Food labelling challenge for smaller food manufacturers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 31st August 2011

A small but growing Western Australian food manufacturer, Sticky Fingers Gourmet Foods, claims that if traffic light labelling were introduced, it could spell the death knell for many small Australian food manufacturers.

Lyn Bentley, Managing Director of Sticky Fingers Gourmet Foods contacted Australian Food News about its recent report of the dispute between CHOICE and the ACCC over front-of-pack label systems. Ms Bentley said, “As a small manufacturer supplying to both the food service and retail food industries, the costs of having to change all of our labels will be prohibitive for us.

“If this new traffic light labelling becomes law, we will no longer manufacture for the retail industry at all. Government rulings make our lives as manufacturers difficult enough without added pressures from CHOICE.”

Sticky Fingers is a group manufacturer that specialises in hand-made relishes, jams, mayonnaises, mustards, savoury sauces, marinades. It produces more than 50 tonnes per year. Its customer base includes cafes, bistros, and food outlets in Western Australia and several Asian countries.

“Being a small manufacturer, we need to get a good buy on our labels which means we need to bulk buy them,” said Ms Bentley. “This costs a lot of money and we invest a lot of money making sure we have everything right with the labels. When labelling requirements change, companies like ours are given a certain amount of time to change our labels. Any stock not changed has to come off the shelf and is lost.

“Small food manufacturers will bear the brunt”

Ms Bentley said, “The food industry is becoming over-governed and the impacts on small businesses are not being recognised. Small food manufacturers are crucial to the food industry because we do not downsize like the larger companies do – we carry the industry.

“As a manufacturer, if traffic light labelling is brought in as law, we will focus on manufacturing for the food services sector instead as the labelling requirements are less demanding for us. However, for small food manufacturers who supply purely to the retail industry, these changes in food product labelling could be the final nail in the coffin.”