Woolworths now stocking Australia’s first organic stevia

Stevia is the world's most popular artificial sweetner, and now Bathox Australia has launched Australia's first organic stevia.

Certified by Australian Certified Organic, Sugarless Organic Stevia is the only organic stevia product available on Australian retailers' shelves.

The product is available in three forms: a 200g canister, a box of 80 sticks and a tablet pack of 200.

"As a local manufacturer, we are determined to innovate, constantly adjust and reinvent products to reflect the changing interests and tastes of consumers," said , Katheline Wray, CEO of Bathox Australia.

"Australians are more health-conscious and wanting more natural products than ever and our new Sugarless Organic Stevia is a reflection of this."

The use of artifical sweeteners by food and and beverage manufacturers has been growing in recent years, but a significant point of contention surrounds its 'natural' claim, with Euromonitor International analyst, Lauren Band, arguing the product is an additive, not a natural ingredient.

Others say artificial sweeteners like stevia leave a bitter after-taste. Read more here.


Food eco-labelling – green credentials or green-mail?

Australia has seen a boom in eco-labelling: more than 50 different organisations were eco-certifying products in 2010. Queensland National Senator Boswell calls it green-mail, forcing food producers to bear the cost of certification and shoppers to pay a premium, while certification organisations pocket the profit.

Should we consider standardisation of food eco-labelling for Australia? What are the implications for agricultural producers?

Aldi announced in 2010 it would team up with Planet Ark to become the first Australian supermarket to put Carbon Trust labels on their products.

Other Australian supermarkets are adopting a wait and see approach to carbon labelling especially after Tesco in the UK dropped its plan to label all 70,000 of its products with Carbon Trust labels claiming that the program is too expensive and time consuming.

Calculating a carbon footprint

In Europe and Australia, there is a popular movement towards buying food locally to support local farmers and to eat fresh, in-season food. Campaigns focus on consumers reducing their “food miles”.

Food miles refer to the distance food is transported from the farm gate to the consumer, and the energy and carbon dioxide emitted during transportation.

But food miles are only part of the picture. The carbon footprint during on-farm production can have a larger impact.

For example, even when shipping was taken into account, New Zealand dairy products imported into the UK used half the energy of their UK counterparts. In the case of lamb it was a quarter of the energy, due to grass-fed conditions in New Zealand compared with the energy-intensive system used in the UK.

In Australia, a 2010 study by Aldi and Planet Ark found that a brand of Italian olive oil had a carbon footprint about 14% smaller for every 100 mL than that of a local brand, even though it was shipped 16,000 km from Italy. This was mainly due to the oil’s traditional Mediterranean farm production system. Of course, the Australian olive oil is probably fresher and may taste better.

If it’s to realistically meet consumers' requirement to shop more sustainably, any carbon footprint labelling should be based on a full lifecycle assessment of carbon emissions from paddock to plate.

It needs to include production, procession and everything in between, not just the food miles incurred during transportation. In life cycle assessment, all major greenhouse gases – not just carbon dioxide – should be included.

Calculating a water footprint

Agriculture accounts for about 86% of global fresh water consumption. A product’s water footprint describes the total amount of “virtual” or “embedded” fresh water used in making a product such as food.

The water footprint includes three components: green, blue and grey water footprints. The green water footprint refers to rainwater transpired and the blue water footprint to surface and groundwater evaporated following their use in irrigation.

Grey water footprint refers to water that becomes polluted during crop production. It includes the amount of water necessary to reduce pollutants discharged so that water quality meets appropriate standards.

A global study of the water footprints of nations found Australian households held the world’s worst record for water consumption. We have a water footprint of 341,000 litres a person a year compared with the global average of 57,000 litres. The report equates eating a kilogram of steak to using up to 16,000 litres of water, a kilogram of lamb to 10,600 litres and a 200 ml glass of milk to 200 litres of water.

But there are so many different ways to calculate the water footprint of a product that there is no way to compare each methodology. Scientists at CSIRO, Swiss University, and ETH Zurich are developing a new water footprint standard based on lifecycle assessment and compatible with the International Organisation for Standardisation.

Their water footprint is expressed as a unit called water equivalent (H2Oe) similar to CO2e used in carbon footprinting.

Using this method, the water footprint of lamb cuts produced in south-west Victoria was 44 litres of H2Oe per kg and the average dairy milk water footprint in the Gippsland region was 1.9 litres H2Oe a litre of fresh milk at the farm gate. These are mainly rainfed farming systems in high rainfall zone with no irrigation, so the water footprints were relatively low.

Implications for food producers

Poor eco-labelling unjustly disadvantages farmers. For example, Australian cotton and rice farmers are the most water efficient in the world but they still get the negative publicity of being water guzzlers. A water footprint labelling system for rice would need to be very well refined.

If eco-labelling is to further expand in Australia, it should be done with proper scientific methods such as lifecycle assessment. Eco-labelling should educate consumers and give farmers an incentive to improve their practices. Eco-labelling should promote energy and water efficient food production practices and must not be green-mail.

Daniel Tan receives funding from the Cotton and Grains Research and Development Corporations. He is President of Ag Institute Australia (NSW Division).

The Conversation

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

The Right Food Group wins Organics title at Food awards: video

The Right Food Group proved it's got the right idea in mind with its Organic Noodle Kitchen – Asian Noodle Range, taking home the Organics category at this year's Food Magazine awards.

The Right Food Group is one of Australia's leading organic developers and manufacturers, specialising in certified organic and low allergen foods. The company's products are gourmet, simple to use and chef-inspired with the added benefit of being healthy.

The Right Food Group is a certified organic, JAS MAFF (Japan), HACCP, Halal and Kosher certified company which develops and manufacturers organic simmer sauces, dressings, table sauces, salad dressings, marinades, stir fry sauces and fruit spreads.

The Organic Noodle Kitchen gourmet noodles is a unique new Asian product range featuring designer packaging and attractive shelf ready inners and available in a number of flavours including Organic Beetroot, Spirulina, Charcoal and Whole Wheat.

The new range grew out of founder Anni Brownjohn's desire to create innovative and great tasting, organic foods. Not only has the Organic Noodle Kitchen received praise within Australia, but the company also won Best New Organic Product at the BioFachWorld Organic Trade Fair, held in Nuremburg, Germany earlier this year. The Organic Noodle Kitchen – Asian Noodle Range is the first Australian product to win the prestigious award.

The Right Food Right was founded in 1999 by Brownjohn, who has a keen passion for healthy food.

"I started The Right Food Group because I believe in healthy food for Australians and we've continued that journey right up to now. We like to create innovative, new foods and exciting foods that make everyone's life easier," said Brownjohn.

When asked why she thought the company may have won the Organics category, Brownjohn put it simply: "I think we won because we actually do the best product," she told Food magazine.

In order to make the best product, Brownjohn says that excellent producers and quality ingredients are imperative.

"I think that Australia creates the most innovative foods because we are a small market. We work really hard and we've got great products to work with, great ingredients and great farmers."

In addition to The Right Food Group's already distinguished range, Brownjohn says that the company has a few more exciting product to showcase this year.

"We've got organic two minute noodles and cup noodles coming to market which will be launched at the Fine Food festival.  They are healthy, simple, quick food solutions with no MS – just great tasting noodles with great flavours that are good for your health." 



Tasmanian irrigation CEO looks to organic production

Chris Oldfield, the Tasmanian Irrigation CEO is looking towards organic production for new enterprise development opportunities in the state.

Oldfield says organics represent a prime opportunity due to the state’s clean and green reputation, coupled with attractive growth rates in the sector which are currently sitting at 15 percent nationally each year, ABC rural reports.

Tasmanian Irrigation aims to attract investors to establish new enterprises that utilise Tasmania’s expanding irrigation infrastructure and Oldfield believes that the organics industry is “worth a serious look.”

Oldfield says that while he does not have an official position on organics, or genetically modified foods for that matter, he believes organics could be a valuable opportunity for the state.

"It's not a matter of whether we believe in organics or not," he said.

"There appears to be a significant market opportunity that I don't believe is being met by Australian growers.

"What I'm wondering is whether this is an area Tasmania should be looking at.

"Maybe it's not right for Tasmania, but I think it's worth a serious look."

Oldfield’s comments come as debate over Tasmania’s GMO-free moratorium heats up. The moratorium – which bans GM foods- is currently under review as it is due to expire in November this year.

The review is covering issues relating to the potential advantages and disadvantages of GMO technology across Tasmania’s primary industry sectors – including both food and non-food sectors.

The Tasmanian Food Industry Advisory Council, of which Oldfield is a member, has been asked to provide advice during the review.  Oldfield says that the council represents a wide range of interests throughout the agrifood supply chain.

"I think it's fair to say there is a very wide divergence of opinion amongst most key industry players on the current moratorium on GMs in Tasmania,” said Oldfield.

"We've taken the position that really we'll be observers in the debate but this is really a matter of government policy.”


Victorian town produces its first commercial quantities of organic butter

The first commercial quantities of Australian Organic Dairy Butter have come off a south west Victorian production line as part of a partnership between Organic Dairy Farmers Australia (ODFA) and Aussie Farmers Direct (AFD)

The butter which is made using organic milk from local Victorian farms has created some 30 jobs for the small country Victorian town of Camperdown where the butter factory is located.

At present, ODFA employees 23 local famers  – all of which own a stake in the farmer owned co-operative – who are producing enough milk for 150 tonnes of butter this year, with trails on an unsalted butter having commenced recently.

ODFA CEO Bruce Symons said that the partnership between ODFA and AFD has provided an invaluable opportunity for the local community by creating jobs and utilising previously closed-down processing facilities.

“These farmers invest their considerable energy and efforts into making sure they have healthy soils which translates into pastures holding a plethora of vitamins and minerals for their cows which ultimately produce a truly remarkable milk,” says Symons. 

“We firmly believe if the cows are happy and healthy then the quality of the milk is better. To be able to take this milk and produce the first commercial quantities of organic butter in Australia is really very humbling.”

ODFA also recently launched a biodynamic milk which has proven to be hugely popular in high end cafes and retail outlets.

“A number of the really serious restaurants and cafes have recognised what a difference a high quality milk can make in not just coffee, but as an ingredient in other goods they are making,” he said.

“We’re now in a position where we’re able to provide the market quality products in large quantities and the path from cow to cup is entirely traceable.”

In addition to the organic butter line, Symons says that the co-operative will be looking to add a cheese-making facility and retail store.

“The initial success and rapid uptake of the new, freshly churned butter from the Camperdown site has emboldened the co-op,” he said.

“Already down the road in Timboon we have undertaken a joint venture with renowned French-born cheesemaker Matthieu Megard to make artisan style organic French and Swiss style cheeses, and plans are now in place to expand dairy production at Camperdown or Timboon into other dairy products, and look at retail and a our own cheese-making facility.”


‘Organic’ sausages contain banned sulphur additive: Choice

Choice's investigation into six regular beef sausages has discovered some certified organic sausages contain sulphur dioxide, which is not permitted in organic meat production.

The investigation looked at sausages available at three supermarkets and three independent butchers.

According to SMH, it found that certified organic sausages priced at $21.99 a kilo had the second highest level of sulphur dioxide (behind Coles), which is used as a preservative but isn't a permitted additive in organic meat products.

Sausages branded as 'gourmet' at independent butchers and retailing for $11.95 a kilo had the least amount of meat, containing 56.9 percent 'lean meat.'

According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand guidelines, sausages need to have at least 50 percent fat-free meat flesh.

However, sausages that simply list 'meat' in their ingredients can contain meat from buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit or sheep.

All sausages considered in Choice's research contained beef, as advertised.

Choice's Tom Godfrey said a sausage's fat, sodium and sulphur dioxide levels vary depending on where you purchase your sausages, with Coles supermarkets having the saltiest sausages in Australia.


Be clear with claims: editor’s rant

Yes I'm a proud advocate for Australia's food manufacturing industry, but first and foremost I'm a consumer. We all are.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I love coming to work every day and learning about all the new and innovative ways our food manufacturers are doing business.

I love reporting on – as cliche as it sounds – what really matters to you guys. I love talking to you and trying to understand your struggles, and advocating for the reforms you say you need to ensure the longevity of your business and the industry.

BUT, before I was a journalist and before I was editor of Food mag, I was a consumer, and obviously I still am – albeit a much more discerning one.

I'm not a vegetarian – in fact I'll pretty much eat anything, but I try to buy and eat as ethically and healthily as possible. It's a personal choice and it's certainly not an easy one.

The plethora of labels and marketing tools out there which are either straight-up misleading or at the very least sneaky, mean consumers like myself aren't always buying what they think they are.

Australian shoppers are a savvy bunch and are increasingly aware of the regulation, or lack thereof, surrounding marketing claims such as 'organic' and 'free range.'

My point is this: be honest. Don't blur the truth. Coles – don't insult your customer base by telling them it's wrong to assume that 'baked fresh' means 'made from scratch.' Water cannot be organic, so don't say it is. Breakfast drinks actually have to be 'high' in something, whether it be protein or fibre, in order to promote it that way, and a chicken needs more than an A4-sized piece of land to run around on in order to be labelled as (and priced as) 'free range.'

This year has seen a number of food and beverage brands named and shamed for leading consumers astray. More stringent regulations are no doubt on their way, but manufacturers should fear more than just a hefty fine.

Yes, Australian consumers are a loyal bunch, they also don't forget easily. When news gets out that the wool has been pulled over their eyes and their 'light' microwavable meal is in fact packed with sugar, salt and perhaps even kilojoules, they'll walk away from the brand and won't look back.

So be warned – tell the truth. It's for your own good.


Choice applauds crackdown on ‘organic’ water

Consumer watchdog, Choice, has announced its support of a recent crackdown on organic claims on water bottles.

The ACCC has directed seven companies to remove organic claims from their bottled water products, with an eighth supplier choosing to remove its brand from the market.

The affected brands include Active Organic, Lithgow Valley Springs Organic, Nature's Best Organic, Organic Australia, Organic Falls, Organic Nature's Best and Organic Springs.

The ACCC's finding followed negotiations with the manufacturers, who as a result, will avoid enforcement action.

The water brands must be amended because their organic claims are misleading and could be unjustly used to command a higher price at the checkout, the ACCC found.

The findings are based on the fact that water cannot be organic, as the term relates to agricultural farming ptactices, and water is not an agricultural product.

Choice spokesperson, Tom Godfrey, said "A word like organic is a trigger word to shoppers – it implies health benefits.

"This is a very popular term for food marketers. There are currently more than 300 products on the market trademarked as ‘organic’. It's time for manufacturers to stop relying on healthy-sounding words to boost product sales."

Last month Choice announced that bottled water is costing Australians 2000 times the price of conventional tap water – up to $3.88 for a litre of bottled water, compared to a fraction of a cent for the tap alternative.


ACCC directs seven companies to drop ‘organic’ water claims

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has directed seven companies to remove ‘organic’ claims on bottled water products with an eighth supplier choosing to remove its brand from the market.

The move followed negotiations with the consumer watchdog and the manufacturers in question which in turn avoided any enforcement action.

The ACCC claimed that the companies were misleading customers and stated that such claims could be unjustly used to command a higher price and a competitive advantage.

Deputy chairwoman for the ACCC, Delia Rickard emphasised that water cannot be ‘organic’ as the term in the context of food and drink related to agricultural farming practices and water is not an agricultural product.

“Credence claims such as “organic” can be used to justify higher prices and create a competitive advantage for the user. As such it is essential that they are only used correctly,” said Rickard.

“Organic standards acknowledge that water cannot be organic. Any claim that particular water is organic would therefore be misleading or deceptive.” 

The ACCC rejected claims from a number of manufacturers who argued that the use of the term ‘organic’ was in regards to the brand names with Rickard commenting that “manufacturers cannot hide misleading claims in their brand names.”

The brands including; Active Organic, Lithgow Valley Springs Organic, Nature’s Best Organic, Organic Australia, Organic Falls, Organic Nature’s Best and Organic Springs have already begun to supply bottles with amended labels.

The ACCC has also urged consumers to contact them should they see any other brands of bottled water featuring organic claims.

“The ACCC will continue to monitor the progress of the changes and will engage further with retailers and manufacturers if further work needs to be undertaken,” Ms Rickard said.  


Fiji’s first fully organic island is waiting certification

Cicia Island located in Fiji’s Lau group is the first fully organic island in the Pacific and is currently awaiting official organic certification.

The island has been used to predominately grow root vegetables, and for the production of virgin coconut oil which has been exported to Fiji’s main islands and internationally.

Mere Salusalu, spokesperson for Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture told ABC’s Pacific Beat program that the organic certification would represent a great boost for export and tourism opportunities.

"The government of Fiji recognises the potential and opportunities that organic will continuously provide in protecting our environment," she said.

"I think in a few years time we will be getting visitors from abroad to the island, so that they eat and live organically on the island."

Salusalu said that no fertilisers or chemicals have been used on the island for at least six to eight years.

"Traditional farming practices have evolved over a long period…and are still practiced now – and all these farming principles align well with organic principles," said Salusalu.

"I'm sure it will be the first Fiji organic island where the whole island is organic, compared to other places where only parts of the place have been certified organic," she said.


Sunraysia launches lunchbox sized certified organic juice range

The Sunraysia Natural Beverage Company has launched a new lunchbox sized, certified organic fruit juice range.

The Sunraysia Organic range of 200ml, 100 percent fruit juices are available in apple, orange, apple & blackcurrant and tropical flavours, and are certified by Australian Certified Organic.

The range's tagline; “nothing added, nothing taken away”, is backed by the company's decision to gain certified organic status which omits the inclusion of any artificial preservatives or synthetic flavours.

Jane Burns, program manager for the Australian Organic Schools initiative, which teaches children about the benefits of healthy food, has praised Sunraysia on the new juice range.

“The Sunraysia Natural Beverage Company has shown tremendous commitment to healthy lunchboxes by making organic fruit juices available. It’s this kind of development in the food industry that increases the availability of fresh, healthy food everyday."

Debra Barrow, marketing manager for the Sunraysia Natural Beverage Company said that the company prides themselves on providing Australian families with healthy fruit juices and that it was a natural progression to move into the organic space.

“Gaining organic certification is certainly a very rigorous process so consumers can have great confidence in the products they purchase with the Bud logo. Our Sunraysia Organic product exceeded all the criteria and guidelines so we were confident all the way.”


An Australian first for Whole Kids

Organic snack manufacturer, Whole Kids, is the first Australian food company to be named a Certified B Corporation.

There are only 700 organisations in the world with this certification, which recognises businesses that work to solve social and environmental problems.

Whole Kids, together with other certified brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Etsy and Seventh Generation, now has to consider the social and environmental impact of its decisions on employees, suppliers, communities and consumers.

Whole Kids was founded by husband and wife team James and Monica Meldrum, and aims to provide healthy, nutritious snacks for children, sourcing 100 percent certified ingredients.

The pair also established One Percent for Our Kids, a non-profit organisation aiming to improve the health of children and the environment, based on a one percent contribution of Whole Kids' annual turnover.

"We seek to change the way families and children experience food and, in turn, experience their world," said James.

"We believe in ‘unjunking’ our lives and that wasteful materialism and consumerism needs to evolve to a more enlightened conscious consumption. Whole Kids seeks a world where businesses contribute positively to a more sustainable, more equitable and more respectful relationship with all stakeholders, not just shareholders."

Earlier this year, Monnica completed Food mag's Industry Map. Read about her impressive career here.


An Australian first for Whole Kids

Organic snack manufacturer, Whole Kids, is the first Australian food company to be named a Certified B Corporation.

There are only 700 organisations in the world with this certification, which recognises businesses that work to solve social and environmental problems.

Whole Kids, together with other certified brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Etsy and Seventh Generation, now has to consider the social and environmental impact of its decisions on employees, suppliers, communities and consumers.

Whole Kids was founded by husband and wife team James and Monica Meldrum, and aims to provide healthy, nutritious snacks for children, sourcing 100 percent certified ingredients.

The pair also established One Percent for Our Kids, a non-profit organisation aiming to improve the health of children and the environment, based on a one percent contribution of Whole Kids' annual turnover.

"We seek to change the way families and children experience food and, in turn, experience their world," said James.

"We believe in ‘unjunking’ our lives and that wasteful materialism and consumerism needs to evolve to a more enlightened conscious consumption. Whole Kids seeks a world where businesses contribute positively to a more sustainable, more equitable and more respectful relationship with all stakeholders, not just shareholders."

Earlier this year, Monnica completed Food mag's Industry Map. Read about her impressive career here.


US food companies scramble to source non GM ingredients

Food companies across America are struggling to source conventional ingredients as growing pressure to replace genetically modified ones gains traction.

Last weekend saw over two million people worldwide protest against GM giant Monsanto sighting the alleged dangers of genetically modified foods and the environmental damage caused by its production.

So far in the US states of Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, at least one chamber of the state legislature has given the go ahead for bills that will require the mandatory labelling of foods that contain GM ingredients, with similar legislation pending in over 24 other US states as reported by the New York Times.

US retail giant Whole Foods Market, have also added pressure by refusing to sell any GM produce or processed foods that is not labelled as GM in all of their stores by 2018.

A pressing concern for many businesses is the process involved in switching from GM to non GM certified produce. The cost for conventional, non GM ingredients is far higher than that of genetically modified crops and produce.

Approximately 90 percent of US corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets are genetically modified. Farmers that are willing to make the switch to non GM will have to be patient as it will take time before they can harvest thier new crops as the soil may not be immediately suitable to gain non-GMO certification.

 “There’s a transition period required,” said Richard Kamolvathin, senior vice president at Verity Farms, (seller of meats, grains and other products derived from conventional crops, as well as natural soil amendments). “You don’t just stop growing G.M.O. seed and then start growing non-G.M.O. seed.”

Taste and consistency of products is another factor that needs to be considered when making the switch as the products will need to be tried and tested to capture the same flavours and mouth feel as the original GM ingredients.

Foods in Australia must be labelled if they contain GM ingredients however if a GM ingredient is highly refined, ie in cooking oils, margarine, baked goods and chocolate, they do not have to be labelled.

Currently, Australia does not permit the sale of GM fresh foods including fruit and vegetables.


24 hours with The Right Food Group

Name: Anni Brownjohn

Company name:The Right Food Group Pty Ltd

Title: founder and president

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.
From the foundation year of 1999 right through until today my primary role is to drive the vision of developing and manufacturing wonderful, delicious organic foods while all of us also have some fun.

As the company has grown, some wonderful people have come on board as members of "Team Organic" at The Right Food Group.

My day can start out with looking at new product ideas, then onto a management meeting, chat with a client, review of new machinery, discussions with new private label customers, review of marketing – and this may all be before lunch!

I've always seemed to have a lot of new ideas for great products and like to spend some time each day on these.

What training/education did you need for your job? 
Interestingly – I had none. Just a good idea and dedication to clean, healthy, organic food.

If I had undertaken any formal business training, there would be a good chance that I would never had taken the risk to start such an innovative food company.

In 1999 when I founded The Right Food Group, organic food was considered "hippy food". I well remember turning up to sell my products to a grocery store and the buyer being very surprised I had on a good suit!

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.
Hmm, career path?? Not something I have ever given any thought to. I have been self-employed since my early 20s – initially in natural health care.

When I work out what my career is, I'll let you know my career path. Not sure there is such a thing for an organic entrepreneur!

What tools and/or sofware do you use on a daily basis?
My MacBook Air, Blackberry, and various software programs. Oh, and the largest computer I own, my brain.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?

  • Still being in organic food manufacturing in Australia in 2013 and being profitable!
  • Surviving the GFC and creating full time jobs in a rural town.
  • Creating roles in my company where good people can grow their skills, improve their income and lift their level of professional training.
  • Giving those people the room to run with their own ideas.
  • Taking on the chair's role of the Tweed Business Advisory Board and using the position to push through some ideas to improve the regional economy.

Biggest daily challenge?
Keeping my many ideas for new products in some sort of order, then working out which ones are "real" and which ones go into the "later" file.

Plus – the internet. We are in a regional town and the net can be very slow. Roll on the NBN!

Biggest career challenge?
Attempting to keep my frustration with the organic certification industry in check. Some organic certification fees seem out of proportion with the service and add extra cost to the final product. Imported organic product do not pay these fees. The whole system disadvantages Australian organic food producers. I fail to understand why fees are not controlled by federal legislation.

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
There are a few items in my "biggest frustration" basket.
1. For a regional company, distribution can be a hassle. While we have product on shelf in every state in Australia, how it gets there is complicated and costly.
2. The "I am not interested" attitude to Australian food producers from the federal government! Honestly, why on earth is there no recognition of the following:

  • We need to eat as a nation (and I don't think locally made cars make a tasty meal no matter how much sauce you pour over them!)
  • The food industry is a massive employer! Many production plants are in regional towns which need the jobs to sustain the local economy.
  • We cannot compete with the dollar so high against imports – particularly those which are subsidised. Why is Australia the only sportsperson on the "level playing field?"

3. And of course I have a lot of new ideas for products and the development, certification, supply chain, manufacture, marketing and distribute process can be frustratingly long.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
High dollar, cheap imports, lack of federal government interest in sustaining a vibrant Australian food production industry.

Also, there's no domestic organic certification legislation which is enforceable under federal or state law. There are may products on Australian shelves claiming "organic". The only "organic" ingredient in some of these products is the name on the label. I have to compete with these cheats.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
I don't have a job – I have passion, drive and commitment. A passion for people, organic food, sustainable business and community.

My food which we create every day in our own factory is proof that the "career path" can be a journey. And all journeys start out with the desire to explore.

I continue to "explore" organic food (and have a heap of fun while doing it!)


If you would like to take part in Food mag's Industry Map, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.


Labelling wraps organic food in healthy halo, research says

The organic food industry promotes sustainability and avoidance of unnecessary pesticides, and rakes in $30 billion a year.

But Cornell researchers have found consumers automatically put a ‘healthy halo’ on foods that are labelled organic, whether they are actually organic or not.

The researchers decided to conduct the study in response to the high demand for organic foods and the fairly vague reasons for the demand. The organic label draws a thin line between health and marketing, The Atlantic reported.

Cornell researchers asked 115 shoppers to participate in a taste test in the middle of a shopping mall food court.

The participants sampled what were labelled as the organic and non-organic versions of biscuits, potato chips and yoghurt. In fact, both types of food were organic.

The participants then rated the foods on taste, nutritional value, flavour and whether they thought it tasted artificial or not. They were also asked to guess the calorie content and indicate how much they would pay for snack-sized portions of each.

The partakers guessed the organic biscuits, chips and yoghurt had 20 to 24 per cent less calories than ‘regular’ versions.

They thought the organic versions tasted lower in fat and calories and higher in fibre. They were prepared to pay around 16 to 23 per cent more for all three.

But it was harder to fool people who often shopped organic, read nutrition labels, and were more aware with the foods and their marketing strategies.

Beak and Johnston purchase Pitango

New Zealand soup and ready-made meal maker Pitango has been bought by Sydney-based Beak and Johnston, owner of brands such as Mr. Beak’s and Cleavers.

Pitango was part of Gourmet Food Holdings, which was placed in the hands of receivers Ferrier Hodgson in late-November last year. GFH was the parent company of brands including Rosella, Water Wheel and Aristocrat.

GFH, which owed as much as $50 million to National Australia Bank, was owned by private equity company Crescent Capital, who also failed in their management of Australian Music Group and sold AMG at a loss last year.

The dollar value of the acquisition would not be disclosed by Pitango’s general manager Wade Gillooly, but he mentioned that it was going from being private equity-owned to family-owned, and said that the buyout would boost its manufacturing operations.

"What [the sale] means is that we preserve the jobs of our production, office and administration staff in Auckland and it allows us to continue to work with all of our suppliers in New Zealand," Gillooly told Fairfax Media.

Pitango produces organic products including soups, curries and pastas, which are sold in supermarkets.

Acording to a profile of Beak and Johnston, the company was established in 1986, exports to more than 15 countries and has revenues exceeding $300 million.

Organic certification “nitpicking”, says farming company

Nutri-Tech Solutions, a biological farming company, says Australia's organic certification process is unreasonable and needs to be amended.

The company has lost certification on a number of its fertiliser products after traces of benzene and nitrate nitrogen were detected, the ABC reports.

According to chief exectutive, Graeme Sait, these substances were used during the manufacturing process only, and aren't present in the final product.

"This is really nitpicking stuff. We'll be lobbying to get some of these things changed.

"It [certification] should be about what's in the end product, it shouldn't matter what was used in the earlier stages, as long as they don't remain in the end product," he said.

The certifier, Australian Organic, says looking at the production process, from beginning to end, is a worldwide policy and NTS can submit its concerns to the national committee for organic standards, which are currently being reviewed.


Aussie manufacturer praised on world stage with organic win

In an Australian first, the Right Food Group, based in NSW's Murwillumbah, has taken out the Best New Grocery Product award at the world's largest organic trade show, the Biofach World Organic Trade Fair.

The manufacturer took out the title for its Organic Noodle Kitchen range. which comprises six packets of traditional steam, curly soup and instant noodles in a range of flavours and forms including beetroot, charcoal, aoba, udon, spirulina and wholewheat.

The Right Food Group beat hundreds of others in the cooking and baking category, and general manager, Neil Sallaway, said "This was our first time at the prestigious BioFach Fair in Germany. We entered the competition for experience only so we are still astonished that it beat the rest of the world in the new product competition."

Manager of Australian Organic, Holly Vyner, added, "This is the first time an Australian company has won the award. Many of the entries in the competition were from large international corporations so it's an achievement for a regional NSW-based company to take out the award."

BioFach has over 40,000 visitors across the globe and this year it featured over 600 new products from more than 2,300 exhibitors.


Nighty Night herbal tea

Product name: Nighty Night

Product manufacturer: Beaming with Health

Ingredients: Organic valerian, californian poppy, licorice, zizyphus

Shelf life: Three years

Packaging: Round tin

Product manager: Mim Beim

Brand website: https://www.beamingwithhealth.com.au

What the company says
Nighty Night herbal tea is for people who suffer insomnia and sleeplessness. Naturopath Mim Beim has over 25 years experience in the realm of natural medicine. The Beaming with Health range uses age old herbal remedies blended together to create a synergy of health benefits and flavours.

Contact email:  mim@beamingwithhealth.com.au