Gluten free WeetBix: the need, the factory and the launch

Catering for the gluten free involves a whole lot of research, investment, and for Sanitarium, crawling through air ducts with a toothbrush.

Last year, in response to changing breakfast habits and the rise of gluten free, Sanutarium launched Gluten Free WeetBix; a launch which would rank as one of the most successful product launches in Sanitarium’s history.

“We did some research,” says Alex Garas, Senior Brand Manager for WeetBix Australia at the 2015 Grains & Legumes Consumption Symposium. “We know that people who are on a gluten free diet, particularly those that are eating breakfast cereals, feel like they are compromising. They’re compromising on taste, because with exceptions, some [cereals] don’t taste as good. They have less variety because there’s less to choose from, possibly [less] convenience and they’re also compromising on cost because they’re paying more per serve than they would be if they were eating their gluten equivalents.

“Around one per cent [of Australians] are diagnosed with coeliac, around six per cent have a sensitivity to gluten and almost 25 per cent of people are actively looking to reduce the gluten in their diet.”

Gluten free: It’s here to stay

Sanitarium’s research revealed that a lot of consumers choosing to reduce the gluten in their diet (as opposed to being coeliac), saw the idea of a gluten free WeetBix coming to the market as a “normalising” experience. They appreciated that a big brand, would release a gluten free product and actually cater to these people.

“It was seen as actually quite an emotional thing,” Garas says.

“What was baffling for me and the turning point for me to go ‘this is not a fad’ was when…we did some research in Parramatta and we had tradies turning up, truck drivers and mechanics going ‘yeah my wife’s got me on a gluten free diet, I don’t eat gluten’ and wearing it as a badge of pride…it was an astounding effect and when you hear mechanics and tradies going ‘this is what I’m doing with my life,’ it’s no longer a fad or a trend, it’s here to stay.”

Developing gluten free WeetBix

Sanitarium then set about developing what Gluten Free WeetBix might be.

“We tested a range of gluten free grains and we ended up using Sorghum, and tried to make it as nutritionally similar as we could to WeetBix, certainly in terms of the fat, salt, sugar levels. We didn’t want to have that compromise that some gluten free consumers felt,” Garas says.

After a positive response from sensory research (taste testing), Sanitarium was faced with four options: build a new factory to only make gluten-free WeetBix, dedicate one of their existing factories to gluten free WeetBix, do a reduced gluten “half way house, where we put a line in our existing wheat factory and put in a Perspex wall and hope the wheat didn’t get over the wall”, or not do it at all.

“We didn’t think we could build a new factory because we didn’t think we could pay off our capitalist manager. We didn’t think that we would do a sort of half-assed attempt of putting a lining or a wall there and then it wouldn’t be gluten free, it would be gluten reduced and it would compromise the offer…we don’t want to not do it, so we took our factory over in Carmel and we dedicated that to now making gluten free WeetBix.

“The factory in Carmel has made WeetBix for the best part of four decades. You can how the wheat was embedded in the DNA of that building. So we had people, and I’m not exaggerating, crawling through air ducts, cleaning with toothbrushes, we had people burning the wheat off nuts and bolts on the floor, to make that such a sterile environment. There was no gluten there anywhere.

“We then sourced Sorghum providers. WeetBix is all Australian, we didn’t want to compromise on country of origin with gluten-free WeetBix, so it had to be Sorghum sourced from Australia, but we wanted to source it from a farmer in Australia, who didn’t also grow wheat, because there couldn’t be wheat in the silos, there couldn’t be wheat in the trucks, so we founded a partnership with a family grower in Northern NSW that grows Sorghum,” Garas says.

The launch

When launching Gluten Free WeetBix, it was vital to the company that it did not denigrate wheat.

“Our advertising campaign was ‘welcome back to WeetBix’ and it was very important that we couldn’t take a small part of our portfolio and say ‘that evil wheat, that evil gluten that’s making everyone fat, is our alternative,’ because that’s detrimental to everyone and not what we believe at all, we are simply offering people an alternative,” Garas says.

Developing and launching Gluten Free WeetBix involved millions of dollars investment and Garas says it was “one of the biggest bets we’ve made probably in a decades.”

But, luckily for Sanitarium, it paid off.

“To date, gluten free WeetBix ranks as one of the most successful product launches in Sanitarium’s history, something that we are incredibly proud of,” Garas says.

It started with a single Facebook post with the caption “it’s here” and a picture of the product. That reached 700,000 people.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

Gluten Free Weet-Bix is here! Tag a friend who misses Weet-Bix. More info: https://bit.ly/GFWeetBix #mynewgf

Posted by Weet-Bix on Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“We had people phoning us saying ‘is this an April Fool’s joke?’ we had people saying ‘I don’t understand, how can WeetBix be wheat-free?’

“We thought about changing the name, but Sorghum-Bix didn’t quite sound as delicious. About one in ten people had a problem with it being wheat-free WeetBix, the other 9 went ‘but it’s not ‘wheat’, it’s a brand, we can get over it,’” Garas says.

“Our launch campaign had reached around two and a half to three million people before we’d really spent a dollar on advertising. We had a TV ad that went above the line when we were national…but by that point, we’d reached almost three million people and that was due to the passion of which the gluten free shoppers or consumers felt that they were being looked after by a big brand. It was the idea that a big brand would no longer make them go to the ‘there’s something wrong with you’ aisle, but actually mainstream it and say ‘this is for those of you who want to reduce your gluten.’”

In the first 3-4 months, Gluten Free WeetBix had a repurchase rate of 50 per cent, meaning half the people were coming back and buying another box.

“This isn’t about fuelling the anti-wheat brigade and certainly not helping out the likes of Pete Evans, but this is about saying that every Aussie deserves to be raised a WeetBix kid,” Garas says.

 

Microbiologists patent a new type of food thickener

Microbiologists at Oregon State University have discovered and helped patent and commercialise a new type of dairy or food thickener, which may add probiotic characteristics to the products in which it’s used.

The thickener is now in commercial use, and OSU officials say it may have a significant impact in major industries. The global market for polymers such as this approaches US$7 billion, and there are estimates the U.S. spends up to $120 billion a year on probiotic products such as yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk.

The new product is produced by a natural bacterium that was isolated in Oregon. It’s the result of decades of research, beginning in the early 1990s when a novel polymer with an ability to rapidly thicken milk was discovered by an OSU microbiologist. The polymer is known as Ropy 352 and produced by a non-disease-causing bacterium.

“This is one of many naturally occurring, non-disease-causing bacterial strains my research program isolated and studied for years,” said Janine Trempy, an OSU microbiologist. “We discovered that this bacterium had a brand-new, never-before reported grouping of genes that code for a unique polymer that naturally thickens milk. In basic research, we’ve also broadened our understanding of how and why non-disease-causing bacteria produce polymers.”

This polymer appears to give fermented foods a smooth, thick, creamy property, and may initially find uses in sour cream, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, cream cheese and artisan soft cheeses. Composed of natural compounds, it offers a slightly sweet property and may improve the sensory characteristics of low-fat or no-fat foods. And unlike other polymers that are now commonly used as thickeners, it may add probiotic characteristics to foods, with associated health benefits.

“There are actually very few new, non-disease-causing bacterial strains that produce unique polymers with characteristics desirable and safe for food products,” Trempy said. “In the case of a dairy thickener, for instance, a bacterium such as Ropy 352 ferments the sugar in the milk and produces a substance that changes the milk’s properties.”

These are chemical processes driven by naturally occurring bacteria that do not cause disease in humans, Trempy said, but instead may contribute to human health through their probiotic potential.

One of the most common polymers, xanthum gum, has been in use since 1969 and is found in a huge range of food products, from canned foods to ice cream, pharmaceuticals and beauty products. Xanthum gum is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, but is derived from a bacterium known to be a plant pathogen and suspected of causing digestive distress or being “pyrogenic,” or fever-inducing.

Trempy’s research program has determined the new polymer will thicken whole and non-fat milk, lactose-free milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and other products designed for use in either dieting or weight gain. Beyond that, the polymer may have a wide range of applications such as thickening of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, fruit juices, cosmetics and personal care products.

In their broader uses, microbial polymers are used for food production, chemical production, detergents, cosmetics, paints, pesticides, fertilizers, film formers, lubricants, explosives, pharmaceutical production and waste treatment.

 

Not all bad news for manufacturing jobs: survey

Manufacturing workers have some reasons to be optimistic about their employment futures despite recent bad times, a survey has found.

According to the just-released 2015 Hays Salary Guide, while those looking for manufacturing jobs will need to be realistic when it comes to salary and opportunities, the sector is showing resilience and companies in some areas are doing well.

The survey noted the obvious negatives in the industry – the upcoming death of car making in this country and the affect the mining industry’s change from the construction phase to the operation phase will have on manufacturers in that area.

But it found that many manufacturers have realised that times are changing and are taking on the challenges of diversification and specialisation. And it also noted the strength of the food and beverage (F&B) and building products sectors as positives.

The F&B sector, the survey said, grew in 2014 and should grow even more in 2015. However, it is also experiencing a shortage of highly-skilled job candidates, due to too few university graduates specialising in food technology and food science. The industry is looking to employ such candidates from Europe in order to deal with the shortfall.

The survey found that the outlook for employment in the building materials sector is also positive. It put this down to the strong construction sector in New South Wales and Western Australia as well as the high amount of high rise development in Victoria.

It said that the building industry’s tight deadlines have resulted in an increase in demand for highly skilled blue collar workers on temporary assignments.

 

NMW 2015 wraps up

This year, National Manufacturing Week attracted a significant number of C-level executives, managers and other business decision-makers responsible for making technology investments in their businesses.

"We've had a huge amount of interest and a good number of leads, from all around the world, including quite a few from New Zealand," said Alistair Boyd of Innovative Welding.

"It really helped our cause to give both a presentation and a demonstration at NMW – in fact, one visitor to our stand had been specifically directed by colleagues in the United States to come to the demo – we were blown away to have interest from the US!"

NMW 2015 also presented a full speaker program, with industry experts including ASEA's Linsey Siede, Dr John Blakemore, KPMG's Dr Gary Veale and international LEAN guru, Bob Sproull sharing strategies for boosting performance and underwriting innovation.

Among high-profile attendees at the speaker events was David Southwick MP, Shadow Minister for Innovation.

As well as attending Andrew Lowe, Shelston IP's presentation on Turning Innovation into Market Success, Mr Southwick toured the exhibition showcase, commenting: "Having run businesses before entering politics, I understand the great opportunities trade shows create in networking and education."
"It's been great to attend the National Manufacturing Week exhibition and meet many innovative businesses. NMW has established a fantastic synergy of innovators and new solutions, which is great news for local industry," Southwick said.

Above all, the common thread in feedback is that visitors attend NMW to see and touch new technologies, says Anthony Reed, NMW 2015 Exhibition Director.

“Almost everyone comes away from NMW having seen game-changing products and services.  A comment that was overheard more than once during this year's event is that it's just an eye-opener about the range of technologies that is available to industry,” Reed said.

Reed Exhibitions has announced the details for NMW 2016: May 11 – 13 in Sydney. Drawing on the growing importance of 3D printing and related technologies for rapid prototyping and new product development, NMW 2016 will include a dedicated 3D Printing Conference.
 

Calls for Australia’s leaders to reduce food waste

OzHarvest will team up with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN’s Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction (SAVE FOOD) to lead the third annual Think.Eat.Save campaign in Australia and raise awareness on global food loss and waste reduction.

The campaign will launch at Parliament House Canberra on the eve of World Environment Day, June 4, and culminate in the national Think.Eat.Save event taking place across seven Australian cities (capital and regional) on Monday, 27 July.

Environment Minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Shadow Environment, Climate Change and Water Minister the Hon Mark Butler MP, Deputy Greens Leader Senator Larissa Waters, UNIC Director Christopher Woodthorpe and OzHarvest CEO and Founder Ronni Kahn will come together to launch the 2015 Think.Eat.Save campaign, bringing attention to the impact of global food waste and raising national debate on how food sustainability and food security can be addressed at a local level.

OzHarvest is calling on the nation’s leaders to set a target to reduce food waste by 50 per cent by 2025 following the example set by EU nations such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. Food waste is currently costing Australians up to 10 billion dollars each year.

At the launch event, a lunch made from rescued surplus food will be prepared and served to Australia’s leaders by IHG Executive Chef at Parliament House Cris Purcell together with OzHarvest’s Chef for a Cause Travis Harvey.

Members of the public will also be encouraged to make a personal pledge to reduce food waste through a digital Think.Eat.Save campaign launching on the same day.

 

7 steps to meet the new Health Claims Standard

Food manufacturers have just seven months left to get to grips with new food labelling laws regarding nutrition and health claims that can be made in Australia.

The Health Claims Standard in the Food Standards Code significantly expands the range of health, nutrition and related claims permitted on food labels and advertisements.

Organisations or individuals who don’t comply with the rules face stiff penalties. There are fines of up to $55,000 for an individual or up to $275,000 for a corporation which are found to be flouting the law.

Food businesses that wish to make health or nutrition claims on their food labels and in their advertising must comply with the Standard from 18 January 2016. There has been a three year voluntary transition period – but January will be crunch time when the Standard becomes mandatory.

The changes will require manufacturers and their marketing departments to carefully consider the claims they make on their food products and in their advertising.

The previous Standard only permitted health claims which stated that increased folate consumption in at least the month before and three months following conception may reduce the risk of foetal neural tube defects in relation to specific foods – this new Standard will open the door to a whole raft of new health and nutrition claims – subject to companies being able to meet criteria set out in the new Standard.

For example, companies that wish to make nutritional claims such as 'good source of calcium' will need to meet certain criteria set out in the Standard, and contain more than the amount of calcium specified in the Standard.

The changes will encourage food industry innovation – and provide more insight to consumers about the range of healthy food choices. At the same time the Standard should reduce the risk of misleading and deceptive claims about food.

When it comes to claims the new Food Standards Code distinguishes between general level health claims and high level health claims. To make any such claims companies will have to ensure they meet the strict criteria set out in the Standard.

So with seven months to go before the Standard becomes mandatory, what do businesses need to do now?

Analyse

Review the new Standard and determine whether your current packaging, advertising and marketing materials are compliant with the new rules regarding nutrition and health claims. Also determine whether there is merit in making additional claims under the new standard. There are more than 200 pre-approved food-health relationships in the new Standard, and 13 pre-approved high-level health claims which food companies could make use of if their products meet the defined criteria. Do packaging and promotional materials need to be replaced to comply with the new rules, or take advantage of the pre-approved claims criteria?

Assess

Assess whether it would make more sense to discard old stock and replace it with new, or recall products and repackage them, expiry dates permitting. This applies to both products made in Australia or those sourced from overseas. This will require careful assessment of both economics and logistics associated with each alternative.

Audit

Make sure you know who is distributing and stocking your products. Conduct an audit of stocks in hand – from 18 January next year all products in non-compliant packaging will need to be removed or repackaged, similarly advertising and marketing materials need to be brought into line with the new Standard.

Alert

Alert advertising and marketing agencies to the new Food Standard and remind them of their compliance obligations with regard to any packaging or marketing materials. Review agreements with agencies, and ensure they are updated with alerts – require agencies to confirm receipt of these alerts in writing to ensure a proper audit trail is maintained.

Ensure that the product claims and associated packaging and marketing materials also comply with other legislation such as the Competition and Consumer Act, the National Measurement Act and Country of Origin Labelling laws which are under review at time of publish.

Also send alerts to product suppliers, retailers and distributors reminding them of the need to remove all old, non-compliant stock by 17 January 2016. Ensure distributors in particular fully understand the changes to the regulation, and the penalties for non-compliance. Again request written confirmation of compliance.

Approve

If you are using any endorsing bodies to approve or certify your product, ensure that you meet the set criteria in the Standard and have advised such organisations of your intention and have their authority and licence to use their trade mark for that product. This is an express requirement of the new Standard. Documents proving that approval must be retained for at least two years after the last product bearing that mark is sold, advertised, or available for sale.

Authorise

Test product formulation to be sure that it complies with the new Standard and any claims being made about the product. This can be conducted by in house food technologists or outsourced to specialist service providers. Ensure proper record keeping of results. The Standard introduces a nutrient profiling scoring criterion (NPSC) which establishes the guardrails for any health or nutrition claims being made. Food technologists may need to assess the NPSC of products.

If you wish to use claims such as “low in fat”, “diet”, “no added sugar” you will need to ensure that the product composition meets or exceeds the criteria set out in the Standard.

Adapt

Once your new compliant packaging and promotional material is prepared, distribute product as soon as possible. There is no need to wait until 18 January 2016 as there has been a three year transition period which has allowed early adopters to move ahead of that deadline.

Finally, establish a process to monitor and deal with any complaints about claims made on the new packaging.

Amy Cowper is a senior associate in the Sydney office of international law firm Bird & Bird.

 

Kellogg’s to donate three millions serves of cereal

Kellogg’s will donate three million serves of cereal to Foodbank, as part of Kellogg’s Global Breakfasts for Better Days initiative.

The cereal will go to children and families in need in an effort to provide support for those that currently start their day hungry.

Kellogg’s senior brand manager Janine Brooker said she was proud of the donation.

“Relieving hunger at breakfast for children and families in need is an issue that is close to my heart as a mother, as well as something that is part of Kellogg’s philanthropic DNA,” Brooker said.

Kellogg’s global Breakfasts for Better Days commitment is to donate one billion serves of cereal and snacks between 2013 and 2016. Kellogg’s in Australia and New Zealand committed to donating 12 million serves and reached this target two years early at the end of 2014.

The donation coincides with the release of Foodbank Australia’s Hunger in the Classroom report, which revealed 95 percent of teachers surveyed said it was difficult for students that come to school hungry to reach their full potential academically, and in physical activity such as sport.

“…We wanted to do more and the Hunger in the Classroom report shows exactly why Kellogg’s is continuing to support Foodbank, whom we have partnered with for the past 17 years,” Brooker said.

“Our relationship with Foodbank has seen millions of serves of cereal donated, and contribution towards the opening of 33 new Foodbank School Breakfast Program clubs nationally this year.”

In July, Kellogg’s will release specially-marked packs of Kellogg’s cereals in Coles, Woolies and IGA stores. Each pack purchased will help to provide breakfast to children and families in need in Australia.

 

Inside Frosty Boy Australia [VIDEO]

{^youtubevideo|(width)560|(height)340|(rel)True|(autoplay)False|(fs)True|(url)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDN_bPSu4T0|(loop)False^}

A purpose-built facility can have a phenomenal impact on the ability to manage efficiency and quality.

Manufacturer of dessert and beverage bases, Frosty Boy Australia, makes the equivalent of two million serves of soft serve ice cream daily for the domestic and international market, with capacity sitting at a mere 60 percent.

"We outgrew our previous location last year and moved into our purpose built facility in Yatala," says Dirk Pretorius, CEO, Frosty Boy.

"When we designed this facility we had the advantage of sitting down and looking at the issues that we had in previous facilities and saying 'how can we do it better?'" 

"The main advantage for us here is the flow through the facility. We were able to say 'where do we want the production plants in relation to raw material and finished goods and what's going to work best for us?"

Efficiency

Frosty Boy has a strong focus on efficiency, driven by a business plan to service both big and small customers.

"We intend to do small batches because we want to help our customers when they're small and help them grow until they are large. To do that, we calculate our efficiencies daily and report daily on what we call an OEE program. We split our time in the plant between planned downtime and unplanned downtime and we measure both of those to see how efficient we are," Pretorius says.

"We want to know for every two minutes that the plant has been standing, what the reason was for that. The guys record it on the floor through codes and then we can analyse it and say this piece of equipment or that piece of equipment that is causing us the issue on the line and if we spend money on it, replace it or we do some more training, we can eliminate that, so it's a constant process of bettering."

Frosty Boy's manufacturing process is now entirely computer controlled, from the measurement of raw material, through to the latest robotic technology used for packing, wrapping and palletising.

"What we use here is a system where ingredients are all barcoded as it comes in through our ERP system called Sanderson. Sanderson will then tell the guys which raw materials to fetch, and where to fetch it in our warehouse. They scan that barcode into the production system and from that point onward; it's recorded as part of the batch. The barcode is used to basically start the system so that they can activate the scales and work through it, so if they fetch the wrong carton, or the wrong flavour, the process won't start. It's all these things that you bolt on to make sure that you have consistency in your product," he says.

"In the main batching plant, for instance if one of the raw materials are short, so let's say you wanted 100kg and it only received 80kg, an alarm will go off and the plant will stop until it gets that 20kg to proceed to the next ingredient.

"So then you know where you've caused this downtime, or where have we slipped up¬and you've got to work out what went wrong and how to then rectify that so it doesn't happen again."

Quality

The strict manufacturing process at Frosty Boy is all in pursuit of quality.

"Quality starts with buying your raw materials," Pretorius says.

Frosty Boy's recipe for quality starts with making sure all their suppliers are audited and certified for the process that they need. 

"From that point onwards, it's controlling the recipe, to make sure that everything is that you blend is the same every time," Pretorius says.

Frosty Boy has experienced an 18 per cent year-upon-year average increase in sales over the past 14 years and is now exporting to 48 countries.

 

Kellogg’s partners with Brolton Group

Brolton Group has completed a project for Kellogg’s Australia to increase their raw materials storage capacity.

Kellogg’s Australia has utilised an unused garden at their Botany facility to build an efficient, high performing grain batching and storage solution, without disturbance to local residents.

The brief was to increase their grain storage capabilities and supply a means to unload grain from tankers, as well as from a bulk tipping storage facility. Kellogg’s aim was to convey various grains to the new storage silos, which are then batched as required by the plant production.

Brolton Group designed, fabricated and constructed the extension to the facility, which is designed to be capable of 24/7 operation, 365 days a year.

The solution included 6 stainless steel silos from 100T-300T, pneumatic truck in load system, pneumatic transfer to the plant, complete control system with SCADA, all support structures including platforms, stairs and pipe bridges, and civil works including roads and stormwater.

 

Masters of Food and Packaging Innovation launched

The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences has worked with the food and packaging industries to create a new Masters degree to drive innovation in these sectors.

The Master of Food and Packaging Innovation combines food science, packaging and product design with business skills like project management and entrepreneurship.

Food, confectionary and beverage manufacturer Mondelēz International identified this as an area that was underserved in tertiary education, and selected the University to create a Masters-level degree in 2013.

A cross-disciplinary team of University staff worked with industry advisers and research groups to design a degree that filled this gap.

Partners include Mondelēz International, Simplot Australia, Dairy Innovation Australia, the Food Innovation Centre and the Australian Institute of Packaging, which will assist with the delivery of packaging subjects.

The University’s Carlton Connect group will continue to engage industry partners on research and development opportunities across the wider University under the leadership of Professor Frank Dunshea, Chair of Agriculture.

Professor Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, said the degree exemplifies the University’s keen interest in working with industry in teaching and research.

“The Master of Food and Packaging Innovation is exciting because it helps us tackle a number of critical needs – for new answers in global demand for food, for industry ready graduates across every sector, and for closer collaboration between universities and those on the front line of industry.”

Professor Davis pointed to other ongoing projects indicating the University’s continuing commitment to work with the food industry. Examples include the partnership with Mondelēz International on the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Research Hub ‘Unlocking the Food Value Chain,’ and the ARC ‘Dairy Innovation’ Hub, which is undertaking dairy science and engineering research.

“We are confident the new Masters program will promote innovation and bring about even stronger engagement between the tertiary sector and the food and packaging industries.”

Amanda Banfield, Mondelēz International Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, said it is important for large companies to invest in a training and development pipeline to sustain and grow their business.

 

Life Health Foods Australia opens first manufacturing facility

Life Health Foods Australia’s 6,000 square metre factory has commenced operations in Berkeley Vale, on the NSW Central Coast.

The factory encompasses frozen, chilled and canning technologies, which will be used to create Life Health Foods (LHF) range of plant-based meal products.

The LHF factory was officially opened by Mrs Karen McNamara MP, Federal Member for Dobell.

“It is fantastic to be opening a new manufacturing facility here on the Central Coast which will provide a boost to employment opportunities for local residents,” McNamara said.

“It is exciting to see innovative manufacturing deciding to call the Central Coast home. It demonstrates that the Central Coast is a region that can support manufacturing and builds upon the success of other major companies, including Sanitarium, a local employer of choice.”

Life Health Foods is the market leader in plant based cuisine having acquired, in 2014, the market-leading Vegie Delights range, previously produced by Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing. It also launched plant-based brands into Australia, such as Bean Supreme and Naked Cuisine.

The LHF Australia team are investing heavily in innovation and have set aside additional space within the factory for expansion and future growth opportunities.

LHF Australia employs more than seventy staff.

 

McCain Foods Lisarow plant cuts energy and costs

McCain Foods Lisarow plant has reduced energy costs by up to 10 percent and saving over $250,000 a year after undertaking a Federal and State Government grant program.

The program started in November 2013 and was completed In October 2014, with a final verification report due by end of April 2015.

McCain Foods Lisarow site manager Hamish Sutton said “without the support of both New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, and Federal Government Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program (CTFFIP) program, we would not have reduced our energy consumption and lowered costs of production.”

Sutton said that the energy saving program was essential and timely and he expects the Lisarow plant to continue to produce around 12,500 tonnes annually.

Sutton said New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW-OEH) agreed to subsidise 70 percent of audits cost of the energy consumption of the Lisarow plant in 2011.  The audit report would evaluate the overall energy consumption of the site, and identify the potential areas of energy and cost savings.

The Federal government sponsored Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program (CTFFIP) administered by AusIndustry, provided the remaining 33 percent of the project cost.

The application for the grants was approved and the Funding Agreement for the Implementation of the project signed on 14 July 2013

McCain Foods approved the Energy Saving Project based on business case subsidised by NSW-OEH and the CTIP grant.

McCain Foods Lisarow plant produces 135 dessert and savoury products annually under the Sara Lee and McCain brand for distribution in Australia, and uses 26,400 MWh per year in energy. The plant employs 340 employees.

McCain Foods acquired Kitchens of Sara Lee (KOSL) Australia from Hillshire Brands in February 2013, boosting its consumer offering.

 

$50 million: the magic number for optimising profitability

There might be a magic number for Australian manufacturers to hit before they start really optimising profitability, and its sings to the tune of $50 million according to Grant Thornton's latest benchmarking analysis.

So we question ahead of the Federal Budget next week, why Government support cuts out at this crucial point, where Australian manufacturers are on the verge of contributing vast amounts back into the Australian economy.

It is this magic number where Australian manufacturers achieve efficient economies of scale, start contributing larger amounts of tax dollars back into the economy, along with job creation. And it is here, where the Government funding cuts out for the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG), according to Mark Phillips, National Head of Manufacturing, Grant Thornton Australia.

“Mid-sized businesses contribute substantially to the total tax revenue generated in our country. In this sense, our desires are aligned with that of the Australian Government; we want our mid-sized businesses to operate profitably and sustainably.

“Currently the EMDG ceases to be available at that crucial moment a business hits the threshold of $50 million. We would like to see this threshold lifted to at least $100 million, and preferably up to $250 million, such that manufacturers are supported to reach and continue to operate in the most profitable size category,” said Mr Phillips.

Michael Climpson, Partner, Grant Thornton Australia is responsible for the firm’s benchmarking analysis of Australian mid-sized manufacturers and uncovered the magic number for Australian manufacturers.

“Our latest benchmarking analysis of Australian mid-sized manufacturers clearly shows that on average, manufacturers substantially benefit by operating with annual sales revenue in excess of $50 million.

“Reaching appropriate scale ensures the gross margin achieved is sufficient to cover a fixed overhead structure, and the profit achieved represents an attractive return on investment.

“We’ve found from our analysis, that profitability for manufacturers in the size threshold above $50 million sales revenue (average profit margin 7.8 percent in 2014) is substantially higher than those below that threshold (2.3%),” said Mr Climpson.

 

Export opportunities and facility design

While the media describes Australia as the 'food bowl of Asia', the real story paints a different picture.

The reality is that we import more food than we export. Looking at our competitive position in the food trade worldwide isn't encouraging. In the decade 2002-2012, the Australian share in Asian food markets dropped significantly. Similarly, Australia's ranking as food supplier to these countries has slipped; in some cases dramatically so. This indicates Australia's market share in Asia is being usurped by other nations as we fail to capitalise on the demands and opportunities that the food industry offers up.

Further investigation has shown that while global profitability in the food industry has remained relatively constant since 2010. The same cannot be said for food industry profitability in Australia; with rates nearly halving since 2011.

The greatest areas to be addressed by food manufacturers concern Australian labour and energy costs which have skyrocketed in comparison to the rest of the world. While the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) will make government funds available to companies to reduce and improve their energy consumption and efficiency, labour cost is a significant issue that requires careful consideration. Thinking differently and designing differently to maximise labour productivity and best utilise technological innovations is one of the many ways food processors can deliver progress in their facilities. 

Thinking differently

Working in the modern food processing industry is about delivering value; value to the supplier, value to the consumer and value to the market. Being the centre of that value equation, food processors must learn to adhere to the old adage and work smarter, not harder; think differently and design differently.

Although the picture seems overly gloomy, the food market provides a huge opportunity for producers and processors if we can increase our ability to compete within the world market. This opportunity lies in the rapid growth of the Asian market and the growing middle class. The Asian middle class will reach 3,228 million people by 2030; roughly 140 times the current Australian population. With this surge in affluence comes greater purchasing power.

The task is clear. The factory of the future must be competitive on a world standard; our labour will always be expensive, so we must seek ways to minimise these costs using technology and improving the productivity of remaining labour positions.

Human-centred design

Human-centred design is a term that speaks to efficient design practices between people and technology; giving attention to the psychological needs of humans. Human-centred design seeks to prioritise people over machine efficiency. When processing is your core business, it is critical to your success that these practices are optimised for the operator, robotics and automation, and the end user.

One principle of human-centred design suggests that greater autonomy over tasks and production methods should be allowed to encourage the implementation of human ingenuity, experience and intelligence (traits of which we are yet to automate). While engineers like to design straight lines, this is not necessarily the best configuration to improve human interaction; in fact it is isolating, and discourages operator cooperation and internal communications. 

A further critical element to the successful implementation of sociotechnical system design is feedback. This provides staff with a rationale for their work, a why; thereby satisfying a number of their psychological needs. 

Working smart

Advancements in robotics, automation and machinery have led to designers increasingly working to satisfy sociotechnical design aspects in order to develop 'smart' devices and systems.  We can begin to see the effects of these innovations in the development of technologies like Baxter and Kuka  products; robots capable of performing repetitive tasks with the same efficiency as current manufacturing robots with the added ability of working safely and intelligently next to people. These collaborative robots offer a level of human-plant interaction that is unprecedented in manufacturing facilities.

The technological level of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) has grown significantly, particularly with the advent of Google electric driverless cars. The application within manufacturing facilities has become more achievable as systems adapt to the infinite variables of working with humans. The safety standards of smart devices utilising such sensor technology has opened the door for the integration of human and robotic logistics systems. 

Big data

Lately, there has been much hype about the mining and analysis of big data within businesses. The benefits of such data collection offers an opportunity for food processors to truly bring their facilities into the technological age of the fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The biggest limitation for accessing data and utilising it to improve production processes and procedures is the wide array of operating systems that are currently utilised. In most facilities there is limited capability for these systems to interact, let alone work together. This complicates the process wherein food manufacturers can access, analyse and interpret data supplied by their production facility. By collating data and implementing a methodology of reporting, food manufacturers have the opportunity to gain significant insight into their entire process on both the macro and micro scales, representing an opportunity for improving efficiency, operations, and subsequently profitability. 

Australian manufacturers must invest in new plant and equipment to stay in the game. We must use the best equipment and embrace the new design paradigm to achieve plants that are better than our competitors. We must get better value from the money we are investing in capital by using modern collaborative project delivery systems. This is how we will build the food facility of the future.

Steve Christie is the director of Process Engineering at Wiley

 

Arnott’s secrets to success

Naturally, when a food manufacturer reaches the 150 year milestone, you want know how they did it.

To celebrate 150 years of ‘Bringing out the Biscuits’, Food Magazine spoke with Craig Funnell, VP Supply Chain and Sarah Ryan, Director of Marketing Arnott’s Shapes.

1. How has Arnott's maintained relevance over 150 years?

Craig: To remain relevant with consumers and retailers in Australia you need to be both innovative and cost competitive. It also helps if you can own the shelf in in the supermarket! Arnott’s has market share of more than 60 percent and to retain our position as category captains, we continually invest in many areas including infrastructure, ensuring our food safety and quality standards continually rise to meet higher consumer expectations.

Sarah: Arnott’s has a commitment to great consumer insights, which ensures we remain in touch with market trends and our consumers. Over the past 150 years we’ve evolved to meet changing needs of our consumers. We do this in a number of ways – renovating favourite products (like new Shapes flavours in keeping with current trends) while also understanding that many of our products have stood the test of time and should remain untouched, for example, Milk Arrowroot (1882) Iced VoVo (1906) and SAO (late 1800s).

Shapes Light & Crispy is a really good example of how we have approached changing trends to stay relevant. Health and wellness is a growing trend in food and we saw there was an opportunity to develop a Shapes product that allowed consumers to enjoy the Shapes flavour hit they love with a lighter and crispier texture, 75 percent less saturated fat and no artificial colours or flavours.  Shapes Light & Crispy has been launched in four on-trend flavours, with our top seller being Tasty Cheddar and Chives. The product has contributed to strong growth of 15 percent for total Shapes, which indicates that when you tap into a market trend and deliver a great product to meet it, you can really improve your consumer relevance and drive great growth.

2. How has the Australian Food Manufacturing industry changed over time?

Craig: To remain viable, Australian manufacturers need to constantly address productivity. Operations also need broad capability to meet innovation challenges. For Arnott’s, our biggest priorities remain the health and safety of our people and the quality of our food.

As many of our competitors have exited the Australian manufacturing industry, we are now increasingly up against Asian/NZ and European imports which are lower in cost. For Arnott’s, that means we have to continue to provide the most relevant products to meet our consumer’s wants and needs and continue to be quality driven.

3. How has the market changed and how has Arnott's responded?

Sarah: Arnott’s started baking Ships biscuits and pies in 1865 for the Port of Newcastle. Ships Biscuits were a very functional, hard biscuit designed to last for long journeys at sea. They were for sustenance really. In the following years, sweet biscuits became popular. Today, sweet biscuits and chocolate biscuits are popular but savoury biscuits and snacking is increasing in popularity – Shapes now makes up 19 percent of our portfolio sales and savoury biscuits 44 percent.

Some other key changes include increasing sophistication of products over time, as consumer food interests and manufacturing capabilities have evolved. The proliferation of products, as manufacturers responded to the needs of different consumers and for different products for different occasions e.g. snacking and entertaining.

The Shapes biscuit range is a great example here. Shapes was launched in 1954. Over time the popular biscuit flavours have remained relevant, tasty snack for Australians, but the range has expanded to meet the needs of specific consumers and occasions. In 2008, Shapes Sensations were launched to meet the needs of an older consumer.

The product delivers more sophisticated, foodie flavours to meet the needs of an adult snacking occasion. In 2014, we launched Shapes Light & Crispy, which is targeted to meet the needs of a female consumer.  In 2015, we have launched Shapes Extreme, which is designed to meet the snacking needs of teen boys. These biscuits deliver to teen boys by delivering a bigger, bolder flavour, a bigger biscuit with an extreme crunch and an attitude to match. The hero flavour Chilli Charge is a great example of the taste intensity of the range.

4. What lessons has Arnott's learned?

Sarah: We must always put our consumers first and deliver fantastic food – delicious food that has no substitute for quality.

5. What has Arnott's got planned for the next 150 years?

Craig: Our focus is always our consumers, their preferences and of course, there’s no substitute for quality! In the next 150 years we will continue to innovate and expand into new areas and look for ways to keep biscuits relevant in Aussies day-to-day lives.

Sarah: A lot! To keep making Australia’s favourite biscuits. Innovation into new spaces – more moments with the right biscuits. Capitalising key trends – health and wellness, foodie trend, on-the-go snacking. And finally, continuous improvement – leveraging new technologies to continually improve our products to deliver best quality and maintain relevance for our customers.

 

Kellogg’s to roll out Health Star Ratings

Health Star Ratings will appear on Kellogg’s cereal in Australia and New Zealand from early June and will be on the full cereal range by the end of 2015.

More than 70 per cent of Kellogg’s cereals, or 26 products in the range, have a rating of between 4 and 5 health stars, with the total range spanning 1.5 to 5 stars.

The products will roll out on shelves over the coming months with the new packaging in a phased approach.

Kellogg’s senior nutrition and regulatory affairs manager Dr Michelle Celander said the company has been working on the implementation of Health Star Ratings since late last year.

“We are pleased to be adding Health Stars as another way to help shoppers make informed choices for themselves and their families, alongside other important nutritional information on our packs such as serve size and nutrients per serve. With products carrying health stars beginning to reach shelves in the next six weeks, we feel that now is the right time to let Australians know about the packaging updates and Health Star Ratings of their favourite cereals,” Celander said.

Kellogg’s All Bran, Sultana Bran, Guardian, Coco Pops and Special K Nourish variants will be the first to carry health stars.

Health Star Ratings will be rolled out across all Kellogg cereals; the largest portfolio of cereal products of any manufacturer in Australia and New Zealand.

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has celebrated Kellogg’s move by calling it “a great win for consumers.”

“Kellogg’s was one of the biggest food manufacturers in Australia not implementing health stars and we are thrilled that they have listened to consumers and will be rolling out the scheme on all of their breakfast cereals,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

In March, CHOICE called upon Kellogg’s and six other food manufacturers to roll out the front of pack health star rating on their products.

“Kellogg’s coming on board with health stars will fill a large gap in the breakfast cereal aisle and now this aisle in the supermarket will be the first one with all the major food manufacturers on board with health stars”.

“While it is great to see Kellogg’s is on board, iconic brands such as McCain, PepsiCo, and Mars are still refusing to serve up the information consumers need.”

CHOICE’s campaign will continue to target the biggest food manufacturers in Australia who are holding out against the star rating system – McCain, Mars, PepsiCo, Mondolez, George Weston and Goodman Fielder.

The Health Star Rating system is a government led initiative that provides an easy way to compare the nutritional profile of packaged foods. The star rating scheme was developed by industry, public health and consumer experts and governments and the star rating takes into account the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fat in products per 100 grams.

 

Tailored products deliver a bigger market slice

Victorian-based fresh pizza manufacturer Della Rosa has cracked the Chinese market, with plans for Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

"I didn't find it hard to get into China but you need to adapt to the type of product they need and our product has changed a lot for them and their tastes," says Emilio De Lorso, director of Della Rosa Fresh Foods Group.

One modification Della Rosa made to their products for China is the salt content. In China, Della Rosa products taste less salty than the company's products sold in Australia.  Della Rosa identified a need to make these modifications by first finding a buyer, who helped work out what type of products would work well in the country.

"For example, in China we're not importing products with meat. The three products that we're exporting are vegetarian. In Costco Taiwan, we're not going to have any problem with meat, because meat from Australia is already allowed to export to Taiwan," De Lorso says.

Della Rosa was then provided with a list of ingredients it is allowed to bring into China.

"We build the product basically on what we're allowed to sell in the country."

FD0415_DELLAROSA-2.JPG

Above: Della Rosa in a Costco supermarket.

When the product went to market in China, Della Rosa put their demo team to work, three days a week in five major stores for three months.

One point of difference that helps set Della Rosa apart is the company's "constant cycle of innovation." Della Rosa recently launched a newly designed product exclusively for Coles Supermarkets.

"We launched a box that looks like a freezer box but it's got a window that allows you to see right through, to the product," De Lorso says. 

"The window in the box has a large impact. We are in the fresh section; but we go in the frozen section. The frozen section often uses a full box so often people see a fantastic photo and when they try the product, it's not what they saw in the photo.

"So we allowed people to see the product through this window, which is like a quarter of the packaging. To balance the packaging, we then replicated the real product inside with a photo on the box. It's extremely new in this country – what you see is what you get."

Testing trends

Della Rosa creates new products by keeping an eye on the trends in Australia's food industry and incorporating them into their products.

"We work around what is the latest trend. The trend is launched by all the food retailers, that is; McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Nando's and so on. They are the people who decide what's new. Then we create products around what people have accepted. 

"Plenty of times what [the food retailers are] launching is not accepted into the marketplace and you can tell straight away because it is cut in two months," De Lorso says.

Keeping it local – a necessary expense

Della Rosa sources 95 percent of its ingredients from Australia and 80 percent of which is from Victoria.
"We don't find it a problem getting [ingredients] locally, what you face is competitiveness in price. A supplier from another state, if they want to enter into Victoria they may have a better price than the local one but [sourcing locally] is part of quality."

Another consideration for Della Rosa is finding a supplier with the right certification to allow the product to enter into supermarkets.

Coping with demand

Della Rosa has grown between 20 and 30 percent every year, with this year witnessing an additional five percent growth.

"The demand is there and at the moment we manage to cope with the demand by working Saturday, Sunday and overtime, so we have this extra expenditure. By spending on new equipment, we will release this pressure."

For a more sustainable way of coping with demand, Della Rosa is building a new 10,000m² facility, which will boost production from 1,500 units per hour to over 4,500 units per hour. The new facility will be Della Rosa's second line.

"The second line is three times bigger than the first one and because of that, we've purchased land and we are building a new premises where the new line has got to go. 

"There's going to be new refrigeration, it's all completely new and then we're going to move there, which is only two doors down from where we are. It's on the same street but the factory is purpose-built for the new equipment."

So what's next for Della Rosa? 

Aside from the growing export business, De Lorso says the next big step will be into foodservice. This will be accommodated by the new equipment, due to arrive in June.

As for growth, De Lorso says it's "not an issue."

 

SPC rolls out #MyFamilyCan

The labels of the Goulburn Valley, Ardmona and SPC ‪#‎MyFamilyCan range now feature local growers and farmers and the company is encouraging Australians to “support Aussie produce.”

“We know consumers want to know who grows their food and we’re proud to be recognised for our strong commitment to Australian grown and made food. So proud in fact we’ve launched #MyFamilyCan, an initiative that shows consumers exactly who is growing the food they are eating,” said Sandra Pereira, Marketing & Innovation Director, SPC.

Featuring six real-life Victorian farming families – the very people who grow the food for SPC – the initiative recognises that consumers want assurance that the food they eat is locally grown.

“SPC stands by Australian growers who produce the cleanest, greenest and safest food in the world. We’re proud to be associated with our growers and to do our part to market the obvious benefits of Australian grown and made products,” Pereira said.

In a series of short films soon to be released on social media, the first featuring Gary Godwill and his 86 year-old mother Dorothy (who still works in the orchard), this family-focused campaign also highlights what consumer support means to the farmers and their families. And what it means for Australia.

The Godwill family is one of six appearing on labels. The other families are: the Jaques family (Tallygaroopna), the Weeks family (Nanneella), the Turnbull family (Ardmona) the Scarcella family (Orrvale) and the Kennedy family (Carag Carag)

“Putting Australian families on the label gives people recognition of the actual people who are producing product. It will help Australians to understand where things are grown and where the food comes from. I think it’s a very positive step towards supporting families and supporting Australian farmers,” Godwill said in the video shared on Facebook.

Last year, SPC’s people-powered social media campaign, #SPCSunday, was recognised as the Grand Prix overall winner at The Communications Council's 2014 APMA Star Awards.

SPC also won the award for the “Best Use of Social Marketing in a Campaign” for SPC Ardmona’s agency, Leo Burnett Melbourne.

The campaign, which started with a community Facebook page and a single tweet, created a national groundswell of support and action in February this year.

{^youtubevideo|(width)560|(height)340|(rel)True|(autoplay)False|(fs)True|(url)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rem0_BgC3fU|(loop)False^}

 

CHOICE targets manufacturers “refusing” to roll out health star ratings

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has launched a campaign calling on Kellogg’s and 6 other food manufacturers to roll out the front of pack health star rating on their products.

The star rating scheme was developed by industry, public health and consumer experts and governments to help shoppers quickly compare the healthiness of products. The star rating takes into account the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fat in products per 100 grams.

“Food manufacturers have been on notice since June last year to implement the new health star scheme however iconic brands such as Kellogg’s, McCain and Mars are still refusing to serve up the information consumers need,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

CHOICE’s campaign targets some of the biggest food manufacturers in Australia – Kellogg’s, McCain, Mars, PepsiCo, Mondolez, George Weston and Goodman Fielder – and calls on consumers to ask for health star ratings on these companies’ products: https://choice.good.do/HSR

“The system works best when shoppers can compare several products in a category, like-for-like. For example, right now you can walk down a breakfast cereal aisle and see a range of health stars already on different brands, but there are some obvious gaps.”

“It’s just not good enough that a major player like Kellogg’s,that sells popular brands Just Right, Special K, Coco Pops and Nutri-Grain, are withholding basic health information and that’s why we have launched this campaign.”

“Kellogg’s should be embracing the new system and celebrating the fact that Just Right and All Bran receive 4 and 5 stars respectively. On the flip side, Australians deserve to know that Nutri-Grain and Coco Pops get 2 and 1.5 stars respectively.”

“We congratulate the food companies that have taken the initiative and have health stars already on their packs. The two retail giants, Coles and Woolworths have stars on their private labels and Sanitarium, Nestle, Uncle Tobys and Lion are all getting involved with products already displaying stars and many more on the way.”

Yesterday (March 16) Australian cereal manufacturers came under fire for promoting health claims on their packaging, despite some products being a third sugar.

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) said these manufacturers are “potentially misleading consumers” by promoting health claims on their packaging.

Companies that have so far failed to roll out health star ratings, and their brands:

  • George Weston (TipTop)
  • Goodman Fielder (Helga’s, Vogel’s, Wonder White, Lawson’s, White Wings)
  • Kellogg’s (Just Right, Special K, Rice Bubbles, Coco Pops)
  • Mars (Dolmio, KanTong, MasterFoods, Uncle Ben's, Mars confectionary)
  • McCain (Frozen veggies, frozen meals, pizzas)
  • Mondolez (Kraft, Belvita and Philadelphia)
  • PepsiCo  (Smiths, Quaker, Doritos, Red Rock, GrainWaves)

Kellogg’s cereal brands and their Health Star Rating:

  • Just Right 4 stars
  • Special K Original 4 stars
  • All Bran Original 5 stars
  • Coco Pops 2 stars
  • Crunchy Nut 2 stars
  • Fruit Loops 2 stars
  • Mini-Wheats Little Bites Original 4.5 stars
  • Nutri-Grain 2 stars
  • Rice Bubbles 3 stars
  • Sultana Bran 4 stars

 

Food processing: Efficiency is key

Australia is often viewed as a key food supplier to Asia with the ability to sell premium products into these markets.

For that to happen, the country’s food industry needs to get its manufacturing process and automation strategies right, says Craig Roseman, Schneider Electric Australia’s National Segment Manager for Food & Beverage.

What are the biggest technology challenges facing food manufacturers in Australia?

I believe the main challenge of the Australian Food & Beverage industry now more than ever is to produce better, with fewer resources.

One of the foremost reasons is the growing consumer knowledge of production processes. This is increasing the demands they are making for safer, healthier, tastier and more ethical products, which is putting pressure on an already highly regulated industry. Additionally, the method in which you inform consumers about product quality and specifications should be clear.

Honesty is often the best policy in this case. How companies communicate with consumers and regulators is especially important as enforcement of regulations continues to rise. Another challenge facing companies is the need to adapt to new distribution channels created by the digital transformation of society.

Producing better in order to adapt to a fluctuating environment and new regulations enforcement is also a key consideration for manufacturers in this industry.

Producing in a considered and thought-out approach has always been key to reduce the amount of resources necessary for production. The idea that less is more is becoming increasingly important in order to combat the growing power of direct retail and to reach significant market share. Correct allocation of resources allows for energy and capital to be implemented in other areas where it is needed, this is especially important as food and beverage companies face fiercer competition in Australia and internationally.

Using less resources is also key in minimising the environmental footprint of operations, which helps meet consumer and stakeholder’s growing sustainability concerns.

What should Australian food manufacturers be focusing on in terms of process control, automation and energy?

In my opinion the focus should be on:

Sustainability and Energy Performance

Assessing the use and waste of resources is particularly important.  Energy, but also WAGES (water, air, gas, electricity and steam) and products are good examples of this. In a production context, implementing collection systems (automated when necessary) to generate KPIs will allow businesses to view and benchmark poorly performing processes or machines and deploy continuous improvement actions.

Manufacturing Efficiency

Implementing Manufacturing Operation Management software to increase the production flexibility while improving the overall performance is another key focus for companies for a number of reasons.

  • Financially, improving overall equipment effectiveness to reduce the cost of goods sold and increase capacity utilisation can reduce inventory to improve return on assets.
  • Higher customer satisfaction by delivering the brand promise of variety, food safety, quality, delivery time, labelling.
  • Improved food safety by documenting that critical control points were correct during production. This adds accountability to the process and includes operator action and the use of materials from raw to end products.
  • Compensating for an aging workforce as systems contain embedded expertise to guide new staff in their tasks wherever they perform it.

The benefits of such systems are even higher when they are applied across plants. This gives the management a real-time visibility of the performance and the capability to drive it.

Using more powerful packaging machines also allows more flexibility (packaging change on the fly, modification of lines in a few minutes).

Using completely transparent automation architecture based on Ethernet to increase the capability to manage the production assets in a proper way extends machinery lifetime and aids in predicting potential future failures.

Power Quality

Power availability is key for production performance. However, a Food and Beverage production plant is a living, evolving asset, in order to face the new customer requirements. These modifications can have an impact on power quality and can cause significant downtime in a plant – this can occur even if power factor correction measures are implemented when designing the facilities. Bad power quality can also lead to device failure.

Supply Chain Optimisation

Supply Chain complexity is also a challenge for Food and Beverage companies. A focus on decision making tools for supply chain optimisation will be key for next year’s performance. These decision making tools must work both on a strategic dimension and operation dimension.

What innovative technologies and products can food manufacturers expect to see over the next year or two?

Mobility and workflows will have a significant impact over the next year. These applications will allow users to interact from any place where cyber security measures are implemented – whether from the machine at the shop floor, the office or from home – with the right level of information and guidance. The workflow will provide embedded expertise to compensate for lost expertise with older staff retirement.

Cloud and Big Data analysis will also contribute strongly to the understanding of the phenomenon occurring in complex manufacturing environments and improve knowledge and efficiency of the process.

Last but not least, the capability to connect smart and communicating devices in the production environment will improve the capability to diagnose issues and increase production flexibility, adapting production systems to specific production batches.

Schneider Electric

www.schneider-electric.com