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A Wake-up Call for ‘Big Food’

grocerydecision_croppedYesterday afternoon, I snacked on chipotle-lime beef jerky while sipping a stevia-sweetened sparkling beverage. Last night, I cooked dinner for four with a meal kit delivered to my house. This morning, I skipped the cereal sitting dormant in my pantry and grabbed a high-protein nutrition bar from a local company for breakfast as I scrambled out the door. Like me, large swaths of consumers have fundamentally changed their food consumption habits, and small- and medium-sized manufacturers have taken advantage of those shifts to the detriment of established “big food” manufacturers.

As reported in A.T. Kearney’s “Is Big Food in Trouble?” report, the top 25 food manufacturers in the United States have ceded 300 basis points of market share to small- and medium-sized competitors since 2012—and have had anemic annual growth of 1.8%. Changes in consumers’ core values—amplified by social media, celebrity chefs, and a myriad of food experts—are rewarding small- and medium-size companies with annual growth rates of 11–15%. Continue reading

Brexit: Food Industry Implications

BrexitThe UK vote in favor of leaving the European Union (EU) sent shockwaves through the global market. Governments, business, and stock markets are struggling to come to terms with what has happened. For the food and beverage industry, the potential impact is huge: across tariffs and trade, inward investment, labor issues, as well as general sector policy and regulation.

In the United Kingdom, some on both sides of the Brexit campaign have argued that a new trade agreement with the EU and the rest of the world will need to be concluded as a matter of urgency. However, the EU institutions have pointed out that such negotiations cannot formally start prior to finalization of the process on the terms by which the UK will leave the EU. It is expected that negotiations on the terms of an exit, unprecedented in their nature, once launched, will not be easy and may take much longer than the two-year period foreseen in the EU Treaty. The specifics of any deal on how to exit the EU and how to continue trading afterwards are yet to be defined, and herald a period of prolonged uncertainty for business. A number of scenarios may unfold: Continue reading

Nutrition Facts Label Changes Drive Industry Reformulation

NutritionFacts2016

The original Nutrition Facts panel (left) versus the new panel (right)

Late last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the new Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods, which includes some major changes to the nutrients required to be listed, the way the serving sizes are written, and the label design. The final rule becomes effective on July 26, 2016, and the compliance date is July 26, 2018, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales and July 26, 2019, for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales.

What impact will the changes have on ingredient and food manufacturers? Food Technology magazine recently spoke with Roger Legg, senior chemist at RL Food Testing Laboratory, about how manufacturers should prepare for the compliance dates and what the change may mean for them in terms of product development and reformulation moving forward. Continue reading

Will New Dietary Guidelines Shift Americans Toward Healthy Eating Patterns?

FoodMinds InfographicOn January 7, health professionals and policymakers heralded the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), updated to reflect current nutrition science. The DGAs provide evidence-based healthy eating principles for the public to reduce the risk of chronic disease and maintain a healthy weight. The document is published jointly by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) every five years, and this newest edition will serve as a foundation for nutrition policy and programming through 2020.

According to a word content analysis conducted by FoodMinds, one of the most marked evolutions in the DGAs is the emphasis on overall healthy dietary patterns across the life span. To me, this holistic approach to healthy eating represents a shift in how we’re talking about nutrition and health. Continue reading

Vanilla: From Concern, to Crisis, to Creating Solutions

Vanilla BeansThis irony exists throughout the business world—when prices are low and supply is high, no one’s thinking, “Uh-oh, this is trouble,” but they should because underlying dynamics during such a market-favorable time can frequently turn the tide. Additionally, because these influences fly under the radar and work quietly amidst the noise made over low prices, when they hit, they can hit with major consequences.

This very dynamic was set in motion for the vanilla market five years ago. Prices reached a historic low, allowing food and beverage companies that use vanilla to enjoy a stable vanilla flavor cost of goods. While everyone was “riding the wave” of low-cost vanilla, the market forces behind the scenes for what we are seeing now were building. Continue reading

Imbalance, not meat, to blame for disease

Steak on dinner plateDiets high in red and processed meat have long been shown in epidemiological studies to be associated with increased cancer risk. The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AIRC) labeled processed meat as a “probable carcinogen” and red meat as a “possible carcinogen” based on an extensive analysis of the literature. Using only those studies that met the rigor of inclusion, 19 of 33 studies showed a link between increased cancer risk and the consumption of red or processed meat.

While this was a majority of the studies, a fairly substantial number (14 of 33) failed to show a statistically significant association. Furthermore, while red meat was categorized as a cancer risk in the same category as asbestos and cigarettes, the degree of risk is orders of magnitude different—the increased hazard from processed meat was 0.18 fold compared with cigarettes at more than 20 fold. Continue reading

Walmart’s interest in drone delivery will change the food conversation

Drone DeliveryCustomers want to shop whenever, wherever, and however. This demand applies to all facets of commerce, including grocery. New digital capabilities are creating fresh potential for the grocery industry, with the latest buzz surrounding drone delivery.

Most recently Walmart joined the conversation. While the world’s largest retailer wasn’t the first to adopt drone delivery, and it’s still considerably behind the likes of Amazon when it comes to investment in new technology, Walmart has the potential to be an innovative and ambitious player in the online space. Continue reading