Dr Stephanie Kerr from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has been awarded funding for two research projects on speed breeding new mango and macadamia crop varieties that protect from pests, disease and climate change. Read more
When it comes to food, Generation Z have different expectations to generations before, according to new research released by the Australian macadamia industry. Typically aged between 15 and 25, Gen Z consumers have grown up in a time of flux, fluidity and mass disruption and are no strangers to innovation. With a heightened sense of health and environmental awareness, Gen Z’s expectations around food are high but they also demand ‘different’.
What does ‘different’ look like?
‘Different’ is a multi-layered proposition when it comes to Gen Z. Food is a form of social currency for this generation, so it has to look as good as it tastes, with extra points for technical, textural and flavour complexity. They want to mix and match in ways never seen before, as traditional meal times blur and pimped up snacking takes centre stage. They’re also fascinated with global food trends and embracing different perspectives on what a ‘traditional’ dish is.
But while young foodies in China seek out the latest products, ingredients and restaurants to tick off their list, the research found that a big part of what they’re looking for is food that feels good. It’s this expectation that has Gen Z seeking out brands and products they see as a positive choice, as they actively look for greater control and transparency on food and its origins.
In Western markets, a move away from meat and dairy is motivated by the ‘greater good’, and there’s a continued gravitation towards many forms of sustainability including plant-based, mindful meat eating, waste reduction and eco packaging. In the USA, 65% of Gen Z say they want a more ‘plant-forward’ diet, and 44% think being vegan is cooler than smoking. This year, it was found 42 per cent of Australians said they were eating less meat, or none at all.
Across the board, Gen Z is rejecting the traditional view that ‘healthy’ food must be bland and boring. These consumers are prepared to pay a premium for healthy products that taste good. And while they’re focused on fuelling their bodies with protein, healthy fats and anti-oxidants, for Gen Z, it’s more than just physical – they are highly aware of maintaining good mental wellbeing too.
The macadamia’s inherent versatility make it a highly relevant ingredient in the Gen Z space, striking the balance of health, convenience, luxury, uniqueness and sustainability that younger consumers are seeking. To meet these demands, consumers are looking to include more plant based products and the plant based industry in Asia-Pacific is set to grow at a faster rate than other regions. Globally, the plant based protein market was valued at 16.45 billion in 2018 and is expected to more than double by 2025, reaching a total of $40.53 billion. In 2019, the plant based industry was worth $180 million in Australian manufacturing and retail and is expected to be worth $25 billion by 2030 for the market.
Cracking Gen Z: what this means for food brands
When you’re a food brand trying to appeal to a whole new generation that is arguably the most conscious cohort of consumers we’ve ever seen, what’s the secret sauce? According to Jim Richards, CEO of plant-based milk specialists milkadamia, the key is creating products that match the way consumers are identifying themselves.
“What we are currently seeing is a younger generation consumed by eco-concern,” says Richards “These people want ingredients and products that are part of the solution, not the problem.”
While he says innovation is important, it’s often the means to the end, rather than the end goal in and of itself. “They’re not looking for innovation per se, but they’re excited by products that are relevant to their lives and pertinent to what matters to them. Innovation is often needed in order to deliver that.”
“Today’s consumers are looking for wellness, but the lens through which wellness is viewed has changed. It used to just mean good nutrition, but now, especially to younger generations, it’s so much bigger than that. Consumers want to be vital, energetic and well. But they also recognise that they can’t be well if everything around them isn’t well,” he says
“What we’re seeing now is that consumers are more excited about saying “yes” than “no”. Previous generations had a list of ingredients they didn’t want to see in food products, whereas now it’s more about what people do want to see. Up and coming consumers want to embrace food in a positive way, which is why so many of them are shifting to plant based eating.” said Richards.
Plant-based eating in Asia versus the west
The feel good food trend is occurring among Gen Z consumers in Asian and western markets, albeit fuelled by slightly different motivations. But when it comes to plant-based eating, and specifically macadamia milk, they’re at different stages of market maturity.
Australian macadamia growers are using scientific research to understand the inherently sustainable characteristics of the macadamia tree and guide the adoption of sustainable on-farm practices in order to meet the demands of today’s conscious consumer.
One third of consumers forwent their favourite brands last year due to sustainability considerations and 83 per cent of consumers in APAC expect companies to care about the environment. In Australia, 55 per cent of consumers qualify as ‘conscious consumers’. The Australian macadamia industry is embracing the opportunity this presents.
“Demand for transparency is at an all-time high and sustainable production is a non-negotiable for many,” said Lynne Ziehlke, general manager, Marketing for the Australian macadamia industry.
“Now and in the future, selecting ingredients that have resilience to production pressures, and therefore reduced environmental impacts, will be increasingly desirable to both producers and consumers.”
Ziehlke says that manufacturers already understand the taste, texture, luxury and health that macadamias can bring to a product.
“We’re excited to share the sustainability credentials macadamias can now deliver too. From water use efficiency, to carbon sequestration, minimisation of carbon outputs, recycling of by-products and world’s best biological control, the macadamia industry really is kicking goals in this space.”
Research unveils the inherent sustainability of the macadamia tree
The macadamia tree is a sustainability giant of the plant world, thanks to its inherent ability to optimise its water use, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
Recent scientific analysis of sap flow data from macadamia orchards in Queensland has revealed that macadamia trees rationalise available water more efficiently than previously estimated. This is due to the tree’s clever internal water management system that shuts down the tree’s stomatal pores during times of low moisture, making the tree resilient to its environment, particularly drought.
So, while changes to our external environment can significantly stress other crops causing inconsistent yields and impacts to the supply chain, the macadamia tree has an incredible natural ability to weather volatile conditions.
“This in-built resilience makes it a certain crop, even in uncertain times,” said Ziehlke.
These findings pave the way for growers to adopt smarter, more efficient irrigation schedules and water management, minimising the need for excessive intervention, while maintaining a reliable supply.
In separate research findings, it has also been discovered that the average Australian macadamia orchard removes more than 17 tonnes gross and 14.5 tonnes net of carbon per hectare per year from the atmosphere. The macadamia tree’s size, volume of foliage, and long lifespan mean that every tree can hold a substantial amount of carbon, more so than many other crops.
Australian growers minimise their carbon and waste footprint
Ziehlke added that Australia’s 800-odd macadamia growers are determined to tread as lightly in the orchard as possible.
“As well as absorbing carbon, Australia’s macadamia industry limits its carbon output by minimising the use of heavy diesel-consuming machinery and transportation. Human intervention in the orchard is light, and processing facilities are located within major growing regions, ensuring the nuts don’t have to travel far from the tree to be shelled, dried and packed.”
Growers ensure every part of the macadamia tree and nut is either reused or recycled, with nothing going to landfill. Macadamia shells are used to generate electricity or made into stock feed, and any organic matter such as branches or foliage are returned to the earth beneath the tree to be reabsorbed by the soil from which they originally grew.
Working with nature, not against it
Ziehlke said Australia’s macadamia industry sees no trade-off between sustainable growing practices and productivity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“We know without a doubt that the more sustainable we are, the more productive we are, and this is driving innovative thinking on-farm, increased biodiversity, and development of effective biological controls.”
The industry works with nature as much as possible, as demonstrated by the extensive implementation of pest suppressive landscapes. It’s a practice that centres on increasing biodiversity to bring balance to the natural environment and allow beneficial insects that suppress harmful pests to thrive. This is achieved by planting diverse species around the macadamia trees and actively sowing inter-rows between tree rows with a host of different vegetation including grasses, legumes and brassicas, as well as floral coverage to encourage natural pollinators.
“The Australian macadamia industry has a long history of combating pests and disease through the use of biological controls, with the best-known initiative being the introduction of the Trichogramma wasp as a natural and highly effective tool in the fight against nut borer.”
Australia is now at the forefront of another big development in biological control, with trials of entomopathogenic fungi as a natural pest control due for completion soon.
“Researchers have isolated the most effective fungi and we’re conducting trials in orchard to determine the best time of the season to use them. With our growers so passionate about farming in an eco-sensitive way, this will be another fantastic bio control tool for them to leverage,” said Ziehlke.
2020 Cape Byron Distillery can add ‘World’s Best Nut Liqueur’ to its list of awards after Mac. by Brookie’s was awarded the top position at the 2020 World Liqueur Awards.
Launched at the end of January 2019, the liqueur combines the richness of roasted macadamia nuts with the coffee, cacao and hazelnut flavours from toasted Australian wattleseed. It is a buttery smooth versatile liqueur with just the right balance of sweetness.
Staying true to the distillery’s environmental ethos, it is made up of 100 per cent locally sourced ingredients. The macadamia nuts themselves are procured from the Northern Rivers region, which includes the Brook family farm, home to Cape Byron Distillery.
“It was a humbling experience waking up to the news that Mac. had taken home the gong for not just best in Australia, but the world,” said Eddie Brook, co-founder of Cape Byron Distillery. “We are blessed with an abundance of incredible native Australian produce in the Northern Rivers and we get excited about showcasing these flavours in spirits that consumers have never tried. So, we are stoked to see that people around the world are excited about our products too.”
The Australian Macadamias Innovation Challenge Finals event returned this week to Byron Bay, Australia, giving the most creative individuals in the industry the chance to come together and take their innovative food creation to the next level.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural Macadamias Innovation Challenge, this one-of-a-kind industry event continues to inspire new food concepts using the versatile macadamia nut and drive new demand for macadamias globally.
Research has found that macadamias are a perfect ingredient for innovation as a premium, high-quality and healthy food, with market trends highlighting that consumers are actively on the look-out for new products with that use macadamias.
As the world’s leading producer of macadamia kernels and the nation’s fourth largest horticultural export, there was truly no place more suited to host the Macadamia Innovation Challenge Finals than Byron Bay, one of Australia’s largest macadamia growing regions. The second Macadamia Innovation Challenge Finals have taken place on 4th April 2019, where the winners were announced.
The Finals brought together macadamia growers, industry professionals, food manufacturers and food technology students from around the world to celebrate the ten shortlisted unique food product concepts, among a panel of industry specialists who together selected the winners.
Along with their creamy, rich and luxurious taste, the Australian grown nut is an ideal ingredient to inspire a range of new creations, while complementing almost any flavour and food pairing. This year’s participants were challenged to use the macadamia nut in an inventive creation, adopting either an Asian or Western flavour profile, within four target categories; confectionary, snacks, cereals and future foods.
“This challenge is a great opportunity for global experts and students in the industry to come together in one place and appreciate the unique versatility of macadamias”, comments Lynne Ziehlke, Market Development Manager at the Australian Macadamia Society.
“Inspiring food manufacturers from all over the world is something we are passionate about and the Innovation Challenge gives us the opportunity to offer industry experts the chance to learn more about where we grow the versatile and healthy ingredient, while inspiring the use of macadamias within their products.”
“We are pleased with the success of the second Innovation Challenge, as all finalists, including students and professionals, really pushed their limits to create special food concepts with distinguished flavour profiles and tastes” add Ms Ziehlke.
The entries were judged by four leading industry experts – Pam Brook, macadamia grower and co-founder of Brookfarm, Australia’s leading producer of gourmet macadamia cereal and snack products; Dr. Kiyoko Kubomura, President of Kubomura Food Advisory Consultants Japan; Ben Kolly, Technical and Product Manager at Haigh’s Chocolate; and Emma Welsh, the co-founder of Emma & Tom’s healthy drinks and snacks.
Within the student and professional categories respectively, Kirti Mittal who developed the Britty Macaddy Chikki, and Pridhuvi Thavaraj with her Purple Sesadamia Butter, both won a trip to attend Fi Europe 2019, the leading global meeting place for food and beverage innovation hosted in Paris.
The team category winners developed the unique Soba and Macadamia Ration Cookie Bars, and team members; Hiromi Mimura, Momoka Osawa, Koya Ohashim, Kazuma Konno and Haruna Taniyama, won a $5000 cash prize.
Natsumi Otani was selected as the standout Industry Choice Winner for her innovative Crispy Crunch Macadamia Karinto product, with a unique Asian twist, based on excellence in four key criteria; taste, presentation of product and innovative use of macadamias.
The judges were impressed by the high standard of entries this year and credited all finalists on their inventive food creations.
“It is inspiring to see the industry continuing to grow. This year’s level of creativity in the Innovation Challenge was even higher than last years, as we challenged the best minds in the industry to come up with unique food concepts. It was truly a challenge for us as the judges to select the winners, as all finalists used innovation in their use of macadamias in their own way” said Pam Brook, Innovation Challenge judge and macadamia grower.
The Judging Event and winner announcement ceremony took place in Byron Bay on Thursday 4th April 2019.
Full list of the finalists and their innovations
- Britty Macaddy Chikki by Kirti Mittal – WINNER
- Chickpea Macadamia Barfi by Mahfuj Begum
- Savoury #WarOnWaste Macadamia Granola by Ellyn Bicknell
- Wei Duoduo by Xiaorui Wu
- Purple Sesadamia Butter by Pridhuvi Thavaraj – WINNER
- Pavlova and Macadamia Nougat by Wayne Rieseberg
- Crispy Crunch Macadamia Karinto by Natsumi Otani
- Soba and Macadamia Ration Cookie Bar by Hiromi Mimura, Momoka Osawa, Koya Ohashim Kazuma Konno and Haruna Taniyama – WINNER
- Macadamia and Spirulina Energy Balls by Blake Palmer, Billy (Hin) Yeung Tsang, Qianhui Xu and Melitza Lafages-Vitalis
- N&N Nuts by Pengjuan Li and Zhen Zhang
Full list of the prizes:
Three major prizes were on offer, and all ten shortlisted entries received a trip to the judging event, with the opportunity to meet with and pitch their creations to some of Australia’s leading food innovators.
Individual professional entry
- A trip to attend Fi Europe 2019, from 2nd – 6th December 2019
Individual student entry
- A trip to attend Fi Europe 2019, from 2nd – 6th December 2019
Student pair entry
- $5000 cash grant towards your studies or business endeavours to be shared equally between the winning team
- A bespoke mentoring programme to help advance them in their studies or career.
A macadamia innovation challenge aims to help the macadamia industry in Australia grow.
The Australian Macadamia Innovation Challenge is running for the second year in a bid to get food manufacturers thinking about why macadamia nuts are needed in their products.
About 30 per cent of Australia’s crop is consumed domestically, the balance is exported, the Australian Macadamia Industry indicates.
It states that Australia has the highest per capita consumption of macadamias in the world.
Despite the lengthy production timeframe, taking 10 years for a farm to get up and running, investment from current growers and new entrants is significant.
The Australian industry is in a transitional period moving from niche to larger industry and one that is leading the world in terms of investment in marketing and innovation.
While less than 2 per cent of tree nut production globally is macadamias the Australian industry aims to outperforms in the way macadamias are marketed.
After a successful launch in 2017, the Australian Macadamia Industry has introduced the innovation challenge for a second year.
The program is aimed at generating new packaged food concepts that can inspire the food industry globally and drive new demand for macadamias around the world.
It will expand on this with an increased pool of cash and travel prizes and extension of the campaign to invite participation by entrants from China and Japan, alongside Australia.
Competitors are invited to submit creative concepts for new packaged food products using macadamias.
The program will explore four product categories – confectionery, snacks, cereals and future foods – with competitors required to submit ideas with either an Asian or Western flavour profile.
The 10 shortlisted finalist entries will be invited to pitch their ideas to a judging panel of industry experts and leading food innovators at a finals event and they will attend the awards ceremony in Byron Bay where four major prizes will be awarded including two trips to Fi Europe 2019 and a $5,000 cash grant.
Entries close December 3, 2018.