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With its unique food system, this biz is championing senior nutrition and reigniting the love of eating

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With its unique food system, this biz is championing senior nutrition and reigniting the love of eating

“Transitioning from a homegrown success story to a new international market is challenging for most companies. Add to that the combination of a pandemic, an industry under scrutiny, and a highly vulnerable customer base – now there’s a challenge.

“My answer to anyone starting a business is to keep the product as the team’s primary focus, the advice we have held to when launching into this new market.”

Sam Bridgewater, founder of Pure Food Co.

Sam Bridgewater and Maia Royal founded The Pure Food Co in 2014 after witnessing his stepfather, Mark, struggle with food and nutrition while battling a major illness at an aged care facility. 

Sam felt that there had to be a better way to provide appropriate food for seniors or those suffering illnesses that combined taste and nutrition. He undertook extensive research and development to innovate a solution that combined higher levels of essential nutrients into beautiful meals and other snacks. 

And so Sam and his colleague were inspired to create a meal system that provided not only optimal nutrition but also good flavour and diversity to encourage seniors to continue eating enough volume. So at 28 years old, the team set out to solve that issue; that’s how The Pure Food Co was born in 2014 — an innovative food system tailored to the nutritional needs of seniors. Following significant growth and recognition within the NZ market, The Pure Food Co has launched in Australia, partnering with several sizeable aged care groups. 

The Pure Food Co offers pre-shaped food products presented in an engaging way to provide visually appealing, extremely nutritional pureed foods. Their product line also includes purees, designed for simple swallowing and created with the best local ingredients, all with protein as a vital component to help seniors with muscle maintenance and repair.

“Coming from backgrounds in banking and management consulting, it’s safe to say that my co-founder and I have had plenty of learnings – some the hard way! Food production and the complexities of this were very new territory for us, and ensuring that the food solution we were offering not only addressed the nutrition and taste problems we’d identified but was also economically sustainable for our customers was a key challenge we had to face from the outset. 

“Our solution not only had to compete with tight food budgets but deliver value well beyond this to get into networks and stay long term. Equally, we were doing very new territory from a market perspective. Fortifying foods the way we do wasn’t a ‘thing’ at the time, so we took a gamble, and it paid off; this was a critical turning point for us in creating true innovation. 

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The early days

“Initially, our approach focused on the healthcare space, and we are now partnered with almost all of New Zealand’s public hospitals. More recently, we’ve seen massive growth in the aged care sector, aligning with our mission to nourish the world’s seniors. 

“After starting production within a food innovation incubator in 2017, we built our production plant in Mt Wellington, which provided the scale we needed to fuel rapid growth. We entered the Australian market in 2019 and, despite the challenges of a pandemic soon after, have seen a significant impact with the business quintupling over the past year. 

“At present, we deliver around 3 million food experiences annually across these two markets, and we’re proud to be a multi-award-winning company with multi-award-winning innovations, most notably three-time category-winner of The New Zealand Food Awards including Supreme Winner in 2019, as well as The Deloitte Fast 50. 

Sam notes that gathering insight from important stakeholders was a vital technique for them from the start. 

“Engagement with Dietitians, Speech Pathologists, Operators (healthcare and elderly care), and, of course, the people who would consume our meals was critical during the research and product development phases. Because we invested heavily in researching with our relevant audience, we came to market with a product that delivered on the value propositions they wanted and needed, as well as the elements they didn’t know they needed but now love! 

Conducting product assessment: Knowing what the customer wants

Sam insists that getting the product right has, without a doubt, been essential to their marketing strategy. 

“If those foundations aren’t in place, there’s no opportunity to grow when customers need to see a positive outcome to justify the investment. As a result, the organic referral has been the biggest driver of growth for us since the beginning—kitchens and clinical teams that use the product move around providers and bring us with them. 

“We’ve constantly agitated for awareness and representation of the nutritional needs of seniors and, in recent years, haven’t been afraid to call out the problem. Recently, we’ve been looking closely at our social media approach as another avenue to drive customer leads, with LinkedIn being one of our priority channels. 

“We see this route as a great way to engage with not only operators that could directly become customers but also to increase overall consideration of the issue of senior nutrition. For example, we’ve recently launched a campaign on our social media channels aligning with notable Australian athletes to highlight the similarities in nutrition requirements between athletes and seniors and to tap into these athletes’ audiences to raise consideration of ageing nutrition amongst younger generations. 

“We conducted some research alongside the campaign, which found that despite health and wellness being a huge priority for the everyday Australian, very few had considered how this could look in later life, and changing this is a theme we’ll be looking at across the board when it comes to our marketing.”

When it comes to learning, Sam says that he has been caught in the trap of trying to do too much at one time in the past, which resulted in them getting laser-focused on key strategic priorities to grow the offering and the customer base in a way that’s aligned with their overarching mission. 

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“We still consider the day-to-day signing of a new customer or network as a significant moment; it’s a huge responsibility to implement a food system for residents and businesses and something that we don’t take lightly. 

“From our own first-hand experiences, we know just how important doing this the right way is for these residents and their families, so we never underestimate the task at hand.” 

Successfully launching into a new market 

“The Pure Food Co was inspired by a problem we identified on a personal and societal level. Put simply, no solution provides seniors with tasty, easy to eat and adequately nutritious foods while meeting the tight budgets of the public health system. Hailing from New Zealand, our focus naturally started there and saw us grow to a scale where we are implemented across nearly every public hospital and 100% of sizeable aged care networks. 

“However, the challenge is global, so in 2019 we began to launch into the Australian market. Throw a global pandemic in the mix, and you’ll see why it’s only now, in 2022, that we’re ready to talk about successfully launching into this market. 

“The Australian aged care sector is complex and highly scrutinised. With 50% of people entering senior care classified as malnourished in this country, it’s also an industry needing help. We saw an opportunity to meet the need that we had answered in New Zealand in this new market.” 

Lead with product 

Sam says his answer to anyone starting a business is to keep the product as the team’s primary focus, the advice we have held to when launching into this new market. 

“We needed to prove not only the efficacy of our product but also the affordability (working to tight budgets where many aged care facilities are required to feed their residents on around $12 a day, and often less) and practicality of our offering. In an industry already struggling to retain sufficient staffing, we need to provide a solution that makes carers’ lives easier, not harder. 

“The most important part of any product?”

“Ensuring it can get into the hands of those who need it. Key learning through the pandemic and beyond has been to ensure that we were clear, careful, and on the borderline of conservative regarding our supply chain to ensure product availability at all times. The trust operators place in us to implement their food systems is immense, and once this trust is broken, it would be extremely challenging to rebuild – regardless of the business you’re building.” 

“An organic referral is a huge driver of business growth and for many businesses looking to expand,” Sam continues.

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“Investing in a dedicated Country Manager that can engage directly with potential and current customers was crucial when it came to growing our presence in this new market, supported by ab diverse and highly skilled team focused on continuous improvement. 

“Remaining nimble and evolving how you communicate your business’s offering can make all the difference when changes to the macro environment arise. It’s no surprise that the pandemic has devastated the aged care sector and the priorities these already stretched teams are juggling. In our case, we saw that health was more important than ever across the board, and people considered the role diet plays in their wellbeing. 

“However, labour shortages meant our potential customers would not consider solutions that were difficult to implement. Communicating the benefit of our pre-packaged solution became an important message with the skills shortage in mind. When testing the waters in a new market, finding new and different ways to engage with your audience is vital. 

“While our core focus is aged care and hospital environments, speaking to a secondary market of those with loved ones in such facilities and pushing them to advocate for the seniors in their life is proving fruitful. 

“We recently launched a campaign across our social channels that focus on heroing the #grandfluencer in your life (the significant senior that’s made a difference for you); it’s a step in the right direction of getting these younger audience groups to consider the conversation of senior nutrition., and start to understand the realities of senior nutrition. 

“Overall, whether launching into a new market or driving growth in an existing territory, being able to measure success, improve conversion, and reduce any risk associated with implementing your product are crucial in driving success. There may not always be a pandemic creating challenges for your global expansion, but there’s sure to be a curveball around the corner, so prepare accordingly.”

More on The Pure Food co here.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

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The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

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Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

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Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

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