Windowrie Estate wins first national assessment of Australian certified organic wine

The first ever national assessment of certified Australian organic wines by a Winestate managed professional tasting panel took place on Monday with Windowrie Estate taking out the top accolade.

Windowrie Estate, which is located in the NSW Central Ranges was awarded ‘Wine of the Year’ Australia 2014, for its ‘Pig in The House’ 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

“It was our belief that converting to organic production was the right thing to do for us, the environment, those who consume our produce, and future generations. All decisions are now made with sustainable practices in mind. This includes everything from business practices to waste reduction,” Jason O’Dea co-owner of Windowrie Estate said.

The tasting was open only to wines grown and produced in Australia that are certified by a Department of Agriculture Accredited Certification Body.

96 wines from five States and the ACT were reviewed over the two days of tasting and in excess of 80 percent of entries were awarded with either Winestate gold or silver medals, or recommended status from the professional judges.

Winestate Publisher Peter Simic said: “Overall the panel and myself as chairman were very surprised and pleased at the very high quality of the entries showing that organic wines have now moved beyond the amateur field and are now being supported by professional commercial wine makers.

 “This is a major step forward. In fact the quality overall was as good if not better standard than the average tasting that Winestate would do for general non organic wines”.

The event was sponsored by The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASSA).

 

Certified organic coconut oil products on the rise

Australia’s largest organic certifier, Australian Certified Organic (ACO), says that is it processing more applications for coconut products than ever before with a considerable amount of emphasis placed on coconut oils.

According to Joanne Barber of ACO, most of the interest is coming from Australian and New Zealand companies that manage farms in Fiji.

“In the last two years, we’ve received a considerable increase in interest from companies wanting to certify their coconut oil,” says Barber.

On the back of the surge in demand, Family-owned company Nature Pacific says that it is on target to hit 70 percent growth in its Banaban organic coconut oil range.

Brynley King of Nature Pacific says that the demand for certified organic coconut oil is reflective of consumers’ desire for products that are free from pesticides and chemicals.  

“Australian Certified Organic has very strict guidelines and companies like ourselves get audited once a year, right down to every batch and product we manufacture. We can trace every litre of our Banaban Organic Virgin Coconut Oil to the day it was picked and processed.”

 

Australian Organic launches development campaign

Australian Organic has developed a three year, $1.2 million program to help the industry keep up with the domestic and international increase in demand.

Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) is contributing 40 per cent of the funds, and the remainder necessary for the project will be provided by Australian Organic.

The funds will go towards a horticulture industry development officer, who will educate and support growers with Australian Certified Organic certification. 

According to the Australian Organic Market Report 2012, fruit and vegetables are the most commonly bought organic item and researchers IBISWorld predicts organic farming will double in five years.

Australian Organic’s Commercial General Manager Joanne Barber said the certified organic horticulture sector needs help to grow and to be financially sustainable.

Barber said, “We are seeing a lot of large conventional businesses growing certified organic vegetables. We are also seeing small to medium size farms struggling to keep up with demand for consistent supply of products, particularly to the major retailers.

“The HAL funding is significant. It will give the industry a considerable boost because up until now there isn’t much development support for organic growers,” she said.

“The funding will help certified organic farmers in Australia establish sound business plans and it will encourage new growers to the industry. Certified organic vegetables have a really bright future and it’s great that we will now be in the position to enable more farmers to grow organically."

It takes three years for a farmer to achieve organic certification and they are audited every year to ensure they comply with the Australian Certified Organic Standard.

 

China wants Australia’s organic produce, says Australian Organic

Australian Organic, owner of the nation’s largest certifying group, Australian Certified Organic says that China’s increasing demand for premium organic produce is providing a wealth of opportunities for Australian growers.

Joanna Barber, Australian Organic’s Commercial and Marketing Executive recently returned from China after signing a deal between Australian Certified Organic and Chinese organic certification group, the Organic Food Development and Certification Centre of China (OFDC).

Barber says that the deal follows years of negotiations and paves a smoother road for Australian exporters particularly within the beef and wine sector, but also for suppliers of Australian organic milk, dried fruits, nuts, citrus fruits, wheat flour and coffee.

“China has 1.3 billion people. While in China I also met with a company that has delivered certified organic produce to over 400,000 families. Organics is big business there,” said Barber.

According to Australian Organic, organic food production in China is worth over US$2.5 billion, and the demand is expected to exceed the world average.

In an effort to manage the strong growth in organic farming and the increase in exports, Barber says that Australian Organic has introduced the new ‘onboarding program’ to help businesses that are seeking organic certification.

“The new onboarding program will make the transition to organic farming easier for producers,” she says.

“We’re getting a lot of interest in certification from businesses that are quite new to the strict requirements of organic farming.

“Australian Organic wants to do everything we can to support businesses on their journey – to make it as successful as possible. This not only helps businesses to be more profitable but it also helps the organic industry as a whole meet the growing demand from consumers.”

 

NASAA says GM canola decision highlights need for reform

Australian organic certification body, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA) has called upon the State and Federal regulators to provide greater regulatory certainty on the application of National Standards for Organic and Biodynamic Produce.

The move follows a landmark high court decision that ruled in favour of conventional farmer Graham Baxter, who’s GM canola allegedly contaminated a neighbouring organic property owned by Steve Marsh, resulting in Marsh losing his organic certification to a significant proportion of his land.

NASAA says that Justice Martin’s decision to rule in favour Baxter is a “significant blow” for Marsh and the organic sector of Australia as a whole.

NASAA maintains that it acted responsibly in withdrawing Organic Certification rights to Marsh’s land despite Justice Martin finding that the decertification was ‘erroneous’.

Ben Copeman, General Manager of NASAA said that the Court’s decision not to recognise NASAA’s decertification of Marsh’s land as warranted highlights the need for regulatory reform.

“We found GM canola growing on organically certified land. The court found that there was no risk of GM contamination," says Copeman.

“While tolerance thresholds for GM contamination are governed by the Federal Government under the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, it is not a legislated standard and is not recognised by the courts.

“Without any legally recognised form of protection, Australian organic farmland and produce is left vulnerable to contamination from conventional farming methods including GM crops. This could seriously threaten the sectors access to domestic and international organic markets.

Copeman said that the decision has the potential to opens a “Pandora’s Box of conflicts” between neighbours and farming communities

 “Farmers across Australia are left with an uncertain future. The need to recognise and support greater commercial security for both organic and conventional (GM free) farming is now an issue of national importance," said Copeman.

“The issue of how organic and non-organic farmers can co-exist while respecting each other’s right to farm in the way they choose will not go away and needs to be resolved.”

NASSA recently secured approval from Chinese regulators for its certification arm, NASAA Certified Organic, to inspect organic operations within Australia for export to China.

According to NASAA, the deal has the capacity to boost Australia’s organic and biodynamic industry by up to $100m per year, and marks the first time that a foreign organisation has been approved to inspect organic products for export to China.

Copeman says that progress on this agreement and others like this will be put at risk if Australia is seen to be unable to ensure the security of its organic produce.

“Australian organic standards and related export regulations have a good international reputation in key markets within SE Asia, China, Japan, USA and the European Union.

“Any unreasonable risk of contamination can lead to a loss of recognition and acceptance of Australian certified organic produce and those markets being inaccessible to Australian famers.”

 

Stickys snack bars

Product name: Stickys

Product manufacturer: Stick to Health

Ingredients: [StickyBanana example]  Banana (50%), Walnuts, Agave Nectar, Almond Meal, Coconut Flakes and Cinnamon.

Shelf life: Six months

Packaging: Six coloured plastic wrappers

Product manager: Jack Anning

Brand website: www.stickys.com.au

What the company says
Stickys are organic snack bars ideal for a healthy mid-morning or afternoon snack. They are sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and are all round guilt-free fruit and nut bars that will boost your energy and satisfy your sugar craving without any of the preservatives commonly found in processed snack bars.

Stickys are available in six flavours each of which is uniquely blended and textured to provide you with the opportunity to select from a variety and fully relish in the fact that you are treating yourselves to a healthy, yet satisfying snack.

 

Gourmet food manufacturers getting involved in ‘Markets in May’

Gourmet food producers and market operators are getting involved in the launch of ‘Markets in May’ on 1 May.

The month-long celebration aims to promote the importance of markets in communities and shopping locally, with gourmet food producers getting involved and showcasing their produce at the launch event.

Stallholders at the launch event include Arlingtons, Brasserie Bread, Brilliant Food, Dessertmakers, go-go healthy, Gwydir Grove, Inside Out Nutritious Goods, Keys to Fine Food, Maggie McKeevers, Pepe Saya, Tarlart Tai and TTotaler.

During May, market operators will offer a range of activities including farmer and artisan discussions, cooking demonstrations, art exhibitions, sustainability workshops, morning teas and free childrens activities.

For more information Markets in May, visit www.localmarketguide.com.au.

 

UK organic farmers moving into food manufacturing space

In an effort to secure higher margins and greater financial security, organic farmers in the UK are said to be moving towards the food manufacturing sector.

Simon Crichton, organic agriculture relationship manager for Triodos Bank told Food Manufacture UK that a number of organic farmers who wish to set up their own processing facilities have presented attractive propositions to prospective lenders.

By manufacturing products such as organic ready meals and organic pies, farmers are able to generate higher margins and steady demand, rather than that of raw products such as organic lamb which has a tendency to fluctuate in demand.  

Crichton said that farmers were steering away from selling their produce straight to local processors and shops, and that by operating their own manufacturing facilities, farmers were able to cut out middle men and retain a higher profit.

“Farmers are looking to find their own way in the food manufacturing arena,” he said.

Anna Rosier, managing director of children’s organic food brand Organix echoed Crichton’s comments, adding that farmers’ knowledge of raw materials gives them a significant advantage in the food manufacturing sector.

“It seems the obvious next step for them”, said Rosier.

“Farmers want to diversify and not rely on a single source of income as they may have done historically.”

Similar to Australia, demand for organic products has continued to rise in the UK with recent figures from the UK Soil Association indicating a 2.8 percent rise in sales from £1.74 billion in 2012 to £1.79 billion in 2013.

According to Australian Organic’s biannual market report, organics is one of Australia’s top 5 growth industries. The report states that supermarkets are continuing to embrace organic foods as more than one in 20 Australian shoppers identify themselves as regular shoppers of organics.

 

No need to go meat free to avoid factory farming, Australian Organic

In light of Meat Free Week which commences today, Australian Organic has emphasised that consumers do not have to go ‘meat free’ to avoid factory farmed products.

Meat Free Week is a national campaign that was developed by Lainie Bracher and Melissa Dixon to shed light on the realities of factory farming practices, encouraging consumers to think about the amount of meat they consume and the impact that it has on individual health, the environment and animals.   

Australian Organic, the owner of the country’s largest organic certification mark – Australian Certified Organic say that organic animals are not subjected to factory farming practices, and that businesses are audited each year to ensure that animals are raised to the highest welfare standards.

“Certified organic animals are free ranging, grass fed, grown without synthetic hormones and antibiotics. The animals are cared for in a way that respects their natural behaviours,” said Australian Organic spokesperson, Joanne Barber.

“This attitude doesn’t stop when the animal leaves the farm. They must be transported to strict standards and processed humanely. The meat must also be processed according to the certified organic rules – this means no synthetic nitrates. We can promise this because businesses that use the Australian Certified Organic logo are audited each year.”

 

NASAA secures trade access deal with China

NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia) has secured approval from Chinese regulators for its certification arm, NASAA Certified Organic, to inspect organic operations within Australia for export to China.

According to NASAA, the deal has the capacity to boost Australia’s organic and biodynamic industry by up to $100m per year, and marks the first time that a foreign organisation has been approved to inspect organic products for export to China, as well as to inspect and certify Chinese organic operators to USDA NOP and Japanese Agricultural Standards in China.

Beb Copeman, NASAA General Manager said that the deal was the most significant initiative to be released into the Australian organic market in 30 years.

“It will save Australian operators thousands of dollars and months of paperwork in exporting their organic products to China. NASAA trained and CHC (Beijing WuYue HuaXia Management and Technique Center) approved inspectors in Australia will audit certified operators; write the various reports and our Chinese based partners assess and approve the application,” said Copeman.

“This will allow Australian organic products access to the highly regulated Chinese organic market with the same ease and cost structure as access to the American, Japanese or European organic markets.  

“This means a considerable reduction in cost, time, and red tape,” he said.    

Copeman says that as global demand for organics continues to rise, Australian producers are well positioned to capitalise on China’s rising middle class due to our clean and green reputation.

“One NASAA certified operator has increased their turnover from $20 million to $40 million in just one year, and many other smaller operators have doubled their turnover, due to access to China…

“China’s demand for Australia’s organic produce will continue to grow as long as China’s affluent middle classes continue to grow” he said.

 

GM canola trial verdict still unknown

The landmark case involving Steve Marsh, a Western Australian farmer who has accused his neighbour, Michael Baxter of contaminating his farm with genetically modified canola has wrapped up in the state’s Supreme Court, however the final verdict is not expected to be handed down for another few months.

Marsh lost his organic certification on more than half of his property in 2010 when GM canola allegedly blew down from Baxter’s property.

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard Marsh’s lawyers argue that Baxter demonstrated negligence as he could have reasonably foreseen that GM seeds from his property could spread to Marsh’s organic crops, ABC News reports.   

In his defence, Baxter’s lawyers told the court the he was only exercising his right to grow a crop that had been declared safe by the WA government.  

The WA state government placed a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in 2004, which was then lifted in 2010.

The landmark case has attracted the attention of parties on both sides of the argument.

Marsh’s campaign has been financially backed by Australian not-for-profit, the Safe Food Foundation who have stated that the final decision will either determine a farmer’s right to grow GM free food, or that have that right ‘taken away’.

On the other side of the argument, The Western Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) have placed their support behind Baxter stating that he has doing nothing wrong other than growing a legal crop, and that Marsh is attempting to impose unnecessary conditions on his neighbour by trying to stop him from growing GM crops.

Australia lifted its moratorium on GM crops five years ago with recent figures suggesting that the overall acceptance of GM canola has been relatively lacklustre.

The case also comes just four months after South Australia extended a moratorium on GM crops until at least 2019, making it the only Australian mainland state to ban GM crop production and trials.

 

Natvia launches world’s first sugar free icing mix

Natural sweetner brand, Natvia, will next month launch the world’s first sugar free icing mix, made with organic stevia and Erythritol, a naturally occurring nectar in fruit.

The product has only 0.4 calories per serve, is suitable for diabetic consumers, and is Natvia’s sixth product in its existing range of natural sweetners.

“Our Sugar Free Icing Mix has been developed with our customers in mind – all of whom are also looking for a sugar free option – so that they can recreate more of their favourite desserts while continuing to maintain their healthy diet and lifestyle,” said Samuel Tew, co-founder of Natvia.

While the product is targeted at consumers, Natvia is also hoping it’ll be embraced by the food manufacturing and food service industries across the world.

Natvia Icing Mix will be available for purchase in Coles supermarket starting March in a 375g pack.

Organic apple and raspberry fruity water

Product name: Organic Apple & Raspberry Fruity Water

Product manufacturer: Whole Kids

Ingredients: Organic apples (66.5%), spring water (30%), raspberries (3.5%)

Packaging: 200ml carton

Brand website: www.wholekids.com.au

What the company says
New fruity water is a delicious mix of 70% juicy organic apples, yummy raspberries and a splash of spring water (30%).

Never ever made from concentrates or yucky artificial stuff like preservatives, fake flavours and weird colours. No added sugar and no reconstituted ingredients.

Perfect for school lunchboxes and the perfect size for little hands.

 

Whole Kids lowers sugar content with pre-diluted fruit juice

Organic snack food company, Whole Kids has launched a new pre-diluted organic fruit juice, featuring one the lowest sugar contents on the children’s beverage market.

The beverage was developed to meet with recommendations from leading Australian dieticians who have advised that parents ‘water down’ fruit juice to lower the natural sugar content before serving it to young children.

The new Organic Apple & Raspberry Fruity Water contains a mixture of 70 percent juice and 30 percent spring water with no added sugar.

“Many parents are looking for a range of juices that cater for different ages, as often it is recommended to dilute pure juice with water for younger children," said Whole Kids cofounder Monica Meldrum.

The new Fruity Water is available in 200ml tetra packs and features a shelf life of 12 months.

 

Sugarless Organic Stevia

Product name: Sugarless Organic Stevia

Product manufacturer: Bathox Australia

Ingredients: Organic Erythritol (naturally found in fruit), Organic Stevia (stevia Glycosides), Natural Flavours

Shelf life: Two years

Packaging: 200g canisters, box of 80 sticks, tablet packs of 200

Product manager: Angela Stavrogiannopoulos (PR contact)

Website: www.sugarlessaustralia.com/stevia

What the company says
Certified by the Australian Certified Organic, Sugarless Organic Stevia is the only organic stevia available on Australian supermarket shelves and is now available nationally in Woolworths.

A product manufactured in Australia by an iconic Australian brand, Bathox Australia, Sugarless Organic Stevia offers consumers a natural sweetener and sugar alternative that has many benefits for your health.

Benefits of Sugarless Organic Stevia include low calories, low carbohydrates, tooth-friendly, diabetic-friendly, high digestive tolerance, can be used for all cooking needs and hot and cold drinks.
 

Organic farming set to soar in 2014

Market research company, IBISWorld, has identified organic farming as one of Australia’s big growth industries for 2014.

In a study which identified the five industries expected to sour this year, and five that are expected to suffer, IBISWorld found that diamond and gemstone mining; superannuation funds; organic farming; online shopping and internet publishing and broadcasting will flourish this year.

Diamond and gemstone mining is expected to be the best performer, with growth of 24 percent expected for 2014. Organic farming is slated to generate $707.7 million in revenue, up 13.7 percent.

IBISWorld general manager (Australia), Karen Dobie, said “Increased demand for the sector’s produce will be driven by higher levels of household disposable income, health consciousness among consumers and increasing environmental awareness.”

Production is anticipated to increase because of supply chain improvements, more refined processing capabilities and increased variety in the sector.

“A broader selection of organic foods in supermarkets, independent retailers and markets should assist in increasing sales and driving revenue for primary producers. This will include more private-label organic products available at lower pricepoints”, said Dobie.

The five industries expected to fall this year are video and DVD hire outlets; sugar cane growing;  mineral exploration; newspaper publishing and horse and dog racing.

 

Meat industry beefs up organic certification

A growing number of beef producers are seeking organic certification, with Australian Certified Organic recording a 25 percent increase in applications over the past two years.

According to beefcentral.com, this 25 percent represents an additional 60 requests from beef producers around the country, motivated by the fact that organic certification will allow them to charge a premium for their product.

“Eight years ago when we opened our doors we started with 66 head of cattle a fortnight. Earlier in 2013 we were processing 1000 a week,” said CEO of Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co, Alister Ferguson.

“The reason is that producers can see a 40 percent premium in it for them. They can also see huge markets, like the US, demanding organic beef, with these orders still struggling to be filled. Our programs are currently growing by 20 percent each year, and the great unknown is China, which is just starting to come on board as a customer.”

In November last year Australian Certified Organic, which registers over 14,000 products and routinely and randomly audits businesses that use its logo, launched its One Logo Says It All campaign, which will run for three months and aims to educate consumers on how to purchase certified organic products.

And while a growing number of food producers are embracing organic standards, some argue that certification is simply not viable and is an added cost that producers, already under considerable financial pressure, can’t afford.

 

Ozganics Spring Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Product name: Ozganics Spring Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Product manufacturer: The Right Food Group

Ingredients: Spring Vegetable Pasta Sauce: Certified organic tomatoes 84% (reconstituted tomato puree, diced tomatoes), certified organic spring vegetables (11% carrot, celery, zucchini), certified organic onion (3.2%), sea salt, certified organic garlic, certified organic herbs & spices, certified organic basil, food acid (citric).

Shelf life: Two years

Packaging: 375g glass jar

Product manager: Brian Sullivan

Brand website: www.ozganics.com.au

What the company says
Ozganics rich no-added-sugar pasta sauces are made using the freshest organic ingredients. Slow cooked in the traditional style, Ozganics pasta sauces have a pure and robust flavour. No wonder these are some of Australia’s most popular organic pasta sauces. The rich combination of spring vegetables, tomatoes and herbs is a hearty mouthful for any dedicated foodie. Enjoy with pasta.

Certified organic, gluten- and dairy-free.

 

Right Food Group founder wins Business Women’s Award

Anni Brownjohn, founder of organic food company, The Right Food Group, has been named winner of the Business Innovation Award at the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Women's Awards.

Held on 14 November, the awards recognise and reward the business achievements of women across the country.

After struggling to find appropriate food products for her young children who suffered from allergies, Brownjohn established The Right Food Group in Murwillumbah, NSW, 14 years ago.

With no formal qualifications, Brownjohn undertook a range of short courses on topics such as nutrition and naturopathy, while also creating and testing her certified organic Ozganics brand, which consists of pasta, simmer sauces, dressings, marinades, table sauces and spreads.

"I built an organic company from scratch – developing the products, building the factory, seeking out domestic and international customers, creating and growing brands and opening international offices," she said.

"I am proud that I can share my organic knowledge with others in the industry, generate employment in a regional area and promote best practice organic systems for organic food manufacturing. And just as importantly, I can share with customers a message of health, wellness and certified organic food."

Today, The Right Food Group, which also claimed the crown for the Organics category at this year's Food Magazine Awards, is supplying across Australia and exporting to 20 countries.

Brownjohn has also developed healthy Asian-style noodle products under the Organic Noodle Kitchen brand, and is currently in the final stages of developing the world's first certified organic instant noodle product.

“I have demonstrated that, by perseverance, women can succeed against huge odds and through friendship we can support each other,” says Ms Brownjohn. “Fourteen years ago I could not even get an appointment to speak with major supermarkets – now they call us. How amazing is that!" she said.

Fellow food manufacturing professional, Laura McBain from Bellamy's Organic in Tasmania, also won an Telstra Australian Business Women's Award, taking out the Private and Corporate category.

Originally starting as a contracted financial controller for Bellamy’s Organics, McBain has driven the Tasmanian-owned food company’s turnover ten-fold since starting as CEO in 2007. She has also overseen the company, which has Australia’s only 100 percent locally-made and certified organic formula and toddler milk range in the local market, open a branch in Shanghai, China.

Other winners include:

  • Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year and Community and Government Award winner – Rosemary Vilgan – CEO QSuper;
  • Business Owner Award – Helen Summers – Optometrist Eyecare Plus Darwin, NT;
  • Young Business Women's Award – Lieutenant Commander Kelly Haywood – Royal Australian Navy, WA

Brownjohn also took Food magazine's Q&A recently, read all about her career and her passion by clicking here.

 

New campaign promotes organic certification [video]

The One Logo Says It all campaign, headed up by Australian Organic, aims to educate consumers on how to purchase certified organic products.

Running for the next three months, celebrity chef and Australian Organic ambassador Pete Evans is fronting the campaign, which is teaching Australians to look for certified organic logos when they choose to shop for organic products.

"The recognisable Australian Certified Organic logo appears on any product that our independent certification agency has deemed certified organic," said Dr Andrew Monk from Australian Organic. "This is the consumer’s 100 percent guarantee that the item they have purchased, whether it is food or wine, textiles or even make-up, was produced and created from the source with the health and welfare of people, animals and the environment in mind.

"Interest and popularity in organic products grows every year and it is more important than ever that we play an active role in protecting all Australians by ensuring they know how to trust that they are buying bona fide certified organic products," he said.

Australian Certified Organic registers over 14,000 products and routinely and randomly audits businesses that use its logo.

Food magazine recently looked at the process manufacturers need to go through in order to gain certification, and also weighed up the pros and cons of going organic. Click here to read more.

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