Improving Australia’s food innovation

A new $54.2 million Food Innovation Grants Programme (FIGP), launched by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to increase innovation in the food industry, is currently accepting round one applications.

The FIGP, which will fund approximately three projects every year until June 2011, aims to assist Australian-based food and beverage businesses undertaking research and development (R&D), innovative programs or developing cutting-edge products and technology.

Applicants will need to demonstrate a project’s ability to add competition and profitability to the Australian food industry in areas of production, processing, packaging, storage or logistics.

The potential of the project and/or its resulting commercial activities to achieve national productivity and economic growth; diffusion of knowledge and skill to other parts of the Australian economy; or other societal, community or ecological benefits, will also be considered.

Proposals must address a technical challenge in the Australian food industry and/or how the uptake of new technology will deliver significant benefits, either on a national, sectoral or regional basis.

The FIGP will contribute, on a matched funds basis, up to half of the eligible project costs for R&D, the movement of innovation towards commercialisation, and the introduction of cutting-edge technology.

Projects are not eligible if they present no element of technical risk, are food product line extensions, involve the purchase of land or infrastructure costs; or are activities related to food processing inputs rather than outputs, among other things.

Interested applicants can download and complete the self-diagnostic eligibility check to ensure they satisfy eligibility criteria.

Potential applicants must then complete a preliminary application form.

Round One submissions are due by August 9, 2007.

An Advisory Group, consisting of technical, industry and business specialists will assess applications.

Amcor’s new retail packaging initiative

Amcor Australasia has launched a new retail packaging initiative to showcase emerging technology and innovation in primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

Retail 2010 — Packaging the Future, is a physical and virtual tour of a simulated retail supply chain from the perspective of a package, presenting Amcor’s unique capabilities to create integrated packaging solutions including packaging design and development, retail-ready packaging, point-of-sale displays and RFID.

Simulating communication between Amcor, its customers and other members of the retail supply chain, the Retail 2010 demonstrates the latest in retail solutions, while facilitating the development of practical solutions to meet changing retail packaging requirements.

Based at Amcor’s Research and Technology centre in Alphington, Melbourne, Retail 2010 makes use of Amcor’s world-class packaging design and testing services including virtual computer simulations, primary and secondary packaging prototyping, forensic laboratory testing and transport simulation.

A scaled-down physical retail environment was also purpose-built by Amcor, including back-of-store, a mini-supermarket and point-of-sale check-out portal. A guided tour takes less than three hours and is divided into four key elements, including design, manufacture, distribution and sale, each held in different locations throughout Amcor’s Research and Technology unit.

Believed to be the first of its kind outside Europe and the USA, Retail 2010 was officially launched in early 2007 and feedback from retailers and customers has been positive.

Green measures today ensure business success tomorrow

In these times of drought and gobal climate change what is being done by the Australian food and beverage industry?

Well, manufacturers are doing their bit, often in small ways, but every little bit helps.

From using ‘green’ ink to print labels and packaging, through incorporating bio-degradable materials into product packaging, to recycling of ‘grey’ water and other water-saving measures, manufacturers from small SMEs to large multinationals are trying.

It is worth doing as much as possible to minimise a business’ impact on the environment.

There is growing concern that as climates change across the world growing seasons are being impacted and ingredients may not be readily available.

Costs could rise as a result of supply chain challenges and these would hit manufacturers, who in turn might have to pass them on to consumers in the form of price hikes.

Decreased consumption of processed foods could result and this would really hit manufacturers where it hurts.

If initiatives are not already underway, now is the time to act.

Time must be made for a review of processes and systems, and changes made no matter how painful it might be to do so.

Money and time invested now in addressing the impact of environmental damage and change on a business will safeguard that business’ future.

On reading through the FOOD Challenge Awards entry forms, it was clear that many businesses are embracing change in favour of more sustainable business practices.

It is good to see that some business owners and manufacturers are aware and acting.

Of course, more always can and should be done, and as time ticks business pressures will cause even the slow and careless to take action.

But those who do not wait will reap the rewards.

First organic Standard developed in Australia

A new Australian Standard is currently being developed for organic products, including processed foods, to govern the production, processing, marketing and transportation within the industry.

Standards Australia deputy chief executive Colin Blair said the new standard will provide clear definition of what is organic, as well as specify requirements for primary production, transport, storage, preparation, packaging and marketing of organic products.

Australia’s $500 million organic industry is currently self-regulated, with different groups adhering to variations of a standard developed by the Australia Quarantine and Inspection Service for export.

The Standard is expected to be finalised in 2008 and will be initially introduced as a voluntary scheme.

The Council of Australia Primary Industry Ministers has indicated the new Australian Standard will form the basis of industry regulation.