Latest Food News

Food Bites 2012

Read more ...A day after Kraft split, CEO Irene Rosenfeld shares observations

Speaking the day after she split Kraft Foods into two separate publicly-traded companies - a global snacks business named Mondelez International and a North American grocery business called Kraft Foods Group - CEO Irene Rosenfeld shared her insights from the split at the Fortune 'Most Powerful Women' Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

"The word snacks tends to have a negative connotation... We've looked at product portfolio, we've looked at the ingredient profiles of the offerings we have today - sugar, calories, salt - and have looked at opportunity to lower those and add back nutrients, vitamins, whole grains, for example. We're very focused on package sizes, portion controls. And we've been looking at continuing to address both calories in and calories out."

"Snacking is a growing global behaviour. More and more women are working, consumers are on the go in virtually every market around the world. The growth in nontraditional food consumption is a growing trend and we believe we're well-positioned in terms of the brands we've got and the categories we compete in."

Fortune's Stephanie Mehta, who was interviewing the Mondelez CEO, pointed out that she was the magazine's No 1 most powerful woman on its 2011 list, but by splitting the company and reducing the scale of her kingdom, she'd knocked herself off that top perch. Her retort played to the crowd:

"As a woman, I don't have to tell you size is not everything. So many of of my male colleagues have been so bothered about 'How could you make your empire smaller, not larger?' But we saw the opportunity to create two great companies from the beginnings of one and I'm pleased by the reaction we've gotten from the market."

They said it this week...

... on a humble cuppa

THERE is now an overwhelming body of research from around the world indicating that drinking tea can enhance human health. The many bioactive compounds in tea appear to impact virtually every cell in the body to help improve health outcomes, which is why the consensus emerging is that drinking at least a cup of green, black, white or oolong tea a day can contribute significantly to the promotion of public health.

Jeffrey Blumberg, professor of nutrition science at Tufts University, Boston

... on McDonald's calorie disclsoure

I suspect other companies will follow McDonald’s move, but it won’t benefit them as much. For McDonald's, it builds the brand's perception of being a leader in terms of transparency. It isn’t clear that disclosing calorie information impacts eating habits, so McDonald’s isn’t taking a major risk.

Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

... on food expiry dates

THE expiration date is not an indication of safety. You can have a product that just hit the store that has a pathogen in it. But that’s because of mistakes in processing or handling, not because it went past its date ... People freak out about milk when it goes beyond its expiration date. I don’t think they should, because if it’s pasteurized, that kills all the bacteria that could make people sick. If you go back and look at (Centers for Disease Control) data, you will hardly ever find someone got sick because they ate food past its expiration date.

Fadi Aramouni, professor of food science, Kansas State University

... on food safety audits

AUDIT reports are only useful if the purchaser or food producer reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results. So companies who blame the auditor or inspector for outbreaks of foodborne illness should also blame themselves.

Doug Powell, professor of food safety, Kansas State University

... on buying organic food

THE fact is that buying organic baby food, a growing sector, is like paying to send your child to private school: It is a class-driven decision that demonstrates how much you love your offspring but whose overall impact on society is debatable ... The organic ideology is an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype. There is a niche for it, if you can afford to shop at Whole Foods, but the future is non-organic.

Roger Cohen, columnist, writing in the New York Times

Read more ...

Sustainability the only successful business model

Initiatives in sustainability have been shown to substantially improve brand equity and forge strong ties with consumers ... what exactly do I mean w

hen I say 'sustainability'? Expressions like 'eco-friendly' and 'going green' have certainly made their presence felt, even on a day-to-day basis, but they have been applied to such a wide range of products and practices that their definitions have become a bit ambiguous.

For me, sustainability has always been just as much a process as it is a quality; it entails the entire life cycle and supply chain of a product, which I believe should be cyclical and not a linear straightaway to the landfill (ie cradle-to-cradle, not cradle-to-grave).

By conceptualising sustainability as a process rather than simply as a fixed value, you can broaden your (and your consumers’) perspective of a given product. To put it bluntly, pulling information from every aspect of your product - from gathering raw materials to production to post-consumption - will facilitate creating a clear and comprehensive sustainability statement to satisfy your customers - not to mention attract new ones.

... Want to attractive new costumers, don’t tell consumers that your product IS eco-friendly, tell them WHY it is eco-friendly.

Tom Sazky, Packaging Digest, read more

GM food? I ain't losing any sleep over it

I DON'T SIT here and ponder hours-on-end about the pros and cons of GM foods. Because I have yet to actually see research that says genetically-modified food is the bogeyman in America's food cupboard. But I have seen research that says GM food is safe to consume. Even FDA says it.

So, who to believe? I can only speak for myself, but I generally tend to side with the guys who at least have some evidence on their side of the table. What do the anti-GM followers in loony California, which has the infamous Prop 37 on its November ballot, bring up as the proof that sustains their arguments? Emotion. Protests. Threats. And if you mention the pro-GM research, they quickly brand it as 'outdated' 'misleading' and 'paid for by Big Food'.

Well, it may be all of that, who knows, but I know which side has bullets in its gun and which one is firing blanks. But what's the big deal anyway, we've all been eating GM foods for years, and, OMIGOD! we're all still alive!. I'm just saying...

Bob Messenger, Editor, The Morning Cup

There are a lot of new breeding technologies today that don’t use GM food. You can do a lot of things without GM. GM per se is not a golden bullet, but may be an interesting tool in the box.

We [Nestlé] have a very simple way of looking at GM: listen to what the consumer wants. If they don’t want it in products, you don’t put it in them.

Hans Johr, corporate head of sustainable agriculture at Nestlé: read more

Read more ...Let's not race to the bottom.

WE know that industrialists seek to squeeze every penny out of every market. We know that competitors want to drive their costs to zero so that they will be the obvious commodity choice. And we know that many that seek to unearth natural resources want all of it, fast and cheap and now.

We can eliminate rules protecting clean water or consumer safety. We can extort workers to show up and work harder for less, in order to underbid a competitor. We can take advantage of less sophisticated consumers and trick them into consuming items for short-term satisfaction and long-term pain. These might be painful outcomes, but they're an direct path to follow. We know how to do this.

In our connected world, commodity producers are under intense pressure. The price of anything that's made to a spec, or that responds to an RFP, is instantly known by all buyers. That means that there's an argument made by big corporations for each country to charge corporations the lowest possible tax rate, to loosen environmental regulations down to zero, and to eliminate employee protections. All so that a country's commodity producers can be the cheapest ones.

I know we can do that. There's always the opportunity to cut a corner, sacrifice lifestyle quality and suck it up as we race to grab a little more market share. You might make a few more bucks for now, but not for long and not with pride. Someone will always find a way to be cheaper or more brutal than you.

The race to the top makes more sense to me. The race to the top is focused on design and respect and dignity and guts and innovation and sustainability and yes, generosity when it might be easier to be selfish. It's also risky, filled with difficult technical and emotional hurdles, and requires patience and effort and insight. The race to the top is the long-term path with the desirable outcome.

Sign me up.

Seth Godin, US management and marketing guru

Read more ...On food additives and children

"Some children may be susceptible to some additives and other children to different things. It is notoriously difficult to assess whether additives really affect behaviour because there are so many other confounding factors that would have to be taken into account: things like low blood sugar, tiredness and whether they had been subject to psychological stress in the time frame of the study.

"Asking parents to assess their children can additionally introduce the element of bias — all these factors make it very hard to look at the effect of particular additives in isolation."

Judy More, UK paediatric dietician

Read more ...Tapping in to food folklore and tradition

WE have been brainwashed into thinking that we should only listen to men in white coats in science labs because their knowledge is 'evidence-based'.

But these are the same people who told us that eggs were bad for us and that margarine with artery-clogging trans-fats was healthier than butter. They have not earned our blind trust. Traditional food knowledge is based on the collective experience of diverse societies down the centuries. We would be stupid to ignore it.

Increasingly, research is backing up this folk knowledge. For instance, raw Manuka honey has been shown to be remarkably effective in healing wounds and is thought to be effective against certain infections, such as MRSA, that show resistance to commonly used antibiotics. Unpasteurised milk has proved useful in reducing childhood asthma. Fermented foods, such a yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut that feature in traditional diets, have been demonstrated to be good for the gut.

Joanna Blythman, a British investigative food journalist, wants to dispel the myth that eating well
is the preserve of the "neurotic rich".
Read more

Read more ...The year that protein reached its tipping point

FOR over a decade suppliers of protein have wrestled – unsuccessfully - with how to take protein away from its association with the body-building market and win more mainstream acceptance for protein-fortified foods and beverages.

After many years of waiting, at last awareness of protein is beginning to rise, helped by several boosts to protein’s image as a valuable part of a diet that helps people manage their weight....

The next year will see dairy protein gain ground even more, driven by:

  • a change in the scientific test methods for protein, which show that dairy protein is much better absorbed by the human body than other types of protein, giving dairy a big marketing advantage

  • major dairy companies, such as Arla, introducing new forms of protein which are clinically proven to be rapidly absorbed by the human body, thus making them even more effective.

Tipping points are often subtle things and this is no exception. This trend will continue but it will evolve slowly. The wisest companies will take action now.

Julian Mellentin; editor-in-chief, New Nutrition Business. Read more

Read more ...

How radical sustainability can save your business!

... OUR marketplace is defined by Radical Sustainability, meaning expectations for transparency, sustainability, and social impact have never been higher - or more important for long-term, enduring customer relationships and business success.

Leadership for this new age requires a fundamental shift in our entire business paradigm. We need to look at and understand whole systems, not just single-purpose cause marketing programs. And to win, we’ll need to deliver on three naked truths: true transparency, true cost accounting, and true consumer relationships.

... In the end, the naked truth is that we’re ready for a new paradigm that’s designed to transcend the inherent conflict between a growing economy and the limits of our planet’s natural resources. If that means moving from resource scarcity and consumer compromises to regeneration, resilience, and ever-expanding creativity and community, getting naked is starting to look pretty good.

Raphael Bemporad and Jeffrey Hollender writing in Fast Company

Read more ...Who is responsible for obesity? Really?

A Big Mac meal is a perfectly nutritious meal, containing plenty of protein, vitamins, minerals and calories - yes, we do actually need to get our bodily energy from somewhere. Equally, sugary drinks also provide energy. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Admittedly, if you decide to bombard your body with gallons of sickly sweet sugary drinks, there is an increased risk of buggering up your body’s system of dealing with sugar - through the production of insulin - but there is no problem with drinking sugary soda in moderation. Its critics also seem to forget that Coca-Cola produces many increasingly popular sugar-free drinks, too. Diet Coke is now the No.2 selling soft drink in the US.

Big corporations adapt to changing consumer demand or they stop being big corporations.

Rob Lyons of Spiked Online takes on the food police: read more

Read more ...The four gorillas in the room

These are: the current rate of population growth is unsustainable; the amount of arable land is essentially at its limit or decreasing; the amount of non-saline water is pretty much at its limit; and the western levels of energy consumption are not sustainable.

Everything that we do, whether during our careers, our children’s careers, our grandchildren’s careers, is going to be influenced by those four things in big, big ways.

USDA agriculturalist/biologist, Craig Morris

Read more ...Our standby mealtime companion

TODAY, social technology has displaced the newspaper, magazine, TV and people as a preferred mealtime companion. When you consider that 45% of all adult eating occasions are alone and 39% of consumers engage in social media while eating, you get a sense of the marketing potential for engaging consumers at mealtime...

Eating occasions are now social media occasions. As our standby meal companion, whether eating alone or with family or friends, anyone connected with the food industry should take note that social media is changing food culture by changing the way consumers discover, learn, share and experience food. With the clicks of their fingers, social technology changes how we plan, buy, cook and eat food. Social technology is a tool for you create a personable relationship with your consumers.

The Hartman Group on our rapidly changing food culture, read more

Can bad food witch become good food fairy?

BUT maybe the food industry can re-nature products. Maybe it can make the best of the food we care about — whole grains, fibre, and vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — convenient and accessible. Sure, it’s unlikely. But not impossible.

If technology, scale, industrialisation and relentless marketing have been the forces of nutritional evil, maybe they can be the forces of nutritional salvation. The food industry, pretty much everyone recognises, has a lot to answer for. Some forward-looking companies are already beginning to find some of the answers — and more need to follow.

Corby Kummer, US foodie writer and food industry critic

Fragmentation and change on the food landscape...

AS is often the case with significant new market shifts, the leadership and the best pointers towards success are coming from entrepreneurial companies, rather than from global giants. Management at the biggest companies has expectations of high sales, rapid growth – and a self-damaging impatience with anything that fails to get past their perception of being 'too weird' or 'too niche'. There are too many senior executives who have failed to appreciate two significant shifts in the world of food that are both creating opportunities – while also threatening to slowly erode established business models.

Editorial in New Nutrition Business, on new food distribution success stories; read more

Read more ...From McDonald's and Heinz...

…innovation does not have to be rocket science
WE'RE in the food business, not rocket science. But we’ve sold one billion packs of Dip & Squeeze [new product format for foodservice]. We didn’t meddle with the formula [of Heinz ketchup]; look what happened with New Coke. We just changed the delivery mechanism. It’s going back to what our founder said - doing the common thing uncommonly well.

Dr Michael Okoroafor, VP global packaging innovation and execution, Heinz

McDonald’s on why it ditched lean finely textured beef…

IT is perfectly safe, but there was a bad perception about it and we decided to stop using it. There is more to selling than just science. If people don’t want it, there is a reason to take it out. Maybe it sounds cowardly but this was a business decision.

Dr Brinda Govindarajan, director scientific affairs and policy, McDonald’s

Read more ...Business only has two functions: innovation and marketing!

LIKE most of my peers in the marketing industry, I get inventors and clever thinkers contacting me with something new they have developed. Their stories are all the same: "We can't get any of the big stores to stock it," or "We can't find anyone to make it."

What they are finding out the hard way is that in business today the big idea is the easy part. Getting the consumer to buy something, however, takes a lot of marketing. And the more unique the product, the more marketing it needs. And the more unknown its brand name, the more marketing it needs. And marketing today costs a lot of money.

The result is that hundreds of thousands of great product ideas end up on the scrapheap or gathering dust in the inventor's garage. The big lesson one generally learns from failed new products is that when marketing is missing, so is success. There are exceptions, but these are
extremely rare.

Chris Moerdyk, corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator Read more

Read more ...The rise and rise of perishables and fresh food

...AN aggregate shift away from packaged food began long before now and even long before the recession began. If we look at the volumetric trends from 2003 until 2009, we see that fresh food (raw fruits, raw vegetables, grains) have been steadily growing while packaged food (everything in a package) has been steadily, inexorably declining.

While most companies would look for category-level causes for volumetric decline in big packaged food categories, the problem is really cultural: food culture is changing in a long-term manner that packaged food companies have yet to truly accept.

The shift towards fresh food is one that we know from field research is going on at all ends of the socioeconomic spectrum because cooking with fresh foods offers struggling consumers a stronger value proposition than spending extra money on convenient packaged food solutions and the growing desire for healthier meal experiences composed of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains casts most packaged foods in a poor light for more educated consumers.

Packaged food companies need to find ways to use their existing cash to broaden their portfolios to include more fresh food experiences and new trademarks that can credibly promote them.

The real opportunity is in fresh, packaged foods. What we call the Third Grocery Sector. This is the sector driving phenomenal growth in yoghurt, hummus, refrigerated meal components, etc. And we find it to be largely a world of small independent producers who have a better alignment with long-term food culture trends, unfortunately, than many of the largest packaged food companies in the world.

James Richardson, Senior Vice President, The Hartman Group, read more

Read more ...

Snacking is it!

WE'VE been talking to our customers a lot about snacks during the past five years because we've seen consumer behaviour change so much. They've redefined what a snack is. People used to think a snack was chips, cookies or crackers. Now snacks are beverages, mini-meals or three items on a tray.

Research shows that a portion of the population has stopped eating three meals a day and gone to five small snacks, which has huge implications for the food and beverage industry... Whether you are in foodservice or retail, you have to understand the consumers you are targeting and understand those snacking dayparts. As a marketer, I find it incredibly exciting and there are so many opportunities.

Kim Holman, director of marketing, Wixon Foods, Wisconsin

The power of Jane Doe

BLOGGER Bettina Siegel should become the Poster Girl for what can happen when the food industry gets blindsided by criticism it never saw coming. Siegel, not a scientist, not a food industry guru, but a consumer with her own blog who was first to broadcast her disgust with so-called "lean finely textured beef" (aka pink slime), and who gathered a quarter-million signatures on a petition against the ingredient.

That's power right there, when a veritable Jane Doe can round-up 250 000 people to join a fight against a food ingredient that virtually anyone with a food science degree can tell you is quite safe to consume.

Proof again that what drives the marketplace is perception; anyone who banks on facts to drive an argument with consumers is doomed to lose it.

Bob Messenger, US food industry observer and publisher of The Morning Cup

Read more ...

Science, the media and an undiscerning public!

THE lean finely textured beef (LFTB) debacle that's played out over the past weeks demonstrates the dominance of media bias, public relations spin and the power of blogs and social media over science.  Because of the way the issue has been framed, anyone from the scientific community or anyone at all who tries to interject facts into the discussion is put in the position of defending “pink slime”.

Most retailers and restaurants have bowed to consumer pressure and announced that they will no longer use LFTB. Unfortunately, they have little choice. The issue has become so sensationalised that consumers are demanding that it be removed from ground beef.

This issue hit home because we understand how the product has been misrepresented. We can see how the misrepresentations may cause irreparable damage to the manufacturers of LFTB and result in the loss of jobs. The issue is a setback for food safety and beef industry as a whole.

Dr James Marsden, Distinguished Professor of Food Safety and Security, Kansas State University

Read more ...Red meat is bad for you? Burger off!

WHAT is really striking is that the eat-meat-die-young panic keeps rearing its ugly head so regularly, based on study after study with equally feeble risk ratios and numerous confounding factors.

This suggests that the constant desire to scare those of a carnivorous bent has little to do with the evidence – which is shakier than a cow with BSE – and more to do with the prejudices of those who want us all to live a less red-blooded lifestyle. The particular desire to promote lentil-munching over hot dogs and burgers rather suggests a general sniffiness towards mass-produced food, too.

The most accurate answer to the question of whether red meat and processed meat are bad for you is this: we just don’t know. My hunch is that the health risks are non-existent – in practical terms, they are pretty much irrelevant – but given the difficulties of conducting this research, it’s hard to believe we could ever know if one particular type of food is especially bad for us. Still, that won’t stop the medics and the researchers from trying to enforce their food rules on us anyway.

Rob Lyons,, commenting on the latest red meat scare. Do read his sage analysis refuting this and other scare studies

Read more ...
The food of the future

THE world diet in 2062 or 2112 will be as unfamiliar to most people today as our own cosmopolitan diet of fast food and ethnic cuisines would be to our great grandparents in 1912. The new foods will be the result of fierce demand and resource pressures on food worldwide, astonishing new technologies, and emerging trends in diet, farming, healthcare and sustainability...

These emerging trends in food will surprise and even appall some people - and excite and motivate many more. Like our homes and clothes, our food is not frozen in time and, while our diet respects tradition, it is constantly in pursuit of novelty. Driven by necessity and impelled by our urge to discover new things, the next century of food will be the most adventurous and interesting in the 10,000-year story of civilisation.

Julian Cribb is an Australian science and agriculture writer and author of
The Coming Famine: the global food crisis and what we can do to avoid it
. Read more of this fascinating article

Read more ...The rise and fall of white bread

A Washington Post article commemorating the moment in 2009 when whole wheat bread sales surpassed white for the first time in US history explained this reversal. Growing awareness of the importance of the fibre and nutrients found in whole grains played a role, but so did status aspirations. Today, the article observed, whole wheat bread “signifies the sophistication of your palate, your appreciation for texture and variety…. The grainier you like it, the more refined your sensibilities. The darker it is, the greater your chance for enlightenment.”

Industrial white bread has completed its two-hundred-year trajectory from modern marvel to low-class item... It used to be, ‘Oh, you poor thing, you have that nasty brown bread.’ … Now it’s, ‘Oh, you poor thing. You have that nasty white bread.’

From the new book "White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf" which looks at how America came to hate the processed loaves not just because of health - but because of class, status and race

Read more ..."Buy small South African business" campaign

THE hope is – that as South African consumers, we become less seduced by big brands and their advertising illusion and rather start an active support of local entrepreneurs and small business.

We can talk until we’re blue in the face about how government should be offering tax breaks, support, less red tape and all that good stuff to entrepreneurs, but the fact is that buying the goods that entrepreneurs sell is the only thing that’ll really drive this economy forward....

... for South Africa to prosper, it’s not the outdated notion of creating jobs that’ll do it – it’s the creation and support of a thriving entrepreneurial infrastructure. One where South African brands are exported to Europe and the US for a change – rather than the other way around.

The key to this prosperity is however not more workshops and talking about how we need small business – it’s about getting off our asses and finding products and services to buy from entrepreneurs and then telling others about the ones you really like.

Conscience Consumerism – one where you make active and informed purchasing decisions about what and from whom you are buying from – is the answer.

So our marketing and business prediction of the biggest emerging trend in South Africa in 2012 – is that we being to Buy Small South African Business. We keep money circulating within our communities and actively go out of our way to source, support and sing about great local small business.

It takes a bit of work and effort but our country’s future depends on the success of the ones that take the leap and start their own thing. They’re not going to stay in business unless they can do business with you.

If you’re reading this – make Buy Small SA Business your mission in 2012. It’s a revolution worth supporting.

The ‘Make Africa Wealthy’ campaign – Cherryflava

Read more ...Metal cans at the tipping point!

THERE is a tremendous opportunity in developing cost-advantaged alternatives to the retorted metal can. ConAgra Foods processes more than five billion cans of food a year. We see the metal can at the same tipping point as the glass-to-plastic conversion was in the ’90s in the food industry.

Plastic bottles were around far before the ’90s, but nobody had developed the equipment to produce the plastic bottle at a lower cost than glass. There were limited applications where CPGs were willing to fund the conversion, but it was based on product safety, not consumer preference. Companies didn’t really convert until the cost structure changed. Once it became a cost savings and the consumer benefit was an extra incentive, the plastic industry grew tremendously.

We see this as another opportunity, but there is nobody really out there that’s developed the equipment that can form pouches and retort them at a lower cost than metal cans, or can produce a plastic package at a lower cost than a metal can.

Mark Yunker, principal packaging engineer, Research, Quality and Innovation, for ConAgra Foods

Read more ...In praise of prepared food!

IF American eating habits are really going to change in the coming decades, it will be because of innovations in chain restaurants and grocery stores, not because everyone is making their own chicken stock. The trends toward less time, less cooking, and broader availability of premade foods is irreversible, and efforts to fight against it are doomed, in most cases, to fail.

But premade foods can become healthier, and semi-prepared foods — like the pre-cut vegetables that now dot many supermarket produce aisles — can make cooking easier. It’s great to cook food from scratch, but it’s not, as so many suggest, a necessary prerequisite for eating healthily.

Ezra Klein, writing in The Washington Post

Read more ...The new eco-issues that all food brands need to consider

Q: Which food issues are consumers are aware of, and how will this change over the next few years?

A: Again, it varies market to market. Consumers aren’t completely disconnected, but often they think of the impacts of just the packaging itself. Whilst important, if you had to rate the material impacts in order, that would be lower down the list. But it’s very tangible and visible. What people don’t think about is the impacts of growing, production and food distribution as a whole. Certainly we expect brands going forward to help educate consumers on where the big impacts are.

If you look at what some of the leading organizations in this space, like Unilever and PepsiCo, are doing, they are starting to translate some very complicated messages into easier-to-understand messages for the consumer so they can start to connect with this. We’ll see more signs of radical transparency happening....

Dan Crossley, principal sustainability adviser at Forum for the Future, read more

Read more ...On building billion-dollar brands

Fundamentally, great brands thrive during both good times and bad when they communicate basic human truths that speak to the needs and interests, concerns and dreams of the global consumer. 

Whether he or she lives in New Delhi, Melbourne or Houston, consumers have far greater expectations than did previous generations. Basically, they want an ongoing and enduring relationship with their brands that is governed by a set of core premises.

In an era where there is so much uncertainty and cynicism, there is a strong desire for reliability. When people spend their hard-earned money, especially when it is a discretionary purchase, they want to know a brand’s value proposition and they want to believe in what the brand stands for.

They want to understand exactly what they are going to get with each purchase and want to achieve and maintain a high degree of trust. When it comes to food or beverages, this goes to taste, experience and ingredients and an unwavering commitment to providing exactly what is expected.

PepsiCo CMO, Salman Amin, read more

Read more ...Food allergies are not rampant

LIVING with a food allergy or intolerance can be a huge hassle. So it’s surprising how many people think they have sensitivities to certain foods — and alter their lives accordingly — when they really don’t.

"Research shows that as many as 20 percent of people claim to have food allergies when the number is actually around 3 to 4 percent," says Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

He concedes that the number of people with milder reactions — nonallergic symptoms that flare up when they eat certain foods — is higher, but he thinks the problem is still generally overestimated. That’s partly because reactions to food can change over time. And various symptoms are sometimes mistakenly attributed to food when they really stem from something else."

Consumers Union of United States, read more

Read more ...

Technology will drive the natural foods business

THE benefits food technology brings in terms of convenience and palatability should not be underestimated – there’s nothing convenient about a coconut and there’s little that’s palatable about unroasted coffee beans. It is convenience and palatability that people want most – as well as health benefits – and those are two elements that many foods cannot deliver in their raw and natural state.

Demand for smart food technology will, if anything, increase because 'natural foods' with 'natural benefits' will increasingly mean foods that are processed as little as possible – often a hugely difficult task.

As a result, it is companies who invest in technology, not hippy companies and not back-to- the-land sandal wearers, who will most likely influence the natural foods business in the years ahead, for only technology will be able to resolve the contradiction that sits firmly in consumers’ minds: that they want their food and drink products natural and healthy and convenient and good-tasting.

Julian Mellentin, from Ten Key Trends 2012 report, New Nutrition Business

Convenience, convenience, convenience

FOR consumers, convenience is by far the most important dynamic, and will continue to be so over the next five to 10 years, according to any number of prognosticators. Consumers are willing to pay more for convenience as their work habits and lifestyles change. The same can be said even for shoppers in developing nations. It's a tradeoff many are willing to make, especially as disposable income rises in many countries. It's all about time, and the consumer would rather buy time than prepare food.

Diana Troops, News & Trends Editor, Food Processing Magazine. Read her article: 2012 Food Industry Outlook: A Taste of Things To Come - Healthier foods, more nutraceuticals, greener everything and other challenges and consumer trends for the new year.

Food Bites 2011

Brilliant bits of food industry insights from the weekly newsletter

Food Bites... Cancer gets you when nothing else can

Read more ...".... the notion that we're getting more cancer because of chemicals in our agriculture, medicine, food preparation and general environment, is persistent. Mention the word “cancer” in general conversation, and someone will solemnly opine that instead of increasing quality of life and health, modern life actually causes cancer. They'll warn darkly about the dangers of antiperspirant spray, or mobile phones, or hair dye, or food preservatives, or milk.

It is true that some substances are known carcinogens, but none of these is among them. Carcinogens in the environment are a risk, but only one in 50 cancer deaths in the developed world can be attributed to environmental pollution caused by industrialisation.

Casting cancer as a symptom of modern society and using death as a rhetorical bludgeon to make people fear economic development is a reprehensible tactic. Yet, despite all the evidence that it's wrong, alarmist myths remain stubbornly persistent.

In truth, economic development and scientific advances have combined to make us all healthier. When friends and family die of cancer – apparently before their time – that is because they didn't die at a younger age of smallpox, polio, influenza or malaria. Because so many infectious diseases no longer kill us, we now succumb to degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke. The simple problem is that we live long enough to get them." 

Ivo Vegter, columnist on The Daily Maverick

Food Bites... Private label at the tipping point

Read more ..."Grocers are taking advantage of the economic slump by pushing their own value-friendly private label products. Through mid-November, store brands accounted for 31.4% of food and beverage products purchased in the US, which is double 2010 numbers.

Retailers are realising their window of opportunity and utilising experienced marketing experts and strategies to get their products out there. Retailers are taking a lot more sophisticated approach to store brand innovation. This is five or six years in the making, and we are now seeing the tipping point.

“We need to be focused on building brands, not just introducing products,” says Kroger’s marketing expert, Linda Severin.

In the past, grocery chains feared the big name brand labels and laid in waiting, but now the tables are turning. ....analysts predict that store brands will continue to flourish in 2012. Bloomberg cites McKinsey who says that three out of four consumers who have switched to private label brands due to the recession have no intention to switch back when circumstances improve." 

Ashley Cloninger, writing on Wall Street Cheat Sheet

Food bites... "Sensivores" rising

Read more ..."A few years ago, I coined the term "sensivore" (a portmanteau for those of you who know their Lewis Carroll) to reference the "sensitive carnivore" movement I saw emerging. That trend continues today, with folks regularly raising issues related to the humane treatment of livestock, hens, etc. raised for slaughter, dairy and so on.

Today, more consumers—and by turn, the retail and foodservice manufacturing companies who serve those consumers—scrutinize each step from farm to fork and increasingly aspire to eradicate perceptually unnecessary abuses that exist in the process...

Manufacturers need to thoroughly vet suppliers to ensure that they mesh with existing corporate social and environmental responsibility parameters—and if you haven't yet established those parameters, that should be your first step. Nobody should wait until regulators and activists make their supplier decisions for them in the heat of a national spotlight.

Practices that most consumers would consider inhumane are common in the industry, but continued pressure could very well change that—particularly when such prominent companies align themselves with humane-leaning concerns." 

Douglas Peckenpaugh, culinary editor of Food Product Design

Food bites... Yesterday's staples become today's indulgences

Read more ..."Denmark’s new “fat tax” on foods like butter and potato chips—anything with more than 2.3% saturated fat—is a reminder of just how much yesterday’s staple has become today’s indulgence. Our rising awareness of health and wellness issues is only part of it.

Consumers are grappling with consciences and costs: There’s the guilt over a product or service’s environmental or human impact and the impact of rising food prices. In the past year, for example, British and Hungarian consumers have seen weekly grocery bills increase by more than 6% (the EU average was 3.3%), and Americans have similarly seen the so-called “food at home” Consumer Price Index jumping by 6.3%.

As a result, things we previously consumed with little thought now feel more like a treat... While some people will rein in their consumption, others will rebel against the new constraints, monetary or otherwise. But “living it up” may soon mean simply a drive to the store (using pricey, CO2-emitting fuel) and buying a bag of chips." 

Nick Ayala, writing on JWT Intelligence

Food bites... Why is gluten like BPA?

"It’s important that those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance avoid gluten. But it’s not necessarily important that anyone else avoid glutens. Nevertheless, “gluten-free” seems to be the latest in a line of label claims that attract consumers seeking more healthful foods, like “organic”, even if the facts don’t always point that way.

Consumers may perceive foods without gluten to be attractive as just 'generally good-for-you', or perhaps consumers concerned about major allergens (and remember, gluten is not one of them) think gluten-free foods are somehow better protected against allergen content. In short, “gluten-free” is an “f word”. “Fad”.

Food companies are responding, adding label claims about lack of gluten content and redesigning products... So why is gluten like BPA? Because both substances are victims of perception, not science. Industry and government representatives can often be heard to say that their decisions are guided by science. But perception, reputation, feelings in the marketplace — these are the trump cards." 

Eric Greenberg, American Attorney-at-Law, writing on Packworld

Food bites... Michael Pollan changes his stance on HFCS

Read more ..."I've done a lot to demonize it [HFCS]. And people took away the message that there was something intrinsically wrong with it. A lot of research says this isn't the case. But there is a problem with how much total sugar we consume.... It shows the brilliance of the industry, which is always a couple of steps ahead of me. They started giving products made of real sugar health claims and [are] trying to make sugar look good. And that is a problem.

"We obsess about a small group of evil nutrients, and a small group of blessed nutrients, and every generation has an evolving cast of characters. And eventually, the fates of those nutrients will completely reverse."

Michael Pollan, the author of best-selling books like In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma. Wielding huge influence among those who care about mindful eating, both in terms of health and sustainability, his repeated condemnation of high-fructose corn syrup as particularly harmful has helped damage the sweetener's reputation over the past few years.

Food bites... Winners and losers in recessionary times

Read more ..."Though the recession officially ended in 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Americans continue to spend less and save more. And yet a quick scan of local supermarket aisles will reveal that sales of Greek yoghurt, craft beer, and artisanal cheese are thriving. Why is our appetite for these specialty products growing even as our budgets decrease?

Because we’re cutting out even more expensive luxuries. As Americans eat out less, we’re willing to spend more for variety, convenience — maybe even health. The seemingly endless flavours, textures, and shapes of Greek yoghurt, artisanal cheese, and craft beer make us feel like we’re choosing from a new menu each time we go to the store — while we spend less time choosing from actual menus.

'There’s never going to be a recession in eating. Just winners and losers,' says Harry Balzer, vice President of the NPD Group, a consumer marketing research firm." 

Cindy Yong, writing on BrowBeat, Slate's culture blog

Food bites... This obsession with fat is really taxing

"For years, governments and health campaigners have been trying to make us afraid of what we eat, demanding that we only consume prescribed foods in prescribed amounts. It’s worked, to a degree. Even the most sceptical of people will have internalised some of this nonsense, turning their backs on foods they enjoy because they’ve been told that they’re deadly.

But clearly, in health campaigners’ minds, we’re not scared enough. So we must be cajoled and manipulated into further changing our diets, whether through food taxes, lectures about our children or fearmongering adverts. The aim is not, however, to make us slimmer or healthier - which is handy as such nagging and penalising doesn’t seem to make us any thinner anyway. No, the aim is to exercise influence over our lives, to give the powers-that-be a reason to be in power."

Rob Lyons, writing in

Food bites... Time to rant (again) on the importance of packaging

Read more ..."Well, it’s time for my twice-a-year whine about the importance of packaging in luring consumers to a new product. Yes, I know it doesn’t matter how great the packaging is if the product inside doesn’t measure up taste-wise. Hey, we agree, the taste buds never lie.

That said, you still have to get people to reach for the product, and it is the packaging that will first catch their attention in the aisle. That package and the information on it. It’s funny, whenever I’m invited to make a trends presentation at a food company, most of the people I’m introduced to are in R&D, marketing and sales. Not that these groups aren’t important. But I hardly ever get to meet the people behind the packaging. Don’t know why, I just never do. It’s like they’re an afterthought.

But I will argue that the packaging folks are as important as any group in a food company, because they are the ones charged with making a new product stand out on the grocery shelf. If you get that packaging right, if it’s easy to pick out nuzzled alongside other products, easy to see and read, well, you’ve won the first leg of the battle to get that product in a shopping cart. After that, it’s R&D’s turn to impress, the ol’ taste-bud test. Bottom line? Without great packaging and palate-pleasing contents, sales and marketing won’t stand a chance." 

Bob Messenger, publisher of The Morning Cup and foremost US food industry commentator

Food bites... A cure for obesity?

Read more ...“This mystification that obesity is caused by a lack of willpower or just eating the wrong foods is simply a misconception. There is so much social stigma attached to weight that we make a lot of value judgments. The effort in science is to peel back those layers of belief and try to understand things in an experimental, rational mode. Just as we have made progress against heart disease with statins and blood pressure drugs, we will find medications that can safely and substantially lower weight.” 

Joseph Bass, MD, PhD, Kettering Professor and Chief of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine at Northwestern University

Food bites... Why do marketers sometimes feel the need to change the taste and flavour of iconic brands?

Read more ..."Coca-Cola once famously (or infamously, depending on your perspective) tried it with original Coke and the subsequent uprising against "New Coke" stretched from coast to coast and forced the soft drink giant to quell the resistance by committing to the original recipe via Classic Coke. Today, New Coke is a footnote in history.

There is something similar taking place in the UK today, as Twinings is changing the original flavour of its Earl Grey tea. On this side of the Atlantic, it's no big deal. Like who cares? But over there, it's as if the queen shed the gown and pomp and circumstance for a public romp on the beach in a hot-pink two-piece...

Frankly, I don't give a damn what Twinings does to Earl Grey, but then I'm not British. But I see all the signs of a rebellion similar to the one Coca-Cola created with New Coke. What Twinings should do is just leave the original flavour of Earl Grey Tea alone. Coca-Cola's experience with New Coke ought to be a lesson for all: Quit screwing with icons!" 

Bob Messenger, editor The Morning Cup, foremost US food industry observer

Food bites... Conventional wisdom isn't always wise

"Despite how much money and expertise is poured into nutrition research, we should still be skeptical about jumping to conclusions about our food and health. Our understanding is always shifting, and it’s often muddled by activists with a dog in the fight...

...Whatever the case, we should bet on 'moderation' remaining the cornerstone of any diet. Anybody who tells you a food or ingredient is going to harm you generally has an agenda, and not your health, to promote." 

Rick Berman, OpEd in The Des Moines Register

Food bites... Food fight: why are we so passionate about what enters our bodies?

 "Why is that there can be such divergent views about basically the same body of evidence regarding organic and GM food?....

"Much has been written lately about the Theory of Argumentative Reasoning, the idea that human reason developed not as a tool for figuring out the truth but as a way to advance the fitness and survival of those who could win arguments and have things go their way.

"Winning arguments, then, is not about something as superficial as the truth. It’s a much more important battle about whose truth wins. Which may help explain why when the facts don’t work, we disparage those with whom we disagree, challenging their veracity, their honesty (funding), their intelligence." 

David Ropeik, Harvard Extension School and author of 'How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts'

Food bites... Food safety then and now

"In the face of a disease outbreak like the one in Europe, we should not lose sight of the fact that advances in science and medicine have had a dramatic and beneficial impact on reducing risk of contracting food-borne disease. Advances in numerous technologies have made this possible. These include: canning; autoclaving; refrigeration; microbiology; assay technology (including rapid pathogen assays); meat science; packaging; use of biotechnology; shipping; epidemiology; disease outbreak tracking; and public health monitoring and intervention!

"To the point of food safety…then versus now… we should be appreciative of the marvellous food safety systems that are in place, and extol the benefits of the scientific and technological advances that have made all of these possible. The food-borne outbreaks that occur are identified and dealt with quickly (especially versus prior decades) because of enhanced vigilance, application of science and public health monitoring." 

Dr Terry Etherton, a Distinguished Professor of Animal Nutrition and Head of the Department of Dairy and Animal Science at Penn State University

Food bites... Swatting back at the Food Police

"In an unwarranted hystrionic rage Food Police captains like Marion Nestle lash out at McDonalds for co-opting the undefinable term "healthy" in their advertising (geez, maybe Food Police should have trademarked the nebulous term to protect it?).

Predictably, Food Police unleash their proud bigotry, railing against the "cheapness" of the food and the utter stupidity of the working classes who are believed to consume it. This is the special contribution of journalism professor Micheal "food is too cheap' Pollan - a trendy loathing pity for the poor, obese clods who consume "cheap" food; a bigoted condemnation humanely, charitably stopping just short of blaming.

The blame, you see, is reserved for...wait for it...corporations. Evil, efficient, effective, enterprising corporations like McDonalds and hundreds of others who operate successfully and profitably while at the same time feeding and nourishing us all." 

Doc Mudd, commenting on Food Safey News

Food bites...Caught between health and a hard place

“At one time, I was seduced by nutritionists saying I should be doing this or that and I launched 100% fruit desserts with vitamin C. They got into Sainsbury and Tesco, and they met all the nutritional criteria, but nobody bought them and they were delisted. I lost £200 000 but it taught me a lesson: my job is to make products that sell." 

Paul Newberry, co-founder of UK-based fruit snack maker Stream Foods

Food bites...The tastless aim of the war on salt

"But why should campaigners and medics on a mission fret about such trivialities as the flavour of our food or our ability to make free choices? Theirs is a political vision in which health overrides all other considerations, where the extension of life rather than its quality is the be-all and end-all. And if they can save a few lives at the expense of making millions more lives a little bit worse by making food taste, well, less tasty, that is a price worth paying in their eyes.

"However, studies like the one published today on salt show that even in its own terms, the anti-salt campaign makes little sense. It either doesn’t save lives or it makes so little difference that it is hardly worth bothering with. Whether it is salt, fat, sugar or alcohol, we should take the lectures from our health guardians with a pinch of the white stuff." 

Rob Lyons, deputy editor of His book, Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder, was published in October 2011

Food bites...Where are SA's scientists?

"There's a lack of visceral excitement about science and the thrill of discovery that affects the numbers of people who pursue scientific careers – and that has real impacts on how societies and economies respond to the future. For example, the US, the UK and Australia have about 50 to 60 scientists per 100 000 people, while a country like Japan has about 100 per 100 000. And as for South Africa? Just ten per 100 000. The worry for South Africa is how such a low level of scientific competence is going to affect this country's economic future. What is being done to generate more scientific training in South Africa is also a matter of concern for me, as it should be for everyone else in the country." 

Chris Smith, the Naked Scientist, speaking at the Grahamstown ThinkFest (and slightly paraphrased from an article in The Daily Maverick)

Food bites...Innovating behond consumers' imaginings

"With the tremendous turbulence and the speed with which industries are changing today, you can’t just sit around and wait. While high levels of profits from existing businesses are a must, companies need to be reinvesting in a consistent fashion to create new businesses, and new products, and to shape the pattern of market evolution. They need to imagine new markets for tomorrow, and to build new core competencies that will give them an advantage in those markets." 

The late CK Prahalad, influential business thinker and writer

Food bites... Fight the food fight!

 "If people are afraid of GMOs, of science, of the food you are trying to make, you need to tell your story and go out and educate people, fight on the internet.

"And get out of your lab! If you can’t explain what you’re doing you’re not going to get to do it for long. Get off the back foot and play the lunatics at their own game …" 

Stephen Specter, New Yorker columnist and science writer

Food bites... Time to rethink anti-corporate sentiment

"You see, it's easy to hate a big company, with a big brand name. McDonald's makes you fat. Walmart makes you stupid. Pfizer makes you addicted to uppers, of all sorts. Shell makes you have three-headed double-gendered babies. If you're looking for bogeymen, just pick one from a billboard.

Big companies with big brands to protect catch a lot of flak. But in casting big companies as evil pillagers and exploiters, critics fail to recognise that they're generally staffed by people. Ordinary people like you and me. People with the same passions and concerns and emotional investment in the welfare of the planet and the prosperity of its people."

Ivo Vegter, Daily Maverick columnist. Read more

Food bites... The unrelenting pressure on the food industry

"... good will never be good enough for the critics among activist groups and researchers. That's why I believe, no matter how much the food and beverage industry bends to accommodate its critics, it will never be enough. The forces of activism will just step up their critical oversight and put even more pressure on the industries they have targeted. For the food industry, the path chosen for them by anti-industry forces is clear — way less processed food and a movement towards a more natural, more organic, more raw, more vegetarian lifestyle in America. Please, tell me why am I wrong?" 

Bob Messenger, foremost US food industry commentator

Food bites... They hypocrisy of food sermons by the rich and famous

“Penny wise and pound foolish” and “Do as I say do, not as I do” are adages that come to mind with the latest spate of media fawning over England’s King-in-Waiting Charles of Windsor and his crusade to save us from ourselves through organic farming, alternative energy, and more thrifty lifestyles...

To his credit, Charles is reported to have an organic farm on one of his vast estates — which, media sources say, has never turned a profit. But then, when one has millions of dollars in yearly income from royal holdings, one can jolly well grow all the organic parsnips and kale one wishes, and hang the cost.

It is one thing for Charles and assorted ultra-wealthy entertainment and sports stars for whom the cost of food has no relevance, to espouse salvation through a manure-fertilized, pesticide/GMO-free, windmill-generating world.

But to preach to the average working family that they should make do with less, while trying to stretch food dollars as best they can as supermarket prices continue skyward, is utter hypocrisy. 

Hembree Brandon, Farm Press Blog Read more

Food bites... Our trust in the food industry

"Of course, the problem is that, with food, one never really knows whether the food about to be eaten will cause illness, injury, or death. It is not as if it is feasible to drag a microbiologist around with us every time we go food shopping so that we can test for pathogens before putting that package of ground beef in our shopping cart.

Ultimately, buying food and eating it is, and always will be, a matter of trust - or strategic denial.  Indeed, when we are no longer able to trust the food available in the marketplace, then buying food becomes a matter of insecurity and fear. When will the next time bomb go off? And who will be the next casualty?" 

Denis Stearns, writing on Food Safety News. Read more

Food bites...The future of food

"Everyone has to work together and we all have to recognise the principle that Mahatma Gandhi observed so incisively when he said that we may utilise the gifts of nature just as we choose but in her book, the debts are always equal to the credits.

It is, I feel, our apparent reluctance to recognise the interrelated nature of the problems and therefore, the solutions that lie at the heart of our predicament and certainly, on our ability to determine the future of food. How we deal with this systemic failure in our thinking will define us as a civilization and determine our survival." 

The Prince of Wales, in the keynote address to the "Future of Food" Conference in Washington DC, July 2011

Food bites...BPA in can linings - a storm brewing!

A raft of the most respected food safety regulators and scientific committees across the globe have all declared that use of BPA in food contact materials at current levels is safe. So end of argument, right? Well wrong, because there are enough dissenting voices in the scientific community that believe BPA does pose a threat to fan the flames of consumer unease.... Momentum is a dangerous thing... when anxiety spreads among consumers and confidence drains away, industry has to listen – no matter what regulators in Brussels, Washington DC or Sydney say.

The only issue, it seems, is whether metal and plastic packaging players are ready for the tidal wave that looks to be coming and when it will break? Will they surf the wave or be engulfed by it? 

Rory Harrington, writing in Food Production Daily

Food bites... So what is a "clean label"?

“A clean label gives consumers sufficient information to enable them to make informed decisions leaving them in no doubt as to the contents of the product. According to this definition a ‘cleanly labeled’ product does not therefore need to be manufactured with ‘natural’ ‘additive-free’ or ‘store-cupboard’ ingredients as some suggest because the emphasis is focused on providing consumers transparent and clear information empowering them to express their consumption preferences.

“For example, consumers may be perfectly happy to eat or drink products containing artificial ingredients. The point of clean labelling is therefore simply to inform shoppers to enable them to better express their consumption preferences.” 

Matthew Incles, market intelligence manager for Leatherhead Food Research, UK

Food bites... The cult of the leader

"The modern leader is egotistic, blind to their own faults, surrounded by people created in their own image and committed to actions driven more by the need to enhance their self-image than by anything else. We moved from ranking companies and their performance to personalizing such comparative exercises by focusing on their CEOs, as though the CEO was the defining differentiator without which the organization would have not achieved their success." 

Prof Christopher Bones, in his new book, The Cult of the Leader

Food bites... Managing business in an increasingly volatile world

"Some years back I asked Gavin Neath, then chairman of Unilever UK and now Unilever’s senior vice president for sustainability, whether life in food and drink manufacture was more complicated now than in the past, his response was: 'It’s a conceit of every generation of managers to believe the change they are managing is greater than their predecessors.'

I’m sure he was right. But, given the speed at which catastrophic developments around the world can impact on what we do combined with the speed with which social networking is influencing public reaction to these events, it is a wise manager that has contingency plans in place to help cope with the unexpected.

Perhaps we should keep in mind the words of French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” 

Rick Pendrous, editor of Food Manufacture Magazine, UK

Food bites... SA's food security time bomb

"Food insecurity is more widespread than commonly imagined, also in urban areas. Recent research at the University of Cape Town found that on average about four in five residents in poor areas of southern African cities lack reliable access to nutritious food. Long term trends related to soil degradation, rising oil prices and climate change risk exacerbating this situation." 

Ralph Hamann, associate professor and research director at the UCT Graduate School of Business and chair of the Southern Africa Food Lab initiative. Read more

Food bites... All eyes on Africa

"The continent is now being compared to China in the early nineties — as a place of opportunity.  You could characterise it as the final gold rush for the large consumer products companies of the world, because where are they going to go after Africa? There’s nowhere left." 

David Murray of Ernst & Young

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