntary use of nutrition content and health claims, general level health claims, and high level health claims.

These changes will force manufacturers to have health claims such as 'calcium is good for strong bones' to be supported by either pre-approved or industry self substantiated, while the higher level health claims, such as 'calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis' will require pre-approval by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

"All health claims will be required to be supported by scientific evidence and will only be permitted on foods that meet specific eligibility criteria, including nutrition criteria," the ministers said.

"The new Standard aims to ensure that consumers can have confidence that health claims are evidence based.
"When gazetted, food businesses will have three years to meet the requirements of the new Standard."

During this three year grace period FSANZ will carry out additional work such as the refining of the nutrient profiling scoring criteria, and the development and implementation of processes to maintain scientific currency of pre-approved food-health relationships.

Industry support

The new regulations have been supported by CHOICE, which stated that the decision, and the nutrient profiling score, is positive for consumers and helps to provide an objective benchmark for food healthiness.

“These nutritional criteria were agreed following extensive work by the independent regulator and provide a robust and objective approach to determining which food products are healthy enough overall to carry health marketing claims,” CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just said.

Following the announcement Uncle Toby's will move to ensure all of its 44 breakfast cereals meet the new criteria.

The manufacturer explained that it is part of the company's wider five year plan to reduce fats, sugar, and sodium in its products.

"Today, we are committing to consumers that by the end of January our entire range of UNCLE TOBYS cereals will meet the nutrition eligibility criteria of the new standard, meaning that every one of our cereals could carry a health claim,” Uncle Toby's nutrition manager Nilani Sritharan said.

Falling short

Despite agreeing with the move, CHOICE felt that the decision to allow food manufacturers to evaluate the evidence behind the health claims, as opposed to independent regulators, damages consumer confience.

“This is a major step backwards from an earlier proposal that would have required the independent regulator to scrutinise new claims, which was scuttled after an intense industry lobbying campaign,” Just said.

“When we look at what happened in Europe, where the European Food Safety Authority rejected 80% of the health claims put forward by food companies, we can see that the food industry has a very different idea of what constitutes scientific evidence to independent regulators."

The backlash

However the move by the government group has not been universally welcomed.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) was quick to slam the new regulations, claiming that it "will stifle innovation and industry competiveness".

"Today’s decision by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation to impose additional regulation on nutrition content and health claims will result in unnecessary costs, discourage innovation and reduce trade competitiveness of the food processing sector," it said.

AFGC chief Gary Dawson decried the new regulations as regressive step, saying that "the Australian food processing industry needs policy reform that bolsters business competitiveness. Unfortunately the Commonwealth and the majority of members of the Forum on Food Regulation have ignored the advice of the AFGC and those states representing the bulk of the food manufacturing sector.

“The new Health Claims Standard is a disproportionate response to a non-issue that will discourage innovation in food products, increase regulatory costs, discourage investment and ultimately pose a competitive disadvantage for domestic manufacturers."

He went on to say that “this decision comes just two days after the Government announced its commitment to reduce red tape and review unnecessary regulation. It is also inconsistent with the broader policy emphasis on reshaping the manufacturing sector to take advantage of the Asian Century.

“In the current difficult trading environment any additional regulation or impost that adds to costs runs a high risk of pushing production and jobs offshore.

“Instead of streamlining approvals, the new standard will impose an onerous substantiation process that goes well beyond equivalent regulation in Europe or US.”

On the sidelines

While the main focus was on the new health and nutrition claims, the food minister also noted progress for labelling across a number of different areas.

Regarding front of pack labelling, the ministers said the collaborative process to develop a new rating system has progressed well.

They also noted that the review of the Policy Guideline on the Addition of Caffeine to Foods is underway, with public consultation on the Policy Guideline scheduled for March next year.

The agreement for an Australian standard on country of origin labelling to include all unpackaged meat products was welcomed by CHOICE.

“We know Australian consumers have a strong desire to know where their food is produced, and this is a welcome move to close one of the key country-of-origin loopholes,” Just stated.

Minister at the forum also sought to push a review on the proposed standard for low THC hemp as a food, with ministers to seek advice from the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Services.

Mixed reaction on new health labelling laws

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation has approved proposals to regulate food manufacturers' products nutrition content and health claims.

These new regulations will create stricter controls over on-pack health claims, including the need to provide scientific evidence to support claims and meet specific eligibility criteria including nutrition criteria.

The move came on the same day the Gillard Government announced a range of measurers to bolster the strength of Australia's manufacturing sector – promising the first round of the $236 million Industrial Transformation Research Program will focus on food research.

Meeting in Brisbane on Friday the various ministers considered the review report for the draft Standard for Nutrition, Health and Related Claims provided by the Board of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and agreed to enact new laws early next year that will regulate the voluntary use of nutrition content and health claims, general level health claims, and high level health claims.

These changes will force manufacturers to have health claims such as 'calcium is good for strong bones' to be supported by either pre-approved or industry self substantiated, while the higher level health claims, such as 'calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis' will require pre-approval by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

"All health claims will be required to be supported by scientific evidence and will only be permitted on foods that meet specific eligibility criteria, including nutrition criteria," the ministers said.

"The new Standard aims to ensure that consumers can have confidence that health claims are evidence based.
"When gazetted, food businesses will have three years to meet the requirements of the new Standard."

During this three year grace period FSANZ will carry out additional work such as the refining of the nutrient profiling scoring criteria, and the development and implementation of processes to maintain scientific currency of pre-approved food-health relationships.

Industry support

The new regulations have been supported by CHOICE, which stated that the decision, and the nutrient profiling score, is positive for consumers and helps to provide an objective benchmark for food healthiness.

“These nutritional criteria were agreed following extensive work by the independent regulator and provide a robust and objective approach to determining which food products are healthy enough overall to carry health marketing claims,” CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just said.

Following the announcement Uncle Toby's will move to ensure all of its 44 breakfast cereals meet the new criteria.

The manufacturer explained that it is part of the company's wider five year plan to reduce fats, sugar, and sodium in its products.

"Today, we are committing to consumers that by the end of January our entire range of UNCLE TOBYS cereals will meet the nutrition eligibility criteria of the new standard, meaning that every one of our cereals could carry a health claim,” Uncle Toby's nutrition manager Nilani Sritharan said.

Falling short

Despite agreeing with the move, CHOICE felt that the decision to allow food manufacturers to evaluate the evidence behind the health claims, as opposed to independent regulators, damages consumer confience.

“This is a major step backwards from an earlier proposal that would have required the independent regulator to scrutinise new claims, which was scuttled after an intense industry lobbying campaign,” Just said.

“When we look at what happened in Europe, where the European Food Safety Authority rejected 80% of the health claims put forward by food companies, we can see that the food industry has a very different idea of what constitutes scientific evidence to independent regulators."

The backlash

However the move by the government group has not been universally welcomed.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) was quick to slam the new regulations, claiming that it "will stifle innovation and industry competiveness".

"Today’s decision by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation to impose additional regulation on nutrition content and health claims will result in unnecessary costs, discourage innovation and reduce trade competitiveness of the food processing sector," it said.

AFGC chief Gary Dawson decried the new regulations as regressive step, saying that "the Australian food processing industry needs policy reform that bolsters business competitiveness. Unfortunately the Commonwealth and the majority of members of the Forum on Food Regulation have ignored the advice of the AFGC and those states representing the bulk of the food manufacturing sector.

“The new Health Claims Standard is a disproportionate response to a non-issue that will discourage innovation in food products, increase regulatory costs, discourage investment and ultimately pose a competitive disadvantage for domestic manufacturers."

He went on to say that “this decision comes just two days after the Government announced its commitment to reduce red tape and review unnecessary regulation. It is also inconsistent with the broader policy emphasis on reshaping the manufacturing sector to take advantage of the Asian Century.

“In the current difficult trading environment any additional regulation or impost that adds to costs runs a high risk of pushing production and jobs offshore.

“Instead of streamlining approvals, the new standard will impose an onerous substantiation process that goes well beyond equivalent regulation in Europe or US.”

On the sidelines

While the main focus was on the new health and nutrition claims, the food minister also noted progress for labelling across a number of different areas.

Regarding front of pack labelling, the ministers said the collaborative process to develop a new rating system has progressed well.

They also noted that the review of the Policy Guideline on the Addition of Caffeine to Foods is underway, with public consultation on the Policy Guideline scheduled for March next year.

The agreement for an Australian standard on country of origin labelling to include all unpackaged meat products was welcomed by CHOICE.

“We know Australian consumers have a strong desire to know where their food is produced, and this is a welcome move to close one of the key country-of-origin loopholes,” Just stated.

Minister at the forum also sought to push a review on the proposed standard for low THC hemp as a food, with ministers to seek advice from the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Services.

Peach growers to lose thousands from SPC Ardmona cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consumers want Australian-made and grown food

Nearly half of all shoppers go out of their way to buy Australian-made produce, while more than a third buy Australian wherever possible, according to a recent survey.

Commissioned by the Daily Telegraph, the survey asked readers about their shopping habits and whether they care where their food comes from, and has shed some surprising results about our weekly shopping habits.

Sixty six per cent of people said that check the country-of-origin labels to see where their food came from before buying, while seventy per cent said they were not swayed by price over origin.

A huge 93 per cent of people wanted more clarification in food labelling with a third  saying they would be happy to pay an extra $2 for Australian-made and grown produce.

The Australian Food Statistics 2010/2011 report shows that imports have risen by $500 million in a year to $10.6 billion, with processed fruit and vegetable having the biggest growth, up by $119 million.

As Food Magazine reported last week, 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.

Australian Made Australian Grown Campaign chief executive Ian Harrison said that it was good to see that buying local food and drink is at the forefront of Australian’s minds.

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.