Issue 17: 28 November 2008
'Civilization is the encouragement of differences.'
Food for thought . . .Analysing the most powerful woman in the food industry'…As CEO, she has continued to pursue her unusual, and tremendously ambitious, vision for reinventing PepsiCo. She is trying to take the company from snack food to health food, from caffeine colas to fruit juices, and from shareholder value to sustainable enterprise. In doing so, Nooyi is attempting to move beyond the historic trade-off between profits and people. Captured in her artful mantra — 'Performance with purpose' — she wants to give Wall Street what it wants but also, the planet what it needs. "It doesn't mean subtracting from the bottom line," she explained in a 2007 speech, but rather "that we bring together what is good for business with what is good for the world.'
Written by Michael Usain and published on www.usnews.com, this is an excellent look at Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. Read more
Steamed up over carrots
Scare-mongering, viral e-mails are the pits. Being in the food industry, no doubt all your friends have sent you the one about 'plastic', chlorine-laden, carcinogenic baby carrots that's doing the global rounds at the moment. I've had it several times and I read this week that Wendy Knowler, consumer columnist with the Independent newspaper group, has been so inundated with the blasted thing she was prompted to write a disclaimer about this noxious piece of nonsense.
It also got McCain South Africa's MD, Owen Porteus, to issue a press release this week on the purity of his frozen baby carrots. You can read both this and the e-mail here.
The author of this toxic missive wishes to impart the horrific 'facts' that cute baby carrots (actually ugly orange monsters cut up to impersonate the real thing) are washed and daubed with chlorine, a proven carcinogen, and this chlorine resurfaces as a white film that's destined to send all us convenience veggie shoppers to an early death. 'At what cost do we put our health at risk to have aesthetically pleasing vegetables which are practically plastic?' it exhorts.
This is what I have sent those who forwarded me this e-mail, dear god, in all sincerity: How did carrots turn into plastic, one wonders? All pre-cut, fresh produce is treated with mild sanitising solution to prevent contamination and extend shelf life, and it is perfectly safe, and essential to do so. Or would one rather risk E Coli, listeria, salmonella etc.
The white on the carrot is a perfectly natural enzyme reaction, like bananas or apples turn brown once cut and exposed to air. It's known as 'carrot blush'.
The truth is that nobody died from chlorinated water, while dirty water infested with bacteria kills millions in the third world; just ask our poor neighbours.
I hope I have my facts right here and please correct me if I don't.
Now, I don't know McCain's boss, Owen Porteus, and I'm sure he's a very nice man and a competant MD, but I hereby charge him with dancing the 'food myth foxtrot' with his carrot PR; a popular and slick routine whose local champion is one of our best-loved retailers; where to get one over the competition, you cosy up to consumers and leverage their ignorance to best advantage when you know full well the scientific truth on these matters.
'Our products are GM, MSG, aspartame, irradiation, rBST, additive, preservative, BPA, teflon, PVC, artificial-anything etc free', is the theme of the 'food myth foxtrot', which implies all other products that may have one or several of these on their label are suspect wall-flowers that are touched at your peril.
Mr Porteus' PR spells out how pristine his baby carrots are, but it does nothing to dispel the rubbish in this e-mail, a silly piece of communication that nontheless has the potential to cause the produce industry some serious harm. There's nothing proclaimed, stated, affirmed for the general good of the industry. It is my understanding that those who subscribe to the CGCSA's food safety initiative, and I can't believe there's a major food player in this country who doesn't, have agreed never to use food safety to competitive advantage. As a captain of the food industry, Mr Porteus, you are absolutely right to defend your product; I just think you could have it done better.
I welcome all your correspondence. Regards, Brenda email
Food Industry News
SA: Drink more rooibos! More HEARTY good news on the Cape's wunder tea!Results from a recent clinical trial undertaken by Cape Town-based researchers on the health properties of rooibos show that this popular herbal tea may help to prevent the development of heart disease.
"We have found that rooibos is particularly effective at reducing oxidative damage to lipids (fats), thereby helping to prevent or slow down atherosclerosis, or the hardening of arteries," says Dr Jeanine Marnewick, who led the clinical trial at the Oxidative Stress Research Centre at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Read more
SA: Baobab to hit the big time next year, predicts MintelDried baobab pulp, which gained novel foods approval for the EU in June, could be the headline superfruit of 2009, according to Mintel. Since the fruit gained novel foods status this year, it can now be used in a range of food products, including cereal bars and smoothies – and the indications are that food makers are very interested.
Mintel's confidence is shared by Afriplex, the South African supplier that petitioned for the approval, together with trade association Phytotrade Africa. In a recent interview with FoodNavigator.com, William Smith, marketing manager of Afriplex said: “The response from major food companies has been absolutely phenomenal”. Read more
UK: Hunger-busting hoodia still ‘excellent prospect’, insists PhytopharmHoodia gordonii can cause digestive problems in beverages, but still has “excellent prospects” as an appetite suppressant in solid foods and supplements, according to Phytopharm – the firm leading research into the extract.
Unilever’s decision to terminate its multi-million pound partnership with Phytopharm to develop hoodia-based satiety products had come as a shock. But it did not mean hoodia was unsafe or ineffective, per se, insisted Phytopharm. Read more
SA: The end result is that the consumer gets milked The Competition Appeals Court has dismissed a bid by dairy processors to have a collusion case against them dropped. But this does not necessarily mean a speedy resolution, as Competition Commission boss, Shan Ramburuth (left), explains. Read more
SA: Melamine contamination rears its head againHigh levels of melamine found in two baby formula products recalled this week might be from animal feed, the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department says. This week the department recalled a batch of Nestle's Nido Growing up Milk for one-year-olds manufactured in June, and a batch of Lactogen Starter Infant Formula with iron manufactured in July, comments provincial health department spokesperson, Leon Mbangwa. Read more
US: Corporate bigwigs support Smart Choices labelling programmeTo help Americans make smarter nutrition choices and improve public health, a diverse group of scientists, academicians, health organisations, food and beverage manufacturers and retailers have created a new, voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labelling system called the Smart Choices Program.
The Smart Choices label will begin appearing on food and beverage packaging next year on products from the likes of Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Co, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Unilever and Wal-Mart. Read more
WORLD: Rich countries launch great land grab to safeguard food supplyRich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.
The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people. Read more
US: PepsiCo invests $4-billion in Mexico, ChinaAs US sales stall, PepsiCo is looking abroad to hihg-growth markets to boost profits. Pepsi says it will invest up to $3-billion in Mexico over the next five years — where it has more than 40 000 employees. Just a few weeks ago, Pepsi said it was investing $1-billion in the beverage and food businesses in China over four years. Read more
US study: New products have little impact on consumersThe majority of consumers can’t remember any new products that have been launched in the last year and appear unwilling to risk their money on trying something new, survey results showed. Americans are less aware of recent launches than ever before, as 69% of respondents say they could not remember a single new product launched in 2008. Read more
UK: Sweet! KitKat sales defy the crunchNestle, which also makes Aero and Rolo, says sales have never been sweeter. Despite the economic slowdown, they were up a tasty 18% in the 10 months to November 8. Read more
CHINA: Bud Light loses position as the world's best-selling beerThe self-styled king of beers has been toppled by a drink from China that most Budweiser lovers have never heard of: Snow. And while beer consumption is on the wane in developed markets, there is plenty of scope for growth in a country of 1.3 billion people. Read more
EU: Axe falls on historic Dijon mustard factoryFirst the French shortened the amount of time they had to eat their baguettes for lunch, now they are forgoing the mustard, with news that a historic factory, part of Unilever, in the mustard capital of Dijon is to close with about 300 workers losing their jobs. Read more
EU: Space food developments lead Arla to age-delaying product innovationArla is looking to develop “age-delaying” foods, after gaining knowledge from working with NASA. In space astronauts suffer from an accelerated ageing process, and so Arla has developed products to specifically help counter these effects.
These include a freeze-dried milk containing probiotics and milk bites – which are Malteser-like sweets – three of which contain the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk, and a preservative free, light-weight, wet yoghurt with a minimum self-life of two years at room temperature, and which is thicker than the average yoghurt so that it sticks to a spoon in zero gravity. Read more
ASIA: From genes to farmers' fields: new 'waterproof' rice developed"Waterproof" versions of popular varieties of rice, which can withstand two weeks of complete submergence, have passed tests in farmers' fields with flying colors. Several of these varieties are now close to official release by national and state seed certification agencies in Bangladesh and India, where farmers suffer major crop losses because of flooding of up to 4 million tons of rice per year. This is enough rice to feed 30 million people. Read more
UK: Bacon-flavoured chocolate bar is a sell outHitting shelves at £5.99 for a 3oz bar, it's hardly a cheap snack, but that hasn't stopped the stock running dry, says Selfridges, the only UK stockist of this unusual chocoloate. Read more
UK: Will recession kill the foodie dream?Commentary by Guardian bloggist, Tim Hayward… In the past few months the foodie media has adopted a new tone: a kind of guilty nervousness. Sure there's plenty of opportunity for articles about economising at the supermarket, budgeting for simple solo suppers on a redundancy cheque and nostalgic squibs about wartime foraging, but there's also an uncomfortable realisation that much of what we have come to regard as a kind of 'foodie establishment' developed in queasy symbiosis with the excessive behaviour we now find embarrassing – and that ultimately being a foodie is just another of those luxuries we're going to have to learn to live without.
Over the past decade, the visible face of our British food renaissance has been the rise of supermarkets, high-quality restaurants, TV shows, celebrity chefs, the books they write and the products they endorse. Foodies and the goods and services they consume have been a great big business based on heavy marketing, lots of disposable income and the customers' willingness to spend money treating themselves to luxury. Read more
US: Yakult targets military in US expansion effortsLeading Japanese probiotic group, Yakult, has pursued an original marketing strategy in an effort to establish its brand in the US by striking an agreement with the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA). The agreement, which kicked off in late October, sees the Yakult probiotic dairy beverage being sold at commissaries in Utah. According to Yakult USA, subsidiary of the Japan-based Yakult Honsha, the first few weeks of sales have yielded an “impressive performance” for its product. Read more
US: Michael Phelps-mania still a thing, for nowThe half fish/ half man hero, Michael Phelps, isn't done cashing in on his good name yet. The 14-time Olympic gold medalist is changing up his dietary habits, something not hard to do when you consume 12 000 calories a day, by switching his mug from the cover of Frosted Flakes to Subway Sandwiches. Read more
Diet and Nutrition
Happy fridge faces equal happy food choicesThat photo of your smiling kids on the refrigerator door might do more than just make you feel good; you might make healthier food choices after looking at it. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that positive moods can increase our ability to understand the big picture. Read more
Mediterranean diet pyramid updatedAn international group of scientific experts has updated the 15-year-old Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to emphasise the central role of foods from plant sources as the core of healthy eating. Among the changes: the addition of “mostly whole” to the longstanding recommendation of grains…Read more
Bob's Beat: Energy drink hysteria? Oops, the sky must be falling againWE see the headlines and read the stories everywhere in the media — Energy drink use may cause addiction, risky behavior. And that's a mild definition of what's going on out there.
Clearly, energy drinks aren't energy drinks, they're evil concoctions and their makers must be held accountable. They're as bad as tobacco. They kill. They harm. They addict. THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING! Jeez, does the word 'moderation' mean anything in this anxiety-filled culture? Because I contend that almost anything is consumable as long as moderation is exercised. Unfortunately, moderation as a consumption tool is hardly part of the national discussion on food and beverage. References here and there, yes, but in America's hangman mode, we must have culprits, and they must pay a big price for all those they are 'victimizing' — Hey, dummy, it's not your fault if you guzzle down too many energy drinks, no sir, it's the fault of the evil corporations who make these 'dangerous' brews.
Folks, I'm just whining. It's about all I can do because I've pretty much lost faith in this country's ability to rationalize so-called concerns about what we eat and drink. Us peons, we rant, but we feel helpless to stop the tsunami-like wave of nannyism washing over this country. It seems nothing we eat and drink is safe from activist and political scrutiny. But the answer is never, 'Wait, let's think about this, let's be rational.' Nope, it's always THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!
May I remind everyone that moderation has always been the answer to virtually everything that ails us. The nation's dietitians have said it for years. Even some food companies on occasion have bellowed the 'moderation' message. But instead of cautioning consumers to 'moderate' their consumption of energy drinks, there are those who would just 'kill' the
category. Put energy drinks out of business. Legislate to make it so. Whatever it takes. So it's pretty hard to practice 'moderation' when some parts of the culture are in schizoid-overdrive determined to destroy what they don't like. It's the way it is in America today.
Bob Messenger is one of the foremost and outspoken food industry observers in the US, whose website and daily newsletter, The Morning Cup, is read by 25 000 American food industrialists.
Why bees are the most invaluable speciesBees have been declared the most invaluable species on the planet at the annual Earthwatch debate in the UK. The audience heard from five eminent scientists who battled it out for fungi, bats, plankton, primates and bees. While of course all species are invaluable for our ecosystem, the debate is designed to raise awareness about conservation by asking the audience to vote for just one of the species to receive a fictitious cheque for one trillion pounds to be spent on their conservation.
It comes us no surprise that the audience voted to save the bees. Who would want a world without honey, flowers, and third of everything we eat including chocolate and coffee? Read more
Fuel from food? The feast is overIn future years we may look back at the Great Mexican Tortilla Crisis of 2006 as the time when ethanol lost its vroom. Right or wrong, that was when blame firmly settled on biofuels for the surge in food prices. The diversion of American corn from flour to fuel put the flat corn bread out of reach for Mexico's poorest.
Two years later, the search is on for ways to keep corn on the table rather than in the gas tank. Moving away from food crops, the biofuel of the future may come from the tall grass growing wild by the roadside, from grain stalks left behind by the harvest, and from garbage dumps and dinner table scraps.
Just how much influence biofuels had on food prices is debatable. The US Department of Agriculture says biofuel production is responsible for just three percent of the global price increases; that the real culprits are oil prices, which pushed up fertilizer and transportation costs, and the sharp drop in the dollar's value. Read more
Tetra Gemina Aseptic available globallyTetra Pak, has announced global availability of Tetra Gemina Aseptic, a roll-fed gable top shaped package with full aseptic performance for the packaging of both juice and milk-based products.
Two new package sizes have been commercially released in the Tetra Gemina Aseptic family: Tetra Gemina Aseptic 500 ml Square and Tetra Gemina Aseptic 750 ml Square. The new sizes open up opportunities for customers to enter alternative retail channels, and develop new products at attractive price points. The Tetra Gemina Aseptic package is also available in 500 ml, 750 ml and 1000 ml sizes.
Tetra Pak has produced more than 400 million Tetra Gemina Aseptic packages to date based on the leading Tetra Pak A3/Flex platform, which has been deployed in Spain, France, Russia, Portugal and Kazakhstan.
Cheersch to Grolsch on tap; straight from the fridgeGrolsch Netherlands, one of SABMiller's latest buys, has worked with Sidel to develop an innovative PET solution that allows consumers to enjoy the full 'beer on tap' experience at home. Called 'Cheersch', it's a handy two-litre bottle with a reusable tap kit. The PET bottle, blow molded on Sidel equipment and patented by Grolsch, can be resealed and kept inside a home fridge door for up to two weeks after opening. Read more
Gut chemical may inspire new way to fight obesityScientists have identified a fatty substance made in the gut that signals the brain when it's time to stop eating – a discovery that could inspire new approaches to fighting obesity. Read more
Human gut loaded with more bacteria than thoughtYour gut is the tropical rainforest of your body, at least in terms of bacterial diversity. A new study in the journal Public Library of Science-Biology, found that the bacterial community in the human bowel is ten times more diverse than previously thought. Read more
'4-D' microscope revolutionises the way we look at nano worldMore than a century ago, the development of the earliest motion picture technology made what had been previously thought "magical" a reality: capturing and recreating the movement and dynamism of the world around us. A breakthrough technology based on new concepts has now accomplished a similar feat, but on an atomic scale by allowing, for the first time, the real-time, real-space visualisation of fleeting changes in the structure and shape of matter barely a billionth of a meter in size. Read more
The eco machine that can magic water out of thin airWater, water, everywhere; nor any drop to drink. Will the plight of the Ancient Mariner be alleviated by a firm of eco-inventors from Canada who claim to have found the solution to the world's worsening water shortages by drawing the liquid of life from an unlimited and untapped source – the air.
The company, Element Four, has developed a machine that it hopes will become the first mainstream household appliance to have been invented since the microwave. Their creation, the WaterMill, uses the electricity of about three light bulbs to condense moisture from the air and purify it into clean drinking water. Read more
Fluorescence used to develop method for detecting mercury in fishResearchers have developed a simple and quick method for detecting mercury in fish and dental samples, two substances at the centre of public concern about mercury contamination. The technique involves a fluorescent substance that glows bright green when it comes into contact with oxidized mercury. Read more
That's it for this week, folks!
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