Forrest and Elders announce live export plan for China

Mining tycoon Andrew Forrest and Australian agribusiness Elders are pursuing a deal to further open up live cattle exports to China.

The deal will see Forrest and Elders capitalise on China’s increasing taste for Australian beef, and experts believe that the opening of the Chinese market will cause a surge in the value of grazing land and encourage investment in larger cattle herds – leading to an overall increase in prices, The West Australian reports.

Forrest and Elders have been working together to create a supply chain into China since last year, and recent talks with senior Chinese officials in WA surrounding the relaxing of Beijing’s strict quarantine laws represent a significant step towards the venture becoming a reality.

Both Forrest and Elders have allegedly been in talks with a number of Chinese processors in relation to the deal including a pork and chicken processor in the Hainan district.

The Western Australian state government has also been working towards developing a live export trade with China. Rob Delane, the director general of WA’s Department of Agriculture and Food said that the department was ‘optimistic’ that the Chinese government will approve the deal.

“We are very optimistic, and doing a lot of work at the moment, that a significant market for live cattle for slaughter can be opened up," he said.

Delane noted that the Australian cattle industry was already struggling to keep up with the live export trade to Indonesia and other South-East Asian countries, stating that at this stage herd numbers were “clearly a limitation”.  

Forrest however has increased his ownership of pastoral land to than 720,000ha in anticipation of such a deal coming to fruition.

 

Labor pressures Nash to resign over star rating scandal

Assistant health minister Fiona Nash has been censured by parliament for misleading the senate and failing to produce documents that allegedly proved she had adequate provisions in place that addressed her chief of staff’s co-ownership in a junk food lobby.

Nash told the senate that she had appropriate provisions in place to ensure that her former chief of staff, Alistair Furnival’s involvement with lobby group, Australian Public Affairs (APA) did not interfere with his role in the Health department.

“In short, both Mr Furnival and Ms Cain (Furnival’s wife, head of  APA) have taken proper and appropriate steps to prevent conflicts or potential conflicts between the private business and his duties as my chief of staff by withdrawing from any work for clients in the health portfolio,” Nash told parliament last month.

Both Nash and Furnival came under fire last month when the Health Star Rating website – which was created to support a healthy eating initiative in the form of a new front-of-pack rating system – was pulled down under Furnival’s orders only eight hours after it was officially launched.

SMH reports that parliament had given Nash until Wednesday afternoon to produce documents that outlined such provisions, and her failure to do so has led to labor to call for her resignation, sighting that her position is no longer tenable.

A vote passed in the senate with the support of both labor and the Greens. According to SMH, only three such censure motions have passed in the last 10 years.

“I should not need to move this censure, the prime minister should have acted,'' Labor senator Penny Wong said. ''The Senate, the press gallery, the Australian public, have been treated with contempt.''

Prime Minister Abbott however is continuing to standby Nash, stating that “not a single person has done anything wrong in this case … not only is there no fire, there is not even any smoke.'' 

In addition to criticism from the labor government, health officials including Dr Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has also raised concerns over the interference of lobby groups in the health sector, stating that the Australian food industry needs to ‘stop undermining’ the Health Star Rating system.

“It is time that the food industry and its peak Council did the right thing and put their full support behind a bold initiative that will help people make healthier food choices and take some pressure of the health Budget,” he said.

 

Sunbeam’s proposed sultana prices a slap in the face, DFA

Peak body for the dried fruits industry, Dried Fruits Australia has urged Sunbeam Foods to review its prices, sighting that they have either remained stagnant or have become worse than last year.

Chairman of the group, Mark King says that the only proposed increase in price was that of the two highest grades of sultanas which rose by 2.5 percent. King is calling for a review of the other varieties considering that the global price of sultanas has increased and that the Australian dollar has depreciated by 15 percent.

King told The Weekly Times Now that in addition to low prices, Sunbeam had raised the penalty for brown fruit by $100 per tonne, representing between $200 and $250 per tonne less than light grade fruit. King has described the changes as a “slap in the face”.

King noted that in contrast to Sunbeam, Australian Premium Dried Fruits – sunbeam’s main competitor – had increased its prices across all grades of light and dark sultanas with the exception of the top five-crown light grade which remained at the same price.

Fruit supply manager for Sunbeam Foods, Chris Ellis has allegedly met with both representatives of Dried Fruits Australia and growers to discuss the pricing strategy for 2014.

 

AFGC welcomes Victorian Food to Asia Action Plan

Peak lobby group, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has welcomed the release of the Victorian Government’s Food to Asia Action Plan.

The plan focuses on improved market access, efficient supply chains, support for R&D and innovation, a reduction in regulatory costs and increased capital investment.

The AFCG says that the plan is a positive step towards enhancing competitiveness and growth within the domestic food processing sector.

“Food production and processing is one of the great strengths of the Victorian economy,” said AFGC CEO Gary Dawson. “Processed food and grocery products generate over $6 billion in exports from Victoria and the industry directly employs almost 100,000 Victorians, with around half in regional and rural parts of the state.”

Dawson congratulated Victorian Premier, Dr Denis Napthine on developing the plan, stating that the package will help the state ‘play to its competitive strengths’ in the international marketplace and will as reduce ‘regulatory burdens’.

“Improved market access into high value Asian markets is vital for the future of Australia's food and grocery sector. The Action Plan’s focus on reducing tariff and technical barriers to trade, in concert with concluding Free Trade Agreements will provide benefits that will flow to a broad range of Australian food and grocery manufacturing companies, large and small,” said Dawson.

“Excessive regulation acts as a hand brake on the competitiveness of Australian food and beverage producers and processors. The Victorian Government’s commitment to regulatory reform is an acknowledgment that the regulation burden directly discourages innovation in food products, increases costs and ultimately impacts on exporters’ ability to compete on a global stage.”

Dawson’s comments come just after the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) announced that agricultural exports to China have doubled in five years to represent $7.3b in 2013

 

Food industry must stop undermining the star rating system, AMA

Dr Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has accused the Australian food industry of ‘undermining’ the Health Star Rating System.

Hambleton said that the AMA was particularly concerned that the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) had been in touch with assistant health minister Fiona Nash’s office on the day that the Health Star Rating website was pulled.

“Even though they worked closely with the public health sector on the development of the new system, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has lobbied against the consumer-friendly food labels since they were agreed by the Federal and State governments last year,” said Hambleton.

Hambleton says that the Health Star website was an important and necessary tool that was intended to inform consumers on how the system worked before it was rolled out nationally.

The website was pulled down only eight hours after it was officially launched.  Health department officials initially claimed that the website was a ‘draft’ and that it was ‘made live inadvertently’, however it was later revealed that Nash's chief of staff Alistair Furnival – who is a co-owner of his wife’s lobbying firm Australian Public Affairs – ordered health officials to pull the site down.

“The system’s website was to be a major part of the public education campaign to make people aware of the new system and how it works,’ said Hambleton. “It is important that consumers are fully across the system before the new labels appear on supermarket shelves.

 “It is time that the food industry and its peak Council did the right thing and put their full support behind a bold initiative that will help people make healthier food choices and take some pressure off the health Budget,” he said.

 

Agricultural exports to China worth $7.3b, ABARES

According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), agricultural exports to China have doubled in five years to represent $7.3b in 2013. 

The report states that the surge in demand is driven largely by the increase consumption of high-value products such as beef, lamb and dairy goods.

However, agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce has warned that Australia needs to produce high quality products and continue to innovate in order to keep demand high, or risk losing the market to competing nations. He also stated that Australia can’t rely on is geographical proximity to China as a selling point, News.com.au reports.

"It's not right that we think because we are here we are going to prevail," said Joyce at an ABARES conference in Canberra.

"We have to be here with the best product, the right prices, it has got to be quality or it won't sell."

Executive director of ABARES, Karen Schneider agreed with Joyce stating that while Asia provides a prime opportunity for Australian agriculture, global competition is still high and that Australia needs to increase productivity growth to remain competitive.

"That (productivity) will define the future success of Australian agriculture," she said.

The ABARES reports found that Australian exports of veal and beef reached $406m last year compared to only $10m in 2007-08, while fruit exports increased by $20m to a total of $28m over the same period.

ABARES attributes the surge in demand to China’s growing middle glass, who are demanding more Western-style foods, coupled with Australia’s reputation for clean and green food production.

 

Tomato tariff will punish consumers, Woolworths

Supermarket giant Woolworths has said that tariffs on ‘dumped’ Italian organic tomatoes will directly affect consumers.

In February this year, the Anti-Dumping commission announced a 5.06 percent tariff on prepared and preserved tomatoes exported from Italy with a 26.35 percent tariff applying to ‘uncooperative producers’.

The tariff was introduced after fruit and vegetable processor, SPC Ardmona successfully applied to the anti-dumping commission to introduce a penalty on exported produce sighting that the domestic industry has suffered material damage as a result of an influx in cheap imports.

However Woolworths has now warned that consumers will have to bear the brunt of the charges should they wish to purchase tinned organic tomatoes as there is no real Australian for them, The Weekly Times Now reports.

“To meet the needs of consumers, Woolworths imports canned organic tomatoes from Italy as there is no Australian supplier of these products,” said the supermarket.

“While still a relatively small part of the total food market, organic foods are an imported segment and are strongly preferred by some Australian consumers.”

Woolworths says that 96 percent of the fruit and vegetables that it sells are Australian grown with the remaining four percent of imported food only sourced to cover seasonal shortages.

The ruling to impose tariffs has also received criticism from the European Union who have accused the Anti-Dumping Commission of flouting World Trade Agreement rules in its inquiry. The EU also accused the commission of failing to conduct a proper impact analysis.

According to the Weekly Times Now, Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane is expected to announce a final ruling on the tariffs by March 21.

 

Narrowing global food supply runs climate change risk

New research has found that decreasing versatility in diets around the globe is making the food supply more susceptible to climate change related threats.

Co-author of the report Luigi Guarino from the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) says that higher living standards has resulted in the increased consumption of protein and fat, and in turn led to a “standard food supply” of crops, meat and dairy products, SBS News reports.

Guarino says that the narrowed food supply is becoming far more vulnerable to extreme weather events including drought – together with associated pests and diseases – and will be likely to intensify as a flow on effect of climate change. He also stated that human diets have become 36 percent more similar in the past 50 years.

"As the global population rises and the pressure increases on our global food system, so does our dependence on the global crops and production systems that feed us. The price of failure of any of these crops will become very high," said Guarino.

The research drew on data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and assessed more than 50 crops across 150 countries between 1961 and 2009. The data revealed that several food crops including wheat, rice, corn and potatoes are just as popular today in relative terms as they were 50 years ago, however crops such as rye, millet and sweet potatoes which were eaten widely 50 years ago, have now experienced a drop in consumption.

According to the research, wheat is now the major staple crop in 97.4 percent of countries.

The move to a more narrow 'western style' diet has been attributed to the rising middle class in the developing world.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal this week.

 

Tassal receives conditional approval to build $11m fish factory

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted conditional approval for Tasmanian salmon company, Tassal to build and operate an $11m fish factory near Triabunna.

The factory which will process all the fish waste generated in Tasmania and turn it into fish oil, health products and fish feed, is expected to provide an employment boost in the area by generating 30 jobs during construction, and 20 jobs when the factory commences operations at the end of the year, The Mercury reports.

Mayor Bertrand Cadart of the Glamorgan Spring Bay Council said that he was ‘confident’ that the plans will gain full approval.

“We want this to be on the move as soon as possible, it is very important to Triabunna and Glamorgan Spring Bay,” said Cadart.

The EPA has imposed a number of conditions on the factory relating to odour and wastewater in response to concerns from local residents, coupled with any potential negative impact that the factory may have on the local tourism industry.

John Ramsey, chair of the EPA said that seven of the nine representations were in support of the development.

“The two public representations that were not supportive were about the potential odour impacts on tourists and residents and the proposed irrigation of the wastewater at the site,’’ Ramsay said.

“The Board has recommended site specific odour conditions to ensure the facility meets the requirements of the state Air Policy.”

 

SA state government to invest $6m in food and wine if re-elected

The South Australian government has announced that it will invest $6m to boost food, wine and fibre production under the agribusiness accelerator program should it get re-elected this month.

Gail Gago, Agriculture, Food and Fisheries minister, launched the accelerator program last year which is designed to provide funding for new businesses and promote SA agricultural products overseas, The ABC News. reports.

"I'm really pleased to be able to announce our agribusiness accelerator program,” Gago told ABC News.

"It's a number of really important measures to help grow and help producers and businesses expand their markets and improve their information base."

Under the program, five key areas will receive funding including:

  • The Functional Food Focus Program which is designed to boost research and development in the functional foods sector will receive a $1.1m investment over a two year period. This includes products such as omega three enriched eggs.
  • $1.35m will be invested over a four year period in the promotion of the South Australian Premium Food and Wine brand in key Asian and US markets.
  • The Agribusiness Investment Attraction Program will receive $1.15m over a four year period to develop a website that will act as a resource to provide investment opportunities within the agribusiness sector in the state.
  • $550,000 will be allocated over a two year period to the New Horizons soil project, and $1.3m will be spend of an Agribusiness Consultants Program to provide advice and a case management service for businesses to help them manage operations and risk management.

 

Annual report uncovers top eating trends for 2014

According to Weber Shandwick’s recently released Food Forward 2014 report, seven key eating trends are predicted to rise in 2014, including freekeh and 'mutant' food combinations.

“Now in its third year, the report is an anticipated industry tool to help replace food trends throughout the year,” said Ava Lawler, the managing director of Weber Shandwick Australia.

This year’s report saw the global public relations firm, which has an office in Sydney, survey more than 1,000 Australian consumers and food experts including food editors, chefs, bloggers, nutritionists and senior business executives.

 “Australia has a growing passion to explore new cuisines and flavours. Our latest Food Forward report shows that our country’s food culture is being reshaped, embracing a whole new combination of foodstuffs in 2014,” said Lawler

Based on the firm’s research, she predicts four trends will prove particularly popular among Australians.

“As our food palettes diversify further, you will see flavours inspired by the heritage of our chefs, the continuing rise of Korean and Scandinavian cuisine, mutant foods and freekeh expected to be big hits.”

1. The demise of international flavour boundaries 

Dishes that combine the traditional cuisine of more than one country, coined ‘mutant’ foods, such as sushi tacos and ramen burgers are expected to rise in 2014, as is South American and Korean food and the ancient grain freekeh.

2. Wholesome home-cooking prevails

Based on its findings that almost half or 48 percent of respondents are fans of home-style cooking, meanwhile 19 percent enjoy the fine dining experience, Weber Shandwick predicts home entertaining will boom in 2014. 

The preference for home-style cooking will see restaurants continue to casualise their offering, and food experts expect the next 12 months will see single-item restaurants rise in popularity and chefs devise more simple menus. 

3. The rejected vegetable

Vegetable intake is set to continue to decline if Food Forward’s findings are anything to go by. Forty-two percent of those surveyed stated they were not meeting their daily fruit and vegetable intake, and they put the blame on two key factors.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said it was too difficult to include fruit and vegetables in their meals each day, meanwhile 24 percent stated produce is simply too expensive.

4. The great shopper conundrum

When it comes to grocery shopping, price is still the determining factor for Australians. Despite 40 percent of respondents stating they are passionate about supporting local farmers, 70 percent said cost was the biggest influencing factor when it came to purchasing grocery items.  

Experts believe the efforts of sustainable food advocates will see Australians more willing to pay a little extra for their groceries, particularly as free-range products, biodynamic produce and grass-fed beef become more readily available.

5. Socialising food

Experts believe social media will increasingly influence consumers’ food choices in 2014, with 90 percent of those surveyed unlikely to purchase a particular food product or visit a venue because it has been endorsed by someone famous.

6. Gourmet getaway

The report predicts Australians will continue to embark on gourmet getaways, where they travel to a particular destination to indulge in its food and wine.

7. Technology takeover

Experts believe more convenient kitchen items including those that allow people to control the temperature of their oven from afar, will gain immense popularity this year, and 24 percent of respondents stated an all-in-one kitchen appliance is at the top of their list.

 

Kellogg’s All-Bran releases high fibre muesli

Kellogg’s has announced the latest addition to its successful All-Bran brand, All-Bran High Fibre Muesli.

Consisting of rolled wholegrain oats, All-Bran twigs, seeds and fruit pieces, All-Bran High Fibre marks the first time that the brand has ventured into the muesli category.

The muesli claims to have 25 percent more fibre than competing brands and is also low in sodium.

The new muesli will be available in three flavours including Apricot & Almond, Summer Fruits and Cranberry & Pink Lady Apple.

The new muesli is a welcomed addition to Kellogg’s extensive All-Bran portfolio which is inclusive of; All-Bran Fibre Toppers, All-Bran Original cereal, All-Bran Apple Flavoured Crunch cereal, All-Bran Wheat Flakes Original cereal and All-Bran Honey Almond Wheat Flakes cereal.

 

Laser sensor cuts salmonella detection time [video]

Researchers at Perdue University have developed a laser sensor that is capable of detecting salmonella in food samples three times faster than conventional methods.

The system which goes under the name BARDOT, (bacterial rapid detection using optical scatter technology) scans bacteria colonies and generates a distinct ‘fingerprint’ on samples. The system is then able to pinpoint the presence of Salmonella within 24 hours.

Arun Bhunia, professor of food science at Purdue said that the BARDOT system is far more efficient at detecting the potentially fatal pathogen than methods that are currently employed by the food industry.

“BARDOT allows us to detect Salmonella much earlier and more easily than current methods," said Bhunia.

"This could ultimately help provide safer food to consumers."

According to the researchers, current salmonella detection methods can take up to 72 hours to yield results, and often require artificial alteration of the bacteria.

"BARDOT screens quickly and inexpensively," said Atul Singh, postdoctoral research associate and first author of the study. "If you get a positive result for Salmonella, you can do a follow-up test. This can help food processors make more informed decisions."

In addition, Bhunia says that the BARDOT system can detect multiple types of disease-causing bacteria with a single scan including Escherichia coli, Vibrio, Listeria, Bacillus and other foodborne pathogens.

"That's the beauty of this system," Bhunia said. "It's so versatile. It can find organisms that you didn't even think about."

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Warrnambool posts 16m increase on half year profits

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory have posted a 104.7 percent increase in half year net statutory operating profit after tax, equating to an additional $16m on the same period last year to $31.3m.

The underlying profit after income tax attributable to shareholders increased by $21.2m to $36.5m, representing a 139.1 percent increase over the previous corresponding period.

“As indicated in our December guidance, the improved market conditions experienced in the last quarter of FY2013 have continued into FY2014” said WCB CEO David Lord. “Despite the distraction associated with the takeover process, WCB has maintained its focus on maximising returns and the implementation of its strategic business initiatives.”

WCB had been the subject of a three way bidding war between Bega Cheese, Murray Goulburn and Canadian dairy processor Saputo over the past six months. Saputo came through with a successful bid on 12 February after achieving 87.92 percent of voting power in the company.

“Although the takeover process was lengthy and well publicised, the bids for WCB have realised an excellent premium for WCB shareholders” said chairman Terry Richardson. “The WCB Board believes Saputo’s final offer has been in the best interest of shareholders and other business stakeholders.”

Despite announcing record increases in profit, the company has decided not to issue an interim dividend as the directors have decided to retain cash for investment and development.

The company says that the outlook for the full FY2014 remains positive due to strong international commodity demand coupled with a weakening Australian dollar.

 

Dairy workers penalty rates too high to compete globally, Fonterra

Managing director for Fonterra Australia, Judith Swales is calling for a review of penalty rates for dairy workers to make Australian food manufacturers and processors more competitive in the global marketplace.

Swales is suggesting that Australia adopt a similar system to the one that is currently in place for the dairy industry in New Zealand where work hours correlate with seasonal milk supply, a suggestion that has been rejected by union officials SMH reports.

''Essentially you are not legislating that people have to work 38 hours a week, 48 weeks a year,'' said Swales. ''They can work longer hours without penalty [during peak supply periods] but then they get time off either side of the peak.

''It's more flexible, it's more in keeping with nature as opposed to forcing it for labour rules.''

President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ged Kearney said that the cutting of penalty rates may increase profit to some extent, but also runs the risk of reducing productivity at the same time by creating a “disenfranchised and demotivated” workforce.

''You do not increase productivity by increasing profit. They are two different things,'' said Kearney.

''Employing cheaper labour or imported labour … could decrease the amount of milk you produce because people don't understand the industry, they're less motivated, they don't want to be there because they're not getting penalty rates.''

However Swales says that a change in the cost base is imperative if Australia wants to compete on a global scale.

“I think more flexibility, not to disadvantage people but to make us more competitive, is kind of the name of the game,” she said.

''If we want to be serious players on a global scale we have to have seriously competitive and efficient manufacturing operations.

''You could argue it's one of the issues for car manufacturing. We didn't have a globally competitive manufacturing cost base in terms of some of the enterprise agreements and maybe some of the technology. In dairy we are no different.''

Noel Campbell, president of Australian Dairy Farmers said that he doesn’t think that penalty rates should be removed entirely, but believes that the system should offer more flexibility.

''Under the pastoral award rate, if you are feeding or watering stock you only have to pay time-and-a-half because that's seen as an essential service. I'm sure cows would think being milked is an essential service and I'm sure if the RSPCA was asked about it they'd say cows needed to be milked twice a day no matter if it's a Sunday or Tuesday.

''Therefore we think it should become an essential service and the penalty rates would be time-and-a-half rather than double time.''

 

Big food companies improve policies in developing nations, Oxfam

In response to a global campaign launched by Oxfam last year, nine out of 10 of the world's largest food companies have committed to improving their social and environmental policies.

Oxfam launched the ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign last year which sought to expose the prevalence of sugar land grabs and strengthen policies surrounding climate and women’s rights.

The campaign ranked the world’s 10 largest food companies on the strength of policies they had in place, and according to Oxfam, nine out of the 10 listed have since made ‘major strides’ since February last year, when the campaign was launched. General Mills, however, has been listed as the only company that did not improve, and as such has dropped to last place.

The highest performer was Nestle which came out in first place, followed by Unilever and Coca-Cola, all of which improved their scores by 10, 14 and 13 percent respectively.

Oxfam International’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima, said that while the majority of the companies are moving in a positive direction, it will take time to reverse policies that have largely relied on cheap labour for decades.

“Most of the ‘Big 10’ are moving in the right direction because hundreds of thousands of consumers and investors controlling trillions in assets are demanding an overhaul to business as usual,” said Byanyima. “Some companies showed courageous leadership but it appears others need to be pulled along kicking and screaming. It will take time for them to reverse a 100-year history of relying on cheap land and labour to make mass products at huge profits but at high social and environmental costs. The race to the top is underway and there are clear leaders and laggards.”

Oxfam says that six of the 10 companies instituted new policies that endorse the principle of Free Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) which addresses issues associated the sale of land. Seven signed up to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, and Nestle, Mondelez and Mars committed to releasing a detailed action plan in May this year which will address gender inequalities in their supply chains.

Eight of the companies also improved their environmental policies to promote better disclosure of emissions.

“By improving their policies on land, some of the world’s most powerful companies have already helped communities seeking fair compensation for the land that was taken from them nearly a decade ago in countries like Cambodia and Brazil,” said Byanyima. “Companies can open up space to help communities resolve decades-old conflicts once and for all.”

“The most important lesson from the first year of ‘Behind the Brands’ is that companies do respond, quickly and to great effect, when consumers push them toward more responsible methods of production. Down the supply chains we are already seeing agricultural producers and traders beginning to improve their practices to ensure they retain the business of the ‘Big 10’. We need more consumers to speak out in even greater numbers.”

 

Oxfam's Behind the Brands rankings February 2014

 

Rank

Company

Score

Land

Women

Farmers

Workers

Climate

Transparency

Water

Total

1

Nestlé

64%

5

5

6

7

8

7

7

45/70

2

Unilever

63%

5

5

8

7

7

6

6

44/70

3

Coca Cola

54%

7

6

2

6

6

5

6

38/70

4

Mondelez

33%

3

5

4

3

2

3

3

23/70

4

PepsiCo

33%

2

2

3

3

6

3

4

23/70

6

Danone

31%

1

1

2

3

5

5

5

22/70

6

Mars

31%

1

4

4

3

4

4

2

22/70

8

Kellogg

29%

2

3

1

1

4

4

5

20/70

9

Associated British Foods

27%

3

2

2

3

4

3

2

19/70

10

General Mills

21%

2

1

2

2

2

2

4

15/70

 

KEY: Good 8 – 10  Fair 6 – 7  Some progress  4 – 5 Poor 2 – 3 Very poor 0 – 1

Behind the Brands rankings February 2013

 

Rank

Company

Score

Land

Women

Farmers

Workers

Climate

Transparency

Water

Total

1

Nestlé

54%

3

4

5

6

6

7

7

38/70

2

Unilever

49%

3

2

7

6

5

5

6

34/70

3

Coca Cola

41%

1

5

3

6

5

5

4

29/70

4

PepsiCo

31%

2

2

3

3

3

4

5

22/70

5

Mars

30%

1

1

5

4

3

5

2

21/70

6

Danone

29%

1

1

1

3

3

6

5

20/70

6

Mondelez

29%

1

2

4

4

3

4

2

20/70

8

General Mills

23%

1

2

1

3

2

2

5

16/70

8

Kellogg

23%

1

2

1

2

2

4

4

16/70

10

Associated British Foods

19%

1

1

2

3

1

3

2

13/70

 

KEY: Good 8 – 10  Fair 6 – 7  Some progress  4 – 5 Poor 2 – 3 Very poor 0 – 1

Greens push for stronger country of origin labelling laws

On the back of a surge in consumer support for Australian-grown food, Greens senator Christine Milne has approached federal government, industry, farmers and fellow MPs to push proposed reforms in country of origin labelling.

Milne is calling for more transparency in country of origin labelling as she says that current regulation is misleading.

The proposed changes for Country of Origin labelling are as follows:

  • ‘Product of’ or ‘Grown in’ – will be used to describe food that has been wholly grown and processed in a country. 
  • ‘Manufactured in’ – will replace ‘Made in’ for food that has been substantially transformed in a particular country. The term ‘made in’ will no longer be used as many people think that ‘made in’ refers to where the ingredients were grown. 
  • ‘Packaged in’ – will be used on food that has been highly processed but can’t claim to have either ingredients of significant processing in a particular country. Companies can still choose to highlight the source of significant ingredients if they wish. 

In addition to the county of origin labelling changes, Milne is also proposing to introduce regulation that stipulates what kinds of food processing does not qualify as manufacturing, as manufacturing typically involves significant investment in local equipment and jobs.  

Fruit and vegetable processor SPC Ardmona recently experienced a spate of consumer support on the back of a social media movement that was started by Newcastle resident, Linda Drummond.

The processor claims to have suffered significantly from confusing regulation surrounding country of origin claims coupled with an increase in cheap imported produce.

 

McCormick’s Flavour Forecast predicts a spicier future

Now in its 14th year, the McCormick Flavour Forecast has become one of the flavour calendars most anticipated annual announcements.

The Flavour Forecast report is developed by culinary professionals, trend trackers and food technologists around the globe to highlight five top food trends, and over a dozen emerging flavours that are predicted to inspire global cooking trends. In years past, McCormick has predicted growth in products such as coconut water, which was a relatively untapped market in 2005 to represent a multibillion dollar industry today.

Ian Holmes, Industrial & Food Service Sales Manager for McCormick Foods Australia said that this year’s Flavour Forecast coincides with the company’s 125th anniversary and provides a way for chefs and food manufacturers to stay ahead of the game.

“Our Flavour Forecast is ideal for chefs and operators looking to stay a few steps ahead of the current flavour trends. Today’s expectation when dining out is about exceptional taste experiences, so this Anniversary Edition can be an inspiration point for food service professionals.”

In addition to the Flavour Forecast, McCormick has also created a range of spice blends to complement the five top trends.

“We will be launching our second bespoke range of the Flavour Forecast 2014 in a set of inspiring blends. Last year, Australia was the first country to capture the flavour trends in a blend to bring the Flavour Forecast to life. The unique range of blends represented the pinnacle of flavour innovation and were very well received by the food service industry,” says Holmes.

The 2014 Flavour Forecast focused on five main areas; Chilli Obsession, Modern Masala, Clever Compact Cooking, Mexican World Tour and Charmed by Brazil.

Chilli Obsession

McCormick say that the world at large is craving chili heat and this has extended into employing new and exciting ways to prepare the pepper including grilling, smoking, pickling, fermenting and candying to tease out the flavour. Chillies that McCormick have tipped to take off include Guajillo – a mild Mexican dried chilli, Chilli de Arbol – a bold Mexican chilli, Tien Tsin – a hot Szechuan chilli and Aji Amarillo – a hot Peruvan yellow chilli.

Modern Masala

As a step above basic curries, McCormick says that experimental Indian cuisine will thrive in 2014. From food trucks to fine dining and a greater variety of supermarket products available, the flavour forecast for Indian food is predicted to include experimental wraps, high-end Indian restaurant offerings and convenient Indian at home solutions.  Flavours and dishes to look out for include Kashmiri Masala, West Indian jalfrezis and the dishes including paneer cheese.

Clever Compact Cooking

Clever Compact Cooking takes advantage of big flavours that come from small spaces. McCormick says that these versatile ingredients which include Coriander, Tea and Noodles are essential to kitchens of all sizes – from large scale establishments to independent operations.

Mexican World Tour

Tomatillos, Recados and Chamoy Sauce are at the forefront of McCormick’s Mexican World Tour. McCormick says that the taste for the bright and bold flavours that come from regional Mexican fare is spreading across the globe is a big way.

Charmed by Brazil

Brazilian cuisine, which encompasses a melting pot of European, African, Asian and native Amazonian influences is also poised to emerge as a powerful presence in global cooking.

Flavours and ingredients to look out for according to McCormick include black-eyed peas, Guava – as a nectar, paste or fresh, Cassace Flour – also known as tapioca flour which happens to be gluten free and Tempero Baiano – a Bahian seasoning blend.

 

Mondelez misses the mark in health star rating comparison, Choice

Consumer watchdog Choice has employed the new Health Star Food Rating calculator to compare products from food giant Mondelez against its leading competitors' offerings.

Choice says that products from Mondelez, the parent company behind brands such as Kraft, Cadbury, Oreo and Nabisco scored less than its competitors in three separate product comparisons.

Choice Campaigns manager, Angela Cartwright said that of the three comparisons undertaken, the Health Star Rating ‘shot down the Mondelez product each time’.

Cartwright also emphasised that Mondelez had openly criticised the Health Star System, claiming that it was ‘ill-founded’.

“Choice decided to take a closer look at Mondelez after the company attempted to discredit the Health Star Rating Scheme, claiming the scheme was ‘ill-founded, unscientific and confusing’, when in fact it was considerably informed by market research showing strong support for it," said Cartwright.

“By providing a star rating, the new scheme will give consumers information they can use to make healthier choices at-a-glance. Choice questions whether the real reason Mondelez doesn’t like the system is that it would show consumers that some of their products are less healthy than the alternatives?”

Cartwright says that many other companies are behind the Health Star Rating and that the industry as a whole needs to get behind the system to ensure that consumers can make more informed purchase decisions.

“Our health star snapshot shows that it is possible to have considerably healthier versions of the same type of product. CHOICE thinks the Scheme will not only give consumers information they can use at-a-glance but spur companies to improve their product offerings, creating a healthier food supply in the long term.”

Of the products that Choice tested, Mondelez’ Kraft Strip Cheese scored two stars in comparison to Bega Stringers which came out with four stars.    

Sanitarium’s natural peanut butter scored five stars while Mondelez’s Kraft peanut butter scored only three, and Mondelez-owned Ritz came out with only half a star while Arnotts’ Jatz scored two.

A spokesperson for Mondelez International said that the Health Star Rating system is ‘confusing’ and that the algorithm which produces the star rating is in need of ‘more work.’

“Given the health star rating shows that Philadelphia Cream Cheese is healthier than an apple, we believe more work needs to be done,” the spokesperson told SMH.

“The algorithm which determines the number of stars on a product has changed numerous times and is expected to change again, so the results should be used with caution.”

The Health Star Rating System has gained a spate of media attention in the last few weeks after the official website for the scheme was pulled offline after launching only eight hours prior.

Assistant Health minister Fiona Nash’s chief of staff, Alastair Furnival – whose wife is the head of lobbying company APA which represents Mondelez – allegedly ordered government officials to pull the website down.

A spokesperson for the health department said that the website was a draft’, and made live in “an inadvertent error”, claims that were widely refuted by public health groups who say that the website was pulled down due to industry influence.

Furnival, who is also a co-owner in his wife’s lobbying firm, has since resigned from his position as further conflicts of interest to his position have surfaced including revelations that Furnival is connected to the alcohol industry and played a key role in cancelling the funding of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia.

 

ACT expected to ban battery cages and sow stalls

The ACT is expected to pass a vote today that will see an end to certain factory farming practices.

The new legislation which was introduced by Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury last year, will ban the use of battery cages for hens along with de-beaking practices, and will also prohibit the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates for pigs.

Rattenbury says that the move to prohibit such practices has largely been driven by a consumer push for higher animal welfare standards and that fines of up to $35,000 will be payable for any breach of the new laws.

"This is an important reform to protect the welfare of farmed animals and will set the precedent for other states and territories to do the same," Rattenbury told Yahoo 7.

"Some of the practices outlawed under this legislation are simply cruel and inhumane and don't have any place in modern food production in Australia."

The move has also been welcomed by animal welfare group, Animals Australia.

Communications director for the group, Lisa Chalk said that the passing of the vote will be a ‘landmark decision’.

"Animals Australia really applauds the ACT government's landmark decision to prohibit what are some of the cruellest farming practices," she said.

"These are practices which see millions of animals around Australia severely confined."

Although the legislation will see an end to such practices in the Territory, NSW Farmers Egg Committee spokesman Bede Burke said that many ACT farmers have already, or are in the process of moving to non-cage systems. He also said that the legislation will not prohibit the sale of caged eggs produced in other Australian states in ACT supermarkets.