International insights from the World Packaging Organisation

The seven international speakers who formed part of the World Packaging Conference at the recent AUSPACK PLUS in Sydney, had some very valuable lessons to share with Australia's packaging community.

At AUSPACK PLUS 2013, the AIP conducted the National Technical Forum with the theme ‘Global Packaging Trends’. The seven international speakers were part of the World Packaging Conference organised by the AIP. These were leaders in their fields from USA, Austria, Indonesia, India, Brazil and South Africa.

The world cannot do without packaging was the core message from Tom Schneider (USA) – president of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO). The WPO does provide a global advantage under its motto of “Better quality of life through better packaging for more people” and Tom reminded the audience that we as packaging professionals are making a difference, but it starts with education.

Jin Zhe (Jack) from the World Packaging Centre (China) spoke on the scale of the changes and future of the Chinese packaging industry. The value of the Chinese packaging industry was $248 billion in 2012 or 50 percent of the world’s output and growing.

Dr. Johannes Bergmair of the Austrian Packaging Institute presented Packaging and Food Safety on a Global Level. This presentation was full of alerts to packaging and food technologists about the risks to food safety with the core message being “the problem is already out there.” There is relevant legislation in many parts of the world but there is little cohesion between them and they are not complimentary.

Global Trends in Packaging in Indonesia and Within the Region was the presentation from Ariana Susanti of the Indonesian Packaging Federation. Our nearest neighbour has geographical challenges of 17,500 islands and 250 million people, which affect the required packaging formats to serve its culturally diverse people with the limited supply chain resources. The radically changing retail environment provides another dimension.

Professor Narayan C. Saha represented the Indian Institute of Packaging and spoke on Economical, Social and Ecological Aspect of Packaging and Indian Market Potential. With a population 55 times that of Australia, diverse food habits, economic growth rates of 6.9 percent, an emerging middle class and booming retail market, India has addressed its ecological aspects across the country. Government controls on certain packaging formats are being applied. Rural India, where 74 percent of the people reside, is the “challenge of distribution – the market for the future.”

Luciana Pellegrino represented the Brazilian Packaging Association on the topic of Packaging as a Marketing Tool – Global Approach. The marketing strategy of a brand has to be materialised to consumers through its packages, Luciana insisted. For consumers, packaging and product are one single element that cannot be disassociated. Luciana’s last and most telling comment was the impact that an online presence can have on influencing consumers’ buying decisions. Be online; be connected with the real world.

Keith Pearson provided the closing presentation on Discovering the Missing Link – Sustainable Advances in the Packaging Supply Chain, which was directed at all parties in the packaging industry, encouraging them to change the way they think and act. Food waste is becoming an increasing concern for consumers and industry members, with the former buying more than is needed and the latter often not packaging their products appropriately.

Keith shed light on the implications of our growing waste, especially in regards to sustainability, with one-third of global food production lost or wasted annually. His messages were simple: good packaging saves food; and recycling is not about removing waste but extending a material’s value and usability. A fine end to a global review of packaging.

Ralph Moyle MAIP
National President
Australian Institute of Packaging

 

24 hours with The Right Food Group

Name: Anni Brownjohn

Company name:The Right Food Group Pty Ltd

Title: founder and president

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.
From the foundation year of 1999 right through until today my primary role is to drive the vision of developing and manufacturing wonderful, delicious organic foods while all of us also have some fun.

As the company has grown, some wonderful people have come on board as members of "Team Organic" at The Right Food Group.

My day can start out with looking at new product ideas, then onto a management meeting, chat with a client, review of new machinery, discussions with new private label customers, review of marketing – and this may all be before lunch!

I've always seemed to have a lot of new ideas for great products and like to spend some time each day on these.

What training/education did you need for your job? 
Interestingly – I had none. Just a good idea and dedication to clean, healthy, organic food.

If I had undertaken any formal business training, there would be a good chance that I would never had taken the risk to start such an innovative food company.

In 1999 when I founded The Right Food Group, organic food was considered "hippy food". I well remember turning up to sell my products to a grocery store and the buyer being very surprised I had on a good suit!

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.
Hmm, career path?? Not something I have ever given any thought to. I have been self-employed since my early 20s – initially in natural health care.

When I work out what my career is, I'll let you know my career path. Not sure there is such a thing for an organic entrepreneur!

What tools and/or sofware do you use on a daily basis?
My MacBook Air, Blackberry, and various software programs. Oh, and the largest computer I own, my brain.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?

  • Still being in organic food manufacturing in Australia in 2013 and being profitable!
  • Surviving the GFC and creating full time jobs in a rural town.
  • Creating roles in my company where good people can grow their skills, improve their income and lift their level of professional training.
  • Giving those people the room to run with their own ideas.
  • Taking on the chair's role of the Tweed Business Advisory Board and using the position to push through some ideas to improve the regional economy.

Biggest daily challenge?
Keeping my many ideas for new products in some sort of order, then working out which ones are "real" and which ones go into the "later" file.

Plus – the internet. We are in a regional town and the net can be very slow. Roll on the NBN!

Biggest career challenge?
Attempting to keep my frustration with the organic certification industry in check. Some organic certification fees seem out of proportion with the service and add extra cost to the final product. Imported organic product do not pay these fees. The whole system disadvantages Australian organic food producers. I fail to understand why fees are not controlled by federal legislation.

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
There are a few items in my "biggest frustration" basket.
1. For a regional company, distribution can be a hassle. While we have product on shelf in every state in Australia, how it gets there is complicated and costly.
2. The "I am not interested" attitude to Australian food producers from the federal government! Honestly, why on earth is there no recognition of the following:

  • We need to eat as a nation (and I don't think locally made cars make a tasty meal no matter how much sauce you pour over them!)
  • The food industry is a massive employer! Many production plants are in regional towns which need the jobs to sustain the local economy.
  • We cannot compete with the dollar so high against imports – particularly those which are subsidised. Why is Australia the only sportsperson on the "level playing field?"

3. And of course I have a lot of new ideas for products and the development, certification, supply chain, manufacture, marketing and distribute process can be frustratingly long.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
High dollar, cheap imports, lack of federal government interest in sustaining a vibrant Australian food production industry.

Also, there's no domestic organic certification legislation which is enforceable under federal or state law. There are may products on Australian shelves claiming "organic". The only "organic" ingredient in some of these products is the name on the label. I have to compete with these cheats.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
I don't have a job – I have passion, drive and commitment. A passion for people, organic food, sustainable business and community.

My food which we create every day in our own factory is proof that the "career path" can be a journey. And all journeys start out with the desire to explore.

I continue to "explore" organic food (and have a heap of fun while doing it!)

 

If you would like to take part in Food mag's Industry Map, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.

 

Eating insects: good for you, good for the environment

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations released a report on Monday called Edible Insects: Future prospects for food and feed security and since then news outlets have been looking for images of people eating bugs.

Even I was on our local TV news this week commenting on the issue. The reporter who rang to seek my input asked if I would be willing to eat a live bug for the camera. I politely declined, not just because I am a vegetarian, and not because I am squeamish. As I told the reporter and camera man, if I were to eat an animal, it would most certainly be a bug.

Indeed, I probably eat bugs all the time. As explained by an insect food producer to the ABC, most of us eat a quarter of a kilogram of insects by accident each year. Insects find their way into our foodstuffs no matter how hard we try to keep them out. Interestingly, if you eat organic, your rate of insect consumption is much higher.

So even though I have avoided eating animal flesh (including fish) for over 30 years, I nevertheless engage in entomophagy. And so do billions of people all over the world.

It is not true that the eating of insects is something that humans resort to only when they are starving. Many cultures cherish the flavours and texture of insects. Right here in Australia, indigenous people travelled to the alps each summer to feast on the bounty provided by the annual influx of bogong moths.

Which, you might say, is fine for them but not likely to convince me to fry up some moths (hint: remove the wings by scorching). So what are the arguments for entomophagy, and why on earth does the United Nations want us to do this apparently disgusting thing?

Eating insects is efficient, good for the environment, improves animal welfare and reduces the risk of diseases in humans. Let’s go through the arguments presented in the FAO report.

Efficient feed conversion. The amount of feed you need to provide to get animal based food varies greatly depending on the species. Predatory fish are expensive to raise in aquaculture because they need to be fed fish. Herbivores are more efficient, but it still takes 10 kilograms of food to produce 1 kilogram of cow, only half of which can actually be eaten. By contrast, 10 kilograms of feed will produce up to 9 kilograms of insects, of which over 95% can be eaten. If we want to find a way to produce more protein with less, insects are the way to go.

Food inputs from waste. Now let’s talk about what kind of food we give our livestock. If we have to catch fish to feed our aquaculture fish we are still dependent on wild caught protein. If we grow grain to feed our cattle, we still have to use land and fertiliser and water. But if we choose to raise insects we can feed them our waste products. Think about it, flies grow on manure. Other insects could grow on agricultural waste products high in cellulose. This transcends efficiency. Growing insects for food could actually clean up the mess made by growing other food.

Less greenhouse gases. Cattle produce so many greenhouse gases that a kilogram of beef has an impact similar to driving 250 kilometres in a car. The only insects that even produce methane as a waste product are cockroaches, termites and scarab beetles. Getting our protein from insects would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Water savings. Agriculture consumes 70% of water worldwide, and the production of animal protein requires 100 times more water than protein from grain. This includes the water used to grow the grain to feed the animal, also known as “virtual water”. By this method of calculation, 1 kg of chicken requires 3500 litres of water and 1 kg of beef requires between 22,000 and 43,000 litres of water. Insects need far less, and can be grown throughout the drought.

Animal welfare. All of our concerns about live animal exports and battery farm hens are based on the need to reduce animal suffering. High density of livestock is necessary for commercial food production but is undesirable from an animal welfare point of view. Insects, on the other hand, are naturally gregarious. Many of them prefer to live in high densities and killing them humanely is possible and easy. No more nightmare film clips from abattoirs.

Reduced risk of disease. Think about the infections that move from animals to people and have frightened all of us: swine flu, bird flu, mad cow disease. These infections are called zoonotics, and they spread because we are similar enough to our livestock to be able to catch their diseases. Insects have a much lower risk of passing disease on to us.

In fact, it is difficult to find many disadvantages to eating insects. We don’t even have to get over our aversion to biting into a crunchy morsel with too many legs. Factories are already growing insects to produce protein powders which can be used to supplement foods we already enjoy.

The only downside I could find is that eating fresh insects collected in the wild puts you at risk of consuming pesticides. Which is one of the reasons I did not want to eat a bug for the camera – we did not have any insects from a trusted source.

The other reason is the backlash that could result from the disgust factor. Yes, it would make good TV viewing, because it is shocking and kind of gross. But if we really want people to eat more bugs (and we do!) then I don’t think we want to give the impression that we will have to start picking crickets up off the lawn and popping them in our mouths.

No, we are much more sophisticated than that. Insect protein will be produced by reputable growers who will care for their charges and ensure a high quality product. Make no mistake, this is a growth industry.

In future, entomophagy will be something we do by design, instead of by accident.

Susan Lawler does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

 

Conveyor cooking systems rolling towards profit

The use of advanced conveyor cooking systems is improving product quality and cooking efficiencies among food processors in Australia – and saving on costs.

In search of enhanced quality, safety and efficiencies food processors throughout the world are adopting more advanced, sophisticated cooking systems. In Australia there is more incentive to upgrade these systems – government grants to incorporate added energy efficiencies into plants via the use of innovative technologies and equipment.

“Emphasis on the quality of the foods is one of the more noticeable trends in this market, particularly on the retail side,” says Barry Hansell, sales manager at Sydney’s Reactive Engineering, a supplier of processing and packaging equipment for medium to large-size processors.

“Ready-to-eat meals sold by retailers are a good example. Ten years ago you’d be hard pressed to find really good quality in frozen meals. But now processors are focusing more on the fresh-prepared meals, which allow for a lot higher quality, and on much greater variety of dishes than we saw in the past.”

There is strong evidence that the move towards improved quality and greater variety is also being driven by the availability of more advanced and flexible cooking systems. Another influence is the Australian government’s grant programs that support the investigation and implementation of energy efficient projects. Such grants to food processors can help to reduce the payback period of projects, and offset the financial risk of investing in innovative technologies.

“Yield improvement remains important to Australian processors,” Hansell says, “but with newer cooking system designs, they no longer have to sacrifice quality to get a bit of extra yield. Today the opportunity exists for them to gain or at least maintain yield while improving on quality and cooking efficiencies.”

Hansell explains that, increasingly, his customers are switching over from sometimes unsystematic and more labor-intensive batch cooking to high-efficiency inline or conveyor processing that improves on quality, consistency, yield improvement, and throughput. Extended shelf life plus improved taste and appearance are significant among quality improvements, he adds.

Invigorating meat fillings & toppings
Sydney-based Prontier produces ready-to-eat protein sandwich fillings as well as meats for pizzas and salad toppings, and covers all aspects of manufacturing, distribution and retail operations.

“The majority of our business comes from sandwich meats that we cook, slice, and marinate for the lunch trade in the foodservice category,” explains Saxon Joye, Prontier founder and managing director.

Joye adds that his philosophy doesn’t follow a rulebook. “I grew up in a restaurant kitchen – if you dream it, I’ll find a way to make it,” is his trademark position on sandwich fillings.

This philosophy has led Prontier to a stream of innovations, such as the recent acquisition of two conveyor cooking systems, a flame grill and a spiral oven. This equipment enables Prontier to achieve added flavour and a more authentic appearance for its products, plus the improved efficiencies of inline cooking.

The flame grill individually quick-flames products and maximises the effects of flame-searing while minimising yield losses. The multiple independently controlled burners and touch screen recipe selection make this unit flexible and efficient.

“We use this equipment to wrap the outside of ready-to-eat items in flames and seal the meat,” Joye explains. “It also browns meat products such as chicken with a char-grilled stripe, which creates a fabulous presentation. The natural-looking flamed colour and authentic grilled flavour are important advancements for us. They are dramatic improvements in the quality.”

Prontier’s meats are fully cooked in a spiral oven, a highly flexible, small-footprint cooking system developed for processors who want the benefits of continuous conveyor-style cooking with reliable consistency and lower energy usage.

“Now, instead of batch processing we have a ‘production river,’ which provides huge labour saving advantages, and gives us real control over the way we finish every individual piece of food, making it a beautiful product,” says Joye.

Spiralling into control
The spiral oven is also a key cooking system at Sydney-based Primo Moraitis Fresh, which manufactures, processes and packages high quality ready-to-eat salads, soups and fresh cut processed vegetables. Primo Moraitis Fresh caters to retail, foodservice, industrial manufacturers and quick service restaurants.

“Before getting this equipment we used little combination ovens and other small cooking devices,” says Ben Watt, general manager. “When we first looked at the spiral oven, it seemed like a great piece of equipment that could have a lot of potential uses, which is exactly what it has. We’ve had ours for about 18 months, and we run a whole lot of items through it. We can steam, roast, bake, and super roast (roast and steam). The system is really versatile, so it’s in use almost all the time.”

Among Primo Moraitis Fresh’s principle products are wet salads, including items such as creamy pastas, potato salads and coleslaw.

“We use a lot of bacon, pancetta and meats like that,” Watt explains. “So we roast those items through the spiral oven. The continuous process gives us great volume with a very even cook and great consistency.”

Watt says that his spiral oven is also used for steaming potatoes, not only because of the systems versatility, but also because of its speed and the fact that the spiral oven does a better job than boiling the potatoes in water. Currently, Primo Moraitis Fresh produces approximately 400 kilos of steamed potatoes per hour using this conveyor cooking system.

Improving efficiency and output
Jewel of India is another Australian processor using a spiral oven in combination with a spiral chiller to meet its high quality standards while improving yields and other efficiencies.

Jewel of India is a ready-to-eat, chilled-meal manufacturer cooking a range of authentic Indian foods including chicken and meatballs dishes, ready-to-eat curries, simmer sauces, cocktail and finger foods and Naan breads.
Headquartered in Sydney, the company supplies to clubs, hospitals, airlines and stadiums as well as butchers and delis, supermarkets, and caterers that service the military and mining industries.

“A spiral oven is installed in our new high-risk production facility, which will provide us with food safety similar to the newest European and pharmaceutical standards,” says Jim Keating, Jewel of India general manager. “We will primarily cook chicken on this system. But the system will be able to cook other items that we may adopt in the future. We have done trials on meatballs, molded lamb balls, chicken balls and fish through the spiral system and it has proved to be very flexible. The system will allow us to adapt quickly to market changes, so we don’t run the risk of being left behind.”

Although the spiral oven is newly installed, Keating says he expects overall yield improvements to be between 15 and 20 percent. Other important efficiency features the new system is expected to provide include improved throughput, optimised product consistency and reduced labour.

“Improved cooking quality and efficiencies are very important,” says Keating. “Today, it’s really about output; it’s no longer all about input – the price of beef or lamb, the price of power, etc. But if you can improve the quality and efficiency within your operation, that is where your competitive advantage and profits lie.”

Adam Cowherd is the vice president of international sales at Unitherm Food Systems, in Bristow, Oklahoma.

Image credit: photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ab4dd0n/3439851609/">Flickr</a>

For more information contact (Australia or New Zealand) Barry Hansel at Reactive Engineering. Phone 61 (0)2 9675 5100; email barry@reactive-eng.com.au; website: www.reactive-eng.com.au

 

 

How effective is a voluntary code?

As the Australian Food and Grocery Council wraps up the final tweaks in its proposed voluntary code of conduct for supermarkets and food and grocery manufacturers, questions regarding the effectiveness of self regulation in our duopolistic market have been raised.

The voluntary code is designed to curb the power of supermarkets and ensure a fair go for smaller suppliers.

Sounds great in theory, however not everyone is convinced that the code will provide benefit for smaller, local manufacturers as the two supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths, continue to reign.

The recent departure of the National Farmers Federation from negotiations has bolstered the cloud of doubt surrounding the value of a code based on voluntary participation.

Jock Laurie, president of the NFF, said the federation has lost confidence in the ability of the code to protect farmers’ interests, despite a positive start to negotiations last year.

“Australia has an extremely concentrated supermarket retail sector, which risks an abuse of power by the supermarkets over tier suppliers,” he said.

“The primary purpose of a code either voluntary of mandatory, is to ensure the retailers do not misuse their market power.”

 The National Farmers Federation has called upon the federal government to help deliver a mandatory code which would include safeguards against a misuse of power, address concerns over contract negotiations and provide adequate dispute resolution avenues including a confidential complaint process.

The code

The code, which is based on negotiations from last September under the request of Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, includes input from Coles and Woolworths, the AFGC and the NFF.

The code is centred on the principles of codifying contractual arrangements between suppliers and retailers, ensuring that efficiency in the supply chain is achieved, and that the supply chain is not overregulated.

CEO of the AFGC, Gary Dawson, believes that a voluntary code would be just as effective as a mandatory code in ensuring the participation of the supermarket giants, especially considering failure to sign up could result in poor supplier relationships.

“It would be very difficult for suppliers given how competitive the market is. An important element of the code is about ensuring efficient retailer/supplier relationships,” Dawson told Food Magazine.

“To Woolworths’ and Coles’ credit, they have taken that on board and we are working through those issues.”

Dawson said that the AFGC is working with the retailers to develop an effective code that provides more contractual certainty, encourages investment in innovation, provides for appropriate sharing of risk and an effective dispute resolution mechanism – all without adding unnecessary compliance costs on suppliers.

“It’s in the interests of consumers, suppliers and retailers to have an efficient and viable supply chain in Australia. We want to get on with the job of building a competitive sector, both domestically and internationally, and will continue to pursue mechanisms for improving relationships across the supply chain,” he said.

Dawson also stressed that while a voluntary code will not be legislated, it would still be enforceable by the ACCC.

 “The AFGC remains committed to the process which began last year to work with government, the ACCC, other industry bodies and the major retailers to develop a voluntary industry code which is enforceable by the ACCC.”

“Whether an industry code is mandatory or voluntary, the key issue is that it must be effective without simply adding unnecessary compliance costs on suppliers.”

The future of packaging and processing revealed at AUSPACK PLUS [video]

AUSPACK PLUS, the largest biennial packaging and processing machinery and materials exhibition in Australia featured a myriad of new and innovative ideas and processes from around the globe.

The event took place from May 7 through 10 at Sydney Showgrounds and showcased everything from the latest in product coding and labelling, to automation technologies and biodegradable film.

This year saw a keen emphasis on eco friendly solutions with an entire section dedicated to innovations which aim to minimise the industry’s carbon footprint.

Innovia Films

One company in particular, Innovia Films has developed a range of speciality films known as NatureFlex™ which is made from renewable wood pulp and sourced from managed plantations.

NatureFlex™ is currently being used in everything from coffee packaging to FMCGs including crisps and confectionery throughout the country.

John Nickless, national account manager of Innovia Films said that companies with the Fair Trade certification in particular are showing more of an interest in sustainable packaging in order to provide consistency with their products.

“The interesting thing about coffee companies is for Fair Trade, they are conforming to the Fair Trade on the beans but they are now trying to further improve their image with the packaging,” he said.

Coffee packs have been traditionally made with polypropylene, foil and then polyethylene. Innovia’s Natureflex™ offers a biodegradable home compostable packaging solution which completely decomposes in 42 days.

“Natureflex™ provides the same amount of properties as you would from a polymer film but you get the environment credentials with it,” said Innovia’s sales manager Robin Dearnley.

Bio Earth Products

BioEarth Products are another company offering an eco-friendly solution to commercial food packaging.

BioEarth Products specialise in customised compostable packaging which is made from renewable resources. The products are becoming widely adopted by the fast food industry, and major supermarkets are using the eco-friendly trays for meat packaging.

KHS Filling and Packaging Worldwide

KHS Filling and Packaging are the Australian distributors for ALPMA, a German based packaging machine specialist who have recently come up with the ALPMA MultiSAN Fold Wrapping Machine which is revolutionising hygiene within the soft cheese packaging arena.

MultiSAN boasts an easier change over from one format to the next and features a swivelling system that allows for better access to the machine for maintenance and cleaning, providing a complete wash-down execution without wetting the packaging film.

Lion is the first company to purchase the machine in Australia with installation commencing in June.

Some other companies profiling new technologies at this year's AUSPACK PLUS can be seen in this video

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Awards

AUSPACK PLUS hosted the 2013 AAPMA Awards of Excellence which recognised innovative and outstanding packaging and processing solutions throughout the industry with categories including Export Achievement, Design Achievement, Customer Partnership, Imported Equipment and Best New Product.

2013 Worldstar Packaging Awards were also presented at AUSPACK PLUS, celebrating the best in packaging with categories including Beverages, Electronics, Food, Health and Beauty, Pharmaceutical and Medical and Other.

AUSPACK PLUS will return again in Melbourne 2015.

 

Wins & woes in food manufacturing: Part One

Earlier this year, Food mag was lucky enough to be invited to South Australia as part of Advantage SA's Premium Food tour. A whirlwind two day tour, we met with a number of hard working, inspirational food and beverage producers and manufacturers in Adelaide, Coffin Bay, Port Lincoln and the incredible Kangaroo Island.

With an international reputation for top quality foods and wine, and growing export opportunities in regions including China, India, the US and South-East Asia, who better to ask about the trials and tribulations of manufacturing than those getting their hands dirty?

Peter Davis, owner Island Beehive, Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is famed as being the only source of the most pure Ligurian bees on Earth, and it is from these bees that Island Beehive produces its renowned organic honey.

As well as producing honey from his own hives, Davis has eight other producers contracted to supply honey with all the packaging and labelling completed on the Kingscote premises, and adhering to the strict guidelines of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), the brand's organic certifier.

Perhaps the most exciting development in Davis' business in recent times is China's growing interest in his products.

Davis recently sent an order for 10,000 jars of honey to China, which was no easy feat seeing as it all had to be packaged and labelled by hand.

"We couldn't find a packer who was certified to pack organic honey in South Australia at a price that we could actually accept, or that the customers would accept. So we decided to pack it ourselves. Only having a small, hand-packing machine, we packed 10,000 jars for that order, and a week after that order, another Chinese girl said 'I want 6,000 jars plus 2,000 one kilogram units,'" Davis said.

"So we went from having a $30,000 order to having another $40,000 order as well."

Davis sees exporting as the biggest opportunity for his business moving forward, and as such is in the process of installing a mechanical production line to boost productivity and efficiency.

"One of the reasons why we're doing it is to try and guarantee the integrity of the product," he said. "The other reason is that we want to increase employment opportunities locally.

"Throughout February and March, where we would normally have had a downturn in tourism activity, we actually employed all of our girls for extra hours to pack by hand and label all the products.

"But we want to go mechanical because we can see that instead of doing seven tonnes in two months, we might have to do seven tonnes in a couple of weeks, and we just don't have that capacity at this stage."

As excited as he is about Island Beehive extending its reach overseas, actually getting the product off Australian soil is a tedious and frustration process, Davis said.

Despite the rigorous testing involved in receiving organic certification, Davis told Food magazine the exporting process for organic products is much more restrictive than for non-organics. Not only are there a lot of I's to dot and T's to cross, but there's also a lot of confusion between NASAA and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

"We've been having lots of trouble with the DAFF and NASAA in trying to get the right forms. None of them seem to know which forms you require … It's not a very clear process. It's supposed to be, but it's not.

"We've been trying to export wax into Liguria and we've spent the last two and a half months trying to do the paperwork and we still don't have the right forms, because DAFF doesn't know which ones we need and NASAA doesn't know which ones we need."

Other than an abudance of red tape, other key issues which are causing Davis, and no doubt countless other Australian food manufacturers, grief are the high Aussie dollar and increasing expenses. Put them all together and doing business can be a real chore for companies like Island Beehive, which despite its growing successes overseas is struggling domestically with retail figures stagnant at 2008-09 levels.

"We get ice cream from Streets and the distributor came in this week and said that each week in Adelaide four to five small delis, pizza shops and chicken shops that have ice creams are closing their doors and walking out of their business because they're not getting the turnover. They're not getting people coming through the doors," he said.

Davis can empathise with these struggling business owners, himself frustrated with the seemingly endless expenses associated with operating your own brand.

"The red tape that we have to comply with, the taxes that we're having to pay, the electricity prices and the water prices have all gone up so much that everyone is going broke," he said.

"The government's trying to tell us trade, trade, we need to trade but all they do is make it bloody harder for us."

 

Closing the cap: lean management

Implementing lean manufacturing in the caps and closures industry is a long journey. Phalanx Consulting's Peter Lawlor explains the steps to success.

In recent years, lean management has become one of most prevalent business improvement strategies across all corners of the globe. In Australia, significant advancements in productivity performance have been achieved by those organisations that have fully embraced the waste elimination objectives of a typical 'lean' journey. 

So, what are the key factors necessary for organisations in the caps and closures industry to successfully drive a lean management initiative? And how can it ensure success and accelerate progress?

The key is to ensure that before program start-up, the organisation's leaders buy-in to the fact that their lean management program must be viewed from a whole-of-business perspective. As such, when designing its lean implementation strategy, the company must address each of the drivers discussed below. 

These key drivers have equal importance in developing and driving productivity growth for businesses in the caps and closures industry. 

Organisational development
A key driver of a company's performance in lean management is the capacity of its leaders to successfully lead and manage the implementation process. An assessment of this capability is required prior to program start-up to ensure the company is "ready for lean". Weaknesses in organisation structure, position profiles, and systems of accountability must first be addressed to ensure that success in lean is both continuous and sustainable for the company.

Lean strategy
Ensuring the company is "ready for lean" provides the road map for the company's lean implementation approach. Diagnostic assessments should be conducted by the Lean Practitioner to gain an understanding of the company's improvement and best practice potential.

This knowledge base is then used to engage the leadership team in the design of an effective lean implementation strategy, which is tailored to fit the company's needs. The strategy should incorporate lean tools selected specifically for the company's needs and designed to address priority areas of waste within the business. 

Training
The success of the lean strategy is highly dependent on all employees being engaged with it. To achieve this, employees must possess the necessary skills and behaviours required to participate in a wide variety of improvement initiatives designed to their role.

Without these skills and behaviours, employees are likely to lack the confidence and enthusiasm required to effectively participate in the company's lean efforts. Training courses which provide employees with process improvement and competitive manufacturing skills and knowledge are vital to achieving rapid rates of productivity growth within the business.

Measurements and benefits
A key question often asked of us by management teams in all industries is "what returns will my investment in lean yield and when will the returns be realised?"

This question is particularly relevant for companies in the caps and closures industry where margins are tight and rapid returns on investment are imperative.

In our experience in the caps and closures industry, we start by assisting organisations to understand what lean is about and help them find out how lean can drive long term business growth and profitability. We show the company how lean has benefited other organisations like theirs and how their own business can similarly benefit. Our diagnostic assessments (described above) scope the benefits of the lean opportunity within their business. We then ascertain the investment required (which may be off-set by applicable and appropriate government funding regimes, which we help them obtain). This enables us to then determine what returns may be achieved as a result of their investment.

In answering the measurement question, organisations should assess this from two perspectives.
Firstly, and as discussed above, the company should assess the opportunity in terms of the need to create a culture of excellence to ensure its ability to compete in today's business environment. This less tangible benefit must be taken into account when assessing the benefits of undertaking a lean journey.

The second requirement is to measure the benefits which are to be realised through lean implementation. Goals should be established for the program which address cost reduction, quality improvement, scrap reduction, service enhancement, as well as other objectives. These goals provide a focus for continuous improvement and are often converted into dollar value savings for the business. In our experience in the caps and closures industry, metrics that monitor critical aspects of operational performance (such as overall equipment effectiveness) and rapid changeover times are also critical for driving continuous improvement.

Companies in the caps and closures industry considering the application of lean in their business must first ensure that the content of the lean program is correctly aligned with the company's strategic goals. This sets the platform for developing the culture of excellence that is critical to the program's success. Only once this solid platform is in place can quantifiable goals and cost reduction targets be set and pursued with vigour.

Phalanx Group is a multi-disciplined management consultancy that specialises in transforming organisations.

 

Packaging change: how far we’ve come

Ralph Moyle, national president at the AIP, says happy birthday to the APPMA and reflects on 30 years of change in Australia's packaging industry.

Congratulations to the APPMA from the AIP on reaching 30 years. The value the APPMA has brought to the Australian packaging industry over these years is immense and nothing displays this better than the quality of AUSPACK PLUS. 

Thirty years ago, Australia was a very different place. In 1983, Malcolm Fraser was PM until replaced by Bob Hawke in a landslide; Ash Wednesday bush fires claimed 71 people, Australia II won the America's cup and the Australian dollar was floated; and Hawthorn defeated Essendon for the VFL premiership. Yes, it was a while ago.

Packaging in Australia 1983 was predominantly cans, glass and corrugated cardboard. Cartons did not yet have to have barcodes and plastics were in their infancy. Materials were simple mono-based and environmental/sustainable factors were not prominent. Today, the range of packaging formats is vast. The materials are composite and are designed to suit a purpose.

A packaging technologist today has to ensure packaging is not only 'fit for purpose', but is also lighter, sustainable, environmentally friendly and accessible to all ages, while meeting the rigors of a fast and extensive supply chain. Packing lines run faster than ever and inventory movements are smaller and express.

APPMA and the AIP have shared many links over this period. The Foundation Treasurer of the APPMA was also a Fellow of the AIP – Robert Brook. We continue this fine tradition of sharing today.

Knowledge is the core to working successfully in this fast changing world and "Packaging Education" is the mantra of the AIP. We believe in training our members in the latest trends and technical developments from around the world.

Through improved packaging education, Australian packaging technologists can continue to make significant commercial and social impacts.

The AIP applauds the APPMA's 30th year milestone and we look forward to working together for another 30 years.

 

Top 5 health claims targeting the elderly

Health optimisation is a growing priority for today's aging population, and Innova Market Insights has identified the top five health claims for food and drinks marketed at elderly consumers.

"The most popular healthy-aging-related claims for food and drink products concern digestive/gut health, energy/alertness, heart health and immune health," said Robin Wyers, chief editor at Innova Market Insights.

"These have general appeal among the wider population. But there are other, more specific opportunities in age-related concerns that are currently featured much less often in product claims, including brain/cognitive health, bone health, skin health, joint health and eye health."

Tracked product launches using eye health claims doubled in the last five-year period as recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2012, however, they still account for just under three percent of launches featuring an active health claim of any kind, so this sector shows big potential for future growth.

Omega 3 fatty acids also feature strongly for brain or cognitive health. While about 60 percent of European launches using this claim are currently for baby foods, there is a clear opportunity for a move into new categories, specifically healthy aging.

A range of other ingredients claimed to be beneficial in the area of cognitive health include B vitamins, CoQ10, ginkgo biloba, polyphenols, acetyl L-carnitine and green tea, but there are few specific references to aging to date.

Top five healthy-aging related claims

  1. Digestive/gut health,
  2. Energy/alertness,
  3. Heart health
  4. Immune health
  5. Brain/cognitive health
     

24 hours with Whole Kids

Food magazine recently launched its Industry Map, where we ask food manufacturing professionals to shed light on the trials and tribulations of their work. Here, Monica Meldrum, founder of Whole Kids, takes our Q&A.

Name: Monica Meldrum

Company: Whole Kids

Title: Founder

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job?
I spend most of my time developing our products. To come up with a range that is totally additive-free and tastes great requires a lot of effort. I develop ideas and recipes at home and then work with a team of dieticians to ensure our products meet all the criteria for nutrition before sourcing organic ingredients and creating commercial samples that we can trial with children.

Kids’ taste profiles are very different from adults so part of my role is to work with our smallest customers to ensure that they really love a product before it gets the go-ahead.

Give us a day in your working life.
As a Mum of a three year old I need to be super organised. I’m up early and at the gym before waking up my daughter for breakfast, making lunches and doing the kinder drop off. As soon as I arrive at the office I meet with my team to set goals for the day and discuss what’s happening in the market and how we are tracking in achieving our weekly targets. The rest of my morning is spent making calls and following up with suppliers and customers.

Afternoons are for planning. Whether it’s product development, potential supply opportunities or reviewing Whole Kids' strategic plan, I dedicate time every afternoon to high level business planning.

As a small team we operate in a very dynamic and fast-paced environment. I have to be super organised to stay focused, so I segment my day to make sure I am giving my team the time that they need as well as allowing myself the space for thinking and planning.

What training/education did you need for your job?
I have a background in Communications with a Bachelor of Commerce and Marketing. I also have an MBA in International Management as well as a Master of Commercial Law. On top of that I am a fully accredited personal trainer/group fitness instructor, so I’ve always been interested in health and nutrition.

How did you get to where you are today?
After completing a Bachelor of Commerce and Marketing I travelled to Indonesia and established a business consulting to Australian companies. After three years I sold my business and returned to Australia where I held a string of positions with Goldman Sachs, Optus, Telecom NZ and Boral while also working as a fitness instructor and personal trainer.

After being chosen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to lead a team of Australians to a North Sumatran village to deliver an aid project for the local children, I was inspired to do something that helped kids and promoted kids’ health, so in 2005, James and I started Whole Kids.

What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?
Becoming a Mum has made me even more passionate about creating healthier options for children. Every day I face the challenge of most parents in coming up with ideas for providing my daughter Chloe with a balanced diet, which feeds directly into my work at Whole Kids.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
I’m proud of everything that Whole Kids has accomplished since it started, from winning the Emerging Entrepreneur Award at the 2013 NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards to creating quality products that make a difference to the health of children across the country.

One of best things we have done is establish One Per Cent For Our Kids, which is a non-profit that donates a percentage of our company’s revenue to fund projects to help improve kids’ health, their communities and their environment. So as our company grows and we sell more products, we can give more and more to help children in need.

Biggest daily challenge?
As we grow there are always new challenges but most recently, our resources were being drained by operational requirements of the business, such as warehousing and logistics, to the detriment of sales, marketing and product development.

After conducting a tender with third-party suppliers, we chose to outsource this part of our operation. This year we will automate the process further so that orders flow directly from our sales team to warehouse for immediate dispatch. It will enable us to establish warehousing in Perth and open up to the WA market. So from a real challenge, we have discovered opportunity.

Biggest career challenge?
My biggest career challenge was giving up the security of my corporate role to start Whole Kids. My experience in delivering aid to children living in poverty created the passion and drive in me to establish a business that would truly make a difference to children’s health. In doing so I have put everything into our business. It has taken a lot of hard work and persistence to come up with a range of products that are free from additives and meet the strict nutritional criteria that we have set. I am fortunate that I have the support of a team that are equally as passionate as I am and are driven to also create change. 

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
It's a highly competitive industry which can be frustrating at times, so we have to think smarter and act differently to get our voice heard so that parents know that there are healthier alternatives out there for their kids.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
Another key challenge is finding distributors who are passionate about our brand and values, so we feel they can best represent our products. We have invested in a great sales team that can service multiple channels, focus 100 percent on positioning our brand in-store, and build strong relationships with customers.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
My overarching job description is to make a difference to the health of Australian kids. The philosophy is simple; I believe in healthy kids and that the actions we take today can make a significant difference to our children’s future.

If you would like to take part in Food mag's Industry Map, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.

 

Australia must be part of the global packaging community

Australia can’t operate in a vacuum, and must be part of the global market, Ralph Moyle, president at the Australian Institute of Packaging explains.

We all know the words and have sung them countless times: “We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; Our home is girt by sea.” This extract from our proud Advance Australia Fair anthem remind us of our richness and isolation. But as our manufacturing base continues to shrink, we must be alert to the core fact that we are part of the global community and not just the “Land Down Under”- whether we like it or not.

The global market is not uniform or always fair. Every region has its own challenges and opportunities. Australia does share some of the trends of the global market, but not all of them. Globally, the demand from emerging markets is a growth area while low growth, low investment and price conscious consumers limit traditional markets.

Australia is a mature market and many local manufacturers are challenged by the high Australian dollar. Aspects that affect packaging performance in the manufacturing, supply chain as well as retail sectors will continue to be important as companies zone in on getting more out of every section of their business for less cost. With this directive, lighter, faster, consistent materials and designs will succeed. The usual features of being environmentally friendly, retailer friendly and accessable to a wider group of consumers are no longer exceptions but the rule and are necessities in being accepted by today’s very educated and discerning consumer.

World Packaging Organisation: National Technical Forum
The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) is assisting our manufacturing community by reinforcing the importance of packaging as a strategic social, economic and commercial tool. Several years ago, the AIP became an active member of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), thus becoming part of the global packaging community.

We now have the WPO in Sydney as part of our National Technical Forum at AUSPACK PLUS 2013 on Thursday,  9 May. The AIP is bringing together remarkably diverse cultures that are eager to learn from each other on how to employ and improve packaging for their people. The WPO board members will be our presenters at the not-to-be-missed National Technical Forum.

With the theme ‘Global Packaging Trends’ and international speakers from the World Packaging Organisation coming to present from countries incluincluding Brazil, Austria, India, South Africa, Indonesia and the United States of America, the AIP National Technical Forum will be a must-attend event on the 2013 calendar.

Speakers and topics
Keith Pearson, general secretary, World Packaging Organisation will be speaking about ‘Discovering the missing link: sustainable advances in the packaging supply chain.’ Pearson is based in South Africa. 
Patrick Farrey, executive director, Institute of Packaging Professionals, will be presenting a paper on ‘Economical, social and ecological aspects of packaging and the American market potential.’ Farrey is based in the United States of America.

Dr Johannes Bergmair, head of Life Science, Food Packaging, Pharmaceutical and Medical Products, will be discussing ‘Packaging and food safety: the Global Approach.’ Dr Bergmair is based in Austria.

Thomas L Schneider, CPP, president, World Packaging Organisation, will be talking about ‘WPO: A global advantage.’ Schneider is also based in the United States of America.

Ariana Susanti, business development director, Indonesian Packaging Federation, will be presenting a paper on ‘Global trends in packaging in Indonesia and within the region.’ Susanti is based in Indonesia. 

Professor Narayan Saha, director & principal executive officer, Indian Institute of Packaging, will present a paper on ‘Economical, social and ecological aspects of packaging and the Indian market potential.’ Professor Saha is based in India.

Luciana Pellegrino, executive director, ABRE – Brazilian Packaging Association will be presenting a paper on ‘Packaging and marketing: global approach.’ Pellegrino is based in Brazil.

How to attend
The 2013 AIP National Technical Forum is open to members and non-members and there are limited seats available. Visit our events section on www.aipack.com.au for an online booking form.

There is a big wide world of global packaging out there and every manufacturer, big or small, has something to learn. So please join us at the National Technical Forum and share in this very valuable experience.

 

APPMA celebrates and reflects on 30 years

This year, the APPMA is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and according to chairman, Mark Dingley, now is the time for all manufacturers to prepare for what lies ahead. Danielle Bowling reports.

Let's be honest. Manufacturers – regardless of which industry segment they belong to – are facing tough times. The high Australian dollar, competition from cheap imports brought in from international markets and growing pressure from the supermarket duopoly are all making business a very hard slog for our homegrown brands.

But that doesn't mean the future is bleak. According to chairman of the Australian Packaging & Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), Mark Dingley, these tough times mean manufacturers – and therefore suppliers to the industry, including APPMA members – need to get on the front-foot and adapt their business models accordingly.

AUSPACK PLUS, which is owned by the APPMA, is Australia's largest packaging and processing machinery, materials and technology exhibition and is the perfect opportunity for manufacturers to not only network with both Australian and international industry members, but see the latest and greatest in technological advancements in packaging and processing machinery from around the world on display, all under one roof.

The biennial event will this month be held at the Sydney Showground, boasting more than 1,200 brands and 302 exhibitors, of which 72 are international exhibitors, all across more than 7,000 square metres of floor space.

It's a record year for the event, which first kicked off in 1985, with the largest ever number of exhibitors taking the floor over the four days from 7 to 10 May, 2013. 

Exhibitors this year spruiking their wares and sharing their expertise include packaging and processing machinery companies, plastics manufacturers, processing equipment suppliers and leading labelling and coding agencies from across Australasia.

AUSPACK PLUS 2007

Now and then
As well as helping manufacturers from across the globe to connect and learn from each others' experiences, this year's AUSPACK PLUS is being held in the same year that the APPMA is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

"The APPMA formed 30 years ago. The main focus was to provide Australian manufacturers with an Association of members that upheld ethical and quality standards from a packaging machinery point of view," Mark Dingley, APPMA chairman told Food magazine.

"The main focus of the Association back then, and still the case today, is to represent the packaging and processing machinery industry at a very high calibre trade show, which has become known now as AUSPACK PLUS." 

Today, the Association has an increased focus, not just on packaging machinery, but also on processing, and both of these elements of manufacturing will be focussed on at AUSPACK PLUS, which over its 30 years has created a loyal following and a well-respected reputation.

"Both the Association and AUSPACK PLUS have significantly grown over the last 30 years. AUSPACK PLUS has become the premier packaging, processing machinery and materials show in Australia. The show was sold out months ago, which demonstrates the true strength of the event and the acceptance of a trade show run by the industry for the industry," he says.

"What AUSPACK PLUS represents is a premium packaging and processing machinery and materials show … where the best technologies from around the world can be seen in one space."

Moving forward
Dingley [pictured below], who's been on the APPMA board since 2002 and is also general manager of operations at Matthews Australasia, which will also be exhibiting at AUSPACK PLUS, says the manufacturing industry today is being faced with a lot of changes and challenges.

"The industry has changed significantly in recent years, and I think, from an Association point of view, we need to change with the times as well. We need to stay relevant for our members and for the industry.

"We read about the pressures that manufacturers are facing daily, in the newspapers, in trade magazines, on the news at night. It obviously has a flow-on effect to our members. So if manufacturing is hurting in Australia then our members hurt.

"The impact of the high Australian dollar and the effect it has on manufacturing exports has been talked about a lot. So we are seeing manufacturing having to change in Australia. We are having to adapt to the new ways of doing business and the impacts that they might have moving forward," Dingley explains.

Part of this adaptation is the continued embracement of automation, something which all manufacturers have had to consider in today's technology-driven world.

"They have to do things faster and leaner. There are a lot of lean projects going on at the moment. Quality has to stand out, not just because of the cheaper imports, but also because of consumer expectations. Consumers expect more. So a lot of manufacturing is faced with the need to upgrade, to produce at a lower cost but still maintain a higher quality."

With quality front of mind for both industry members and consumers, it's somewhat ironic that another growing trend in the industry is consolidation. Manufacturers' growing reliance on equipment, which often delivers efficiency and productivity benefits beyond what humans are capable of, means that products and machines are, innevitably, replacing people.

"Manufacturing and production is changing. Plants are being consolidated. Where there may have been three plants previously, there may now only be one," says Dingley.

"But that one plant now needs to be not only a lot more automated, but also more flexible as it is doing the same job that three plants did 10 or 15 years ago."

Yes, consolidation and automation might be growing trends in the industry today, but if conditions are so difficult at the moment, can Australian manufacturers really afford to be investing in the latest and greatest new technologies?

"It's a case of perhaps they can't afford not to," says Dingley.  "To survive, production lines have to be a lot more productive, efficient and flexible to cope with the quickest change-over times between products. Yes, there may be some investment required, but the output is what's important. [Manufacturers] have to work on being more productive. They have to work on efficiency improvements which will help them to get their return on investment from upgrading to these new pieces of machinery.

"There are cost pressures involved but manufacturers are looking for more than just the best price, they're looking for productivity and efficiency across the board. It's a big discussion point at a lot of meetings that the APPMA is involved in and which our members are having.

"We are having to demonstrate that new machinery really is going to deliver on a whole range of the KPIs which production lines are currently being tested against."

Dingley says AUSPACK PLUS is the perfect opportunity for the industry's decision makers to see all the products that they've researched and read about in the flesh, so to speak.

"The worldwide web makes information more accessible these days, with technical information on machinery now readily available, at any time of the day or night. 

"Manufacturers certainly do their homework. They understand the machinery, but at AUSPACK PLUS, in one place, they get to see and compare all the machinery that they may be looking at and which they have researched online. They can come to the show, see the equipment right there in front of them, and therefore review the functionality and human interface which cannot be experienced on a web page. 

"More importantly, visitors can then discuss face to face with the suppliers their requirements. AUSPACK PLUS allows visitors to round-off their research," Dingley says.

What lies ahead
So what do the next 30 years look like for the APPMA? Dingley told Food magazine that the Association, just like its members, is in no position to look that far ahead – or at least with any real certainty.

"I don't think anyone these days and in this environment can predict with true confidence what lies ahead, 30 years from now. I think what's important is the next five to 10 years, and then the next five to 10 years after that. 

"I know we'd all like to think that we'll have businesses that are relevant in 30 years' time but it will take a lot of hard work. Certainly the Association is going to be here for another 30 years, to grow AUSPACK PLUS and to support our growing member services as well.

"Let's put it this way: Australians are  resilient people. We don't have a large manufacturing base, but it is certainly an important manufacturing base to Australia and to the economy. Yes, we're going to see continuous change, because at the end of the day the manufacturing industry is about continuous improvement," says Dingley. 

"Who knows what the next 30 years will bring? But one thing is for certain: it will bring change and every organisation, every business that has a touch-point with manufacturing, regardless of where you sit in the food chain, so to speak, will have to continue to adapt and improve."

Image: blog.art251.com

 

How to package up a purchase

With research being completed almost daily on buyer behaviour, one standout fact is most people don’t list brands on their shopping list.  More and more, shoppers buy categories, not brands, raising the need for any brand to influence the shopper’s decision at shelf, writes Tim Rozea from shopper marketing agency Channel 5.

In the cut throat world of FMCG the way we think about packaging needs to evolve.

Traditional approaches to packaging are very much consumer-led – informed by how they interact with and consume the product. But are we missing a trick here?

In a world where we’re all talking about fragmentation of media, consumers being harder to reach and messages just not cutting through anymore, the supermarket shelf is without a doubt the single biggest reach communication medium for your product.

So what are you doing about it?

As consumer goods marketers, the ultimate question we try to answer is how do we get someone to buy our product? And if we’re getting a little more focused – why would they buy it over another product?

So here’s shopper marketing 101: get the packaging working properly. You own packaging, that’s your real estate, your space to say what you want, how you want. Too often, the shopper is the last person you think of when designing your perfect packaging. The futility of finessing that last five words of back-label copy when the rest of your packaging blends into the rest of the category is one of the most frustrating things to witness.

Here’s a packaging tip: if you want people to first find, then choose your product over the one sitting next to it – start with the shopper and the shelf. It’s as insight lead as any other part of the marketing process – but that insight comes from the shopper.

Remember the number of purchase decisions shoppers needs to make in a single trip. If your product is hindering – not helping –  that process, then watch out. Can a shopper clearly find your product? Does your range have a shopper-led decision hierarchy? Is it in any way distinctive on shelf versus its competitors? Does it clearly communicate its reason to buy?

Smith’s Chips took the initiative and shifted their variety packs from bags to boxes, a classic example which resulted in a more space-efficient offering that was easier to find, easier to shop, and easier to store at home. They sold so well that Smith’s initially couldn’t keep up with the high levels of demand. This is a classic example of a simple packaging idea creating a new reason to buy.

Suppliers in the flour and rice categories have used a similar approach to sell more products, placing their products into plastic tubs, making the product both easier to shop and store. Shoppers happily paid a premium in what was a heavily commoditised category.

We might all laugh at the stripped back world of private label products – but where a product almost by definition receives no other support – the packaging does all the heavy lifting. There are many categories where premium, well supported, name brand products have been caught with their pants down by some private label product trumping them through shopper insight-led packaging.

So get in the shoes of the shopper. Browse the shelves. Think about who’s doing it well. And how well you’re doing it.  Above all – remind yourself that what’s on your packaging ultimately has one primary purpose – to ensure a shopper picks it up.

 

‘Light’ wine: good for your waistline or just producers’ bottom line?

Dieters can now have their wine and drink it, guilt-free and minus the hangover. That’s the promise of so-called “light” or low-alcohol, low-calorie wines. But these wines are not considerably lighter (between a quarter and a third fewer calories compared to regular wines) and may actually push people toward drinking more.

There’s a good deal of consumer demand for light wine products. Australia’s Lindeman’s Wines, for instance, has successfully marketed early-harvest wines for consumers seeking a lower-alcohol, lower-kilojoule style drink for five years now.

They’ve had more success than an earlier version of another brand’s light wine, which was produced using de-alcoholising technology. It reportedly didn’t taste very good compared to regular wine.

The rise of “diet” wine

In 2010, Australia’s McWilliam’s Wine Group became the first company to have exclusive endorsement by Weight Watchers, which reportedly has 1.8 million Australian members. One standard glass of wine (120 millilitres) equals one Weight Watchers point.

According to McWilliam’s, its Balance wines are between 8 percent to 8.5 percent alcohol, one-third lower than regular alcohol wine. They are also one-third lower in kilojoules (ranging from 228 kj for its sparkling wine, 264 kj for its semillon sauvignon blanc, and 324 kj for its shiraz).

And Australian producers are now expanding the sale of low-alcohol wines to the weight-conscious citizens of North America and Britain. Last year, McWilliam’s became Weight Watcher’s first light wines partner in the United Kingdom, to capitalise on a market estimated to represent wine sales of 12 million bottles per year.

This week, Australia’s largest wine company, Accolade Wines and fellow exporter Treasury Wine Estates announced new low-cost, “light” wine products for the United States. Both companies are marketing directly to members of Weight Watchers.

According to one of the companies producing the wines, one in five Americans, mainly women, are on a diet. More than 70 percent of Australian women are also seeking to control their weight, and wine is their alcohol of choice.

Clearly “light” wines are potentially big business if they can be successfully marketed to the diet-conscious consumer.

Origins and virtues

Light wines can be made naturally by harvesting grapes early. The quantity of sugar in the fruit translates to the level of alcohol in the wine; early harvest grapes, and wines from cooler climates, have naturally lower alcohol without loss of flavour. These wines have around 25 percent less alcohol and still retain reasonable sensory qualities.

People may compensate for the saved kilojoules from light wine by eating extra food. Uncalno Tekno

 

To reduce kilojoule (energy) content by one-third requires industrial processing after the wine is made. While the technology to do this has been available since the 1980s (and the wine industry has been interested in it since the 1990s), the taste of early wines produced this way met with derision from wine makers and wine drinkers alike.

Since then, reverse osmosis techniques have been perfected to pressure filter wine through a fine porous membrane. This method uses less heat than earlier technologies, preserving flavour and allowing the industry to more fully exploit the market potential of low-alcohol wines.

At first glance, providing “diet” wine appears socially as well as fiscally responsible on the part of wine producers. As long as consumption remains managed under a weight-control program, drinking light wine may not have any side effects.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) alcohol consumption guidelines define one standard glass of white wine as 100 millilitres, containing 11.4 percent alcohol, and the same volume of red wine containing 13.5 percent alcohol. The maximum safe daily intake for women and men is two standard glasses.

But unlike light beer, which has long been available, the NHMRC has no consumption guidelines for light wine. This absence of official guidelines alongside the aggressive marketing of light wines could spell danger for consumers.

The most significant source of energy (kilojoules) in wine comes from alcohol (around 80 percent to 90 percent), with a minor amount coming from carbohydrate in the form of sugars. Changing the energy content from 372 kj for a standard sparkling wine to 228 kj is a negligible energy saving (equivalent to half an apple), yet having wine badged as “light” or low kilojoule may give people trying to control their weight the impression that they can either eat more food, or drink more wine with the kilojoules they are “saving”.

People may compensate for the saved kilojoules from light wine by eating extra food. Similar problems have been observed with the marketing of foods badged as low-fat, many of which are still high in kilojoules. Such foods are thought to contribute to the obesity epidemic.

A second, related health concern is that light wines may encourage more drinking, fuelling an overall increase in alcohol consumption in a country that already drinks too much. Finally, it may encourage over-consumption of a product that has negligible nutritional value and can have harmful effects.

Given these concerns, there’s an urgent need for consumption guidelines on “light” wines. And as you raise a glass this weekend, beware that diet wines may not be without their own side effects.

Julie McIntyre’s book First Vintage: Wine in Colonial New South Wales (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2012) was published with support from the wine industry. She collaborates with wine companies on historical sociological research while also publishing critical wine studies scholarship independent of industry.

John Germov receives funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) on alcohol and harm minimisation. He also collaborates with wine companies on historical sociological research while also publishing critical wine studies scholarship independent of industry. John is the current Vice-President of the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH).

Lauren Williams has never received funding from the alcohol industry. She was part of a consortium that was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council to conduct a systematic review for the evidence contributing to the recent revision of Dietary Guidelines for Australians; she conducted the review of the evidence of the effect of alcohol on health.

 

 

 

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

Everything but the squeal: researchers steak claim with beef patent

During the golden age of the unregulated food industry, Chicago slaughterhouses boasted that they processed every part of the animal except for the squeal. How times have changed: agricultural businesses in the US and Australia no longer rely on cheap labour, economies of scale, and the absence of regulation. Instead they are turning to patent protection, in ways that might amuse, bewilder or horrify some observers.

One example is the US patent for a new cut of steak. Oklahoma State University researchers are seeking protection for the extraction of the “Vegas Strip steak”, inconveniently situated inside the cow and thus hitherto processed by abattoirs as hamburger meat.

Invention of a new processing technique potentially adds value for consumers and the abattoirs, in addition to a revenue stream for the university if the patent is licensed to meat processors. Patenting of university research is big business, with licensing helping to build billion-dollar endowments at Stanford and other leading institutions. It is consistent with one rationale for patent law: an economic incentive for innovation.

That law is blind to whether the innovation involves cows, silicon chips, advanced composites, pharmaceuticals, or the hula hoop. Accordingly,there is no reason in principle to exclude novel methods of processing animals and crops. The Vegas Strip steak patent is interesting because it illustrates pressures facing universities to commercially exploit research. It also potentially involves dilemmas about patent trolling, patent holders “extorting” undeserved payments from consumers and competitors or stifling research through threats of litigation over alleged patent infringements. Patent protection doesn’t last forever, but there are legitimate concerns about abuses by trolls in the short term.

The patent also illustrates questions about agribusiness practices and patent law. Patent protection has traditionally centred on innovations in hardware, with law and history students for example encountering patents for innovative ploughs, the Sunshine-brand harvester and the refrigeration equipment that allowed Australia to ship millions of tonnes of lamb and other meat to Europe. Recently, research entities such as CSIRO have had major success in using patents and plant breeders rights to commercialise the results of research into drought and disease resistant grains, tastier fruits and fish, better cotton, and low-maintenance sheep.

There has, however, been eloquent criticism of the patent mind-set or of a growing “patentisation” of areas of commercial activity where patents may not be needed. A patent lawyer is not the solution to every problem; most patents are not commercially viable and many introduce confusion rather protecting true innovation.

Alongside increasing use of the “reach for a patent lawyer” strategy on farms, factories and universities, there are arguments that as public policy we should be requiring true innovation and shouldn’t be encouraging egregious monopolies. One example is Matthew Rimmer’s incisive 2011 analysis “Owning Omega-3: Monsanto and the Invention of Meat”.

There is also a healthy scepticism about patents. Some are truly valuable. Others – and as former farm boy I might be forgiven for questioning the Vegas patent – are probably only valuable as the basis of a media release and a hug from the Vice-Chancellor. In some industry sectors, continuous improvement, impeccable service and strategic repackaging may be more important than patent law. Strong protection for pharma patents (where there’s typically a long lead-time and research investment), weak protection for cuts of steak and hula hoops?

Patent law is a matter of assertion: the patent holder makes and defends claims about the originality of the invention. The cost of challenging those claims potentially deters many people who encounter “junk patents”. If universities are going to patent ostensibly new ways of carving a cow, they might also want to contribute – through legal clinics – to public interest litigation that challenges patents that should never have been granted, chills (ie deters) research and cannot be successfully defended from a legally informed critique. Craig Emerson might find a little bit of the Gonski money to encourage that critique and thereby the clever country to which all parties pay lip service.

Moves to patent everything except the squeal – no doubt an over-enthusiastic US patent attorney is working on even that – are inevitable. As Australian researchers, civil society advocates and investors await the US Supreme Court decision in the ‘Myriad’ gene patents case we might think about whether there’s over-stretch in patent protection. Can and should businesses protect their innovation without relying on patents, and without rewarding lawyers?

Should we also be asking some uncomfortable questions about policy-making, and for example criticise the ongoing ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ cuts to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), author of landmark advice on patent law. If we want a smart economy we need both properly funded universities and a patents dialogue based on informed independent legal advice.

Bruce Baer Arnold does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

 

 

 

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

Salt reduction a bitter challenge

In the wake of Australia's health conscious consumer, food manufacturers are having to address sodium reduction in their recipes, but this isn't as simple as it sounds.

The negative impact of excessive sodium consumption has sparked initiatives around the world. Currently there are 32 countries having active sodium reduction campaigns in place to encourage food manufacturers to reduce the amount of sodium in their products. 

Of these 32 countries, 26 initiatives are led by the government and five are led by non-government organisations, such as the likes of AWASH (Australian World Action on Salt and Health) who keep up the pressure on the food industry to remove sodium voluntarily.

AWASH currently has very active promotional campaigns in place to help raise awareness for low sodium diets and are hoping to achieve a 25 percent drop in sodium across the majority of products for the food industry. 

Sodium reduction is considered such an important global tool in improving the health of consumers, that the WHO (World Health Organisation) considers it to be one of the most cost effective strategies in terms of reducing the burden on national health services. 

Reformulation of food products to achieve a reduction in sodium will save lives and money. Global companies with presence in countries around the world have all pledged to remove sodium from a range of their products, including companies such as General Mills, Kraft Foods and George Western Foods – all taking the lead to reformulate their products in a bid to make them healthier for the consumer.

Sodium reduction is most commonly associated with salt (sodium chloride) – a widely used ingredient around the world. Within the baking industry, bread is a staple part of the diet and traditionally very high in salt. Salt reduction in bread is not an easy task – it is a critical ingredient in production to control yeast activity and preserve shelf life. Removing salt from bread will lower the sodium levels, however this can only go so far until functionality is lost and quality is affected.   

Although not as big as the bread segment of the baking industry, the consumption of sweet confectionery goods such as cakes is increasing in western diets.  Sweet confectionery goods rely on chemical leavening systems to provide them with lift, rather than the yeast as used in bread. 

In a typical raising agent, the leavening system will contain an acid – most typically a phosphate, and a base – most typically a bicarbonate. The phosphate component of the baking powder is the most functionally important ingredient in any raising agent system. It is the phosphate that controls the rate of reaction, and the variety of phosphates available gives bakers the flexibility to fine tune their end products. 

The most commonly used phosphate in the baking industry is the highly functional SAPP (sodium acid pyrophosphate); the only problem being it contains 20.4 percent sodium.  Replacing this highly functional ingredient with sodium-free phosphates may assist with sodium reduction initiatives, however will impact on the volume, texture and quality of the end products.

The bicarbonate source in a chemical leavening system is most commonly sodium bicarbonate – it has been the work horse of the industry for many years, however it is also high in sodium (27.4 percent sodium).  The role of sodium bicarbonate is to simply provide the source of carbon dioxide which is released upon reaction with the phosphate.

By changing the sodium bicarbonate for a non-sodium containing alternative such as potassium bicarbonate, you can reduce the sodium content while still utilising the functional range of sodium phosphates.

Potassium bicarbonate is the new work horse of the industry and is quickly becoming the widely accepted alternative to sodium bicarbonate. In order to be totally functional in a recipe, it is critical that the potassium bicarbonate is a specific bakery grade product.

The product used must have a very fine particle size distribution to allow for full dispersion and dissolution even in dry dough products. Complete reaction of all the bicarbonate in the leavening system will help to maximise volumes and prevent unsightly spots and taste issues often associated with coarse grade products. Up to 50 percent reduction in sodium can be achieved by using a specific bakery grade of potassium bicarbonate, with no impact on the quality of the end product.

There are other sources of sodium in a bakery recipe which will also contribute to the overall sodium level in a cake. Small quantities of sodium can come from some of the emulsifiers e.g. sodium stearoyl lactylate, and from other ingredients such as butter, eggs and flour.  Although these contain sodium in small amounts, the contribution is nowhere near as high as the contribution from the salt and raising agents.

The UK bakery market is leading the rest of world in terms of sodium reduction. The government-led legislation helped to encourage food manufacturers to reformulate their products to be lower in sodium. The food industry very quickly worked on re-formulating their products thus sparking a nationwide drop in sodium consumption. As a result of this, the UK now has the lowest known sodium consumption of developed countries – something which is referred to as the “most successful nutrition policy since the Second World War”.  Kudos Blends has helped many of the UK bakeries to reformulate their products to be low sodium with the help of the bakery grades of KUDOS potassium bicarbonate. 

Although the UK is very much ahead in terms of legislating and implementing sodium reduction, it is quite clearly a global food processors issue. There are methods of sodium reduction available currently for the baking industry, which will not impact the end product quality.

Bread remains a difficult product to reformulate, however we can successfully contribute to overall sodium reduction by reducing sodium in chemically leavened products through the application of bakery specific grades of potassium bicarbonate.  

Michelle Briggs is NPD/Technical Manager and Steph Skellern is Technical Manager at Kudos Blends which provides bakers with technically driven raising agents that optimise the quality, texture, taste and shelf life of baked products.

Image: docakilah.wordpress.com and www.photo-dictionary.com

 

Coles’ milk deal gives supermarket suppliers a reason to be sour

 

Earlier this month, Coles and Murray Goulburn announced a ten-year deal that is likely to have significant consequences for the dairy industry, as well as Australia’s grocery sector more broadly.

Starting next year, Murray Goulburn will supply Coles’ private label milk. At the same time, its Devondale brand will be reinvigorated, with its cheeses returning to Coles’ shelves and – at least initially – Coles becoming the exclusive supplier of Devondale fresh milk.

A deal of this length carries with it considerable risk for both parties. Should market dynamics develop unexpectedly over the next decade, Murray Goulburn or Coles may well suffer. Coles might be locked into buying at prices which are no longer competitive, leaving it exposed on an extremely important product; conversely, Murray Goulburn might have committed itself to cost structures that it can’t sustain long-term.

Of course, the contract is likely to include mechanisms for price adjustments to account for such uncertainties. But as many lawyers will tell you, such clauses can often have unexpected shortcomings when reviewed years later. Try to imagine the world in specific commercial detail from now until July 2024 – that’s what the parties and their respective advisors have had to do.

At least Coles and Murray Goulburn have accepted these risks with their eyes wide open. By far, the parties most exposed by this deal are the other major dairy producers, such as Lion and Parmalat. Close behind them is the already over-worked supermarkets team at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

On April 19, the ACCC granted approval to New South Wales farmers to collectively negotiate with Woolworths. This again makes life hard for the likes of Lion which, until Murray Goulburn came along, was Coles’ supplier.

From the ACCC’s perspective, that might just be competition at work. Indeed, superficially, there’s nothing to suggest the Coles-Murray Goulburn deal would raise competition concerns. Right now, Murray Goulburn doesn’t supply fresh milk at all, so how could it?

But the deal’s duration means that potential competitors are locked out of a significant portion of the grocery market. Depending on what else they can do with their milk (obviously Murray Goulburn has managed just fine not supplying fresh milk), this may reduce competition in the dairy sector.

The co-operative structure of Murray Goulburn also provides an interesting twist. Arguably, it’s the absence of a profit-making middleman that provides the foundation for this win-win arrangement. It also means that more dairy farmers will inevitably join the Victorian-based co-operative, particularly given its announced foray into New South Wales.

But the move of dairy farmers to Murray Goulburn will also affect the other major producers. Not only is their access to customers restricted, but they may also have to pay more for their inputs as their supplier base decreases. Over time this may reduce their economies of scale, making them less effective competitors.

The deal may also have broader ramifications. A logical consequence of a duopoly is a reduction in competition in all “upstream” markets. That is, over time, we would expect to see fewer suppliers to the supermarkets. This can create a vicious circle: the more that related markets become concentrated, the harder it is for effective competition to emerge in supermarkets. Smaller players can’t access the large-scale efficient producers, who are locked up by the major chains, and there are fewer “left-over” suppliers to deal with.

The parties haven’t sought authorisation from the ACCC for the deal. As such, they are confident that it doesn’t give rise to a substantial lessening of competition. If it did, the ACCC could bring court action, seeking an end to the arrangement as well as substantial penalties.

If the ACCC is concerned, at least it has time to make its assessment. Technically, it’s got another 17 years or so. But the market will adjust to this deal and, as they say, it’s hard to unscramble an egg. If the ACCC is worried, it needs to act sooner rather than later.

Regardless of ACCC action, it’s hard to see the milk wars continuing. In announcing the deal, Murray Goulburn said that the shelf price of milk will not affect returns to its farmers. This suggests prices are locked in — if so, Coles is hardly likely to take a hit on milk for the next decade. While consumers loved the savings (estimated to be $70 million a day), $1 a litre was widely considered to be unsustainable. At least dairy farmers can breathe more easily now.

A couple of years ago, milk was at the vanguard of the relaunch of private labels by the major supermarket chains. Now, it might be surfing the wave of the next big change. First, we had fewer supermarkets; next, will we have fewer suppliers?

Alexandra Merrett was previously a senior enforcement lawyer at the ACCC.

The Conversation

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Times are changing for drink makers

Soft drinks are some of the most popular and most talked about beverages on the market, but despite their dominance innovation in the sector is starting to stall.

Traditionally a fast moving and competitive market, new releases in the industry are falling, and analysts say after years of expanding influence manufacturers may have reached their peak.

 

According to a new report by Innova Market Insights the soft drink industry represented a surprisingly small portion of new releases last year, and the dearth of new products may represent a break in the sector's traditional strength.

 

“Despite their ongoing dominance in terms of market size, carbonated beverages accounted for just 14 per cent of global new product activity in soft drinks in 2012,” Innova research manager Lu Williams said.

 

“This reflects a mature status, the fairly concentrated nature of the industry and the relatively limited innovation opportunities in comparison with some other parts of the market, such as fruit and juice drinks.”

 

But despite the fallbacks research by Innova points to one new channel for the industry.

 

Like other beverage makers soft drink manufacturers have put their eye on developing healthier options for the market, with consumers increasingly concerned about their health and well-being.

 

Sugar free alternatives have long been provided by soft drink makers, and if current leads are anything to go by, this trend is likely to continue.

 

Not only in Australia but on the global scale as well, soft drink makers are looking to cut sugar in order to draw in a larger portion of consumers.

 

“Interest in low calorie and reduced sugar lines is now well established and products using this type of claim accounted for 17.5 per cent of global carbonate launches in 2012,” the Innova report claimed.

 

“This percentage rises to nearer a quarter in the USA and Western Europe and falls to about 11% in Asia.”

 

But unlike the sugar-free releases of yesteryear, these products have a new twist.

 

Instead of cutting sugar altogether brands are now looking toward increasing artificial sweeteners whilst lowering, but not removing, the sugar content.

 

It's a subtle yet significant change for the industry, and while the early signs are promising, it's relatively new ground for some of the industry's biggest brands.

 

New interest

 

Because it has the largest soft drink market in the world, manufacturers have traditionally looked to the United States to lead innovation in the sector.

 

But the dominance of the US market has also contributed to its demise, with large brands keeping upstarts in the market to a minimum.

 

“Product development trends to be led from the US, although the very concentrated nature of the market, with the top three players accounting for 90 per cent of sales, has served to limit innovation in some instances,” Williams said.

 

“This has also tended to stifle the development of new players and brands.”

 

Nevertheless the market is getting tighter and with this the industry has started to diversify, with more obvious differences emerging between products, particularly those released in Australia.

 

Mid calorie or low sugar drinks are now a big focus for soft drink brands, and the sugar-free alternatives of previous years are playing second-fiddle to these new developments.

 

“A more recent trend aimed at regenerating interest in mature and generally static market is that of mid-calorie products, positioned as a halfway house between the taste of full-sugar products and the health benefits of sugar-free options,” Williams said.

 

The Next product

 

One of the most talked about low calorie releases of recent times has been the Pepsi Next launch.

 

This release was of particular importance not only because it represented a major leap into the mid-calorie market, but because its Australian release was significantly different to other global releases.

 

Unlike its US counterpart, the Australian launch of Pepsi Next had a stronger focus on retaining the sugar content.

 

“The brand was launched in Australia in 2012, but interestingly using a formulation with stevia for 30 per cent sugar reduction, rather than the 60 per cent reduction in the US version with a variety of sweeteners,” Williams said.

 

With consumers increasingly concerned about the impact artificial sweeteners may have on their health, brands have moved to quell concerns by bringing sugar back into the equation.

 

This move forms the crux of the difference between the US and Australian versions of Pepsi Next, with the local version being sweetened with sugar and stevia only, while the US version takes on a blend of sugar and four different sweeteners.

 

With its lower reliance on alternative sweeteners the Australian product posts a significantly higher sugar content, and it's a far cry from the sugar-free Pepsi Max consumers are most used to.

 

In Australia Stevia is considered a 'natural' ingredient and the fact that the sweetener is plant-based has helped allay health concerns and improve the product's image.

 

The move has also been used by a number of non-alcoholic beverage makers, particularly juice makers, which enjoy the benefit of closely aligning their products with more 'natural' ingredients.

 

But despite the new buzz around mid-calorie drinks Williams says the new products aren't without their downfalls.

 

These products are not well tested in the market, so brands are still unsure how they'll be received by consumers, and the new competition brought in by these products may introduce complications for existing products with a strong and loyal fan base.

 

“They may not have widespread consumer appeal, may confuse consumers with a raft of different calorie levels, sweeteners and positionings may, in any case, cannibalise sales of existing full and low calorie lines,” Williams warns.

 

The trend intensifies

 

Pepsi isn't the only large soft drink brand to enter the mid-calorie market, with main rival Coca-Cola also making similar moves overseas.

 

Last month Coke released a new reduced calorie Sprite for the UK market, and in a sign of how confident the company is in the product, the new release will completely replace the existing Sprite range.

 

Like the Australian incarnation of Pepsi Next, this new Sprite will be sweetened with Stevia and sugar, but will contain 30 per cent less sugar.

 

The launch will bring Coke's UK assets up to speed with what is already becoming a well-established trend in other markets, and the company has already released Sprite with 30 per cent less sugar in France.

 

Back in the US coke has also developed and tested its own mid-calorie drinks for Fanta and Sprite.

 

Both products feature 'natural' sweeteners, including sugar, stevia, and erythritol, producing a product with 50 per cent less calories.

 

With the US traditionally acting as a litmus test for the wider industry, Coke's foray is likely to attract plenty of competition.

 

And not to be outdone number three player in the US, Dr Pepper Snapple, has also been driving its Dr Pepper Ten concept, a ten calorie soft drink aimed at young males who are traditionally less interested in health and dieting.

 

In January Dr Pepper launched new lines of 7 Up Ten, A&W Ten, Sunkist Ten, Canada Dry Ten, and RC Ten, all of which relied on a revamped recipe.

 

“With ten calories, they are neither traditional diet soft drinks nor even really mid-calorie offerings, but fall somewhere in between,” Innova said.

 

The Wider View

 

The issue of health, and particularly the worsening obesity epidemic, looms large over most new soft drink releases.

 

It follows a highly publicised ban on large sugary drinks in New York restaurants, and closer to home Australian regulators have long considered tightening the rules on this controversial market.

 

If anything the new trends in soft drinks show manufacturers aren't willing to be caught behind the eight-ball, and these investments show they're willing to make big bets on the emerging trends.

 

But only time will tell whether these releases hit the spot, with health improvements and profitability the true measures of success on this front.

 

In the meantime brands and pundits alike will have to sit back and watch, with consumers ultimately deciding whether it's sink or swim for this new trend.

 

Image: Vox Efx/Flickr

Can Australia really feed Asia?

The recent Global Food Forum featured several prominent businessmen calling for Australia to dramatically increase its contribution to global food security, in particular highlighting business opportunities for Australian agriculture to feed Asia’s burgeoning middle classes.

While this renewed interest in the potential of Australian agriculture is welcome, how realistic are calls to double or quadruple Australia’s food production? And what principles need to be observed as we embark on this journey?

Current situation

Australia is a large country with a relatively small population. It is easy to gain the misleading impression that we have vast idle land and water resources just waiting to be converted into agriculture. The truth is far from this.

In southern and eastern Australia, most land that is suitable for agriculture has already been converted into crops or pastures. The situation for water is even more constrained. Agriculture consumes around 70% of available fresh water and most river systems are already over committed.

Fast forward to 2050 and it is likely that there will be less, not more, land and water available for food production. The reasons are well recognised: competing claims on land and water from mining, urban expansion, biomass for energy, and environmental conservation; a hotter, drier, and more variable climate under climate change; and a belated recognition that past loss of biodiversity resulting from agricultural practices is unacceptable and unsustainable.

The exception to this picture is northern Australia… maybe. Yes, there are untapped land and water resources, but the soils are often fragile, the climate harsh, and attempts at establishing thriving agricultural industries in the north make for sobering reading, although the cattle industry has proven resilient and tropical horticulture provides some success stories. In any case, future agricultural industries in the north will need to based on scientific research that acknowledges agricultural production must remain within ecological limits. Much research is needed.

Will government and industry invest in the required research? Australian farmers are a resilient lot. They have remained in business despite droughts, floods, a high Australian dollar, low commodity prices, and increasingly complex regulatory and policy settings. Australian agricultural production has historically grown at around 2% per annum, an impressive result built on sustained government and industry investment in agricultural research and development. However, recent evidence reveals productivity growth in agriculture has been declining, and a major contributing factor is falling investment in research and development. If Australia is to greatly expand its contribution to global food security, there will need to be a significant and sustained increase in agricultural R&D, and this will need to come from both government and the private sector. But what research is needed, where is the strategic vision?

Sustainable intensification

Global food security will be the defining challenge of the 21st Century. How do we feed 9-10 billion by 2050 given we live on a finite planet? The strategy of simply harnessing more resources (land, water, energy) into agriculture, although effective in the past, will no longer be feasible.

We must learn to live within ecological limits. There is already evidence that we have exceeded safe limits for nitrogen pollution, fresh water extraction, loss of biodiversity, and carbon pollution, and agriculture is often both the perpetrator and the victim of environmental degradation. There is growing recognition that future growth in agricultural production must be balanced with desirable environmental outcomes. Is this possible?

It has to be, we have no other option. Sustainable Intensification is emerging as the new paradigm that promises increased production within ecological limits, or “more from less”. Sustainable intensification has three core elements:

  • producing more output from the same area of land (or unit of water, etc)

  • while reducing the negative environmental impacts, and at the same time,

  • increasing contributions to natural capital and the flow of environmental services.

This won’t be easy and it is a far more nuanced and complex challenge then simply doubling or quadrupling production. This challenge is not something abstract or intellectual, it is real and it is here and now.

Yes, sustainable intensification will require renewed investment in traditional strategies like agronomy, plant breeding, soil science and ecology. But investment in complimentary strategies like reducing population growth rates, reduction of food waste, land use planning, enabling markets, and promoting food literacy demands a coordinated vision and strategy from government.

Last but not least, we need a public and informed discussion around the ethics of food, agriculture and the environment.

There are around 1 billion food insecure globally, with 400 million in India alone. It has been estimated that Australia (population 22 million) produces enough food for 60 million, so Australia is one of the relatively few food exporting countries. Australia should continue to be a food exporting country, but we need to do so within our ecological limits.

Australia’s Chief Scientist recently pointed out that while Australia’s role as a food exporting country is vital, Australian agricultural knowledge and expertise is even more valuable, benefitting an additional 200 million people, often those most vulnerable. If Australia can double or quadruple food production, and improve its natural resource base through the principle of sustainable intensification, then we will have made a tremendous contribution to humanity.

Bill Bellotti receives funding from ACIAR, the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research.

The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.