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Issue 37: 8 May 2009

"Ours is a world where people don't know what they want and are willing to go through hell to get it."
Don Marquis

Food bites . . . Tough times are shaping a different type of consumer

Image"… consumers in the developed world are at the cross roads. Social etiquette has gone from conspicuous consumption to conscious consumption. The focus has moved to value over quantity as consumers reject the excesses of the boom years. People are now saving for what they can afford, rather than borrowing to buy what they covet. Thrift is the spirit of the day. Reckless spending is a thing of the past … We are moving into an era of the frivolous being unacceptable. A whole new consumer generation will come out of this."
Citigroup report on consumer habits in the recession Read more


ImageEditor's Stuff – Consumer Protection Act becomes law!

What timing! In my last newsletter, I discussed the implications of the soon-to-be-implemented Consumer Protection Bill and on returning from ten days in the glorious wilderness of the Kalagadi, I quickly learned that, sure enough, it had been signed into law on April 29 by President Motlanthe, and is now the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008.

Widely welcomed as much-needed protection for consumers, it is likely to have unforeseen consequences for retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. Most of the costs to business are unknown at this stage and will only become apparent long after the law has taken effect.

What is certain, is that all in the supply chain will now have to pay close attention to their product quality and safety processes, as the Act totally changes the issue of liability from a scenario where a complainant has to prove negligence, to a "no-fault" liability system where the consumer will merely have to show that food was off or that there was a foreign object in a package in order to succeed in a claim against a retailer, supplier, manufacturer, and the like. The supplier and any other party in the supply chain will be liable, regardless of what steps they took to prevent the occurrence.

ImageFOODStuff SA has a new reference resource on liability issues and the Consumer Protection Act, published in conjunction with Janusz Luterek (right) of Hahn & Hahn attorneys. It's presented as a "Dummies Guide" – making it readable, accessible and understandable. At the risk of repeating myself, this is something everyone in the food supply chain needs to know about!  Read more

Symposium: Update on SA's draft Labelling and Advertising Regulations        

ImageThis vitally important legislation has been around for years now in planned, draft, when-will-it-happen format! Well, it seems it may well be happening soon – and you can get a first-hand update from the legislators themselves at a symposium in Pretoria next week.

SAAFoST (SA Association for Food Science & Technology) and the Directorate of Food Control: Dept of Health are holding a report-back on progress on the draft Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs Regulations (R642) published for comment in July 2007. This symposium is on Wednesday May 13. It's a must, it's not expensive and is yet another example of the value that SAAFOST offers the industry and its members. Book now!

Enjoy this week's read! Email Brenda:

SA Food Industry News


Misnaming scandal rocks SA seafood industry

Misnaming of seafood has been hitting international headlines increasingly over the past year. Also known as “market substitution”, misnaming occurs when one seafood species is marketed and sold as another, often unrelated species. A new study shows that this practice is common in South Africa in the formal import, wholesale and restaurant trade. Thousands of consumers are not only defrauded on a daily basis, but they may unknowingly be buying illegal or unsustainable species. Read more


ImageParmalat announces new COO

Parmalat SA has announced the appointment of Nick Wentzel as Director and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Parmalat SA. Wentzel has extensive experience in the FMCG and agricultural industries. He was previously the CEO of JSE-listed Astral Foods. [No link]


ImageSABMiller starts brewing beer in Southern Sudan

SABMiller subsidiary company, Southern Sudan Beverages, has started production of Southern Sudan's first locally produced beer, White Bull Lager. The brewer says the brand is "an easily recognised cultural symbol for the people of Southern Sudan, and is synonymous with promoting the positive feelings of celebration, success and peace."
The Juba-based plant has the capacity to brew 180 000hl of clear beer and 60 000hl of carbonated soft drinks annually. Read more

ImageThe story behind the Mrs Ball's chutney 'skirt' ad campaign

Amid all the electioneering, if an ad on the apparently ridiculous – the length of skirts on ladies' toilet signs – had you hot under the collar recently, fret no more: it was part of a massive viral advertising campaign for Unilever's Mrs Balls Chutney. Read more



Sensory matters: new group formed

ImageThe SA Association of the Flavour & Fragrance Industry (SAAFFI) reports that a Sensory Forum has been formed to accommodate anyone interested in, or involved in, the multi-faceted world of Sensory Science, Sensory Evaluation and/or Consumer Science.

The aim is to meet a few times a year, in order to network and get to know who’s who in the field of Sensory Matters in South Africa. A blog has been set up on where interested people are welcome to give your views, share information or just chat.

POSITION OFFERED: Food chemist academic wanted

Stellenbosch University's Food Science Department requires a Food Chemistry specialist. The position would start as a two-year contract position and would be extended therafter, most likely to a permanent position.

Qualification required: a minimum MSc in Food Science (with Chemistry) or MSc in Food Chemistry, while a PhD in Food Science/Food Chemistry is a recommendation.
Experience: A Food Chemistry environment; previous teaching experience also a recommendation, but not prerequisite; research experience in food science and/or food chemistry is a requirement.
Other requirements: Motivation to engage in undergraduate teaching, postgraduate supervision and research a strong requirement. Good communication skills, English language profiency a requirement, Afrikaans profiency a recommendation.
Contact: Gunnar Sigge,; (021) 808 3581.

Food Industry News

SWINE FLU COMMENT: Life-threatening disease is the price we pay for cheap meat

ImageA swelling number of scientists believe swine flu has not happened by accident. No: they argue that this global pandemic – and all the deaths we are about to see – is the direct result of our demand for cheap meat. So is the way we produce our food really making us sick as a pig? At first glance, this seems wrong. All through history, viruses have mutated, and sometimes they have taken nasty forms that scythe through the human population.

This is an inescapable reality we just have to live with, like earthquakes and tsunamis. But the scientific evidence increasingly suggests that we have unwittingly invented an artificial way to accelerate the evolution of these deadly viruses – and pump them out across the world. They are called factory farms. They manufacture low-cost flesh, with a side-dish of viruses to go. Read more

UK: Traffic light-GDA combo best in UK labelling study

ImageAn independent panel appointed by the government's Food Standards Agency announced the results of a major research project revealing what consumers think about front-of-pack nutritional labelling. Thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money have been spent to reveal that shoppers find the current proliferation of different schemes from different retailers and manufacturers, er… confusing.

Another key finding is that older people and those in lower socio-economic groups tend not to use or understand the labels, while those interested in healthy eating do. So many of the people who would benefit most from reading and understanding nutritional labels are those least likely to. Read more here and here.

ImageEU: Prospective buyers tight-lipped over Alpro sale

Food giants Nestlé and Unilever are keeping their cards close to their chest over reports that they are both bidding to acquire the soy foods company Alpro, Europe’s leading producer of soya-based foods, selling under its core Alpro and organic Provamel brands. Read more

ImageEU outlaws trade in seal products

A ban on the sale of products from seals has been passed by the European Parliament in an attempt to end their slaughter. The legislation will prohibit the import and sale in Europe of seal pelts and other products such as oil used in some omega-3 health supplements labelled “marine oil” or “Arctic oil” to disguise their origins. Read more

EU: Salmonella remains most common cause of food-borne outbreaks

ImageThe European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have published their Community Summary Report on Food-borne Outbreaks in the EU in 2007. It shows that Salmonella remained the most common cause of food-borne outbreaks in the European Union, followed by food-borne viruses and Campylobacter. Read more

ImageUS: Organic sales sprout by 17% in 2008

US sales of organic products, both food and non-food, reached $24.6 billion by the end of 2008, growing 17.1% over 2007 sales despite tough economic times, according to the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) 2009 Organic Industry Survey. Read more

US: McDonald’s ups the coffee war, and some!

ImageIn the ongoing rivalry to grab 'mouths' from Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's is launching a massive national ad campaign to promote its McCafé coffee offerings. McDonald’s will be emphasising that its lattes, while reasonably priced, are still upscale and luxurious. The ads emphasise the accented "é" of McCafé and transform everyday words like “commute” and “cubicle” to "commuté” and “cubiclé.”

And this is no small campaign. The new publicity will be “an everywhere-you-look, invade-your-dreams ad campaign … that will be not so much viral as bubonic.” Costing an estimated $100-million mega-buy across TV, Web, radio, print, outdoor and social media, the McCafé push will be, according to the company, its biggest “menu initiative” since it began serving breakfast in the 1970s. Read more

Looking at the science and psychology behind overeating  

ImageIn a wide-ranging look at eating habits, David Kessler, the former head of the US FDA, addresses America's ever-increasing waistlines in his new book, "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite." … He interviews the overweight, who say that just the sight of a favourite snack food is enough to make them feel hungry, as well as anonymous food executives who admit that fat, salt and sugar are often the building blocks of successful food products

Why is it that Americans continue to crave such foods as potato chips and candy bars long after they feel full? "No one has ever explained what's happening to them and how they can control their eating," he writes. "That's my goal in this book." Read more. 

For some pithy criticism of the book, of how Kessler has switched his attention from Big Tobacco to Big Food, go here .


"You’ll Never Look at Dinner the Same Way!"

ImageThis is the theme promoting yet another food-industry-bashing documentary, about to hit American cinemas next month.

Magnolia Pictures has released the first three minutes of its upcoming “you don’t know what you are eating” documentary, "Food, Inc", and it's said to "expose the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. The nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. Food, Inc reveals surprising — and often shocking truths — about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here," according to a blog, You can view the trailer on its site.

ImageBOB MESSENGER COMMENT: 'Food Inc' happens when industry let's guard down

I don't know what to say after watching the 3-minute trailer for the anti-food industry movie, "Food Inc" My first inclination is trash it as just another attempt to deliver a black eye to the industry that feeds America.


No one ever said the food industry was perfect. It's not. All you have to do is key in on the details of some of the recent recalls to know that mistakes were made. In some cases, unforgivable mistakes that could have been prevented had people in charge acted responsibly. Look, when people die or get sick from eating products manufactured by our industry, you are going to get movies like Food Inc, and they are going to resonate.


No question the industry is under siege, but it also helped plant the seeds of this harsh scrutiny. The best way to fight it? Be responsible. Put food safety concerns first. Pay attention to emerging trends that play to environmental issues and accommodate them where and when you can. You will always have critics and activists hounding the industry, but they cannot defeat it if the people who lead it ride the dual track of profit-making and accountability.


 Bob Messenger is a foremost analyst and critic of the US food industry. See


Food Science & Ingredient Stuff


Fiddling with flavours: Making wholewheat bread as acceptable as white, and UHT milk as good as fresh

ImageNeither proteins nor sugars have a characteristic smell of their own. But when they are heated together they produce thousands of flavour compounds as a result of this Maillard reaction. However, small amounts of phenols have the potential to hijack this process and alter flavour chemistry. The work in this arena by Pennsylvania State University Food Science researchers makes for fascinating reading. Read more of this Scientific American article


ImageSmall really is beautiful when it comes to salt replacement

A "new frontier" in salt replacement has opened up with the launch of commercial quantities of Soda-Lo: microscopic salt crystals enabling manufacturers to slash salt levels and retain their 'clean' labels. The free-flowing 'Soda-Lo' particles – which, at 5-10 microns, are a fraction of the size of standard salt (c500 microns) – reportedly deliver an intense, salty hit on the taste buds. Read more


ImageFood science students invent easy-to-use meat seasoning

Virginia Tech Food Science and Technology students have invented "Spice n Easy", flavour spikes that will quickly and easily flavour meat. No overnight soaking. No cleanup. Ready to cook. The product was developed as a unique way to add flavour to meat products without the wait and mess of a traditional marinade. Nuggets of flavour, which are easily inserted into the meat, dissolve during cooking, releasing their flavour. Read more

New Product News & Development


ImageImageAUSTRALIA: Longer shelf life, better tasting fruit products thanks to high pressure

High-pressure processing (HPP) technology developed by Australian researchers to extend shelf life of chilled perishable products without the use of preservatives, is the star turn of a new fruit-juice manufacturing plant hailed “the first of its kind”, which opened recently in Melbourne, Australia. Read more or visit the company's website.

UK: Tesco launches 'non-leaking' tomato

ImageTesco has debuted what it claims is the first ever tomato that will not leak all its moisture into the bread of a sandwich.

The supermarket estimates that a normal salad tomato leaks 12% of its moisture into the bread within an hour of the sandwich being made – transforming a gourmet lunchtime treat to a watery mess by the time it gets consumed. The new tomato, however, loses just 3% of is moisture, Tesco claims. Read more

ImageUS: Top selling new food products of 2008

New products are the life force of food & beverage manufacturers. A hit sustains consumer loyalty, drives profits and pays off the R&D costs behind less successful introductions. When a new product hits the ground running, it has the potential to be a Pacesetter, as defined by Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. IRI's Pacesetters of 2008 focused on convenience, steaming technologies, full flavour and fewer calories. Read more

ImageUK: Mars to focus on healthy products

This year, the UK confectioner plans to continue improving its products by making them more healthy and nutritious, according to this article. Read more

US: Pineapple Bites win big kudos

ImageHealthy snacks attracted a lot of attention at the recent 2009 annual convention and expo of the United Fresh Produce Association in Las Vegas. Chiquita Pineapple Bites was named Best New Fruit or Vegetable Product as the produce trade association announced the winners of its first-ever competition in new product categories.

Pineapple Bites was launched in April in grocery stores throughout the US. The single-serve pineapple spear comes in two flavors: traditional and coconut. The product can be frozen or eaten fresh and is packaged like a push-up popsicle without the stick. The new product idea came from research with consumers who asked about making fresh fruit more portable and easier to eat. Read more

Food Trends


US: Recession slows tide of new products to marketplace

ImageFewer new products are showing up on supermarket shelves this year as companies cope with the changing economy. New data from the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) shows total food and drink product launches have been cut in half since last year (a 51% decline from Q1 2008 to Q1 2009).

Compounding the annual decline is the fact that new product introductions dropped sharply from the last quarter of 2008, by 32%. Manufacturers typically release fewer new products during the first quarter of a year, but 2009’s reduction is higher than in recent years, reports Mintel. Read more


ImageUS: Mintel identifies recession-proof food and drink markets

Life in a recession isn’t bad for quite everyone. While many markets struggle with the sluggish economy, others thrive. Market research leader Mintel has reviewed and re-forecasted its research reports from the past two years, identifying which food and drink markets are actually being improved by recessionagry woes. Read more


US: Snacks have taken centre stage in American eating

ImageSnacks "have become valuable gastronomical events in their own right, especially as consumers demand more
from their snacks". A Packaged Facts study shows time-crunched Americans now turn to snacks as meal stand-ins, to fuel on-the-go lifestyles and stave off energy crashes. And as snacks grow in importance, consumers want bigger bang for their snacking buck, such as vivid flavour, quality ingredients and pumped-up nutrition. Read more

Candy, the original fast food

ImageDuring tough economic times, consumers turn to the cheap luxury of candy, Steve Almond writes in The Wall Street Journal. That's happening now, and it happened during the Great Depression, when candy bars with names such as Chicken Dinner and Vegetable Sandwich were positioned as inexpensive substitutes for real meals. Read more

US: New IRI research identifies emergence of a "Downturn Generation"

The current recession has created a new niche of consumers identified as the "Downturn Generation" by Information Resources, a global provider of consumer, shopper, and market insights for the consumer packaged goods (CPG), retail, and healthcare industries. This new generation of Americans is adopting practices similar to Depression-era shoppers, implemented both to weather the recession and to keep a close eye on spending long after the recession ends. Read more

Health & Nutrition

Paying a price for loving red meat

ImageMeat consumption has more than doubled in the United States in the last 50 years. Now a new study of more than 500,000 Americans has provided the best evidence yet that our affinity for red meat has exacted a hefty price on our health and limited our longevity.

The study found that, other things being equal, the men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from one of our two leading killers, heart disease and cancer, than people who consumed much smaller amounts of these foods. Read more

Soya: good or bad for you?

ImageSoya can help prevent cancer – yet some research suggests it actually raises the risk. So should we be eating it or not? Our confusion is understandable. Over the past decade a range of scientific studies conducted around the world have concluded that these tasty little East Asian beans (and the many products derived from them) might help prevent or cause all manner of life-threatening or undesirable conditions. Read more

ImageSome baby foods less nutritious than a cheeseburger, says UK report

Some baby foods contain "staggering" amounts of sugar and fat that make them worse than junk food, according to a recent survey. Farley's Original Rusks contain more sugar than McVities Chocolate Digestives, and Heinz Toddler Mini Cheese Biscuits have proportionately more saturated fat than a McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese. Read more

Cereals laden with sugar, Which? report warns

ImageIt is considered the most important meal of the day, yet according to a Which? report the most popular [UK] brands of breakfast cereal – including those targeted at children – are laden with sugar. A survey by the consumers' organisation Which? of 100 cereals bought from the main supermarkets found a lower proportion of high-sugar cereals overall compared with 2006. But only eight of the products qualified for a Food Standards Agency healthy "green light" for low levels of sugar, with 31 out the 100 cereals examined containing more than four teaspoons of sugar to a recommended serving. Read more

ImageCancer patients: Beware extreme diets

Cancer survivors who adopt "extreme diets" to try to stop the disease returning are wasting their time and may even be harming their health, experts warn. Dietary regimes which urge cancer patients to drink only fruit and vegetable juice, avoid meat or dairy products or take large doses of supplements may be popular, but will not work, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. Read more

ImageThinking about salad, but ordering fries

Menus that include healthful items such as salads and veggie burgers seem to actually encourage less-healthy food choices, researchers say. Apparently, consumers feel virtue because the healthy items are on the menu, and that frees them to order cheeseburgers and ice cream. Read more

Packaging News


ImagePackaging in perspective

Packaging these days is often perceived as an evil of modern living, contributing to mountains of waste that will eventually destroy the planet. It’s high time that the record was put straight about the enormous benefits that packaging offers, particularly to the food and drink industry. Read more 


UK: Tesco launches on-the-go recycling scheme

ImageTesco is hoping to encourage on-the-go recycling on the high street through the installation of automated recycling units outside Tesco Metro stores. Consumers will be able to recycle PET plastic drinks bottles, aluminium and steel cans, the most common waste on the high street, in the recycling units. The £25,000 automated units can identify different materials and then segregate and compact them ready for recycling. Read more

Sustainability Stuff

Rising demand for palm oil fuels destruction of the rainforest

ImageThe United Nations Environment Programme believes palm oil is the major driver of deforestation in the vast islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are being cleared to make way for plantations from which 90% of wildlife disappear, including the orangutan, which is fighting a losing battle against extinction.

At present only 4% of palm oil production is certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (Rspo), meaning that the vast majority of global supply is linked to the forest gold rush. Read more

ImageHailed as a miracle biofuel, jatropha falls short of hype

The scrubby jatropha tree has been touted as a wonder biofuel with unlimited potential. But questions are now emerging as to whether widespread jatropha cultivation is really feasible or whether it will simply displace badly needed food crops in the developing world. Read more

Could food shortages bring down civilization?

ImageThe biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos. Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.


Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production. Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author of this article argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order. Read more in the May 2009 Scientific American Magazine



UK in a fizz over old-time sherbert favourite

ImageFor the hardcore sentimentalists it is a step too far. The makers of Sherbet Fountain are dispensing with the sweet's iconic paper packaging. Tangerine Confectionery, the Blackpool-based manufacturers of Sherbet Fountain, are abandoning thecardboard tubes that have housed the fizzy concoction and liquorice straw in favour of resealable plastic tubes, which they believe will be more hygienic.

The change means that children will no longer have fond memories of wrestling with soggy paper packaging as they try to work out how to suck the sherbet through the ever-useless straw. Many fans and nostalgics say they are mourning yet another rebranding of an iconic sweet. Read more


That's it for this week, folks!

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