Sara Lee releases first ad since 2011 [video]

Sara Lee has reinvigorated its brand with the release of its first ad since 2011, comprising its historic tagline, ‘Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.’

The ad shows a diverse range of Australians, all brought together by Sara Lee desserts, and was created by O’Shea & O’Brien (O&O).

Mike O’Brien, retail marketing director, McCain Foods said, “Sara Lee is one of Australia’s most loved brands, and we’re excited to once again showcase just how broad an appeal the brand and our products have.”

The TV campaign will be supported by in-store POS, digital and social media.

Sara Lee Australia was acquired by McCain Foods in February 2013, with the deal valued at $82 million.



Zoos SA drops palm oil free supplier in favour of Streets

Golden North, a South Australian ice cream maker says that it is disappointed that Zoos SA has dropped its palm oil free product in favour of Street Ice Cream.

According to marketing manager Trevor Pomery, Golden North had spent a year eliminating palm oil from its products and that both the Monarto and Adelaide Zoos had heavily promoted that fact that the product was free of the controversial ingredient, ABC News reports.

Pomery says that Streets Ice Cream, which will now be sold instead of Golden North uses palm oil in its products.

Palm oil is the world’s most widely used edible oil with an estimated 50 percent of products on Australian supermarket shelves comprising the ingredient. The controversy surrounding palm oil relates to mass deforestation which is taking place in Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations, with obvious implications for native species, especially the endangered orangutan.

Pomery said that Golden North still has a year to on its contract but received a letter from the Zoos SA on July 3 informing them of the changes. Pomery said that the company went to great lengths to eliminate palm oil from its products.

"[We are] very frustrated and somewhat disappointed in that we put in a lot of time and effort to become palm oil-free," Pomery told ABC News.

"I don't want to go on a moral high ground, but they've backflipped."

Chief executive of Zoos SA, Elaine Bensted said that the decision to drop Golden North in favour of Streets was predominantly a financial one

"It does have a financial benefit to the zoo and I won't shy away from that, and it is a significant component," she said.

"We're a not-for-profit charity, we have a responsibility to our members and that membership responsibility does include financial sustainability.

Bensted said Streets were aware of ethical concerns relating to the use of palm oil and that the company had promised to exclusively source the ingredient from sustainable sources by 2020.

"We wanted to make sure that we were using our buying power to try and drive different behaviour and sustainable behaviour in the people that we make purchases from."


Self-regulation of junk food marketing called into question

Regulations monitoring the marketing of food to children have been called into question, following news that products including Kit Kats and Coco Pops are being classified as healthy.

According to SMH, A NSW Cancer Council analysis has found that 63 percent of foods in television advertisements are classified as unhealthy according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

The researchers found that food companies which had signed up to an industry-regulated marketing code were still advertising products deemed by government standards as being unhealthy. Surprisingly, the companies that had not signed up to the voluntary code were more likely to promote healthy food than those that were signatories.

Food companies aren’t allowed to market unhealthy products to children between 7am and 8.30 an and 4pm to 8.30pm on weekdays, and between 7am and 8.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Researchers analysed advertisements that aired between 6am and 9pm over a two week period.

In addition to the industry-regulated marketing code, many manufacturers also subscribe to the voluntary Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative, which allows them to determine their own nutritional criteria and decide which products are suitable for marketing to children.

According to Clare Hughes, author of the study, companies have set their criteria so low that products including Smarties, Tiny Teddies and Kit Kats were deemed appropriate for marketing to children. Thirty-nine percent of food advertisements that met the food brand’s criteria failed the government’s criteria, she said.

Mandatory regulation in accordance with government standards would be a more effective means of reducing the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, Hughes said.

James Mathews, spokesman for the Australian Food and Grocery Council said restricting the marketing of foods to children has been ineffective in reducing childhood obesity overseas.

''The research considers advertising during all shows between 6am to 9am, covering crime programs like Law and Order and movies featuring sex and violence, programs which are hardly targeting children,'' Mathews said. ''This is not a useful basis to consider advertising to children.''

Another voluntary system aimed at promoting healthy foods and providing transparency to consumers is the Health Star food rating system, which got government sign-off in June. However, the industry has questioned its effectiveness, with Terry O’Brien, managing director at Simplot claiming the system is flawed.

"At Simplot, we've run our products through the suggested system and we've got anomalies all over the place, where things like products with no salt are not getting a better rating than the same product with salt.

"So if these sort of anomalies in our hands, then how the heck are they going to help the consumer?” he said.

Mondelez’s Marvellous Creations chocolate bar recalled

A Marvellous Creations chocolate bar has been recalled due to foreign matter contamination.

The Marvellous Creations Jelly Popping Candy Beanies 50g chocolate bar (with Best Before date markings of 25/02/15 and 26/02/15) has been recalled nationally from Coles, Wooworths, IGA, Kmart, Big W, convenience stores and some petrol stations. The chocolate also features in Cadbury Fundraiser Joyville Sweet Treat Box and Cadbury Dairy Milk Variety Box sold only at Costco stores, as well as in some Cadbury showbags.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has listed the presence of foreign matter (small plastic pieces) as the reason for the recall.

Consumers are being advised not to eat the chocolate bar, but to return it to its place of purchase for a refund.

Arnott’s Tim Tam by Adriano Zumbo – Red Velvet

Product Name: Tim Tam Red Velvet

Product Manufacturer: Arnott’s

Ingredients: sugar, wheat flour, vegetable oil, milk solids, cocoa butter, coca mass, emulsifiers, salt, cocoa powder, food colours, baking powder, flavour, antioxidants.

Product Manager: Laura Hindson

Brand Website:

What the company says:

Arnott’s Tim Tam and celebrity patissier Adriano Zumbo have collaborated on a fourth dessert-inspired Tim Tam flavour. Inspired by the Red Velvet Cup Cake, Tim Tam Red Velvet is an indulgent combination of vibrant red biscuits and a velvety cream cheese centre, coated in a layer of Tim Tam milk chocolate.

“It’s been an honour to personally develop my own range of Tim Tam biscuits,” says Zumbo. “I grew up on the iconic Aussie bikkie and have always dreamed about putting my own twist on it. Following the success of our first collection, we’re thrilled to launch Tim Tam Red Velvet – designed to taste like one of my favourite cakes.”

Tim Tim Brand Manager, Laura Hindson says: “Tim Tam Red Velvet is an exciting addition to the popular Tim Tam by Adriano Zumbo collection of unique, fun, indulgent and innovative flavours.”


Raw food manufacturer earns three major business awards

Laila Gampfer, founder of raw food manufacturer Rawsome has earned three major business awards in the past month including; Best Start-Up at the Telstra WA Australian Business Awards, the Outstanding New Business award and Excellence in Enterprise & Innovation award at the Fremantle Business Awards, as well as a commendation in the start-up category at the 2014 Business News Rising Star Awards.

In addition, Rawsome’s Carawmel Slice has been named a finalist in the Snack Food category for the 2014 Food Magazine Awards which will take place in Sydney this August.

Commenting on her recent achievements, Gampfer says that her success stems from the dedication of her team.

“My team at Rawsome is full of passionate, hard-working people and these awards are wonderful recognition of the effort that has helped drive the business since it started,” Gampfer said.

“Our stockists, customers and the community have supported us along the way, believing in our vision and positively reinforcing our business journey.”

After being diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2010 and looking for gluten-free alternatives to fit with her nutritional plan, Gampfer established Rawsome to create raw food versions of sweet conventional products.

Created in a commercial kitchen in North Fremantle, Rawsome’s products can now be found in over 100 independent cafes and retail outlets across Perth as well as several IGA stores, and more recently has expanded its reach to independent cafes in Melbourne.

“​Setting up a small business can be personally and professionally rewarding but a great deal of motivation and drive are required,” Gampfer said.

“It takes leadership, time, courage and grit to establish a business and it can be relentless with many sacrifices along the way. But with external support, both emotional and professional, and a clear focus and direction for the business, the rewards do come.”

Food Magazine recently featured Rawsome in an article about raw foods trends. To read our interview with Gampfer, click here.


Kez’s Kitchen’s Taking Cafe Home cookie range

Product Name Taking Cafe Home cookie range

Product Manufacturer Kez’s Kitchen

Product Manager Michael Carp

Brand Website

What the company says

Kez’s Kitchen, has expanded its ever-popular Taking Cafe Home range with the launch of five new flavour-packed cookies, exclusive to Woolworths.

Kez’s Taking Cafe Home range allows biscuit-lovers to enjoy the luxury cafe experience in their own homes. The five new products add a creative twist to family favourites. Mini Mixed Moments is a new take on Melting Moments, a packet of nine bite-size melting moments in heavenly chocolate, red velvet and passionfruit flavours which were inspired by the French macaron. 

Using its fabulous Florentine as a muse, Kez’s Kitchen has delivered true innovation to the biscuit category and created two delicious cookie slice options: available in Fig & Date with Dark Choc and Salted Caramel Peanut & Pretzel with Milk Choc, it will be near-impossible to have just one.

Taking its famous Chocolate Chip cookies and smothering them in rich choc deliciousness has resulted in the creation of the most decadent Taking Cafe Home snacks yet: Chocolate Mud-Cookie Bites available in Chocolate Chip and Salted Caramel Fudge, both are sure to be a hit with the whole family.

Michael Carp, Managing Director of Kez’s Kitchen, is confident the products will be a new favourite among existing and new customers. “Consumers are always looking for new and exciting innovation and we are pleased that with the support of Woolworths these products will be available to Australian consumers nationally from June. These new products were created specifically so that consumers can experience cafe style, indulgent treats in the comfort of their own homes.”

New products in the Taking Cafe Home range include:

  • Mini Mixed Moments 9 in 190g pack 
  • Fig & Date with Dark Chocolate Cookie Slices 6 x 25g
  • Salted Caramel Peanut & Pretzel Milk Chocolate Coated Slices 6 x 25g
  • Chocolate Mud-Cookie Bites Chocolate Chip 200g box
  • Chocolate Mud-Cookie Bites Salted Caramel Fudge 200g box


Ballarat Mars factory installs enough solar panels for 90 houses

The Mars confectionery factory in Ballarat will save $50,000 a year through the installation of 840 solar panels, according to the company.

Local paper The Courier reports that the installation of the panels – as well as plans to decrease water usage by 42 per cent and cutting greenhouse emissions and electricity usage by a quarter and a fifth respectively – were part of a $6.2 million efficiency program by Mars.

“It is approximately 90 home solar panel installations equivalent,” the company’s acting general manager Duncan Webster told the Courier.

“To the great credit of the company they are undertaking these various initiatives which will see efficiencies achieved very much in a manner that enables them to produce their product in an environmentally friendly fashion,” deputy premier Peter Ryan said yesterday during a site visit.

Mars is investing in a five-year, $52 million program to upgrade its operations. The improvements have been assisted by a $1.5 million Regional Growth Fund grant by the Victorian government.


Cadbury matches Facebook likes with chocolate

Cadbury is matching people’s Facebook likes and interests with a Dairy Milk flavour using a new Flavour Matcher app.

As part of Cadbury’s new campaign aimed at generating discussion about flavour preferences, Cadbury has built the app into a flavour-matching Facebook-powered vending machine – called The Joy Generator.

The Joy Generator lets users log-in to their Facebook profile and receive their personalised flavour match which is automatically dispensed (for free), before taking a snap with their flavour in a social media enabled picture booth.

The Flavour Matcher app built into the machine harnesses Facebook likes and interests across a number of categories from popular consumer brands, charities and sporting clubs through to music artists, TV shows, radio stations and movies to develop a match, mapped against Cadbury Dairy Milk flavour profiles.

The app will match consumers’ profiles to one flavour from Cadbury Dairy Milk’s famous range including Milk Chocolate, Hazelnut, Peppermint, Roasted Almond, Fruit & Nut, Rocky Road, Crunchie, Snack, Caramello, Turkish Delight, Top Deck and Black Forest.

The machine will be unveiled at Sydney’s Customs House forecourt on the 19th and 20th June from 10am-6pm, before moving to Melbourne’s Federation Square on the 23rd and 24th June from 10am-6pm across both days.

Cadbury Head of Marketing Ben Wicks said, “The Joy Generator and Flavour Matcher app are exciting world-first technologies that use insights from our research team to link flavour to likes and interests on people’s Facebook profiles. It’s a unique social experiment and we’re looking forward to getting the nation involved in the coming weeks and finding out which flavour matches come out on top!”

For those who can’t make it to Sydney and Melbourne to try the vending machine in person, the Flavour Matcher app will be available on the Cadbury Dairy Milk Facebook page in the coming weeks. 


Yowie enters US market following trade show success

Following a successful stint at the Sweet & Snacks expo in Chicago, chocolate confectionery company Yowie has received its first product order for the US market.

The order, which was placed by an 18 store order from speciality candy retail chain, represents 68 cases (4,896 units), which equates to around 272 units per store.

The company said in a statement to the ASX that the response to the Yowie product has exceed expectations.

“The company is delighted to have received over 30 solid enquiries across the three days of the expo including multiple order requests which are now being processed.

The company said that in addition to the US, Yowie has also received enquiries from Turkey, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand.

Yowies – based on the mythical indigenous creatures – were introduced by Cadbury in 1997 and achieved sales of $100 million in the first two years, before discontinuing the line in mid-2005.

The brand then made a comeback in 2012 when the company was acquired by prominent mining executives, Waratah Resources’ William Witham and former non-executive director of Gleneagle Gold, Greg O’Reilly.


R&R buys Peters Ice Cream

French ice-cream giant R&R have bought Peters Ice Cream for an undisclosed amount.

It is a return to European ownership for the Australian firm, which was owned by Swiss food conglomerate Nestle before being sold in 2012 to Pacific Equity Partners, ABC News reports.

Last week, Peters’ private equity owners entered into exclusive negotiations with R&R, with the company expected to sell for over $400 million.

Peters' chief executive Stephen Audsley says little should change for the company's 500 Australian employees.

"With the backing of R&R, Peters will continue to invest in its market leading brands including Drumstick and Connoisseur and in its long history of innovation," Audsley said. "Manufacturing will continue at our world class facility in Mulgrave from which we intend to create new opportunities for growth."

R&R Ice Cream started in north-Yorkshire in Richmond Ice Cream in 1985, and following a series of mergers and acquisitions now owns nine factories across the UK and mainland Europe.

R&R is owned by PAI Partners after the European private equity firm bought the business in the middle of last year.


Cadbury and exporters funding may suffer cuts: Commission of Audit

The National Commission of Audit has recommended that Cadbury factory funding in Tasmania be abolished, along with 16 other industry assistance programs.

The report details 86 recommendations, aimed at making savings for the upcoming 13 May budget release.

The report cited the Cadbury program as having “no genuine market failure and where benefits accrue entirely or largely to the firm or industry supported.”

Also in the firing line are a number of bodies and programs intended to assist Australian exporters, including The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC), The Export Market Development Grants Scheme, the Asian Business Engagement Plan Grants and support for the tourism sector.

The report backs up these export recommendations by referring to a number of changes since the program and organisations were founded, including “significant changes in the international environment, greater availability of information, an increased maturity of the financial services sector and a greater accessibility to professional services firms on a global basis.”

The suggested cuts to Austrade are due to a poor return on investment. The report states that in 2011-12, Austrade was provided with approximately $335 million in funding, which led to 205 export sales. The commission suggests that any remaining functions of Austrade, such as ongoing trade facilitation be incorporated into a commercial arm of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to reduce duplication of corporate services and other overheads.

Small businesses who export would feel the pinch of the recommended abolishment the Export Market Development Grants scheme. The scheme reimburses small businesses for up to half of their international marketing costs, the benefits of which the commission argues are captured by the business itself, without other benefits to the community. It also said that changes in the international environment mean that businesses now have more experience and opportunities for international marketing, and therefore there’s a lesser need for government assistance.

Tourism Australia, which is set to launch its ‘Restaurant Australia’ campaign next week (7 May) has also come under criticism. The commission proposed that funding for Tourism Australia be reduced by 50 percent, to focus on international marketing, and that grant funding for the tourism industry be ceased. "Most of the benefits of tourism accrue to the tourism operators," the report said, adding “there is no clear reason why significant funding should be provided to tourism above other Australian export industries.”

According to ABC News, Treasurer Joe Hockey is not saying which proposals he will accept or reject from the Commission of Audit, only that the federal government will respond on budget night.

“There are a number of recommendations that would be described as courageous” and "there are some recommendations that represent common sense,” he said.


Some like it raw – the rise of the raw confectionery movement

A number of consumer trends have taken place over the last number of years that have forced the confectionery industry to think outside the box – in particular, the raw food movement, writes Aoife Boothroyd.

The ever-increasing popularity of healthy ‘superfoods’ such as goji berries, chia seeds and coconut water has seen mainstream food processors experiment with new flavours and products in order to capture a piece of the superfood pie.

Together with the seemingly unstoppable rise of the superfood category, comes the move away from ingredients such as refined sugar, salt and saturated fat – the traditional cornerstones of the confectionery industry.

A recent report from IBISWorld furthered this sentiment, stating that changing consumer tastes and lifestyles have led to an increase in health awareness, making it "one of the most important factors driving consumption choices."

The shunning of ‘unhealthy’ ingredients has been the catalyst for an increased interest in healthier alternatives across the entire processed food spectrum, but how does one achieve greater nutritional credentials in a product category such as confectionery? The answer may land in a movement that is steadily gaining traction across the nation as it slowly taps into the mainstream market: raw confectionery.

Food magazine recently spoke with two Australian raw confectionery manufacturers; Pana Chocolate and Rawsome to see what all the hype is about.

Pana Barbounis, founder and director of Melbourne’s Pana Chocolate said that the past twelve months has seen the company grow exponentially both locally and overseas.

“At the moment we are experiencing huge growth. We have found ourselves in around 13 countries and have been able to manage the demand ourselves as best we can…” says Barbounis. “In February alone we are up as a company 367% on last year. We are at about 40 staff now too, going back a year ago, we had about 10 people.”

Barbounis says that the popularity of his raw chocolate is due to a number of reasons ranging from an increased interest in raw foods, to the company’s organic certification and allergen free credentials. He does admit however, that many consumers are not really quite sure what raw chocolate actually is.

“We exhibited the product in Dubai for example, and they didn’t really know what raw meant… they were more interested in the organic certification and the fact that it was gluten free. In Germany however – where there is a very high population of vegans and a huge raw food movement – the product was embraced immediately,” he says.

“…We are moving into an era where people are concerned about what they ingest. They are making sure they ingest the right foods, and demanding foods without a lot of numbers on them.”



Quality ingredients translate to quality products

In terms of making raw chocolate, Barbounis says that quality, unadulterated ingredients are key to his success.

“We use all raw organic ingredients, and when I talk about raw, we are talking about ingredients that have never been processed above 45 degrees so they retain all the antioxidants and so forth. We only use cold pressed oils, and do not roast the cacao beans, which means that the antioxidants and magnesium are retained in the cacao.

“Throughout our chocolate making process, we use thermometers to ensure that we work on a 42 degree basis to allow a few extra degrees if it goes higher – we always ensure that it never goes above that.”

No matter which sector of the food manufacturing space you choose to operate in, the potential for food safety issues are ever present. Barbounis sources many of his ingredients from their original source, (including the cacao which is sourced from developing regions in South America) but says that raw suppliers in general, have very high food safety standards.

“The cacao is picked and sundried, and can sometimes be allowed out on open floors, but when you are dealing with raw manufacturers, they know the standard that we expect. They have clean and sanitised processes…

“We have never found any issues in all of our tests… We don’t have HACCP but we send away for microbiological testing… We also have a number of certifications. We are organic, we are halal, we are kosher, fair trade… we have a lot of certifications that ensure best practice.”

A movement to take note of

Laila Gampfer, director of Perth based raw food manufacturer, Rawsome says that her company prides itself on using the finest ingredients available, including nuts, seeds, fruit, cacao, coconut oil, maca and mesquite, many of which are also organic and fair trade.  

Rawsome uses these ingredients to create a wide variety of raw confectionery products including slices, brownies and bars. As well as being raw, Rawsome’s products are free of many allergens including gluten, grains, dairy, soy, refined sugar and eggs. 

Gampfer is of a similar opinion to Barbounis, stating that the increased interest in raw food in Australia has been borne out of the public’s desire to eat more healthfully.

“The raw food culture in Australia is growing at a rapid pace.  With medical professionals and nutritionists agreeing raw foods are good for us…it is no surprise people are being attracted to raw food in record numbers. Australia, along with a handful of other countries is setting a trend and the world is sitting up and taking notice.”

Gampfer who has been diagnosed with Coeliac’s Disease, said that she felt ‘disillusioned’ with the confectionery market’s gluten free offering, and decided to create the business to offer a tastier alternative to the norm.

“… I was driven to create my own treats using raw ingredients to maximise nutritional content.  My focus was to create raw versions of conventional treats that were as decadent and impressive both visually and in taste, and suitable for those like me with food intolerances who would otherwise not be able to consume them,” she says.

As far as production is concerned, Gampfer says that basic raw confectionery can be made with common kitchen equipment, however more complicated recipes require more intensive processes including dehydration.

“More advanced [products] require specialist processing equipment. [We] prefer to use Thermomixes and Excalibur dehydrators to achieve the highest quality end product.  Temperature and other conditions are controlled using specialised equipment to ensure the ingredients are maintained in their raw form.”

Gampfer says that the nature of vegan raw food production means that highly perishable animal-sourced ingredients are omitted from the recipes, lowering the overall risk of any food safety issues.

“Our treats are especially stable as they do not contain perishables such as egg and dairy, making the raw food production low risk.  Also, using top quality ingredients that are sourced from reputable suppliers minimises risk.  As with all food production, extreme care is taken in keeping with healthy food standards,” she says.

Whether the raw food movement is something that may or may not align with your brand, it is certainly a product category that is demanding attention. Gampfer says that as present, the raw chocolate category is currently being adequately catered to by smaller manufactures, however she wouldn’t be surprised is some of the bigger players jumped on board in the future.

“Despite the increase in consumer demand for products that address food intolerances and healthier living, raw chocolate is a niche market that is being satisfied by smaller manufacturers.  [However] as the raw food culture grows, I wouldn’t be surprised if bigger food manufacturers such as Cadbury started experimenting with raw chocolate. The market will drive the direction of our raw food culture and bigger manufacturers will be taking notice.”


Cadbury launches new flavour campaign [Video]

Cadbury Dairy Milk has launched a new campaign aimed at generating discussion about the nation’s flavour preferences.

The launch is led by a series of TV advertisements? where a typical suburban street is taken over to create a visual spectacle with hundreds of blocks of Cadbury flavours (see below).

The campaign includes a series of social and experiential initiatives that challenge people to trial different flavours and make a stand for their favourite. It also includes outdoor activity and digital activations that challenge people to pick their favourite flavour.

To coincide with the launch, Cadbury has refreshed the packaging for all flavoured blocks in the range. Each block now includes ‘joycons’ on the front of the packaging. The joycons include a bus made out of white and milk chocolate for Top Deck, a pink carpet for Turkish Delight and truck full of treats for Rocky Road.

Cadbury head of marketing Steve Chantry said “It’s a joyful celebration of Cadbury Dairy Milk flavours, a call to arms to support your favourite and an invitation to try something new. We need those timid Fruit & Nut devotees to wave their flags, the vivacious Peppermint gadabouts to go crazy and those discerning Hazelnut gourmands to show their friends which flavour should reign supreme.”  

As a part of the campaign, limited edition flavours will be offered – Cadbury Cherry Ripe, Cadbury Dairy Milk Picnic, Cadbury Dairy Milk Crackle, Cadbury Dairy Milk Strawberries & Creme and Cadbury Dairy Milk Toffee Brittle.

Cadbury fans will also be invited through social media to create content to be included in TV ads broadcast late Autumn.



24 hours with Charlie’s Cookies

Name: Jacky Magid

Company name: Charlie's Cookies

Title: owner, cookie-lover, innovator and sales manager

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life. 
Charlie’s Cookies is a family business that is owned and managed by myself and my husband, Ken Mahlab.

I manage the product development, sales and marketing and Ken is responsible for operations and finance. We are also lucky to have a fantastic executive team working alongside us.

A typical working day for me looks like this:

  • 9am: Arrive at the office with my customer service hat on. I check in with my team and problem solve any queries to ensure we have happy cookie customers
  • 10.30am: I put on my product development hat, taste test trial batches and review recipe updates with the production team
  • 11.30am: I meet with my husband Ken to discuss the strategic plan and manage any HR issues which may involve interviewing and recruiting new team members
  • 12.30pm: I meet with my team on operational matters
  • 1.00pm: I squeeze in a tuna salad while sitting at my desk and catching up on emails for an hour
  • 2.00pm: I meet with clients and follow-up sales calls for the rest of the day

What training/education did you need for your job?
Eight years as a lawyer helped me develop strong people management skills. My training in the legal profession provided me with transferable skills. I’ve found that my ability to problem solve, communicate professionally and objectively and my love of systems and processes are just the features that set us apart from other cookie manufacturers and what our clients love about us.

I have also previously worked in alternative dispute resolution and negotiation skills training – this certainly honed my communication and interpersonal skills.

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path. 

  • My first job was working on the production line at Greta Lingerie in 1982 – this was my parents' business. It was almost a given that my first job would be on the floor of our family business. I was given the task of making the ‘bows’ for the underpants, using a foot controlled bow making machine.
  • I dreamt of doing medicine or law at university and ended up doing the latter, studying arts first at the University of Melbourne between 1991 and 1993 and Law at Monash between 1994 and 1997
  • Upon graduation, I worked in commercial law for eight years between 1998 and 2005. During this time I worked heavily in business conflict resolution and crisis management, where the systematic approach became more relevant.
  • My husband Ken and I purchased the business in 2004 and Charlie’s Cookies is a story of a successful turnaround. Originally launched in 1994 as Uncle Charlie’s Cookies, the business went into administration 10 years after its establishment so we then worked hard to turn things around. Since then our much-loved local cookie shop has been transformed into a boutique food service and retail brand.
  • By the end of 2014 we expect our products to be available in over 200 gourmet stores and independent supermarkets nationwide. Our delicious cookies are also found on Qantas domestic flights and Virgin Lounges, so we’re well travelled!

What tools and/or sofware do you use on a daily basis?
I check the Charlie’s Cookies social media platforms on a daily basis, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

I also couldn’t live without Excel and Email (Outlook). From a sales perspective I regularly look at sales reports on MYOB and use Salesforce our CRM software.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?

I think the thing I am most proud of is having a professional life but at the same time being as present as I can to my children and family (and now horses).

A recent proud moment at Charlie’s has been the development and current launch of our new Mini Melting Moments range.

Our mouth-watering Mini Melting Moments are a real innovation for the category. After almost a year of perfecting the recipe, we’ve worked hard during product development and packaging to create one of the first commercially produced quintessentially Australian Mini Melting Moments ranges. We were lucky enough to recently win an RASV packaging Champion award for our efforts and bronze medals at Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

Biggest daily challenge?
With up to 25 key members on our busy Charlie’s Cookies team, knowing how to manage staff effectively is an ongoing daily challenge and consideration.

Biggest career challenge?
In 2003 the previous ownership saw the business (then called Uncle Charlie’s) go into administration. The ultimate challenge for Ken and I was turning it around and get back into the black. Knowing where we’ve been allows us to go into the future with strategy and some wisdom.

Deciding to join my husband (Ken Mahlab) in business at that time was also a hard and yet very important decision. Although it wasn’t always easy in the first couple of years, working at Charlie’s together is a great union and we’ve learnt to work as an effective team. We each bring something very different to the business that together makes it a fun and successful partnership.

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
I think one of the challenges for sales in the food business is the fragmentation of the gourmet food market. I wish I had more hours in the day or an army of people to be able to get my product more widely distributed and be able to give every customer the most exceptional service.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
In the food service industry nothing is guaranteed and continued supply depends on product and customer service quality. Distribution of a new product and brand is a challenge and takes time and investment before you create the demand.

We understand it is important to stay innovative and keep up with or stay ahead of trends – ultimately it’s about staying relevant.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
Charlie’s Cookies is a family business with a strong social and community commitment and supports a number of philanthropic and educational groups. With a strong emphasis on feeding the hungry and supporting the local community, Charlie’s donates at least $50,000 worth of cookies each year to FareShare, local community groups and other sponsorship programs.

Recently, Charlie’s Cookies sponsored The Feed Melbourne Appeal, Shout Lunch, Fight Hunger lunch.

At Charlie’s we believe that the joy in life comes from the mini moments that happen while you’re busy planning for the big ones. Life’s short. Eat the biscuit!

If you would like to take part in Food mag's Industry Map, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.


Confectioner’s $3m grant could be sweet news for Ford workers

Melbourne-based boutique chocolate manufacturer Koko Black will establish an Asia-Pacific headquarters in Melbourne’s north after receiving a $3 million grant from Melbourne’s North Innovation and Investment Fund (MNIIF).

The fund was established in response to the Ford closure, with money from the state and federal government as well as car manufacturer Ford, to support job creation, the Herald Sun reports.

Koko Black will use the money to develop the Alchemy Hall Project – a research and development hub to support product innovation.

Victorian premier Denis Napthine said the expansions would increase Koko Black production by 200 percent, adding that the government is proud to support businesses such as Koko Black that are creating employment opportunities in growing industries.

“Koko Black is one of the great success stories of retailing, one of the great success stories in terms of employment and economic growth in this state,” Napthine said.

“Koko Black is already working with Ford Australia to work with people who are currently working at Ford, to identify the skills and the opportunities those people may have in coming on-board with Koko Black,” he said.

The Victorian state government said more MNIIF grants would be announced soon.

The Great Southern Waters seafood plant in Geelong is also expanding, and is expected to create eight full time jobs by June 2016, and seven more by 2017-18.

The construction of the abalone processing plant will be subsidised by a $377,000 grant from the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund, set up by the state and national government and Ford Australia.

Western Victoria MP David Koch said former local automotive factory workers would be well placed for the new jobs.


First PNG Fairtrade cocoa beans expected soon

Confectionery brand Cadbury is expecting the first shipment of Fairtrade cocoa beans from Papua New Guinea to arrive in Australia in the coming weeks.

In partnership with Fairtrade ANZ and Monpi Cocoa Exports, Cadbury has been supporting Club 3000, a group of 629 cocoa farmers in Madang Province on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, to sell its cocoa under Fairtrade terms.

The 12 month project, delivered by Monpi Cocoa Exports, is training Club 3000 farmers to produce high quality Fairtrade certified cocoa in order to bring a sustainable income to farmers, their families and the community.

According to the Fairtrade website, the initiative delivers a better deal for farmers and producers in the developing world through:

  • A fair and stable price for their produce
  • Security of long-term contracts
  • Investment in local community development
  • Improved working conditions
  • Environmentally sustainable farming methods
  • Support in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to operate successfully in the global economy

Stephanie Saliba, Cadbury spokesperson said, “While relatively small in terms of the global cocoa market, the PNG cocoa industry offers great potential.  Sustainability initiatives like Club 3000 are helping farmers to improve the efficiency of their farming, increase their yields and in doing so improve their livelihoods and lives.”

Following on from the Club 3000 project, Cadbury and Monpi have announced a further partnership to provide training and support to 1,000 farmers in the northern Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea, under the banner of the $400 million global Cocoa Life program.  An NGO will also join the partnership later this year to work with Morobe farmers and the community on a holistic approach to improving the region’s cocoa industry and the lives of farmers.

“Our vision is that in partnership with Monpi Cocoa Exports, and our NGO partner, we will work with farmers, their families and local communities to address areas of need with a particular focus on empowering women. Those needs will be identified by the farmers and communities involved in the project,” said Saliba.

Consumers to spend $2.9b on food, beverage and services over Easter, IBISWorld

According to an IBISWorld report, Australians are set to spend up to $2.9 billion over the Easter holiday period on related food, beverages, confectionery and travel – up 3.4 percent on 2013.

According to general manager of IBISWorld Australia, Karen Dobie, the average Australian will spend $125.34 on Easter-related products. She said that with the increase in spend, consumers are choosing to purchase more boutique products such as fair trade chocolate and craft beers.

“While traditional chocolate brands will contribute the most to sales, there is a continuing trend towards fair trade and organic brands as consumers begin to shop with ethics taking precedence over price”, said Dobie. She also added that chocolate products purchased as gifts will likely favour high-end brands.

The seafood industry is also set to benefit from the Easter holiday period with 3.4 percent annual growth predicted for 2014.

“Over the past decade, Australian palates and kitchen habits have shifted away from simple meat-and-vegetable meals towards more diverse and creative options, spurred on by the popularity of cooking television shows. Seafood is a key category that has benefited, allowing fish, prawns, scallops and more to secure their place on the Australian table – particularly during traditional celebrations such as Easter and Christmas,” said Dobie. 

Another segment that will reap the benefits of the holiday season is the boutique beverage sector with Australians predicted to consume more than double the amount of alcohol at home than they will at pubs and bars.

“The growing trend in the appreciation and knowledge of alcohol will spur many Australians to make more sophisticated selections this Easter, with sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, imported wines and craft wheat beers all appearing on the table”, said Dobie.

“This year, cider is expected to be one of the main beneficiaries of our broadening palates, and is tipped to continue as the fastest growing segment in alcoholic beverages.”


Continental Patisserie factory opens in Silverwater

Continental Patisserie has launched its new factory in Silverwater, one of the largest custom-built factories of its kind.

At over 3,800sqm, the factory houses a humidified chocolate room, preparation areas, dedicated finishing rooms, temperature controlled spaces for baking and cooling, a packing zone, cool room and expansive freezer.

Continental’s general manager, Jian Yao said “It has been a long road but with the factory now fully operational,  we are ready to commence a new period of expansion and growth.”

The factory is the second for Continental Patisserie, with another in Shanghai.

Another manufacturer which has grown into the Silverwater area is  coffee pod manufacturer, Pod Pack Australia, which more than tripled the capacity of its manufacturing plant in Silverwater recently.


Coles Easter Eggs recall after undeclared tree nuts found

Undeclared tree nuts have been found in Coles Easter Eggs (12 pack in plastic egg crate with various coloured foils), leading Coles Supermarkets to issue an Australia-wide recall of the product.

The recall was issued after a child experienced a mild allergic reaction on Monday, and Coles and Anaphylaxis Australia were immediately notified.

Yesterday Coles withdrew the product from sale, and issued a tree nut alert for the batch with a best before of 31 January, 2015.

It’s not the first recall from the company responsible, Heritage chocolates.

In April 2012, Heritage recalled Heritage Belgian Milk Chocolate Egg with Exquisite Chocolate Truffles from Coles Supermarkets nationally due to undeclared almond, hazelnut and gluten allergens.

Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia has urged that the tree nut alert be shared with preschools and schools who may have purchased the product for Easter egg hunts.