Food Industry needs Innovation through collaboration to survive

Wiley’s Karen White recently attended the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) 2012 Industry Leader’s Forum held in Canberra where policy makers gathered to share the state of the food industry and explore the trends and policies that will impact it in the coming months.


The ‘buzz’ was certainly around innovation and collaboration, and our greatest intention would be that significant power surrounds these concepts and becomes a tool of mass invention.

In his keynote address the Minister for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet AM MP, spoke of the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce and its focus on collaborating with the food industry and promoting innovation.

“The task force has mapped out a very strong vision of the future of the manufacturing industry, including the goal of a larger, more efficient, more competitive and world class, food processing industry so we can capitalise on the demand that is obviously going to grow, and grow significantly within our region, for high quality food products.”

There were no surprises in relation to the challenges facing the industry – the impact of the high Australian Dollar and unbalanced economy of scale on export, the skills shortage and ever widening knowledge gap, along with the more global issues of climate change, competition for water and a growing world population.

What really struck me was the incredible amount of research and attention being placed on these issues and the focus on finding new ways to address them. As Mr Combet stressed to us in his speech, “The food manufacturing industry is Australia’s biggest manufacturing sector measured by gross value add. This is enormously important to the Australian economy.”

A number of industry specific reports and white papers were discussed at the Forum and are now available to the public. Never before have we had such a clear picture.

The Food Processing Industry Strategy Group Report
The Strategy Group has recommended that industry, government, research institutions and universities collaborate to create a Food Innovation Hub and Network; incorporating a strategic planning and intelligence function, and a virtual network.
Read the report

State of the Industry Report 2012
The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s fourth annual economic snapshot underlines the difficult economic challenges facing the Australian food and grocery manufacturing sector.
Read the report

The Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce Report
Smarter Manufacturing for a Smarter Australia: The final report provides 41 recommendations based on the following themes: managing current pressures, economy-wide measures, smarter networks, smarter SMEs and smarter workplaces.
Read the report

National Food Plan
The Government has concluded public consultation on the Nation Food Plan Green Paper and is currently considering all stakeholder feedback to develop the National Food Plan white due for release in early 2013.
Read the Green Paper

There was a lot of discussion around how Australia can position itself to make the most of the developing Asian food market.

Greener Pastures Report
This ANZ insights report looks closely at the agricultural opportunities for Australia and New Zealand in Asia.
Read the report

Australia in the Asian Century White paper
The Government commissioned a white paper to consider the likely economic and strategic changes in the region and what more can be done to position Australia for the Asian Century.
Read the White Paper

The message was loud and clear; to innovate, we need to collaborate; we need to get the experts from government, academia, research and Industry into a common space and start collectively generating new, better ways to tackle the issues and give our foodies the best strategies to become the food bowl for the growing Asian markets. 

In their report, the Strategy Group challenges the reader, stating, “…industry must imagine a different future for itself.”
The question is, can we?

Karen’s full article on the Minister Greg Combet’s Leader’s Forum keynote speech will be published in the Food and Drink Business Magazine.