5 things to consider when investing in growth

In the current environment, finding additional capital to fund growth can be challenging.

In a recent Grant Thornton global study, 53 percent of Australian food and beverage executives highlighted the need for additional capital to fund growth. We acknowledge this can be challenging in the current environment and have highlighted five key considerations when seeking to finance growth. 

Agility requires investment

Product innovation and flexible supply chains are key to unlocking growth potential. Securing funding for these areas should be top priority in any financing strategy.

Investing in agility minimises exposure to the pressures of the retail supermarket and opens up new potential revenue streams. Australian businesses are heavily exposed to retailers and are vulnerable to changes in the supermarkets' strategies. The agility of the business to adapt quickly to these changes often determines the success or failure of their product.

The real growth starts with food and beverage producers that reduce their reliance on supermarkets through product innovation and securing new channels to market. 

While product innovation is occurring in certain areas such as healthy eating products, Australian businesses could do more. Our global survey indicates that Australian F&B businesses spend just under 1 percent of sales on research and development compared to their North America counterparts who spend double that amount. 

A changing funding landscape

Pricing within the banking sector has remained relatively stable, creating growth opportunities. We're seeing many F&B companies typically sign up to short term debt cycles with an average of three year terms. This limits the ability to capitalise on new market opportunities, which often require funding well beyond this timeframe. 

More non-bank lenders are entering the market, with hedge funds, credit funds, specialist agriculture funds and private equity looking to put capital to work. 

Non-bank lenders tend to offer longer-term non-amortising fixed rate debt with tenors as long as six to 10 years. This type of debt can be attractive as it eases pressure on working capital and allows cash to be reinvested towards growth rather than making amortisation payments. There is, however, a trade-off as additional premium is payable for the increased flexibility. 

We recently assisted a client source debt funding from an alternative capital source to make an acquisition which resulted in a significant uplift in its competitive market position and ultimately earnings profile. Whilst these funds come at a premium to traditional debt, it was significantly cheaper than the cost of missing this opportunity to create a step change in their business.

A joint venture is another alternative growth strategy allowing growth without having to borrow additional funds. Australian F&B businesses can benefit from entering into joint venture partnerships to grow their distribution and customer networks, whilst simultaneously sharing the risks with other joint venture partners.

Private equity looking to deploy capital

Our M&A research on activity in the Australian F&B sector revealed that whilst private equity buyers only participated in a relatively small proportion (14 percent) of total F&B deals in the period 1 January 2011 to 30 June 2014, they were much more prevalent in the larger deals.

One of the largest transactions in this sector was Bright Foods Group's acquisition of a 75 percent stake in food distribution company Food Holdings Pty Ltd from CHAMP Private Equity for A$516 million. 

PE firms currently have significant un-invested capital to deploy and are therefore competing with trade for attractive assets. 

The return of the IPO

Our study also highlights a total of 90 new companies listed on the ASX over the 18 months to 30 June 2014, compared with 100 in the preceding 18 month period. However total value of funds raised in this period was more than a five times greater than the preceding period. Not only that, but the total amount raised from new listings on the ASX in the financial year 2014 was higher than in the boom years immediately preceding the GFC; a very encouraging sign of improving market conditions.

Australia had only one significant F&B listing throughout the observed period being that of Bega Cheese Limited with a total offer size of $35 million. The company has since been trading at a premium to its offer price. 

There were three other significant IPOs for F&B businesses in 2014 with the most significant raising being Huon Aquaculture (Salmon) raising $133 million. Bellamy's Australia (infant formulas) raised $25 million and Australian Dairy Farms Group (fresh milk) raised a further $9 million. All of these companies have good exposure to the Australian majors and perhaps more interestingly have strong growth prospects through export into the Asian markets.

What is the tax impact?

Whatever the form of funding obtained there will be tax implications to be considered. Australia has recently tightened its thin capitalisation provisions restricting the level of debt foreign controlled or Australian outbound entities are able to have in Australia.  The safe harbour ratio has been reduced from 75 percent to 60 percent of relevant assets, with interest deductions denied in respect of excess debt.

There are a multitude of other tax issues to consider in the context of debt funding, such as whether the relevant financial arrangements are considered "debt", which attracts interest deductions, as opposed to "equity".  Similarly withholding taxes and gross up clauses will become highly relevant for a non-resident lender. Foreign currency denominated loans will also give rise to potential assessable/deductible FX gains or losses.

In the context of IPO's or other share placements, the deductibility or otherwise of capital raising costs can cause issues, as with the recovery of input tax credits on such costs.  It is also necessary to consider the impact of share issues on the availability of any tax losses purportedly carried forward in any corporate entity.

Unlocking growth potential

When prioritising projects the best place to start is investing in agility and product innovation which could open up new revenue streams. Consider the alternative funding sources available and the tax implications thereof. Now is a good time for savvy food and beverage companies to capitalise on growth through alternative funding options available amidst the changing landscape. 

Tony Pititto is partner and national head of food and beverage at Grant Thornton Australia.


Small business to catch a break in tonight’s Budget

Tonight’s budget will announce a package set to help small business to invest, grow and employ more.

In a joint release, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson praised small business as “the engine room of our economy”, whose “innovative and entrepreneurial spirit will drive Australia’s economic future.”

The Government’s Jobs and Small Business package will allow new start-ups, as of July 2016, to be able to immediately deduct professional costs associated with starting a business rather than writing them off over five years.

“Many people need the advice of lawyers and accountants when they start a business. This can be expensive and drag on cash flow. Allowing these costs to be deducted immediately will allow more money to be invested in growing the new business,” Hockey said.

The “fragmented and complex process” of registering a business will also be streamlined with a single online registration site.

Small business owners will also be able to change the legal structure of their business without incurring a CGT liability. This is aimed at reducing some of the complexity of starting a new business and providing business owners with more flexibility to determine how they grow.

Accessing capital will be made easier as part of the package, by removing obstacles to crowd-sourced equity funding. This change compliments the expanded tax concessions for Employee Share Schemes currently before Parliament.

The Government will also consult in the coming months on the current framework that guides the establishment and regulation of corporations. The consultation will investigate whether some of the regulatory requirements can be removed or relaxed to reduce compliance costs and make it easier for small businesses to innovate, grow and create jobs.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the package. Kate Carnell AO, CEO of the ACCI, said: “with more than seven in 10 Australian small businesses unincorporated, it was concerning that they would miss out on the benefit of the 1.5 percentage point cut in company tax for businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million.

“It is encouraging that the government is looking after those 1.7 million unincorporated small businesses, including tradies, sole operators and partnerships, with other support. Making it easier for small businesses to claim tax deductions for their expenses will make it easier for small businesses to invest.

“These deductions are particular powerful when combined with recently announced measures to help new businesses, including allowing new start-ups to immediately deduct professional costs, such as for legal and accounting services, as well as streamlined company registration and removing barriers to crowd-sourced equity funding.

“Small business is the engine room of the Australian economy, so support for these businesses will boost overall jobs and investment. The government’s measures will help to restore confidence among small businesses.”


Coles announces $50 mill Nurture Fund

Coles will establish a Nurture Fund to help small Australian food and grocery producers, farmers and manufacturers to innovate and grow their business.

Coles will allocate $50 million over five years in grants and interest-free loans to fund the development of new market-leading products, technologies and processes.

Announcing the Nurture Fund with Coles ambassador and chef Curtis Stone at a vegetable farm in Victoria’s Werribee this morning, Coles managing director John Durkan said the Fund would be open to businesses with less than $25 million in annual revenue and 50 or fewer full-time employees.

“The Coles Nurture Fund is one way we can offer support and encouragement to small Australian businesses looking for assistance to take the next step in creating more productive and innovative ways of working,” Durkan said.

“Through investing in productivity driving activities we can not only provide better value to customers but also help set up small businesses to develop the products and platforms to expand their operations and, in some cases, export into global markets.

“Smart, energetic and agile small businesses can often be a launch pad for great product innovation and powerful new ideas on better ways of working.

“Coles wants to hear exciting and ambitious plans from smaller entrepreneurs about how they can deliver new and better product to customers, or about ideas they have for innovative business systems that will improve how they get product to market. Modest financial support can make the difference in getting great ideas up and running.”

Curtis Stone will join three Coles directors on a panel which assesses applications with the support of independent industry advice.

“Australia produces some of the highest quality food in the world and farmers, producers and manufacturers in Australia are continually demonstrating how innovative they are on their farms and in the factories. The Coles Nurture Fund will help drive innovation and growth for small businesses so they can take up more opportunities in Australia and on the world stage,” Stone said.

“I’m really excited to help support the industry by helping to assess applications from fresh food businesses.”

Application forms for the Coles Nurture Fund are available at www.coles.com.au/nurturefund.


Abbott to cut small business tax rate by 1.5 percent

Prime minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that small to medium sized businesses will be paying less tax as of 1 July, 2015.

Abbott made the announcement yesterday at the National Press Club, stating that a cut “at least as big as the 1.5 percent already flagged” will apply to SMEs from the start of the 2015-16 financial year.

However not everyone is pleased with the announcement, namely Australian largest 3,000 businesses who will continue to be taxed at 30 percent as opposed to 28.5 percent – the original figure flagged in the coalition’s budget in May, 2014.

Speaking with Smart Company, Small Business minister Bruce Billson said that the tax cut was designed to benefit SMEs, not disadvantage the big players, and that the 1.5 percent cut is merely a starting point.

“The 1.5 percent [company tax cut] has been reaffirmed and the important thing from the prime minister’s speech is that there is clear sense of priority that we want to go beyond that.”

Billson also added that the govenment is working on measures to 're-energise business' and boost employment.


SMBs should challenge suppliers to achieve growth, Forum Group

According to a new report from managed-service company, Forum Group, two in five SMEs have either decreased the number of sites they operate across or let staff go to manage supplier cost fluctuation.

The Forum Group surveyed 453 businesses to examine and quantify how the operational expenditure of SMEs, and mid-market companies impacts on business growth and productivity.

The report found that 66 percent of respondents have seen employee head count restricted, or profit margins decrease due to the impact of increased operating expenditure.

“It is worrying that such a large number of organisations feel they need to resort to redundancies to get a handle on hard costs,” said Forum CEO, Bill Papas. “We know cost of doing business is increasing, and the strain this is putting on business, particularly SMEs, means companies need to look for new ways to make the most of their operating expenditure to better manage inefficiencies.”

The report states that over the past 12 months, only 20 percent of operators have actively looked at ways to reduce their largest operating expenditure, which is only down slightly from 22 percent three years ago.

In addition, 30 percent of respondents said they have increased the number of suppliers servicing their organisation over the last year, and that more than half (60 percent) of businesses claim they can’t change suppliers due to existing contracts and penalty fees, or personal relationships.

Papas said rising costs and operational issues can often distract business owners and managers from their core business.

“The costs associated with managing multiple supplier arrangements is often overlooked and most business owners and managers don’t have the time or knowledge to identify the best services or suppliers, or how to better manage the increasing cost of doing business. They may search online for a quick fix, or perhaps look to their own network and suddenly find themselves in a situation where they have too many suppliers to handle,” he said.

“SMBs should challenge their suppliers to improve and streamline their services so they can prioritise business productivity and growth.”

Other findings from the research include:

  • 14 percent of SMBs have up to 10 suppliers
  • 56 percent of SMBs review their supplier contracts annually
  • 5 percent of SMBs are not clear on why their supplier costs have changed over the last three years


Government invests in food industry

Food and agribusiness and advanced manufacturing have been identified as priority areas in the government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda.

The government announced in the report that it intends to create Industry Growth Centres in five promising industries (including food and agribusiness and advanced manufacturing), at a cost of $188.5 million over four years.

 The centres will aim to enable businesses to self-select and grow, by removing impediments and unlocking potential at the industry level. They will encourage organisations to work closely together to unlock commercial opportunities and reduce risk.

They will also encourage businesses to form commercial research and development partnerships with each other, and with the research sector.

The report said that a food and agribusiness Industry Growth Centre could help small and medium food processing businesses in the following ways:

  • Allow them to research Asian consumer preferences about taste, texture and packaging.
  • Food scientists would help them to develop the desired product characteristics.
  • Provide them with specialist advice on intellectual property protection, marketing and exporting in differing Asian markets.
  • Work to improve the efficiency of the regulatory framework, while ensuring it maintains and supports Australia’s reputation for safe food production.

Subject to quality of the expressions of interest, the remaining three industries with centres will be: mining equipment, technology and services; oil, gas and energy resources and medical technologies and pharmaceuticals.

The food and agribusiness industry will also be one of the priority areas for the Industry Skills Fund.

According to the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, the fund will “support the training needs of small to medium enterprises not readily met by the national training system.”

Larger companies may apply to access the fund, but will be expected to make contributions towards the cost of training.

The government has also established a $50 million Manufacturing Transition Programme in order to assist Australian manufacturers shift to higher value activities and improve competitiveness. The programme offers grants for manufacturers that invest in projects to expand or transition into higher value or knowledge based manufacturing activities. 


Australia lags behind in innovation: NMW presentation

"Australia punches well below its weight when it comes to all facets of innovation," Lachlan Mullane of Hodgkinson McInnes said at National Manufacturing Week earlier this week.

According to the World Economic Forum of Global Competitiveness report, Australia is ranked at 23 out of 148 for its capacity for innovation – and Mullane thinks we can do better.

"I think it's important to supplement learned innovation with genuine pioneering innovation that can add value to Australian manufacturing businesses," Mullane said.

He added that the most obvious way for Australian manufacturers to capitalise on investment in innovation is through utilisation of intellectual property (IP) assets.

For a manufacturing business, this can help:

  • Increase sales or market share
  • Maximise the value of your business
  • Boost the value and saleability of your commercial interests
  • Minimise risk and maximise your peace of mind

"Innovation assets are a tool that is there to be utilised by your business. Like any other tools that are available, it's something that you should keep in your arsenal and utilise to the maximum capacity to effectively increase the value of your business," Mullane said.

IP property rights act to protect the function and appearance of products and brand assets. Importantly, IP assets can be obtained for what simply is good innovation, or what is often seen as just good engineering factors.

"Don't be too dismissive of things you might see as simply good business practice, there are ways to protect that and increase the value of your business…there are ways you can be smart about building in functional components that also have the element of distinctiveness that can give you a market advantage," Mullane said.

IP rights can protect many aspects of a product or process, including the function, the appearance of products and brand assets. They include patents, which is the exclusive right to commercialisation of an invention, registered designs, which are an exclusive right over a particular appearance of a product, and trademarks, which is anything that can be distinctive of a business.

Australia is in a good position to capitalise on IP intelligence, as most IP assets that get files are in the US or Europe, so there's often a lot of technology available that can be freely utilised in Australia.

"There's a wealth of information out there about new technologies that there's no reason why you can't simply pick that up and bring it into Australia without any need to pay anyone for it or any need to be concerned about possible infringement issues," Mullane said.

Another thing to consider is using the patent system as a means of monitoring the competition. "Patent documents will often get published well in advance of product launches so you can keep an eye on what your competitors are up to in a form of commercial intelligence. You can predict when new products hit the market and what kinds of featured those products may have," Mullane said.

IP intelligence can help build technical knowledge and highlight commercial opportunities. It can be a way of discovering if an area has white space, where you can potentially move into an area where no one is working in already, or is crowded with patents, which indicates a lot of competition.

"Like it or leave it, IP assets are there to be exploited, and if you're not doing it, your competitor probably is. Keep the playing field as uneven as possible by being strategically sensible about what you do with an innovation strategy. Take advantage of being able to be a bit smarter than what your competitors are doing. If you don't do it, they probably will and you'll find yourself at the wrong end of that slope," Mullane said.

For more information on intellectual property, click here.


Mondelez encourages SA participation at SME innovation program

A group of 18 small to medium South Australian food companies will be attending the intensive two-day Competitive Foods Initiative program in Melbourne run by Mondelez International, which is designed to unlock consumer insights and develop product innovation ideas for export to lucrative Asian markets.

Joining Mondelez in delivering the program will be South Australian success stories, Tucker’s Natural and Maggie Beer Products.

2014 marks the first time that companies outside of Victoria have been invited to participate in the program and Nicolas Georges, director premium chocolate and dairy, research & evelopment, Asia Pacific for Mondelēz International said that the company was embracing the notion of an ‘open door and collaborative approach’ to unlock opportunities within local food sector.

“The program focuses on sharing best practice  innovation practices, where a show me, don’t tell me approach to the workshop allows small-to-medium-sized enterprises, state and Federal governments, industry, higher education and technology through collaboration – all with the aim of developing and sharing insights and building the platform to deliver world-class innovations. We are well positioned in Australia to nurture this innovation,” said Georges.

“Why create from scratch when we have complementary skills sets and can connect across the industry to help unlock opportunities together? More critically, why not work together to collectively lower the cost and risk of innovation?”

Catherine Barnett, CEO of South Australia’s peak food industry association, Food South Australia said that the program gave SA businesses the opportunity to collaborate outside their immediate network and learn how to successfully capitalise on opportunities both within Australia and abroad.

“There are 1.6 billion Asian consumers who will be looking for safe, high quality and delicious food products, and many South Australian businesses are already succeeding in export markets. We want to continue to expand on that success,” said Barnett.

“That said, we also understand there are significant opportunities still in Australia.”

The program is run from Mondelēz International’s Food Innovation Centre – the largest facility of its kind in Australia and one of the biggest in the Asia Pacific region. the centre has over 100 food innovators co-located with dedicated infrastructure and world-class technologies, including pilot manufacturing for new products, a design lab, smartwall virtual store and sensory facilities to deliver quality testing.


How group buying deals improved my food business

Handmade chocolate shop owner, Hanna Frederick explains how group buying deals have boosted her business, and shares tips on to get the most out of this marketing platform.

As a small business owner, I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to reach a greater number of people and bring more customers into my business. There are many ways to achieve this, from  pounding the pavements to handing out brochures and sponsoring community events. However, all these methods were either too expensive, too time consuming, or both.

Then I found a way to overcome these challenges, LivingSocial’s group buying site. This definitely boosted my business and now I want to explain how you can achieve similar results.

After being a food chemist and later promoting the use of technology to small businesses, in 2006 I took the plunge and followed my dream to pursue my love of creating boutique artisan handmade chocolates. I have always loved chocolate and the wonderful traditions of chocolate making from Hungary, where I was born and raised. This is what inspired me to build my very own chocolate laboratory in New Zealand.

Locals quickly fell in love with my unique flavour creations such as Maori Horopito, beer truffles, deer velvet chocolates and, perhaps the most alluring, venison salami chocolates. I also created a delicious line of adult chocolates with 10 different types of alcohol as well as an ever pleasing aphrodisiac chocolate, all handmade from my boutique laboratory. Then we up and moved across the Tasman to Australia in 2010. 

The food capital, Melbourne excited me to mix traditional European tastes with Down Under flavours to produce an incredible line of unique chocolate treats. It is such a pleasure to be taking these traditions and reinventing them for Australian tastes in my Mamor Chocolate Szalon in Collingwood.

I knew that once people tasted a new generation of flavours they’d be instantly hooked. The big question was how to get them through the door. I knew that increasing my chances of business success required two things: the first was to grow my online presence, and the other was to find a way to communicate my offerings to locals quickly. 

LivingSocial gave me the ideal way to get paying customers through the door for that first impressive visit to my szalon. We’ve tried it twice with great success. The first one was two years ago when I just launched my shopfront. I couldn’t believe that I sold 200 Chocolate Tasting High Teas in two hours!  It was a long haul in the beginning to ensure all our customers were satisfied, but the word-of-mouth and the reputational results were impressive and enduring. The way I see it I was buying publicity. 

Then I tried it a second time leading up to Mother’s Day this year. I advertised a champagne and chocolate tasting deal for two, four or six people that was 50 percent off the usual price, and then watched the number of deals sold continue to rise.

Thanks to these deals, positive reviews were spreading quickly among our customer’s family and friends, and it wasn’t long before word spread quickly throughout Melbourne and country Victoria. I was delighted to learn that posting a deal on a group buying site offers ongoing success, rather than just a peak in customers for that particular month alone as I initially anticipated. I was equally thrilled to discover LivingSocial also provides continual assistance with my public relations, even organising half a page in Melbourne’s highest circulating newspaper as well as some radio commentary about Mamor.

The results helped me add scalability and new clientele so well, that I am into my next group buying campaign for Father’s Day!

As we are creeping closer and closer to the festive summer season, I know that many of you who, like myself, own a small business in the hospitality industry will be searching far and wide for innovative ways to bring in those much desired customers. If you’re interested in using a group buying site for your business but are a bit overwhelmed with how to go about it, follow these tips to ensure you’re prepared:

1. Have a strategy in place and know exactly what you want to achieve as your end goal.
By mapping out exactly what it is you wish to achieve both you and your staff will be able to stay motivated. Aligning your whole teams interests will have positive effects on staff morale, and in turn will ensure your customers enjoy the best service your business has to offer.

2. Ensure that your business is able to provide the volume of service that your deal may attract.
Think big! You’d be surprised how many people are on the lookout for discounted offers at new places to go so make sure you’re prepared for a storm of customers. Cover all your bases; make sure you have enough products and enough staff to provide the best possible service.  Give 110 percent service.  This is an opportunity to showcase your best assets; you don’t want this to be ruined by being unprepared.

3. Be prepared to upsell.
You have the client in front of you, now show them everything you have to offer. Don’t make the mistake of treating these customers like one-hit wonders. Go above their expectations by offering them extra products or services than what was advertised on the group buying site.  Because they paid small for your deal, more often than not they will be keen to try some additional extras on the day, giving you the opportunity to make some extra money while flaunting a larger variety of what you offer.

4. Showcase your best assets.
What makes you unique? Push your mediocre products and services aside; this is your chance to shine. Dazzle them with your best selling products and house favourites along with anything else that makes you stand out from the crowd. It is important to leave them wanting more.

5. Have a follow up plan in place.
You cannot simply rely on your products alone when it comes to bringing back customers. So while you’ve got them inside your doors, offer return discounts, capture their email addresses for your database, or provide giveaways on the day to increase your chances of seeing them another day.

Victorian turkey plant to wind up processing

Goldfields Turkeys, located in St Arnaud, north west of Melbourne has announced that they will no longer be accepting birds for processing.

The company which processes both turkeys and poultry confirmed yesterday that it has already commenced winding down its operations, and the local community is said to be concerned that the closure of the plant will leave a hole in the town, the Weekly Times Now reports.

General manger Ken Grenfell said that the decision was made for economic reasons.

“The process has started now and we’re no longer putting baby turkeys in the shed,” said Grenfell.

“The business will still continue from a sales point of view for the remainder of the year.”

Goldfields has been in operation for over 25 years and employees approximately 50 people in St Arnaud.


Goulburn Valley co-op launches ‘virtual factory’

Former Heinz suppliers from Victoria’s Goulburn Valley are preparing to launch a tomato pasta sauce and organic pasta pack which will be available from July 17.

The co-op’s plan to build a factory at Kyabram fell through after the collapse of the Banksia Financial Group last year. This spawned the concept for a ‘virtual factory’ which will see 5000 units of the pasta products heading to small stores, butchers and fruit shops later this month.

The Co-op’s chairman, Les Cameron told the Weekly Times Now that the closure of the Heinz factory had a significant impact on the local community.

“The loss of the Heinz factory was a blow”, he said.

“{But} We’re a determined bunch.”

The pasta sauce is made from tomatoes sourced from a local farm out of Rochester, then processed at the Riverina Grove in Griffith, while the organic pasta is made at Casalare in Kyabram.

“Our sauce isn’t as refined as the mass produced sauces… You can expect it to taste like tomato tastes,” said Cameron.

Cameron says that while plans of operating a co-op factory have been sidelined for now, the ‘virtual factories’ will keep smaller factory operations humming.

“Personally, I believe the virtual concept has to be the way to go for the next five to ten years.”


SA Food Industry Awards announce new category for 2013

The South Australian Food Industry Awards have introduced a Primary Producers category as well as additional initiatives aimed at encouraging smaller businesses to enter the awards.

Hosted by the state’s peak food body, Food South Australia, the awards recognise outstanding achievements within the SA food industry with this year marking a few changes to encourage a more even playing field.

The new Primary Produces category aims to recognise excellence within the sustainable production of safe, high quality food, as well as the demonstration of best practice and a positive profile within the Argibusiness sector.

Along with the Primary Producers category, 2013 will also see a number of changes including the creation of two levels for each business category award: one for businesses employing over 15 full time staff (or equivalent), and one for businesses with under 15 full time staff (or equivalent).

The creation of the two tiered system is designed to encourage smaller firms to apply with the knowledge that they will be competing with comparable sized businesses.

To encourage entry, applicants now will have access to valuable resources including two hours of free mentoring and coaching from an experienced service provider. The professional service providers span across a host of areas including law, finance, media, product development, nutrition amongst others.

The awards aim to serve as an opportunity for businesses to self-evaluate their operations, increase media and brand awareness and showcase their achievements to both the public and industry.

Entries to the awards open 15 July, with the winner announced at a gala dinner on Friday 29 November.


Chocolate manufacturer placed in administration

A family-owned confectionery company, Chocolate Fare, has been placed in administration, owing $670,000 in debt and leaving six employees out of pocket by $64,000.

According to SmartCompany, the company was unable to pay the Australian Tax Office a $150,000 bill and administrators have been appointed.

Queensland-based Chocolate Fare ceased trading a few weeks ago and is said to have a total debt of $670,000 with $64,000 owed to six employees.

Chocolate Fare's website says it distributes its products (which fall under three main brands: The Rocky Rock Candy Co, Monique's Chocolates and Chocolate Fare) throughout every Australian state and internationally to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

SmartCompany reports that Chocolate Fare's demise comes at a time when the confectionery industry is dominated by larger companies, making life difficult for small- and medium-sized manufacturers.

In July last year, iconic Australian brand Darrell Lea was also placed into administration.

An IBISWorld report states that the top four confectionery manufacturers in Australia account for around 90 percent of industry revenue.