Macadamia Innovation Challenge 2 winners and industry members

The Australian Macadamias Innovation Challenge made its highly anticipated return to the macadamia growing region of Byron Bay earlier this month, with the finals event bringing together the food industry’s most creative minds to showcase their product innovations using macadamias.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural Macadamia Innovation Challenge, this one-of-a-kind industry event continues to inspire food manufacturers to use macadamias in their product development, driving new demand for macadamias globally. Participants were challenged to use the macadamia nut in an inventive creation, adopting either an Asian or Western flavour profile, within the confectionary, snacks, cereals or future foods categories. This year’s winning concepts included a macadamia ‘chikki’ snack, a macadamia and sweet potato butter, macadamia ‘ration bars’ and reimagined Japanese ‘Karinto’ confectionery.  

The event was an unmitigated success and attracted the attention of local and international media, including Australia’s ABC News, local media NBN newsFood & Beverage Industry News, China’s Sugar and Wine Express and and the Japan Food Journal.

The best ideas from both the first and second Innovation Challenges are available for trial by interested manufacturers and product developers globally. To learn more contact your Australian macadamia supplier or Market Development Manager Lynne Ziehlke.

Watch the highlights video:

Back bigger and bolder

This year’s Challenge presented an expanded opportunity, with participation opened up to Japanese and Chinese entrants, as well as those from Australia. The competition also featured a larger prize pool and more product categories, and with bigger teams behind some of this year’s shortlisted entries, we also hosted a larger group of finalists at the event.

The finalists’ creations were judged by a panel of four leading industry experts, with Brookfarm’s Pam Brook returning to the role for a second time, joined by Emma Welsh, co-founder of drink and snack brand Emma and Tom’s, and Ben Kolly, Technical and Product Manager at Haigh’s Chocolate. For the first time we also hosted an international judge, with Dr. Kiyoko Kubomura, President of Kubomura Food Advisory Consultants Japan, joining the panel.

Finalist Wayne Rieseberg presents his creation to the judges

The judges were unanimously impressed with the quality of finalist entries, with Pam Brook believing the standard to be even higher than last year.

“It is inspiring to see the industry continuing to grow. This year’s level of creativity in the Innovation Challenge was even higher than last year’s. It was truly a challenge for us as the judges to select the winners, as all finalists brought macadamias and innovative thinking together in their own way,” said Pam.

For Emma Welsh, the judging experience has given her food for thought for her own food and beverage business. “I have learned so much from this, and it’s reminded me of my early days mixing up new ingredient combinations. It has inspired me to try and use macadamias in my own products,” she said.

Health takes the lead

The finalists all love the flavour and texture that macadamias bring to their creations. However this year, many of them were just as quick to espouse the health benefits they can add to a product.

“What I love about working with macadamias is that they are so creamy and have a wonderful depth of flavour, but are also packed with vitamins and minerals and good fats,” said Japanese finalist Kazuma Konno.

Pengjuan Li and Zhen Zhang from China were drawn to macadamias for similar reasons. “The product we created is intended to assist with the nutritional needs of busy working people who need good energy,” they explained. “Macadamias are a perfect ingredient for this as they offer delicious flavour and also health, energy and nutrients.”

Lynne Zielhke says the health focus was apparent as soon as this year’s competition opened. “We’ve seen a heavy concentration of ideas for healthy food products this time. Lots of gluten free and plant-based concepts were submitted, and it was obvious that the finalists in particular understand the health attributes of macadamias in a really in-depth way and how they combine with the health attributes of other ingredients to create great products.”

Opportunities all round

The Innovation Challenge highlights a significant opportunity for food manufacturers. As Lynne Ziehlke explained, “Macadamias are still rare and under-utilised in manufactured food products, so we’re looking for new ways to use them.”

The Challenge also creates exciting opportunities for the finalists, providing a platform for them to showcase their product ideas, and offering up the chance to win career-enhancing prizes. It’s fair to say, they have risen to the challenge.

Australian team finalists (L to R): Blake Palmer, Billy (Hin) Yeung Tsang, Melitza Lafages-Vitalis and Qianhui Xu

“The students and professionals have come up with ways of using macadamias that have never been thought of. The younger participants in particular are thinking about food and macadamias in ways that are really new and fresh. Being able to harness the creativity of these innovative thinkers is very exciting,” Lynne said.

For all the finalists, it was an opportunity filled with huge excitement and anticipation, and for some, also represented their first time in Australia.

Just as thrilled were those for whom this was not a first-time achievement. Pridhuvi Thavaraj was a finalist in the first Challenge, and was delighted to make the top 10 once again this year. “I was here last year as a finalist in the student category, but since then I have graduated so I entered this year in the professional category. It feels amazing to be back again,” she said.

Pridhuvi Thavaraj prepares to present her creation

A thrilling finish

The grand finale of the second Macadamia Innovation Challenge was the spectacular winners announcement cocktail event held at Beach Byron Bay restaurant.

L to R: Ben Kolly, Dr Kiyoko Kubomura, Jolyon Burnett, Emma Welsh and Pam Brook

Bringing together macadamia growers, marketers, media, finalists and judges, guests enjoyed macadamia cocktails and canapes as the sun went down, in the lead up to the big reveal.

Japanese team finalists (L to R): Momoka Osawa, Hiromi Mimura, Kazuma Konno, Haruna Taniyama and Koya Ohashim

Macadamia Innovation Challenge 2 winners

STUDENT WINNER: Kirti Mittal (Australia)
PRODUCT CONCEPT: Britty Macaddy Chikki 
PRODUCT INSIGHTS: Kirti’s creation is a product for the health-conscious consumer that features a selection of seeds, quinoa and macadamias, sweetened with jaggery rather than traditional sugar. “I used jaggery as it is known for its medicinal qualities in India, where it is used in peanut brittle,” Kirti explained. “The macadamias are roasted to bring out their flavour, and together with the seeds, they make a highly satiating product that curbs sweet cravings.” 
PRIZE: A trip to Fi Europe 2019, the leading global meeting place for food and beverage innovation hosted in Paris. 

Britty Macaddy Chikki

PROFESSIONAL WINNER: Pridhuvi Thavaraj (Australia)
PRODUCT CONCEPT: Purple Sesadamia Butter 
PRODUCT INSIGHTS: Pridhuvi’s creation was inspired by her childhood love of Nutella, and her disappointment when she discovered it was rather unhealthy. “I wanted to use macadamias to create a spread that was both healthy and great tasting,” she explained. “Macadamias are the star ingredient that not only impart a nutty flavour, but are also highly satiating and help create a wonderful mouthfeel, aroma and spreadability. The purple sweet potato brings the beautiful colour and sweetness, black sesame adds vitamin E, and I’ve added a plant-based collagen which is good for skin elasticity.” Pridhuvi says her product also works well in smoothies and baked goods. 
PRIZE: A trip to Fi Europe 2019, the leading global meeting place for food and beverage innovation hosted in Paris.  

Purple Sesadamia Butter

TEAM WINNER: Hiromi Mimura, Momoka Osawa, Koya Ohashim, Kazuma Konno and Haruna Taniyama (Japan)
PRODUCT CONCEPT: Soba and Macadamia Ration Cookie Bars 
PRODUCT INSIGHTS: When preparing their entry for the Challenge, the team began by researching Australian history, which led them to discovering the iconic ANZAC biscuit. This sparked a broader discussion about ‘emergency food’ and the role this has played in Japan as a country that has experienced many natural disasters. Drawing on this inspiration, the team created a unique ‘ration bar’ made from traditional Japanese buckwheat flour, and featuring macadamias as the hero ingredient for added flavour, texture and nutrition. Delicious in any situation – emergency or otherwise – the product delivered a thrilling win for the team. 
PRIZE: $5,000 AUD cash 

Soba and Macadamia Ration Cookie Bar

INDUSTRY CHOICE WINNER (voted by growers): Natsumi Otani (Japan)
PRODUCT CONCEPT: Crispy Crunch Macadamia Karinto
PRODUCT CATEGORY: Confectionery 
PRODUCT INSIGHTS: Karinto is a perennially popular Japanese confection, traditionally made with wheat flour, yeast and brown sugar. Natsumi’s version uses rice flour instead, making it gluten free, and she has used macadamia oil and chopped roasted macadamias for added texture and flavour. 
PRIZE: Bespoke mentoring programme   you to everyone who participated in the Challenge, and congratulations to all our winners!

Crispy Crunch Macadamia Karinto

Looking for your next best-seller?

If you’re a product developer or food manufacturer looking for fresh ideas that deliver to the demands of today’s consumer, the concepts that have emerged from rounds 1 and 2 of the Macadamia Innovation Challenge could be the next big opportunity for your brand or business. 

For further details and technical specifications for the best concepts submitted spanning the bakery, ice cream, snacking, cereal, confectionery and future foods categories, contact your Australian macadamia supplier or Market Development Manager Lynne Ziehlke

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