Food Bites: 2017

Bits and bites of wisdom and insights on the trends defining and shaping the wonderful world of food and drinks, collated here from FOOD-DRINKStuff SA’s regular e-newsletters this year.

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New marketing paradigm
“BEING perfect or being the best or the only or the first or the most – immediately sends up a red flag for consumers that says, ‘Hang on, that is spin’.”
Linda Eatherton, MD at Ketchum Global Food & Beverage PR practice, read more

Sugar tax brawl
“THE battle over the #sugartax is becoming one of the world’s most ferocious policy brawls — a clash of science, politics and money in dozens of countries and cities.”
Tweet by Food Security SA‏ @FoodSecurity_za

The REAL sugar tax
“THOSE we trusted with health advice told us to eat vegetable oils, focus on the fat and calorie content of foods and exercise more. They also had scant concern for sugar…
“But now we see the grisly consequences of that gormless obsession with saturated fat unfolding before our eyes…”
David Gillespie, author, social commentator

Changing retail landscape
“WHILE the bulk of your sales will still come from traditional supermarkets, the future is with the new channels, and the question is when do you become part of it.  
“The question of ‘when’ can be answered by Noah … Noah started to build the Ark before it started to rain.”
John Stanton, US marketing guru, read more

Thoughts on today’s trends
“NEVER underestimate consumers’ appetite for novelty. Today we are all food explorers, locked into an endless, restless search for something new and interesting.”

“AND as for the forthcoming meat substitutes raised from lab-cultured meat? It’s an idea as far removed from consumers’ desire for ‘natural foods’ as it can get.  For these companies, they may find themselves bracketed along with GMOs as ‘Franken Food’ in media and online consumer discussions.”
Julian Mellentin, New Nutrition Business

Solving perishability
“THERE are a lot of issues in the food system, but we believe that one of the most fundamental is the perishability of fresh produce. By loosening the perishability constraint, we believe that we can improve nutrition and nourishment world-wide.”
James Rogers, CEO of Apeel Sciences, creators of Edipeel, read more

The big squeeze
“PEOPLE always thought the premium end was invincible.… But invincible businesses just don’t exist.”
Darren Hele, CEO Famous Brands, read more

Low carb winners
“THE new product lines are built around the idea of ‘swapping in’ veggies for carbs in many traditional recipes
“We were blown away by their success and knew that we had uncovered a new way that consumers want to eat their veggies.”
Jordan Greenberg, GM of Green Giant, read more

“ASK yourself why you were put on this Earth. What are you here for? Then do it.
“What I wanted most out of life was to find an answer to heart disease.”
Fred Kummerow, US scientist who raised early warnings about trans fats, read more

SA Poultry’s pass on MDM
“IT IS striking that few, if any, companies in SA have mechanically deboned meat capability in place — precisely in the subsector where there is import penetration and where poultry producers have failed to recognise an important market and make the necessary investments.”
Garth Strachan, deputy DG for industrial development, read more

Terrific Tetra Pak
“TETRA PAK is an amazing innovation in the 21st century which has revolutionised beverage packaging.
“It checks all the requirements for a perfect, technology-based packaging. From safety, preservation, transport-safe to leakage free, Tetra packaging has sorted many logistical problems in the food and beverage industry.”
The Warehouse, read more

Fact vs Myth #1
“CONSUMERS are entitled to have a choice over the production methods of the food they eat. For them to do that in an informed manner, they need real facts and complete pictures that avoid over-simplistic and hyped rhetoric.”

Fact vs Myth #2
“THERE are no hormones used in poultry production ever, yet the majority of consumers believe there are.”

SA’s obesity crisis
“I DON’T think anyone will disagree that we really do have a big fat problem.”
 Dr Craig Nossel, head of Vitality Wellness

Science is it!
“SCIENCE is the only news.
“When you scan a news portal or magazine, all the human interest stuff is the same old he-said-she-said, the politics and economics the same cyclical dramas, the fashions a pathetic illusion of newness; even the technology is predictable if you know the science behind it.
“Human nature doesn’t change much; science does, and the change accrues, altering the world irreversibly.”
Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Discipline

Yummy crickets
“IT’S not a good idea to come into the market selling whole insects. Instead, it’s better to lead the consumer slowly towards entomophagy by providing a tasty product.”
Ralph Langholz, Micarna, a Swiss-based producer of Pop Bugs, insect snacks, read more

Clean label, please
“I MAY have avoided the nonsense peddled in the blogosphere, but, like many people, I find the current world of food bewildering at times.
“My goals are simple enough: I want to come home with the ingredients for tasty meals that will make my family healthier, without spending a fortune.
“And while I’m at it, I’d also like to minimise any harm I might cause to the environment and my fellow humans. That shouldn’t be so hard, right?”
Bob Holmes, writing in New Scientist

Bending culture
“IN today’s highly competitive marketplace, companies typically react to cultural change, not cause it to spread. The difference does matter.
“The most powerful brand-building advantage that has ever existed in consumer culture is to be a brand that drives change from the cultural margins to widespread acceptance.”
The Hartman Group, read more

Traditional vs processed diets
“THE prevailing story is that this is the best of all possible worlds — cheap food, widely available. If you don’t think about it too hard, it makes sense.”
“A closer look, however, reveals a much different story. To put it in stark terms: The diet is killing us.”
Anthony Winson, University of Guelph, Ontario, read more

Alternative proteins
“PRETTY much every Silicon Valley zillionaire wants to free the world from the mass slaughter of animals and the environmental havoc it causes.
“It’s a goal Nobel-competitive molecular biologists, tech entrepreneurs, earnest vegans, environmentalists, and venture capitalists are all working toward.” article, read more

Nutrition first!
“FROM small to large companies, crushing health care expenditures are a major obstacle to growth and success.
“Warren Buffet recently called rising medical costs the ‘tapeworm of American economic competitiveness’ Our food system is feeding the tapeworm.
Dariush Mozaffarian, Prof of Nutrition, Tufts University, read more

Disrupting dairy
“THEIR idea of innovation is a brand extension.
“But we saw huge potential for impact – a lot of white space in the world of food innovation through technology. What we did is use technology to create really good food.”
Adam Lowry & Neil Renninger, co-founders of Ripple Milk, read more

New ‘ruby’ chocolate
“IT’s natural, it’s colourful, it’s henodstic, there’s an indulgence aspect to it, but it keeps the authenticity of chocolate.”
Antoine de Saint-Affrique, CEO Barry Callebaut

Gold in the checkout line!
“DON’T get me wrong, I’m a Woolies’ food fan, but there are some things I would not pay for, based on the price per kilogram.
“Today, on display in the checkout corridor, I see a snack line that really takes the biscuit – R2,798 per kg! Yep, nearly as expensive as a Naspers share.
“And what can be so rare to command such a price? Seaweed. (No kidding, R13.99 for 5g)”
James Olive, via email

Authenticity trend
“PURSUIT of the genuine, be it in food, pre-loved goods, beer or character, is essential, even if it is contrived.”
Euromonitor International, read more

The amazing Amazon factor
“WE’RE determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone. Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality — we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market’s long-held commitment to the highest standards.”
Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, read more

Growth ops in non-alcoholic drinks
“WIITH the readiness on the part of major alcohol concerns to capitalise on the growth opportunities in non-alcoholic drinks, and the application of their marketing nous and muscle fully to the category, they stand to reap substantial rewards.”, read more

We’re political animals
“POLITICS and partisan identification is an increasingly central factor of how people see themselves.
“This trend, combined with social media, means brands can no longer just assume they will not get swept into the political fray.”
Chris Jackson, Ipsos, read more

‘Clean’ preservatives?
“CHANGING up preservatives carries much higher stakes because no one wants to play a guessing game with food safety.
“The industry is evaluating plant-based ingredients, but it could be years before it has a natural solution for every food preservation problem.”
C&EN article, read more

Recessionary savvy
“WITH these trends set to continue for the foreseeable future, the real question marketers should be asking is how to consistently deliver the value consumers are so desperately seeking to ensure it is their products that find their way into consumers’ hotly contested trolleys.”
Gareth Pearson, CEO BMI Research, read more

Ever better & healthier
“WE’RE listening to consumers. We recognise that real and healthier food is better for our consumers and our business. Our goal is to be the leading health and well-being food company.”
Denise Morrison, CEO Campbell Soup Co, read more

The new consumer
“WE’RE in a whole new phase of modern consumption.
“There’s a generation of consumers now who don’t want their parents’ establishments, they don’t want their parents’ governments, they don’t want their parents’ industries, and they don’t want their parents’ brands.”
Tina Sharkey, American food entrepreneur, read more

Ever easier & faster
“IT’S clear that food is changing. No matter how you buy and consume it, food is being made available faster and more conveniently than ever before. In the impatient, nanosecond world we live in now, that’s probably a good thing too.”
The London Economic

Getting over GMO demons
“I hope people wake up one day and realize, ‘Hey, almost everything is GM’ — it’s in the air, on our bodies, in our medicine. Maybe we can get over the GM foods controversy.”
George Church, Harvard geneticist

Subscription meals craze
“THEREIN lies the genius and appeal of home-delivered meals. It’s the median between takeout and taking back our kitchens. Gone is the need to grocery shop for the right ingredients or scour the internet for the right recipe.”
Packaged Facts, read more

Shocking globesity
“More than 2 billion ppl overweight/obese worldwide. Do we need more evidence that current dietary advice is not working?”
Tweet by Nina Teicholz @bigfatsurprise

Wonderful drinks innovation
“IDEAS are flowing like perhaps they haven’t in decades, if not a century. Indeed, until recently the beverage industry had remained untouched by radical transformation. That is not the case any longer.”
David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts

Goodbye 4Ps of marketing
“THE modern marketer needs to be a scientist, a strategist, a storyteller, and a socialiser.
“I’ve made sure we have developed our marketing development curriculum around these four ‘Ss’ to help us engage and communicate with our consumers and help develop our consumer offerings.”
Alison Lewis, global CMO of J&J consumer division, read more

Low carb hoopla
“NOT sure why there is such a fuss about the dangers of a low carb diet when its mainly just removing the crap in the standard American diet.”
Tweet by Frank Lipman MD,‏ @DrFrankLipman

Miraculous supermarkets!
“IT’S something of a miracle that we created a system like this where we have nutritious food available to us all the time, at a relatively low, reasonable cost. I didn’t expect to appreciate grocery stores as much as I do now.
“That said, they’re loaded with a lot of things that are bad for you — unhealthy and nutritionally bankrupt foods — as well, so there’s the good and the bad.”
Michael Ruhlman, author of new book, Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, read more

Health confusion
“EVEN with nutritionally identical products, consumers are almost five times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than canned and four times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than frozen.
“Consumers also are more likely to believe a product that costs $2 is healthier than an otherwise identical product that costs 99 cents.”
IFIC’s 12th Annual Food and Health Survey, read more

The Chobani Way
“THAT’S why you’ll never see us reformulate. It’s flattering that we see our competitors reformulating because it wasn’t made the right way to begin with.”

“YOU can be both a winning, competitive, fierce company and also be magnanimous and do good to those in need.”
Chobani CMO, Peter McGuinness, read more

Food fundamentals
“Food is not just central to whether we live or die; it is also central to our personhood, our place in society and our fundamental notions of who we are.
“And so an empty plate is not just about the absence of a meal. It is about the absence of care, the absence of dignity and the absence of kindness. These are the real moral evils of our food system.”
Dr Tracey Ledger, author of An Empty Plate

Real food divorce
“THE food industry, like the fashion industry, seems driven by the pursuit of impossible perfection. Endless rows of blemish-free fruit and vegetables in supermarkets that taste of not-very-much.
“Pre-packaged meats with nary a head or foot or tail in sight. And a steady stream of cookbooks and articles with Photoshopped, super-saturated photos of beautiful dishes bathed in summer sunlight.”
“As a result, we’ve become estranged from the ‘messy reality’ of the origins of food. Any sign of life — blood, guts, feathers, mud — is suspect.”
From the book ‘Ugly Food: Overlooked and Undercooked’

Dubious research
“A WHOLE book could be written on the industry of observational studies and the nonsense media coverage they generate.”
Tweet by RiNGER @EL_RiNGER

Salt, slat, stal, stla?
“THE work suggests that we really do not understand the effect of sodium chloride on the body”
“I suspect that when it comes to the adverse effects of high sodium intake, we are right for all the wrong reasons.”
Dr Melanie Hoenig, Harvard Medical School on new salt research, read more

Flourishing, not broken
“THE surprising part of the word ‘broken’, often used to describe today’s agriculture, is that it’s being applied to the most productive, dynamic food system in the world — one that harnesses thriving technology and constantly evolving science.”
 Randy Krotz, opinion contributor, The Hill, read more

Awesome fibre
“FIBRE is the only option to transform our staple comfort foods from toxic to therapeutic.”­
Gerald Davies, founder of UK’sFiberFlour, read more

Upsetting the apple cart
“ACROSS the food industry, companies are operating in a period of rapid and fundamental change.   
“Most food companies built businesses to address a traditional set of consumer values, factors that consumers weighed in their choice of food, namely taste, price and convenience…
“Today, taste remains No. 1. … But the number of consumers who are considering an evolving series of emerging drivers has grown substantially.”
Lawrence E Kurzius, CEO of McCormick & Co, read more

Reformulating KitKat’s sugar
“MILK and cocoa has formed the basis of the KitKat recipe ever since it was introduced in 1936.
“So, while people might have been expecting us to add something else, this is a great example of us using our strength in research and innovation to develop a great recipe that replaces sugar with a bit more of the existing, natural ingredients that people know and love.”
Fiona Kendrick, CE Nestle UK and Ireland

“IF the taste changes, Nestle, expect us not to buy it. Stop your meddling – WE will decide the amount of sugar in our diets, not you.”
Australian KitKat fan, read more

Flip-flopping millenials
“FOR as much as millennials bring us challenges, they also have a belief that you only live once and you should enjoy yourself. They believe in a license to indulge.”
Bill Toler, CEO of Hostess

Today’s wine quality
“IT is one of the ironies of the wine market today that just as the price differential between cheapest and most expensive bottles is greater than ever before, the difference in quality between these two extremes is probably narrower than it has ever been.”
UK wine critic, Jancis Robinson

Essential trend-watching
“WHAT consumers really want is transparency and authenticity — a story to tell. They are quick to unravel a brand that can’t provide this. It is essential to get the bottom of a trend and interrogate it — what are the consumer motivations behind it.
“Talk to consumers, watch them, talk to gatekeepers of the trend, such as bartenders and retailers. We were in the business before we launched, listening to drinks trends, watching them as they were being made and brought to life.
“Do not just rely on social media. There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned research.”
Sam Galsworthy, founder of UK’s Sipsmith gin

So much for 5-a-day!
“IF Americans were to actually go ahead and jump into consuming the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended, we’d be hard-pressed to meet that demand. There’s an incredible amount of innovation that we need, all the way from the farm to the table.”
Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, read more

Getting to the truth behind the jumble
“NOW more than ever the message is clear: if you want to truly be healthy, it’s up to the individual to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
“There is a mountain of information out there to go through, and you’ll need to sift through the bias of people selling you diets, fringe groups promoting their social agenda, and the media misinterpreting real research findings.
“While it may sound like too much trouble, is your health really of that little importance that you’d trust it to anyone else but yourself?”
Pete Ross, The Observer, read more

The new queue etiquette
“WAITING in line when it’s not a necessity is a lot easier than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
“Today you have a device in your hand. You can be incredibly productive waiting in line. Whereas 20 years ago nobody waited in line unless they had to.”
Darren Tristano, president of Chicago-based food consulting firm, Technomic

Sweetener dilemmas
“THINK of food companies’ plight this way: the finest scientists in industry have spent decades trying to find or invent a no-calorie sweetener that tastes and feels as good as the stuff extracted from pure cane.
“And now, after they largely failed to master that complex, arduous task, the level of difficulty is being raised even higher: this improbable concoction cannot appear to have been engineered by scientists.”
Beth Kowitt, Fortune, read more

Perfecting packaging
“THE difference between you picking one type of potato chip, salad greens mix, beer or whisky often comes down to your sensory reactions to which package looks and feels ‘right’ to you in the moment.”
Alan Moskowitz, US customer insights consultant, read more

The authenticity illusion
“WE live, the lore says, in a fallen state, victims of Big Agriculture and a food industry that has rendered everything bland, fatty and sweet.
“By tapping the traditions of centuries past – or other, poorer places – we can regain the paradise that our grandparents unaccountably abandoned.
“And who could be against wanting a more authentic, genuine food experience? I’m so glad you asked.
“In fact, authenticity is an illusion, and a highly overrated one…”
Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View columnist, read more

Kraft hunting Unilever
“3G have never proved they can sell more stuff but they are very effective at cutting costs.”
Bloomberg analyst

Perception wars
 “THERE is no doubt that the food industry has an influence on public health and nutrition policy, but don’t get fooled into thinking that influence is one-sided. 
“Those who claim they are healthiest, safest, and most nutritious may, in reality, be no better than those they claim to be better than.”
Gary Truitt, read more

Reprioritising food science
“SOME researchers think America needs something akin to a food moonshot—a major reprioritisation of our country’s food science money to focus on actually understanding all of the chemicals in food, how we taste them, and how they interact with our bodies.
“This could lead to food innovations that actually prevent disease.
‘When you consider the negative impact food can have on our health, how can this not be an national priority?’ asks Prof David Mills from the University of California, Davis’ Food Science & Technology dept.
“Why, he asks, do doctors prescribe Lipitor to lower bad cholesterol, when there’s the potential to simply personalise and alter our diets so cholesterol isn’t high in the first place?”
Ryan Mandelbaum, read more

“PERHAPS industry is finally realising that in T2DM, one cannot out-medicate a bad diet. Nutrition first; drugs second.”
Prof Tim Noakes

“FOR every scientific paper in support of a sugar tax, I will show you one that says it doesn’t work.”
Rolf Lütge, SA Sugar Association

“‘ORGANIC’ is an all-natural veneer applied to a grossly unnatural system where, just as in industrial agriculture, native ecosystems are levelled with the goal of funneling a handful of high-value products into the gaping maw of the global commodities market.”
Chris Newman, farmer-owner, Sylvanaqua Farms, US read more

“TURMERIC is trendy, adds vibrant colour to the finished product – and it’s a nice health halo for the ever-growing number of people who want to get more into their diet.
“Any company in the western world that doesn’t have a product featuring turmeric in its new product development plans – or imagines that it doesn’t need to because ‘people in our country will never eat that’ – should think again. Turmeric is coming.”
Julian Mellentin, New Nutrition Business, read more

Food Industry today??
“IT’S hard to believe that in the space of a few short years the sector has been transformed from being a safe, sluggish, defensive haven beloved by long-term investors into a roller-coaster ride where disruption threatens at every turn.”
Alexia Howard, analyst at Bernstein, read more

NPD lessons
“EVERY seasoned innovator knows that the notorious ‘If you build it, they will come’ mantra rarely  proves true.
“Successfully activating a product in market is a herculean  task — one whose importance shouldn’t be downplayed.
“Consider this statistic: Nearly one-third of innovations launched lack sufficient marketing support for concept or product performance to make a real impact.
“In other words, if consumers don’t know a product exists, can’t find it or don’t feel compelled to try it, then even a great innovation will fail. Thus, it’s absolutely essential that even the best ideas be properly fuelled in market.”

“PACKAGE design is the dark horse of the marketing world. Compared with other marketing levers, it often receives little attention, and its impact is vastly underestimated…
“Breakthrough Innovators appreciate the value of great package design; they know that it can drive trial, build brand equity and serve as a key medium for communicating an innovation’s ‘job to be done’.”
Nielsen 2017 Breakthrough Report, read more

Only the best will do
“ORGANIC and premium products will continue to lead the pack, whether or not regulations are relaxed or ignored.
“People want what they believe is better, cleaner, safer and at the same time uniquely special and delicious and are willing to pay for that. Third party certifications are becoming more important and more clearly, transparently reliable.”
Clark Wolf, contributor @ Forbes, read more

The anti-Nutella hype
Do say: “A teaspoon of Nutella contains about half a teaspoon of sugar. Chill out.”
Don’t say: “I demand to have my cake, eat all of it and blame the baker for making me fat.”
The Guardian, read more

Get moving on sugar
“DURING the coming five years in the UK and elsewhere, food manufacturers will be judged by their progress on sugar reduction.
“For many food companies, this simply means the continuation of work already in progress but the imperative to accelerate and improve, in the face of political and public pressure, is clear.”
Ben Cooper, author of’s new report, Is Sugar The Next Tobacco?

Clean labels
“THE trend is already leading to challenges on the supply side, with difficulty in sourcing enough natural products to deal with the surge in demand.
“Suppliers are already having to look beyond their base and grow in diverse regions of the world.
“This will be one of the key issues for the food industry going forward and present a future challenge should the ongoing trend to clean & clear label continue for years to come.” special report, read more