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Unilever Posts Strong Revenue Gains In First Quarter Of 2017

April 20, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Unilever PLC reported revenue jumped 6.1 percent to €13.3 billion in the first quarter of 2017, compared with the same quarter in 2016. According to the company, underlying sales rose 2.9 percent, higher than analyst forecasts of 2 percent. Underlying sales in emerging markets increased 6.1 percent, with price up 5.3 percent and volume 0.8 percent higher. Unilever said it has increased its quarterly dividend by 12 percent to €0.3585 per share.
"Unilever Trading Statement First Quarter 2017", Unilever, April 20, 2017, © Unilever
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British Retailer Begins Revamping, Closing Stores

April 20, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
British department store chain Marks & Spencer is closing six stores as part of its planned operational overhaul, but vows to find jobs for all 380 employees affected by the move. The company said last year that closings and store conversions were in the offing to trim the amount of floor space devoted to faltering clothing lines. Thirty full-line U.K. stores – they sell homeware, clothing, and food – will be closed, while 45 will become food-only shops. The company has had to face the reality that customer shopping habits are changing: people don’t do “one big shop” anymore, and they often buy online and pick up in store. Even with the closings, the company is launching new stores, with 34 food and two full-line shops employing 1,400 staff coming online in the next six months.
Zoe Wood, "M&S to Close Six Stores as it tries to 'Stay in Tune' with Shoppers", The Guardian, April 20, 2017, © Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies
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Like The Aroma Of Weed? You’ll Love These Non-Psychoactive Doughnuts

April 20, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
It sounds a little like alcohol-free beer. A bakery chain in San Jose, California, made doughnuts especially for the stoner holiday 420 that smell and even taste like marijuana edibles. Except they will not get you high. Instead of THC, the psycho-active ingredient in marijuana, the novel doughnuts contain cannabis-derived terpenes, the compound that gives marijuana that distinct aroma and flavor. Prepared by Guild Extracts, the terpenes are derived from the plant, processed into a liquid, and then infused into the frosting of the doughnuts. But because California has yet to figure out the rules for recreational marijuana use, only medicinal users were able to try the doughnuts on April 20.  [Image Credit: © The Guild ]
Brian Koerber, "These Doughnuts are Infused to Taste like Weed, but Won't Get You High", Mashable, April 20, 2017, © Mashable, Inc.
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For Now, Aldi Is Top Dog In The Discount Retail Grocery Biz

April 20, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Retail grocery analyst Planet Retail expects German food discounter Lidl to grow more robustly than competitor Aldi in the coming years, but it will not unseat Aldi as the global number one in discount food sales. Aldi’s sales in 2017 – including Aldi Nord and Süd – will total €83.3 billion ($89 billion), compared to Lidl’s €76 billion. But Lidl will catch up over the next five years. By 2022, both chains will be doing about €105 billion. The leveling out will take longer, Planet Retail says, because of Aldi’s strong, and growing, presence in the U.S., where Lidle is also beginning to establish roots. [Image Credit: © Aldi ]
"Aldi remains the number one worldwide discount store", FreshPlaza, April 20, 2017, © FreshPlaza
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Year-Old Chain Of Quick Food Stores Succeeds With Healthful Meals

April 19, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Convenience and nutrition are the watchwords of a rapidly-expanding chain of grab-and-go stores founded in Omaha, Neb., with outlets in Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, South Dakota, and Iowa. Eat Fit Go stores are based on a simple, but compelling, concept: fast packaged meals that are healthful. That means fresh, pre-portioned foods high in protein, low in sodium, mostly gluten-free and preservative-free, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. The owners plan to open 100 more stores in 2017 – in Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota and Oklahoma – while introducing an e-commerce platform for home delivery. [Image Credit: © Eat Fit Go ]
Rachel Cernansky, "Grab-And-Go Model Fuels Fast Growth for Omaha-Based Health Food Store", New Hope Network, April 19, 2017, © Penton
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Companies Succeeding As “Upcyclers” Of Discarded Food, Processing Waste

April 19, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A food industry census conducted by the nonprofit coalition ReFED has found an “explosion” since 2014 in the number of new companies developing and marketing products from food -- and food processing -- waste. Eleven such companies existed in 2011, twice that two years later, and now there are more than five times that number (64 total). They’re selling fish cakes made with undesirable fish species, jams and other products made from ugly fruit, beer from stale bread, flour from discarded coffee fruit, chips from juice pulp, vodka distilled from leftover strawberries, and other “upcycled” products. According to the executive director of ReFED, when companies began to take a close look at how much food was being wasted, “the economics of food waste solutions began to look a lot more attractive.”  [Image Credit: © eatsecondsfirst.com ]
Caitlin Dewey, "The Hot New Trend in Food is Literal Garbage", The Washington Post, April 19, 2017, © The Washington Post
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Mondelez Expands Promise Of Cage-Free Eggs Globally, With Exceptions

April 19, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Snack maker Mondelez International said it is expanding its commitment to use only cage-free eggs beyond the U.S., Canada, and Europe to the rest of the world, with three major exceptions. The company promised cage-free eggs would be used in the U.S. and Canada by 2020, and in Europe and the rest of the world by 2025 The commitment, however, does not include Russia, Ukraine, or China, though it will establish timelines for those countries by next year. [Image Credit: © Humane Society ]
"Mondelez Extends Global Commitment to Cage-Free Eggs", Biz Community, April 19, 2017, © Bizcommunity.com
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Post Sees Wheetabix Acquisition As Vehicle To Expand Overseas

April 18, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Breakfast cereal maker Post Holdings expects its acquisition of the iconic British breakfast food Wheetabix to expand its presence in the U.K. and other international markets, including China. The $1.76 billion purchase is the latest in a series of buys the company hopes will balance the slack growth environment prevailing in the packaged foods industry. Post is acquiring Weetabix from Bright Food Group Co., a Chinese conglomerate, and from minority shareholder Baring Private Equity Asia. Bright has owned 60 percent of Weetabix since 2012, when Wheetabix was valued at $1.5 billion (including debt). Baring has owned the other 40 percent since 2015. Post has agreed in principle to create a joint venture with Bright and Baring to manage Weetabix’s China operations, which have not been able to boost market share for the whole-grain biscuit cereal in the region over the last five years.  [Image Credit: © Wheetabix.com ]
Ben Dummett, "Post Buying Weetabix in $1.76 Billion Deal", The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Berkeley’s Excise Tax On Sugary Drinks Boosts Water Purchases

April 18, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
To discourage consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), which have been linked to weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and tooth decay, Berkeley, Calif., in 2014 joined 20 countries in imposing an excise tax on sugary drinks. Researchers who studied the impact of the tax on SSB consumption found that prices increased, sales dropped by as much as 10 percent in some (but not all) places, and sales of untaxed drinks, especially water, increased by as much as 16 percent. The researchers found no evidence of higher grocery bills for consumers, loss of gross revenue per transaction for stores, or decreases in overall beverage sales for stores.
Lynn D. Silver et al., "Changes in Prices, Sales, Consumer Spending, and Beverage Consumption One Year After a Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Berkeley, California, US: A Before-And-After Study", PLOS Medicine, April 18, 2017, © Silver et al.
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Fast-Food Companies Are Slow To Promise Antibiotics-Free Beef, Pork

April 18, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
McDonald’s and other fast-food chains have been reasonably quick in acceding to the growing consumer demand for antibiotics-free chicken. Not so much when it comes to beef and pork products, however, because eliminating antibiotics from cattle and pig husbandry is much more complex and expensive. Now the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas, have promised to attend the McDonald’s annual meeting to propose that the company set goals and timelines to phase out routine use of antibiotics in pork and beef. The nuns have reportedly been petitioning McDonald’s for years on the issue. The company says it is sympathetic to the concerns and "continues to work with farmers, producers and other purchasers of food animals to influence meaningful change.”
Samantha Bomkamp, "McDonald's, Fast-Food Chains Find Antibiotic-Free Beef, Pork Hard to Deliver", Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2017, © Chicago Tribune
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Coke Fine-Tunes Its “Share a Coke” Bottle Personalization Campaign

April 18, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Coca-Cola is tweaking its successful “Share a Coke” personalized packaging campaign this summer by adding surnames to beverage bottles. The campaign, launched in Australia six years ago and later in the U.S., spurred growth in sales volume for the first time since 2000. Personalization and customization were found to appeal to teens and millennials. First names were chosen from among the 250 most popular in 2014, and were expanded this year to include 77 percent of teen and millennial first names. For the latest campaign fine-tuning, Coke will draw from the 200 most common family names of people in the U.S. aged 13 to 34. [Image Credit: © Coca-Cola Company ]
E.J. Schultz, "Why Coke Is Adding Last Names to 'Share a Coke'", Advertising Age, April 18, 2017, © Crain Communications
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Hard To Swallow? Jiminy Cricket As A Dinner Entrée

April 17, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
It could be a sign of the long-overdue acceptance of insect-based foods – and entomophagy (bug eating) generally – by the Western world. Or not. It is a sign, however, that food experts are warming to the idea that crickets are a healthful, sustainable food ingredient. A group of Penn State University food science graduate students convinced judges in the Ag Springboard business pitch contest that the flavor and texture of pasta made with high-protein cricket flour closely resembled that of wheat pasta. The group won the $7,500 grand prize after also convincing judges that the flour was commercially viable. The product will compete with early entrants in the nascent market, including Bugsolutely Cricket Pasta and Chirps Chips (Six Foods), pitched successfully on the TV show Shark Tank. [Image Credit: © Bugsolutely ]
Jeff Muhollem, "Cricket-Fortified Pasta Pitch Wins $7,500 Ag Springboard Top Prize", News release, Penn State University, April 17, 2017, © The Pennsylvania State University
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Whole Foods Streamlines Operations, But At What Price?

April 16, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Whole Foods Market needs to make some changes in how it operates to reverse same-store sales declines and keep investors happy. Specifically, says Jana Partners LLC, it needs to boost profit by switching to a centralized food distribution system and national buyers, like the big-box retailers. Innovations – data analytics, centralized purchasing, strict shelf management – implemented by a former Target exec are designed to streamline operations enough to cut costs, lower prices, and make it competitive with other retailers. But the company’s smaller suppliers, along with some industry consultants, argue that a change like that would compromise the company’s ability to quickly stock foodie trends and popular local brands. The changes may reduce costs, says one consultant, “but at what price to the soul of the banner?”  [Image Credit: © Whole Foods Market ]
Annie Gasparro et al., "Whole Foods Aims to Cut Prices but Keep Its Cachet", The Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Tradition! Ancient Handmade Shmura Matzo – Unleavened Bread – Is Back In Style

April 15, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Jewish consumers who observe Passover have tried different variations of matzo (or matza), the unleavened bread that Israelites ate after they escaped the clutches of Egypt’s pharaoh. The departure was so hurried, the Bible states, that there was no time for bread to rise. In modern times Jews have tried matzo made with egg, whole wheat, rye; onion-flavored, chocolate-covered and many other kinds. But now the traditional, basic version – the handmade shmura matzo eaten by the strictly observant – is back in vogue. Estimates for this year indicate that a million pounds of the old-fashioned round matzo will be produced in the U.S. A wholesaler in New York City says, "It's the closest you'll get to what our ancestors had when they came out of Egypt."
Danielle Ziri , "Has Traditional ‘Shmura’ Matza Become an American Food Trend?", The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2017, © Jpost Inc.
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Campus Food Giveaway A Big Success At Johns Hopkins

April 13, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A Johns Hopkins University undergraduate partnered with a recent graduate to launch a project to give away food left over from campus events as a way to keep edible leftovers out of the dumpsters. Sponsors of campus events were surveyed to see if they were receptive to the idea, and 70 percent said they were. Students themselves were overwhelmingly in favor. Nemo Keller and Leana Houser then conducted a trial of the Free Food Waste Remediation initiative during the recent spring open house weekend (SOHOP) at the Homewood campus (Baltimore, Md.). Initially the idea was to just donate leftover food to worthy causes, but the logistics were too complicated. They instead tried email blasts to students, telling them when and where the food was available. It worked because, after all, “Who doesn’t want free food?” Keller said.  [Image Credit: © Nemo Keller, Johns Hopkins ]
Morgan Ome, "Free Food Initiative Reduces Waste on Campus", The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, April 13, 2017, © The Johns Hopkins News-Letter
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Heirloom Wheat Is Key Ingredient Of New Artisan Snack Crisps

April 13, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
California artisan bake shop La Brea Bakery announced it is incorporating an heirloom wheat variety into a new snack. Flatbread Crisps are made with Fortuna Wheat grown on one farm in Montana. The snack follows the introduction of the company’s Bakery Reserve bread, also made from single origin Fortuna Wheat. The new snack is flavored with fresh herbs and spices, and twice-baked to give it the appropriate crunch. The new crisps, soon available in grocery stores nationwide, are offered in three varieties: rosemary, sea salt and smoked paprika. La Brea Bakery of Los Angeles is owned by ARYZTA, a manufacturer and distributor of bread, buns, cookies, pizza and other baked goods. [Image Credit: © La Brea Bakery ]
"La Brea Bakery Introduces Artisan Flatbread Crisps Made with Single Origin Fortuna Wheat", News release, La Brea Bakery, April 13, 2017, © La Brea Bakery
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There’s Gold In That There Food Waste, In The Bay Area Anyway

April 13, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
San Francisco Bay area entrepreneurs and established companies are paying close attention to food waste and discarded food manufacturing byproducts, especially the kind that can be turned into a profitable new product. ReGrained, for example, “upcycles” spent grain from craft breweries into granola bars that are now sold in regional grocery stores. Forager Project’s basic business is making juice, yogurt and nut milk. But it recently figured out that the vegetable pulp it was composting from its juice-making business would make good veggie chips. Its products are now sold at Whole Foods and Safeway.  [Image Credit: © Regrained ]
"A group of savvy entrepreneurs has started companies based on upcycling food byproducts", San Francisco Business Times (California), April 13, 2017, © American City Business Journals
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Overhaul Of Beverage Program Is Key To McDonald’s Turnaround Plan

April 12, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
In an effort to boost customer transactions it has lost since 2012 – a total of 500 million since it retired the dollar menu – McDonald’s is gradually revamping its drink offerings, beginning with a market test in the Midwest and South. The company has introduced a line of slushies made with Minute Maid orange juice, including one flavor, cherry limeade, that is a direct assault on a hallmark offering of competitor Sonic. The McDonald’s slushies test will involve 6,000 restaurants. The company is also overhauling its McCafe program – cheaper prices, new flavors – to grab coffee-loving customers away from rivals like Starbucks.  [Image Credit: © McDonald's ]
Samantha Bomkamp, "McDonald's Launches Line of Slushies in Midwest and South", Chicago Tribune, April 12, 2017, © Chicago Tribune
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Seasonal Products Rule The Chocolate Confections Market

April 12, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Market researcher Mintel’s 2016 data on trends in confectionery product introductions show that global chocolate launches were dominated by seasonal offerings, especially Easter-themed products. In total, seasonal launches accounted for 25 percent of global chocolate product launches in 2016 and were the biggest area of new product development in the chocolate segment. Twenty-eight percent were centered on Easter, especially eggs, bunnies and other concoctions. Brazil accounted for 14 percent of global Easter chocolate product launches, France 11 percent, and South Africa 10 percent. According to Mintel, because these products are typically bought to help celebrate holidays or special occasions, they are fairly immune to recessionary pressures.
"Sweet Success for Seasonal Chocolate: Seasonal Offerings Tops Chocolate New Product Development in 2016", News release, Mintel, April 12, 2017, © Mintel Group Ltd.
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Starbucks Tests Vegan-Friendly, High-Protein Lunch Menu In The Windy City

April 11, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
One hundred Starbucks stores in Chicago are testing the new Mercato lunch menu targeted at diners looking for a vegetarian, protein-based lunch. The new menu items include salads, sandwiches, yogurt and fruit. Salad options, available at $8 or $9, include za'atar (Mediterranean spice blend) chicken and lemon tahini, green goddess avocado, seared steak and mango, and turkey and fire-roasted corn. Sandwiches ($5 to $8) include a Cuban, a burrata and basil pesto, and an almond butter with strawberries and jam. If the new lunch items are successful, the menu will roll out nationally. [Image Credit: © Starbucks ]
Samantha Bomkamp, "Starbucks Debuts New Lunch Menu at 100 Chicago Stores", Chicago Tribune, April 11, 2017, © Chicago Tribune
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Acorn Flour Makes Delicious Pancakes, But Getting Flour From Nuts Ain’t Easy

April 10, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A bumper crop of acorns in the Belfast area of south central Maine last fall got one resident thinking about “food.” but not in the way squirrels, wild turkeys, deer, and rabbits think about it. Jim Merkel thought about processing the acorns into flour for pancakes and such. It’s a time-intensive process – removal of tannin is laborious – but it pays off admirably. Since the rise of the Paleo diet trend, interest in sustainable acorn harvesting and use has burgeoned, for good reasons. Acorns are a good source of vitamin C, protein, fat, starch, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. The flour is gluten-free, has a high level of antioxidants and has a low glycemic index. And the pancakes are delicious.  [ Image credit: Public domain ]
Abigail Curtis, "Bumper Crop Leads to Acorn Flour Production for Belfast Friends", Bangor Daily News, April 10, 2017, © Bangor Daily News
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New Bottle Is Edible, Compostable, And Spherical

April 10, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Three London, U.K.-based university design students have developed a sphere-shaped gelatinous bottle, both edible and compostable, that they feel is ready for its market debut. An alternative to plastic bottles – and a potential solution to accumulation of them in landfills – Ooho is being developed by Skipping Rocks Lab. It is based on a technology known as spherification. A ball of ice is dipped in calcium chloride and brown algae extract. It forms a spherical membrane that keeps holding the ice as it melts and returns to room temperature. The membrane is edible – it can be flavored – and compostable. The company sees sales potential at cafes and outdoor events, like festivals and marathons, in fact anyplace people consume a lot of packaging in a short time. [Image Credit: © Skipping Rocks Lab ]
Adele Peters, "This Edible Water Bottle Is How You’ll Drink In The Future", Fast Company, April 10, 2017, © Mansueto Ventures, LLC
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Fighting Food Waste Has Become A Scottish Obsession

April 10, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Scots, especially those who dine out frequently, have come to terms with the fact that more than 53,000 tons of food are wasted each year in Scottish restaurants, and two-thirds of it could have been prevented. If they were ever skittish (or snooty) about using doggie bags or boxes, for instance, they are much less so now. More than 100 restaurants have committed to Scotland’s Good to Go scheme, under which eateries automatically pack leftover food in branded boxes and give it back to diners. A small change, yes, but experts say it could keep more than 800,000 edible leftover meals a year out of trash bins. It’s just one of the initiatives that have won Scotland a growing reputation as a leader in food waste prevention.  [Image Credit: © Zero Waste Scotland ]
Megan Tatum, "How Scotland Has Food Waste All Wrapped Up", The Grocer, April 10, 2017, © William Reed Business Media Ltd
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Yum Brands Caves To Pressure: KFC Will Transition To Antibiotics-Free Chicken

April 7, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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. [ Image credit: © KFC  ]
Geoffrey Mohan, "KFC Goes Antibiotic-Free", Los Angeles Times, April 07, 2017, © Los Angeles Times
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KFC Takes Big Steps Toward Clean Menu

April 7, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Kentucky Fried Chicken announced that by the end of 2018 it will only purchase chicken raised without antibiotics that are  “important to human medicine” for its U.S. restaurants. KFC noted that its commitment extends beyond boneless chicken menu items to chicken-on-the-bone items. The company said the change involves complex planning, including collaboration with more than 2,000 family-owned farms in a dozen states. Recently, KFC committed to eliminating artificial colors and flavors from core products by the end of 2018. The menu will be free of all “food dyes” by the end of 2017 (excluding beverages and third-party products). [Image Credit: © KFC Australia ]
"KFC Announces Commitment to Eliminate Antibiotics Important to Human Medicine from its Chicken by End of 2018", PR Newswire, April 07, 2017, © PR Newswire Association LLC
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Nestle CEO Says Corporate Growth Should Take Priority Over Short-Term Profits

April 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Nestlė’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, Nestlė will do whatever it has to where growth is slow.  [ Ulf Schneider, image credit: © Nestlė  ]
Corinne Gretler, "Nestle's New CEO Challenges Food Industry's Cost-Cutting Mantra", Bloomberg Markets, April 06, 2017, © Bloomberg L.P.
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Portland Ice Cream Parlor Uses Discarded Flavor Ingredients In Its Products

April 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A small-batch ice cream shop in Portland, Ore., with a reputation for adventurousness in flavor combinations, is applying its expertise to a social/environmental cause – namely, food waste. Salt & Straw’s June menu will be featuring flavors of food that were otherwise destined for the trash bins. Included in the offerings at the artisan eatery, for examples, will be rum-soaked spices salvaged from the nearby East Side Distilling company, including Moroccan peppercorns, Sri Lankan cinnamon, Mexican vanilla, and California orange peel. The flavors will be re-steeped in cream and blended into frozen treats. Local food redistributors and anti-food waste organizations Urban Gleaners and the Portland Fruit Tree Project are collaborating with Salt & Straw on the project.  [Image Credit: © Salt & Straw ]
Janan Jay, "American Ice Cream Parlor is Making Flavors from Recycled Food", Stuff, April 06, 2017, © Fairfax New Zealand Limited
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Panera’s Secret: Consumers Tend To Bypass Competitors To Get There

April 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Panera Bread Co., whose acquisition by Krispy Kreme owner JAB Holdings for $7 billion was recently announced, is a paradigm of success in today’s restaurant chain world. Its menu is upscale and distinctive, the service is fast. But it really began to surpass rivals when three years ago it adopted its ”2.0 plan,” which featured advanced technology for customer ordering and payment, a commitment to clean food (i.e., no preservatives, no artificial or other dubious ingredients), and a sophisticated delivery system. The philosophy is summarized by CEO Ron Shaich: competitive advantage means “being a place where people want to walk past your competitors to come in." 
Zlati Meyer et al., "How Panera Won the Restaurant Game", USA Today, April 06, 2017, © USA Today
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Unilever To Sell Its Margarine, Spreads Unit

April 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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.  [ Image credit: © Wikipedia  ]
Denise Roland et al., "Unilever Restructures Amid Food Industry Woes", The Wall Street Journal, April 06, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Frutarom, On Buying Binge, Acquires Vietnamese Flavors Company

April 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Israeli flavors and fragrances firm Frutarom has completed another Asian acquisition with the purchase of 60 percent of the Vietnam's Western Flavors Fragrances Production (WFF) for $1.3 million. Fourteen-year-old WFF’s sales volume in the 12 months prior to February 2017 totaled about $1.5 million. WFF has 44 employees and focuses on marketing sweet flavors in the dairy, beverages, confectionery and baked goods markets. Frutarom’s strategy is to expand in Asia through acquisitions. The company recently bought Indian flavors company Sonarome and the Chinese taste solutions company Inventive. Last year, it opened a modern flavors plant, including an advanced R&D laboratory, in Shanghai, China. Frutarom sells more than 60,000 products to more than 27,000 customers in 150 countries.
"Third Acquisition for Frutarom in 2017: Continues Expanding Its Global Reach and Deepening Its Presence in Growing Emerging Markets", News release, Frutarom, April 06, 2017, © Frutarom
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MIT Scientists Develop Faster, Cheaper Foodborne Pathogen Detection Method

April 5, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A new technology developed at MIT may help prevent the 60 deaths and 73,000 illnesses caused each year by the foodborne pathogen E. coli bacteria. The technology is based on a novel type of liquid droplet that binds to bacterial proteins They are then detected by a smartphone much more quickly and less expensively than by existing food safety tests, which often involve placing food samples in a culture dish for two or three days to see if harmful bacterial colonies form. According to one of the scientists who helped develop the process, “The great advantage of our device is you don’t need specialized instruments and technical training to do this.”  [Image Credit: © Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT]
Anne Trafton, "New Technology Could Offer Cheaper, Faster Food Testing", News release, MIT News, April 05, 2017, © MIT News Office
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Conagra Recalls Hunt’s Chili Kits After FDA Finds Salmonella Bacteria

April 5, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Conagra Brands has recalled Hunt’s Chili Kits because the FDA claimed the chili powder was tainted with salmonella. Conagra said the kits they had examined had no traces of the dangerous bacteria, but they implemented the recall “out of an abundance of caution.” The recall affects retail and online stores, as well as military commissaries. Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that develop 12 to 72 hours after infection. The symptoms subside after a weak though there is a risk of dehydration. [ Image credit: © Conagra  ]
Mahita Gajanan, "Hunt's Chili Kits Were Recalled Nationwide Because of a Salmonella Risk", Time, April 05, 2017, © Time Inc.
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It’s Official: Panera Bread Sold To Krispy Kreme Owner

April 5, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Holding company JAB confirmed last week that it will acquire St. Louis-based retail bakery chain Panera Bread for $7.2 billion. JAB’s portfolio of companies includes Caribou Coffee, Krispy Crème Doughnuts and Keurig Green Mountain. Panera operates 2,000 bakery cafes in the U.S. Already a hit among health-conscious consumers, Panera lately has been taking steps to improve sales and service. It is growing its loyalty program, installing time-saving kiosks, and expanding delivery. Panera’s shares soared 14.2 percent to a record-high of $312.98 when the sale was announced. JAB is paying a 20.3 percent premium on the stock’s March 31 closing price. [ Image credit: © Panera Bread Co.  ]
Anya George Tharakan et al., "Krispy Kreme-Owner JAB to Buy Bakery Chain Panera Bread", Reuters, April 05, 2017, © Reuters
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Will Costco Put More Energy Into Online Bulk Sales?

April 5, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Costco has for the most part downplayed the e-commerce side of its business while emphasizing store traffic, impulse buying, and a “treasure hunt” atmosphere of constant churning of new products. It’s a strategy that continues to be profitable. But investors and analysts think it’s time the bulk-selling giant adapts to modern times. The logistical technology is certainly available, even for Costco-size shipments. A Costco spokesman says the company has been slow on the uptake “on purpose,” but acknowledges “there are things we can do or should be doing.” Now it may be getting tougher: carriers like UPS and FedEx Corp. are beginning to charge based on package size as well as weight. [ Image credit: © Wikipedia  ]
Sarah Nassauer et al., "Why Costco Loves Store Sales: You Try Shipping a Tub of Mayo", The Wall Street Journal, April 05, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Pizza Chain Experiments With All-Natural Toppings, Gluten-Free Crusts

April 4, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Papa John's announced it is test-marketing in Lexington, Ky., pizza with all-natural ingredients. The company is also offering customers the option of ordering gluten-free pizza crust. The company is partnering with an organic grocery delivery service, Green Bean Delivery, to home deliver pies topped with freshly-sliced roma tomatoes, green peppers and mushrooms, supplied by farms in Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Oregon, California and Indiana. Gluten-free pizzas will only be available in the company's Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis and Nashville markets for the immediate future. [ Image credit: © Papa John's  ]
Lindsay Rittenhouse, "Did Papa John's Just Start Testing the Perfect Pizza?", The Street, April 04, 2017, © TheStreet, Inc.
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Panera’s Stock Price Soars As Rumors Of A Sale Swirl

April 4, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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.[ Image credit: © Miosotis Jade  ]
Ed Hammond, "Panera is Exploring Possible Sale after Receiving Interest", Bloomberg Markets, April 04, 2017, © Bloomberg L.P.
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IRI Lists Most Successful 2016 CPG Product Debuts

April 3, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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. [ Dairy Pure products, image credit: © Dean Foods  ]
"New Products Pacesetters: Building Bridges to a Growth–Filled Tomorrow", Report, IRI, April 03, 2017, © IRI
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General Mills’ Hothouse Venture Unit Adds Another Partner

April 3, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
General Mills’ venture capital unit 301 INC has invested in start-up “lifestyle” breakfast food company Purely Elizabeth. The eighth company 301 INC has partnered with, Purely Elizabeth has positioned itself as a natural, nutrient-dense granola company. It has experienced rapid success since founder and CEO Elizabeth Stein, a former nutrition counselor, began eight years ago making her own granola from ancient grains and superfood seeds, selling it to clients, friends and family. 301 INC’s portfolio of start-ups includes, besides Purely Elizabeth, Beyond Meat, Rhythm Superfoods, Kite Hill, Good Culture, Tio Gazpacho, D’s Naturals, and Farmhouse Culture. [ Image credit: © Purely Elizabeth  ]
Laura Knutson, "Purely Elizabeth Joins 301 INC Portfolio", News release, Taste of General Mills, April 03, 2017, © General Mills, Inc.
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French’s Mustard Unit, No Longer Considered “Core,” Is Up For Grabs

April 3, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
After reviewing its range of businesses, the U.K.’s Reckitt Benckiser Group is putting one of its more successful food brands on the block. The company is looking to divest French’s, a best-selling mustard that is managed separately from RB’s cleaning products, over-the-counter remedies, and personal care brands. Reckitt was quiet about the reason for the sale, except to say that it was not considered a core product anymore. The French’s business – Frank’s RedHot pepper sauces and Cattlemen’s barbecue sauces – generated $513.4 million (4.2 percent) of the company’s overall revenue of $12.24 billion in 2016. It could be worth anywhere from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, according to analysts. The move comes as other CPG giants, particularly Unilever, ruminate over their business portfolios. [ Image credit: © Frenchs.com  ]
Denise Roland, "French’s Mustard on the Block Amid Reckitt Benckiser Review", The Wall Street Journal, April 03, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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FEATURE: Where Now For Unilever? We Lay Out Our Thoughts And Suggested Response To The Humbling Kraft Heinz Bid

April 2, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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.
 
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Hope For Food Companies Steering Through EU Health Claims Review Process

March 31, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A study by British, Slovene, and Danish researchers has found that the process of navigating complex EU food regulations written to protect consumers from false or misleading health claims isn’t easy but it’s also not impossible. The researchers said food manufacturers with long-term strategies that focus on health in foor innovation “have an advantage” when arguing their claims applications. They also found that generally good communication at the national level has provided a body of useful information on the health claim review process, including what counts as proper evidence and how claims should be worded. [ Image credit: © Food Standards Agency  ]
David Ferguson, "Researchers Show How to Navigate Complex EU Health Claim Regulations for Food and Drinks", News release,University of Surrey, March 31, 2017, © University of Surrey
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Mutant Wheat Boosts Phosphorous Content In Chicken Feed

March 31, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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.
D. Scholey et al., "P and Ca digestibility is increased in broiler diets supplemented with the high-phytase HIGHPHY wheat", Animal, March 31, 2017, © The Animal Consortium
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Panera Offers Greater Transparency Regarding Added Sugars, Calories

March 31, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Panera Bread Co., recently acquired by the owner of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, is the first restaurant chain to label its self-serve sodas and other foundation beverages with added sugars and calories. The federal government does not require such labeling by restaurants, thought it does for other food companies. The company also announced it is introducing six low- and no-sugar teas and lemonades. Panera is committed to phasing out artificial sweeteners and flavors, and is reviewing its entire menu based on the new sugar labeling guidance. The new drinks are being offered in New York, Washington, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. and will be available nationally later in 2017.
Chris Prentice, "Panera Rolls Out 'Added Sugars' Labeling on Fountain Drinks", Reuters, March 31, 2017, © Reuters
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Americans Prefer Natural Therapies For Coughs, Colds – Survey

March 30, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A survey of American consumers sponsored by a respiratory system dietary supplement brand finds that more than two-thirds of respondents prefer natural supplements to “synthetic, over-the-counter” products to ease coughing. Natural supplements were preferred because they tended not to induce drowsiness, according to Pohl-Boskamp, the makers of Myrtol 300. Sixty-nine percent of Americans said they have gone to work or school without taking cold meds to avoid drowsiness and stay clear-headed. Millennials up to age 35 said they were more likely to try a natural supplement to treat a cough or cold. Myrtol 300 is a blend of essential oils created in Germany and sold in Europe and elsewhere for four decades. [ Image credit: © Myrtol300.com  ]
Pohl-Boskamp, "Majority of Americans Prefer to Take Natural Supplements Instead of Over-the-Counter Medicines, Survey Shows", News release, Pohl-Boskamp, March 30, 2017, © Pohl-Boskamp
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McDonald’s Big Logistical Leap: Quarter Pounders With Fresh Beef

March 30, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
After successfully testing the use of fresh beef Quarter Pounder burgers cooked to order in more than 400 of its restaurants in Texas and Oklahoma, McDonald’s announced it will roll out nationally over the next year. To accomplish this massive change, the company has secured the cooperation of Lopez Foods and other beef suppliers who will deliver fresh, rather than frozen, ground beef patties. The company said it “received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers and employees” during the Oklahoma and Texas market tests and the decision to go national represents “a watershed moment.” The Quarter Pounder line includes the classic Quarter Pounder, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese Deluxe and Signature Crafted Recipe burgers.
"McDonald's USA Unveils Next Big Change: Fresh Beef Quarter Pounders", News release, McDonald's, March 30, 2017, © McDonald's
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Build-A-Roll Idea Garners Funding, Leads To National Bakery Chain

March 30, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
An appearance on the TV venture capital show Shark Tank led to start-up funding and the launch of a chain of build-your-own cinnamon roll franchises in California, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada and Texas. New Cinnaholic stores are being developed in North Carolina, Florida and Arizona. Each store bakes new vegan rolls every 20 minutes and offers customers a choice of 20 toppings and 20 frostings to create their own delicacies. Three years ago, investor Robert Herjavec offered Florian and Shannon Radke (left) $200,000 in exchange for 40 percent of the company. They accepted, and the rest is history. "We went from a local brand to a national one overnight," Florian said. [Image Credit: © Cinnaholic ]
Jacob Laxen, "Build-Your-Own Cinnamon Roll Bakery Plans Fort Collins Store", USA Today, March 30, 2017, © USA Today
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Dairy-Free Frozen Dessert Company Expands Product Line

March 30, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
The company that pioneered dairy-free frozen desserts with a soy milk-based product 30 years ago has added two new flavors to its line of cashew milk frozen treats: Dipped Salted Caramel and Double Chocolate Delight frozen dessert bars. So Delicious also produces coconut milk, almond milk and cashew milk frozen desserts. The products are Non-GMO Project Verified, certified vegan, and contain no artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or cholesterol. The chocolate flavored products use UTZ Certified cocoa. [ Image credit: © So Delicious  ]
"Dairy Free Frozen Dessert Options Continue to Grow! So Delicious Dairy Free Launches New Cashewmilk Bars", News release, So Delicious, March 30, 2017, © So Delicious
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Company Renovates Factory To Ramp Up Production Of Plant-Based Burgers

March 29, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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. [ Image credit: © Impossible Foods  ]
Adele Peters, "In its New Factory, Impossible Foods Will Make 12 Million Pounds of Plant-Based Burgers a Year", Fast Company, March 29, 2017, © Mansueto Ventures, LLC
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Robots Join Domino’s Delivery Force In German Test

March 29, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
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. [ Image credit: © Domino's Pizza  ]
April Glaser, "Domino’s is going to Use Sidewalk Robots in Germany to Deliver Pizza", Recode, March 29, 2017, © Vox Media, Inc.
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Peapod Customers Shopping More Often, Buying More, CMO Says

March 28, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Peapod customers are using the online grocery delivery service more frequently and are increasing their basket size, according to the company's CMO Carrie Bienkowski. She said among the factors driving growth in the online grocery delivery service segment are millennials' preference for home-cooked meals and service providers' personalization strategies. Bienkowski described some of her company's personalization tactics, including customized homepage for existing customers and emails based on “transaction behavior.” Also, the company is focused on identifying customer segments, by evaluating transaction behavior.
Tricia Carr, "Peapod Customers Are Buying More, and More Often—Here's Why", eMarketer, March 28, 2017, © eMarketer Inc.
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