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Food Bites 2012

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


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

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

Food additivesOn 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

HoneyTapping 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

ProteinThe 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

Radical Sustainability

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

ObesityWho 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