How we’re protecting your health and safety COVID-19 Update

A Round Up of Manufacturing Stories That Shaped 2020

Feb 09, 2021 by Mark Dingley

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No prizes for guessing the topic that dominated 2020. COVID-19 has singlehandedly shaped the year and will undoubtedly continue to do so for a few years yet.

But that’s not the only event that turned things on their head this year.

Let’s rewind and look at some of the year's biggest stories for manufacturers:

2D Barcodes are making waves

2DBarcodes were awarded the Innovative Technology of the Year award at the 2020 Food & Beverage Industry Awards, with judges recognising the technology for its potential to shape the future in much the same way as the original barcode all those decades ago.

Woolworths started trialling 2D barcodes at retail point-of-sale in 2019, with the goal to cut product recall food waste, improve traceability and make products easier to manage throughout the supply chain.

Missed it? Read all about it in our article.

Supply chains get more resilient

A recent BCG global survey found that 43% of companies plan to make permanent changes to their supply chain structures because of COVID-19.

And it’s no wonder, when McKinsey reported that companies can expect supply chain disruptions lasting a month or longer to occur every 3.7 years.

So, how can Australian manufacturers achieve a more resilient supply chain? What actions should they take? Take a look at our article.

China curbing Australian imports

The row is between China and Australia is steadily intensifying. In May, China imposed restrictions on imports of Australian beef and an 80% tariff on imports of Australian barley. Shipments of Australian lobsters have been subject to delays, and Australian wine has been threatened with higher tariffs.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has accused China of a "deliberate strategy" of using trade sanctions to punish Australia after Beijing imposed tariffs of up to 212% on Australian wine, which he warned will destroy the viability of a $1.3 billion export market.

This is definitely the story to watch in 2021. Australian exporters need to prepare for losses as trade tensions with China escalate or, better still, look at opportunities to export to other Asian countries. Find out the five foods and beverages that are already experiencing success.

Manufacturers win in Economic Stimulus

2020 was the year the Australian government recognised the importance of bringing back Australian manufacturing. It’s time to be less reliant on international suppliers. That was the rationale behind the government’s $1.3 billion modern manufacturing initiative in the recent budget. As Robert Giles, chief executive of food manufacturer SPC, told the Sydney Morning Herald, the promised funding “couldn’t have come at a better time”.

Find out what the economic stimulus means for you.

‘Pivot’ is the buzzword that keeps going

We saw lots of examples of businesses that were quick to react to the events of 2020 and made changes that enabled them to not just survive but thrive.

There were big headline-grabbing pivots, like the gin and rum distillers who started making hand sanitiser. But a pivot doesn’t have to mean a total change in direction – many manufacturers also tweaked parts of their business to stay afloat. Many added an online shop, started offering direct-to-consumer, or automated parts of their processes for the first time.

Read about the top pivot models in Australia.

Harvest workers shortages

Australia is facing a worrying shortage of workers for upcoming peak harvest season due to COVID-19 border restrictions. One grower in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, made the decision to destroy a crop of bunched spinach worth $20,000 because there’s nobody to pick it. He would usually employ 15 seasonal workers from the Solomon Islands and Samoa over summer, but the pandemic means this is not possible.

The shortage is so extreme that the Australian Government is offering “relocation assistance” for international and Australian workers, who could receive up to $2000 and $6000 respectively if they relocate to take up short-term agricultural work.

Plant-based trends become a global phenomenon

Plant-based diets have exploded into the mainstream, with the pandemic well and truly putting this trend in the fast lane. Nearly 2.5 million Australians have all, or almost all, vegetarian diets, according to Roy Morgan figures from February 2020. It’s estimated that the plant-based food industry could be worth around $6 billion in Australia by 2030.

Some brands are on the front foot. Maggie Beer launched its new plant-based prepared meal range called "Maggie's Food for Life" in Coles in October to target the fast-growing vegan category. Australian plant-based startup, Proform Foods, launched a $11-million manufacturing facility in northern Sydney. And in October, Australian start-up V2Food launched its plant-based meat products into over 600 Woolworths stores.

Learn about the other food trends that rocked the industry in 2020.

Best of the rest

  • Transparency was revealed as the top trend for the coming year. The Innova Consumer Survey 2020 revealed that 6 in 10 global consumers are interested in learning more about where foods come from.
  • Woolworths opened its largest fulfilment centre in Sydney’s west, which will be its largest online hub in Australia.
  • Chobani Australia, Coca-Cola Amatil and Kellogg took out the top awards at the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) Awards. Coca-Cola Amatil was recognised for its leadership in manufacturing seven out of ten of its plastic bottles from 100% recycled materials.

What are the headlines you’ll remember from 2020? Do they all relate to COVID-19? Tell us your thoughts.