Accelerated reports compiled by the Productivity Commission have found that a request by Australian food manufacturers to instil emergency safeguard measures against cheap imported processed fruit and tomato products are not warranted.
The accelerated reports; Safeguards Inquiry into the Import of Processed Fruit Products and Safeguards Inquiry into the Import Processed Tomato Products, are part of a wider inquiry which includes two six-month inquiries into whether the Australian food processing industry will need World Trade Organisation safeguards including the introduction of specific tariffs to protect local industry, TheWeekly Times Now reports.
The inquiries were prompted by a push from food processor SPC Ardmona who claimed that a significant increase in cheap imported canned fruit and tomatoes had resulted in an uneven playing field.
Changes to import regulations could see Australian mangoes and lychees destined for the United States.
The news has been widely welcomed by Aussie producers, however some growers have said that the high cost of the fruit, which has proven to be a challenge in the past, may still present a barrier, ABC Rural reports.
"In access terms, we probably now have got most of the ones we want to get – the US, New Zealand, China and Japan," said Far North Queensland Grower, Joe Moro.
"The problem we've had up until this point in time is we are a high-cost producer and it's more developing that premium end of the market, that's where the Australian mango has run into a barrier.
"We have good acceptance of our product once it gets into that market, high quality, and most people that try our mangoes love 'em, but our problem is that we are right at the top end of the market and we have a lot of competitors."
Moro said that while it may take time before Australian exporters see the benefits of supplying to the states, the industry will benefit greatly in the long term.
“It's something we've worked at for a long time. A lot of people see the USA as a jewel in the crown… it's a great result but it will be long-term before we see the real benefits, I think."
"Any market we open is great, because it takes pressure off the domestic market, and as most growers in Mareeba, probably across Australia, would say, we need to be realistic about what we can achieve."
The Produce Marketing Association of Australia and New Zealand expects mango exports to reach 1,200 tonnes annually once they have been treated to US standards.
More than 200 jobs at Simplot’s Devonport factory could be secured following a new five year contract with supermarket giant Coles.
The deal which is expected to be announced today, is set to increase Coles-branded frozen vegetable and potato volume by over 12 percent – making Coles’ smart Buy frozen vegetable and potato products 100 percent Australian grown by next year, The Mercury Reports.
"When the potential closures were indicated by Simplot, Coles offered its support because they are a very important and valued supplier for us," Coles spokeswoman Anna Kelly said.
The deal echoes the recent decision by rival supermarket chain Woolworths, who announced a $7m contract with SPC Ardmona last month which will see the supermarket replacing imported fruit with Australian grown from the Goulburn Valley region for its private label branded products.
“Woolworths has signed a contract with SPC Ardmona worth $7 million to source 13 lines of canned fruit from their growers in the Goulburn Valley. We are also sourcing three canned pineapple products from Queensland. These products replace Select canned fruit lines that were previously imported from South Africa and Thailand," said Woolworths managing director of supermarkets and petrol, Tjeerd Jegen.
Eating more fruits and vegetables is the foundation stone of any healthy diet, with the national dietary guidelines recommending adults eat two pieces of fruit and five to six serves of veggies and legumes a day.
Juices can be a convenient and tasty way to get some of the health benefits of these foods – but how do they compare nutritionally?
The one clear downside from drinking rather than eating fruits and vegetables is the loss of fibre and other nutrients found in the skin and pulp. But juicing is certainly better than not eating them at all.
Unless you are eating the pulp leftover in the juicing machine, the amount of fibre in a glass of juice is tiny – less than half a gram. Compare that to the roughly two to three grams of fibre in every serve of fruit or vegetable that went into making the juice in the first place.
And because there is always some liquid left with the pulp, there is a small loss of around 10% of the vitamins and minerals that were in the whole food to start with.
In the case of citruses, the whole fruit can contain five times as many flavonoids as an equivalent glass of orange juice.
One other potential downside is that juice is not as filling as eating solid food. And it’s easier to drink the equivalent of many pieces of fruit in a few seconds when eating the same amount would take a lot longer, meaning there is more chance of over-consuming unneeded kilojoules.
To see if juices can lead to differences in appetite and later food consumption compared to solid food, 34 healthy lean and overweight people took part in a 21-week study. At different stages of the study, each person consumed a similar amount of fruits and vegetables (1680 kJ in total) daily in either solid (raw) form or as juices. No other changes to the participants’ diets were made.
When tested in a food laboratory, people who were overweight reported being significantly hungrier after a standard meal when consuming the juice in the lead up to it, compared to when they ate whole fruit. The post-meal hunger feelings of people of a healthy body weight where unaffected by the form of the fruit they consumed.
Having fruit in either solid or juice form before a meal though did mean less of the following meal was eaten, which is to be expected.
Where it gets interesting, though, is that the people who ate solid fruit before the test meal ate significantly less food than those who drank the juice. Looking at how much food was eaten over the entire day, people who were obese ate significantly more food overall when they were drinking juice compared to eating solid fruit.
So, while the overall effects of juice compared to solid foods on feelings of hunger and fullness were small over all, the key aspect was this was magnified in people who were overweight.
Eating whole fruits and vegetables helps keep appetite in check by making you feel full. These same foods are also nutrient powerhouses, and on a weight-by-weight comparison, have much fewer kilojoules per gram than most other foods commonly eaten.
It’s no surprise that people who eat lots of fruit and vegetables are more likely to have a healthy body weight.
For someone who is battling to keep their weight in check, then two simple positive changes to make are to eat more fruit and vegetables, and to eat them from a plate, not a glass.
Tim Crowe does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
New Melbourne based social wholesale food business; Spade & Barrow have developed a holistic approach to their operations by advocating a direct plough approach which ensures that farmers are able to harvest their entire crop – irrespective of size and shape.
Spade & Barrow pride themselves on celebrating the fact that fresh, natural produce can be either be wonky or straight, large or small, and chefs around the state are embracing the company's commitment to Nature’s Grade produce.
“At Spade & Barrow we view food as nature intended – it may be aesthetically imperfect – but after all not every carrot can be a supermodel!” said Spade & Barrow creator Katy Barfield.
Barfield says that the company purchases 80 percent of its fruit and vegetables directly from Australian farms.
“Our customers love our Nature’s Grade produce. It’s fresh, seasonal, locally grown and arrives on their doorstep, direct from farms, at a fraction of the regular cost.
“Our farmers are getting a fair price for their whole crop so we are helping them to stay on their land and reduce unnecessary waste,” she said.
Head chef of St Ali and owner of Duchess of Spotswood, Andy Gale, said that Spade & Barrows’ business model is ‘massively important for the future of the industry.’
“Chefs are always after the best quality produce. When prices go up we struggle because we can’t just increase our prices. It is far better to get produce directly from the farm and understand where it comes from and chefs really want that information,” said Gale.
“Farmers get the recognition and money they deserve and we get amazing quality asparagus at a third of the price,” he said.
Proud Mary’s head chef, Chris Hamburger agrees with Gale by stating that; “Chefs are now at the forefront of food production and they have to get behind this initiative.”
“Having an edge as far as sustainability is concerned, as well as a great connection to the farmer through Spade & Barrow, gives us a sense of what is really happening in the farming community," said Hamburger.
“The range is always seasonal and that is exactly how it should be and how we should be cooking, when produce it at its best, most available and cheapest. We have to learn to value what fresh produce should really be like and that means it comes in all shapes and size.”
Research proving that the world's first low GI Carisma potato was developed in South Australia will be presented at an international nutrition conference in Spain this week.
The special low GI Carisma potato was developed using natural breeding processes by Virginia market gardener, Frank Mitolo, and Australia's Glycemic Index (GI) Foundation.
The GI Foundation's chief scientific officer, Alan Barclay, said Carisma is the first potato to be internationally certified low GI.
"We have undertaken exhaustive testing using the ISO testing standard and we are satisfied that Carisma is unique. Its Glycemic index of 55 is between 30 percent and 50 percent less than other mainstream potato varieties such as Desiree (74), Russet Burbank (82) and Bintje (94).
"But its other big advantage is its commercial availability. Coles has made it a convenient choice for consumers, and that means it will play a more important role in assisting in the management of diabetes and heart disease," he said.
GI researcher Kai Lin Ek, who works in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney will present a paper on research surrounding the low GI potato at the International Congress of Nutrition in Granada, Spain, held from 15 to 20 September.
"Our research showed that Carisma not only ranked well alongside other potatoes it is also comparable with other low GI foods," Ek said.
"Potatoes tend to get bad press as they are generally classified as a high GI carbohydrate but our research has discovered that Carisma has half the blood glucose response compared to other potato varieties.
"It has a similar GI to pastas all of which are usually classified as low GI foods."
Frank Mitolo, managing director of The Mitolo Group, an onion and potato packing company in South Australia, said Carisma was naturally bred using a process where positive characteristics were selected and combined.
"We thought this new variety had less starch but was still a good all purpose potato for boiling, roasting and mashing," he said.
"The tests confirmed that we had something special and it then took a few years to build up the volumes so we could distribute it to a major supermarket chain.
"The partnership with Coles has been excellent. They can see the benefits of having a low GI alternative positioned alongside other potatoes and we have invested in the packaging to make it easy for the consumer to choose."
The announcement followed a six month review of Simplot’s supply chain operations in the vegetable category.
Meetings were then scheduled with local, state and federal government representatives, employees, unions, suppliers and growers to discuss profit improvement opportunities.
"If insufficient opportunities are identified, we will be forced to close our Bathurst plant after the next corn season. Our Devonport plant will be required to produce a five year improvement plan with satisfactory outcomes or face the prospect of a longer term (three to five year) closure," O’Brien said in June.
The destruction of unwanted stone fruit trees in Victoria’s troubled Goulburn Valley region has began.
The Victorian Farmers Federation president, Peter Tuohey was asked by Cobram property owner Tom Bisogni, to help clear about 850 plum trees from his land to avoid attracting vermin and disease to the area.
While the VFF president was happy to help remove the trees, he said that more resources are needed to ensure the job is done properly, The Weekly Times Now reports.
"Ideally we need fuel, front-end loaders, excavators and drivers to help out," he said.
Bisogni was one of some 170 Goulburn Valley growers that were informed by SPC Ardmona earlier this year that after May 1, the company will no longer be accepting their fruit.
SPC Ardmona said that an influx in cheap imports, the high exchange rate and a decline in export markets forced the decision to discontinue contracts with the growers.
Supermarket giant Woolworths recently announced that it has committed to stocking only Australian grown produce in its private label tinned fruit lines. The announcement has served as positive news for some growers, however the deal is only expected to save 50,000 trees which is a far cry from the 750,000 trees that are expected to be destroyed.
Orchardists in the region have called upon Coles to follow Woolworths’ lead by committing to source only Australian fruit. A representative from Coles, Julia Balderstone said that the supermarket has a strong track record of supporting SPC Ardmona’s products, including Goulburn Valley fruit, but did not comment on whether the supermarket had plans to exclusively source Australian fruit in the future.
"Approximately 80 per cent of Coles brand tinned fruit including peaches, pears, and apricots comes from the Goulburn Valley," she said.
"We will continue to work with SPC Ardmona to drive product sales and explore new opportunities for Goulburn Valley fruit."
Orchardists in Victoria’s troubled Goulburn Valley region are calling upon supermarket giant Coles to follow Woolworths’ lead by committing to source only Australian fruit for its private label products.
President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, Peter Tuohey has called upon both of the supermarket giants to replace all of its imported fruit with Australian produce, the Weekly Times Now reports.
"Just imagine how many more trees and livelihoods could be saved if all supermarkets committed to using local produce," VFF president Peter Tuohey said.
"I'm glad to see supermarkets are listening to farmers, the wider community and VFF."
John Wilson, chief executive of Fruit Growers Victoria said that Woolworths decision to source local fruit will serve as a strong marketing advantage over rival Coles, and hopes that Coles will soon commit to a similar deal.
"We expect it means about an extra 3000 tonnes of peaches and pears, so that's an incredible boost in the circumstances," said Wilson
"Obviously for growers who have lost their contracts it's not going to affect them, but we're really hoping Coles can follow suit.
"We see it as a major marketing advantage to Woolworths now that they've taken this public stance to support the growers and if Coles would follow that it would make a huge difference to the community."
Local communication manager for Coles, Julia Balderstone said that the supermarket has a strong track record of supporting SPC Ardmona’s products, including Goulburn Valley fruit.
"Approximately 80 per cent of Coles brand tinned fruit including peaches, pears, and apricots comes from the Goulburn Valley," she said.
"We will continue to work with SPC Ardmona to drive product sales and explore new opportunities for Goulburn Valley fruit."
The Fair Work Ombudsman will return to Caboolture Strawberry Farms this week to ensure that businesses are meeting their workplace obligations.
The return visit follows an inspection last month which identified several potential breaches including underpaid wages. The Ombudsman, Natalie James will also be encouraging workers to come forward with any concerns relating to workplace conditions.
James states that on the spot fines up to $2,250, or further action – including legal action where penalties of up to $51,000 apply against businesses, and $10,200 against individual employers may be issued for each breach of workplace law.
“The visits conducted last month had an educational focus, helping employers with information they need to meet their obligations under workplace law, particularly in relation to payments to seasonal workers,” said James.
“Now we are returning to ensure the message has got through and that employers have taken notice of the information provided to them.”
James says that Fair Work was prompted by a number of specific complaints relating to strawberry farms in Caboolture surrounding wages, payslips, written workplace agreements and unlawful deductions to employees’ wages for accommodation and travel expenses.
“These are all important issues which need to be addressed,” said James.
“For example, providing pay slips within the legally required timeframe of 24 hours of payment and with the legally required information such as hours worked and rates applicable to those hours, is essential to allow workers to check that they’ve received everything they should.
“We are also keen to speak to employees who believe they aren’t being paid correctly. Some workers were reluctant to speak to us during our recent visits, although a number followed-up by contacting our Infoline.”
Peak body for the Australian Fruit Juice industry, Fruit Juice Australia (FJA) has hit back at the Dieticians Association of Australia for comments in an article published by the Age.
The article stated that that apple juice can contain up to as much sugar as soft drinks and that excess consumption can lead to weight gain and other health issues.
'It's just like drinking Cola-Cola, it's no different,'' DAA spokeswoman Kellie Bilinski said.
''That's the misconception that people think, 'oh it's good for me'. I would much prefer people drank water and ate the fruit.''
FJA CEO, Geoff Parker argued that 100 percent fruit juices are far more nutritious than soft drinks, and that the sugar content comes directly from the fruit itself.
“The continued demonisation of juice based on its sugar content is disappointing and sending a wrong message to people about the role of juice in the diet," said Parker. "This is especially so for parents.”
The online consumer survey of 1,000 Australian parents aimed to shed light on the validity of negative health claims surrounding fruit juice, including portion sizes and sugar content.
Findings in the survey indicate that one in four parents feels guilty about feeding their children fruit juice, and that parents in general are conflicted about the issue.
“The pendulum has swung too far in terms of disapproval by some commentators for what is in reality a healthy, natural option for children. We’re simply asking people to consider the facts about juice,” he said.
Aussie fruit grower, Peter Hall, told ABC Rural that in the current climate, it is impossible for consumers to understand which food is produced in Australia from reading the label.
Hall believes that the next elected government must show a commitment to Australian growers by developing food labels that demonstrate the difference between farming conditions in Australia and abroad.
"They've given millions to the car companies. You don't eat cars, you just drive around in them,” said Hall.
"I am talking about stuff that people put in their mouth.
"I would think that's an important issue to people.
"I know I have three little kids, 10, 12 and 14. I wouldn't give them anything to eat that I didn't think was safe.
Supermarket chain, Aldi, has partnered with CHEP to release a new reusable plastic 'Gen 3' crate for use in the fresh produce industry.
Officially launched on 23 August at Aldi's Salisbury store in Brisbane, Aldi is the first retailer to use CHEP's new crate range, promoting supply chain efficiencies from farm gate to supermarkets.
ALDI Queensland managing director, Viktor Jakupec, said "The new crate allows products to be packed directly on farm before being delivered to our warehouses and subsequently to stores, which reduces the amount of repacking and speeds up the process. The crate design allows it to fit directly into our new fresh produce display on the shop floor, which means less product handling and therefore a higher level of product quality. Instead of store staff having to pack products on tables within the produce area, the majority of products will remain displayed within the crates which will assist with better product rotation and minimise damage to the products through less handling."
According to CHEP, the new Gen 3 crate uses globally best-in-class latching technology and is fully compatible with the previous generation crate and existing infrastructure.
"The Gen 3 crate family is a game changer. It’s not only an industry-wide solution, it offers world leading return logistics; with a folded height of 25mm, the Gen 3 outperforms all other crates on the market by up to 29 percent," CHEP Australia and New Zealand president, Phillip Austin said.
CHEP's range of reusable crates have a number of sustainability benefits. An independent lifecycle analysis conducted by RMIT in 2010 showed that compared with a single-use corrugated cardboard system, CHEP crates produced 70 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, used 85 percent less water and produced 95 percent less solid waste to landfill even if the cardboard was recycled.
Food processing giant Simplot will receive payroll tax rebates from the NSW government over the next three years while the company reviews its operations.
NSW deputy premier, Andrew Stoner announced that Simplot’s Bathurst factory will receive assistance to support upgrades in light of the company’s announcement earlier this year that unsustainable high costs and a highly competitive landscape could see the closure of Simplot’s Bathurst and Devonport plants.
“The Simplot board is due to meet in the coming days to decide on the future of three of its Australian factories which are under review in the face of increasing competitive pressures in the food processing and manufacturing sector,'' Stoner told The Weekly Times Now.
"The Bathurst plant currently employs around 195 full-time equivalent staff and makes a significant contribution to the local economy and to the local community.
"To help relieve some pressure on the plant and the staff who work there, Simplot has been approved for assistance in the form of payroll tax rebates for the next three years, through the NSW Regional Industries Investment Fund.''
The decision to provide assistance to the processor, known for brands such as John West, Edgell, Birds Eye, Leggo’s and Lean Cuisine – was welcomed by NSW Farmers horticulture spokesman, Peter Darley.
"We have been saying for years that manufacturing of Australian food is crucial if our agriculture industry is to survive and to ensure that consumers do not have to rely upon imported food,'' he said.
"This is a small first step but more importantly a good sign that our state government values local food manufacturing, growers and regional communities."
Pakistani mangoes will soon be stocked in Australian supermarkets and fruit stores following approval from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Forestry (DAFF).
Ahmad Jawad CEO of Pakistani exporting company, Harvest Trading said that the approval has come after a long and sustained effort by Pakistani mango exporters and government officials.
Although Australia is a major mango producing country, the Nation’s season does not commence until November/ December. The importation of Pakistani mangoes would allow Australian to have access to the summer fruit much sooner.
Jawad admits that importing the fruit to Australia will not come without its challenges.
“Major problems during [the] export process to Australia will be logistic tariffs which may push overall cost of the fruit. Currently [there] are no direct flights to Australia from Pakistan and this results in enhanced cargo rates for the export material,”
Jawad says that Australians should expect to see the Pakistani fruit available in stores ‘very soon’.
A recent study has found that global warming is causing apples to lose some of their crunch.
The study which was published on Scientific Reports, analysed data gathered from 1970 to 2010 at two orchards in Japan and concluded that the change in global temperatures was having an effect on the taste and texture of apples, SMH reports.
The orchards chosen for the study were located in Japan’s Nagano and Aomori prefectures as the regions experienced no changes in cultivars or management practices for extended periods – ruling out any non-climatic factors which could influence the study.
The study measured levels of acid and sugar concentration, fruit firmness and watercore – a disease that causes water-soaked areas in an apple – and found that while acidity, firmness and watercore decreased, the apples experienced a rise in sugar concentration.
Toshihiko Sugiura of the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science in Fujimoto and co-author of the study said that while the increased sweetness of the apple may serve as a positive attribute, the decrease in firmness is negative.
“We think most people like sweet and firm apple fruits, although everyone has his own taste. A soft apple is called 'Boke' in Japanese which means a dull or senile fruit," said Sugiura
[The results] "suggest that the taste and textural attributes of apples in the market are undergoing change from a long-term perspective, even though consumers might not perceive these subtle change."
Spanish company Laser Food has introduced a new method of identifying various fruits that need to be peeled prior to consumption.
While some fruit labels are edible, others dissolve in water; most are however stuck on the fruit and peeled off by hand.
Laser Food’s new laser cut labels identify fruits such as bananas, oranges, kiwis and lemons by marking them using laser technology.
The EU has recently passed legislation allowing labels to be applied directly onto produce using lasers. Similar to laser cutters, the Laser Food machines mark the fruit without damaging it. Printing clearly enough for barcode scanners, they allow for branding with individual logos. Currently, these machines can mark up to 54,000 pieces of fruit in an hour.
EU’s initial objections to using laser technology were due to chemicals such as iron oxides, hydroxides, hydroxypropyl, methyl cellulose and polysorbates that make the laser look clearer. However, as the laser only penetrates the surface of the skin of produce, which must be peeled, the chemicals do not pose a threat to human health.
Even concerns that the technology could make the fruit susceptible to pathogens, and increase the pace of decay have been allayed in the US with University of Florida researchers proving that these claims are unsubstantiated.
Also called the fruit tattoo, the laser label is being heralded as the ultimate sustainable packaging solution that does not use any material or adhesive, consumes very little energy, causes minimal, if not zero waste and is user-friendly for the consumer.
Woolworths has announced a $7 million deal with SPC Ardmona, which will see the supermarket giant replacing imported fruit for its Woolworths Select range with produce from Goulburn Valley growers.
Woolworths managing director of supermarkets and petrol, Tjeerd Jegen, said the company's customers have been clear that they want Woolworths to support Australian producers and manufacturers.
"That’s why Woolworths has signed a contract with SPC Ardmona worth $7 million to source 13 lines of canned fruit from their growers in the Goulburn Valley. We are also sourcing three canned pineapple products from Queensland. These products replace Select canned fruit lines that were previously imported from South Africa and Thailand," Jegen said.
Woolworths will be sourcing Goulburn Valley fruit for its Woolworths Select canned apricots, peaches, apples and pears, strengthening the already solid relationship between the retailer and SPC Ardmona – Woolworths' largest supplier of canned fruit.
With the global population set to soar and the growth of our agricultural industry threatened by climate change and competing land uses, Australia needs to toss out food waste – and packaging is the key.
Around 40 percent of all food intended for human consumption in developed countries ends up as waste.
In Australia, 4.2 million tonnes of food sees its way to landfill each year: 2.7 million tonnes from households and 1.5 million from the commercial and industrial sector.
And with the global demand for food expected to jump 77 percent by 2050 (compared to 2007), food and beverage manufacturers need to reassess not only how they go about making their products, but what they’re doing to ensure they survive the supply chain and, at the end of the day, are consumed, not wasted.
An Australian-first, the research draws on an international literature review as well as interviews with representatives from 15 organisations from within Australia’s food and packaging industries, focusing on food waste that occurs prior to consumption.
Australia’s food manufacturing industry is the second largest non-domestic contributor to food waste, sending 312,000 tonnes to landfill each year, beaten only by the food services sector, which generates 661,000 tonnes of food waste annually.
But this doesn’t mean our food and beverage manufacturers are wasteful or negligent – most of the food waste that occurs in the industry is unavoidable, and almost 90 percent is recovered and used as animal feed, compost, or energy.
Helen Lewis, adjunct professor and environmental consultant at RMIT University, told Food magazine, “The recovery rate in the food manufacturing sector is already very high, so the focus needs to be on reducing the amount of waste that is generated in the first place.
“Most manufacturers can do more to reduce the amount of waste they generate in distribution and at a retail level by looking more closely at where and why this occurs. For example, if manufacturers don’t specify their distribution packaging carefully, it may fail during transport or handling and result in products being damaged and thrown away. There is definitely an opportunity to improve the level of packaging expertise within companies to ensure packaging is specified correctly,” she says.
The study lists a number of reasons for food loss and waste at each stage of the supply chain, including damage from pests and disease as well as unpredictable weather conditions in agricultural production; products not meeting retailers’ quality and/or appearance specifications; and issues in distribution including damage in transit/storage due to packaging failures and inadequate remaining shelf lives.
The report then went on to identify a number of opportunities to reduce food waste through packaging improvements. These include:
Distribution packaging that provides better protection and shelf life for fresh produce as it moves from the farm to the processor, wholesaler or retailer
Distribution packaging that supports recovery of surplus and unsaleable fresh produce from farms and redirects it to food rescue organisations
Improved design of secondary packaging to ensure that it is fit for purpose, i.e. that it adequately protects food products as they move through the supply chain
A continuing shift to pre-packed and processed foods to extend the shelf life of food products and reduce waste in distribution and at the point of consumption
Adoption of new packaging materials and technologies to extend shelf life of foods (see table below)
Education of manufacturers, retailers and consumers about the meaning of use-by and best before date marks on primary packaging to ensure that these are used appropriately
Product and packaging developments to cater for changing consumption patterns and smaller households
Collaboration between manufacturers and retailers to improve the industry’s understanding of food waste in the supply chain, with greater attention given to where and why this occurs
More synchronised supply chains that use intelligent packaging and data sharing to reduce excess or out-of-date stock
Increase use of retail ready packaging to reduce double handling and damage and improve stock turnover, while ensuring that it’s designed for effective product protection and recoverability at end of life.
This list of recommendations indicates that improvements can be made to both primary packaging and secondary/tertiary packaging in order to protect a product up until it’s on a retailer’s shelf, while also boosting its longevity once it’s there.
CHEP Australia has a significant interest in the study’s findings, not just because it commissioned the report but also because it describes its pallet, container and crate pooling services as an inherently sustainable business model, preventing one-way packaging and mimimising resources.
Phillip Austin, president of CHEP Australia and New Zealand, said the company’s reusable plastic crates are a good example of both primary and secondary/tertiary packaging that can extend shelf life.
“CHEP’s reusable plastic crates eliminate the need to repack produce as it moves through the supply chain, which reduces the opportunity for damage during handling. The strength of the crate and better ventilation and cooling rates also help to protect the produce,” he told Food magazine.
“Reusable packaging is more robust than one-way cartons and less susceptible to piercing by sharp objects or crushing as it moves through the supply chain.”
Austin said an independent life cycle assessment of CHEP’s reusable plastic crates shows they save 8,000 tonnes of solid waste, 64,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and 460 million litres of water from the supply chain every year.
An Australian grower interviewed as part of the RMIT University study (all of whom remain anonymous), agrees that reusable plastic crates can improve efficiencies and extends produce’s saleability.
“Plastic crates allow for better ventilation and better protection. They also support better transport utilisation because the pallets can be stacked higher. They don’t require as much stretch wrap. There is less handling, although the crates aren’t used as much for retail display as they were originally. Plastic crates allow us to wet the product, which helps extend shelf life (unlike cardboard),” the grower said.
Primary packaging While of course secondary/tertiary packaging technologies such as reusable plastic crates can have a positive influence on reducing food waste, a large proportion of the industry’s focus, as the issue of sustainability becomes more and more prominent, will be on developments in primary packaging, as this is where shelf life is a key consideration in packaging design.
Confusion surrounding the meaning of ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates is a significant contributor to food waste in Australia. Consumers often dispose of products when they’re still of a good, edible quality, and poor stock rotation systems or materials handling processes could see perfectly good foods discarded by manufacturers, which not only wastes food but comes at a significant cost to the company as well.
“There does appear to be a lot of confusion about the difference between use by and best before dates, and when a food is still safe to eat. It’s a problem for consumers, who may get the two mixed up and throw away food that is still edible,” Lewis says.
The NSW’s government’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign is managed by the Environment Protection Authority and run in partnership with retailers, food manufacturers, local government authorities and community groups in an effort to reduce food waste in the state.
While 97 percent of respondents in its Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark study believed they store their food correctly and poor storage doesn’t contribute to food waste, those that did identify poor storage as a contributor to waste cited a lack of understanding of storage instructions/conditions and not using food before its used by or best before date as the main contributors.
Sixty-four percent of respondents knew the difference between use by and best before dates, but the Food Waste Avoidance Benchmark study concluded that more work can be done to clarify these definitions and reduce consumer confusion.
“Food manufacturers can help by ensuring that the dates are clearly marked on the packaging, not hidden under a seam or written in tiny font. They need to be readable. They can also provide more information to consumers about the meaning of date marks and how to store food correctly to extend its life,” Lewis says.
Where today’s use by and best before dates sometimes fall short, ‘intelligent’ or ‘interactive’ packaging technologies represent opportunities for both manufacturers and consumers to be given real time information on a product’s quality.
The RMIT University study says “Supply chain collaboration and data sharing could be facilitated by ‘intelligent’ or ‘interactive’ packaging technologies. Intelligent food packaging can provide real time use-by or expiration data, product tracing and temperature indicators, which are either time-based, activated by certain chemicals, driven by radio frequency identification data (RFID), or have thermal sensors, to provide better ‘on demand’ feedback to various supply chain stakeholders.”
Helen Lewis agrees that these ‘smart’ technologies could be a game-changer in the food manufacturing industry.
“Smart labels will become more important as technologies improve and costs come down. They can help companies to track and manage inventories to reduce waste in the supply chain. They can also be used by manufacturers, retailers and consumers to identify when a food has spent time outside of its required temperature range,” she told Food magazine.
Will more packaging help?
It might seem a little ironic that one of the strongest themes of the RMIT University study is the need to extend shelf life and reduce food waste by increasing the amount of packaging used on food products.
If food manufacturers and producers are to curb the amount of waste they send to landfill, shouldn’t they be reducing their reliance on packaging, not increasing it?
The RMIT University report says that the industry can reduce food waste by supporting a growing shift towards processed and pre-packed foods, while also considering product and packaging developments that cater for single or smaller serve products, therefore reducing waste by meeting the needs of single and two person households.
But this theory of using packaging to enhance shelf life extends beyond processed foods. Despite what many may argue, keeping fresh produce in its natural state isn’t necessarily the best option when it comes to product longevity.
The challenge, according to the study, is to find a balance or establish “trade-offs” between convenience, packaging, shelf life and product waste.
However it’s a case by case, or rather product by product, situation. A fresh produce supplier interviewed for the research noted that plastic film around a bunch of fresh herbs can extend its shelf life from two to five days. Packing fresh herbs in punnets (another growing consumer trend) doubles this again.
However, some cut vegetables that are washed, peeled and cut before hitting retailers’ shelves suffer a reduced shelf life thanks to faster physiological deterioration and microbial degradation.
If Australia follows current trends in countries such as the US, we will soon be seeing a lot more pre-packed fresh produce, says Helen Lewis.
“This is already happening, partly in response to consumer interest in convenient and pre-prepared foods such as salad mixes, which use multi-layer and modified atmosphere packaging. More sophisticated packaging is being developed for specific product categories, such as seafood,” she says.
“The trend towards more packaging, particularly for fresh produce, involves a conscious trade-off. We will end up using more packaging to reduce food waste, and some of this packaging is not yet widely recyclable. However, in most cases the benefits appear to outweigh the costs from an environmental point of view. This is because we know that the environmental footprint of food is so much greater than the impact of the packaging, when you consider all of the energy, water, land and chemicals that go into growing, processing and transporting food over its life cycle.
“A small amount of packaging can extend the product’s shelf life and ensure that it gets consumed rather than thrown away. To manage this trade-off it’s important that all packaging is designed to minimise environmental impacts and to be recyclable at the end of its life.”
So less isn’t necessarily best when it comes to packaging and sustainability. No doubt consumers in Australia are becoming more environmentally-conscious, but they’re also seeking convenient, affordable meal solutions, so as The Role of Packaging in Minimising Food Waste in the Supply Chain of the Future suggests, food manufacturers need to establish “trade-offs” to ensure all parties – consumers, businesses and of course the environment – are not only happy and healthy, but are getting the most out of their food – for the long term.
Examples of primary packaging technologies to extend shelf life