Analysis and Commentary

Celebrating Australian Made: The shop local movement and food manufacturing

Analysis and Commentary

In today’s addition to the our Celebrating Australian Made series, Sam Schachna shares some recent lessons learned and how he’s rethinking the world of work. Here’s a look back—and a lens on what’s next.

COVID-19 has sparked a renaissance in the local food manufacturing sector, and Roma Foods is fortunate to be riding this wave. 

There’s no denying COVID has been a global disruptor, which has reinforced the need to build local preparedness and continuity strategies. We continue to face supply chain instability due to events spanning from natural disasters to global political instability.

It’s also an opportunity for positive change — paving the way for a renewed focus on locally-made products together with consumers’ desire toward living healthier lives. Operating for nearly seven decades, Roma Foods is an Australian, family-owned manufacturer on a mission to create great food for healthier living. As consumers increasingly demand locally-made, allergen-friendly and plant-based foods, we have had to take our operations to another level. 

The shop local movement

COVID has highlighted several priorities and accelerated several trends in the food manufacturing sector. Something that insulated Roma Foods against major COVID disruption was our existing focus on local, robust supply chains. The industry will face continued supply chain disruption from both COVID and global influences. It is critical to purchase locally wherever possible and build strong relationships to enhance the overall resilience of the sector. 

Roma Foods is proud of its strong relationships with local suppliers based on years of collaboration. As an industry, we need to invest in the depth and capability of local supply chains – from farm to plate – to ensure that we are always in a position to provide food security to all in our community.

The importance and advantage of Australian-made has never been more apparent. Consumers are voting with their wallets, with sentiment toward Australian-made products increasing through COVID. Our community is telling us they want to eat better and live healthier lives. CSIRO have predicted that the health and sustainable market could be worth more than $25 billion to Aussie producers by 2030. This trend has supported Roma’s strategic pivot in our business strategy to align with our new mission of creating great food for healthier living.

Levelling up operations

In a similar vein, there is a need to invest in local capability and infrastructure to improve efficiency and innovation. It is not an even playing field for local manufacturers, as Australia does not have the scale or local market size to compare to global multinationals. To thrive in the local industry, it is critical to compete where local is a competitive advantage and to invest in skills and infrastructure to improve efficiency and innovation.

To do things better, quicker, and more effectively, Roma defined a new business strategy to meet the needs of the ever-growing health shopper and partnered with SafetyCulture to introduce new technology improvements. By digitising workflows we could empower our journey of growth and innovation — all while ensuring our priority remains on safe people, safe product and safe data. 

The COVID crisis presented a unique opportunity to reinforce priorities and drive change. Roma’s response and ability to supply with limited interruption during the pandemic was made possible by our great team and great partners. While we will eventually return to some semblance of normality, the role that the local sector will play in the future is forever changed.

In the vacuum left by the collapse of the international supply chain, consumers are flocking to Australian-made food, and our data shows they’re staying, despite many of the imported alternatives starting to trickle back in. Opportunities abound for local companies with great teams, flexible technology, a commitment to innovation, and robust supply chains.

Sam Schachna (pictured) is CEO of Roma Foods.

@AuManufacturing’s editorial series – Celebrating Australian Made – is brought to you with the support of the Australian Made Campaign Ltd, licensor of the Australian Made logo. For more information about using the logo, visit this link.

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