New centre for innovative wine production launches in South Australia

A new wine research centre that will help the industry face up to challenges posed by climate change, water restrictions and changing consumer preferences has launched at the University of Adelaide's Waite campus.

The ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production will be targeting key objectives such as managing flavour and alcohol content in Australia's wines, despite growing environmental and cost pressures.

“We have a portfolio of 18 projects which together take a ‘grape to glass’, multi-faceted approach to tackling these key issues facing the industry,” said Professor Vladimir Jiranek, Professor of Oenology in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and Director of the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production.

“The knowledge and technologies arising from the Centre will help the industry make the best wines that will be sought after domestically and internationally.

“We aim to underpin and enable more profitable grape-growing and winemaking while achieving the desired flavour and alcohol balance that consumers want.”

Specific targets include: viticultural practices to optimise yields of flavour-rich grapes that are not necessarily high in sugars; treatments and winemaking practices that will maintain flavour while controlling sugar and alcohol content; and working with producers and retailers to define precisely the type of wines that consumers want.

“The Centre will also strengthen links between research, industry and education and produce highly skilled PhD and postdoctoral researchers honed for working at the industry/research interface,” says Professor Jiranek.

The Centre builds on a long tradition of research and multi-agency collaboration in winemaking and viticulture at the Waite Research Precinct. The Waite accounts for 62 percent of the nation’s wine research capability and outputs.

 

New Wine Sector Survey launched

The introduction of a combined Wine Sector Survey will streamline the annual collection of data across the wine community.

In a first for the Australian wine community, the Wine Sector Survey 2015 will combine the annual data collected by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA) Price Dispersion Survey, the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia Vintage Survey, the South Australian Crush Survey and the Murray-Darling/Swan Hill Wine Grape Crush Report.

AGWA Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said “we’re extremely pleased to work together to improve the collection of data across the sector, which will also help to lighten the load on wineries this year.

“AGWA is collecting the information on behalf of all participating organisations and we are broadening the survey to all wineries so that we can calculate accurate production figures by region and variety.”

Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) Chief Executive Paul Evans said the survey would help deliver a WFA Action Plan recommendation giving grape growers and wine producers access to better data to base their decision making.

“To track progress in the industry we need robust data so producers can consider adjustments ahead of next vintage and take action where necessary,” Evans said.

“Moving the South Australian Crush Survey into the Wine Sector Survey means that South Australian grape and wine producers only need to provide their information once, which will help save time and reduce paperwork,” said South Australian Wine Industry Association Chief Executive Brian Smedley and Wine Grape Council of South Australia Executive Officer Peter Hackworth.

“This is the first step in building a collaborative relationship on data collection that will provide growers with a much-improved barometer of industry performance,” Murray Valley Winegrowers Executive Officer Mike Stone said.

Any wine producers who would like to participate in the Wine Sector Survey 2015 and haven’t already received an email, or would like further information, can contact Sandy Hathaway at agwa.surveys@agwa.net.au.

 

Ferrero launches $210k global award

Ferrero Hazelnut Company, a recently-established business which brings together all activities within the hazelnut supply chain of the global Ferrero Group, has launched the ‘Ferrero Hazelnut Award Contest’ to support and improve research and innovation in the hazelnut sector.

The Ferrero Group, will award grants totalling €160,000 (A$225,000) to participants who propose the best ideas based around a series of criteria including innovation, sustainability and transferability. A grant of €150,000 (A$210,000) will be provided to the winner, with two runners-up grants of €5,000 (A$7,000) to be awarded.

Participants, who are expected to include university researchers, non-profit research institutions and higher education facilities worldwide, can choose from four topics related to improvement, innovation, sustainability and new strategies in relation to hazelnut cultivation.

Submissions will be evaluated by an internationally-based independent scientific commission established at Italy’s prestigious Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Piacenza and co-ordinated by Professor Lorenzo Morelli, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Science.

Winners will be announced at Italy’s international Expo Milano 2015, where the Ferrero Group will be presenting its international corporate social responsibility initiatives, and receive the “special award package”. This includes attending the awards ceremony at the Expo in mid-September, visiting Ferrero’s facilities in Alba, Italy, as well as participating in tours of the hazelnut orchards and related agricultural processing activities in the area.

Further information about the ‘Ferrero Hazelnut Award Contest’, including application details and guidelines, can be found at www.hazelnutcompany.ferrero.com.

Deadline for submissions is June 30, 2015.

 

Tastier and safer foods with Goodman Fielder [VIDEO]

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Goodman Fielder collaborated with CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) through their SME Solution Centre to create better tasting and healthier dressings, sauces and mayonnaises to meet changing consumer demands.

Goodman Fielder is a leading food company across Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific. They have an extensive portfolio of brands that consumers know and love, covering every meal of the day. 

 

Biorefineries research project announced

Scientists will work to develop technology that would convert agricultural and forestry by-products into higher value commodities under a new research project.

The research project is part of the Rural Research and Development for Profit Programme, according to Sugar Research Australia CEO, Neil Fisher.’

Fisher said that SRA securing funding for the new collaborative project that would engage leading scientists to develop technology that would convert agricultural and forestry by-products into higher value commodities.

The new project was announced by the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, as he confirmed the successful projects in round one of the new Research and Development for Profit Programme.

“SRA welcomes the commitment from Minister Joyce and the Federal Government for their continued investment in rural R&D and in SRA in particular,” Fisher said.

“This is an exciting and collaborative project that will see SRA as the lead agency working with Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Australia Pork Limited, and the Queensland University of Technology.

“The project also has support from NSW Department of Primary Industries as well as industry support from Southern Oil Refining and AgriFuels Ltd.

“We know that in many agricultural and forestry production systems, there is significant biomass created in the production system that is of low value compared to the core commodity being produced,” Mr Fisher said. “This project will look at how we can add value to products such as cane mulch, cotton stalks and trash material, and forestry by-product.

“The project will investigate using biorefinery methods to convert low value material into higher value products such as animal feed, fuels, fibre, and chemicals.

“For example, benefits for the project could include primary producers being able to reduce their production costs by being able to produce their own bio-fuel, while intensive animal producers could benefit from lower cost feed.

“There is constant pressure on the Australian agricultural system from increasing costs and the drive for greater efficiency. Projects such as this have the potential to set a positive path for the future of crucial primary production industries.”

The project will run over three years and is being funded with $3.09 million in Federal Government grant funds and a matching commitment from the partner organisations.

 

Chemical migration, food packaging and the Code

FSANZ is in the process of reviewing the Food Standards Code in relation to chemical migration from packaging into food, but what does this mean for food manufacturers?

It is an offence to sell food packaging or handling materials that are unsafe or will make food unsafe, but the Code does not yet comprehensively pin down at what level or exposure certain chemicals will become unsafe when used in packaging.

The Code – as it stands

Food businesses must comply with requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Currently, there are four main areas of the code which cover chemical migration currently in force.

Standard 1.4.3 – Articles and Materials in Contact with Food

This standard specifies that any material in contact with food, including packaging material, must not cause bodily harm, distress or discomfort. But it does not specify materials that can be used in the manufacture of food packaging materials or the method of manufacture.

Standard 1.4.1 – Contaminants and Natural Toxicants

The standard includes maximum levels (MLs) for a few chemicals associated with migration from packaging, but is in no way exhaustive. It covers the real nasties, including vinyl chloride, tin, acrylonitrile (a genotoxic carcinogen) and other potential contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls.

Standard 3.2.2 – Food Safety Practices and General Requirements.

This Australia-only standard details requirements on food businesses to only use packaging material that is fit for its intended use; only use material that is not likely to cause food contamination; and ensure that there is no likelihood that the food may become contaminated during the packaging process.

The code needs work, and they’re getting there. But in the meantime, what should manufacturers do?

Dr Barbara Butow, a senior scientist at Food Standards Australia New Zealand, says manufacturers can look to EU and US regulations, which are more comprehensive than Australia’s current standards.

EU or US codes – how are the two different?

The EU requirements regulate migration limits and migration into food, whereas the US requirements are around the packaging itself.

“The USFDA requirements are incredibly detailed around what you can use your packaging for and under what conditions, so temperatures and times and for what materials,” Butow says.

“So the outcome is the same, as I understand it, but the way that you get there is slightly different. I think the EU regulations appeal to a lot of companies because it’s a level that can be measured, whereas the US regulations, they’ve got a database of Cumulative Exposure Data Intake (CEDI), which is around the exposure to the chemical from the packaging.”

Butow says manufacturers can help ensure their product is safe by going back to their suppliers for assurance.

I think they need to be aware what the packaging material is, what potential chemicals could migrate from there and under what conditions. If it’s a material that’s going to be stored for a long time, is it greater potential for migration or leakage of chemicals.

“They need to look at how’s it going to be stored and what food is the packaging going to be used for. All those things are good manufacturing practice. If it’s following GMP, then you can look at some of the iso standards. If people are concerned about mineral oils leaking from cardboards then maybe put a barrier in, although some people say the barrier might not be adequate.

“So there are codes of practice out there which describe all these things and then there’s a code of practice for printing inks, the EuPIA code of practice.”

Butow says that while food manufacturers can access international regulations, they’re not easy to navigate.

“[International regulations] are not a one stop shop and certainly the code of federal regulation in the US, you have to go through layers upon layers to get down to the chemical that you’re interested in to get the actual requirement. It is there, but not the risk assessment behind it.”

Is it safe?

Butow says that while consumers might not assume there’s regulation on absolutely everything, they “just expect packaging to be safe.”

“It’s only when there’s something on the news and again it tends to have a bit of an imported food bend to it than people’s ears prick up.”

“We really welcome input from industry, it’s just a call for information, a call for participation,” Butow says.

“So if and when we go down the track of adding a bit of regulation, or touching up the standard, at least we’ll know who to approach for input.”

Dr Barbara Butow presented at the 2015 National Technical Forums.

 

Algae discovery means pig waste could provide more for farms

Murdoch University researchers are investigating whether the effluent from piggeries can be effectively treated with micro and macroalgae so that species of the organism can be safely fed back to pigs.

The Cooperative Research Centre for High Integrity Australian Pork (Pork CRC) has invested $300,000 with the Algae Research and Development Centre at Murdoch University to investigate the proposals, which would cut costs, recover energy from waste and reduce the potential for groundwater contamination at piggeries.

So far, Centre director, Dr Navid Moheimani and his team from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences have discovered three different types of microalgae that can grow on untreated piggery anaerobic digestate effluent, which typically contains extremely high levels of ammonium.

Anaerobic digestion in lagoons or ponds on farms is currently the most common method used to process piggery waste. The discovery is a world first and offers a potentially cost effective means of remediating piggery effluent.

They have found that microalgae remove ammonia, other nutrients and potentially reduce the pathogen load in the effluent, meaning that the treated waste water can be reused.

The algal biomass produced is potentially a protein rich food source for pigs and other animals, although Moheimani said extensive testing would be required.

“We have high hopes that this method of treating effluent will ensure the algal biomass produced can be fed back to the pigs which will make Australian piggeries much less wasteful and more cost competitive,” said Moheimani.

“Of course if this works for pigs, it could also work for different livestock.

“Pig slurry could well be viewed by the industry as a resource rather than a waste management issue.”

Moheimani and his colleagues are now looking at methods to optimise the growth of the microalgae on the effluent and are bioprospecting for suitable species of macroalgae to grow on piggery effluent. Macroalgae are larger and easier to harvest than microalgae.

The anaerobic digestion process currently used in piggeries produces a low quality fertiliser. A byproduct of this process is the creation of biogas, which is a renewable energy source consisting mostly of methane and carbon dioxide. This is often used to generate electricity on farms.

If they find the micro and macroalgae grown on effluent is unfit for consumption by pigs, Moheimani said his team will investigate how algae can help to maximise biogas production from piggery effluent.

This is a multidisciplinary project involving experts with different backgrounds. Moheimani is the project principal investigator while his Murdoch University colleagues Professor John Pluske, Emeritus Professor Michael Borowitzka and Dr John Huisman are contributing their expertise in nutrient studies, algal cultivation and economics and macroalgal bioprospecting respectively. Dr Sasha Jenkins from the University of Western Australia, is helping to investigate the anaerobic digestion process while Jeremy Ayre is conducting his PhD mainly on microalgae cultivation aspects of the project. Mr Ayre is in his first year of study and his scholarship is co-funded by the Pork CRC and Murdoch University.

The project is also supported by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia and the University of Melbourne (Dr Peter Cakebread).

 

Regulatory concerns shifting digestive health focus

Digestive or gut health has been a key focus for product activity in functional and health foods for many years, but with the tightening up of claims legislation, particularly in Europe, there has been something of a setback in terms of product activity in more recent times

Over 3.2 percent of food and drinks launches recorded by Innova Market Insights carried digestive health claims of some kind in 2014, up from just 2.7 percent five years previously. This indicates that there is still ongoing interest in the sector, particularly in the USA, where the share rose from 3.3 percent to over 3.6 percent. EU launches using a digestive health positioning fell from 2.4 percent to 2.2 percent over the same period, however.

With the claims situation becoming more difficult, companies are also focusing on the use of specific ingredients, such as wholegrains and fibre, which may already be linked with digestive health in consumers’ minds. High-fibre or source-of-fibre claims were used on nearly 3.4 percent of food and drinks launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2014, rising to 4.6 percent in the USA. Wholegrain claims were used on 2 percent of global launches, rising to 3.4 percent in the USA.

Wholegrain claims were particularly in evidence in categories such as cereals and bakery products. Bakery products lead globally, accounting for 21 percent of food and drinks launches using this type of claim, although this is equivalent to less than 6 percent of total bakery introductions. In addition, 5.5 percent of bakery launches used wholegrain claims. The two claims combined featured on 9 percent of bakery launches, rising to 16 percent in the USA.

Within the bakery market, biscuits accounted for nearly half of launches using fibre-related claims (excluding wholegrains), ahead of bread. In terms of significance however, bread is a clear leader, with products featuring a high-fibre positioning accounting for 15 percent of bread launches, compared with just over 9 percent in savoury biscuits and just 5 percent in sweet biscuits.

In the biscuits market, probably the key area of activity in high-fibre products in recent years has been in breakfast biscuits, virtually all of which are promoted as high in fibre and/or whole grains, and many of which have variants such as fruit and fibre in their ranges. This started in the UK in 2010, creating a new breakfast biscuits sub-category featuring a raft of new brands. It also heralded a welter of activity in other countries, including Germany, the USA and Australia, as well as a revitalization of existing breakfast biscuit markets in countries such as France and Spain.

“There is clearly still interest in products for digestive or gut health,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “This is reflected in ongoing levels of product activity, despite some of the current regulatory issues affecting health claims, particularly in Europe.”

Companies are tending to move to a more general health and wellness positioning for their products, she said. “They are relying more on existing consumer awareness of ingredients such as probiotics and fibre, the health benefits that they offer and the kinds of food and drinks products that they can be found in.”

 

Global packaged water consumption to overtake carbonates in 2015

Historically carbonates have led global soft drinks consumption, but according to Canadean’s latest forecasts, 2015 will see packaged water overtake carbonates.

A new Canadean report predicts that packaged water will overtake global carbonates consumption, reaching over 233 billion litres in 2015, while carbonates are expected to grow at a slower pace to around 227 billion litres. Back in 2010 the global population consumed only 170 billion litres of packaged water, compared to 215 billion litres of carbonates.

Fiona Baillie, analyst at Canadean, said “the speed at which packaged water is growing is evident. Asia and West Europe already have packaged water consumption levels above those of carbonates and this year East Europe is set to join them.”

Above: Top 10 global packaged water country ranking in terms of volume, 2015F v 2020F (% share).

Emerging countries will be driving global growth

Canadean’s research also shows that it will be emerging countries that drive this trend in the future, while western countries with traditionally high packaged water consumption will be slipping down the growth rankings. Germany, Italy, France and Spain are forecast to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of merely 1 percent between 2015 and 2020, compared to 21 percent in India, 12 percent in China and 8 percent in Brazil. However, the US is predicted to keep its second place ranking in terms of volume, as consumers continue to shift to packaged water consumption due to health concerns.

China and India will consume half of additional packaged water

According to the report, China and India are predicted to account for around 50 percent of the world’s additional packaged water consumption in 2020, consuming a total of around 45 billion litres more than in 2015.

“With nearly one-third of the world’s population residing in these countries the impact is significant. Packaged water is often necessary in areas susceptible to flooding or other natural occurrences, as these often lead to water contamination and the spread of diseases,” Baillie said.

Due to higher temperatures and poor piped water infrastructure, ‘on the go’ hydration is becoming a key part of daily life in Asia, with many consumers taking bottles of water with them on their everyday business and travels. “India has seen a strong growth in 100cl bottles in rural markets, as locals perceive them as having good value per serving and being easy to transport.” The expansion of retail in bus terminals and train stations is the key to India’s strong ‘on the go’ consumption. “It assimilates packaged water, namely 100cl bottles, into the process of travelling and establishes it as the norm for all types of consumers,” Baillie said.

 

Snack Food Manufacturing in Australia

Product innovation and aggressive marketing strategies are expected to boost demand for industry products.

Changing consumer tastes have prompted industry product innovation, and operators have been attempting to stimulate sales growth in a mature and stagnant market. For these reasons, industry research firm IBISWorld has updated its report on the Snack Food Manufacturing industry in Australia.

Volatile input prices, changing consumer trends and a saturated market are just some of the changes facing operators in the Snack Food Manufacturing industry in Australia. Over the five years through 2014-15, trends expected to constrain industry revenue growth include volatile commodity prices, rising competition and increasingly health-conscious consumers switching to healthier alternatives. Over the five years through 2014-15, industry revenue is expected to increase by an annualised 1.3 percent to total $2.4 billion. In 2014-15, revenue is expected to increase by 1.6 percent.

According to IBISWorld industry analyst Ryan Lin, “the industry's major players have endured falling profit margins, increased competition from private-label products and stagnating domestic demand, particularly in the salty snacks segment, which has historically been the most profitable.”

Consumer tastes and lifestyles have changed due to increased health awareness, which is one of the most important factors driving consumption choices. This has prompted product innovation, as operators attempt to stimulate sales growth in a mature and stagnant market.

The Snack Food Manufacturing industry is similar to many other manufacturing industries in Australia, in which high production costs often hamper price competitiveness and open up the market to cheaper products from nations with lower production costs.

“Snack food imports are estimated to account for 10.8 percent of domestic demand in 2014-15,” Lin said. However, the depreciation of the Australian dollar is expected to assist the industry slightly, as imports become more expensive for the local market, while exports become more competitively priced in international markets. The industry displays a medium level of market share concentration. Major players include Frito-Lay Australia Holdings Pty Limited and Snack Foods Limited.

Product innovation and aggressive marketing strategies are expected to boost demand over the next five years. Potato chips, which make up the industry's largest product segment, are one of the most widely consumed product ranges within the industry. Despite significant industry consolidation, enterprise numbers are expected to remain steady, with consolidation offset by smaller niche producers entering the industry.

Companies in the industry mainly manufacture snack food products such as potato chips, corn chips, savoury snacks, nuts, pretzels and other similar snacks. The manufacturing process includes buying raw materials such as milled corn, wheat, potatoes, food extracts, flavourings, preservatives and sugar, for processing into snack foods. The finished products are then packaged and sold to wholesalers and retailers.

For more information, visit IBISWorld’s Snack Food Manufacturing industry in Australia report page.

 

The global instant noodles market witnesses healthy growth

The global market for Instant Noodles is projected to reach 145.8 billion packs by 2020, driven by the rising tide of the convenience food trend in emerging markets and widening consumer acceptance.

The global instant noodles market is witnessing healthy growth driven by expanding Asian communities, and the growing popularity of Asian gourmet food among non-Asians, according to a New Report Update by Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

With noodles being customized for regional buyers all over the globe, the ubiquitous, and cheap rectangular cubes of flash dried and dehydrated noodles is today a global food product. Instant noodles as a fast food cuisine have gone down into history as the most memorable contribution made by Japan to life in the 20th and 21st century. Numerous enhancements to the dish helped its popularity crawl slowly to the West, and in Italy, the invention of the dish Italian Pasta is widely believed to have drawn inspiration from instant noodles.

Taste profiles differ across regions. The taste of Japanese or Korean-produced ramen is different from that of the noodles manufactured in the United States and Australia, thereby indicating the level of regionalism enjoyed by the product. Production of instant noodles began all over the world as early as the 1980s, when after the huge success of Chikin Ramen, the founder of Nissin Foods and the inventor of instant noodles, Mr. Ando Momofuku guided by purely social principles publicly made available the proprietary technology and recipe of his revolutionary product. Instant ramen is the only instant food of its kind to transcend regional differences in food tastes, flavors and preferences, and become a vital, must have part of the daily diet of the global population.

Key factors instrumental in instant ramen’s evolution into the world’s staple food include its low cost, quality nutrition, wide variety of taste and flavour profiles, and minimal cooking time. Today, instant noodles are available everywhere, from the fast food cafeterias of United States to the roadside hawkers in India, and Saudi Arabia. Disposable income and purchasing power parity of consumers in various regions across the globe represent major economic factors that influence the demand, and consumption for instant noodles. Typically, consumers with higher disposable income consume higher amounts of instant noodles.

Future growth in the market will come from countries presently not ranked among the top consuming countries worldwide. Further, manufacturers are encouraging frequency of purchase of instant ramen by enhancing the food’s nutritional value through fortification. Noodles fortified with vitamins, calcium, minerals, and ß-carotene in its natural form are growing in demand. In addition to functional product innovation, manufacturers are also focusing on aesthetic innovation in product packaging to drive sales.

As stated by the new market research report on Instant Noodles, Asia-Pacific represents the largest market worldwide. Instant noodles represent a mainstream food category in the region. Buoyed by some of the largest noodle consuming nations in the world, including China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, Asia-Pacific is poised to retain its dominance in the coming years. The Middle East & Africa are forecast to display the fastest CAGR of 7.8 percent over the analysis period. Key factors driving growth in these regions include changing consumer eating habits, a large base of young population, expanding middle class population, increase in the number of dual income nuclear families, and large untapped semi-urban and rural markets.

 

Australian SMEs hold their own in times of consolidation

Size matters – and in business, scale matters. Scale often brings lower overheads and reduces the cost of production, which allows firms to improve their profit margins and expand operations. Although this is often a recipe for success, some businesses tend to flourish with smaller scale operations.

IBISWorld’s business information analysts have identified the top industries in which Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) thrive. IBISWorld defines SMEs as companies that generate annual revenue of between $750,000 and $25.0 million, and employ fewer than 50 staff.

“Dental services, wine production, road freight transport, specialist medical services and restaurants are some of the industries where consolidation and traditional bolt-on acquisitions do not necessarily improve profit margins,” said Andrei Ivanov, IBISWorld senior industry analyst.

Despite the maturity of most of these industries, they are generally characterised by low market share concentration and low to medium barriers to entry. SMEs typically thrive in industries that have low market share concentrations, as this means there are few major players occupying the industry. 

Ownership structure

The wine production industry produces bulk goods and, unlike other similar producers, it remains largely fragmented and SMEs dominate. With anticipated growth spurred by increasing premiumisation and a resurgent taste for Australian wine, SMEs in the wine production industry are tipped to be the main beneficiaries. The core reason for the number of SMEs operating in this industry relates to the ownership structure of wineries.

“Smaller scale wineries are often family owned and operated, with many families unwilling to sell their businesses to larger companies that may be seeking to consolidate operations,” said Ivanov. This trend is common across a number of agricultural industries with a large degree of family ownership.

“In addition, the reputation of local wine brands and varieties is crucial for producers, which further limits the scope for larger firms to consolidate and expand volumes,” said Ivanov.

Outsourcing non-core functions

With limited scale, SMEs often rely on outside support for back-end operations. Since there is little opportunity to spread overhead costs across a range of products, these industries tend to cut these costs by outsourcing non-core business processes.

“Provided this does not undermine the quality of the product or service, outsourcing makes economic sense and reduces the risks of fixed costs blowing out, whereas blue chip companies often have the size and scope to complete these processes in-house,” said Mr Ivanov. “By spending less time on non-core operations, managers can focus more on strategy and growth.”

Services such as accounting, human resources, recruitment and payroll administration are among the most common functions outsourced by SMEs. For example, wine producers may outsource distribution, minimising the need for costly vehicles and transport operators.

High variable costs

For service-based industries, where wages are the dominant expense and tend to be higher than other industries, the cost of additional employees (in terms of profit margins) does not decline with a greater headcount. This trend contrasts with non-service industries, where automated production processes can reduce the costs of additional employees and allow companies to benefit from economies of scale.

 

2015 wine vintage research underway at DAFWA

The capacity of the Department of Agriculture and Food’s winemaking laboratory has been enhanced to facilitate new and increased winemaking research activities.

The wine laboratory at the department’s Bunbury office has been boosted with a new 80kg capacity press.

Department viticulture research officer Richard Fennessy said arrival of the new equipment was timely and provided significant processing efficiencies for the winemaking component of viticulture research activities.

“The department is contributing to two national research projects that require us to make 38 batches of wine from 1 600kg of fruit,” Fennessy said.

“Batch sizes range from 15kg to 50kg. Prior to the arrival of the new press we processed all grapes using a 15kg capacity press. It suited small volumes of fruit but caused bottlenecks when processing larger volumes.

“The new press will reduce the time it takes to process batches larger than 20kg, and increase productivity in the laboratory.”

Grape pressing is expected to be completed by about mid-April.

The department’s wine research activities contribute to nationwide projects on the genomic basis of clonal variation in Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes and assessing clonal variability in Chardonnay and Shiraz for future climate change.

Fennessy said the viticulture team was also making wine for a new project examining the impact of different crop loads on Tempranillo wine quality from fruit grown in Margaret River.

Tempranillo is a Spanish red wine grape variety gaining popularity in Western Australia.

“The aim of the Tempranillo project is to determine whether cropping at 4t/ha, 6t/ha and 10t/ha influences wine character and quality,” he said.

“This project requires just 90kg of fruit to make into wine which, compared to our other projects, is hoped to make for an easy squeeze.”

The one-year Tempranillo project is funded from the Australian Grape and Wine Authority regional program co-ordinated by Wines of WA.

The department is making the wines in collaboration with a viticulture consultancy which is managing the project for Wines of WA.

All wines produced from the department’s 2015 vintage will undergo chemical and sensory analysis by industry experts.

Bottling is expected to occur in August and sensory assessments in November or December to allow the wine time to rest in the bottle before tasting.

Findings from all research will be shared at industry workshops.

 

Could a lab-grown beef burger change the cattle farming industry?

One Dutch scientist says "cultured meat" could spell the end of traditional cattle farming within decades.

Maastricht University Professor Mark Post, who served up the world’s first laboratory-grown beef burger got everyone talking at the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association’s annual conference in Darwin, ABC News reports.

"I do think in 20, 30 years from now we will have a viable industry producing alternative beef and there will be a growing market for it and eventually a really large market," Post said.

Professor Post said traditional meat sources would not be able to satisfy the world's growing demand for protein, and that cattle, in particular were "very inefficient animals in converting vegetable proteins into animal proteins".

"We lose a lot of food by giving it to animals" as part of the production process, he said.

By contrast, it takes just three months to create a lab burger using thousands of muscle fibres grown from stem cells taken from cow muscle.

The process is not cheap, but the costs are falling.

When Professor Post gave the world its first taste of his laboratory grown beef a year-and-a-half ago, he estimated the cost of producing a "cultured" burger was more than a $250,000.

Using economies of scale, he believes beef could now be produced for $80 a kilogram.

So how is meat ‘cultured’?

There are several crucial steps in the development of ‘cultured meat’:

The first step is to extract muscle stem cells from animals, usually cows, pigs or chickens. This project uses stem cells obtained from little pieces of fresh cow muscle for instance obtained through biopsy.

The cells must then multiply, which requires a growth medium. This project uses/experiments with commercially available media, supplemented with calf serum. In the next stage, researchers at the University of Amsterdam work with synthetic mediums or simple and efficient nutrient sources such as algae extracts.

The isolated stem cells must then develop into muscle cells. Because the stem cells are designated muscle precursor cells this process largely happens automatically.

As with natural muscle cells, the cultivated muscle cells ‘bulk up’ into solid muscle fibres/bundles. To do so, they are affixed to a soluble polymeric sugar scaffold and trained by building tension between two anchor points in the bioreactor. This also largerly occurs spontaneously.

As soon as the muscle cells grow in size, it is important that the tissue is continuously supplied with nutrients. For the small, newly formed muscle strands, regularly changing the culture medium suffices. Creating larger slices of meat, however, requires the creation of soluble polymer (sugar chain) duct systems through which a medium can flow, similar to the way blood flows through our veins.

To make the tissue edible, taste and texture must be just right. This should be achieved by recreating the natural consistency of meat (in terms of protein composition, fat tissue, etc.). If this does not produce the desired result, accepted food technology methods are used to improve the taste and texture of the meat.

At the end of this process, the final result is edible muscle tissue that can be ground to create minced meat and, ultimately, a hamburger.

 

Scientists work to improve fish quality, reduce impact on environment

Deakin University and Ridley scientists are on a mission to make fish healthier, tastier and more sustainable, by creating food for farmed fish completely free of any other marine life.

Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences has teamed up with Ridley Corporation to improve the quality of food available to fish in commercial farms, while reducing their impact on the marine world.

Associate Head of School Research Associate Professor Giovanni Turchini said the aquaculture industry must be transformed if humans wanted to continue to eat fish.

“Aquaculture is currently facing many environmental hurdles, with fish stocks around the world dwindling, due to overfishing, climate change and increased environmental pressures,” Turchini said.

“The ultimate goal of the partnership is to create a diet for farmed fish that uses zero ingredients from the ocean, to help the industry reduce its impact on the world around us.

“Through our partnership with Ridley we have a unique and exciting opportunity to create healthier and more nutritious farmed fish that places minimal dependence on the dwindling levels of wild marine life.”

Turchini said the partnership would also help improve the diets of Australians who eat the healthier fish.

“The healthier the fish, the more long chain omega-3 fatty acids they can pass on to humans when we eat them,

“Such omega-3s are known to play a role in combating several diseases and disorders typical of western societies, and are only found in sufficient quantities in fish and seafood.

“This includes new, more efficient and more environmentally sustainable ways to deliver the essential nutrients found in fish.

“This initiative creates an ideal fusion between industry and research, allowing Deakin and Ridley to put our collective heads together and develop practical, sustainable solutions for the benefit of the environment and seafood consumers.

“We have a long road ahead of us, but I’m confident that targeted research can alleviate many of the challenges facing this vibrant and dynamic industry.”

The Deakin-Ridley Aquaculture Research Initiative is a six-year collaborative project, worth $2.4M. The official partnership agreement was signed at a special event in Melbourne today.

Specific projects include nutritional improvements to support fish health and performance during sub-optimal seasonal conditions; predictive modelling of omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in farmed fish products, optimisation of on-farm feeding strategies; development of innovative laboratory-based models to simulate the digestive processes in farmed fish; and, development of a marine-life-free food for fish  produced using 100 per cent Australian ingredients.

 

Technique discovered for healthier, sweeter chocolate

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Ghana have discovered a way to make chocolate more nutritious – and sweeter.

The technique used by the scientists involves roasting the cacao beans at a lower temperature and leaving bean pods unopened for five days rather than split open right away.

Roasting the cocoa beans brings out the flavour, but some of the healthful polyphenols (antioxidants) are lost during the roasting process, so the researchers wanted to figure out a way to retain as much of the polyphenols and flavours as possible.

“We decided to add a pod-storage step before the beans were even fermented to see whether that would have an effect on the polyphenol content,” said Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, Ph.D., University of Ghana.

“This is not traditionally done, and this is what makes our research fundamentally different. It’s also not known how roasting affects polyphenol content.”

Afoakwa’s team divided 300 pods into four groups that were either not stored at all or stored for three, seven or 10 days before processing. This technique is called “pulp preconditioning.” After each storage period passed, fermentation and drying were done as usual. He reports that the seven-day storage resulted in the highest antioxidant activity after roasting.

To assess the effects of roasting, the researchers took samples from each of the storage groups and roasted them at the same temperature for different times. The current process is to roast the beans for 10-20 minutes at 248-266 degrees Fahrenheit. Afoakwa’s team adjusted this to 45 minutes at 242 degrees Fahrenheit and discovered that this slower roasting at a lower temperature increased the antioxidant activity compared to beans roasted with the conventional method.

In addition, the beans that were stored and then roasted for 45 minutes had more polyphenols and higher antioxidant activity than beans whose pods were not stored prior to fermentation. Afoakwa said pulp preconditioning likely allowed the sweet pulp surrounding the beans inside the pod to alter the biochemical and physical constituents of the beans before the fermentation.

“This aided the fermentation processes and enhanced antioxidant capacity of the beans, as well as the flavour,” he said. Afoakwa explained at a press conference that the new technique would be particularly useful for countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America where cocoa beans produce a chocolate with a less intense chocolate flavour and have reduced antioxidant activity.

The team will now study in more detail the effects of roasting on the flavour of freshly picked compared to stored cocoa beans. They will be testing different temperatures and roasting and storing times to determine if even higher amounts of antioxidants can be retained through the process.

A paper describing the research was published in the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development.

 

Seafood processing industry faces turbulent conditions

Seafood processing revenue has been adversely affected by declining seafood production, stagnant prices and increasing import penetration.

According to IBISWorld’s report on the Seafood Processing industry in Australia, the industry has faced turbulent conditions over the past five years. Revenue has been adversely affected by declining seafood production, stagnant prices and increasing import penetration. The industry has also become increasingly dependent on export markets, as domestic prices fall due to mass imports, and high-value export markets open up new opportunities for exporters.

The volume of domestic industry demand has been buoyed by stable seafood consumption, supported by ongoing product innovation, positive media coverage about the benefits of seafood and increasing consumer health awareness. However, according to IBISWorld industry analyst Ryan Lin, “production levels in lower value domestic markets have been affected by overfishing, climatic conditions, disease, increased fuel costs, and reduced quotas and access due to sustainable management policies.”

In the five years through 2014-15, industry revenue is expected to decline at an annualised 1.2 percent to total $1.5 billion.

The future prospects of the industry remain uncertain, as declining production and rising imports continue to threaten domestic sales. Despite these trends, in 2014-15, industry revenue is expected to grow as high exports drive growth. Global demand for high-value Australian seafood (such as rock lobster and abalone) is expected to pick up over the next five years. North America and Europe are forecast to ramp up demand, while neighbouring Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, are expected to develop an appetite for high-value Australian seafood.

“The domestic production of seafood will depend on domestic catches and aquaculture growth, which will be affected by fishery policies, costs of production, climate, disease and technological developments,” Lin said.

The government is expected to continue implementing policies that increase the sustainability of Australian seafood stocks. The policies will reduce seafood catches in the short term, but improve the stock levels and profitability of the Fishing industry over the long term. Aquaculture production is forecast to grow strongly over the next five years. At the same time, export opportunities will continue to provide a strong boost to seafood processing revenue.

The Seafood Processing industry has a low level of market share concentration, and the major players are Tassal Group and Simplot Australia (Holdings) Pty Limited. These players are large vertically integrated organisations that have extensive farming and processing facilities. The rest of the industry largely consists of small-to-medium size processors that do not have the scope of scale to compete evenly with the major players. Over the past decade, major players have increased industry their market share through a series of acquisitions such as Huon Aquaculture and Springfield Fisheries. However, being the large diversified players that they are, they often house a number of other business segments that detract from seafood processing operations. IBISWorld anticipates that this level of concentration is unlikely to change.

 

$22k study grant awarded for fining agents research

Dr Julie Culbert has won the $22,000 Viticulture and Oenology 2015 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture.

Dr Julie Culbert has won the $22,000 Viticulture and Oenology 2015 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, sponsored by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA).

The study grant, one of 11 awarded as part of the Department of Agriculture’s Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, was presented during the ABARES Outlook conference dinner held at the National Convention Centre in Canberra.

Dr Culbert, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Adelaide, will use her prize to employ computational modelling to identify the fining agents (adsorbents) best suited to removing volatile compounds associated with common faults and taints in wine.

Dr Culbert says that the occurrence of faults and taints in wines means that the wine can’t be sold resulting in significant financial losses to Australian wine producers. Her research hopes to determine a more time- and cost-effective way of identifying which adsorbents should be used.

“This project aims to determine the binding interactions between wine components and various adsorbents, thereby improving the selection of adsorbents for specific fining or taint removal applications,” she said. 

“While computational modelling techniques are yet to be explored by the wine sector, they have been commonly used in other fields such as the pharmaceutical industry.

“I’m looking forward to being able to help deliver financial benefits to the Australian wine sector by improving both the efficiency of these processes and the quality of finished wines,” Dr Culbert said.

AGWA’s Research, Development and Extension Portfolio Manager, Liz Waters, attended the presentation and congratulated Dr Culbert on her successful grant application.

“AGWA is delighted to support projects from innovative  young researchers,  like Dr Culbert, that can then be adopted by grape growers and winemakers to help their business be more profitable and sustainable,” Waters said.

“This project’s focus on using a new approach to designing an innovative winemaking tool will further improve the quality of Australian wine.”

Dr Culbert expects to conclude her research in December 2015 and a full report of research outcomes will be available on the AGWA website following completion. The findings will also be disseminated via a conference presentation and publication in peer-reviewed and industry technical journals.

 

Schibello Caffé opens research & development roasting laboratory

Schibello Caffé has launched their new Research & Development Roasting Laboratory in Sydney’s north-west.

Situated in Rhodes next door to the Schibello Caffé headquarters, the facility features a coffee training academy coupled with an on-site espresso bar and a dedicated roasting laboratory.

The roasting laboratory, complete with a boutique roaster, allows Schibello Caffé to perform cupping session and experiment with small batches of new blends. The laboratory will be open for cupping session, and is available for clients who want a coffee blend developed for them.

 “The coffee sector is ever-changing, and very dynamic. Our success over the past 15 years has been due to our adaptive nature, and our understanding that great coffee is about more than just the product – it’s about the experience, the social dynamic, the environment, and the sense of belonging,” says Ross Schinella, CEO of Schibello Caffé. 

 

Global Stevia market registers a robust growth

The global Stevia market is expected to reach US $ 565.2 Million by 2020, due to shifting consumer preference.

According to a Future Market Insights report “Global Stevia Market – Market Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2014 – 2020,” the global stevia market is projected to grow at a single-digit CAGR during the forecast period, accounting for US $ 565.2 Mn by 2020.

Stevia extracts are finding increasing application in soft drinks and juices, ice creams, and various other products. This is attributed to its high-intensity natural sweetness properties. Due to these factors, share of the stevia market is expected to account for around 15 percent of the overall sweetener market by 2020.

The global stevia market is sub-segmented on the basis of the type of liquid, powdered and leaf form. The powdered stevia sub-segment is projected to account for around 65.4 percent share of the total stevia market by 2020, owing to ease of availability and use. The liquid stevia sub-segment, on the other hand, is expected to record a CAGR of around 9.0 percent during the forecast period.

All forms of stevia extracts are extensively used in end-use industries such as dairy, bakery, confectionery, beverages, packaged food, snacks and others.

Increasing introduction of products with stevia-based sweetener ingredients in various end-use industries is expected to bolster growth of the global stevia market by 2020.

Increasing popularity of such products owing to growing modern retail, urbanization, awareness and health concerns and changing preferences of consumers are major factors driving growth of this market.

Apart from the application in the food and beverages industry, introduction of products with stevia-based sweeteners across end-use industries such as bakery and confectionery is expected to bolster growth of the global stevia market by 2020. Furthermore, the global stevia market is driven by the need for effective alternatives for artificial sugar-based products owing to changing consumer lifestyle, increasing product visibility in urban areas and approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for rebaudioside A as an ingredient in food products in European countries.

 

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