Conveyor cooking systems rolling towards profit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: photo credit: <a href="">Flickr</a>

For more information contact (Australia or New Zealand) Barry Hansel at Reactive Engineering. Phone 61 (0)2 9675 5100; email; website:



Dollar’s slide must continue, says food manufacturers

Food manufacturers across the country breathed a collective sigh of relief on Friday when, for the first time in almost a year, the dollar fell below parity against the greenback.

But that doesn't mean the troubles are behind manufacturers, who are arguing that the dollar needs to fall much further to fight off the wave of cheap imports threatening homegrown brands.

According to the Australian, Gary Dawson, chief executive at the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), said the dollar needs to fall closer to US76c.

"There's no doubt the high dollar has a significantly negative effect on the competitiveness of food manufacturing in Australia, so the recent falls are welcome. But it would need to move lower for longer to start having some impact," he said.

A spokesperson from Ferrier Hodgson, the administrators for Rosella, which collapsed late last year, said the high Aussie dollar had caused supermarkets to look towards imported private label products, but said even if the dollar had dropped by 10 percent it probably wouldn't have been enough to save the brand.

Coca-Cola Amatil also entered into the debate, claiming cheap imported tinned fruits contributed to the recent struggles of its SPC Ardmona brand, which has suffered a nine percent drop in first-half earnings.

However, managing director Terry Davis said the dollar's slide will make some imported goods more expensive.

"The softening of the Australian dollar against the euro is better news as this will help inflate the prices of the very cheap imported fruit and tomatoes coming in from European markets which have been flooding our domestic markets," he said.


Chaser boys to MC Food Magazine awards

The Food Magazine team is pleased to announce that the Chaser Boys will be returning again in 2013 to MC the 9th annual Food Magazine Awards.

The Chaser crew, most recently of ABC 1’s The Checkout fame, has reignited interest in consumer affairs by providing viewers with an insightful and sometimes satirical mix of information on certain products, retail industries or brands, aiming to encourage Australian shoppers to make smarter and more educated spending decisions.

Entries for the awards have been extended until 17 May with categories including Packaging Design, Sustainable Manufacturing, Snack Foods, Confectionery, Dairy and many more.

The event which will take place at Luna Park’s Crystal Palace on Friday 26 July, recognises and rewards best practice and innovation in food and beverage processing in Australia and New Zealand.

For more information on entry submissions and the awards night click here:

Sponsors for the night include Heat and Control, APPMA, Earlee Products, Flavour Makers, HACCP Australia, Janbak, Kerry, Kurz, Newly Weds Foods and Tronics. For more information on sponsorship opportunities contact Will Fernandes at


Kraft profit trumps expectations after Mondelez split

Kraft Foods has surpassed Wall Street expectations for first quarter earnings following the company’s separation from global snack business, Mondelez.

The decision by Kraft to split from Mondelez, which holds brands such as Oreo and Cadbury, was driven by a strategy to focus on a narrower mix of products, drive sales and cut costs as reported by SMH.

Industry experts have suggested that Kraft will face numerous challenges in its core market of North America as the packaged food industry has already reached maturity in the region.

To combat this, Kraft executives will be continuing to focus on streamlining its portfolio by pruning out less profitable brand extensions and coming up with new innovations.

The company is also looking to refresh the image of older brands Kool-Aid and Grey Poupon.

Kraft Food Group reported quarterly earnings of $US456m with shares equating to 76 US cents per share, down from $US483m a year ago when the company paid less in interest and other expenses.

Revenue rose two percent to $US4.55b, surpassing analyst expectations of $US4.46b.

Kraft shares were up almost two percent at $US51.37 in after hours trading and the company believes it’s on track to achieve $US2.75 per share by year’s end.

Food growth leading the way in retail sales

While the latest AFGC CHEP Retail Index indicates that consumer confidence remains shaky and retail growth is lacklustre, ABS statistics show that food is in a better position than other retail sectors.

The Index is a collaborative project between the Australian Food and Grocery Council and CHEP Australia, using CHEP's transactional data based on pallet movements to predict performance in the retail market.

The Index reports that the rate of growth in retail trade decreased marginally in the first three months of 2013, and is expected to ease further as the year continues. It also showed three percent growth in the March quarter year-on-year, but forecasts growth will ease to 2.6 percent in the June quarter.

In March, the Index indicates that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will report year-on-year growth of 2.6 percent, with turnover of $21.7 billion. May retail trade growth is predicted to be 2.8 percent year-on-year, with turnover increasing to $21.9 billion.

Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO, Gary Dawson, said "Retail conditions have been soft through the beginning of 2013, and the Index confirms that consumer confidence remains fragile, with low interest rates yet to bring a sustained lift in the retail sector."

The findings are slightly more promising for food, with recent ABS statistics showing food and grocery retail has a more solid rate of year-on-year growth than overall retail sales growth.

Food retail growth was 4.6 percent in February 2013, with spending on cafés, restaurants and takeaway food seeing a similarly solid growth rate. By contrast, department stores experienced year-on-year sales growth below one percent in February, as growth in online sales and ongoing price deflation make their mark in non-food retailing.


Food Magazine Awards: deadline extended

The Food mag team is pleased to announce that the deadline for entries in our annual Food Magazine Awards has been extended to 17 May.

This should give you plenty of time to get your nomination submission ready to go! (It'll also give me extra time to sort through the huge number of nominations sent in on the original D-day last week!)

Categories for this year's awards include Packaging Design, Sustainable Manufacturing, Snack Foods, Confectionery, Dairy and many more.

In order to be considered, your product needs to be no more than two years old (launched in May 2011-May 2013).

You're able to enter your product in a maximum of three different categories, but can only enter two different products in the same category.

Your entry must be accompanied by one high res and one low res image.

Finalists will be announced in the June/July issue of Food Magazine and will have the opportunity to show-off their new product at the awards night gala dinner, held at Sydney's Luna Park on 26 July.

Apart from bragging rights and a decent dose of industry recognition, winners will also receive a write-up in September's Food magazine.

You can access all the information you need, as well as a nomination kit, here.

Good luck!


Salt reduction a bitter challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: and


Food mag awards: time’s running out

With entries closing this week, the 2013 Food magazine awards are a great opportunity for you to spruik your new products and have them recognised by industry peers.

The 9th annual Food Magazine Awards will be held at Luna Park Sydney on July 26, where finalists in the awards' 14 categories will have the opportunity to not only win industry recognition and a write-up in Food mag, but can also have their new product on display for all to see!

Nominations close this Wednesday, 24 April.

Any company, regardless of size, engaged in food and/or drink processing in Australia or New Zealand can enter nominations. Companies in the Oceanic region are also welcome to enter.

The product you wish to enter has to have been launched in Australia or New Zealand (or Oceania) between May 2011 and May 2013.

You can enter a product into up to three categories but can enter only two different products in the same category.

Categories include Organics, Health & Wellness, Packaging Design, Food Safety and Innovation in non-food, Dairy, Confectionery, Snack Foods and Prepared Foods.

Finalists in each category will be announced in the June/July issue of Food magazine.

An independent team of judges with extensive experience in the food and beverage manufacturing industry will be determining the winners in each category, announced at the gala dinner at Luna Park.

For more information and to submit your own nomination, click here.


Supermarket private label rip-offs the focus of ABC show

New ABC show, The Checkout,  will tonight focus on supermarket copycat products that are infiltrating the Australian grocery market.

According to a post on Mumbrella the show will  “examine the phenomenon of the major chains using packaging, design and colours similar to that of major FMCG brands.”

Mumbrella made a video on the issue in 2011 which shows the striking similarity of some private label versions to the name brand packaging.


Private label has been a contentious issue with manufacturers such as Heinz, Four’N’Twenty  and the AFCG accusing supermarkets of deliberately milsleading customers with copycat designs. 

Whilst many companies may have a decent legal case for passing off or misleading consumers, many wont take action (or even talk to Food Magazine) for fear of losing the lucrative contracts with the big two.

Australian food manufacturers: Stuck between a rock and another extremely similar rock that’s a few cents cheaper.

The Checkout airs tonight at 8pm on ABC1

Beak and Johnston purchase Pitango

New Zealand soup and ready-made meal maker Pitango has been bought by Sydney-based Beak and Johnston, owner of brands such as Mr. Beak’s and Cleavers.

Pitango was part of Gourmet Food Holdings, which was placed in the hands of receivers Ferrier Hodgson in late-November last year. GFH was the parent company of brands including Rosella, Water Wheel and Aristocrat.

GFH, which owed as much as $50 million to National Australia Bank, was owned by private equity company Crescent Capital, who also failed in their management of Australian Music Group and sold AMG at a loss last year.

The dollar value of the acquisition would not be disclosed by Pitango’s general manager Wade Gillooly, but he mentioned that it was going from being private equity-owned to family-owned, and said that the buyout would boost its manufacturing operations.

"What [the sale] means is that we preserve the jobs of our production, office and administration staff in Auckland and it allows us to continue to work with all of our suppliers in New Zealand," Gillooly told Fairfax Media.

Pitango produces organic products including soups, curries and pastas, which are sold in supermarkets.

Acording to a profile of Beak and Johnston, the company was established in 1986, exports to more than 15 countries and has revenues exceeding $300 million.

Another manufacturing company hits the wall: Starmaid Group

Plastics manufacturer, Starmaid Group, has been placed in receivership – the latest of several recent business collapses in the industry.

According to SmartCompany, Starmaid manufactures storage products and uses premium food-grade materials to manufacture plastic houseware and professional products across 50 brands, including Fresh Seal, Clea and Hobbibox.

PPB Advisory has been appointed as receivers and managers over the Starmaid Group, and is calling for expressions of interest in the business.

It's been a difficult 12 months for the manufacturing industry, especially food manufacturing, with a number of companies entering voluntary administration, including confectionery brands Chocolate Fare, and the iconic Darrell Lea, not to mention Gourmet Food Holdings – owner of Rosella.

Windsor Food Factory also announced its collapse earlier this month, closing its Cowra cannery and leaving many employees and local growers shortchanged.

The popular Byron Bay Cookie Company also entered voluntary administration recently, with one disgruntled supplier telling Food mag he's owed $30,000.

The high Australian dollar, cheap imports from overseas and the rising influence of the supermarket duopoly have all been listed as contributing factors to manufacturing's woes.


24 hours with Masterol Foods

Food magazine recently launched its Industry Map, where we ask food manufacturing professionals to shed light on the trials and tribulations of their work. Here, Nathan Cater, managing director at Masterol Foods, which manufactures and distributes vegetable oils, processing aids and ingredients, takes our Q&A.

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.
I’ve done most of the jobs here at one time or another, from working in the warehouse and in production through to sales, marketing and product development. My role now is mostly of a managerial nature. I contribute to the overall direction of the company, particularly in terms of product development for the different market segments we engage with.

I also help to ensure that Masterol's R&D function interacts well with sales and marketing.

Because I have a broad understanding of the systems and the way information flows through Masterol, I also have the role of ‘problem solver’ – a hat which directors at many small and medium sized companies have to wear! These problems often revolve around our manufacturing operations, such as identifying the best way to transition to larger batch sizes when sales of a product increase.

Other things I do on a daily basis include discussing what we need from suppliers and how we can work more closely with them, addressing our customers’ needs and providing them with technical support and advice on our products and how they are best used.

What training/education did you need for your job?
I’ve been in the food industry my whole working life, so it’s all I know. With regards to education – I have formal training in chemistry, management and information technology, but have developed a strong understanding of the technology behind anti-sticking, glazing and release agent products by simply spending years working hands-on in the industry.

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.

  • Graduated university in 1999
  • Worked in the food industry throughout my years at university
  • Established Masterol Foods in 2009 to capitalise on the knowledge I gained throughout my studying years.

What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?
Spreadsheets, spreadsheets and more spreadsheets. We have a database management system which handles most of our day-to-day activities with regards to logistics and manufacturing. It implements full traceability of all raw materials from receipt at our facilities to their use in finished products through to when the finished product is delivered to our customers.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
The people I work with. Without their support and commitment to our company and our products, we’d be fighting a losing battle. I believe many companies don’t have the right people in key positions. This causes a myriad problems, the sources of which may appear difficult to spot even from the inside. In my opinion, the source is often right at the beginning – they failed to recruit the right people. I’m very proud of the people I work with and what we achieve together.

Biggest daily challenge?
Time management. It’s very easy for me to get immersed in the details of one particular project and forget about other things I’d planned to do on a given day. Without a high level of attention to detail, some of the products we’ve developed might never have come to be – it’s a matter of finding a balance between what you want to do and what you have to do.

Biggest career challenge?
Getting new products off the ground – it’s unbelievably difficult. No matter what you want to do, there is almost always someone out there who has a head start. That moment when everything aligns and things start to snowball – I think most people fall before they make it that far. This is a constant challenge – it’s not one you conquer and then move on from. With new products comes new knowledge, new experiences, new customers and suppliers, and so on. Managing all of these while trying to get a new product off the ground is pretty intense.

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
I believe doing business in Australia is very difficult. This is due to a range of factors – things like our relatively small market size and low population density through to industry dynamics including the concentration of power in the hands of a small number of large and powerful competitors in many industries. This means achieving the economies of scale necessary to take on the ‘big boys’ is always going to be difficult. There are plenty of other factors too, such as the way business is treated by both sides of government at all levels. Our business environment is highly regulated.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
Innovation. High exchange rates mean Australian manufacturers are having difficulty competing with imports and for the same reason it’s tough to get export business too. Exchange rates used to make local manufacturing more attractive because they helped to offset the high cost of production and the high cost of doing business in Australia, but that’s not the case today. This is why innovation is so important for Australian manufacturers. I don’t believe it’s possible to build a strong manufacturing business in Australia without a constant focus on innovation. Build a better mousetrap, as the saying goes.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
Being in business is more daunting than it looks. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. Despite that, I’m passionate about Australian manufacturing and in particular, the food industry and our contribution to it.

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

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


Food mag is on Facebook

In addition to our magazine, website and e-newsletters, Food magazine also is also busy sharing and liking on Facebook!

Check out our page and Like it to keep up-to-date with all the latest news and views in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. We'd also love for you to share your thoughts/ideas/exciting news on our page – it's a great way for you to connect with other industry members and keep abreast of what's happening in their world, and vice versa.

We also tweet, so follow us at @foodmagaus and join the conversation!

This is your chance to have your voice heard, so if you've got something to say, whether it's a rant or a rave, or a new product to plug, you know what to do!


Broaden your horizons at AUSPACK PLUS 2013

This year, Australia's largest processing machinery, materials and technology exhibition, AUSPACK PLUS, is returning to Sydney, presenting food manufacturers with an invaluable opportunity to network with other industry members and gain an insight into the latest and greatest developments in packaging.

Held at the Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, from 7 to 10 May, this year AUSPACK PLUS had to expand its venue space by 202sqm due to high exhibitor demand.

Visitors can expect to see over 1,100 brands and 240 exhibitors representing 13 countries, with 58 international exhibitors across more than 7,000sqm of floor space.

The event is owned and presented by the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), and, once again,  a highlight of this year's event will be the AIP Technical Forum, which is taking on a 'Global Packaging Trends' theme and will include presentations from international speakers representing Brazil, Austria, India, South Africa, Indonesia and the United States.

Adding to this international focus will be the WorldStar Packaging awards, held on 9 May at the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park.

The WorldStar awards is one of the major events of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO) and highlights the best of the best in the international packaging industry.

This year the awards received 316 entries from 33 countries around the world. WorldStars are presented only to those packs which, having already won recognition in a national or regional competitions, are deemed by a panel of judges to be at the top of their game in regards to execution or innovation.

Ralph Moyle, national president of the Australian Institute of Packaging, said hosting the event is a major coup for Australia. "There will be an international contingent of WPO Board members and award winners from across the globe coming to Australia for this event and we would like to extend an invitation to the entire packaging community to be a part of this significant night," he said.

Yet another exciting event accompanying AUSPACK PLUS 2013 is the APPMA Awards of Excellence, announced on 8 May and sponsored by Midway Metals, PKN, Schenker and SMC.

Mark Dingley, Chairman, APPMA, the biennial Awards of Excellence are designed to recognise innovative and outstanding packaging and processing solutions.

“Companies that enter these biennial awards are recognised for their contribution and outstanding achievements against their peers within the wider packaging industry and we encourage everyone to enter,” Mr Dingley said.

Awards categories include Export Achievement Award, Design Achievement Award, Customer Partnership Award, the Imported Equipment Award, Best New Product Award and the APPMA Scholarship which seeks to reward a packaging engineer looking to further his/her education with a scholarship to enrol in the AIP Diploma in Packaging Technology, an internationally recognised and accredited course.

And if that's not enough, visitors to this year's AUSPACK PLUS will have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with thousands of industry professionals from an array of industry sectors – all under the one roof. 

These include:

tna Australia
This packaging business will be demonstrating its latest packaging solutions at the event, including its 3ci high speed vertical form fill and seal packaging machine.

According to Luigi di Palma, general manager at tna Australia, this machine provides up to a 30 percent improvement in performance in both output and reduction in rejects and achieves throughput rates of up to 150bpm.


"Visitors will also experience our innovative seasoning system, the tna intelli-flavOMS 3c. A complete, one-piece solution for both wet and dry seasoning and flavouring, the tna intelli-flavOMS 3c delivers exceptional performance and provides even coverage at throughput rates of 100 to 500kg per hour for a wide variety of applications," he said.

"Technical experts will also be on-stand to demonstrate our tna rofloHM 3 horizontal motion conveyor, which smoothly distributes goods to minimise losses and breakages and deliver the highest quality end products."

Emrich Packaging Machinery
As a provider of packaging equipment and bagging machines, Emrich will be using AUSPACK PLUS 2013 to show off its PFM ZC1 integrated multi-head weigher and bagging machine.

The PFM ZC1 integrated multi-head weigher and bagging machine is designed for mid-speed duties up to 80 bags per minute and targets products such as snacks, confectionery, pet food, granular products, biscuits and pasta.

Also on display will be Emrich's Adco 15D105 horizontal hand load cartoner, designed for easy conversion to a fully automatic barrel cam machine and available to run in either continuous and intermittent mode.

Swiss Pack
In the past Swiss Pack has concentrated only on its packaging materials; however they've now branched out into packaging machines and will focus on both in Sydney.

Brendan Yee, general manager, Flexible Division, Swiss Pack, said, "In addition our expertise with the associated technical materials such as films, pouches and boxes means that we can offer a true end-to-end solution. Our packaging machines are suitable for all solids, liquids and powders, such as VFFS, mini pouch packing machines, coffee packing machines, flow wrappers, shrink tunnels, rotary pouch packing machines and carton packaging solutions."


Click here to read about A&D's new checkweigher product, launching in Australia at AUSPACK PLUS 2013.


AusVeg blames imports for Rosella’s closure

Vegetable producer lobby group AusVeg has said that the end of Rosella’s tomato sauce production is part of a wider trend in food manufacturing, which is being hurt by cheap imports.

Rosella’s parent company, Gourmet Food Holdings, which was put in receivership in November last year, has been unable to find a buyer and closed its Rosella factory last week.

“Rosella has been an icon of the Australian food sector since 1859 and its closure reflects the incredible pressure and adversity that our local food production industry is currently facing,” said Peter Mulcahy, AusVeg’s CEO, in a statement.

“Rising levels of imported product are threatening the viability of Aussie growers and placing our ability to feed ourselves as a nation in the future in danger.”

The vegetable group’s figures suggest that $908 million worth of vegetables were imported in 2011-12, double the amount in 2004-05 and a jump of 16 percent on the year before.

The supermarket duopoly’s increasing use of private label brands has been blamed by some, such as the AMWU, for GFH’s demise.


Strong growth for food manufacturing: AI Group

The Australian Industry Group’s monthly Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) survey showed an improved result for February, with food and beverage and wood and paper growing strongly.

The PMI, a seasonally adjusted national composite index, recorded an overall slowed contraction, with a score of 45.6 (January’s result was 40.2). Any result under 50 indicates that the industry shrunk overall.

This was still the 12th straight month of contraction in the PMI, though solid results were recorded in the food, beverage and tobacco (57.9) and wood and paper (57.6) sectors.

The AIG noted that some of the severe pressures on manufacturing were easing, but conditions were still challenging.

Innes Willox, the group’s CEO, said that “despite low official interest rates, conditions in manufacturing remain very testing with households not yet ready to loosen the purse strings and businesses still delaying investment in machinery and equipment.”

"With opportunities for revenue growth so constrained and with rises in wages and input costs – particularly for energy – businesses continue to cut costs and look across their business for efficiencies," Willox said in a statement, reported by AAP and others.


Ai Group welcomes Mars factory upgrade

The Australian Industry Group has welcomed the Victorian government’s support for a $52 million upgrade to the Mars Chocolate Australia factory in Ballarat.

The Courier reports that line upgrades will double the factory’s output of Malteser confectionery.

The Victorian director of the Ai Group, Tim Piper, praised the state government’s support for local manufacturing.

“Mars has been very important in the Australian confectionery landscape and is a major employer in Ballarat,” Piper said in a statement.

“The state government’s support for the new plant is positive recognition for Mars manufacturing in the State and for employment in Ballarat, and is helping to deliver on the government’s promise to support manufacturing."

The factory’s general manager Michael Ryan said that the upgrade will provide job security for workers and also highlighted the benefits for the community.

“(Employees) feel really good about the business and this announcement give them a lot of confidence,” he told The Courier.

“What we’re focusing on there is the investment we’re putting into the local community, which is nearly $150 million in wages, payments to contractors and suppliers.”


Female food icons receive Hall of Fame honours

The founders of Carman's and Boost Juice are among a range of female food manufacturing representatives who've been welcomed into the Australian Businesswomen's Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame officially launches on 4 March in the lead-up to International Women's Day, celebrates Australian female business owners who are trailblazers in their industries, which range from food to fashion and charity work to construction.

The Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN) CEO, Suzi Dafnis, said technological developments have helped women to excel in a professional capacity.

"Over the years I've really seen women come into their own as business owners. Their level of ingenuity, creativity and spirit is inspiring. I really believe the biggest change factor has been technology. The changes in technology over the past 10 years have really enabled women-lead flexible, innovative and globally-competitive businesses.

"All of the women in our 2013 ABN Hall of Fame have used technology in some way to help their business.  Technology has enabled them to start and build their businesses regardless of three elements that could have once been barriers   family responsibilities, geographic location or operating from home. Because of technology these things are no longer barriers for women entrepreneurs," Dafnis said.

This year, a number of the inductees work in the food and beverage industry. These include:

  • Carolyn Cresswell, founder of Carman’s Muesli
  • Jacqueline Arias of Republica Coffee
  • Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice
  • Kris Lloyd from Woodside Cheese Wrights, and

The remaining inductees are:

  • Annie Crawford of Can Too
  • Chris Cameron of Rockcote
  • Gillian Corban and Amanda Blair of Corban & Blair
  • Heidi Middleton & Sarah-Jane Clarke of Sass & Bide
  • Jane Cay of
  • Lorna Jane Clarkson of Lorna Jane Activewear
  • Melinda Cruz of Miracle Babies Foundation
  • Naomi Simson of Red Balloon
  • Ronni Khan of OzHarvest
  • Shelley Barrett of ModelCo
  • Wendy Simpson of Springboard
  • Trinette Schipkie of BTB Group

The ABN Hall of Fame has been running since 1998 and these new inductees join 150 other women the ABN has previously recognised as outstanding female business leaders.

Earlier this year Food mag spoke with Carolyn Cresswell about how she turned a $2000 investment into a $50m global empire. 


Food manufacturers should capitalise on reputation in the Asian Century: Emerson

Federal trade minister Craig Emerson has said that Australian food manufacturers have noticeable comparative advantages that should be harnessed, and foreign investment in the segment should be welcomed.

Emerson, citing “natural and acquired attributes” identified in the Asian Century white paper, states that Australia should play to its strengths, which are never going to be in examples like the mass production if electronics goods or producing anything cheaply.

Arable land and Australia’s reputation for cleanness and greenness in food production are, however, places where it displays advantages over other nations. The production of premium food is a strength.

“That's why the innovation statement identifies food processing as one of the first industries to benefit from the creation of innovation precincts,” wrote Emerson in The Australian today, referring to last week’s industry and innovation statement from the federal government, which included proposed local content laws and innovation precincts.

“The precinct will involve scientists, farmers, manufacturers and service companies working together to custom-make processed food for the massive Asian market, competing on quality and reliability of delivery, not on price,” wrote Emerson.

“Premium Australian wines, cheeses and infant formula are but a few of the candidates for successful manufacturing in the Asian Century.”

Emerson also criticised the federal opposition for what he claims is “a message to Asia that its investment funds are not welcome in Australia.”

Masterol Foods rising to the challenge despite tough times

The high Australian dollar and competition from foreign imports hasn't stopped Masterol Foods expanding its range of products in the hope that its customers will soon see the value of home grown, healthier alternatives.

Masterol Foods manufactures and distributes vegetable oils, processing aids and ingredients to food manufacturers, from local operations through to national and international brand names.

While Nathan Cater, managing director at Masterol Foods, says the family-owned business is smaller than some of the giant manufacturers in the industry, Masterol has developed a number of products previously unavailable in the Australian market including a range of fluid shortenings for the baking industry. The new range of shortenings are healthier, and perhaps most importantly, Australian.

“They are essentially a different spin on normal bakery margarines and shortenings which are traditionally palm-based products. Instead of being palm-based, which often equates to 50 to 60 percent saturated fat, our pastry and biscuit shortening is Canola-based so saturates are down to 25 or 26 percent, and it is predominantly Australian grown and made content,” said Cater.

“Another advantage is that a liquid formulation means manufacturers are able to use significantly less when compared to traditional shortenings or margarines. It enables manufacturers to design healthier bakery products because you can use up to 20 percent less and the shortening itself has around half the level of saturated fat.”

The pastry and biscuit shortening is suitable for a range of applications and Masterol is hoping to get some of the big brands onboard, hopefully giving imported palm-based products a run for their money.

"Many bakery margarines and shortenings come from Asia, and as a result of the exchange rate, they're cheap too. We have been able to develop Australian grown and manufactured alternatives while remaining competitive with the price of imported product,” said Cater.

"[Palm-based products] are the incumbent in these sorts of applications, so we're more selling our products based on them being an innovative approach – number one, the pricing is competitive. Number two – they’re suited to medium- and large-scale operations because there is no need for cutting and weighing blocks of margarine or shortening, and three – it's going to offer your customers a healthier product because bakery products tend to have a lot of saturated fat in them.”

Other than that, Cater says manufacturers can continue doing what they're doing, making top quality bakery products, but with the knowledge that what they're producing is healthier and is supporting the local food manufacturing industry.

"The main thing that I think will impress people is that the products they're making and the quality they're currently getting from their formulations won't change," he said. "It will taste as good or even better than what they're making now."

While Masterol prepares to release its new range of shortenings to the market, it also has a range of locally designed and manufactured products for the confectionery industry which, again, offer alternatives to imported products.

"We are heavily involved in the confectionery industry with regard to glazing agents for confectionery and chocolate products – products such as jellies and scorched almonds.

“For example, the jellies are coated with an oil to stop them from sticking together and drying out," Cater told Food magazine. “We are the only people in Australia that make most of these products. All panned chocolate and confectionery, for example scorched almonds, liquorice bullets and chocolate-coated sultanas, need to be glazed. We are the only people in Australia that make the shiny stuff."

While proud of these industry-leading products, Cater says Masterol’s biggest accomplishment is simply the fact that it manufactures top quality, home-grown products for use both here and abroad.

“We’re designing and manufacturing these products here as opposed to importing them. Without innovation, I don’t think it’s possible for local manufacturers to make significant inroads in the current market – the only way to succeed is if there is a commitment to research and development and a degree of innovation in what you’re doing.”