Tag Archive | "research"

IFR to collaborate with Jiangnan


probioticThe UK’s Institute of Food Research and Jiangnan University have collaborated to initiate a UK-China Joint Centre for Probiotic Research.

The centre builds on long term collaboration between Professor Chen Wei at Jiangnan University, and Professor Arjan Narbad at the IFR, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

After several years of reciprocal visits between the two, exchanging knowledge, training and expertise in probiotics research, the Newton Fund has now provided £250,000 to support a Joint Centre of Probiotic Research with equivalent funding by Jiangnan University.

“We are very pleased that the Newton Fund has been able to support the joint centre,” said Professor Arjan Narbad, “as it will allow us to strengthen ongoing collaboration and advance our interest in both fundamental and applied research focussing on the gut bacteria.”

A meeting held at IFR on the Norwich Research Park marked the inauguration of the joint centre, which was attended by Professor Chen Wei, Dean of School of Food Science and Technology in Jiangnan University and his colleagues Professor Chen Yong-Quan, Dean of School of Medicine, Professor Zhang Hao and Professor Mao Jian. They were joined by Zhang Si, Director of the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology and Professor Richard Mithen, Head of IFR’s Food and Health Research Programme.

“The joint research via Newton Fund will accelerate our multidisciplinary efforts on probiotics but will also allow development of further collaborations in food research that is strategically relevant to both IFR and Jiangnan University,” said Professor Wei.

The joint centre will be based both in IFR and in the planned National Engineering Research Center for functional foods in Jiangnan University. It will allow the researchers to work together to tackle challenges facing both China and the UK in the probiotic arena, and joint research projects are planned with funding from both Chinese and UK sources.

The collaborative working is said to be already bearing fruit. Several joint papers have been published with the latest one in in the journal Applied Microbiologyand Biotechnology that describes the development of a probiotic to alleviate the symptoms of metal toxicity, specifically aluminium.

Other collaborative projects are looking at developing probiotics to help counter the issue of antimicrobial resistance.

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Caps and closures market to reach $68bn by 2021


bottle-capsAccording to MarketsandMarkets research, the market for caps and closures will grow from $49.78 billion in 2015 to $68.71 billion by 2021 at a compound annual growth rate of 5.62%.

Factors such as increasing demand in Asia-Pacific, growing demand from the food and beverage industry, and rising concerns about product quality and safety are some of the drivers for the growth of the caps and closures market, the research company said.

The beverages segment dominated the market in 2015 and is projected to be the second-fastest growing end-user industry – after pharmaceuticals – in the next five years, as a result of rising consumer demand for beverage products such as bottled water and beer, as well as growing demand for safe, high-quality products.

The plastics segment is projected to contribute the largest market share due to its lightweight and cost-effective credentials, with polypropylene’s resistance to stress and almost all types of chemicals setting it in good stead to be the fastest-growing sub-segment of the plastic caps market.

The Asia-Pacific region leads the market due to its large population and proven position as a major manufacturing hub that offers production opportunities at affordable costs to companies. As caps and closures are used widely by different industries – including food and beverages – the Asia-Pacific region, which is witnessing major growth in these sectors itself, has become a large market for the packaging.

It is followed by North America, which is the next largest market for caps and closures, ahead of Europe and the rest of the world.

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Mintel surveys US burger opinion


burgerNew research from Mintel shows that 82% of consumers agree that burgers are a good source of nutrients, but another 80% would pay more for burgers made with premium ingredients. With three in five (62%) consumers saying that they love burgers, there’s no denying their popularity.

However, as beef faces negative health perceptions, consumers show interest in a wide array of non-beef burger alternatives. In fact, nearly half of consumers would like to see more chicken burgers (46%) on menus and two in five (42%) are interested in more turkey burgers. Another one third (34%) of Americans are interested in seeing bison/buffalo as a burger option on more menus.

Interest in non-beef burger offerings is highest among Millennials, who are the most likely generation to agree that healthiness of menu items is the most important factor when choosing a restaurant (64%). Indeed, three in five (58%) Millennials would like more chicken burgers and half (52%) would like more turkey options on menus. Overall, Millennials are more interested than any other generation in every non-beef burger Mintel surveyed.

“While the majority of Americans view burgers as a good source of nutrients, this is more indicative of health concerns being a non-factor as opposed to seeing burgers as a healthy choice. Further, we find that the decreasing consumption of beef is not affecting consumption of burgers, driven by Americans seeking more non-beef burger options,” said Caleb Bryant, Foodservice Analyst at Mintel. “Non-beef burgers appeal to diners for a number of reasons. Beyond offering less fatty, more nutritious alternatives, non-beef burgers tend to have a ‘wow’ factor as they are new and different to many consumers. Having a line-up of non-beef burgers can help a restaurant’s menu stand out from other restaurants’ burger offerings.”

As healthy dining trends are driving innovation in non-beef burgers, Mintel research indicates that grass-fed beef burgers are also piquing interest. Four in five (79%) burger eaters believe that grass-fed beef is higher quality than regular beef. This is motivating 43% of consumers to want more grass-fed burgers on restaurant menus.

Further, knowing the origins of their food is increasingly important to consumers, and this is especially true among burger eaters. Three in five (59%) consumers agree that they want to know the origin of beef in burgers, including 68% of Millennials.

“With its purported superior taste, healthfulness claims and ‘feel good’ connotations, burgers made with grass-fed beef are an especially important foodservice trend right now. Diners today are interested not only in food that is good for them, they also want food that makes them feel good. This is magnified for food that comes with a ‘story,’ as consumers increasingly want to know where their food was made and how it was prepared and produced. This presents an opportunity for restaurants to better compete with retail packaged beef, which often times does not provide such information to consumers,” continued Bryant.

Restaurants continue to re-imagine burgers in order to keep consumers interested in the menu staple, proven by the mere 20% of burger eaters who say that burgers are a boring choice when eating out. Such innovation is supported by research from Mintel Menu Insights, which finds that the menu incidence of “cheeseburger” decreased by 15% and “burger” decreased by 6% from Q4 2012 to Q4 2015. However, more descriptive items such as “bacon burger” (85%) and “Southwest burger” (34%) saw significant growth on menus.

In line with the 47% of consumers who want more premium burger buns at restaurants, Mintel Menu Insights reveals significant growth of pretzel (97%), kaiser (93%) and brioche (59%) buns on menus from Q4 2012 to Q4 2015. Similarly, half (50%) of consumers want more variety of cheeses for burgers, and restaurants are calling out specific cheeses on menus more often. While unspecified “cheese” as a topping for burgers fell by 11%, mozzarella (29%) and pepper jack cheese (13%) have grown more popular on menus from Q4 2012 to Q4 2015.

“While burgers are a favorite for many Americans, restaurants must work hard to make their burgers stand out. Consumers are interested in new burger formulations, allowing restaurants to take chances with their menu. This gives restaurants the opportunity to branch out with multiple ingredient options and toppings to separate themselves from competitors, and can be accomplished by offering high quality buns and cheeses, as consumers are willing to pay more for premium ingredients for a food they love,” concluded Bryant.

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Mordor reports on sodium reduction


Tate&LyleSaltMarket research company, Mordor Intelligence, has announced the publication of its new report on the sodium reduction ingredients market: “Global Sodium Reduction Ingredients Market – Growth, Trends and Forecast (2016-2021)”.

The market for sodium reduction ingredients was estimated at $625.7 million in 2015 and is projected to reach $1,294.3 million by 2021, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.2%.

The sodium reduction ingredients (SRIs) market is one of the fastest-growing ingredient segments in the food and beverage industry, Mordor says. The market depends heavily on the technical capabilities of food ingredient manufacturers to develop new requirement-based formulations. According to industry estimations, current global salt intake is over two times recommended levels. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public health as well as the University of Cambridge proved that the sodium intake in 181 nations has exceeded the recommended levels of two grams per day.

Over 70.0% of sodium consumption is derived from the processed, pre-packaged, or restaurant foods, Mordor notes. The market for processed food is quite large in the current scenario and so is the market for developing the technology and strategy for sodium reduction. The report says that companies such as Cargill, Novozymes, Danisco, Kerry Group, Givaudan, DSM, Corbion Purac and others, are concentrating on health issues that result from the high intake of NaCl.

In the last few years, 75 countries have set up national salt reduction strategies, with a multifaceted approach, such as the taxation on high-salt foods, establishment of sodium content targets for food items, consumer education, front-of-pack labeling schemes, and interventions in public institutions. Regulatory actions pertaining to salt reduction, such as mandatory targets, content labeling, food procurement policies, and taxation, have been implemented in over 30 countries, and 12 countries have reported reduction in population salt intake.

According to Mordor, drivers affecting the studied market include:

  • Health and wellness campaigns that are spreading awareness among consumers
  • Growing demand from the food processing industry
  • Identification of new flavour enhancing ingredients

Restraints affecting the studied market include:

  • High cost of reformulation
  • Low adoption rate

Opportunities in the studied market:

  • Stringent regulatory frameworks
  • Innovation in product applications
  • Growing opportunities from the untapped developing markets

The report on the sodium reduction ingredients market is segmented on the basis of product type into: amino acids, mineral salts, yeast extracts, and others.

Mordor Intelligence is a market research and consulting firm with expertise in helping clients grow their business through accurate research and unbiased analysis.

With over 7,000 comprehensive reports across 14 industry segments, MI has helped over 300 clients take better business decisions

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83% of consumers now snack


PetrowFoodsNutsAccording to market researcher Technomic, snacking consumption has been steadily growing over the past several years, but has accelerated since 2014; 83% of consumers in 2016 vs. 76% in 2014 snack on a daily basis.

Driven by the quickening pace of consumers’ lifestyles, the rise of smaller households (that allow for more flexibility around meal times and sizes) and the increasingly widespread notion of snacks as part of a healthful diet, consumers are broadening their definitions of snacks and consuming snacks for more occasions, the company says.

“With consumers’ lives getting busier, snacks are serving more needs than in the past,” said Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic. “To gain share, operators and suppliers must adapt their snack lineup to meet consumers’ wide range of need states-from tiding them over to the next meal to replacing meals, to providing nutritious, supplemental treats.”

Using actionable data from more than 1,500 consumers, as well as Technomic’s exclusive Digital Resource Library, Knowledge Center and MenuMonitor databases, the company says the 2016 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report will help guide foodservice operators and suppliers to better understand consumer attitudes toward snacking.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • Consumers are increasingly snacking between meals; 53% of consumers in 2016 vs. 41% in 2014 snack in between three daily meals
  • Younger consumers drive away-from-home snacking; 40% of these diners’ snacks are consumed away from home vs. 25% of snacks overall
  • Consumers continue to seek more nutritious snack options; 33% would purchase snacks more often at restaurants if they were healthier options.

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Corbion enables preservative-free grains


quinoaA few years ago, consumers couldn’t spell “quinoa” – much less cook it, claims Corbion, noting that today, quinoa and other ancient grains are becoming kitchen staples. Corbion Caravan says that research reveals that more than one-third of consumers now indicate strong purchase intent for ancient grains.

With that in mind, and the health and wellness movement driving sales, Corbion Caravan has launched a program to remove the preservative spray commonly used in pre-soaked ancient and whole grains, while maintaining quality, taste and shelf life standards. The research and development effort has led to the reformulation of five super-soaked grain products that carry the cleaner, “no preservatives” label.

“The preservative-free versions of our pre-soaked grains allow our customers to incorporate the ingredients consumers crave, while also delivering on the expectation of a cleaner label,” said Ricardo Moreira, product portfolio manager. “With these new products, Corbion customers can add ancient and whole grains into their recipes – and add more appeal to their baked goods.”

Moreira said the five new offerings include such ingredients as oat, oat flakes, sunflower, millet, flaxseed, amaranth, chia, cracked wheat, whole grain barley, whole rye kernels and quinoa.

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Research: Shoppers consciously avoid artificial additives


Colorful Candy BackgroundResearch has showed that 50% of shoppers consciously try to avoid artificial additives, with colourings typically being at the top of their blacklist.

More than one third of consumers would even buy sweets more often if they were made from natural ingredients and 66% are motivated to take a critical look at product labels in order to check them for undesired ingredients, GNT Group said.

In fact, when buying sweets, shoppers are demanding natural colours and have a clear definition of these in mind, expecting them to only originate from edible raw materials such as fruit and vegetables.

The new figures are particularly timely in the lead-up to Easter, when colourful treats such as bunny-shaped confectionery and decorate chocolate eggs are particularly popular with consumers.

“Today, artificial and other additive colours can be replaced by colouring foods,” a GNT Group spokesperson said. “Such colouring concentrates made from fruit, vegetables, and edible plants fit with consumer demands for natural and recognisable ingredients. The use of colouring foods in confectionery shows sustained and significant growth in recent years and is increasingly considered to be a critical factor in the success of new product launches.”

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Gluten-free pizza grows


gluten-free_pizzaNew research from Mintel finds that following consumer demand, the number of pizzas launched globally with a gluten-free claim soared 58% between 2012 and 2015. The number of pizza launches containing rice flour as an alternative ingredient to wheat increased from 78% to 90% between 2014 and 2015.

The rise in gluten-free pizza launches comes as a result of the growing demand for wheat alternatives, Mintel says, as one third (32%) of French, 28% of Polish and 22% of German consumers say they would like to see a wider variety of gluten-free pizza. In Italy this number increases to 44%, while over half (51%) of Spanish consumers say they want more gluten-free pizza options.

“With gluten-free having become something of a lifestyle choice in Western countries, especially among younger generations, it is no surprise that a growing base of consumers are buying into gluten-free pizza,” said Alex Beckett, Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. “However, as pizza is an inherently indulgent food, manufacturers need to magnify the quality appeal of their wheat-free pizzas and convince consumers that the taste and texture of wheat-free alternatives is akin to regular pizza.”

Mintel research indicates that innovation in lactose-free claims could be the next step for pizza launches. Almost half (47%) of consumers in Spain say they’d like to see a wider variety of dairy-free pizzas, followed by 39% of consumers in Italy, 31% in Poland, 30% in France and 20% in Germany.

While there is certainly a lot of activity going on in the global pizza market right now, Mintel notes, what’s surprising is that even though the US has held the crown as the most innovative pizza market for years, France now leads the way in retail pizza launch activity. Indeed, Mintel research reveals that France is responsible for the largest slice of pizza product innovation in 2015, accounting for 11% of all new pizza launches, up from 9% in 2011. Meanwhile, the global share of newly introduced pizza products in the US has almost halved over the same period; the US accounted for one in ten (10%) new pizza launches globally in 2015, compared to one in five (19%) in 2011.

What’s more, whilst over one in four (28%) pizzas launched in 2011 came from North America, the drop in product innovation in this region means that overall North America accounted for just one in six (15%) pizza launches in 2015. Indeed, Europe dominated the sector in 2015 accounting for nearly two thirds (65%) of launch activity, up from 58% in 2011.

Whilst France held the highest proportion of launches (11%), this was followed by the US (10%), UK (10%), Spain (8%) and Germany (6%).

“It is unlikely that the US retail pizza sector will look back on 2015 with much fondness,” said Beckett. “With the economy looking brighter, consumers have been trading up and out of retail pizza, to more expensive delivery and foodservice options. As a result of this, and the rapid growth of fast casual pizza chains, frozen pizza makers have been under huge pressure in the region. In Europe, however, retail pizza brands have been investing in premiumisation to help compete with the threat from the out-of-home channel, therefore boosting launch activity.”

Whilst the US has been battling with consumers upgrading their slices for more foodservice options, Mintel says, there seems to be a growing opportunity in the premium tier of the retail market. Mintel research shows that nearly three in five (58%) US pizza eaters claim that they would buy more frozen pizza if it had more premium or gourmet ingredients, rising to 72% of 25-34 year olds. What’s more, over half (55%) of US consumers agree that they’d buy more frozen pizza if it wasn’t so processed.

Europe might hold the largest number of pizza launches, but it is the Asia-Pacific region which is the fastest growing market for pizza innovation, Mintel believes. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 11% of innovation in 2015, almost doubling since 2011 when this number stood at 6%. Furthermore, Mintel research reveals that the increased number of launches in the Asia-Pacific region in 2015 directly corresponds with a leap in microwaveable pizza launches. In 2013, three in ten (30%) new pizza launches in Asia-Pacific featured a microwaveable claim, before soaring to 58% in 2015.

“Increasing urbanization in developing markets is driving ownership of microwaves ovens – and with it the consumption of microwavable pizza. It is noticeable that many of the retail pizzas which have launched in Asia-Pacific in 2015 have sought to appeal to the specific tastes and needs of the country’s consumers,” said Beckett. “As such, a number of Asian-based manufacturers offer toppings with a local flavour twist as part of their ranges, as demonstrated by a number of tom yum-flavoured sauces in Singaporean pizza launches in 2015, and roti bases emerging in Thailand.”

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Research: Lactation, weather help predict milk quality


WisemanCowsCompressedThe quality of colostrum — the nutrient-rich milk newborn dairy calves first drink from their mothers – can be predicted by the mother’s previous lactation performance and weather, according to new research from the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire.

UNH researchers found that previous lactation performance data can predict colostrum quality; the more lactations the cow has had in the past, the higher the quality of colostrum in the future. This method allows dairy producers to predict colostrum quality before the calf is born and the ability to estimate Immunoglobulin G content, which is the primary measure of colostrum quality, of the colostrum without having to collect it.

Colostrum is a concentrated source of nutrients, which includes fats, proteins, including immunoglobulins such as Immunoglobulin G (IgG), carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. It is key in supporting the health of the young dairy animal. Previous research has found that inadequate feeding of quality colostrum to newborn calves can result in reduced growth rates, increased risk of disease and death, increased risk of being culled, and decreased milk production in the first and second lactations.

The research was conducted by UNH doctoral graduate Rosemarie Cabral; UNH doctoral students Colleen Chapman and Kayla Aragona; former UNH undergraduate student Elizabeth Clark; Michael Lunak, extension assistant professor and dairy specialist; and Peter Erickson, professor of biological sciences and extension dairy specialist. The research is presented in the current issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.

“The long-term effects of colostrum determine the success of the cow, and therefore special care should be taken to ensure colostrum of the highest quality is provided to the newborn calf,” Erickson said.

Currently, dairy farmers can test colostrum using two tools: a colostrometer or refractometer. While these methods are effective in estimating IgG concentration, many dairy producers do not have access to these tools or do not take the time to test their colostrum prior to feeding. According to the USDA, only 5.7 percent of U.S. dairy producers evaluated colostrum quality using a colostrometer.

Researchers also found that the poorest quality colostrum was produced during the winter. The researchers theorize that in warmer temperatures, the blood vessels of the cow dilate, causing them to be more permeable to IgG. This increased permeability of the blood vessels may lead to improved colostrum.

“It is apparent from these studies that environmental temperature or day length has an impact on colostrum quality,” the researchers said.

There are approximately 130 dairy farms in New Hampshire with an average of 115 milking animals per farm. The New Hampshire dairy industry impacts state and local economies with more than $141 million in total output, more than 3,700 jobs and more than $19 million in labor income, according to Granite State Dairy Promotion.

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Research: Flavonoids can help with weight loss


fruit-apples-blueberriesEating fruit and vegetables that contain high levels of flavonoids could help maintain a healthy weight according to research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Harvard University.

The study, published in the BMJ, reveals that apples, pears, berries and peppers were found to have the greatest effect in reducing weight gain.

Researchers from the departments of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and UEA’s Norwich Medical School examined the association between the dietary intake of all flavonoids and weight change in a large study of 124,086 men and women based across the US with data collected over 24 years.

“Dietary flavonoids are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables,” said Prof Aedin Cassidy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “This is the first large study to examine the associations between consumption of all flavonoids and weight gain in middle-aged and older adults.”

“Most adults gain weight as they age and even small increases in weight can have a substantial impact on risk of high blood pressure, developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes – so strategies to help individuals maintain a healthy weight in middle age are needed.”

“We found that an increased consumption of most flavonoids were associated with weight maintenance, and even a modest weight loss. The results were found to be consistent across men and women, and different ages.”

“However, losing even small amounts of weight, or preventing weight gain, can improve health and these modest effects were seen with a small, readily achievable increase in intake of many of these fruits.”

“Just a single portion of some of these fruits per day would have an important impact on health at a population level.”

“The greatest association was found for anthocyanins – which are found in blueberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, grapes, radishes and blackcurrant. We also found that flavonoid polymers – found in tea and apples – were particularly beneficial, along with flavonols – found in tea and onions.”

The research team tracked participants who were part of three large prospective cohort studies: the Health Professionals Follow Up Study, Nurses Health Study, and Nurses Health Study II.

Participants self-reported changes in their weight through a questionnaire every two years, between 1986 and 2011. In addition, they self-reported their diet, lifestyle habits, and any recently diagnosed diseases every four years.

The study adjusted for a range of dietary and lifestyle factors that may have influenced the results, such as smoking status and physical activity.

The results show the amount of weight loss associated with very small intakes – called ‘standard deviations’ – including 10mg of anthocyanins and 138mg of polymers.

They found that consuming just small amounts of flavonoids correlated with maintaining a healthy weight, and even losing a little – but only around 0.1KG.

However many fruits provide high amounts of flavonoids – for example a single serving per day of blueberries contains up to 121 mg of anthocyanins and tea contains a range of flavonoids (including flavonols, flavan-3-ols and their polymers).

The research team said they hope that choosing flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables could help people shed up to one or two pounds.

The researchers conclude that even small changes in intake have the potential to have a significant impact on helping to maintain a healthy body weight.

“People tend to put on weight as they get older. But we found that people who ate a few portions of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables a week maintained a healthy weight, and even lost a little,” said Cassidy. “We hope that the results will help refine previous dietary recommendations and provide guidance on which specific fruits and vegetables to choose for preventing of obesity and its potential consequences.”

“Losing or preventing even small amounts of weight can reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

“In the US, for example, most people consume less than one cup (portion) of fruits, and less than two cups of vegetables daily. This is below the recommended daily intake and should be increased to two cups of fruits, and two and a half cups of vegetables – which equates to the UK’s recommended ‘five-a-day’.” “And people may be able to improve the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables by choosing those including high levels of flavonoids, such as apples, pears, and berries.”

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Research: oil seed can replace fish oil


Researchers fromomega3 the University of East Anglia studied the effect in mice of consuming feed enriched with oil from glasshouse-grown genetically engineered Camelina sativa, developed at Rothamsted Research. They concluded that oil from genetically modified (GM) oil seed crops could replace fish oil as a primary source of the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acid EPA.

The goal of the research was to discover whether mammals (using mice as a model) can absorb and accumulate EPA from this novel source of omega-3s.

The team examined levels of EPA in various organs in the body such as the liver, as well as its effect on the expression of genes key for regulating the way the body processes fats. The results show that the benefits were similar to those derived from fish oils.

“The long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid EPA is beneficial for cardiovascular and cognitive health, as well as for foetal development in pregnancy,” said lead researcher Prof Anne-Marie Minihane, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “The recommended minimum dietary intake can be achieved by eating one to two portions of oily fish per week. But for everyone in the world to achieve their minimum dietary intake, you would need around 1.3 million metric tonnes of EPA per year. Fish currently provide around 40 per cent of the required amount – so there is a large deficit between supply and demand. There is a great need to identify alternative and sustainable sources of these beneficial fatty acids. We wanted to test whether oil from genetically modified plants could be used as a substitute. This first study indicates that mammals can efficiently accumulate the key health-beneficial omega-3 fatty acid EPA.”

The research team studied mice, which had been fed with EPA oil from genetically engineered Camelina sativa, commonly known as false flax, but actually a member of the Brassicaceae family. Crops were grown in glasshouses at the primarily publically-funded Rothamsted Research.

The researchers looked to see whether consuming oil from the engineered plants was as beneficial as EPA rich – fish oil. They did this by testing tissue concentrations of fatty acids in liver, muscle and brain tissue, along with the expression of genes involved in regulating EPA status and its physiological benefits.

“The mice were fed with a control diet similar to a Westernised human diet, along with supplements of EPA from genetically engineered Camelina sativa or fish oil, for ten weeks – enough time for any beneficial results to be seen, “ said Minihane. “We found that the genetically engineered oil is a bioavailable source of EPA, with comparable benefits for the liver to eating oily fish.”

This research was funded by the BBSRC as part of an ongoing research programme to examine the sources and sustainability of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as their impact on health and risk of chronic disease. The novel Camelina oil used was produced as part of the BBSRC-funded Designing Seeds Institute Strategic Programme Grant to Rothamsted Research.

The study was reviewed and approved by the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) and was conducted within the provisions of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) act 1986.

The research was published in The Journal of Nutrition.

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Research: G3PP can detoxify excess sugar


sugarGuilt-free sugary treats may be on the horizon. Scientists at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) have discovered an enzyme that can stop the toxic effects of sugar in various organs of the body. This enzyme, named glycerol 3-phosphate phosphatase (G3PP), plays a central role in controlling glucose and fat utilization. Led by Drs Marc Prentki and Murthy Madiraju, the research team has demonstrated that G3PP is able to detoxify excess sugar from the cells, and their discovery should lead to the development of therapeutics for obesity and type 2 diabetes. The findings were published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“When glucose is abnormally elevated in the body, glucose-derived glycerol-3 phosphate reaches excessive levels in cells, and exaggerated glycerol 3 phosphate metabolism can damage various tissues. We found that G3PP is able to breakdown a great proportion of this excess glycerol phosphate to glycerol and divert it outside the cell, thus protecting the insulin producing beta cells of pancreas and various organs from toxic effects of high glucose levels,” said Marc Prentki, a principal investigator at the CRCHUM and a professor at the University of Montreal.

Mammalian cells use glucose and fatty acids as the main nutrients. Their utilization inside cells governs many physiological processes such as insulin secretion by beta cells, production of glucose in liver, storage of fat in adipose tissue and breakdown of nutrients for energy production. Derangement of these processes leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The beta cells sense changes in blood glucose levels and produce insulin according to body demand. Insulin is an important hormone for controlling glucose and fat utilization. However, when beta cells are presented with excess glucose and fatty acids, the same nutrients become toxic and damage them, leading to their dysfunction and diabetes. When glucose is being used in cells, glycerol-3-phosphate is formed, and this molecule is central to metabolism, since it is needed for both energy production and fat formation.

“By diverting glucose as glycerol, G3PP prevents excessive formation and storage of fat and it also lowers excessive production of glucose in liver, a major problem in diabetes,” says Murthy Madiraju, a scientist at CRCHUM.

How significant are the findings? “It is extremely rare since the 1960s that a novel enzyme is discovered at the heart of metabolism of nutrients in all mammalian tissues, and likely this enzyme will be incorporated in biochemistry textbooks,” Prentki said.

“We identified the enzyme while looking for mechanisms enabling beta cells to get rid of excess glucose as glycerol,” said Murthy Madiraju. “This mechanism has also been found to be operating in liver cells, and this enzyme is present in all body tissues”.

The work offers a new therapeutic target for obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The research team is currently in the process of discovering “small molecule activators of G3PP” to treat cardiometabolic disorders. These drugs will be unique in their mode of action and first of their kind in this class of drugs. The treatment will first have to be confirmed in several animal models before drugs for human use can be developed.

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Metal cans on the rise in packaged water market


Metal cans achieved the highest volume growth of any packaging material in the packaged water category, according to Canadean’s latest soft drinks research.

Despite their negligible share, metal cans managed to increase by 17% in the global packaged water market and are slowly beginning to register more significant regional volumes. Metal moved up to third place in West Europe, overtaking HDPE, and expanded by more than 34% in North America. This trend has also been evident in Latin America where cans grew by 11% thanks to the success of the 23.7cl size in Mexico. Perrier also launched a 25cl can in Brazil targeted at World Cup consumers.

“In an increasing range of markets the growth of metal cans is driven by the success of flavoured sparkling water, mimicking the look and feel of traditional carbonates”, says Chris Strong, analyst at Canadean. By contrast, carbonates volumes held in metal cans fell by 1% in 2014 as consumers vacate the category in favour of healthier alternatives. “This is a development which is likely to continue as concerns over sugar intake increase and packaged water erodes further into the carbonates category”, adds Strong.

Metal cans offer sustainability advantages and major producers can be expected to continue to invest in developing new technologies for beverage can production, light-weighting techniques and improvement in can functionality. Offering different size formats targeting a range of consumption occasions and consumer groups – for example, smaller versions tapping into the portion control trend, slim versions for premium beverages, value added features such as resealability (e.g. Rexam’s Cap Can) and easier to pour options – all offer profitability opportunities.

In the years ahead, metal will continue to follow the growth trend in the packaged water category and is expected to increase by a further 9% during 2015. Although consumption in the traditional canned carbonates market will strengthen over the next few years, producers are seeking to take advantage of the health trend by offering innovative flavoured water alternatives. In a category where PET and other pack materials have typically held sway; there is great potential for metal cans to play a key role as new water products emerge.

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Research: label influences taste perception


Food labels influence the perception of cheese flavour, says a study carried out by Sensolab (faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University).

Researchers at Sensolab (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University) have organised a flavour experiment with young Gouda cheese for a test audience of 129 people. Without knowing it, the participants tasted the same cheese several times, but each time with a different label, such as ‘light’ or ‘reduced salt’.

The results showed that the ‘light’ label, associated with a lower fat content, led to a lower overall liking of the cheese. Cheese with a claim about reduced salt content, on the other hand, was believed to be equally as delicious as regular cheese.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the flavour that was expected with a particular tag, was experienced even more. For example: the subjects reported that the cheese tasted less salty when carrying the label ‘with reduced salt content’.

The researchers concluded that this study illustrates that flavour perception is between the ears, and that food labelling plays an important role. Food companies can take this into account, but the presented results are also interesting for health promotion purposes. If people tend to associate health labels with a lower liking, then the researchers suggest that health agencies should start to think about how the overall flavour perception could be improved. One solution, they said, is to work with more general health labels, as earlier research showed focusing on specific ingredients is not the best solution.

The research was published in the scientific journal Nutrients.

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New Study Reveals Benefits of Multi-micronutrient-fortified Milk and Cereals


Milk and cereal products fortified with iron and a combination of other micronutrients are more likely to help reduce iron-deficiency anaemia in children than foods fortified with iron alone, according to a new study commissioned by Nestle. Researchers from the Winterthur Institute of Health Economics in Switzerland analysed the combined results of 18 published trials involving a total of more than 5,400 children.

They found consumption of milk and cereal products fortified with iron and other micronutrients – such as zinc and vitamin A – were associated with a significant increase in the level of haemoglobin in young children’s blood. Anaemia – the state of having too few red blood cells and therefore too little haemoglobin – is commonly caused by a lack of iron in the diet.

The researchers found single iron-fortified products increased haemoglobin levels significantly more than similar non-fortified products. However, multi-micronutrient-fortified milk and cereals produced even more significant increases in haemoglobin than their single iron-fortified counterparts.

The study, published in the Bio Med Central Public Health journal, is believed to be the first analysis of the combined results of published studies examining the effect of micronutrient-fortified milk and cereals on the blood haemoglobin of children from the age of six months up to three years. The researchers identified about 1,000 potentially relevant trials from the last 45 years to pinpoint those suitable to include in the study.

Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency because they need higher levels of the mineral for growth. The consequences of long-term lack of iron in the diet can include impaired mental development in children, decreased physical work capacity and impaired immune function.

The researchers’ findings help to explain in biological terms why multiple, rather than single, micronutrient deficiencies are responsible for a variety of health problems.

The study was commissioned by Nestle and the Nestle Nutrition Institute. Nestle has more than 140 years’ experience in improving the micronutrient profile of food products through fortification. The company’s first fortified product was an iron-enriched version of its founder Henri Nestle’s original infant cereal ‘Farine Lactee’, launched in 1867.

Today, Nestle offers a range of products around the world fortified with micronutrients including iron and vitamin A. The company’s dairy business makes fortified, affordable milks available in more than 80 countries around the world, where they are largely consumed by pre-school children.

A non-profit organisation based in Switzerland, the Nestle Nutrition Institute is committed to fostering ‘science for better nutrition’, by sharing scientific information and educational materials with health professionals, scientists and nutrition communities in an interactive way.

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Own Label Food and Drink NPD Overtook Branded For the First Time in 2011


Latest research from Mintel reveals that for the first time, in 2011, the proportion of own label new product development (NPD) overtook branded in the UK. Historically, the proportion of new product development within food and non-alcoholic drinks has been higher for brands than for private labels. While brands held a 55% share of total NPD in 2010, the balance tipped in 2011 in favour of own labels as they accounted for 54% of NPD, compared to 46% for brands.

Today, some 57% of consumers think that own label products have improved in taste and quality, while 52% actually prefer them to brands in some cases. Furthermore, some 82% of adults think that own label products provide value for money, compared to just 16% for brands.

Today, some 80% of shoppers buy own label products (compared to 89% of consumers who buy branded goods), and retailers’ own products look set for further growth in 2012 as consumers expect to buy more of them. What is more, as many as 20% of those who buy branded products are set to buy less in the coming year.

Chris Wisson, senior food Analyst at Mintel, comments: “While there are signs that pressure on consumer budgets is slightly easing, 2012 looks set to see the majority of adults remaining watchful and discerning when shopping. Our research suggests that on balance, consumers expect to buy more standard and value own label foods while cutting back on brands.”

Mintel’s research reveals that the market for own label food and drink reached £37 billion in 2011, a 24% increase since 2006. This growth has come at a slightly faster rate in relation to the wider market, which grew by 23% over the same period. The own label market is expected to show similar growth trends in the coming years and is projected to reach £46 billion by 2016.

Today, 69% of British shoppers buy economy own label food and drink products. While there are signs of the recession easing somewhat, its continued impact is still being felt by consumers. Indeed, just 6% of adults who currently buy economy own label products expect to reduce their usage in the coming year, while one in eight (18%) current users expect to buy more in the year ahead.

Premium own labels have also fared well in recent years despite budgetary pressures and today are bought by 71% of UK consumers. Growth also looks set to continue in this segment, with 27% of adults expecting to buy more of these products in 2012 and only 12% to cut back.

The progress of own labels is such that over half (52%) of adults prefer the taste of own label products to branded equivalents in some cases, suggesting that they are increasingly becoming brands in their own right. However, despite over half of adults thinking that own label products have improved in taste and quality, 58% of adults still say that for some foods, only brands will suffice, with premium products in particular offering brands a safe haven.

UK consumers traditionally associate a wider range of positive attributes with brands than own labels, particularly being trustworthy (52%), traditional (51%) and authentic (44%), while just 2% of adults think that they are bland. However, own labels come to the fore for being family-friendly (45% versus 28% for brands) and, in particular, offering value for money (82% versus just 16% for brands). The most likely users to maintain their usage and support the own label market are men (46%), over-55s (49%), retirees (54%) and, surprisingly, ABs (48%) and households with an income of £25,000-49,999 (50%).

“Times have changed and there is no longer a perception about own label equating to lower quality. Our research shows that many affluent consumers do not necessarily dismiss own label products out of hand, but they appear to in fact be keen users in certain categories. The increasing credibility of private label products which, crucially, often undercut brands on price is a warning for brands who are under increasing pressure from consumers who are becoming more open to the idea of buying own label groceries,” Chris Wisson concludes.

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New Research by Nestle Health Science to Help Improve Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment


Prometheus Laboratories, a company acquired by Nestle Health Science, has presented new research that confirms the effectiveness of its new diagnostic test designed to improve treatment management for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The test is designed to predict inflammatory bowel disease activity and measure the impact of infliximab, a drug used by patients to help prevent inflammation.

Over time, some of them become less responsive to the drug so it is vital for medical practitioners to be able to diagnose this early on so a different course of treatment can be found. The data, reported by the company at this year’s Digestive Disease Week event in San Diego, in the United States, provides evidence of the effectiveness of the company’s new monitoring test which will be launched later this year.

Nestle Health Science acquired Prometheus Laboratories mid 2011. Prometheus specialises in diagnostics and in-licensed specialty pharmaceuticals in gastroenterology and oncology and focuses on conditions such as IBD.

The test should help ensure patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disorders can be treated effectively. These include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease which typically cause abdominal pain, fever and diarrhoea.

IBD is clinically difficult to diagnose and manage, with many patients requiring long term medical care. Currently the disease has no cure.  Recent statistics from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America estimate that about 1.4 million people in the country suffer from the disease.

The new research into how to manage IBD supports Nestlé Health Science’s long-term vision and ambition to develop science-based personalised nutritional solutions. The company, established last year, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nestlé.

Building on its core HealthCare Nutrition business, Nestlé Health Science offers nutritional solutions for people with specific dietary needs related to illnesses, disease states or special challenges of different life stages. Nestlé Health Science has access to external scientific and technological know-how through Nestlé’s innovation network as well as a number of venture capital funds in which the group has interests.

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Grass-fed Beef is Best


Feeding cattle on grass throughout their lifecycle is the most environmentally sustainable way to rear beef, according to new research commissioned by the National Trust in Britain.

One of the biggest global challenges is how to increase food security whilst reducing the environmental impacts of food production. Livestock – like cattle and sheep – produce high levels of methane as part of the process of digesting grass. This has led to suggestions that intensive production methods – where cattle are fed largely on cereals, producing less methane – should be preferred over more traditional grass fed livestock farming.

However,  research at ten National Trust farms shows that while the carbon footprint of grass-fed and conventional farms were comparable, the carbon sequestration contribution of well-managed grass pasture on the less intensive systems reduced net emissions by up to 94 per cent, even resulting in a carbon ‘net gain’ in upland areas. The farms that had recently converted to organic status showed even greater gains.

Rob Macklin, national agriculture and food adviser at the National Trust, comments: “The results are contrary to recent thinking that livestock farming methods must intensify further in order to lessen carbon emissions to feed an ever-increasing world population. Maximising carbon efficiency alone is too simplistic. Many less intensive livestock systems would be classed ‘inefficient’ on the carbon emission scale, yet are much less reliant on artificial inputs and tend to have less impacts on water quality, loss of soil organic matter and reduced biodiversity.”

He adds: “We believe that optimised beef production – deliberately accommodating less than maximum output in order to secure stronger and broader ecosystem protection – is the best sustainable use for the grasslands in our care. The debate about climate change and food often calls for a reduction of meat consumption and a more plant based diet, but this often overlooks the fact that many grasslands are unsuitable for continuous arable cropping.”

Other recent research found that the health benefits of beef (and lamb) are greater when animals are fed totally on grass – their natural food. Omega 3 fatty acids – recognised as essential to good physical and mental health – are higher in meat from grass and the levels of saturated fat are a third of grain fed beef.

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New Technology Transfer Strategy For Irish Food Companies


A new Food Technology and Knowledge Transfer Strategy to support Irish food companies has been launched in Dublin by Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority. Teagasc’s Portfolio of Food Technologies opens five gateways, or opportunities for food companies to utilize and exploit. These include a comprehensive resource of technology offers, updates, services, expertise and scientists, available to food companies to actively engage with.

Research is recognised as the path to innovation and commercialization and Teagasc already engages with over 300 Irish food companies annually, helping them to develop, create value and improve competitiveness. Teagasc invests over Eur15 million annually in food research to support science based innovation in the food sector. Working in collaboration with other scientific organisations, government departments and state agencies, Teagasc is developing scientific platforms to deliver solutions for the food industry.

The five Teagasc Food Technology Gateways are:

* Technology Offers; Patent applications have been filed for some technologies and partner companies are being sought for further development and licensing.

* Technology Updates: As new technologies are progressed and discovered regular updates will flow out to potential industry partners.

* Technology Services: Pilot Plant facilities in Moorepark and Ashtown are available and easily accessible by food companies.

* Technology Expertise: Technology services, expertise, facilities, technical training, consultancy and product development services are offered.

* Technology Profiles: Teagasc scientists work in collaboration with some of the best scientists and researchers from around the world.

The Teagasc Food Technology and Knowledge Transfer Strategy is the start of a continuous process, with live offers, regular updates and follow through for companies who are seeking innovative solutions in the areas of food bioscience, chemistry and technology, industry and development and food safety.

Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle says: “Achieving the ambitious targets in Food Harvest 2020 will require significant investment by food companies in innovation. Teagasc research can help food companies develop a stronger culture of innovation to achieve growth and enhance employment opportunities. This new technology transfer strategy supports the agri-food sector to turn knowledge into commercial products and processes.”

The Irish food sector had a turnover of Eur24 billion and exports of Eur8.85 billion in 2011. Two thirds of those exports came from indigenous Irish owned companies.

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Cooking Skills Off the Boil – A Quarter of 16-24s Find it Hard to Cook Pasta


While celebrity chefs across Britain have spent recent years on a mission to make cooking more accessible, it appears youngsters still have a way to go when cooking the basic stuff. Indeed, according to latest research from Mintel, nearly a quarter (22%) of 16-24s who have eaten pasta in the past year agree that it is difficult to cook pasta to the correct texture.

Furthermore, over one in five (23%) of adults who have eaten rice in the past year claim to find it hard to cook rice properly, rising to nearly two fifths (37%) of 16-24s. The use of microwaveable rice as a ‘sure to succeed’ alternative remains hampered by the 52% of rice users seeing it as failing to match dry rice on taste.

Some 34% of men agree that fresh pasta is easier to prepare than dry pasta – rising to 39% of 16-24s. By contrast, women, are more confident cooking dry pasta with only 28% agreeing fresh is easier to prepare.

Alex Beckett, senior food analyst at Mintel, comments: “It appears that the efforts of some of Britain’s best loved chefs to make cooking easier and more accessible have gone rather off the boil. Indeed, it seems that this lack of confidence in being able to cook has resulted in an added cost being passed on, as consumers stump up for pricier chilled pasta as an easier option. That one in four rice users find it difficult to prepare rice properly is a likely barrier to more frequent usage of cheaper, dry rice. Knowing the basics of cooking from scratch rather than tearing open a pre-prepared packet could help young people improve their health as well as their bank balance.”

The lack of culinary skills among younger consumers contrast with the know-how of Britain’s older generation. Just 9% of rice users aged over-65 admit they find it hard to cook rice compared with 37% of 16-24s. And over-55s are the least likely age group to admit pasta is difficult to cook, with just 4% of consumers in the age group claiming to think so, as opposed to 22% of 16-24s.

Alex Beckett continues: “Britain’s more mature generations appear to be the most confident in the kitchen, suggesting our growing reliance on quick-fix foods is to the detriment of basic cooking skills. Television networks are crammed with cookery shows but their main aim is to entertain rather than educate.”

Pasta’s place as a staple of the nation is reflected in the fact that nearly a third (30%) of Brits eat it 2-3 times a week – rising to 38% of those aged 16-24. But while instant packet pasta may be perceived to be the domain of younger consumers – Mintel’s research reveals this is not the case. Indeed, while 26% of Brits eat packet pasta – this rises to 33% of those aged 25-44 – compared to just 28% of those aged 16-24.

The pasta and rice markets have benefited since recession as being an affordable meal solution – with 49% sales growth recorded for pasta 2006-11 and 26% for rice in the same period. Meanwhile, price hikes may have hit the pasta category in 2011, but a massive 86% of users agree pasta is still a cheap meal solution, reflected in its resilience even as household budgets have come under pressure. This rises to 89% of 16-24s and 45-54s and drops to 81% of 55-64s. And it appears its success is set to continue.

Based on anticipated hikes in underlying wheat and rice prices and growth in age groups engaged with the markets, Mintel expects the pasta market to grow by 52% to £1.35 billion, the rice market to grow by 24% to £509 million and the noodles market to grow by 42% to £306 million between 2011 and 2016.

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Retail Squeeze Intensifies on UK Food and Drink Manufacturers


Within British manufacturing, particular pressure is being felt by companies that supply the embattled UK retail sector. Some of the worst affected companies are food, non-alcoholic beverages and clothing manufacturers, finds new research from Company Watch. Company Watch, the financial health monitoring specialists, analysed the published financial accounts of the largest 681 UK food, non-alcoholic beverage and clothing manufacturers. It found that 173 companies or 25% are currently in its Warning Area, with health ratings of 25 or below out of 100.

The Company Watch research showed that many retail manufacturers in the Warning Area, while having acceptable levels of profitability, had weak balance sheets that lacked the strength necessary to support their trading. This makes these companies particularly vulnerable if their profits dry up in the face of sector pressures for lower prices from their powerful retail customers at the same time that their input costs are rising.

A particular feature of balance sheets of retail manufacturers is the prevalence of intangible assets, usually goodwill from past acquisitions, which have limited appeal to funders such as banks, especially during difficult trading conditions.

Examples of lowly rated companies include Premier Foods, the owner of many famous food brands including Hovis, Mr Kipling and Oxo, which has a Company Watch H-Score of only 14 out of 100 and has been in the Warning Area consistently for the past five years.

Also, Dairy Crest, makers of Cathedral City cheese and the Utterly Butterly and Clover spreads, fell into the Warning Area after its March 2011 results with an H-Score of 20 and was pushed deeper when its interim figures to September 2011 produced a lower H–Score of 16.

Drinks manufacturer Britvic, owners of the Robinsons, Tango and 7Up brands, is another manufacturer which is in the Warning Area with a current H-Score of just 17/100, a financial rating partially driven by the high level of intangible assets which are almost 15 times the company’s net worth.

Nick Hood, head of external affairs at Company Watch, comments: “The accounts we examined are mainly for periods ending during the latter part of 2010 and early 2011, which means that these figures do not yet reflect fully the upward pressure on manufacturers costs from rising energy and commodity prices. Once these feed through, we can expect the financial health of the sector to deteriorate further, with more manufacturing companies falling into our Warning Area and becoming vulnerable to insolvency or restructuring.”

Statistics on all UK companies for the past 14 years show that one in four companies in this ‘red danger zone’ have either gone on to file for insolvency or have undergone a major financial restructuring.

The analysis is based on each company’s last five years published accounts as processed through the Company Watch “H-Score” risk assessment model. The average H-Score across the whole retail manufacturers sample was 52 out of a maximum 100.

Nick Hood continues: “Our survey highlights the problems facing retail suppliers. They, like the retailers themselves, are suffering a knock on effect from a fall in consumer confidence and reduced disposable incomes of shoppers. At a time when like-for-like sales are falling and consumers are demanding ever more value for money through deep discounts, retailers are inevitably making most suppliers share the pain.”

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Raising Awareness About Osteoporosis


Nestle is partnering with the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) to help make consumers more aware of what can be done to prevent Osteoporosis. It is a disease in which bones become fragile, weak and prone to fractures, and is a growing problem in both emerging and developed countries.

Recent statistics released by the IOF showed that osteoporosis affects about one in three women over the age of 50, with over 200 million women affected worldwide. It also affects men, as one in five over the age of 50 is at risk of an osteoporotic fracture.

“The new partnership aims to help increase awareness about the ‘silent epidemic’ of osteoporosis,” says Emma Jacquier, Nutrition and Science Manager for the Dairy Strategic Business Unit at Nestle. “Staying in good health at a low cost is becoming vitally important for the public, governments and businesses as the world’s population ages.”

Nestle’s partnership with the IOF will highlight ways in which consumers can protect themselves from the disease. “Eating the right foods and staying physically active are important in order to age healthily,” explains Patrice McKenney, chief executive of the IOF. “People of all ages can help promote good bone and muscle health by ensuring that they have a healthy diet rich in calcium and protein, enough vitamin D and taking regular weight-bearing exercise.”

Activities have begun in Argentina, Brazil, China, Indonesia and the Philippines. Nestle is offering people bone-health checks and access to expert advice on health and nutrition in supermarkets and stores. Other activities and initiatives will be organised to highlight World Osteoporosis Day in October.

The partnership is Nestle’s latest commitment to raise awareness about osteoporosis. Last year the company led a study on vitamin D deficiency in office workers in Australia. Vitamin D is produced naturally by the body through exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Deficiency in this vitamin puts them at greater risk of osteoporosis, muscle weakness and can be implicated in some other chronic diseases. Research revealed that one in three workers had a deficiency in this essential micronutrient during the summer.

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Dark Chocolate May Help to Reduce Stress Levels


Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate every day can help reduce the hormones in your body that make you feel stressed, according to a Nestle study. Scientists from the Nestle Research Center (NRC) in Switzerland examined the biochemical basis for chocolate’s reputation as a comfort food. Their research revealed that the chemical compounds contained in dark chocolate may improve the disposition of people who experience higher levels of stress.

The Nestle study into dark chocolate’s effect on stress monitored 30 healthy adults for two weeks. Every day each participant was given 40g of dark chocolate – about four squares of a large bar. They consumed half the chocolate in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.

Those participants who recorded higher levels of stress at the beginning of the study experienced a reduction in the chemical reactions in their bodies associated with stress. The results showed the level of stress-related hormones reduced in all participants, including those who were not assessed as stressed at the start.

“When you are stressed your body’s chemistry becomes unbalanced,” explains Nestle scientist Dr Sunil Kochhar, who led the study. “In the long term this can be harmful to your health. We have found that eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis can help to balance the body chemistry of people who are stressed. It is possible to speculate that making dark chocolate part of a healthy balanced diet might lead to a chemical composition in the body that is better able to handle stress.”

The dark chocolate used in the study was made of up to 75% cocoa solids. These are rich in chemical compounds that affect your metabolism, the chemical reactions that happen in your cells.

“Anxiety and stress can have considerable effects on people’s wellbeing, causing a variety of physical and emotional conditions, and sometimes leading to more serious health concerns,” Dr Kochhar continues. “These results strongly support our ongoing research efforts to establish the impact of certain food ingredients on human metabolism, and how they affect our health.”

The study, published in the Journal of Proteome Research, is one of several conducted by the Nestle Research Center into the emerging health benefits of dark chocolate. Nestle scientists collaborated with experts from BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, and Berlin-based scientific organisation Metanomics on an earlier study. This examined the effects on microorganisms in the human gut associated with eating dark chocolate regularly.

The NRC has also collaborated with Loughborough University, a leading sports science institute in the UK, to investigate the use of dark chocolate as an effective snack alternative for active people.

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China’s Grocery Market Now Biggest in the World


China has overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest food and grocery retail market, according to the latest research published by IGD. The Chinese grocery sector was worth £607 billion at the end of 2011, while the US market came in at £572 billion over the same period and is the second largest in the world. By 2015, the Chinese market is forecast to be worth £918 billion compared to a US value of £675 billion.

Between 2011 and 2015, the US grocery retail market should see growth accelerating to reach a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.2%, but China’s rate will be double this at 10.9% over the same period.

According to IGD, all the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations will be in the top five grocery markets by 2015, with India displacing Japan as the world’s third largest grocery market by value. The UK grocery market will be the eighth largest in the world by 2015, worth £162 billion, and achieving a CAGR of 3.2% between 2011 and 2015

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, comments: “China’s grocery growth story is phenomenal. Between 2006 and 2015, the Chinese grocery market is forecast to triple in value and to be worth nearly a trillion pounds. This rapid expansion has been fuelled by three main factors: rapid economic growth, population and rising food inflation.”

She continues: “Despite its various logistical and bureaucratic challenges, China is a crucial growth market for many of the world’s largest grocery retailers. Even beyond the major cities there are huge opportunities – forecasts suggest there will be over 200 Chinese cities with a population over a million people by 2025. But given China’s size and diversity, it’s essential not to treat the country as one homogenous market.”

In the UK, IGD expects the online sector to perform well, with internet sales boosted by the increasing use of smartphones and tablet computers. Convenience stores, with their increased focus fresh food and tailoring the store depending on local demand, are also expected to be key performer.

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Cracking Idea For Egg Shell Recycling Receives Food and Drink iNet Support


Scientists and food industry experts in the UK are hatching a plan to turn egg shells into plastics that could be used to manufacture anything from food packaging to construction materials. They also hope to extract material from egg shells that may prove valuable in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Food and Drink iNet is funding a research project at the University of Leicester which is looking at eggs and egg shells in a new light. The project aims to find useful ways of recycling egg shells which are currently regarded as waste by food producers and which they have to pay to dispose of in landfill.

The Food and Drink iNet, which is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, with a team of advisors across the East Midlands, is managed by a consortium, led by The Food and Drink Forum and including Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham. It coordinates specialist support to stimulate innovation in the food and drink sector to increase competitiveness, sustainability and growth.

Scientists in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester, specialising in ‘green chemistry’ and sustainable materials are looking at how to extract glycosaminoglycans, proteins which are found in egg shells. GAGs are used in numerous biomedical applications and could prove useful in the pharmaceutical industry.

They are also hoping to identify ways to use the egg shells as fillers which could be used to ‘bulk up’ different grades of plastic, with all sorts of applications from ready meal food trays to shop fittings. The ultimate goal is to use the egg shells in packaging to protect egg products – giving a second lease of life to the egg shell in the very role it was created for – a true case of recycling.

The research team led by Professor Andy Abbott, professor of physical chemistry and head of the Chemistry Department at the University of Leicester, is working in conjunction with Philip Chatfield, director of Ashby de la Zouch project management company Integrated Food Projects. The project plans to involve a number of small and medium-sized egg-related companies in the East Midlands region.

For instance, Leicester hard-boiled egg and mayonnaise manufacturer Just Egg uses around 1.3 million eggs every week, creating around 10 tonnes of egg shells. Currently the firm spends approximately £30,000 a year sending about 480 tonnes of shells to landfill for disposal.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Food and Drink iNet has awarded almost £20,000 towards the project under its Collaborate to Innovate programme, which will include the sharing of the results with food manufacturers across the East Midlands and beyond. Interested companies are invited to get in touch.

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Nestle Uses Avalanche Research to Create Better Ice Cream


Nestle is using the same specialised technology avalanche experts use to study snow to improve the quality of its ice cream. The company’s scientists are working with the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Switzerland (SLF) to examine the microscopic ice crystals found in both snow and ice cream.

Their research relies on the only x-ray tomography machine in the world that allows long-term observation of tiny particles in a substance at temperatures of zero to minus 20 degrees Celsius. Experts at the SLF monitor the evolution of ice crystals in snow and how this affects its properties: key factors for understanding avalanche formation.

Ice crystals affect the properties of ice cream in a similar way, altering its texture and structure as they grow and change shape. The collaboration aims to help Nestle to solve a universal problem for all ice cream manufacturers: how to maintain the product’s original texture and structure for longer.

“Ice cream is an inherently unstable substance,” says Dr Hans Jorg Limbach, a scientist at the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland. “As part of its natural ageing process, the ice will separate from the original ingredients such as cream and sugar. When you store ice cream in the freezer at home for a prolonged period, you will eventually see ice crystals begin to form in the product. This is water from the ice cream itself.”

Across the ice cream industry, consumer feedback about boxed ice cream that is stored in the freezer often relates to its texture and appearance.

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European Research Contract to Develop Innovative Meat-Coating


UK pharmaceutical manufacturer Pepceuticals has been awarded a European research contract to develop an edible coating for fresh meat which will increase the shelf-life of the product and ultimately reduce the need for oil-based plastic packaging. Leicester-based Pepceuticals is the only UK partner in this European research collaboration worth Eur1.6 million which is set to run for 18 months. The aim of the EU-funded project is to create a safe, biologically-active film which doesn’t affect the fresh meat and will replace the familiar plastic vacuum packs.

According to research by WRAP (June 2011)¹, UK consumers spend more money on meat than any other food item, and households are wasting around 570,000 tonnes of fresh meat each year, of which 260,000 (46%) is avoidable with a value of about £1.3 billion. The potential to apply an antimicrobial film in the processing factory should significantly prevent the deterioration of the fresh meat product, and save waste. It will revolutionise the look and feel of the traditional meat counter.

The same WRAP research reports that around 110,000 tonnes of packaging waste is produced, of which 81,000 tonnes (73%) are land filled. The majority of this material is cardboard and plastic that is mildly contaminated with blood following contact with meat. The need to improve the disposal of this material is a widely recognised issue so, if successful, this research project could provide a sustainable solution to the problem.

Pepceuticals managing director, Dr Kamal Badiani, says: “Antimicrobial peptides are widely used in the healthcare sector for tackling infection, so it is a natural progression to apply the same chemistry to food preservation.”

Pepceuticals, the UK’s leading manufacturer of peptides, was selected from a competitive tender process organised by business support organisation PERA, and now holds the license to sell the resulting meat-coat product across the UK. This is a significant development for the business and for the UK meat processing industry.

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£15 Million to Support Pioneering R&D in UK Food Manufacturing


From using sound waves to cook, to foods that fill you up faster – up to £15 million is on offer to anyone who can come up with ways to transform UK food manufacturing and reduce waste. The money is part of a Government-backed drive to support pioneering research and development that unlocks the huge potential of the UK’s farming, food and drink sector, and helps drive economic recovery.

“The UK has a world class reputation for innovation. I want to take this strength and use it to the economic advantage of the whole country,” explains Food and Farming Minister Jim Paice. “That’s why the Government is investing £15 million in the development of cutting edge ideas that increase efficiency and reduce waste in farming, food and drink production and manufacturing.”

Two competitions are being launched. Funded in combination by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Scottish Government, the aim is to help industry develop new ideas and products that improve food production and manufacturing while having less impact on the environment.

Previous recipients of this type of award include a team at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, which used ultrasound to improve the quality and nutritional value of bread and cakes while making production more energy efficient.

Up to £15 million in grants is on offer to bigger businesses to invest in projects that will increase the efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness of food processing and manufacturing. A further £500,000 will also be available to small and medium sized businesses, through grants of up to £25,000.

The farming, food and drink sector contributed £87 billion to the UK economy in 2010. It provides around 3.7 million jobs. Over 6,000 new products come to market every year showing the huge potential for growth within the sector. Defra spends approximately £65m a year on farming, food and drink research and development, while the UK Government overall spends £400 million.

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Nestle Strengthens R&D For Fast-growing Markets in Asia


Nestle is strengthening its global research programme by expanding its research and development centre in Singapore. The centre, which serves fast-growing markets in the Asia-Pacific region, leads Nestle’s expertise in micronutrient fortification and Popularly Positioned Products (PPPs). PPPs are food and beverages that provide nutritional value at an affordable cost, in an appropriate size, for lower income consumers.

Those developed by the company’s experts in Singapore include Maggi Masala-ae-Magic, a spice mix for consumers in India fortified with iron, iodine, and vitamin A, and iron-fortified Maggi Sajian Leluarga noodles for families in Malaysia.

Nestle’s investment of almost SFr4 million (Eur3.3 million)) in the centre will support product development in a number of categories including culinary, malt beverages and coffee mixes.

Nestle’s research and development centre in Singapore is part of the company’s global network of 32 R&D centres. Its success led the company to establish two other R&D centres in Asia: in Shanghai in 2001 and in Beijing in 2008. Products developed in Singapore are sold in 16 countries including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.

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Young British Diners Demanding More From Food Venues as Eating Out Rises


Young British people are eating out more than they were two years ago, despite the economic squeeze. However they expect more for their money and are increasingly demanding about the quality of food and service they receive, according to a new report from online customer insight and research specialist Tpoll.

The Eating Out Report 2011/2012: ‘All wrapped up in guilt’, compiled by Tpoll with responses from online surveys of 16-24 year olds (also known as Generation Y), found that nearly half of respondents – 42 percent – are eating out more than they did two years ago. The trend coincides with a drop in alcohol consumption among this demographic as prices of alcoholic drinks and spirits rise, which could be making the eating-out occasion appear more affordable in comparison.

Steve Mellor, qualitative director at Tpoll, comments: “Whilst drinking, smoking, clothing and going out to eat tend to come much further down the list of priorities than ever before, eating out has actually risen during this period – and now represents a good-value activity compared with other ways to socialise, like a night in the pub.”

But young people are getting more demanding about the quality of food and service they receive and placing food venues under the microscope to ensure they get value for money.

Nando’s and Costa are winners with this segment of the population because they combine a good-value heritage with a ‘buzzing’ atmosphere. Also doing well on the sociability measure is Pizza Express – 46 percent of respondents say they visit more often than they did two years ago, against an overall average of 42 per cent. Tpoll’s Steve Mellor says this is indicative of how well Pizza Express has tapped into sociability and is maintaining this brand trait. The brand has also been at the fore of promotional discounting which has driven associations with value.

Health emerges as a complex issue for young people. Qualitatively, health is not felt to be a core needstate when eating out, but the Tpoll research indicates a level of guilt felt by young people when choosing unhealthy food, with venues that are not offering enough health cues, or delivering low prices, tending to be less attractive to this segment.

Steve Mellor explains: “When young people are considering health, it tends to manifest as a concern about how they look. Parliament has recently launched an All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image due to the increasing preoccupation on body image by youth. The group highlights how ‘half of young people have been on a diet’, ‘one in 10 would take laxatives to lose weight’ and ‘the number of young men taking steroids has doubled in the last 10 years’ (the findings and recommendations will be shared in 2012).”

According to the Eating Out report, areas for improvement at restaurants include: providing healthier options; providing a greater number of cheaper options on menus; and promotional mechanics that tap into group bookings.

Brands that were associated with health included Subway, the sandwich chain which has a healthy image for some people partly because of the prevalence of salad and also because of its build-your-own option, allowing young people to choose be healthy.

The report also reveals engagement in social media is strong with eating out brands through either Twitter or Facebook .The list of brands followed included: McDonalds (Facebook); Yo Sushi! (Facebook, Twitter); Nando’s (Facebook, Twitter); Greggs (Twitter); Pizza Hut (Twitter) and Dominos (Facebook).

Importantly, of the brands that are followed, all are purchased from, confirming that when such relationships are rightly handled, they can yield dividends.

Steve Mellor concludes: “Young people represent an important and growing customer segment. It’s important to recognise that social media is primarily felt to be owned by consumers (especially youth), rather than the media owner or companies that attempt to engage fans and followers. From a tangible perspective, youth want to see the financial benefits of being involved with eating out brands in social media. Our research suggests the use of social media to generate online conversation will lead to a closer, more loyal, brand rich, intimate and modern relationship with eating-out brands.”

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New Year Dieting Dilemma for British Consumers


Despite having the resolve to lose weight, British consumers may not know how to go about it, reveals new research from Mintel. Indeed, just six in 10 (61) UK consumers say that they know what they should and should not eat to lose weight – dropping to only 55% of men.

Furthermore, over one in 10 Brits (12%) say that “I’d like to lose weight, but I don’t know how” and just 41% say that they know how many calories a day they should consume. The number of adults who try to eat a low-fat diet has also dropped between 2008-11, from 44% to for 37% of consumers.

Alex Beckett, senior food analyst at Mintel, comments: “Our research suggests that consumers are going on diets despite being uncertain about what they should eat. It also implies that advice surrounding calorie consumption is failing to register among a sizeable chunk of the population – especially men. This presents manufacturers with an opportunity to take the lead and help consumers understand the importance of calories via educational marketing activity. Consumers’ uncertainty about calories and what foods to avoid to lose weight stems from a wider lack of clarity about what is and isn’t healthy. To excite sales growth, diet food manufacturers must tackle this consumer confusion in a way that all people will relate to.”

Overall, the diet and weight control foods market is currently valued £1.6 million – by 2016, Mintel forecasts the market to grow 7% to £1.7 million. Today, half (50%) of consumers claim that “most of the time” they eat carefully to help control their weight. But in spite of the economic downturn and its aftermath, there has been little change in the number of consumers who have been on a diet, though the share of those who often go on diets has marginally declined, by 0.8 percentage points, between 2007 and 2011. However, the uncertain economic outlook may have an impact on future growth as consumers grow more concerned about their financial situation than their weight. Indeed, Mintel’s research reveals that “my own financial situation” was deemed a personal concern by 59% of adults in 2011 whereas “my health” was deemed a concern by just 41%.

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Mixed Findings About Buying British Food


Almost two thirds of people agree that they like to buy British food to support the local economy (65%). However, not as many follow through on these intentions as only just over a third (37%) try to ensure that the majority of their groceries are British sourced, according to a recent survey by Ipsos MORI, the leading UK research company.

 

The population is not clear about the expensiveness of British compared to imported food – 37% agree it is no more expensive – however 26% disagree, with the same number undecided. Similarly 39% sit on the fence when asked about their opinion of the taste of British food.

 

Interest in British food is very strongly skewed toward the older age group. Those who buy a majority of groceries from British sources tend to be older (20% of 55+ yrs compared to 7% of 15-34 yrs). They also seem to want to support the local economy through the purchase of food (34% of 55+ yrs compared to 10% of 15-24 yrs). This group also tend to pay more attention to where groceries are sourced generally. This is a somewhat worrying trend as younger people seem to be less aware and engaged in the provenance of their food.

 

The population of London is more apathetic about buying British food in order to support the local economy, than anywhere else in the UK. They are also less likely to pay attention to where groceries are sourced than other regions. London residents are least likely to buy British sourced groceries – only 38% agree – compared to 51% in the Midlands and 54% in the rest of South England.

 

Co-op main shoppers are more likely to buy mainly British food, than shoppers at Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s or Tesco (78% versus 45-58%).

 

“This survey confirms that the public clearly see British food as great value for money personally and great value for the economy locally, but it is still clear that other factors influence how people fill their shopping basket. The big challenge now is getting a wider audience to buy British,” says John Coll, director of Ipsos Marketing.

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Research Finds Probiotic Bacteria Lessen Depression


Probiotic bacteria have the potential to alter brain neurochemistry and treat anxiety and depression-related disorders, according to research just published in the prestigious international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

 

The research, carried out by Dr Javier Bravo, and Professor John Cryan at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) in University College Cork in Ireland, along with collaborators from the Brain-Body Institute at McMaster University in Canada, demonstrated that mice fed with Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 showed significantly fewer stress, anxiety and depression-related behaviours than those fed with just broth. Moreover, ingestion of the bacteria resulted in significantly lower levels of the stress-induced hormone, corticosterone.

 

Professor John Cryan, Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, UCC.

“This study identifies potential brain targets and a pathway through which certain gut organisms can alter mouse brain chemistry and behaviour. These findings highlight the important role that gut bacteria play in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, the gut–brain axis, and opens up the intriguing opportunity of developing unique microbial-based strategies for treatment for stress-related psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression”, says John Cryan, senior author on the publication and Professor of Anatomy and Principal Investigator at the Science Foundation Ireland funded Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, at UCC. The APC researchers included Dr Helene Savignac and Professor Ted Dinan.

 

The researchers also showed that regular feeding with the Lactobacillus strain caused changes in the expression of receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA in the mouse brain, which is the first time that it has been demonstrated that potential probiotics have a direct effect on brain chemistry in normal situations. The authors also established that the vagus nerve is the main relay between the microbiome (bacteria in the gut) and the brain. This three way communication system is known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis and these findings highlight the important role of bacteria in the communication between the gut and the brain, and suggest that certain probiotic organisms may prove to be useful adjunct therapies in stress-related psychiatric disorders.

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Nestle Partners With King’s College London on Food and Gene Research


The Nestle Research Center in Switzerland will collaborate with King’s College London on a joint research project into the relationship between food and genes. Due to begin later this year, the six-month project will examine the interactions between genes and food ingredients, and how they can affect human health.

It will look at how our genes and their encoded proteins determine important bodily functions; including how efficiently we metabolise food, respond to the environment and detoxify our bodies from potentially harmful agents.

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Private Label Will Control 50% Share of Food Retail Market by 2025


The global market share of private/own label food products is set to double from the current 25% to 50% in 2025. However, A-brands will retain their importance for retailers to anchor categories’ price levels and give consumers choice and familiarity, according to a recent global research report titled ‘Private label vs Brands – an inseparable combination’ from Rabobank’s Food and Agri Research division.

The report shows that smaller secondary brands (B-brands) will have to strategically reposition to avoid being squeezed out of the market. Two strategies are open to B-brands suppliers – either invest in quality and target the premium market, or specialise in private label. A consolidation spree among private label specialists is inevitable to achieve economies of scale and to reduce the cost base.

Rabobank’s conclusion that global private-label penetration will reach50% by 2025 is based on assumptions about food retail market structure. The report lists 11 drivers for private-label growth including:

* Continued industry consolidation in developed food retail markets (Western Europe, the US and Australia).

* Adoption of modern retail in developing markets (CEE, Russia and Turkey).

* Increased consumer acceptance of private label following the recession.

* Further growth of the hard discount segment.

* Professionalisation of private label supply.

Author of the report Sebastiaan Schreijen, associate director processed food & retail at Rabobank, comments: “Our research shows that private label and A-brands are an inseparable combination. Like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other. But where two’s company, three’s a crowd. This report is an early warning to B-brand suppliers to adapt their strategies to survive.”

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Taste is More Important Than Price When Shopping For Fruit


New research shows that flavour and taste remain the most important factors to British shoppers when buying fruit, and the majority consider fruit quality as a key consideration when they decide where they shop.

The quantitative survey was conducted as part of South Africa’s Beautiful Country Beautiful Fruit promotional campaign to develop qualitative research carried out in 2010. It further investigates UK consumers’ purchasing habits and perceptions of South Africa, and explores consumer reactions to communication and promotional activity.

According to the research, consumers rank flavour above price when it comes to picking up fruit from the supermarket shelf, with appearance, juiciness and variety also important. When asked why they eat fresh fruit, consumers also rank taste highly, along with healthy snacking and its contribution five-a-day.

With over 80% of shoppers considering the quality of fruit as an important factor in deciding where they shop, nearly a third rate the quality of fruit in their regular supermarket as average or poor; and nearly 40% would shop somewhere else if they have a bad experience with fruit.

When asked about country of origin, most consumers would value clearer identification at the point-of-sale to help them make an informed choice with their purchase, with women and older shoppers finding this of particular value. In-store promotional activity also performed well, with over 60% of shoppers more likely to purchase if given the opportunity to taste the fruit in their supermarket before they bought.

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Storm Brewing For UK Tea Industry


Latest research from Mintel finds that while 88% of British consumers aged over 65 drink tea, penetration drops to 73% for younger (15-34 year-old) adults. With ever increasing competition in the soft drink sector and more consumers dropping out of the category than are actually entering it, the next generation of traditional tea drinkers may be in jeopardy.

Furthermore, Mintel’s exclusive consumer research shows that younger consumers are less enamoured with ‘traditional English tea’ than their older counterparts – just over half of 16-24 year olds (53%) drink it regularly (ie at least once a week), compared to 68% of over 55s. As a result, despite tea having a large penetration in the UK market with eight in ten UK adults drinking it, tea has been experiencing a long-term decline in usage. Indeed, the proportion of UK adults who drink tea has dropped from 87% in 2006 to 81% in 2010 – at a time when overall soft drinks revenue is on the increase.

With the market value of tea currently standing at £647m, the standard (or ‘traditional English breakfast’) tea segment which accounts for by far the majority (89%) of the value sales in the tea market, has seen declining volume sales as a result of failing to resonate as strongly with the younger generation as it does with the old. Instead, this generation are much more likely to be among the 23% of the population who drink standard ‘English breakfast’ tea alongside newer varieties such as herbal/fruit tea (eg green tea/rooibos) and speciality (eg Assam, Earl Grey) teas. A third (34%) of 16-34 year-old tea drinkers drink all three tea types, but among consumers aged over 55 brought up on traditional tea, this figure declines to 18%.

“Tea is capitalising on the short-term increase in the share of over-65s but failing to convert the younger generations in significant enough numbers to replace those falling out of the market. Our consumer research identifies a younger tea drinking generation who differ markedly from previous generations of tea drinkers. They have a much more adventurous attitude towards drinking tea, enjoying the variety of flitting between standard ‘English’ breakfast, speciality and herbal tea rather than just sticking to one type; and they are keen to try new tea brands and new flavours,” explains Jonny Forsyth, senior drinks analyst at Mintel.

And it seems the decline is not attributable to economic uncertainty either. Ironically, the recent economic downturn has been a short term help to sales. While value sales continue to rise due to rising commodity prices, volume sales from 2005-08 declined 5% (from 82.5m kgs to 78.5m), but 2008/10 saw an 8% increase to 84.6m as consumers spent more time at home and took solace in cheap indulgences – especially ones as psychologically reassuring as standard tea.

“The recent economic climate has played a big part in consumer attitudes to tea and two of the worst winters on record have also assisted the market, not to mention heavy discounting activity. However, the sector remains too reliant on traditional English breakfast tea, which is failing to resonate with younger consumers, and needs to do more to attract new consumers to the health benefits of herbal tea and the premium tasting benefits of speciality.” Jonny Forsyth adds.

Meanwhile, herbal tea hit the £80m mark for the first time in 2010 (up from £73m in 2009) and has grown its share of the market to stand at 11%. However, Mintel’s research reveals that almost a third (31%) of standard tea drinkers do not believe in the health benefits of herbal/fruit teas, which is a problem for a niche sector trying to broaden its user base.

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British Shoppers Choose Wine by Colour Before Special Offers or Price


47% of British adults who buy wine for themselves or others in supermarkets or off licences say that the first thing they decide upon is colour, according to new research published by the Wilson Drinks Report. 18% choose special offers on wine first, 13% choose the retail selling price, 9% decide on grape variety, 6% choose country of origin whilst only 3% choose the brand of the wine.

New consumer research carried out by YouGov for the Wilson Drinks Report also shows that 71% of British adults buy wine for themselves or others in a supermarket or off licence, a significant majority of the population.

Tim Wilson, managing director of the Wilson Drinks Report, comments : “This research is very interesting as it clearly shows that the very first thing that the average British wine shopper decides upon when choosing wine is colour. Supermarkets and off licences that mainly display their wines by colour are doing the right thing, according to our analysis. However, what is also very interesting is that grape variety is more important in shoppers’ decision making than either country of origin or brand. Few retailers display their wines specifically by colour and then grape variety, although some are now trialling wine style and food matching to encourage shoppers to buy better wines.”

The analysis by WDR shows 3 levels of decision making. Of the 47% of shoppers that choose colour first, 27% say that they then choose grape variety and the same proportion (27%) say that offers, including discounts, is their second decision after colour.

The research does not provide good news for wine brand managers. Only 2% of supermarket or off license wine shoppers who mostly drink red wine choose brand first when deciding which wine to buy. It is a similar story for those shoppers who mostly drink white wine : only 3% choose brand first when buying wine.

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British Consumer Interest in Diet Foods Getting Slimmer?


The appeal of diet foods in Britain appears to be thinning. Latest research from Mintel reveals some 60% of British consumer say they prefer food that is naturally low in fat or calories and two thirds (63%) of consumers who have dieted over the past three years have done so using reduced calorie foods. However, it seems just over a quarter (27%) of consumers do not find low-calorie foods as filling and a further quarter (27%) claim they end up eating more of them as a result.

Portion size is another concern for consumers buying diet foods, with almost three quarters of consumers (73%) claiming smaller pack sizes are often more expensive per unit. Instead, two fifths (41%) of consumers, prefer to eat smaller portions of regular food items to exercise their own portion control while continuing to eat the same regular food items they enjoy. Furthermore, while 38% of consumers say low-fat food has improved in taste and quality recently, over half (54%) of consumers claim to be more interested in taste than calorie or fat content. A sceptical 48% of consumers also feel that low-fat foods are not as healthy as they seem and 44% are concerned about the safety of some of the sweeteners used in diet foods.

Vivianne Ihekweazu, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, says: “While manufacturers have been active in developing new product lines, consumers still take issue with the taste of many reduced calorie food items, and also feel that portion sizes of low-calorie foods leave them feeling hungry, leading them to overeat. The recent response from industry to this has seen a raft of new product launches that promise to keep consumers feeling full for longer.”

Vivianne Ihekweazu continues: “Consumers appear to be dispassionate about some aspects of the diet food sector, but demand is still there to be cultivated.  Given that two fifths of consumers consider their diet to be healthy, and just under a fifth claim to always choose light foods, the challenge for retailers will be to ensure that they offer consumers a broad range of healthy eating products to encourage them to buy more products from across the healthy eating ranges more regularly.”

Foods with a weight control claim made up 27% of new food product launches in 2009 – up from 18% in 2009. Low, no or reduced fat made up the majority of claims within weight control foods in the past year – with 62% of weight control foods making this claim. Low, no or reduced calorie was the next biggest claim with 39%, followed by no additives/preservatives with 30% and microwavable with 26%.  Low, no or reduced trans fat claims accounted for 19% of weight control foods launched in the past year.

The UK market for reduced calorie foods has continued to experience steady growth driven by innovation in the licensed food category. Between 2008 and 2009, value sales of reduced calorie foods increased by 1.8% to reach £2.1 billion while slimming aids grew by 6.2% over this period to reach £102 million. It seems the main grocery multiples have responded to consumer demand for low-calorie foods by stocking a broad range of products, with estimated retail distribution of reduced calorie foods up over 10% from 2006, with value now standing at £1.6 billion.

Just over a third of British consumers admit that they have been on a diet in the last three years and just under two million consumers belong to a slimming club. Indeed, it seems British consumers remain preoccupied with their weight, with just under a third (30%) of admitting that they are on a continuous quest to lose weight.

Mintel’s research also reveals that the top five reasons for dieting are: ‘to lose weight’ with 89% of consumers stating this as the motivating factor, followed by ‘to be more healthy’ (50%), ‘to make myself more attractive’ (31%), ‘to control my cholesterol level’ (27%) and ‘to maintain weight’ (17%). A further 14% of consumer say they have started a diet to control their blood sugar levels and 3% because of a food allergy or intolerance.

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Generation Brew – Young British Coffee Drinkers Not Satisfied With a Cup of Instant


New research from YouGov SixthSense reveals that a generational divide exists in UK coffee consumption. 83% of over 55s has drunk a cup of instant coffee in the last month compared to 67% of 18-24 year olds. Younger generations are more likely to choose alternatives such as a cappuccino (43%), a latte (39%) and an americano (22%).

Commenting on the findings in the report, research director for YouGov SixthSense, James McCoy, says: “What we are seeing here are two very different coffee drinking cultures informed by two different consumer experiences. The younger generation has grown up with Starbucks, Costa, Cafe Nero etc. offering a more varied and comprehensive coffee menu. Also, young people are used to meeting with their friends at places like coffee shops where conversation can be carried out over a freshly brewed coffee, Friends-style. The previous generation hosted more and, therefore, was more inclined to resort to whatever was in the kitchen cupboard if and when a guest requested coffee.”

Starbucks’ recent foray into the instant coffee market reflects an industry-wide push to produce something closer to the taste of freshly brewed coffee in instant coffee form. James McCoy adds: “It is possible that moves by coffee house chains into the instant sector might see a slight rebalance in favour of instant in the home.”

Londoners exhibit a more discerning taste in coffee compared to drinkers in other parts of the UK – 12% of Londoners say that they regularly drink ‘freshly brewed coffee’ for breakfast during the week, compared to Wales (6%), the Midlands (5%) and Northern Ireland (1%).  A smaller proportion of Londoners (69%) has drunk a cup of instant coffee in the past month than anywhere else in the UK, while the North (84%) is the region with the most drinkers of instant brands such as Nescafe, Kenco etc.

Coffee’s appeal seems to derive from its image as a ‘stimulating’ drink, with 67% of consumers choosing to label it as such. In contrast, 79% of respondents view regular tea (ie not herbal) as traditional, while tea is also synonymous with Britishness for 63% of UK adults. Herbal tea provides a calming effect with respondents using terms like relaxing (53%), soothing (36%) and healthy (55%) to describe it. Almost half of respondents (44%) say herbal tea is a good alternative to standard tea.

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