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Macadamia industry hosts challenge aimed at developing new food concepts

2019年05月27日

Natsumi Otani from Japan prepares her Crispy Crunch Macadamia Karinto creation to present to the judges.

(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

 

Australia’s macadamia nut industry has hosted a challenge to develop new food concepts and drive demand for Australia’s native nut amid increasing global supply.

Key points:

  • The macadamia challenge required entrants to prepare and present their product in front of a panel of industry expert judges
  • Judges gave a big emphasis to products that focussed on innovation
  • The challenge was open to food technology students and professionals from Japan and China for the first time

In a nutshell, the brief was to create an innovative new food product with the macadamia as the star ingredient.

The 10 best product pitches were selected from hundreds of entries to compete in the second annual Macadamia Innovation Challenge, and 18 finalists were flown to The Farm at Byron Bay in northern New South Wales to compete.

The Australian Macadamia Society’s market development manager, Lynne Ziehlke, said the challenge was opened to food technology students and professionals in Japan and China for the first time.

“Seventy per cent of macadamias are exported so it’s important that we come up with products that are suitable for those markets as well as Australia, and the youth of today, whether they’re in Japan or China or Australia,” she said.

“We’ve seen foods that are very good for outdoor eating, we’ve seen a lot of healthy foods, a lot of plant-based foods, we’ve seen low-waste food and very colourful foods as well.”


 

 

Mahfuj Begum preparing her Chickpea Macadamia Barfi confectionary.

(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

 

A diversity of entries

Each finalist, working as an individual or in a team, had to prepare and present their product in front of a panel of industry expert judges: Ben Kolly from Haigh’s Chocolates, Kiyoko Kubomura from Kubomura Foods Advisory Consultants, Pam Brook from Brookfarm, and Emma Welsh from Emma & Tom’s.

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Ms Welsh, a healthy snack and beverage manufacturer, said that the judges were fairly unanimous on the winners.

“There wasn’t a lot of conflict between us but there was some good robust debate around the different points about whether the product was commercial, whether it was innovative, whether it was the most delicious tasting.”

“But we tried to focus more on the real innovation of the product and the newness of the idea, so that was the thing that ended up being the strongest part of the judging criteria.”


 

Macadamia Innovation Challenge finalist Xiaorui Wu from China presents her product Wei Duoduo to the judging panel.

(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

 

Pam Brook, who returned as a judge this year, said that there was a much greater diversity of entries this year.

“There were some sweets, some savoury and some things that you thought you would eat with your eyes and then it tasted completely different, and some things that you thought looked a little simple but then the tastes were so complex and delicious,” she said.

“The winners are really well-deserving, and they’ll really showcase the macadamia in the products that they’ve done and they’ll be really successful products too — we loved them.”

And the winner is …

It was the Purple Sesadamia Butter which impressed the judges in the Individual Professional category with its creator, Pridhuvi Thavaraj, from Sydney taking home the top gong for her versatile, innovative product.


 

Pridhuvi Thavaraj from Sydney won the Professional category with her versatile Purple Sesadamia Butter.

(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

 

“It’s got a whole lot of health benefits packed into one little jar,” Ms Thavaraj said.

“It’s a combination of different, interesting ingredients with very different tastes, but combine to create this very different butter that’s nutty, starchy and also rich in colour.

“The star ingredient is the macadamias, because without the macadamia you wouldn’t have the spreadability of the butter.

“Apart from that I’ve got purple sweet potatoes and also collagen and black sesame, and in addition to that to add to that flavour I’ve got a bit of sea salt, honey and molasses.”

Ms Thavaraj said the product, which she believes has great market potential among health-conscious consumers, was developed over a couple of months.

“The actual designing process took me just a few weeks, but then after that I was doing a bit of shelf-life evaluation and then I also did some sensory assessment where I got different people to try,” she said.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to develop this product was to come up with something that could go into different products, different areas in the food industry like beverages, bakery, shelf-stable like sauces, mayonnaises and dressings.

“So this is one product that can be used on its own as a butter, on toast or cake, in addition to that it could also be had in the form of a smoothie, a breakfast bowl, chocolate filling, cake topping, tart filling — so it’s a multi-functional, multi-purpose ingredient as well.”

Ms Thavaraj won a trip to Food ingredients Europe 2019, a global food innovation expo in Paris.

Joining her will be Kirti Mittal, a Master of Food Technology and Science student at the University of Queensland, who won the Individual Student category with her Britty Macaddy Chikki product.

“It’s a very healthy macadamia brittle with lots of superfood seeds like pumpkin seeds, quinoa and chia seeds,” Ms Mittal said.


 

This Soba and Macadamia Ration Cookie Bar was developed by a team of food technology students from Japan.

(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

 

A team of five university students from Japan; Hiromi Mimura, Momoka Osawa, Koya Ohashim, Haruna Taniyam and Kazuma Konno, won the Individual Team category, and $5,000 for their Soba and Macadamia Ration Cookie bar.

“We decided that because Japan is a country that suffers from a lot of natural disaster, we wanted to come up with emergency food or emergency ration that would be tasty,” Mr Konno said.

“It was inspired by the Anzac biscuit which was developed in Australia.”

Also from Japan, Natsumi Otani was named winner of the People’s Choice for her Crispy Crunch Macadamia Karinto and received a mentorship program.

“The product that I created is a fusion of a Japanese traditional confectionary with macadamias,” she said.


 

Finalists taste Kirti Mittal’s Britty Macaddy Chikki at the Macadamia Innovation Challenge VIP awards in Byron Bay.

(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

 

Ms Brook said finalists from Japan and China ensured the challenge had a really diverse base this year.

“The standard was really high and you could look and see that some products would succeed really well in China or Japanese markets, others in more South-East Asian markets, others more in Australia, US, Europe,” she said.

“This year we even had some products looking at recycling food waste and putting those into innovative products, and we had a real focus on health and the microbiome as well from some people.

“So it was really interesting and challenging, they were really on the cutting edge where the food ideas are coming in the future.”

Brookfarm has used macadamias in its products since the business was founded by Pam and Martin Brook 20 years ago, and now the Macadamia Innovation Challenge has inspired entrepreneur Emma Welsh, who founded Emma & Tom’s in 2004 with Tom Griffiths, to use macadamias in her products.

“I’ve thought about it for a lot because it’s an Australian ingredient and we’re trying to use as much Australian ingredients as possible,” she said.

“Being part of this has certainly reignited my inspiration and I will be having another crack at it.”


 

Judges Ben Kolly, Kiyoko Kubomura, Emma Welsh, and Pam Brook hold the four winning Macadamia Innovation Challenge products.

(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

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