SunPork Tech Services boss kicked off ICMJ National Conference with value-add message to the red meat industry.
Product Innovation is a risk, but it is one the red meat industry must take according to SunPork Executive General Manager, Dr Darryl DSouza.
Speaking at the 2022 ICMJ National Conference in Wagga Wagga in front of a crowd of more than 150 students, red meat producers, advisors and industry representatives, Dr DSouza said value-add products had become an integral to SunPorks business.
"If you dont maximise the value of all the cuts within a pork carcase you limit the revenue you get from the sale of that pig and in some instances it could be make or break," he said.
Describing it as a fine balance, Dr DSouza said the company was constantly innovating with up to 40 product ideas within its various product development stages at any given time.
"For every ten ideas, maybe one will get through to market," he said.
With more than 1,500 staff across 43 Australian farms, six New Zealand farms, three feedmills, two abattoirs and two value-add facilities, SunPork produces more than 20percent of Australia's pork.
The company's value-adding facilities produce 52 different products ranging from portion packed cuts to marinated and slow cooked products designed to offer convenient and tasty solutions for a growing consumer segment.
Despite a high level of investment in consumer research, market analysis, expanded facilities, specialized processing equipment and close consultation with retailers, Dr DSouza said success in the product development space is never guaranteed.
"Still to this day I consider our most innovative product a pre-cooked, natural sausage with no preservatives or allergens," he said.
"It even the came with pre-marked singe marks on the casing to look as though it had been on a grill plate.
"It was fantastic but it failed spectacularly and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Dr DSouza said incorrect product placement was ultimately its downfall.
But for every failure, there are multiple success stories, including SunPorks rival to the supermarket hot chook the grab and go roast pork borne during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then there is the company's paragon of value-add products its cured and slow-cooked German-style pork knuckle.
The pre-cooked, heat and eat product is derived from one of the lower value cuts of the pig carcase.
"The hock ticks all the boxes it has reasonable volume, it was previously a very low-value cut, its bullet proof to manufacture and to cook," Dr DSouza said.
"Repeat purchases of it continue to grow year in year out. Its one of those products you think wow, if only all of our products could be like that."
Dr DSouza said the company's expansion in the value-add space had also extended the range of skills and experience it was looking for in its employees.
Reporting to a dedicated general manager of value-add, staff numbers in the department have more than tripled in the last few years.
Some of them have come in from small goods manufacturing and some from quite general manufacturing roles, Dr DSouza said.
But there are a number that have come from within the company and they're important to have because they understand the processes.
Dr DSouza said although value-adding was not a new concept to the red meat sector, the key was in spending the time to look for novel ideas that provide something unique.
Dr DSouza was one of several red meat industry leaders who gave valuable industry insights during the first full day of the 2022 ICMJ National conference at CSU in Wagga Wagga.
Seminar sessions also featured Meat and Livestock Australia's Scott Cameron and Sarah Hyland, Tom Bull from LambPro, Hamish Irvine from Bindaree Beef and Craig and Jo Stewart from the Gourmet Goat Lady.
The program of speakers includes Murdoch University Professor David Pethick, Angus Australias Jake Philips and Teys Australia Supply Chain Coordinator Molly Greentree. AMPCs Stuart Shaw and Amanda Carter will also present on the future of processing and the red meat jobs of tomorrow.
The ICMJ National Conference runs over five days from Tuesday July 5 to Saturday 9 July and attracts university students and recent graduates from around the world.
Other elements of the program include Q&A panels, interactive workshops, a careers expo, social events and the 2022 National Meat Judging Contest to be held at Teys Australia on Saturday.
The top performers in the national competition are selected to represent Australia on a tour of the United States red meat industry and compete in a US ICMJ competition.
ICMJ activities are supported by foundation partners Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC).
It is also supported by conference partners including Teys Australia, Coles, Australian Pork Limited, NH Foods, Kilcoy Global Foods, AACo, Fletcher, Grad Link, JBS, Herefords Australia, Fulton Market Group, AMIST Super, Angus Australia and Allflex.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.