Dropping the salt

Since the 1990s, food manufacturing has been significantly influenced by health and wellness.

Considering the range of new products entering the market today, there is no doubt that functional foods, those enhanced with ingredients or properties that provide health benefits to the consumer beyond basic nutrition, dominate supermarket shelves.

Whether claiming to reduce cholesterol, have lower sodium levels, be gluten free, sugar free, low GI, soy-based or fortified with vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, food innovation is being driven by a growing health trend.

But who or what is doing the driving?

It appears a combination of emerging processing technologies, scientific evidence of food’s link to improved health, food regulations, and consumer awareness of health are the main instigators.

Unilever’s corporate affairs director, Nick Goddard, attributes the growth in food products with improved health or functional benefits to food manufacturers picking up on consumers’ changing mindset.

“During the late 1990s consumers developed a mindset of taking a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing, including the food they eat and recognising that food has a much wider role to play than simply providing taste and satiety,” Goddard said.

“The onus then came back on food manufacturers that, having picked up on this trend through independent consumer research, embarked on a path of research and development to identify new opportunities to meet those needs.”

In line with demand for healthier foods consumed in and out of the home, food manufacturers have escalated the health trend by investing time and effort in researching and developing food ingredients, formulations and processing techniques.

Salty subject

Reducing sodium levels in processed foods is one area food manufacturers have focused on in new product development.

A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report that highlighted the negative affects of salt on people’s health and the launch of a national Drop the Salt campaign by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) in May 2007 thrust the issue of salt into the spotlight, but Unilever says this issue is not new to the food industry.

In fact, Unilever points to the 1980s as the period when low-salt varieties in savoury food categories began to emerge and to 1988 in particular with the launch of the Heart Foundation’s Tick program, which included low sodium levels as one of its key requirements.

“The Heart Foundation Tick gives manufacturers a competitive advantage,” Goddard said.

“If you have the Tick on your product range and your competitor doesn’t, you have an advantage in the market place as consumers will tend to go for the healthier option.”

AWASH senior project managerJacqui Webster agrees, saying the food industry is one of the most innovative industries in the world and has not been slow to look at what benefits it can gain by focusing its innovation efforts on health.

“A lot of companies have already done quite a lot of work to reduce salt in their products and have said they’re committed to doing more,” she said.

“The potential for further reductions is made clear by the fact that if you look on the shelf, there is a huge variation in the salt content of similar product ranges, for example in different brands of tinned tomatoes,” Webster continued.

Salt in processed foods serves many purposes, but the three main reasons are for processing, taste and preservation.

Despite the necessity of salt in the production of many foods such as bread, meat and meat products, butter and margarine, Unilever recognises the key role of the food industry in reducing the salt intake of the Australian population which, according to the most recent national diet and physical activity survey conducted in 1997, is between 9g and 9.5g a day.

“As more meals are made available through the food industry, be it in restaurants or prepared food bought in supermarkets, there is a growing opportunity for the industry to reduce salt levels,” Goddard said.

This is particularly important, says AWASH, as it has been proven that a diet high in salt is a major determinant of high blood pressure, accounting for 62% of strokes and 49% of heart disease worldwide.


There is no hard-and-fast solution for reducing salt in food.

This is mainly due to the fact that salt plays a varied role in different food categories and in a lot of cases salt reduction does not involve simply taking salt out of the product.

“As a food manufacturer you need to consider how reducing or removing salt will impact of the taste, texture and quality of the product,” Goddard explained.

“If it serves the role of a preservative, for instance, you may need to reformulate the recipe to maintain the product’s integrity.”

Goddard also refers to pleasing the consumer palette as a main consideration.

“You need to adjust the consumer palette to a certain salt level slowly or risk your product failing,” Goddard said.

Working together

This was the case for Unilever during the 1980s when they began taking salt out of margarine.

By 1988 when the Tick was introduced, Unilever and major competitors had reduced salt levels to 1% in a significant part of their range.

“Unilever moved, our competitor’s moved, everyone started to move at the same pace and we therefore successfully adjusted the Australian palette to lower-salt margarine,” Goddard said.

In more recent times, the salt content across Unilever’s Continental range of products has been reduced.

Between 2001 and 2004, 130 products including soups and sauces, were reformulated, reducing sodium by an average of 25%.

Since 2004 a further 8% of sodium has been taken out of the company’s Continental product range, resulting in approximately 44 tonnes of salt being removed from the food supply.

“This process was done slowly and gradually, and involved extensive consumer research and bench top research and development throughout the process,” Goddard said.

Goddard adds that the food industry needs to approach the issue of salt reduction together and category by category to ensure that consumers come on board.

AWASH concurs, arguing that while consumers are used to salty foods, it is possible to reduce levels by a certain amount over time without people noticing.


The end result of a product, its taste profile, is not the only consideration for manufacturers reducing the salt content of products.

The manufacturing process is just as important.

In Unilever’s experience, reducing salt levels in dried mixes like Continental’s Cup-a-Soup involves blending ingredients in a different combination.

This could include replacing some of the sodium chloride with potassium chloride, which is regarded as an acceptable alternative, or intensifying another flavour or ingredient in the mix to compensate for the low salt content.

While these changes seem simple enough they are not without their challenges.

Potassium chloride, for instance, provides a salty taste, albeit different to sodium, but there is only so much that can be added to a mixture before it gives it a bitter taste.

Also, many of the flavours used are supplied in carriers of salt.

“Often the salt in our formulations hasn’t come from us adding sodium chloride to the recipe, its come as a result of the ingredients we’ve purchased,” Goddard said.

“We now need to work with our suppliers to reduce their sodium levels which will be a real challenge for all.”

Technical challenges

In product categories like wet food products and margarine, there are technical challenges involved with reducing salt.

Salt in margarine acts as a preservative by reducing water activity and the growth of micro-organisms.

Therefore reducing sodium levels involves ensuring the micro-sized water droplets are made even smaller in the overall dispersion of the mix so there is less opportunity for micro-organism contamination.

This involves a change in processing technology, including the equipment and how it is used.

“Extensive technical skills in your research and development and formulation areas are essential to deliver a product to the market that has less salt and is accepted by consumers,” advised Goddard.

Assisting manufacturers

Consumer’s may be driving the health trend, but initiatives such as the Heart Foundation’s Tick and AWASH’s Drop the Salt campaign are ultimately setting the benchmarks for sodium in new product development.

The continuing review of Tick criteria in coming years will force further salt reductions.

A four-phase strategy by AWASH will monitor companies’ progress in reducing salt and assist them in achieving their goals.

As part of the Drop the Salt campaign, food manufacturers are being asked to commit to reducing salt in their products by 25% over the next five years, developing detailed action plans which they will then be monitored against.

A databank will also be developed to monitor the salt levels of key brands across high-salt product categories.

AWASH is campaigning for adequate methods of measuring sodium intake to be included in the 2009 national diet and physical activity survey.

While AWASH will work closely with the industry to ensure a strong commitment, industry self-regulation will remain an important part of reducing salt levels further in the future.

“Companies are changing the composition of food all the time, creating novel processes to improve their products,” AWASH’s Webster said.

“There is no reason, therefore, why manufacturers cannot reformulate food to reduce, and further reduce, its salt content.”

Webster adds that many food manufacturers have already taken this approach to food innovation but there is still progress to be made.



Danisco secures raw material for xylitol

Ingredients supplier, Danisco, has secured and increased its production of xylose, the raw materials for xylitol production, with the completion of Danisco Sweeteners GmbH plant in Austria.

Danisco is a leading supplier of xylitol, the cariostatic bulk sweetener recognised world-wide for its unique dental benefits.

The completion of the plant expansion in Austria will significantly increase Danisco’s capacity to supply the raw material for xylitol production.


Utilising the company’s proprietary and patented technology, xylose is manufacturerd from hardwood sources at a competitive cost.

Manufacturing efficiency is enhanced by close co-operation with Lenzing AG, a leader in cellulose fibre technology.

Xylitol is approved for food use in over 50 countries and this, combined with increasing commercial and scientific interest in xylitol globally, has led to a strong demand for xylitol in the global market.


Sugar-free crush candies

BENEO-Palatinit’s Isomalt has been used for the development of a new kind of candy.

“Crush Candies”, the name given to an innovative, sugarfree product currently being manufactured and sold in Asia and Europe, are manufactured like classic, deposited hard boiled candies but differ in that they are cooled with liquid nitrogen, resulting in fine cracks being formed on the surface.

When sucked or chewed the candies disintegrate in the mouth, releasing flavour quickly and intensely.

Look and feel

The crystal clear “glass” surface that is achieved by using Isomalt results in individual cracks on the candies being clearly visible while achieving a smooth, even exterior.

Since Isomalt candies are stable and abrasion-resistant, no unwanted chippings occur after packaging, storage or transport.

Fruity flavours

Isomalt is derived from pure beet sugar and therefore has a mild, sugar-like sweetness about 50% that of sucrose.

It does, however, have more scope for flavour development.

Consumer tests conducted by BENEO-Palatinit showed that candies made with Isomalt are often considered more fruity.

This effect supports the novel release of flavour in crush candies.


Display technology benefits food industry

Australian food and beverage manufacturers looking to flaunt their new products on retailers’ shelves will indirectly benefit from a series of seminars, held recently by Octanorm Australia, that showcased the latest display, presentation and design systems to members of the retail industry.

Octanorm works with shop fitting and interior design companies, exhibition companies, display dealers and general contractors to provide a wide range of industries with display, presentation and design systems of the highest quality.

The seminars were a chance for Octanorm Australia’s customers and clients to find out more about its latest product range, which features products that are practical, versatile and modern.

The seminars provided practical hands-on demonstrations of the newest products and systems from Octanorm, including:

  • Exhibition systems including structures, flooring and displays
  • Design systems for designers, shop fitters and architects
  • Display and presentation systems for retail and exhibitions
  • Software tools for the design and implementation of unique systems

For further information on these products and systems contact Octanorm.


Bulk bag handling

Flexicon Corporation (Australia) supplies a Bulk Bag Conditioner-Unloader System to loosen bulk solid material that has been solidified during storage and shipment, allowing the material to discharge through a bag spout.

Two hydraulic rams with contoured end plates press opposing sides of the bulk bags, which can be raised or lowered for conditioning at varying heights using an electric hoist, and the hoist assembly includes a motorised trolley to enable loading and unloading without the need of a forklift.

According to the company, the internal configuration of the conditioner eliminates the time, labour and equipment needed for separate loading of bulk bags into a stand-alone conditioner and the design consumes significantly less floor space than two separate pieces of equipment.



Beverage exhibition a success

Members of the global beverage industry came together in India for two days of networking and information about the latest market developments and current trends in beverage and liquid-food technology at the first drink technology + PET India exhibition.

Held at the end of November in Mumbai, the event attracted over 500 specialists from 15 countries including beverage distributors and manufacturers.

The prospect of holding discussions with decision-makers from India and neighboring countries generated a strong response, especially among European specialists.

Exhibitor feedback

Hermann Graf Castell, head of group communications, Krones AG found the event beneficial.

“Topics related to aseptic bottling in particular are very important to the development of the Indian beverage industry.

“Presenting our expertise on location in India allowed us to address potential customers and users who want simple and uncomplicated information on a broad basis,” he said.

Rüdiger Selig, marketing and communications – food, beverage and tobacco, Siemens, also found the event worthwhile.

“As a supplier of automation and drive technology for the beverage industry, [Siemens] monitors global trends among plant operators that pertain to total cost of ownership, increased flexibility, and tracking and tracing.

“That also applies to the Indian market, where we see a great deal of potential.

“The response at the Siemens stand confirmed our view of the trends,” he said.

The next drink technology + PET India is scheduled to take place in late November or early December 2008.

Protein diet good for men

Opportunities exist for manufacturers of high protein products as the results of a CSIRO study of 100 overweight and obese men shows that effective and safe weight loss can be achieved on a high protein diet.

Presenting the results of the study today at the Nutrition Society Conference in Auckland, NZ, CSIRO dietitian Dr Manny Noakes said the study suggests it is easier than previously thought for men to take action to lose weight.

The study compared a diet high in protein, red meat and fibre with one high in carbohydrate and fibre, finding that both diets led to similar weight losses, but the high protein diet was more effective at reducing abdominal fat levels.

“Abdominal fat is a key risk factor for men for a range of diseases including colorectal and other cancers,” Dr Noakes said.

“For weight loss, red meat and other protein sources should be eaten as part of a balanced eating plan.”

The study was initiated by CSIRO as part of the Preventative Health National Research Flagship and was financially supported, in part, by Meat and Livestock Australia.

Over 100 overweight and obese men participated in the study.

Contact Manny Noakes for more information.


Flaunt new products: FOOD Challenge Awards 2008

This year’s FOOD Challenge Awards, were the most successful in the program’s three-year history.

The FOOD Challenge Awards had it all: glitz, glamorous guests, a gala dinner, great entries, even better finalists, industry-respected judges and a constellation of stellar winners.

For 2008, the fourth year of the awards program, the challenge for all involved will be building on this success.

The full support of the FOOD Challenge Awards sponsor compa­nies is important to the success of the awards program and the final event at which winners are presented with their awards.

Each of the ten categories in the awards program has a sponsor, many of whom re-signed on the culmina­tion of the 2007 event.

All the categories for 2008 are sponsored.

Don’t delay: enter now

The FOOD Challenge Awards 2008 are now officially open.

Has your company released a new product in the past year that demon­strates innovation in processing, ingredients and new product devel­opment?

Enter now or in the New Year period to avoid the last-minute rush before the deadline in April.

Further information

Application form

Allergy conference

A wide variety of speakers from all aspects of the food industry will be presenting the latest information on allergens at the Allergen Bureau’s 2008 Conference.


Sydney: Tuesday 26 February 2008, Oatlands House Oatlands

Brisbane: Tuesday 12 February 2008, Holiday Inn Brisbane

To view the program or to register click here.

Matthews resumes sponsorship

Matthews is proud to sponsor the FOOD Challenge Awards’ Confectionery category in 2008.

A coding, labelling and automatic-data capture specialist, Matthews is a GS1 Strategic Alliance Partner — and is the only coding and labelling company to hold that status.

Matthews’ strong focus on product research and development, and systems integration, is behind its broad client base, which includes leading companies, such as confectionery manufacturers Cadbury Schweppes and Daryl Lea, plus a variety of other companies in the dairy and beverage sectors.

Through its Identification Systems Group the company has wide-ranging software integration capabilities, allowing it to offer a full complement of skills from selecting appropriate coding and labelling hardware to designing, developing and integrating software into a broad variety of production lines.

The 30-year-old Australian-owned business has national coverage in both sales and support, with plants and offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Shepparton, plus in NZ.

With any installation, Matthews looks beyond mere compliance issues to production floor and administration areas to improve productivity, efficiency and streamline reporting.

“An inaugural sponsor, Matthews has again chosen to support the FOOD Magazine Challenge Awards for several reasons, including two very close to our core values: supporting local industry and encouraging innovation,” said Matthews national sales and marketing manager Phil Biggs.

Further information

What are the FOOD Challenge Awards?

Application form

Categories and sponsors

Winners 2007

Best in Show

Support for the 4th year running

Amcor will sponsor the FOOD Challenge Awards’ Health and Wellness category again in 2008.

As a leading supplier of innovative packaging solutions in Australia and New Zealand, Amcor is proud to be again supporting the Food Challenge Awards.

Amcor is a global packaging manufacturer offering a broad range of fibre, metal, plastic and glass packaging products, along with packaging-related services.

Understanding the needs of today’s consumers requires great insight, expert knowledge and experience.

Amcor works closely with customers to understand their challenges and the markets in which they operate.

The recent establishment of Amcor’s Customer Solutions and Innovation Group will drive Amcor’s product leadership and innovation capability and raise its customer and market focus in the future.

The increasing importance of healthy lifestyles in Australia and New Zealand, as well as around the world, is having a profound influence on packaged food and beverage product development within the fast-moving consumer goods sector.

Amcor’s innovation capability and broad product offering enables the company to meet the challenge of delivering on the ever-changing packaging requirements of brand owners and retailers in the growing health and wellness market.

Further information

What are the FOOD Challenge Awards?

Application form 2008

Categories and sponsors 2008

Winners 2007

Best in Show 2007

Welcome aboard

Siemens is proud to sponsor the FOOD Challenge Awards’ Meat and Smallgoods category in 2008.

Siemens commenced operations in Australia in 1872 and is one of the country’s most reliable and trusted brands.

With well-established businesses in both Australia and New Zealand, Siemens is a diversified technology-based solutions provider specialising in the areas of energy, water, healthcare, mobility, productivity, safety, security and the environment, and is one of the largest suppliers of automation and control systems to the food and beverage sector.

At the end of fiscal year 2006 (September), Siemens had achieved $2.157 billion in sales with 3460 employees.

Siemens in Australia and New Zealand is part of the Siemens global network of innovation, which operates in 190 countries throughout the world.

Siemens is pleased to sponsor the FOOD Magazine Challenge Awards.

This sponsorship provides an opportunity for Siemens to further develop its partnerships with the end-users in the industry and spread the word that Siemens is the largest supplier of control systems to the industry through original equipment manufacturers.

Further information

What are the FOOD Challenge Awards?

Application form

Categories and sponsors

Winners 2007

Best in Show

New bottling line at Fosters brewery

New branding for the company’s ‘Carlton Cold’ beer involving a new distinctive label has resulted in Foster’s Australia Yatala Brewery (QLD) and Abbotsford Brewery (VIC) upgrading their bottling lines to handle pressure sensitive labels.

The new labels are self-adhesive and made from printed clear plastic, so the Carlton Cold bottles have to be 100% dry when they are applied to avoid the risk of moisture entrapment and the formation of unsightly bubbles that would disfigure the visually appealing label design.

Yet the high drying efficiency required must not reduce the original production speed of 1000 bottles/minute with wet glue labels.

Indeed, the ultimate goal was to increase capacity.

Initially, Foster’s Australia was going to opt for a bottle drying system based upon conventional air nozzle drying technology but to achieve the higher efficiency demanded, an array of multiple air nozzles totalling a length of six metres would be required.

The cost and footprint of this option, plus the inherent ongoing maintenance demands and high noise levels, caused Foster’s Australia to look for an alternative solution.

The ‘JetPlate’ system produced by Air Control Industries of Chard, UK, was supplied by the company’s Australian distributor Dynamic Engineering Australia, based in Perth.

It cost a third less than the original option considered and occupies around a third of the footprint, yet meets Foster’s Australia drying and throughput requirements.

Benefits of JetPlate

ACI’s JetPlate features delivers twice the volume of air than conventional air nozzles and from a closer position.

Also, the entrained air ensures all water and spray is directed downwards to prevent possible recontamination.

Further, JetPlates are simple to adjust to suit different bottle sizes with no risk of incorrect positioning which can lead to inefficient drying.

How it works

Essentially, the JetPlate arrangement comprises facing plenums each with a face plate with stepped air delivery slots.

This configuration ensures the air delivery pattern effectively pushes liquid down and off the product as it is conveyed between the plenums.

The close proximity of the plenums also ensures there is no risk of bottles falling over.

The JetPlate is both simple to install and maintain because the plenum face plates act as bottle guides thereby eliminating the need for rails.

Also, there is no call for pitch adjustment which might be required to achieve optimum drying with conventional air nozzle systems.

Foster’s JetPlate also includes the company’s optional cap drying system to ensure there is no risk of moisture being trapped under the crown tops.

Performance, safety, space, cost and maintenance are something all manufacturers consider when installing new equipment and the JetPlate excels in all four areas.


Columbit new for 2008

Columbit is proud to sponsor the FOOD Challenge Awards’ Dairy category in 2008.

Columbit is dedicated to supplying stand alone equipment, complete solutions and service to the food processing and beverage industries.

Columbit also supplies quality ingredients and flexible consumables into the general food industry.

Partnerships form the core of Columbit’s business philosophy, as it offers its customers solutions tailored to individual needs.

This includes not only the initial sale of products and equipment but also the highest levels of after sales service and support in:

  • Assisting customers in using new and existing equipment to effectively grow their bottom line and business.
  • Showing customers how to translate quality products into better business solutions, with emphasis on more cost effective production methods and improved yields.
  • Resources and back-up for our customers through Columbit’s food technologists and skilled engineers.

With 70 years experience and representing some of the best known agencies, Columbit is able to offer businesses high quality, dependable solutions, service and support.

Columbit has chosen to be involved with the FOOD Challenge Awards as it offers an opportunity to improve brand awareness and profile.

Further information

What are the FOOD Challenge Awards?

Application form

Categories and sponsors

Winners 2007

Best in Show

New premises for Norgren

Norgren’s Palmerston North Branch has relocated to a newer, larger premises.

The branch services Central Region that encompasses Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Manawatu areas.

Norgren is a key supplier of pneumatics, automation equipment and process control equipment to the to the meat, dairy, food and beverage industries in New Zealand and Australia.

Laser marking PET

MATTHEWS has released the e-SolarMark Light, a laser designed specifically for marking polymers including PET, providing a clean and visible print without affecting the material structure.

The CO2 laser coding system emits a light band of around 9.4 microns and offers vector-quality code at high line speed for both stationary and on-the-fly marking.

According to the company, the light laser has low operational costs, utilises a touch screen for easy use and is available in IP52 or IP66 for dusty or wet environments.


Partnership benefits industry

Barcode Dynamics and Thorsys Australia have announced a partnership that will drive innovative end-to-end solutions to the food processing industry.

Barcode Dynamics offers services including label manufacturing, thermal printing, data capture and mobility solutions, application integration, software development and professional services, while Thorsy’s specialises in the development and implementation of information technology solutions for the food industry, including traceability and production control products and services.

The combined products and services offered by the partnership will provide a depth previously not available from one organisation in the industry.

The addition of Thorsys’ software and hardware to the Barcode Dynamics product range including labelling solutions, Datamax Thermal printing, Motorola WLAN/ Mobile Computing, as well as existing strategic Microsoft Dynamics partnerships, will enable customers to choose from individual applications and products through to end-to-end enterprise-wide solutions.

The partnership will also enable Thorsys to advance the development of its novel ‘next generation’ software, due for release in 2008.



And the lucky winner is…

Production supervisor at Lemnos Foods Lisa Adams has won six bottles of wine for subscribing to the FOOD Magazine weekly e-newsletter.

Of all those who subscribed between November 9th and November 16th, Ms Adams was selected at random.

The newsletter’s subscription is growing all the time.

If you know someone who would benefit from the industry and product news delivered weekly, sign them up or ask them to visit www.foodmag.com.au/newsletter.

Ms Adams’ six bottles of wine will be sent out in the post, in time for Christmas.

First carbon neutral ice cream

Serendipity Ice Cream, based in Sydney, is the first ice cream producer to become carbon neutral according to AGL Energy.

The company has reduced greenhouse gases from electricity by 90% and uses 100% green energy from renewable resources, resulting in savings of 1510 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

It was recognised for its environmental initiatives during a ceremony held by Marrickville Council for Sustainable Business.


Hygienic conveyors

Materials handling solutions provider, Enmin, is supplying the food industry hygienic conveyors to compliment its vibratory processing equipment.

The conveyors are ideal in plant situations where product needs to be elevated such as transporting product from near ground level to the in-feed system of the vibratory processing system.


The conveyors are comprised of stainless steel and food grade plastic belting and components.

Safety issues are eliminated with the direct drive design and the enclosed pulley system.

The conveyors are manufactured to both HACCP and IP65 standards.


The hygienic conveyors are offered as a standard design with flexible belt widths, elevating heights and lengths.

The supporting frame can be produced with lockable castors where mobility is required.

Drives can be supplied in both single phase and three phase electrical configurations.

Additions in the form of product receiving hoppers, in-feed chutes, discharge chutes and diverters, and protection covers are also available.