The year that was: Top 10 stories of 2011

 Obesity, advertising and live export were just some of the top stories at Food Magazine this year.

There was also supermarket wars, awards and royals on the agenda in what was a very busy year for the food manufacturing industry.

Here, we take a look back at the year that was.

Industrial Action

2011 saw an increase in the number of industrial disputes, with 13 more disputes in the September quarter than June.

Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) showed the number of employees involved in industrial disputes was 66,400, an increase from 14,700 in the June quarter 2011.

A reported 101,300 working days were lost due to industrial disputation in the September quarter 2011, which is an increase from 66,200 in the June quarter 2011.

There was also extensive interest in the consumer lobby group Get Up’s warning letter sent to more than 150 members of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, including Coca-Cola, Sanitarium, Heinz, Kraft, McDonald’s, Schweppes and Nestlé, saying its 570,000 members would boycott them if they supported a scare campaign against the carbon tax.

We published the letter on the Food Magazine website, where it was viewed by an unprecedented number of concerned readers.

Price wars

The major supermarkets were in hot water this year, first over the decision by Coles to slash the price milk to $1 per litre in January.

Woolworths quickly followed suit and the dairy industry was up in arms over what they called ‘predatory pricing.’

Despite the industry showing the prices were unsustainable and predicting dairy farmers would start leaving businesses in droves, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) cleared them of any wrongdoing, as did a Senate enquiry.

But when Australia’s biggest milk processor, Lion, announced its plain milk business will make a loss, the impact on the sector was evident.

Australian dairy exports are expected to fall by a further 3 per cent this financial year to $2.27 billion.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also copped criticism for its decision to abandon the fight against Metcash acquiring Franklins supermarkets.

Battle of the supermarket shelves

Then came the scrutiny of the private-label products of the major supermarkets, who were accused of creating an “inhospitable” environment for Australian manufacturers as own brand continued its dominance.

And it’s not expected to end anytime soon, with Woolworths announcing it hopes to drastically increase private-label products on shelves.

But experts warn that if no changes are made to the current environment, 130 000 workers in the food and grocery sector will be out of work by 2013 and the short term savings for consumers will eventually lead to long-term losses all-round.

They were also accused of deliberately trying to confuse shoppers with “copycat” packaging.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) says supermarkets are intentionally imitating well-known product packaging to make shoppers think they are buying the reputable and trustworthy brands.

Live export

An investigation into the torture of cattle prior to slaughter in Indonesia shown on the ABC’s Four Corners program led to a suspension on live exports being sent there.

In September the Australian Greens blasted the peak livestock body for warning Indonesian abattoirs about environmentalists filming the premises.

The Greens’ Agriculture spokesperson, Rachel Siewert claimed Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has an “incremental” approach to animal welfare in Indonesia.

MLA representatives appeared before the Senate Inquiry into live exports to answer questions from Siewert about the welfare of the animals before the ABC famously revealed the shocking conditions in the abattoirs.

Siewert said in a statement the MLA was more concerned with warning the abattoirs about cameras than ensuring the humane treatment of animals.

Live export has resumed to Indonesia and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) confirmed in November that since the ban was lifted, 128 312 cattle have been exported to Indonesia.

Nutritional Labeling and Advertising

There was extensive debate over how to solve Australia’s disastrous obesity levels this year, as current figures show one in six Australians is overweight and one in three obese.

As the year drew to a close, a report by the Australian Communication and Media Authority was released, showing there is no evidence to show self regulation has reduced the amount of junk food advertisements children are exposed to, a report by the Australian Communication and Media Authority has found.

Two key food industry initiatives, the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (the ‘AFGC Initiative’) and the Quick Service Restaurant Industry’s initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (the ‘QSR initiative’) were introduced in 2009.

But the ACMA has found it is unclear if either initiative has actually reduced the amount of advertisements for junk food children are exposed to.

There has also been calls from medical and health groups to have cartoons banned in advertising, advertising junk food on the internet stopped and a "fat tax" on unhealthy foods, similar to that unveiled in Denmark in October.

The Victorian Government is spending $40 million on its Ministry of Food Campaign to educate people about healthy eating and exercise, and experts say similar shemes will need to be rolled out nation-wide if consumers are really going to understand front-of-pack labelling.

Foods sold in Australia will have front-of-pack labelling with easy to understand nutritional information within a year, but it will not necessarily be the controversial traffic light system.

That was one of the key decisions made during the meeting on nutrition and preventative health with state and federal government ministers inMelbourne on Friday.

In response to the recommendations in the Food Labelling Review Report – or Blewett Reprort – the Federal Government’s Forum on Food Regulation will consult with representatives from health organisations, industry and consumer groups to develop the new system.

The decision to have simple front-of-pack nutritional labelling is somewhat surprising, given that the government announced prior to the meeting that it would not be supporting the traffic light system.
Since the scheme was first suggested by consumer watchdog CHOICE, the Australian Food and Grocery Council has been arguing that the traffic light scheme is too simplistic to work.

Drug resistant bacteria found in nearly half of US meat and poultry

In April it was revealed almost half the meat and poultry sold in the US is contaminated by highly dangerous bacteria, according to new research published in the scientific journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases.

A reported 47 percent of the meat and poultry that research US supermarket shelves is thought to contain staphylococcus aureus (Staph), a bacteria that is not only linked to a number of human diseases, but is also resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics.

The positive news of 2011 was also the most viewed by our Food Magazine readers. What a happy bunch we are!

There was wine, there was a royal wedding, the best Food Awards yet and a very personal scheme from Coca-Cola.

What consumers look for when buying wine

The reasons why a customer might choose one bottle of wine over another are many and various. Whether it’s a recommendation, the knowledge of a good grape, cost or merely just an appealing label, winemakers need to understand the science of marketing.

Senior Research Associate Simone Mueller at the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, says there is a growing demand for more research into consumers’ choices on wine and the ability of this information to predict market success.

“Historically the wine industry only looked at growing grapes and making good wine. Similar investment is required for the next step – matching expectations by consumers and distributing and selling the wine,” Mueller says.

“There are now tools and methods that can help the wine business to test their wines and wine packaging, to optimise it before aiming for a shelf listing.”

Prince William requests McVities to make royal wedding cake

In April, UK-based biscuit manufacturer, McVitie’s announced it would whip up a dark chocolate biscuit fridge cake – a childhood favourite of Prince Williams – for the royal wedding.

The cake contained nearly 40lb of chocolate and 1,700 biscuits: more than enough to feed 600 guests at the canapé reception, according to Telegraph.co.uk.

The royal family has advised that while the dark chocolate can come from anywhere, Rich Tea biscuits must be used in the cake.

The best of the best

Held on the final day of Foodpro, the largest food and beverage manufacturing expo in Australia, the 2011 Food Challenge Awards recognised the creative and clever companies making a difference in the food manufacturing, packaging and beverage industries.

The event was the most successful in Food Magazine’s history, with over 90 finalists and more than 350 guests on the night.

A new initiative unveiled in 2010 which saw increased success this year were the product tables which allowed companies to showcase their products and was a contributing factor in the awards being labeled a ‘mini FoodPro’ by a number of guests.

The ‘Chaser Boys,’ Craig Reucassel and Chris Taylor acting as MC’s ensured the night was a fun and lively affair for all quests.

Here at Food Magazine, we are working hard to make the 2012 awards the best yet, starting by making everything simpler and easier.

We have revised our award categories to make it easier to know where a product or service fits, and avoid any confusion, but of course, if you have any queries you can contact us anytime.

To further simplify things, we have dropped the ‘Challenge’ part from the name, so the event the Food Magazine Awards.

This will make sure everyone knows exactly who is putting on this event and how to get in contact.

We are looking forward to bringing you the 8th annual Food Magazine Awards on 25 July 2012, a night that has become a must for all facets of the industry.

Coke gets personal

The story most viewed and most commented on by a country mile this year was, of course, Coca-cola putting your names on Coke bottles.

Coca-Cola says the reason its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign has been so successful is because it is communicating effectively with its consumers.

Following the unexpected success of the campaign, the beverage giant extended the campaign through Christmas, with some holiday-inspired names printed on cans.

Coca-Cola decided to add another 50 names to those printed on the sides of bottles, and the decision of which 50 names should be added to the list further involves consumers, as the company allowed people to nominate and vote on names they want printed on its Facebook page.

Some Coke fans have been disappointed to be left off the list of names, and since the original story about the marketing campaign was reported on this website, comment sections have been filled with requests for specific names to be added to the list.

From everyone here at Food Magazine, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Be safe these holidays, enjoy time with loved ones and we look forward to 2012 being our biggest and best year yet.

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