One feature of the Victorian Food Innovation Network’s extensionAUS platform is the ‘Ask an Expert’ function. Here, any member of the food value chain can ask a question. The question is received by the Network’s coordinator who distributes the question to the Community of Practice members, who are experts in the food and beverage industry.
In June 2018, Bernard McCarthy from Jujube Australia (www.jujubeaustralia.com) used the ‘Ask an Expert’ function as a business development tool that connected him with a food industry expert and ultimately led to a Round Two Boost Your Business Food Innovation Voucher.
Bernard’s business is based in Sunraysia and is founded on a plantation established by his father in 1993 as the first commercial planting of jujubes in Australia. As a prospective food chain business owner, Bernard contacted the Food Innovation Network seeking a service provider to help grow his business by diversifying into other products beyond fresh and dried fruit.
As Jujube Australia continues to expand with the potential for a significant increase in product, Bernard was keen to explore value adding opportunities. Jujubes are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, with fresh jujubes containing around 500mg of Vitamin C per 100g of fruit. Bernard suggested a 30 ml shot of jujube juice may be of interest to health-conscious consumers, but he needed expert advice before potentially taking the business in a new direction.
Bernard’s question “What products might be feasible to value add to my fresh and dried jujube fruit and how would I go about production?” was distributed to members of the Food Innovation Network’s Community of Practice.
Bernard subsequently met with two service providers – George Gekas from Badalya and Irma de Bree from Solutions in Food (teaming with Derio Comar from Comar Consulting). Bernard reported that both meetings went very well and that he found both service providers were very positive, helpful and professional.
Bernard decided to partner with George Gekas from Badalya, saying that he felt George’s expertise, global vision, and ability to develop, launch and market products was the best fit for adding value to a range of potential jujube products.
George and Bernard applied for a Round Two Boost Your Business Food Innovation Voucher which was ultimately successful. The voucher valued at $10,000 is being used to fund an early stage feasibility study to identify the next steps in developing a unique jujube product, including contract manufacturing supply options for potential commercialisation.
The project outcomes will be published on the Network’s website when the study is complete.