Montague constructing expansive fruit processing facility

Fruit Grower Montegue is  constructing a new fruit processing facility in Narre Warren North. It is a multi-use facility located on a 12-hectare plot of land at the boundary of Lysterfield Park and Horswood Road. The complex will process over 260,000,000 pieces of fruit annually, which will be distributed to markets across Australia and the world.  The project will also comprise a café, retail space, apple and stone fruit sales, public picking orchard, seasonal exhibition space, bike shop and open space lawns available all of which will be open to the public.

The project is planned to launch in phases with the build of the 53,200m2 fruit processing facility set to complete at the end of this year. Installation of packing equipment is scheduled to commence in mid-September, which will mean the new stone fruit grader will be operational from mid-January 2021 and all apple production lines fully operational from mid-March 2021, in time for next year’s apple season.

The development showcases local construction materials including recycled timber from the original barns that were located on the property and features natural products with distinctive earthy tones to reflect the surroundings flora from the recreational reserve and orchards. The internal and external concrete slabs will be completed in September with the main building structure and roof completed in early October.

The Montague hospitality development, which is the first public access amenity created by Montague, will be open by mid-January 2021. The name of the café and public orchard will be unveiled in November.

“Consumer research shows  that Australian’s want to know where their food comes from and how it is handled before reaching the retail stores,” said Rowan Little, chief innovation officer. “From February 2021, visitors can join us to learn first-hand about fruit production while enjoying a coffee and pick some apples for themselves.”

The project had been impacted by the stage 4 restriction in Victoria, with construction operating at a limited capacity since the 5th of August. However, the Victorian State Government recognised Montague as critical and essential providers of fresh fruit to Australians and granted special permission for construction to resume at an increased capacity.

Montague has implemented a High-Risk COVID-Safe plan and continue to adhere to all ongoing directions, recommendations and guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services regarding recommended measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission and ensure a safe working environment for everybody working on the project.

Agtech Australian first: more crop per drop

A new partnership between Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and local agtech company Goanna Ag will see sensors and analytics combined to maximise every drop of irrigation water used to grow crops.

In an Australian first, ‘WaterWise’ is the only water-use efficiency product for irrigated crops that measures crop water stress and predicts future water needs in real time. The tech is set to help growers save water or produce more crop per drop.

Goanna Ag, which produces agricultural sensing systems for water-use efficiency, will be delivering WaterWise’s smart analytics as a data stream to their on-farm customers.

CEO Alicia Garden said that for Goanna Ag and its customers, being involved in this innovation means they can access brand-new, Australian-made, science-based technology and incorporate it into their existing GoField system.

“Being able to predict when to irrigate will allow our clients – farmers – to plan based on what the plant needs,” Garden said.

The WaterWise system ‘lets the plants do the talking’ with in-field sensors that measure the canopy temperature of crops every 15 minutes. It then sends the data to CSIRO’s sensor data infrastructure, adds in the weather forecast and uses machine learning to apply CSIRO’s unique algorithm to predict the crop’s water requirements for the next seven days.

WaterWise team leader Dr Rose Brodrick explains that predicting the future is the real breakthrough science. It means for the first time, growers can see the water stress of their crops at any point and predict their future water needs.

“Just like humans, plants have an optimum temperature. When things are normal it’s easier to predict when a plant will need water. But when conditions change – like with a new crop, a new field, or unusually hot or cold weather forecasted – farmers want backup with their decision making.”

“The usual strategy is ‘if you’re unsure, just add water’. This is where using high tech can help give them data and more confidence in their decision making, because every drop counts,” she said.

Developing and commercialising breakthrough agtech like WaterWise is a feat CSIRO is one of few organisations capable of achieving. It involved a range of skill sets from agronomists to plant physiologists, data and machine learning experts, software engineers, social scientists and innovation specialists. And it was done in record time.

The next steps for WaterWise are to take it from in-field based canopy sensors to drones or satellites.

Goanna Ag expects the system incorporating WaterWise will be commercially available in time for the 2020 summer cropping seaso

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

Policy makers need to lead the way with circular economy transition

In 2020, we are going to hear a lot more about the circular economy. While it is a catch cry that has existed for years, across the globe the push to embrace circular economy principles is accelerating with unprecedented pace. And, while Australia’s food, beverage, and grocery manufacturing sector is working hard to embrace the change that comes with the circular economy, policy makers also need to ensure appropriate time frames and incentivisation schemes are in place to help business transition.

What is the circular economy?
Establishing a circular economy means much more than recycling – that is only a small part of the equation. It is restorative by design, focused on extracting maximum value from resources through continued re-use, using as few resources as possible.

Central to the concept is the idea that things should be designed to be maintained and reused and, when no longer useful in their original form, can be used for something else. The loop is closed. In terms of the food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector, the obvious area where the concept of the circular economy can be applied is in regards to packaging, especially plastic packaging. And in Australia, the sector is collaborating to make it happen.

Food waste
With a rapidly growing global population, a reduction in agricultural land, and increasing climate change concerns, reducing food waste is now a global priority. If food waste was a country, it is estimated it would be the world’s third largest carbon emitter (after the USA and China) and utilise a cropland area the size of China. Currently, Australia generates an estimated 11.3 million tonnes of food waste per year, with 2.3 million and 2.5 million tonnes being generated on farm and in the home respectively. Currently a mere five per cent of household food waste is diverted from landfill, presenting an opportunity to embrace circular economy principles.

Food manufacturers are leading the charge and have focused on reducing food waste. Currently, they divert 95 per cent from landfill to higher order uses such as food rescue, animal feed, application to land and composting, which are already driving significant circular economy outcomes.

2025 National Packaging Targets
Across the board, Australian food, beverage and grocery companies are working hard to increase the recycling rate of packaging and reducing the impacts of litter. Many are playing an important part through their commitments to the 2025 National Packaging Targets, led by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

The four targets, which were set in 2018, are:
to make all packaging 100 per cent recyclable, re-usable or compostable;
to ensure 70 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled or compostable;
to ensure 30 per cent average recycled content in packaging; and
to phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging.

Recent research undertaken by APCO has confirmed that industry has already exceeded the recycled content target and is now collaborating with Government to set a more ambitious target to stimulate demand in the circular economy.

As members of APCO, companies are collaborating to reduce the harmful impact of packaging. Membership extends across organisational size and industry and enables “the sharing of best practice resources and strategies to improve packaging design, optimise waste management processes and reduce business costs relating to packaging waste”.
There is increasing demand for packaging that includes recycled content and some of the largest companies are leading the way. For example, Unilever has committed to halving its use of virgin plastics, Coca Cola is using 100 per cent recycled plastic content in 70 per cent of its bottles, and Lion Dairy & Drinks’ Dairy Farmers Heritage 1.5L milk bottle is already made with 50 per cent recycled content, with all Juice Brothers 1.5L bottles to be made using 50 per cent recycled content by end of March. There is also a focus on consumers, with the increasing adoption of the Australian Recyclability Label on packaging helping guide them on what can be recycled.

While the industry is wholly supportive of the national packaging targets, achieving them is not without its challenges.

Barriers to achieving 2025 National Packaging Targets
The key barriers facing the industry as it strives to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets are many and varied. They include: the lack of clean glass from kerbside collections, which limits the recycled content in local bottles; the lack of availability of recycled food-grade plastic packaging; a need to review quality standards of recycled content to ensure food safety is not compromised; the ability to ensure traceability around the packaging supply chain to prevent modern slavery; and a general lack of local processing infrastructure.

Rectifying these issues requires all stakeholders to collaborate and mandating targets for one stakeholder group will not go far in achieving a circular economy. The responsibility must be shared by the food and grocery manufacturing sector, the packaging industry, retailers, the waste sector, government and APCO. Working together the actions required to address these barriers can be adequately addressed, National Packaging Targets reached and, ultimately, a circular economy achieved.

APCO recognises an interrelated, whole-of-supply-chain approach is needed, and has established working groups, comprising of industry and other stakeholders, to address specific issues identified with the recoverability of ‘problematic’ packaging materials.
Collaboration between all levels of government and jurisdictions, all stakeholders along the packaging supply chain, and secondary processors is required. As highlighted in the recent APCO baseline report, 86 per cent of packaging is currently recyclable, yet only 49 per cent is actually recycled. This is due to a combination of factors ranging from product design, community education and collection methods, to a lack of specific local recycling infrastructure. APCO is playing an active role in facilitating this collaboration and encouraging whole-of-supply-chain enablers to meet the targets.

Moving towards a circular economy
While there is ever-growing momentum within the sector to embrace circular economy principles, there are several key barriers standing in its way.

Currently, the demand for recycled plastics exceeds the supply, resulting in a lack of availability and inflated pricing. Increased availability of post-consumer plastics and increased competition in its supply is required to reduce costs for brand owners procuring recycled plastic. This will protect local manufacturing jobs and assist Australian companies to compete with low cost imports.

Incentivisation from state and federal governments through capital funding assistance will be essential moving forward.

This is because:

  • Recyclers need funds to install improved optical sorting equipment to increase the availability of clean uncontaminated PET and HDPE.
  • Packaging companies need funds to install decontamination infrastructure in order to meet food grade packaging specifications.
  • production lines.
  • Fiscal support for research and development into alternate uses of plastics, such as chemical recycling or use in roads, is also necessary.

Finally, there is need for a nationally consistent approach.

While the independence of the states allows governments to implement waste policies tailored to their needs, it can also produce adverse impacts that ultimately produce commercial inefficiencies, undermine commercial confidence for circular economy stakeholders to invest, and reduce potential environmental gains. Nationally, consistent kerbside collections will allow brand owners to design products to a national recycling specification and allow recyclers to design recycling infrastructure to sort a set of common household materials into high-value commodities for further processing and ultimately manufacturing into new products.

Nestlé announces collaboration with Burcon and Merit for plant-based ingredients

Néstle has announced a collaboration with Burcon and Merit, two key players in the development and production of high-quality plant proteins. This partnership will enable Nestlé to further accelerate the development of nutritious and great-tasting, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives with a favorable environmental footprint.

The partnership combines Nestlé’s expertise in the development, production and commercialization of plant-based foods and beverages with Burcon’s proprietary plant protein extraction and purification technology, while leveraging Merit’s state-of-the-art plant protein production capabilities.

“Developing nutritious and great-tasting plant-based meat and dairy alternatives requires access to tasty, nutritious and sustainable raw materials as well as proprietary manufacturing technology,” says Stefan Palzer, Nestlé Chief Technology Officer. “The partnership with Burcon and Merit will give us access to unique expertise and a new range of high-quality ingredients for plant-based food and beverages.”

Globally, Nestlé has around 300 R&D scientists, engineers and product developers located in 8 R&D centers that are dedicated to the research and development of plant-based products. To complement its internal capabilities, the company also strategically collaborates with researchers, suppliers, start-ups and various other innovation partners.

Nestlé’s plant-based product range includes pea, soy- and wheat-based burger patties, sausages, mince meat, chicken filets and various prepared dishes. The company also developed pea and oat-based dairy alternatives, almond-, coconut- and oat-based creamers, plant-based coffee mixes as well as a range of non-dairy ice creams. It also recently announced its plans to launch vegan alternatives to cheese and bacon, designed to complement its existing plant-based burger patties.

Burcon Nutrascience is a global technology company with a portfolio of patents related to composition, application, and manufacturing of novel plant-based proteins derived from pea, canola, soy, hemp, sunflower seed and various other crops.

Banana plants an a-peeling alternative for packaging

Biodegradable ‘plastic’ bags made out of banana plants sounds a bit…bananas, but a couple of UNSW researchers have found a way to do it, and it could solve two industrial waste problems in one.

Two researchers at UNSW Sydney have discovered a novel way to turn banana plantation waste into packaging material that is not only biodegradable, but also recyclable.

Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot and Professor Martina Stenzel were looking for ways to convert agricultural waste into something that could value add to the industry it came from while potentially solving problems for another.

A good contender was the banana growing industry which, according to A/Prof Arcot, produces large amounts of organic waste, with only 12% of the plant being used (the fruit) while the rest is discarded after harvest.

READ MORE: Packaging initiatives designed to reduce waste

“What makes the banana growing business particularly wasteful compared to other fruit crops is the fact that the plant dies after each harvest,” said A/Prof Arcot, UNSW School of Chemical Engineering.

“We were particularly interested in the pseudostems – basically the layered, fleshy trunk of the plant which is cut down after each harvest and mostly discarded on the field. Some of it is used for textiles, some as compost, but other than that, it’s a huge waste.”

A/Prof Arcot and Prof Stenzel (UNSW School of Chemistry) wondered whether the pseudostems would be valuable sources of cellulose – an important structural component of plant cell walls – that could be used in packaging, paper products, textiles and even medical applications such as wound healing and drug delivery.

Using a reliable supply of pseudostem material from banana plants grown at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the duo set to work in extracting cellulose to test its suitability as a packaging alternative.

“The pseudostem is 90 per cent water, so the solid material ends up reducing down to about 10%,” A/Prof Arcot said. “We bring the pseudostem into the lab and chop it into pieces, dry it at very low temperatures in a drying oven, and then mill it into a very fine powder.”

Prof Stenzel continued:

“We then take this powder and wash it with a very soft chemical treatment. This isolates what we call nano-cellulose which is a material of high value with a whole range of applications. One of those applications that interested us greatly was packaging, particularly single-use food packaging where so much ends up in landfill.”

When processed, the material has a consistency similar to baking paper.

A/Prof Arcot said depending on the intended thickness, the material could be used in a number of different formats in food packaging.“There are some options at this point, we could make a shopping bag, for example,” she said.

“Or depending on how we pour the material and how thick we make it, we could make the trays that you see for meat and fruit. Except of course, instead of being foam, it is a material that is completely non-toxic, biodegradable and recyclable.”

A/Prof Arcot said she and Prof Stenzel have confirmed in tests that the material breaks down organically after putting ‘films’ of the cellulose material in soil for six months. The results showed that the sheets of cellulose were well on the way to disintegrating in the soil samples.

“The material is also recyclable. One of our PhD students proved that we can recycle this for three times without any change in properties,” Professor Arcot said.

Tests with food have proved that it poses no contamination risks.

“We tested the material with food samples to see whether there was any leaching into the cells,” Professor Stenzel said. “We didn’t see any of that. I also tested it on mammalian cells, cancer cells, T-cells and it’s all non-toxic to them. So if the T-cells are happy – because they’re usually sensitive to anything that’s toxic – then it’s very benign.”

Other uses of agricultural waste that the duo have looked at are in the cotton industry and rice growing industry – they have extracted cellulose from both waste cotton gathered from cotton gins and rice paddy husks.

“In theory you can get nano-cellulose from every plant, it’s just that some plants are better than others in that they have higher cellulose content,” Prof Stenzel said.

“What makes bananas so attractive in addition to the quality of the cellulose content is the fact that they are an annual plant,” A/Prof Arcot added.

The researchers say that for the banana pseudostem to be a realistic alternative to plastic bags and food packaging, it would make sense for the banana industry to start the processing of the pseudostems into powder which they could then sell to packaging suppliers.

“If the banana industry can come on board, and they say to their farmers or growers that there’s a lot of value in using those pseudostems to make into a powder which you could then sell, that’s a much better option for them as well as for us,” Prof Arcot said.

And at the other end of the supply chain, if packaging manufacturers updated their machines to be able to fabricate the nano-cellulose film into bags and other food packaging materials, then banana pseudostems stand a real chance of making food packaging much more sustainable.

“What we’re really wanting at this stage is an industry partner who can look into how this could be upscaled and how cheap we can make it,” Prof Stenzel said.

A/Prof Arcot agreed. “I think the packaging companies would be more willing to have a go at this material, if they knew the material was available readily.”

Yume partners with Suez to combat food waste

Yume has announced a partnership to fight commercial food waste. A fight that cannot be fought alone.

Suez and Yume have formed a first of its kind collaboration to tackle the 4.1 million tonnes
that goes to waste every year in Australia in the commercial sector, before it even reaches
supermarkets, restaurants or homes.

War on Waste and Love Food Hate Waste movements shone a spotlight on food waste in
the home and appealed to consumers to change habits at the end of the supply chain.
However, if we take a trip upstream to where the food is grown and made there is a much
bigger problem – some 55 per cent of all waste occurs in the commercial sector: primary
production, manufacturing and wholesale. This is equivalent to 560 semi-trailer loads of
edible food never reaching its destination, and instead going to waste, every single
day. This waste costs the economy $6 billion every year, on top of the substantial
environmental and social impacts.

This is the uncomfortable truth of food waste, the one no one talks about and only few see. Yume and Suez have both seen it and have joined forces to tackle it. We are partnering to offer an integrated full service waste solution to makers and growers that honours the food waste hierarchy. Yume, an online marketplace for surplus food, will be the first interception point where product will be listed for sale to be rehomed and consumed as intended. Suez a world leader in resource recovery and waste management will then focus on optimizing recycling, composting, and energy opportunities to extract the greatest value from precious food resources.

The partnership between Yume and Suez is founded on shared vision. We both have the environment at our core and believe a whole of industry and government approach is required to successfully transition our take-make-waste economy to a resource-recovery model. Yume, as a relatively young organisation, is benefiting from Suez’s deep specialist knowledge and industry connections. Meanwhile, Suez benefits from the ‘disruptor’ mindset that Yume brings as an innovative start-up. This unlikely collaboration creates a win-win-win outcome that will accelerate substantial improvements to the  performance of the commercial food sector.

Katy Barfield founded Yume in 2014 with a bold vision of a world without waste. Australia
has pledged along with 193 countries to adopt the UN Sustainable Development Goal to
halve food waste by 2030. With only 10 years left on the clock, we need to unite and
innovate. Yume is proud to have united with SUEZ to work together to provide an improved
experience and service that directly and measurably diverts food from waste.

With 560 semi-trailer loads of food going to waste every day, it’s time to ask ourselves, what are we doing together to fight this issue?. The problem is huge, too big and confronting to be solved alone and the clock is ticking.

Key impacts digitalisation is having on the food industry

Digitalisation is at the heart of the rapidly evolving agrifood ecosystem, according to a major new report released today by Lux Research, a leading provider of tech-enabled research and advisory services. The report outlines the challenges the agrifood industry has faced in recent years and the digital tools that offer potential solutions to those challenges across food processing and production, supply chain management, and personalized nutrition.

Through a series of data-backed use cases, Lux’s new report, The Digital Transformation of the Food Industry, identifies a framework that agrifood industry players should use to evaluate and implement digital tools for solving specific business issues. The analysis reveals that a key challenge for players attempting to interface with digital technologies in food production is the tendency to act tactically from a tech-first perspective rather than acting strategically from an issue-to-outcome perspective. Lux’s digital transformation framework offers a method that industry players can follow to achieve successful testing and adoption of digital tech in food production.

“The ability to address consumers’ future needs is the driving force behind the rapidly evolving agrifood sector,” said Harini Venkataraman, lead analyst of the report. “To adequately meet this changing landscape, major industry players must act now to build a robust digital strategy that identifies the right set of digital tools for the right products to maximize the value-add for their respective businesses.”

The report finds that, while other industrial sectors have been quicker to implement digital solutions like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, industrial IoT, and robotics, the agrifood industry is making great strides to catch up. The impact on the sector will be significant as a means to address consumer demands for personalized product offerings and to manage a more integrated, digital, and omnichannel global supply chain.

“As companies in the food industry are trying to embrace digital transformation, this report is a critical resource to uncover the true potential of digital technologies applied to the right use cases,” said Venkataraman. “More than in other industries, digitalization in food will be a common thread across the entire agrifood ecosystem to enable industry players to address consumers’ future needs. The fact is, food companies that resist the digital conversion will not be able to keep up with more digital-savvy innovators, and will face higher R&D costs, longer product development timelines, and shrinking market share.”

v2food plant-based protein startup closes $35M Series A round  

v2food, Australia’s newest plant-based protein startup, today announced that it has raised a $35 million Series A funding round led by Main Sequence Ventures, manager of CSIRO’s Innovation Fund, and Horizons Ventures.

The round also includes Fairfax Family investment fund Marinya Capital & leading venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China. These new investors will add significant scale and build an impressive partnership alongside existing seed investors Main Sequence Ventures, CSIRO and Jack Cowin’s Competitive Foods Australia.

The Series A financing continues an exceptional few months for v2food that saw the company officially launch in October and release its first product in partnership with Hungry Jack’s Australia, the Rebel Whopper. Funding will be used to expand R&D efforts including building a new research and production facility, planning to begin operation in regional Australia in 2020.

The company worked with Australia’s national science agency CSIRO to create products that look like meat, cook like meat and taste like meat. Co-founded by former Masterfoods and PepsiCo Research Director, Nick Hazell, v2food’s mission is to develop delicious food that is good for people and good for the planet, revolutionising the way we produce and consume food.

“This is an important step towards v2food’s goal of transforming the way the world produces food.  There is a big shortfall between the amount of meat we produce today and the amount needed to feed the growing global population. There will be nearly 10 billion people on Earth by 2050. Our mission is clear — to provide everyday people with plant-based meat that tastes great and is good for the environment. It’s imperative that we scale quickly because these global issues need immediate solutions and we are fortunate to have secured these outstanding global partners to help propel us forward,”said Nick Hazell v2food founder and CEO.

As demand is currently outstripping supply, v2food also plans to use the funds to expand its footprint in Australia and develop a supply chain that is highly scalable enabling accelerated growth.

“Main Sequence Ventures’ mission is to help transform inspiring Australian research into epic global companies. v2food is an outstanding example of an innovative startup committed to solving a global problem. The team has demonstrated what can be achieved when science and industry collaborate,” said Phil Morle, Partner of Main Sequence Ventures.

With an oversubscribed round, the investors were selected due to their global networks, and their support will help the company to expand its sales and marketing efforts offshore. Leveraging the global ties of Horizons Ventures and Sequoia Capital will enable v2food to enter the next phase of growth throughout the Asia-Pacific region with the support of investors with long histories of backing sector-defining businesses.

“The v2food team has created a truly world-class product in an area that is seeing massive growth and demand. We’re incredibly excited to back this home-grown startup to help bring v2food not only to consumers across Australia but the world,” said Nicholas Fairfax, managing Ddrector of Marinya Capital.

v2food plans to continue to launch new products in outlets across Australia in the next few months.

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.”

Southeast Queensland food and grocery manufacturing generates $7.5 billion

The food and grocery manufacturing industry in South East Queensland generated more than $7.5 billion last year, a new economic snapshot has found.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said the industry is a vitally important contributor to the local economy, as shown in the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s South East Queensland Economic Snapshot 2018/2019.

“Australian manufacturing is an important part of our economy, it’s a big employer in our cities and regions, and creates innovative and valuable products and services – and this is nowhere more evident than in South East Queensland,” Minister Andrews said.

“The report shows the food and grocery manufacturing industry employed nearly 12,000 people across the region in 2018, representing 19.4 per cent of all manufacturing jobs and two per cent of total jobs in South East Queensland.

The food and grocery manufacturing industry generated $7.68 billion in 2018, representing 29.1 per cent of South East Queensland’s manufacturing output.

Andrews saw first-hand the contribution of a local success story, while attending the launch of the report at the Vege Chip Company in Currumbin on the Gold Coast.

“It was fantastic to meet with workers of this successful business, which has grown from humble market beginnings to distributing its products across Australia and overseas,” Andrews said.

“This company in my electorate is a great example of what Queensland food and beverage manufacturing businesses can achieve when they combine an innovative idea with hard work and perseverance.”

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

Why Aussies need to eat more vegetables

Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Yet, less than four per cent of Australians consume the recommended five serves of vegetables a day.

What can we do to change this? Inspiring and empowering healthy eating for all Australians is the mission of Nutrition Australia, Australia’s peak nutritional body. One of their annual initiatives is Tryfor5, an awareness campaign run during National Nutrition Week (13 – 19 October) encouraging Australians to increase their vegetable consumption, with this year’s theme “Embrace Your Veg Waste” which supports Australians to consume five serves of vegetables each day by learning to embrace their food waste.

According to Nutrition Australia’s CEO Lucinda Hancock the Tryfor5 campaign reinforces the healthy eating message. “Australians aren’t eating enough vegetables and are throwing away large amounts of edible food waste and so we’re calling on everyone to rise to the challenge and Embrace their veg waste”

READ MORE: Opportunity for frozen vegetables in health-focussed diets

More than one third of rubbish bins in Australian kitchens contain leftovers and wasted food, which equates to nearly $4000 worth of groceries per household per year that can end up in landfill, where food breaks down and can emit harmful greenhouse gases.

Nutrition Australia senior dietitian, Amber Kelaart says there are a few ways we can try for 5 serves of vegetables a day, while helping to save money and the environment, by embracing vegetable ‘waste’:

  • Eat more parts of vegetables such as skins, stalks and leaves.
  • Use up ageing vegetables that would otherwise go in the bin
  • Choose ‘ugly’ and ‘imperfect’ vegetables to prevent them going to landfill. They’re just as nutritious, and often cheaper.

“Eating your ageing vegetables and eating the parts you usually throw out (like skins, stalks and leaves), makes every dollar stretch further, and reduces your household’s impact on climate change. It’s win-win.”

Kelaart says to start by using more parts of the vegetables you already have on hand. “Vegetable skins contain fibre, vitamins and minerals. Rinsing vegetables like carrots, potatoes and mushrooms, instead of peeling them, means you keep more of those important nutrients in your body and out of the bin.”

“And don’t throw out things like broccoli stems or the leaves of leeks. You can chop the broccoli stems and use it in a stir-fry or soup. And chips, tart and stock made from the leaves of leek will add a unique new ingredient to your repertoire.”

If your vegetables are getting a little wrinkly, having some go to recipes up your sleeve will help you use up your ageing vegetables.

“Give your ageing vegetables a second life by adding them to vegetable soups, egg frittatas or savoury muffins. Just add a few handfuls of chopped left-over vegetables to create delicious and colourful new meals or snacks. Plus they freeze well and can be added to the kids’ lunchbox or taken to work.”

Nutrition Australia also recommends learning how to store different types of vegetables, so they stay fresh for as long as possible.

“If you have bought a lot of something but only need a little, think about preparing the extra vegetables in a way that you can use in future. For example, chop up extra celery and carrots for snacks. And freeze herbs while they’re fresh so you can trim some off each time you need more,” Amber suggests.

Bayer is the founding sponsor of the Tryfor5 Program and is committed to actively supporting the health and wellbeing of all Australians through programs that improve health literacy.

“Working in partnership with Nutrition Australia we are dedicated to improving health outcomes through increased awareness of nutritional and everyday health needs.  The Tryfor5 campaign provides practical information and tips on nutritional requirements to support positive self-care practices.” Jeorg Ellmanns, CEO Bayer Australia and New Zealand.

Opportunity for frozen vegetables in health-focussed diets

In Australia, producers of frozen vegetables are missing an opportunity to help consumers create high-quality, home-cooked healthy meals without sacrificing time. More Australians are starting to prioritise eating more healthily, and to do so, market research specialist Mintel has information from its surveys that points to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This is done by following a balanced diet, and cooking more at home, as key steps in this journey.

At the same time, Australians want to make room in their lives for other priorities, such as cultivating strong personal relationships and enjoying social occasions – activities that they understand are important to their health in other ways.

Currently, Australians tend to have frozen vegetables on hand for side dish emergencies. However, these products can actually be promoted to do more – frozen vegetables can act as a shortcut for consumers who are trying to balance many things in their limited time, including eating well. Frozen vegetables provide a solution for time-strapped, yet health-focussed consumers, to create semi-scratch meals that contain lots of vegetables, while still eschewing the processed foods that they seek to avoid. Frozen vegetables are the solution to helping Australians achieve their goal to cook at home more often.

READ MORE: Tool measures the reaction to food launch

While Mintel research shows that almost half of urban Australians say they like to cook, the time taken to prepare for cooking, especially when using whole, fresh vegetables, could be better spent on other pursuits.

Enter speed-scratch or “semi-homemade” cooking. This concept, championed in the US by Food Network host Sandra Lee, instructs home cooks to use partially prepared foods to create dishes that feel like they are scratch-made.

Frozen vegetables are suitable for this, especially as they are already washed, peeled and chopped, and often come without the need to be defrosted before being added to a recipe. Positioning frozen produce as a partially prepared ingredient offers consumers a way to prepare something convenient at home without relying on processed foods – something that over two-thirds of urban Australians say they are looking to avoid.

Frozen vegetables can help home cooks in Australia create inspired, intentional meals that are rich in plant-based ingredients by clearly showing consumers the different ways that they can be used. Adding recipes and usage suggestions on pack is an approach that has worked well for the frozen fruit category. For instance, frozen fruit brands have included recipes and usage suggestions for smoothies on pack. These suggestions give consumers more ideas on how to use frozen produce, and they position frozen fruit as a product that consumers would purchase for this purpose.

By taking on a similar strategy, frozen vegetable brands can encourage consumers to buy their products more often than just something to have at home as a backup or emergency side dish.

In addition to helping consumers see frozen vegetables as a speed-scratch solution, brands need to overcome the perception that frozen is lower quality than fresh. This is especially true as Mintel research indicates the importance of freshness to Australians, with over half of them ranking it as the top attribute they seek in food.

However, according to Mintel Purchase Intelligence, a tool that measures consumer reactions to and purchase intent of food and drink products, Australians are unconvinced by the freshness of frozen vegetables. This reflects how frozen vegetable brands are not telling a strong story that communicates the freshness that these products can offer. While many brands use snap-chilling, and do mention this on pack, most are not using their packaging to talk about the benefits of quick freezing in preserving the quality, flavour and nutrition of vegetables. Telling a more dynamic story about freshness and quality can raise the value perception of frozen vegetables, especially when combined with convenience messaging.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Goodness Kitchen offers a good example of how these types of vegetables can communicate freshness and quality. The product uses bright colours and a see-through cut-out that reveals the product inside, which are aspects that set this packaging apart from the many bags and boxes in the frozen aisle. In addition, it uses the back of the pack to tell a full and engaging story about the company and its practices.

Goodness Kitchen talks about organic farming, freshness, nutritional quality and how frozen veggies help to reduce food waste. In an aisle where low price drives purchase intent, communicating the added value one product offers over another could open consumers’ minds to the fact that price is just one element of the value equation.

Brands in Australia have not fully exploited the chance to communicate the freshness and quality of frozen vegetables. There is the potential for these brands to show consumers that frozen products can empower them to achieve their health goals by helping them eat more vegetables, avoid processed foods and cook at home more often with less effort.

Compostable cucumber wrap from BioBag World

A fully compostable shrink-wrap for cucumbers has been developed in South Australia and is set to be launched on international markets.

The compostable wrap is manufactured by BioBag World Australia and took 12 months to develop in partnership with South Australian produce and packaging businesses IG Fresh Produce.

It was launched in September as an environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional polyethylene plastic wrap and has already generated export interest from Qatar and South Africa.

IG Fresh executive director George Antonas said he was approached by South Australian independent grocer Drakes Supermarkets to develop a compostable fruit and vegetable wrap to replace traditional shrink-wrap.

Antonas said the product was being used exclusively on cucumbers sold at Drake’s 38 South Australian supermarkets until October 16, after which it’d be available for a wide range of purposes. “JP Drake put the challenge to us and so we gave them product exclusivity for the first four weeks,” Antonas said. IG Fresh produce is a fruit and vegetable wholesaler located the South Australian capital Adelaide.

READ MORE: AIP president explains biodegradable and compostable packaging

Antonas said a potential investment partner from Qatar had travelled to Adelaide for the product launch with Drakes. He expected to begin exporting cucumbers dressed in the compostable wrap to Qatar by the end of October, with exports to South Africa and Europe to follow.

The bioplastic film is made from a compostable resin called Mater-Bi that uses substances obtained from plants including non-genetically modified corn starch.

While there are other compostable products on the market, Antonas said creating a 100 per cent industrially compostable cucumber wrap required a unique process.

“That’s where Scott Morton’s expertise came into it – because it’s heat shrunk onto the cucumber. There’s plenty of compostable products out there but this one is for a specific purpose,” Antonas said.

“There’s a big push to make all single use packaging compostable. So, you buy a cucumber, you peel off the wrapper and you put it in your greens bin and you know it’s not going to add to landfill and that sort of thing. Plastic has its place but not for single use, it just creates too much waste.”

According to Antonas, the cucumber compostable wrap has the potential to be used on all fruit and vegetables, and BioBag World Australia director Scott Morton agrees.

“The potential is endless. It’s improving all of the time. I see it as a direct replacement for plastic,” Morton said.

Norway-based BioBag has six factories and 20 market or distribution partners around the world, producing over one billion bags a year.

Morton said BioBag was also working on a non-shrink-wrap compostable product that could replace plastic cling films.

He said the cucumber wrap developed in South Australia could also be distributed in major global markets including the United States.

“We’re trying to enhance the current cucumber wrap. It’s not quite suitable yet as a cling wrap alternative,” he said.

“We’re developing a new product that’s more for the international market. That’s a product that will especially keep fruit and vegetables fresh.

DuPont launches dairy-free protective cultures for plant-based fermented products

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences has announced a new ingredient – Holdbac YM VEGE – as the latest addition to the DuPont Danisco Holdbac line of protective cultures, known for their ability to extend shelf-life and secure the quality of products by holding off yeast and mold spoilage – all without use of synthetic preservatives.

Now, Holdbac YM VEGE brings this effective and label-friendly spoilage prevention to plant-based, fermented foods and beverages, at a time when customer demand in this space has never been higher.

“The industry has seen enormous growth for fermented plant-based products in recent years, driven by higher numbers of flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan consumers around the world. These shifts in diets are driven by a number of factors, including a search for improved health that comes with a plant-based diet, ethical choices toward foods with lower environmental impact and which are deemed better for animal welfare, and switching to dairy alternatives for lactose-intolerant consumers,” said Eve Martinet-Bareau, global product manager, cultures for plant-based fermented food and beverages.

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

“DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences has been working with customers for decades as consumer demands for plant-based options have increased, and we are constantly looking for ways to innovate in this space,” added Martinet-Bareau. “For example, in May 2018, we launched a new cultures line – Danisco Vege Cultures – especially designed for fermented plant-based products, helping customers attain desired taste and texture profiles in a wide variety of plant-based dairy alternatives and beverages.”

However, with that demand came certain challenges for producers of fermented goods, including the need to:

  • Gain market share in the fast-growing plant-based food sector;
  • consistently ensure high-quality products with the desired taste and texture, particularly across regions with differing consumer preferences;
  • secure that quality throughout a product’s shelf-life;
  • address the fast-growing demand for friendly labeled consumer products;
  • make a substantial contribution to the sustainability of the food and beverage sector; and
  • provide consumers with products that improve their health and wellbeing.

“As more consumers look for fermented food and drinks, our HOLDBAC® YM VEGE cultures will help our customers meet that demand.”

This innovative new ingredient also offers customers the ability to make a significant difference in terms of environmental and social impact through reduced food waste and plant-based alternatives. The potential impact is massive: DuPont has estimated that if just 5 percent of the global yogurt market is replaced with plant-based alternatives made with Danisco Vege and Holdbac YM Vege cultures, the carbon dioxide emission saving would theoretically be as high as 3,000,000 tons CO2 annually. This would be roughly equivalent to 1,700,000 EU-based cars off the roads.

“We are thrilled to add Holdbac YM Vege to our range of plant-based and sustainable offerings,” said Mikkel Thrane, Global Sustainability Lead for DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences. “We look at our environmental footprint through the lens of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we are proud to say that this culture supports at least three – SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 12 (responsible production and Consumption) and SDG 13 (climate action). Holdbac YM Vege is helping us facilitate the transition to a healthier and more environmental-friendly diet.”

This transition to a healthier diet for people and the planet is powered by DuPont’s expertise in microbiology, food protection and fermentation, as well its commitment to developing and offering more sustainable ingredients for customers

Seven things you should know when exporting to China

According to Dr Mathew McDougall, CEO of Reach China and revered expert in doing business with China, Australia’s trade relationship with China is growing by the day and it includes large scale exports of resources through to everyday items which small and medium size Aussie businesses are ideally placed to provide.

“China represents a huge opportunity for Aussie SMEs,” McDougall said. “We import over $62 billion worth of goods from China and export over $93 billion dollars worth of goods and services to China.

“China has a population of nearly 1.4 billion people and their middle class is growing. They are also avid online shoppers and eager to purchase premium quality brands. They also seek out authentic Australian brands as our products are considered high quality, clean, green and produced in highly regulated environments. Our soils, air and water are seen as pure.

READ MORE: Why the Australian food industry needs Alibaba

“The key areas of export opportunity for Aussie food and beverage small businesses include:

  • Maternity, baby care products and baby food
  • Milk powders (including infant formula and adult milk powder), UHT and pasteurised milk, yoghurt, cheese and butter
  • Seafood (particularly saltwater shell fish such as oysters, crabs, lobster and abalone)
  • Fresh fruits (citrus, table grapes, cherries and mangoes) and natural fruit juice
  • Oats and other breakfast cereals
  • Chilled, frozen beef and processed foods
  • Wine and craft beer

McDougall suggests that while the idea of exporting to China may seem daunting, many Australian businesses, from mum and dad operations to larger companies have commenced the journey of exporting to China with great success.

“It is really a matter of preparing well and taking the right steps,” Dr McDougall said. He has put together seven key steps Australian businesses should follow if they want to export to China.

  1. Work with an experienced export consultant to help you in your journey. A good export consultant will assist you to work through all steps of the process
    This is essential to ensure you are making the right decisions and doing the right things. This avoids putting money in the wrong places and minimising mistakes.
  2. Ensure your product is suitable for the Chinese market and that there is a demand for your product.
    While this may seem straight forward, China is a big country with different markets. Be clear about what part of the market you are targeting and the potential for sales and growth. The more unique and high quality, the more appealing the product will be.
  3. Get to know Chinese culture
    Get to know the market to which you are seeking to export. Find out what products are doing well and why. Understand their social media platforms such as WeChat and how they engage and shop. A little research goes a long way.
  4. Grow awareness of your products in the Australian market first to build brand credibility and trust in China
    Chinese consumers buy brands based on reputation, trust and credibility. If your brand is known in Australia and has a good reputation, then the Chinese are more likely to buy your product in or from China.
  5. Build a sound online presence through a good website and social media
    Chinese consumers are very internet savvy and research products before they buy. They also rely on reviews. Having a strong online presence ensures your brand is well represented and and findable on the internet.
  6. IP and branding
    Protecting your IP is important, not only in Australia but overseas. Ensure your products are clearly branded and IP registered in Australia and that the branding has no conflicts with any existing brands known or registered in China.
  7. Be patient, flexible and scalable
    Many businesses have achieved explosive growth exporting to China, while others have found the journey a bit more slow going. Regardless, it is important to ensure that you are taking the right steps and are prepared for growth when it happens.  Sometimes strategies and tactics need to be adjusted and this is normal, the key is to be patient and committed – and be ready when things do shift quickly.

“I have helped many Australian startups and larger businesses export into China. With many, we have drawn on the Australian based Daigou sector to get the export process underway,” McDougall said.

“Daigou are Australian based Chinese who buy products and send them back to their friends, relatives and others in China. There are over 80,000 Daigou in Australia and the Daigou trade channel is growing fast helping many Australian brands to build awareness among consumers in China.

“Regardless of the strategy, the key is to ensure you have a good product to sell There are many Australian businesses with good products that are ideal for export. Hopefully we see more making the move to export. It can be a life-changing experience.”

v2food and CSIRO launch plant-based meat alternative

Australia’s newest plant-based meat startup, v2food, has been launched via an innovative partnership between CSIRO, Main Sequence Ventures and Jack Cowin’s Competitive Foods Australia.

v2food is a sustainable, plant-based alternative to meat. It looks like meat, cooks like meat and tastes like meat. It was formed by CSIRO’s Innovation Fund, managed by Main Sequence Ventures, a part of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), in 2018.

Competitive Foods Australia, the company behind Hungry Jack’s, also contributed seed funding to help launch the startup. With the backing of both government and industry, v2food had all the right ingredients for success from day one. The company is led by former Masterfoods and PepsiCo research director, Nick Hazell.

The company’s rapid growth, from foundation to national launch in eight months, is a result of the team’s access to CSIRO’s expansive network of expertise.

CSIRO provided research and development resources to v2food on a research-for-equity arrangement. While a one-man-team at the beginning, Hazell had access to hundreds of the best scientific minds to help perfect the product.

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

“Making meat alternatives from plants is not a new idea but at v2food we’ve taken it a step further,” said Hazell. “We are on a journey to make plant-based food both taste better and be more sustainable. The protein substitutes available to date simply don’t taste as good as meat and they are not affordable.

“We’ve drawn upon the best food, nutrition and sustainability science from CSIRO to develop a sustainable and nutritious product, with an unmatched texture and flavour.

The goal is for our product to be a delicious alternative to meat, accessible to every Australian,” said Hazell.

Recognising that there is a need for a ‘version 2’ of the food system, v2food’s range of plant-based meat products taste great and is suited for all consumers.

Made from legumes, the company’s ‘mince’ looks and tastes like quality meat and contains added fibre and nutrients.

“We seem to have the right resources for success,” chairman and CEO of Competitive Foods Australia Jack Cowin said. “With CSIRO’s outstanding research and technology capabilities, the passion of the v2food team led by Nick Hazell and Competitive Foods Australia’s ability to help build and commercialise businesses, we believe that we have the ingredients for a successful venture.

“We’ve seen a huge opportunity for plant-based proteins and the category is set to explode. I’ve eaten beef all my life but I’ve tasted the v2food and it tastes as good as beef.

“Therefore, we can’t wait to take v2food to consumers with some fantastic new products,” he said.

v2food has been collaborating with the grain and meat industries to add plant-based meat to the Australian agricultural story. CSIRO projects this new industry to be worth more than $6 billion by 2030 in Australia. This provides a big opportunity for existing meat and grain producers. It is estimated that by 2050 the world’s population will need twice the amount of food we consume today.

Australia doesn’t currently have the capability to process legumes for plant-based meat alternatives. v2food, with the help of CSIRO, is working on developing this capability to create an all Australian value chain.

v2food will begin to appear in restaurants and cafes throughout the remainder of the year and aims to have a leading presence in-store and in cafes around Australia by early 2020.

Nestlé expands plant-based burger range

Nestlé is expanding its plant-based food range in the US and Switzerland.

The launches come just days after Nestlé announced its ambition to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, including by offering more plant-based food and beverages.

In both countries, Nestlé is launching plant-based burgers and grounds, with ingredients and recipes customised to meet local tastes. All the products look and cook like raw beef and provide a juicy, meat-like taste and texture.

In the United States, Sweet Earth Foods has announced the launch of their newest products, the Awesome Burger and Awesome Grounds. Both deliver on the taste and texture of beef with the environmental and nutritional benefits offered by plant-based proteins.

READ MORE: Plant-based protein worth $25 billion by 2030

The Awesome Burger is made with yellow pea protein, resulting in a burger that is high in protein and fiber. Sweet Earth’s Awesome Grounds will provide the same plant-based protein in a ground version that allows greater flexibility to cook various meals and sides, such as meatballs and tacos. Acquired by Nestlé in 2017, Sweet Earth has over 60 plant-based products in their portfolio.

In Switzerland, Nestlé is introducing its Garden Gourmet Incredible Burger and the new Garden Gourmet Incredible Mince. The two add to the already expanding Garden Gourmet range in Switzerland, which also includes many ‘veggie-centric’ options. The burger is made from soy and wheat protein and the mince from soy protein. Both contain natural plant extracts – beetroot, carrot, and bell pepper – and vegetable fats including chopped coconut oil.

The new Garden Gourmet Incredible Mince is just as versatile and juicy as ground beef. It is easily shapeable, making it perfect to create balls or skewers that can be seasoned to taste. It can also be crumbled up in a pan, for example to make a delicious Bolognese sauce or ‘Chili Sin Carne’.

Cleanaway and Coles team up over waste initiative

A Coles supermarket in Sydney’s west has become the first Australian supermarket to trial zero waste to landfill, as one of several initiatives to help Coles meet its commitment to become Australia’s most sustainable supermarket.

As part of a trial, the supermarket in Wentworth Point is sending zero waste to landfill, preventing the equivalent of 6 ½ shopping trolleys going to landfill each day.

The purpose of the trial is to change in-store processes, put greater focus on source separation, and to partner with new facilities to use waste as a resource. This will mean more packaged and unpackaged food, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass, wax boxes, polystyrene and timber will be diverted from landfill.

Coles Chief Property and Export Officer Thinus Keeve says the trial of a zero waste to landfill store will help Coles find new ways to reduce waste in stores.

“Waste management is a key component of the sustainability of any business and reducing waste is a very important issue for our customers,” said Reeve. “Everyone knows Australia has challenges in how we deal with our waste. That goes for everyone from households sorting their recycling to businesses like Coles. We all have a responsibility to play our part.”

READ MORE: Challenges abound for food waste solutions

The zero waste to landfill trial store will find new ways to recover residual dry waste such as mixed plastic and timber which historically has been the most difficult to divert from landfill.

Coles is partnering with Cleanaway to recover energy from this waste through the Cleanaway ResourceCo Recovery Facility (RRF) in Wetherill Park. The facility uses dry waste to produce Process Engineered Fuel (PEF), which is then used to offset the demands of heavy industry for fossil fuels.

Cleanaway’s Alex Hatherley, Regional Manager, Solid Waste Services NSW, said “This is a great solution for Coles stores that produce high volumes of mixed back-of-house plastics but want to achieve a zero waste to landfill goal.”

“Our facility is unique in its ability to divert commercial dry waste from landfill, recover recyclable materials and then convert the remaining combustibles to a sustainable fuel source, PEF.” Alex explained.

Doug Elliss, General Manager of the Cleanaway ResourceCo Wetherill Park facility said, “We’re playing a key role in Australia’s future sustainable energy mix by reducing waste that would otherwise go to landfill and lowering carbon emissions through production of a commercially viable sustainable fuel.”

The trial comes as Coles Group has released its first Sustainability Report as a stand-alone publicly listed company which sets out Coles commitment to reducing its environmental impact including working towards diverting 90% of waste from landfill by 2022.

“At Coles, we are proud of our partnership with food rescue services Secondbite and Foodbank. Through our supermarkets and distribution centres we donated 12.5 million kilograms of unsold edible food to SecondBite and Foodbank last financial year — the equivalent of 25 million meals for people in need,” Thinus said.

“Many supermarkets also provide food waste directly to farmers to use as animal feed. These stores across our Coles network donated 13.8 million kilograms to farmers last financial year, an increase of 11 per cent.”

“But there is always more that we can do. Everything we can’t give to SecondBite we want to give to farmers to feed their animals, recycle into compost or convert to energy.”

“We were the first Australian supermarket to offer REDcycle plastic recycling in every store. We were the first Australian supermarket to sign a renewable energy PPA, which will see Coles sourcing 10 per cent of its national energy needs from three solar farms in regional NSW.”

“We are now the first Australian supermarket to attempt a zero waste to landfill store. Coles is passionate about driving generational sustainability with innovation that reduces environmental impact.