AIFST 2011 Blog

I was very pleased to attend the 44th annual AIFST Convention in Sydney, from the 10th – 13th July 2011.

Franke Hyland was particularly pleased to sponsor the Executive Lunch on Tuesday 12th July. Thanks to our guest speaker, Arthur Blewett, CEO of Agrifood Skills Australia (, who gave an excellent presentation on the work his organization is doing to bridge the skills gap for the agri-food industries.

I was also honoured to be asked to succeed Prof. Ken Buckle as the public officer of the AIFST. Prof. Buckle will be stepping down from the position in the near future and I look forward to being able to contribute to the Institute in some small way.

Following are my (semi-random) compilation of information thoughts provoked by the sessions I attended at the convention:

  • In the next 40 years we will consume as much food as we have in the last 500 years. The challenge for the food industry and for food technologists is to determine how we will make up the likely gap between food demand and food production safely/reliably/cost effectively/nutritionally?
  • In 1942 50% of all food borne illness was caused by raw milk. Yet ‘raw milk’ seems to be making a comeback for what seem to be uncertain nutritional reasons.
  • Technology transfer is one of the key priority areas for Australia’s national food plan.
  • The JR Vickery Address was delivered by Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist of Australia. He thinks food scientists need to do a better job at telling stories that bring home the benefits of new food technologies. He also thinks that technology transfer is one of Australia’s main contributions to global food security, and that climate change is a major risk to Australia’s food security and industry. His message is that the status quo will not get us through: innovation in the food industry is crucial to Australia’s future.
  • We have heard a lot about peak oil. However, peak phosphorous will be reached some time this century. No phosphorous = no food.
  • Woolworths have seen a great increase in consumer demand for instant reaction to food trends, and for information on food products.
  • Woolworths say consumers want manufacturers and retailers to make healthy food choices easier.
  • Birch & Waite say austerity is currently a strong household trend, along with a new focus on quality and a developing affinity for home brands. They also see gourmet inspiration from TV shows such as
    Masterchef and ‘star’ chefs driving consumer behaviour.
  • Businesses need an innovation process, not just a development process. Birch & Waite recommend a value stream study to underpin the innovation process.
  • Kim Leighton from the Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC says food companies cannot afford to ignore social media.
  • Watch for the AFGC’s upcoming smartphone app ‘GS1’ – will allow in-store product information delivery via direct scanning.
  • An MRI scan on a potato? Yes – to find the perfect way to make crispy roast potatoes. A food technology gem I learned today at the AIFST conference!
  • Planet Ark says that carbon output labelling on food products helps consumers take personal responsibility for their carbon emissions. Carbon footprint is not an inherent property of a food product. It changes as different decisions are made along the supply chain. The issue of environmental labelling of foods is evolving – for now the focus is on carbon footprint as a proxy for overall impact. Aldi is the first company in Australia
    to sign up to the Planet Ark carbon production label program.
  • Visy says 84% of consumers say they are concerned about the environmental impact of packaging, but only 13% actually buy environmentally sustainable packs. Nevertheless, Visy is investing AUD 500M in sustainable packaging technologies.
  • The biggest challenge in recycling packaging is getting the consumer to deal appropriately with the used packaging at the start.

If you would like any more information on any of the topics mentioned above, please contact me here via

by Adam Hyland

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