A leap forward for food manufacturing
On Thursday, Proform Foods officially opened the doors to a $11 million factory at Mount Kuring-Gai in Sydney’s north, marking a major step forward for the production of plant-based meat products locally.
After over 15 years of research and development in partnership with CSIRO, Stephen Dunn founder of Vogels Cereals and his son, Olympic Swimmer Matt Dunn, introduced the MEET product – a vegan meat alternative that has already been used for some popular convenience meals on the market.
“I think it’s quite unique because we had the technology, but the market wasn’t necessarily ready for the technology; there was a bit of a disconnect there,” Proform Foods CEO Matt Dunn told Inside Retail.
“We’ve got a lot of the US players, a lot of European players doing the heavy lifting in this next generation plant based meat space.”
Proform Foods’s MEET product has already caught the attention of these big players internationally, many of whom hold the product in high regard.
“We are world-leading. We’ve been visited by a number of people in the US and Europe and they’ve said there’s no better structured product out there than ours,” Dunn said.
“We’re very proud of the quality of our technology and the quality of our products. I think it’ll be a growing market for products like this that can deliver for vegans, vegetarians, meat reducers and meat eaters.”
Proform Foods is also in talks with businesses internationally, particularly in Singapore, who are eager to import more plant-based meat products. Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Innovation Karen Andrews, said at the launch that many of her international counterparts have shown interest in working with Australia in this area.
“Singapore, for example, cannot produce enough product for its own consumption and they are actively interested in working with Australia,” Andrews said at the launch.
What qualifies as Australian made?
It sounds obvious, but many companies have been called out for falsely labelling products as ‘Made in Australia’, particularly in food retail.
Earlier this month, Simplot Australia was forced to amend its packaging on 31 frozen fish products from ‘Made in Australia’ to ‘Packed in Australia’ after an ACCC probe found that the imported product had not been “substantially transformed” in Australia.
“Simplot was of the view that slicing, crumbing and par-frying of the frozen fish constituted substantial transformation,” the consumer watchdog said in a statement on the matter.
In 2016, the Federal Government introduced new country of origin labels for food products and the following year the government passed the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Country of Origin) Act 2017 amending the definition of ‘substantial transformation’.
A “substantially transformed” product, under the new definition, has been ‘grown’ or ‘produced’ in the country, or “as a result of one or more processes undertaken in that country, the goods are fundamentally different in identity, nature or essential character from all of their imported ingredients or components.”
According to ACCC chair Mick Keogh, incorrect labelling can wrongly influence the consumer’s purchasing decision and can also give a competitive advantage to those who use the ‘Made in Australia’ label in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
Power of “Made in Australia”
The Australian Made Campaign, which is no longer responsible for food products, told Inside Retail that the top three category searches on its website are for ‘clothing and accessories’, ‘camping and outdoors’ and ‘beauty and personal care’.
Australian Made chief executive Ben Lazzaro told Inside Retail that the ‘Made in Australia’ claim has never been more powerful than right now, with consumers eager to support local businesses.
“It tells consumers that the products that carry the claim are made to some of the highest manufacturing and safety standards in the world, with inputs often sourced from Australia’s clean green environment. It also makes a compelling statement about generating local jobs and economic activity,” Lazzaro said.
“When you buy Australian Made products you are supporting thousands of Australians at all stages of the supply chain, from local makers and growers to wholesalers and retailers.”