Global manufacturers make sustainable palm oil sourcing commitments

A number of global food and beverage manufacturers have made significant commitments to source responsibly produced palm oil.

US giants ConAgra, J.M. Smucker Co., Kellogg, General Mills, Mondelez, Panera and Safeway, which represent some of the top purchasers of the $44 billion palm oil industry, have all committed to source 100 percent fully traceable, responsibly produced palm oil.

The decisions were spearheaded by close to 150 climate-related resolutions filed by institutional investors during the 2014 proxy season, and as a result, a total of 20 major international corporations have committed to set goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or sustainably source palm oil.

Palm oil is a leading driver of global deforestation, which causes nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group of investors include Clean Yield, Domini, Social Investments, Green Century Capital Management, The New York State Comptroller’s Office, Trillium, and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

“Palm oil is used in so many products we buy, but shoppers can’t see that it’s often harvested in ways that destroy rainforests and lead to climate change,” said New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, whose office was a lead filer of the resolutions with ConAgra and Safeway. “The companies that agreed to our proposal and adopted new policies have protected themselves and their shareholders from the risk of being associated with unsustainable environmental practices.”

“Companies are on the hot seat to reduce their carbon pollution if they want consumer and investor support,” stated Leslie Samuelrich, President of Green Century Capital Management, which secured the first deforestation free commitment from Kellogg’s, and co-lead filed shareholder the shareholder proposals at ConAgra and Smuckers. “We expect more companies to follow suit and build sustainable supply chains and protect the environment upon which their businesses and all of us depend,” stated Samuelrich.

“The successes this season show that when investors set the bar high, the companies in their portfolios strive harder to integrate sustainability into their business practices,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, which helped coordinate the filing of the resolutions.  “These productive investor-company dialogues often help companies build a positive reputation and achieve high returns on investments in greenhouse gas reduction initiatives.”


Older population demanding convenience in food

A new report from Canadean has found that the older population is increasingly demanding convenience when it comes to food products.

Traditionally targeted towards time-poor city workers, convenience foods have become increasingly more appealing to older consumers in recent years. Market research company Canadean say that by overlooking this market, manufactures are foregoing a large proportion of potential consumers.

Canadean's report found that 17.1 percent of food consumption was motivated by convenience in the older population. The report also made mention of ‘pack rage’ – frustration which is caused by consumers being unable to open packaging. Tight screw tops and fiddly opening mechanisms are common causes of this.

Kirsty Nolan, analyst at Canadean said that food manufacturer Emerald has taken this into account by re-engineering the packaging of its nut assortment products to include indentations on the side to improve grip, together with a shorter rotation to open the lid of product.

“Emerald is successfully targeting the aging population with a product that is not only traditional and high in protein, but that is fully accessible to its target audience,” she says.

As well as snacks, Nolan says that the need for manufacturers to develop convenient meal options is also on the rise.

“Often older people choose to eat traditional cuisines and more fresh food. Therefore, the challenge for food companies is to provide fresh, easy, convenient meal-time choices.” 


US Golden State Foods purchases Snap Fresh for undisclosed figure

New Zealand fresh produce company Snap Fresh has been purchased by US fast food supplier, Golden State Foods.

Golden State Foods, which is reported to be worth US$6 billion, is one of the world’s largest suppliers to the fast food industry.

Executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Golden State, Neil Cracknell said that the purchase of Snap Fresh will open up valuable growth opportunities and product development opportunity for the US company.

"We look forward to expanding our regional produce foodservice business into the fast-growing retail sector with such a strong and successful brand as Snap Fresh Foods," said Cracknell in a statement. 

"The addition of Snap Fresh provides great growth opportunities for GSF particularly in the retail salads segment, while providing new products and capabilities to our existing food service customers in the region." reports that Snap Fresh Foods has today changed its name to Vida Fresh.

Snap Fresh Foods was founded in Auckland in 1980 and sells a variety of salad and vegetable mixes along with dressings and condiments. The company operates two processing facilities and employs 150 staff.


Kellogg’s announces new social and environmental commitments

Global cereal manufacturer, Kellogg has announced new global sustainability commitments in two areas – responsible sourcing and natural resources.

In terms of responsible sourcing, the company has announced that it will responsibly source its top 10 ingredients and materials by 2020, and continue to provide resources and education to key agricultural suppliers, millers and farmers to help them optimise their production capabilities while keeping the environment top of mind.

This will include helping suppliers increase their resilience to climate change; optimise their use of fertiliser inputs; reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in their agricultural practices; optimise water use and enhance watershed quality; and improve soil health.

Kellogg will also build programs to help women farmers and workers and small-scale producers improve their livelihoods by adapting to climate change and improving their agronomic practices and business skills.

Kellogg has also made a number of significant commitments relating to the conservation of natural resources including:

  • A further 15 percent reduction (per metric tonne of food produced) in energy and GHG emissions from 2015 performance
  • Expand the use of low-carbon energy in plants by 50 percent by 2020
  • Support watershed quality, implement water reuse projects in 25 percent of plants by 2020, and further reduce water use by an additional 15 percent (per metric tonne of food produced) from 2015 performance
  • Increase number of plants sending zero waste to landfill by 2016
  • Ensure that 100 percent of timber-based packaging continues to be either recycled or from certified sustainable sources, while implementing resource-efficient packaging, as measured by improved performance for recycled content, recyclability and food-to-package ratios

“Kellogg is committed to minimising its environmental footprint and developing more sustainable manufacturing solutions. In Australia, one achievement we’re proud of is the reduction of waste to landfill from our manufacturing plants by more than 29 percent between 2012 and 2013,” said Rebecca Boustead, director, corporate communication and public affair at Kellogg Australia.

“Meanwhile, over 800,000 Kellogg wrappers and cereal box liners were recovered in 2013 through the REDcycle Program, of which Kellogg is a founding member. Kellogg Australia will continue looking for improvements that will help to deliver on our new global goals.”


Australia is not going to be Asia’s food bowl: Barnaby Joyce

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says that Australia should be focusing on marketing its agricultural outputs as premium products rather than attempting to become Asia’s food bowl.

As it stands, Australia’s exports to the South East Asian region represents enough to feed 60 million people out of a future three billion middleclass consumers. Analysts say that Australia has the capacity to double its output to about 120 million but Joyce believes that the focus should on quality, not quantity.

Joyce told The Weekly Times that it was ‘ridiculous’ to think that Australia could feed the estimated three billion South East Asian middle class consumers by 2030, and that the 'food bowl' concept was read as a threat overseas.

“Indonesian farmers don’t want to hear that the only cattle that will be available for market will be Australian cattle,” said Joyce.

Joyce is currently studying the successful NZ 100% Prue brand campaign, and has been in discussions with senior ministers about developing a similar style of strategy for Australian produce.

“If we all go off as rats and mice, here, there and everywhere, then we won’t have a consistent approach,” he said.

The government will be releasing a green paper within the coming weeks outlining potential strategies to both boost Australia’s agricultural sector, and capitalise on opportunities in the SEA region. A white paper detailing the chosen strategy is expected to be released by the end of the year.


Taura Natural Ingredients releases mini sized real fruit pieces

Taura Natural Ingredients has released what they say could be the world’s smallest sized real fruit pieces.

The fruit pieces, named Mini’s, are the size of a grain of quinoa, and have been developed to enable food manufacturers to add the benefits of real fruit pieces to applications where it has not been possible previously.

Taura says that demand across the Asia-Pacific region for very small real fruit pieces that are suitable for use in fine bakery and confectionery applications such as ultra-thin biscuits and premium thin chocolate tablets is exceptionally high.

The products themselves have a very high fruit content and deliver a soft and chewy texture, and the company is targeting Mini’s at a range of sectors including industrial food manufacturing, bakery, confectionery and quick service restaurants. The small size and the consistency of the Mini’s pieces means that they travel easily through production equipment such as depositor nozzles and rollers, offering exceptional distribution.

 “The market is crying out for very small real fruit pieces that offer an alternative to ingredients that contain high levels of added sugar and other additives, such as sprinkle-style products.,” said Peter Tinholt, general manager Asia-Pacific at Taura Natural Ingredients.

"Our expertise in the fruit ingredients market has enabled us to create the perfect solution in the form of Mini’s. Each piece offers a tiny explosion of flavour, aroma, colour and texture in a wide range of products. Mini’s enable our customers to use real fruit ingredients in places where they have never been before.”


More emphasis on microbes required in food safety, says researcher

According to Lincoln University senior lecturer in Food Microbiology, Dr Malik Hussain, current concepts regarding food safety and security may be inadequate for fully addressing what is an increasingly complex issue.

Hussain says that the current emphasis around food safety and security tend to be based around three main pillars: food availability, food access and food use, however Hussain says that a greater emphasis on microbes also needs to be considered.

 “…Although food availability is tremendously important, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Around one third of all food produced globally for human consumption goes to waste due to food safety issues such as spoilage and a loss of quality due to decay,” said Hussain.

“Microorganisms play a huge part in the food supply chain.  Their impact, both positive and negative, can be enormous, whether from an economic perspective or just basic human health. Successfully attending to the microorganism aspects of food production, therefore, means less wastage. It means a more effective use of what is already produced, rather than a need to dramatically increase production levels.

“The matter is complicated further by the direct effect climate change has on microbiology as it relates to food safety,” he said. “Climate change changes the ‘playing field’. Meaning the potential for some current microbes to gain greater influence, or for new pathogens to develop.”

Dr Hussain has been invited as a representative of the University’s Centre for Food Research and Innovation to the Asian Food Safety and Security Association Conference to be held in Vietnam in August.

Hussain says that the event is highly important for ensuring healthy dialogue in the development of new food products and processing technologies, and in microbiological risks as a whole. In particular, he hopes for some useful discussion around how new antibiotic-resistant pathogens can be monitored and mitigated through targeted research and intervention.

“It’s vitally important we stay on top of the microbiology aspects of food safety and security,” he said.


AUSPACK’s 30th anniversary looks to be a big one

Seventy percent of the floor space for next year’s AUSPACK exhibition – running from 24 to 27 March – has already been sold.

To be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, AUSPACK 2015 will be the 30th anniversary of the trade show.

Luke Kasprzak, portfolio director – industrial division at Exhibition and Trade Fairs, which is the organiser of AUSPACK said “70 percent of space already occupied with eight months to go is evidence that exhibitors recognise the biennial event as the premier processing, packaging and materials trade show in Australia.”

Next year will see the addition of Packaging and Processing Week to the regular AUSPACK timetable. There will also be the APPMA Industry Excellence Awards and other networking events to celebrate the 30th anniversary.


Foodbank needs more donations to meet demand

Food magazine recently caught up with Jason Hincks, CEO of Australia’s largest Food Relief organisation, Foodbank to chat about how the organisation works together with the food manufacturing sector to minimise wastage, and feed those in need.

Established 21 years ago, Foodbank was developed to act primarily as a conduit between the food industry and the welfare sector. Foodbank takes in surplus and donated food from manufacturers, and then distributes it throughout its 2,500 welfare agency partners nationally.

According to Hincks, Foodbank has distributed enough food to serve 200 million meals over the past ten years, with 29 million kilograms of food distributed last year alone, however in order to meet demand, more donations are needed.

“We have a constant dialogue with our welfare agencies and unfortunately demand is always outstripping supply, so although the food industry is incredibly generous, not only with their surplus food, but also with the food that they donate above and beyond the surplus food, there is still a shortfall between demand and supply,” Hincks told Food magazine.

“That’s the reason why we as a organisation are always looking for innovative ways to try and plug that gap between demand and supply, and also increase the number of key staple products that the welfare agencies need including breakfast cereals, pasta, pasta sauce, bread and milk – those everyday essentials.”

Hincks says that the dairy industry has been particularly generous in their involvement by pledging to donate one million litres of fresh milk each year. A number of key players in the food manufacturing space including Kelloggs and Goodman Fielder also stand out as businesses that have gone above and beyond in their involvement with the organisation.

In reference to surplus stock and wastage, Hincks says that food manufacturers in general have become significantly more efficient at reducing what they throw away, meaning that there is less surplus food to donate.

“The increase in efficiency within the food manufacturing space means that there is less and less surplus, so we are certainly not seeing vast quantities of surplus stock on a regular basis,” he says.

“Most of our surplus tends to come from products that have been tested in the marketplace as well as promotional products… so that’s the reason why programs like the one we have recently launched with Kelloggs, and like the one we have done previously with Goodman Fielder, is so important is because there just isn’t as much waste as there used to be.”

The programs that Hincks refers to involves manufacturers going above and beyond by pledging to donate additional food on top of the surplus units that have already been supplied. An example of this is the current promotion that Kelloggs is running called Breakfast for Better Days.

“Breakfast for Better Days has an internal target of giving away serves of Kelloggs cereal globally, and their target locally – in this promotion – is to give away six million serves of cereal. The promotion is set up so that for every box of cereal purchased during the promotional period, a serve of cereal is donated to Foodbank and to give you an idea of what the scale of that looks like, six million serves of cereal is roughly 200 tonnes of cereal.”

Hincks says that Foodbank has a policy of accepting all food that fits within food safety standards and encourages manufacturers that haven’t already been in contact with Foodbank to get in touch.

“The best thing to do is to give us a call and have a chat. We have been around quite a while and we tend to have a fairly good relationship with the food industry. It would be tough to identify a food manufacturer that hasn’t been engaged with Foodbank at some point, but we can always do with more donations," he says.

"If there are any food manufacturers out there that feel that they can make a contribution to Foodbank they should give us a call.”


NSW potato chip manufacturer placed in administration

Griffith based potato chip manufacturer, Potato Magic has been placed in administration.

The company was established by one of the nation’s biggest potato farmers, Paul Rennie, who has been under investigation by the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Federal Police for allegations of offshore tax fraud.

ABC News reports that the alleged tax fraud represents millions of dollars.

According to appointed administrator, PPB Advisory, the Griffith based business has endured a period of financial losses, and the search for prospective buyers is currently underway.

At this stage, the company is still able to continue operations as PPB Advisory have licensed the operations of the company to Rennie.

The business currently employs 16 staff and has an annual turnover of $1.2 m.


New Zealand biscuit maker sold for $700m

New Zealand biscuit maker, Griffin’s has been sold to Universal Robina Corporation, a Philippines-based food manufacturer for $700m.

The sale, which is subject to approval from the Overseas Investment Office, is said to have doubled the initial investment made by Australian-based owners, Pacific Equity Partners, reports.

Should the deal go ahead, Griffin’s chief operating officer, Alison Taylor will become CEO and executive chairman, Ron Vela, will be retained as a consultant.

Taylor believes that URC has purchased the company due to the significant opportunities for growth.

"That is why they are buying the business – for the manufacturing platform and the opportunities that provides for products in their markets," she said.

Vela echoed Taylor’s comments, stating that the sale is a positive move for the NZ workforce.

‘I just think they'll be investing forever. This is a gift in heaven for the New Zealand workforce, for the country itself," Vela said.

Griffin’s currently employs 800 people and operates two factories in Auckland.  


New research hub to improve dairy innovation

A major industrial research initiative aims to deliver longer-lasting Australian dairy products with high nutritional value.

Known as the ARC Dairy Innovation Hub the initiative brings together three of Australia’s leading dairy research groups in a five-year, $13 million Industrial Transformation Research Program, co- funded by the Australian Research Council, Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd, The University of Melbourne and The University of Queensland.

The Hub aims to assist Australian dairy manufacturers in developing new products to meet increasing local and international demand for high quality dairy products. Potential new products include butter and dairy blends with improved taste and spreadability, lactose-free and reduced fat milk with improved flavour and yoghurt that retains its texture for longer without “watering off”.

“Dairy manufacturing is currently worth more than two billion dollars to the Australian economy and will continue to increase as the demand for food required in Asia doubles in coming years,” said Hub director, associate professor Sally Gras of The University of Melbourne.

“We will work to find solutions and opportunities for the Australian dairy industry to make the most of our geographic location and to grow our exports into the lucrative Asian market.”

Throughout the duration of the program, The Hub expects to achieve research outcomes to understand the structures of dairy products better, and how these contribute to their properties and feel in the mouth.  

Researchers working across the three sites will also evaluate new processes to improve dairy manufacturing in Australia.  

“These insights will help manufacturers make new products and design processes that can reduce waste and lead to water and energy savings.” Gras said.


Gourmet Garden’s expansion creates 50 new jobs

Australian food manufacturer Gourmet Garden has created 50 new local jobs following a multi-million dollar expansion of its Sunshine Coast herb prepping facility.

The company has experienced strong consumer demand for its Lightly Dried Herbs and Spices range which was launched in April this year, and has credited the range's high sales to the recent boost in employment.

Gourmet Garden’s CEO, Nick White says that the new range, which includes basil, coriander, parsley, chilli and ginger, has been describes the products as closest thing to fresh herbs in appearance, flavour and aroma, but with a longer shelf life.

“We’re delighted with the response we’ve had to the new products so far, which has exceeded all expectations,” he said.

“We believe that busy cooks have welcomed the range because Lightly Dried has filled a gap in the market between fresh herbs that don’t last and dried herbs with diminished flavour.”

In addition to the new range, White says that Gourmet Garden will also be introducing its innovative click-n-stack packaging concept which will roll out in Coles stores nationally by the end of the month.

“The feedback from our customers has been excellent and we’re excited to see how they respond to the new click-n-stack offering,” said White.


Australia’s first dedicated fresh food safety centre established

Australia and New Zealand’s first dedicated research centre into the safety of fresh food products has been established.

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre is designed to address research gaps in the food safety sector including how Australian wild animals may contaminate vegetables.

University of Sydney associate professor, Robyn McConchie, who has been instrumental in the development of the centre, says that we currently know very little about the impact the Australian wildlife may have on the safety of fresh food.

"We know what pigs and birds do in Europe and the United States," McConchie told ABC News. "But what about our wildlife?

"If they tramp through a field of lettuce are they likely to contaminate paddocks?

"…We have different salmonellas to those in Europe and the United States; so how do they survive in the soil? How long do they last? Are they pathogenic and are they going to make us really ill?"

The main goals of the centre are to:

  • Call for and oversee food safety research projects that are highly relevant to industry
  • Provide food safety information, news, education and outreach to the industry
  • Engage with regulatory and other organisations for effective and efficient food safety management leading to enhanced food safety outcomes.

The centre is funded, and will be led by the Australian and New Zealand fresh produce industries and is hosted by the University of Sydney.

The centre’s first conference will be held on 11 August, 2014 at the University of Sydney.


Capsicums play star role in snack product innovation

According to a new research, capsicums are increasingly being used as an ingredient in some of the world’s most innovative food products.

The research, which was commissioned by Horticulture Australia using the National Vegetable Levy, together with matched funds from the Australian Government, found that 37 innovative new products containing capsicum were launched in Australia during the last three months out of 150 launches globally.

Peak industry body for vegetable and potato growers, Ausveg believes that the increased in interest in capsicum as an ingredient is opening up valuable opportunities for Australian famers.

“This recent increase in products launched in Australia demonstrates the opportunities available if we can encourage world leaders in product innovation to invest in the Australian market,” said AUSVEG manager of industry development and communications, Andrew White. 

“There is a real opportunity for Australian capsicum growers to take advantage of this strong demand for capsicum-containing products.”              

According to the research, between the period of March- May 2014, snacks dominated as the main launch category in Australia, and 20 percent of these new snack products contained capsicum.

“While Australian vegetable growers are among some of the world’s most productive, an oversupply of produce can lead to financial losses. New uses for excess or second-grade vegetables, such as in innovative food and pharmaceutical products, can help to make Australian producers more profitable,” said White.

White says that packaging also plays a key role in the launch of these new products. 30 percent of new products launched featured a flexible pack format, which was followed by products launched in jars representing 12 percent.

“Producers and processors need to ensure that product packaging appeals to consumers in terms of convenience, visual appeal and reduced waste,” said White.


New research credits okra as an effective emulsifier

PhD student Katerina Alba from the University of Huddersfield (UK) has gained international attention for her research into the use of okra as an emulsifier.

Alba’s research involves investigating the potential of carbohydrates extracted from the pods of the okra plant. These carbohydrates can then be introduced into a variety of emulsion based foodstuffs including yoghurt, butter, mayonnaise and fruit drinks to help improve the overall quality of the product.

“The purpose is to improve the quality of the product – its consistency, texture, how it breaks in the mouth, and its shelf-life,” says Alba.

Alba currently has published articles in Food Research International and Food Hydrocolloids, with one forthcoming in the journal of Carbohydrate Polymers.  In addition she recently presented two papers at the 12th International Hydrocolloids Conference, a global gather of more than 300 scientists in Taiwan. 

“Both presentations raised scientific interest in the development of the okra plant as a new source of natural hydrocolloids, and there were some valuable comments from well-known researchers following the talks,” says Alba. 

“Attending the conference gave me the opportunity to promote my research to an international audience of scientists and industry representatives and raise my profile in the scientific community.” 


DIY Halal kit to detect swine within 60 seconds

Malaysia’s University of Selangor is set to commence research on the development of DIY Halal detection kits that is said to be able to detect non-Halal ingredients within 60 seconds.

Vice Chancellor, Dr Anuar Ahmad said that the university has been granted RM1.3m from the Selangor government to develop the kit which is to be designed for both the food and medical industries.

“Although it is small, it can save costs compared to laboratory tests…The results are guaranteed to be accurate, as good as laboratory tests which cost thousands of ringgit,” said Ahmad.

Ahmad said that a number of universities have made Halal kits in the past, however the University of Selangor’s approach is said to be more advanced.

“The Halal kit previously functioned to detect only pig DNA content," said Anuar.

“This is different from what we will come up with, where the Unisel Halal kit will use the nano sensor technology to know up to 0.001 percent of pig content.”

The system is able to detect the presence of non-halal ingredients by entering a sample of the product into a detector which will produce a fluorescent light on a positive detection.

The kit is expected to be completed by December 2015.


JBS Australia converts cattle emissions into $1m savings

Meat processing company, JBS Australia, has reduced its emissions and is saving more than $1 million a year thanks to a new biogas and water treatment plant, designed and constructed by Wiley.

Wiley engineers, designs and constructs food facilities, and for its work with JBS, earned the Queensland Master Builders Association award for Innovation in Environmental Management Construction.

The project involved creating a self-sustaining biogas facility at JBS Australia’s Dinmore facility, capturing cattle emissions to power an existing natural gas-fired boiler plant. The result lead to an 89 percent reduction in the facility’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and a saving of more than $1 million a year on natural gas costs.

“This is an industry benchmark demonstrating the reality of environmental processing solutions for heavy emission producers. It is a great win for Wiley, JBS Australia and everyone involved,” said Wiley project director, Graham Harvey.

The project’s key solutions included:

  • Construction of a new 20ML Covered Anaerobic Lagoon
  • Covering of two existing Anaerobic Lagoons with high density polyethylene to capture biogas, and then burn the gas through the boiler to provide energy for the plant
  • Installation of a biogas train to pipe biogas from the CALs to a central flare and then to the existing 10MW boiler
  • Upgrade of Waste Water Treatment Plant with a new Dissolved Air Flotation unit.


Will food manufacturers crack under the pressure?

22.7 million jars of Vegemite are manufactured in Australia every year, meaning that 235 jars are produced every minute.

This minute detail from the food and beverage industry is indicative of how dynamic the sector is. In recent years, manufacturers around the world have been under growing pressure to increase production, while minimising costs as much as possible. 

Here, Jonathan Wilkins, marketing manager at European Automation, explains how food and beverage manufacturers can remain productive in the context of increasing raw material prices, energy prices and pressure from retailers.

According to the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), food prices in Australia have already risen by 2.4 percent compared to this quarter last year, following a long period during which they fell.

This price increase is emulated internationally and is partly associated with the increasing costs of raw materials and energy. It also reflects the pressure giant retailers have been exercising on food and beverage manufacturers to provide cheaper end products.

Between a rock and a hard place

This situation leaves manufacturers stuck between a rock and a hard place – they need to comply with retailer demands and respond to particularly precarious customer preferences, while also finding a way to reduce production expenses and not pass cost increases on to customers.

In a recent industry survey, 83 percent of the food and beverage manufacturers that responded expressed concerns that pricing pressure from retailers was threatening the quality of own-label products. 74 percent further estimated that this pressure was threatening to cut into new product development budgets.

As in any other industry, lack of research and development limits innovation, which in turn, reduces investment, growth and profit. While the food and beverage industry is one of the only ones that will definitely not die out – we all have to eat, don’t we? – its potential would be significantly limited should investment in innovation decrease.

How do you reduce costs?

Moving manufacturing operations to a cheaper territory stopped being a viable solution long ago. Cheap labour isn’t strategic in the long run and most industries have already turned their backs on this option.

Another way of protecting manufacturers’ interests would be to impose legal restrictions that ensure key obligations for retailers. One example would be guaranteeing that retailers give reasonable notice to change supply arrangements, that they deal fairly and lawfully and don’t constrain manufacturers to obtain goods, services or property from a preferred third party.

When these codes exist, they are often limited by the free market and competition law, which means that reducing manufacturing costs needs to come from somewhere else.

Think ‘lean’

The fastest and most efficient way to reduce costs is by designing and managing a manufacturing process that results in the lowest possible unit cost. This means taking a good look at your operations and identifying how they can be improved.

If you work in the industry, you probably know that many production lines today operate at less than 60 percent, which means there is considerable room for improvement.

Identifying planned losses (cleaning, preventative maintenance or decreasing product demand), operational losses (changeovers, stoppages or shortages) and quality losses (scrap products or defective materials) is the first step in making manufacturing lean.

The next step is utilising existing real-time data collection from the process equipment to improve Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Intelligent automation solutions help minimise process variability and maximise asset use and productive capacity.

Become flexible

A flexible manufacturing line allows companies to match their products to ever-changing consumer behaviours, which is essential in the food and beverage industry.

Batch automation allows the manufacturing of certain products in determinate batches, rather than in a continuous production process. Batch operations in the food and beverage industry include mixing, blending, mashing and fermenting, while continuous operations refer to baking, forming and pasteurisation.

A flexible production line guarantees consistent product quality for all batches, allows a more dynamic product offer and ensures efficient use of the shop floor.

Manage breakdowns

Breakdowns are inevitable, but the way they are managed can make or break a business. Lean manufacturing principles state that when a breakdown occurs, the first step is to try all the options that don’t incur additional costs.

Whether it’s a simple case of “turn-it-of-and-on-again”, checking the system for blockages or performing an emergency maintenance check you should use your internal resources first.

If the breakdown is due to faulty equipment, it’s likely that you’ll be able to resolve the situation by getting the part repaired or just purchasing a spare industrial automation component.

For an expert business like European Automation, most parts, including variable speeds drives (VSDs), motors, programmable logic controls (PLCs) and human machine interfaces (HMIs), are easier to find than you might think, even if they are obsolete.

Besides, a specialist like European Automation can deliver them in as little as nine hours, which minimises down time and reduces costs.

If all else fails, then – and only then – look at purchasing completely new equipment or refurbishing the production line.

Busting the myth

One of the myths surrounding the food and beverage industry is that it’s an out of date and old fashioned sector, which doesn’t offer exciting professional prospects. Much like the debate about whether Marmite is superior to Vegemite, you could argue about this for an infinite amount of time without progressing anywhere.

We believe the challenges and external pressures the food and beverage industry is faced with make the rhythm of innovation particularly swift.

At European Automation we have definitely sensed a shift towards intelligent automation, reflected in the purchases our clients make. Our food and beverage clients have started purchasing newer generations of PLCs, HMIs, digital sensors and transmitters.

This means that despite being under pressure, the food and beverage sectors is still a leader in innovation and has great potential for growth.

[European Automation is a UK headquartered supplier of industrial automation spare parts to industries worldwide. They offer a supply and repair service for PLCs, Servo Drives, HMIs, CNC Machine Tool System and Robots, comprising major manufacturers such as Siemens, Allen Bradley, Fanuc, ABB and others.]


Teys Australia rejects Port Alma live exports proposal

Teys Australia has rejected a proposal to use Port Alma for live exports, stating the city of Rockhampton would suffer.

General manager of corporate affairs at Teys, Tom Maguire told The Morning Bulletin that the move would result in less employment in the Rockhampton area,

"We understand from a producer's point of view they want to have more choices, but for the city of Rockhampton live exports out of Port Alma would be unequivocally bad," he said.

"It means decreased value into the economy and less people we're able to employ."

Teys is one of the biggest employers in the Rockhampton region and local MP, Bill Byrne said that while the Port Alma proposal may deliver some short to medium term gains, financial benefit in the long run remains to be seen.

Byrne echoed Maguire’s comments stating that the jobs will be under threat if the proposal gets the go-ahead.

"I am all about defending and creating local jobs, rather than exporting them overseas," said Byrne.

Maguire also said that while Teys is currently at capacity and unable to take cattle for some weeks, the market is going to be slowing down soon.

"We know the cattle market is going to be very tight in the coming years," he said.