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Australian food sector at a halt

One WorldAustralia’s food industry will be left behind the rest of the world if it does not embrace innovation, according to a key food industry leader.

Russel Rankin, founder of Food Innovation Partners, says innovation in Australia’s food sector has virtually ground to a halt, and has called on new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to support the industry.

“Slim margins exacerbated by the cost of materials, labour, and logistics are making it extremely difficult for companies to invest in innovation. It is crucial that businesses make investment in innovation a priority, to ensure the Australian food industry continues to thrive and survive in the competitive global industry,” said  Rankin.

“I hope that Prime Minister Turnbull, and the new minister for industry, innovation and science, Christopher Pyne, continue the support shown for innovation and growth in the food and agribusiness sector. This is the sector that can deliver economic growth for our country, to replace the declining contribution from the mining sector.”

Rankin will be hosting the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology’s annual innovation masterclass, ‘Innovate or Evaporate!’ on October 20, at the William Angliss Institute of TAFE in Melbourne.

He says while Australian businesses were well supported by a comprehensive network of innovation providers including CSIRO and Universities, government agencies, and financial providers, and further boosted by the recent establishment of the Federal Government’s new Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre, more still needed to be done.

“This latest initiative, along with others, will not be enough to reverse, or even slow, Australia’s declining food innovation scorecard. We need to connect all the current resources together in a cohesive way to deliver innovation at a business level,” said  Rankin.

“All players should be acting as facilitators, working together to develop and commercialise innovation that is driven by deep market and consumer insights. “It is important to remember that innovation is only a success when a product is purchased by a consumer.”

Rankin  highlighted two small companies as examples of recent success in Australian food innovation, including AvoFresh,  a brand providing ready to spread avocado which uses high pressure processing (HPP) to provide an extended chilled shelf life to a minimally processed product; and five:am yoghurt,  a brand that has has taken organic yoghurt from a health food niche to mainstream through innovative packaging, flavours and banding.

“Innovation in Australia’s food industry needs to focus on assisting manufacturers to provide food products for exports markets that deliver on food safety, provenance, shelf life, traceability, and integrity, allowing them to capture a price premium.”

Rankin said innovations were likely to come in the form of packaging technologies that maximised shelf life and quality, new processing technologies such as HPP, as well as new business models that allowed value to be captured from different supply chains designs.

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