Thursday, December 1, 2011


The big difference between SMEs and large corporate food processing is the power of innovation for which latter is equipped with necessary R & D infrastructure. SMEs can never be able to mobilize enough resources in developing and testing new products which acts as an impediment to compete effectively with larger players to establish viable markets. Many countries do provide some sort of state support to these fragmented industry through public funded R & D though it is another matter that these facilities invariably become moribund without serving the purpose. It is rarely realized that any R & D carried out in isolation without involving the user industry is of academic interest and waste of public money. Against such a scenario the efforts of New Zealand government in setting up what is called a Food Bowl in the country with state of the art facilities for product development and pilot testing for assessing the feasibility and acceptability of the products in the market. Here is a take on this innovative approach in this country which deserves a big applause.   

"Auckland's new Food Innovation Centre based in Manukau - Te Ipu Kai, the Food Bowl - opened today and is set to become a key component of New Zealand's developing network of food science and technology innovation resources. The Food Bowl is an impressive 2000 square metre export certified purpose-built and multi-faceted pilot plant that will support food manufacturers to cost effectively develop and test new products for commercialisation, specifically for the fast moving consumer goods market. The first of its kind in New Zealand, the new innovation centre is being hailed by the Mayor as a critical piece of infrastructure for Auckland, helping to address gaps in the food product development pipeline while accelerating the growth of high-value exports based on Kiwi innovation and research. "The food and beverage sector is a significant contributor to Auckland's economy with firms earning approximately $4.7 billion each year. The new food innovation centre will provide additional support to this thriving sector and is a solid platform for taking it to the next level," says Len Brown. "Investing in infrastructure to support Auckland's economic growth is essential to achieve our vision of the world's most liveable city. Enhancing food and beverage exports and creating more jobs is fundamental." Located at Auckland Airport, New Zealand's primary export hub, the new centre features state-of-the-art flexible food and beverage manufacturing facilities, able to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over time, the centre is intended to attract a cluster of associated food businesses. Representing a capital asset of $18.1 million for the food sector, the centre is estimated to provide benefits that exceed $26 million by June 2014, according to Tony Nowell, Chairman of New Zealand Food Innovation Auckland, operators of the centre".

It is not that in a country like India there are no institutions of excellence in Food Research and once reputed CFTRI, DFRL and Food Tech training institutions have become more or less redundant because they are all working like "frogs in the well", living far away from ground realities. The much touted NIFTEM, a 100% government project which is yet to take shape is not going to be different from its older counterparts, again due to the fact that there is no viable industry linkage for undertaking programs that are relevant to the manufacturing sector. Putting a couple of industry managers on their governing body does not make these institutions industry relevant but tackling problems and future needs of the industry, short term as well as long term, only can make any meaningful impact. One can only wish that GOI takes a leaf out of the purposeful efforts in New Zealand in strengthening its food manufacturing and export sector through visionary programs like the Food Bowl.


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