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Prebiotic Plant Fibers Benefit Good Gut Bacteria And Improve Sleep

Nondigestible plant fibers, on which good bacteria in the human gut feed, seem to have an impact on sleep, according to new U.S. research. Fibers found especially in plants like chicory, artichokes, raw garlic, leeks and onions, improve non-REM (non-rapid-eye-movement) sleep and REM sleep by buffering the physiological impact of stressful events. The study found that rats fed a prebiotic diet spent more time in restful, restorative non-REM sleep. The findings show that when beneficial bacteria digest prebiotic fiber, they multiply, improving overall gut health, and release metabolic byproducts that influence brain function. [ Image credit: © Till Westermayer ]

"Dietary Prebiotics and Bioactive Milk Fractions Improve NREM Sleep, Enhance REM Sleep Rebound and Attenuate the Stress-Induced Decrease in Diurnal Temperature and Gut Microbial Alpha Diversity", Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, March 23, 2017

Mercury Intake From Fish Linked To ALS

A preliminary study reports that eating fish with high levels of mercury – but not fish generally – is associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a mostly fatal neuromuscular disease. The U.S. researchers asked 518 people, 294 of whom had ALS, and 224 of whom didn't, how much fish and seafood they ate, which kind they ate, and how frequently. Researchers looked up the average mercury levels in various types of fish.  Among participants who ate fish and seafood regularly, those in the top 25 percent for estimated annual mercury intake were at double the risk for ALS. Sixty-one percent of people with ALS were in the top 25 percent of estimated mercury intake, compared to 44 percent of people who did not have ALS. [ Swordfish, image ...  More

"Fish Consumption, Mercury Levels, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)", Preliminary study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, March 23, 2017

Eight Servings Of Fruits, Vegetables Daily Is Better For You

Norwegian and British scientists report that nearly eight million deaths a year could be prevented if people ate eight servings of fruit and vegetables a day. The researchers scoured 142 publications from 95 population studies that examined the relationship between consumption of fruits and vegetables and the risk of chronic diseases. Each analysis included information on several hundred thousand people. They found that the risk of dying prematurely from all causes was reduced by almost a third, and the risk of cardiovascular disease by about a quarter in people who ate 800 grams of fruit and vegetables every day. The greatest benefit came from eating apples, pears, citrus fruit, fruit juice, green leafy vegetables, and fruits and ...  More

" Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality–a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies", International Journal of Epidemiology, March 23, 2017

German Discounters Are “Disrupting” U.S. Retail Grocery Market

The combined sales of German discount grocery chains Aldi and Lidl in the U.S. could reach $67 billion over the next four years, according to two industry experts speaking at a food marketing conference. This will force U.S. grocery chains to re-examine their own business models while carefully analyzing why the discount model works so well. Aldi and Lidl will be disruptors and a “source of change influence” in the U.S. grocery business. But the two companies are also evolving, learning perhaps from their bigger competitors, by working to overcome product selection limitations, for example; renovating stores; moving beyond the “hard discount” model; creating a “hybrid promotional strategy’ that increases the size of sales flyers, and ...  More

"Aldi, Lidl growth to spark industry change", Supermarket News, March 21, 2017

Unilever's Indonesia Unit Posts Strong Net Growth In 2016

PT Unilever Indonesia reported net profit rose 9.2 percent to Rp 6.39 trillion, or $479.7 million, in 2016, compared with the previous year. Net sales jumped almost 10 percent to Rp 40.05 trillion from the previous year's Rp 36.48 trillion. Cost of goods sold increased almost 10 percent year on year to Rp 19.59 trillion.

"Amid Weak People's Purchasing Power, Unilever Reaped Rp 6.39t Profit Last Year", Jakarta Post, March 20, 2017

Unilever Plans Sale Of Brands To Appease Angry Shareholders

Unilever said it plans to sell a number of brands worth a total of at least ₤6 billion. Part of the company's efforts to placate shareholders frustrated with the company's rejection of Kraft Heinz's $143-billion takeover bid, the proposed sale will be followed by a range of cost-cutting and restructuring measures. While company CEO Paul Polman does not want to split the company into its food and personal care businesses, he is seen willing to get rid of under-performing brands.

"Unilever lines up £6bn sale of Flora and Stork", The Sunday Times, March 19, 2017

3-D Pizza Printer Start-Up Gets Cash Injection

A start-up company specializing in 3-D food printers has garnered $1 million in seed funding to launch a pizza printer this year. The founders of BeeHex adapted their original idea – a food printing system for astronauts – into a pizza dough printer. The company has mastered the technology – the printers use pneumatic systems, rather than traditional additive manufacturing technologies -- to move ingredients around. Retailers, restaurants, amusement parks and festivals serving food on site, would all benefit from 3-D pizza printers. The next step might be to expand into other baked goods. [ Image credit: © BeeHex ]

"BeeHex Cooks Up $1 Million for 3D Food Printers that Make Pizzas", Tech Crunch, March 18, 2017

Purchase Of Thanasi Extends Conagra Brands Into Premium Meat, Seed Snacks

Conagra Brands announced it is acquiring the protein-based snacking business Thanasi Foods, maker of Duke’s meat snacks and BIGS seed snacks in a transaction expected to close this summer. Conagra manages the Slim Jim meat stick brand and the DAVID Seeds brand. The Duke's product line includes Smoked Shorty Sausages and Steak & Brisket Strips. BIGS’s products include jumbo in-shell sunflower seeds, sunflower seed kernels and roasted pumpkin seeds. Conagra Brands CEO Sean Connolly said the purchase is part of a strategy to extend into “faster-growing, more premium segments” of the meat and seed snacks market. Financial terms were not disclosed. [ Image credit: © Conagra Brands ]

"Conagra Brands Enters Into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Thanasi Foods, Maker of Duke's® Meat Snacks and BIGS® Seeds", News release, Conagra Brands, March 16, 2017

Ferrero Acquires Fanny May Confectionery Assets From 1-800-Flowers

Italian confectioner Ferrero International is acquiring the Fannie May confection brands of, including Fannie May and Harry London chocolate brands, in an all-cash $115 million transaction. Ferrero will acquire all related assets and liabilities including Fannie May’s e-commerce business,79 retail stores located mostly in the Chicago area, as well as a factory, warehouse and distribution facility. As part of the deal, 1-800-FLOWERS will continue to sell Fannie May and Harry London chocolates through its e-commerce and wholesale channels, and will add some of Ferrero’s chocolate brands, including Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and Raffaello, to its offerings. [ Image credit: © Fannie May ]

"1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. Announces the Signing of a Definitive Agreement to Sell Its Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc. Business to Ferrero International S.A. for $115.0 Million", News release, 1-800-FLOWERS, March 15, 2017

Technology That Creates Lab-Grown Chicken Meat Intrigues Big Food

A San Francisco-area start-up says it has developed the first chicken product from lab-grown cells. If the technology catches on with Big Food – Tyson Foods calls the cultured-meat technology “a good long-term proposition” – it could solve a lot of problems associated with meat processing. It might reduce the need for land and facilities to grow cattle, pigs, and poultry; cut the waste produced in meat processing; and help eliminate the costs of grain, water and waste-disposal associated with livestock. (It would also make groups like PETA happy.) It’s not exactly a cost-effective process yet, though. Boneless chicken breasts cost an average $3.22 a pound in U.S. grocery stores. Memphis Meats, which uses stainless-steel bioreactor tanks to ...  More

"Startup Serves Up Chicken Produced From Cells in Lab", The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2017

McDonald’s Enters The World Of Smartphone Food Ordering

Hoping to win back the drive-in customers it lost over the past four years, McDonald’s is at last testing a mobile ordering app it is satisfied with. The company is showing off the technology in Chicago where a new high tech demo restaurant was built with a redesigned kitchen that speeds order flow. McDonald’s hopes to avoid the disasters Starbucks encountered when its app generated a flood of orders that overwhelmed stores and drove away impatient walk-in customers. The company says order automation will cut transaction times, reduce errors, and free up workers to deliver food to tables or to cars parked in mobile order spots.[ Image credit: © McDonald's Corp. ]

"McDonald’s Finally Has Mobile Ordering", Fortune, March 15, 2017

Consortium To Accelerate Technology That Turns Plant Protein Into “Beefsteak”

Several food companies, including Unilever, have formed a consortium with a Dutch university to advance a technology that transforms vegetable protein into a layered fiber structure that mimics the taste, texture, and appearance of beefsteak. The Plant Meat Matters consortium comprises Swiss flavor house Givaudan, French agri-food giant Avril, and plant protein supplier Ingredion. Wageningen University researchers developed the shear-cell technology that can use protein from soy, wheat, pea, rapeseed or corn. The consortium hopes to scale the technology to produce industrial quantities, and to make it available to industry as well as chefs and consumers. Global sales of meat substitutes increased from 163,000 tons in 2015 to 183,000 tons ...  More

"Plant Meat Matters: Unilever, Givaudan and Ingredion Invest in Vegetarian Steak",, March 13, 2017

Cognitive Functions Improve Among Older Adults Who Consume Blueberry Powder

U.S. researchers who tested the impact of consuming 24 grams of blueberry powder – about a cup of fresh Highbush berries – daily on older adults found measurable improvements in cognitive function among the blueberry group over the placebo group. The randomized 90-day test included 37 healthy men and women between the ages of 60 and 75. The researchers tested participants for balance, gait and cognition at baseline, and again at 45 and 90 days. The group that consumed the blueberry powder showed significantly fewer repetition errors compared to the placebo group in the California Verbal Learning Test (CLVT), which assesses verbal memory abilities. [ Image credit: © Rasbak, Wikimedia  ]

"Dietary blueberry improves cognition among older adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial", European Journal of Nutrition, March 13, 2017

Gluten-Free Diet Increases Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

A small percentage of Americans cannot tolerate the protein gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley) due to Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. But a multibillion-dollar industry has sprouted up in recent years because many people believe eating gluten-free foods is healthier, though they are often less nutritious and more expensive. Harvard University researchers now report that gluten-free diets may actually be less healthful. In a 30-year observational study that took into account the potential effect of cereal fiber, individuals in the highest 20 percent of gluten consumption had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in comparison to those with the lowest daily gluten consumption (less than four grams). [Image credit: ...  More

"Low gluten Diets may be Associated with Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes", American Heart Association, March 09, 2017

General Mills Subsidizes Commercial Development Of Western Asian Grain

Breakfast cereal maker General Mills bestowed its imprimatur on a fairly obscure cousin of wheat when it announced it would buy a significant supply of wild triga, known commercially as kernza, for use in its Cascadian Farm organic food brand. A perennial plant originating in the Caspian Sea region, triga was domesticated by scientists in Kansas. General Mills also donated $500,000 to find good ways to commercialize the grain, perhaps touting its potential as a new superfood. Kernza has several cultivation advantages over wheat: its roots stretch 10 ft into the earth, locking in nutrients and water, anchoring the plant and protecting against erosion. But the fact that General Mills is backing it suggests it will show up someday on store ...  More

"Is Kernza the New Quinoa? The maker of Cheerios is Investing in the Experimental and Sustainable Grain", Quartz, March 09, 2017

Indian Research Uncovers Health Benefits Of Baking With Coconut Flour

Research by Indian scientists has found evidence that coconut flour would make a healthful substitute for wheat flour in baking. The researchers said coconut flour is gluten-free, rich in dietary fiber and protein, low in digestible carbohydrates, and may help prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They said it can be added into oatmeal to slow the sudden increase in blood sugar. It can also be mixed with beverages, soups, hot cereals and be used for making cookies and biscuits (rusk).[ Image credit: © Bob's Red Mill ]

"Coconut Flour a Healthy Product, Say Researchers", Business Standard, March 08, 2017

Renaissance Texan Keeps State's Chefs Supplied With Freshly-Milled Heirloom Flour

A musician with cooking school training, restaurant management experience, and a flair for entrepreneurship has launched a business based on the observation that chefs in Texas want the freshest organic flour they can find for their breads and other creations. James Brown, founder of Barton Springs Mill, decided that if he could source organically-grown flour – he could – he’d create a mill that would supply fresh organic flour from several types of heirloom wheat berries daily to restaurants all over the state. He did that, too, and very successfully. All while pursuing his other jobs: director of worship at a Presbyterian church and director of a music series that specializes in all-but-forgotten composers. [Image credit: © Barton ...  More

"Barton Springs Mill Turns Ancient Grains into Fresh Flour", My Statesman (Texas), March 07, 2017

Campbell Soup Says Its Four Platforms Will Ensure Future Growth

Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison told consumer industry analysts recently that she and her company understand that the “future food world” will be complex and challenging, with unpredictable and unrelenting change. There will be both “opportunities and disruptions” caused by advancements in food, health and wellness, and technology. With that in mind, the company has established four platforms for growth: further developing its omnichannel strategy, especially e-commerce; focusing on affordable, high-quality, and even functional snacks; taking advantage of the future biometrics-based personalization of foods; and applying the concept of “limitless local” that embraces smaller and more regional farming and food production models. [ Denise ...  More

"Campbell Soup Outlines Four Platforms to Drive Growth", CPG Matters, March 01, 2017

Will TV Actress’s Bake Mix Venture Upset The Bake Mix Market?

TV actress Sarah Michelle Gellar launched the company Foodstirs two years ago to create memorable baking experiences, but also to “disrupt the $4.7 billion baking-mix category.” Gellar’s company is offering USDA-certified organic, full-gluten products that use “biodynamic sugar,” Equal Exchange fair-trade cocoa and identity-preserved heirloom flour. Foodstirs kits start at $14.99, and come with all ingredients and directions to make desserts like Brownie Pops and Celebration Cupcakes. Subscriptions of three-months, six-months and one-year, range from $59 to $215. Coming soon: pancake mix and vanilla icing mix.[ Image credit: © ]

"How Sarah Michelle Gellar Intends to Slay the $4.7 Billion Baking-Mix Industry", CNBC, February 28, 2017

McDonald’s Experiments With Fast-Food Versions Of Regional Favorites

A TV chef in San Jose, Calif., helped McDonald’s develop a fast-food variation of a local sandwich – snow crab on sourdough – that features crab meat, seasoned mayo, romaine lettuce and tomato slices. The company said the new sandwich is part of an ongoing strategy to incorporate regional flavors in new menu items, at least in the greater San Francisco Bay area. McDonald’s called an earlier experiment – Gilroy Garlic Fries – an “overwhelming success.” If the snow crab trial is a similar triumph, the company will offer it in the rest of its 250 eateries in the area. [ Crab Sandwich, image credit: © McDonald's ]

"McDonald's Tests Crab on Sourdough", News release, QSR Web, February 10, 2017

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