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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.

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March 10, 2019, to March 24, 2019

Milk Producers Urge FDA To Enforce Legal Definition Of “Milk”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has filed a citizen petition with the FDA proposing that plant-based brands that do not match dairy counterparts nutritionally should use the term imitation (e.g., imitation milk); while those that do match dairy nutritionally should use terms such as substitute or alternative (e.g., yogurt alternative). The NMPF said dairy milk is a key source of nutrients, including vitamin D, a nutrient in milk that has virtually eliminated the disease known as rickets. The Federation says the FDA’s decades lack of enforcement of laws that limit the term milk to the lacteal secretions of cows has allowed marketplace chaos to grow exponentially. The Plant Based Foods Association, however, argues that requiring a disparaging word such as imitation on labels would violate the First Amendment. Moreover, the NMPF is trying to solve a problem that does not exist: consumers are not confused, and they are not being misled.

USDA, FDA To Jointly Regulate Cultured Meat Products

Federal agencies USDA and FDA will share regulatory oversight duties for culture meat production to ensure food safety and correct labeling practices. The FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. During the harvest stage, regulation will shift to the USDA’s FSIS, which will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry. The USDA said consumers trust the USDA mark of inspection to ensure safe, wholesome and accurately labeled products. The U.S. Cattlemen s Association (USCA) said it was encouraged by the joint regulatory oversight of cell-based meats, and pleased that FSIS will have pre-market labeling authority. The association, however, reiterated its stance that the term meat, and more specifically beef, refers to products derived exclusively from the flesh of a bovine animal harvested in the traditional manner. 

North Carolina Baker Seeks To Revive The Community Bakery Tradition

A North Carolina baker has launched a Community Supported Bakery (CSB) at a location in a small town that has housed several start-up bakeries over the years. The idea is based on a European tradition that arose at a time when many individual homes lacked ovens; outdoor ovens became community gathering places. The space in Marshall does not have a retail facility, but has been used for baking workshops, a tradition Brennan Johnson and his Walnut Schoolhouse bakery plans to continue and grow. Johnson says he will sell sourdough breads at local farmers markets, and his workshops will focus on Scandinavian baking. Other bakers will teach cakes, croissants, bagels and other subjects. Johnson has been baking since high school. He travelled to Europe with his parents in ninth grade to research old community ovens to learn how they became community-gathering places.

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February 24, 2019, to March 10, 2019

Rosy Outlook For World Functional Flour Market

Market researcher Fact.MR expects “impressive growth” in the global functional flour market, thanks to the consumer preferences shift toward healthful foods and ingredients. Global sales of functional flour will grow at a CAGR of over 6.5 percent through 2025, driven by the health and wellness trend that is creating sustained opportunities for the manufacturers of functional flour. The segment is controlled by a few leading companies with global and regional reach. However, smaller companies predominantly operating across local markets are also in play. The leading companies will continue to focus on strategic collaborations, such as mergers and acquisitions with the small players to boost their production abilities and gain substantial profits, the company said.

Are “Newfangled Devices” The Answer To The Food Waste Problem? Maybe Not

Nonprofit coalition ReFed says start-ups dedicated to fighting food waste attracted $125 million in venture capital and private equity funding in the first ten months of 2018. Products included smart tags that change color when milk goes bad, a mist to prolong the shelf life of fruit, and software to help grocery stores order the right amount of produce. Investors see food waste as “a big business opportunity," according to a marketing exec at Apeel Sciences, which sells a water-based solution that extends the ripeness of avocados by four days. But the products – and the trend – have their skeptics. Elizabeth Balkan, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s food-waste program, says, "I worry about this food-tech, food-waste boom becoming a food-waste bust."  Consumers are a major contributor to the food waste problem, so if they want to throw away less food, what they have to do is plan better and store smarter. “Newfangled devices” may not be the answer.

Some Grocery Chains Are Backing Away From Ugly Produce Promotion

The "ugly produce'" trend may be fading at U.S. supermarkets. Walmart, Whole Foods and other stores experimented with selling blemished or “wonky” fruits and vegetables at a discount to keep them out of trash bins. But the two chains and others have quietly ended their tests: selling dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing next to better looking fruits and vegetables. Though many stores and chains are still interested in ugly produce – Kroger and Hy-Vee are notable examples – others like Meijer in the Midwest, Hannaford of Maine and Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle have backed away, citing lukewarm shopper interest. "Customers didn't accept it as much as we had hoped," said Mona Golub of Price Chopper, a grocery chain in the Northeast that also discontinued sales of cheaper ugly produce.

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February 03, 2019, to February 24, 2019

Dairy Co-op Demands That FDA Enforce Rules Regarding “Milk” Labeling

Wisconsin’s Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative has demanded that the FDA “no longer turn a blind eye to misleading labeling” of plant-based beverages as “milk.” In comments submitted to the agency, Edge called on the FDA to "take immediate action" to enforce existing regulations that define dairy foods as originating from cow's milk. The enforcement is “long overdue and increasingly important,” the co-op said. The FDA has asked for public input to help determine customers' understanding of the labeling and differences between dairy products and plant-based non-dairy products and the effects on purchasing decisions. The FDA says the input could affect any industry guidance it might issue.

Vegetable-Based RightRice Debuts At Whole Foods Markets

Popchips founder Keith Belling has introduced a vegetable rice made with lentils, chickpeas, green peas, and rice. San Francisco-based RightRice is a shelf-stable blend of more than 90 percent vegetables comprising 10 g of complete protein and five grams of fiber per serving, but has 40 percent fewer net carbs than traditional white rice. RightRice, available in original and three savory flavors, cooks like rice in about 10 minutes.  Each flavor comes in a seven-oz. pouch (about four servings) at a suggested retail of $3.99, and is non-GMO, vegan, kosher and gluten-free. RightRice is available at Whole Foods Markets nationally and online at Amazon.

French Bakery Chain Opens Locations In N.Y. Area

French bakery and café chain Marie Blachère is setting up shop this month in the Long Island village of Great Neck, N.Y., and next month in Greenwich Village (Manhattan). The 35-year-old chain, with more than 500 locations in France, is known for its baguettes, but also sells croissants, brioches, fruit tarts, and – especially for Americans – muffins, doughnuts, sandwiches, and pizza. 

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January 27, 2019, to February 03, 2019

Company Creates Stickers That Keep Produce Fresher Longer

Kirkland, Wash.-based start-up Stixfresh has developed a stick-on label it claims can keep fruit fresh for up to 14 days longer, thereby helping to reduce food waste. The coating on the stickers is made from beeswax and other natural ingredients that have a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status from the FDA. The compounds work together to create a protective layer around the fruit. By slowing down the ripening process, Stixfresh labels can extend the freshness of a wide variety of fruits by up to 50 percent. The company is launching a crowdfunding campaign in February to give consumers anopportunity to test the product and join the brand. 

Zero-Waste Cooking Is Top Restaurant Trend In 2019

The National Restaurant Association says zero-waste cooking in restaurants is one of the major trends of 2019.  The basic idea is to create menu items that make use of ingredients that would otherwise be discarded as waste. Washington, D.C.’s Teaism restaurant, for example, has come up with a way to use broccoli stems trimmed from florets. The chef grins the broccoli stems, mixes them with goat cheese and seasonings, rolls them together, breads them with panko and fries them. Another restaurant breathes new life into used coffee grounds by cold steeping them to flavor homemade coffee ice cream.

German Researchers Develop Infrared Scanner That Senses Food Freshness

Fraunhofer researchers in Germany have developed a mobile food scanner that will allow consumers and supermarket operators to test whether food items have gone bad. The pocket-size device uses infrared measurements to determine the ripeness and shelf life of produce and display the results via an app. The scanner, still in the testing stages, contains data for only two foods so far and permits the shelf life of products to be estimated. The core of the mobile scanner is a near-infrared (NIR) sensor that measures the ripeness of the food and identifies the amount and composition of its contents. Infrared light is beamed with high precision at the food and the scanner measures the spectrum of the reflected light. The absorbed wavelengths permit inferences to be made about the chemical composition of the food.

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January 13, 2019, to January 27, 2019

Clean Label Egg Wash Replacer Now Available To N.A. Commercial Bakeries

California-based baking ingredients producer Pak Group has developed a product to help commercial bakeries consistently achieve the ideal glaze while still claiming products are clean labels. Bellarise Shine is a gluten- and dairy-free vegan egg wash replacer made from water, sunflower oil, pea proteins, dextrose and modified starch. It is non-GMO, vegan, dairy-free, and removes allergens from bread labels. The company says it is suitable for use in a wide range of applications, including croissants, brioche, buns and patisserie. The product will also help bakers avoid the highly variable cost of eggs, the company says. Bellarise Shine, which took the company a year to develop, is available now for customers in North America.

French Patisserie Continues U.S. Expansion Strategy

French patisserie Le Macron French Pastries plans to establish more than 20 new locations in “targeted” areas in the New York metropolitan area over the next five years. The company has more than 50 locations in the U.S.; it is looking to grow through “smart franchise partnerships and tactical site selection.” The new locations will be in Manhattan, Williamsburg (Brooklyn), and Staten Island. "As a prime state for expansion, especially with our versatile mobile cart franchise opportunity, we look forward to increasing our footprint … with franchise partners to help give all New York residents access to our little bites of heaven known as macarons," said CEO Rosalie Guillem. Franchise opportunities include kiosks, mobile carts, and express locations. 

Marijuana Compounds – And Zero-Waste Cooking – Loom Large In Eatery Trends

According to new research from the National Restaurant Association, plant-based ingredients, including cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD), and zero-waste cooking will be the hottest overall culinary trends of 2019. Seventy-seven percent of the survey’s 650 professional chef respondents identified cannabis/CBD-infused drinks as the No. 1 trend; 76 percent tapped cannabis/CBD-infused food as the second most popular trend. Association officials, however, stressed that cannabis and CBD are federally controlled substances and laws governing their use vary from state to state. They urged restaurant operators to follow all laws when selling or using those items. By the way, third on the list of overall trends was zero-waste cooking, which calls for chefs and restaurateurs to reduce the amount of food waste created during the preparation of menu items to keep it out of landfills. 

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January 06, 2019, to January 13, 2019

Ioniqa’s Process For Hard-To-Recycle PET Materials Is Gaining Attention From Large CPGs

Coca-Cola is supporting Dutch firm Ioniqa Technologies with a loan, to help it develop the technology for producing recycled PET content from PET waste that is typically difficult to recycle. The move is a part of  Coca-Cola’s target of using packaging containing 50 percent or more recycled content by 2030. The  technology allows recycling of colored PET bottles, typically excluded from some recycling processes, to be used in food-grade PET. Unilever announced earlier this year its collaboration with Ioniqa.

Aldi To Replace Polystyrene Pizza Discs With Recyclable Discs

The Aldi supermarket chain in the UK is introducing 100 percent recyclable pizza discs to replace the Polystyrene discs. Earlier this year, Aldi in the US said it would roll out How2Recycle labels across its own brand products over the next two years, and in March the company committed to using 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging for own-label products by 2022. In the UK, it has also stopped offering customers 5p plastic bags, only 9p reusable bags made from plastic waste.

KFC To Use Plastic-Free Food Buckets At Australia’s Upcoming Big Bash Cricket League

KFC, in partnership with Graphic Packaging International, is supplying half a million food buckets using sustainable materials for the Big Bash League 2018, a cricket event in Australia. The move is aligned with the Government’s commitment to ensure all packaging in the country will be 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. The plastic-free buckets will be made at Graphic Packaging’s plant in the UK and will have a grease-resistant lining. 

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December 23, 2018, to January 06, 2019

The Decline Of The Tortilla In Mexico Signifies Broader, Deeper Social Ills

In a tiny city southeast of Mexico City in the state of Oaxaca, a unionized group of handmade tortilla producers is fighting keep the Millennia-old tradition alive in the face of cheap competition. The inexpensive versions sold in the city’s 25 tortillería shops are made with industrially produced masa harina, or corn flour, like Gruma’s Maseca. The larger problem is that Mexicans in cities and in the countryside are simply eating fewer tortillas, and eating more bread and fast food. Consumption has dropped nearly 45 percent in the last 35 years to 125 pounds per person in 2016 from 225 pounds in 1982. Experts say the perilous state of the tortilla is a red alert for Mexico's wider social ills, including obesity, poverty and emigration.

Midwest Wheat Farmers Hope Pasta resurgence Will Life Durum Sales

Farmers in the Midwest whose livelihood depends on the health of the durum wheat market are hoping for a better year in 2019, thanks to a possible resurgence in the pasta market. Prices have been mostly flat in 2018, but may have finally bottomed out. Some observers expect prices to rise for producers. A year ago in mid-December local cash prices were at $6.25 so there's been a marked sell-off from there down to the $4.50 to $4.75 range. Price problems stem from the world supply and demand balance for durum. Larger domestic crops in North Africa, for example, have tempered demand for the early months of this export year. And there are some new players in the world durum export market, in particular Kazakhstan, which was exporting probably 5-6 million bushels of durum a year in 2015; this year they are projected to hit 25 million bushels in export sales.  On A brighter note, U.S. durum export sales are still 50 percent ahead of last year with current sales totaling 15 million bushels compared to 10 million a year ago.

Trends: 2019’s Brave New World Of Eating

Food world prognosticators are hard at work at this time of year. Some of the more notable forecasts for 2019 include: the rise of “celtuce,” a lettuce with a leafy, bitter top and a stalk that’s a cross between celery and asparagus; sour and funky flavors arising from the interest in fermentation; cheese tea – green or black tea sipped through a cap of cream cheese blended with cream; more foods with probiotics and prebiotics to improve the bacterial health of the intestinal tract; diets that emphasize fat – read “keto” – over carbohydrates, and “pegan” – a cross between a paleo and a vegan diet; foods containing marijuana compounds like THC and cannabidiol; cooking dinner in foil packets; and, in the spirits world, lighter wines, natural wines and drinks with less or no alcohol.

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December 09, 2018, to December 23, 2018

ShopRite’s Partnership With Perdue Produces Antibiotics-Free Fried Chicken

East Coast grocery chain’s partnership with Perdue Farms has led to the introduction of an eight-piece grab-and-go fried chicken item that promises “no antibiotics, ever” (NAE). The relationship with Perdue has also produced rotisserie chicken, roaster breast, and roaster leg quarters. The fried chicken is the company's newest style of NAE poultry that is hand-breaded, raised cage free and made fresh throughout the day. According to ShopRite, the products are priced at or below most conventional rotisserie and fried chicken offerings. ShopRite is the registered trademark of Wakefern Food Corp., a retailer-owned cooperative based in New Jersey and the largest supermarket cooperative in the U.S.

Carcinogenic Synthetic Flavors Ordered Removed From Food Products

The FDA has ordered the removal of six artificial flavors from food products because they cause cancer in animals at doses far higher than what a person would consume. The six flavoring substances include synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine. The substances are being removed under the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The food industry has two years to comply, though the FDA believes the ingredients are safe in the trace amounts they are used. Neither the FDA nor the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association responded when asked for examples of products the six ingredients are used in. But they noted that the compounds have natural counterparts in foods like basil, coffee, grapes and peppermint, and that the action does not affect the naturally derived versions.

McDonald’s In The Vanguard Of Movement To Reduce Antibiotics In Beef

With a nudge from the Natural Resources Defense Council, McDonald's announced it has told its beef suppliers around the world to cut back on the use of antibiotics beginning in 2019. Implementation will begin with pilot projects in ten markets around the world, including in the U.S. McDonald’s is the first big burger chain to launch such a policy, though other fast food leaders – Chipotle, Panera, Subway – have either cut antibiotic use in their beef supplies or have committed to do so. A spokesman for the NRDC said: “Nobody in the world sells more burgers than McDonald's, and their actions can shape the future of the industry.” Forty-three percent of medically important antibiotics sold to the U.S. livestock industry go to the beef sector, compared to only six percent for chicken.

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December 02, 2018, to December 09, 2018

Bakeries See Upsurge In Instagram-Ready, Alcohol-Infused Desserts

The Millennial fondness for unusual flavors and exotic cocktails – coupled with Instagram mania – have produced a wave of new and photogenic baked goods laced with alcohol. A baking industry website says bakeries are seeing increased demand for premium desserts “inspired by alcoholic beverages.” Cakes may be drizzled with sweet liqueurs and their fillings spiked with alcoholic beverages. Manhattan’s Doughnut Project sells handcrafted doughnuts infused with booze. Another spiked treat is the “Instagram-ready” Chandonut Rosé, featuring a Chandon sparkling rosé glaze covering a Bourbon Eggnog doughnut.

Nashville Mayor Challenges Local Businesses To Cut Holiday Season Food Waste

The mayor of Nashville, Tenn., has partnered with local organizations to challenge restaurants, hotels, and event venues to slash food waste. According to Mayor David Brinley, as many as 100,000 Davidson County residents, including more than 25,000 children, are food-insecure. By responding to the challenge, businesses could have a “meaningful impact” on the lives of many of our residents during the holiday season. Businesses that participate are being asked to select and implement practices from a menu of options to prevent food waste, to donate food and recycle food scraps, and to report on their progress. Organizations joing in the challenge include the Nashville Food Waste Initiative, the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association, and Nashville Originals.

Pastry Chefs, A Dying Breed, Battle Headwinds With Creativity, Innovation

A post-recession return to homier desserts coupled with rising restaurant labor and operating costs have been rough on the nation’s pastry chefs. In fact, pastry chefs appear to be a dying breed at today’s upscale restaurants. To fight the trend, survivors have re-imagined old-fashioned, all-American pies and layer cakes, using alternative grains and sweeteners, imported herbs, and forms that give the desserts a new look. To save money, however, today’s desserts tend to be large-format and therefore more economical than complexly plated individual ones. Today’s dwindling community of pastry chefs knows that they have to make dessert seem essential by rethinking comfort and indulgence while still offering a taste of nostalgia.

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November 25, 2018, to December 02, 2018

Waitrose Has Accelerated Its Work To Eradicate Single-Use Plastic In Own-Label Packaging

Upmarket UK grocery retailer Waitrose has accelerated its commitment to making own-brand packaging more recyclable, reusable or compostable, bringing forward its 100 per cent target from 2015 to 2023. It has hit the 70 per cent level already and expects to reach 80 per cent by 2020. It says it is also close to taking all its own-label fruit, vegetables, meat and fish out of black plastic by the end of 2018, and will stop selling its own-label products in black plastic after the end of next year. 

Frozen Meal Maker In The UK Shifts To Cardboard Trays

Cook, a UK manufacturer of frozen ready meals, is to start transitioning its products away from black plastic and into cardboard-based recyclable trays. Its aim is to use more sustainable packaging for the entire range by end-2020. It is beginning the move with its kids range, because those products are best-suited to the new tray, and because it will be kids that will be most affected by the plastics issue. The board in the new trays comes from sustainable sources.

PepsiCo Strengthens Its Commitment To Using Recycled Material In Packaging

PepsiCo has pledged to use 25 per cent recycled content in plastic packaging by 2025, building on its 2016 ‘Performance with Purpose’ sustainability initiative that aims to make 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable, biodegradable or compostable by 2025. The company says that its work with partners will ensure PET beverage bottles will incorporate 33 per cent recycled PET material by 2025. In the EU, it is aiming for a 50% target. The new target also builds on its commitment to Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s  New Plastic Economy initiative. PepsiCo has also announced it had entered a multi-year supply agreement with Loop Industries, Inc., which develops sustainable plastic. PepsiCo will start to use Loop™ PET plastic, which contains 100 per cent recycled material, in its product packaging by early 2020. 
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