Given the present economic environment, it’s not unheard of for training to fall to the wayside, but the Australian Beverages Council is keeping it on the agenda and addressing areas for improvement in the industry with their training events.
Food Magazine spoke with Colin Felder, Technical & Regulatory Manager at the Australian Beverages Council, to find out more.
There’s no denying that technology moves fast and it will continue to do so. Keeping your eye “on the ball” through ongoing training can be both a preventative tactic, and aid in innovation.
“If you take your eye off the ball, technology will either catch up with you or there’ll be something which pops through the system, which may lead to a recall,” Felder says.
In previous years, the Council identified a need for a training course which covered the beverage supply chain and introduced the integrated regulatory, quality and safety programs of the beverage industry in Australia, New Zealand and beyond.
“Unfortunately the way the education system and the courses that are being offered at the moment, often you’re not getting a good commercial background, you’re just coming out with specialists.”
Felder found a lot of the attendees for the 2014 Manufacturing Beverages One course were plant operators, or people who’d come out of the packaging industry and didn’t have an understanding of ingredients and the things that go into the total manufacturing of a beverage.
“Then there is newer graduates coming out of things like food science and walking in. They need to know what the actual language of beverages is.”
Felder says sometimes these graduates “don’t understand and sometimes can’t communicate the quality assurance and packaging roles and legislative roles that they need to in order to have a good understanding of the whole industry.”
Spotting the gaps
Although the Australian Beverages Council is currently in the process of reviewing the industry’s areas of need, Felder predicts the big challenges in 2015 will be new ingredients and the shift in bottled water towards lightly sparkling.
“We’re looking at new ingredients, especially with the advent of less sugars and the increasing role of natural sweeteners,” Felder says. “Stevia is obviously a bit part of that.”
Felder says that with the growing bottled water market trending away just from bottled water into lightly sparkling, some smaller operators are needing to adapt.
“We’re teaching them things like the basics of carbonation so they can expand the plant and take extra opportunities there in the market and expand away from their standard still bottled water into the sparkling, which they’re upgrading the plants to do.”
“To actually be able to take a basic bottled water plant and give them the opportunities to put simple additions to the plant and upgrades gives them a opportunity than just sitting around and playing with different labels, for example.”
Training can especially be a struggle for the smaller operators.
“We’re finding that even the smaller operator, because everything is down at such a small margin you can’t actually afford to have your key plant operators out of the factory for three days, for example, and probably by the time you have your travel, you’ve probably lost them for a week for three days of training.”
In response to this, the Council is looking at putting together a module system which can be done online for specific needs.
But it doesn’t end with the Australian Beverages Council, with a lot of the larger members of the beverage industry, such as Asahi Beverages, opting for in-house training.