Award-winning food technology company Flavourtech knows it is possible to do business from anywhere. From Griffith in regional New South Wales, its aroma recovery, extraction and evaporation technology ships all over the world.
In October 2022, Flavourtech set up an office at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands’ Foodvalley. The centre is a global hub for food-related businesses. Flavourtech looks forward to undertaking food and bio-based research with the university and their partners, now that its pilot plant facilities are up and running.
‘Being just down the road is increasing opportunities with our European customers. It’s so much simpler now for them to bring their product and conduct trials at our demonstration facility,’ says Flavourtech General Manager Leon Skaliotis.
Flavourtech’s Spinning Cone Column (SCC) was originally developed to remove sulphites during the winemaking process. However, it proved successful at solving another issue, removing alcohol from wine. Those initial tests also showed its potential for capturing natural aromas.
‘Flavour companies around the world now consider the SCC to be the gold standard for natural aroma recovery,’ explains Skaliotis. ‘Other technologies can capture flavours and aromas, but none can capture them at the very light, volatile end the way our system does.’
Other innovations may come in response to a customer request for help, or when Flavourtech sees a way to improve a customer’s processing operations. For example, in the late 90s Flavourtech developed a fully integrated processing line to help a client reduce health and safety risks from boiling products and moving forklifts. More than 25 years later, that client is efficiently producing high quality RTD beverages, leads its market and says Flavourtech has been integral to its success.
‘Austrade is also great at referring us to connections,’ says Skaliotis. ‘I often get an email introduction asking for help from someone who’s been referred to us by Austrade.’
Flavourtech’s pilot plant is in Foodvalley NL, a region encompassing around 1,000 local and international food-related businesses. That makes it a great meeting point for new and existing clients.
Customers from Japan and India have offices in the same building, says Skaliotis. A chance meeting with contacts from the US, who were also setting up offices at the university, has led to talks about running trials on Flavourtech’s equipment in the Netherlands.
‘There are not many places you could go and be central to so many food companies,’ he adds.
The new premises also make it easier for customers to come and experience Flavourtech’s technology for themselves. Being in the pilot plant, smelling the aromas coming out of the condenser, is often what sells the technology’s capabilities to customers.
‘Communications technology has come a long way, but there’s no “smell-o-vision” yet,’ says Skaliotis.
Flavourtech is keen to collaborate with others to solve the world’s food challenges.
‘We hope to add value and learn from other companies on the Wageningen campus,’ says Sriram Karuturi, European Operations Manager at Flavourtech.
Flavourtech’s SCC technology could be used in plant-based food production to remove undesirable flavours and aromas or to capture natural flavours making food products more natural and palatable. The SCC can also extract the desirable natural aromas from over-ripe or non-marketable fruit that is otherwise sent to waste, thus creating new revenue streams.
‘Success has not made us sit still,’ notes Skaliotis. ‘There's always something to develop, or a new challenge to solve.’
‘Australian exporters sometimes think they need to be everywhere in Europe,’ notes Wim Verstraaten, Austrade’s Senior Business Development Manager, Agribusiness and Food.
‘However, it may be more strategic to find a single-entry point, such as the Netherlands. As well as a densely populated domestic market, it has four deep seaports, international air access and road and rail links to much of Europe within a couple of hours.’
‘We found the Netherlands very transparent in how they do business,’ adds Skaliotis. ‘Austrade has been extremely helpful, pointing us in the right direction on things like setting up a virtual office until we had finalised our physical location.’
Flavourtech never saw the need to move its head office from Griffith, a regional Australian town of only 20,000 residents, even as it became a global business.
‘Being regional probably makes us more focused on our people,’ says Skaliotis. ‘We know a lot of families rely on us. And if someone leaves it can take a long time to replace them.’
The company works hard to look after staff, he says, and people tend to stay and grow with the business.
‘We have almost 20 different nationalities working for us in Griffith right now,’ he adds. ‘It makes international business so much simpler. We can easily clarify contract terms in Portuguese with a Brazilian client, for example, or help Chinese-speaking customers with remote installations during lockdowns.’