Issue 101: 24 September 2010

“Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.”

Grace Hansen, American dance director


Food bites… Of men and chocolate biscuits

Image “Humans, who consider themselves the pinnacle of creation, have only about 30,000 genes. Cacao seems to have 35,000. Wheat DNA is believed to contain 40,000 genes. It is a droll discovery that on a numerical basis, a human seems genetically less complex than a chocolate biscuit. But it was the humans who sequenced wheat and cacao, and not the other way round. So clearly, size isn’t everything.”
Editorial in The Guardian, commenting on the decoding of the cocoa genome Read more

Editor’s Stuff – Baby carrots: Now in chic junk food packaging!



In light of the public holiday tomorrow, this newsletter is a day early. And as it’s the spring equinox and also school holiday time, I thought I’d keep the tone of my editorial light and share with you this genius American ad campaign that promotes the consumption of baby carrots.


ImageThe $1-billion baby carrot world — hit by the recession following years of growth — is taking on the $18-billion salty snack food industry by trying to beat it at its own hip marketing game. The $25-million campaign entails funky new packaging and vending machines, and it is described by Bob Messenger, editor of the Morning Cup as “brilliant” and “best marketing campaign since the milk mustache (now boring and passé)”. Do go to the website to see these great ads. See


ImageBest new SA products of 2010

The results of the annual Food Review/Symrise New Product Competition 2010 have been announced, with NBL brand, Bakers, taking top honours, reportedly by “the narrowest of margins” from other contenders. Interestingly, the judges in the competition selected a mainstream brand as the winner, but the two runners’ up fall into the realm of successful and upwardly-mobile cottage industry. FOODStuff SA. Read more


Congratulations to the folk at NBL’s Snackworks on the win – what a pity none of them were at the awards dinner to collect their prize.


SA’s new labelling regulations: There’s a great deal of concern about the new regulations and their impending ‘due date’ in March 2011. I have set up a new page on the website, as a useful resource and home to several articles, comments, insights and advice on R146. Click here


Enjoy this week’s read!


Email Brenda Neall: [email protected]

Publisher & Editor


 See jobs
here and here.

Afrikaans translation: To translate this page, go to, and simply paste the URL into the page translator module. The translation is by no means perfect, but is a help if you want to read in your home language.

Local Food Industry Stuff


ImageNando’s spreads its wings in the UK

Nando’s, the [South African] restaurant chain known for its flame-grilled peri-peri chicken, has made an agreed cash offer for Clapham House, owner of Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the Real Greek. The Telegraph. Read more


Fulsome Filmatic: 30 years on

ImageSouth Africa’s own liquid packaging icon, Filmatic, turned 30 last year. It has been a long and eventful journey for founder and CEO, Johan Beyers, who remains as bullish and motivated as ever. Brenda Neall caught up with a man whose engineering genius has been fundamental to the growth of South Africa’s dairy and juice industries and whose filling machines are in action all over the world. FOODStuff SA. Read more


New flavour wheel discerns infused nuances of rooibos tea

ImageMany of us have taken a sip of tea and immediately been able to distinguish the taste as either good or bland, without being able to say why.  In order to go beyond simplistic distinctions and to properly discern the great many tastes and aromas that give rooibos tea its flavoured nuances, South African researchers have developed a flavour and mouthfeel wheel for the unique homegrown brew.

The novel wheel provides 27 descriptive attributes for rooibos – 20 flavour and seven taste and mouthfeel descriptors – and will be a practical tool to facilitate communication among rooibos producers, processors, grading experts, marketers, flavour houses, importers and consumers. FOODStuff SA. Read more


Waste not, want not is a lesson still to be learnt

ImageSouth Africans waste a mountain of food each year, most of which clogs up landfill sites at large economic and environmental cost, but exactly what gets chucked out between farm and fork is still unknown.

Several studies are now under way to get to grips with the issue, in the hope that they will help policy makers devise better strategies for stemming losses. “An amazing amount (of food) is thrown away, but people don’t see it as a problem,” says Stellenbosch University’s Prof Linus Opara, who is leading a study of post-harvest food losses in Africa. “I’m hoping that our research will raise awareness, particularly among consumers. Technology can only do so much. We want to be able to put an economic loss to this for businesses and the consumer.” he says. Business Day. Read more

Food Industry News


 General Mills mum on report that it is eyeing Yoplait

ImageUS foods group General Mills declined to comment on a British newspaper report that it was mulling a bid for French yogurt maker Yoplait following a contract dispute. The Sunday Times said in an unsourced report that the maker of Cheerios cereal could pay 1 billion pounds ($1.56 billion) for unlisted Yoplait, whose products it distributes in the US.

General Mills is seeking arbitration over a dispute with the French entity from which it licenses the Yoplait name. It said it was objecting to a French bid to terminate their 30-year-old distribution deal. Fox News. Read more


ImageUS: Class action lodged against POM Wonderful

A class action has been lodged in a Florida state court alleging POM Wonderful misled consumers with at least six different health claims, as the Californian pomegranate pioneer’s legal battles multiply. The plaintiff alleges POM misled consumers with claims that it could benefit atherosclerosis; blood pressure; prostate cancer; erectile function; cardiovascular disease; cholesterol levels and other age related medical conditions. Read more


ImageThe sweetest debate: why “corn sugar” instead of HFCS

In the latest ePerspective post from the IFT, Corn Refiners Association President, Audrae Erickson, explains why the group recently petitioned the FDA asking that food and beverage manufacturers be given the option of using “corn sugar” as an alternate ingredient name to high fructose corn syrup on product labels. IFT. Read more


ImageIn worries about sweeteners, think of all sugars

Food makers are reworking decades-old recipes, eliminating corn syrup used to sweeten foods like ketchup and crackers, and replacing it with beet or cane sugar. To counter the backlash, the Corn Refiners Association last week suggested changing the name of the ingredient to “corn sugar,” hoping a new moniker would help rebuild the product’s image. But most nutrition scientists say that consumer anxiety about the sweetener is misdirected. NY Times. Read more


COMMENT: Snake oil in the supermarket

ImageFood-makers should have to prove the validity of their health claims . . . From cereals that boost immunity to yogurts that regulate digestion and juices that keep heart disease at bay, grocery stores in the US are brimming with packaged foods and beverages that claim to improve health. Such declarations are good for business: sales of “functional foods” — those that manufacturers have modified to provide supposed health benefits — generated $31 billion in the US in 2008, a 14 percent increase over 2006, according to Rockville, Md–based market research firm Packaged Facts. But consumers are getting a rotten deal. Scientific American. Read more

Food Industry Trends, Innovation & Marketing

Coke Zero becomes a hero for Coca-Cola

ImageThe Coca-Cola Company’s Coke Zero turns five this year, and its run as the only soft drink on the market to post double-digit sales gains for five straight years is showing no signs of slowing.


It had been true for decades, and everybody at Coca-Cola knew it: Young guys don’t like diet soft drinks. Diet, as one executive put it, was a “four-letter word” for men age 16 to 24. “There was a clear gap in what we were offering,” says Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola North America’s president and general manager of sparkling beverages, the industry’s preferred term for soft drinks. “No one was giving this younger male target what they wanted.” Almost 10 years ago, Coke executives set out to change that. In 2005, they launched a brand that defied the odds: Coke Zero. Read more


ImageUK: Sainsbury’s ditches cereal boxes

Sainsbury’s ‘basics’ cereal range is to be stocked in bags rather than boxes. The supermarket launched basics Rice Pops in bags last year and will now convert the range by the end of the year. Using bags rather than boxes for these cereals means 165 tonnes of packaging will be kept off Sainsbury’s shelves every year. Read more


UK: Nice new touch to stock cubes

ImageUK food manufacturer, Premier Foods, hopes to increase sales in the dry stock category with the launch of the new OXO Spag Bol Recipe Cubes. With an 81% market share, the dry stock sector dominates sales of the £98m total stock category and these new cubes are expected to help drive significant category growth and incremental sales for retailers. Home-made food is growing +5% year-on-year, as consumers return to cooking from scratch. FDIN. Read more


ImageChina: China’s red-canned beverage

Coca Cola isn’t the only company with an iconic red can anymore — Wong Lo Kat herbal tea is gaining recognition worldwide, and at the 15th World Congress of Food Science and Technology held on in Cape Town, in August, the tea, produced by The JDB Group, won a Global Food Industry Award. Wong Lo Kat herbal tea has been a local drink in Guangdong for more than a century. Its world expansion started in 1995. . . Beijing Review. Read more


US: New breed of butchers works against the grain

ImageIn some big US cities, corner meat market are making a resurgence … Meet the new twist on the old-fashioned butcher. A small but growing number of retailers who are aiming to do for meat what others have done for lettuce, tomatoes and eggs: appeal to foodies and locavores who want to be more connected to their food, and to consumers  concerned about health, the environment and treating the animals we eat more humanely.

These new-age butchers, largely operating in big metropolitan areas on either coast, say that despite the weak economy they are seeing demand for pricier beef, pork and poultry raised nearby on small farms with a minimum of additives like artificial hormones and antibiotics. MSNBC. Read more


Hard-wired for chocolate and hybrid cars? How genetics affect consumer choice

ImageClues to consumer behavior may be lurking our genes, according to a new study. The authors discovered that people seem to inherit the following tendencies: to choose a compromise option and avoid extremes; select sure gains over gambles; prefer an easy but non-rewarding task over an enjoyable challenging one; look for the best option available; and prefer utilitarian, clearly needed options (like batteries) over more indulgent ones (gourmet chocolate). ScienceDaily. Read more

Health and Nutrition Stuff


Why cavemen could hold the key to healthy eating

ImageThere’s something incongruous about the hi-tech modern food industry sniffing around the Palaeolithic era for the next big consumer trend. But hold the side order of cynicism. There might just be some logic to good old-fashioned instinctive eating. Unilever has unveiled a new research program that aims to re-create the diet of the caveman and apply modern biological science to it in the hope of unlocking some long-forgotten dietary knowledge that was instinctive to our ancestors … Like many off-beat new trends, it has been a way of life for a handful of health fanatics for decades. FoodNavigator USA. Read more


ImageWestern surge in obesity may have been caused by a virus

The obesity explosion that has swept the Western world over the past 30 years may have been caused by a virus, scientists have said. Researchers have discovered new evidence for an illness they have called “infectobesity” – obesity that is transmitted from person to person, much like an infection. The agent thought to be responsible is a strain of adenovirus, versions of which cause the common cold. It has already been labelled the “fat bug”. The Independent. Read more


Supplements for osteoarthritis ‘do not work’

ImageTwo popular supplements taken to combat joint pain do not work, a study says. Past studies of glucosamine and chondroitin have been conflicting, but a new review of 10 previous trials by Bern University in Switzerland has found glucosamine and chondroitin did not have any beneficial effect on osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. But the researchers said they did no harm so if people wanted to continue taking them they could. BBC. Read more


Top reasons why we are obsessed with food

Image“Obsessed” is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Where food is scarce, people spend a lot of time thinking about it – as immortalised in the musical Oliver (“Food glorious food”) – but there is little scarcity of food in America.

When nations get to be wealthy enough that most individuals are well fed, interest in food typically declines as people expand their horizons through reading, the arts, entertainment and so forth. They cultivate their minds and pay less attention to their stomachs. All of that has changed in recent years. As a nation, we have become more and more obsessed with food. Psychology Today. Read more


ImageIndustrial chemicals lurking in your bloodstream

Everyone has heard about BPA. But BPA is just one of hundreds of industrial chemicals that may be in your blood or urine right now. A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009 found detectable levels of a total of 212 chemicals in blood or urine samples from 2 400 people in the US. These included the gas additive Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and the coal and petroleum byproduct benzene. Little is known about the human health effects of most of the chemicals. Forbes. Read more


Is sodium the new trans fat? The new MSG? Corn syrup?

ImageThe political outcry has been sudden and fierce… Meanwhile, there is a debate brewing in the medical community over whether these national initiatives and public anxiety are necessary at all. Many experts say that few Americans realise the potentially devastating effects of excess sodium consumption, so any reductions are positive. Others believe that demonising salt could cause as much harm as good.

Michael Alderman, MD, says a general reduction could have unintended consequences, like increasing resistance to insulin, higher pulse rates and the overproduction of certain hormones. “We have no evidence of the net effect,” he says. “Reducing sodium is a crap shoot. All the good and bad impacts our health.” Forbes. Read more

Food Ingredient & Science Stuff


ImageKeeping animal protein natural …

 … yet also safe, affordable and on-trend. These are the challenges faced by processors of meat, poultry and seafood.
So must all meat and poultry be produced in free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free environments? …. “Our food supply would decrease tremendously if all farming practices were to be of this format,” adds Burroughs. “There is a market for these items and a consumer willing to pay for them, however the growth rate seems to be miniscule. Consumers are still confused as to what these labels actually mean in terms of how the animal was raised, what they were or were not fed and how it affects the consumers’ health, if at all.” Food Processing. Read more


US: Meat farmers brace for limits on antibiotics

ImageAfter decades of debate, the FDA appears poised to issue its strongest guidelines on animal antibiotics yet, intended to reduce what it calls a clear risk to human health. The guidelines, which are voluntary and will not have the binding force of regulations, would end farm uses of the drugs simply to promote faster animal growth and call for tighter oversight by veterinarians.

The agency’s final version is expected within months, and comes at a time when animal confinement methods, safety monitoring and other aspects of so-called factory farming are also under sharp attack. The federal proposal has struck a nerve among major livestock producers, who argue that a direct link between farms and human illness has not been proved. The producers are vigorously opposing it even as many medical and health experts call it too timid. NY Times. Read more


‘Unique’ fermentation process wins Isobionics an innovation award

ImageA “unique” flavour fermentation process developed by Dutch biotechnology company Isobionics has won a 2010 Frost & Sullivan Global Technology Innovation Award.

Combining fermentation with biotransformation, the new process is said to guarantee the supply of consistently high-quality and low-cost Valencene Pure; a natural flavour molecule for orange notes. “Isobionics can rightly claim to be the first company to have targeted a molecule rationally for synthesis using biotransformation technology,” said Dr Kaushik Shankar, Frost & Sullivan research analyst. FoodNavigator. Read more

 Sustainability Stuff


How Hillary Clinton’s clean stoves will help African women

ImageWant to know what is one of the leading causes of death for women and small children? You might imagine HIV/Aids or death in childbirth. But just as dangerous and much less well publicised is the risk of inhaling smoke from cooking on open fires which leads to lung and heart diseases. According to the United Nations, smoke costs 1.9 million lives a year.

Think about it; every day, millions of women across Africa and India spend several hours crouched over small fires cooking. Often their homes have no chimneys and poor ventilation. This daily proximity destroys lungs. Small children staying close to their mothers are equally vulnerable. Finally, this huge story is percolating through to the mainstream, with Hilary Clinton due to announce $50m (£32m) in seed money to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, to supply 100m fuel-efficient stoves across Africa. The Guardian. Read more


ImageTransgenic Indian superspuds pack more protein

A genetically modified (GM) potato has been created that makes up to 60% more protein per gram than ordinary potatoes. But even with that help spuds don’t contain much protein, so that’s not the most interesting part: in a surprise result, the GM crop also yielded more potato per hectare. This is the first time that a simple genetic modification has increased yield. New Scientist. Read more

Weird, whacky and wonderful stuff!


Insect dining: “Waiter, there’s soup in my bug!”

Image“. . . he wanted to show how scrumptious the bugs can be. The menu included a ceviche abloom with the cross-pollinating flavors of jicama, papaya, sweet potato, jalapeño and crickets. “Wax moth larvae taste like bacon, and mealworms sort of taste like pumpkinseeds,” he said. “But crickets taste like crickets. They have their own distinct animal-ness. It’s sort of like goat. It’s strong.”

Although it’s hard to pinpoint where the Western bias against bug-eating comes from, the gross-out factor seems to be conditioned in childhood.  Meet the American chef who is teaching foodies to overcome their fear of eating bugs! NY Times. Read more


ImageConsider sherbet

Sherbet means different things to different people. Most Brits recognise it as a sweet powder that fizzes when you add water to it – and, by extension, a colloquialism for lager. Ask an American, though, and they’ll tell you it’s a frozen dessert, distinct from ice cream and sorbet. The history of sherbet helps explain this discrepancy. The word stems ultimately from the classical Arabic sharab, a sweetened fruit drink. The Guardian. Read more

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