All Posts By

Frank Sammut

Cheesy news for Little Creek Cheese

By | News | No Comments

Once a year Australia holds the Australian Dairy Products Competition, Cheese Factories far and wide around Australia enter with the hopes to take out one the most prestigious titles available in Australia for their cheeses.

Little Creek Cheese located in Wyong, on the Central Coast of NSW, was such a company and entered 12 of their amazing cheese for judging. The official results were issued this week and Little Creek Cheese picked up 3 Gold medals and 9 Silver medals. All cheeses that were entered won a Gold or Silver. To top it off They also picked up the ”Highest Scoring Flavoured Cheese” trophy award for their “Yoghurt Cheese Balls, Garlic and Thyme”

With Covid regulations shutting down competitions over the last couple of years, it’s a wonderful start for the family run Cheese Factory, located less than an hour out of Sydney. Russell Parsons, owner/cheesemaker, flew to Melbourne to receive the trophy at The Dairy Industry of Australia Association (DIAA) Awards of Excellence Gala Dinner. “I couldn’t be prouder of our team and our products than I am right now” stated Russell.

Sue Parsons, owner/cheesemaker said “We have been around now for over 11 years and have support from lots of our local businesses. These awards just reinforce that the Central Coast has amazing producers. To win a national award really is the icing on the cake.”

The Cheese Factory is open to the public and also supply their products to a range of retail outlets as well as cafes and restaurants.

Boosting Food Manufacturing on the Central Coast

By | Manufacturing | No Comments

Press Release by Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation Ed Husic and local MP Emma McBride.

An Albanese Labor Government will boost manufacturing jobs on the north end of the Central Coast by funding a Food Manufacturing Innovation Hub.

The Coast has a strong history of manufacturing, especially in food and beverage, but currently has no pilot facilities for product development.

As part of this commitment, Labor will invest $17.14 million to create a Food Manufacturing Innovation Hub on the Coast, which will be backed up by $37.5 million from industry.

It will be managed by not-for-profit manufacturing network, Central Coast Industry Connect (CCIC).

This will create 285 jobs, made up of 85 during construction and another 200 ongoing jobs in food product manufacturing.

This project has the full support of CCIC and their partners TrendPac, Regional Development Australia, and the University of Newcastle.

Local food manufacturers Sanitarium, Mars Food, Sara Lee, and Agrana are set to come on board as collaborators.

The Food Manufacturing Innovation Hub is strategically located near a unique mix of local and national food and beverage manufacturers and smaller artisan food producers.

The Hub will drive economic growth in the region and help the Coast expand its unique food and beverage market.

This investment is urgently needed to boost employment and create local jobs, given one in four people on the Coast commute outside the region for work every day.

With the Coast expected to grow its population by another 75,500 people by 2036, it is vital we create more jobs in the region to keep up with that growth.

Only a future Labor government will boost manufacturing jobs on the Coast, securing Australia’s supply chains and create more secure, well-paid jobs.

The hub will be based at Lisarow and will house a purpose-built facility designed to grow local food manufacturing businesses and attract more manufacturers to the region.

It will support small and medium food producers to scale up their business and create more jobs for the Coast, giving firms access to commercial production facilities.

Under the Coalition, Australia is dead last on manufacturing self-sufficiency. Labor will back local industry and help grow manufacturing jobs through our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund and Buy Australia Plan.

Attributable to Ed Husic:

“The Coalition has completely neglected to deliver good manufacturing jobs on the Central Coast. There’s huge potential here with industry ready to act yet the Coalition has never done the right thing by the Coast when it comes to manufacturing jobs. Labor is determined to reverse that with this investment. It’s thanks to Emma McBride’s advocacy that Labor will make this commitment today.”


Attributable to Emma McBride:

“The Central Coast has a proud history of food and beverage manufacturing. We produce premium products that are enjoyed here and around the world. The Coast needs proper investment to boost local manufacturing and secure more well-paid jobs for locals for the future.”

Local food industry leaders inspire budding Foodies

By | Manufacturing | No Comments

March saw further great examples of collaboration between Central Coast food Industry and local schools.

Ian ‘Herbie’ Hemphill, owner of Herbie’s Spices based at Charmhaven, joined Year 12 Food Technology students at St Joseph’s Catholic College, East Gosford for a wide-ranging discussion drawing on Ian’s passion for food and 50 years of food industry experience. Students were curious about areas of food industry research and development, quality assurance practices, sustainability initiatives, gender equity within the manufacturing sector and career opportunities offered by the food production sector on the Central Coast.

Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD), Eliza Baird from Sanitarium’s Nutrition Insights team participated in her second workshop with local students, this time with Year 12 Food Technology students from St Edwards College, Gosford. Eliza shared insights and answered questions from students keen for an industry insider’s perspective on the product development process, nutritional profiles of pantry-favourite products and what it’s like to work in the food industry.

Anyone from local schools or industry keen to learn more or participate in similar sessions, should reach out to Jillian William, Senior Project Officer, Regional Industry Education Partnerships, Training Services NSW via

Central Coast Food Alliance December News Letter

By | News | No Comments

Food and Beverages feature strongly in Draft Destination Management Plan available now for Public Comment

Central Coast Council has prepared the draft Central Coast Destination Management Plan 2022-2025, intended as a guiding document to ensure the long-term strength, success and sustainability of the Central Coast visitor economy.

The Central Coast Food Alliance provided input to the development of the plan, and we’re pleased to see ‘Food and Beverages’ called out as emerging strengths of the region and a future ‘hero’ tourism segment. The ‘Meet the Maker’ Trail initiative – which the Food Alliance is supporting through a project in collaboration with a number of our members – is highlighted in the Plan and is one of the ways we’re working to strengthen awareness of the high-quality food and beverages produced in our region and to build the Coast’s ‘Foodie’ brand.

Another major Central Coast Food Alliance project for 2022, the ‘Central Coast Industry Festival’ will tap into the Destination Management Plan’s focus on creating events to attract visitors.   Interested residents and businesses are encouraged to view the draft Plan and provide feedback

More info HERE

Submissions close: 22nd Dec 2021, 5.00PM

Become a Mentor or Mentee

CCFA can help support your professional and business development or explore ways to use your capability and experience to support others.

What’s in it for Mentees –

  • Exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking
  • Guidance on professional development and support to build capability
  • Increased visibility and connections within the industry network
  • Support to accelerate business problem solving

Benefits for Mentors –

  • Recognition as a subject matter expert and leader
  • Exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches
  • Development of personal leadership and coaching capabilities
  • Opportunity for self-reflection and personal satisfaction

Reach out to Alex or Frank learn more about becoming or finding a Mentor.

Missed our recent Webinar sessions? Catch up here

Central Coast Food Alliance Member Virtual Meet-up – November 3rd

Featured inspiring discussions with local entrepreneurs Olivia Duffin from Duff’s Ice cream and Mikkel Overgaard from Crickets & Co and also Central Coast Food Alliance – Steering Committee members Nadia O’Connell from FirescreekWinery and Mark Harry from Mars Food

Find the webinar recording HERE

We’re looking forward to more great networking and information sharing events in 2022.

Grant Opportunity – Energy Efficient Communities Program – Food and Beverage Manufacturing

The grant provides small/medium, food and beverage businesses up to $25,000 to improve energy efficiency practices and technologies and better manage energy consumption to reduce their power bills by;

  • replacing existing equipment with more energy efficient equipment
  • installing or replacing components to help existing systems run more efficiently
  • carrying out energy audits
  • monitoring and optimising energy use and emissions.
  • increasing knowledge of energy efficiency practices, and
  • positioning small and medium sized enterprises to adopt future technological advancement in energy consumption.

Example focus areas are;

  • energy audits and energy management
  • heating ventilation and air conditioning at the manufacturing facility
  • lighting
  • other motors, conveyors, blowers, fans, pumps, and fluid distribution systems
  • process automation and controls
  • waste management

 More Details, Eligibility Criteria and Application HERE

 Fund Opening date: 12th Jan 2022, 9:00 AM

Fund Closing date: 18th Feb 2022, 5:00 PM

 Don’t hesitate to reach to Alex or Frank for help with Applications.

Join or Renew your Central Coast Food Alliance Membership for 202

Your financial support enables the Food Alliance to continue to deliver benefits for local Food and Beverage producers and foster the continued growth of the sector in the region.

Find our updated Membership and Sponsorship options HERE

Spread the word to other local Food and Business businesses you think would benefit from joining our diverse, supportive and high-effective Food & Beverage network!

Follow the Central Coast Food Alliance on LinkedIn HERE to keep up-to-date with industry news, insights, events, etc.

 Don’t forget to tag @Central Coast Food Alliance in your LinkedIn posts, so we can share your Business or professional updates with the CCFA network.

Central Coast Food Alliance- Newsletter- September 2021

By | News | No Comments

Sanitarium Health Food Company & Mackillop Catholic College collaborate to inspire Year 11 Food Technology Students

As a first for the Central Coast RIEP and Catholic School Broken Bay Diocese, on 24th August a virtual Food Technology presentation was delivered as a co-curriculum project between Sanitarium Health Food Company and Mackillop Catholic College at Warnervale.

Miss Eliza Baird, Dietitian at Sanitarium Health Food Company, generously shared her time and knowledge with 19 home based students from the school’s Year 11 Food Technology class, exploring aspects of the science of nutrition and the different roles Dietitians can play within the food system.

Mackillop Catholic College, Food Technology teacher, Ms Kerrie Pearce, collaborated with Miss Baird to create content for the workshop with the aim of bringing the Food Technology curriculum to life and inspiring the students to continue their studies in Food Science. The students have been investigated the basic chemical structure, function and food sources for essential nutrients and Miss Baird was able to explain how nutrients do and don’t work together in the context of familiar products.

“I thought that was cool considering I consume one of their So Good milks on a daily basis, so learning the reasoning behind why they add in Calcium to the product was cool” said one of the Food Technology students.

The students also valued an insight into the ‘day in the life’ of a Dietitian and by discussing different types of roles and places Dietitians could work, students gained new knowledge around food industry career pathways.

The Regional Industry Education Partnerships program supports the Catholic Diocese Broken Bay Partnerships Program (led by Shana Kuziow and Kylie Bailey on the Central Coast) and collaboratively creates connections between industry and secondary schools to support students in planning their future career pathways. Businesses or Schools wanting to learn more about the program should visit the RIEP website HERE or contact Jillian Williams, Central Coast RIEP Officer at 0447 331 399 or

Mars Food has partnered with Foodbank in a program that will provide 600,000 meals to Australians in need this year

Berkeley Vale-based, Mars Food Australia will donate 175,000 bottles of DOLMIO, MASTERFOODS and KANTONG Sauces, which will be manufactured specifically for food relief organisation Foodbank and supplied each quarter.

Demand for food relief provided by Foodbank Australia increased by 47% last year, with three out of 10 Australians facing food insecurity.

Mars Food GM, Bill Heague said the company is committed to helping ease the country’s growing hunger crisis.

“Last year we delivered 265,700 meals to people in need, but the pandemic made food insecurity an even bigger issue in our society, and we knew we could do more”, said Mr Heague.

Family-owned Mars Food is committed to delivering 25 million meals to people in need worldwide by 2025. Here in Australia that means one million meals for Australians by the end of 2021. The new Foodbank partnership will deliver 60 per cent of this goal.

Read more about the initiative in Inside FMCG

Mars Food and Sanitarium Health Food Company are just two of many organisations – large and small – working to tackle food insecurity here on the Coast.

If you’re keen to make a difference, reach out to us at CCFA or contact Foodbank to explore ways you can help.

New Member Profiles

Crickets & Co

Mikkel Overgaard established his container-based insect farm at Bensville in 2020 and having already built momentum selling crickets to the Pet-trade, Mikkel now has plans to scale up and diversify into insects for human food.

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.


Fusing great flavour with sustainability principles, Seaweedery founder Natalie Kalinova is developing solutions to transform seafood processing waste into tasty, versatile and nutritious food products, including prawn oil and seaweed vinegar

Home Ground


Based at Empire Bay, founders Deiniol and Dallas are passionate about the Coast and supporting local producers and artisan makers. They launched their range of gift boxes in August, which include high quality food and beverage products sourced ONLY from small and medium producers on the Central Coast.

Want to become a Mentor or Mente

CCFA can help support your professional and business development or explore ways to leverage your capability and experience to support others.

What’s in it for Mentees –

  • Exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking
  • Guidance on professional development and support to build capability
  • Increased visibility and connections within the industry network
  • Support to accelerate business problem solving


Benefits for Mentors –

  • Recognition as a subject matter expert and leader
  • Exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches
  • Development of personal leadership and coaching capabilities
  • Opportunity for self-reflection and personal satisfaction

Reach out to Alex or Frank learn more about becoming or finding a Mentor

James Brown announced as the ‘Australian Farmer of the Year’ 2020-21

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Third-generation pearl farmer, James Brown of Pearls of Australia, is the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural 2020-21 Australian Farmer of the Year. James is also the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Innovation, sponsored by Telstra.

James, together with his family, farm for pearls across two operations: Cygnet Bay, north of Broome, and at the Broken Bay Pearl Farm on the NSW Central Coast.James is a driving force not only within his own farming enterprise which has expanded under his leadership, but also within the Australian pearling industry via his dedication to research and development and advancing Australian pearls as a premium product around the world.“Our family has been pearling since the 1950s and while it hasn’t always been easy, farming is in my blood and to know I can make a difference in the industry, and ensuring it has longevity and stability, means everything to me,” James said.

The award comes after a tumultuous decade for our nation’s pearl industry, which has suffered the effects of an aquatic disease, several natural disasters and COVID-19.

Ben White, General Manager of Research at Kondinin Group, said it was James’ forward-thinking approach to farming and ‘never give up’ attitude that impressed the Judges and secured him with the award wins.“James has a strong family farming legacy behind him but it is clear that he is crafting his own way forward in farming,” Ben said.“Pearling is a valuable agricultural industry in Australia. We commend James on his innovative work ethic and outstanding determination to forge a path for the survival of his business and for the sustainability of the industry as a whole.”

James has a deep passion for the marine environment, studying Marine Biology at James Cook University before returning to the family pearl farm, Cygnet Bay, and taking over the helm in 2000. James has since purchased the majority shareholding of Broken Bay Pearl Farm on the NSW Central Coast, bringing his innovative approach to Australia’s ‘newest’ pearling region located one hour north of Sydney.

It is James’ affinity with the marine environment that has provided him with the knowledge and tools to confront the challenges the pearl industry has faced over the last two decades.“Between 2007-2009, the pearl industry encountered a bio-security challenge in the form of a suspected virus. Over a decade later, we still do not know what the causative agent is, but it is most likely an artefact of significant sea surface temperature increase,” James said.“Add to that the Global Financial Crisis restricting traditional wholesale markets upon which Australian pearl farmers depend, and we witnessed the demise of many pearling companies. The industry was really suffering. To experience production and market failure at the same time was an extremely challenging point in my life.”

James’ approach was inspired. Instead of folding the family farm, he committed to diversifying their operation, prioritised and invested in research, and developed innovative strategies for survival.


“During 2009 we opened up the family farm to not only share our family’s pioneering farming story, but to bring awareness around the ancient connection between Australia’s First Nation people and pearl shell,” James said.“This gave the public an opportunity to experience a fully-operational, commercial pearl farm, meet the many people behind the process, and have the chance to purchase pearls farm-direct. It allowed us to achieve full vertical integration while raising consumer knowledge of the Australian pearling industry and its incredible cultural heritage, as well as increasing tourism in the Kimberley region.“Ultimately, it helped us connect directly with consumers and position Australian pearls as the unique and premium product they are.”

James also introduced a new seafood product to market—the Akoya Pearl Oyster.“We found a niche market with this new pearl oyster, which is incredibly fresh and tender, and it has proved really popular.”

Another key part of James’ sustainability plan was to deepen scientific understanding of the environment in which he operated. Particularly in relation to the major disease outbreak during 2006-2007 which saw mass juvenile pearl oyster mortality syndrome (JPOMS), supressed growth rates of oysters and the eventual reduction in the quality and value of pearl crops.

During 2009 James founded the Kimberley Marine Research Station (KMRS), which is an operational marine science hub for independent research on the Kimberley bioregion. The KMRS facilitates numerous monitoring projects and experiments for various marine species including Kimberley corals and rock oysters.

In addition to the KMRS, James has supported research into the un-named virus that has affected the pearling industry. James has been a major contributor and collaborator in the development of an industry recovery research program involving the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) involving Cygnet Bay Pearls (WA), Autore Pearling (Northern Territory, formerly Ellies Pearling) and James Cook University.

The project’s objective is breeding pearl shell in specifically designed hatchery facilities to increase resistance to JPOMS while gathering essential knowledge to instigate a selective breeding program targeting resistance. National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said James’ resilience and innovative thinking stood out to this year’s judging panel for the ABC Rural and Kondinin Group award.

Dr Ben Gursansky, Head of Rural and Regional Affairs at Telstra, said James’ innovative attitude to farming, and in particular his approach to the bio-security challenges his industry has faced, were incredibly impressive.“James has survived the highs and lows of pearl farming and is now taking his business to a whole new level with his resourceful management,” Dr Gursansky said.

“James demonstrates the importance of diversification and innovation in farming and reminds us how thinking outside the box can not only transform a business but facilitate sustainable change within an entire agricultural sector.”

The strength and fortitude that James has shown in his farming was put to the test during March 2021, with his NSW Broken Bay Pearl Farm suffering considerable damage due to the well-publicised floods.


“Our farm took a serious hit during the March floods, with the force of the water damaging infrastructure and the change in water conditions flowing downstream impacting our oysters,” James said.“But we are optimistic that we can restore the farm and ensure our oysters are in the best environment again. We won’t let it get us down.”

James is the 11th winner of the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural Australian Farmer of the Year award. The annual awards program has been running since 2010 and continues to recognise excellence in farming and farming communities across rural and regional Australia. The 2020-21 Awards are supported by Platinum Sponsor WFI.


For more information on the Awards, please visit

For more information on Pearls of Australia, please visit

Local Food industry representatives visit Star Scientific to explore the potential of their HERO® product.

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As part of the involvement of Central Coast Industry Connect (CCIC) with NewH2, the newly named Hunter Hydrogen Technology Cluster, CCIC engaged with Star Scientific to look at the opportunity of their HERO® technology being applied to the local Industry.  In simple terms HERO® takes hydrogen and oxygen and introduces these two elements to a catalyst product developed by Star Scientific to create heat and water.

Star Scientific wanted to explore what opportunities existed for their technology within the Industrial process area and particularly in the food industry. They had received a number of enquiries about their process from the Food industry from various parts of the world. They approached CCIC to “connect” to the major food processors and manufacturers in the region via their food cluster, Central Coast Food Alliance, as they wanted to work locally to initiate and pilot their technology in this sector.

As a result, on Wednesday 5th May a group of representatives from the local food industry, made up of CEOs, engineers, sustainability managers and project engineers, along with a representative from the Newcastle Institute of Energy and Resources (NIER) and Food Innovation Australia Ltd (FIAL), attended a demonstration of HERO®, and a presentation on the technology.  The group actively engaged in discussion on how the technology could be applied.

The visit generated a lot of interest and the participants went away charged with the task to identify the top two or three heat sources in their processes and then to pass these on to CCIC who will work with Star Scientific to identify a common source of heat amongst the businesses. This would then be used to develop a road map for piloting the technology to be presented back to the group by early June.

Ultimately it is hoped that some of these businesses will commit to a pilot which would then be put up to the state and federal governments for funding through their current and future grant programs.

Launch of refurbished food laboratories – 11th March

By | Events

Positioned to drive food innovation in the region, the University of Newcastle’s Central Coast campus has launched newly refurbished teaching and analytical Food Science laboratories.

With an investment of $1million, the original laboratories have been transformed with new workspaces, state-of-the-art teaching technology, and analytical and product development facilities.

The upgrade and expansion of the food labs, testing services, and industrial scale kitchen provides an innovation platform to drive industry-led product science research locally.

University of Newcastle Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Lee Smith said the new kitchen and laboratory facilities will allow the Faculty of Science to continue to produce high quality graduates for the local and international labour markets. 

“Presently, there are around 100 undergraduate students studying food science and human nutrition at Ourimbah campus. We’re very proud that over 90% of our food science graduates find employment within three months of completing their degree.

“Importantly, the kitchen has been redesigned to commercial food preparation standards to empower small, local food enterprises to trial and develop new product lines outside of normal teaching times,” Professor Smith said.

Executive Officer and Director at Central Coast Industry Connect, Frank Sammut, said the opening of the food science labs is another milestone in the journey of making the Central Coast a Food Innovation Region, giving an account of the progress made since its inception back in 2017. This included the establishment of the Central Coast Food Alliance as the vehicle for industry to engage and collaborate with each other, university and government.

“As an industry, we are fortunate that we have a facility like this Food Science school in the heart of our region. It provides a great opportunity for industry to do product development alongside staff and students at the campus, in modern well equipped laboratories.  

“It is also the source of our future talent and we need to continue to engage with the university to help shape its future investment in facilities, equipment and student programs to support our industry. To the University I thank you for the investment,” Mr Sammut said.

In the presence of food and beverage industry representatives, university staff and government agencies, the newly refurbished teaching and analytical labs were officially opened by the University of Newcastle’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, the  Dean of the Central Coast Campus, Dr Brok Glen, and Central Coast Industry Connect Executive Officer, Frank Sammut on Wednesday 11 March.

Central Coast Food Alliance “Building Networks event”

By | Events

Good roll-up to Central Coast Food Alliance ‘Building Networks’ event

The Central Coast Food Alliance held the first of its food industry ‘Building Networks’ event for 2020 in mid-February with over fifty food industry participants attending. The Alliance falls under the watchful eye of one of the region’s most trusted brands, ‘Central Coast Industry Connect’. “Just as Industry Connect is built on a foundation of collaboration, and strong networks, the ‘Building Networks’ event series for the Food Alliance allows food industry piers to build important relationships, expand knowledge, and develop opportunities,” said CCIC Executive Officer Frank Sammut.

The event was exclusively for business from the agriculture, food, beverage manufacturing and processing, and hospitality sectors including food support services. We heard from Peter Crane, Chair of the Central Coast Food Alliance on what has progressed since the inception of the Alliance, and more importantly, the type of support and opportunity the Alliance offers business and the sector at large.

A video presentation that the Alliance had made featuring Oz Tukka, producer of Australian native spices and oil products based at Redhead in Lake Macquarie was screened for the participants. Linda Dipper and Ray Kochel discovered bush foods 18 years ago and ended up buying the Oz Tukka business. In 2018 they were invited to attend the Fine Food Australia exhibition in Melbourne as part of the Flavours of NSW stand. “It is important that we tell the story of food. There are some amazing companies in the sector producing fantastic products, and it’s important that we highlight the talent in the sector, not to mention diverse range of career opportunities available” said Alliance General Manager, Dan Farmer.