Innovation is clearly flourishing in the South African food industry, with local products being ranked among the best in the world.
South African products received four out of nine Global Food Awards at the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) World Food Congress held in Cape Town recently.
Of the seven local products that progressed to the finals, four garnered awards, having been evaluated by an international team of nine judges.
Awards were made in three categories: Product and/or Process Innovation, Packaging Innovation and Communicating Science-Related Knowledge to Consumers (aimed at improving their lifestyle).
Product and/or Process Innovation award
Port Elizabeth based Dynamic Commodities' succeeded in the Product and/or Process Innovation (including the industrialisation of traditional foods) category. They walked away with the award due to their Bits o’ Juice product which is pure lemon pods, conveniently presented and can be applied to any food without the limitations of a lemon wedge. The company pioneered the process of separating the peel, membrane and segment pulp of citrus fruit, after which the segments are cryogenically frozen and shaken into individual citrus cells.
Overseas winners in this category included Kooksoondang Draft Makkolifrom Korea, a traditional alcoholic beverage brewed from rice that uses a new fermentation control technology to guarantee product stability and increase the shelf life to more than 60 days.
Preshafruit, Australia,the first company in the world to use High Pressure Processing to create a range of fruit juices with a "just-picked" fresh-fruit flavour.
Yang Sheng Le is a traditional food from Singapore that offers significant time saving during preparation and cooking. Each formula contains up to six herbs that deliver specific functional benefits. The quality and efficacy of the herbal compounds are ensured through extensive chemical fingerprinting.
Packaging Innovation award
Two South African companies (Nestlé's Cremora and Nouvelle Mushrooms) received awards in the category Packaging Innovation.
Nestlé's Cremora received their award because of their dual tamper-evident closure and container which removes the need for an internal hermetic seal, allowing the packaging to "breathe" and adjust to varying altitudes without panelling.
Nouvelle Mushrooms' macro-permeable, block-bottom FreshWorks bag received an award because of the idea of the bag working in tandem with an outer box. As exotic mushrooms have a very short shelf life (due to dehydration and bacterial growth), this bag regulates the optimum humidity balance inside the sealed bag. It eliminates residual moisture, while retaining the inherent moisture in the product, extending product shelf life by 30% and reducing product wastage by 50%.
"Astrapak is extremely proud of these awards, particularly in light of the high standard of the various packaging submissions, not only from within South Africa, but from around the world as well. Both the Cremora container and the mushroom bag are the culmination of many years of innovative development and these set the benchmark for what we strive to achieve with all of our packaging," said Charles Muller, Group Marketing Director, Astrapak Limited.
The overseas winner in this category was Cyclus Spread from Brazil, a margarine with a fully biodegradable and compostable package, made from renewable resources.
Science-Related Knowledge to Consumers award
The third category in which a South African won was the Communicating Science-Related Knowledge to Consumers (aimed at improving their lifestyle) award. Unilever won with its Flora Test the Nation campaign that focussed on high blood cholesterol. A free test with a quick result was made effective by professional advice and leaflets. The campaign was partnered by a major retailer and was credible through involvement with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
"The campaign set out to raise the awareness of cardiovascular disease in South Africa by combining a value-for-money, medium-fat spread tub with a free cholesterol test and heart-health education. Rather than being a marketing exercise, this was seen as an opportunity to educate South Africans to love their hearts. The success of the campaign in itself is a win for us and the global award recognising this achievement is the cherry on the top," commented Christine Broadhurst, Consumer Affairs Manager, Unilever South Africa (Pty) Ltd.
Australia's Do Food Safely also won in this category with its internet-based, food-safety programme for consumers and food handlers as did Taiwan's Metamin 3D whose marketing strategy educated consumers about metabolic syndrome and its risk factors.
The President's Awards
The President's Awards, a new category at the IUFoST Global Food Industry Awards, recognises efforts to advance food science and technology for the benefit of all.
"We recognise the application of modern science and technology to sustain and develop traditional foods, to bring them to a wider number of consumers, while maintaining the character and benefits of the original traditional food product," said Geoffrey Campbell-Platt, IUFoST president.
Companies that received the 2010 awards were:
Cargill, for its food safety leadership and collaboration, commitment to improving access to food and to ensuring food safety through education.
The JDB Group, for applying modern process technology and modern packaging to a traditional herbal health drink, making it available to a wide population of consumers.
Nestlé for providing world leadership in quality, safe, nutritious food products to people worldwide, for encouraging and sponsoring young scientists and supporting food-safety education.
Beijing Air Catering Company for its commitment to improving food safety dissemination of information, through support of IUFoST initiatives in Beijing and at the World Expo in Shanghai.
Almond Board of California for its leadership in encouraging young scientists and student exchange and education, and for its promotion of and support for food safety efforts around the world.
Mengniu Dairy Group for the development of a digestible yoghurt in an environmentally-friendly, recyclable, paper-based package. The yoghurt provides a healthy, functional dairy food, allowing increased milk consumption, alongside improved intestinal and body health, to a huge consumer group
*The International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) is the global voice of food science and technology. It is a voluntary, non-profit federation of national food science organisations linking the world's food scientists and technologists.
(Issued by Totally Food Events cc on behalf of South African Association for Food Science and Technology, Health24, September 2010)