Saturday, June 22, 2024

Fostering food innovation

A leader in the successful collaboration between academia and the agrifood sector, Monash Food Innovation is driving end-to-end food innovation that is demand-led and market-fit.

Monash Food Innovation (MFI) offers a range of support to businesses in the food industry. Nearing its tenth year of operations, MFI began as the Food Innovation Centre based at snack company Mondelēz in 2013 before moving to Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, on a tender system, where it was rebadged MFI.

MFI’s reason for being, says Business Development Manager Industry and Education Rod Heath, is to “liberate the best and brightest ideas and help bring new products to life”.

Liberating innovation

In a physical sense, the innovation hub offers an extensive array of facilities to help develop products. A fully functioning kitchen has capabilities for brewing, baking and some dairy applications. A prototyping laboratory can bring ideas to life with 3D printing, cardboard cutting, and designed graphical infrastructure and expertise. Innovators can also visualise and test new store layouts, retail environments, communications, and activation-based displays.

In addition to the facilities on offer, MFI runs several programs designed to foster innovation through the Monash Food Incubator.

MFI has helped several businesses along the path to commercial success, from smaller brands such as Slendier, to “the who’s who of FMCG”, including Chobani, Darrell Lea, Twinings, SunRice, Simplot, Carlton United Breweries and Patties.

How to be innovative

Mr Heath shared the following advice for FMCG start-ups and those looking to grow their business:

Be very aware of what you’re embarking upon. “Understand where your demand curve is coming from, whether internationally or domestically, and the economic levers – for example, we know the cost of living is growing – what does that mean for your business and your target audience?”

Adopt digital technologies. “Robotics and machine learning, farming techniques if you’re further upstream, and a lot of modern techniques can help inform and make your business more efficient.”

Have a strong proposition beyond Australian made. “We see buoyancy for the future of Australian food manufacturing, but it has to be done with the right lens and with the right product range that’s desired by a consumer audience and that’s continually innovated upon. Australia is seen on the world stage as having clean, green, safe food. But you can’t just rely on that these days. You need a unique, sustainable proposition with the over-badging of Australian credentials in that area to be successful.”

Read more about how MFI is supporting local innovation in the September issue of Retail World.

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