According to the article, Unilever Australasia chairman Peter Slator told a Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Australia meeting that in the food and consumer products sector Australia was skilled and innovative in brand activation and marketing but the same could not be said of technological innovation.
"Australia will probably continue to be more of an importer of innovation, certainly in our industry, than it is an exporter - that's not necessarily a bad thing," said Slator.
He added that in 2001, Australia exported some A$6.7 billion (€3.84bn) in highly processed foods and imported around $6 billion worth of goods, leaving a net balance in the positive of just $700 million.
The Anglo-Dutch titan Unilever produces well-known brands including Lipton tea, Magnum ice creams and Birdseye frozen foods.
Factors quoted that play a role in the imbalance are the cost of manufacturing in Australia and the total supply chain costs given Australia's geographic location. "The Australian food industry has under-utilised assets because it had built up bigger capacity than needed, which acted as an anchor on innovation," said Slator.
Another factor 'acting against innovation' in Australian food manufacturing is that too many large companies are 'headed by expatriates who brought in innovation and knowledge from their parent companies outside'.