Consumers eat up new food labelling

Research released today by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has revealed that the number of Australian consumers that are using the new Daily Intake Guide to decide whether or not to purchase a food or beverage product has increased significantly.

The research has found that almost three-quarters of Australians consumers surveyed are now aware of the new labelling, with more than one in three saying that they have used the Daily Intake Guide to help decide whether a product was suitable for their needs — an 11% usage increase in just six months.

AFGC chief executive officer, Kate Carnell, said that the results show that people are taking notice of preventative health messages and are looking for better information on labels to help them make good decisions in relation to their diet.

“Given the high incidence of diet and lifestyle related illnesses such as CVD, diabetes and obesity it’s critical that people know what’s in their food and think about how it fits into their regular diet and lifestyle.

“Information about the energy and nutrient content of a product is included in the Nutrition Information Panel, but many people find it difficult to read and don’t know how to relate it to their diet.

“The Daily Intake Guide brings the information about what’s in a single portion of a product to the front, where it’s easier to read, and helps by placing this in the context of an individual’s overall diet,” said Carnell.

While nutritional information can be confusing, the AFGC believes that providing a consistent and science-based approach to food labelling will allow Australians to understand more about what they eat.

“The key with food labelling is to ensure Australians are given enough information to empower them to make informed decisions about the food they eat, without overcomplicating or oversimplifying the message.

“One of the keys to good health is understanding the ‘energy in/energy out’ concept as excess energy intake is stored by the body as fat. To maintain a healthy weight, an individual must balance the energy they consume with the energy they use from day to day.

“Also, we do know that the amount of saturated fat and salt in people’s diets must be controlled to avoid cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases and the Daily Intake Guide can help consumers achieve this outcome,” said Carnell.

“The Daily Intake Guide provides consumers with easy-to-understand information about the composition of a product and its relevance to their diet, in series of thumbnails on the front of the pack. Our research shows that people want this type of information and find it easy to understand.”

Developed in consultation with a number of independent healthcare professionals, the Daily Intake Guide is in featured on more than 500 food and beverage products Australia-wide. The Daily Intake Guide is based on the average energy needs of a moderately active man and woman of healthy weight, average height and age for the Australian population.

For further information contact:


Truckies’ strike to stop food supplies

Truck drivers are planning a nationwide two-week strike that could limit the supply of food and fuel. Requesting better pay and conditions, the organisers, led by the Australian Long Distance Owners’ and Drivers’ Association, are asking truck drivers to strike for two weeks from July 28.

One of the transport company owners said that the stoppage would highlight the impact the economy would be subjected to if the industry was to collapse.

“On day three of the stoppage shops will run out of food, on day four service stations will run out of petrol, on day five we will run out of [drinkable] water … and on day 10 industry will shut down because there will be no power,” Hervey Bay’s Peter Schuback said.

The issue of low pay and increasing fuel costs has been on the truckies agenda in recent months, with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) lobbying the Federal Government to provide greater assistance to truck drivers. The TWU is not, however, supporting the proposed strike.

The leading industry body for the trucking industry, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), has also distanced themselves from the proposed stoppage in the belief that it will provide no benefit to the industry.

The ATA chairman, Trevor Martyn, said he understood the hardships that many in the industry were going through, but warned that shutdowns were not the answer.

“Many owner drivers and small trucking companies are in crisis because of the spiralling price of diesel, which has gone up 50 cents per litre since last October. Many people in the trucking industry are now watching their life’s work collapse around them,” Martyn said.

“But going on strike and standing around truck stops for two weeks isn’t the answer. The price of diesel is going up across the world because of China’s massive demand for fuel. Holding a two-week strike in Australia will have no effect on prices at all.”

While the organisers claim that 80% will strike, the ATA disputes this and suggest that disruptions will not be significant.

For further information contact:

Australian Trucking Association

Potential of Australian rice

Researchers at the Southern Cross University believe the genetic information found in Australian native rice varieties could lead to sweeping changes in the domestic industry in Queensland and New South Wales.

Speaking at the conference held last week, Grain Foods’ professor Robert Henry, said that given the increasing pressure on world food stocks, the wild rice found in Australia is better adapted to the local environment and could see production relocated to coastal areas.

“We’re certainly likely to see new industries in this area and along the east coast,” he said.

“I think rice production inland from the Murray-Darling system has been quite difficult because of what’s happened to the water supply in that system. Whereas we do have high rainfall areas along the coast of NSW and Queensland, and potentially in the Northern Territory, in areas that are suited to rice production.”

For further information contact:

Professor Robert Henry

Grain Foods CRC

Dairy Farmers faces cheese labelling lawsuit

Dairy Farmers is facing legal action after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took the company to court for alleged misleading advertising.

The company, which is in the middle of a $1 billion takeover battle for the business, has been accused of alleged “false, misleading and deceptive conduct” around the packaging of cheese brands Mil Lel and Westacre.

The ACCC claims that, between February and March, Dairy Farmers supplied “Romano-style cheese packaged labelled as Parmesan-style cheese.”

In a suit filed at Australia’s federal court, the ACCC said the company had therefore “misrepresented the type of cheese packaged and its nutritional attributes.”

The watchdog is demanding Dairy Farmers publicly admits the wrongdoing and assures it will not repeat the alleged actions in future.

Officials at Dairy Farmers could not be reached for immediate comment.

A court hearing has been set for September.

The ACCC, meanwhile, is set to rule next week on the proposed rival bids for Dairy Farmers from two rival consortiums.

According to local reports, the ACCC will decide whether the consortiums — one between Italian dairy giant Parmalat and local co-operative Murray Goulburn and a second between National Foods and Warrnambool Butter and Cheese Factory — can proceed with their bids for Dairy Farmers.

For further information contact:

Draft of organic standard out for public comment

Consumers and manufacturers alike can soon be confident that organic products are truly what they seem as the development of an Australian Standard for the organic and biodynamic industry nears completion.

Once finalised, the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products will establish one uniform Standard to address industry and government needs and consumer uncertainty around marketing and labelling claims on organic products.

Standards Australia will release the draft Australian Standard for public comment next week.

Developed by a broadly based committee of key stakeholders, the draft Australian Standard stipulates requirements for the production, preparation, transportation, marketing and labelling of organic and biodynamic products. It places particular emphasis on farming and management practices which promote the use of renewable resources and conservation of soil, water and energy resources.

Unprocessed products from plants, animals and fungi such as fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, mushroom and fibres, as well as processed products such as processed food, cosmetics and skincare products which are labelled ‘organic’ are covered in the draft Standard.

Standards Australia deputy CEO, Colin Blair, said the draft establishes minimum requirements to be met by growers and manufacturers for products that can be labelled ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’, creating a level playing field for growers, retailers and consumers.

“At the moment, consumers looking to buy organic products have no uniform guarantee of quality and integrity. At the same time, legitimate organic farmers have no protection against the minority of growers misinterpreting or falsely claiming to follow organic agricultural practices,” Blair said.

“By establishing an agreed set of criteria for the way foods and other items labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ are grown, produced, distributed and marketed, once published this new Australian Standard will clear up confusion for everyone.

“Growers and certifiers already adhering to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service National Standard will not need to make major changes to their practices if they wish to comply with the voluntary Standard as the AQIS Standard forms the basis of the draft Australian Standard,” Blair said.

The draft Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products:

• Provides a national, consistent framework for the organic industry from the paddock to point of sale;

• Sets out minimum requirements for growing products which can be labelled as ‘organic’, ‘biodynamic’ or ‘in-conversion’;

• Provides clear definitions about what is organic and what is not;

• Protects consumers against unsubstantiated claims and misleading labelling;

• Protects growers against misinterpretation and misleading use of organic agricultural practices and the term ‘organic’; and

• Provides a guide for farmers considering conversion to organic farming.

The Committee has also developed supporting reference material outlining the certification procedures for growers of organic and biodynamic products.

The draft Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products and supporting material will be available for public comment from 21 July 2008. Members of the public and interested parties are encouraged to review the documents and provide feedback to Standards Australia by 22 September 2008.

Standards Australia is working towards publishing the Australian Standard by December 2008.

There are currently no laws regulating agricultural practice and management of domestically-sold organic products or the use of marketing claims on organic products.

The Organic and Biodynamic Products Committee includes representatives from:

• Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

• Australian Food and Grocery Council

• Australian National Retailers Association

• Bio-Dynamic Research Institute

• Biodynamic Agriculture Australia

• Biological Farmers of Australia


• Consumers’ Federation of Australia

• Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Commonwealth)

• Department of Primary Industries and Water Tasmania

• Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand

• National Association for Sustainable Agriculture

• Organic Dairy Farmers Cooperative

• Organic Federation of Australia

• Organic Growers Association of Western Australia

• Organic Industry Export Consultative Committee

• Organic Traders and Consumers Network

• Safe Food Queensland

Other parties involved in the development of the draft Australian Standard include:

• Aus-Qual

• Australian Certified Organic

• Organic Certified Australia

• Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers

• The Organic Food Chain

To read the draft Standard, visit the Standards Australia website at and click on Drafts for Public Comment in the left hand menu.

For further information contact:

Standards Australia

Striking gold in China

Victorian winery Terra Felix is striking out in a new direction following its success in the domestic market.

Terra Felix released its first vintage in 2002 and quickly established a reputation for value for money wines in a very crowded marketplace.

According to Terra Felix owner, Peter Simon, considerable effort has been invested in matching wines to consumer preferences. “Consumer wine knowledge has grown enormously since I first became involved in the industry 25 years ago. They are now much more selective when it comes to buying wines, especially when matching them with food. This fact, coupled with intense competition for buyer attention, made me realise that to succeed in the wine industry today small producers such as us need to more nimble in responding to consumer preferences,” he said.

While the results of this consumer oriented approach speak volumes for the brand’s continuing success in the domestic market, Simon now has his sights set on the rapidly emerging Chinese market. According to Simon, “we’re applying the same business principles to entering the Chinese market as we use here in Australia — intensive research, a focus on value for money and a wine that suits the local palate.”

The result is Moscato Gold, a wine that is quite sweet, has low alcohol (5.5%) and is packaged in a clear glass bottle that allows the wine’s golden hues to shine through. The label, too, has golden touches, maintaining the lucky theme of the Terra Felix name — in China gold is the colour of luck or good fortune — and the label design has been adapted to local tastes.

According to Simon, “Chinese consumers generally have a low tolerance to alcohol, a preference for sweeter wines and appealing label designs. We believe we’ve ticked all the right boxes in creating this wine specifically for the rapidly increasing number of Chinese wine consumers. We’ve also created a 12 bottle wine box that easily converts to a cut carton display with a header card. The box and header card are also coloured gold, creating a vivid and eye-catching retail display.

“Leaving nothing to chance, Moscato Gold was created by the winemaker who pioneered the style in Australia, Terry Barnett. He had enormous success with Brown Brothers and has adapted those learnings to produce this wine. The entire vintage of 15,000 litres is now on its way to China.”

The decision to export the entire vintage of a new wine in a single shipment is a courageous decision for a small producer. But with exhaustive research, careful planning, a wine that ‘meets the market’ and a name like Terra Felix adding a little bit of luck to the equation, the brand will hopefully be just fine.

The wine is styled on the famous Italian Asti wines. Made from the aromatic Muscat grape it highlights the natural fruit flavours of the variety. It is made to be fun, a low alcohol wine (5.5%) with partial fermentation that allows for the retention of natural acid and sweetness in harmony. Added to this is a unique winemaking process that retains the natural fermentation gases within the wine. This increases the flavour profile and also results in a prickly sensation on the tongue. It is best described as having a lively ‘zippy’ feel and is suited to many occasions. It can be served with Dim Sim snacks, as an aperitif wine or with spicy Sichuan food.

For further information contact:

Peter Simon

Peacock Bros recognised in Industrial Product Award

Peacock Bros was awarded the Highly Commended Award for Australian Industrial Product of the Year at the Endeavour Awards for its innovative Indoor Vehicle and RFID Product Tracking solution.

The solution just recently deployed at EastPack in New Zealand received this accolade due to the unique and innovative nature of the system developed that will keep track of the exact position of an indoor vehicle such as a forklift, pallets and warehouse inventory.

Taking the term ‘Real-Time Inventory Management’ a step further, the developed system includes a live schematic of a warehouse with the movements and positions of indoor vehicles and pallets displayed at all times. The solution also provides efficiency reports and evaluations on the vehicle operations within the warehouse for workplace improvements and analysis.

Peacock Bros managing director, Neil Crump, said “we are very proud of this award as it acknowledges the work and investment that went into developing a world class product offering far more benefits and return on investment than any warehouse management solution currently available.

“Peacock Bros have combined multiple systems onto a common platform and integrated each technologies benefit into a single solution that has exceeded all expectations.

“This was no easy feat and required a large commitment from us.”

Many major companies within Australia and New Zealand are now looking into this new product for deployment within their own workplaces, eager to take advantage of the unique benefits now available.

For more information contact:

Peacock Bros

Australia’s first no oxygen mill

Organic industry stakeholders are proving they can think ahead when it comes to incorporating cutting-edge food technology innovations into their systems with certified organic miller, Z-Mills, being just one month away from the launch of Australia’s first no-oxygen, zero light and low-heat mill.

According to Alligrator — the Queensland-based company responsible for the mill’s design — managing director, Arthur Coert, the system has the potential to “revolutionise the niche markets of high-quality and organic food processing,” creating a flour product better for both human and environmental health.

The mill requires no water to operate and uses up to thirty percent less energy than its high-heat counterparts.

Coert said its ‘cool milling’ process — which concentrates on production of a wholemeal wheat product in a low heat environment (roughly 4 degrees celcius) — does not result in high percentage nutrient losses which can occur in popular high heat milling systems, and retains important nutrients present in the original grain kernel, including vitamins, phtyochemcials, enzymes, amino acids, minerals and essential oils.

“Under ‘cool milling’ the food remains alive and the whole material, wholesome — it creates a truly premium health product,” he said.

Z-Mills CEO, Thomas Cunliffe, said non-loss of grain roughage and fibre in the Alligrator system could substantially increase the nutritional value of processed grain product staples like flour, eliminating the need for further synthetic nutrient fortification.

He said many of the Alligrator mill’s enhanced efficiencies come from the fact it operates with just one moving piece, producing a fine powder from grains that spend on average, one third of a second in the milling chamber.

“A large blade, similar to a lawnmower blade, spins the grain through the air at around 400 metres per second. Processing occurs as grain impacts with grain — effectively the grain mills itself,” he explained.

Coert said the technique will allow the processing of ‘difficult’ ingredients like brown rice, wheat bran and organic sugar as well as sticky, oily or fibrous materials which are not currently milled in conventional systems, without the problem of rancidity.

“Rancidity occurs when flour is exposed to air — and the Alligrator processing system is contained in one small sealed tower in an oxygen free, or nitrogen, processing environment”.

Cunliffe said the shelf life of no-oxygen milled product could be as long as two years.

“When a consumer opens a packet of flour processed by Z Mills in an Alligrator mill, it’s the first time that the grain’s been exposed to atmospheric conditions. Until that point there are few, if any enzymes activated”.

He saaid the process could have significant implications for organic food manufacturers and processors seeking to develop more functional processed food lines.

For further information contact:


The future of food with Culinology

Rapidly changing technology and the demand for tastier, more nutritious and safer food is driving a new educational trend that many in the food industry predict will result in new flavours and more economical food products that reach consumers faster — Culinology.

Culinology is the blending of the culinary arts and food technology, blurring the barrier between chefs and food technologists. The partnering of traditional chef skills and science is a powerful combination to further excellence in food product development, food presentation and sensual effect, whilst importantly promoting sustainable practices and keeping costs low.

The need for Culinology in Australia and for the discipline to play an important role in the future of food product development will be addressed by John Menzies, Sanitarium Development & Innovation Meals R&D Manager, and Michael Moore, chef/owner of top Sydney restaurant Summit, at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) Convention in July 08.

“By partnering our culinary brothers, the chef and the scientist, we can re-engage the passion that has attracted most of us to the food industry. The scientist ‘knows’ what food is, but a chef ‘feels’ what food is,” said Menzies.

“Not only can the scientist benefit from re-engaging with the food they work with, but great chefs can become even greater when they gain an understanding as to why things work — opening up new opportunities in new fields of their careers and raising the bar in what we eat,” he added.

Culinology has been embraced in the United States including the introduction of Culinology degree programs across the country.

The 41st annual AIFST Convention will be held at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre, Darling Harbour from 21-24 July 2008. John Menzies and Michael Moore will be presenting ‘Culinology — Where Food Technology Meets the Culinary Arts’ on Tuesday 22 July 08.

For further information contact:


Foodtech Packtech 2008

New Zealand’s only dedicated food technology and packaging trade event, Foodtech Packtech 2008, runs 21 to 23 October at Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds.

“The response has been fantastic and it’s looking like it’s going to be a great show,” said show organisers dmg work media’s Irene Smith. “We have slightly more area than in 2006, and it’s all under one roof in the revamped ASB Showgrounds complex. We’re really excited about this event, particularly as it’s endorsed by the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology (NZIFST).

“Exhibitors, too, recognise this value to the industry and go all out to provide visitors with a great business experience. Many have brand new systems and technology on show, with a lot of it operating to make a proper hands-on evaluation possible. Visitors will also have on-site access to the top people from each of the companies, including many of the key people from their overseas manufacturers and partners.

Among the exhibitors looking forward to the three packed days is Food Processing Equipment’s Tania Carey.

“We’ll have the latest X-Ray technology from Smiths Detection. We’ve represented Smiths since February 2007. We came into contact with them through our own efforts to develop a machine for reading the chemical lean (CL) in boxed meat. Smiths Detections overall capabilities certainly don’t just start and stop with CL analysis. For instance, the Smiths Detection Eagle Carton FA can simultaneously analyse CL, weight and Foreign Objects in-line, which offers a meat processor a whole spectrum of benefits.”

Tania said the Smiths Detection Technology can be used throughout the food industry in many applications where contaminant detection is necessary.

Another exhibitor with well-advanced plans for Foodtech Packtech is Newsmith Pacific Systems. According to sales manager Graeme Topp, the company is a “subsidiary of Newsmith Stainless in the UK who manufacture industrial washing machines and conveyor systems with sales throughout Europe and the USA and Australasia. Over a year ago they decided to set up a manufacturing operation based in Christchurch to supply equipment into New Zealand and Australia, and we are also manufacturing equipment to go back in to the UK.

“Besides conveyor, rack and tray washers for bins, trays and utensils we also manufacture conveyor systems, plastic crate stackers, loaders and unloaders, pie machines for both standard meat pies and also for pie shells in foils, meat cookers, depositors, special purpose processing equipment and pastry glazing equipment.

“Visitors to our stand will also get the good oil on the Oddy range. Among the equipment are bread roll lines that include divider/rounders, make-up tables and provers, and bread plait and knot machines which produce authentic looking product without the need for skilled labour. Another range visitors can check out is from Oliver Douglas. They manufacture a smaller range of industrial washers including front loading and a conveyor/tunnel washer that allows for one person operation and a length of only three metres.

“We’ll also have information and displays of a whole lot more, including Tagliavini ovens from Italy with a range of deck and rack ovens which are very economical and have very low energy consumption; Burgess food equipment from the UK and their range of heavy duty pastry equipment and fruit block breaking and washing equipment for raisins and sultanas; Alba and Teknoservice S.r.L pastry equipment from Italy including pastry make up tables, and laminating lines and croissant machines in a range of capacities.

Topp said that visitors will be able to check out new products including the Oddy plait and knot machine which solves a large problem economically, and the range of Alba pastry equipment — while it has been made in Europe and also exported to the USA for many years, it is new to this market and represents very good value.

According to Irene Smith, when you need new technology or equipment, it pays to compare brands. “With one visit to Foodtech Packtech you can see all the big names and really weigh up the benefits of each before you make the big decision. You can then be sure you are getting the very best. You’ll also be able to see new technology in action and talk with the experts about how best to solve your business problems. Exhibitors come armed with quality product. They are skilled in their industries and are primed to give you the best possible advice and the best possible price on the products and services you need.

“Seminars and workshops will be also held alongside Foodtech Packtech, with details on the website as they’re confirmed.

“Exhibitors at Foodtech Packtech are New Zealand’s major manufacturers, processors, producers, importers and exporters across a wide range of industries including packaging; labels and labelling equipment; packaging machinery; packaging systems; shrink wrap solutions; storage systems; barcode packaging; boxes, cases and cartons; warehousing systems; baking packaging; blister packaging; bottles and jars; canning; food technology; processing equipment and systems; quality control technology; food and beverage ingredients; research and development; packaging machinery, materials and systems; storage systems; distribution networks; meat and produce; industry associations; education; liquid packaging; tapes; fish and seafood packaging; and containers.”

Foodtech Packtech is a trade-only event with free entry.

For further information contact:

Irene Smith

Exhibition Sales Manager

Beer for bourbon drinkers

Australia’s number one bourbon Jim Beam, launches Jim Beam and Ginger Beer — the beer for bourbon drinkers.

Targeting the more mature palette, Jim Beam’s latest creative mix provides a traditional, thirst-quenching taste never seen before in the bourbon category. According to the company, ginger beer is a natural compliment to the smooth flavour of Jim Beam bourbon.

“Reaching for a Jim Beam and Ginger Beer will be as refreshing as reaching for an ice cold beer. It’s all about choice and this new twist delivers the perfect substitute for those wanting something different — forget “beer o’clock” it’s now “beam o’clock,” said Jim Beam, Beam Global Spirits & Wine brand director, Ray Noble.

“At Beam Global Spirits and Wine we pride ourselves on our leadership position in innovating the RTD category and are excited by the launch of this new flavour. Combining Australia’s number one bourbon and mixing it with the increasingly popular flavour of ginger beer, we have successfully created a refreshing alternative to beer for the more mature palette,” said Noble.

Jim Beam and Ginger Beer is available in 375ml Cans (4 x 6 pack x 375ml) with a RRP of $25 a 6 pack & 330ml Glass stubbies (6 x 4 pack x 330ml) with an RRP of $17 a 4 pack.

For further information contact:

Victoria Costello

James Squire limited release

James Squire Pepperberry Winter Ale, released this month, is a a distinctive new beer especially created for the Australian winter.

Deep jarrah in colour with a delicate spicy nose, the Pepperberry Winter Ale delivers subtle complexities with a warming finish. It also features a rich chocolate malt flavour; which is unusual for an Australian beer.

“We were looking for something that was unique to the Australian winter. Spiced beers have been widely used in Europe, the UK and US as a winter or Christmas release — these are generally heavily spiced and often high alcohol beers suited to bitterly cold winters,” said James Squire chief brewer, Tony Jones.

“Our winters are more subtle and diverse, the team at James Squire wanted to create a beer that was mildly warming and unique in flavour, without being too challenging.

“Using the native Pepperberry in subtle quantities worked perfectly, it is quite reminiscent of the adventurous approach that James Squire himself might have adopted,” concluded Jones.

Only 10,000 cases of the James Squire Pepperberry Winter Ale have been produced, and are available nationally at a RRP of $54.99 per carton and $16.99 per 6 pack.

For further information contact:

James Squire

Gas scheme not enough for WA

The state government’s ‘Gas Bulletin Board’ has not gone far enough to help alleviate industry problems, according to Western Australia’s food and beverage manufacturing sector.

Food Industry Association WA chief executive, Andrea Berteit, said businesses in the sector has reviewed the option to utilise the online gas trading board, which did not guarantee the availability of gas to buyers.

Western Australia’s food and beverage manufacturing sector still faces serious uncertainty, despite the state government’s recent ‘Gas Bulletin Board’ initiative.

“Our businesses have reviewed the option to utilise the Gas Bulletin Board to get access to more gas, but it doesn’t appear viable for our situation and circumstances where our businesses need access to secure and consistent supply that allows us to plan a week ahead — not just a day,” Berteit said.

“The food and beverage industry relies on a consistent and reliable flow of energy as we deal with perishable goods. Unreliable supplies make it very difficult to plan the production process, and we also risk significant wastage of valuable food products.

“Unreliable energy supplies result in less production, and this could both endanger the state’s valuable export reputation as well as increasing the cost to consumers.

“What’s really needed is a secure allocation of gas so that food and beverage manufacturers can plan with confidence.”

The Gas Bulletin Board is operated by the Independent Market Operator, and facilitates the trading of natural gas between buyers and sellers. The minimum trade allowed has been dropped from 0.5 TJ to 0.1 TJ a day and actual trade arrangements (including transport) are negotiated between buyers and sellers. Bids close daily at 11am with the successful bidder notified at 12 noon about the supply for the next gas day starting at 8am. This does not allow for sufficient planning for a perishable supply chain.

For further information contact:

Independent Market Operator

The green packaging trend

Presentation Packaging marketing director, Samantha Lewers, has said that the industry is experiencing a strong growth in this sector as businesses try to become more environmentally conscious.

“There has been a massive shift in thinking over the past few years with customers genuinely concerned about what products are made of, and if they are recyclable and biodegradable. This has led the industry to seek new solutions for customers,” she said.

“The majority of customers today are interested in using the most environmentally friendly product they can afford for their business. While these options are generally more expensive than plastic alternatives, the market understands end-users expect environmentally friendly packaged products wherever possible.

“There has been a definite increase in the amount of cardboard and paper products being sold as businesses are experimenting more with these options. It’s also becoming an easy way for businesses to improve their green credentials.”

Lewers said Presentation Packaging had made a significant investment in sourcing environmentally friendly packaging for some of the more popular packaging requirements.

“We offer sandwich wedges that are made from recyclable material, easily compostable and biodegradable. The window face is also unique, made from PLA film, developed from corn, ensuring every element is environmentally friendly — unlike most options in the market place that still feature plastic windows. It also answers the aesthetic needs of customers.”

The company has also launched recyclable wrap and tortilla sleeves, a product unique to the Australian market.

“These sleeves are a new way for wraps to be presented, doing away with the hassle and mess of wrapping and bagging. They also make the product easier to handle for the end user.”

The sleeves are available in a variety of sizes in white or kraft finish.

“Businesses are after the opportunity to buy great looking packaging without the expense of custom manufacture or having to spend time dealing with overseas suppliers. We constantly scour the world for great packaging solutions we can bring into Australia, as well as internally developing products to fulfil market needs that we identify.”

Science is the future

Scientific research is essential to the future of New Zealand’s food industry, according to AgResearch CEO, Dr Andrew West.

Speaking at the 40th National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek last month, Dr West said NZ’s food producers will need to increasingly concentrate on supplying premier foods.

“Global demand for high quality food and other primary sector products has never been greater. This presents an unparalleled opportunity for NZ, already a recognised leader in the production of safe, top quality primary produce,” he said.

Dr West said that while the global demand for high quality, pastorally derived food was truly substantial, food industries also faced significant challenges.

“In the longer term we cannot compete on being the cheapest because we are now competing with developing countries with lower land, labour and production costs, and with NZ production technologies courtesy of NZ.

“NZ can’t feed the world. With our current product mix, perhaps we can feed 30 million people, not the 6.3 billion that inhabit this planet. NZ’s rising cost of production and the fact that we operate sophisticated food industries implies one thing — we need to be in high value add and high value capture.

“We must not just create more value, and then give too much of it away to some firm overseas: we also need to return a bigger share of that value back to NZ. To achieve the twin challenges of value add and value capture we need many things and two of the most important are science and technology.

“The NZ Government’s new Fast Forward Fund is all about transforming NZ’s food industries firmly into this space. It represents a fantastic opportunity to be genuinely transformational.”

Meanwhile, agricultural and medical scientists at two of NZ’s leading research organisations are joining forces to improve animal production and human health.

A collaboration between international quality researchers at AgResearch and the Liggins Institute — a biomedical research institute at the University of Auckland — has the potential to bring about major improvements in agriculture, such as lamb growth, disease resistance, milk production and human health.

Liggins Institute director, professor Peter Gluckman, believes that the interface between human and animal science is a strength which NZ has yet to fully realise.

“Researchers at both these organisations have been at the forefront of a revolution in our understanding of biology,” he said.

How to justify safety

Buyers and sellers alike need to think a little further than the price tag when it comes to justifying safety.

Take these quotes from a machinery supplier. The first, before the amputation: “Why should I make my machines fully compliant with the law and standards, when my competitors don’t?” The second, after the court case: “I now know what I should do to make my machine safe and have offered the compliant option to my customer but they don’t want to pay for it. What now?”

The catch-cry is ‘safety is non-negotiable’ but when machinery suppliers are locked in a sales war, sometimes safety is quite literally the first (but sadly, not the only) casualty. Both buyers and sellers need to consider the costs of neglecting safety, whether they are human costs, workers’ compensation costs, legal liability or even goodwill.

Immediate costs

Workers compensation might not be cheap but it is only the tip of the iceberg after a serious incident. Employers must deal with self-blame, long-term physical and emotional trauma, sick leave, excess payments, extra overtime, paperwork, investigations, staff turnover and legal costs.

A report by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) estimated that the indirect costs alone of a temporary injury that reduced the capacity of a worker in 2000-2001 were $8,060.

Legal liability

Even the most hard-nosed financial controller understands legal liability and the value of risk management. And, in the case of machine safety, the law is clear-cut.

All importers, suppliers, manufacturers and designers in all Australian states and territories are obliged to minimise risk by design, via engineered solutions, before relying on human behaviour. So are all employers.

The law makes sense because it is human to make mistakes — it is better to make machinery safe rather than relying on people to avoid hazards. Of course, it is not always possible to completely eliminate risks with good design and the law deals with this by using the well-known hierarchy of controls and guarding that are detailed in the OH&S legislation.

Non-compliance with the regulations is expensive. WorkSafe inspectors can and do shut down operations until safety is restored. When someone is injured, the legal costs, fines and lost productivity can cripple the businesses of employers, machinery suppliers, importers and designers.

Human cost

Severe injuries inflict a personal toll on workers, families and employers that is rarely reported in the media, but outlasts any business costs.

The law enforces a moral obligation to look out for the safety of others. No lawyer can defend a guilty conscience. And sadly, thousands of Australians are maimed at work each year. In April, Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities chair, John Watson, announced a national campaign to address machine safety in manufacturing.

“Unguarded machinery has the potential for causing severe injuries, including crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns or blindness,” Watson said.

“In NSW, around 1100 serious incidents occur each year as a result of inadequately guarded machinery with 46% of injuries occurring within the manufacturing industry.”


In minutes, dangerous machinery can undo reputations built over decades.

Designers and suppliers of the equipment dragged into court find it difficult to remain in the marketplace with a damaged brand name. Australian manufacturing is a tight-knit community and news soon spreads of court cases and convictions.

In turn, employers convicted of safety breaches are no longer employers of choice — a real asset in this tight labour market. A tarnished occupational health and safety record can also jeopardise contracts with customers.

On the other hand, proper guarding and safety control systems can be a decisive advantage for suppliers competing with non-compliant, low-cost imports. When safety is part of the design, it doesn’t compromise production or ease of use like guarding slapped on as an afterthought sometimes does.

It is not always easy to make the case for safety expenditure. You can rarely show it will generate extra efficiencies and in most cases, the statistical gains in lost time injuries are incremental and hard to predict. The irony is that the costs of neglecting safety are only really known once it’s too late and then they’re far too big to ignore.

Frank Schrever is the managing director of Pilz Safe Automation.

Where have the good foods gone?

Food companies are threatening to go offshore as the incentives for them to remain in Australia weakens. As pressure mounts on the Government to decrease Australia’s growing obesity crisis, the two sides of the story seem set to remain opposed.

At the same time, new consumer insights findings by Roy Morgan Research suggest that successful food brands will need to prove their nutritional and ethical credentials to consumers if they are to prosper in the future.

Consisting of three stages and conducted over a five year period, the research finds a growing number of consumers are no longer wanting — or trusting — the convenience of pre-packaged foods, and instead are investing more of their time and money in buying fresh food and cooking from scratch.

Warnings lights are flashing

Australia is now officially credited with having the worst obesity problem in the world, and the steps being taken to combat this are affecting the food industry, from the individual level and up.

In a recent submission made to a House of Representatives obesity inquiry, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said that the Government’s proposed ‘traffic light’ warnings system is flawed, failing to address the problem.

“These messages are not consistent with consumers being encouraged to consider their own dietary needs as part of overall lifestyle choices,” reads the statement.

It continues in saying that the proposed system “ignores the fundamental and mainstream nutritional wisdom accepted by nutritionists and dietitians that there are no unhealthy foods, only unhealthy diets.”

The AFGC claims that measures implemented already by manufacturers are helping lessen the crisis. They cite initiatives of the food industry that are improving the situation, such as providing $1 million of support for the National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey; the introduction of a new, voluntary Daily Intake Guide front of pack labelling scheme; and a commitment to responsible advertising consistent with concepts of moderation.

The imposition of taxes and subsidies on food and beverages for public health purposes is strongly opposed by the AFGC. The fears of the association are that they will be ill-targeted and socially inequitable. There is also a lack of solid evidence that consumption patterns would change as a result.

Highlighting that 200,000 Australians are employed in the processed food industry, the statement warned that “as global economic and trade developments continue to test the competitiveness of Australian industry, transnational businesses are under increasing pressure to justify Australia as a strategic location for corporate production, irrespective of whether they are Australian or foreign owned.

“In an increasingly globalised economy, the ability of companies to internationalise their operations is as significant as their ability to trade globally,” it said.

Modern dilemmas

So what is the problem with processed food?

In a recent interview held on the occasion of the Sydney Writer’s Festival, University of California, Berkeley professor of science and environmental journalism and award-winning author, Michael Pollan, argued that Western consumers are eating the wrong food and that we live in an era where nutrients have been elevated to ideology. Instead of “worrying about nutrients, we should avoid any food that has been processed to such an extent that it is more the product of industry than nature,” he said.

Michael Pollan warned that the ‘modern diet’ is killing us.

Pollan’s book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. The 2008 follow-up, ‘In Defence of Food,’ topped the New York Times best seller list for six weeks.

Pollan explained that the food industry has combined with science to confuse consumers over what is healthy and what isn’t. “Processing of food is very seductive to us because it offers us convenience and various labour saving advantages. But it’s more advantageous to the industry.

“It’s very hard to make money selling something like oatmeal but very easy to make it selling breakfast cereal, and even easier to make money by making breakfast cereal bars with layers of synthetic milk you can eat in the car. The economic imperative is to process the hell out of food but the health imperative goes in exactly the opposite direction.”

Pollan’s concern, as he explained is that “there’s something wrong with the way we’re eating and it’s leading to very high levels of chronic disease. Four of the top ten killers are chronic diseases linked to diet. So, the Western diet, this way we’re eating, is literally killing us.”

Pollan maintains that he is not in any way anti-science. He believes that the food science industry will get there one day, making us all healthy, happy individuals — but he also feels that the day is far away.

Drawing an important distinction between what he labels as nutrition and ‘nutritionism,’ Pollan explained that “nutritional science is important work and it needs to go on and be perfected.”

On the other hand, “nutritionism is an ideology, a way of looking at food that basically encourages us to think about it as a collection of nutrients, so that if you get the nutrients right you’ll be fine. Avoid saturated fat, eat omega 3s, etc. It divides the world into blessed nutrients that, if we ate enough of, we’d live forever, and satanic nutrients that we’re trying to drive from the food supply.”

The problem, for Pollan, is the lack of understanding in consumers when it comes to these nutrients, and the lack of clear information to give them a greater control over their eating practices.

“What confuses people is the proliferation of health claims which it doesn’t take a lot to get on a package, although they’re often misleading. I think that’s a big part of the problem.”

On top of that, Pollan highlighted the current super-fruit fad, which is attracting the health-conscious consumer segment.

“There is a lot of food industry commissioned science. If you have a product you want to sell, say the pomegranate, you can go out and commission a study and low and behold you’ll find some wonderful antioxidant in the pomegranate, and you can go to town and market it on the basis of its heart healthiness and its cancer prevention.

“There has been a study done of that type of science that shows it’s remarkably reliable in finding a health benefit in whatever it studies. That shouldn’t surprise us because food is healthy and every plant has antioxidants in it. You cannot study a plant and not find a health-giving antioxidant. The plants need them to kerb against the oxidated stress of photosynthesis.”

Reflecting on the lower quality of food products that are available today, Pollan explained that “the nutritional quality of a lot of our produce has declined during the industrialisation of agriculture, and we’re not exactly sure why.”

An example is the iron content of apples. To get the same amount of iron as you would have had from an apple in the 1950s, you would have to eat three modern apples.

Three apples a day to keep the doctor away? “We’ve had this nutritional inflation, and some of that is breeding. We’re breeding for bigger more beautiful, but less nutritious apples because you just can’t select for everything.”

Facing the findings

According to a new report from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne, nine million adult Australians are now overweight or obese, which is more than the US. The nation is facing a ticking “fat bomb” with the potential to cause 123,000 premature deaths over the next two decades

It seems that Pollan’s words of warning have come at an appropriate time.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle stresses the importance of the recent findings. “The implications for Australia’s food industry are clear. Nutritional value, genuine freshness and the amount of natural ingredients will become increasingly important drivers of consumer purchasing behaviour on top of the more established factors such as taste, convenience and price.”

The food industry is at a crucial point in its history. The steps that will be taken from now on, will make a world of difference.

Maya Gorelik is a freelance journalist for FOOD Magazine.

Australia’s ready to eat

Time is of the essence. How to save it? Where to cut corners? What to spend the precious little on? Food manufacturers are tapping into these consumer concerns and the market is being flooded with ready to serve, ready to heat, and ready to eat, prepared meals.

The increase in working mothers, single parent families, and single households, as well as rising consumer awareness about health and nutrition in recent years has meant a move towards healthier prepared meals. Food manufacturers are producing low-carb, gluten-free, low-fat, no dairy, low GI, high protein meals and more, to fit every health fad currently out there, and consumer response is high.

The world’s microwavable foods market is forecast to reach $78.8 billion by the end of the decade, according to a recent report pub­lished by Global Industry Analysts Inc. The report, titled ‘Microwavable Foods: a Global Strategic Business Report’, discusses the prevailing trends, issues, demand fore­casts, and activities that affect the industry.

The attractive factors for this market are taste, food quality, and convenience. Con­sumer lifestyle has been, and continues to be, the crux behind product innovation and development efforts for the industry. The consumption of foods designed specifically for microwave cooking is projected to grow in view of product innovations correspond­ing to changing lifestyles and eating habits.

The demand for microwavable foods is projected to exceed $9.0 billion in the Asia-Pacific region by 2010.

This research clearly proves that the market for fresh convenience meals is significant and Australian manufacturers plan to capitalise on this trend with a great variety of new ideas in fresh, high quality food.

A passion for perfection

Dari and Yehiel Kaplan are known for cook­ing nothing but the best. With a combined experience of over 50 years, the couple has produced exactly what was missing on Aus­tralia’s shelves — quality, healthy products, with a look that reflects their simplicity.

Pilpel Fine Foods was established in December 2004 with the motto of adding nothing that was not essential to the flavour. This is why Pilpel’s range of dips, pestos, soups and curries are all gluten-free, contain no dairy, no egg, no animal fat, no preserva­tives, and no artificial colours or flavours. The entire range is therefore a suitable addi­tion to a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as for people with various food sensitivities and allergies.

The range of dips, with which Pilpel first burst onto the market, are a great indication of the uniqueness of these products. “We never compromise,” Yehiel has said in the past. “We don’t take shortcuts and we do use expensive ingredients.” This approach stands true till today. Yehiel originally started studying cooking in his home country of Israel. “I still remem­ber the most important rule being written on the board: don’t compromise on quality.” Yehiel has not forgotten this lesson.

Today Pilpel’s point of difference is “the freshness of the pure, fresh vegetables which are not frozen, not dehydrated, and not powdered. We’re working with the highest quality ingredients — extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs and spices.”

Before making a decision to open the busi­ness, Yehiel spent several years research­ing the market. “I saw dips on the shelves, and was disturbed by what was going on,” he said. “For example, simple avocado dip which, when you see the percentage, is only 2% avocado, and all the rest is nothing. You see this and you understand that people are getting a very bad product. I wanted to <[lb]>provide a product that was real food.”

After receiving what Yehiel has called an unbelievable response to their range of dips, Pilpel decided to expand into soups and curries. “I was doing research when I started these soups, and I discovered that one of the com­panies, coming from New Zealand, is actually using all Chinese frozen vegetables and dry vegetables, while claiming their goods are organic. I strongly doubt that there is any­thing organic coming from China.”

For Yehiel, using all Australian vegeta­bles and fresh ingredients is about more than just taste. “As an ex-kibbutz farmer, I under­stand what a drought means. I understand how important it is to support the farmers at this time by buying fresh produce from them, and not getting the imported frozen vegetables. The flavour of the fresh vegetables is a lot higher, and so is the impact.

Yehiel understands that the market for ready and prepared meals is only going to expand, and appreciates the niche appeal of Pilpel. “A lot of people, especially a lot of young people, are working quite hard and coming home late. There are two things hap­pening as a result. Either they are buying take-away meals, or they’re buying a ready meal, shoving it in the microwave and having it in front of the TV. And that’s it.

“A lot of people are really quite lazy to cook. Also I believe that a lot of people are look­ing for the value for money. And that is why we created something that is high quality.

“There is a simple saying that says ‘cheap is very expensive’ and that is my belief. That was my belief from the very beginning. We make good, high quality dips, soups, curries, and pestos. Yes, they are expensive but whoever buys them appreciates them and understands that they’re getting real value for money.”

Creative solutions for every day

With its roots firmly planted in the hospitality industry, providing first class products to some of the countries top hotels and restaurants, Peter Cox and his team at Creative Food Solutions has developed a range of cooked meal products for ALDI under the Specially Selected brand.

The product range includes a selection of meals produced from 150 day grain fed Angus beef medallions and fresh chicken breast, each available in three styles. The Black Angus beef and fresh hormone- free chicken breasts are grilled prior to being topped with freshly made sauces and cooked sous vide for 12 hours in a Simple Steps tray.

The product range has been developed to provide a full main course meat portion for two people. Each of the products contains two 180 gram beef medallions, or two 200 gram chicken breasts — the same size as most restau­rant meal mains. By selecting from the range the consumer can have the main component ready for the table in just three minutes.

These products also allow the consumer to vary their meal selection by changing the side dishes served with the meal, and pro­viding endless combination for all seasons.

According to the Creative Food Solutions general manager, Peter Cox, the company has “sourced the Black Angus beef from the Margaret River region in Western Australia as part of Andrews Meat Industries Angus Cattle program. This program allows us to control the cattle from the planning at the farm through the processing, and then to the kitchen.

“Our chicken breasts are all hormone, steroid and chemical free, keeping with our philosophy of fresh and natural products,” he explained. “As we are a team of chefs, we produce all of the sauces from scratch, using fresh veg­etables and all natural ingredients. This process gives the finished product a ‘non- commercial’ look and more of a home-made appearance.” This is an important point of difference for the company.

After months of research and development on packaging with Cryovac, Creative Food Solutions decided on the Simple Steps pro­gram as the Vacuum Skin Packaging (VSP) provided both brilliant presentation and a perfect microwave reheat with a unique self- venting system. This system allows the customer to heat the product quickly, avoiding drying out or turning the product into rubber, without piercing the skin of the packaging and without having contents of the meal explode all over the inside of the microwave.

As the meal heats, select­ed areas of the package vent if the pressure builds past a set point. The skin will collapse over the product after heating, allowing for easy removal and serving.

The VSP packaging system allows the product to be sauced and cooked in the tray, providing extended shelf life without the need for preservatives.

“The skin forms a tight seal over the product keeping everything in its place during the cooking process, the transportation to each of the stores and all the way to the customer’s fridge,” said Cox.

“One of my concerns with the packaging sleeve was that the photos on the outer were a direct representation of the product and its ability to be presented by the customer as seen in the picture. All of the photos were taken using the product reheated directly from the tray and garnished with items that anyone could make very quickly.”

Serving up variety

Fresh food producer Mrs Crocket’s Fast & Fresh has responded to consumer demand with the release of a new range of all fresh, all natural, gourmet soups and risottos, following extensive industry research.

The new, restaurant-inspired meals are presented in convenient, consumer friendly packaging.

Mrs Crocket’s business development and innovation manager, Shelley Davidson, said the decision to redevelop the range was part of the manufacturer’s constant strategy to align itself with changing consumer trends and offer greater options to retailers for convenience food offerings.

“Mrs Crocket’s has been operating within this industry for several years and are determined to be the market leader in terms of our innovation and understanding of customers. We believe extensive customer research is vital in our business activity and currently employ eight team members who are dedicated to product innovation,” she said.

“This range was in development for over three months. The products are made with only the freshest Australian ingredients and feature no artificial colours or flavours to ensure that while consumers are enjoying delicious, restaurant-quality meals, they are also packed with nutritional value.

“We understand that constant redevelop­ment is essential to maintain the interest and loyalty of our customers and aim to keep the range interesting with new flavours.”

Mrs Crocket’s Fast and Fresh is Aus­tralia’s largest manufacturer of chilled con­venience soups, capturing a solid portion of a market worth approximately $14 million and growing at 27% per annum.

The range also features new microwave­able packaging which make the individual servings more manageable for consumers, and merchandising more practical for retailers. Mrs Crocket’s spe­cialise in dressed and leafy salads, prepared risottos, mashes and soups.

The company has recently launched a convenience food range in selected ser­vice stations as part of an ongoing strategy to offer healthier and tastier options to the growing convenience food market.

“We understand consumers are becoming increasingly time-poor and health conscious so we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to meet these changing needs and offer better alternatives to the market,” said Davidson.

“People don’t normally expect to find such healthy gourmet foods at a service station so it’s fantastic that busy consumers can now pick up a meal as they fill up the tank or head to and from work.

“The grab ‘n’ go products are perfect lunch or dinner solutions for people who enjoy nutritious gourmet meals but don’t always have the time to prepare them at home. That’s why we use only the freshest, highest-quality produce to ensure our meals are healthy and nutritious as well as tasting great and saving consumers time.”

Lena Zak is the editor of FOOD Magazine.

Increasing fibre and reducing sugar

With growing consumer awareness and demand for products with ‘added fibre’ and ‘reduced sugar’, fructose and Litesse are ideal ingredients for use in many culinary applications, without compromising on taste and flavour.

In 2004-05, more than half of all Australian adults, or 7.4 million people, were either overweight or obese, an increase from 5.4 million in 1995. Obesity is linked to lifestyle factors such as increased consumption of foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, as well as a reduction in physical activity. People with obesity have an increased overall risk of premature death, as well as a higher relative risk of developing type two diabetes; cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease; osteoarthritis; various cancers such as colorectal, breast, uterine, and kidney; and other health conditions.

The total cost of obesity in 2005, to the Australian government and society, was estimated to be $21.0 billion. In an attempt to curb the rising rate of obesity, the Australian government is currently promoting the ‘Working Together for a Healthy Active Australia’ campaign. The campaign provides guidelines and recommendations about nutrition and physical activity, allowing Australians to make better lifestyle choices and lead healthier lives.

As the cause of obesity is generally considered to be the consumption of high energy dense diets and a sedentary lifestyle, a reduction in energy density can be useful in aiding weight loss or helping weight maintenance. Strategies such as increasing the fruit, vegetable and cereal content of the diet can help lower the energy density. Alternatively, the use of low calorie bulking agents and dietary fibre ingredients can be considered.

Fibre is an essential part of the human diet and contributes to our overall well-being. Fibre-rich diets may help to reduce the risk of obesity, colon cancer and heart disease; and reduce the occurrence of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis and other digestive disorders.

It is recognised globally that most diets are fibre deficient, because the actual daily consumption of dietary fibre is short of that recommended by various healthcare professionals and authorities. It is recommended that Australians eat at least 30g of fibre per day, whilst in reality most Australians currently only eat around 20g of fibre each day. However, Australian consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the health benefits of food and more selective with regards to their meal choices.

Developing Opportunities

Consumers are not only spending more on eating inside the home, but outside the home as well. Between 1985 and 2006 expenditure on food in Australian households increased annually by 10%, whereas expenditure on food consumed outside the home in restaurants, etc increased by 30% per year.

This comparatively large increase is consistent with consumers opting for ‘out-of-home catering’ in response to their reduced availability of time, social implications and greater spending capacity. Opportunities therefore exist for food manufacturers and retailers to provide consumers with a positive eating experience both in the home and out of the home, that will have a positive impact on their overall health.

New products developed with low, no or reduced sugar and added fibre claims are appearing every day around the world in a wide range of food applications. As consumer demand grows, products with claims associated with health and wellness are being developed for food categories such as soups, sauces, seasonings and condiments. New product launches around the world in the last three years have concentrated on no additives and preservatives, and low, no or reduced fat because they are most popular. This trend has also been seen in the table sauces and dressings categories, as well as the dry and wet soup categories.

What ingredients can Danisco offer?

In developing new products or reformulating existing one, it is important to consider the ingredients used. These will obviously have a strong influence on the taste and texture of the final food product.

Sucrose is a standard ingredient used to improve the flavour perception, increase the sweetness and to add bulk, whilst improving the mouth feel. There are, however, several alternatives to sucrose. For example, monosodium glutamate and yeast extract can be used to enhance the flavour perception,; and high intensity sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame K, and sucralose can be used to increase sweetness without adding calories. However, a poorer mouth feel in the final product may result. Bulking agents such as polydextrose can also be used to compensate for the loss of mouth feel. Fructose, also known as fruit sugar, is also used to replace sucrose.

Fructose and sucrose are both sugars (defined as mono- and di-saccharides), and both contribute an energy content of four kilocalories per gram. However, as fructose is the sweetest sugar in nature, being up to 30-40% sweeter than sucrose, less fructose can be used to achieve the same level of sweetness, resulting in a calorie reduction. Another health benefit of fructose, which is of increasing interest, is its low glycaemic index of only 19, compared to sucrose at 657.

Fructose may also be used as an alternative to sucrose because of the impact it has on the flavour profile. For example, fructose enhances the flavour of fruit more than sucrose; fructose also enhances the flavour of vanilla, coffee and cinnamon. In culinary applications, fructose can be used to modify the tomato and herb flavour in tomato soup or tomato sauce. The level of fructose used will change the flavour perception of the herbs and tomato. In spicier sauces, such as chilli sauce and tom yum sauce, fructose can work to enhance the spiciness.

As well as its excellent sweetening and flavour-enhancing qualities, fructose has the ability to mask the unpleasant tastes of some other ingredients. Fructose is easily dissolved in water and can therefore be readily formulated into any type of soup, sauce or seasoning product. Fructose reduces the water activity of the product even more so than sucrose, making fructose a better preservative than sucrose at similar concentrations.

Sources of dietary fibre are low in energy and can be used as a nutritional tool to reduce calorie content whilst aiding satiety. Low calorie bulking agents such as Litesse polydextrose can help to lower the caloric density of products, with the goal of helping consumers ingest fewer calories whilst maintaining the texture and taste of a standard product. It contributes 1 kcal/g8 and is particularly suitable for formulating a wide range of products, including culinary applications. It can replace sugar and help reduce fat in many applications, but with significantly less calories.

In physiological terms, Litesse has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels and is metabolised independently of insulin, contributing only one quarter of the calories of sugar. In most major countries around the world, including Australia, Litesse has been recognised as a valuable source of dietary fibre for many years. Typically, it can be used at high enough levels in culinary applications so that fibre claims are possible. Litesse enables the formulation of nutritionally enhanced food products by replacing the bulk and functionality of sugar. It is pH and heat stable and is highly soluble and neutral tasting. Its low impact on viscosity and flavour allow a significant level of fibre to be added to a product without negative sensory impact.

Digging through China’s bureaucracy

China’s burgeoning middle and upper classes have a big appetite for Western-style food and beverage products, which they associate with an affluent lifestyle.

Due to factors such as geographical proximity, educational ties and a large migrant Chinese community, China’s population of 1.3 billion people is shaping up to be a major export opportunity for Australian food and beverage producers.

However, we’re not there just yet.

To put things in perspective: in 2005 Taiwan imported $850 million of food and agricultural products from Down Under. Last year China imported just $324 million worth of food and live animals. Nevertheless, Austrade figures show that between July 2007 and January 2008, exports of dairy, honey and eggs nearly doubled to over $80.7 million and 12-month meat exports also rose from $30.7 million in the previous year to $49.4 million.

Austrade’s Shanghai business development manager, Stella Cai, has said that “food and beverage exports to China are a stable and steadily growing area. Some products such as wine, dairy and meat are already quite strong and beyond emerging, and there are other areas that are more niche, such as packaged and processed foods.”

As well as the hunger for Western-style luxuries that are apparent among Asia’s affluent classes, Cai said the interest in Australian food and beverages is also being driven by an awareness of healthy eating and a knowledge of the issues about local domestic production versus imported. “Some local product quality cannot compare with imported products” she explained. “For example, consumers know that local honey and milk is not good, so they are keen to import honey and milk from New Zealand and Australia.”

Exporting to China has many advantages for Australian food and beverage companies. Firstly, there’s the opportunity to get in at the start. Being geographically close to the market, there is quicker freighting and logistical times which means that products can be fresher. Although the exchange rate is not as favourable as it once was, Australian products are still less expensive when compared to European imports.

While the reasons for trying to gain a foothold in the Chinese market are compelling, there are also significant challenges. According to Cai, “market access is a major obstacle. There are product categories such as fruit, poultry, and white and game meat (such as kangaroo, emu, etc) that just aren’t allowed in.

“Another one is distribution. China is still developing distribution and cold chain and logistical networks aren’t as sophisticated as Singapore and Hong Kong.”

Other challenges include very strict labelling requirements and formulations. All labels must be printed in Chinese characters prior to export to China — it can’t be done at the distributor. Formulations are more variable. Chinese consumers feel Australian chocolate is too sweet but because volumes are low at the moment it is difficult to change the formulations.

When it comes to processed foods, like chocolate and biscuits, there’s also a preference for smaller packaging. “Chinese consumers often buy imported products as a gift to friends or family members, so packaging is very important. In Australia most packaging is quite simple so it is sometimes very hard to satisfy the Chinese consumer. They think the packaging is not colourful and fancy enough,” explained Cai.

While corruption has been an issue in the past, Cai has said it is much less so now. “The Chinese Government has made a lot of progress in controlling and addressing the whole issue of kickbacks, bribes, etc, and is committed to making the business environment much more transparent. As China is developing, things are becoming more competitive, which is helping address that issue as well. But relationships are still very important. It’s all about mates.”

Coffee anyone?

When master roaster and CoffeeMasters owner, Andrew Gross, decided to expand into the Chinese market he found himself a ‘mate’ — a retired army general’s son who was studying in Australia.

Gross was attracted by the size of the market, the possibilities inherent in being there at the start of the boom, and China’s proximity to Australia. “Shanghai, just Shanghai, has twice the population of Australia all in one place,” he said. “And it’s only two hour’s time difference. I don’t have to stay up till 1am to have a conversation with my business partner.”

Gross’s business partner has been able to simplify much of the work inherent in setting up a business in any foreign country. However, China’s rampant bureaucracy was still unavoidable.

“I was in China, and they said ‘prove that you’re you.’ I said I’ve got a passport where the Australian Government says that I’m me. ‘Yes, but we need something from the Chinese consulate’ they said. I said I have a visa where the Chinese consulate also agrees that I’m me according to my passport.

“I had to come back to Australia, get an affidavit signed off by my solicitor, get it notarised, put it in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs and then put it in front of the Chinese Consulate in Australia and then take it back. If I wasn’t going backwards and forwards frequently, it would have been a nightmare.”

Darren Baguley is a freelance journalist for FOOD Magazine.