Convention wrap: Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology

Posted by Contributor on 26th September 2018

MORE than 70 leading food experts from Australia and around the world discussed the food industry’s most pressing issues and biggest opportunities at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) annual convention in Melbourne earlier this month.

Innovate & Excite: Acting Today to Advance Tomorrow was the theme of the important conference attended by more than 450 delegates.

Calls for greater collaboration were supported by key note speaker Ros Harvey, co-founder of The Yield (an Australian agtech company using digital technology to revolutionise food supply and production) and founder of the globally-recognised Better Work program (a landmark partnership between the World Bank and the United Nations to solve labour issues in the garment industry).

“A wide network of innovative collaborators working to solve an issue creates shared costs and also shared benefits,” said Ms Harvey.

“Intersections between disciplines often solves our major issues, we need to apply this thinking to challenges in the food industry, like food security.”

Other hot topics that emerged from the two days of presentations and panels included:


 War on waste

Businesses were urged to value their food waste in an expert session that included Food Fight Waste Cooperative Research Centre CEO Dr Steve Lapidge, CQ University Prof David Pearson, FIAL General Manager Food Sustainability Genevieve Bateman and RMIT Associate Professor Karli Verghese.

Food Fight Waste Cooperative Research Centre CEO Dr Steve Lapidge said by valuing food waste, companies naturally improved food waste management and looked for opportunities to use it.

“When companies invest in creating products from food waste, the financial windfall can be as much as a 14-to-one return on investment,” said Dr Lapidge, also an AIFST Board Member.   “We need to think smart and wise up on the opportunities food waste provides.”

The session also identified the need for greater consumer education with food thrown out at home identified as one of the major contributors to food waste. The experts recognised the need to teach consumers better meal planning, storing food, and the reusing of left overs, especially among Millennials.

Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey said that the food industry could focus more on identifying and measuring waste in the supply chain. “It is often the case that the audits conducted by Foodbank uncover wastage within an organisation before they realised there was an issue,” said Ms Casey.


Nutrient claims no longer enough

Competition for the highly-prized space on a food label is set to heat up with consumers pushing for more information about what’s in their food, provenance, sustainability and production, according to Sharon Natoli, dietitian, speaker and author from Food & Nutrition Australia.

Single nutrient claims alone are no longer enough to satisfy consumers evolving definition of what constitutes ‘healthy’ food, with conference presenters agreeing information that captured the entire production cycle is now necessary to give customers the information they want to make informed food choices.

Millennials will hold the largest purchasing power in the coming years and their demand for a holistic and transparent approach to food production and marketing is likely to drive growing demand for more information on labels and through a food company’s communication channels.


Panel session Harnessing Innovation to address Food Insecurity and features (L-R) Brianna Casey (Foodbank), Dr Steven Lapidge (Fight Food Waste CRC), Dr Geoffrey Annison (AFGC) and Sarah Hyland (SHYLAND)


Health at budget price

In health foods, single-focus health and wellness trends such as low-fat and low-sugar have been replaced by a demand for more rounded and nutrient-rich food offerings. While there remains strong demand for ‘healthful’ products and awareness of food trends such as ‘paleo’ and ‘keto’ diets was high. However, consumers increasingly wanted health foods delivered at the lowest possible price.


Protein is king

While fortification with vitamins and minerals has been popular, the consumer demand is now for high protein foods. Protein-fortified products are increasingly appearing in formats such as drinks and confectionary. To meet demand for protein sources, food manufacturers are using lab-grown and 3D printed protein, as well as alternate natural sources like crickets and hemp flours. Collagen protein is also trending, as the line between health, beauty and food blurs.


AIFST managing director Fiona Fleming said the future of the food industry relies on industry champions who are clever thinkers with expertise in their respective areas, collaborating with government and academia to find innovative solutions to building a nutritious, secure and sustainable food supply.

“We need to bring the right people together to enable collaboration and innovation so that we are in the right place to capitalise on the enormous potential in Australia and throughout the Asia Pacific region,” said Ms Fleming.

“The key to achieving this vision is collaboration. The food and agribusiness sector is a key contributor to our economy, so it’s critical to facilitate opportunities for the industry to connect, collaborate and evolve.

“Events like the AIFST Convention are vital for the future of the Australian food industry.”

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