New Zealand food companies face unique challenges developing products for export due to our small population and geographic location. Brian Astridge of The FOODBOWL explains three key challenges: food safety, scaling up and shelf life.
- Discuss what is unique about these three challenges for the New Zealand context. In what ways are the challenges different than they might be for other countries?
- How does innovation help to overcome these challenges and contribute to success in overseas markets? How would you define an innovative food product? What elements might characterise an innovative food product?
- Discuss contemporary trends and drivers in the food industry globally. How might these impact on new product development in the future? In groups, research a new product idea for a particular target market. Prepare a presentation to pitch and justify the viability of your idea to The FOODBOWL.
Key challenges for food and beverage companies in New Zealand who are looking to develop new products and expand into export markets include food safety, scaling up and shelf life.
The world is a small place in terms of food safety, and New Zealand has a reputation with food safety and quality. Anything we do will be scrutinised, so countries will come over and audit our systems.
That’s a surprise to new people. They just think you export food and you get the pay cheque and that’s it. But actually, the standard of food production has to be absolutely gold plated.
At The FOODBOWL, we train people so even if they’re not exporting, they are producing to that gold standard, and the paperwork to support that is often a challenge for people to get their head around, and they don’t understand why it’s needed, but it’s New Zealand’s competitive advantage, so we have to keep that reputation up, and that means a lot of paperwork and a lot of due diligence.
Putting a process together when you’re producing a food product, small scale, it’s often easy. You’re just doing it in your kitchen, and you can correct things easily. When you’re cooking a 600 litre batch, you can’t really make a mistake. You have to be so thorough in what you do, and you have to understand what a food ingredient or food product is going to do when you increase the quantity by 20 times. It might act differently. It might have different heating properties. It might have different pumping properties. So you’ve really got to understand all of those potential hooks.
Also, dealing with the equipment. Someone’s using a kitchen whizz at home, but now they’re using a 100 litre kitchen whizz. So there’s dangers with that, there’s how to work it, there’s all of the extra problems which can happen with your food products.
There’s multiple reasons a company would want to increase shelf life. The first one is supermarkets are saying to even sell to us, we need a minimum of 2 or 3 months’ shelf life. The other reason is New Zealand is 6 weeks by ship away from other markets, so for our export markets, if you’ve got a product with 8 weeks’ shelf life and it’s going to take 6 weeks to get there and it’s going to take a week either side, you’ve only got about 3 days to sell your product.
So New Zealand has a real disadvantage to the rest of the world in terms of distributing its chilled short shelf life products, so longer shelf life products are really opening up new markets.
Brian Astridge, The FOODBOWL
Chris Cullen, Culley’s
Bhavik Waghela, The FOODBOWL