New abalone processing plant could employ ex-Ford workers

The Great Southern Waters seafood plant is expected to create eight full time jobs by June 2016, and seven more by 2017-18.

According to the Herald Sun, the construction of the processing plant will be subsidised by a $377,000 grant from the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund, set up by the state and national government and Ford Australia.

Western MP David Koch said former local automotive factory workers would be well placed for the new jobs.

The seafood plant is currently a nursery, grow out and export facility that stretches across 20,000 square metres.

The jobs will come at a good time for a small section of ex-Ford production workers in Geelong, but will not cover the hundreds who have been made redundant.


Peach growers to lose thousands from SPC Ardmona cuts

Australian peach growers say they were only informed of SPC Ardmona’s decision to cut its peach quota by almost 20 per cent after they had begun preparing for season.

The growers say the short notice will leave them out of pocket, with some individual businesses set to lose tens of thousands of dollars.

SPC Ardmona, Australia’s last remaining major Australian-owned fruit processor, says it genuinely believed it had informed all growers in advance, and will work to ensure communication methods improve in future.

The company cut its peach quota by 17 per cent due to “significant fall” in consumer demand.

It said the cut was necessary due as sales have decreased by 14 per cent, despite increased activity and promotion.

SPC Ardmona also pointed to the high Australian dollar as part of the reason for the cut to the quota, as well as the cheap imports flooding the market as a result of the supermarket price wars.

Furthermore, the high Australian dollar has impacted on export opportunities for the products, while increasing competing pressures from cheaper imports.

SPC Ardmona is a subsidiary of Coca Cola Amatil which has announced expansion plans in its drinks business as previously reported in Australian Food News.

Earlier this year the company announced it would be embracing new packaging technology to reduce costs.

Changes at the chocolate factory

Nothing untouched

“Look, in the last 12 months, there won’t be nothing we don’t touch and improve with efficiencies in manufacturing,” Klark Quinn, the 30-year-old in charge of overhauling the iconic confectionary maker Darrell Lea and making it profitable again said.

Quinn, the son of VIP Petfoods owners Tony and Christina (whose fortune BRW this year estimated at $350 million), is no stranger to getting his hands dirty and to turning a factory’s operations around.

At the time of writing, Darrell Lea has just started to be stocked on the shelves of selected IGA supermarkets, and the Quinns are trying to get DL into Coles and Woolies, too. Are deals with other supermarket chains just waiting to be inked?

“Pretty much; first thing of all we set up meetings with all Australian retailers and we’re pretty open and public with the future of Darrell Lea,” said Quinn when Food Magazine visited the Kogarah plant, which opened in 1962, in Sydney’s south.

“The need for Darrell Lea from the Australian public – the prime minister talking about it on national TV [when it went into administration in July], the amount of media attention, proves how iconic and strong the Darrell Lea brand is. So we need to capitalise on that.”

When the 85-years-old, fourth-generation family-owned Lea – famous for products like its soft eating liquorice and Rocklea Road bars – announced its collapse in July, everyone from prime minster Julia Gillard to septuagenarians who had grown up with the brand were disappointed. Comments on another Australian icon gone and the sad end of an era – and more headlines involving a pun on “rocky road” than you could possibly count – were hard to miss. Sales of their products all shot up as consumers flocked to the closing retail outlets to stock up in what they thought was their last chance to do so.

Saving an Aussie brand

But in early December, DL found a buyer: the Quinn family, who stumped up an undisclosed sum (estimated at $25 million) to rescue the brand and its manufacturing operations. Not surprisingly, there was a lot that needed changing and will require further changes.

First of all, getting Lea into the supermarkets is a big step. Refusing to be a supermarket brand but not quite positioning itself as a premium confectioner (like Haigh’s, for example) meant Lea limited itself.

“Yeah, tradition killed them to some extent,” explained Quinn.

Further than that, there was a mountain of improvements that needed to be made to the way Darrell Lea cranked out its sweets.

“It was very fat and inefficient before, so we need to make it into a lean manufacturing process. With a mind to

looking after the brand and not compromising the quality or upsetting any of the loyal Darrell Lea customers.”

What to keep?

When we spoke to Quinn last week, it was early days in the company’s revamp. He says they’ve only retained 186 out of 700 products, with many performing poorly and some, for example boiled lollies, being produced at a considerable loss. Despite the aggressive shedding of loss-making product lines, he’s moving cautiously in other ways.

“You can’t build Rome in a day, and you can’t make too many changes,” he explained. “You have to be mindful as well, that a lot of people have been here for over 40 years, and an exceptional amount of people have been here for 30 years, so people are part of the furniture, and if you start changing the furniture too quick, you’re going to upset a lot of people.

“But at the same time we have purchased machinery and equipment. And as soon as last week we started setting new equipment to help product efficiencies… So in the next six months we’re planning to touch 50 per cent of all production lines and improve them by 20 per cent. So that’s already happening. We don’t want to make too many quick decisions, too early.”

Also part of the rationalisation process was doing away with anything that wasn’t completely Australian-made. Quinn gave the example of Bo-Peeps. Despite their sentimental value with some, the foreign-made sweets aren’t part of the new Lea.

“And the way they’re produced and having them produced overseas is not part of our vision. So firstly, to keep them Australian-owned and Australian-manufactured is our number one priority.”

Getting involved

Quinn, who begins his day at 7 am and who often retires to his bachelor loft (the ironically-named “Penthouse”) around midnight, is currently spending as much time as he can, involving himself in all the aspects of the factory’s operations. “It’s extremely important that I understand every facet of the business.”

The general manager considers his experience in 2009, when VIP bought Bush’s International (now Australian Pet Brands) for $45 million, a valuable lesson. The family placed Klark at Bush’s Dubbo factory and brother Kent (at the Ingleburn site) in charge of reviving the troubled manufacturer.

“Being on the floor certainly helped and straight away we gained a lot of respect from the employees on the floor, and that helped change the business,” he stated.

“With that culture change, getting people to trust and respect you goes a long way. And that’s really important in any takeover of a business; you need to very quickly gain the respect and trust from the employees. And that, just by our natural demeanour that the family has; we’ve all worked on the floor, we all know what it takes to pack product into a box and drive a forklift and run a machine – we’ve all done this before – so we have a very healthy respect for what it takes to do that.”

After throwing himself into Bush’s, the Quinn brothers managed to stem the bleeding (the company was losing $400,000 a week, says Klark after five months. Within a year, it was turning a tidy profit again.

The future

The Quinns now plan to relocate the factory’s operations. The factory, which currently sees 160 tonnes of liquorice (and is the largest liquorice producer in Australia) and 20 tonnes of chocolate produced each week, on a site with a 5,000 pallet storage capacity, won’t be doing what it does now in 18-24 months.

“Part of our sale and purchase agreement was to purchase the Darrell Lea site at Ingleburn, which it previously planned to relocate many, many years ago, but they had had the opportunity to.

“So we’ve got about a 7,000 pallet controlled environment warehouse on a 40,000 square metre block of land. We plan to build a world-class facility. And that will be a far more efficient and ergonomic plant.”

For the time being, Quinn will continue learning about the Kogarah site. He admits his current schedule is unhealthy but necessary for getting the job done properly. And for the time being, chocolate lovers should keep an eye out for Darrell Lea on supermarket shelves when they’re shopping for Christmas supplies.


Nestlé buying additional 5 300 tonnes of Fairtrade cocoa

Nestle UK and Ireland has pledged to double its commitment to Fairtrade making its two-fingered Kit Kat bar certified by January.

Nestle's four-finger Kit Kit has been using Fairtrade certified cocoa since 2010, and its latest commitment will see the Swiss confectioner purchase an additional 5 300 tonnes of Fairtrade cocoa from the Ivory Coast.

Most well-known chocolate brands have been committing to certified fair trade cocoa in recent years, in a bid to end the child labour and abuse in poor cocoa-growing regions.

Earlier this month, Hershey’s bowed to pressure to become more ethical in its sourcing of cocoa, committing to 100 per cent fair-trade cocoa across all its products by 2020.

Nestle has pledged to invest GBP65 million over ten years on plant science and sustainability initiatives to support small scale cocoa farmers globally.

The Nestle Cocoa Plan which was launched in 2009, and the new farmer co-operatives will benefit from the certification when they join the scheme.

"Today's news is the next step on our journey toward a sustainable supply of quality cocoa and our commitment to certify all our Kit Kats in the UK & Ireland," Ciaran Sullivan, managing director of Nestle Confectionery UK & Ireland, said.

"Farmers in the Nestle Cocoa Plan receive benefits such as new plantlets, farmer training and new schools for their communities. Ivorian farmers badly need our support and this move will help even more cocoa farmers and their families build a positive long term future," he added.

In November last year Nestle announced it would conduct an investigation into the presence of child labour in its business, following accusations children are employed on cocoa farms that supply to its factories.

Retail conditions soft, says AFGC CHEP Retail Index

The AFGC CHEP retail index predicts growth to be 2.9 per cent, year-on-year, for the December quarter, below both the 10-year average and the September quarter result.

The index, released today and using comment from the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Deloitte Analytics research based on CHEP Australia pallet movements, suggests that conditions are currently sluggish.

The Council’s chief executive, Gary Dawson, suggests another rate cut by the Reserve Bank would help consumers to open their wallets.

“We’re hoping that another cut in interest rates will send the right signals to households so they embrace this summer season with more optimism,” said Dawson.

“Food manufacturers are facing an environment where sluggish retail conditions, rising input costs on everything from commodities to labour to energy and retail price deflation continues to cut margins, placing the sector under increasing pressure.

The Index is described by the AFGC as an “accurate forward indicator of retail trade sales published ahead of official Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) historical data.”

Maggie Beer slams supermarket dominance

Celebrity chef and food producer is the latest industry insider to accuse the major supermarkets of failing to support Australian food growers and manufacturers.

“So many Australians seek the cheapest alternative in food, and perhaps this is exacerbated by the big two [Coles and Woolworths], our duopoly, that pits one against the other in price wars, that see the farmer suffer. We have to do something about that,” she told the International Year of Co-operatives conference in Port Macquarie last week.

Beer’s pate, quince paste and ice creams sell through major supermarkets and independent retailers at a higher price than other comparable item, due to their high quality standard and use of Australian ingredients.

She said that while most Australians say they support Australian made and owned products, their purchasing behaviour proves otherwise.

''It's interesting Australians say they will support Australian-made and Australian-grown, but will we?”

“We support what's marketed most, and we so often support what's cheapest, especially with food.''

Beer was awarded an Order of Australia this year, after finding recognition for her cookbooks and television series focussed on cooking.

Beer has echoed the statements of Independent Queensland MP Bob Katter, who earlier this year told Parliament that the major supermarkets are killing our farmers.

''If we don't support our farmers, we will not continue to enjoy the freshness and the diversity of the produce we have now,'' she said.

''I have to say flavour, seasonality, ripeness, can not travel a long way.

Beer is in a good position to comment on the realities of farming, since she owns a farm in South Australia’s Barossa Valley with vineyards, olive groves, quince orchards and a soft fruit orchard.

“I know we live in a global market, but our local farmers can not compete against the imports of a global market when it comes to the cost of our labour.

''It's important that we pay a proper wage to a farm worker that not only sustains a family but sustains farming communities – whole communities.''

Terry Toohey Australian Dairy Farmers Director, told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit earlier this year that the impact of Coles and Woolworths’ price wars will continue to drive farmers away.

"The retail actions are certainly impacting the dairy farmers in a negative way, this combined with the uncertainties and other factors [impacting] dairy or other farming, it's making it unattractive for the next generation, because it's not profitable for my children,” he said.

"If I was old and had children ready to take over the farm, I will tell them blue in the face not to come into agriculture.

“And that's pretty sad after 107 years on the one farm."

“It’s an unfortunate reality that milk price is a dollar.

“[It’s] simply unsustainable for all involved in the fresh food market.

“You can see the dairy farmers’ dairy families already suffering for Coles’ tactics.

“Given the sheer size of the supermarket duopoly, over 75 per cent of the market is between the two powers, and they are wielding that Australian marketplace and the majority of Australian suppliers, particularly to the fresh food industry,” he said.

“In NSW, my state, I see farmers being asked to sign contracts for 3 cents a litre than their previous contracts," he said.

“This will have astronomical effects on fund and profit margins.”

“In my case I’ll have 40 per cent of my tier 2 of milk [purchased] at 18 cents [per litre].

“The cost of products is 40 cents [per litre].

“So, you start to look and say, I’m only one person, there are 800 dairy farmers in NSW alone.”

Beer also joined the myriad of critics of Australia’s current labelling laws, saying they make it very difficult for consumers to understand which products are locally-grown.

''We were bottling some of our olives,” she explained.

“The salt came from South Australia and we had some of our own red wine vinegar in the jar and we were labelling it and then we found out we could not say 'Produce of Australia' because the jar came from overseas.''

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith, who launched his own food company over a decade ago, has also voiced his concerns about the ability for local companies to compete against cheap imports.

“The freedom we’ve usually had in Australia is that you could go to a supermarket and decide if you wanted to buy Australian, imported, high-quality, low-quality, it was up to you," he said earlier this year.

“ALDI has taken that decision away.

“The problem is that because so many of us go to ALDI because the prices are cheaper, Coles and Woolworths will copy.

“The reason ALDI’s so successful is you can’t compare a price.

“What Coles and Woolworths will do to compete with that, which they must do because they have Aussie mums and dads as shareholders and the board will get the sack if they don’t keep making profits each year, so they will go to more and more products where you can’t compare a price.

"I call that ‘extreme capitalism,’ and it’s a disadvantage to consumers."

Do you agree with Maggie Beer's comments? How can we fix this problem?

Image: Australian Traveller

Nestlé expands manufacturing capabilities in Australia

The world’s largest food and beverage business Nestlé has invested $17 million in a new liquid manufacturing site in Australia’s Tongala factory located in Victoria’s north-east for Nestlé’s Health Sciences business.

The newly constructed manufacturing facility opened yesterday will serve as a manufacturing hub for Oceania, Asia, Middle East and Africa.

The factory will manufacture a range of ready to drink liquid supplements such as Resource, Isosource, Sustagen and tube feeding solutions for people who have been hospitalised and who are unable to consume normal food.

The new investment will create approximately 30 new positions over the next two years.

According to Regional Business Head for Nestlé Health Science in Asia, Oceania and Africa Paul Bruhn “this significant investment by Nestlé Australia to extend its Tongala factory into a bigger production hub is a huge vote of confidence the company has in the region.”

He went on to say that “Tongala is now world class in its manufacturing capabilities and the transformation of this factory is an exciting venture, with an enormous potential for growth, as we develop and roll out new products specifically for the local and regional markets.”

As a result of expansion, there will be a significant increase in the production capacity, Mathew Oram, factory manager at Nestlé’s Tongala factory stated.

He pointed out that “the factory will be manufacturing 7,000 tonnes of product annually by the end of 2013 giving us the capacity to supply Australia as well as other countries in our region.”

Gillard announces register of foreign-owned farming land

Extensive calls for a public register of foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land have been answered.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) yesterday welcomed the Federal Government’s planned introduction of a foreign investment register.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement in a speech to the NFF at its 2012 National Congress.
The foreign investment register will provide detailed information of the specific size and locations of foreign agricultural landholdings in Australia.

Experts and Australian agriculture advocates have been calling for a register of foreign land ownership for some time, following revelations that prime agricultural land is being bought up by foreign companies and governments.

The company trading as Kimberly Agricultural Investments (KAI) and owned by the Chinese government, has vied for the entire 15 000 hectare Ord Expansion project in the north of Australia, while last month Japanese trading house Itchu Corp bought into the Australian food industry by snapping up farms in Queensland.

Allowing Asian companies to buy up significant agricultural land would conflict Gillard’s proclamations that Australia should be the ‘Asian foodbowl’ for future economic prosperity, as Australian companies would not benefit from the food production, which would be sent  back to the rising Asian middle class.

NFF president Jock Laurie said that while he welcomes foreign investment in Australian agricultural land the register was necessary to provide “greater transparency.”

“It is very important that we do not deter foreign investment, but as we have been saying for months, we do want to see greater transparency around investment to ensure that the motivations behind this investment are clear,” Laurie said.

Laurie said that Australian farmers are concerned about foreign-owned entities purchasing Australian agricultural land, and there needs to be a greater focus on Australia’s future food security.

“Before any policy decisions are made on this important issue, we need to first have the national land register in place to understand the current levels of foreign investment in agriculture,” he said.

The foreign investment register announcement yesterday comes after the launch of the national land register in April 2012, which makes it compulsory for all foreign organisations to report the sale of Australian agricultural land or water. 

However, the land register is not fully operational yet.

In June, the Federal Government’s plans to make Australia the Asian food bowl were labelled “a waste of taxpayer’s money” by the Wilderness Society, and a poll found over 80 per cent of Australians are also against plans to encourage Chinese investment in agricultural land.

Swan brewery to close

Brindley, managing director of Lion Beer, Spirits & Wine Australia, has announced that its Swan brewery at Canning Vale in WA will shut its doors by early next March, and relocate its production units to SA.

Lion has stated that it will transfer its WA keg production and the brewing of Swan and Emu to its West End brewery in South Australia and its WA pack production to its James Boag and Son brewery in Tasmania.

According to Brindley, Swan brewery, which has been producing local beers since 1877, was operating below its manufacturing capacity, and the capital investment to maintain its current operations was too high.

The company has five breweries across Australia and the Swan brewery is the least productive, Australia’s biggest brewer, Lion’s, external director Leela Sutton said.

Sutton stated that "The beer market has certainly been challenging particularly in the last couple of years, it has been in decline."

"Consumer preferences have also evolved and the market has changed shape.”

She went on to say that the relocation from WA to SA may not be appreciated by everyone, but the company has to ensure that its operations are set up to capitalise on the latest emerging trends.

This closure will end 175 year alliance between Swan Brewery and Western Australia, and will result in the loss of 80 jobs, which will also affect contract workers, reports the ABC news.

As many as 55 roles in sales and support functions will be not be impacted and will be relocated to a new office site in WA.

In addition Lion will also invest $70 million into its West End brewery in South Australia to expand its capacity.
Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said it was sad when any business moved from WA, “particularly when it means the loss of 80 jobs".

Locals have been affected by the closure, and a Perth publican who did not want to be named said that Swan and Emu would eventually lose its market popularity as big brewers only marketed niche brands like Tooheys New and Carlton Draught, reports the WAtoday.

He stated that it was a shame WA was losing a manufacturer just when it needed to diversify beyond the resources sector but the state was at least leading the nation in microbrewing.

UnionsWA acting secretary Meredith Hammat said the decision meant more than just the loss of a WA icon, the Western Australian reports.

"The fortunes of companies, industries and economies change and it is often working people and their families who are the first and hardest hit,” Hammat added.

The unions were working with Lion to secure fair notice, terms and conditions for affected employees.

The company said “lion will remain committed to the Swan and Emu brands and to the Western Australian market”

Man’s arm trapped in machine at meat processing plant

A man had his arm trapped in a machine at a meat processing plant in New Zealand this morning.

Emergency services were called to the Te Kuiti Meat Processors, south of Hamilton, in the North Island this morning about 11.45am.

The man’s arm was freed and he was flown to Waikato Hospital with severe injuries, according to a St John Ambulance spokesman.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is making preliminary inquiries into the incident and Te Kuiti Meat Processors' has not yet commented on the incident.

AFGC report confirms decrease in food manufacturing

The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) annual State of The Industry report has shown a decrease in the food manufacturing industry's output.

The fourth AFGC/KPMG report showed that overall output was down 4.5 per cent for 2010-11, as well as a decrease in employment of 2.2 per cent for the sector in the financial year 2011-12.

Factors putting pressure on food manufacturing such as the squeeze on margins by the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths, the high dollar, and high input costs were in the news last month, with Terry Davis, the CEO of SPC Ardmona, speaking of the need for changes to payroll tax and taxation depreciation allowances.

Gary Dawson, the council's CEO, said the report highlighted a difficult environment. According to the research, based on ABS data, there were 335 fewer businesses operating in the industry in 2011-12 compared to the previous year.

“The sector’s growth, competitiveness and ability to create jobs are under threat,” Dawson said.

“The findings of State of the Industry 2012 serve as a warning to policy makers at all levels of government that the Australian food and grocery manufacturing sector – Australia’s largest manufacturing sector – is facing an environment where input costs are rising on everything from commodities to labour to energy, and retail price deflation continues to cut margins, placing the sector under increasing pressure.”

The AFGC has used the report’s release to call for reform in areas such as the mandatory reporting system, streamlining energy efficiency and water use reporting requirements and “clarification that standards and labelling relating to food composition and safety are administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and all other consumer related labelling requirements should be in consumer law.”

End to cheap wine prices is near: global decline in grapes

A massive global over-supply of wine from 2004 to 2010 that caused prices to plummet looks set to end this year.

Ronobank has released its wine quarterly report for the three months to October this year, which reveals the global wine grape production throughout the world has dramatically reduced between 2004 and 2006.

It also found that demand has begun to increase again following the slump during the global financial crisis.

The massive global oversupply of wine for four years up to 2010 that caused prices to plummet let to many growers to ripping up vines.

Now, the Robobank report says due to the extremely low wine grape harvests in Europe, prices will once again trend upwards.

While Californian grape growers in particular are expecting bigger and better than average harvest in 2012, the bank’s analysts say this will not be enough to make up the gap from the European market.

France, Italy and Spain are all expected to report wine grape harvests drastically lower than 2011 levels.

The reduced harvest in those countries amounts to the total annual production of Chile’s wine.

The wine production from the whole of the Southern Hemisphere, besides Chile and South Africa, was quite low in 2012, Robobank found.

It could mean Australian producers, particularly in the south-east of the country, where good yields are expected for the 2013 harvest, will have a chance to make up the wine shortfall.

In further good news for Aussie growers, grape prices have posted their first significant rise in four years, and there was a rise in wine export volumes of 3.6 per cent in the first half of 2012.

But the value of wine exports did fall almost three per cent per cent wine bottled locally struggled to compete with bulk shipments.

Bulk exports is cheaper than bottled wine exports, with average import rates as little as 43 cents a litre in France up to $184 per litre in Sweden in 2011.

Rabobank noted that Australia's wine export data has been skewed Treasury Wine Estates decision earlier this year to ship its wine in bulk to the UK for bottling there.

In July, the world’s largest glass packaging supplier, Owens-Illinois (OI), revealed some Australian employees could lose their jobs, as the US-based company reassesses the business in light of slower beer and wine markets.

The company’s second quarter report revealed the slowdown of beer and wine sales in Australia could force the company to reconsider closing local plants and offering redundancies.

''Given the continued sluggishness of the Australian wine and beer markets, as well as the fact that we are still negotiating major customer and union contracts, further capacity actions may be necessary,” O-I Glass chief executive Al Stroucken said.


Darrell Lea to be back on shelves in time for Christmas

Infamous Aussie confectionary brand, Darrell Lea, has overcome its financial issues from earlier this year, and the new owners have pledged to have the treats back on shelves in time for Christmas shopping.

In July Darrell Lea went into voluntary administration amid concerns surrounding the Lea family's ability to meet financial obligations.

In September, Darrell Lea was sold to Australia’s largest manufacturer of fresh chilled pet-food, the Queensland-based Quinn family for an undisclosed sum; though 400 part-time workers still lose their jobs.

Now Klark Quinn, one of the new owners, has told The Sydney Morning Herald that Darrell Lea products should be on sale in every major supermarket chain to buy for Christmas.

''Everyone wants Darrell Lea,'' he told the Herald.

Darrell Lea products will be in IGA stores by the end of October, thanks to a distribution deal struck by Quinn Foods.

Quinn confirmed the company is in negotiations with Coles, Woolworths and other supermarkets.

Quinn said the task of getting the confectionary maker back to being a profitable company will take work, speaking to the Herald at the Kogorah plant while wearing a fluro maintenance shirt.

''I wear a maintenance shirt because things are broken,'' he said of Darrell Lea. ''Every facet [of operations] was disconnected, marketing from sales, sales from finance, etc.''

Part of the plan will include a heavier focus on the 200 best performing and known products in the range, including the Rocklea Road and Soft Eating Liquorice, while 600 less popular products will most likely be dropped.

''It was the lesser known products that were dragging the business down,'' he said.

''It was very hard choosing what products to keep.

“But when we looked at it closer, it was obvious.''

Darrell Lea the No. 1 producer of liquorice in Australia.

While the Quinn family wants to modernise the Kogarah plant, to Darrell Lea products keep  their distinctive handmade flavour, much of the old confectionary processes and equipment will remain.

This includes burnished copper pans in which cooks make peanut brittle without a recipe and thermometer, Qiunn explained.

''You hear people talk about word 'iconic,' but Darrell Lea is iconic,” he said.

“There's so much history we can draw back on going forward, it's really exciting.''

What do you think of the Quinn family's decision to drop 600 products? Is it good business sense?

Hershey bows to pressure, commits to 100% certified cocoa by 2020

US confectionary manufacturer Hershey is the latest company to declare its commitment to ending child labour in West Africa, by pledging to use 100 per cent certified cocoa in all its products by 2020.

Activists have slammed the company, who say Hershey is the only major chocolate producer in the world that hadn't made a commitment to use certified cocoa.

Mars, Arnott's, Nestle are amongst other confectionary makers who have previously announced their commitment to ending child labour in the cocoa growing regions in West Africa by using only certified cocoa.

Last September, research found that the Australian chocolate industry has taken huge steps towards using accredited cocoa products.

Following the pressure, Pennsylvania-based Hershey confirmed its plan to use certified cocoa on Wednesday.
Certified cocoa is produced according to certain social, economic and environmental standards. 

West Africa produces about 70 percent of the world's cocoa and currently, certified cocoa accounts for less than 5 percent of the world's cocoa supply, according to Hershey.

According to the fourth annual report produced by Tulane University under contract to the U.S. Department of Labor to monitor progress in the protocol, about 1.8 million children, aged 5 to 17, work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The report revealed 40 percent of the 820 000 children working in cocoa in Ivory Coast are not enrolled in school, and only about 5 percent of the Ivorian children are paid for their work.

Hershey earlier this year said it would invest $10 million in West Africa to reduce child labor and improve the cocoa supply, as part of its commitment to reducing the harsh working conditions in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The commitment by major manufacturers to only use certified cocoa is a huge step in towards fairer conditions for the workers in the region.

Hershey has also pledged to continue its support of community development programs, including village school construction, mobile phone farmer messaging, training in modern farming techniques and literacy and health programs.

"Consistent with Hershey's values, we are directly addressing the economic and social issues that impact West Africa's two million cocoa farmers and families," J.P. Bilbrey, company president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"I am confident that we can make a substantial difference in West Africa by 2020."

Independent auditors will verify the certified cocoa was produced by the highest labor, environmental and farming practices, the company said.

Staff at Melbourne food plant claim extreme bullying was ignored

Staff at a Melbourne gourmet food manufacturing facility, which provides food for Ikea, Qantas and Costo have allegedly suffered extreme bullying at the plant.

More than half the workers employed at the Glendal Foods factory in the inner-city suburb of Brunswick say they have been bullied for years, and despite informing management and a trade union, the allegations were never followed up, The Age reports.

Of the 38 staff employed at the plant, 18 say they have been bullied by their employer, and one allegedly harmed herself two weeks ago as a result of the treatment.

She was admitted to the Western Hospital as a result and doctors there contacted WorkSafe to become involved.

An investigation is currently being conducted into the incident by the work safety authority.

Another staff member has alleged that a heavy trolley was pushed into her stomach while she was pregnant.

Most of the staff speak little English, and since their concerns have allegedly been ignored, they have decided to go public with their story.

They say the inappropriate treatment has been going on for at least six years.

The workers allege that management at the factory had allowed a senior staff member to regularly yell at them and make sexual and personal comments, tell workers they needed to give 48 hours' notice if they wanted to take sick days and demand staff work overtime on any day, without any notice.

They were also told, when they went from casual to full-time workers, they must ''celebrate'' by buying lunch for the entire workplace, or buying a supervisor a gift.

Employee Hiep Nguyen said when she was given a full-time job with the company, she was instructed to shout the entire factory lunch, because ''it was the rules,” and would face termination if she did not.

''I am a new arrival,” she said through an interpreter.

“I came to Australia legally.

“I work, and pay tax and try to be a good citizen.

“But because I have really limited English, I don't know a lot of rules.

“And for someone who has been here a bit longer than me to make my life really difficult is not fair for me.”

It is also alleged they were banned from making any contact with the company's owner and wages of some employees were withheld for up to eight weeks.

Most of the bullying complaints are against one supervisor, Van Phan, who the staff allege, pressured most of them to pay her 10 per cent of a backpay payment made to them in July after they signed a new workplace agreement.

They apparently had to make the payment in cash, and while Phan wouldn’t discuss the other allegations on Friday, she did say employees who gave her a cut of their backpay had given it as a gift.

''They were happy to do that,'' she said.

When the union became involved in the case, the company asked Van to voluntarily pay back this money, but it is unclear whether this has occurred.

Very few of the Glendal Foods employees were members of the National Union of Workers until August, when Nguyen filed a complaint with the union.

She also contacted the federal government's Fair Work Ombudsman, which referred her to WorkSafe.

Qantas and Ikea have confirmed that Glendal Foods is one of their suppliers,  among their suppliers but would not comment further.

Glendal Foods, which makes samosas, filo pastries, soups, curries and casseroles for its clients, is owned by Melbourne chef Chandra Kanodia, and the staff all allege he was aware of the incidents in the plant, but he ignored it.

He declined to discuss the allegations, but did comment on the fact that WorkSafe is investigating.

''WorkSafe will take care of this; the allegations are going to be sorted out by them,'' he said.

When asked why so many of his staff had complained of bullying, he said: ''They are all union members, are they? That says something, don't you think?''

He later issued a brief statement saying his company was concerned about the matter and taking it very seriously.

National Union of Workers organiser Monique Segan, who has regularly met staff at Glendal Foods since August, said the bullying was some of the most extreme the union has seen.

She also said that raising the issue Glendal Foods had increased problems, pushing the workers to go public with their story.

Coca-Cola Amatil overcomes ‘difficult trading season’ with big profits

Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) has continued its trend upwards, reporting growth of almost 6 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

The beverage giant’s growth in net profit in the period was $247.1 million, in what many have labelled a ‘difficult trading season’.

Despite the tough market conditions, CCA also managed more than three per cent volume growth and earnings before interest tax (ABIT) was up by almost five per cent in its Australian market.

CCA’s shareholder report showed that Australia’s EBIT growth to $294.8 million was the result of significant ‘momentum turn’ in spending habits during the second quarter, as well as ‘effective promotional strategies’ in May and June 2012.

The iconic beverage maker announced last month that following on from the unprecedented success of its ‘Share A Coke’ campaign last year, it would be expanding on the promotion this summer by embracing the nostalgia of music.

Joining with Facebook and Spotify, CCA will allow consumers to unlock top music hits from the year listed on individual bottles using a QR code and share the playlist with friends.

It also revealed in August that it would be increasing the size of its glass bottles and adding a resealable lid to appeal to the consumer demand for more convenient and portable.

CCA is also experiencing success in its Indonesian and PNG businesses, with the EBIT in the region at more than 19 per cent.

It attributed to their 12.9 per cent volume growth on its ‘significant cold drink cooler footprint’ in the region, saying it has ‘positioned them well for future growth.’

CCA is continuing to expand in Indonesia, and now has about 235 000 cold drink coolers and100 sales and distribution centres there, which has provided over 8000 jobs in the company.

Despite the surge in profits for the company, CCA still believes the ‘weak consumer spending’ in Australia, will likely result in its capital expenditure increasing by about $100 million to $470 Million in the last quarter of 2012.

CCA is also all but confirmed to re-enter the Australian beer market in late 2013 in a joint venture with Casella, which will give CCA the ability to sell, manufacture and distribute beer in Australia at the end of their restraint, which expires on 16 December, 2013.

From $4.5bn profit to $2.7bn deficit: Aus food sector in crisis

New figures released this week have proven what most in the food processing sector already know: the industry is close to collapse.

Financial specialists KPMG and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) joined together to compile the report that offers a snapshot of Australia’s food sector.

And the figures are frightening.

Seven years ago, the sector was one of the most successful and profitable in Australia, producing an excess of $4.5 billion.

In the 2010-11 period it recorded a deficit of $2.7 billion.

In groceries alone, the deficit was almost $10 billion as Australia exported $4.6 billion of product and imported $14 billion in the 2010-11 year.

Australia a net importer of food

A recent Food Alliance report showed that Australia has become a net importer of processed fruit and vegetables, as the price is lower, but unfortunately, the quality often is also.

The Food Alliance report labelled local producers "vulnerable,” as they struggle to compete with the cheap imports, but if the Australian dollar fell to US55 cents, those cheap imports would suddenly become far more expensive.

A $1 tin of Italian tomatoes could become a $5 tin of tomatoes, Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman warned.

Australia’s peak produce representative body AusVeg has been warning of this for some time, as has the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

In February, AusVeg’s Simon Coburn told Food Magazine that a decision by Coles to slash the price of produce “had the makings” of becoming the next milk price wars.

National Manufacturing Workers Union’s Jennifer Dowell also warned that produce and dairy farmers cannot afford to wait around, losing money, as supermarkets import products, in the hope that they reverse the behaviour and start using local products instead.

“My concern is that if we lose food sovereignty, if we lose control of our food chain we become hostage to other countries supplying our food,” she said.

“How ridiculous is that? In Australia we have the ability to produce the best food in the world, so how are we getting into this situation?

“Once these companies go, they won’t some back, they’re not going to come back and rebuild factories and businesses because Australia is upset after it basically kicked them out in the first place.

“If we rely on imports, and a country decides it is going to give its own market priority, as it very well should, what do we do? Where do we go?

“At a time when the world is saying Africa needs to have food sovereignty, we’re actually participating in a process where we won’t be able to feed our own people.

“We will be reliant on importing food.

“When we finally hit the wall and find that everything is coming from overseas and we no longer have any Australian food industries, it will be too late.”

How much is actually imported?

The supermarkets like to trumpet their success stories and gloss over their failings when it comes to local produce and their treatment of suppliers.

Coles made a song and dance about its decision to use Australian-grown produce in its own brand frozen vegetables, but omitted the fact that none of its 13 private label tinned fruits and vegetables are imported.

For its part, Woolworths imports 13 of 14 home-brand frozen vegetable lines, and 19 of its 21 private label tinned fruit and vegetable lines, according to the most recent report.

Woolworths released a statement labelling the Choice findings “inaccurate,” while a spokesperson told Food Magazine this morning that “we’re working very closely with the Australian agricultural sector, and we buy lot of produce from Australian farmers.”

“96 per cent of our fresh fruit and veg is from Australia.

“71 per cent of our own label products com from Australia, and that’s increasing.

“We’re now importing home brand rice from NSW and our focus is on increasing Australian grown products.”

The spokesperson did not answer questions, however, on whether the price the supermarket is paying local producers for those products is fair, or whether it shoulders some of the responsibility for the dire state of the food sector.

Coles accused Choice of pursuing a "public policy agenda on labelling” when the report was released, but did not respond to requests for comment by Food Magazine this morning.

"We know farmers are struggling": Coles GM

Last week Coles’ corporate affairs general manager Robert Hadler did acknowledge that local processing was in trouble, telling an agribuiness summit in that the high Australian dollar and increased labour costs were "catching many food manufacturers in a cost-price squeeze".

"We're quite concerned … we want security and sustainability of supply, particularly in processed product, so we've upped our game in working with local food manufacturers," he said.

Jackman has warned that it may not be just the supermarkets that are to blame for the state of the industry, but rather popular television shows, including Farmer Wants a Wife and Masterchef, are causing the damage.

"If we're not careful, MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules will all be made with produce produced overseas," he said.

“Long-term investment in agriculture, skills and people working in the field were needed to "drive the future.

"We can't afford to see production and food processing disappear out of Australia because the high Aussie dollar is making imports so much cheaper," he said.

He said food producers and processors needed to educate the public about why they should be willing to pay more for local produce.

How can we fix this important Australian industry? How would you make it profitable again?

Climate change will transform the bush … and we’ll have to think big to cope

Within decades, environments across Australia will be substantially different from those that currently exist.

CSIRO research released today suggests that, by 2030, climate change stress on our natural environments will be significant. By 2070, the impacts will be more widespread and, in many places, more extreme. Many parts of Australia will have environments that do not exist today anywhere on this continent.

Ecological stress

In a scientific first, we investigated how climate change will affect plants, animals and ecosystems across the entire continent.

We found large, ecologically-relevant environmental change for most of the continent. We can expect changes in species distribution and abundance, changes in ecosystem composition and structure (woodland becoming grassland, for example), and changes in how ecosystems function.

We found that the degree of ecological stress is less, or at least develops more slowly, in a climate change scenario where greenhouse gas emissions are lower than the so called “business as usual” scenario. In this lower emission scenario, both biodiversity and conservation institutions will have more time to adapt to the changing climate.

Prediction about the details of change and likely loss of biodiversity are difficult due to the various processes of ecological change, and the differing affects of climate change-induced stress. But we are confident of one thing. Rapid ecological change will be an important feature of Australian landscapes in the future. The bush will look, smell and sound very different 50 years from now.

Accepting change

So what does this oncoming change mean for conservation and environmental management in Australia?


The ‘duck hole swamp’ forms part of Henbury Station in the Northern Territory. AAP/Parks Australia


Traditionally, conservation theory and practice are mostly about preventing or reversing ecological change – preserving nature in some idealised, unchanging state. Our research implies that this approach may not be possible in the future. We need to adapt our thinking, policies and on-the-ground actions to a situation where change is the new norm.

Of course, minimising the extinction of species should still be a fundamental goal. But doing so may require different approaches than we currently use. This change in conservation thinking will require a broad conversation including government, conservation groups and the public.

Future conservation efforts may need to focus on the existence of species (rather than their abundance and distribution), the health of ecosystems, and the balance of natural and human activities across whole landscapes. It will become more a question of managing change, perhaps even facilitating it in some circumstances, rather than preventing it.

The risk of extinction

The total number of species becoming extinct and at risk of extinction is likely to be considerably greater in the future.

With limited resources and many threatened species, it may be more beneficial overall to prioritise effort on species that have greater likelihood of surviving, rather than the most vulnerable. Naturally, this raises questions about society’s value of particular species that will need to be discussed.

People also value living landscapes for their aesthetic, cultural and production values. Future conservation objectives will need to address how to conserve these values as ecosystems and land uses change in response to the climate.

Current biodiversity management strategies largely assume low levels of species loss, relatively high levels of knowledge about threats and the state of biodiversity, and relatively static environments. These strategies will be less effective as high levels of change occur and uncertainty increases.

Beyond the national park

We found that protected natural areas such as national parks and indigenous protected areas will continue to play a key role in biodiversity conservation. But, given the increased level of threat and the need to allow movement of species in response to pressures from climate change, additional areas of habitat, outside the protected area system, will be increasingly important. These areas will provide additional and alternate habitats for species, and support ecological processes across whole landscapes.

It will be increasingly important to manage ecological change at very large landscape scales.


Ecologist Dr Jim Radford with the tessellated gecko on the Boolcoomatta Reserve, South Australia. AAP/Sarah Malik


Larger, diverse areas of habitat will help species survive the multiple pressures arising from climate change, which are likely to affect ecosystems beyond the scale of individual habitat patches or nature reserves. This can be accomplished by ensuring existing large areas of intact habitat are protected from clearing and degradation, and by connecting smaller patches by restoring and maintaining links between otherwise isolated areas.

Interaction with other sectors

Many aspects of Australian landscapes will change as various sectors for example primary industries, water management, bush fire management and tourism, adapt to climate change.

It is possible that responses in the other sectors could add to the climate change stress and further threaten biodiversity.

On the other hand, certain changes in land use could be beneficial if designed also to sustain biodiversity.

Given the scale of change, the differing values, and the need for broad management strategies, it is time to start a conversation.

It will be essential for conservation institutions to engage with local natural resource management bodies, conservation groups, and the general public around the changes that will determine the future of Australia’s natural environment.

David Hilbert received funding from the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

The Conversation

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

Buying local food most important to Aussies, research finds

Australians are more likely to buy locally grown foods than any other products, new research has shown.

Research conducted by the Australian Made Australian Grown campaign has shown that while more than 50 per cent of Aussies will buy cheap imported clothes, hardware, furniture and household appliances, 9 in 10 prefer buying food grown and manufactured here.

The Roy Morgan research commissioned by Australian Made Australian Grown found that for many products, consumers don’t care about buying local or imported.

Australian Made Australian Grown Campaign chief executive Ian Harrison said that while the findings were "extremely worrying" and warned more jobs would be lost unless consumers change their attitude across the downward trending sectors, it was good to see that buying local food and drink is at the forefront of Australian’s minds.

He said confidence in the safety and quality of local produce grown in Australia is one of the main reasons the majority of the 1200 adults surveyed buy local produce.

The AMAG campaign is working to educate consumers about the use of the Australian Made logo, and the definitions of Australian made products.

Only one in three surveyed knew that the products had to be substantially produced or manufactured in Australia to be able to use the logo, and four in 10 consumers surveyed said they find it difficult to identify whether a product is Australian made.

Harrison told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit in August that the organisation wants the definitions and legal parameters of using the label to be stricter, as more companies are able to find loopholes to promote their products as Australian, when in fact they are made primarily from foreign ingredients.

“Tighten up the definitions of substantial transformation, I think one of the problems we find in the industry and one the consumers don’t like is ‘maybe’ particularly in the area of food,” he said.

“You have to substantially transform the product in Australia, and you have to have more than 50 per cent value add in Australia.

“Substantial transformation, we believe, offers a very important way forward for the government to put a bit of strength and predictability into food labelling.

“We think you can actually make some fundamental changes to what constitutes substantial transformation.”

The iconic image was an initiative of the federal government in 1986, and is a certification trademark, as Harrison explained at the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit.

It is a “very legal instrument, which has a set of rules behind it and those rules can’t be changed without agreement between us and the government,” he said.

For 10 years up to 1996, the symbol and its use was run by the Advanced Australia Foundation, before a change in government saw the funding that was set up for the logo removed.

“We’re non- for profit, we’re a public company limited by guarantee,” he said.

“In 2007, the federal government introduced Australian Grown.

“We rewrote our rules at that time and we changed the name of the symbol from the Australian Made logo to the Australian Made Australian Grown logo.

“It gets a bit more complicated for us because last year we introduced Australian seafood driven by the seafood industry, and internationally we introduced Australian to be used offshore.

“I’m happy t o say has grown significantly in the last five or six years.

“We’ve got about 1,700 companies using it just over, and on about 10, 000 products, so there’s a very, very wide usage across all sectors, and of these companies, 44 % of them export.”

Earlier this month consumer advocacy group CHOICE released the results of their survey into the country of origin of product ingredients, comparing home-branded products from Coles and Woolworth’s private labels with leading supplier brands, which found  just 55 per cent of Coles’ products and 38 per cent of Woolworths’ products were grown or manufactured locally, compared with 92% of market leader groceries.

More than 100 000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector in the last five years, an industry task force released last month revealed, and the rapid increase in private label products on Australian supermarket shelves is reducing the amount of choice consumers have, while also significantly impacting farmers.

A study earlier this year found that one in four products sold in Australian supermarkets is now private label, and of those, one in two is imported.

What  products do you make sure you buy Australian Made? 

Makers of ‘pink slime’ sue TV network

The manufacturers of the now infamous “pink slime” used in American meat products has sued ABC News in the US for defamation over its coverage of the creation.

The Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based meat processor owned by Beef Products Inc. (BPI) is seeking $US1.2 billion ($1.14 billion) in damages over about 200 of what it calls "false and misleading and defamatory" statements about the product.

Officially, the meat product is known as lean, finely textured beef, according to Dan Webb, BPI's attorney.

The lawsuit, filed in a South Dakota state court, names several individuals as defendants, including ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and the local Departure of Agriculture microbiologist for creating the term "pink slime."

The coining of the phrase and the subsequent reporting by the ABC "caused consumers to believe that our lean beef is not beef at all – that it's an unhealthy pink slime, unsafe for public consumption, and that somehow it got hidden in the meat," Webb said.

In the 257-page lawsuit, BPA also names American Broadcasting Companies, ABC News, and ABC correspondents Jim Avila and David Kerley as defendants.

Gerald Zirnstein, the USDA microbiologist who named the product "pink slime," Carl Custer, a former federal food scientist, and Kit Foshee, a former BPI quality assurance manager who was interviewed by ABC, are also on the defendant list.

The "defendants engaged in a month-long vicious, concerted disinformation campaign against BPI," the lawsuit claims.

In the lawsuit 11 reports that aired on television and 14 that appeared online between March 7 and April 3, are listed to support their claims.

BPI's director of food-quality assurance, Craig Letch, claims the company lost 80 per cent of its business in 28 days due to the reporting.

While some of the customers have returned, BPI still doesn't have the customer base that would allow it to rehire former employees, he said.

The company was forced it to close three of its four US plants and fire more than 650 workers due to the fallout, which was further fuelled by the ABC publishing a list of grocery stores that had stopped selling the product.

This action, he said, pressured others to end their business relationship with BPI over fear of customer backlash.

The reports created the false impression "that it's some type of chemical product, that it's not beef. It led people to believe that it's some kind of repulsive, horrible, vile substance that got put into ground beef and hidden from consumers,” he argued.

"The result of that has been catastrophic for this company," he said.

The ABC has vowed to fight the claims in court, saying it has done nothing wrong.

"The lawsuit is without merit," Jeffrey W. Schneider, ABC senior vice president, said in a brief statement on Thursday.

"We will contest it vigorously"

“Pink Slime,” or "meat glue" is made up of bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria, a common practice used for many years.

While the processes meet federal food safety standards, many consumers were understandably shocked to see images of the product, looking highly processed and unhealthy.

After the ABC and Zirnstein coined the phrase, it spread quickly, with the The New York Times using it in a 2009 article on the safety of meat processing methods and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver publically campaigning against it.

As a result of consumer pressure, McDonald's and other fast food companies stopped using it, and major supermarket chains also said they would cease selling beef containing the product.

An online petition calling for the banning of the product from school menus drew hundreds of thousands of supporters, as parents grew increasingly concerned about the impact of the low-cost product used to make small amounts of meat go further and ensure continuity in products like hamburger patties.

Only three states in the US, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, now order beef that may contain it, while the rest refuse to use ground beef with “pink slime” in it, according to the US Department of Agriculture.