Woolies tries to improve image with new milk plan

Woolworths is planning to bypass the middleman, buying milk directly from farmers rather than dealing with processors, in an attempt to prove it doesn't exploit producers.

According to AFR, farmers are unsure if dealing directly with the supermarket giant will be of benefit, with concerns that Woolworths might impose extra conditions and further dry up costs.

The National Farmers Federation is supporting the proposal, however, with president Jock Laurie arguing it could give farmers more bargaining power.

"When you're dealing directly with farmers and understanding the costs of production, you can take all that into consideration at the time of negotiation of the contract," he told AFR.

Woolworths plans to market the milk under a new brand, 'Farmer's Own' which it hopes will convince consumers that it supports primary producers.

In order for it to go ahead, however, farmers would need to get authorisation from the ACCC to bargain collectively with Woolworths rather than the processors.

News emerged earlier this week that WA dairy farmers are reluctant to sign long term contracts with milk processors, for fear that they won't see strong returns, despite the current milk shortage and a rise in demand.


WA dairy farmers hurting thanks to $1 milk

Dairy farmers in WA are hesitant to sign on the dotted line of long-term contracts with milk processors, meaning the state could be facing its biggest shortfall in supply for 50 years.

Lion, Brownes and Harvey Fresh are all said to be offering three- to five-year arrangements, but farmers are hesitate to commit, worried that the current market conditions will hinder their return.

According to thewest.com.au, dairy industry consultant Steve Hossen, said farmers aren't seeing price rises, despite the current milk shortages, because of the $1 milk offering from Coles and Woolworths.

"Normally when any agricultural product is as scarce as this is – and milk is as scarce as it has ever been in WA – the price should go ballistic," he said.

"In this case it won't happen. Manufacturers are trying to constrain the size of price rise because they haven't got the ability to pass it on under $1-a-litre contacts with the supermarkets."

Thewest.com.au reports that milk production in WA fell by 16 percent to 338 million litres in the 10 years to 2012, and is marginally down on the same time last year, despite demand fuelled by population growth rising by an around 3.5 percent.

Some dairy farmers are prepared to dig in their heels, with about 30 demanding better prices for signing contracts and others on the south coast who've demanded processors drop transport changes from up to 7c a litre to zero.


Chobani Greek Yogurt

Product name: Chobani Greek Yogurt – New Flavours

Product manufacturer: Chobani Pty Ltd

Ingredients: cultured pasteurised non-fat milk, live and active cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei. Contains milk.

Shelf life: 50 days with refrigeration

Packaging: Single serve plastic pots

Product manager: Peter Meek

Brand website: www.chobani.com.au

What the company says
Chobani Australia has introduced seven new delicious flavours to its 170g Greek yogurt range, available nationally from mid-March 2013.

Hitting shelves around the country in Woolworths supermarkets, Chobani Greek Yogurt has even more to offer yogurt lovers with its latest innovative flavours including Raspberry, Honey, Apple Cinnamon, Lemon, Pear, Black Cherry and Blood Orange, available in fat-free yogurt and low-fat yogurt varieties.

Each 170g pot comes with delicious real fruit, is a good source of protein and is low in fat, making it a satisfying, convenient option.

Chobani’s unique authentic straining process requires three litres of milk to make one litre of its Greek Yogurt, which gives it its thick texture, creamy taste and makes it a good source of protein without the need for preservatives.

The new flavour additions mark the steady expansion of the Chobani Greek Yogurt range, which now consists of 14 fat-free yogurt and low-fat yogurt flavours.


Is “Brogurt” the next big thing in dairy?

Is the world ready for male-focused yoghurt brands? At least one company in the US thinks so, so when will we see this marketing strategy come to Australia?

One of the things holding current yoghurts back is the view that the delicious dairy dessert isn't really for masculine men.

Although the industry has tried, with generic placement in the TV show Burn Notice featuring the affable hero spooning some of the delightful dairyness in-between (or even during) taking down a plethora of bad guys – all without breaking a sweat.

But our advertising doesn't reflect this, with most marketing squarely aimed at the healthy, happy female consumer (although dads feeding daughters is an up-and-coming marketing angle).

In comes Powerful Yoghurt, the newest brand from the US.


Lampooned on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and their food blog The Salt, it shows that despite the numerous health benefits of natural yoghurt, there are still some serious barriers to men accepting that  their masculinity will remain in-tact if they're seen eating yoghurt.

I think Powerful Yoghurt is on to something.

Although women still comprise more than 60 percent of the of the Australian daily natural yoghurt consumption, the increase in consumption by men is rapid, with a 40 percent jump in the proportion of men to women eating  yoghurt everyday. 

With eight percent of women, and 5.9 percent of men eating yoghurt every day, it looks to be a growing market, especially for the bros of society.

Men are increasingly worrying about their appearance, so to me it seems like a no-brainer for yoghurt manufacturers to start marketing their products as the "super food" they often are. After all, yoghurt helps to

  • Build muscle
  • Burn Fat, and
  • Improve Digestive health 

If yoghurt can help men "Find their inner abs" as Powerful Yoghurt claims, it would be wise for Australian dairy manufacturers to bring out a "brogurt", and quickly.

If you fancy taking a more in-depth look into Powerful Yoghurt and the reasoning behind the product's marketing, check out the video from our friends at foodbev.com below.


Moving with the times: King Island Dairy

After a seven year hiatus, the renowned King Island Dairy brand has kicked off 2013 with two new product releases, bolstered by the more refined cheese palette of today's consumer.

While many manufacturers might think that in order to resonate in the mind of today's fickle consumers they need to continually launch new products, King Island Dairy advocates for innovating when the time's right.

Naomi Crisante, cheese ambassador at King Island Dairy, told Food magazine, "King Island Dairy has quite a range of products and they did go through a bit of a process of looking at what products are winners and what are the lower performers, I suppose. Every manufacturer will go through that process. They're also not in the space of just doing new product development for new product development's sake – even though retailers often ask for that.

"It's about making sure that they're releasing when it's right and for the right market. It's not that this process took seven years," she said.

The two new products are the King Island Dairy Furneaux Double Cream (above), available in all grocery stores (Coles from September) and Thomas Dux grocers; and the Black Label Huxley Washed Rind, also available at Thomas Dux, in delis and various foodservice venues across the country.

Getting both cheeses on the shelf has been a labour a love, says King Island Dairy's head cheesemaker Ueli Berger.

"Over a year ago we started playing with the Furneaux. We weren't comfortable with the first batch so we adjusted things until we actually found a process we were comfortable with. Then we had to do all the shelf-life trials to make sure it's still good at its best before date, and then we had to adjust some things again. So it actually takes a long time to get a product to market and to be comfortable with it," he said.

"The Huxley was even more work because it's a bit different again. It took us even longer to get it to the stage where we were really comfortable and we felt that we had something quite different."

The Huxley – King Island Dairy's latest addition to its Black Label range of artisan cheeses (see pic below) – is an example of the current trend in Australia where consumers still want affordable cheeses, but are keen to look beyond the popular camemberts and bries.

Washed rind cheeses have always been quite polarising, with their strong flavour and aroma proving disconcerting from less adventurous eaters.

King Island Dairy's Huxley, however, was designed to be a crowd-pleaser. Made without mould, it has a distinctive, but not overpowering flavour and an orange coloured rind thanks to the blend of selected cultures, cloth-washed over the cheese by hand during the maturation process.

"With our Huxley, if you have a look, it's not sticky on the surface. It's actually quite dry, so when you touch it it's not off-putting like some of the other washed rinds, where if you touch it you have the smell on your fingers all day. This one is quite dry and we wanted something that people will be able to pick up and the smell isn't overpowering, but still has a nice, complex flavour.

"That's what we tried to achieve so we changed the texture quite a bit to make it a semi-soft instead of a soft cheese," said Berger.

"Going forward with this washed rind, considering the texture that we achieved, I think we have quite a big chance to use different things like red wine and peppercorns on the surface … and still keep the nice texture there. I think we have opportunities to use the recipe and make two or three quite different cheeses. We have the base now, so we can jump forward from there."

Attention to detail
Not only do King Island Dairy's cheeses need to pass Berger's critical eye and fulfill an obvious need in the market before they can be introduced to the general public, they also, of course, need to meet strict food safety requirements.

Earlier this year fellow cheese manufacturer, Jindi, recalled more than 100 of its products following a Listeria outbreak which saw the death of three people and led to one NSW woman suffering a miscarriage.

This incident, according to Berger, only cemented the importance of a vigilant screening and testing process.

"Our testing regime is stricter than regulation actually requires," he said. "We've looked at everything we do since the Jindi incident, but we're definitely doing more than we have to. We feel like we have to do that to be 100 percent safe."

Every batch of cheese is tested before it goes to the market, and cannot be released before the test results come back with the all-clear.

"It's an expensive exercise but it's not expensive compared to having the problems that Jindi have had. So it's money well invested, I think," he said.

While admitting he's concerned that Jindi's recent problems might affect the consumers' perception of the entire cheese industry, Berger believes King Island Dairy's well-established relationship with its customers and trusted reputation will make all the difference.

"People know us not just as a good cheese in terms of flavour, but as a safe cheese as well … We're definitely worried that people might say 'Oh, soft cheeses, we're not touching them.' That won't be good for anyone. But hopefully our brand is strong enough and people have enough faith in us," he said.

Where to from here?
The best way forward, according to cheese ambassador, Naomi Crisante, is to capitalise on and continue to develop the consumers' maturing cheese palette, and to keep King Island Dairy front of mind while doing so.

"I've been in the cheese industry for 20 years and when I started we were very much processed cheese eaters, but we've moved to natural cheddars now and more to vintage cheddars, for example. We've never had the variety of specialty cheeses available in local supermarkets that we do now. You can go in and grab a brie, a washed rind, blue cheese, camembert, you can get hybrids – there's something for everyone. Australians do like something different, they want to try something new, which is where these two new releases sit in really well," she said.

Developing new products where necessary and helping to educate the consumer on the variety of cheeses on the market and how best to serve them is crucial, Crisante adds.

"The manufacturer needs to take control to make sure that the information is consistent across consumers and foodservice. It's an ongoing education process all the time."

For King Island Dairy, this education process will involve various touchpoints including tastings, social media activity, events and advertising campaigns.

"It's just about making sure that every touch point with the brand is educating consumers as well as promoting what is core to the brand – the most beautiful, indulgent product that comes from this tiny little island in the middle of Bass Stait," she said.

"There's a good story with great heart behind this brand. It's more than just a brand."

To see photos from Food mag's visit to Margan Winery, to celebrate  King Island Dairy's new releases, head to our Facebook page.

Soy good: dairy alternatives make inroads

Dairy-free alternatives to regular milk products are experiencing significant growth across the globe.

While dairy alternative drinks accounted for a relatively small five percent of the total dairy launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of October 2012, the market is definitely growing.

Soy milk is leading the dairy alternative race, representing 78 percent of dairy-free launches either as a main or secondary ingredient. Next in line are plant-based alternatives including cereals such as rice, oats and barley as well as nuts like almond, hazelnuts and walnuts.

The second most popular ingredient – albeit a long way behind soy – is rice with 17 percent of introductions. Oats had 11 percent and almonds came in with 10 percent of introductions in the 12 months to the end of October.

Despite its fourth place ranking, almond milk products have been labelled as the ones to watch by Innova Market Insights, jumping from three percent in 2005 to its current 10 percent.

Most dairy alternative beverages use health as a marketing platform and point of difference, with three-quarters of launches recorded by Innova featuring a health claim of some kind.

The most popular health claims relate to lactose-free offerings (over 35 percent), organic ingredients, low cholesterol content and additive- or preservative- free content.

Health is definitely a focal point for the marketing team at Sanitarium, which makes the So Good dairy free range of products.

Marketing general manager, Daniel Derrick, told Food magazine many consumers prefer how they feel after consuming dairy-free products, regardless of whether or not they medically require them.

"I think yesteryear was all about the [dairy] intolerance and it was almost a medical approach to milk, but thesedays many consumers are just wanting a wellbeing beverage, so they want products that give them all the goodness of a glass of milk without the bad stuff. So non-dairy beverages are free of cholesterol, they're free of saturated fat, they're free of lactose. That way it just allows people to enjoy their favourite breakfast without the guilt. It allows people to go back to enjoying what milk gives them.

"There's nothing wrong with milk, necessarily, but there are better alternatives," he said.

Derrick said two key factors have contributed to the growth in dairy-free drinks: technological developments which have improved the beverages' taste, and a rise in the number of people saying they feel better after drinking dairy-free beverages.

"When people drink non-dairy milk a lot of them are quite surprised at how light they feel. There's an effect that dairy has on a lot of people where it gives them congestion or bloating. And previously I think it's fair to say that non-dairy milks didn't taste great, but thesedays a lot of the technologies employed allow us to have really good tasting non-dairy milk," he said.

Almond milk is responsible for a wide number of consumers making the switch to dairy-free, Derrick says, with one in five Australian households stocking non-dairy milk in their fridge. And it's a similar story in the US where almond milk has been the most popular non-dairy milk for the past two years.

"Non-dairy milk is still an evolving niche. It's certainly still emerging, but what's helping emergence is the introduction of other non-dairy milks such as almond milk. So if you try our unsweetened almond milk it has 55 percent less calories than light milk. So it tastes great, it works well on cereal, but if you want to enjoy your cereal, enjoy your coffee, enjoy your drink without the calories, you can with our unsweetened almond milk," Derrick said.  

"I think the current trajectory will continue, where people discover how to offer really great tasting, healthy alternatives to dairy.

Not only are dairy-free drinks becoming more popular for consumers – regardless of whether or not they're lactose intolerant – Derrick says more and more men are embracing dairy-free.

"I think more people are discovering that very normal people can enjoy non-dairy milk. It's not the domain of people that have a medical need. This is a product that has universal appeal."        

Click here to see a range of dairy-free drinks available across the globe.


Branded milks make a comeback

Company branded milks have a 50 percent share of the milk market, up eight percent on late 2011, with consumers putting health benefits ahead of price.

Research from Roy Morgan and scan data collected for Dairy Australia shows that – like the days before the supermarkets' $1 milk wars -branded milks are neck and neck with their home brand competitors, in terms of volume solds.

It's believed the rise of A2 milk and marketing campaigns promoting the health benefits of other milks, including permeate-free milk, have contributed to branded milks resurgence.

A2 Milk is rich in the A2 type of beta-casein protein that is a source of essential amino acids, as well as peptides.

Warren Reid, group account manager at Roy Morgan, told the Daily Telegraph that there was a spike in total milk volumes sold when $1 milk was introduced in 2011, but that had now flattened off.

"I think people said 'Great, it's on the shelf, I'm going to buy more of it because it's cheap'. So volume went up. The drop off we're seeing is people saying 'I bought too much of it. It wasn't working for me and I had to throw some away'.

"I think people are over it. They are past the $1 milk campaign. They are now on to the fact that permeate-free is there, A2 is there," he said.


Food mag awards in focus: Dairy

The Food Magazine awards will return in 2013 and with entries closing on 24 April, now's your chance to have your product recognised by industry peers!

In this preview of the annual awards, we're looking at the Dairy category, which is sponsored by Tronics.

Products eligible for this category include those that comprise cow, milk, buffalo or goat milk as a main element. Products that can be entered include cheese, milk, ice cream, yoghurt and custard.

The entry process for this category is simple; all you need to do is submit details of your company and the product (name, website, address etc) as well as information on how the product is processed, its significance in the market, any details on export opportunities and what measures were taken to ensure food safety.

Images also need to be provided upon submission.

In last year's Food magazine awards, the Dairy award went to five:am Life for its Organic Yoghurt

About the winner
Lauren Kempler from five:am says that being organic is a key part of the brand and its success.

"Eating organic is in a way the essence to our brand identity. The concept behind five:am is one of 'conscious deliciousness;' that means that we are conscious of hand-picking the finest, organic and all natural ingredients for all of our recipes," she said. 

"We produce our superior tasting yoghurt with a clear conscience – knowing that not only is the product good for you but that every aspect of five:am's production preserves the environment. This means our cows are free to roam, that they, and the fruits used are free from all things nasty (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics…) Eating organic is key to a healthy lifestyle."

David Prior, the creator of the five:am brand has had extensive experience in the food manufacturing industry as the co-founder of Baroda Manufacturing, he was responsible for the growth of the business, overseeing its expansion from a start up into one of Australia's fastest growing businesses within 10 years. Boasting an annual turnover of $25 million, Prior led the company's acquisition by VISY Packaging in 2007 before starting five:am a little over two years ago.

"Organic and preservative free, five:am yoghurt is one of the few 'free-from' foods you will find in the mass market.  There's no two ways about it.  Our product is as good as you can get.  The way we make it is superior to other products on the market, which is evident in the taste and better still, it is purely organic," David said.

Sustainability-wise, the production process aims to minimise energy and waste as much as possible. Packaging is all made from one material and designed to ensure the least detriment to the environment while still being 100 per cent recyclable.

"We started our pack design process by selecting a material with a relatively low carbon footprint. We then designed the container sizes to get the best use of the pallet, meaning less trucks are required to get our product to you," said Lauren. 

The brand has also engaged the public by offering samples in supermarkets, school fetes and the Royal Easter show as well as utilising social media.

"We've managed to increase distribution dramatically, keep up communication with our loyal Facebook community and are thrilled to launch our new iPhone app in our 'it's about time' campaign in the next few months," Lauren said.

David plans to expand both globally and in terms of product range in the near future, noting the introduction of organic drinking yoghurts and baby friendly options as avenues the company will explore.

For information and entry details, click here.

The 2013 Food Magazine Awards are proudly brought to you by Platinum sponsor Heat and Control. Other sponsors include Flavour Makers, Janbak, HACCP Australia, Kerry Ingredients, Newly Weds Foods, Tronics, APPMA, Earlee Products and Kurz.


Kraft’s Livefree cheese

Product name: Livefree

Product manufacturer: Kraft

Ingredients: Milk, salt, starter cultures, enzyme

Shelf life: 210 days, 7 months

Packaging: Printed film, with clear window on the back

Product manager: Jessie Rosengarten

Brand website: www.kraftlivefree.com.au

What the company says
Health-conscious Australians hungry for a low-fat cheese that tastes fantastic can satisfy their cheesiest cravings in February 2013 when Kraft Livefree hits supermarket shelves. Livefree has 80 percent less fat than regular tasty cheese*, making it the perfect choice for those looking for a low fat option.

Livefree is also four times lower in fat than other light tasty cheeses*; all the while maintaining its delicious cheddar flavour. This truly lighter option is also higher in protein and calcium than most other light tasty cheeses*.

Made in Australia, Livefree is created in a similar way to regular tasty cheese. Its all natural ingredients consist of pure fresh milk, salt, cultures and non-animal rennet. With no additives, Livefree is wholesome and a good source of calcium, perfect for everyday eating.

Deliciously versatile, Livefree is perfect for cooking and snacking allowing you to celebrate your love for cheese everyday. Available in 250g and 500g blocks and 250g ready grated packs, Livefree is easy to incorporate into any recipe favourite. Shave a little Livefree into your risotto, chop up a few cubes and add them to your salad or use to make a hearty and flavour filled frittata.

*compared to leading Australian light tasty cheese brands

Fonterra and A-ware team up for new European plant

Dairy company, Fonterra, and A-ware Food Group have confirmed a partnership which will see the development of a new cheese plant and dairy ingredients plant in the north of the Netherlands.

At the site, located in Heerenveen, A-ware will operate a cheese plant and alongside it, Fonterra will oversee a dairy ingredients plant. Cheese will be produced  for A-ware customers in Eirope and the whey and lactose produced will be processed into dairy ingredients for Fonterra's global customer-base.

Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings, said the investment fitted well with the strategic priorities of both companies.

"Fonterra has substantial intellectual property in the manufacture of functional whey protein ingredients and has been looking for some time for a source of high quality whey to enable it to commercialise these innovations for customers around the world."

Jan Anker, A-ware Food Group CEO, added, "A-ware is well placed to integrate the new cheese plant into its supply chain so it can expand its service offering with increased flexibility for a growing customer base in Europe."

Construction of both plants is due to be completed in late 2014.

News of the agreement between Fonterra and A-ware comes just a week after it was announced that Fonterra will invest more than $100m in a new UHT milk processing plant at its Waitoa site in New Zealand's Waikato region.


Fonterra invests $100m in UHT milk plant

Multi-national dairy company, Fonterra, will invest more than $100m in a new UHT milk processing plant at its Waitoa site in New Zealand's Waikato region.

Fonterra chief executive, Theo Spierings, said the new plant will allow the company to meet Asia's growing demand for UHT products.

"The new plant will enable us to increase our UHT production by 100 percent over the next few years. The plant will include five new UHT lines that will produce a range of products including UHT white milk and UHT cream for the foodservice sector," he said.

The new plant will see the creation of 50 new jobs and will provide new opportunities for Fonterra farmers in the North Island.

"Milk supply in New Zealand is seasonal because it follows the grass growth curve. However UHT production requires year-round milk supply so we will be talking to our farmers about the opportunity for more of them to take up winter milk contracts. This will enable them to take advantage of the milk price premium that these contracts include," Spierings said.

"A recent survey of our farmers indicated that a good proportion of them in the Upper North Island would be keen to take up winter milk contracts."


Kellogg’s launches new breakfast drinks

Kellogg's Australia has taken two of its most popular brands and converted them into new liquid breakfast offerings, targeting time-poor parents.

Nutri-Grain and Coco Pops are now available from Coles and Woolworths in a 250ml breakfast drink.

With over 400,000 Australian kids skipping breakfast, Kellogg's says the new range will help busy parents to ensure their children don't miss the most important meal of the day.

"We know it’s hard for many Australian parents in the morning when you’ve got bags to pack, lunchboxes to fill and school buses that won’t wait," said Kellogg marketing director John Broome. "We believe Kellogg’s breakfast drinks offer a quick and easy, mess-free solution that can be enjoyed at home or on-the-go."

The new breakfast drinks are made with 90 percent low fat milk are low GI and contain around 10 percent sugar. They also score green on the Schools Canteens approval rating system, which indicates the drinks are among the best commercial products available for young children.

"Australian parents can be confident that kids will love the great taste of Kellogg’s breakfast drinks but can also feel assured that they’re benefiting from the nutrients of a low-fat milk drink," said Broome.


Chocolate Philadelphia

Product name: Chocolate Philadelphia

Product manufacturer: Kraft

Ingredients:  Philadelphia cream cheese (26%)/Cadbury Milk Chocolate (30%), milk, sugar, cream (from milk), water, cocoa mass, milk solids, cocoa butter, cocoa power, acidity regulator (270), vegetable gums (410, 412), salt emulsifiers (soy lecithin, 476), thickener (466), preservative (200), starter culture, natural vanilla flavour.

Packaging: Plastic and foil-sealed lid

Shelf life: Five months – best used with 10 days of opening

Product manager: Bianca Melky

Brand website: philly.com.au/products/philadelphia-cadbury

What the company says
A new match made in snacking heaven has hit supermarket shelves, with the launch of Chocolate Philadelphia. Bringing together two of Australia’s most loved brands, Chocolate Philadelphia is the perfect combination of the rich and decadent Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate with the light, luscious and pleasurable Philadelphia.

Chocolate Philadelphia is a new, fresh snacking sensation that pairs well with fruit, crackers and bread to make a delectable indulgence, for all snacking occasions. With only 78 calories per 25g serve, Chocolate Philadelphia is a delicious snack that is so good you’ll think it’s bad.


Dairy awards leave bad taste in producers’ mouths

Aldi's dominance at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show has upset boutique producers, who are calling for the "philistine" brands to enter into their own separate category moving forward.

The event aims to recognise and reward innovation, diversity and excellence in agricultural production, this year handing out 30 major awards and 89 Gold and Silver medals to Australia's best cheese, dairy and chocolate producers.

The top accolade of Champion Cheese of Show went to Victorian-based Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese for its Tarwin Blue, which also claimed the Champion Fancy Cheese and Champion Bovine Cheese award.

The five cheeses selected for the coveted Austraian Cheeseboard Perpetual Trophy were:

  • Lion Dairy and Drinks (Burnie, TAS) – Tasmanian Heritage Red Square
  • Lion Dairy and Drinks (Burnie, TAS) – Heidi Farm Tilsit
  • Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese (Poowong, VIC) – Tarwin Blue
  • Small Cow Farm (Robertson, NSW) – Petitvache Brie
  • Bega Cheese (Bega, NSW) – Rindless Cheddar Cheese

However, supermarket Chain, Aldi, was a big winner in its first year at the event, taking home the Most Successful Dairy Produce Exhibitor award, Most Successful Butter Exhibitor and Champion Butter for its Just Organic Butter, as well as Most Successful Cultured Milk Products and Yoghurt Exhibitor.

Aldi walked away with 49 medals, including eight golds, upsetting a number of producers who feel they shouldn't be competing with large retailers.

Pepe Saya, who makes the hugely popular Pepe Saya butter, stopped participating in the awards once Coles started entering its generic brands.

"I don't believe that a non-manufacturer or a non-producer should be allowed to leverage off the Sydney Royal brand," he told Good Food.

"Here's a brand that's been given to the philistines like Aldi, Coles and Woolworths. [But] what does it mean to have a gold any more? This is the disappointment. This is the heartache."

Aldi's dominance has triggered calls for a separate awards category to be created. Michael McNamara, cheesemaker at Pecora Dairy in Robertson, NSW, and treasurer of the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers' Association said the Royal Agricultural Society is "shooting itself in the foot" by having supermarket brands compete alongside artisanal producers.

"The awards have become a parody of themselves if what they're taking is big, industrial products and putting them in the same category as hand-made, artisan products," he said.

Other 2013 Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy Produce Show winners include:

The Jim Forsyth Perpetual Trophy donated by Jim R Forsyth.
Country Valley
Class No. 8 / Cat No. 39
Organic Lite

The Milk Marketing Perpetual Trophy donated by Milk Marketing NSW.
Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, Allansford

The NSW Food Authority Perpetual Trophy donated by the
NSW Food Authority.
Bega Cheese
Class No. 23 / Cat No. 113
Bega Strong & Bitey

Bega Cheese

NSW Food Authority Perpetual Trophy donated by the NSW Food Authority.
Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese
Class No. 39 / Cat No. 275
Tarwin Blue

The Bega Cheese Perpetual Trophy donated by Bega Cheese.
Bega Cheese

The Australian Dairy Corporation Perpetual Trophy donated by Dairy Australia.
Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese
Class No. 39 / Cat No. 275
Tarwin Blue

Prize (Annual Trophy), supported by the Dairy Produce Committee.
Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese
Class No. 39 / Cat No. 275
Tarwin Blue

Serendipity Ice Cream
Class No. 50 / Cat No. 420
Salted Caramel Swirl

Serendipity Ice Cream

Cow And The Moon
Class No. 59 / Cat No. 571
Banana And Salted Caramel

Cow And The Moon

Mundella Foods
Class No. 64 / Cat No. 670
Greek Natural

Brilliant Food
Class No. 73 / Cat No. 808
Smoked Kingfish Rillettes

Paradise Beach Purveyors

Barambah Organics
Class No. 76 / Cat No. 819
Pure Cream

Nicholson Fine Foods Pty Ltd

Simon Johnson Perpetual Trophy donated by Simon Johnson.
Jindi Cheese P/L
Class No. 86 / Cat No. 867
Goat Gouda

Hotel Inter-Continental Perpetual Trophy donated by the Hotel Inter-Continental, Sydney.
Holy Goat Cheese

Bracegirdles House of Fine Chocolate
Class No. 112 / Cat No. 73
High Thai

Nestlé Perpetual Trophy donated by Nestlé Confectionery.
Bracegirdles House of Fine Chocolate


Farmers speak out on their struggles with supermarkets

A fourth-generation cattle farmer has spoken publicly about the losses he has suffered at the hands of Australia's supermarket duopoly, claiming his income last year was slashed by $80,000.

It was announced last week that Coles and Woolworths will be investigated by the ACCC amid claims they employ bullying tactics to drive prices down. Fifty producers came forward, under the protection of anonymity, with evidence of misconduct by the supermarkets.

Brian Wilson, a cattle farmer near Tamworth, told SMH many farmers have been forced to sell their product at a loss, and the $1 milk offering which both supermarkets boast has had a terrible impact on his livelihood.

"The last financial year, we were probably down $80,000 on our milk income,'' he said. ''The processors can't talk with each other to keep their prices up, so it becomes very cutthroat … They get the contract but it's good news and bad news because they have to go so low to get it," he said.

The situation is so bad that in the past year, 30 farmers in NSW have left the dairy industry because of price cutting by the duopoly, said NSW Farmers Association chief executive, Matt Brand.

"The reality is supermarkets aren't going anywhere and neither is agriculture and we need to all be able to sit down and have a serious look at supply chain solutions," Brand told SMH.

Both supermarkets have agreed to co-operate with the ACCC investigation.


King Island releases first cheeses in seven years

For the first time in seven years, cheese manufacturer, King Island Dairy, has released two new cheeses: a white mould cheese and a Black Label semi-soft cheese.

The Furneaux Double Cream is a soft-centred white mould cheese, while the Huxley Washed Rind has a smooth centre and a sweet, earthy flavour. 

The Huxley is the latest addition to the Black Label artisan range of cheeses from King Island, and caters for Australians' growing preference for 'affordable luxury'.

"Five years ago, the Huxley Washed Rind would have been considered a niche product as washed rind cheeses didn’t enjoy the popularity they do today," said Renee Tsironis, senior brand manager, King Island Dairy, which is owned by Lion.

"But today's Australian consumers are choosing premium products with a genuine ‘pasture to plate’ story.

"They're seeking impressive new flavours and textures to put on their cheese platters so we're confident that both the Huxley Washed Rind and Furneaux Double Cream will really lift the bar for Australian cheeses," Tsironis said.

The Furneaux Double Cream is available in delicatessens and the deli section of most major supermarkets and is expected to retail for approximately $60/Kg, while the Huxley Washed Rind is available exclusively through wholesale and high end delicatessens, including Thomas Dux, and is also expected to retail for approximately $60/Kg.


PETA claims on meat are ‘rubbish’: doctors

The Australian Medical Association has rubbished claims by an animal rights group that eating meat is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

AAP reports People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called on the Queensland Government to sue meat and dairy farms over health concerns.

PETA claims that because of their link to heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes, the Government should sue food producers the same way it sues cigarette companies.

A PETA spokesperson also told AAP it was a “fair call” to say eating meat was as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

AMA president Steve Hambleton said consumers should not pay attention to the claim by PETA.

“That's a sensationalist comment, a throwaway line that should also be thrown away,” he said.

Hambleton said tobacco was the only product likely to kill consumers when used the way it was intended.

Image: Recipes Finder

Third death following Jindi listeria outbreak

Australia's largest listeria outbreak, which has been linked to Jindi cheese products, has claimed another life, with the death of a 68 year old NSW man in late January.

It was confirmed over the weekend that the man's death was related to contaminated Jindi cheese products, which have also caused the death of two others and one NSW woman's miscarriage.

According to The Age, the outbreak, which came to authorities' attention in mid-December, has been traced to Jindi's Jindivick factory in Gippsland.

It's possible that more deaths will follow, despite Jindi recalling more than 100 of its products.

Victoria's acting chief health officer, Dr Michael Ackland, said, "I'm confident that the intervention that has been put in place with terrific co-operation from Jindi is absolutely appropriate and is the best possible intervention.

"Unfortunately, because of the 70 day incubation period for listeria, there will almost certainly be people who have consumed cheese prior to the recall that may still get sick … that could go on for another couple of months," he said.

Late last year Jindi recalled its Jindi and Wattle Valley Brie and Camembert cheese varieties but a few weeks later extended the recall to include all batches manufactured until 7 January.

In a guest post on Food mag, HACCP Australia's Martin Stone and Michael Lincoln from Liberty International Underwriters give an insight into how food manufacturers can effectively manage a food recall, and how to minimise costs and reputational damage if such an event does occur. Read it in full here.

To see a list of the products recently recalled in Australia, click here.


Dairy industry being squeezed by “triple whammy”

Dairy producers are under pressure from low global milk prices, the high Australian dollar and supermarket price wars.

ABC’s The Business reported last night that the industry was being squeezed by a “triple whammy”, with farmers claiming they are near breaking point.

“Farmers are losing money, service providers aren't getting paid, land prices are depreciating,” Jock O’Keefe, a dairy producer, told The Business.

“It's all getting to a very critical point, I think, yeah.”

A glut in global supply is also being blamed for producers’ woes.

“The world just became aflush with dairy products,” said Ian Halliday, the managing director of Dairy Australia, the national services body for the industry.

“And so, as a result, that has put some downward pressure on price for this current 12 months.”

Last week saw Wesfarmers (owners of Coles) and dairy farmers in WA argue over the reason for low farm gate prices, with farmers blaming milk price wars between Coles and Woolworths, and Wesfarmers claiming that oversupply was responsible.

"We've seen the one dollar milk strip the value out of dairy products to the tune of $25 million a year, and that's come out of the supply chain, and obviously that just puts far too much pressure on processors and producers, or farmers," Phil Depiazzi of the WA Farmers Federation told the ABC.

Dairy farmers and manufacturers have recently been reported as being both under strain and potential beneficiaries of the Asian Century.

Last year, for example, there were stories about big rises in Chinese demand for dairy and investors in that country buying into Australian producers.


Another listeria scare leads to cheese recall

Weeks after Jindi voluntarily recalled its cheese products following two listeria-related deaths, another cheese brand has had to pull its product from the shelves.

Binnorie Dairy has recalled its Duetto cheese product in NSW with a best before date of 21 February 2013.

An announcement by the company states that the recall is due to microbial (Listeria monocytogenes) contamination.

Binnorie Dairy is located in the Hunter Valley's Pokolbin vineyard district, and cheese can be bought through the area's popular Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. Other retailers, distributors and restaurants serving its cheeses can be viewed here.

Binnorie specialises in soft cheeses with the Duetto being a creamy marscarpone blended with gorgonzola.

Earlier this month Jindi cheese voluntarily recalled is products after reports listeria infections had caused one woman in NSW to miscarry, as well as the death of two people – one in Victoria and the other from Tasmania.

In a guest post on Food mag, HACCP Australia's Martin Stone and Michael Lincoln from Liberty International Underwriters give an insight into how food manufacturers can effectively manage a food recall, and how to minimise costs and reputational damage if such an event does occur. Read it in full here.