Partner Foods | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2021
Partner Foods has been developing and supplying healthy snack products under the Happy Snack Company banner for over 20 years. The company’s allergen-free range of snacks meets the highest nutritional benchmarks under the Australian Health Star guidelines. They are developed under a dual ethos to supply nutrient dense wholefood snacks derived using sustainable crops and processes.
Research identified opportunity to expand the Happy Snack Company chickpea product offering beyond the existing savoury flavours. In developing a product with improved texture and mouthfeel, Partner Foods could create a healthy snack with the properties of popular confections.
The intention was to keep nutrition levels high, while developing an easy-to-eat, chocolate-covered alternative. Initial process improvement delivered some progression, but it was soon apparent the team would need to design the product from the ground up.
Early investigations showed no available research, requiring first-hand exploration of the entire chain from product design through raw materials identification, equipment requirements, process development and even operator training.
Recognising the enormity, Managing Director Craig Agnew decided to develop a FIAL project funding submission with the help of an external consultant and the Partner Foods team.
Preliminary research showed there was no established path to the desired result — design of a chocolate product using the existing application process. They could have opted to develop within Australia, but the scale made it a risky proposition.
The team travelled to Italy — a centre of excellence for chocolate making — to ascertain how processes could be incorporated into Partner’s Australian allergen-free processing facility. Working with an Italian organisation and artisan manufacturers in Milan facilitated fast learning and provided clarity on the path from pilot to full-scale production.
Partner Foods was able to create a purpose- built facility to produce allergen-free chocolate for use in three coated chickpea snacks, promoted in portion-controlled packs in the healthy snack section of Australia’s two largest food retailers.
According to Craig, the project would never have gotten off the ground without FIAL’s assistance.
“The funding allowed us to build our knowledge over many months, to define and refine our recipes and to determine the manufacturing processes required to achieve our objectives. It was also essential to provide staff training and to recruit new team members as we geared up production.
“There were many stakeholders in this project including growers, ingredient suppliers, process engineering experts, sales and marketing partners and, of course, our customers. That breadth illustrates the collaborative aspect of food production.
“Our achievements aren’t limited to Australia, as we’ve recently secured ranging at Waitrose in the UK. We’re still thriving at home though, with the launch of a further two new products in Australia thanks to the capability we’ve developed. We couldn’t have done it without the support of FIAL,” Craig said.