New research hub to transform Australian food industry

The University of Melbourne and Mondelēz International Asia Pacific have launched “Unlocking the Food Value Chain: Australian Food Industry Transformation for ASEAN Markets,” an ARC-funded research hub which will gain insights to unlock Asian consumer behaviour and market levers, and inform innovation in ingredient use, consumer experience and product design and packaging.

This will advance the positioning of Australia as a premium brand and lead to a sustained competitive advantage and will assist the creation of more productive supply chains across the food industry.

The $10 million collaborative research hub includes $2 million funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) under the Industrial Transformation Research Programme (ITRP).

Research collaboration opportunities for businesses

The research hub is able to assist businesses by conducting research in priority areas.

Mondelēz International and the University of Melbourne have committed to share research outcomes with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the wider sector through an open innovation model in a transformational project with national benefits.

It comprises six research streams:

  • Consumer Insights develops deep insights into the Asian consumer for application to Australian exporters.
  • Market Analytics accesses and analyses intellectual property assets in the Asia Pacific region to deepen our understanding of Asian premium market trends.
  • Sensory Analysis works to help partners understand the Asian export market, measuring consumer responses to stimuli, products and brands.
  • Supply Chain Management models supply chain decisions to help companies maximise export returns.
  • Packaging Innovation works to ensure food security and marketability through innovative packaging.
  • Encapsulation and Emulsion helps partners deliver premium product engineering through technology.

The Unlocking the Food Value Chain hub draws on research expertise from five University of Melbourne faculties and schools: Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences; Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences; Science; Business and Economics; the School of Engineering as well as Swinburne University of Technology. Mondelēz International contributes extensive research and marketing experience in the Southeast Asian region to each of the streams.

Industry services

The research hub is also able to assist businesses by providing market intelligence services. For example, the Market Analytics team has developed a novel intellectual property searching technique which analyses consumer-identified attributes of premium food products to allow businesses to understand food innovation trends and opportunities in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, Japan and India.

The hub has also refined Qualitative Multivariate Analysis (QMA), a method of comparing the marketability of new and existing products ASEAN markets. The service allows businesses considering export to the region to gain powerful insights into target consumers before committing to expensive in-market research or exports.

Professor Frank Dunshea, hub Director and University of Melbourne Chair of Agriculture, said the development of the Unlocking the Food Value Chain hub had been guided by the needs of industry.

“The Australian food industry is driven by innovation – in how we target consumers, in the products we create, in how we market and deliver them,” he said.

“Businesses exporting to Southeast Asia need to understand their market and how they can deliver the best possible product at competitive prices. This hub provides services which will enable Australian businesses to do so.

“The Unlocking the Food Value Chain hub is working to help Australian businesses create products which have instant appeal for local consumers in South East Asian nations with technologically advanced processing and packaging.”

Professor Jim McCluskey, University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), said the hub had great potential to deliver exceptional outcomes for Australia’s food manufacturing industry.

“As Australia’s largest research university, we also celebrate the expanding potential for new research collaboration between our three sectors – universities, industry and government,” he said.

“I am confident this research hub will help fulfil that potential and bring great results, both in maximising Australia’s high-quality food exports, and supporting the future food consumers of our ASEAN neighbours.

“We are especially grateful to Mondelēz for partnering with us in this major research effort, as an example of academia and industry working side by side toward important national goals.

ARC CEO Professor Aidan Byrne attended the launch of the Research Hub and said he was left inspired by his visit.

“I was very impressed with the integration both between different universities and the diverse faculties within universities,” he said.

“The Industrial Transformation Research Programme is designed to bring minds from many and varied fields – academia and industry – together to solve critical industry problems, and I can see that there is already some great collaborative work underway within this ARC Research Hub to achieve that goal.”

Nicholas Georges, Mondelēz International Asia Pacific Director, Research and Development – Chocolate, said:

“The research hub is an experiment in marrying the best of academia and university research and industry business acumen.

“The early signs of this research, in a small yet convincing way, show we can compete on the world class stage by leveraging the best we have to offer – talent and technology creation on one hand, consumer understanding and commercial opportunity on the other.