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Food Business Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

<<567891011121314>> Total issues:389

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April 09, 2017, to April 16, 2017

Yum Brands Caves To Pressure: KFC Will Transition To Antibiotics-Free Chicken

Years of pressure from food safety and consumer advocates have finally nudged Yum Brands, owner of KFC, into the clean-label chicken camp. The company announced it plans to stop sourcing chicken from farms that use antibiotics over the next two years. McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have all pledged to transition to antibiotics-free chicken because the widespread use of human antibiotics in animal husbandry seems to be contributing to the rise of drug resistant pathogens. With the shift by KFC, more than half of the nation's poultry supply chain will be antibiotic-free soon, according to advocates.

Unilever To Sell Its Margarine, Spreads Unit

Like many big food companies, Unilever is struggling to keep with the times, and with evolving consumer tastes, preferences and health concerns. The latest manifestation of the strategic rethinking, revamping, cost-cutting process – spurred by the failed Kraft Heinz takeover bid in February – is its decision to sell its margarine and spreads business for a price upwards of $7.5 billion. In addition to cost cutting, the Anglo-Dutch multinational hopes to buttress returns by implementing a dividend boost and a share buyback. Unilever’s margarine and spread business includes familiar brands Country Crock and I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter. Other companies that have recently announced plans to divest or acquire businesses include Reckitt Benckiser, Danone SA, ConAgra Brands, Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., and PepsiCo Inc. 

Nestle CEO Says Corporate Growth Should Take Priority Over Short-Term Profits

NestlÄ—’s CEO says the cost-cutting fad among food and beverage companies – think Kraft Heinz, Anheuser-Busch, Unilever, etc. – undermines efforts to grow. Ulf Schneider, an outsider from the healthcare industry who became CEO on January 1, told shareholders that the quest for short-term profit “is not sustainable.” His company certainly puts a priority on efficient business operations, he noted, but it is also hiking investment in its fastest-growing businesses and plans to expand digital ventures and online operations, which have experienced 20 percent growth in sales. Nevertheless, Schneider said, NestlÄ— will do whatever it has to where growth is slow. 

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April 02, 2017, to April 09, 2017

FEATURE: Where Now For Unilever? We Lay Out Our Thoughts And Suggested Response To The Humbling Kraft Heinz Bid

The unexpected and deeply unwelcome Kraft Heinz takeover bid shook  Unilever* to its core. Analysts and commentators expected 3G to use Kraft Heinz as a vehicle for further acquisitions in the food space as it pushed to aggressively cut costs across larger businesses, but Unilever was thought to be above the fray.  In a tacit admission of past failure, Unilever convened a hurried review of ways to boost its valuation and in coming days or weeks we’ll see what this holds. Meanwhile, we have clarified our own thinking about how Unilever should move forward as a vibrant independent company that quickly surfaces its underlying value. You can read a summary of our analysis here and contact us if you want further details.
*Disclosure: Unilever is a client of ours, as are most of the companies we list as acquisition targets. Also, our newsletters are read by recipients at all companies mentioned in this piece.

Panera’s Stock Price Soars As Rumors Of A Sale Swirl

After receiving “takeover interest,” $6.5 billion Panera Bread is purportedly consulting with business advisors about the possibility of putting itself up for sale. Likely suitors include Starbucks, Domino’s, and JAB Holding, owner of a variety of brands such as Krispy Creme doughnuts and Keurig Green Mountain coffee. Panera’s stock has risen 28 percent over the past year, reaching an all-time high of $261.87 through the end of March. The stock bounded to $282.45 on April 4 when word of a possible sale leaked. None of the potential suitors commented publicly on the news.

IRI Lists Most Successful 2016 CPG Product Debuts

A new report from market researcher IRI lists the consumer packaged goods launches in 2016 that proved to be the big winners out of thousands. The analysis found that eight of ten of the top-ranking products came from small and medium-size manufacturers. They accounted for 64 percent of IRI’s Pacesetter dollar sales. The 200 bestsellers accounted for $5.8 billion. Brand leaders tended to stick to three key principles of innovation – namely, prevention, personalization and “pizzazz.” Quick summary: top ten food and beverage brands: DairyPure, Dunkin' Donuts K-Cups, Not Your Father's Root Beer; non-food brands Flonase, Gillette Fusion ProShield, Garnier SkinActive; and C-store brands: DairyPure, Red Bull Summer Edition, and Quest Bar.

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March 25, 2017, to April 02, 2017

Mutant Wheat Boosts Phosphorous Content In Chicken Feed

Researchers in Denmark have developed a new variety of wheat that, among other benefits, improves phosphorous digestion in broiler chickens. Minerals such as phosphorus are often tightly bound in phytate. The enzyme phytase helps to break down phytate, increasing mineral availability. Cereals contain genes that code for phytase activity, but not enough to break down phytates in any useful amounts. The Danish researchers discovered a mutant wheat variety that expresses the phytase genes more powerfully, resulting in increased phytase activity. They optimized the variety – dubbed HIGHPHY – and found that in chickens, digestion of calcium and phosphorus went up 14.6 and 22.8 percent, respectively, resulting in stronger legs.

Robots Join Domino’s Delivery Force In German Test

The Domino's pizza chain is testing robot-delivered pizza in Europe in partnership with an Estonia start-up. The project is launching in Hamburg, Germany, within the next couple of months. Starship Technologies uses six-wheeled robots that are about two feet tall, weigh 40 pounds when empty, and move at a speed of four miles an hour. Deliveries The robots will deliver food within a mile radius of select Domino's locations. They can mover independently, but during the test will have a human chaperone to make sure nothing bad happens.

Company Renovates Factory To Ramp Up Production Of Plant-Based Burgers

A company that makes plant-based burgers wants to place its product in a thousand restaurants by the end of 2017. To achieve that goal, Impossible Foods is rapidly renovating a former baked-goods factory in Oakland, Calif., to scale up production of the Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that looks and tastes enough like the real thing that meat eaters and vegetarians will want to order it. The Impossible Burger is already available at 11 restaurants, but the company wants to supply 1,000 eateries, and has even signed a contract feature the faux burgers at the San Francisco Giant’s baseball stadium.

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March 18, 2017, to March 25, 2017

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.

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.

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 vegetables rich in vitamin C.

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March 11, 2017, to March 18, 2017

Low- Or No-Content Claims Mislead Food Shoppers About Nutritional Content

People should not assume that food package claims -- no salt, no fat, low fat, no sugar, etc. -- guarantee that the foods are nutritious. In fact, these claims hardly ever reflect the actual nutritional quality of food, U.S. researchers concluded. The findings come at a time when food regulators, producers, and interest groups debate nutrition claim rules for packaged foods and beverages. The study analyzed data that included more than 80 million food and beverage purchases from more than 40,000 households from 2008 to 2012. Products with the least nutritional value – high in calories, sodium, sugar or fat – were more likely to have low- or no-content claims. They concluded: “Claims may have differential utility for certain foods or nutrients and, in some cases, may mislead about the overall nutritional quality of the food.”

People Who Eat Healthy Diet Don’t Benefit Much From Probiotic Supplements

New findings from Australian research suggest that supplementing a healthy diet with probiotics may do more harm than good. Rats in the study were fed either a healthy diet or one high in saturated fat and sugar, both with a probiotic supplement. The probiotics improved the bacterial make-up in the “grossly disregulated” digestive tract of obese rats eating the junk food diet. They also improved brain function: spatial memory loss was prevented. Not so for the rats on the healthy diet. The probiotics had almost no impact on microbial diversity and actually impaired recognition memory.

Unilever Continues Review Of Operations To Find Ways To Boost Shareholder Returns

Responding to what CEO Paul Polman called the “near-death” experience of Kraft Heinz’s recent failed takeover bid, Unilever is thoroughly reviewing operations to see where it can boost shareholder returns. The company is requiring division heads in all of its businesses – from ice cream to shampoo and deodorants – to to conduct the reviews. It is unlikely the company will untangle its food, home, and personal care businesses, but it could make medium-sized acquisitions  One area of concern is actually a strength: its low debt balance. The small amount of debt gave Kraft Heinz a strategy for financing the acquisition. Unilever could cut costs more deeply in low-growth businesses to boost profit. And it may sell its Flora margarine unit to Kraft Heinz.

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March 04, 2017, to March 11, 2017

Carrefour Posts Solid Fiscal 2016 Financial Performance

Despite continued softness in the French market, retailer Carrefour SA posted full-year earnings of $1.01 billion, close to the $1.15 billion that Wall Street analysts had expected. Full-year net sales were $80.7 billion, 2.7 percent higher than last year. The company did not change its full-year dividend. The group had said earlier this year that fourth quarter sales were 3.9 percent higher at $24.9 billion. Operating profits in France, which represents about 25 percent of its total profit, fell 13.4 percent to $1.1 billion. The company said performance in the food sector was good in all countries; sales growth was “excellent” in Brazil and “continued positive momentum” in Europe, “reflecting the relevance of the predominantly food-based multiformat model.”

Key Execs At Hain Celestial Given New Strategic Responsibilities

Organic and natural products company Hain Celestial has moved several key executives into new positions that report directly to CEO Irwin D. Simon. Hain Celestial North America CEO John Carroll is the new EVP-Global Brands and New Business Ventures. He will oversee global branding, new ventures, M&A, and the Project Terra cost savings and divestiture program. Gary W. Tickle has been named CEO of Hain Celestial North America.  And Beena Goldenberg, CEO of the company’s Canadian unit, will head up the Cultivate Ventures platform dedicated to investing in lifestyle brands, smaller portfolio brands and concepts, and incubator opportunities.

New Line Of Prepared Frozen Fruits, Vegetables Helps Reduce Food Waste

British supermarket chain Tesco has launched a range of prepared frozen produce designed to take the "fuss” out of cooking with unusual but antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including pomegranates, watermelon, coconut and beetroot (beets). Sold in resealable packages are frozen diced beetroot and coconut, chunks of watermelon, and seeded pomegranate. The range will also help reduce food waste because consumers take what is needed and leave the rest in the freezer, Tesco says. 

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February 25, 2017, to March 04, 2017

Aldi To Use Alibaba Online Platform To Market German Brands In China

Germany’s fast-growing discount grocery chain Aldi hopes to interest Chinese consumers in German food and beverage brands, especially wine, snacks and breakfast foods. With that goal in mind, the company will "soft launch" an online presence on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform, followed by a full launch event in Shanghai on April 25. The Chinese venture is being managed by Aldi South, owner of Aldi U.S. and manager of the British chain. An Alibaba manager said the Chinese middle-class is increasingly interested in German products.

Kroger CEO “Disappointed” With 4th Quarter Profit

Kroger posted a disappointing 4th quarter profit of $506 million (53¢ a share), down from $559 million (57¢ a share) last year. Sales were $27.6 billion, up 5.5 percent ($26.2 billion) from a year ago. Net earnings for fiscal 2016 totaled $1.98 billion, or $2.05 a share. Excluding the restructuring of some multi-employer pension obligations, adjusted net earnings for the year were $2.05 billion, or $2.12 a share (up from 2015’s $2.04 billion, or $2.06 a share. The company said it created 12,000 new supermarket jobs in 2016. CEO Rodney McMullen, noting that the company was “obviously disappointed” with 4th quarter profit, said further cost cutting would allow the company to reach its long-term EPS growth rate target of 8 to 11 percent.

Nestle Adds Gluten-Free Production Capacity In New Zealand Factory

Nestlé has expanded the production capacity of its factory in New Zealand (South Auckland) to make gluten-free noodles, seasonings, flavor boosters, recipe bases, gravies, sauces, soups and dessert mixtures. The company said the multimillion-dollar facility turns out products under the Maggi and Docello brands. Exports already total more than $60 million. Nestlé expects this total to expand significantly with the addition of gluten-free versions. About 0.7 percent of New Zealanders are diagnosed with celiac disease, for which a strict lifelong gluten-free diet is essential.

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February 18, 2017, to February 25, 2017

Report Provides Data For Marketers Targeting Baby Boomers

A market research firm that analyzed the Baby Boomer generation (“boomers,” age 50 and older) and their financial profiles found that age alone doesn’t determine their preferences and behaviors, because age is mostly an attitude. Marketers need to know that what’s most important is an understanding of financial situation, including income and net worth. “A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing doesn’t work,” according to the report, which identifies distinct financial segments. For example: high income/high net worth boomers are more likely to spend in the retail and online channels; boomers are more likely to buy from direct mail and catalogs; they use Facebook as much as other generations; they use their own computers; and they use email, e-readers, tablets, smartphones and even smart TVs as well as cable and satellite.

Vitamin D Prevents Colds, Flu, Especially Among The Vitamin D Deficient

A meta-study led by British scientists finds strong evidence that vitamin D supplementation can actually reduce the occurrence of acute upper respiratory infections. It is well known that the vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and muscle, but there has been doubt about its disease prevention powers. In this study, researchers analyzed pooled data from 25 clinical trials involving 10,993 patients in 14 countries. Vitamin D prevented colds and flu in some trials, but not others. The data showed that vitamin D supplementation worked best in people with the lowest vitamin D levels. Daily or weekly supplementation, rather than more widely spaced doses, also provided the best protection.

Widely Used Food – And Paint – Additive Damages Intestinal Lining

Long-term exposure to the common food additive titanium dioxide reduces the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients like iron, zinc, and fatty acids. It also harms enzyme functions while increasing inflammation signals. The additive – found in numerous foods, including chewing gum and bread, and used in paints, paper, plastics, and some sunscreens – is inert and not toxic, according to the U.S. researchers who conducted the study using a small intestine cell model. But it reduced the number of absorptive projections (microvilli) that line the small intestine, slowing metabolism. Titanium dioxide is also used in toothpastes, chocolate, donuts, and skimmed milk.

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February 11, 2017, to February 18, 2017

Tesco Moves To Make Sure Promo Prices Are Updated

UK retailer Tesco is making sure that prices on stores’ on-shelf promotions are up to date. Tesco took the step following a story by an undercover reporter broadcast by the BBC Inside Out TV program. According to the reporter, promotional offers at two-thirds of Tesco stores visited had prices were out of date and not honored at the checkout. Also, some stores failed to remove old labels on the shelves even after reporters told them of the discrepancies.

Candy Companies Should Get The E-Commerce Ball Rolling Now

Candy makers need to develop an e-commerce strategy now to get a head start on developing relationships with online retailers that stock their product lines. A good example of how an early start reaps rewards is the German unit of Mars Chocolate, which has gained a lot of experience and insight since it launched a B2C website selling personalized M&M’s (MyMM.com) ten years ago. Confectioners should not be dissuaded by the fact that e-commerce accounted for only 4.4 percent of global FMCG sales last year. E-commerce is expected to account for nine percent of the market by 2025 ($150 billion). A Mars Germany exec says it’s a small share now but is “gathering speed so you need to act quite quickly in this area.” 

Smartphones Will Be The Pillar Of U.K. E-Commerce By 2020

Smartphones are rapidly becoming the technological engine powering e-commerce in the U.K., according to a report from OC&C Strategy Consultants, Google and PayPal. Within three years, mobile purchases will account for two-thirds of e-commerce sales – £43 billion – up from £13.5 billion in 2016. Another £14 billion of online retail will involve a smartphone in product research and price comparison, meaning that 80 percent of all U.K. e-commerce by 2020 will be handled over a smartphone. But despite these forecasts, U.K. retailers lag behind U.S. and Asian competitors in terms of mobile readiness, the report notes. 

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February 04, 2017, to February 11, 2017

Aldi To Remodel 1,300 Stores While Continuing Aggressive Store Expansion

Discount grocery chain Aldi plans to spend $1.6 billion renovating and expanding its 1,300 U.S. stores to accommodate customer demand for modern, convenient shopping with “a focus on fresh items,” including produce, dairy and bakery products. Remodeled stores will have open ceilings, natural lighting and eco-friendly building materials, such as recycled materials, energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting. The remodeling plan will go forward concurrently with the building of 650 new stores to reach its goal of 2,000 U.S. stores by the end of next year.

Foods Rich In Resistant Starch Offer Several Health Benefits

Resistant starch, found in bananas, potatoes, grains, and legumes, is not digested in the small intestine and is therefore considered a form of dietary fiber. Over the last decade, resistant starch has been the subject of numerous studies showing it has a significant impact on post-meal blood sugar metabolism, satiety, and intestinal health. This new comprehensive review of these studies summarizes the effects of resistant starch consumption and looks at potential mechanisms of action that underpin them. One possible conclusion is that resistant starch foods may be particularly useful for managing diabetes. However, the British researchers found no evidence of an impact on other metabolic markers, such as blood pressure and blood lipids. 

Scientists Find Dangerous, Illegal Substances In Herbal Supplements

A British chemist and a team of scientists who have been examining ways to detect illegal ingredients in herbal supplements have come up with some disturbing findings. Many over-the-counter supplements labeled as fully herbal often include potentially dangerous pharmaceutical ingredients not listed on the label. For example, the scientists found that weight loss supplements often contain sibutramine (once sold as Reductil). The substance was taken off the market in 2010 in Europe and the U.S. because of an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Another example: tadalfil and sulfoaildenafil were frequently found, but not listed on the label, in herbal supplements for erectile dysfunction. When taken with other medicines containing nitrates, they can lower blood pressure drastically and cause serious health problems.  
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