|Issue 58: 09 October 2009|
|Thursday, 08 October 2009|
"The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that aren't so.”
Food bites: Think packaging first!
"Most companies lack a strategy for packaging innovation. Product manufacturers need to turn the creative process on its ear by first creating a distinctive package and then leveraging it to drive product innovation. This approach brings about holistic thinking because the package is the product. The nation's leading product manufacturers are beginning to adopt this inverted way of thinking rather than use the traditional linear approach, in which the product is created first and then packaging concepts are considered–often in the realm of being an add-on."
Jeff George, vice president of R&D, Quaker Foods and Snacks, PepsiCo
Editor's Stuff - Time for Plan B on health claims
This is pretty damning and depressing stuff considering the huge R&D and marketing spend going into nutraceuticals and functional foods. Where to from here? The regulatory scientists are sceptical (health claims will also have to be fully substantiated under SA's new draft labelling regulations) and it's becoming apparent that many consumers are increasingly sceptical. The industry is now behoven to up its science and its game if it's to achieve the top-line nirvana inherent, but now looking a little more ephemeral, in health and well-being.
Here are three excellent articles on this topic. Enjoy this week's read!
Bad day at the EU health claims office
October 1 was not a good day for many in the functional foods and food supplements business in the European Union as the meaning of life under a highly restrictive health claims regime came more into focus. Read more
Taking the 'pro' out of probiotic
Can a strain of bacteria really improve our immunity? Damning EU research suggests not. Unfortunately for the industry, last week the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected about 350 claims made for a swathe of food products currently marketed as good for your health. Out of hundreds of "probiotic" strains of bacteria under consideration, not one was shown to improve gut health or immunity. Taurine, the amino acid added to energy and sports drinks, was not found to boost energy. Nor was there evidence to support the claim that glucosamine is beneficial for joints, although it is widely marketed as such. Read more
The fad for functional foods
From the eminent Economist magazine: "Over the past decade, the biggest trend in food marketing has been the shift towards organic, “natural” and even “whole” foods. Consumers in wealthier markets worldwide have demanded foods with minimal processing, in a state as close as possible to their natural one, in the fervent (and often mistaken) belief that such food is healthier for their bodies and for the planet. Ironically, this success is now prompting multinational food giants to accelerate investments in “functional” foods that are intentionally modified to make them healthier or more nutritious." Read more
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Nestle's dealings with Grace Mugabe's milk farm in Zimbabwe received global press coverage and – as can be expected these days – sped around the online social media circuit at the speed of light. So did the bread price fixing scandal. This article looks at reputation management, and what companies should be doing to mitigate impact. Read more
Jocobs is claimed by brand owner, Kraft, as South Africa’s fastest-growing pure soluble coffee brand. This month it has launched Jacobs Krönung Mild into the South African market. Read more
New Kellogg’s Chocorillas is a combination of two of South Africa’s favourite cereal brands – Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with Coco Pops. Read more
The price of sugar on global commodity markets has doubled since the beginning of the year and is close to a 28-year high as hedge funds and speculators jostle to bet on the possibility of an international shortage of the world's favourite natural sweetener. Read more
Lobby group, The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), has launched a million-dollar ad campaign designed to put an end to the "ridiculous fear mongering surrounding high fructose corn syrup". It will be communicating to the public what it says most experts already know ie that HFCS is nutritionally the same as other sweeteners like table sugar and honey. Read more
There's a growing trend towards "natural" cane sugar, and a shunning of the baddie, HFCS. As part of its campaign, the CCF has set up a very interesting and well-designed website outlining how various sugars are processed.
As the CCF says, sugar cubes don’t grow on trees. There’s a world of processing required to turn a beet growing in the ground, or a sugar cane stalk, into the granulated sugar that you put in coffee. Just how processed are common sugars? Here it outlines, step by step, the processes for making beet sugar, cane sugar, HFCS, and fruit juice concentrate. Take a look and judge for yourself which sugar is the most highly processed. You might be surprised. Read more
Kraft Foods has renamed its new Vegemite spread Vegemite Cheesybite after 30,000 consumers voted in online and telephone polls, following a national backlash against an earlier choice. The company has denied this has been a publicity stunt to name a new creamier version of the iconic spread Vegemite. Read more
Kraft has also acknowledged this exercise has again uncovered the danger of meddling with well-loved brands. Read more
Desperate times call for desperate measures. So says British supermarket Asda, which has slashed the price of its bananas to the lowest level in 14 years. While the supermarket claims the dramatic discount was motivated by altruistic intent – Asda sells two million kilograms of bananas a week - the potential ramifications of the decision could produce some hairy ethical questions.
Interestingly, bananas are the top-selling item in British grocery – the trade is worth nearly £600m per year. In terms of value, only petrol and lottery tickets outsell bananas in supermarkets. This means that banana prices have become a key weathervane, like the prices of traditional staples such as bread and milk, of supermarket prices in general. Read more
And still with Asda, the supermarket group has started to put webcams in its food factories as part of a series of moves to make the company more transparent.
One executive at a rival supermarket dismissed the idea as "a complete gimmick" but analysts said other chains would be forced to follow suit. Harry Foster, head of food at research company Mintel, said: "Over the last 18 months the trend for consumers to find out more about where their food has come from has become unstoppable." Read more
In a controversial advertising campaign by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that started this week, the UK food and health watchdog warns that more than three quarters of people (77%) are unaware that bread and breakfast cereals are among the daily foods that contribute most salt to the UK diet. Read more
Russia has begun a fresh round in its age-old battle against alcoholism, considering a law that would raise taxes on beer by 300% and ban its sale in the country's ubiquitious kiosks.
The industry and trade ministry has drafted the law, following last month's order by President Dmitry Medvedev for a range of measures to battle what he termed a "national disaster". The order followed a report by the Public Chamber, Russia's chief oversight body, that found alcohol contributed to some 500,000 deaths each year – a figure 16 times higher than that cited by federal health officials. Read more
Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), a joint venture between Nestlé and General Mills, has announced the creation of a new Innovation Center in Orbe, Switzerland.The investment of close to CHF 50 million underlines CPW’s strategic focus on nutrition, health, and wellness and will accelerate the company's development of innovative and nutritious breakfast cereals. Read more
Lovers of France's two great symbols of cultural exception — its haute cuisine and fine art — are aghast at plans to open a McDonald's restaurant and McCafé in the Louvre museum next month. Read more
Candylicious, the largest candy store in the world spanning over 10,000 sq ft was launched in Dubai. A brand new concept by Retail Is Detail, Candylicious opened its doors at the Dubai Mall. Read more
Coca-Cola will introduce in 2010 smaller cans that contain 90 calories, compared with the 12-ounce can that has 140 calories. "Americans are realising the importance of living an active, balanced and healthy lifestyle," said the president of Coca-Cola North America. "As a beverage industry leader, Coca-Cola is proud to do our part to help make it easier for people to achieve their goals." Read more
“As a Cadbury, I obviously feel particularly saddened by the possibility of one of the last remaining British icons disappearing into an American plastic cheese company. I cannot believe that something can’t be done for totally patriotic reasons.”
Felicty Loudon, whose grandfather Sir Egbert Cadbury was managing director of Cadbury Brothers, is aghast at the idea of the business falling into American hands and wants to mobilise family opposition. Read more
"JL Kraft invented process cheese to help feed our fighting men in World War One, during which I believe we yanked a few British and French keesters out of the fire. So Ms. Loudon should stow her insults and just politely say, 'Thank you'.”
James Dudlicek, Chief Editor, Dairy Foods/Dairy Field Reports, Deerfield, Illinois.
"About the insult levied at Kraft Foods by Felicity Loudon, the granddaughter of Egbert Cadbury, saying it would be an embarrassment for the proud Cadbury name "disappearing into an American plastic cheese company." Lady, put down the silver spoon for a minute and listen up — no one on this side of the Atlantic says squat when British companies come shopping for US assets because it's a global marketplace and it's business. So just chill out and get ready to stuff a little more cash into the family coffers. If Cadbury were so superior to Kraft (whether you admit it or not, a great marketer), then why aren't YOU buying THEM? Plastic cheese? Please . . ."
Bob Messenger, publisher of The Morning Cup
Carbs - they are every dieters nightmare, but it seems we simply can't resist them, as new research from Mintel highlights Britain's insatiable appetite for pasta, rice and noodles. Over the past five years, sales of this energetic trio have increased a recession busting 41% as this year British consumers are set to munch their way through £1.4 billion pounds worth of the stuff. Read more
National Chocolate Week starts in the UK on Monday 12 October and there is a sweet smell of success in the air for the nation's chocolate industry, as latest research from Mintel's Global Market Navigator (GMN) finds that Britons spend more on chocolate than any other country in Europe. Indeed, despite the recession, the UK consumed a button popping, belt straining £3.5 billion worth of chocolate last year. Only Germany, with over 20 million more people, came close to the United Kingdom spend with £3.4 billion in 2008. Read more
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Those are the seven simple words author Michael Pollan advocates as the "short answer" to how people should eat "to be maximally healthy".
While there certainly could be some debate on the "appropriate" amount of meat and dairy to consume in relation to plants, Pollan's advice to eat fewer processed foods and more whole, fresh foods is one on which most all likely would agree. The parting of ways for agriculture, however, comes when the discussion turns to "how" food should be produced and "by whom".
Pollan regularly criticises today's "industrialized agriculture" for the production of such things as "industrial meat" that "exposes us to more saturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids, growth hormones and carcinogens". In fact, he believes "meat offers good proof of the proposition that healthfulness of a food cannot be divorced from the health of the food chain that produces it".
Pollan also claims industrial meat production is notoriously brutal to animals and extravagantly wasteful of resources such as water, grain and antibiotics. US farmers, on the other hand, are tiring of the attacks on their livelihood and are increasingly taking issue with Pollan's way of thinking. Largely, farmers resent how Pollan paints their industry with such broad brush strokes and chooses to scare people about their food.
Pollan was recently at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to speak about his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. He also is author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and his work is the basis of the controversial movie "Food Inc." Read more
Pollan writing in The New York Times: "Earlier this year I began gathering examples of these healthy food rules, or personal food policies, for a short book I’m publishing in January. My premise is that for all the authority we grant to science in matters of nutrition, culture still has a lot to teach us about how to choose, prepare and eat food, and that this popular wisdom is worth preserving — perhaps today more than ever, in this era of dazzling food science, supersize portions and widespread dietary confusion.
"In March, I posted a request for readers’ rules about eating on Well, Tara Parker-Pope’s health blog on nytimes.com. Within days, I received more than 2,500 responses. My aim was to collect genuinely useful, and nutritionally sound, examples of popular wisdom about eating. I found some for my book, but I also found something else — a banquet of food policies that even when they made little, if any, nutritional sense (and therefore didn’t belong in the book) nevertheless opened a window on our current thinking about food: the stories we tell ourselves, the games we play and the taboos we invoke to organize our eating lives.
"Some of the rules have stood the test of time and have been confirmed by science, but all of them have something to teach us about our continuing efforts to pick a healthful and happy path through the minefields of the modern-food marketplace or restaurant menu. Click here to see the rules.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a US consumer advocacy group that tracks food safety issues, has compiled a list of 10 common foods responsible for a large number of outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. The top 10 foods account for 1,500 separate outbreaks accounting for about 50,000 cases of food poisoning, some of which ended in long-term disability and death.
The list comes from the group’s database of outbreaks, compiled from state and federal government reports, scientific articles and news reports. The list only focuses on foods overseen by the Food and Drug Administration, so it doesn’t include meats, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read more
Stephanie Smith, 22, was left paralyzed in 2007 after eating a burger tainted by E coli. New York Times reporter, Michael Moss, while acknowledging that her reaction to the virulent strain of E coli was extreme, tracked the journey of this contaminated beef and found that “eating ground beef is still a gamble”. Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe, he writes. Read more
A select band of scientists have found themselves in the media spotlight in the past fortnight as the latest winners of a prize for discoveries celebrated the world over. No, not the Nobel Prize, which is increasingly awarded for advances that barely anyone apart from the winners can understand. When it comes to making headlines, that most prestigious of prizes now routinely loses out to the far more entertaining and accessible Ig Nobel prizes given for research which “First makes people laugh and then makes them think".
Some of winning research uncovered that if you name your cows they make more milk, whether it's more damaging to be hit upside the head with a full bottle of beer or an empty one, and that panda poop will make your compost heap the envy of the neighbourhood? Another lauds the brassiere that can be turned into a gas mask (pictured).
Of local interest, the MATHEMATICS PRIZE was awarded to Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000). Read more
And illustrating just how lucky are we South Africans who love a wee tipple, comes news that the average price of a pint of beer in the UK has climbed over the £3 barrier (± R35) for the first time in parts of Britain, according to research. Read more