• Turbine CEO and project director, Andrew Eves-Brown
    Turbine CEO and project director, Andrew Eves-Brown
  • CAVU co-founder Matt Hobson
    CAVU co-founder Matt Hobson

With a federal inquiry into food and beverage manufacturing in Australia announced last week, committee chair, Victorian Labor MP Rob Mitchell, is calling for companies of all sizes to share their experiences. CEO of the Sunshine Coast project, Turbine, Andrew Eves-Brown says it’s timely due to the current focus on SMEs in the sector. 

Mitchell said as the largest manufacturing sector in Australia, employing more than 20 per cent of people in the industry, food manufacturing was on the cusp of great opportunities and challenges.

“Australian scientists and food manufacturers are making inroads into high-tech emerging sectors and developing new high value-added products built on our world-class agricultural sector. They are adopting process innovations to make traditional food and beverages tastier, safer, cleaner, and more productive.

“At the same time, the sector is innovating and finding alternative sources for fossil fuel-based process heat, reducing water consumption and waste, and developing packaging solutions that keep plastic pollution out of landfill and our oceans,” Mitchell said.

Terms of reference

The inquiry will look at opportunities for expanding innovation and value-adding in the food and beverage manufacturing industry in Australia, regarding:

  • Innovation trends and new technologies, both locally and internationally;
  • ways to support new and emerging products and industries, including premium and niche products, new proteins and Indigenous foods;
  • opportunities across both domestic and export markets for Australian manufactured products, including shifting consumer trends;
  • approaches to circular economy, waste reduction and decarbonising, including packaging and food waste;
  • how the research sector can help to grow this ecosystem;
  • future workforce and skills needs; and
  • mechanisms for the Australian government to support further innovation and sustainable growth in the sector.

Mitchell said, “The inquiry will examine the state of innovation in the industry, including new technologies for post-farmgate food and beverage manufacturing and packaging, and opportunities for growth in new product markets. It will also consider shifting consumer trends, the role of the research sector and future workforce needs.

“We want to hear from large and small manufacturers about their experiences, hopes and fears for the future – whether you’re a food and drink business top-10 firm, a third-generation family business, or in the start-up or venture capital sectors. We are also looking for the views of experts in food science, process engineering and packaging.”

Submissions close on Wednesday, 1 May. 

Sunshine Coast manufacturers welcome inquiry

Sunshine Coast businesses, the ambitious Turbine project and CAVU Distilling (Sunshine & Sons and Nil Desperandum) are keen for the inquiry to get underway.

Turbine CEO and project director Andrew Eves-Brown, said, “This announcement comes at a time when all eyes are on our small to medium producers in the food and drink sector.

“Australia punches well above its weight in terms of innovation and quality but there are barriers to scale. Once constructed, Turbine aims to solve many of these issues – but more needs to be done to support this section which contributes to the Australian economy.

“Importantly this inquiry recognises the importance of fostering diversity and innovation and will explore avenues for supporting the development of premium and niche products, as well as embracing new proteins and Indigenous foods which will amplify Australia’s culinary diversity and global appeal – and this will be incredible for the sector.”

CAVU co-founder Matt Hobson
CAVU co-founder Matt Hobson

CAVU Distilling co-founder Matt Hobson – currently in London meeting with distributors and trade officials to build export channels – said the inquiry couldn’t come quick enough for the distilling and spirits industry.

“Having met with distillers here in the UK, it’s fair to say they are outraged by an equivalent tax that has decimated small British distilleries – despite being 40 per cent less than what Australian distillers are paying per bottle. The UK industry has seen a large number of job losses and distillery closures as a result,” Hobson said.  

With Australian distillers producing innovative world-class spirits, the right policy settings would encourage investment into the industry that would ultimately lead to more direct and indirect employment and economic opportunities for Australia, he added.

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