Australian woman shares success as a health food manufacturer

More than a decade ago, an Australian naturopath started hand-mixing cereals for clients who wanted healthy options that weren’t readily available in the market.    

Without knowing it, Narelle Plapp had started her path to creating a muesli manufacturing business that would bring clients aboard from as far afield as China.

In the past 12 years, Plapp has owned two health food stores, founded the muesli brand Food for Health, and just 12 months ago she started a manufacturing business called Grain and Bake Co Australia.

Her businesses continue to flourish, but the getting there required a lot of determination and risk.

READ: Congratulations to the winners of Women in Industry Awards 2018

“I was living off the smell of an oily rag at the ripe old age of 24,” said Plapp. 

“I started as a naturopath and had created some recipes for patients.”

The cereals Plapp made for clients had essential botanicals that are said to help aid in liver cleansing, as well as having other health benefits.

Twelve years ago, there were few options for people wanting a truly healthy cereal, she said. Plapp saw a gap in the market for muesli that was low in sugar and high in nutritional value.

“I took a leap of faith to do it on my own.”

That leap of faith has not only allowed her to succeed as a businesswoman, but it’s also given her the opportunity to mentor other women in the food industry.

Muesli manufacturing doesnt stop at the bowl

Plapp’s success was recognised when she was nominated as a finalist in the 2018 Women in Industry awards, for the Excellence in Manufacturing and Mentor of the Year categories. 

She is currently mentoring three people, with regular catch-ups every second month.

“Some are university students who want inspiration and one is someone that just started a business. I’m particularly passionate about women in business.”

She sees the importance in giving people support as she too has experienced working on her own to achieve business goals that can be daunting at times.

“It can be intimidating,” said Plapp.

She enjoys helping people succeed, while also learning from the people she is mentoring.

“When you’re talking to younger people it certainly gives you a different perspective. I like the challenge they put back on me,” said Plapp.

While mentoring is important to Plapp, she also supports people in other ways. 

Wellbeing is more than eating nutritious foods

Coming back to work after having a child can be difficult, so she offers flexible working hours to staff, but this isn’t limited to women. Plapp, who has two children, believes all parents should also have the chance to spend as much time as possible with their families. 

“If your child is in a school play you might as well get out and watch it and make it up another day. What I can do is support people through a journey through how you juggle that,” she said.

Within hours of having her children, Plapp was back on her laptop because work never stopped for her. But she understands the difficulty some parents face when trying to get back into a work routine. Accommodating employee’s needs is a must in her company.

With a focus on employee wellbeing, as well as the health of consumers, Plapp is making a name for herself in the health foods sector.

Grain and Bake, based in Melbourne, is a contractor manufacturing brand that has eight brands on board after just 12 months.

“We’ve certainly got a huge plan. We are already selling our Grain and Bake brand in China. We currently support our partner there,” said Plapp.

“It is certainly a long way from when I used to hand mix the muesli, however I am more passionate, driven and determined than ever before.”

Plapp works hard and encourages others to do so too by supporting them during their entrepreneurial journeys.

While it was hard work, she said it was still a labour of love.

Research shows younger generations care about free-from foods and small portions

Free-from claims and smaller, more convenient pack sizes are important to younger consumers, research from a 2017 Nielsen report suggests.

At the iba baking and snack trade fair, a panel of experts from the baked goods sector spoke about the importance of moving towards free-from and organic products.

The forum, which took place on the 18th of September, showed a strong need for food manufacturers to cater to an increasing desire for clean products.

The information based on a Nielsen research report from 2017, on the US market, showed that organic sales among households with a millennial head of house, were 38 per cent greater than sales among total US households.

READ: Industry 4.0 a hot topic at iba Munich baking and snack trade fair

Robb MacKie, CEO of the American Bakers Association, said despite the data being from the US market, the association’s European counterpart found similarities in the data.

“The connections between the US and the international market are very strong.

“We are seeing health and wellness claims are the fastest growing areas for sales on the retail level in the US market,” said MacKie.

There is a big trend in free-from claims, he said.

“A lot of the soy-free and some of the others are growing at a very fast rate.

“The younger consumers are gravitating the most to those health claims,” said MacKie.

“The greatest generation, which is considered to be the World War 2 generation, is not really being impacted by some of these health claims. In baby boomers you start to see some movement,” he said.

But despite people being drawn to health claims, MacKie said cream filled pies, speciality desserts and muffins are on the rise in the US market.

“Taste is still King,” he said.

The key to the success is being healthier, but still having a tasty product on offer, he said.

Corbion vice president Mark Hotze agreed that consumers still have a need for food that tastes good.

“For us to be successful as an ingredient supplier, it’s really that willingness to roll up our sleeves, partner with our customers and understand where they want to go in that space.”

The consumers need to know an item is worth the calories, said Hotze.

Brian Dwyer, vice president of bakery manufacturing at Kroger, said the supermarket chain noticed people going for smaller portions.

“The one trend that I would say I’ve seen with indulgent food is the move to smaller pack sizes. Whereas in the past our consumers would pick up a 12 inch or and 8 inch pie, we are seeing that move to a smaller size, maybe a 5 inch pie,” said Dwyer.

“What we are seeing is there’s a need for indulgent, but our consumers want to eat that and have that indulgent experience without feeling guilty.

“The health and wellness is clearly a rapidly growing segment. We are seeing a lot of activity and a lot of energy around the health and wellness sector,” he said.

Kroger’s Simple Truth and Simple Truth organic brands have been the company’s  fastest growing brand ever, said Dwyer.

Research from Nielsen shows the dollar growth of grain free products in the bakery section has increased by 51 per cent from 2017.

Cruelty-free products have increased in US dollar growth by 30 per cent, and grass fed products have in increased by 28 per cent from 2017.

Health food business delivers at 2018 Telstra Victorian Business Awards

Healthy diet program, Be Fit Food, was named the 2018 Telstra Victorian Business of the Year.

Convinced there was a better way to help weight loss clients, Geoffrey Draper, a bariatric surgeon, and Kate Save, a dietitian, exercise physiologist and diabetes educator, developed scientifically formulated home-delivered meals.

The meals contain no added sugar, they are low in salt and they include plenty of vegetables.

Save said the pair took the guesswork out of healthy eating by providing Australians with scientifically formulated meals for improving overall health and wellbeing.

The meals strike the right balance of macro and micronutrients for effective treatment of some chronic illnesses, and promote weight loss.

In 2017, the business appeared on television show Shark Tank resulting in a $300,000 investment and an increase in sales by 1500 per cent overnight.

This year, Be Fit Food also took home the 2018 Telstra Victorian Small and Succeeding award.

The Telstra Business Awards have four categories – Emerging and Energised, Small and Succeeding, Medium and Making Waves, and Social Change Maker.

Telstra Business Awards ambassador, Vicki Brady, said the winners of the 2018 awards demonstrated excellence across six key judging criteria, underpinned by a commitment to innovation and technology.

“[They] are shining examples of businesses doing great things in new and effective ways for their customers. They are genuine innovators, always on the lookout for ways to leverage technology to connect with customers, unlock new markets and take their business to the next level,” she said.

“We were inspired by Be Fit Food’s financially astute strategy for expansion, from start-up to serious competitor of major brands in the home-delivered meals sector. Its collaborative, flexible and supportive corporate culture, mixed with high quality food, is no doubt the recipe for their success,” said Brady.

The other category winners of the 2018 Telstra Victorian Business Awards are Sensum –Emerging and Energised award, Dann Event Hire – Medium & Making Waves award, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health – Social Change Maker award.




Food and Beverage Awards Industry finalists announced

From fruity drinks to coconut yoghurt, the finalists for the Food and Beverage Industry Awards 2018 shows the broad range of companies making their mark on the food industry.

The prestigious awards program recognises successful and innovative people in the industry, including brands that have a focus on health, and companies that are committed to providing equipment and services that focus on safety-first.

All finalists are automatically entered for the ‘Best of the Best’ award, sponsored by Flavour Makers.

Beverage of the Year – Sponsored by VEGA Australia


The Good Seed Kefir – Kefir Soda, fermented beverage

Chai Addict – Chai Addict and Chai Harder

Emma and Tom’s – Colour Cleanse Purple Recovery

PepsiCo ANZ – Pepsi Max Vanilla

Ingredient Innovation

Raglan Coconut Yoghurt – Coconut yoghurt range

Fermentanicals – Organic sprouted grain line

Golden Grind – Golden Grind full range

Botanical Innovations – Apple cider vinegar

Chr. Hansen – SafePro

Morlife – Hemp falafel mix

Food Safety Equipment and Materials

Mitrefinch Australia – Time and attendance access and fatigue management

SICK – Bottle cap detection

ACO – Hygienic drainage systems

CCP Technologies – CCP Network Australia

Packaging Innovation – Sponsored by Jet Technologies

Result Group – Grape n’ Go

PakWorld – Pic’s Peanut Butter Slugs

The Low Carb Living Group – Protein Bread Co baking mixes

Chai Addict – Chai Addict and Chai Harder

Innovative Technology of the Year – Sponsored by NHP

Mitrefinch Australia – Mobile time and attendance live reporting

Aerofloat – DAF and MBBR

Automaint Solutions – HSC Lidding Attachment

HMPS – HMPS8000 Robotic Flat Bread Packer

JCurve Solutions – JCurve ERP

SICK – Bottle cap detection

Health Foods – Sponsored by JCurve Solutions

Well and Good – Hamburger buns

Nuts By Nature Mylk – Almond Mylk base

Extraordinary Foods – Pure kale chips

The Low Carb Living Group – Plant based range

COYO – COYO kids’ pouches

Mr Lee’s Pure Foods – Mr Lee’s noodles

Best in Design – Sponsored by Wiley

The Low Carb Living Group

Monash university – Incubation facility

Victorian Government and La Trobe University – AgriBio

Oji Fibre Solutions – Yatala packaging plant

Meat, Poultry and Smallgoods

Country Cooked Meats – The Standard Meat Co char siu pork

Hazeldene’s Chicken Farm – The Bare Bird

The Original Lamb Bacon Co. – Lamb bacon

Sunshine Meats – Smoked duck breast

Paddock to Plate

Prestige Foods Manufacturing – Chickpeas

Australian Primary Hemp – Hemp seeds and oil, hemp balance, hemp boost

The Original Lamb Bacon Co. – Lamb bacon

Fonterra – Anmum QR code

The Food & Beverage Industry Awards 2018 will be held at Dockside, Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney on Thursday the 16th of August 2018.

Remedy Kombucha launches new cherry plum flavour

Australian kombucha brand, Remedy, has launched a new flavour, Cherry Plum, as the latest move in their mission to give retail drinks fridges a makeover and offer consumers more real, healthy options.

The new flavour pairs luscious sweet red cherry and native Aussie Kakadu plum to craft a live cultured, naturally low in sugar drink that is fruity, floral, and refreshing.

Remedy Kombucha is made following a traditional fermenting process, involving sweet tea and a live culture known as SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast).

Like its siblings in the Remedy range, the new flavour naturally contains no sugar, backed by an official tick of approval from I Quit Sugar. It is also packed with live cultures and organic acids (aka short chain fatty acids) that are good for gut health and overall wellbeing.

Emmet Condon, Co-founder of Remedy Kombucha, says the company is obsessed with making real, traditional, healthy drinks more accessible to consumers.

“We’re really proud to make drinks that are not only really healthy but also really tasty,” Emmet said.

“New flavours not only excite our existing loyal Remedy drinkers, but they also offer a way to reach new consumers. We find trial is the best way to convert consumers into kombucha drinkers.

“We want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy a Remedy as an alternative to all the sugary and fake-healthy drinks out there. Our drinks are healthy not only because they are naturally free from sugar, but also because they are full of goodness,” he said.

“We are also super excited to be using a native Australian ingredient with Kakadu plum. We’ve been wanting to add native ingredients into the mix since we started out.”

Cherry Plum is 100 per cent certified organic, vegan, gluten-free, fructose-free, and paleo friendly.


Health and medicinal food markets set to grow

With Australia transitioning from a resources-based economy to high value manufactured products, growing opportunities are being identified within the food processing sector for the development of new innovative products and niche markets, writes Hartley Henderson.

In particular, Asian and South East Asian countries with their rising purchasing power are seen as potentially strong growth markets for health and medicinal food products.

Bega Bionutrients is a recently created division of Bega Cheese, offering innovative ingredients for the health and nutrition market.

Similar to Bega Cheese’s infant nutrition business, this investment follows the strategy of adding value and diversifying risk over commodity dairy products, while leveraging the capabilities of the broader Bega group.

Bega Cheese already has an established track record in the bionutrients area, producing a number of bioactive dairy fractions from cow’s milk, and is one of the world’s leading suppliers of lactoferrin.

The company’s Bionutrients Development Manager, Matthieu Arguillere, explains that lactoferrin is a protein that naturally occurs at high levels in human milk, and also in cow’s milk, albeit at much lower amounts.


“Lactoferrin has been extensively researched and is currently used in infant formula, health foods and supplements for its immune enhancing properties. Research has indicated that it has multiple functions in the human body and has great potential for further exploration and use,” he told Food & Beverage Industry News.

“The possibilities for further expansion in bionutrient products are very positive. There are minor elements in many foods that have bioactive properties that can be beneficial to the health of the consumer.

“However, these components may be sensitive and perishable in their normal food forms, not found at adequate levels to be beneficial, or they may also exist in their natural foods along with less desirable components.

“By extracting and enriching them as ingredients, we can preserve their activity better, they can be more easily consumed, and the health benefits can be enjoyed by a larger proportion of people.”

Matthieu said milk is a perfect example of this as there are a number of natural elements in milk, including lactoferrin, that have potential health benefits although these exist as very minor components.

“Our job is to extract and enrich these natural elements so that they can be more easily utilised as ingredients in different products. We have also set out to conduct scientific studies to understand how these bionutrients work, establish their safety and demonstrate their beneficial effect on health,” he said.

“Building on our current business, we are developing new technologies to manufacture these products, as well as novel bionutrient products, and we expect to see some of the first of these being launched in 2016.”

Matthieu pointed out that the health issues are global and that the company is seeing similar health trends facing its supplement, nutritional and health food customers in Australia, North America, Europe, and Asia. This indicates significant global market opportunities.

“To help protect the consumer, health authorities are introducing stronger regulations and tougher enforcement practices to govern advertising and health claims, and what products are considered safe and permitted,” he added.

“We are meeting this challenge by taking a scientific evidence-based approach to product development and providing customers with ingredients with proven health benefits. This is supported by our strong internal team of scientists and partnerships with top universities and research organisations in Australia and overseas.”

Super honey

It has long been claimed that honey has the ability to cure many conditions from cuts and wounds to fungal infections and skin irritations, but it has only been in recent years that greater understanding has been gained of the activities within honey.

In particular, Manuka honey, which is derived from the Leptospermum tree (pictured top) that is native to New Zealand and Australia, has been found to have unique health and healing properties.


Sales Director at Capilano Honey, Peter McDonald said that today, following extensive clinical testing in Australia, New Zealand and other countries, the unique value of Manuka has been recognised worldwide.

“Manuka honey is now sought after around the world for use in hospitals, burns units, family health care, digestive health care, beauty and skin care, veterinary practice, and diabetes clinics, as well as other specialist clinics as a health food,” he told Food & Beverage Industry News.

“When bees are collecting nectar from flowers, they introduce an enzyme to convert the nectar into honey and this produces an antibacterial activity in the honey called Hydrogen Peroxide Activity (HPA). However, HPA is very unstable and is easily destroyed by heat and light, so honey in the jar may have very little or no HPA left by the time it gets to the consumer.

“But further research showed that when the HPA in Manuka honey was destroyed the honey continued to show strong activity, which became known as Non Peroxide Antibacterial Activity (NPA). It was found that this activity was very stable in the honey and could withstand both heat and light.”

McDonald pointed out that the antibacterial strength of Manuka honey can be tested and the result is often shown as a strength number on the labels (e.g. NPA 10+).

“Clinical trials and case studies have been undertaken on Manuka honey showing the honey’s ability to inhibit many strains of bacteria including Staphylococcus Aureus and the MRSA super bug (golden staph) in a wound care environment,” he said.

“We are looking at partnering with New Zealand honey producer Comvita to develop the supply of Manuka honey in Australia. Both companies bring expertise on Manuka honey, which together should see increased production eventuate.

“Manuka has strong potential both domestically and internationally. China is a significant market for Manuka honey, as is South East Asia, and increasing supply is important to meet the growing opportunity, particularly in China.

“Honey sales continue to grow on the back of consumers looking for healthier products, and we have a strong focus on expanding further into Asia where there is a great appreciation of food as medicine.”


Health fragmentation driving growth for food brands

The massive fragmentation of consumers’ beliefs about health is contributing to the break-up of traditional food and beverage markets and opening the doors of opportunity for start-ups and small brands, says Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business and author of 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2016. “Big food companies are being forced to rethink their business models,” he says.

The great fragmentation explains how high volume opportunities are scarce and becoming scarcer. In some markets they may already be history, said Mellentin.

Just as the person who listens to Bach’s Goldberg Variations at home also listens to Aerosmith or Black Sabbath while driving to work, people’s ideas about food and health have become a menu of choices from which they select and change as new information becomes available. We’re all food explorers now, looking for novelty and variety.

This is producing a proliferation of niches that smaller companies and new brands – often premium – are perfectly placed to serve.

In the future, smart companies will only rarely launch mass-market brands aiming to rapidly get high volume. Instead they will build portfolios of small brands, finely targeted at an ever-more fragmented consumer market. A few of these will become big brands, some will be big niche, most will remain niche.

The report gives the example of US giant General Mills as one of the few larger and more visionary companies already embracing the change. It has set up a new business unit – called 301 Inc. – to invest in entrepreneurs and early stage food companies.

“The rapidly evolving consumer landscape is dramatically changing the game in the food industry,” said John Haugen, general manager of 301 Inc. “Tremendous opportunity exists…to partner with and foster emerging food brands.”


SumoSalad Cold Pressed Juice

Product Name: SumoSalad Cold Pressed Juice
Product Manufacturer: SumoSalad
Launch date: Spring 2015
Clean – Kale, Cucumber, Celery & Spinach
Power – Beetroot, Orange, Apple & Carrot
Glow – Pineapple, Kiwi Fruit, Orange & Mint
Spark – Australian Valencia Orange
Shelf Life: 90 Days – It stays fresh for a number of days because the bottles have been through a high pressure machine to naturally extend the shelf life. The raw juice is never touched so all the nutrients are kept in the bottle!
Packaging: Plastic bottle
Country of origin: Australia
Brand Website:
Describe the product: Sumo Cold Pressed Juices are free from preservatives with no nasties added—just all the goodness of fresh fruit and vegetables. Unlike many other bottled juices, Sumo’s juices are cold pressed to retain the natural minerals and enzymes in the fruit and veggies. Packed full of 100% Aussie-grown fruit and vegetables, the bottles are put through a high-pressure machine to remove harmful bacteria and extend the shelf life. This means no nutrients (or love) are lost in the bottling process. 

Take your pick from one of four fully-charged flavours: 

Find your Glow—Orange, pineapple, kiwi fruit & mint for a Vitamin C boost

Kick-start your Clean—Green Kale, spinach, celery, green apple & cucumber to kick-start the digestive system

Release your Power—Beetroot, orange & green apple for high-power athletic performance

Ignite your Spark—Valencia Orange to send the body’s anti-oxidant protectors into overdrive

Contact Email

New sustainable, non-GMO and healthy RTD launched

Komplete by Kate Farms is an organic, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, hypoallergenic, vegan and plant protein shake designed for everyone including vegans; vegetarians, celiacs, those with dairy intolerance or people prone to food allergies. 

Kate Farms -Komplete was developed by the parents of Kate Laver, who was born with the Cerebral Palsy and unable to consume solid food. 

Australian- born Richard Laver, cousin of tennis great, Rod Laver, and his wife Michelle developed Komplete as a nutritious meal replacement alternative for their daughter after she developed health complications from the sugar and dairy-rich, whey-based meal replacement formulas prescribed to her. She was diagnosed at three year-of-age as ‘failing to thrive’.

The Lavers went about an inspired journey starting in their kitchen developing the world’s first dairy-free; gluten-free; and soy-free; ready-to-drink wellness shake. The result was a shelf-stable combination of the highest quality, freshest ingredients such as acai; mangosteen; black currants; raspberries; and green tea extract, blended to be the best tasting, most nutritious health shake on the market.

“We saw the need to create great tasting, and whole food drinks made from the heart. Where all-natural vegan products not only taste delicious but are good for you. Our passion for healthy foods and belief in taking care of one another is the reason we are here,” says founder and CEO of Kate Farms, Richard Laver.

After Kate switched to her parents’ new formula, her condition improved radically. The bottle rot she had developed on the other formulas completed healed. She no longer needed her breathing treatment for sleep apnea and her ongoing complications with digestion vanished.

Since its launch in the US in 2013, Kate Farms – Komplete is now the leading Ready-to-Drink in the United States.