Innovative technology addresses moisture transfer challenges in fruit based products

Global concentrated fruit product company, Taura Natural Ingredients have developed fruit pieces, pastes and flakes using its Ultra Rapid Concentration (URC) technology to address moisture transfer challenges associated with fruit based products.

URC concentrates fruit purées and blends to below 10 percent moisture in less than 60 seconds, enabling manufacturers of products such as cookies, cakes, breakfast cereals and snack bars to eliminate threats to texture and shelf life that can occur when using fruit ingredients due to ‘water activity’.

Taura Natural Ingredients chief executive, Peter Dehasque says that the technology's ability to control the water activity of its fruit pieces and flakes in each application opens up a wealth of product development opportunities for manufacturers.

“Significant technical obstacles have previously limited the use of fruit-based ingredients in many products with a long shelf life,” says Dehasque.

“Our fruit ingredients eliminate these barriers and mitigate moisture transfer in a range of long shelf life dry foods, enabling manufacturers to include fruit in products where it would otherwise be difficult without seriously compromising shelf life.”

 

TTIP could undermine food safety regulations, says CFS

A new report from US environmental advocacy organisation, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) suggests that food safety in the meat industry in particular, could be negatively affected by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) due to the differing food safety standards between countries.

The report titled, Trade Matters: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – Impact on Food and Farming, states that such trade agreements allow for the harmonisation of safety standards, enabling countries with lower standards to export product into countries that have strict safety regulations.

Author of the report, international program director at Center for Food Safety, Debbie Barker says that in reality, such agreements effectively change a nation’s food safety standards.

“Many people don't know that these secret negotiations may undermine efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to protect our food, our health, and our environment,” says Barker. “Trade agreements, such as TTIP, profoundly impact our food and our farms. Education is the first step toward participation.”

The report used Australia’s adoption of a privatised meat inspection system as a prime example stating; “When Australia adopted a privatised meat inspection system that lowered standards, the US maintained the country’s “equivalency” status. This resulted in increasing incidents of Australian meat imports being contaminated with faecal material and digestive tract contents.”

 

Fonterra and Nestle realign South American joint venture

New Zealand diary giant, Fonterra and Nestle have realigned their Dairy Partners Americas (DPA) joint venture and signed binding agreements covering the revised scope of the 10-year old partnership.

Set up in 2003, the partnership is the largest of its kind in South America, purchasing and processing over two billion litres of milk in Brazil alone.

The agreements, which were signed today in Sao Paulo Brazil, will see Fonterra take a 51 percent controlling stake in DPA Brazil, with Nestle holding the remaining 49 percent.

The deal will also cover the following:

  • Fonterra and its local partner acquire Nestle’s share of DPA Venezuela, and will continue to operate the business as a joint venture
  • Fonterra will sell its share in DPA’s milk power manufacturing business to Nestle and Nestle will buy Fonterra’s share in Ecuador
  • The DPA Brazil business will become focussed primarily on chilled dairy products, sold under Nestle brands.

CEO of Fonterra, Theo Springs, says that the DPA joint venture has performed well over the past 10 years, however the re-alignment of the partnership better reflects the respective strategies of Nestle and Fonterra in the region.

“We value our relationship with Nestle and this high-quality agreement will see our successful alliance continue,” Springs said in a statement to the ASX.

“The deal also enables the co-operative to drive more long-term value for its farmers and investors.”

Alex Turnbull, Fonterra’s managing director of Latin America says: “The region’s economies have undergone considerable change during the past 10 years,” says Turnbull.

“…A bigger stake in DPA Brazil means we will be extremely well placed to drive our volume and value growth strategy focusing on everyday nutrition offerings.”

“We are very proud with what we’ve achieved through the DPA alliance with Nestle and look forward to continuing to work together with a renewed focus,” says Turnbull.

Changes to the joint venture are subject to regulatory approval, along with other customary conditions. Both parties expect the transactions to be completed by the end of 2014 and Fonterra expects to receive a net cash payment of around NZ$96m from the interrelated transactions.

 

Heston Blumenthal goes native with new Coles range

British celebrity Chef Heston Blumenthal has graced Australian shores once again, this time to launch 15 new products under the Heston for Coles brand.

The partnership between Blumenthal and the supermarket was announced in September last year, and since then, Blumenthal has met with a host of local suppliers and manufacturers, with the aim of including as many native Australian ingredients as possible in his new Coles range.

Blumenthal, who holds multiple honorary degrees in recognition of his scientific approach to cooking, told Food Magazine that although it was exciting to experiment with Australia’s native ingredients, some are simply not cut out for the food manufacturing sector.

“We went through quite a number of varieties of bush tomato and there was one (variety) that was very astringent,” he said.

“The problem with some of the native ingredients is that they have to survive in pretty extreme conditions … So to have the ability to survive, (the ingredients) are generally going to be more bitter.”  

Although the bush tomato presented some hurdles, Blumenthal says that Australia has some of the best produce in the world to work with.

“I’ve been coming to Australia now for 12-14 years and the produce here is amazing. From the seafood obviously to the best beef in the world, and the truffles, but also the native produce."

Some of the native ingredients that Blumenthal incorporated into the Coles range includes lemon myrtle in the in the Slow Cooked Asian Pork, and Pepperberries in the Beef Sausages.

Another product in the range is the Heston Remarkable Beef Burger which earns its name from the innovative way the beef is processed.

“We’ve developed a technique during the mincing process… As the mince comes out of the machine you basically catch it and then roll it into a big sausage… then when you cut the patties, all of the fibres are running one way, so when you bite down onto the burger, it’s really quite delicate," he said.

Blumenthal also said that the range has broken new ground by developing a number of slow cooked, supermarket ready products.

“One of the many things that have excited me about this range is that I don’t think that there is any supermarket, certainly in Australia, or even the world… that has managed to slow cook a piece of meat for 30 hours sous vide, which is an amazing thing to be able to have that as part of the range."

Other products in the new range include Pork and Sage Sausages, Slow Cooked Beef Ribs with Pepperberries, Beef, Onion & Shiraz Pies, Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pies, Potato Topped Lamb & Rosemary Pies, Thyme and Lemon Roasted Chicken, together with a range of sauces.

Come September when the next Heston for Coles range will be rolled out, Blumenthal said that the inclusion of a few sweet treats are on the cards.

“We will be doing a sweet range,” he says. “We will be coming out with what I call the world’s best dunking biscuit. We did it for a show called Fantastical foods… [where] we looked at the science of dunking and tried to make a biscuit that can withstand it.”

The Heston for Coles range is now available at selected Coles stores across Australia.

Thousands rally against PepsiCo’s use of conflict palm oil

Earlier this week, thousands of people across the globe participated in over one hundred coordinated demonstrations calling upon PepsiCo and other multinational food and beverage manufacturers to eliminate the use of “conflict palm oil”.

Conflict palm oil, is a term used to describe palm oil that has been sourced from industrial palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia that have taken over millions of acres of formerly lush rainforest – the natural habitat of the orangutan.

Demonstrators gathered on university campuses, public squares and outside multiple PepsiCo factories to send a common message; “PepsiCo, the Power is #InYourPalm to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil.”

Gemma Tillack forest campaigner at environmental activist group, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) said that the level of enthusiasm to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil by people all across the world has increased dramatically.

“From the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia to cities across Australia, the U.S. and the UK, to the beaches of San Francisco and Brazil, students, families and ordinary people have organized themselves in droves today to send a clear and united message to PepsiCo and its peers: the time to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from your products is now,” said Tillack.

PepsiCo is one of the “Snack Food 20” group of companies targeted by RAN in their Conflict Palm Oil campaign. According to the group, PepsiCo consumes over 450,000 metric tonnes of palm oil annually for its snack food brands in the US, Mexico, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

Several of the major Snack Food 20 companies, including Mars, Kellogg, General Mills, Unilever and Nestle have recently responded to the heightened consumer awareness of palm oil production by announcing new commitments and strengthening their palm oil purchasing policies/ sourcing practices.

According to RAN, PepsiCo, still has no truly responsible palm oil purchasing policy.

PepsiCo recently issued a strengthened palm oil commitment on May 17th, however RAN together with Greenpeace, the Union of Concerned Scientists and SumOfUs.org say that PepsiCo’s new commitment does not go far enough.  

“While it is encouraging that PepsiCo has acknowledged it has a problem with Conflict Palm Oil, the company’s recent commitments fall short in several key areas,” said Tillack.

“For PepsiCo to meet consumer expectations, it must adopt a binding, time bound policy with an action plan to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its products that includes full traceability of palm oil back to its source and verifiable safeguards for human rights, forests and peatlands.”

 

Big food lagging in climate change initiatives: Oxfam

Oxfam released a report today calling out ‘laggards’ within the food and beverage industry who they say need to do more to address climate change.

The report titled Standing on the Sidelines – why food and beverage companies must do more to tackle climate change, lists Kellogg’s and General Mills among 10 global food brands that need to “up their game” on reducing emissions within their supply chain.

Kelly Dent, Oxfam Australia’s food policy specialist said that the top 10 food and beverage companies emit more greenhouse gases than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined.

“If they were a single country, they would be the 25th most polluting country in the world,” said Dent.

“The ‘Big 10’ companies could cut their emissions by 80 million tonnes by 2020 – when global emissions need to start reducing in order for the world to stay within a safe climate – which would be the equivalent to taking all Australian cars off the road.”

The report lists the “Big 10” as Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever. According to Oxfam, half of the emissions from these companies come from the production of agricultural materials from their supply chains, however these emissions are not covered by the reduction targets that the companies have set.

According to Dent, a number of the companies listed have admitted that climate change was already starting to impact on their profitability.

Unilever allegedly loses around $444 million per year, while General Mills reported losing 62 days of production in the first fiscal quarter of 2014 alone due to extreme weather events that are a result of a changing climate.

“Too many of today’s food and beverage giants are crossing their fingers and hoping that climate change won’t disrupt the food system, imagining someone else will fix it,” says Dent.

“As companies that are deeply exposed to climate impacts, it’s in the interest of food and beverage companies to see a more ambitious national and global response. We are therefore urging them to also speak up for stronger government policies and programs to tackle climate change.”

 

Global dairy market bottoming out, Dairy Australia

According to Dairy Australia, the global dairy market is slowing signs of bottoming out as prices continue to slowly decline.

Global Dairy Trade prices last week took a 1.1 percent hit to represent $US3950 a tonne, losing around 22.4 percent since the start of February – a key indicator that prices are “bottoming out”, according to Dairy Australia analyst, John Droppert.

Droppert told The Weekly Times that the declining auction price was a result of improved farmgate prices in the southern hemisphere coupled with the northern hemispheres peak season. Additionally, he said that the decline reflected China’s recent absence from the market, and potential discounting from New-Zealand co-operatives in order to clear product before the end of the financial year.

“Commodities have come off the last few weeks, it confirms the correction of the international markets and as a consequence we will expect lower farmgate prices than this coming season,” Droppert told The Weekly Times. “Heading into next season we are in a much better place than 2012-13 … we are back at the kind of commodity price levels of 2010-11 to 2011-12.

“We've fallen back into what is still pretty good territory.”

Bruce Donnison, ingredients and operations manager at Fonterra Australia attributes the decline to increasing supply through the global dairy market.

“In the near term, we foresee a continued softening in the market as increased production continues to come on to the market — especially from the EU and US,” he said.

“The impact of this correction in commodity prices on milk price will unfold over the next few months.”

 

Murray Goulburn to potentially list on the ASX

Victorian dairy cooperative, Murray Goulburn has outlined plans that will potentially see the processor generate $500m in capital over the coming three to five years.

ABC News reports that a discussion paper was recently sent out to suppliers and shareholders discussing the proposed changes, which includes potentially listing the cooperative on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

According to the paper, Murray Goulburn is hoping to rejuvenate its manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure by raising capital through the issuing of shares in a unit trust.

The paper outlines that a unit trust would be a far more preferable way of raising funds compared to undertaking a $500m investment purely from bank debt funding, as an increase in bank debt would mean the cooperative would be ‘very close to reaching its prudent and permitted peak borrowing levels.’

However, unit trust holders would not gain any voting rights over MG’s operations, meaning that the cooperative’s active suppliers who hold voting shares will retain their voting rights.

It is hoped that the structural changes would also encourage new suppliers to join the cooperative, resulting in the increase of Murray Goulburn’s milk supply and ultimately delivering a higher farm gate milk price.

Should the structural changes be approved, implementation would most likely take place in early 2015.

 

Food processors should relocate to capitalise on Asian food boom, industry analyst

According to market strategist David Thomason, Australian food processors will most likely be unable to capitalise in the Asian boom food unless they move their processing facilities to the continent, or engage in joint ventures with Asian companies.

Thomason who is a former marketing executive at Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA,) says that in addition to potentially relocating processing activities offshore, Australian competition policy needs to encourage larger Australian companies to merge.

He says that by merging larger companies, Australia’s ability to compete on a global level would be dramatically increased –  sighting New Zealand’s dairy co-operative, Fonterra as a key example of a successful international-scale player.

"The future for food manufacturing for Asia will be within Asia," Thomason told Farm Weekly.

"We have to be part of the world food scene, not just local manufacturers making products for the domestic market and looking to export some surplus."

Thomason sights the strong Australian dollar as well as exceptionally high production and labour costs as key inhibitors to the Australian food processing industry.

"Australian businesses must invest wisely in the Asian dining boom to gain capital growth, scale and profits," said Thomason at a recent food industry seminar.

"Safe and efficient food processing can now be undertaken at low-cost stable, centrally located Asian centres servicing billions of consumers, rather than just 20 million Australians."

Thomason says that while the idea of maintaining food manufacturing within Australia may be preferable for some, it is not a strategy that will enable the country to compete internationally.

"Having food plants based in Australia has a nice feeling about it, but we really need to think of Australia as part of the world scene," he said.

"…We need to partner product innovation with processing innovation and market understanding."

 

Bees akin to canaries in a coal mine for climate change, researcher says

New research from Adelaide’s Flinders University has found that bees will play important part in future food security due to their sensitivity to changes in climate.

Scott Groom, PhD student at Flinders University has engaged mathematical modelling to identify changes in bee populations over the past 20,000 years across the South Pacific region and says that exceptionally large declines in bee populations coincided with changes in temperature, ABC News reports.

“We see a really large decline in bee populations that coincides with the last glacial maximum (ice age), at which time we had lowering sea levels and everything getting much cooler and drier," he said.

"[Bees are] key pollinators in almost all terrestrial ecosystems and there's a really tight relationship there for them to influence ecosystems positively.

"If you see these changes in bee populations you can infer changes in the flowering plants of those regions as well, so they're really important from biodiversity’s perspective. In more recent times they're also very important for human populations because they also pollinate crops and things that are important for food security."

Groom says that prior to the ice age when temperatures rose, many bee species migrated to cooler areas, with only one hardy species able to adapt to the warmer temperature. 

"They're almost canaries in the coal mine, you can see that they're going to be the first sort of species to be impacted by changes in climate," Groom said.

"…The species that are found in these lower elevations have shown this plasticity to change and they're the ones we really want to utilise in terms of agriculture because they are generalist pollinators and are found through the archipelagos [of the South Pacific].

"By trying to understand their general biology, we can try to ensure that their populations are at their highest around agricultural crops so that we can use them as almost insurance against these declines that we're seeing in honey bee populations, which is our number one crop pollinator."

The study titled; Parallel responses of bees to Pleistocene climate change in three isolated archipelagos of the Southwestern Pacific, has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

 

Australian Made gives evidence at country-of-origin labelling inquiry

The Australian Made Campaign appeared before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry in Canberra this morning to give evidence to into its country of origin food labelling inquiry.

The Australian Made campaign's chief executive Ian Harrison, together with compliance and policy manager Lisa Crowe, made recommendations to the committee on how food labelling laws could be improved to support Australian growers and manufacturers. 

Harrison and Crowe stated that an effective country-of-origin labelling system that is both understood and trusted by consumers, will help combat companies that are “attempting to mislead consumers regarding their products’ true country-of-origin.”

“Today we again recommended that the regulations under Australian Consumer Law fall into line with the more stringent rules for using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo, thereby eradicating some of the loopholes that currently exist,” Harrison said.

“Food products with high levels of imported content which undergo simple processing in Australia cannot use the green-and-gold Australian Made logo, and neither should they be able to claim that they were manufactured here under Australian Consumer Law.

“Consistent food labelling laws would provide consumers with greater certainty in the choices they make at the checkout, and support growers and manufacturers of genuine Aussie products.”

A number of Australian food processors including SPC Ardmona, Simplot and McCain have sighted the steady influx of cheap imported products together with confusing country-of-origin labelling as key factors that have  affected their market share and profitability.

“We are thrilled that this inquiry is being conducted within the House of Representatives structure – the seat of Government – because there is great potential for positive changes to be made,” Mr Harrison said.

Further evidence by other interested parties will be heard in Sydney tomorrow.

 

Track and trace – the benefits of global standards

GS1 Australia’s Andrew Steele reports on the importance of traceability standards and other emerging local and global supply chain initiatives.

Enhanced product traceability, faster recalls and improved consumer safety should be at the top of the agenda when an organisation is detailing its supply chain process.

Traceability is key to consumer safety and an important part of any organisation’s product recall management plan, particularly in the food industry. It makes recalls and withdrawals more efficient. It ensures proper information about unsafe products can be given to consumers in the case of a recall. Not having an effective traceability process is one of the leading causes of product recall incidents escalating into a crisis.

A Product Traceability Expert Group set up by the European Commission released the Research Support for an Informal Expert Group on Product Traceability Report in December 2013, recognising the adoption of GS1 Standards as a best practice for improving supply chain traceability and consumer product safety.

GS1 was selected as one of the 15 expert members of the Product Traceability Expert Group, which was established in 2011 by the European Commission’s Directorate General Health and Consumers to address traceability and product safety issues.

Adoption of traceability standards was just one of several recommendations highlighted in the report, released by the group following two years of industry-wide dialogue. These recommendations focus on benefits for not only businesses and consumers, but also for market surveillance authorities with the common goal of protecting public safety and health.

As supply chains continue to span the globe and consumers purchase more products online, the ability to track and trace products helps properly identify dangerous products and remove them from the supply chain more effectively.

The group’s report outlined the following recommendations:

  • For economic operators, the group recommends labelling consumer products with product identification codes and automating traceability systems using global standards such as ISO and GS1 Standards for product identification, data capture and exchange in order to strengthen consumer safety and improve traceability between trading partners across multiple countries.
  • For market surveillance and other authorities, the group recommends including the use of barcodes in training and conducting traceability assessments in cooperation with private sectors as well as developing best practices to collect information about dangerous products when they cross EU borders.
  • For consumers, the group suggests raising more awareness on the importance of product identification and helping consumers alert authorities about suspicious or potentially dangerous products.

How can the employment of global standards help improve traceability and adhere to new regulations around traceability?
GS1 Standards are used around the world to identify products and capture, record and share data about these products. This information is key in laying the groundwork for traceability. Reliable data cannot exist if traceability systems are not automated. These automated systems rely on a common language of standards in order to “talk” to each other when capturing and sharing data.

How do consumers benefit from improved product traceability?
In the event of a safety issue or recall, dangerous products can be properly identified and removed from the market faster. In addition, efficient, standards-based traceability systems improve the accuracy of product information and labels.

As supply chains often span the globe across different industries and involve raw materials, additives, other ingredients and packaging through to Point-of-Sale (POS), ensuring traceability throughout the whole supply chain has become more challenging.

The ability for a company to successfully track and trace their products through their supply chain and retrieve them from the marketplace is a key component of a product recall event.

GS1 Recallnet is GS1 Australia’s secure web-based portal for the management of recall and withdrawal notifications. Based on global GS1 Standards and best practices, GS1 Recallnet simplifies and automates the exchange of information between suppliers, distributors and retailers as well as government agencies such as Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

By increasing the speed and accuracy of recall and withdrawal notifications, introducing global standards for traceability significantly decreases business and consumer risk, reduces costs, protects brands and ultimately helps improve food safety in Australia.

Why be standard?
Well-designed supply chain standards play a very important role in day-to-day business operations because:

  • They reduce complexity between and within organisations.
  • They make it easier to make the right decisions about purchasing hardware, software and equipment.
  • They reduce the costs of implementation, integration and maintenance.
  • They facilitate collaboration between trading partners in the supply chain, in a many-to-many relationship, making it quicker and easier to identify items, share information, order and receive parts or ingredients from suppliers, or ship goods to customers.
  • They help improve patient safety and reduce medication errors.
  • They enable global traceability and authentication.

Andrew Steele is Industry Manager – Food & Beverage at GS1 Australia.
 

tna acquires US food processing equipment supplier FOODesign

Global food packaging solutions supplier, tna has announced its acquisition of Oregon based food processing equipment supplier, FOODesign.

The acquisition will see tna expand its current portfolio to offer food manufacturers a broad selection of processing solutions including FOODesign fryers, cookers, speciality roasting equipment, as well as baking and toasting ovens.

Managing director of tna, Michael Green said the move to purchase FOODesign will enable the company to meet the industry’s growing need for flexible and efficient turnkey solutions.

“With FOODesign providing equipment to many of the top 100 food processing companies in the world, the acquisition gives tna access to all the necessary skills, networks, market knowledge and relationships to provide customers with a new choice in processing equipment – from fryers and feed systems through to packaging and controls. We are confident that we can add value to our customers’ entire line and achieve significant economies of scale.”

Joseph Mistretta, president of FOODesign said that joining the tna group represents an exciting prospects for both the company and its customers.

“Up until now, our business has primarily focused on North America. Our acquisition by tna instantly opens up a wealth of opportunities, giving us access to a global and extensive sales network, and maximising our ability to service our international customer base more effectively.”

 

Arla introduces advanced whey protein concentrate into lifestyle nutrition market

European dairy company, Arla Foods Ingredients has launched its advanced whey protein concentrate, Lacprodan DI-7017 into the lifestyle nutrition market.

Initially launched into the clinical nutrition market in 2012, Lacprodan DI-7017  is a concentrate rich in the essential and branched chain amino acids that are scientifically proven to optimise the body’s muscle-building and satiety response mechanisms, and is now available for companies that are looking to tap into the ever increasing demand for high-protein products among mainstream consumers.

According to Arla, the ingredient offers quicker digestion time than casein, and is suitable for a range of food and beverage applications including long-life UHT drinks, water-based beverages and soups.

Peter Schouw Andersen, Business Development Manager for Health & Performance at Arla Foods ingredients, says that is order to capitalise on the demand for high-protein products, food and beverage manufacturers need to develop products that are easily accessible to the average consumer.

The key to tapping into this growth opportunity is to offer consumers lifestyle protein-based products that are delicious and easy to consume, since these shoppers are not willing to make the taste and convenience sacrifices accepted by niche protein consumers such as body-builders – Lacprodan DI-7017 enables food and beverage companies to do this," he says.

"It offers all the proven nutrition characteristics of whey proteins, but is also easy to use in mainstream products that consumers will love and be willing to pay a premium for."

 

Australian cake manufacturer on brink of collapse

An Australian cake manufacturer with a 70 year history is on the brink of collapse.

Big Sister Foods, which employees around 100 staff across its two NSW manufacturing sites, had PPB Advisory appointed as receivers on Wednesday afternoon to undertake an ‘urgent review’ of the business.

PPB Advisory’s Daniel Walley said that stakeholders will be updated on any meaningful developments regarding the review when it is practically possible to do so, The Age reports.

"We are undertaking an urgent review of the business with a view to preparing Big Sister Foods for sale as a going concern,'' said Walley in a statement.

'We will work with all stakeholders including employees and their representatives, customers and suppliers to ensure the business continues to operate effectively.''

Big Sister Foods was founded by Kenneth Higgins in 1945 and supplies cakes, muffins, mince pies and cupcakes to Australia’s major retail chains.

 

Australian manfacturers win as Abbott promotes Chinese trade deals

Australian manufacturers are set to benefit from a reported 20 deals that have been signed as a result of prime minister Tony Abbott’s recent Australian trade promotional visit to China.

The deals consisted of 13 commercial agreements, and another seven agreements which are ‘significant’ in nature. Victorian dairy company, Pactum Dairy Group was one of the success stories of the trip, signing a contract to supply 25 million liters of milk annually to Bright Dairy of China, the Weekly Times reports.

Trade minister Andrew Robb said that the Australian trade promotion – which took around 600 Australian companies to Shanghai and other regional cities – has provided a solid platform for Australian manufacturers to develop strong business relationships.

“Even more importantly, there are also the intangibles,” said Robb. “We built trust. We built relationships.

“And undoubtedly we built momentum in the free-trade negotiations — both by showing the strong commercial ties between our countries and the political will for an agreement.”

According to an analysis by Austrade, the combined commercial value of the 20 agreements is estimated to be worth $894m, with an additional $57m generated in separate agreements which encourages Chinese investment in Australian companies.

 

WA brewery forced to destroy 140,000 cartons of beer

Western Australian brewery, Gage Roads has been forced to throw out 140,000 cartons of beer, equating to a $1.12m loss in gross profit.

The company’s Palmyra plant experienced a processing fault recently which led to a compromise in the quality of the product, The West reports. The company said that it has since taken corrective action to ensure that such an event doesn’t occur in the future.

"Whilst the cause of the fault has been identified and corrective action is being taken, products manufactured during the period have not met the company's strict quality assurance standards and will not be released to market," Gage Roads said in a statement.

"This loss of gross profit will directly impact earnings in the second half of FY14."

John Hoedemaker, managing director of the brewery said that while the recent event will impact on profits, he is confident that the company will remain on track to achieve its financial future objectives.

"Our strong sales growth, customer relationships and long-term objectives of the company are on track and I remain committed to delivering on our four-year plan, including earnings growth through diversification and growth of revenue streams, improvement in manufacturing costs and taking advantage of the burgeoning craft beer market," he said.

 

Chobani secures US$750m from TPG

Private equity firm, TPG has announced a US$750m investment in New York based Greek yoghurt maker, Chobani in order to help the business expand its share in foreign markets.

Although the deal with TPG is in the form of a loan, The New York Times reports that TPG will also be receiving warrants that could potentially allow it to obtain up to a 35% equity stake in Chobani.

It is reported that the warrant will convert to equity should Chobani reach specific goals, with the primary goal being that of an initial public offering, or other sale.

According to the founder, chairman and chief executive of the yoghurt company, Hamdi Ulukaya, the investment will enable the company to create more innovative products and expand into new markets.

"Chobani has experienced tremendous growth and leads one of the most exciting aisles in the supermarket,” Ulukaya said in a statement. “This investment gives us additional resources to build on our momentum, fund our exciting new innovations and reach new people. Most importantly, it positions us to further deliver on our vision to provide better food for more people."

"TPG's commitment represents a belief in our vision and further validates the strength of our brand and business. We're excited to embark on this next phase with TPG," he said.

 

Aussie Farmers Direct to enter yoghurt market

Grocery delivery business, Aussie Farmers Direct has announced that it will be entering the yoghurt market following keen interest from a number of domestic and Asian buyers.

The company recently installed yoghurt manufacturing equipment at its Camperdown factory in Victoria and aims to have commenced commercial yoghurt production by June this year. The Camperdown factory – or Camperdown Dairy as it is now known, currently produces both conventional and organic milk and butter.

Chief executive of the Camperdown Dairy, Peter Skene said that the Dairy had received significant interest both domestically and from overseas buyers for yoghurt and butter when it initially started looking into the project around six months ago, The Weekly Times reports.

Skene says interest from China and Singapore was the result of exhibiting at a number of trade shows throughout the Asian region over the past 18 months.

Skene says that the demand for high quality yoghurt is highly encouraging.

“Sales of yoghurt are flying along at the moment,” he said.

“In addition to our own needs, there has been discussion with a number of companies for much larger quantities of yoghurt.

“We are big enough to get into the (yoghurt) business but small enough to be flexible.”

Skene says that in addition to creating to up ten additional jobs in the short to medium term, Camperdown Dairy will also be looking to expand its portfolio further to include other dairy products in the future.

 

Major food and automation manufacturers participate in Girls Experience Industry Day

A host of major food, beverage and automation manufacturers including ABB, Goodman Fielder, Mondelez and Coca-Cola Amatil participated in the Girls Experience Industry Day which took place in Melbourne last week and Sydney earlier this week.

Organised by The National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO) the events were designed to introduce and encourage girls aged between 14-17 to consider careers in operational roles within the R&D, innovation and technology fields.

The open days included a morning site visit to one of the participating companies where the girls learnt about the technologies and skills required in the respective businesses. The site visits were followed by a careers fair where all the participating companies came together to showcase their company and the careers available.

Rebecca Roberts, country HR manager for ABB in Australia said that ABB was pleased to participate in the event. “The girls heard from our female graduates and senior managers on their experience in working in a global engineering company and also had hands-on fun interacting with ABB’s robots and building solar powered toy cars,” said Roberts. “These are the kinds of technologies that we work with every day.”

Angela Tatlis, Chair of NAWO said that it is important to encourage girls to think about potential career opportunities at a young age.

“NAWO is creating a number of development programs and networking opportunities for women in industry, but it’s also important that we attract and engage young women in their formative years of thinking about which career path they will take. Understanding how a business runs, ie ‘the engine room’, is critical for women to be strong leaders and we are working with industry to create opportunities for women” said Tatlis.

“If you look at engineering, females comprise approximately 10 per cent of the Australian engineering labour force. This is a very low number when you consider women make up 51 percent of all professionals in Australia.”