Newsletter 7 January 2011

 Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight.”

Henry R Luce

Food bites… All eyes on Africa

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

David Murray of Ernst & Young

Editor’s Stuff – A great start to 2011 for the skeptics

What a great way to start the year with the busting of a big money-raking snake oil product, the Power Balance wristband that was last year’s hottest celebrity accessory – you will have seen the silicon/hologram bracelet adorn the wrists of major sporting icons, from David Beckham to Graeme Smith, all of which has added legitimacy to the California manufacturer’s outrageous claims that it “improves balance, flexibility, strength, range of motion and general performance.”

I know this is not food but the official exposé of pseudoscience is always a delight! Last year in October, the consumer advocate group Choice found the bracelets were just rubber bands with plastic holograms.”The band was tested at CHOICE under controlled lab conditions which showed it did little else than empty purchasers’ wallets,” Choice said.

Now the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), a government watchdog group that has legal authority over businesses, has ordered Power Balance to remove misleading claims from their website and packaging; publish advertising informing consumers that they made claims that could not be substantiated; offer refunds to all consumers who feel they may have been misled and remove the words “performance technology” from the band itself. Read more here

But it seems to be business as usual in South Africa – despite the ACCC ruling, Power Balance is not set to change what they do in other parts of the world. “The ruling from the ACCC does not have any effect on regions around the world,” Power Balance told MyBroadband. Read more

But this story is set to run – Power Balance’s advertising has already been the subject of ASA rulings here and will probably be so again. Read more here on Dr Harris Steinman’s greatly informative blog on all matters snake oil, described as “A South African consumers guide to scams, pseudoscience and voodoo science, OR, a critical thinker’s guide to the ins and outs of Complementary and Alternative Medicine”.

Frito-Lay goes au naturel

That nebulous, indefinable word “natural” has hit the top of the trends charts early this year, with PepsiCo walking its much-vaunted talk to produce healthier offerings. In the US, Frito Lay’s new year resolution is to go on a health kick, and while it’s not exactly donning Birkenstocks, it has announced a cross-brand commitment to produce more than half its products from all-natural ingredients by the end of this year ie lose the likes of MSG, sodium diacetate and artificial colours. The move is motivated by consumer demand, with taste the top consideration, a spokesperson comments. brandchannel. Read more

COMMENT: “This is the largest evolution we’ve ever had in our product line,” says Ann Mukherjee, chief marketing officer at Frito-Lay. Read more

COMMENT: Pepsi’s answer to “eat natural”: snackify beverages and drinkify snacks

Talking trends, if you’re trend searching, do visit my Trends-in-Brief page, a collation with links to all the trend articles highlighted in this newsletter over the past year. 

Enjoy this week’s read! 

Email Brenda Neall: [email protected]

Publisher & Editor

Local Food Industry Stuff

Astral Foods in R170m joint bakery venture in Cape Town

Astral Foods CEO Chris Schutte sees no irony in his integrated poultry company making a deal to supply fast-food chain KFC SA with its bread requirements rather than chicken, and in fact has called its R170m joint venture with US bakery company East Balt (which runs 22 bakeries worldwide), “a perfect strategic fit with our business”. The facility that opened in Bellville in December will produce more than 33 000 buns every hour. Besides KFC, it will also supply McDonald’s outlets throughout SA, as well as smaller clients. Financial Mail. Read more

Food sector suffers legacy of apartheid

The food industry in SA has struggled to emerge from the controlled business it was under apartheid, when state-appointed boards managed sectors from wheat to wine. Some companies managed the change. Others did not. Why is it such a struggle for SA’s food industry? Business Day. Read more

The Colonel is coming… and everyone else, too

KFC is planning a massive Africa-wide expansion, and they’re using South Africa as a base. It’s all part of a larger trend: food and beverage companies consider emerging markets as their great hope for continued year on year growth. They might as well be speaking of our waistlines. The Daily Maverick. Read more

A ‘nak’ for feeding snacks to the informal market

Theo Bakkum, the managing director of Awesome Snacks, has had a turbulent decade, to say the least. But it is the way in which he overcame the challenges presented which saw him crowned the Sanlam/Business Partners Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year (2010). Bakkum held a number of directorships at Simba before becoming the managing director of National Brands’ Willards – until he was retrenched. He pursued a couple of business opportunities and in 2003 Awesome Snacks was born. TimesLive. Read more

Food Industry News

Record food prices put world ‘in danger’, says UN

Food riots, geopolitical tensions, global inflation and increasing hunger among the planet’s poorest people are the likely effects of a new surge in world food prices, which have hit an all-time high according to the United Nations. The UN’s index of food prices – an international basket comprising wheat, corn, dairy produce, meat and sugar – stands at its highest since the index started in 1990, surpassing even the peaks seen during the 2008 food crisis, which prompted civil disturbances from Mexico to Indonesia. The Independent. Read more

US: Obama signs food safety bill

President Obama signed the much-debated Food Safety Modernization Act on Tuesday this week. Speakers said the new bill will give the FDA the tools and authority it needs to help prevent the CDC’s new estimates of the annual burden of foodborne illness: 48 million cases, 180 000 hospitalizations, and 3 000 deaths. But they barely mentioned the elephant in the room: funding. The estimated cost of the new provisions is $1.4 billion. Food Politics. Read more

Britain unveils industry-backed healthy-eating plan

The British government unveiled a 250 million pound ($390 million) industry-financed plan to promote good eating under which millions of people will receive vouchers offering discounts on healthy foods. The coalition government is promoting the scheme as part of its Change4Life programme, aimed at combating Britain’s high obesity rate by encouraging people to eat healthier food and exercise more. But some experts have accused food manufacturers of using it to enhance their image. Reuters. Read more

COMMENT: “Change4Life healthy food vouchers are just the ticket for food industry marketers. But changing eating habits requires consistent, co-ordinated policy – not hand-outs to ease the population’s post-Christmas conscience.” FoodNavigator. Read more

The food industry in 2010: A retrospective

As 2010 draws to a close, Decisionnews Media’s top editors of its large group of food industry websites (Food Navigator, Food and Drink Europe etc) look back at the issues that have topped agendas across the food, beverage and dietary supplements industries in the last 12 months. They look back at commodity prices, Bisphenol A, obesity, health claims, safety regulations, and more… Read more

Nestle’s 2010 in review: too big to buy?

Nestle SA sat on $28.3 billion in cash in 2010 while competitors shelled out billions for acquisitions, investing instead on building a personalised nutrition business and making smaller purchases… Nestle can’t buy large competitors because it’s already a leader in many categories, says Pierre Tegner, an analyst at Oddo & Cie. It sold more than a fifth of the world’s coffee, almost a quarter of the baby food and a third of the world’s powdered milk in 2009, according to Euromonitor. It also sold more than 10% of carbonated and still bottled water globally, according to the market researcher. Bloomberg. Read more

US: Nutrition facts labels to be mandatory on meat and poultry products

The USDA will require labelling of fat and calorie content on all industrially packaged intact or ground, single-ingredient, raw meat and poultry by January 1, 2012. USDA’s rule exempts small producers, however. Such labelling has previously been voluntary for USDA-regulated meat, unlike all other FDA-regulated foods which have required Nutrition Facts since 1990 under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.

Says supremo food critic, Marion Nestle: “By the time the USDA finally got around to proposing its own version [of the NLEA] in 2001, the agency made labeling voluntary. But can guess what happened.  Meat and poultry producers happily volunteered not to label their products. Why not?  Meat producers greatly prefer that you remain ignorant of the amount of fat and calories meat contains.” Food Politics. Read more

UK: 2011’s incredible shrinking chocolates

This month some of the nation’s favourite chocolate bars have become a little bit smaller. Confectionery giants including Nestlé and Cadbury have reduced the size of their most popular brands at the same time as increasing prices in an attempt to protect their profits from the rise in VAT. Favourites such as Dairy Milk bars will lose a couple of chunks in February, while Maltesers will drop their weight per bag from 140g to 120g … The Scotsman. Read more

America’s favourite brands are slimming down, too

It’s a New Year, and consumers aren’t the only ones slimming down. So, too, are packaged goods companies. From PepsiCo to Kraft Foods to Campbell Soup, makers of some of America’s most well known products are trimming the calories and content when it comes to packaging. That’s per new research issued by which lists 10 examples of household and grocery products that have decreased in size, thanks to packaging shrinks, in part due to rising commodity and energy costs, that is. Forbes. Read more

Starbucks gets a new face – and drops the mugs

Starbucks’ familiar chunky white mugs will disappear from its British stores this year as part of a major rebranding exercise that will also see the American company drop its name from its well-known logo. The revamp will make the face of the woman who appears in the logo – known as the “Starbucks siren” – bigger and dispense with the white-on-green lettering that surrounds her. The Guardian. Read more

GEA acquires Convenience Food Systems

The GEA Group has expanded its food process technology portfolio with the acquisition of Convenience Food Systems (CFS), previously owned by AEA Investors LP. CFA is a multi-faceted supplier of secondary food processing and packaging machinery (meat, fish, cheese). The company, which is headquartered in Bakel, Netherlands, has some 2 000 employees and expects a turnover of about EUR 400m in this financial year.  FoodIngredientsFirst. Read more

Chocolate Wars” book sheds new light on Kraft takeover

Sixty fund managers under short-term pressures sealed the fate of Cadbury’s £11.7 billion takeover by Kraft, sending “180 years of history down the tube”, a new book reveals.Sir Dominic Cadbury, a former chief executive and chairman of Birmingham’s world-famous confectionery group, says thousands of Cadbury shareholders did not want to sell out to Kraft, but were powerless to prevent the takeover. Birmingham Post. Read more

US: Ranchers advocate return to horses as food

A summit organised by US ranchers and horse owners has called for the nation’s horse slaughter industry to be revived and the animals slaughtered and sold as food. Congress ended the killing of horses for human consumption in 2007 after animal-rights activists objected to the way the animals were treated. ABC News/AP. Read more

Trends, Innovation and Marketing Stuff

20 food trends, events in 2010

From foodie food trucks to celebrity chefs fighting obesity, to carnivorous attire, 2010 brought plenty of news and innovation on the food front, according to the editors of picked 20 of the most influential food trend and events of 2010. Food Product Design. Read more [These are American and culinary in focus, but still pertinent. Ed]

US: Superfruits sweeten 2011 flavour trends – Sensient

Sweet flavours sourced from superfruits dominate Sensient Flavors’ 2011 flavour trend predictions and provide food and beverage manufacturers opportunities for innovation with up-and-coming flavours inspired from multiple macro trends such as health and wellness, sensory and personalisation. The 2011 flavour trends include…. FOODStuff SA. Read more

The evolution of culinary food trends

Once upon a time, bacon was for breakfast. Hamburgers were not gourmet food. No fine-dining restaurant would have dreamed of serving pork belly. Not so long ago…. people would have laughed at the idea of a bakery selling only cupcakes and wondered if “gastropub” was a medical procedure. Why do such things become culinary trends? Chicago Sunday Times. Read more

Confectionery giants announce functional gum launches

Chewing gum brands Wrigley’s and Trident plan to launch new and developed functional gum products in early 2011. Cadbury is to launch Trident Vitality in the US, which will be available in three flavours that contains 10% the daily value of vitamin C per stick. The other two flavours are a blend of mint with white tea, and a peppermint stick with ginsen. Euromonitor predicts “strong growth” for the confectionery category over the next four years. ConfectioneryNews. Read more

CultureWatch: 2010: The year technology replaced talking

Americans are connected at unprecedented levels — 93% now use cellphones or wireless devices; one-third of those are “smartphones” that allow users to browse the Web and check e-mail, among other things. The benefits are obvious: checking messages on the road, staying in touch with friends and family, efficiently using time once spent waiting around. The downside: Often, we’re effectively disconnecting from those in the same room. That’s why, despite all the technology that makes communicating easier than ever, 2010 was the Year We Stopped Talking to One Another. USA Today. Read more

Is organic always the best pick when it comes to buying food?

Sales of organic foods rose 5.1% in 2009 and now make up almost 4% of total US food sales, according to the Organic Trade Association. Sales of organic fruits and vegetables are projected to grow by 13% yearly next year and the year after, and sales of organic food overall by 7%, says Barbara Haumann of the association. But in this age of locovorism (eating locally), food miles (how far food travels from farm to eater), farmers markets and organic TV dinners, consumers and farmers who’ve explored the righteousness of organic foods increasingly find the pros and cons are not quite as green and white as the USDA’s organic food label makes it seem. USA TODAY. Read more

UK: Launch for Evian eco-bottle

Water giant Evian has announced the UK launch of a lighter rPET eco bottle. The 1.5l container, which will be available in the UK from this month onwards, has been lightweighted by 11% compared to its predecessors, said the company, with its weight falling from 32 grams to 28.6 grams. Evian said that it also hopes to double the current volume of rPET in the bottle from 25 to 50 per cent over the course of the next 12 months. FoodProductionDaily. Read more

UK: Activia unveils new pouring yoghurt

What more can be done with yoghurt?! Danone has introduced a new breakfast time innovation, Activia Pouring Yoghurt, a smooth and creamy yoghurt with a new pouring texture that is designed to complement cereal. FDIN. Read more

Nutrition and Health Stuff

Can you be addicted to foods?

Many people tend to think that all obese people have to do to solve their problems is eat less and move more. Alcoholics, on the other hand, need treatment. But are the two disorders really all that different? Is it possible that eating in today’s sweet and salty fast-food world is actually somewhat, well, addictive? Could people with a predilection to abusing alcohol and drugs just as easily abuse food? NY Times. Read more  

Mediterranean diet key to growing old gracefully

Following the Mediterranean diet is not only tasty, but has a great benefit on your brain health. Recent research conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago tracked nearly 4 000 adults over the age of 65. Their results confirmed what we’ve heard many times: the so-called Mediterranean Diet, a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and olive oil, helps your brain to age gracefully. International Business Times. Read more

Study pinpoints novel allergen in celery

A highly stable novel allergen that may lead to severe reactions has been identified in celery stalks. In a study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers identified the novel allergen, known as Api g 2, and tested its allergenic effects; finding that the allergen is highly stable against digestion and heat. FoodNavigator. Read more

Psychological tricks to keep you on your new year diet

As the calendar clicked over into 2011 last weekend, millions will have made new year’s resolutions. But research shows whatever the goal – only around 10% of us stick with it. Psychologist Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire has studied the differences between the winners and losers in the resolution race and found those who fail, are more likely to fall by the wayside within the first week. BBC. Read more

Food Science & Food Safety Stuff

Smorgasbord of genomes for food lovers

Genome gastronomes rejoice! Last month saw the publication of genome sequences behind two of the tastiest treats: the cacao tree, whose beans yield chocolate, and the woodland strawberry. Earlier this year, a team backed by food giant Mars unveiled a preliminary sequence of the cacao tree Theobroma cacao. Now a team partly supported by rival chocolate company Hershey has become the first to get a genome of the valuable plant into a peer-reviewed journal. Nature. Read more

Glutamate: the purest form of umami

Umami, the savoury fifth taste generated by glutamic acid, has long been the focus of Ajinomoto’s research and development efforts. Here, the company shares its expertise with a look at the discovery of monosodium glutamate, the health properties of glutamate, and how and why our taste receptors respond to umami. The report also offers six ways to enhance umami taste in food, and separates fact from fiction with a primer on 10 things you should know about monosodium glutamate. Download here

FSA announces new target to tackle UK’s most common food bug

The Food Standards Agency, the UK poultry industry, and major retailers have agreed a new target that will measure efforts to reduce the levels of the food bug campylobacter in chickens. Almost two thirds of raw chickens sold in the UK are contaminated with campylobacter. It is estimated to make more than 300,000 people ill and cause about 80 deaths every year.

Options being considered include better hygiene measures on farm, hot water treatment or steaming chicken carcasses, the use of electrolysed water, and anti-microbial washes such as lactic acid. Such washes would require approval from Europe. Another option might be for pre-packed chicken on retail sale to be packed in ‘modified atmosphere packaging’, which raises the levels of oxygen inside packs to slow the rate at which bugs multiply. Better leak-proof packaging could also help prevent the spread of the bacteria to other foods or surfaces in the kitchen. FoodIngredientsFirst. Read more

Sustainability Stuff

Unilever’s marketing chief on its lauded sustainability programme

In late November, Unilever launched its ‘Sustainable Living Plan’, the FMCG giant’s commitment to double sales while reducing its impact on the planet. The initiative has been heralded a ‘game-changer’ by leading environmentalists who have said it is the best sustainability plan of all the major global companies. Marketing Magazine in the UK spoke exclusively to Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing and communication officer, about its impact on the group’s future marketing plans and its wider implications. Marketing. Read more [Free reg req]

Can food technology prevent future food crisis?

Professor Lillford says; “At a global level to feed the world we know we must learn to produce more food raw materials and waste less at every part of the food chain, or millions might die. However, this needs to be approached on more than one level; the situation in the developing world is remarkably different to the situation in the developed one. While some may think that we are sheltered from potential food crises the truth is that everything is not so rosy.” Farming UK. Read more

The last straw

To Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins of 5 Gyres (, the plastic bottles, construction hats and fishing nets floating in the immensity of the Southern Atlantic Ocean are just pimples on the surface of a huge plastic pollution problem. Finally docked in Cape Town on December 9 after a strenuous 31-day sailing trip from Brazil to Cape Town, the US marine plastic researchers have been skimming patches of the ocean surface to try to establish how much plastic is out there.

The duo are researching how this debris is affecting the food chain, as plastic is not stable and absorbs chemicals. Because fish and birds ingest plastic particles while feeding (the team has found fish with bellies full of debris), carcinogenic pollutants are passed from species to species. Financial Mail. Read more

There is a lot of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, but claims that the “Great Garbage Patch” between California and Japan is twice the size of Texas are grossly exaggerated, according to a new analysis. Read more

GM pigs: Green ham with your eggs?

In a small complex of nondescript barns set in the flat, snow-covered fields of Ontario is a scientific project, called Enviropig, which, some argue, represents the new frontier of a technology that could benefit millions of people around the world. For others what is happening here is weird, dangerous science. The pigs they are breeding could be among the first genetically modified farm animal to be approved for human consumption. BBC. Read more

City street to open sea – fish farming’s new frontiers

Already, almost half of the fish we eat comes from farms rather than the wild ocean. And with the human population set to expand by about two billion people between now and the middle of the century, and with yields from fishing flat-lining as stocks decline, that proportion is set to increase dramatically.

But given the environmental issues that have dogged fish farming down the years – pollution, disease, the need for wild fish to feed to the farmed ones – how can the industry expand so far without creating major problems? And where are all the extra fish farms to go? On all fronts, aquaculture is searching for new frontiers. BBC. Read more

Weird, whacky and wonderful stuff!

For POM, a wonderful world of litigation

One of the busiest law firms in the country over the  past year has been Roll Law Group, perhaps better known as the in-house team for POM Wonderful, a pomegranate juice purveyor with a penchant for high-profile litigation. The 40-lawyer team was entrenched in litigation in courts across the country, pursuing claims against competitors, fighting the press and battling federal regulatory agencies. The National Law Journal. Read more

The top 10 life-forms living on Lady Gaga (and you)

Outrageous rocker, Lady Gaga, made headlines last year with her sirloin outfit. But as this wonderful article from Scientific American proposes, when she cloaked herself in another species, she was just making visible what goes on every day less conspicuously. Even if she takes her meat dress off, she is still covered in life. Bacteria shimmer on her lips and hips. The fungi on her feet lap up her sweat and the mites on her head, they don’t give a damn. They just bury their faces further into their one true occupation. They do so without glamour, pretense or agents, as they have for millions of years.

Lessons can be learned from the life that coats us, inside and out. We might learn tolerance of others, or at least of the others on us. We might learn to appreciate how poorly known the world still is, even the world of our own bodies. But perhaps the greatest lesson is that no matter where and how we live we remain connected to the rest of life, dressed in other species. Scientific American. Read more

Record tuna sale in Japan – over R2,6m! – but whale plummets in popularity

At a market in central Tokyo this week, a bluefin tuna the size of five Japanese men fetched £250,000 at auction. It was partly a show of New Year ostentation but proof, too, that Japan has not lost its appetite for an endangered species. Whales, however, are no longer so popular. At refrigerated stores across the country, thousands of tonnes of whalemeat lies unsold… It seems that just as Japan’s whaling fleet is beginning its annual “scientific” kill of just under 1,000 whales – mainly minke – the nation’s consumers are voting with their chopsticks. The Guardian. Read more

The best (and worst) of Coke’s new wonder-soda machine, the Freestyle

Soda drinkers are notoriously picky people. In all, Coca-Cola produces more than 3,300 different beverages, not including discontinued brands like the unfortunately-titled Coca-Cola BlāK. Now the company is letting customers create their own unique flavours using a new drink dispenser called the Coca-Cola Freestyle. The touchscreen-controlled machine, which has been installed in scattered locations around the USA, offers 106 different variations on Coke-related fluid, delivered by precise microdispensing technology — originally designed to deliver drug doses. The Freestyle can feel a little more intimidating than inviting. Esquire. Read more 

Suspicion spreads in France as the big cheese, Kraft’s Philadelphia, arrives

In a move denounced by purists as an attack on the national identity the land of camembert, brie and Roquefort, enter Philadelphia, the cream cheese that’s been put on sale in supermarkets in west and southern France in a trial by Kraft Foods, the US giant that recently bought Cadbury, to see whether the French can be weaned off their ancient fromages. The Australian. Read more  

US: Putting sexy to soybean curd

If anyone can get Americans to eat tofu, it’s John Scharffenberger. In the 1980s, the serial foodie made American-produced sparkling wines hot and then in the 1990s, he got people buying gourmet chocolate rectangles (under the brand Scharffen Berger, acquired by Hershey in 2005) when everyone knew Americans only ate cheap candy bars. Now Scharffenberger, 59, has embarked on perhaps his most uphill battle of all — making tofu a luxury gourmet item. He has become CEO of Hodo Soy Beanery, a company that turns dried soybeans into the exquisite custard the Japanese prize. USA Today. Read more

That’s all the stuff for this week, folks!