Themed Confectionery Unwrapped, ConTech2018 – the Ai Group Confectionery Sector’s annual event – did just that!
The one-day conference, held last Tuesday (19 June) with the help of the Principal Sponsor, the Manildra Group, opened with a trade exhibition of suppliers’ products and services. Delegates also heard from 12 speakers throughout the day, culminating with an industry networking dinner in the evening.
Over 150 industry delegates attended the event at the MCG. While the lights were on at the ‘G’ to help the grass grow, Tim Piper, Head of the Confectionery Sector, noted in his report card that the grass wasn’t left to grow under Ai Group’s feet during the past year – nor those of its members. It’s been a busy year in confectionery, with a great deal of activity focused on policy, and regulatory and advocacy initiatives.
The speakers unwrapped a range of topics including food and beverage trends; technical, product and process innovations; retail issues; and sugar and nutrition initiatives.
Several highlights included:
- Shelley McMillan shared Mintel’s 2018 food and beverage insights, summarised in four trends: health and wellness, with Australians seeking individual dietary solutions for overall health; trust and transparency, which consumers want in spades; ethics and sustainability where science and technology are being used; and innovation with product texture, which is the latest way to appeal to the consumer experience.
- The Australian Newspaper retail journalist, Eli Greenblat, set out to be two things: factual and not boring – and he succeeded on both counts. He shared his insights on topics ranging from sugar, food taxes, packaging, marketing and promotions, ‘premiumisation’, and the role of private label and shopper behaviour and their impact on the industry.
- Dr Alan Barclay, dietitian and nutritionist, gave his well credentialed views on starches, sugars and alternate sweeteners. He discussed their role in food supply, advocating for health and wellness to be measured more holistically than by a single nutrient focus. “The measure of health is broader than the food we eat and eating too goes beyond nutrition.”
- Former Senator for Tasmania in the Australian Parliament, Jacqui Lambie, provided the post-lunch address. While her political career was cut short due to the dual citizenship issue, Jacqui fully intends to reclaim a Senate seat at the next election. Her message was one of hard work and standing up for what you believe in.
- Presentations also featured colour innovation; innovation with sugar reduction strategies; innovation through collaboration and partnerships for improved hygiene and safety outcomes; sensory profiling of vanilla and cocoa; dairy ingredients and developments.
- The closing conference speaker was Professor Andrew Harris from Ai Group member Laing O’Rourke. Professor Harris provided a thought provoking and inspirational presentation on innovation – both ‘disruptive’ and ‘incremental’ – using a range of tools such as digital, robotic and automation, augmented and virtual reality, big data, biomimetics, smart cities and artificial intelligence.
Delegates may request copies of the speakers papers by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hawthorn AFL coach, Alastair Clarkson, widely regarded as one of the best coaches in modern day AFL, addressed the industry networking dinner. With a strong sense for community and family values, Alastair spoke of the need for continual innovation, lifelong learning and being responsive to change for sustained success, underpinned by the important foundations of authentic values, loyalty and positive culture.
The post ConTech2018 hands-on practical workshop, themed Chocolate Innovation with a Twist, was conducted over the following two days at William Angliss Institute, in Melbourne. The workshop was delivered by international industry experts Tony Raponi from Nestlé Australia, Anders Pederson from AAK (Denmark), Nikesh Hindocha, AAK (Singapore) and Jude Wong from Chr Hansen (Singapore).
Industry participants learnt about the fundamentals in chocolate and compound chocolate manufacture, fat and oil chemistry, factors that influence bloom stability, coatings, fillings and inclusions, textures and nutritional enhancements. One important feature of the confectionery workshop is the creative sessions where participants put the theory into practice in a laboratory environment.