The Rise Of Craft Food Manufacturing | National Food institute

The rise of craft food manufacturing

How the craft food industry is growing in Australia

In Australia, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to products like craft cheeses, chocolates, milk, and even craft coffees. The idea of craft foods has gained momentum in the last decade, affecting what we eat and drink. But what does ‘craft’ really mean when it comes to food?

So what is craft food?

According to Dr Scott Taylor, Reader in Leadership & Organization Studies, Department of Management, University of Birmingham, it all started with craft beer in the United States in the late 1970s: Two successful beer brewers, Sierra Nevada and Boston Beer Co released small batches of their ales onto the market. This release signalled the onset of the craft beer explosion which has taken off around the world, including in Australia.

By now you’re probably wondering if anyone can use the word ‘craft’ when it comes to their food products. In the U.S, there are legalities around the term. Legal requirements have been established for smaller production batches. Craft beer can be qualified as such with the proviso that ‘An American craft brewer, defined by the Brewers Association, must have an annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less, and no more than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not a craft brewer’.

Craft food in Australia

There are currently no limitations in Australia when it comes to governing the definition of ‘craft beer’. Three of the biggest players in Australia’s ‘craft brewing’ industry, Malt Shovel, Matilda Bay and Little Creatures, are wholly or significantly owned by Foster’s or Lion Nathan. So they would fail the U.S test.

It’s also worth noting other popular terms for ‘craft foods’. You’ll often find terms like artisan or artisanal foods being thrown around. These are essentially different terms for the same thing. Visit your local farmers market or brewery and you could easily label any of the foods and beverages as craft or artisan food. At a farmers market, you’ll find most of the food is coming directly from the farmer or craft food producer.

In Australia, we are enjoying the fruits of this craft food renaissance. We get access to a very large (and impressive) range of craft beers available in Australia. There’s also an abundance of options in the craft food sector. You’ll find different craft cheeses, chocolates and preserved meats to choose from.

Here are three (delicious) gems of craft food manufacturing that currently exist in Victoria:

Yarra Valley Dairy (Cheese)

One hour’s drive from Melbourne’s CBD and situated in Yering, this quaint cheese factory is situated within a small series of farmhouses which also contains a restaurant and cheese shop. With ample parking and friendly staff, it’s the perfect weekend visit and not unlike the villages of southern France or Italy. Choose from a large variety of fresh artisan cheeses from both cows and goats milk, including the much-loved Persian Fetta.

Koko Black (Chocolate)

A boutique manufacturer of exquisite chocolates and ganache-style cocoa delights, Koko Black now has several retail outlets around the country. A large majority of their production comes out of a chocolate factory in Coburg North, Melbourne. What differentiates this brand is the high standards of its chocolate which also incorporates Australian flavours and ingredients: “Crispy, crunchy, gooey and sweet ingredients dipped in old-school tastes and dunked in the dreams of our golden days”. Definitely worth a visit for sweet tooths!

Hagen’s Organic Butcher (Meat)

Hagen’s premier boutique butchery is situated at Prahran Market (5km southeast of Melbourne’s CBD). Established over 20 years ago, Hagens’ is a serious show of the finest range of organically-certified and free-range meats (beef, lamb, chicken and pork) from all over the globe, but with a focus on smaller, local breeders and producers. The Berkshire USA Pork Ribs are excellent, as are the Traditional House-Made Ham Hocks. The sausages (chevaps in particular) are beyond good and frequently sell out ahead of time.

A growing industry with huge potential

Despite the effects of Covid-19 last year, the craft beer industry continues to grow rapidly. Between 2015-2020, the craft beer industry in Australia had an average industry growth of 6.2%. These numbers are despite the decline in per capita beer consumption. Consumer demand has shifted to more of the premium end of the market.

This recent increase in demand has also boosted the variety of craft beers produced in Australia. Every day producers are finding new and innovative ways to differentiate themselves from their rivals. Today you’ll find a wide array of craft beers and ciders available with unique flavour combinations. It’s not unusual anymore to find flavour combinations like strawberry and lime or coffee mixed in with cider.
With these small-batch craft food producers also comes the challenges of production. When a craft food product rapidly rises in popularity, a producer may have to ramp up production output. There’s also the challenges of distribution and an evolving work environment. Most small-batch craft producers aren’t equipped for expanding into ecommerce or making quick changes to Workplace based training .

How NFI is helping craft food producers with training

Like any other food industry, craft food producers need the right workplace training program in place. The rush to innovate and produce unique craft food products can create a challenging work environment. The need to adapt is constant. Here at National Food Institute, we have helped local craft food producers by developing customised workplace based training courses.

Our industry trainers work closely with craft food producers to assess their workplace and develop a customised training program. With workplace based training, our students have become effective risk managers. They develop necessary skills in risk assessment, safe equipment handling and maintenance. The end result is a safer, more productive workplace.

Are you a local craft food producer? If you’re ready to innovate your workplace, contact National Food Institute today. Our trainers can develop a workplace training program designed specifically for your unique needs.