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    Congratulations Cansu Gumus (left), winner of the #PictureThis contest at the Division Networking Reception at #IFT15! See you next year, Cansu! 🎉🏆🎉 Are you an #OFG (Official Food Geek)? Show us! IFT's Call for Volunteers closes tomorrow! Visit the link in our profile to learn more and sign up for great opportunities. #volunteer #foodscience #foodscienceandtechnology IFT staff & friends celebrating #IFT15 and Mr. Marc Bernstein! 🎉🎊🎉🎊 #IFTStaffRock

The U.S. Organic Food Market: From Niche to Mainstream

Infographic courtesy of Walmart

Infographic courtesy of Walmart

The U.S. organic food market has grown significantly and changed dramatically since its birth during the 1970s as a counterculture movement. Its growth rate slowed during the recession then rose back into double-digits in 2011. In 2012, organic food sales for at-home consumption totaled $26.3 billion (Wohl, 2014) and comprised over 4% of total U.S. food sales for at-home consumption (Greene, 2013). Produce and dairy products are the dominant categories, accounting for 43% and 15% of total organic sales in 2012 (Greene, 2013), respectively. The Nutrition Business Journal is projecting that the organic food market will exceed $60 billion by 2020 (Wohl, 2014).

According to the Hartman Group, health concerns are prominent in consumers’ reasons for buying organic foods and beverages. Six of the top 10 motivations were (in descending order): “safer for me,” “avoid pesticides,” “avoid GMOs,” “avoid growth hormones,” “for nutritional needs,” and “safer for my children.”

In 2012, mass market retailers, such as Walmart and Target generated 46% of U.S. organic food sales, while 44% of the sales were attributable to natural and specialty retailers. After being sold to Whole Foods in 2007, the former natural foods chain, Wild Oats, has reinvented itself as a food processor providing high-quality products that are affordable and easy to shop for. Its current organic product lines include canned beans and tomatoes, condiments, cookies, milk, vinegar, pasta sauce, grains, nuts, soups, spices, salads, and pre-packaged sandwiches. Now, Wild Oats is partnering with Walmart to supply a subset of these products to the big-box retailer at reduced prices. Meanwhile, Target has re-organized its displays by aggregating certain natural, organic, and sustainably-focused products to make it easier for consumers to find such items (Wohl, 2014). Keep Reading

Nutrition Facts Label Changes Mean New Challenges and Opportunities

Nutrition Facts labelThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published proposals to update the design and content of the Nutrition Facts label (NFL) and associated serving sizes on Feb. 27, 2014. Two factors driving the FDA changes are undeniable: consumers’ expressed desire for the labels to be easier to read and use; and outdated nutrition science and food consumption data that supported the 1993 regulations.

Consumer research shows that more than half of food shoppers are using nutrition labeling (IFIC, 2013; Todd, 2014). Even so, within the first years of use of the NFL, 70% of consumers expressed the need for the labels to be easier to read and use (Kristal, 1998; FMI, 1995). Evolving nutrition science, including new Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), updated nationwide food consumption data, and up-to-date comprehensive, evidence-based Dietary Guidelines recommendations warrant changes. Keep Reading

The 2014 Farm Bill Crosses the Finish Line

The multiple year journey to farm bill reauthorization is closing in on the finish line. The trip to final passage stopped at the “dairy cliff,” took a fork in the road splitting off food support programs, and visited the rocky hills of farm program reform. Despite the detours, we’ve arrived. After one public meeting and dozens of closed door negotiations, the Senate and House of Representatives conference committee in January finally bridged the divide and reached agreement on a new five-year farm bill.

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What’s In a Name? Plenty if You Call It a ‘Drink’

Recently, the FDA released a long-awaited final version of its guidance regarding the differences between beverages and liquid dietary supplements. The “Guidance for Industry: Distinguishing Liquid Dietary Supplements from Beverages” had been promised over the course of the last two years as part of the ongoing dialogue between certain U.S. Senators and Congressmen and the FDA. So, now that it is out, what does it mean?

Of course, it is always important to remember that FDA guidances are not the law, but instead, reflect the FDA’s current thinking on the subject. That being said, while guidances aren’t law, they are instructive on how the FDA is likely to act regarding the topic and it is generally advisable to follow the guidance if a company does not want to run afoul of the FDA. Keep Reading

The Impact and Consequences of Banning Trans Fatty Acids

wheat crackersTo many the proposed FDA rule to deny GRAS status to partially hydrogenated oil—and thereby in effect banning it from use—would be a great public health benefit. However, this proposed rule is not without consequences to many individuals, so it is critical that this decision is made carefully.

The FDA and others have stated that further decreases in trans fatty acid consumption could decrease thousands of cardiac events and deaths. These calculations of saving lives by further lowering trans fatty acid consumption assume that the biological effects of trans fatty acid follow a dose dependent linear response. Unfortunately, the pharmokinetics of the biological effects of trans fatty acids are difficult if not impossible to confirm since most studies that show adverse effects of trans fatty acids had to use dietary trans levels in excess of 5% of total energy. FDA has calculated that trans fatty acid consumption of partially hydrogenated oils has decreased from 4.6 g per day in 2003 to 1.3 g per day (2.1 to 0.6% of total energy) in 2010. It is very common for kinetics to not be linear especially at extremely low or high concentrations of bioactive agents. Therefore, it does not seem scientifically prudent to make a bold statement of how many deaths a food ingredient is causing without any clinical data. Keep Reading

Tools for Education, Career Advancement

CFS LogoA career in food science is an exciting and rapidly changing field with new discoveries occurring each day. In such a fast-paced industry, it’s important to keep up to date with the advancements in research, new product innovations, and the always-evolving regulations.

As a research scientist in a global company, I am asked to understand ingredient functionality in order to deliver nutritional products to our customers. My career has allowed me to work cross functionally with development teams to create products designed to help people live better lives through nutrition. To do this successfully, I have to keep informed on new food ingredients and trends so that our company can stay competitive in the marketplace. Keep Reading

Food Safety Suffers During U.S. Government Shutdown

U.S. Government ShutdownThe partial U.S. government shutdown, now in its second week, has already started affecting the operations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hardest hit are the FDA operations related to foods. Consequently, food importers, retailers, and consumers should be concerned.

The shutdown will have lesser effects, at least in the short-term, on the FDA divisions that deal with human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, and tobacco, as each of these divisions collects some type of user fees, giving those divisions a buffer when government funding is unavailable, as is the case during the shutdown. Keep Reading

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