Report highlights new directions for packaging

‘New directions’ in packaging and labelling technology are a strong feature of today’s market – and the latest is digital direct-to-container print. It may, indeed, be a disruptive technology, as the new Direct Digital Printing Technology for Labeling & Product Decoration AWAreness Report 2016 demonstrates.

This latest addition to AWA Alexander Watson Associates’ portfolio of assessments of aspects of global label printing market provides a valuable resource for all interested in, or already committed to, this 21st-century product identification technology.

Eliminating entirely the need for a label on rigid or semi-rigid containers, direct digital print offers brand owners a new palette of opportunities — including economies of scale, shorter route to market, and enhanced levels of brand presentation and promotion, such as personalization.

However, this is a technology in its infancy, and further technical and commercial innovation and a broader supplier source at all levels can be expected.

The report posits that the total potential volume growth of the global label market could be negatively affected, losing market share to direct container print.

Pressure-sensitive and wet glue labels are the leading candidates for replacement, but sleeving and in-mould labels will not be immune.

Substitution of labels in all technologies will, says the report, represent the equivalent of 0.5%-1.0% of the global label market by 2019/2020.

Complete with an industry-wide survey of the technology’s present status and future opportunities, and a directory of equipment, inks, and ancillary manufacturers, Direct Digital Printing Technology for Labeling & Product Decoration AWAreness Report 2016 represents an expert overview of a key packaging market development.

The report may be ordered online via the AWA Alexander Watson Associates website,, along with details of the company’s full range of market research and consultancy services and events.

Bringing Asian food to our homes

Eating fresher is easy with a new natural and gluten free range of FRESH WRAP kits from Marion’s Kitchen.

Each kit comes with a flavour-packed sauce for stir-frying fresh veggies and your chosen protein along with crunchy sprinkles like crispy garlic or sesame seeds wrapped up in fresh lettuce or cabbage leaves.

Marion Grasby spends all her time thinking about how to make products that people will love eating and sharing. ‘I care deeply about what I do and the products, ingredients and recipes I share. I want people to be able to easily create awesome Asian food at home with ingredients that are clean, fresh and super tasty.

Personally, I’ve been looking to find easier ways to include more fresh vegetables into my busy lifestyle and I think more and more Australians feel the same way. My new range aims to inspire fresher eating.’

The new range of FRESH WRAPS includes Malaysian Satay, Korean Chilli & Sesame and Cantonese Hoisin & Garlic which will be available in Woolworths in July. The Marion’s Kitchen full range includes:

Thai Massaman Curry, Singapore Laksa, Malaysian Curry, Pad Thai, Thai Red Curry, Thai Green Curry, and San Choy Bow.

For more information, visit:


Meet Larry- the food manufacturers best friend

South Australian company Complexica has developed a robot with an algorithm-based persona, which is being used to help businesses make data-driven decisions in real time.

Larry, the Digital Analyst, is made up of a set of algorithms tuned to complex problems in order to quickly generate answers that would otherwise take people a very long time to work out.

In one example, Larry helped formulate a 52-week promotions plan for a national company with 25,000 products sold in 1400 stores across Australia based on the question of which product should be on promotion at which time of year and at which price to maximise profits.

“It (usually) takes about 30-man days to come up with one plan because you are dealing with 25,000 items over 1400 stores for 52 weeks – it’s like a really big Sudoku,” said Complexica’s Managing Director Matthew Michalewicz.

“But in 60 seconds Larry was able to consider about 10 million combinations of different prices, products, frequency, and predict how much more you will sell with all of these combinations and convert them into weekly averages per state and per store.

“A machine and all the computing power that sits in the cloud can consider things that an organisation will never have time to consider,” he added.

According to Michalewicz, Larry is best suited to large companies that experience repetitive sales of everyday items such as food, hardware and liquor.

“Businesses that have complexity are going to get much greater benefits from Larry than businesses that don’t. We define complexity by three core things: how big a business is; how many products you sell; and how many customers you have.”

Complexica has signed up 20 companies across a range of industries and aims to scale up to 100 clients within two years.

Current clients include PFD Food Services, Liquor Marketing Group, Leader Computers and Coventry Group.

Sanitarium makes a bigger dash

Sanitarium’s Little BIG DASH is returning to Australia for 2016, offering an obstacle adventure designed to put the fun into physical activity for more than 20,000 kids and their parents.

Family teams from two to six will tackle 3km of wild and wacky obstacles to reach the finish line, forming part of Sanitarium’s long-standing mission to help Australian families improve their health and wellbeing.

For the first time, the event will run in three cities, returning to Brisbane and Sydney following popular events in 2015, while families in Melbourne will have their first opportunity to participate in the unique bonding experience.

While Sanitarium’s aim is to encourage families to embrace an active lifestyle in a safe and non-competitive environment, participants report that the best thing about Little BIG DASH is its ability to bring people of all ages together to have fun.

Brisbane will be the first city to hold the event, kicking off the laughs on 24 July at Seventh Brigade Park in Geebung, proudly supported by the Queensland Government. The fun then continues in Sydney on 21 August at Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith and Melbourne on 25 September at The Thunderdome in Calder Park.

Sanitarium’s General Manager Todd Saunders said: “We’re thrilled to bring back the Little BIG DASH from Sanitarium for another year and expand the event to reach more families than ever before. In an age where the addictive allure of screen time sees Australians living an increasing sedentary lifestyle, our aim is to get kids and adults on their feet and bring family and fitness together in the most enjoyable way possible.”

Little BIG DASH from Sanitarium features unmissable activities and obstacles which have been designed for kids from age five to 15 and for adults looking to get in touch with their inner child. With ten thrilling obstacles to challenge participants, kids and parents can bounce through the Rumble Tumble Tower, twist through the Tangle Tunnel and test their balance on the Bupa Balance Beam.

Tickets for Little BIG DASH from Sanitarium are available to buy now with discounts available.

For more information and to register a team, head to


Embracing change

Change is inevitable and manufacturers who resist it will struggle to survive in today’s competitive market.

Somewhat surprisingly, many manufacturers still regard Change Management as just one of those gimmicks thought up by consultants to increase their income.

When in fact the process can often be vital to a manufacturer’s long term survival, especially one presently in the automotive industry.

As most readers would understand, Change management is a discipline that guides how companies prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organisational success and outcomes.

Mark Philips, Australia’s Head of Manufacturing with Grant Thornton, one of the world’s leading advisory firms, says he is surprised by manufacturing’s lack of enthusiasm and urgency with change management, especially in areas where there has been change.

He says Change Management is critical, but believes the biggest challenge with it is understanding what companies are trying to change to, admitting it’s hard for manufacturers to do what they are currently doing, but differently.

“When manufacturers go to look at modern technology, say additive manufacturing, I don’t tell them to try and create something new, instead I tell them to try and create something they couldn’t do in the past, which they can now do. “That means changing their whole way of thinking.

“For example, metal manufacturers are now able to produce perfectly curved surfaces that they couldn’t do before; that has to be in their repertoire of thinking,” Philips said.

He says the hardest part of getting a Change Management project off the ground is getting people to understand where they need to focus their business.

“The second part is getting them to document it, then it’s about getting them to believe in it. “The fourth part is breaking it up into a number of little achievable steps over a period of time.”

Philips admits Change Management can be a challenge, but says manufacturers who have gone through a structured process of identifying what they can do, how they can get there and have put a plan in place, are far better off than those who rely on a pot luck approach.

He says the first element on the change management journey is understanding what you don’t understand, and understanding what you can’t do. While he describes the importance of listening to customers and stakeholders as the second element.

“It’s surprising how often customers are telling companies that they are not doing certain things, but the companies are not listening.” He says the third element is when companies are looking to move from one opportunity to another.

“Manufacturers should look at the commonalities of what’s involved, because often it’s the same but described in a different language.”

Philips points to car component manufacturers as an example of the first element. “These guys are very bad at distribution, but it’s only because their customers, the car companies, collect their product from them rather than having to deliver the product to the customer, which is the normal situation.

“By default, the car companies have taken away the skill set of how to distribute.” He says the problems start once they leave the car industry, suddenly they are having to package the product to go on the back of a one tonne truck as opposed to a covered semi-trailer.

Then they have the problems of stacking the product on a pallet, organising transport and then getting the product off-loaded at the other end.

“So It’s really important companies look at what they can and can’t do.” He says the second part is understanding how they can use the skill sets they have in different markets. Philips points to manufacturers in the food industry who believe they have a number of unique issues around traceability, validation, delivery times, sequenced inventory and quality.

“However we have found that the car component guys have all these skills and understand all these areas. The problem is they don’t think they can make the transition, when it is a very real possibility.”


Philips says there is a lot of talk around at the moment about reskilling automotive companies. “But I would like to see more people understanding the skill sets already in the automotive industry and working out how they can capitalise on them in other industries.”

“For example, when it comes to cost-down skills, the automotive industry has been producing products year on year at roughly a 3% reduction in price. While food manufacturers are focused on delivering a better quality product to consumers at a lower cost. That’s just a different language for cost-downs.”

Philips says the problem is a lot of food manufacturers see cost-downs coming at a cost of margins.

“However car component manufacturers have already worked very hard to maintain their margins, but still deliver the required cost-downs. This is a really good skill set to have in any industry.

“And at the customer level, the car companies have learnt the language of how to achieve cost-downs without sending the car component manufacturers under, to retain security of supply.”

Philips says there are a lot of opportunities out there for car component manufacturers.

“The problem is, while they know their space very well and know how to produce their components using their technology for their customer, they don’t necessarily understand how their technology, or their skill set, can be adapted to different products and different customers.”

Regarding Change Management Philips says it’s is very important companies do their homework and understand the skill sets of their employees.

“There is also some analytical work needed to know exactly what their capabilities and capacities are, including positives and negatives. Then they can work out how they can position themselves for the opportunity.”

According to Philips, on occasions manufacturers might have to de-skill themselves ready for a new industry. He pointed out that while car component manufacturers can’t afford to deliver components that are under or over weight, it’s not quite the same in the food industry for example.

“While food manufacturers can’t deliver a product that is underweight, it’s OK to deliver a product that is overweight. Consumer don’t get upset if their chocolate bar contains 52g as opposed to 50g.

“So car component manufacturers who are used to delivering products at exactly 50g every single time, have to re-educate employees to think about tolerances and what that means for their equipment and processes.”

To make these changes, Philips says it’s vital to have the CEO and the board very much in support, plus a dynamic CFO who can embrace change. “Unfortunately there are a lot unknowns when going through this change process, with a level of risk and uncertainty.

“The board and senior management need to be prepared for both positive and negative outcomes and timelines that can move.”

Philips admits there is quite a lot of government support for SMEs, noting the Victorian government’s Success Mapping program, but not for mid-size companies. While he admits they can do a lot for themselves, he says most don’t have the financial might to bring in the people required.

Philips says it’s very difficult to take day to day operation people and get them involved in a project. “The problem is they get very excited about the new project and drop the ball on their operation work. Plus the day to day operation skill sets needed are very different from the strategic skill sets needed”

Philips says companies need a different blend of people on a new project with a realistic sounding board.

“A company going through a process of change needs to embrace the negativity along the way in a very honest way. Many companies find it hard to do that.” Philips says he would like to see all manufacturers embracing change management.

“At least that first step of the journey, looking at where the business is at and where it’s going.

“And it’s important they invest some money to do these exercises, because if they just rely on government, or get the service for nothing, they don’t value it and they don’t question it,” Philips said.

Grant Thornton

03 8320 2222

Mars Food promotes healthier eating

Mars Food Australia have voiced their goal to create and promote healthier food choices for consumers. Today the brand announced their new global Health and Wellbeing Ambition, which involves increasing the nutritional value of their products, improving labelling and encouraging healthy eating among families.

Some of the key initiatives of the Ambition include reductions in sodium and added sugar, labelling to highlight the difference between ‘everyday meals’ and ‘occasional products’, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in products.

The company also seeks to make their products more accessible around the world and build awareness about the benefits of cooking and eating healthy meals at home.

General Manager of Mars Food Australia, Hamish Thomson, said that as the makers of some of Australia’s most-loved brands, the company has a responsibility to help Australians consume more balanced diets.

“We believe we have significant responsibility to be transparent about our products and to help consumers make informed choices. The Health and Wellbeing Ambition will guide our product development to continue to improve the nutritional content of our portfolio and provide consumers with more information to help make informed, balanced choices,” said Thomson.

“Our ambition is to deliver one billion more healthy meals around dinner tables around the world so that we can make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our consumers. This is – and needs to be – a long term strategy to drive real change.”

Industry winning the fight against better food labelling

Most people doing their grocery shopping are probably blissfully unaware of the industry lobbying and backroom politics that determines what information appears on food labels.

So let’s start with some background. For almost two years, a Commonwealth government-led initiative involving public health and consumer groups, industry organisations as well as state government health authorities has been working to develop an interpretive front-of-pack food labelling scheme.

The proposed system echoes the “star ratings” already in use for choosing energy- or water-efficient refrigerators and washing machines, as well as hotels and restaurants. Put simply, the more stars, the healthier the food.

But since Australia’s food and health ministers confirmed their commitment to the health star rating system on December 13, 2013, there’s been a steady trickle of food industry media aimed at undermining the scheme. And it appears to be working.

What consumers want

The government-led process has been highly consultative and consumer research has and continues to inform the final design.

The health star rating was based on specially-commissioned consumer research that showed people understood the concept of a star rating for food, but still wanted information about the level of saturated fat, sugars, kilojoules, and sodium in different products.

The research also highlighted mistrust of food industry-led initiatives. Specifically, participants recognised that the company-determined serve sizes, which are the basis of the industry’s existing daily intake guide labelling initiative, are often a fraction of the portions people actually consume and make it difficult to compare different products.

They want front-of-pack nutrition information presented per 100 grams or 100 millilitres to allow for easy, more reliable comparison.

What the industry wants

Despite these findings, the Australian Food and Grocery Council has continued to champion its preferred daily intake guide.

The scheme doesn’t meet the criteria agreed on by federal and state health ministers in 2011 when they endorsed the Blewett review recommendation that a front-of-pack labelling system should provide an easy interpretation of a product’s healthiness and nutrition content.

The system is based on the amount (in percentage terms) that one serving of a product contributes to an “average” adult’s daily intake of 8,700 kilojoules and other nutrients.

But each food manufacturer is allowed to determine what serving size they will base their calculation on. And the same product from two different companies may provide the percentage of daily intake figure based on two different portions.

This variability, coupled with the fact that the serving sizes being used bear little resemblance to the portions that most people eat, has become the main point of contention for health and consumer groups.

The daily intake guide doesn’t allow shoppers to make meaningful product comparisons. Clearly, comparisons both within and across food categories are easier when based on standard portions, such as 100 grams.

Until consistent and meaningful serve sizes are developed in consultation with government, health and consumer groups, and industry, the system cannot be the focus of any government-endorsed front-of-pack labelling system.

An even better option

While many health and consumer groups involved in the development of the scheme are committed to the introduction of the health star rating scheme, it represents a substantial compromise on their preferred traffic light labelling system.

Originally developed by the UK Food Standards Agency in 2006, consumer research conducted there and in Australia had demonstrated that traffic-light systems are highly effective in assisting shoppers identify healthier foods.

Despite the development of the health star rating scheme, Australia continues to lag behind the UK where traffic light labelling is growing in acceptance among food companies, retailers and, of course, consumers (the scheme remains voluntary as mandatory labelling laws are enacted across the European Union).

When the UK government announced the introduction of a consistent front-of-pack food labelling system last year, most major UK supermarkets were either already using traffic light-based schemes or had announced that they would be doing so in the near future.

Increasing support for a traffic light-style scheme by UK food suppliers will generate further evidence about the value and influence of that food labelling system.

Meanwhile, any system introduced into the Australian marketplace must also be widely adopted by the food industry, supported by a public awareness campaign and subjected to extensive evaluation to ensure that it actually guides healthier food choices.

Better labelling on food packaging can help people make healthier food choices and easy comparisons at the supermarket. Despite the food industry’s efforts to undermine it, public health and consumer groups are committed to ensuring the health star rating scheme is widely adopted in Australia.
The author would like to acknowledge the contribution to this article by Wendy Watson, Nutrition Project Officer, and Clare Hughes, Nutrition Program Manager who are both at Cancer Council NSW.

The Conversation

Kathy Chapman, Director Health Strategies, Cancer Council NSW & PhD student, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The top five trends in product ID for 2016

Product identification is an increasingly essential feature of logistics operations. Mark Dingley looks at how it will develop and evolve this year.

Product identification is continuously evolving. Sometimes the advances are small, sometimes they are quite obvious. Sometimes they are technology specific, and sometimes they relate to an entire production line, supply chain or industry. Here are the top five trends in product ID:

  1. Flexible lines, flexible ID Having agility on your lines means you can run products with different sizes and shapes. While making better use of your capital, the flexibility also allows you to be more responsive to the market and consumer trends. To do this though, you also need coding and labelling equipment that is flexible. For instance, you might need to code 50mm high now, but just a year or so down the track you might need 200mm high. Another example is a coder that adjusts the amount of solvent it uses according to what’s being coded, and yet another is a printer that can easily switch between intermittent and continuous printing modes. Such flexibility in the latest technologies opens up the market for contract packers and allows manufacturers to take advantage of consumer trends. Technology that can grow with a manufacturer’s needs also helps to ‘future proof’ them.
  2. Serialisation and authentication This topic has been hot in the news lately. Serialisation as a process is not new, but technologies have been developed that allow products to be authenticated by a consumer standing in the supermarket aisle on the other side of the world with their smartphone and instantly know if it is genuine. This has huge brand–protection implications for products (and entire industries) feeling the pinch from ever-more-clever fakes encroaching upon them — and of course, one of the biggest benefits here is health and safety. On top of this, the manufacturer can communicate with the end consumer in ways never before possible: they can build their brand story and engage in a relationship with that consumer, suggest recipes, or offer deals.
  3. Smarter technologies Technologies are becoming increasingly smart. Two great examples are self-cleaning and giving audible or visible warnings when attention is needed, such as if a service is due or fluid levels are low. Innovative ink-recirculation systems ensure no ink is wasted in print-head cleaning, while self-cleaning technology optimises uptime and ensures crisp print quality. On-board diagnostics, providing fault, warning and help messages are another way to optimise factory-floor productivity, while customisable on-screen prompts enable mistake-free editing, reducing coding errors. Other highly useful developments include simple on-screen prompts to set up new lines or messages, and being able to control multiple lines from the one unit. Smarter technologies such as these are very practical developments in coding technologies, saving manufacturers wasted time and unnecessary costs.
  4. Integrating ID & inspection Inspection technologies such as vision, check weigh and metal detection, are an important tool on production lines to inspect product quality in real-time. Integrating them with product identification improves the quality of products that go out the factory door. Software integration solutions give real-time data, which is vital in enabling managers and floor staff alike to make informed decisions about what is happening on the production line. Integrated ID and inspection systems help manufacturers make their packaging process leaner and more reliable, allowing them to drive a sustainable competitive advantage.
  5. Increased need for automation & data capture Automating processes clearly removes the possibility of human mistakes, speeds up output and can make products look more professional by being more consistently presented. Inspection is a big area where automating helps a business by vastly improving quality control. Automation also reduces costs and creates greater efficiencies, with better returns, helping manufacturers to remain competitive. Having the right data gives a business a better opportunity to make better decisions.

Capturing data both on the production line (such as the number and cause of rejects and downtime) and at the consumer end is a vital part of this. From everything we have seen, all these five trends will continue to grow in 2016.

Australian Institute of Packaging

07 3278 4490

Busy weekends offer opportunities for premium breakfast products

As the fast-paced nature of twenty-first century life continues to change breakfast from an enjoyable pastime to a chore, consumers are increasingly seeking out convenience foods in the morning. While an established trend during the week, it is increasingly creeping into weekend habits.

According to a Canadean survey of packaging executives worldwide, 77% expect high or moderate demand for on-the-go grocery products during weekday mornings, while 63% forecast high or moderate demand during weekend mornings. While the high demand during weekday mornings is to be expected, this study shows that the industry is preparing to take advantage of a surprising opportunity: convenience breakfasts for those who are time-poor at weekends.

As a result, Canadean said it expects more innovative pack formats to be developed for breakfast drinks and smoothies, including dual packs separating liquid and solid contents, and heat-retaining packs to keep indulgent breakfasts warm while on the go.

“Brands built around convenience should consider brand extensions targeting weekend needs, while those built around enjoyment and indulgence should consider diversifying their product portfolios to offer new, more convenient products that still provide something special for weekend consumers,”

Safwan Kotwal, Analyst at Canadean, says: “Focusing purely on weekday breakfast convenience means brands risk leaving money on the table. While consumers’ timetables are arguably more flexible during the weekend, busier social lives are creating a new market for convenient, but at the same time indulgent, weekend breakfast products.

“Convenience purely targeted at busy office workers or busy parents on the school run means brands could be excluding themselves from a potentially very profitable weekend market.”

While convenience is an important consideration for many consumers, indulging and enjoying breakfast on the weekend is something they look forward to. Although high demand on weekday mornings will remain the most important occasion for convenience products, Canadean said it believes brands must not discount weekends as an opportunity.

“Brands built around convenience should consider brand extensions targeting weekend needs, while those built around enjoyment and indulgence should consider diversifying their product portfolios to offer new, more convenient products that still provide something special for weekend consumers,” Kotwal concluded.

Food manufacturers question effectiveness of star rating system

The Star food rating system which has been designed to help consumers make informed and more healthful decisions at the checkout is being rejected by major food manufacturing players.

Simplot, Nestle and Unilever along with peak lobby group, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) have questioned the effectiveness of the new government imposed system sighting a hike in labelling costs and potential job losses as the primary reasons.

Terry O’Brien, managing director of food processing giant Simplot believes that the new system could cost the $3m for the company to implement across its entire food portfolio.

O’Brien who is also chairman of the AFGC, told ABC News that the star rating system would not tackle food related issues such as diabetes and obesity.

"At Simplot, we've run our products through the suggested system and we've got anomalies all over the place, where things like products with no salt are not getting a better rating than the same product with salt.

"So if these sort of anomalies in our hands, then how the heck are they going to help the consumer?"

The star system is a product of two years of negotiation between the health sectors, government and the food industry.

 AFGC CEO, Gary Dawson estimates that the repacking could cost the food industry up to $14,000 per product equating to more than $200m across the industry.

However, health industry expert Michael Moore from the Public Health Association of Australia, who was involved in the design process of the rating system, believes that it is a small price to pay considering the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the nation’s health system.

“It’s peanuts compared with the cost of diabetes, cardiovascular, all the diseases associated with obesity and what it’s going to cost to treat them,” Moore told Financial Review Sunday


Hep A outbreak linked to frozen berries

A Hepatitis A outbreak in Europe has struck at least 71 people, believed to be linked to frozen berries used in smoothies.

According to Food Safety News, at least 35 people have fallen ill in Denmark, and another 36 across Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Swedish authorities have announced that so far this year, the country is experiencing ten times to normal number of Hep A cases.

While most affected patients have reported consuming berries or smoothies close to the time that they fell ill, investigators haven't yet established a particular brand or berry origin responsible.

Hepatitis A has an incubation period of between 15 and 50 days, and due to the delay involved in reporting the disease, authorities are expecting more cases to emerge in the near future.


Nestlé to invest in ‘Ecobiotics’ to tackle public health issues

Nestlé Health Science has signed an exclusive agreement outside of the United States and Canada to support the potential future commercialisation of Seres Therapeutics' novel ‘microbiome therapeutics’.

The aim is to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Clostridium difficile (C.diff), an intestinal infection caused by the C.diff bacteria that can be life-threatening in some cases.

Nestlé Health Science will invest USD 120 million upfront to support Seres’ ‘Ecobiotics’, a new class of biological drugs based upon microbial organisms. These target the microbiome – the 100 trillion microorganisms that live in the body.

Scientific has noted that research increasingly links an unhealthy or unbalanced microbiome to a range of health conditions, including IBD and C.diff.

Junk food advertisers put profits before children’s health – and we let them

For the first time in history, Australian children could live shorter lives than their parents. The reason? High rates of excess weight and obesity.

Despite mounting evidence that junk food marketing is a big part of the problem, a new report to be released today reveals that Australian governments are failing to step in and protect our children.

In fact, Australia’s already weak system of self-regulation to protect children from unhealthy food marketing – including advertisements on TV, radio and digital platforms – has gone backwards.

Self-regulation: nothing but a charade

The new Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) report, End the Charade!, shows how the self-regulation of junk food marketing in Australia is simply not working.

Profit-hungry food advertisers exploit the loopholes that exist in already weak codes and use sneaky tactics so they can bombard children with junk food advertising.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) codes, known as the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) and the Quick Service Restaurant Initiative (QSRI), are “an industry framework to make sure only healthier products are promoted directly to children”.

Ironically, signing up to these codes allows big food companies to appear socially responsible – even when their sole motivation is maximising profit, at the expense of children’s health.


Coco Pops and Paddle Pops are categorised as ‘healthier dietary choices’.


The report found that since an initial investigation by the OPC in 2012 the system has been relaxed even further. Examples include:

  • A looser definition of healthy food that fails to stop Kellogg’s categorising of Coco Pops as a “healthier dietary choice” and therefore appropriate for marketing to children.


Image from Wonka Cookie Creamery chocolate TV ad.


  • A weakened interpretation of advertising “directly targeted to children” allowing Nestle to use fairytale imagery to advertise Wonka Cookie Creamery chocolate, arguing it was “designed to appeal to an adult’s sense of nostalgia for childhood”.


Image from Peter’s Zombie Guts and Zombie Snot icy-poles ad broadcast on Foxtel in October 2013.


  • A slow and complex system in which the Advertising Standards Board failed to consider a complaint about Peter’s “Zombie Guts” and “Zombie Snot” icy-poles because the ad campaign had ended by the time it received the complaint.

Food manufacturers' influence extends well beyond individual advertisements. It relies on huge volumes and placement within a range of platforms, such as websites, mobile phone apps, interactive games, billboards at bus stops and promotions in supermarkets. This ensures junk food advertising is wallpaper in our children’s lives.

Given that around 40% of what Australian school-aged children eat is unhealthy food, the millions of dollars companies spend to create demand for their products is a marketing success and public health failure.

Advertising influences food choices, now and in future

Extensive research has found that unhealthy food advertising influences what children want to eat and what they do eat. This also creates pester power and undermines efforts by parents, schools and communities to encourage healthy habits.

Children are vulnerable consumers and are likely to have reduced capacity to understand the commercial and persuasive intent behind advertising messages. In targeting children through fun advertisements and engaging characters, food companies are able to build positive brand associations that can stay with them throughout their adult life.

Restricting junk food marketing to children is acknowledged by peak health bodies including the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an important and necessary step to help improve children’s diets and slow obesity rates in Australia.

Government-led regulation urgently needed

Research from here and overseas has shown that self-regulation of unhealthy food marketing is ineffective to reduce the amount of food advertising and promotion that children see. To reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing, we urgently need government-led action.

As a first step, the Australian Communications and Media Authority should monitor and measure children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertising on television.

The federal government should then introduce comprehensive regulations or, at the very least, instruct broadcasting, advertising and food industries on how to strengthen their existing approaches.

Amendments should also be made to the advertising codes or regulations to:

  • Clearly define key terms, including “unhealthy food”, “unhealthy food marketing”, “children” and “directed to children”

  • Consistently and transparently define “unhealthy food” in accordance with government and scientific guidelines

  • Expand their scope to apply to all forms, media and locations of marketing of unhealthy food (including brand marketing) that is directed to, or appeals to children

  • Restrict all unhealthy food marketing on television during times when large numbers of children are likely to be watching (weekdays 6–9am and 4–9pm, and weekends and school holidays 6am–12pm and 4–9pm)

  • Ensure compliance is regularly monitored.

The food and advertising industries seem primarily motivated to create an appearance of corporate social responsibility and ward off tighter government regulation. Only through significant improvements led by government will children be protected from predatory junk food marketers exploiting their vulnerabilities.

Industry has had a chance to show that they can act responsibly and our scrutiny has shown they have failed miserably. Now government leadership is necessary to support parents and put children’s health first.

The Conversation

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition; Senior Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Matilda’s Aussie grown frozen berries to begin production

Australia’s first 100 per cent locally grown frozen berries, will begin processing in the Yarra Valley next month.

The frozen berries will be processed on purpose built Australian engineered machinery in the Yarra Valley and the berries will be from Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm.

Matilda’s co-founder Ruth Gallace says they’ve now secured distributors in every State and will start processing berries on its Australian designed and engineered machinery in the Yarra Valley next month.

“We have had to start this entirely from scratch.  That has meant having machinery purpose built and designed, and creating a factory from the ground up. The decision has meant things have taken much longer, much like an architectural house build, but we’ve chosen to take absolutely no short cuts, and we’re really proud of that.  Everything about this business is Australian made.”

Matilda’s was launched after 31 cases of Hepatitis A were linked by the Department of Health to Nanna's 1kg fresh frozen mixed berries, which are made using imported berries.

While Patties said after completing its microbiological and viral testing that it found no Hepatitis A or E.coli on recalled products, the recall pushed up demand for fresh Australian berries.

The origin of Matilda’s frozen berries will be completely transparent – labelled on each and every bag, with no part of the product, or process, occurring offshore.

Gallace had hoped to have product on shelves earlier, but refuses to compromise on quality.

“Now we’re at the end of the Victorian season, we’re going to use fruit from our Queensland farms when it’s at its absolute peak to ensure when it hits the shelves, we know unequivocally that we’re delivering the best product we possibly can.”


Aussies hungry for more nutritious vending machines

Health conscious Australians are hungry for more nutritious options in fast food vending machines, according to new research by the University of Sydney and University of Wollongong.

The study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, reveals an appetite for healthy food options such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and yoghurt in vending machines in public places like hospitals and universities.

Eighty seven per cent of the 240 people surveyed thought the current range of vending machine snacks are ‘too unhealthy’, with 80 per cent willing to pay the same or extra for healthier alternatives.

The lead researcher and accredited practising dietician, Professor Vicki Flood from the University of Sydney, said vending machines are part of an unhealthy environment which is contributing to a rise in diabetes and obesity through the availability of energy-dense snacks and sugary drinks.

“We know that around one third of our daily calorie intake comes from snacking and with the busy lifestyles that we all lead, healthy eating often falls victim to convenience,” Flood said.

“However this study shows that many Australians are becoming more aware of their diet and there is an opportunity to use vending machines to promote healthy snacking, particularly in busy environments like train stations and hospitals.”

The study was conducted in a university campus and public hospital in regional Australia, and surveyed the views of over 120 students and 120 hospital employees, patients and visitors.

The researchers also assessed the impact front-of-packet nutritional labelling had on purchase decisions, finding that more people chose the healthier food option when presented with nutritional values before purchase. The same impact was not seen in the drinks category.

A 2012 audit of vending machines in Sydney train stations by Professor Flood and colleagues at the University of Wollongong found few healthy snacks are on offer.

Only three per cent of all vending machine slots were allocated to healthier choices like nuts, tuna or portion controlled chips, and these options were generally more expensive.

Following a food preferences survey of 650 students earlier this year, the University of Sydney will be trialling more nutritious options in vending machines from Semester 2, 2015.

Ms Elly Howse from the Health Sydney University initiative said over ninety per cent of students showed an interest in healthier food for lower cost.

“We are trialling better vending machine options in popular library and study spaces, as we know from our students that convenient food options are needed after-hours when campus food outlets are closed,” Howse said.

Professor Flood said there are logistical challenges to improving vending machines but innovative businesses in Queensland and Melbourne have already recognised the market potential.


Ancient Grains + Activated Super Seeds Organic Sourdough

Product Name: Ancient Grains + Activated Super Seeds Organic Sourdough

Product Manufacturer: Bill's Certified Organic Health Bakery

Launch date: 10/06/15

Ingredients: Certified organic stoneground spelt flour and certified organic stoneground khorasan flour, filtered water, certified organic flaxseeds, certified organic chia seeds, certified organic quinoa seeds, certified organic sunflower oil, psyllium husk, lecithin and Himalayan pink rock salt.

Shelf Life: 6 days

Packaging: Fully degradable packaging made from polyethylene

Country of origin: Australia

Brand Website:

What the company says:

Activated & Certified Organic Chia, Quinoa and Flaxseed are combined with Certified Organic stoneground Spelt and khorasan flour (both highly nutritious alternatives to conventional wheat) to create this bread. Our process of activating our 7 Seeds (the start of the sprouting process) unlocks the whole grain nutrition in this loaf. Digestibility is improved by breaking down gluten allowing for easier absorption.


A year on, Australia’s health star food-rating system is showing cracks

Mark Lawrence, Deakin University and Christina Pollard, Curtin University

The government has started the second phase of its awareness campaign for Australia’s year-old health star food-rating system. The A$2.1 million campaign is aimed at educating grocery buyers about how to shop for healthy food and encouraging the food industry to adopt the voluntary system.

But it’s unlikely the campaign will fulfil its first aim because health stars are predominantly being used by the food industry to market highly processed food products. It would be unfortunate if it was successful in its latter aim because unless we change the way the system currently works, consumers will be the losers.


Even though it is clearly healthy, this yoghurt gets only one and a half stars. Author provided


A good purpose

It has only been a year since the federal government finally introduced the health star rating system after a long and fraught process. The industry is implementing the system over five years and a review is planned for next year.

Under the system’s nutrient profiling criteria, individual packaged foods are rated on their composition. Foods receive “baseline” (or negative) points for the amount (per 100 grams or 100 millilitres) of saturated fat, total sugars, sodium and energy. And they receive “modifying” (or positive) points for the amount (again, per 100g or 100mL) of protein, fibre, fruit and vegetables they contain. Points are then converted to a star rating, from half to five stars.

The system is supposed to help consumers discriminate between similar foods within the same food category that contain different amounts of undesirable ingredients. It should, for instance, help compare two loaves of bread in terms of their salt content.


While liquorice gets two and a half stars. Author, Author provided


The health star rating system is also supposed to provide an incentive for manufacturers to reformulate their products. In terms of our previous example, it should encourage manufacturers to provide bread with less salt. But because it was developed through compromise between government, industry, public health and consumer groups, it has some inevitable design and implementation limitations.

Badly designed

Its main design limitation is that it simplistically frames the cause of, and solution to, dietary imbalances in terms of nutrients. This is fundamentally at odds with the latest nutrition advice, which uses a food-based approach.

Consider the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which is a nuanced set of eating rules based on the latest nutrition research. It encourages enjoyment of a variety of nutritious foods from all five major food groups (see below), and limiting or avoiding highly processed, energy-dense and nutrient-poor “discretionary” or junk foods and drinks.


Food consists of a complex matrix of nutrients and non-nutrient components, which interact in multiple ways to influence health. Because people eat foods rather than nutrients in isolation, it makes more sense to give nutrition advice based on whole foods.

But the health star rating system looks at nutrients in isolation. And simply awarding stars irrespective of whether a food is from the “discretionary” category is resulting in instances where foods, such as confectionery, are getting higher ratings than five-food-group foods, such as yoghurt.

Badly implemented

The system’s main implementation limitation is that because it’s voluntary, food manufacturers can decide whether a product will display health stars or not. Understandably, although manufacturers might be happy to display stars on foods that attract between two and five stars, they are less likely to put one or half a star on their products.


Are chips really healthy enough to attract four stars? Author provided


So what the health star rating system ends up doing is encouraging marketing of unhealthy or discretionary foods, as healthy options. Discretionary foods are packaged and highly processed and can have their nutrient composition reformulated to increase stars. Manufacturers of potato chips, for instance, might lower their fat or salt content to gain a higher star rating. But chips with half an extra star are still a discretionary food.

Part of the problem is that the campaign’s main message – “the more stars the better” – is misleading. Many of the items from the five food groups (see above) are not packaged, so they don’t display health stars. The actual health message is to eat more of these foods; it’s not that we should try to eat food with more stars.

What the health star rating system ends up doing is communicating a de facto approval or giving a halo effect to the labels of products that carry stars. People tend to view any visual health information on food as at least suggesting it’s healthy. So packaged foods that carry the star symbol, even if only half a star, could be implied to be healthy.

Making it better

Fixing the system’s design limitations will require placing nutrient profiling within the context of the whole food so consumers are encouraged to choose predominantly from the five food groups. In practice this would mean stars should be available for only five-food-group foods. Health warning symbols should be displayed on discretionary foods.

Part of the problem is that the campaign’s main message – ‘the more stars the better’ – is misleading. heath star rating website

This change would provide food manufacturers with stronger incentive to reformulate discretionary foods to avoid attracting health warning symbols on their product labels.

And fixing its implementation limitations will require mandating the health star rating system – and warning symbols – across all foods that carry a label. We would also need a regulatory body to manage the system’s operation.

These remedies would help make the system consistent with the latest evidence from nutrition science. And it would make the education message simpler. Most importantly, consumers will be able to have confidence that they can use the health star rating system to compare all foods for their relative healthy properties.

Mark Lawrence is Professor of Public Health Nutrition at Deakin University.
Christina Pollard is Research Fellow, School of Public Health at Curtin University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Health Star Rating awareness campaign enters second stage

The second phase of the awareness campaign for the Health Star rating system aims to increase consumer awareness and industry participation.

The Health Star Rating awareness campaign has entered its second stage, which will increase consumer awareness and encourage further industry participation

“The $2.1 million second phase of the HSR promotion campaign features print, online and social media advertisements aimed at the main grocery buyer in households, as well as in-store promotion,” Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash said

“The campaign shows how easy the Health Star Rating makes it for shoppers to find the healthiest version of a food on the supermarkets shelves.”

There are now more than 1000 products in Australia carrying the Health Star system.

“The Health Star Rating system also encourages companies to be more careful about the salt, sugar and kilojoules in the food they produce,” Nash said.

Companies that have adopted the Health Star Rating system include Sanitarium, Woolworths, Coles, Nestle, Heinz, Fonterra, Simplot, Vitality, Mars, Lion, Betta Foods, Monster Health Food Company, Food for Health, Freedom Foods, Vetta, Parker's Organic, Yummia, Campbell's Arnotts, Unilever and Kellogg’s.

The HSR system is a joint initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments in partnership with industry, public health and consumer groups. Between half and five stars appear on the front of the package – five stars the best nutritional score.


Soy Amazing Soy Milk (original and unsweetened)

Product Name: Soy Amazing Soy Milk (original and unsweetened)

Product Manufacturer: Soy Amazing

Launch date: June 2015

Ingredients: Organic whole soy beans (12%), Cashews (2%), Filtered water, Sea Salt and only in the original version: Natvia.

Shelf Life: 2 weeks

Packaging: Plastic bottle

Country of origin: Australia

Brand Website:

What the company says:

The soy beans used for Soy Amazing are grown in Australia, are natural and organic, and free of GMO’s. The Soy beans are soaked to break down the nutrient inhibitors to ensure you get all the benefits of all the available nutrients and once made, the soy milk is treated to remove any potential bacteria without damaging the nutrient profile. The sweetened version uses natural sweeteners from plant extract which is not only natural, but very low in calories, for added flavour and additionally makes them suitable for people suffering from diabetes.

4 steps to standing out in the health food market

There’s no doubt that over the last decade there has been a shift toward a healthier lifestyle.  Consumer eating habits are increasingly shifting toward wholesome, natural and locally-sourced foods.

Once a niche market, health food is now a mainstream food category.

Today you can find whole aisles of natural and organic health products in most supermarkets. ‘All natural’ ingredients are no longer unique, forcing health food brands to find other ways to differentiate themselves.

With an influx of new health foods on the market, it’s more important to have a clear and consistent brand strategy that resonates with consumers’ desire for naturally healthy food.

Here's four considerations to help brands shine in the competitive health food market:

1. Use packaging to highlight brand values and features

Brands can consider this desire for naturally healthy food through the use of thoughtful packaging that reflects the brand’s core values and key features.

Many health food companies are generally opting for images that reflect this desire, such as nature, families and fresh produce. Children’s health food company Whole Kids, for example, uses this strategy.  The consistent brand identity relies heavily on simple designs, a bright but natural colour scheme, stylised representations of fruit and vegetables, and a consistent ‘certified organic’ messaging to reflect its core promise to customers.

2. Be transparent

Transparency is key for health food brands looking to reinforce and communicate authentic healthy foods. Consumers want to know more about the products they’re buying and it makes good business sense to oblige them.

The very nature of the health food category makes it easy for brands to be transparent about what they’re selling. Make sure packaging suggests an openness about the origins of the food and invites people to find out more about the brand.

Carman’s Fine Foods does this well by using packaging that allows the consumer to view ingredients on each muesli bar while also offering a short list of ingredients on the front of the box. The unique business story is on the back of the box and answers any questions consumers might have about the ingredients.

By answering common consumer questions through their packaging, they offer valuable information their customers won’t need to go searching for, establishing trust and a sense of honesty about their business practices.

3. Understand the values of your target market

Trusted health food companies have a deep understanding of what their customers want. They appeal to consumers who share their values, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.  They are selective about whom they target and how they target them.

My Yummy Lunchbox uses this approach. Created by Australian mothers, they make healthy lunch box snacks, aimed at getting more kids to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. They base their brand identity on this shared goal with their target market. Because they share the same values with these mothers, they can communicate authentically and share their true goals.

4. Create an emotional connection

Health food brands that foster a brand identity that reflects the truth of their core goals, and have the products to back it up, can develop a lasting emotional attachment with customers. This is the key ingredient in long-term customer loyalty and establishing a sense of authenticity among followers.

Fostering emotional attachment helps build trust and gives customers a sense that ‘we’re in this together’. This can be a powerful tool.

However, to leverage that trust, it’s important to be consistent in both the messaging and the underlying product offering. US food company, Bob’s Red Mill, has crafted an enduring brand identity combining a proven passion for whole foods with the history of Bob Moore, the company’s founder and namesake.Each of Bob’s Red Mill products features an illustration of Bob, along with a clear description of the product. The packaging design is simple. Through a consistent, easily-recognisable visual identity, Bob’s Red Mill has successfully built an emotional attachment with long-term customers, which is underpinned by the trust that is generated by product consistency.

By creating a clear and consistent brand strategy that allows for transparency, emotional connection and shared values with your target audience, health food brands can establish themselves as an authentic brand and gain loyal customers in the process.

Dan Ratner is the managing director of uberbrand.