Issue 107: 12 November 2010

A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.

Herb Caen, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist

ImageFood bites… Power shift

“‘The customer is always right’. Wrong. Frankly, the customer isn’t always right. But thanks to social media, now the customer certainly is always victorious. Fundamentally, the balance of power has shifted.”

Howard Fox, marketing director of Gordon Institute of Business Science, JHB. Read this article here

Editor’s Stuff – The big obesity issue is ultra-processing


The world is obsessed with obesity. This corpulent, expensive pandemic seemingly has no boundaries and now affects both rich and poor nations alike – and a great deal of research and marketing is going into its causes, solutions, costs and opportunities. 

ImageThis week I have come across some interesting and provocative thinking on this topic. It comes from Brazilian nutrition scientist, Carlos Monteiro (at the Centre for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition, University of São Paulo). What has happened to food systems in one human generation is just as revolutionary as what has happened to electronic communications, he maintains.

ImageMonteiro fingers “ultra-processed foods” as the big bogey in the obesity pandemic, and he puts new context to the role played by Big Food. The issue, as he stresses, is not processing as such. Some processing is essential and some is beneficial or benign. Rather, it is the fact that an increasing proportion of food supplies all over the world are made up from energy-dense, ultra-processed products – and that in studying the obesity pandemic, nutrition science has failed.

There are a number of reasons, he maintains, why the significance of food processing’s role in obesity is generally overlooked or marginalised. One is that food technology is not included as a significant part of the nutrition science curriculum. Another is that nutrition scientists continue to depend on a conceptual framework of their discipline elaborated from the discoveries of biochemists between the early 19th and early 20th century, which has diminishing relevance.

He writes: “The most important factor now, when considering food, nutrition and public health, is not nutrients, and is not foods, so much as what is done to foodstuffs and the nutrients originally contained in them, before they are purchased and consumed. That is to say, the big issue is food processing – or, to be more precise, the nature, extent and purpose of processing, and what happens to food and to us as a result of processing. Specifically, the public health issue is ‘ultra-processing’, as defined here. This is my basic proposal. It is illustrated and symbolised by the mass-produced double cheese-and-bacon burger above. Such products are made at distance as separate items that are trucked in, assembled, and made ready-to-heat and –to-eat at a fast food site.

“The proposal that food processing has an impact on public health may seem obvious. But it is largely overlooked by conventional nutrition science. As now applied in policies, programmes and interventions, nutrition science has failed to have much significant impact on what is currently the uncontrolled pandemic of obesity. As a result, it is now seen by policy-makers and the public as not particularly relevant to their needs. To be blunt, our science has become somewhat discredited. One reason, as I maintain here, is that it continues to depend on concepts and food classifications devised almost a century ago, which are now obsolescent.” 

His final conclusion: “The main direct dietary reason for the rapid increase in overweight and obesity throughout the world especially since the 1980s, which is now an uncontrolled pandemic, has been, is, and continues to be, the correspondingly rapid increase in production and consumption of ultra-processed food and drink products.”

Read this fascinating and pertinent article here 

Having observed the frantic crowds of shoppers in my local Pick n Pay yesterday cramming “four x two-litre soft drink specials” into their trolleys, I can only agree!

“A third of SA foods not what they seem?” – adding context to this report and a response from the DoH

Last week I highlighted a rather alarmist story on Media24 on the safety and integrity of SA food. Following a written question in Parliament by the DA recently, it has emerged that a large number of food samples tested by government authorities may be harmful to consumers or not what manufacturers claim on the labels. Subsequently the Department of Health has responded to this with the following comment by Dries Pretorius, director of the Directorate: Food Control. Read more

Enjoy this week’s read!

Email Brenda Neall: [email protected]

Publisher & Editor

FOOD INDUSTRY JOBS ADVERTISED THIS WEEK! Woolworths is looking for a senior food technologist and Kauai needs a quality controller.
 See jobs
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Local Food Industry Stuff

What fate awaits Wal-Mart in Africa?

ImageMany marketers believe that Wal-Mart’s South African venture will push dramatic change in various aspects of local retailing, says SureSwipe CEO Paul Kent…. In past years, Wal-Mart was the butt of critics scorn for everything from its labour policies – easy hire, easy fire – to low wages and a failure to advance women. But consumer pressure and management changes in recent years have seen a dramatic turnaround: Its employment policies are far better and it has become a global change agent in terms of ecologically acceptable, sustainable food policies. MarketingWeb. Read more

ImageWoolworths now first SA retailer to use recycled plastic in food packaging

Woolworths has now become the first major South African retailer to begin using post-consumer recycled plastic in foods packaging. FOODStuff SA. Read more

ImageBig stride for bottle-to-bottle recycling

PET is always a hot topic and now rPET is starting to make waves in South Africa, with locally-made rPET beverage bottles now available. FOODStuff SA. Read more

ImageSA’s first certified wine in PET

A visit to Mondi Plastics in Atlantis uncovers the connection to Backsberg Estate Cellars in Paarl – the first to launch Wine of Origin certified varietals in Mondi’s multilayer PET bottles, writes Gill Loubser, editor and publisher of PACKAGiNG & Print Media magazine. FOODStuff SA. Read more

SPAR puts a new face to rice

ImageSPAR has relaunched its Basmati and Jasmine rice range in attractive and convenient 1kg Elopak cartons. “The objective with this packaging was to revolutionise the rice market and present consumers with the best storage options, in terms of fitting into a cupboard, shelf life and resealability. The latter is guaranteed and works every time,’ explains Judith Gale, SPAR brands manager. FOODStuff SA. Read more

ImageThe relaunch of Esprit

Distell’s 26-year old Esprit brand has been given a major facelift and was relaunched in early October 2010 – it now boasts a stylish new image thanks to the creative efforts of Just Design, the Stellenbosch-based design agency. FOODStuff SA. Read more

The best box wine in South Africa

ImageSouth Africa’s first ever box wine blind tasting was hosted by Spit or Swallow on 4 November 2010 at the rooftop of the Grand Daddy Hotel in Cape Town. 25 Brave souls, dress in their best, tasted 14 different wines in one hour in search of the best bag in a box. Like any other wine award competition in South Africa the evening had some controversy, but at the end of the night the best red and  white box wines were crowned the winners. Wine Times. And the winners were…

IUFoST 2010: Good use of surplus of congress bags

ImageSurplus bags from the recent IUFoST World Congress of Food Science and Technology, held in Cape Town in August, have found a worthy new home: SAAFoST president, Dr Gunnar Sigge, has presented the shoulder bags (originally sponsored by Bidvest Food Ingredients) to Malibongwe Guqa, principal of Lourier Primary School in Retreat, Cape Town. They will be given out to Grade 7 pupils at their upcoming prom evening and will also go to other deserving learners.
“It is important for SAAFoST to also support community-based projects, especially as scholars are the future lifeblood of the food industry. Hopefully these shoulder bags will, in a small way, contribute to a positive learning experience for these youngsters. Maybe some of these learners will even be prompted to consider food science as a career,” says Gunnar. [No link]

USA: The Nanny Nation

ImageAlcoholic energy drinks banned in several US states

The US state of Washington has joined several others in banning alcoholic energy drinks. It has given retailers until Thursday next week to clear them off shelves and keep them off for a minimum of four months. The move had been expected since shortly after the hospitalisation of several students with dangerously high blood-alcohol levels last month, but retailers had hoped to have at least a month to move their stock. Similar bans are already in place in three other US states. Read more

Uncovering Four Loko – the beverage initiating the ban

ImageFour Loko is the name of the alcoholic drink that’s caused all the fuss in the US. Commonly known among college students as “blackout in a can,” one can of the fruity liquor malt combines 12 percent alcohol with a kick of caffeine sized to an average cup of coffee. The contrasting effects of consuming alcohol and stimulants conceal the effects of the alcohol. ABC News. Read more

Alcoholic energy drinks: a risky mix

ImageIf you’ve never heard of alcoholic energy drinks, you’re almost certainly over 25. Sold in tall, narrow cans, they carry teen-friendly names such as Sparks, Tilt and Joose. Like other flavoured malt beverages — Mike’s Hard Lemonade, for one, or Champale (“the malt liquor you serve like champagne”) from back in the ’60s — alcoholic energy drinks contain a lot of sugar and flavouring. The difference is that this new generation of malt beverages also contains stimulants. Time. Read more

COMMENT: For more on this topic, read what high-profile nutritionist/food industry critic Dr Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University and author of “Food Politics” has to say on the topic …. Click here  

San Francisco bans the Happy Meal!

ImageAnd so it’s come to this. The city of San Francisco is about to become the first big American city to prevent fast-food restaurants from giving away toys with kiddy meals that don’t meet so-called “nutritional guidelines.” Good for San Francisco, for all the good it’ll do. For those of you cheering this news, chew on this: The majority of kids’ meals at Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s do or come close to meeting those guidelines right now. If there’s an exception to that, it’s generally sodium levels that exceed this new expectation. The Aurora Sentinel. Read more

NestleCOMMENT: “Marketing to kids is the food industry’s Achilles heel. They know it’s unethical. It is courageous of the [San Francisco] supervisors to put the health of the city’s children above food company profits.” Dr Marion Nestle Read more

COMMENT: Firing a bunker buster into the Happy Meal

“As a country, we all must grow up, get off the couch, cut back on quantity and depend on our own common sense rather than a useless layer of government regulation to keep us fitting in our clothes.”

San Francisco’s governing has fired a bunker buster into the Happy Meal, decreeing that restaurants cannot put free toys in meals that exceed set thresholds for calories, sugar or fat. Libertarians are livid, parents are peeved and even advocates of healthier fast food think the ban will be counterproductive. “One of the reasons why the healthy-eating lobby still meets with such resistance is that it is seen as a conspiracy of killjoys and nanny-statists trying to force us to give up everything fun and delicious and to eat wet dishcloths instead,” notes Henry Dimbleby, whose health-minded Leon chain in Britain serves kids’ meals with a side of rice and peas along with a badge, sticker and activity book. “Now they want to steal our children’s toys too?” Read more

 NYC targets salt – and Campbell is Not Amused!

ImageFirst, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg came for the soda pop. Now, his crusade for healthier foods has hit a new a new target — the can of soup. Mayor Bloomberg’s latest health campaign – cutting salt intake – has targeted soup as one of the big sodium offenders to be taken down with new city ads. The ads, which will be plastered on subways for the next two months, feature a half-opened can of soup with a geyser of salt spewing from the top and forming a heap around the can. Trying to put fear into the hearts of salt-aholics, the ads will warn that excessive sodium “can lead to heart attack and stroke” and list average amounts of salt in various foods, such as salad dressing and frozen pizza. Read more

Food Trends, NPD and Marketing Stuff

Innova lists its ten most important food trends for 2011

ImageTen emerging trends that will impact new product activity in 2011 have been identified by Innova Market Insights from its ongoing analysis of key trends and developments over the past year or so. In previous years, the market researcher successfully identified upcoming trends to watch, including “Go Natural” and “Sustainability Rise” for 2008, “Trading Up and Down” for 2009 and “Sense of Simplicity” for 2010, all of which have now come right to the fore, as predicted.

Number 1: Processed is Out for 2011, with consumers growing tired of being increasingly disassociated from the food they eat and turning against products full of complicated additives and with overly-long shelf lives. This has resulted in the natural/clean-label trend taking the US, in particular, by storm, with launches on a natural, organic or no additives/preservatives positioning rising dramatically over the past two years. FOODStuff SA. Read more

US: No more stealth? Nestlé speaks out on sodium reduction

ImageNestlé Prepared Foods Company is one of many food manufacturers to announce a bold sodium reduction strategy, recently pledging to slash sodium in its products by ten percent by 2015. The company’s manager of marketing communications told FoodNavigator-USA why now is the time to talk about sodium reduction. Rosalyn O’Hearn said that Nestlé Prepared Foods has been cutting sodium behind the scenes for some time – but it wanted to gauge consumer reaction before going public with its reduction strategy. She said that consumer tastes are gradually changing to prefer lower sodium products, as food companies’ efforts to stealthily reduce sodium have allowed their palates to adjust. Food Navigator-USA. Read more

Antioxidants will be replaced by ‘polyphenols’

ImageWith antioxidants failing to impress European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientists and the term itself therefore likely to soon become an unauthorized health claim in the EU, antioxidant forms like polyphenols are filling the marketing void, a Coca-Cola spokesperson has said … Michele Kellerhals, Coke’s Belgium-based research and innovation director has said that the company had been watching the EU health claims situation very closely and noted developments in antioxidants — “Industry will build the term polyphenols over time,” he said, after a presentation outlining Coke’s approach to healthy beverages. NutraIngredients. Read more

US: PepsiCo partners for national launch of fortified coconut water

ImagePepsiCo and GNC, the nation’s leading specialty retailer of nutritional products for the active consumer, have announced they have signed a joint venture agreement to develop and sell fortified coconut water products under the newly created Phenom brand name. The products are expected to be available during the second quarter of 2011 at GNC locations nationwide and on exclusively prior to a wider release in other leading retail outlets in the United States. The Phenom joint venture follows the successful retail launch of PepsiCo’s Gatorade G Series Pro at GNC stores in May 2010. Read more

ImageUS: Bacon soda – the latest from Jones Soda

Seattle-based Jones Soda is partnering with the makers of “bacon salt” and “Baconnaise” to sell a salty, pork-flavoured beverage. Why? Jones Soda executives felt it was their “duty,” of course.

“Bacon is like the eighth wonder of the world,” said Jones Soda marketing mirector Mike Spear. “We spend a lot of time listening to our customers on social media sites, and we couldn’t help but take notice of the hundreds of thousands of people taking part in bacon discussion boards and fan groups right now.” Seattle PI. Read more

ImageNYC: Boxed water is better

You’ve got to have a hard sell and catchy slogan if you’re a bottled water company trying to introduce your product in New York City, which is reputed to have some of the best tap water in the world. After all, this is a place where people have tried to actually bottle the tap water. Sometimes, though, a straightforward approach is best. And so the entrepreneur Benjamin Gott named his company Boxed Water Is Better. NY Times. Read more

ImageUS: Wendy’s sells new fries with potato skin, sea salt

“We want every ingredient to be a simple ingredient, to be one you can pronounce and one your grandmother would recognize in her pantry,” says Wendy’s fast food chain… With an eye toward appealing to foodies, Wendy’s is remaking its fries with Russett potatoes, leaving the skin on and sprinkling sea salt on top. The fast-food chain has been changing its menu to focus on “real” ingredients to win more fans. Washington Post. Read more

ImagePlayboy launches energy drink in UK

The new product from the Playboy brand hopes to appeal to both male and female consumers looking for a stylish  non alcoholic. The recipe includes flavours of fruit, vanilla, ginseng root, gurana extract and damina leaf. FDIN. Read more

Nutrition and Health Stuff

Welcome to the future: When drugs don’t work

ImageThe era of antibiotics is coming to a close. In just a few generations what once appeared to be miracle medicines have been beaten into ineffectiveness by the bacteria they were designed to knock out.

Once scientists hailed the end of infectious diseases. Now the post-antibiotic apocalypse is within sight. Hyperbole? Unfortunately not. The highly serious journal, Lancet ­Infectious Diseases, in August posed the question itself, revealing the rapid spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria. “Is this the end of antibiotics?” it asked. Mail & Guardian. Read more

Myth of a germ-free world: a closer look at antimicrobial products

ImageKilling microorganisms has become a national obsession. A pair of antimicrobial compounds known as triclosan and triclocarban are lately the weapons of choice in our war of attrition against the microbial world. Both chemicals are found in an array of personal care products like antimicrobial soaps, and triclosan also is formulated into everyday items ranging from plastics and toys to articles of clothing.

But are these antimicrobial chemicals, as commonly used by people across the nation, really safe for human health and the environment? More pointedly, do they even work? According to associate professor Rolf Halden, of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, the answer to these questions is an emphatic “No.” ScienceDaily. Read more 

ImageNo nutritional benefit for organic produce, says new study

Organically grown produce may offer no nutritional benefits over traditional growth methods, according to a new Danish study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It reports on new evidence that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally do not have higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants than vegetables grown with traditional fertilizers and pesticides. FoodNavigator. Read more

UK: Male students eschew balanced diet in favour of supplements

ImageResearch into students’ eating habits is surprising – men are more likely to eat a diet high in protein and supplements in order to improve their bodies… We didn’t need an in-depth research project to tell us that a fair percentage of students drink too much alcohol and eat too few vegetables. Fortunately, the UK’s first study of the dietary changes brought about by going to university delves into more wide-ranging issues. And it has already unearthed a less predictable trend. Male students are particularly prone to what Dr Ricardo Costa from Coventry University calls “disordered eating patterns”. Not to be confused with eating disorders. The Guardian. Read more

Fish oil studies show a mixed bag of effects

ImageIt’s been touted for its healthful, anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been recommended for helping ease the pain of arthritis, preventing cancer and slowing memory loss. But some recent studies of fish oil show that it may not always act as advertised – and that you can sometimes have too much of a good thing.

First, the latest news. Researchers spent 18 months following almost 300 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Some took fish oil, others a placebo. And there was no difference cognitively between the two groups. The study is in the current Journal of the American Medical Association. Scientific American. Read more

Food Science Stuff

Rosemary extracts get final EU approval for food preservation

ImageRosemary extracts have received recognition as safe and effective antioxidants for food preservation, according to new directives published in the European Commission’s official journal. The directives specify the range of applications for which the extracts can be used, including fats and oils, bakery products, meats, dehydrated soups and potatoes, as well as nutritional supplements, such as fish oils. FoodNavigator. Read more

ADM launches new cocoa butter equivalent blends

ImageArcher Daniels Midland Company (ADM), a leading cocoa, chocolate and speciality oils and fats supplier, has expanded its range of cocoa butter equivalents (CBEs) with the launch of Chocovit Extra. These custom-formulated blends of deZaan cocoa butters and Chocovit Plus CBEs work well in an array of chocolate formulations and help manufacturers deliver high quality products more efficiently and economically. Food Ingredients First. Read more

Solazyme, Roquette create global nutritional joint venture

ImageSolazyme, the California-based manufacturer of renewable oil and bioproducts, and Roquette Frères, the global starch and starch derivatives company headquartered in France, have signed a joint venture agreement for the production, commercialisation, and market development of microalgae-derived food ingredients, subject to regulatory approvals and notifications. The joint venture is being formed to launch an entirely new category of natural, healthy, and functional ingredients based on microalgae that provide nutritional properties along with great taste and texture. Roquette PR. Read more

Sustainability and Green Stuff

In defence of factory farming

ImageThe British celebs campaigning against a mega-dairy in Lincolnshire don’t know which side their bread is buttered on. The Nocton dairy will be the biggest dairy farm in Britain, housing 8,100 cows. Although that’s tiny compared to the largest US dairy farm, which is home to 32,000 cows, the scale of the Nocton development is not something to be sniffed at or, indeed, protested against. Rather, the celebs ought to recognise that there is much to celebrate about it. Spiked. Read more

ImageChocolate: Worth its weight in gold?

Chocolate – we can’t get enough of it. But cocoa farming can’t keep up with our appetites, and in the future a single bar could cost a fortune. Industry experts have warned that in the future, chocoholics might have to work quite a bit harder to pay for their fix. “In 20 years chocolate will be like caviar,” says John Mason, executive director of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council. “It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.” The Independent. Read more

ImageUK: Fairtrade chocolate isn’t Fairtrade

Millions of sweet bars labeled Fairtrade contain none of the ethical chocolate, The Sun newspaper has reported. Britain’s most popular snacks, Nestlé’s Kit Kat and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, both have the Fairtrade stamp. But experts have revealed chocolate from different sources is mixed up in the supply chain BEFORE the bars are produced. The Sun. Read more

Weird, whacky and wonderful stuff!

Let them eat cheese: Irish government hands out block of cheddar to every family

ImageThe Irish government, in trying to solve the country’s dire economic problems, has announced it will hand out a free block of cheese to every family. Brendan Smith, the agriculture minister, announced this week that the government would use EU funding to buy 53 tonnes of fresh Irish cheddar and distribute it for free from 15 November. But Irish citizens responded angrily to the plan, which was likened to the “Let them eat cake” comment by Marie Antoinette that provoked the French revolution. The Telegraph. Read more

Taste the difference: How our genes, gender and even hormones affect the way we eat

ImageContrary to popular belief, there is no one version of delicious. Some of us have a far stronger sense of taste than others (not necessarily a good thing) and a host of factors ranging from mood to gender to our sense of hearing (really) can impact heavily on our perception of flavour.

“Most people know of the link between smell and taste, but we’ve found taste is far more multisensory, including sight. If you put red colouring in white wine, for example, even wine experts perceive the flavour differently. In fact, the more expert they are, the more they are fooled. They drink the white wine and talk about the buttery, straw-like flavours and when you give them the same wine with red food colouring, they describe the tobacco and chocolate-like flavours.” The Independent. Read more

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