Food Bites

InsightEnjoy these quotes and quips, words of insight and wry observation from around the global food and drinks world...

December 2015

Goodbye big food brands!

"SO crowded is the retail environment, so strong consumers’ interest in small brands, and brands with a story and authenticity, that creating new mass brands will be – as we have said often before – close to impossible."

New Nutrition Business, 10 Key Trends 2016 report

"THE massive fragmentation of consumers’ beliefs about health is contributing to the break-up of traditional food and beverage markets and opening the doors of opportunity for start-ups and small brands. Big food companies are being forced to rethink their business models."

New Nutrition Business, 10 Key Trends 2016 report

World's most expensive sandwich

"TURNS out that manufacturing food is fairly difficult..."

A British man has documented a six-month venture making a sandwich from scratch, giving an interesting look at how our food is produced, read more

The power of craft

“ONE could argue that the first beers and first colas were craft products. Craft is more of a change of perception than a total, radical change.
   "The word ‘craft’ represents the emerging themes of local, authentic, a sense of belonging, shared values, wanting something more special, and discovering something that relates to you individually.
   "All this is increasingly important to consumers in our industrial world. What is really different today is there is a new wave of entrepreneurs creating start-ups and early stage businesses with these characteristics.
   "It may be that craft is something that was always there – but there is definitely a new wave of entrepreneurs and new businesses with a fresh take.”

Richard Hall, chairman of Zenith International, publishers of FoodBev.com

Sell both healthy and indulgent products!

'THE healthy eating trend has run up against a force so powerful that even the promise of six-pack abs cannot stop it: the desire to indulge. Neither consumers nor food companies have entirely turned their backs on sweets and other goodies.
   "Consumers are looking for a 'permissible indulgence'.
   “Traditionally indulgent foods will be cleaning up their act so that people don’t feel quite so guilty about consuming them. That includes offering organic desserts and cleaning up the labels on products by removing ingredients like artificial colours."

Carl Jorgensen, Daymon Worldwide, global retail researchers, read more

How to save cereal

"SO what’s the solution for companies looking to make cold breakfast cereal a part of American food culture once again?
   "Cereal companies clearly know what increasingly health-conscious consumers are looking for. The way forward, then, may be actually filling the box with what it claims."

The Atlantic, read more

November 2015

Big doubts
 "PEOPLE believe that big is bad. There’s an inverse relationship between the size of an organisation and the perception of shared values.
   "Our qualitative and quantitative research shows that the larger the organisation, company, farm, consumers are more likely to believe that it will put profit ahead of principle – that it will put its own interests above consumer interests every time."

Charlie Arnot,  chief executive,  CFI research, read more

Be nimble! Be quick!"

GONE are the days when the big companies can create a big, sustainable success with a line extension. The big stores and their private label partners can knock off such a product quickly. For simple products, someone can always do it faster and cheaper.
   "The big companies, the real food & beverage industry leaders, need to make technological breakthroughs and create real innovation, so they’re first to the marketplace and private label can’t imitate them easily."

Leslie Herzog, The Understanding & Insight Group, US FMCG strategy consultants

Nutrition perspective!

“I’M a cardiologist, and I had a patient come in once asking about salmon. He said, ‘I heard there’s PCBs in salmon. Should I be eating wild salmon or farmed salmon?’ I said, ‘Stop smoking.’”

Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

Meat!"

IT was clear sitting in the IARC meeting that many of the panelists were aiming for a specific result despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data. They tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome.
   "Red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by the IARC and found to pose some level of theoretical 'hazard'. Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by the IARC not to cause cancer."

Betsy Booren, North American Meat Institute, on the WHO's cancer warning on meat

Sugar!

"ADDING sugar has been the process which has changed all sorts of bitter things into mass market products."

Felicity Lawrence,  author of Eat your heart out

C'mon canned food!

"AMBIENT is a food category ripe for adding innovation and interest by seizing the opportunity to design for an integrated (digital and physical) world.
   "Traditionally, brand design in the ambient category has disconnected us from real food, with an aesthetic that has become over-produced, stylised and synthetic. But ambient brands can do better."

Pearlfisher design & branding agency, read more

October 2015

Nutrition confusion

 "READERS often ask me how myths about nutrition get perpetuated and why it’s not possible to do conclusive studies to answer questions about the benefits and harms of what we eat and drink.
   "Almost everything we 'know' is based on small, flawed studies. The conclusions that can be drawn from them are limited, but often oversold by researchers and the news media. This is true not only of the newer work that we see, but also the older research that forms the basis for much of what we already believe to be true."

 Aaron E Carroll, New York Times columnist, read more

What's for dinner?

 “CONSUMERS are trading out traditional food routines for new ones that reflect the desires and challenges of expanded variety in a complex food landscape.
   "Cooking for a family must accommodate everyone’s schedules and food preferences ranging from avoidances to culinary variety and healthfulness."

Laurie Demeritt, CEO The Hartman Group

Meat's demonisation

 "THERE'S a cruel irony to the fact that meat should be as dangerous as health experts warn, because we are hardwired to love every little thing about it. Predation is not just a nasty indulgence we picked up on our way through the state of nature; it’s a nutritional must-do, or at least it was in our ancestors’ times."

Jeffrey Kluger, TIME Magazine, read more

Fashionable food fears

  "EVERYONE would like to be healthier, stronger, and feel younger. Everyone wants simple, easy-to-remember solutions to their dietary or medical concerns. Entire business empires are built on allaying fears of sickness, under-performance or death. And many of those are based on little more than sensationalism and lies."

Daily Maverick's Ivo Vegter, read more

What to do about salt?

 “EXISTING salt replacements have not caught the imagination of consumers. Consumers are concerned about salt intake, but are not willing to compromise on taste."

Mintel, read more

Natural vs Synthetic

 "CHEMICAL analysis of vanillin from yeast reveals no additional atoms and no alien side groups attached. And no tiny molecular boogie men that are prepared to pounce and kill the unsuspecting consumer."

Karmella Haynes, assistant prof at Arizona State University, read more

September 2015

USN sues Harris Steinman for R2m

"SOME readers might be familiar with the 'Streisand Effect', after Barbra Streisand’s 2003 efforts to suppress photographs of her Malibu home simply drew more attention to those photographs, thanks to internet sharing.
   "USN wants to keep fair criticism underground, but thanks to this lawsuit, perhaps that criticism will end up more Streisand than silent."

Jacques Rousseau, UCT academic and writer, read more

The zeitgeist of craft beer

"CRAFT beer has been associated with alternative culture, perhaps more by virtue of what it isn’t than any cohesive idea of what it is. It isn’t mass produced; it isn’t mainstream.
   "This is the time of the individual, the time of customisation and the time where everyone expects their unique tastes to be catered for. This may be the true answer: we are in the midst of a large-scale cultural shift which happens to favour craft beer."

Read more 

Food + Drink: Trends & Futures

 "BUT as the sharing of food imagery accelerates, we’re also seeing calls for the food system as a whole to slow down, and take stock of its role in supporting the health of our bodies and the planet.
   "Issues such as localism and responsible sourcing have become key differentiators for brands seeking to connect with ethically-minded consumers, who increasingly view food as part of a holistic system."

"THE future of meat is increasingly contested. Reassure worried consumers by emphasisng quality and transparency, and think beyond conventional, low-cost meat and poultry."

"TODAY, a grassroots movement against unhealthy eating has acquired the sort of urgency that in previous decades characterised the seeking of cancer cures or reducing smoking."

Quotes from JWT's new trends report, Food + Drink: Trends and futures

Hampton Creek's Josh Tetrick: hero or hustler?

 "ALL of food, even Big Food, is undergoing an historic reformation now. Every issue of this magazine has stories on another company “cleaning up” its ingredient statement. Processors are finding ways to make food better, and people seem willing to pay at least a little more for those improvements.
   "I’m not sure we need someone to lead us out of the desert anymore. But if you are looking for the messiah, Josh Tetrick is not him."

Dave Fusaro, editor of FoodProcessing.com, on Hampton Creek's Josh Tetrick as 'not the future of food', read more

Jamie's Sugar Rush

“I HAVE picked a really hard one... It could be a complete waste of my time and I’ll get an arse-kicking.
   "But is it worth getting a kicking over? Yes. This is not a spectator sport. I’m hoping to be a pain in the arse to the government. Amazing things could happen if it goes well.”

Jamie Oliver on his new anti-sugar campaign, and his documentary, Sugar Rush, aired this week on UK TV, read more

Sorry Coca-Cola, no one wants to hear your "scientific research"

"INSTEAD of trying to persuade its customers to go for a run, Coke would be better off tweaking its product and diversifying, as it is already doing, to keep up with current trends.
   "Rather than publishing phony science, delivering products that appeal to consumers is the best way to ensure benefits for both customers and investors in the long run."

Motley Fool, read more

Churn in the ice cream market

"PEOPLE either want unprocessed ice cream with latent, functional health benefits, or people are of the mindset: if I'm gonna have some ice cream, it's gotta be the good stuff."

Alex Beckett, analyst at Mintel, read more

August 2015

Very sobering SA reality

"SOCIAL grants have  reduced absolute poverty, but 45% of the population still lives on approximately $2 per day  (upper limit for the definition of poverty). 
   "More than 10 million people live on less than  $1 per day — the so-called food poverty line  below which people are unable to purchase  enough food for an adequate diet.
   "Even at an income of $4 per day, the quality of life would  not be remotely near the level that the majority  of South Africans had hoped for after the end of  apartheid."

New UCT study published in New England Journal of Medicine, read more

Design thinking works for PepsiCo

"NOW  our teams are pushing design through the entire system, from product creation, to packaging and labelling, to how a product looks on the shelf, to how consumers interact with it.
   "For me, a well-designed product is one you fall in love with. Or you hate. It may be polarising, but it has to provoke a real reaction. Ideally, it’s a product you want to engage with in the future, rather than just 'Yeah, I bought it, and I ate it.'"

Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO on how design thinking is driving the group's innovation, read more

Keeping up with new behaviour

“WE are entering a shopping detox economy, and that’s a whole new ball game. We are starting to see a shift from ‘shopaholic’ to ‘saveaholic’ consumer behaviour, where we reuse, recycle and rent more products than ever.
   "At the same time, companies need a more circular rather than end-focused process for product development, with new technology driving collaboration with consumers."

Jörgen Jedbratt, trend forecaster, Kairos Future, read more

How to protect yourself from junk food science

"CONSUMERS can exhaust themselves trying to assess the risks of GMOs, BPA, meat from animals raised with antibiotics, or whether goji berries will help them live longer. The evidence can range from outright bunk to solid consensus—and many degrees in between.
   "But it's possible, with a basic understanding of nutrition science and a bit of effort, to make rational decisions based on science rather than speculation, marketing, or propaganda."

John Tozzi, writing on Bloomberg, read more

Labelling GMOs

"STICKING a GMO label on a food product doesn’t tell you that it might actually have lower levels of Bt toxin than organically grown plants. It also fails to mention the years of safety testing, or that people have been eating those GMOs with no ill effects for decades.
   "The same goes for “natural” and “organic” labels. Those are other labels that people think signify a food is healthier, but once again the labels mean nothing. “Natural” can be slapped on almost any box of food."

Cody Sullivan, columnist, Business Insider Australia 

Label to the rescue?

"IF you are a company who believes that going non-GMO is in line with your values and those of your consumers, that’s fine, go right ahead.
   "But picking up an issue like 'non-GMO' can never be a sticking plaster to repair the position of any brand that finds itself off-trend and faced with sinking sales."

New Nutrition Business

July 2015

Innovation connundrum

"AS a futurist, one of the things really that fascinates me is that intersection point where science and technology head-butts the realities of everyday human experience.
   "As food scientists and technologists, this is something you encounter every day, because for all of the developments that you come up with, at the end you’re still talking about food."

Mike Walsh, futurist, in a keynote address at IFT15, Chicago, read more 

Indra Nooyi got it right

"THE Pepsi CEO was way ahead of her big food colleagues in figuring out that American food tastes are changing. She started several years ago pushing her 'good for you' products, and took grief from investors, analysts, activists and the media for doing so.
   "Stop the political correctness, they said, and sell the sugar water.

   "Now it’s clear to all that food tastes are shifting..."

Fortune article, The War on BIg Food, read more

There's play in frozen

"WE still believe the frozen category in general is still a very rich and fertile category with lots of potential left in it.
   "If you think about where consumers are today, they’re looking for real, natural food, and that can still be very consistent with what frozen food is. Frozen is the most natural way of preserving food.”

Jeff Hamilton, president of Nestle’s prepared foods division, read more

In praise of processing

"IT is the processing of raw ingredients that enabled us to extract from them the nutrition we needed as swiftly as possible so we could get on with doing the more interesting things that make us human.
   "Whenever I hear a pursed-lipped food campaigner announce that we should eat only things our grandmothers would recognise, two thoughts occur: first, that my grandmother was a lousy cook and I’d fight to keep her away from the kitchen; and second, that she had to spend an awful lot of time in that kitchen to get anything done."

Jay Rayner, writing in The Guardian, read more

Sugar reformulation

"HUMANS enjoy fat and sugar and things that are bad for us. All our research shows that consumers don’t want to change but do feel that it’s the manufacturers’ responsibility to reduce the sugar in their food and drink. It’s clearly what a lot of companies are thinking.
   “We’re seeing far more looking to test sugar reduction and how reformulation is going to affect their products.”

Anne Herron of UK labs, Marketing Sciences Unlimited, read more

Innovation success

"THE most common quality shared among the winning new products is that they all resolve a persistent problem or unmet need consumers confront in their daily lives. Awareness building and in-market activation strategy are set to ensure they reach the consumers seeking these solutions....
   "Success is not random or lucky, [but] can become regular, repeatable and scalable when the science of innovation is applied.
   "Just as total quality management changed manufacturing and supply chain, CPG innovation success rates can be dramatically improved by applying the consumer demand-centered development techniques."

Rob Wengel, senior vice president of innovation, Nielsen, read more

Buying up the shelves

"ANALYSTS reckon that American retailers may now rake in $18bn or more in rebates each year, up from $1bn in the 1990s. In Britain, by some estimates the big four supermarkets receive more in payments from their suppliers than they make in operating profits. In Australia, growing supplier rebates have boosted food retailers’ profit margins by an average of 2.5 percentage points, to 5.7%, over the past five years....
   "So lucrative have slotting fees become that industry insiders joke that supermarket shelves are now the world’s most expensive property."

The Economist, read more

Something fishy?

"WHILE the persistent popularity of fish oil may reflect the human weakness for anything touted as a life-extending elixir, it also reflects that, even among scientists, diet notions can persist even when stronger evidence emerges contradicting them. Scientists, sometimes, are reluctant to let go of ideas."

Washington Post article, read more

Finding growth in food and beverage

"AS most legacy brands struggle to sustain or grow volume using traditional marketing and innovation activities, it is becoming more important to study those food businesses that are growing well. In doing so, food companies can learn a new strategic playbook.
   "It is a playbook based on a key assumption: your portfolio of food and beverage must change. The edible experiences you are selling must change."

The Hartman Group, read more

June 2015

US food giants slimming down

"AMERICA'S processed-food makers are having to adapt to declining popularity - and if the decline continues, two further strategies — consolidation and cost-cutting — will become more prevalent.
   "Since they bought Heinz for $28 billion in 2013, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, an investment firm with Brazilian roots, have swung the axe at its head office and factories. Last year, although Heinz’s sales fell by nearly 5%, its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by almost 35%."

The Economist, read more

Natural food? Huh!?

"THAT food should be fresh and natural has become an article of faith. It comes as something of a shock to realise that this is a latter-day creed. For our ancestors, natural was something quite nasty. Natural often tasted bad.
   "Fresh meat was rank and tough; fresh milk warm and unmistakably a bodily excretion; fresh fruits (dates and grapes being rare exceptions outside the tropics) were inedibly sour, fresh vegetables bitter. Even today, natural can be a shock when we actually encounter it....
   "So to make food tasty, safe, digestible and healthy, our forebears bred, ground, soaked, leached, curdled, fermented, and cooked naturally occurring plants and animals until they were literally beaten into submission."

Rachel Laudan, a historian, philosopher of science, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. Read more

Food safety simplicity

"IT'S a global food economy. It’s difficult to control, and the food system has become incredibly complex. And human beings are not necessarily the best at dealing with complex problems. We have to ask ourselves how complex do we really need to make food? Look at the outbreaks that have occurred — they’re usually in highly processed products that are shipped long distances. So when you’re trying to figure out ways to make your food supply safer, sometimes simpler is better.

   "Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that local, organically grown products are not going to sicken you if that local farmer is not using good manufacturing processes. But the more a product is manufactured, remanufactured and shipped, [the easier] for the entry of a bacterium or a virus into that process."

Bill Marler, veteran US food safety attorney, read more

Changing sugar sales

“THIRTY years ago about 70% of sugar was sold in the bag and the remaining 30% in a complete food product. Now it’s 60% in the bag and 40% in a food product, though in Europe and the US it’s 15% in the bag and 85% in a food product.
  "I guess it’s because it’s more convenient to buy the food product, maybe because people have more money, or maybe it’s owing to more urban lifestyles.”

Peter McKerchar, heads of sales and marketing to Africa for Tongaat Hulett, read more

Religion veiled as science

"...AS a scholar of religion, it's become increasingly clear to me that when it comes to fad diets, science is often just a veneer. Peel it away and you find timeless myths and superstitions, used to reinforce narratives of good and evil that give meaning to people's lives and the illusion of control over their well-being."

Alan Levinovitz, assistant professor of religion at James Madison University, author of The Gluten Lie, read more

Qu'est-ce que nutrition science?

"NUTRITION is a wretched hive of pseudo-scientific scum and villainy. Best to take anything related to 'nutrition', from any source, with great heaping portions of skepticism."

Comments from 'Field Zhukov', in a Mother Jones article, read more

Sugar, sugar#1!
"JAWS did for ocean swimming what #timnoakes has done for #sugar."

Derek Watts tweet

Sugar, sugar#2!

“WE'VE done very well in terms of cutting smoking and teenage pregnancy and drink driving, but the new smoking is obesity. One in five cancer deaths is now caused by obesity.
   "[We need to reach out] to responsible retailers, food producers who can smell the coffee here.
   "One in three of our teenagers are drinking high-energy, sugary drinks... I do think we’re going to need reformulation to take sugar out of foods, in the same way that successfully that’s happened with salt.
  “If that doesn’t happen then, in effect, what we’re doing is a slow-burner food poisoning through all of this sugar that goes on to cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease."

Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, read more

Reformulation merry-go-round
"NO matter how companies 'clean up' formulations in an effort to improve consumer perception of their products, a competitor is going to seek a point of differentiation by questioning an ingredient or ingredients in the formulation.   
   "This is a marketing strategy being employed by many companies and its level of success ensures it is going to continue.
   "So the next question facing marketers is what ingredient may be of concern next? According to the market research firm Mintel International, it may be grains."

Keith Nunes, editor of Food Business News, read more

May 2015

Where to organics?

“OUR research finds half of consumers say labeling something as organic is an excuse to charge more. Considering the typically higher cost of organic foods and beverages, consumers are increasingly hard pressed to justify the added expense.
   "As such, sales have hit something of a plateau, where they likely will remain until consumers have a clear reason to turn to organics.”

Billy Roberts, senior food & drink analyst, Mintel

The big clean up play... 

"SOME ingredients may not be worth the potential harm they might cause to their images, given changing attitudes about additives... The removal of artificial ingredients can be a way for companies to give their food a healthy glow without making meaningful changes to their nutritional profiles. For instance, reducing salt, sugar or portion sizes would have a far bigger impact on public health."

Prof John Coupland, Food Science at Penn State University, read more

For bacon's sake!

"YOU know when a culinary fad has turned into a trend when two things occur: 1] the consumer press writes and writes about it until you can't read or hear another word about it and 2] food companies evolve to using the ingredient (in this case bacon) in more interesting and complex ways.
   "Bacon, after all, is a complex and base flavour. Unlike some of those one-hit wonder hot sauces that frankly overpower any food added to, a little bacon goes a long way. Sprinkle a little on a salad or eggs, add a strip or two to a burger (even a veggie one) and voila - the dish has been transformed."

Phil Lempert, America's 'Supermarket Guru'

Negative marketing of food

"IS anyone really surprised consumers think gluten-free products are healthier, when virtually everyone is making and announcing that they've converted at least some products to gluten-free?
   "Is anyone surprised consumers have become distracted from all the good things our food brings us when most of the labels and promotional messages tell us what's not in our food?"

 John Stanton, contributing editor, marketing commentator for FoodProcessing.com, read more

Come clean on sugar

"THE problem is that there is just too much sugar in our food and too much sugar available to eat, which we’re often consuming unawares. A documentary coming out in 2015, “The Sugar Film” shows how a great deal of food that is low in fat actually has a high sugar content.
   "From low-fat yoghurts and muesli bars to cereals and fruit juices, eating these apparently healthy foods can still lead to weight gain. So by low-fat measures alone, it’s time businesses came clean on sugar in a way we can all understand."

Isabelle Szmigin, Prof of Marketing at University of Birmingham, read more

Outlook for chocolate

“PEOPLE want to eat chocolate as a treat or reward. When eaten in moderation, chocolate can fit a healthy diet and they don’t need to compromise on taste or texture, generally.
   “From my point of view, we won’t see the demand for chocolate reducing, rather a demand for a smaller, more sensorial complex product increasing."

Peter Boone, Chief Innovation and Quality Officer at Barry Callebaut, read more

The confused consumer

“WE'VE never seen the consumer as confused as they are today. And I use the word confused in a neutral way, not a negative way.

   "If you had asked me a few years ago - people were moving to diet sodas. Now they view real sugar as good for you. They're willing to go to organic non-GMO products even if [they have] high salt, high sugar, high fat.

   "So I think we have a challenge these days to really think about what is the definition of 'good for you' from a consumer perspective. And this is unprecedented and the old definition of 'good for you' is being challenged right now."

Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo chairman and CEO, read more 

On PepsiCo ousting aspartame

"BUT the problem with appeasing customers at the expense of science is that it sets a poor precedent. And in this case it's also unlikely to reverse Diet Pepsi's waning appeal.
   "What Pepsi's move will likely accomplish, more than anything else, is give credence to unfounded fears that aspartame is somehow more harmful or artificial than a lot of other sweeteners being used in products on supermarket shelves. That myth doesn't appear to be anywhere close to dying."

Roberto Ferdman, journalist on Wonkblog

Running rings around dietitians

"QUITE simply the industry is running rings round the dietitians and years of trying to get meaningful changes that would significantly improve the nation’s health have achieved very little.
   "Declarations of interest by individual researchers are obviously important but they are peripheral. However once you get on some board or committee you probably shouldn’t have any commercial links at all."

Jerome Burne, British investigative health writer, read more

April 2015

Brands of tomorrow

“YOU'D be surprised how fast brands can scale now. I think in three to five years there are going to be a bunch of $300m to $500m dollar companies and brands that you've never heard of today. The great brands of tomorrow, of the next generation, are on sale in stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Earth Fare today .....

   "Millennials are coming of age and their economic impact will be breathtaking… The next three to five years are going to be by far and away the most dynamic and exciting [for food and beverage] entrepreneurs that I’ve seen."

Boulder Brands' CEO Steve Hughes, Read more

Food scientists needed!

"AS the world’s population grows, even more food scientists will be needed to address important food challenges such as water scarcity, climate change, waste reduction, food insecurity, transportation, longer shelf life, and improved nutritional quality.
   "From the 1960s through the 1980s, many top food scientists entered the profession, but they are now retired or about to retire. The technical pipeline must be filled..."

Mary Ellen Camire, IFT president

Needed: Radical changes in food processing

"NEW food sources have also been mooted over the past year or so to cope with the growing population and shrinking food growth - these encompass insects and algae and beyond. Yet, the answer to feeding the billions may be a little simpler and certainly more palatable than eating bugs.
   "What if by processing the entire organic food source from the start, the food industry could feed more people and radically lessen the negative impact on the environment?  
  "Alternatively, what if the waste from food processing factories could be processed in a way that could extract goodness, or be made into a palatable and nutritional foodstuff?"

Roy Henderson, CEO of Green Cell Technologies 

Food packaging rhetoric

"RECENTLY, a Finnish manufacturer of meatballs was told its meatballs didn’t contain enough actual meat to qualify as meatballs. So now it says on the packet simply: 'Balls'. One might agree that the mechanically recovered slop that is the main ingredient of these balls should not be called 'meat'.
   "But if advertising authorities banned all inaccurate, arguable or just plain ridiculous language on food packets, our nosh would have to be wrapped, as cigarettes soon will be, in completely blank packaging."

Steven Poole, writing in The Guardian, read more

Fed-up parent!

"WE mothers are no longer expected to use pre-packaged foods. It is no longer enough to put meals on the table, even if they are healthy and nourishing and well balanced.
   "With the advent of the Thermomix, and Paleo, and organic, and 'clean eating', it isn't even enough just to cook anymore. We are expected to cook all of our food ourselves from base ingredients, otherwise we have failed our children. We are somehow sub-par ... Now, it is not okay to use convenience foods.
   "But I'm resisting. As a mother of three kids who are radiantly healthy and not overweight, I will not be making my own butters or sauces. I will continue to use convenience foods for the freedom they afford me, which I value higher than home-made pasta. And besides, that store-bought lasagna was fantastic.
   "Freedom tastes pretty damn good to me."

Kerri Sackville, Read more

 The evolution of health and wellness

 "CONSUMERS think, live and shop differently, depending on where they are within the 'World of Health and Wellness'. Over the past decade, we have observed a shift away from a perfunctory, ascetic, reactive and compliant notion of wellness to one that is more experiential, positive, holistic, proactive and self-assessed.

   "There has been a cultural shift – now complete for all intents and purposes – from 'health' to 'quality of life'; from reactive health to proactive wellness.

   "More importantly, this lifestyle did not evolve slowly over the past 100 years as if it were a constant force of American life. Health and wellness can trace its roots to a very specific cultural movement that flourished with the Baby Boomer cohort, and its importance and enduring impact on American culture stem from its beginnings as a social movement."

Harvey Hartman, chairman of The Hartman Group

Implications of the Heiniz-Kraft merger...

"IF history plays out, there will be dark days ahead for Kraft Foods, which was recently acquired by 3G Capital and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Why? Because 3G Capital is merciless when it acquires a company, cutting and slashing (people, products, facilities) its way to a profitable bottom line ...
   "Don’t blame 3G or Warren Buffett, this is what they do. Lay this on the managers at the top who were unable to steady Kraft sail through turbulent waters. But I still feel for the folks at Kraft who will bear the brunt of this merger."

Bob Messenger, publisher of The Morning Cup

Warren Buffett is everything that's wrong with America

"I THINK I’ve never understood the American – and international – fascination with money, with gathering wealth as the no 1 priority in one’s life. What looks even stranger to me is the idolisation of people who have a lot of money. Like these people are per definition smarter or better than others. It seems obvious that most of them are probably just more ruthless, that they have less scruples, and that their conscience is less likely to get in the way of their money and power goals.
   "America may idolise no-one more than Warren Buffett, the man who has propelled his fund, Berkshire Hathaway, into riches once deemed unimaginable. For most people, Buffett symbolises what is great about American society and its economic system.
   "For me, he’s the symbol of everything that’s going wrong. But in a better and wiser world, Warren should pay into the health care system right now, he should pay for the obesity and diabetes costs his ventures and investments are going to cause ... Buffett kills American kids for profit. Huge profits."

Raul I Meijer, The Market Oracle, read more

We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake...

“UPON this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it and it will grow our food, our fuel and our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it.”

Sanskrit text, 1500BC, read more

Food safety audits: do we have the system backward?

"SO much of the food safety discussion we have in this industry is centered on passing a food safety audit. In fact, for many, the food safety audit is the basis of their food safety efforts. A buyer mandates that a grower or supplier must have a food safety audit, so the goal is to pass the audit. Sounds logical enough, but food safety audits don’t really make food safer.
   "This all-consuming furore over food safety audits is unfortunate because audits are only a tool, a snapshot in time, actually a snapshot in time that you get to pose for. Realistically, taking an audit is like taking an exam when you know when the exam will be scheduled, you already know all the questions that will be on the exam, and you already have all the answers, too."

Bob Whitaker, Chief Science Officer at US Produce Marketing Association, read more

Food safety taken for granted

"I DON'T think most people are aware of the amount of work that goes into ensuring that the food they eat is safe. It's only when something goes wrong that they sit up and take notice."

John O'Brien, head of the Food Safety and Integrity Research Programme at the Nestlé Research Center, read more 

On food entrepreneurship...

“START small — it forces you to learn all the aspects of your business. When you run into problems you have to think creatively instead of throwing money at them.”

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry Ice Cream, read more

Don't be a casualty in the war of sweet subterfuge

"WHETHER you know it or not, you may soon be a casualty of war. Most wars are fought for hearts and minds. This war is for your liver. The goal: money, of course. The casualty: you, when you develop diabetes because of a fatty liver.
   "Science has shown that sugary drinks are causative for fatty liver disease, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. And it's not because of the calories. Alcohol is not dangerous because it has calories. Alcohol is dangerous because it is alcohol. It's the same with sugar."

Robert Lustig, professor of paediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco,  president of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, anti-sugar crusader and writer, read more

March 2015

The power of misinformation

"MISINFORMATION is often presented with anecdotes, which are easy to understand, evoke vivid pictures in our minds, and are particularly likely to stick. This gives anecdotes the power to override hard facts, like statistics and scientific evidence.
   "A vivid example about a single case of a vaccination’s apparent side-effects – complete with quotes from a worried parent – can then make it difficult for readers to reconcile the anecdote with statistical evidence intended to combat it. Worse, as time passes, the anecdote will remain memorable, while the statistics will be forgotten.

Norbert Schwarz, Provost Professor of Psychology and Marketing, University of Southern California, read more

What about stevia via fermentation?

“THE industry should rightly worry about the erosion of stevia sweeteners’ natural image… Whether [consumers’] conclusions are always scientifically sound is another matter, but once the reputation of an ingredient has been sullied, it is almost impossible to restore its good standing.”

Simone Baroke, Euromonitor analyst

The evolution of SA's blended wine market

"THIS used to be the most discounted of all categories, the wines made from the contents of the least impressive tanks, barrels and varieties all thrown together to tidy up the cellar between one vintage and the next.
   "Over the past three decades the whole concept of blends has been transformed and with it their perceived status. Nowadays, even when wines are entitled to single-cultivar labelling, some producers choose to sell them under proprietary brand names, a clear indication that single variety wines have been supplanted in the ultra-premium market."

Michael Fridjohn, leading wine journalist, read more

Look to the small guys for inspiration

"WITH more and more entrepreneurism occurring in the food industry, larger companies are starting to take notice of the bold, experimental choices smaller companies are willing to explore, and they want a piece of that pie, too..."

Eric Huang, food blogger JunkFoodGuy.com

Health and wellness has a transformative impact on eating

“BETTER educated about the connection between diet and wellness and armed with smart phone apps and Google, consumers are taking a healthier approach to eating.
   "The impact of health and wellness on eating has been transformative — from the entry of fresh format stores like Whole Food Market and Fresh Market, to the expansion of fresh food offerings in traditional grocery stores, to the growth of neighbourhood farmers markets, to the organic food boom and FDA. menu labelling requirements.”

Market research agency Acosta, in a new report "The Evolution of Eating", read more

Reinventing breakfast

“NUTRITIONAL and cereal bars present an efficient platform for packaged food engineers to respond to the very latest in food concerns of healthy eating consumers... Nutrition bars, which have achieved torrid sales in recent years, provide an especially appropriate platform to deliver the kind of dense nutrition today’s consumers crave, and search for in sources such as ancient grains and healthy seeds – including quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, chia and flaxseed.
   “Ultimately, the overall market for snack bars, including both nutritional and cereal/granola bars, is projected to approach $8bn in 2019. This represents cumulative growth of 30% and a compound annual growth rate of 5%.”

New Packaged Facts report, 'Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the US', read more

February 2015

 What to believe?

“ALMOST every single nutrient imaginable has peer-reviewed publications associating it with almost any outcome. In this literature of epidemic proportions, how many results are correct?”

John Ioannidis, professor of medicine and statistics at Stanford, harsh critic of nutritional science

The love of craft

“CONTRARY to wine, beer can be produced pretty much anywhere, and very close to where customers actually are. This proximity enables more interaction.
   "And this is what makes craft beer so special. The whole process, and final product, has the ability to engage consumers in a way that its industrial counterparts simply can’t.
   "Consumers are putting increasing value on knowing where their products have come from, and craft beer nearly always comes with a great story from a person passionate about their profession."

The Guardian, read more

Big food world challenge

“THE market is consolidating and the consumers are demanding and you have to get all the pieces of the equation right to make it work. The ingredient and food world as a whole is quite complex, because it is not just about science but also emotion. Taste and cultural differences all need to be answered. This makes it exciting, but also a challenge,” he added.

Olivier Rigaud, CEO Naturex, read more

Junk food - your days are numbered!

"IN other words, Big Food successfully sold a vision of cooking as a necessary inconvenience, to be dispatched with as painlessly as possible — open a soup can for dinner, unleash a squirt of artificial cream onto a boxed cake for dessert — that's starting to lose its charm.
   "For decades, 'American cuisine' was an oxymoron, the punch line to a sad joke. Billions of dollars in profits have been made betting on the US appetite for processed junk. Those days may be drawing to an end."

Tom Philpott, writing in Mother Jones, read more

"Has food science has done a woeful job of explaining itself to the public?"

"THE landscape of the food dialogue is incredibly complex because there are so many different people contributing to it: chefs, foodies, health enthusiasts, and the like. Unfortunately, the number of scientists joining in the conversation has been proportionally low, and it is time for that to change.
   "Our food system is not static; it changes constantly as scientific knowledge is advanced. Additionally, the public’s interest in food will forever follow trends making it hard for anyone to see the bigger picture. These aspects of food present a unique challenge to scientific communication. Joining in the conversation is likely unappealing to many researchers for this reason, but that truly is a problem.
   "The public is asking valid questions, yet they are mostly receiving answers from individuals who disregard the scientific process."

Food scientists respond to this pertinent question: read more

Tapping into the cereal zeitgeist

“IT'S a range of cereals, mueslis, granolas – real food prepared simply. No preservatives, no artificial colours or flavours. Whole grains, fibre – an ingredients list you can understand and is short,”
   “You know everything that’s in there and can pronounce it. Very simple food, and we believe this is exactly where the category needs to lean into.

   “For a mainstream big brand like Kellogg the opportunity is there for us to lean into this space in targeted ways to really re-energize and drive salience for the category as a choice in today’s world.”

Kellogg’s chief growth officer, Paul Norman, on Kellogg USA's new Origins muesli range, read more

Love her or hate her, the 'Food Babe' makes food giants buckle

"THE so-called 'Food Babe', aka Vani Hari, has been under heavy criticism in recent months, with some saying she is basically a scam artist posing as a consumer advocate. But I have a different view.
   "What Vani Hari is, is a symbol of the 'new' and 'dangerous' scrutiny food companies are facing from ordinary folks with a powerful internet presence and, in some cases, tens of thousands of devoted followers.
   "Vani Hari may actually be the fear-mongering, low-life scammer her critics say she is, but, guess what, when she launches an assault, most food companies are quick to buckle. Look at her most recent rant: the use of butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), a chemical - preservative that the cereal companies say helps keep cereal fresher longer while on the grocery shelf. It's also FDA-approved. Which doesn't seem to matter.
   "No sooner had Hari launched her online petition, and gathered 17,000 signatures, when General Mills tweeted that it had already begun to remove BHT from its cereals. Love her or hate her, she clearly has the power to spur the industry into action."

Bob Messenger, foremost US food industry observer-commentator

Plant protein evolution

"PROFESSIONALS who work in the plant protein industry point out that the resources used to produce just 1lb of animal protein could instead provide 10lb of plant protein. The trick is to get consumers in wealthy nations to switch to plant proteins. The hard truth is that food sells on the basis of taste, cost, and healthfulness — in that order.
   "Even vegetarians and flexitarians — those who often choose vegetable proteins but also eat meat — are rarely moved solely by environmental concerns. Although they often buy meat alternatives, surveys show they aren’t very satisfied with them."

Melody M Bomgardner, writing in C&N Magazine, read more

Technology rules...

"THE upshot for food marketers is that it’s no longer imperative that they focus on consumers’ wants and needs. Instead, the most successful companies pay attention more to what people are actually doing with food, how they play with it and what meals and snacks they make — all activities anchored by the digital world are far different from the 'need states' marketers traditionally study.
   "The dynamic between food companies and consumers is no longer 'I offer, and you buy or reject'. Technology has changed that relationship; consumers now carry clout beyond their purchasing power because of how they share information and ideas digitally and how they’re able to buy products directly from producers.
   "Although people are concerned that technology diminishes their personal relationships and well-being, when it comes to food, they see technology’s effect as both vibrant and hopeful."

Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group

On McDonald's current struggles...

"THE reality is we haven't been changing at the same rate as our customers. So we're changing and we're changing aggressively. The key to our success will be our ability to deliver a more relevant experience.
   "We have listened to our customers and we better understand what their future experience should look like – personalised, local, a contemporary and inviting atmosphere and choices on how they order, what they order and how they're served."

Don Thompson, who is stepping down in March as McDonald's CEO

On the New York supplement scandal

"...these are not some fly-by-night supplement sellers. They are major retailers. The supplement industry’s argument that only a few unscrupulous small supplement makers are cheating on ingredients doesn’t work in this case.
   "Why don’t people stop taking supplements when they hear things like this?
   "The major proven benefits of supplements are their placebo effects. The actual ingredients make no difference.
   "The obvious conclusion is that if you must buy supplements, buy the cheapest ones.  But that doesn’t work either because more expensive supplements produce stronger placebo effects.
    "Placebo effects are great things, and I’m for them. But caveat emptor."

Prof Marion Nestle, renowned nutrition/food studies academic, New York University, read more

January 2015

PepsiCo's transformative approach

“HISTORICALLY, the food and beverage industry has had a relatively narrow and short-term focus, where obvious things like processing, distribution, and sales were the drivers. But as the world has changed, consumers are increasingly interested in nutrition, in understanding origins and sources of food, and in understanding how food and beverages interact not just with taste but also with the body.
  "There’s so much more awareness of the environment, too. So it’s essential for a head of R&D to have a broad perspective when it comes to looking at food and beverages and the packaging that contains them.
  "That’s why we’ve brought in people with such diverse backgrounds, people with experience in biology, life sciences, computational modeling, agronomy—skills not typically thought of as being part of a food and beverage company.”

Dr Mehmood Khan, PepsiCo Chief Scientific Officer, head of Global R&D. read more

Back-to-basics knocks

"THERE is a tremendous opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers to lead a healthy movement by providing the products and services that consumers want and need. While diet fads come and go overtime, innovative, back-to-basics foods that taste good, are easy to prepare and provide healthful benefits will have staying power. The first step is knowing where to put your product development efforts.”

Susan Dunn, executive VP, global professional services, Nielsen, read more

On EFSA's 'BPA is safe' announcement

"SADLY, evidence rarely changes the minds of activists, so we can expect to see billions more wasted on research and regulation of low-dose endocrine disruptors."

Ronald Bailey, Reason.com, read more

The GMO labelling battle

"THE fight for labelling transparency is not about stopping GMOs. To say you’re against genetic engineering is to say you’re against science. Real drought resistance, real yield improvements, could be a good thing. But, unfortunately, 95 percent of the way the technology has been applied is to produce and use more chemicals.
  "Last year, the six leading biotech companies sold $2.47 billion worth of seed, and $4.16 billion worth of herbicides [what the chemical companies call "crop protection"]. And nobody knows that.
  "They’ve told Congress, they’ve told us all that it’s about feeding the world. They’ve told everybody that people like me are Luddites and we don’t believe in science. And they’ve done a brilliant job with tens of millions of dollars of lobbying to seduce the public into thinking that this is feed-the-world, feed-the-future stuff when it’s a simple profit model to sell more chemicals."

Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Dairy founder and CEO talks GMO labelling, read more

A mega trend

"THE third global megatrend of the year is the huge amount of research, discussion, and food sales based on pro-biotics, the billions of thingies living in the biome of the human gut.
  "Awareness of tummy ecosystems upsets many applecarts of today's food system, based largely on Big Science norms of the World War II era, when chemicals were manipulated to control both human and soil health. Once the tummy and soil are afresh as living biological systems, not inanimate chemistry sets, the care and feeding of tummies and soils must proceed differently.
  "January, 2015's top medical discovery, based on potential replacements for antibiotics that have lost their potency after decades of over-use, is based on research into billions of previously-unexamined soil microbes that have protective potential as human drugs.
  "Shoppers should be ready for more kefir, kim chi, kombucha and fermented pickles and sauerkraut, which support a healthy gut, linked to improved digestion and even mental health.
  "Food writer Michael Pollan deserves much of the credit for popularising this new paradigm. Eat food, mostly fermented, not too much, might be the watchword."

 Wayne Roberts, author: The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food, at Rabble.ca, read more

New fruit juice vs old

"IT'S a lot better than where we were a few years ago, drinking horrible orange juice. If people knew how their orange juice was processed, they'd be appalled. We are part of a broken food culture, and it's definitely a step in the right direction."

Andrey Ayrapetov, US marketing company Metabrand, commenting on HPP-processed juice, read more

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