Ludwig encourages public comment on National Food Plan

Posted by Rita Mu

The Federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, is encouraging the public to comment on the proposed National Food Plan, which aims to develop a single vision for Australia’s food industry across all states and territories. 

According to the Government, the Plan will focus on developing key areas of the food sector such as food security, productivity and efficiency, sustainability, health and nutrition.

“From the production stages of our food, through to processing, purchasing and the consumption of food, people will be able to have their say on issues confronting our food sector now and into the future,” Ludwig said.

 “With a changing international food market, issues of food security, food affordability, access to food and the sustainability of food are even more important to address at home.

“I encourage members of the community, as well as industry stakeholders, to provide comments on what they see as key issues for their sector and also for the broader direction of the Australian food industry.

A National Food Policy Working Group was developed last year to advise the Government on issues and policies affecting Australia’s food chain. The 13-member group held their first meeting in December 2010.

The closing date for submissions is 5 August 2011.

Image: Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig. Source:

Qld launches $2m food policy

Posted by Rita Mu

The Queensland Government has announced a new food policy today as part of its 2011-12 State Budget.

An initial $2 million has been allocated to support initiatives related to the Food for a Growing Economy policy, which is built around seven themes such as environmental protection, health and land use planning.

"With Queensland’s food value chain worth $18.7 billion to the state economy and a workforce of around 267,000, it’s critical we plan for future growth in the industry,” said Tim Mulherin, Queensland’s Minister for Food and Agriculture.

Mulherin said increasing demand for food stemming from population growth and rising affluence in developing countries presented significant opportunities for Queensland as a food exporter.

"The policy, which we are releasing for public comment, is first and foremost an economic development policy to maximise the economic growth of businesses across the food sector.

"…Given that we currently export 80 per cent of the food we produce, this policy sets out strategies to create job opportunities and wealth for Queenslanders, as well as outlining initiatives for working with key stakeholders to maximise industry growth.”

More details about Queensland’s new food policy is available HERE. The consultation period is open until 16 August 2011.


Nestlé Health Science acquires US gastrointestinal diagnostics company

Posted by Rita Mu

Nestlé has acquired a US gastrointestinal diagnostics company for its Health Science division.

The San Diego-based company, Prometheus Laboratories Inc, focuses on conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Nestlé Health Science President and Chief Executive Luis Cantarell said the acquisition was a strategic move for the company into the personalised health care business.

“Prometheus’s leading edge diagnostics and highly experienced medical sales representatives together constitute a robust platform for Nestlé Health Science to accelerate its current and future healthcare business,” Cantarell said. “It will enable new personalised healthcare solutions based on diagnostics, pharma and nutrition.”

Nestlé’s Health Science division was officially launched on 1 January 2011 to pioneer a new industry between food and pharmaceuticals.

About 500 employees of Prometheus will join Nestlé Health Science as a result of the acquisition. Prometheus’s annualised sales are expected to be around USD 250 million in 2012.

The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.


Nestlé opens new Maggi seasoning production line in China

Posted by Rita Mu

Nestlé has installed a new seasoning production line at its Maggi factory in Dongguan, northwest of Hong Kong in China.

The new production line will produce a range of seasonings, flavourings and soups under the Maggi brand.

According to Nestlé, the installation of the seasoning line marks the completion of the first phase of its CHF 44 million (~AU $47,000,000) expansion project. Part of this project will be to boost the factory’s annual production capacity of liquid seasonings by 1700 tonnes.

Chairman and CEO of Nestlé Greater China Region, Roland Decorvet, said an increased consumer demand for Maggi products had triggered the company to expand its production facilities.

Maggi seasoning has been very popular for both professional and household cooking,” Decorvet said.  “It provides a preferred solution for delicious, nutritious and convenient food.  This much-needed expansion project will enable us to meet the increasing market demand for this product.”

The Maggi brand is Nestlé’s second major brand to be manufactured in China. The first is the company’s coffee brand Nescafé.

The expansion project will be completed in 2015, with the factory’s production capacity expected to increase by 300 per cent upon completion.

Image:  Jiang Ling, Vice Mayor of Dongguan City Guangdong Province, left, and Roland Decorvet, Chairman and CEO of Nestlé Greater China Region. Source:

Coca-Cola off to a positive start in 2011

Posted by Rita Mu

Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA)’s Australian business is off to a solid start this year, with volume and revenue in the first four months of 2011 reportedly ahead of last year. 

While natural disasters such as Cyclone Yasi and the floods in Queensland and Victoria have impacted demand and led to a short-term increase in operating costs, CCA says its Project Zero investments have partially offset these impacts and are driving expectations in Australia to around five per cent growth for the first half of 2011.

“The business continues to deliver efficiency, service and revenue gains ahead of internal targets from the strong pipeline of capital projects,” says CCA’s Group Managing Director, Terry Davis, in a trading update statement last Wednesday.

“2011 is expected to be a peak year for capital expenditure, with expectations of an overall spend of around $375 million on capacity and capability movements.”

The company’s Indonesian and Papua New Guinea (PNG) businesses are also expecting economic growth for the first half of 2011. Growth in the PET bottle self-manufacturing sector in the regions is expected to drive local currency earnings up to about 10 per cent for the first half of the year.

Despite the Christchurch earthquake, which led to short-term increases in operating costs, CCA says it is expecting to match local currency earnings of those achieved in the first half of last year in New Zealand.

Earnings from the company’s SPC Ardmona business are expected to be five per cent lower than for the first half of 2010 due to the strong Australian dollar, which has led to increased competition from cheaper imported and private label, says CCA.

However, the company’s Pacific Beverages business is expected to grow this year, with Peroni and Bluetongue reportedly already ahead of target as a result of the increased production of draught beer at the new Bluetongue brewery in New South Wales.


Industry calls for supermarket ombudsman

Posted by Rita Mu

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and consumer group Choice have called for the establishment of a supermarket ombudsman as a part of a joint submission to Senate Economics Committee’s inquiry into the impacts of retail prices on the dairy industry.

In January, supermarket giant Coles cut the price of its home brand fresh milk by as much as 33 per cent to $2 for two litres– making it the lowest price in store for any fresh milk. Soon after, competitor Woolworths followed suit.

The supermarkets also slashed the cost of butter and cream, sparking fury from the Australian Dairy Farmers, who said the price cuts were “unsustainable” and would eventually cost the dairy industry jobs.

Choice and the AFGC said an ombudsman would promote transparency in pricing and fairness along the supply chain and provide recourse for those participants in the food and grocery sector who lack market power, particularly small business, small-to-medium food manufacturers and consumers.

Chief Executive of Choice, Nick Stace, said an ombudsman would help to address the lack of competition in the supermarket sector, which is currently dominated by Coles and Woolworths.

“CHOICE believes cheaper groceries are a fundamentally good thing, but we question whether recent actions from the major supermarkets are a sign of genuine competition or a short-term strategy that may erode competition further and see price rises in the future,” Stace said.

“We believe real leadership is needed to address the whole-of-market problems that arise when one or two players drive the industry, whether that is retailers or suppliers.”

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said the ombudsman would help to keep Australian jobs in the food and grocery sector.

“This is all about creating a level playing field for manufacturers and consumers,” Carnell said. “If the current ‘price war’ continues, the profitability of Australian food manufacturing sector, including farmers, will be eroded and the result could be a significant loss of both processors and producers.”


Entries opening soon for Product of the Year Awards

Posted by Rita Mu

The Product of the Year Awards, which is based on an independent consumer survey completed by more than 5000 shoppers, have been launched – with entries opening Monday 18 April.

To be eligible for entry, products must launch between January 2010 and August 2011 and be either a completely new type of product or a useful innovation to an existing product or brand, such as a new ingredient, redesigned shape or size, new formula, or new packaging.

“Following a successful second year of the awards program in 2010, Product of the Year is building its profile as a valuable marketing tool helping winners set themselves apart from their competition in the eyes of the consumer,” said Sarah Connelly, the Director of Product of the Year Australia.

“Previous award winners from around the world have benefited from average sales increases of around 10-15 per cent after using the Product of the Year logo on their packaging, promotions and advertising, which they’re able to do for 12 months following their win.”

In 2010 winners were chosen from 21 categories, up from 17 the year before, including Food and Beverage, Packaged Goods, Beauty, Pet Care, Cleaning and Adult Medicine.

Winners in the packaging category last year including Dettol’s No-Touch hand washing system, Berocca Performance with its Twist N Go bottle, Airwick Aqua Mist with its unique trigger and Finish Quantum with a dissolvable capsule that doesn’t need to be unwrapped. The Organic Bubs baby food pouches also resonated with the consumer, as did the new Cadbury block packaging.

Categories in 2012 will be finalised once entries close on August 2nd.

 All entrants will be judged and vetted by a ‘jury’ of industry experts representing retailers, media, consumer researchers and journalists. They will determine whether each meets the key criteria of the program and can then be submitted for judging in the 5,000-strong consumer survey by global research group TNS.

More information on the Product of the Year Awards is available here.