10/06/2003 - 22:00

Canon’s new target

10/06/2003 - 22:00

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AN OUTBREAK of food poisoning is a major concern for any company in the food processing business, however, one Perth company is confident it has a solution that will revolutionise food processing standards and is selling the technology overseas.

Canon’s new target

AN OUTBREAK of food poisoning is a major concern for any company in the food processing business, however, one Perth company is confident it has a solution that will revolutionise food processing standards and is selling the technology overseas.

Canning Vale-based Canon Foods has spent the past five years developing a process that it says reduces the amount of bacteria in cooked and diced chicken to zero – a level that is well below industry food safety standards, according to CEO Richard Pace.

Mr Pace said a positive response from the market, fuelled by sales growth of 100 per cent in the past two years, had driven company confidence leading to the commissioning of a larger processing plant and expansion into the new premises before the end of the year.

He said Micro Free Pty Ltd, the company established to develop the technology, had sold licences in New Zealand and is in negotiations to licence the technology in the US.

Innovation is nothing new to Canon Foods. 

Mr Pace said Canon Foods was the first company in Australia to produce cooked and diced chicken meat for use in sandwiches, which he said was now a standard product in the industry.

Mr Pace estimated the cooked and diced chicken sandwich meat market in Western Australia to be worth up to $10 million annually and $200 million a year nationally.

While the company already supplies 50 per cent of the WA market, Mr Pace said these developments should also translate into a greater market share of the cooked and diced chicken market Australia wide.

“Growth in Australia has been huge,” he said. “No one ever has 100 per cent of the market, but we will continue to have a bigger and bigger share.”

Despite the recent success, the company is not looking at exporting the finished product due to the resources involved in growing a business to the required level.

However, Mr Pace said other revenue flows would be achieved by selling licences to other industry players to utilise the technology in overseas markets.

“We are still basically a family business and looking for IP partners overseas,” he said.

The food processing technology, called ‘Micro Free Guarantee’, which has a patent pending, has been tested by industry experts, won several local food safety awards and is already available on the market.

Mr Pace said the technology was not a new invention.

“With our technology, we have not invented anything.  We have combined six or seven different existing processes, such as packaging and ingredient technology and brought it all together in a new and innovative way,” he said.

Mr Pace said it was necessity that drove the research and development of the process.

“It was in the mid 1990s and we thought we’ve either got to do something about this [the possibility of food poisoning], or get out of the cooked chicken business,” he said.

By mid 2000 the company decided it had been successful with the technology and put the finished product to market to test the response.

This was followed by up to five months of what Mr Pace described as “tweaking” to achieve the best taste.

He said the trick was also to make the food taste nice as well as making it safe and bacteria-free.

“It’s easy to kill bacteria,” Mr Pace said

“Once you cook the food, you kill the bacteria. But when you remove the product from the oven and start to handle it, you start to introduce bacteria…it becomes a problem.

“Our aim is to produce safe food and go to sleep at night.

“We don’t use any preservatives or chemicals.  It is all natural. It contains nothing I wouldn’t want to eat myself or want my kids to eat.”

Mr Pace said the technology had been developed in conjunction with industry experts and health departments in Australia and in New Zealand.

“In proving the process, we spiked the food with 200 times the amount of bacteria that would cause the food poisoning and it came back with nil after using the process,” he said.

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