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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.

<<42434445464748495051>> Total issues:525

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July 07, 2012, to July 14, 2012

Companies Seek Bonanza Targeting Tricky Halal Market

This year Ramadan runs from July 19 through August 18 and many companies are positioning to tap Muslim consumers during their holy month. Nestlé, which claims to be the world’s largest Halal food producer, is readying its range of Halal-certified products for a series of markets in Europe, promoted under the Flavours of Ramadan banner offered through its Taste of Home program. Nestlé has for three decades seen Halal as an important emerging market and since the 1980s it has offered halal versions of Milo, Nescafé, Maggi, Kit Kat and Nespray.
Today, Nestlé’s center of Halal excellence in Malaysia produces about 300 Halal food and beverage products that are exported to more than 50 countries worldwide; a total of 85 out of Nestlé’s 456 factories worldwide are currently halal certified. It sounds like a strong story but reality is more nuanced. Many of Nestlé’s food items require little or no effort to be Halal and some of its efforts with Halal consumers haven’t gone well; through conversations with stores in Europe that took part in last year’s Taste of Home campaign Business360 learnt that some were disappointed with results and would not take part again.
American Muslims 

In the US the Halal market looks especially underserved but that is changing.  One brand aggressively tapping the market is Saffron Road from the Connecticut-based American Halal Company Inc., which launched nationally in Whole Foods in July 2010. Saffron Road offers all-natural, Halal-certified, antibiotic free, and certified humane frozen entrees and is the main brand for American Halal. 
American Halal had retail sales of more than $4 million in 2011, driven largely by Whole Foods.  For this Ramadan the entire assortment of Saffron Road products will be on sale in over 5,000 stores during Ramadan including Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Publix, Fairway, H.E.B and Central Market, Gelson’s and Sprouts and many independent stores. American Halal CEO Adnan Durrani forecasts sales hitting $50 million within five years.
Durrani adds, “American Muslims have over $170 billion in annual consumer buying power. Major marketing research firms like Ogilvy and Gallop have now confirmed that American Muslims have over 70% brand loyalty, and retailers and consumers brands can easily boost that to 95% during Ramadan by even the smallest gesture of compassion to this un-served and disenfranchised consumer segment by offering Halal relevancy during their holiest month.”
Pitfalls and dangers
However, the Halal market can be controversial and difficult to navigate. Muslims have become outraged when food marked Halal is discovered to be contaminated with non-Halal products and non-Muslims express concern and anger at sometimes having to purchase halal foods. Halal was a hot-topic in the French Presidential election and the country’s fast food restaurant, Le Quick, has also faced controversy. And last August, Whole Foods was forced to do an about-face and apologize after the company sent an email to its stores instructing employees not to mention Ramadan in conjunction with the promotion of a Halal food line on its shelves (see also). 
Halal also faces threats from animal rights protesters. In 2003, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) in the UK, an independent advisory group, concluded that the way Halal and Kosher meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals and should be banned immediately. A 2009 study discussed in the New Scientist found that “Brain signals have shown that calves do appear to feel pain when slaughtered according to Jewish and Muslim religious law, strengthening the case for adapting the practices to make them more humane.” and there are many videos online purporting to show the inhumane treatment of Halal slaughter (also)
Strong growth
Still, companies think the prize outweighs the risks. A 2011 report (Global Halal Food Market) from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that drew on many sources says the Halal food market is worth ~$632 billion annually, close to 17% of the entire global food industry and will rise to account for 20% of world food trade. 

“Reward Sensitivity” May Explain Why Some People Are More Vulnerable To Overeating

An Australian psychologist has found that “reward sensitivity” is the personality trait in women that is most closely associated with a greater liking of junk food images found in, for example, television ads, and with an increased urge to eat junk food. The study monitored 75 men and women who watched a 30 minute film embedded with junk food, healthy food, or no food in the commercials. Participants rated the pleasantness of food images and their desire to eat after watching the films. Reward-sensitive women – but not men – experienced greater pleasure and a stronger urge to eat after watching TV ads featuring junk food, compared with ads showing healthy food or no food at all.

Glycemic Index Of Many Varieties Of Rice Is A Healthy Low To Medium

A British study of 235 types of rice finds that the glycemic index can vary from 48 to 92 – with an average of 64. The low to medium GI of many varieties of rice means they can be a healthy part of the everyday diet, especially for people like diabetics who need to control blood sugar levels. Rice varieties like India's most widely grown rice variety, swarna, have a low GI; varieties like doongara and basmati from Australia have a medium GI. Low GI foods are those that measure 55 and less; medium GI measures between 56 and 69; and high GI foods measure at 70 and above.

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June 30, 2012, to July 07, 2012

“Healthier” Pizza May Soon Reach U.K. Supermarket Shelves

A Scottish university professor working with a private firm is developing what he claims is “the only nutritionally balanced pizza you can buy,” though the pizza is not actually on the market yet. The first three versions of the healthier pizza include fairly traditional toppings: cheese and tomato, spicy chicken with peppers and jalapeños, and ham and pineapple. What’s new and different, however, is a base flecked with Hebridean seaweed, a low-sodium seasoning that provides iron, iodine and vitamin B12. The tomato sauce contains red pepper to boost the vitamin C content. The developers are negotiating with a major U.K. supermarket chain to put the new products on store shelves.

Maintaining “Energy Balance” Is Key To Winning Obesity Battle

The U.S. should be focusing less on food restriction and weight loss to fight obesity, and should instead pay closer attention to “energy balance”: a combination of food intake, energy expenditure through physical activity and energy (fat) storage. The researchers argue that obesity cannot be reduced simply by dieting, there has to be a physical activity component. The proposal is based on the idea of a “regulated zone,” where energy balance is managed by using strategies that match food and beverage intake to a higher level of energy expenditure than is typical in the U.S. today. “Without increasing physical activity in the population we are simply promoting unsustainable levels of food restriction,” they said

New Lupin-Based Breakfast Cereal Packs A Nutritional Punch

Western Australia university researchers have teamed with a local food manufacturer to produce a lupin-based breakfast cereal that is low glycemic index, gluten free, high in dietary fiber and protein, and low in fat. Other breakfast cereals on the market contain small amounts – two to three percent – of lupins, though a minimum of 20 percent is necessary to provide health benefits. The new Super Lupin cereal contains 30 percent lupins. The product, manufactured by Lupin Nutrition Food, comes in five varieties: plain, blueberry, blueberry with fruit and nuts, tropical, and banana.

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June 23, 2012, to June 30, 2012

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Plus Curcumin Improve Mobility In Spinal Cord-Damaged Animals

A study in rats with spinal cord injury found that dietary supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin – a compound contained in the Indian curry spice turmeric – improved the animals’ ability to walk, compared to animals fed a standard Western diet.. According to the U.S. researchers, the supplements helped repair damaged nerve cells and maintain neurological function after degenerative damage to the neck. "[The omega-3 fatty acid] DHA and curcumin appear to invoke several molecular mechanisms that preserved neurological function in the rats," the authors wrote.

Adding Dessert To A Low-Cal Breakfast Reduces Hunger Pangs, Keeps Off Weight

Israeli researchers report that adding a small “dessert” to the breakfast of a restricted calorie diet reduces hunger pangs during the day and helps dieters keep off lost pounds. For the eight-month study, 200 obese adults in two groups were limited to 1,600 calories a day. One group ate a 304-calorie breakfast with 10 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein. The other group ate a 600-calorie breakfast with 45 grams of protein and 60 grams of carbs, including a small dessert consisting of chocolate, a doughnut, etc. Participants in both groups lost about 33 pounds on average during the first four months, but the low-carb group regained 22 pounds; the desert group lost another 15 pounds.

Spinach Counteracts Effect Of Cooked Meat Carcinogen On microRNAs And Cancer Stem Cells

U.S. researchers who analyzed the impact of 679 micoRNAs, which were once considered “junk DNA,” found that when they go haywire they can cause abnormal gene expression that leads to cancer. For their study, the researchers traced the actions of a known carcinogen in cooked meat to its effects on microRNA and cancer stem cells, finding a direct link. On the bright side, however, they also found in animal experiments that eating spinach seems to partially offset the damaging effects of the carcinogen.

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June 16, 2012, to June 23, 2012

Unilever CEO Says Businesses Must Help Lead Global Efforts To Protect Environment

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said the apparent failure of governments and political processes to make the Rio+20 conference a meaningful event for environmental protection should prompt the world's largest companies and NGOs to promote sustainability on a global scale. While the political agreement that emerged from the conference "recognizes an increasing role for business," Polman said the text "lacks specificity, clear dates, funding, and accountability." Instead of complaining, however, Polman claimed that the agreement's weakness should be seen as an opportunity for businesses to play a major role in global efforts to protect the environment.

Rising Materials Costs Force India's FMCG Companies To Raise Prices

The rising costs of raw materials, driven in part by the depreciation of India's rupee, have forced the country's leading fast moving consumer goods companies to raise the prices of their products, in effect, passing the burden to consumers. For example, ITC raised the prices of its Sunfeast brand of biscuits by 10–18 percent; Hindustan Unilever increased the prices of skin creams, toothpaste, and shampoos. Soap manufacturers Reckitt Benckiser and Godrej Consumer Products also raised the prices of their products by 5 percent. While a 20 percent decline in palm oil prices in the global market offers some respite for Indian consumers, price increases of up to 5 percent in consumer durable goods are looming. 

Unilever Celebrates 20th Anniversary In Russia

Unilever marked its 20th year of business presence in Russia on June 19, 2012. The company claims credit for bringing into the Russian market new types of products, such as the Domestos cleaning product in gel form and the Calve brand of mayonnaise with Doypack packaging. Unilever operates seven of the largest and most modern factories in Russia, with total investments of more than €1 billion. Unilever products manufactured in Russia are exported to European Union countries, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific region, and CIS countries.

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June 09, 2012, to June 16, 2012

Crepe Batter Yields A Flat Cake With A Russian Spin And A Rival For Bagels

Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, N.Y. have adapted an old family recipe to create a thin, flat cake that is a cross between a crepe and a blintz, is a hit in N.Y. city public schools and is a growing rival for bagels. More than two million "crepinis," made from French crepe batter and ingredients such as beef and mushrooms, have been sold in city schools since 2010. The entrepreneurs turn out 6,000 crepinis an hour in their factory, and have been shipping as far away as Texas and Canada. Despite its growing popularity, the crepini is unlikely to displace the bagel in the hearts of New Yorkers, industry experts say, but it does offer an interesting and healthy alternative.

New Packaging Line Allows Longer Shelf-Life For Baked Goods

Linpac Packaging (Birmingham, U.K.) announced a new line of containers designed to keep baked goods spongier and fresher longer. The packaging significantly reduces the amount of moisture lost, the company says, thereby increasing the shelf-life of sponge and pastry-based products without using additional preservatives. Current cake and bun containers allow a high level of moisture to escape from the pack, meaning that products turn stale within a couple of days. The company is also developing packaging that will extend product life with safe anti-fungal coatings, as well as PET (thermoformed) transport trays that prevent damage to bakery items.

Chinese Baking Industry Offers Opportunities – And Novel Ideas – For Western Bakers

British Baker Magazine writer Georgi Gyton discusses insights gained during a recent tour of China’s bakeries, manufacturers and supermarkets, as well as a visit to the Bakery China trade show. It is clear, first of all, that the Chinese bakery market is "vibrant and growing" and offers many opportunities – and ideas – for Western companies. Some observations: Chinese baked goods use wheat flour, rice flour, and other cereals; products may be steamed, boiled, pan-fried, deep-fried, or baked; frozen cakes and desserts are gaining momentum; looks are extremely important: Chinese cakes are beautifully decorated, and breads have seeded toppings and often contain cranberry, cheese or spinach rolls.

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June 02, 2012, to June 09, 2012

Unilever, Procter & Gamble Announce Sustainability Updates

Consumer goods companies Unilever and Procter & Gamble released updates on their respective sustainability programs. Unilever installed waste-water recycling facilities, which can process 1,300 tons of reclaimed water each day, and a biomass furnace designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15,000 tons each year at its Hefei industrial park in Central China. For its part, Procter & Gamble announced it aims to achieve 30 percent renewable energy use, replace 25 percent of petroleum-derived raw materials with renewable or recycled materials, reduce packaging by 20 percent per consumer use, and to reduce disposed-of waste to less than 0.5 percent by the end of 2020.

Company’s Gelatin-Free Multivitamin With Vitamin D3 Targets Muslim Women

Nutrition Enhancement has introduced a halal-certified gelatin-free multivitamin product with nutrients supporting the health of both men and women of all ages. Nutrition Enhancement Multivitamin is equivalent to leading brands in the market, the company says, but is formulated without gelatin, making it the only halal-certified multivitamin with 1000 IU of Vitamin D3. Vitamin D deficiency problems arise when people do not get enough sun exposure, a problem for Muslim women because of a dress code that requires wearing a scarf or Hijab. The company also makes Halal Omega-3 fish oil.

New Technology Makes It Easy To Test For Celiac Disease

Scientists in Europe say they have developed a quick, effective and cheap “lab-on-a-chip” method to test for gluten intolerance, the main characteristic of celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat flour. The diagnostic and monitoring system will soon be tested in clinical trials in Slovenia and could be available to doctors, hospitals and clinics in Europe and elsewhere within a few years. The system is the result of a convergence of innovative technologies such as microfluidics, nanotechnology and genetic testing. The researchers say the technology can be adapted for use in other autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis, thyroiditis, and even cancer.

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May 26, 2012, to June 02, 2012

Unilever CEO Focuses On The Long Term, Adds Sustainability Into Company's Business Model

Unilever CEO Paul Polman discussed the challenges his company faces as it strives to achieve its goal of doubling revenue by 2020 while cutting by half its impact on the environment. Polman said he believes companies that integrate social responsibility and sustainability into their business model will be successful. Although these objectives may seem intimidating, Unilever, which has a long history of doing what is right, is ready to take the challenge, Polman added. Unilever, which did away with quarterly reporting, needs to deliver good financial results in order to satisfy skeptics and critics of the company's newly adopted long-term focus.

“Best Cake In The World” Comes From An Old French Recipe

Australian food writer Ed Halmagyi provides a recipe for a “mesmerizing” cake praised by American writer David Lebovitz as “the world’s best cake.” Koign Amann (i.e., “butter cake” from northern France) is actually a caramelized, buttery, layered pastry baked in a tin. The recipe calls for high quality butter, sugar, yeast, salt and fresh-milled flour. Halmagyi says the dough, which is reminiscent of puff pastry or croissant dough, results in “a mesmerizing blend of sweet and caramel, crisp and feather-soft.”

Legislator Launches Attack On School Pizza Classified As A “Vegetable”

A U.S. congressman from Colorado has introduced legislation in the House that would toughen nutritional standards for pizza served in school lunchrooms. Rep Jared Polis (D) says new standards approved by Congress in a 2011 USDA funding measure categorized pizza containing one-eighth of a cup of tomato paste as a vegetable. He said it was a “ridiculous” decision, considering how much sugar, salt and cheese is in just one slice of pizza. Chastising Congress for caving in to the frozen food business, Polis said “agribusiness should never dictate the quality of school meals.” His bill – the SLICE Act – would declassify pizza as a vegetable.

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May 19, 2012, to May 26, 2012

Americans Are Concerned About Their Diet, But Confused About What’s Healthy And Nutritious

Constantly changing nutritional guidance makes it difficult for a large majority – 76 percent – of Americans to know what to believe about a healthful diet, a national food and health survey finds, and more than half feel it’s easier to do their taxes than to figure out what’s healthy to eat. Although 58 percent of Americans say they give a lot of thought to their diet – and 55 percent are trying to lose weight – only one in five believe their diet is healthy, and 23 percent describe their diet as extremely or very unhealthy.

Hazelnuts Found To Be A Good Source Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids For Infant Formula

A multinational team of researchers has found that adding omega-3-rich fats derived from hazelnuts to infant formula provides nutrients essential for development of the brain and other organs. Normally, unborn babies receive omega-3 fatty acids from their mother in the final three months of pregnancy. But premature babies miss these nutrients. Formula-fed -- and even breast-fed -- infants often do not get enough either. According to the researchers, hazelnut oil contains fatty acids DHA and ARA at the same positions found on fats in human milk, and are therefore more suitable than fats derived from algae, the current source.

Postmenopausal Calcium Supplements Significantly Increase The Risk Of Heart Attack

New research conducted in New Zealand and Scotland highlights the significant risk of heart attack associated with taking calcium supplements after menopause to prevent bone thinning. Researchers analyzed data from a German study of 24,000 middle-aged and older women over 11 years. Participants whose diets included a moderate amount (820 mg daily) of calcium from all sources, including supplements, had a 31 percent lower risk of having a heart attack than those in the bottom 25 percent of calcium intake. But when researchers looked at vitamin/mineral supplement intake alone, they found an 86 percent greater risk of heart attack.

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May 12, 2012, to May 19, 2012

Cassava Flour Provides The Chewiness That’s Lost When Bread Is Gluten-Free

A brief Chicago Tribune article suggests that cassava root works well as a substitute for gluten in bread baking. Eating gluten, a protein found in wheat flour, can cause a severe allergic reaction in people suffering from celiac disease. But gluten gives bread dough its elasticity, according to the author. She provides a recipe using cassava flour that yields 20 small rolls, noting that cassava-based bread “offers a chewy chomp and big boing”.

Flavor Company Sees Salty Snacks As Healthy Breakfast Of The Future

A provider of flavors and fragrances predicts that the next major food industry trend will be salty snacks for breakfast. Bell Flavors and Fragrances based its 2012 snack and nut forecast on snack industry data from Mintel, noting that salty snack manufacturers “could tap into consumers’ desire to eat a reasonably healthy breakfast.” Bell also predicted popcorn and beef jerky will catch on as meal replacements, and discussed new directions for snack packaging and flavors.

Company’s Coffee Delivers Fiber Along With The Caffeine

A Connecticut coffee company is making it a little easier for people to get some fiber for breakfast, even if they don’t eat toast, cereal or fruit. Brioni’s Healthy Morning coffee delivers  four grams of fiber in every 12-oz. cup. According to company management, the fiber in the coffee – which is available in light, medium or dark roast, hazelnut and decaf – is a prebiotic that provides nutrition to the healthy bacteria in the human digestive system. The fiber comes from endive roots blended with inulin derived from chicory. Their proprietary – and very secret – blending and roasting process results in a coffee that has “a slippery, creamy texture with a slight velvety mouthful."

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May 05, 2012, to May 12, 2012

South Korea's Consumer Packaged Goods Market Proves Trying For Global Manufacturers

Korean consumers' fast-changing tastes and preferences are causing multinational manufacturers of consumer packaged goods to struggle against local competitors. For example, Nestlé entered South Korea's coffee mix market in the 1980s with its Taster's Choice brand of instant coffee; the Swiss conglomerate held on to the number 2 spot for 30 years, but fell to third place in January 2012. Procter & Gamble, for its part, used to hold 50 percent of the sanitary napkin market in 1995, courtesy of its Whisper brand. It lost the number 1 ranking to local rival Yuhan Kimberly's White brand, and sank further to number 3 in 2010.

Unilever Zimbabwe Complies With Indigenization Law, Plans To Sell 51 Percent Of Shares To Local Investors

Unilever Zimbabwe said it will comply with the country's indigenization and local empowerment law, becoming one of the manufacturers to do so since 2007 when the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was passed by the national legislature. The law requires all foreign-owned companies with business operations in Zimbabwe to divest at least 51 percent of their shares to Zimbabweans. Unilever said its compliance with Zimbabwe's law is part of its global policy of following the policies and regulations of countries where it does business. 

Strategic Partnerships Play Significant Role In Unilever's Sustainability Program

Unilever's strategic supplier partnerships, which account for more than €3 billion of its annual spending, play a major role in the company's sustainability efforts. Established in 2011, Unilever's "Partner to Win" program enables the company to establish long-term partnerships with suppliers, with the 30th strategic partnership signed during the 2012 Partner to Win Supplier Summit in London. The program includes Joint Business Development Plans, with each JBDP laying out how Unilever and the supplier will cooperate to implement the company's strategic business plans.
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