Strong demand for seasonal foods

A study has found the majority of consumers consider seasonal food to be tastier, more cost effective and convenient to purchase than non-seasonal food.

The Good Business Sense National Eating Habits Study 2014 involved 800 participants in NSW, VIC, QLD and WA (the sample of which was representative of the age and population distributions in Australia), and also involved input from a number of expert nutritionists, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, and food companies.

Key findings from the Good Business Sense National Eating Habits 2014 study include:

  • 76 percent of Australian shoppers consider seasonal food to be tastier than non-seasonal food
  • 69 percent of Australian shoppers agreed that seasonal foods were more cost effective
  • 55 percent of Australian shoppers thought seasonal foods were more convenient to purchase than non-seasonal food
  • Only 26 percent of Australian shoppers thought that seasonal food was better for the economy
  • 45 percent of Australian shoppers would not pay extra for seasonal food
  • 41 percent of Australian shoppers would pay up to 25 percent more for seasonal food
  • 42 percent of Australian shoppers think there is a suitable range of organic and seasonal food on the current market, 33 percent think there is not enough
  • 33 percent of Australian shoppers do not consider there to be enough seasonal or organic food on the market
  • 62 percent of Australian shoppers believe that markets have a good range of seasonal food, with 54 percent believing that Woolworths and 50 percent for Coles have a good range. Thomas Dux only rated 15 percent and IGA 17 percent
  • Woolworths was the most popular response for stocking a good range of seasonal food amongst the youngest age group 18-20, with 75 percent compared to the overall average of 54 percent
  • 66 percent of Australian shoppers said “no” to the belief that seasonal food needs to be organic to have seasonal benefits, while 34 percent said “yes”
  • Individuals place less emphasis on organically grown seasonal food as their age increases
  • ‘Seasonal food fills 50 percent of my shopping basket’ was found to be the most popular answer among Australian shoppers
  • 79 percent of Australian shoppers prefer seasonal food over non-seasonal food
  • 27 percent of those earning under $27K have no preference for seasonal food
  • The study also measured consumption patterns of pre-packaged foods finding that yoghurt was the most purchased at 70 percent, frozen foods were at 54 percent and instant noodles 39 percent
  • 62 percent of Australian shoppers said that artificial flavours in pre-packaged foods was the top reason for not purchasing them
  • 57 percent of Australian shoppers said nutritional labels were the most attractive packaging feature when buying a product for the first time
  • When it came to food labelling, “Easy to read and understand” got 45 percent of Australian shoppers, 32 percent for “size”, and 32 percent for “recipe ideas”
  • “Texture” of labels and packaging only received 14 percent, while “smell” and “illustrations” were each at 17 percent
  • Comments on packaging and labelling revealed: price, visibility of contents, and the origin of ingredients were attractive features

Good Business Sense founder and Managing Director Anne Roze said, “We found that consumers are not educated enough to understand that seasonal food could be better for the economy and environment. This offers huge potential from an educational perspective, with only around 25% of respondents currently recognising all the benefits of eating seasonably.”


ARC Australian food processing training centre to open today

The ARC training centre for the Australian food processing industry in the 21st Century (ARCFPTC) will be officially launched today,  4 November at the University of Sydney.


The centre is designed to help Australian food manufacturing companies stay globally competitive, and was awarded $3 million in funding over a three year period from the Australian Research Council via its Industrial Transformation Research Program.


Key objectives of the centre are to develop cost effective processes and produce high value products such as nutriceuticals with health benefits for the prevention and treatment of chronic and acute diseases. 


Professor Fariba Dehghani, from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and co-director of the new centre, says that ARCEPTC has been designed to boost the nation’s food technology and manufacturing capacity, and will boost the Australian industry’s capacity to successfully compete in the global market.


"The new centre aims to boost the Australian industry's capacity to compete in a global market, particularly in the production of nutraceuticals for pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, or food ingredients," says Dehghani.


"The centre will design cost-effective and sustainable processes for producing these types of products with a view to minimising waste while enhancing efficiency and reducing energy consumption." 


The centre will provide a multidisciplinary research environment including fourteen researchers across the engineering, agriculture, science and medicine disciplines, together with international collaborators, and ten food and biotechnology industry partners. 


ARC CEO, Professor Aidan Byrne said that the centre will work with Australian businesses to develop more advanced manufacturing techniques in order to reduce costs and increase energy efficiency.


“This particular ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre has an important focus and it covers a key research sector identified in the Australian Government’s recent Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda—food and agribusiness. This centre will educate a new generation of engineers and scientists and foster the capacity of Australian Food industries to further develop advanced technologies in manufacturing and product improvement,” says Byrne.


“Another key objective of this centre is to work with industry partners to develop improved processes for the production of nutraceuticals—such as nutrients and dietary supplements—for the promotion of health and well-being.


“These high-value products have the potential to significantly increase Australian exports in agribusiness.”


The funding of the Centre has been supplemented by its ten industry partners through cash and in-kind contributions.


Partners in the Centre include Agricure Pty Ltd, Lang Technologies Pty Ltd, AB Mauri Technology and Development Pty Ltd, Peanut Company of Australia, Ecopha, Marine Biotechnology Australia Pty Ltd, Batlow Premium Juices, PharmaCare  Laboratories Pty Ltd, Perfection Fresh Australia Pty Ltd and Stahmann Farms Enterprises Pty Ltd.


Top five trends to impact the food industry in 2015

From “From Clean to Clear Label” and “Convenience for Foodies”, here’s the top five trends likely to impact the food industry in 2015 and beyond.

Top food and beverage trends for 2015, as identified by Innova Market Insights:

  1. From Clean to Clear Label. Clean label claims are tracked on nearly a quarter of all food and beverage launches, with manufacturers increasingly highlighting the naturalness and origin of their products. With growing concerns over the lack of a definition of “natural,” however, there is a need for more clarity and specific details. Consumers, retailers, industry and regulators are all driving more transparency in labelling.
  2. Convenience for Foodies. Continued interest in home cooking has been driven by cooking shows on TV and by blogging foodies. It is seen as fashionable, fun and social, as well as healthy and cost-effective. It has driven demand for a greater choice of fresh foods, ingredients for cooking from scratch and a wider use of recipe suggestions by manufacturers and retailers.
  3. Marketing to Millennials. The so-called Millennial generation, generally aged between 15 and 35, now accounts for about one-third of the global population and is tech savvy and socially engaged. They are well informed, want to try something different and are generally less brand loyal than older consumers. They want to connect with products and brands and know the story behind them.
  4. Snacks Rise to the Occasion. Formal mealtimes are continuing to decline in popularity and growing numbers of foods and drinks are now considered to be snacks. Quick healthy foods are tending to replace traditional meal occasions and more snacks are targeted at specific moments of consumption, with different demand influences at different times of day.
  5. Good Fats, Good Carbs. With concerns over obesity there is a growing emphasis on unsaturated and natural fats and oils that has seen rising interest in omega 3 fatty acid content as well as the return of butter to favour as a natural, tasty alternative to artificial margarines that may be high in trans-fats. In the same way, naturally-occurring sugar is being favoured at the expense of added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

“The move from ‘clean’ to ‘clear’ labeling is a key trend for 2015, reflecting a move to clearer and simpler claims and packaging for maximum transparency,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “Meeting the needs of the Millennial consumer has also become a key focus, as has targeting the demands of the gourmet consumer at home, re-engineering the snacks market for today’s lifestyles and combating obesity with a focus on positive nutrition.”


Researchers develop energy-efficient milk processing methods

Researchers at Technische Universität München (TUM) are researching energy-efficient ways to process milk concentrates.

As a key ingredient in everything from infant formula to baked goods and confectionery products, powdered milk is something that is in constant demand in the food manufacturing sector, however the processes used to create it are highly energy intensive.

TUM researchers are currently combining different membrane separation processes which are resulting in a 20 percent reduction of the total amount of energy required to concentrate milk.

Professor Ulrich Kulozik from the TUM Chair of Food Process Engineering and Dairy Technology says that conventional methods of heating and evaporating the dairy products utilise membrane separation processes such as reverse osmosis and nanofiltration, followed by the drying of excess water. Although these methods are effective, drying can account for 50 percent of the entire energy consumption bill.

Kulozik explains that reverse osmosis and nanofiltration work with special membranes that allow water to pass through while retaining almost all constituents in milk and whey. One drawback being that the concentration of dissolved substances such as salt and lactose increases as more water is removed. Proteins also “block up” the membrane, reducing the amount of water being removed.

“As a result, we can only achieve a dry mass of up to 35 percent using reverse osmosis,” says Kulozik. “What we really want is a higher percentage of dry matter as this reduces the amount of water to be removed in subsequent evaporation and drying steps. This would further cut the energy consumed in the initial concentration stage.”

Prof. Kulozik and his team have been able to solve this problem by combining three different membrane separation processes: ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and nanofiltration.

Ultrafiltration removes proteins from the liquid. The dissolved constituents can then be concentrated using reverse osmosis and nanofiltration. Removing the proteins in this way speeds up reverse osmosis and nanofiltration by a factor between two and five. This combination of reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration is 20-percent more energy efficient than reverse osmosis on its own. The proteins and dissolved constituents can be recombined at a later stage in the process chain.

“We were able to show that the right combination of membrane separation technologies can unlock significant efficiency gains in powdered milk and whey production,” adds Kulozik. “Our aim here is to obtain the highest possible concentrations of milk before evaporation and drying.”

Another project that the Tum team are working on includes extending the storage period of milk concentrates.

“We exploring various heating processes for concentrates with a view to extending the shelf-life for milk concentrate so that it becomes an attractive alternative to powder in the future,” says Kulozik.

“One of the main benefits of concentrates is that they are still liquid and so they do not need to be dissolved in water again,” says Prof. Kulozik. “And because there is no drying process involved, they also deliver significant energy and cost savings.”


High protein products in demand, taste preconceptions still an issue, study

A new study from market research company, Canadean has found that while consumers are acknowledging the importance of consuming high protein food, few actually have enough protein in their diets.

A survey conducted in the UK by Canadean revealed that 81 percent of consumers were aware of the importance of consuming enough protein, however only 44 percent have the correct daily allowance. Furthermore only 16 percent of consumers said that they actively sort out food and beverage products that are high in protein.

44 percent of respondents said that they purchased high protein products to “improve general wellbeing” and 37 percent “to increase strength”. Canadean say that these general answers reflect that there is still some unawareness surrounding the specific benefits of protein such as increased bone density and muscle retention.

The research also revealed that the 25-34 age segment are most likely to try and include more protein in their diet, and that consumers over 55 were the least likely. Lead analyst at Canadean, Michael Hughes says that this provides a prime opportunity for manufacturers to educate senior citizens better about the health benefits of protein. However Hughes also cautioned that manufacturers will need to overcome a number of negative preconceptions related to the taste of high protein products.

Canadean’s data shows that 52 percent of consumers are sceptical of indulgent products such as ice cream with high-protein claims on the packaging.

“While protein currently has a 'health halo' surrounding it, more needs to be done to encourage consumers to purchase products high in the ingredient,” says Hughes. “Manufacturers need to target specific demographic groups – and in particular senior citizens – by educating consumers about the specific health benefits associated with protein and how it can improve their lifestyle.”


Price of food and non-alcoholic beverages grows

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed that over the September quarter, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages has risen by 1.2 percent.

The ABS released the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures quarterly changes in the price of a ‘basket’ of goods and services.

Out of the 11 groups measured, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group experienced the most growth.

The CPI said the main contributor to the rise in the group for the September quarter 2014 was fruit (+14.7 percent). The rise was partially offset by a fall in bread (-3.0 percent).

Over the twelve months to the September quarter 2014, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group rose 3.5 percent. The main contributors to the rise were fruit (+19.2 percent), vegetables (+10.0 percent), restaurant meals (+2.2 percent) and takeaway and fast foods (+1.9 percent). The rise was partially offset by a fall in breakfast cereals (-6.0 percent).

In seasonally adjusted terms, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group rose 0.9 percent in the September quarter 2014. The main contributor to the rise was fruit (+9.3 percent).


Sugary beverage consumption linked to memory problems, US study

A study conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) has found links between the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and brain inflammation in adolescent rats.

Researchers found that the rats were at “an increased risk” of suffering negative health effects after the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Rats that freely consumed large quantities of liquid solutions containing either sugar or high fructose corn syrup (at concentrations comparable to those found in sugar-sweetened beverages available in the marketplace) experienced memory problems, brain inflammation and became pre-diabetic.

The study found that while adolescent rats experienced negative health effects, adult rats fed the same solutions did not display the same effects.

“The brain is especially vulnerable to dietary influences during critical periods of development, like adolescence,” said Scott Kanoski corresponding author of the study and assistant professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Kanoski said that the rats were tested in mazes that probe their spatial memory ability. Adolescent rats that had consumed the sugary beverages – particularly high-fructose corn syrup – performed worse on the test than any other group. Kanoski says that this may be the result of the neuroinflammation detected in the hippocampus – part of the temporal lobe located deep within the brain that controls memory function.

“Consuming a diet high in added sugars not only can lead to weight gain and metabolic disturbances, but can also negatively impact our neural functioning and cognitive ability,” said Kanoski

The study was published online by the journal Hippocampus and was funded by USC institutional support.


Global snack food sales exceed $370 billion, Nielsen

According to a new report from market research company Nielsen, consumers across the globe spent around US$374 billion on snack foods between 2013 and 2014, representing a two percent increase year-over-year.

The report states that Europe at US$167 billion, and North America at $124 billion, make up for the majority of snack food sales worldwide, however the Asia-Pacific ($46 billion) and Latin American ($30 billion) have experienced fast growth at an increase of four percent and nine percent respectively. The Middle East and Africa has also experienced a five percent increase to represent $7 billion.

Executive vice president, global professional services, Nielsen, Susan Dunn, says that while the competitive landscape of the snacking industry is ‘fierce’, there are still plenty of opportunities for food manufacturers to innovate.

“Demand is driven primarily by taste and health considerations and consumers are not willing to compromise on either. The right balance is ultimately decided by the consumer at the point of purchase. Understanding the 'why before the buy' provides the foresight necessary to deliver the right product to the right consumer at the right time.”

The research found that consumers are demanding snacks that contain natural ingredients, with 45 percent of respondents rating natural ingredients as ‘very important’ and 33 percent rating them as ‘moderately important’. These two figures represent the highest percentages out of the 20 health attributes included in the study.

The absence of artificial colours (44 percent), genetically modified organisms (43 percent) and artificial flavours (42 percent) are also rated very important. Caffeine-free (23 percent) and gluten-free (19 percent) snacks are also rated as very important for about one-fourth and one-fifth of global respondents, respectively.

In terms of the fastest growing snack categories, the research points towards sales of savoury snacks, including crackers, rice cakes and pita chips, which increased 21 percent in the last year in Latin America. Meat snacks, which include jerky and dried meat, grew 25 percent in the Middle East/Africa and 15 percent in North America. Refrigerated snacks, which include yogurt, cheese snacks and pudding, rose 6.4 percent in Asia-Pacific, while dips and spreads, which include salsa and hummus, increased 6.8 percent in Europe.

“Non-sugary snacks closely aligned with meal-replacement foods are showing strong growth, which signals a shift in a consumer mindset to one focused on health,” said Dunn. “While conventional cookies, cakes and confections categories still hold the majority of snack sales, more innovation in the healthy snacking and portable food space is necessary to adjust to this changing dynamic.”

More than three-quarters of global respondents (76 perent) say that they eat snacks often, or sometimes to satisfy their hunger between meals or to satisfy a craving. 45 percent of global respondents consume snacks as a meal alternative—52 percent for breakfast, 43 percent for lunch and 40 percent for dinner.

“There is a perception that snacks are intended more for in-between meals than for actual meal replacements,” said Dunn. “But busy, on-the-go lifestyles often dictate a need for quick meals, and many opt for fast food options that can be high in calories and low in health benefits. There is a massive untapped opportunity to gain market share in the nutritious, portable and easy-to-eat meal alternative market that snack manufacturers could fill.”

Despite strong growth in the savoury category, confectionery comprises the biggest sales contribution to the overall snack category in Europe ($46.5 billion) and the Middle East/Africa ($1.9 billion). Salty snacks contribute more than one-fifth of snack sales in North America ($27.7 billion), refrigerated snacks comprise almost one-third of snacks in Asia-Pacific ($13.7 billion), and cookies and snack cakes make up more than one-fourth of total snacks in Latin America ($8.6 billion).

The Nielsen Global Survey of Snacking was conducted between 17 February and 7 March, 2014, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.


Dairy demand set to overtake supply [VIDEO]

The seventh Tetra Pak Dairy Index indicates global dairy demand will rise by 36% by 2024, overtaking the available supply.

The report highlights the opportunities and challenges posed by rising global demand. The company said producers in both developed and emerging dairy markets need to address the careful balancing act required to ensure sustainable business success.​

Tetra Pak's Dairy Index reveals that the predicted surge in global demand for milk will largely be due to population growth, rising prosperity and urbanisation in Africa, Asia and Latin America. However, milk supply and demand is imbalanced across the world – rising demand in emerging dairy markets is unlikely to be fulfilled by locally produced raw milk, while developed dairy markets producing a milk surplus face the challenges of competing for the export and responding to falling domestic consumption.

Dennis Jönsson, president and CEO of Tetra Pak Group said, “The predicted surge in global demand offers a huge opportunity for dairy companies in developed markets to export powder and ambient liquid dairy products to growing economies. However, to ensure long-term success, these producers need to balance the 'quick wins' of export against the requirement to continue to grow their domestic markets.

“Meanwhile, dairy companies in import markets must overcome the challenge of securing a sustainable, high quality milk supply while keeping pace with growing demand.

“Markets such as China and Saudi Arabia are doing so in multiple ways: increasing investment in domestic dairy farming, partnering with well-established foreign companies, and diversifying their offer with value-added products.

“Fundamentally, these are measures that will help to achieve the vital balancing act of shoring up the future of a sustainable dairy industry."


Above: Tetra Pak's video on the Dairy Index 7


State of the Industry report released

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has released its annual State of the Industry Report, shedding light on key issues such as industry turnover, employment and international trade.

This is the sixth edition of the State of the Industry Report, which provides a comprehensive report of the food and beverage manufacturing industry’s turnover, employment, international trade, capital expenditure and research and development.

It uses data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics as its primary source, and where data from 2013-14 isn’t available, findings from 2012-13 are used.

The Report found that the Australian food and beverage, grocery manufacturing and fresh produce industry had a total turnover of $114 billion in the 2012-13 financial year. Food and beverage processing contributed $91.6 billion, grocery $16.2 billion and fresh produce $6.2 billion.

Meat and meat product manufacturing continues to comprise the largest share of the total sector turnover, at 24.6 percent, despite contracting slightly (0.7 percent in 2012-13). Dairy product manufacturing was the second largest at 14.7 percent, increasing 9.1 percent. Seafood processing comprises the smallest share of the total sector turnover (1.2 percent), with a decline of 4.2 percent.

The fresh produce sector recorded a turnover of approximately $6.2 billion in 2012-13, representing an increase of 12.3 percent on the previous year. The vegetables category and the tropical and other fruits category, which includes nuts, bananas and berries, contributed the most to the growth, increasing by 10.6 and 22.5 percent respectively, due to recovery from adverse weather conditions.

The food and beverage, grocery manufacturing and fresh produce industry represents 28.9 percent of the total Australian manufacturing industry by turnover.

Employment decreased slightly, down 2,571 or 0.9 percent from the previous financial year. In 2013-14, the industry employed approximately 299,731 people, down from 302,302 in 2012-13.

In regards to the number of businesses in the industry, in the 2013-14 financial year there was an estimated 27,469 businesses, 183 fewer than in 2012-13. The vast majority of these businesses were in the fresh produce sector (18,609 businesses), while grocery manufacturing has 1,353 businesses and food and beverage manufacturing has 7,507 businesses.

“Turnover is up slightly but job numbers are down. This is a microcosm of the broader economy – growth is below trend and unemployment is creeping higher,” said Terry O’Brien, chairman of the AFGC in the Report’s foreword.

“In the food and grocery sector, the juxtaposition of growth and declining employment reflects the reality of companies automating to reduce labour costs and drive higher efficiency and productivity.”

In 2013-14, Australia’s total international trade (exports plus imports) increased by 7.3 percent to $55.9 billion.

The real value of industry imports increased by 6.1 percent, while industry exports increased by 8.6 percent (from a smaller base). This resulted in a contraction of 20.9 percent in overall trade deficit to $1.8 billion in 2013-14, with total imports in 2013-14 valued at $28.8 billion, and exports valued at $27 billion.

In 2012-13, food and beverage, grocery and fresh produce exports accounted for 21.3 percent of total industry turnover. During this period, 86.8 percent of all fresh produce grown in Australia went to the domestic market.

The Report quotes the weakening of the Australian dollar and growing global demand, particularly in processed meat, seafood and cheese and other dairy (exports grew by 24.5, 23.1 and 19 percent respectively), as the key drivers for strong export growth.

Australia’s top 10 trading partners for the industry remained the same in 2013-14 as in the previous year, with the US our largest overall trading partner and also surpassing Japan as Australia’s largest export market. Japan imported 21 percent of Australia’s meat products and dairy products in 2012-13. The US was the largest importer of wine and other alcoholic beverage products from Australia in the same year.

The US and New Zealand were the top two supplier countries for imports into Australia. Imports of fresh produce from New Zealand grew by approximately 60 percent from 2012-13.

The 2013-14 fresh produce figures indicate there has been a 23 percent increase in imports of fresh produce.

Capital expenditure and R&D
According to the State of the Industry Report, the food machinery manufacturing industry provides a proxy for the level of capital expenditure by the food and beverage industry.

It is estimated that the food processing machinery manufacturing industry revenue grew from $965 million in 2007-08 to $1.09 billion in 2012-13, a compound annual growth rate of 2.4 percent. However, the industry has been subject to fluctuations over time. For example, growth of 6.4 percent in 2010-11 followed revenue declines of 0.2 and 2.6 percent in 2007-08 and 2008-09 respectively when the global recession took its toll on demand for machinery and equipment.

Revenue is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 0.6 percent over the five years through 2017-18 to a total of $1.12 billion. The forecast growth rate is based on observed trends such as increasing technological advancement, higher automation, downstream price increases, economic recovery over the next five years, introduction of new products and consolidation required in the industry to make new technological investments economically viable.

Capital investment in the food, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing industry flat lined at $3.1 billion in 2012-13 increasing only by 0.3 percent from 2011-12.

In 2011-12 the total amount spent in the food and beverage sector on research and experimental development was $541.8 million, an increase of 5.4 percent. The sub-sector with the largest expenditure on R&D was the dairy product manufacturing sector ($109.3 million), followed by meat and meat product manufacturing with $95.9 million. Significant growth was recorded in the sugar and confectionery manufacturing segment where estimated R&D expenditure rose by 56.1 percent from $26.7 million to $41.6 million, while most other segments recorded a decline over the same period.

Food supply management centre to be established

The University of Sydney will partner with brands including Coca-Cola Amatil and SunRice to establish a research centre focusing on maintaining a sustainable food supply to our domestic and export markets.

The Training Centre for Food and Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation will operate in cooperation with the University of Newcastle, the CSIRO, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the NSW Department of Primary Industry, and industry partners will include Coca-Cola Amatil, SunRice, the Batlow Fruit Co-operative and Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing.

The University of Sydney Business School’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies is establishing the centre, and its chief investigator, Associate Professor Behnam Fahimnia, said a cost effective supply chain is essential if the food industry is to become more sustainable and competitive on the world stage.

“The key to survival is logistics excellence with a focus on the delivery of products to the right customer at the right time,” Fahimnia said. “One of the big challenges is size. Coca Cola Amatil, for example, has 35 production lines, 14 primary distribution centres and over 125,000 delivery points.”

“The rice industry generates a large volume of waste products in the form of rice hulls which are either buried or burnt,” he said. “This waste could be converted into energy in the form of electricity.”

Fahimnia is now looking for three PhD students to join the centre and work on supply chain design and management projects in close collaboration Coco-Cola Amatil and SunRice.

The Training Centre for Food and Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation is being funded with a substantial grant from the Australian Research Council.


Premium private label beverages on the rise

A new report from Canadean has found that premium private label beverage products are continuing to gain momentum across Western Europe.

The report states that private label soft drinks and beverages are seeing notable success in the Western European premium market, with ready-to-drink iced coffee drinks forecast to grow by eight percent in 2014.

“Ready-to-drink coffees were traditionally considered to be premium and therefore private labels used to struggle to achieve the same sales numbers as branded products. This is largely due to the image that private label products are of lower quality which made it difficult to attract consumers who would be willing to try the drinks,” says Micheal Wiggins, analyst at Canadean.

To address these negative consumer perceptions, Wiggins says that up-scaled product offerings together with higher pricing has proven to be a successful strategy.

"Consumers expect private label drinks ranges to be lower in quality because of the low price point. However, once the price and packaging of private label ranges are up-scaled, consumers feel that the quality gap between branded and private label products decreases. The appeal of entering the premium market to retailers is undeniable, given the higher profit opportunities these products offer,” he says.

Over the longer term, Wiggins says that it will be interesting to see the effects of these trends on private labels as a whole.

“On the one hand this will allow private label producers to gain a larger price advantage, but, on the other hand, it may be harder to achieve that initial push in convincing consumers of the product’s quality.”


QLD taps into a caffeine-free coffee bean

Scientists believe by sequencing the genome of the coffee, it will be possible to breed new strains of coffee based on flavour, aroma and caffeine content.

The discovery could see a caffeine-free coffee bean produced, which would provide a pure, less-processed product to the 12 percent of coffee drinkers who choose decaf.

Professor Robert Henry, at UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), said this was one outcome of an international research effort analysing the coffee genome.

“It should soon be possible to select and grow coffee with a pre-determined level of caffeine – ranging from zero-caf to jumpstart,” he said.

“Helping Queensland producers to grow export-quality coffee destined for high-value niche markets is our ultimate goal.”

QAAFI, which pursues scientific methods to add value to Queensland produce, is also working with flavour scientists and industry partners to unpick the genomic component of premium coffee.

Australia produces a small fraction of the 7.8 million tonne global coffee market, exporting less than 1000 tonnes a year.

“Potentially, Queensland could develop a multi-million-dollar market for high-quality, premium coffees, ranging from full strength to decaffeinated,” Professor Henry said.

QAAFI flavour scientist Dr Heather Smyth said traditional methods of minimising caffeine often led to flavour loss.

 “Understanding the origin of caffeine in coffee means that potentially we can develop varieties with low or no caffeine,” she said.

“If the decaffeinating process could be avoided, the beans would retain the full coffee flavour.”


Cancer warnings on alcohol labels – would it work?

Curtin university researchers have found the development of cancer warning labels for alcoholic beverages would be accepted by the Australian community, and have recommended their application.

Professor Simone Pettigrew from Curtin’s School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, said there is growing evidence that alcohol contributes to the risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, liver disease, foetal abnormalities, cognitive impairment and mental health problems.

“Many people are not aware of the alcohol-cancer link so we developed a series of cancer warning statements for alcohol and tested them for their believability, ability to convince, and perceived relevance across a national sample of more than 2,000 drinkers,” Pettigrew said.

“Encouragingly, even heavy drinkers reportedly found the messages to be believable and were more likely than lighter drinkers to consider the messages personally relevant.”

The statement ‘Alcohol increases your risk of bowel cancer’ was most effective in getting people to consider their drinking habits.

“Following the success of warning labels on tobacco products, we are encouraged by the increased support for similar warnings to be placed on alcoholic beverages,” Pettigrew said.

Alcohol harm costs Australia $30 billion annually and despite the demonstrated links between alcohol consumption and ill health, alcohol continues to be heavily advertised.

As warning labels on alcoholic beverages are now mandatory in a growing number of countries, researchers hope these findings will help guide government policy on mandatory warnings.

For the full research article, click here.


Safety concerns for nanomaterials in food packaging

The safety of food packaging containing nanomaterials is being called into question, with Friends of the Earth calling for more stringent regulations.

Nanomaterials are used in packaging to extend the shelf life of food, reduce microbes, and act as indicators for when food goes bad, however Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) believes there are currently no products in the market boasting this sort of packaging.

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Jeremy Tager, believes nanomaterials used in packaging can leach into food and potentially harm consumers, the SMH reports, and he’s calling for a more proactive approach to packaging regulation in Australia.

"There is a profound anti-regulatory approach. In Australia, we don't think about regulation until somebody starts falling over and dying, and that's unacceptable in terms of food safety,” he said.

"We want FSANZ to take a more proactive role in regulating nanomaterials in packaging and food, which is to operate on the basis that food must be assured safe before it's put on the market. That's the basic start."

Tager referred to a study which found that 80 percent of food and packaging companies surveyed by FSANZ said packaging rules were "inadequate", "minimalistic at best" and "largely irrelevant", and that the food and beverage manufacturing industry the food industry acknowledged the "lack of legislative requirements regarding the safety of unknown, new and emerging packaging materials.”

FSANZ said it is aware of concerns about chemical migration and has launched a review of existing legislation, while also monitoring and conducting its own research into nanomaterials.


Best to ignore salt claims from studies using unsavoury data

This week, the New England Journal of Medicine published three papers about the effects of salt consumption on health. Their apparently contradictory findings have served to further fuel an unwarranted debate about the harms, or otherwise, of excessive dietary salt.

One of the papers was from the Gates Foundation-funded Global Burden of Disease program, while the other two derived from the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological, or PURE, study – a multi-country research project that included about 100,000 people around the world.

Both involved large data sets but one suggested serious adverse consequences from salt consumption while the other claimed the opposite.

The toll of salt

The headline finding by the Global Burden of Disease researchers was that excess salt consumption is causing 1.65 million premature deaths each year. That would be accompanied by at least as many non-fatal strokes and heart attacks.

This is the shocking toll from a product shaken onto food by unwitting consumers, and poured into the food supply by an industry intent on filling its coffers.

The PURE study reported anticipated effects of salt on blood pressure and showed a clear adverse effect of high salt intake on health.

But the authors also reported that moderate levels of salt intake, which they set at well above current World Health Organisation goals, were harmful. They suggested current targets for salt are too low and may cause heart disease and stroke.

This last set of conclusions is almost certainly flawed.

Confusing data

The large numbers and many countries included in PURE are impressive but the data weren’t collected with the intent of working out the effects of salt on ill health.

The study’s measure of salt intake was poor and its design is the wrong one for answering this type of question. The PURE researchers have pushed their data beyond its limits and the whole thing has become decidedly impure.

For exactly these same reasons, prior studies of the same type as PURE have variously concluded that salt causes disease, that salt protects against disease, and that salt has either beneficial or adverse effects on disease.

Clearly, this type of cohort study is incredibly prone to confounding and can easily get the wrong answer.

Consider this, for instance: many people who deliberately eat a low-salt diet have often switched down from a high-salt diet because they developed a health problem. The confusion this causes makes it look as if eating less salt is causing the problem, when it’s actually exactly the opposite.

This issue of “reverse causation” is very well known from the obesity, alcohol, and blood pressure fields and is notoriously hard to deal with. Even if you do complex analyses to try and control for it. Indeed, the research literature is littered with examples where these types of studies got the wrong answer.

Getting disproportionate attention

The problem is that a large piece of research like the PURE study gets a lot of coverage because it’s big and especially because it questions established wisdom. But big and confounded doesn’t add anything useful.

There have been other recent unusual claims about salt. It was suggested at the World Congress of Cardiology in Melbourne earlier this year, for instance, that normal salt consumption for humans is about ten grams a day – but a diet without added salt provides only about a gram of salt a day.

Current salt consumption is ten grams a day principally because this is how much salt consumers and industry add to the food supply. The same argument applied to tobacco would conclude that it’s normal for 1.3 billion people in the world to smoke.

It’s also been claimed that because salt is required to generate the “action potential” (the way nerves work), the very high levels of salt consumption observed in society today are somehow required. But there’s no evidence the nervous system requires high levels of dietary salt consumption. Indeed, the nervous system of populations consuming much lower levels of salt work perfectly normally.

Policy based on evidence

We’re now in the unfortunate situation where the debate around salt has become such a good way of interesting the media, and such a good way of promoting careers, that the quality of the data used in it is being forgotten. This is bad for science and bad for population health.

As always, the best approximation of truth comes from a systematic, objective and balanced overview of all the applicable data. The World Health Organization takes this type of approach, and recently recommended salt reduction as part of its non-communicable disease prevention program. It left the maximum recommended salt intake level at five grams a day.

These new data from PURE provide no reasons to change this recommendation. And the Global Burden of Disease data highlight the need for governments and the food industry to redouble their efforts to get more salt out of our diets.

Any suggestion that national or international guidelines should be change on the basis of the PURE data is absolutely contrary to global best practice. It’s universally accepted that guidelines should be based on the best unconfounded evidence, in particular, overviews of randomised trials.

Randomised trials of salt reduction show clear benefits on blood pressure, the leading cause of premature death in the world. This is the best evidence we have to date and it’s the evidence that should drive health policy.

The Conversation

Bruce Neal receives funding for research on salt from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and is the Chair of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health.

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


Aldi could catch up to duopoly: USB

Aldi could almost double sales in five years, putting pressure on Coles and Woolworths, according to a report from investment bank UBS.

The report suggests that is Aldi fixes problems such as lengthy checkout queues – caused by the number of customers – out-of-stock items and the quality of its fresh food, sales could reach $13 billion.

The research is based on Aldi’s progress over the last few years and the shopping habits of more than 600 individual consumers.

Aldi could increase sales from $5.3 billion now to $9.3 billion by 2019 by opening new stores along the east coast, attracting more customers to existing stores and expanding into Western Australia and South Australia, which it plans to do by 2016, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“Aldi’s entrance into Australia has been an overwhelming success,” said UBS analyst Ben Gilbert.

Gilbert said the privately owned German chain could grow sales by at least 12 per cent a year over the next five years and have as big an impact on the Australian grocery market as ­discounters have had in the UK.

UBS estimates Aldi will take between $250 million and $350 million of annual sales from each of Woolworths, Coles and Metcash over the next five years. This will crimp same-store sales growth at the major chains by between 1.1 percent a year (Woolworths) to 1.8 percent a year (Metcash).

Gilbert said Aldi’s impact on the market would be even greater if it improved customers’ perceptions, which have deteriorated since a ­consumer survey by UBS in 2010.

The survey found that 52 per cent, or one in two shoppers, in areas where Aldi has stores have visited it over the past month.

The chain, which initially appealed to poorer consumers with a limited range of house-brand groceries and a low-price strategy, is now attracting wealthier consumers and young ­families with children, who have higher expectations.

“Aldi’s [perception] scores have ­actually declined regarding the quality of fresh foods, always in stock and fast and efficient checkouts,” Gilbert said. “These are three areas the majors, Coles and Woolworths, have invested money in because they see it as a key opportunity to differentiate.

“So there’s a big opportunity for Aldi to improve perception of fresh foods, improve checkout queue times and improve the in-stock position to drive more frequency of shop and higher spend in store.”

The UBS survey found shoppers who rated Aldi poorly spent $580 a year, those who rated them well spent $820 a year and those who rated them great spent $1900.

Asked to respond to the report, Aldi’s joint group managing director, Stefan Kopp, said UBS’s market share, sales and store numbers were “pretty much in the ball park”.

“Nine billion [dollars in sales] is achievable and slightly optimistic. I wouldn’t go beyond that,” he said. “We have 350 stores and we plan to open 25 a year for the next years. Most of those new stores will be fill-in stores and they’ll take some sales away from existing stores.”


ACCC approves oyster spat levy

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has granted interim authorisation for Australian Seafood Industries (ASI) to collect a levy, in conjunction with hatcheries, on the purchase of Pacific oyster spat.

The levy will enable ASI to undertake research into developing spat with resistance to the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS), which has a 90-100 per cent mortality rate in infected Pacific oysters.

The levy will be collected from oyster growers who purchase Pacific oyster spat from hatcheries and will commence at $2.80 per 1000 spat, indexed annually by CPI. ASI seeks authorisation to collect the levy for a period of up to ten years.

"An industry-wide levy is likely to be an efficient way to fund important research that seeks to protect Australian oyster growers from the potentially devastating impact of POMS," ACCC Commissioner Dr Jill Walker said.

“Interim authorisation allows ASI to introduce the levy and commence its research and development activities, while the ACCC considers the request for authorisation.”

Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.


A2 milk pilot study finds digestive benefits

A pilot study conducted by Curtin University has found that subjects on a diet of A2 milk reported less bloating and abdominal pain than those consuming A1 milk.

The study, which was funded by the A2 Milk Company, represents the first human trail conducted of its kind and the findings have been published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ABC News reports.

The popularity of A2 milk has been increasing rapidly over the last number of years due to reports that the A2 beta-casein protein is easier to digest than A1 – a view that has often been shunned as scientifically unfounded.

Curtin University recruited 41 people for the eight week study. The participants were instructed not to consume dairy for two weeks, followed by two weeks of either A1 or A2 beta-casein milk. This process was reversed and repeated over the eight week period.

Associate Professor Sebely Pal of the School of Public Health at Curtin University said that those on a diet of A2 milk reported less abdominal pain and firmer stools than those consuming A1.  

"The results show there is a difference in gastrointestinal responses in some adults consuming the A1 versus A2 beta-casein type," said Pal.

"The logical next step is to source further funding for more scaled human studies to further understand the digestion differences."

Dairy Australia has chosen not to comment on the findings of the pilot study, and dairy analysts have said that they will not come to any conclusions until a larger, long-term study has been completed.


Wine producers must embrace changing consumer landscape, Rabobank

According to a new report released by Rabobank, wine companies will need to adapt their strategies to suit the needs of new markets and consumers.

The report, Rabobank Wine Quarterly Q3: Adapting to a changing consumer landscape, states that the key to both drawing in new customers and remaining relevant to new generations of wine drinkers is to develop a consumer-centric strategy.

One of the most important developments in today’s wine market is a shift in the consumer base, in both geographic and in demographic terms.” explained Rabobank analyst Elena Saputo. “In non-traditional wine drinking countries, millennials are drinking more wine than any of the previous generations did at their age, while in traditional wine drinking countries, they are drinking less but better wine.”

Rabobank says that the need to adapt to an evolving global consumer landscape is presenting wine companies with a number of strategic challenges particularly in relation to the marketing of the products. Rather than ‘diluting’ well-established brands to appeal to consumers of the future, Rabobank say that progressive companies have developed new brands with a fresh look and feel that fit with the needs and preferences of the new consumers.

“As mainstream wine demand is shifting, a more attuned, bolder and progressive approach is necessary for global wine companies to win market share and pricing power in an increasingly complex and dynamic global market landscape,” the report states.

In terms of international supply of wine, exports in Europe fell for the major producers in the first four months of 2014, despite countries such as Spain seeing a 17 percent increase in volumes. In the Northern Hemisphere, US exports grew 3.2 percent by volume and 1.9 percent by value.

In the Southern Hemisphere, there were contrasting shifts in export volumes in countries such as New Zealand and Chile, who recorded a 25.3 percent rise and 8.9 percent decline in volumes respectively.