World-first Macadamia Innovation Challenge delivers ground-breaking product concepts

Macadamia Innovation Challenge Judges and Finalists

The Australian macadamia industry came together for a VIP celebration of innovation this month, as the winners of the first-ever Macadamia Innovation Challenge were revealed, with a brain-boosting snack bar, a cookie with a twist and a unique crumbed ice cream cube taking top honours. 

The Challenge saw competitors from all over Australia submit a diverse range of unique and innovative concepts for new packaged food products containing macadamias, with the judging panel impressed by the depth of talent and blue-sky thinking demonstrated by the finalists.

Many of the macadamia product concepts developed for the Challenge are now available for adoption by interested food manufacturers and product developers globally. For further details please contact Market Development Manager Lynne Ziehlke.  

The finals events were attended by local news crews and trade press, resulting in a host of local coverage including NBN Nightly News, Northern Star, Australian Food News, Food and Drink Business, and Food and Beverage Industry News. Excellent international media exposure was also achieved, with numerous news and lifestyle outlets covering the story. It featured on numerous Chinese sites including China Gourmet and Food Channel on Sohu, while in Japan, more than 15 outlets published event-related stories including Asahi Shimbun Digital, @Dime and Jiji.com.  

Getting macadamias on the innovation agenda

A wave of new macadamia-growing investment will see more robust supply become available globally. As a real, raw and premium nut, macadamias are uniquely placed to meet today’s consumer needs. Multiple research studies have confirmed that consumers love macadamias and feel they make other food products more premium. 

The Australian industry is excited about the opportunities this supply shift will open up for new product development, with food manufacturers now able to incorporate macadamias in their innovation pipelines with more confidence than ever before. 

The Innovation Challenge is a world-first platform to drive new demand for macadamias, by inspiring food manufacturers globally who are ready to take advantage of the opportunities macadamias present.  

As Australian Macadamia Society CEO Jolyon Burnett said, “The increasing crop means we get to share the love and taste of macadamias with even more consumers now, and that’s ultimately what this is about: enabling more people to consume macadamias in a greater variety of ways.” 

Attracting the pioneers of new product development

The Innovation Challenge invited food professionals and students from the food technology field to submit creative concepts for new packaged food products using macadamias. Participants could create ideas for the bakery, snacking/snack mixes or ice cream categories, with either Asian or Western flavour profiles, for the chance to win travel and cash prizes.  

The Challenge attracted an impressive pool of entries, with the top 10 finalists invited to Byron Bay as our guests for the judging event and winner announcement ceremony. Held at popular venue The Farm, the judging event saw finalists prepare and present their creations to a panel of four judges. This was followed by a VIP winner announcement ceremony at acclaimed Byron Bay Hinterland restaurant, Harvest.  

High standard wows judges

The entries were judged by four leading industry representatives – Pam Brook, co-founder of Brookfarm, Nick Palumbo, founder and co-owner of Gelato MessinaDr Barry McGookin, food technologist with a PhD in Food Science, and William Peterson, owner of Infinity Bakery

The judging panel (L to R): Dr Barry McGookin, William Peterson, Pam Brook and Nick Palumbo

The judges were impressed by the calibre of the finalists’ entries and excited by where they could lead.

“We saw and tasted some creations that were fantastic, and we saw great diversity in the concepts,” said Pam Brook. “We felt that many of these ideas have huge local and international market potential. We can see manufacturers really embracing some of these ideas and taking them a long way.”  

And the winner is… 

Adeline Wong, a professional entrant who created Macadamia Mind Food Bars, and student Kinga Wojciechowski who created Macadamia and Miso Caramel Cookies, each won a trip to SIAL Paris 2018, the world’s largest food exhibition. Ashna Gobin and Leonardo Bohorquez, the team behind Macci Ice Cream, won a $5,000 cash prize.  

Macadamia Mind Food Bars

Judge Pam Brook said the panel loved the Macadamia Mind Food Bar the minute it touched the tastebuds. “It’s really different to traditional snack bars, and the concept of food for the mind is very innovative,” she said.  

For creator Adeline, it was the first time she had worked with macadamias as an ingredient, and she relished the challenge. “Macadamias are so versatile. The challenge is balancing their delicate flavour with other ingredients. You don’t want to overpower it.” 

Macadamia Mind Food Bars

In addition to Aussie grown macadamias, the bars contain a host of globally inspired ingredients including lotus sees from China and nori from Japan, which Adeline believes will appeal strongly to millennials. While testing her creation, she also discovered the bars’ flavour was very appealing to children.

Her ultimate vision for her idea is crystal clear. “To see this product in supermarkets, and see people eating it, that would be very satisfying,” said Adeline. 

Macadamia and Miso Caramel Cookies 

Kinga Wojciechowski had the idea for her Macadamia and Miso Caramel Cookies while watching a TV cooking program. The food science university student was eager to put a unique twist on the salted caramel trend, so she set about pairing macadamias with miso. “Miso is quite a strong, salty, almost tangy flavour, and I felt the creaminess of macadamias was a great match for that,” she explained. “The salt really brings out the flavour of the macadamias.”

Macadamia and Miso Caramel Cookies

Judge William Peterson was full of praise for the creation, telling Kinga, “The unique way you used the macadamia – roasted in miso – that was an idea we have never seen or thought of before and it really pushed the boundaries in terms of what can be done with macadamias.”

Kinga was delighted to have won a trip to SIAL in Paris, having never travelled to Europe before, and said the Challenge has given her a new sense of purpose. “I was really unsure about what I wanted to do in life, but this win has pointed me in the right direction, and I feel so sure about my future now.” 

Macci Ice Cream 

For finalists Ashna Gobin and Leonardo Bohorquez, the judging event almost spelled disaster. “Our freezer wasn’t working, the blast chiller wasn’t working. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” recalled Ashna. However their persistence and ability to work under extreme pressure paid off, with their entry winning the Pairs category, in a strong field.

Macci Ice Cream

The chefs and budding product developers had worked with macadamias before, but never as the main ingredient. “This Challenge made us realise the potential macadamias have as a hero ingredient – the flavour and texture is quite amazing. There are so many things that can be done with macadamias and this experience has opened our eyes to what’s possible,” said Leonardo.

The pair’s creation consisted of a unique cube-shaped macadamia ice cream, coated in a candied macadamia and cocoa nib crumb. “By candying the macadamias we gave them extra crunch. We chose cocoa nibs for their bitter aftertaste to create the perfect balance with the sweetness of the ice cream,” explained Ashna. “There’s a real variety of tastes and textures in our product.” 

Judge Nick Palumbo saw huge potential for the concept. “This idea is the kind of product there is real demand for at the moment. It is very marketable and can be mass manufactured.” 

Another round of the Macadamia Innovation Challenge will be held later this year, with a focus on three new product categories. We will keep you updated as details unfold.

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