How the humble thermometer helps reduce food waste

A new training initiative based on the thermometer is about to be introduced to the Australian cold chain industry. It is seen as a practical move to help combat the country’s serious food loss and wastage problem, estimated to cost the country nearly $4 billion a year at farm gate value.
The Australian Food Cold Chain Council (AFCCC), the peak advocacy body comprising concerned industry leaders covering refrigeration assets, transport and food distribution, will release an online education program, Thermometers and the Cold Chain Practitioner this month.
The program is aimed squarely at those the AFCCC regards as the super heroes of the food cold chain process – the people who oversee the movement of food through refrigerated transports, loading docks and cold rooms across the nation.
Industry research convinced the AFCCC that Australia desperately needed a new Cold Food Code that should be adopted by industry to stimulate a nation-wide educational push to bring Australian cold chain practices up to the much higher international standard.
The educational program starting with temperature measurement is the first of a planned five-code series.
The AFCCC has invested in new online education software that will be used to develop training programs to support the release of the actual Code document that will cover temperature technologies and how they should be used for monitoring a variety of foods carried in the cold chain.
The initiative runs alongside the work being done by other authorities, including Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) and the Commonwealth Government, which has signed up to a United Nations treaty to halve food wastage by 2030.
Some of the rising levels of national food wastage is considered to be the result of poor temperature management, and poor understanding of how refrigeration works in a range of storage environments. This includes from cold storage rooms through to
trucks and trailers, and even home delivery vans.
Australia has world-class refrigeration and monitoring technologies, but the AFCCC believes industry will have to adopt serious training programs so that those responsible for moving food and pharmaceuticals around the country can get the best out of the available technologies.
Because of the vast distances in this country, food transport is a series of refrigerated events, in the hands of a range of stake holders.
Mangoes picked in the Northern Territory may be handled through stationary and mobile refrigerated spaces as many as 14 times by multiple owners on a 3,400 km journey to Melbourne.
If temperature abuse through poor refrigeration practices occurs in just one of those spaces, the losses at the consumer end are compounded, and shelf life can be either drastically reduced, or result in the whole load being sent to landfill.
People working at the coalface of the industry can sign on independently to do the course, which the AFCCC believes will be an important next phase in their professional journey. Kindred organisations involved in the cold chain will be encouraged to become retailers of the education program. Many industry groups have already signed up to help drive cold chain practitioners to the training program from their own websites.
There will only be modest charges for the course, which will help fund AFCCC’s continuing work on assembling the research and expertise to complete further parts of the overall Code of Practice. This will ultimately be gifted to the cold chain industry for the purposes of universal adoption.
The extent of food wastage in this country should not be under-estimated. It is almost criminal that one quarter of Australia’s production of fruit and vegetables are never eaten and end up in land fill or rotting at the farm gate.
This loss alone accounts for almost two million tonnes of otherwise edible food, worth
$3 billion.
A government-sponsored study released earlier in 2020 revealed that meat and seafood waste in the cold chain costs the country another $90 million and dairy losses total $70 million.
It’s not just the wasted food at stake. The impacts on greenhouse emissions, water usage and energy consumption will end up being felt nationwide.
The AFCCC was formed in mid 2017 by a cross section of industry leaders covering manufacturing, food transport, refrigeration and cold chain services.
The Council sees itself as an important part of the solution, encouraging innovation, compliance, waste reduction and safety across the Australian food cold chain.
The new Council is not about promoting an industry – it wants to change the industry for the better. It acknowledges that Australia’s track record in efficient cold food handling, from farm to plate, is far from perfect.

Improved dairy prospects see milk price forecast increase

Global COVID-19 restrictions are easing, food service sales have resumed and dairy prices look to be on the rebound, however Rabobank’s Q2 2020 global Dairy Quarterly warns it may still be too soon to assess the true strength of the global dairy market.

Global dairy markets have, though, performed better than expected thoughout the pandemic’s disruption, with the report, titled Waiting for the dust to settle, revising up Rabobank’s milk price forecast for Australia and New Zealand.

In Southern Australia, the modelled price is AUD6.35/kgMS – the minimum price announcement set for the new season above expectation, suggesting limited upside in the season ahead.

The just-released report also forecast milk production to continue expanding across the dairy-exporting regions, despite weather-related issues, lower milk prices and efforts to bring supply back in balance with demand in many areas.

Rabobank forecasts a one per cent year-on-year increase in production across the ‘Big-7’ dairy regions (US, EU, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, Australia) in the second half of 2020, and 0.9 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2021.

Rabobank senior dairy analyst Michael Harvey said while the northern hemispehere recently experienced a rebound in milk and dairy product prices, it may be too soon to call a true dairy market recovery.

“We are on a path toward recovery, but we are not out of the woods,” he said.
“Much of the price support has been driven by government intervention in the market whether through dairy purchases, direct income payments, and managing surplus stock, combined with the reopening of foodservice outlooks that has helped jump-start demand.”

Dairy in a slowing economy
Government support will likely slow in the months ahead, at which time, Mr Harvey said, global market fundamentals would again take hold – and in a slower economy still healing from the pandamic’s economic distruction.

“Much of the world will emerge from the COVID-19 lockdowns into economic recession, and this slower growth will weigh on dairy demand and will curb import purchasing in many regions,” he said.

An expected decrease in demand from South East Asia – a key driver of import
opportunities for many milk-producing areas – plus lower Chinese import needs could lead
to a surplus of milk, and contribute to high stock levels in the second half of 2020.
Mr Harvey said this inventory build would put downward pressure on dairy commodity
prices in the months ahead due to this heightened levels of stocks and competition for
reduced import demand.

Foodservice vs retail demand post COVID-19
As lockdowns are lifted, Mr Harvey said, the imbalance between heightened retail sales
and lower foodservice sales will begin to converge, however finding this balance would
take time.

“There will be limitations preventing a complete return to previous norms, particularly in
foodservice sales – new habits may have formed, and we may find people continue
preparing more food at home on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Australian Outlook
Harvey said Australia’s milk production recovery in the southern export pool was
gathering pace, up 6.7 per cent in April year-on-year.

Season-to-date milk production was 7.5 billion litres, down 1.6 per cent year-on-year, with
exceptional gains in Tasmania and Gippsland leading this growth.

Rabobank is forecasting milk production to finish at 8.7 billion litres, representing a decline
of just 0.7 per cent, expanding by 3.4 per cent in the 2020/21 season.

“Favourable seasonal conditions will support milk production growth into the 2020/21
season, bringing national production back above nine billion litres and a return to growth in the exportable surplus from Q2 2020 – for the first time since 2018,” Harvey said.
Better seasonal conditions have also slowed culling rates, as Australian dairy farmers look
to rebuild stocks, with lower purchased feed markets providing margin support for dairy
businesses.

GFNC said to guarantee macadamia food safety with Napasol pasteurisation technology

South Africa-based Green Farms Nut Company (GFNC) has announced its investment into foremost Napasol pasteurisation technology, to meet and surpass current and future food safety requirements in key export destinations around the world. This decision underscores the organisations ongoing commitment to deliver best in class quality product to its customers, as well as secure value for their supply base of producers and farmers.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), globalisation, urbanisation and changing consumer habits has resulted in a longer and increasingly complex global food supply chain. These challenges put greater responsibility on food producers and handlers to ensure food safety. The WHO urges building and maintaining focus on adequate food systems and infrastructures, like laboratories and legal frameworks, as well as multi-sectoral collaboration between governments and stakeholders through the value chain.

“GFNC is extremely pleased to be in the position to proactively take responsibility for our role in the ongoing and inevitable changes taking place in the food industry at large, and macadamia sector more specifically. This decision is a crucial part of our strategy to continue growing and refining processing capability. In so doing retain value add capacity and supply chain accountability at source in South Africa,” said Allen Duncan, CEO, GFNC.

Approximately 25 per cent of South Africa’s macadamias are processed by GFNC. Together with its processing partner network, spanning Australia, Brazil, Malawi and Kenya, the groups marketing business, Green & Gold Macadamias sells roughly 20% of the world’s crop in key territories around the globe. This purchase represents the initial move to making further investment into technology that warrants compliance with increasing microbiological safety standards and global access to highly regulated markets.

The Napasol process ensures 100 per cent of the treated product is pasteurised to a >5log level of reduction of pathogens and is regarded as the market leader in pasteurization equipment for tree nuts. Efficient microbiological reduction is obtained with dry saturated steam, which is natural, effective, and maintains the raw characteristics of the nut. The batch process, which is validated for >5log reduction in pathogens for all tree nuts, meets the risk assessment reduction levels published. The process also preserves the flavour, colour and texture of the raw kernel.

“This outlay will sustain bullish market access for the business, provide the best quality product to our customers, and provide the opportunity to achieve the best possible prices for our farmers. Together with buffering our producers from potential knock-on effects of macadamias that do not meet food safety legislation,” said Jill Whyte, chairperson and owner, GFNC.

The Napasol is planned for installation at the White River factory in the second half of 2020 and should be operational for the remaining 2020 processing cycle. GFNC will have capacity to assist competitor processors with their pasteurisation needs until the decision is taken to invest in their own technology to support market and customer requirements.

AOL partners with ABC Organic Gardener to promote organic principles

Industry body Australian Organic (AOL) is pleased to announce its partnership with magazine ABC Organic Gardener for 2020 to promote organic principles and educate consumers around making informed choices when it comes to organic products.

ABC Organic Gardener magazine is Australia’s largest organic gardening publication and is an essential companion for anyone interested in organics, gardening and a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It provides inspiration, information and practical how-to advice and solutions on all aspects of organic gardening and a holistic lifestyle.

The magazine publishes eight editions annually, and has a popular presence in print, digital and social media platforms. The Organic Gardener website provides readers with insightful articles on growing and tending for your garden, with inspiring recipes for homegrown organic produce.

Australian Organic CEO Niki Ford said the partnership provides AOL with another avenue to connect directly with organic consumers or those interested in learning more about organics in Australia.

“AOL’s 2020 partnership with ABC Organic Gardener provides an exciting opportunity for us to educate readers already invested in an organic lifestyle but for those wanting to assist consumers to make more informed choices when it comes to organics – such as looking for a certification logo on organic products,” she said. “Our partnership with ABC Organic Gardener is highly valued, with both partners committed to promoting and growing awareness surrounding organic products in Australia.”

ABC Organic Gardener editor Steve Payne said, “We are very excited to team up with AOL to help promote organic food and living to our readers and the wider community. With the planet in a perilous state, more than ever, we need to be supporting cutting-edge organic farming and sustainably produced products.”

The partnership is part of AOL’s step forward in becoming the peak industry body for the organic industry in Australia by promoting organic products and producers, and educating consumers with a wide range of lifestyle resources. AOL actively lobbies government on key regulatory matters supporting industry growth and development. It also advocates and educates consumers to recognise organic certification logos such as Australian Organic’s ‘Bud’ logo – now recognised by more than 50 per cent of Australian shoppers on products. The logo is a guarantee of a product’s true organic authenticity as opposed to various ‘fake’ organic products in the marketplace.

As part of the agreement, AOL and ABC Organic Gardener will support each other by providing content and trusted information for readers and consumers surrounding organics in Australia

Apple flour making inroads into commercial baking applications

Forbidden Foods Group was launched in 2010 by Jarrod Milani and Marcus Brown who both share a passion to provide some of the best health foods across Australia and internationally. Forbidden Foods flagship product of Black Rice was released to the retail and foodservice market nationally and internationally.

Since launching, Forbidden Foods have expanded into supplying a range of speciality rice flours to food manufacturers. Its bespoke rice flour range has been used in baked goods, soups, baby foods, snacking and plant-based foods. Having success with their rice flours, Forbidden Foods explored the potential of releasing a range of Australian-made, new and exotic flours that are not offered in the global market.

In 2019, Sensory Mill was created under Forbidden Foods Group, to provide ingredients for the food enthusiast. Sensory Mill offers a range of alternative products for use in manufacturing including powders, grains and blends and its newest release of an exotic flour range.

The flour range accentuates the core belief of Sensory Mill, which is to strive towards improved sustainability and traceability of products, while providing enriching ingredients.
The company’s newest standout product – which was released in January 2020 – is its apple flour, which is available in the retail and foodservice market.

To promote the idea of Farm-to-Plate, Sensory Mill has collaborated with Bellevue Orchard and Australian Dehydrated Food (ADF) to promote and introduce Australia’s first apple flour to the market.

Bellevue Orchard is a third-generation, family-run apple orchard located in Victoria, Australia and have been producing apple juice since 1998.

The orchard is owned by two brothers, Robert and Joe Russo, who continue to work there, however now run by Joe’s daughter Bernadette and Robert’s son Nick.

ADF is an Australian company that specialises in advanced and rapid dehydration technology to produce the dried foods sourced from Australia.

ADF’s Chris Mamas worked alongside Forbidden Foods and Bellevue to meet outlined requirements and specifications.

“Our aim is to work with natural, unadulterated raw material inputs, resulting in the most aromatic, tasty and nutrient-rich powdered foods on the market, which I believe we have achieved with the apple flour,” he said.

Forbidden Foods, Bellevue Orchard and ADF all have a strong ethos against food wastage, which was the basis upon their collaboration for Forbidden Foods to release, market and promote the apple flour to the retail and foodservice market. Nick Russo indicated that food wastage avoidance has always been a priority of theirs.

“Our goal has always been to make use of every part of the apple. Working with Forbidden Foods and ADF is the final piece of making this a reality with Bellevue being a zero-waste facility,” he said.

“We hope to divert over 800,000kg of wastage per year, into a premium product for market,” said Russo.

Bellevue worked alongside Forbidden Foods and ADF, to initiate production of apple fibre from the pomace in a patented process.

Bellevue realised the apple pomace wastage remaining after the juicing process was becoming costly to re-distribute to farmers for feed, or to move to landfill.

Moving the apple pomace was starting to take a strain on the local environment surrounding the orchard, with potential of having widespread effects.

After 18 months of trials, technology was developed for efficient dehydration of apple fibre to produce a food ingredient for human consumption.

The wasted apple pomace from juicing was drained and ground into a thin layer to be dried out and dehydrated. Once the pomace was efficiently dried, it enters the multi-step milling process that produced a fine flour ready for packaging and manufacturing.

Incorporating apple flour into products on an industrial scale can reap many nutritional benefits to the population.

Finished products with apple flour acting as a core ingredient will provide a nutritionally rounded profile.

Due to the high dietary fibre content of the flour, it has a wide range of antioxidants that are believed to assist in the reduction of cholesterol. The soluble and insoluble fibre within the flour will regulate the digestive system while promoting bowel health and growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Milled apple flour is extremely fine, allowing it to be versatile in manufacturing and production.

It has many applications ranging from acting as a thickening agent in sauces and mixes, to being incorporated into bakery and snacking products.

The by-product flour is a great absorber of liquid causing this product to be an efficient binder in recipes, particularly in raw snack products that undergo minimal heat exposure.
Having a low sugar content accompanying the high soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, this flour can help control blood sugar levels.

Having low-fat content, it is a suitable ingredient when manufacturing low fat products for consumption.

The properties of the flour allow it to act as a replacer while extending shelf life for long-lasting and shelf-stable products when stored in ambient temperatures.

Apple flour is said to have a naturally sweet flavour that is not overpowering to the palate. The inclusion of the apple flour in baking may avoid the need for additional sweeteners.

Being gluten free, apple flour can be blended with all-purpose gluten-free flour to become a baking staple for the gluten intolerant community. This product can be blended with an array of flours for usage in baking to create high fibre goods.

How will the coronavirus affect agriculture in Australia?

The coronavirus outbreak is already having a severe impact on China’s foodservice and on-trade channels and this could become “more serious and longer-lasting” if the virus is not contained in the next six to eight weeks, leading agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank has warned.

But the extent of the impact on Australia’s agricultural sector will be limited in the short-term and will depend on how quickly the virus is contained, it says.

In a just-released report by the bank’s China-based research team, Recent Coronavirus Impacts on Chinese F&A, Rabobank says “disruptions are being experienced across the entire F&A (food and agri) supply chain” with the virus – which has infected more than 40,000 people to date – disrupting trade, production and supply chains as well as having a significant impact on out-of-home food consumption with the closure of many foodservice outlets.

With the virus outbreak arriving at the peak of 2020 Chinese New Year activities, it has had a large impact on out-of-home dining in the country, the report says.

“Given what we have seen on the ground, along with news received from major chains – for example, the closure of stores by Starbucks, Haidilao, McDonald’s, and Yum China – potential revenue losses for both retail and foodservice for the Chinese New Year week could range from 20 per cent to 80 per cent”. A loss of between USD 31 billion to USD 124 billion across retail and foodservice, it says.

While the report says a quick and effective containment of the virus could lead to a rapid bounce-back, the longer the virus is uncontained beyond March, the more extensive, sustained and structural the impact will be on the F&A chain.

For Australia
Regardless of when coronavirus is contained, Australian-based head of Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research, Tim Hunt says it will “almost certainly” have a larger impact on food and beverage industries than the global SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in 2003 – including in Australia.

Discussing the current and potential impacts of the virus on Australia and New Zealand’s food and agribusiness industries in a podcast, Coronavirus: How worried should we be, Mr Hunt says coronavirus has already spread more widely than SARS but it is Australia’s “much larger exposure to China” that is the biggest difference between current events and SARS.

“If we go back to 2002 just before the SARS crisis, Australia sent eight per cent of its ag exports to China”, Mr Hunt says. And this was largely in the form of fibre to be processed for export.

Fast forward to 2020, he says, and Australia sends around 28 per cent of its food and agricultural exports to China, much of which is consumed within China. “Add to that, the stronger links that have been developed between Australia and China in terms of exports, tourism, education and investment, we have a very different environment in which we might see the potential impacts of coronavirus this time compared to SARS in 2003.”

There are likely to be both first and second-round impacts of coronavirus on the Australian agricultural sector, Mr Hunt says, with the first round already being felt by any food and ag business relying heavily on the food service channel in China, particularly perishable goods.

“For example, rock lobster shipments to China have all but ceased in the last couple of weeks,” he says, “while chilled meat shipments for food service are also a risk category given a lot of hot pot restaurants are closed at the moment.” And while wine isn’t perishable, Mr Hunt says, sales are also likely to be low for those focused on the Chinese food service industry.

While Chinese consumption of meat, dairy and grains is unlikely to fall in the short-term, Mr Hunt says if the virus continued for many months to come, second-round impacts –“likely to hit our F&A industries” – would come into play.

“Hopefully we won’t get to ‘round two’,” he says, “but if we do, incomes may fall in China and we may eventually see less growth in sales of premium food and beverages as that wealth effect starts to kick in.

“And this may start to go beyond just food service sales and logistical disruptions to potentially impacting consumption in general of meat, dairy, grains and seafood.”

That said, Mr Hunt says, in the event coronavirus has second-round effects, the currency exchange rate would act as an “important stabiliser” for Australian agricultural exporters, with the Australian dollar likely to depreciate significantly as the market responded to slowing economic growth and rising risk concerns. And this, he says, would “somewhat offset” any fall in global commodity prices when expressed in local currency terms.

Going forward, Mr Hunt says, it will be important to closely monitor developments, including this week’s return to work in China after the extended New Year holiday and how the Chinese government continues to manage the outbreak including restrictions on the food service sector.

“But the most important development will be when we see a slowdown in the rate of infection,” he says. “SARS took around three and a half months for the infection to start slowing but after that, it didn’t take long for infections to cap a few weeks later.

“While we have no idea how this virus will behave compared to SARS, there won’t be any easing of restrictions until it does.”

Mr Hunt says it will also be critical to monitor the spread of the virus to other countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and other parts of South-East Asia, because if it spreads “we will start to see the same set of impacts in a second very large set of export markets for Australia”.

By Commodity
Rock lobster – likely to be the most exposed sector, with 95 per cent of sales going to China. While rock lobster sales from WA have ceased for now, fishermen can leave the lobsters in the ocean and catch their quota later if quota windows allow.

Read meat – short-term disruption is likely given logistical disruption and reduced eating out by Chinese consumers. The general shortage of protein in China as a result of African Swine Fever is still expected to result in ongoing strong demand from China once the short-term impacts of coronavirus are overcome.

Grains – limited impacts are foreseen both initially and in the event of a second round phase.

Dairy – at this stage, limited first round impacts as most of what is shipped (i.e. powders and infant milk formulas) have a good shelf life and are consumed at home. That said, cheese consumption could be impacted as it is mainly used in food service (for burgers and pizzas).

Sugar – very little disruption is expected to impact sugar trade flows, processing and consumption. But indirectly, the dip in the oil market – associated with concerns on the impact of the outbreak on global growth – could push Brazilian millers to produce more sugar this season which would lead to a softening in global prices, and ultimately, Australian prices too.

Wine – On-premise consumption of wine in China in 2019 accounted for around one third of total wine sales. Sales into this channel are expected to fall in the short-term while restrictions on group dining remain in place. That said, volumes of wine sold via e-commerce are likely to rise as distributors attempt to push more product into, and invest more money in developing, this sales channel.

Horticulture – Fortunately the cherry industry had air freighted most of its crop to China before the virus hit, something that would have been highly problematic a month later. In the next two to three months the main threat to export fruit and vegetable crops will be logistical, with demand from Chinese consumers for quality imported fresh produce not expected to fall from current levels.

 

BioPak develops packaging using sugarcane pulp

New South Wales-based packaging specialist, BioPak, has developed a sustainable alternative to conventional plastic packaging, which delivers a positive environmental impact.

When we buy a product, we also buy any waste associated with it. In 2016, Australians sent 2.2 million tonnes of plastic and another 1.6 million tonnes of paper to landfill. The environmental impact of packaging waste, plastics, in particular, has become a global issue.

Public demand for improved sustainability and climate change action has resulted in the regulation and banning of single-use plastics in many countries and regions worldwide. This is placing pressure on the food packaging industry to switch to more sustainable options and is driving innovation in packaging.

An example of a high-volume single-use plastic is a disposable food container. It is convenient, safe, hygienic and commonly used for takeaway food. However, when made from conventional plastics, these containers are unsustainable and pollute the environment at every stage in their life cycle. Alternative single-use food-service packaging options with reduced environmental impacts are desperately required. These options need to be easily collected and recycled.

BioCane packaging is made from sugarcane pulp, also known as bagasse. It is the stalk residue remaining after the sugar has been extracted from the cane. Instead of burning this material, BioPak converts the bagasse into an easily moulded packaging raw material. This versatile material is suitable for creating packaging for a wide range of hot, cold, solid, and liquid products and it is ovenable up to 200°C.

The sugarcane packaging is certified home and commercially compostable, is free from contamination and is recyclable in the paper co-mingled recycling stream — making it a sustainable effective replacement for the ubiquitous plastic takeaway container.

BioPak has developed a range of popular sizes and has displayed its solutions at many consumer events and industry trade shows.

Protein technology detects hidden gluten

A new study has the secret ingredient to improve the safety of common breakfast foods.

Professor Michelle Colgrave, a researcher based at Edith Cowan University and CSIRO, is using revolutionary protein technology to detect “hidden” gluten and other proteins causing food allergies.

Most recently she has focused her investigations on food commonly found on the Australian breakfast menu including cereal, breakfast bars and drinks, powdered drinks and a popular savoury spread.

“We were pleased to find that products that were specifically labelled as gluten-free were on the whole safe to consume,” she said.

“However it is often another story for many foods that should be gluten-free, such as oats or soy flour.”

Colgrave said her team was looking to improve the safety of all Australian food and deliver tools to industry and regulators that can ensure compliance to Australian and international standards.

“Coeliac disease affects up to two per cent of the Australian population and despite this group carefully avoiding gluten in their diet, many of them report associated symptoms at least once a month,” Colgrave said.

“We are interested in discovering whether they are unwittingly consuming gluten through hidden traces in their diets.”

Colgrave said contamination can occur at many stages during manufacture from harvest to processing.

“Commonly used tests might be sensitive enough to detect small amounts of a contaminating substance in a raw ingredient, but might be challenged to detect the same contaminant in a processed food. Yet the human body was still able to detect it and react to it,” she said.

“The technique we use has been successfully deployed to test heavily processed products and it will provide a way to ensure that foods actually contain what it says on the label.”

Romer Labs solutions centre for allergen testing

Romer Labs, a  provider of diagnostic solutions for the agricultural, food and feed industries, is announcing the opening its APAC Solutions Centre in Singapore. The centre extends the company’s capabilities in three important areas: analytical services, technical support and customer training programs.

The APAC Solutions Centre features new facilities for food allergen testing. Romer Labs can now serve the region with analytical services that cover gluten and the broadest range of allergenic analytes on the market. The Centre also brings augmented mycotoxin testing methods with screening services such as Multi-Mycotoxin Analysis 50+, which gives specific information on any of more than 50 mycotoxins in a sample in one report.

To complement these new capabilities, the Centre also provides enhanced technical support: sample validation, troubleshooting and insight into best practices are  available. Romer Labs experts provide advice to help customers remain productive and compliant with local and international regulations.

The APAC Solutions Centre is also introducing a new service to the region: customised training programs. Workshops, webinars and personalised instruction are all designed to adapt to how, where and how often customers test. Romer Labs issues training certificates and other documentation that may be necessary for audits and accreditations.

Yong Wee Liau, managing director, Romer Labs APAC: “For years, we have prided ourselves on being an extension of our customers’ lab. With the Romer Labs APAC Solutions Centre, we aim to go beyond that by being with our customers every step of the way. The new Centre has been designed with their needs in mind to help them meet their food and feed safety goals.”

The rise and rise of plant-based proteins

According to Trent Duvall, 20 years ago the food and beverage processors and manufacturers controlled the narrative in relation to what foods and drinks were consumed by customers. Then, it shifted to the retailers. Today, it is consumers that are running the show. And if you are a manufacturer of food and beverage goods, it’s advisable that you sit up and take notice of your customers like never before.

Duvall is the national sector leader, consumer and retail for KPMG, and was speaking to group of food and beverage primary producers at the FoodTech event held mid-year in Brisbane.

Consumers are becoming more discerning with regards to the healthiness of food, how it is packaged, and its effect on the environment, he said. Not only that, but his main point was that plant-based proteins are going to have a big impact on the food panorama over the next decade.

And Duvall is no vegetarian/vegan evangelist – he is a proud omnivore and likes nothing better than to tuck into a nice, juicy steak. However, he said the landscape is changing, with an anecdote from a recent trip to the US reinforcing the shift.

READ MORE: Plant proteins hot but meat not off the menu

“We went to Disneyland’s Adventure World, which was also home to the California Food and Wine Market Spring Fair,” he said. “There were stalls everywhere – different foods and produce. We walked past a stall that had this beautiful-looking burger patty with guacamole on top. I had to have one. For five minutes, myself and my wife and kids lined up to pay for one of these sliders – and they were to die for. Imagine the best burger you’ve had, the oil coming down the side of your hands. I looked across at my 10-year-old son – his was gone in a flash – nothing but a little bit of avocado left on the side of his face.
Perhaps the best slider I’ve had. It turned to be a plant-based slider. First time I’ve had one. And it was fantastic.”

Part of Duvall’s brief is to spot coming trends. He counsels those in the food and beverage processing and manufacturing space who are putting their company’s value chain together to respond to these trends and create opportunities for their companies.

While plant-based proteins are gaining popularity, there is still an issue getting the average punter to buy into the trend. Duvall gives the example of New Zealand’s Hell Pizza franchise, which released to market a burger-flavoured pizza. For the first four days it flew off the shelves – the market couldn’t get enough of them. They were selling out. Hell Pizza then announced that the meat wasn’t beef, it was made from plant-based protein.

“Social media went into meltdown, because people were saying to the company, ‘how could you lie to us?’” said Duvall. “There was no lying per se, it was just a burger-flavoured protein. We are going to see the same things coming through in the Australian market and they are going to be marketed as being better for you and less processed. And they are better for you in terms of less fats and higher protein content per gram.”

Not to be outdone, Domino’s in Australia has announced an exclusive partnership with a Queensland manufacturer to create plant based “meat” for its pizza toppings and plan to be the first pizza chain in Australia to launch alternate meat pizzas. Importantly they will be lower in saturated fat and higher protein than the comparable meat pizzas.

Long-term consumers of existing products need not fear that their favourite food or beverage will be disappearing any time soon. The market for meats and processed foods is still strong. What Duvall is pointing out is that the younger generation of consumers is causing a change in the market and it behoves processors and manufacturers to be aware of these changes if they don’t want to get left behind. He cites the example of Shreddies, a popular cereal from Canada and the UK that was first produced in 1939, and was available in Australia.

“The packaging has now been changed – not only does it say ‘wholegrain’ in the top corner of the packet, it’s also now says ‘vegan’,” said Duvall. “So why is vegan important to our kids? It’s not. They don’t know that. But it is important to the mum that is buying it. Shreddies is repositioning itself in the market.”

And to reiterate the point, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) also know that customers – again primarily the younger generation – will be the ones making choices about what they will be consuming. MLA’s marketing campaign is concentrating on animal health and welfare, environmental sustainability and nutrition. The three questions mentioned in the MLA’s current marketing campaign are:
• What’s the consumer talking about?
• What does the consumer want?
• How do we market to that?

The consumer is now the centre of attention. They are now digitally and data enabled and they’re the ones that are influencing trends, said Duvall.

“The consumer is influencing the government by what they say on social media,” said Duvall. “They are influencing the manufacturers by what they want and it is influencing the retailers and how they are going to get it. And it is about what is good for them. However, what is good for one consumer might be different from the other.”

One of the more interesting trends that Duvall talked about was the introduction of molecular alcohol – not one for the purists. Rather than distilling, makers of alcoholic beverages are using this technique to create a beverage quickly, compared to traditional methods.

“A 20-year-old malt whiskey can be reproduced almost overnight,” said Duvall. “Same with vodkas, same with gins. That is where technology’s going. Will the consumer buy it? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe a consumer likes that fact their whiskey has been distilled or aged for 20 years. Others might be interested in the newer version because of the price point, or because it is a different style of product they see as being good for them.”

“Big and small companies are doing different things to drive innovation to meet what the consumer demands and needs,” said Duvall.

And another technology that has been mentioned recently in Food & Beverage Industry News (September issue) is 3D printed food. Duvall compared 3D printing technology to where Nespresso coffee machines were 10 years ago.

“In the space of a couple of years, with the product positioned at the right point, Nespresso has made its way into many homes,” he said. “You go back 10 years, nobody would have thought to put a Nespresso machine in their house. There has been a rapid change in how we consume coffee. Printing your food using a pod and having a machine that can do that in every house is probably not that far away.”

The last point Duvall wanted to make on coming trends was to do with the state of consumers themselves. There are those who are more carnivore than vegetarian, while most people lie somewhere in the middle. However, he said that there is a growing number of flexitarians, those who generally engage with eating plant-based foods, but still include meat in their diet.

“They are people like me who like meat but will try a lot of alternatives,” he said. “And it might be part of my diet because generally it might be good for you. There has been an acceleration of change in terms of the products that are coming to our supermarkets in the last year. In the last six months alone it has rapid. Those different alternative proteins and foods are rapidly changing. In 12 months’ time, there will be a proliferation of those types of products in the market.”

CEO of Kurrajong Kitchen Lavosh wins gold in New York City

Karen Lebsanft, CEO and co-founding director of the Kurrajong Kitchen Group, manufacturers of Australia’s premier flatbread, the Kurrajong Kitchen Lavosh, has been honoured with the Gold Lifetime Achievement Award at the Stevie Awards for Women in Business in New York this week.

The Stevie Awards for Women in Business honour women executives, entrepreneurs, employees and the companies they run – worldwide. Karen was the only Australian finalist, and ultimate winner, in the Lifetime Achievement Award category.

Nicknamed the Stevies for the Greek word for “crowned”, the awards were presented to winners on November 15th during a dinner event attended by more than 550 people at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

“To win this award is such a thrill. It has been years of hard work, determination and commitment that has seen Kurrajong Kitchen reach the success it has back home in Australia. To be recognised for that success means so much to my husband, our family and the wider Kurrajong Kitchen team,” said Lebsanft.   

“I’ve been very upfront about the challenges 2019 has thrown our way, with rising flour prices as a result of the drought and changes in the political landscape but we remain 100% committed to keeping our business manufacturing and employing onshore for as long as possible,” she concluded.

Established in 1993, Kurrajong Kitchen began as a small restaurant in the Hawkesbury town of Kurrajong, NSW. The flatbread they served to customers quickly grew in popularity to become an award winning Lavosh stocked across major supermarkets nationally. Expansion was needed to meet the demand from customers, suppliers and the catering industry and the company relocated to a larger site in Windsor, NSW in 2001.

Cereal killer’s deadly touch could lead to new wheat threat

Scientists have uncovered the origins of the world’s deadliest strain of cereal rust disease which threatens global food security.

Researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, together with partners in the US and South Africa have solved a 20-year-old mystery with findings published today in Nature Communications.

Their works shows that the devastating Ug99 strain of the wheat stem rust fungus (named for its discovery and naming in Uganda in 1999) was created when different rust strains simply fused to create a new hybrid strain.

This process is called somatic hybridisation and enables the fungi to merge their cells together and exchange genetic material without going through the complex sexual reproduction cycle.

The study found half of Ug99’s genetic material came from a strain that has been in southern Africa for more than 100 years and also occurs in Australia.

The discovery shows that other crop-destroying rust strains could hybridise in other parts of the world, and scientists found evidence of this in their study.

READ MORE: How to better manage animal diseases

It also means Ug99 could once again exchange genetic material with different pathogen strains to create a whole new enemy.

While it was proposed that rust strains could hybridise based on laboratory studies in the 1960s, this new research provides the first clear molecular evidence that this process generates new strains in nature.

Rusts are a common fungal disease of plants. Globally they destroy over $1 billion worth of crops each year. Australian crops have largely been protected for the past 60 years by the breeding of rust-resistant crop varieties.

Group Leader at CSIRO Dr Melania Figueroa said Ug99 is considered one of the most threatening of all rusts as it has managed to overcome many of the stem rust resistance genes used in wheat varieties and has evolved many variants.

“While outbreaks of Ug99 have so far been restricted to Africa and the Middle East, it has been estimated that a nationwide outbreak here could cost Australia up to $500 million in lost production and fungicide use in the first year,” Dr Figueroa said.

“There is some good news, however, as the more you know your enemy, the more equipped you are to fight against it.

“Knowing how these pathogens come about means we can better predict how they are likely to change in the future and better determine which resistance genes can be bred into wheat varieties to give long-lasting protection.”

Earlier this year, CSIRO worked with the University of Minnesota and the 2Blades Foundation to achieve good results in wheat resistance by stacking five resistance genes into the one wheat plant to combat wheat stem rust.

This latest research is the result of a collaboration between scientists from CSIRO, the University of Minnesota, University of the Free State, and Australian National University.

The breakthrough came as Dr Figueroa’s group was sequencing Ug99 (then at the University of Minnesota) and at the same time a CSIRO team led by Dr Peter Dodds was sequencing Pgt 21 in Australia.

Pgt21 is a rust strain that was first seen in South Africa in the 1920s and believed to have been carried to Australia in the 1950s by wind currents. When the two groups compared results, they found the two pathogens share an almost identical nucleus and therefore half of their DNA.

“This discovery will make it possible to develop better methods to screen for varieties with strong resistance to disease,” Dr Figueroa said.

“There was an element of serendipity at play in this work. We never expected that Ug99 and an Australian isolate might be related but only through a multi-continental collaboration was it possible to make the connections needed to achieve this discovery.”

Plant proteins hot but meat’s not off the menu

People love plants. With their “naturally functional” halo, consumers of all ages want to eat more of them – and in more convenient forms. From cauliflower pizza to beetroot bread, plant-based is a trend that’s growing for the long term.

But people also love meat. Despite vocal attacks on meat’s health and sustainability credentials, which made it look as if the meat category was set for long-term decline, consumption has increased in both the US and in Europe in recent years.

“Consumers’ perception of meat as a tasty and high-quality protein is driving the reinvention of meat and will secure its permanent place on the plate, and as a snack,” says Julian Mellentin, a consultant to the food and beverage industry and author of the report 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2020. This annual trend analysis identifies – for the first time – Meat as a growth opportunity, alongside Plant-based.

“People want plants, but we’re not all turning into vegans,” says Mellentin. “In a world where consumers hold fragmented beliefs, there’s room for both plants and meat.”

“With plant-based is getting all the attention, and meat under attack, creative meat producers are taking steps to reinvent their category, for example with sustainability, provenance and convenience,” he adds. For example, US sales of meat snacks grew 6.7% in 2019 to $4.5 billion (IRI).

READ MORE: Burcon to build $70 million pea and canola protein production plant

And Nielsen data shows that meat brands that communicate about provenance, sustainability and animal welfare are growing fast and earning premium prices. US sales of meat with health or environmental claims are growing rapidly, led by “organic” up 13.1 per cent and “grass-fed” up 12.2 per cent.

It’s a transformation that will be welcomed by consumers, who love to hear that something they enjoy is also good for them – as happened with red wine and chocolate. And they’re particularly receptive right now to positive messages about meat, says Mellentin, thanks to the influence of other key consumer trends identified in the report, including protein, lower-carb and the rebirth of fat.

Consuming fewer carbs – which by definition means eating more fat and/or protein, often in the form of meat – is growing in popularity, fueled by diet patterns such as keto. And low-carb eating is now legitimized by science. The American Diabetes Association recommends low-carb eating to fight diabetes and for weight management, and low-carbing is being adopted by doctors in the UK.

Fear of the ultimate ‘bad carb’ – sugar – is now mainstream. A massive 80 per cent of US consumers say they are limiting or avoiding sugar in their diets, and there are similar levels of concern in Europe and South America.

It’s a reflection of the fragmentation of consumer beliefs that, alongside a growing demand for low-carb products, honest indulgence is also a big growth driver: “In the midst of the focus on health and nutrition, let’s not forget that most people buy bakery products for pure pleasure,” adds Mellentin. “Natural ingredients, Provenance and great taste all matter more than nutrition.”

Many cereals and granolas are discovering that they can gain sales by using inulin in order to offer consumers low-sugar products that also benefit digestive wellness. The Troo Granola brand in the UK, for example, uses inulin syrup in its products because it serves both as a prebiotic and a sweetener, giving a more appealing taste to consumers while keeping sugar content down.

These twin benefits have caused demand for inulin to surge – the number of products launched that feature inulin doubled between 2012 and 2019.

The 10 Key Trends identified in the report are:

  1. Digestive Wellness
  2. Good Carbs, Bad Carbs
  3. Plant-based
  4. Protein
  5. Sugar – Reinventing Sweetness
  6. Rebirth of Fat
  7. Meat Reimagined
  8. Provenance and Authenticity
  9. Energy 2.0
  10. Mood

And there are four “Mega Trends” that are a must-do for all companies in all categories:

  1. Naturally Functional
  2. Fragmentation
  3. Snackification
  4. Sustainability

Murray River Organics offer price increases

Murray River Organics has announced up to $200 per tonne increase in prices for third party grower dried fruit as part of their Sunraysia Grower Water Support Package for 2020 Crop.

MRG chief executive Valentina Tripp said given the severe drought conditions in Mildura and the increasing expensive price of temporary water the Company wanted to provide Sunraysia growers with certainty for the coming season.

“We recognise the impact that the ongoing drought and water is having on growers in the Mildura area and as significant grower ourselves we understand the issues they are facing. As a result, at this critical time, we have decided to initially offer up to $200 per tonne on top of last year’s pricing increases to source irrigation water for key in demand varieties. We believe this will deliver much needed confidence to our growers.”

READ MORE: Dried vine fruit industry welcomes funding

Last year Murray River Organics led the industry when the Company increased prices to third party dried vine fruit growers by up to 25 percent as part of its plan to ensure a fair return for fruit commensurate with global pricing trends.

The price increases are part of the “Growing Together” program which has been very successful for MRG, with the intake of third-party grower dried vine fruit reaching 1240 tonnes in 2019, an increase of 15% on 2018.

This was a significant achievement considering the challenging growing conditions in Sunraysia in 2019 with many growers experiencing lower yields of up to 40 per cent.
Valentina Tripp said the current water issues in Mildura are still challenging for the agriculture industry with irrigation water from the Murray costing up to $950 a megalitre nearly double the average price paid last season.

“Encouragingly, demand fundamentals for dried vine fruit remain strong, with the global fruit market experiencing growth in demand.”

MRG is the largest dried vine fruit grower in Sunraysia with over 1000 hectares planted and is part way through a major transformation and turnaround journey. It has identified significant sales growth opportunities in Asia, Europe and the USA.

MRG’s Sunraysia Grower Support Package is open to Sunraysia Dried Vine Fruit Growers who sign up prior to Friday, 29 November 2019.

MRG also commits to hold 2019 pricing for the 2020 Harvest.

Exploding meat and other new food technologies

There is a range of new technologies that are set to take the food and beverage industry by storm. We list what we believe will be the next big five technologies that will change the way food and bev does business.

Shockwave Technology
Being developed by Australia’s own CSIRO, shockwave technology is at proof-of-concept stage. The idea of shockwave technology for meat applications first came around in 1997 when scientists decided to put pre-packaged meat under water and detonate explosives to see if they could tenderise meat.
Shockwave technology is where high pressures are applied for a short time – micro seconds – to meat. In previous studies, 100gms of explosives, placed underwater, were used to tenderise meat. Scientists thought, ‘this is great, but how can we commercialise something with explosives?’
In 2001, dielectric discharge came into being, which helped recreate the shockwave. The technology uses two electrodes to generate a similar effect to the explosives. The scientists put voltage through the electrodes and the resulting arc causes very high pressure under water.
The CSIRO thinks it might cause tissue disintegration, which can accelerate the tenderisation of meat.
When it comes to modelling and pressure, scientists aimed to understand shockwave distribution in the treatment chamber and to identify the area of maximum impact. There was a tenderisation effect that was measured objectively using a Warner Bratzler shear test, where the peak force required to cut through treated meat samples is recorded. The CSIRO is now working towards optimising this effect.

Lab-Grown Meat
VOW in Sydney and Brisbane-based Heuros are two Australian companies who are delving into the lab-grown meat space. Using stem cells from animals, the two Australian firms join a growing number of enterprises around the world that are looking to make meat-based protein without using abattoirs. While progress has been relatively quick, none of the companies have been able to make lab-grown meat a commercial reality due to the costs of producing it. Apparently the growing of the meat is not an issue, but scaling up production is. However, once that issue is solved, the next one will be trying to persuade consumers how ‘natural’ the meat’s taste and texture can be. Watch this space.

Compostable Packaging
Not to be confused with its biodegradable cousin, compostable packaging is being worked on by an array of companies in the food and beverage space. The winner of this year’s Packaging Innovation category at the Food & Beverage Industry Awards was PA Packaging Solutions’ home compostable packaging that breaks down completely after 26 weeks in a home compost bin. The issue with biodegradable claims is that all items can wear that label, after all, every product is biodegradable – it’s just a matter of how long it takes; 1 year or a 1000. Compostable packaging is aiming to target the greenie in all of us. There are a couple of issues, one being the bigger a piece of compostable packaging becomes, the more compromised it is – ie, it has issues holding the weight of the contents.

Personalised Food
Not only is technology processing our food and drink faster, and getting it to market quicker, it will soon be able to customise individual food needs of consumers. In an era where allergies and intolerance to certain ingredients are growing, there will soon be a demand for foods that meet the requirements of individuals within a family as opposed to the whole family group. It will be a challenging prospect but already companies like Sunbasket and Platejoy are tapping into the healthy/organic arena with their offerings.

Data mining
Not strictly food and beverage-only related, but something that will be happening more as the world becomes more and more digitally connected. Whether it is a local café, or a multi-national food outlet like Starbucks or McDonalds, data is currency. AI will be the key driver as food manufacturers and the outlets they sell to try and find out more about the consumers of their products. Is the Venti big in Sydney’s western suburbs, or is it the Trenta? Where are most Big Mac’s consumed? Perth or Adelaide.

And while some may think that it has a feel of Big Brother about it, there is also an upside. It should lead to less food waste and packaging as certain sectors of the community can be targeted and their specific needs met without oversupplying a particular outlet.

 

CSIRO working hard on African swine flu

African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal pig disease. And it’s on Australia’s doorstep with confirmation of outbreaks in Timor-Leste, 680 kilometres from northern Australia.

The disease is found in sub-Saharan Africa and has been detected in countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine. This year we have seen the disease sweep down through Asia and towards Australia.

ASF kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects and there is no vaccine or cure. Some estimate a quarter of the world’s pigs will be dead by the end of this year from ASF.

The consequences cannot be understated as pork and other red meat prices are already seeing an increase in Europe and Asia. There is also talk of a global protein shortage for 2020 as a result of ASF.

READ MORE: Western Meat Packer appoint new Australian sales manager

Australia, which has a $5.3 billion pork industry and 2700 producers, continues to be free from the disease. The CSIRO is working with the Australian government and industry to keep it that way.

ASF on our doorstep
The Department of Agriculture has implemented tight biosecurity measures. This maintains strict controls over imported products, which could be contaminated with the ASF virus. It also has heightened surveillance and increased screening for banned pork products.

Recently, Australia deported a Vietnamese tourist after border officials found 10 kilograms of banned food products in her luggage. This included a large amount of raw pork. She was the first tourist to have her visa cancelled and be expelled from the country over breached biosecurity laws.

In September 2019, researchers at our Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) tested pork products, seized at international airports and at international mail processing centres, for ASF virus. AAHL is Australia’s leading high-containment laboratory for exotic and emerging animal diseases. It has unique facilities and expertise to manage the biosecurity risks of testing samples for the virus.

The results from AAHL’s testing last month showed 48 per cent of seized products were contaminated with ASF virus fragments. This is an increase from 15 per cent in the testing AAHL undertook earlier this year.

Detection of these virus fragments does not necessarily mean they can cause infection. But it does highlight the need for Australia’s strict biosecurity measures. Authorities are now using these results to refine and strengthen Australia’s border measures.

ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly
ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly among domestic pigs and wild boars through direct contact or exposure to contaminated feed and water. For instance, farmers can unwittingly carry the virus on their shoes, clothing, vehicles, and machinery. It can survive in fresh and processed pork products. It is even resistant to some disinfectants.

With no vaccine available, controlling the spread of the virus can be difficult. This is especially so in countries dominated by small-scale farmers who may lack the necessary resources and expertise to protect their herds.

For example, swill feeding—giving pigs kitchen and table waste in which the virus can persist—is a common practice throughout Asia. This is a major factor contributing to the spread of ASF. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to enforce a ban on this practice. Especially across so many small holder farms in resource-poor countries affected by the disease.

But, action is being taken.

Australia’s domestic biosecurity network
many Australian agencies are  working together to manage surveillance and monitoring as the risk of ASF entering Australia is on the rise.

In addition to testing, these agencies continue to strengthen our national biosecurity network. The CSIRO is working with quarantine services, agriculture and human health organisations to build awareness, assessment, resilience, preparedness and response.

Our researchers are working on understanding how ASF infects pigs as well as looking at novel approaches to producing a vaccine. With no vaccine currently available, outbreaks of ASF are difficult and costly to contain and eradicate.

In the policy space, a round table meeting at Parliament House was recently held. Along with other leaders, scientists and governments, the CSIRO shared the work currently being undertaken and the actions needed to keep ASF out of Australia.

Plans are underway for a simulation exercise later this year. This will test Australia’s disease response capabilities to make sure the country is as prepared as it can be.

Helping our international neighbours
AAHL has an important role to play in the Asia-Pacific region. Its international team work with partner agencies and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide expertise, training and laboratory skills to rapidly identify disease.

This support enhances the region’s capacity to manage emergency disease outbreaks. It also assists Australia’s pre-border security through better threat assessment and management of viruses circulating in neighbouring countries.

It also provides regional expertise to the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization (a specialised agency of the United Nations) for emergency preparedness missions to the number of countries at risk of virus.

We can all help
Fortunately, Australia’s pig industry is better equipped to manage the necessary biosecurity measures. And producers are willing to put strict controls in place to keep the disease at bay. Hobby farmers must also be careful to follow the rules.

Nobody wants to see images of dying pigs and farmers struggling to make ends meet on our screens. Everybody can play a role in good biosecurity.

Be aware of the risks and, most importantly, please don’t import illegal meat products or feed pigs with food scraps.

Consultation over modernising agricultural R&D extended

Consultation on Modernising the Research and Development Corporation system: Discussion paper has been extended until 25 November, 2019, giving stakeholders more time to put forward imaginative and innovative ideas to drive future success in Australian agriculture.

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the discussion paper was calling for ideas to modernise Australia’s Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) to support the next wave of innovation for Australian farmers.

“Australian agriculture is an international success story and the Morrison McCormack Government is working to ensure farmers can build on that success,” Minister McKenzie said.

READ MORE: Bringing gaming to farming: augmented reality in agriculture

“Our farmers feed and clothe our nation and send safe, high-quality, sustainable products to markets around the globe.

“Farming underpins profitable farming families, strong rural and regional communities and contributes to our national economy.

“That’s why our Government is committed to realising a $100 billion industry by 2030.

“Agriculture in the 21st century will be science-led, employ more cutting-edge technology and need highly skilled workers.

“If we’re to position agriculture as an agile, industry of choice for the 21st century we need to see what improvements we can make that will help us get there.

“This is an opportunity for those who have a stake in the system to be involved so we can make sure our agriculture sector is operating as effectively and efficiently as it can.

“This discussion paper is about modernising our agricultural research and development to ensure the RDC system is delivering value for our levy and tax payers into the future.”

The Modernising the Research and Development Corporation system: Discussion paper is available for comment until 25 November, 2019. Go to: haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/modernising-rdc

Discussion paper questions:

  • Is the current RDC system delivering value for levy payers and taxpayers? In what ways?
  • What are some of the benefits of keeping the same number of RDCs?
  • What are some of the benefits of changing the number of RDCs?
  • What are some of the cross-sectoral issues being faced by the wider agricultural sector?
  • How can RDCs increase collaboration to ensure better investment in, and returns from, cross-sectoral, transformative and public good research?
  • What are the cultural changes necessary in RDCs to achieve a modern fit-for-purpose RDC system?
  • What other ways are there for increasing investment in cross-sectoral, transformative and public good research?
  • What is the best way for RDCs to engage with levy payers to inform investment decisions?
  • How can we encourage increased investment in the RDC system from the private sector and international partners?
  • How can we form stronger linkages between the RDC system and the food value chain?
  • What changes might encourage improved RDC collaboration with the private sector, including those outside the agricultural sector?
  • Where should the balance of investment between R&D and extension lie?
  • How could RDCs play a stronger role in extension service delivery, in light of existing private and state government extension efforts?
  • How could RDCs help researchers, entrepreneurs and others better engage with producers to accelerate uptake?
  • How could industry and levy payers drive increased uptake of R&D?
  • How might RDCs be able to increase their role in policy research and development and participate in policy debate alongside industry representative bodies?
  • If RDCs were to play a greater role in this area how could this activity be clearly distinguished from partisan and political activity, which must remain a role for industry representative bodies?

Macadamias aim to disrupt chocolate category

Australian Macadamias has today released findings from independent research agency, GalKal, revealing macadamias are an underutilised ingredient in the traditional chocolate and nuts pairing. As consumers constantly crave new and creative confectionery, macadamias can bring excitement and interest to commonplace product formulations.

While chocolate and nuts are an established pairing, the space is dominated by nut varieties such as peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Over 13,000 chocolate products were launched globally in the past year; more than 1,400 (11 per cent) featured hazelnuts and a further 485 (4 per cent) featured peanuts, while only 75 (0.5 per cent) products launched featured macadamias.

Be it to unwind, de-stress, uplift or re-energise, consumers around the world crave chocolate confectionery to bring a sense of indulgence and escape from the everyday. There is a global demand for new flavour and texture combinations that inject luxury and surprise into the everyday chocolate experience.

READ MORE: The macadamia challenge returns

Lynne Ziehlke, general manager, marketing for the Australian macadamia industry said, “While consumers are very familiar and comfortable with the idea of nuts in chocolate, the current pairings have become quite commonplace and expected.

“The research showed that macadamias are the ideal ingredient to disrupt the tried and trusted nut-chocolate relationship and help create more exciting, novel and unique expressions of chocolate.”

The findings also brought to light the notion of ‘permissible indulgence,’ meaning consumers seek out chocolate that justifies the indulgence they crave either because it is perceived to be high-end or contains ingredients that are healthy. However, consumers do not want to compromise by settling for products that don’t deliver on the inherent pleasure of eating chocolate.

Ziehlke adds, “We continue to see the concept of ‘health as the new form of wealth’ dominating the consumer landscape. Macadamias are recognised as a guilt-free ingredient due to their nutritional value but at the same time are recognised as a premium product that will add luxury and deliver an indulgent eating experience.”

“The distinct, rich and creamy taste and texture of macadamias means they are the ideal ingredient to inspire chocolate innovation and bring excitement to a category in need of disruption. Macadamias also have a unique ability to balance out very sweet or very savoury flavours and create a harmonious overall taste profile. This opens up a wide range of opportunities for new product formulations.”

Methodology
Interviews were conducted with influencers in Germany, China and the US, followed by an online community with prosumers in Germany and the US and focus groups in China