Three new products that use Australian macadamias in an innovative way have won the day at Byron Bay in a contest that aims to inspire more manufacturers to use the premium nuts in their products.

The inaugural Australian Macadamias Innovation Challenge has also kicked off a three-year marketing project for the macadamia industry that seeks to capitalise on a wave of new investment in macadamia growing.

This wave of investment is coinciding with strong consumer demand for healthy and premium value-added products, which is in turn driving a search for novel and nutritious food ingredients by manufacturers.

The Innovation Challenge entrants, who included food industry professionals and students, were tasked with submitting creative concepts for a new packaged food product highlighting macadamias within three key categories: bakery, snack and snack mixes, and ice cream; and within two cuisine profiles: Asian or Western.

Ten finalists were chosen across three categories: professional, student and teams, with Macadamia Mind Food Bars (pictured above) that contained brain-boosting ingredients such as seaweed, chia and lotus, winning entrant Adeline Wong first prize in the professional category.

Student category winner Kinga Wojciechowski roasted macadamias with miso to create Miso Caramel Cookies. Wong and Wojciechowski have both won a trip for two to SIAL Paris in October 2018.

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Macci Ice Cream, which was crumbed in candied macadamia and cocoa nibs, snared the winners of the team category, Ashna Gobin and Leonardo Bohorquez, a $5000 cash prize.

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Judging the entries were Brookfarm co-founder Pam Brook, Gelato Messina founder and co-owner Nick Palumbo, FIAL's general manager of innovation Dr Barry McGookin, and Infinity Bakery owner William Peterson.

Brookfarm co-founder Pam Brook was one of four judges.
Brookfarm co-founder Pam Brook was one of four judges.

Brook, who's company makes gourmet macadamia cereal and snack products, said the Mind Food Bars had great potential in export and domestic markets.

“As soon as it touched our taste buds we loved it,” she said. “It was really innovative, and really different to the traditional bars... and it was a clever use of macadamia.”

Peterson pointed to the miso inclusion as the prize-winning element of the Miso Caramel Cookies. “That inclusion of the miso was really innovative, and pushed that boundary of what you can do with macadamias,” he said.

Palumbo praised the use of macadamias in the Macci Ice Cream, which he said demonstrated a marketable concept, and the sort of product that was of interest to the supermarket majors.

The Innovation Challenge is a world-first product innovation competition in the tree nut industry, according to Australian Macadamias’ market development manager Lynne Ziehlke, who said Australia is leading the charge in macadamia marketing.

“Our industry is really proactive and innovative in this space. We’re driving demand and the innovation agenda to benefit both the Australian and global macadamia industry.”

Up until now global production of macadamias has been relatively limited, only representing about one per cent of global tree nut production, according to Ziehlke, but she expects macadamias will represent closer to five per cent of the tree nut market within the next 10 years.

Ziehlke said now that supply is ramping up, the Innovation Challenge and three-year marketing program would encourage manufacturers to introduce them into their innovation pipelines.

“Until now, we haven't had the quantity needed to market macadamias as a premium ingredient to food manufacturers,” she told Food & Drink Business.

“But now global production is increasing, and the research shows that consumers want to see more products with macadamias, so we introduced this challenge to inspire food manufacturers worldwide to take advantage of these opportunities.”

The judging took place and prizes were awarded at Byron Bay last Thursday.

Winners Adeline Wong in the professional category, Kinga Wojciechowski in the student category, and Ashna Gobin and Leonardo Bohorquez in the team category.
Winners (from left) Leonardo Bohorquez and Ashna Gobin in the team category, Kinga Wojciechowski in the student category, and Adeline Wong in the professional category.

The finalists and their innovations were:

Macadamia Mind Food Bars  by Adeline Wong  - WINNER
Macadamia Yoghurt Tropo-pops by Jade Gibbons
Twisted Macadamia Coconut Fro-Yo by Cassandra Spies

Macadamia and Miso Caramel Cookies by Kinga Wojciechowski - WINNER
Matcha-damia Cranberry Health Muffins by Pridhuvi Thavaraj
Matchadamia Berry Balls by Evie Crowe

Macci Ice Cream by Ashna Gobin and Leonardo Bohorquez - WINNER
Golden Organic Macadamia Bagel by Andrew Dong and Sarah Dawes
Macadamia Myrtle Balls by Sarah Boykett and Natasha Lane
Macadamia Infused Brioche Delight by Han Chung and Hung Hzin Ke