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TAS Country : November 4th 2010
8 Tasmanian Country Friday, November 5, 2010 FRESH IDEAS: Mike Badcock says hard times times call for creative solutions. US niche to fill for convenience vegies KAROLIN MacGREGOR INCREASING consumer demand for healthy, fresh convenience food could create unique opportunities for Tasmania's vegetable pro- ducers. A group of four representatives from across the industry and the State Government recently attended the Produce Market Association Fresh Summit convention in Florida. About 18,000 people took part in the conven- tion, which looked at the latest developments and consumer trends in fresh produce markets. The Tasmanian group attended as part of the McCain Taskforce initiative in an effort to look at new opportunities for Tasmania's fruit and vegetable industries. Forth farmer Mike Badcock was part of the group and said the convention had highlighted a shift, particularly in the US and Europe, towards healthier convenience-food products. He said US consumers particularly wanted more information about where their food was coming from and the farmers who grew it. Mr Badcock said Tasmania's vegetable indus- try was ideally suited to supply high-quality niche markets. ''Tasmania has always had the potential to tap into these markets, but unfortunately up until now everyone has been fairly comfortable, so nothing has been done about it,'' he said. ''Unfortunately it's not until people are starting to hurt that they'll start looking at new opportunities like this.'' Mr Badcock said that in the US, labelling laws had been significantly improved over the past three years and there were now large penalties for mislabelling fresh products in the country. Consumers in the US are also keen to buy product directly from pro- ducers, so farmers' markets are now often set up right outside the super- markets. Mr Badcock said most fresh prod- ucts in the US had both country-of- origin and local labelling. He said the push by Australia's major supermarkets for generic branding and little country-of-origin labelling was not the current trend in the US or Europe. More diversity in the US supermar- ket industry means more competition between companies. Mr Badcock said though con- sumers wanted to buy locally grown products, a major obesity problem in the country was seeing shoppers look for healthier foods. ''There's a real battle going on over there at the moment between and fast-food and convenient foods, which is seeing a lot of new product packaging being introduced,'' he said. Mr Badcock said ready-to-eat fresh fruit and vegetables that are packaged in serving sized portions and eliminate the need for preparation was the direction in which the industry was heading. He said marketing through social media to connect with the Generation Z was also becoming an important strategy. Mr Badcock said many young people relied heavily on the internet and social networking to obtain information about the products they were buying and consuming. ''Soon we'll see screens in supermarkets where people can press a button on the screen and find out where that product came from and who grew it,'' he said. ''People will be able to order their food on their iPhone or whatever and have it delivered to their workplace, that's the sort of direction it's heading.'' Mr Badcock Each member of the Tasmanian group had focused on a different area and would compile a report that would be presented to the McCain Taskforce committee next month. He said they had made useful contacts with international and Australian companies and some were interested in setting up supplier bases in Tasmania. ''We have a lot of natural advantages here in Tasmania and many of them we haven't really taken advantage of up until now,'' Mr Badcock said. ''The fact we're located in the southern hemisphere and can supply products out of season to countries in the northern hemisphere is a major advantage.'' Once the taskforce has the report, it will be released to the industry and work will start on implementing strategies to help the Tasmanian industry adapt and take advantage of new opportunities when they arise. ''It's really quite exciting what opportunities are out there especially in areas like covered cropping,'' Mr Badcock said. Beef price war sparked by HPG-free move COLES, the nation's second-largest beef retailer, has been accused of engaging scare tactics to snatch market share from its main competitor. Coles will sell only HGP- free beef from January next year and it is under- stood there will be adver- tising that includes the negatives of HGPs and their use in the beef indus- try.It is understood key in- dustry stakeholders are hoping to dissuade Coles from such a marketing campaign. Meat and Livestock Australia said ''consumer trust in the safety of beef is crucial to ongoing demand and MLA is reinforcing this with all retailers to ensure they consider this in their marketing de- cisions''. Coles maintains its de- cision to switch to selling HGP-free beef was to meet growing consumer de- mand for HGP-free prod- ucts and to improve eating quality. But research re- leased by the CSIRO last month showed eating qual- ity was not necessarily adversely affected by the use of all HGPs. Work by the CSIRO's Robert Hunter showed HGPs made from a com- bination of male and fe- male sex hormones had a small effect on the tough- ness of meat. However, where only fe- male sex hormones were used in HGPs, as is the case in many Australian commercial settings, the difference in meat quality was much harder to judge. ''The jury is still out on whether taste panels can actually pick it up,'' Dr Hunter said. But Coles' media man- ager Jim Cooper said MLA's own Meat Stan- dards Australia grading system proved meat qual- ity was compromised by the use of HGPs. ''The MLA itself ac- knowledges it,'' he said. MSA manager Michael Crowley said while HGPs had a negative effect on the eating quality of some cuts, ''the effect differs between muscles and can be re- duced with increased cut ageing or changing the carcass hang method to tender-stretching''. The move has started a price war in the beef retail sector. Late last month, Woolworths responded by slashing shelf prices by as much as 20 per cent across 27 popular cuts of beef. The Weekly Times News 2029332-101105 TASMANIAN ALKALOIDS Value Adding in Tasmania A nitrogen application followed by rain or irrigation could significantly increase your poppy crop returns
October 28th 2010
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