Supermarket price wars are killing drivers: transport union

The supermarket price wars are claiming more victims than just food manufacturing facilities, with accusations from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) that the pressure is forcing truck drivers to drive unsafely, leading to road deaths.

TWU federal president Tony Sheldon told ABC News that the tight deadlines forced on drivers are unrealistic and forcing them to drive unsafely.

"The union is saying very clearly to Coles and the other retailers that [their] practices have to change, that they are literally killing people on our roads because of the economic pressure," he said.

"What happens with Coles and other major retailers with dominating the market at 32 per cent of road transport tasks, is that they say to manufacturers, they say to farmers and they say to transport operators that you've got to do this work the cheapest and the fastest way you possibly can.

"They're price takers, which means the trucking industry either makes the decision to do the work or they don't have a job."

In a bid to shine some light on the dangerous impacts of the major supermarkets on drivers, the union will begin a series of supermarket protests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth today.

He said the larger transport industry is being impacted by the behaviour of the major supermarkets.

"When the two big gorillas make a decision, and particularly with the aggression of Coles, it means a knock-on effect occurs right across the market, right across industries above and beyond retail," he said.

Is Coles the ringleader?

It’s not the first time Coles has been identified as the main instigator of the anti-competitive and bullying behaviours currently plaguing the food industry, with many in the sector believing Woolworths simply has no choice but to match Coles’ prices and attitudes.

Last year, Coles was the first to drop the price of milk to $1 per litre in the now-infamous milk price wars, and earlier this year it slashed the price of produce in half.

The impact has significant flow-on effects for food manufacturers, growers and suppliers, who cannot maintain a business with prices so low.

Earlier this year national secretary for the food and confectionary division of the Australia Manufacturing Workers Union, Jennifer Dowell discussed the damage the supermarket price wars are doing to the Australian industry.

“The mistake that most people make in these Inquiries and things is that they look at Coles and Woollies as retailers, but they are food processors and they control the market,” she told Food Magazine.

“If a company like Nestle came out and said “we’re going to buy a stake in Coles, and dominate the shelves with our products,” there would be uproar, it would be a huge scandal, but when the supermarkets do it, it’s a non-issue.

“That just doesn’t make sense.”

Sheldon agrees, saying the systems in place to force drivers to arrive on time are unsafe and unfair.

"When you dominate the market to the degree they do, and have policies that actually say if you arrive outside a half-hour window you get fined; as an owner-driver or a transport company, if you come in within that half hour and we can't unload you, you could still waiting for a day for hours," he told the ABC.

"We've got plenty of examples of people having to stay a whole day or being called back the next day without any work, without appropriate breaks, and with fatigue and economic pressure that goes on the transport companies.

"[The policies] are a damnation of this industry and the retail industry – how it squeezes the road transport industry and leads to unsafe practices."

Speaking up is commercial suicide

The pressure Coles and Woolworths place on companies and workers are well-known in the industry, but almost all are too afraid to speak publically, for fear they will be pushed out of business for doing so.

A Senate Inquiry into the behaviours of the major supermarkets found people would only speak up on the basis of anonymity and most were still concerned that even under such conditions, they would be found out by the big two and punished.

But Australian Logistics Council chief executive Michael Kilgariff told the ABC the latest claims from the TWU need to be substantiated and he believes there is enough regulation in the industry.

"The Australian Logistics Council has a retail logistics supply chain code of practice which deals with these issues such as waiting times, and both the carriers and the supermarkets are very focused on making sure that we don't have these sorts of situations occurring,” he said.

"If Tony Sheldon and the TWU have any evidence that the law is actually being broken, then they have a legal responsibility to ensure that the authorities are aware of where this is occurring so that prosecutions can commence.

"The supermarkets are currently liable under chain of responsibility laws – as is everybody in the supply chain – for incidents that may occur anywhere else in the supply chain where it can be demonstrated that they somehow caused it to happen.

"[The] chain of responsibility… is about to become a national law from January 1, 2013, and so we're going to have a national focus on these issues, and again if the TWU knows that the law is being broken, then they have an obligation to ensure that the authorities are informed."

Coles denies claims

Coles and Woolworths both refused to speak to the ABC on the issue, but said in a statement that the claims are baseless and incorrect.

"We're disappointed the TWU continues to make unsubstantiated claims about our transport practices.

"We outsource our transport business to large and reputable providers, we take safe transport practices very seriously and in no way do our transport contracts force drivers into unsafe or illegal practices. 

"We require our transport providers to comply with all road safety laws and regulations and all our freight contracts include fatigue management programs.

"Contrary to the TWU's claims, Coles's delivery windows into our stores are two hours, which is aligned with retail industry practice, and there are no penalties for suppliers or carriers for missing a time slot into our [distribution centres] or stores. 

"Coles is a co-founder of and current signatory to the Australian Logistics Council's retail code of practice and takes chain of responsibility very seriously as being core to its operating practices".

The release of yesterday's Federal Budget didn't offer any immediate improvements for the industry either, with calls from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) for a Supermarket Ombudsman ignored.

It  wanted the appointment of an Ombudsman, to oversee the anti-competitive and bullying behaviour of the major supermarkets to ensure a future for Australia’s food sector, to be included in the budget.

 

 

 

Coles to source all frozen veg products from Australia

Supermarket giant Coles has announced that from this month all its private label frozen vegetable products will be grown and packed in Australia.

The vegetable products will be sourced from Aussie farmers and packed by Australian based food processor, Simplot.

Last month Callum Elder, executive general manager of Simplot, discussed the difficulties for food companies trying to stay afloat in Australia.

''Penalty rates are a significant cost difference to manufacturers, particularly in the agricultural game where you're unable to properly plan,'' he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

''Our productivity hasn't increased in the past three to four years, as an industry, but yet we've been paying 3 to 4 per cent increases [in wages], which is a large part of the cost.

“It's very expensive to put people into Australian factories.''

Coles merchandise director John Durkan said the latest decision by Coles will make it the only Australia’s supermarket private label to offer 100 per cent Australian-grown frozen vegetables.

Coles’ total sales of frozen vegetables is almost $200 million each year, and the  private label range accounts for about 20 per cent of  that; more than $40 million annually.

“At a time when most other frozen vegetable brands are being sourced from overseas, we’re very pleased that, through our partnership with Simplot, we’ve been able to continue supporting Australian vegetable growers,” Durkan said.

More than 90 per cent of Coles’ private label frozen vegetable products is sourced from Tasmanian vegetable growers.

This represents over $37 million in sales for the supermarket, which growers will no doubt be hoping will be filtered down to their operations.

Simplot Australia’s Executive General Manager of Retail, Graham Dugdale has welcomed the supermarket’s decision.

“While other frozen vegetable suppliers have moved their sourcing and manufacturing off shore, Simplot Australia has continued to invest in relationships with the Australian farming community and factory capability, and is now the last remaining frozen vegetable manufacturer in Australia.

“Our strategic relationship with Coles gives consumers the choice to purchase Australian grown frozen vegetables from both ‘Birds Eye’ and Coles brand.”

 

Federal Budget 2012: Did the government forget the food sector?

The Gillard government has left the food processing industry reeling with its Federal Budget, channelling little money to the sector and ignoring calls for a Supermarket Ombudsman.

Farming groups have slammed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s declaration that Australia can be a ‘foodbowl’ for Asia, saying current policies are killing their businesses, not helping them.

Despite the fact that hundreds of workers in the food processing sector have lost their jobs in the last two years as SPC Ardmona, McCain, Heinz and National Foods, amongst others, close their doors or scale back their businesses, Gillard announced earlier this week that the future for Australian food should be in export.

The high Australian dollar, supermarket price wars and lack of new recruits in the sector are making it impossible for food manufacturers to make a profit, or in many cases even break even.

Dairy, produce industries in trouble

The infamous milk price wars is leading dairy farmers to leave the industry in droves, and with the average age of an Aussie farmer about 65 and no new workers coming through the ranks, the future of the farming sector looks dire.

With the dairy industry still reeling, Coles slashed the price of produce in half in Fenruary and AusVeg spokesperson Simon Coburn told Food Magazine it “had the making” of the milk price wars.

“Long term this could deliver lots of damage to the industry,” he told Food Magazine.

“Depending where the reduced retail price is going to be absorbed, whether it’s a small grower or a big business, this will damage them long term.

“Eventually it will come back to growers and that’s where they’ll get into trouble.

“These prices aren’t sustainable if they’re passed onto growers, small operations and even big ones won’t survive this.

When asked whether the price cuts shows a lack of knowledge or respect for growers from Coles, Coburn said that will be determined by Coles’ behavior going forward.

“It depends on how these costs will be set up,” he said.

“If they absorb the costs within their own structures, it could be good, but if it is going to be passed onto growers, which it probably will, it shows mass disrespect to growers.

Murray-Darling Basin impacts

Australian Dairy Farmers Association Chris Griffin voiced similar concerns about the impact of the supermarket when he spoke to Food Magazine in the same month, saying the dairy industry is not only losing workers, but will be further damaged by the carbon tax and Murray-Darling Basin plan.

“The carbon tax will also cause problems when it’s implemented on the 1st of July; we’ve done work to find the costs that will be incurred and they are largely electrical costs,” he said.

“The average increase for dairy operation will be between $5000- $7000, and that will be an overall direct increase in cost that will have to be passed on somewhere.”

The cost increase cause by the carbon tax will have to be absorbed by the farmers in the milk export market, Griffin told Food Magazine.

“It will have to be absorbed by the farmer because our price is governed by a royal export set price.

“Australia has come out ahead of the game in a way with implementing the carbon tax, but farmers can’t go to their overseas customers and saying ‘we need extra money because Julia has put on a carbon tax,’ the customers would just go elsewhere.”

The Murray Darling Basin plan, which is tipped to see farmers sell 2750 gigalitres of water back to the Government, will mean less water available for the same number of farmers in the region, Griffin explained.

“Given that the government has a national food plan they’re trying to roll out and we believe the dairy industry is a massive part of that, we would like to consult with them about the plan,” he said.

“Australia has been very fortunate that we have been able to produce enough dairy products not only for domestic consumption, but also for export, which then generates wealth for the country.

“This plan is going to jeopardise that.”

“At this stage we say a certain amount of water has been taken out already and we need to have a strategic look, working with the government to see where it is going to come from in the future rather than using the ‘Swiss cheese approach’ currently being used.

“It means less water for the same amount of farmers, and maintenance costs will be higher because there are not as many people contributing to the maintenance.”

National Irrigators' Council chief executive Tom Chesson said if the Gillard government wants to feed the Asian middle class, it will need to ensure "water to produce food,” and  “unless government gets its act together, we won't have a food processing industry left.”

Declining produce output

AusVeg chief executive Richard Mulcahy voiced similar concerns about the government’s view of exporting to Asia, saying there simply isn’t enough.

"Only 7.7 per cent of our ]vegetable] production goes offshore,” he said.

“We need to address that before coming up with ambitious plans about feeding hundreds of millions of people in Asia.”

In the last two years fruit and vegetable exports have declined $200 million to $497 million.

The Federal Budget, announced this morning, revealed funding for the Murray-Darling Basin will be reduced, and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, which manages the government’s water rights, will be slashed by $13.2 million over the next seven years.

The Caring for our Country program, which aims to improve biodiversity and sustainable farming, which many feared would be cut in Wayne Swan’s budget, was retained.

A further $2.2 billion will be invested into the program’s second phase, to run until 2018.

Part of the money will concentrate on ensuring the health and sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef, which will get an extra $12.5 million over four years to fund research on the impact of climate change and how to deal with global warming.

Over six years, $58 million will be delivered to develop and maintain marine reserves to protect oceans surrounding Auustralia.

But submissions to the senate inquiry into food processing are painting a bleak picture for the rest of the industry, saying the sector is "going backwards at a rate of knots".

The Australian Food and Grocery Council has also been lefty disappointed by the Budget, after calls for funding for a Supermarket Ombudsman were not delivered on by the government.

The AFGC wants an Ombudsman to oversee the anti-competitive and bullying behaviour of the major supermarkets to ensure a future for Australia’s food sector.

Rate of animals slaughtered without stunning rising faster that Muslim population in UK

An animal welfare expert in the UK has accused the local meat industry of increasing the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, claiming it is for religious purposes, when it is actually a financial decision.

Professor Bill Reilly, former chairman of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, said the increase in the number of animals not being stunned prior to slaughter was “unacceptable.”

He is currently a consultant on veterinary public health and believes the practise of slaughtering animals without stunning should be reduced or banned entirely.

He said reports by the Farm Animal Welfare Council and EU-funded Dialrel Project, combined with publically-available footage on YouTube "clearly demonstrate the pain and distress of obviously still sentient animals after non-stun slaughter".

Legislation in the UK and EU allows the slitting of animals’ throats without stunning, in accordance with Muslim and Jewish food requirements, but the number of animals slaughtered without stunning is increasing faster than the rates of people who require animals to be killed in such a way for their religious beliefs.

The production of halal meat in particular has been growing at a rapid pace, Reilly said, and now significantly exceeds the proportion of Muslims in the UK population.

The halal share of the UK meat market increased almost 15 per cent in the last 11 years he said, while the Muslim population is estimated at 4.6 per cent.

“Why has there been this growth in demand for halal meat and the proportion that is from non-stunned animals?” Professor Reilly wrote in the Veterinary Record.

“There may be operational advantages for an abattoir if stunning is not carried out.

“Other commercial drivers include the convenience of not offering a Halal processing line."

Reilly stressed that he is not targeting the right to religious freedom, but rather attempting to ensure as many animals as possible are slaughtered in a humane way.

"The challenge to society is to enable religious slaughter without compromising animal suffering," he said.
He wants to reduce the minimum number of animals killed without pre-stunning in the UK/

But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.

He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.

"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.

In October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.

There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.

The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.

Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.

Image: The Guardian
 

What do you think about the slaughter of animals without prior stunning?

When it comes to juice, keep it simple, stupid

Fruit juice used to be simple. You got some fruit, squeezed it until liquid ran out and then drank it. But then, things got complicated.

Somewhere along the way, juice producers realised they could make those expensive fruits go further: put less of it in the bottle, but sell it for the same price. Genius!

Often additives like water, sugar and orange flavouring are mixed with the real stuff that looks like juice, and is stocked in supermarkets with all the other juices, but can only technically be called a "fruit drink."

Then there's "reconstituted" juice, which is a way of adding water to dry solids from which the water has been evaporated.

Taking the moisture out of the fruit, by using heat, is a way to make transportation easier and ensure availability all year round, but can result in many of the nutrients being extracted.

But as people become more aware of the impact of obesity and the part that food and drink consumption plays in that, there is more demand than ever for proper, traditional fruit juice.

Its juice like it used to be, only better.

When nudity is perfectly acceptable

Ten years ago, Nudie Juice was launched by a man affectionately known as 'Tall Tim," and since its initial days, which came off the back of Tim Pethick's obsession with making fresh juices for his family, it has grown into a well-known and trusted brand with state-of-the-art juicing facilities, thousands of stockists and countless "Nudie addicts."

"Our proudest moments are often the unprompted bits of feedback that we receive from our consumers," Richard Glenn, Nudie's National Sales Manager told Food Magazine.

"We are continually amazed by the amount of people who take the time to contact us and tell us how much they love Nudies, their experience of their first nudie, or what they think of our new products.

"We call these people 'Nudie addicts'.

"Last week we even received a picture from a lady who had embroidered a quilt with pictures of all of our nudie characters on it, impressive stuff!"

The ever-increasing number of 'Nudie addicts,' is clear evidence that consumers are looking for quality products, free from preservatives but full of goodness.

Before Nudie entered the market, there weren't any mainstream juicers doing what Pethick was in his kitchen each morning, when he rose early to make up fruit juice and smoothie concoctions for his wife and daughters (and of course, himself), and so an opportunity was born.

After some deliberation, Pethick decided the best name for his company was one that summed up what his fruit was all about: nothing but the fruit, hence 'Nudie.'

From little things, big things grow

In 2003, when the company launched, there were only three people, including Pethick, one stockist, one blender and one small office in Sydney's Balmain.

They went through 256 pieces of fruit in the first week, and sold 40 bottles, mostly to family and friends.

They even went doorknocking, gave out samples and delivered Nudies personally so people could taste the goodness for themselves.

Now, more than 70 people are employed by the company, and it has over 5000 stockists throughout the country, including supermarket, cafŽ and convenience store chains, as well as independent retailers and food service operators.

Nudie goes through about 3 000 000 pieces of fruit per week these days and has a state-of-the-art juicing facility in South East Sydney.

And they're not stopping there.

"Within the last 18 months we've delivered some really strong innovation to the market," Glenn said.

"We spend a lot of time speaking to consumers and identifying trends to ensure that our product offering remains relevant.

"Our Nothing But range which was launched to address the growing consumer concerns around the use of concentrates and added ingredients in many of the other juice products on the market at the time.

"We launched with Nothing But 21 Oranges and Nothing But 20 Apples, taking nudie into the larger 'take home' segment of the market for the first time.

"In addition to the Nothing But message, we are also able to make the claim that we can get the product from farm to bottle in 72 hours, and that it is 100% Australian.

"For every 2L bottle, our farmers in regional NSW pick 21 oranges (give or take a few) and squeeze them, they then deliver this juice to our factory in Sydney where we lightly pasteurise the juice and bottle it.

"We add nothing else to the juice and the whole process from beginning to end takes no more than 72 hours.

"We believe that the quality of the fruit we use and our strict discipline around this process allows us to have such a great tasting juice, which is currently the most popular chilled juice in the Australian grocery market.

"Based on the success of these lines we have since expanded the range into a 1L and 500ml offering and have also added 3 new variants to the range."

A more informed consumer

Glenn told Food Magazine the company is always looking to innovate their products and ensure they are delivering what consumers want.

"We then became the first beverage company in Australia (and possibly the world) to add chia seeds to a beverage," he continued.

"As well as being the highest plant based source of Fibre and Omega 3, chia seeds also help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

"We saw this as a great opportunity to create a nudie with chia seeds as a way of providing breakfast for people on the go, and have partnered with The Chia Co in Kimberley, WA to create the product."

Glenn believes the always-increasing demand for Nudie products is proof that consumers are becoming more educated about additives and their negative impacts, and turning towards healthier options.

"There has certainly been a lot of media coverage surrounding some of the added ingredients which exist in the market, and consumers seem to be better educated when it comes to choosing beverage products.

"A lot of food brands do seem to be increasing their focus on communicating what their products do not contain, which tends to suggest that this message is resonating with consumers across many areas of their grocery shop."

Keeping the good stuff

Another juice producer that is listening to the consumer demand for more fruity goodness and less additives is the Wild About Fruit Company, which produces two ranges of Low GI juices that are free from any nasties and full of flavour and health benefits.

The Wild Child "super-juices" and Wild About Juice ranges are based on apple juice sourced from orchards in the Yarra Valley and created with a "pure fruit" philosophy.

"There are no preservatives, no added sugar or water and no trendy boosts," the company told Food Magazine.

A few years ago a third generation orchardist in Victoria's Yarra valley, Ben Mould, wondered:  "Could an apple juice be made that actually tasted like a crisp orchard fresh apple, and also contain as much of the nutrients from the apple as possible?"

Knowing that crushing the apple caused oxidization, damaging the apple's delicate nutrients, which are found mainly in the skin, Mould had to develop something pretty clever.

Mould said that while most people have experienced the taste of commercially made apple juice – sickly sweet confectionary flavour that leaves a nasty after-taste, few had experienced good quality, sustainably juiced, delicious tasting real apple juice.

Even many home juicers damage the cells of the fruit and remove a lot of the apple's antioxidants.

Then, Mould's patented juicing process, which uses the whole apple, maintains the antioxidants of the fruit and has a low glycemic index (GI) was born.

Well, an apple a day does keep the doctor away!

The company says its Wild about Juice contains twice the nutritional value of the fruit than any other fruit juice on the Australian market and an independent nutritional analysis on apple juices and apple-blended products in Australia confirmed that the unique processing method employed by Wild about Juice which processes the whole fruit retains the naturally occurring phytonutrients and flavonoids contained in apples.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

The company's  Wild about Juice  range of healthy juices straight from the Yarra Valley are 100 per cent Australian, with absolutely no additives and is the first and only juice in Australia to be given a low GI rating.

The GI rating refers to the different ways certain carbohydrates behave in the human body and their effect on blood glucose levels.

Low GI foods and drinks  produce only small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels,  which  helps people lose and manage weight,increase the body's sensitivity to insulin, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve blood cholesterol levels.

They also leave you feeling fuller for longer, give added endurance for exercise and help re-fuel following exercise.

This 100% Australian, family-owned and operated business has been growing apples & cherries in the Yarra Valley since 1930.

Owner-operator Mould said the patented juicing process is healthier and more environmentally friendly than other juicing techniques.

"This special process extracts and retains the goodness from the fruit by also juicing the skin which contains more fibre and antioxidants than the flesh," Mould Explained.

"Wild about Juice promotes natural nutrition, as it has no preservatives or additives, and this juicing process also leaves minimal waste, making it highly sustainable."

The four powerful antioxidants that remain in the fruit through the revolutionary juicing process are catchins, a potent form of antioxidant which are good for coronary and cardiovascular health, flavanols that help in the protection of cancer and supports cardiovascular health, chalcones, known for their anti-inflammatory attributes and Phenolic Acids (Chlorogenic),  one of the most potent natural antioxidant groups known.

The Wild Child flavours consist of Green Cleanse; Antioxidant Energy; Mango Passion Veggie Detox, which are all made with using nature's own superfoods, and nothing else.

The Green Cleanse, for regeneration and rejuvenation contains apple, mango, banana, spinach, wheatgrass and spirulina to naturally detox and cleanse the body, while the Antioxidant Energy contains apple, pomegranate, blackcurrant, acai, and goji berries, in what the company describes as "the ultimate blend of the world's finest super-fruits and a natural source of antioxidants to boost energy and fight free radicals."

As these companies continue to grow, and the demand for proper, healthy juices increases, the market will see more innovation and creative combinations, and as Glenn told Food Magazine, the most important aspect for Nudie moving forward is commitment to what they do and why they do it.

"As a relatively young business just in our 10th year now, it's hard to say what the next 10 years hold in store.

"We will just make sure that we stick to the values which have got us to where we are today and continue to do what's been working for us so far."

As people become more aware of the impact of obesity and the part that food and drink consumption plays in that, there is more demand than ever for proper, traditional fruit juice.

China’s Coca-Cola Shanxi denies workers’ claim of contaminated products

Chinese authorities have denied there are any problems with it’s locally-manufactured Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages, after an employee claimed mass chlorine contamination.

An anonymous employee told local media on Tuesday that routine pipe maintenance work had resulted in nine batches of products becoming contaminated with chlorine.

Many retailers and individual consumers stopped buying the products as a result of the alleged contamination, leading Coca-Cola Shanxi to test the products in question.

According to the Shanxi Province Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision, 121 058 cases of the potentially contaminated beverages were produced between 4 February to 8 Fenruary.

Of these, more then 76 000 had been sold by Tuesday and the remainder are still in the company’s possession.

Tests of the products resulted in the Food Quality Safety Supervision Testing Institute of Shanxi Province and the Shanxi Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Technology Centre declaring the products safe to consume, despite chlorine being identified in the samples.

They maintain that chlorine levels in the drinks are less than purified drinking water and therefore safe to drink.

“Drinking small amounts of chloric beverages won’t hurt people, but large amounts can,” Fu Yingwen, director of the inspection and quarantine centre said.

Woolworths sends jobs offshore

Woolworths is the latest food producer to send its operations abroad, as the cost of doing business in Australia continued to increase as the dollar does.

The high cost of manufacturing in Australia has been blamed for several food companies, including Heinz, sending jobs offshore – mostly to New Zealand.

The supermarket giant transferred 40 contact centre jobs to Auckland this week and it will be quickly followed by Imperial Tobacco, which announced it would be relocating its cigarette manufacturing across the Tasman also.

The combination of the high Australian dollar, increases to wages and the supermarket price wars are making it very difficult for food manufacturers to stay afloat.

According to the International Labour Organisation, Australian manufacturing workers earned more than $US35 an hour in 2008, compared to less than $US20 an hour in New Zealand.

Australian manufacturing workers also earn more, on avjeerage, that those in the UK, US and Canada.

In 2010, McCain relocated its vegetable production to New Zealand, leaving Simplot Australia as the largest vegetable producer in Tasmania.

Last year, Foster’s controversially accepted a takeover bid by London-based SABMiller, making Coopers the biggest local brewer, a reputation the company has pledged to maintain.

While the wages in the manufacturing sector are better here than abroad, they still struggle to compare to the high-paying mining jobs, which are seeing countless Australians leave farming and manufacturing jobs behind and relocating to mining towns.

The average age of an Australian farmer is over 60 and a recent study found 75 per cent of Australian year six students think cotton socks are an animal product while others believe yoghurt grows on trees.

Earlier this week, dairy farming was rated the second worst job in the world, based on earning ability, hiring outlook, work environment and physical demands.

”Penalty rates are a significant cost difference to manufacturers, particularly in the agricultural game where you’re unable to properly plan,” Callum Elder, the executive general manager of quality and innovation at Simplot, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

”Our productivity hasn’t increased in the past three to four years, as an industry, but yet we’ve been paying 3 to 4 per cent increases [in wages], which is a large part of the cost.

“It’s very expensive to put people into Australian factories.”

Bundaberg Sugar’s $40 million investment to survive carbon tax

Bundaberg Sugar has invested $40 million on upgrading a mill in southern Queensland to avoid increases in financial payments when the carbon tax is officially introduced.

The company’s Millaquin mill will undergo massive changes to its operations, in a move general manager David Pickering says is a sign the industry is growing.

"Probably the biggest improvement is that the lower moisture bagasse means that the boilers burn more efficiently, which means there’s les CO2 into the atmosphere and also less emissions generally from the boiler stacks," he said.

"The carbon tax is coming in from the first of July, so we want to make sure that we’re operating below the threshold.

“This will allow us to produce more bagasse, which is a renewable energy, rather than coal.

"That means that we, in the marketplace, can remain competitive with our product."

Other companies that are already struggling to survive in the Australian food sector will be hoping the government has listened to requests from the peak industry body for financial assistance.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC)’s submission calls on the government to accelerate depreciation provisions for food manufacturers to purchase new plant equipment that will improve productivity and energy efficiency to deal with the impact of the carbon tax.

It submitted it’s recommendations last month, which also included the introduction of a Supermarket Ombudsman to oversee the predatory pricing and anti-competitive behaviour by Coles and Woolworths.

Bega finalises 5-year private label supply deal with Coles

Bega Cheese and Coles have officially signed on the dotted line, confirming the cheese maker will supply for the supermarket giant’s private label for the next five years.

The deal was first revealed in September last year, amid controversy over the impact of private label increases on Australian food producers.

It is expected Bega will produce about 19 000 tonnes of cheese for Coles within the period.

Govt, industry leaders discuss food manufacturing reforms

The future of Australia’s food industry, including possible regulatory reforms, will be on the agenda of the Federal Government’s Business Advisory Forum today.

The inaugural event, held in Canberra, will bring together leaders from across government and industry who will attempt to identify major problems in Australia’s food manufacturing sector, and find ways to assist local companies.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC)’s Acting Chief Executive Dr Geoffrey Annison said the food industry desperately needs government intervention if it is to be a viable industry in years to come.

“The Government must implement accelerated depreciation tax measures to enable manufacturers to take advantage of the high Australian dollar to invest in large-scale plant equipment upgrades to improve productivity and reduce energy use,” he said.

“Compliance with regulation and standards has also been identified as a major and ongoing issue for companies – the Government must reinvigorate its reform agenda in this area.”

1800kg coffee stolen

Thieves in Austria have made off with over 1800 kilograms of coffee worth more than $AU70 000.

According to local police, the offenders broke into the warehouse of a coffee-roaster and wholesaler east of Vienna, loaded a van with the coffee, along with two coffee machines, and sped off.

The culprits have not yet been caught.

Last week a man was arrested in Sydney when he stole the copper piping from the bottom of an industrial refrigerator, causing half a million dollars worth of damage to the food inside.

He was charged with break, enter and steal and is due to face Balmain local court on 20 April.

Govt should support creation of more abattoirs: Greens

A proposed abattoir in Darwin which would crate almost 300 jobs has been backed by Australia’s largest cattle company and the Australian Greens party.

If the abattoir goes ahead, it will create jobs for the region, alleviate animal cruelty and reduce live exports, according to the Greens, who have called on the federal government to support the development.

“The Gillard government should get behind a new Darwin abattoir proposed by the Australian Agricultural Company which is estimated to create 270 jobs,” Greens Senator and animal welfare spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said.

“By growing the Australian meat processing industry we can create an alternative to live exports as well as thousands of jobs.

The horrible treatment of animals exported live to Indonesia, exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program, sparked national outcry and led to Gillard banning the practise until improvements could be made.

The Greens want live export banned, believing that sending the animals overseas is damaging to the local industry.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics data tracks the decline in the number of meat processing jobs in Australia, from between 40,000 to 48,000 workers in the 1970s to around 32,000 workers in 2009,” Rhiannon said.

“There were 475 abattoirs in Australia at the end of the 1970s, dropping to 315 abattoirs by 1995/96.

“The Greens will continue our campaign to ban live animal exports which would not only end the cruel suffering of animals, but see abattoirs re-opened, especially in northern Australia.

In April a departmental study found that the Western Australian economy would be significantly impacted if the state stopped live export of sheep.

The study by the Department of Agriculture and Food developed a sheep value supply chain model based on the three major sectors of the state: production, processing/wholesale and retailing/export.

The business earnings of almost 4200 businesses depend heavily on live exports to maintain their earning total of almost $160 million.

Do you support more local abattoirs and less live export?

Image: The ABC

Government report shows growth in food sector

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom in Australia’s food industry, with a government report showing a 17 per cent increase in total value in 2010/11 compared to the previous period.

Food exports are up 10 per cent from the previous year, according to the Food Statistics 2020-11 report, and are now valued at $27.1 billion.

"Australia is fortunate in being a net food exporter by a significant margin, with more than half of our food production exported to international markets," federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said.

In 2010/11, 1.68 million people were employed in the food sector, from production to food service.

It currently represents 15 per cent of total employment in Australia, an increase of two per cent on the previous year.

While the number of people employed in the sector is high, it is also a risky business to be working in, as Australian factories continue to close and companies are forced to restructure work forces to meet rising costs.

Only yesterday it was announced that 478 of Metcash employees will lose their jobs, most of them coming from the soon-to-be-closed Campbell’s Cash & Carry stores in regional Australia.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) want a Supermarket Ombudsman instated to oversee the impact of the supermarket price wars between Coles and Woolworths, after a report predicted 130 000 employees in the sector would be out of work by 2020.

John West tinned tuna variety recalled after glass fragments found in product

A line of John West tinned tuna sold in Australian supermarkets, after glass fragments were found in the product.

The 95 gram tins of John West Tuna Tempters Sweet Seeded Mustard with the batch code ‘4ER12’ are sold in Woolworths, Coles, IGA, Franklins and other independent supermarkets.

The product, produced by Victorian-based Simplot Australia, a subsidiary of American food company Simplot, can be returned to the point of purchase for a full refund.

It is not clear at this stage how the glass fragments ended up in the tuna tins.

Shocking conditions in poultry industry revealed: report calls for changes

Poultry workers and consumers are being put at risk by increasing demands to produce cheap poultry, according to a new report.

The National Union of Workers (NUW) today released the findings of an investigation into the workplace safety practices in the poultry industry, which found “worrying signs that some of the country’s leading poultry suppliers are sacrificing safety for higher profits.”

The Better Jobs 4 Better Chicken report makes five recommendations for improving safety in the sector, across employment, labelling, housing of animals and food safety.

It says the increasing demand for cheap poultry by supermarkets and fast food chains is creating health problems for consumers.

“While the supermarkets may want Australian consumers to believe they are always buying top quality products, the NUW believes that often they are not,” the report states.

“Woolworths and Wesfarmers have flagged chicken meat as the next battleground in their ‘price war’.

“The pressure to lower costs has been passed on to suppliers, leading them to compete on
labour costs rather than reduce their own profit margins.

“Unscrupulous suppliers are then passing this pressure onto the worker on the production line.”

The companies causing the most problems for the industry are identified in the report as Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, while the worst fast food offenders are Nandos, Red Rooster, McDonald’s and KFC.

“The domination of the major supermarkets is having a detrimental impact,” the report states.
“The major purchasers of poultry meat are the supermarkets.

“They purchase around 60% of the chicken meat produced.

“The Australian grocery retail sector is highly concentrated, with only two major competitors; Coles (Wesfarmers) and Woolworths.

“These two companies control 72% of the market, which has resulted in low cost promotions and places pressure on poultry processors to lower the cost they demand for their product.”

Old chicken re-packaged and sold as "free range"

In one case study, the union found workers re-label old chickens returned by supermarkets and send them out again as new products.

One worker told researchers he often packs chickens that have been left lying on dirty floors, which are then sent off to be sold, while others have highlighted the concerning working conditions inside the factories.

“Returned tray packs are turned into kebab or marinade and sent back out,” Poultry worker Erica* says.

“I would never buy chicken from Coles or Aldi because of what I have seen.”

Some student workers report sleeping at processing facilities instead of going home, and Adelaide chicken worker, Sokhom Koey, told how he lost his job because he asked that workers doing 12-hour shifts receive breaks.

He was paid 44 cents for each chicken he deboned and was not allowed time off.

"I have a family and I want to spend more time with my family," Koey said.

"But when I have tried to take time off in the past, I have been told that if I take time off there won’t be a job for me when I come back."

Safety issues not being addressed

A recent site audit completed by NUW offi cials indicates that 20% of workers in processing are engaged through non-standard means of employment, including cash-in-hand work, sham contracting and unethical employment, the report says.

“I asked the contractor many times to be paid at the legal minimum but she said there wasn’t enough money,” Harpreet Sing, a contractor at a poultry facility in Melbourne says.

The report also provides details on accidents and deaths in poultry processing plants, as workers are often asked to clean machinery they don’t ordinarily work with.

“Baiada Poultry is not the only company to be fi ned for a death in a poultry processing plant in recent years,” the report says.

“In 2003 Ingham Enterprises was fined $20,000 for the 2001 death of 37-year-old Stirling Gerard Comey. Comey, a contract truck driver was working at Ingham’s Somerville plant when a faulty brake caused him to be crushed and killed.

“WorkSafe Victoria found Ingham’s processes were unsafe because people and trucks were not separated before and during loading and unloading.

“Once again a death occurred when an indirect employment relationship was involved.

“In December 2005, Baiada Poultry was also convicted and fined $100,000 for safety failings which led to the death of St Albans contractor, Mario Azzopardi.”

The NUW has recommended a ban on using contractors in the poultry industry, as well as the introduction of a code of conduct for workers.

To help further reduce the level of illegal contract work in the industry, the NUW also wants changes to student visa working hours and to the Migration Act.

Ingham’s commended for ethical and safe practices 

But amid the shocking stories of possible food contamination and workers safety, one company was highlighted for its commitment to safety and quality.

Ingham Enterprises is highlighted in the report as a good operator with a direct employment model, which reduces the risk of cross-contamination of raw poultry in its processing facilities.

"Ingham Enterprises is a profitable company that respects its workers and helps them find roles to suit their skills and needs," the report says.

Image: NUW Report.

SABMiller’s plans to make Foster’s biggest brewer in Australia

Following extensive speculation about whether Coca-Cola Amatil would buy a Fijian beer and spirits business previously owned by Foster’s, it looks like the company will spend the $58 million to seal the deal.

As part of London-based company SABMiller’s controversial takeover of Foster’s last year, where the chairman declared it has “significantly undervalued” its worth in its initial offer, it also gained the rights to the Fijian company owned by Foster’s.

Last year Coca-Cola Amatil sold its share in brewing business SABMiller, and at the time denied it had any interest in the alcohol market.

When SABMiller put Foster’s Australian spirits and ready-to-drink (RTD) business up for sale earlier this month, in a similar move to it’s Fijian sale, Coca-Cola decided not to buy it, but discussions are continuing.

And now the beverage giant has announced plans to buy an 89.6 per cent stake in Foster’s Fijian business, which is held in Foster’s Group Pacific Group.

The stake will cost Coca-Cola Amatil $58 million, and it has plans to then buy the remaining 10.4 per cent of the group.

When Foster’s was bought by London-based SABMiller last year, Coopers became the largest Australia-owned brewer, a reputation it pledged to protect.

“Being the largest Australian-owned brewer is a badge of honour we will wear with pride,” managing director Tim Cooper said.

“This represents the reward for 150 years of hard work in brewing by the Cooper family."

And while Foster’s is not Australian-owned, it could provide intense competition for Coopers, after the new chief executive Ari Mervis told investors of plans to make Foster’s the biggest brewer in Australia.

Amid the takeover bid and other related issues, Foster’s Australian beer sales fell 4.5 per cent in the six months prior to December 2011, and Mervis wants to change that.

At an investor’s meeting in London this week, he said SABMiller is aiming to increase its Australian sales by one to three percent each year over the next five years.

Profits are also expected to grow by 0.6 to 0.8 per cent each year.

His plan is dependant on improved sales confidence in Australia, which he said is improving.

Mervis, also confirmed to investors that, despite rumours to the contrary, Foster’s will not be closing any of its plants, including the iconic Carlton and United Breweries plant in Abbotsfield, Victoria.

Supermarket price wars will only get worse

We know food companies are too scared to criticise Coles and Woolworths at the Senate Inquiry into the anti-competitive practices by the major supermarkets.

We know that businesses and farmers are being pushed out of work by what is described as Australian food producer Dick Smith as “extreme capitalism.’

Now Coles is launching a program which many companies say is just another way it is wielding its power over them.

Adele Ferguson reports for The Sydney Morning Herald on how the new systems being put in place by the major supermarkets will continue to damage the sector.

If there is one message to come out of the fierce price war between Coles and Woolworths it is that life will get a lot tougher for their suppliers as the supermarket giants face the spectre of lower earnings growth and a potential de-rating of the sector.

Coles has introduced a program called ARC (Active Retailer Collaboration) to identify possible efficiency gains, potential cost reductions and data sharing for an upfront fee.

More than 200 suppliers have signed up to ARC agreements, but a number of them are complaining the program is anything but collaborative and is being used as a tactic to screw them further on prices. With Coles and Woolworths dominating the grocery industry with more than 70 per cent of market share, suppliers have little option but to put up or shut up.

The brutal reality is, in the past year, the food and liquor discounting between Coles and Woolworths – and more lately Metcash – has never been as ferocious and the cries from suppliers never louder.

It has refocused the debate on the concentration of Australia’s grocery industry and the long-term toll it is having on Australian suppliers.”

To read the full article, click here.

 

Worker loses finger, food manufacturer fined $60 000

Food manufacturer Healthy Snacks Australia has been fined $60 000 after an employee had a finger partially severed by a machine.

The Australian food producer plead guilty in the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court this week to one count of failing to provide a safe system of work and proper instruction, training and supervision.

The worker had crawled under a machine that was used to manufacture and pack health bars, to clean its rollers.

The court heard that crawling under the machine to remove the guarding was common practise in the factory.

During the time the worker was cleaning the machine, it would remain on so that the rollers could be cleaned.

But on 29 June 2010, when the worker was performing the task, the cloth she was using became stuck and as she tried to pull it out, her other hand, which was resting on the machine so she could balance herself, became stuck between the rollers.

The moving machinery severed part of her middle finger.

The investigation by WorkSafe determined that Healthy Snacks Australia failed to undertake any risk assessment associated with the use of the machine, or ensure employees did not clean the machine while it was operating and while it was possible to access dangerous moving parts.

It also found the company did not provide any standardised or consistent training and supervision to workers who cleaned the machine or provide employees with standard operating procedures, including cleaning procedures for the machine.

It received a $60 000 fine without conviction and was ordered to pay an additional $3430 in costs to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe’s Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Acting Director, Mary Chojnacki said the company had failed to ensure some fundamental requirements.

“A serious injury and a $60,000 fine could have been prevented if appropriate steps were taken to adequately guard and supervise the machine while it was being cleaned, something that would have cost far less,” she said.

“If there are instances where machines can operate without guarding, employers need to fix this as a matter of urgency. Not doing so is just not worth it.”

“Despite the obvious risks it is unfortunately all too common for machines to be kept running while they’re being cleaned. Every time that happens, there is a risk of serious injury or death.”

“WorkSafe takes incidents like this seriously.

“In this case, the company was investigated and charged in just eight months.”

“This sends a strong message to all employers that safety must be a priority.

“The consequences can be not only immediate for the worker but for businesses, an unwanted court appearance and potential fine.”

“WorkSafe actively enforces the law. Since July last year, 79 prosecutions have commenced compared with 56 in the previous corresponding period.”

Last year WorkSafe’s Michael Birt told Food Magazine that the food industry is a major hotspot for injuries and accidents.

“The food manufacturing industry is one of the targeted industries in 2010, 11 and 12, because it isn’t getting there,” he said.

“We’re running a campaign this year targeting eight high risk industries, and food manufacturing is one of the eight, along with other related industries road ytansport and warehousing and storage.”

And just last month a spokesperson from WorkCover NSW told Food Magazine that the rates of incidents does not seem to be declining.

“Generally speaking often there is a reluctance from an organisation to want to engage with any regulators, whether its WorkCover or another food industry body,” the spokesperson said.
“But we strongly encourage companies to be proactive.
“We would much prefer they be proactive and talk to us so we can come out there and give our input.

“I know it is difficult and we are always working strongly to change the perspective of what we do and we are very keen to engage with industry.

“I think it’s a bit back to front.

“If an organisation could cause someone to be seriously injured or worse, killed, it is only in their best interest to talk to us and avoid any injuries and the costs and damage to reputation that would cause.

“It’s all about gaining competitive advantage these days between companies so people need to embrace safety and be proactive about it.”

Fear campaign damaging Supermarket Senate Inquiry

The bullying behaviours and fear campaigns used by the major supermarkets to wield complete power over suppliers is still getting in the way of the Senate Inquiry into the issue.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) are collaborating on the Inquiry into the anti-competitive practises of Coles and Woolworths.

The decision to take the matter to the Senate came after the dairy industry voiced its concern over the  milk price wars which resulted in both the major supermarkets selling milk for just $1 a litre, pushing farmers out of the industry as they struggled to make a living on such small payments.

Countless Australian food companies are either closing down completely or moving their operations overseas, as the influx of private-label products on supermarket shelves leaves them with two choices.

They can try to compete with the supermarkets who are able to sell similar products at ridiculously low prices because of the power they have over suppliers, but the chances of surviving, let alone making profits, are slim.

Or, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Many Australian food companies have reluctantly agreed to cease operations as they were and instead use their factories and workforce to supply products for the supermarkets’ private label products.

But if they thought were at the mercy of the supermarkets before, they haven’t seen the worst of it until they relinquish any kind of control they had over their destiny by signing such an agreement.

Because when Coles and Woolworths decide they want to put a product on special, or they need a huge amount of a certain product, you have to deliver.

And if a company can’t deliver on time, or at the price they want to sell the product at? Too bad, Coles and Woolworths say.

“Invariably they say it is not absorbed by the grower or the manufacturer when they cut the prices but in the end it always does,” Jennifer Dowell, National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union Food Division, told Food Magazine.

“Companies can’t even transport their own stuff to Coles and Woollies!

“They transport it for you and then just bill you with their high transport prices later.

“And they won’t store stuff that is within a certain timeframe from its use-by date.

“They make the producers store it then tell them they need it within so many hours.

“So producers are in this quandary where they can’t afford to produce stuff and keep it in storage because if Coles and Woollies decide they don’t want to take it they are out of pocket.”

“They have to produce everything at such short notice so they are never able to get a long term view and a stable situation at their factory.”

Nobody willing to speak up

Dowell said the fear campaign the major supermarkets operate with makes it impossible for food companies to criticise them.

“The public doesn’t have enough information about what’s really going on in the industry.

“It’s completely ridiculous that they can’t come out and publically say ‘Coles and Woolworths are killing us’ because they just ensure that they will go out of business.

“If you publically criticise Coles and Woollies, your products will just no longer be put on the shelves, and they’re getting away with that!”

Countless food producers and farmers have discussed the impact of the supermarket dominance with Food Magazine, but almost all are too afraid to go on the record with such claims.

With Coles and Woolworths controlling 80 per cent of the grocery market in Australia, if one or both decided to stop stocking a companies’ product, it really has nowhere else to turn.

Journalists and workers in the industry are all too aware of the dire situation our food sector is in, but nobody is willing to put their name or company to the claims.

The ABC’s Lateline made over 100 calls to get comment from a food producer, and when they did find one willing, he would only speak with the promise of anonymity.

“But after more than 100 phone calls, just one Australian supplier was willing to speak to Lateline about alleged abuses of power by Coles and Woolworths as long as we agreed to hide his identity, like this, (vision shows unidentifiable silhouette of man) and even hide the kind of product he supplied,” Margot O’Neill says in the story.

“But after sleepless nights the supplier pulled out, leaving us to use only his words about why he’s so scared.

“ANONYMOUS SUPPLIER (male voiceover): "It’s quite common for the majors to stop dealing with a supplier … and suppliers to have little chance of a viable business unless they’re serving the two major supermarkets, … so it’s too big a risk to expose myself.

“But I think the power of the big supermarkets is now too large for the proper functioning of our food supply."

And while the ACCC has promised to keep all claims made to it in regards to the supermarkets confidential, few are willing to speak up, for fear they will be found out and punished.

“Without doubt there is a climate of fear when it comes to farmers and food processors speaking out about practices of the big two,” Nick Xenophon, Senate select committee food processing, told the ABC.

“When farmers and food processors tell me that they feel a bit like medieval serfs, they’re beholden to Coles and Woollies as their medieval landlords, then you know there’s something seriously wrong.”

Something has to be done

When asked if she would support a Supermarket Ombudsman, as suggested by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), Dowell was welcoming of the idea.

“I’ll support anything at this stage!” she told Food Magazine.

“We have been talking about this for years and I’ve watched it get worse and worse.

“They own just about everything; they’ve got petrol, pharmaceutical, pokie machines and alcohol so essentially they have this massive political influence so they intervene in those areas too.”

With so much control over various industries and governments in Australia, the scary reality is that the major supermarkets may not be stoppable, at least not without specific laws and regulations to stop the behaviours.

“If we get more powers given to the ACCC, any power to an Ombudsman, and get people the ability to raise issues without losing their job, then that is a step in the right direction, because right now they cannot,” Dowell explained.

“My concern is that if we lose food sovereignty, if we lose control of our food chain we become hostage to other countries supplying our food.

“How ridiculous is that? In Australia we have the ability to produce the best food in the world, so how are we getting into this situation?

“Once these companies go, they won’t some back, they’re not going to come back and rebuild factories and businesses because Australia is upset after it basically kicked them out in the first place.

“If we rely on imports, and a country decides it is going to give its own market priority, as it very well should, what do we do? Where do we go?

“At a time when the world is saying Africa needs to have food sovereignty, we’re actually participating in a process where we won’t be able to feed our own people.

“We will be reliant on importing food.

“When we finally hit the wall and find that everything is coming from overseas and we no longer have any Australian food industries, it will be too late.”

How concerned are you about the power held by Coles and Woolworths? How do you think they can be stopped?

UK company allows manufacturers to see potential factories in 3D

An equipment company in the UK has launched a 3D virtual reality warehouse simulator which allows food manufacturers to test warehouse options before making decisions on changes.

Briggs Equipment UK is currently offering the virtual reality experience to clients’, who experience the potential warehouse through a visor while sitting in a chair.

Users can look at warehouse designs, hourly flow rates and visual indications of bottlenecks and Briggs can then source the necessary resources to make the vision a reality.

The experience is particularly useful for companies with small warehouses, as it allows them to out the space available to the best use possible.

“For example, you can create an additional 18 per cent storage space,” Mark Murfet, VNA (Very Narrow Aisles) and warehouse project manager at Briggs said.

“We can help you store, say, 10 000 pallets using 40 oer cent less space.

The technology also allows manufacturers to foresee and reduce unnecessary costs, including purchasing too many vehicles or storage racks.