Putting a plate on the table
Food! Is there a simpler pleasure in life? North Queensland’s growing “foodie” community thinks not.
When it comes to food, locals have never had so much choice. There are more than 500 restaurants in Townsville and Cairns, not counting the food vans and pop-ups. There are more items at the grocery store, from prepared meals to exotic delicacies. Townsville boasts 19 public markets plus countless fetes and festivals, all offering local produce and homemade goodies.
“The food industry is a glorious mixture of customer experience, social connection, cooking techniques and digital technologies.”
The food industry, including hospitality and retail, employs 1.6 million Australians and it is an important employer in rural and regional areas. Agriculture employs 3.3 per cent of North Queensland’s total workforce and food services employs 6.7 per cent, a combined total of 10,000 local people.
The industry is segmented in a series of supply chains. First, it takes primary producers, who also need feed for their stock, fertiliser for their crops, and are subjected to the whims of Mother Nature. Locally, the Burdekin, Charters Towers and Hinchinbrook produce market fruit and vegetable, cattle, fish, sugar, rice and other grains.
It takes a logistics supply chain, which includes transport by road, rail, air and/or sea. That chain also includes warehouses, wholesalers, and distributors. The Townsville Port, the airports of Townsville and Cairns, as well as the rail network are three significant links in the local transport chains.
Once delivered, the raw ingredients are transformed, either through manufacturing, processing or packaging, another supply chain. It is then sold again, either to a restaurant or caterer, another food manufacturer or a grocery store, each one with its own supply chain. Those multiple supply chains are repeated over and over for each ingredient in a recipe. When it finally makes it to your table, the ingredients have been transformed and sold multiple times before they were even cooked. All of this is done in record time, as today’s consumer demands freshness, quality and taste.
Consumers also demand affordability, and the pressures between the various supply chains to meet competing demands at the lowest cost is mind boggling.
For some of us, food is more than a necessity. It is an indulgence. At a restaurant, a food festival or even sharing a special dish at home with friends, the food experience is a growing industry. From cook books to trending websites, specialty retailers, cooking courses and the more recent phenomena of Townsville Food Fiestas, the food industry is a glorious mixture of customer experience, social connection, cooking techniques and digital technologies. If enjoying food is a simple pleasure, the journey from paddock to plate is anything but.