Study tour to Victoria proves invaluable to WA food and beverage businesses

Group of people in front of a screen showing a digital supermarket
Food Industry Innovation interstate study tour participants at Monash University

Networking, relationship building, access to knowledge, conference participation, and the chance to visit leading Victorian food manufacturing facilities were highlights of the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development’s first Food Industry Innovation interstate study tour in September, 2019.

Thirteen food and beverage businesses from Western Australia were selected for the tour, for was partially subsidised by DPIRD.

The itinerary included food and beverage manufacturing site visits, and was centred around the inaugural Global Table Conference, which attracted more than 2700 delegates from 25 countries, including 200 speakers at 50 sessions, held over four days.

The first stop was Parwan Valley Mushrooms, where participants were taken through the growing process and given insights into planning and decision making processes by the successful business.

The tour group continued to Ballarat, where a facilitated sprint design workshop allowed for networking, and critical and innovative thinking with City of Ballarat food and beverage businesses.

Two women wearing hairnets standing behind a tray of growing mushrooms
Amanda Abou Rjeily, of Grubs Up Australia (left) and Laila Gampher, of Rawsome at Parwan Valley Mushrooms farm.

Participants spent day two attending Feeding our Future, the inaugural Australian Global Table conference hosted by the Victorian government, and presenting at The Global Food Innovation Summit organised by Seeds&Chips, which focused on climate change, food waste, and sustainability.

At the conference dinner, participants met WA’s Luke de Laeter of Luke's Bees, who funded his Global Table trip with the proceeds of the business he operates one day a week on special leave from high school. Luke is passionate about community education abound beekeeping and the importance of bees. He valued making connections with WA honey bee industry members who were on the tour.

Group of people at a dinner event
Debbie Starr - Swan Valley Honey, Ben Pan - Australian Natural Biotechnology, Luke de Laeter - Luke’s Bees, and Kim Antonio - Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Day three for the group involved a tour of Costco’s Docklands warehouse, which proved eye opening for participants as they each considered the required scale for their business to become a major supplier.

Costco is the third largest retailer, globally, and has 772 warehouses worldwide, including 11 in Australia. The first store in Western Australia is due to open at Perth Airport in early 2020, and a second is scheduled for Kwinana later next year.

Although everything at the warehouse was large (including the trolleys), Costco ensures all stocked products are high quality.

The afternoon was spent at the Global Table conference, with more panel discussions, and exploration of the innovation and trade exhibitions.

Austrade prepared a comprehensive presentation for the WA delegation, which had the rare opportunity to hear from Trade Commissioners to China, Japan, India and South East Asia.

A man presents to a group of people in a warehouse
'The pitch’ session in action at the Global Table

Site visits to two dairy manufacturers on day four allowed tour participants to talk to marketing staff and managers, and gain insights into strategies that have worked for the businesses.

Access to the production floor, and seeing two contrasting production systems, were highlights. That’s Amore Cheese produces more than 40 types of stretch mozzarella-style cheese, many of them labour intensive, hence the business name and motto, ‘the key is love’.

Chobani, which landed in Australia in 2012, became the top yoghurt brand in five years, producing yoghurt 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in an almost completely automated factory.

Woman wearing a hairnet next to tubs of cheese in a factory. There are factory workers behind her producing cheese.
Fiona Loke, from Mundella, on the floor of That’s Amore Cheese

The tour wrapped up on day five, with participants visiting two of Australia's leading Food Innovation Centres: Monash University and CSIRO.

Monash University began its Food Incubator program in 2018, allowing businesses to access its in-house recipe development assistance, prototype development (including 3D printing), label design and consumer testing, making food business journeys to commercialisation less risky. The program enables participants to test their consumer research, which provides a good foundation when pitching to retailers.

The group was particularly impressed with the Cave, a virtual supermarket and eye tracking heat mapping tool, which shows hot and cold spots on the shelf – a technology that can also be applied to product labels.

People standing in front of a screen showing a virtual supermarket
Participants inside the Cave - CSIRO’s virtual supermarket application

CSIRO's Food Innovation Centre in Werribee focuses on food technology and consumer taste-testing, among many other areas of research and development.

At the centre, businesses can make use of various commercial scale food processing machines, all of which can be easily moved and connected in sequence, as required. From testing the scale-up of new recipes to improving process efficiency, the centre is versatile with knowledgeable staff.

Feedback collected from the tour showed participants found it invaluable, and plan on making changes to their businesses as a result of what they have leaned. Participants also built new friendships, and gained mentoring and collaboration opportunities with their peers from Western Australia.

For more information contact Amelia de Groot, project officer, Agribusiness, Food and Trade, South Perth on +61 (0)8 9368 3474