What have been your main roles in the Australian food industry?

Upon completing my degree in microbiology at The University of Queensland, I spent five years at the Queensland brewing company XXXX. After travelling the world, I accepted the role of chief microbiologist at Cadbury Europe from 1973-1977. Upon my return to    Australia it was difficult to get a job as a microbiologist as then microbiology was not seen as a “necessary” field. I was appointed manufacturing manager at Schweppes in 1977 and then worked with the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority from 1983-87 in a    regulatory role – developing the flavour of Big M!

For nearly 30 years now I have operated the Australian Blending Company, which specialises in flavoured milk premixes, sport nutrition supplements, weight management shakes, drinking chocolates and coffee blends, ice cream and frozen yoghurt premixes, bakery  and confectionary applications, and instant soups and sauces. We are currently asking ourselves: What should a company of 29 years be doing to be ready for 2020? To this end, we are planning on establishing a new factory and ensuring we can comply into the      future with the strict and ever-changing food regulations and allergen control requirements.

 

What are some of your memories of AIFST over the years?

I first became involved with AIFST through the AIFST Food Microbiology Group and joined as a member in 1979. At that time, groups such as Food Microbiology and Cook Chill were a very important part of the Institute’s activities. The NSW and Southern Branches independently formed Food Microbiology Groups in the early 1970s and I was Chair of the Southern Branch (Vic Group) from 1981-86 following the eminent Margaret Dick, who was a pioneer in the development of food microbiology in Australia.

I have been to almost all the AIFST Conventions since becoming an AIFST member, except in 2002 when I was president of the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) and giving a talk in Kenya. The 20th Anniversary Convention in 1987 was held at Mungabareena in Albury and was a fantastic occasion! There was a trade exhibition at the Civic Centre with a Saturday night start – the welcome drinks, local wine and cheese and significant networking opportunities far outweighed the weekend work! I also facilitated the formation of the Tasmanian Branch and paved the way for the 1991 convention in Hobart, which was incentivised by a $40,000 Tasmanian government grant.

AIFST members represented Australia when the IUFoST was established and successfully acquired hosting rights to its 10th Congress in 1999, which was held in Sydney. This was the first congress held in the Southern Hemisphere and attracted more than 3,000 people – great publicity for our food industry!

 

How has AIFST helped your career?

AIFST helped establish a whole network of contacts for me within the food industry – suppliers of services, customers and networking opportunities. I believe who you know can be more important than what you know, so it was a great learning experience to socialise with like-minded people from government departments, CSIRO and businesses.

 

What have been your career highlights?

Four highlights come to mind:

  • Chairing the Organising Committee of the 10th World Congress of Food Science and Technology in Sydney in 1999.

  • Being elected the president of IUFoST for the term 2003-2006, the only person from the Southern Hemisphere to have held this position.

  • Being appointed a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM). The citation reads: “For services to food science and technology, to professional development and networking at the national and international level, to food safety standards, and as a mentor”.

  • Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the company I founded, Australian Blending Company Pty Ltd in 2013, deciding not to retire and to target (potentially) another 25 years!

 

What about the next generations of food industry professionals?

Over the years I have mentored more than 100 employees at my company and countless more through my lectures at universities. My main concern is that courses are currently not presenting job-ready students. I believe advisory boards need to change course structures so students have a compulsory interface with the industry and industry mentors.

 

What do you see as the current challenges for the food industry?

There is an enormous amount of fiction and misinformation about food “out there” and it is too easy for unqualified people to go on social media and set themselves up as “experts”. The average consumer is confused about what is the truth.

There is a vacuum for a reliable source of knowledge to fill. AIFST as a member-based organisation could be that advocacy source. This role is carried out by organisations such as ours in other countries, for example the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in the USA and the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) in the UK.