Anastasia Nishnianidze, trade and investment commissioner to the UK & Ireland at Austrade discusses key trends in Australia’s health food sector that are finding success globally

Australia has been a hotbed of food and drink trends ever since the birth of the flat white in the 1980s.  

The country spends about AUS$1.4 billion a year on agricultural research and development, around 40% of which is funded by the Australian Government. Our farmers, scientists and researchers are driving advances in bioscience, novel farming techniques, food innovation and processing. Australia’s companies and research centres harness food innovation to improve sustainability and traceability of their products and supply chains.  

The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement will soon come into force. This means that the UK’s retail and hospitality sectors, along with consumers, will get better access to some of the innovative food products coming out of Australia. These include native Australian ingredients, functional foods and plant-based alternatives. Here we look at three Australian health foods that are growing in popularity around the world.   

Australia’s floral diversity helps create unique honey varieties  

Authentic Australian manuka honey is one of nature’s sweetest superfoods. Manuka honey is produced by bees that have foraged on the flowers of Leptospermum trees, native to Australia and New Zealand. While New Zealand has just one variety of Leptospermum, Australia is home to over 80 species, and Aussie manuka typically has a sweeter, smooth flavour.  

Active manuka honey is today prized for its health supporting properties and has been widely studied for its antimicrobial and wound healing effects. The strength of manuka honey is measured by its antibacterial activity. Companies such as Australia’s Honey for Life and Hive & Wellness Capilano Honey produce active, high quality MGO 300+ honey. The floral diversity of the remote Australian forests helps create other uniquely Australian honey varieties such as Active Jarrah, Karri and Red Gum honey.  

Today’s consumers care about where their products are sourced from. Honey for Life uses innovative batch tracking technology to give consumers access to where the batch originates from, including beekeeper profile and floral variety, as well as details about the quality of the product. 

Australia’s macadamia nut – new ways to enjoy this plant-based superfood 

Not many people know that the macadamia nut is the only Australian native food crop that has ever been developed and traded internationally as a commercial food product. 

Macadamia nuts have a distinctive creamy, buttery, smooth texture, and a delicious taste. It is a product with impressive health benefits. A handful provides consumers with a wide range of vitamins and minerals: manganese is important for antioxidant defences; and the macadamia is also a great source of fibre, plant iron and plant omega-3 fats which are beneficial for heart health. 

The global shift in consumer demand for more plant-based products means that Australia’s macadamia producers, such as Marquis Macadamias, have seen growth in demand for paste varieties. Specifically non-dairy macadamia milk and pure nut butters, as well as pure ingredients for ice cream and cookies.  

Macadamia oil, once considered a by-product of macadamia processing, is a niche but now sought-after product in foodservice, manufacturing and grocery industries. The unique physiology of the macadamia tree means that each tree can hold considerably more carbon than many other crops. Macadamia oil is considered a sustainable substitute for oils such as coconut and palm, with more manufacturers looking to include it as part of their eco-friendly credentials.  

BARLEYmax: the grain that is better for you 

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has long been interested in barley as a grain with human health benefits. One particular barley grain emerged from research as having higher fibre content and enhanced nutritional benefits compared with regular barley. A program of conventional plant breeding led to the development of BARLEYmax, a high fibre wholegrain with high levels of resistant starch. Foods with BARLEYmax as their key ingredient have a low glycaemic index and produce positive changes in a range of biomarkers of bowel health.  

BARLEYmax has been licensed to CSIRO spin-off company The Healthy Grain. Already successful in the Australian, Asian and US markets, the nutritional wholegrain that provides twice the fibre compared to conventional cereal varieties is now set to help consumers in the UK and Ireland overcome the fibre shortage.  

Earlier this year, AB Mauri signed an exclusive agreement to distribute BARLEYmax across the UK & Ireland. The introduction of BARLEYmax in the UK and Ireland provides the UK’s agrifood industry with new means to innovate, it also gives UK consumers a wider selection of healthy options, and it improves overall food security. Will Downey, our senior business development manager based in Austrade’s London office, is working closely with The Healthy Grain on developing further commercial connections for BARLEYmax products in the UK & Ireland.  

At Austrade, we are excited to introduce the UK food industry and consumers to some of our unique Aussie products in 2023. Don’t miss us at the International Food & Drink Event from 20-22 March at ExCeL London where we’ll offer a range of tasting sessions.