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Private Label Makes Headway In Consumer Health Product Markets

July 30, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
More consumers around the globe are choosing private label vitamin and dietary supplements (VDS), Euromonitor reports, as companies in the sector increasingly offer high quality, value-added products that are non-GMO, gluten free, organic, vegetarian and vegan. The trend in the VDS market reflects what’s happening in consumer health generally, where the CAGR of private label products in the U.S. has reached eight percent, and 2013 retail sales of $13.9 billion, significantly outpacing consumer health industry growth. Private label health products are gaining ground in other regions, particularly Australasia and Western Europe. Price (i.e., cheapest) seems to be the main determinant in selection of OTC drugs, while quality-plus-price weigh  heavily in selection of VDS products.
Mark Strobel, "Premium Private Label Vitamins and Dietary Supplements to Capture Greater Market Share", Report, Euromonitor International, July 30, 2014, © Euromonitor
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Concerns About Sugar Content Of Soft Drinks Depress Sales In The U.K.

July 30, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Mintel research finds that fewer British consumers are drinking soft drinks today than six months ago, mainly because of the sugar content. Twenty-five percent of Britons in total – 34 percent of those aged 16 to 34 – are drinking fewer carbonated soft drinks (CSDs). Half said they were cutting back on CSDs because of the high sugar content. The drop in consumption is reflected naturally in the marketplace. Britons drank 5.96 billion liters in 2010, and 6.17 billion liters in 2011, but will drink only 5.95 billion liters in 2014. CSD sales will reach just £7.5 billion in 2014, compared to £8.3 billion in 2011. Nevertheless, 55 percent of CSD consumers still drink them to quench their thirst, and 37 percent drink them with a meal.
"Soft drinks falling flat? 25% of Brits drinking less than they were six months ago", Report, Mintel, July 30, 2014, © Mintel Group Ltd.
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Cons Of Gluten-Free Diet – If You Do Not Have Celiac Disease

July 27, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
For people diagnosed with celiac disease, staying away from gluten is the only way to avoid the often painful allergic reaction. But many people without the disease have gone gluten-free for a variety of reasons, including weight loss. Nutritionist Juliette Kellow says the weight loss crowd should be aware that some gluten-free products have more calories than gluten-rich products because they often contain more fat, sugar and salt to improve flavor or texture. Other gluten-free cons: they tend to cost more than the regular products; avoiding gluten can make it very difficult to diagnose celiac disease; giving up gluten may actually result in digestive problems because of the low fiber content of flours used; and lastly many gluten-free products use refined carbs, such as tapioca flour, which lack nutrients, including iron, magnesium, folate and thiamin.
Juliette Kellow, "Is the gluten-free ‘health’ craze making you ill... and fat?", Evening Gazette, July 27, 2014, © MGN Ltd
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Farm-To-Counter Trend Is Transforming Fast Food

July 25, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A new crop of fast-food chains is nipping at the heels of long-time market leaders, offering more healthful entrees at higher, but still attractive, prices. Tender Greens, LYFE Kitchen, SweetGreen, Native Foods, etc., offer grass-fed beef, organic (often locally-grown) produce, sustainable seafood and seasonal menus. The farm-to-table concept that revolutionized upscale American restaurants has filtered down to the fast-food world, where industry experts refer to the trend as farm-to-counter. The fact that trend leader Chipotle Mexican Grill recently posted a 26 percent hike in quarterly earnings should send a sobering message to the likes of McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
Julia Moskin, "Hold the Regret? Fast Food Seeks Virtuous Side", The New York Times, July 25, 2014, © The New York Times Company
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Fast-Casual Salad Eateries Target Time-Strapped, Health-Conscious Professionals

July 24, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Several foodservice entrepreneurs are trying to reverse a decades-long  American aversion to salad bars and restaurant salad entrees. One of these is Nick Marsh, CEO of New York City’s successful Chop’t chain of salad-based restaurants. He is determined to take his company national as he rides a fast-casual trend that emphasizes speed and fresh ingredients. Fast-casuals are growing faster than fast-food restaurants: they will account for 15 percent of the U.S. industry within 30 years, up from four percent now. Chop’t, which bills itself as the “creative salad company”, like other fast-casual eateries like Sweetgreen and Fresh & Co., caters to young professionals looking for a quick and healthy meal.
Selina Wang, "Why Even a Supermodel Couldn’t Sell the Salad Bar Today", Bloomberg, July 24, 2014, © Bloomberg L.P.
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Wonder Bread’s CEO Says His Company Is In A “Price War”

July 22, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Recent data on bread prices shows white bread sliding 2.8 percent year-on-year, and “bread other than white” slipping just 0.1 percent. But historically prices for both categories experienced similar increases since 2010. According to the CEO of Flower Foods, owner of iconic white bread brand Wonder Bread, the recent drops in prices reflect “a good old-fashioned price war” with chief competitor Grupo Bimbo of Mexico.  Bimbo now owns U.S. bread brands Sara Lee, Arnold, Sara Lee, Stroehmann and Thomas. Flower’s Allen Shiver said he remains hopeful that “with all the changes taking place in the category that over the long term, pricing should become more rational”.
Steve Goldstein, "White bread prices are skidding", Market Watch, July 22, 2014, © MarketWatch, Inc
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Children May Be Consuming Dangerously High Levels Of Certain Nutrients In Breakfast Cereals

July 22, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A Washington, D.C.-based research/advocacy groups says that fortified breakfast cereals put children at risk of consuming too much vitamin A, zinc and niacin, nutrients meant for adults. The three nutrients can be dangerous: too much vitamin A, for example, can damage the liver, bones, skin, nails and hair. Too much zinc can impair copper absorption; and too much niacin can cause short-term problems like rash, nausea and vomiting. The solution, according to the Environmental Working Group, is for children to get those nutrients naturally from fruits and vegetables. A pediatrician, however, notes that he has never heard of children being harmed by ingesting too much of the three nutrients. Another observer says most of the cereals cited in the report were targeted at adults anyway, and rarely eaten by children.
Emily Chappell, "Are fortified cereals a danger to children?", Lancaster News, July 22, 2014, © LancasterOnline
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Too Little Protein In Western Diet Has Contributed To Obesity Epidemic

July 17, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
New research on non-human primates suggests that weight management programs focusing too much on calorie intake ignore the complex interaction of carbs, fats and proteins that is so important to appetite regulation and energy intake. Primates – whether spider monkeys, orangutans or humans – “prioritize protein” over carbohydrates and fat. If we eat too little protein, we compensate by eating too much fat and carbs. According to Australian nutritional ecologist David Raubenheimer, obesity in the West has soared over the past 60 years because the proportion of protein in our diet has dropped considerably. Which, he says, is probably why high-protein diets like Atkins have been shown to aid weight loss.
David Raubenheimer, "High-protein weight loss diets can work, scientists show", News release, Society for Experimental Biology, July 17, 2014, © Society for Experimental Biology
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Nearly Two-Thirds Of Non-organic Bread Products In U.K. Contain Pesticide Residue

July 16, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A study based on British government data has found that the number of bread products containing pesticide residues has more than doubled since 2001, from 28 percent to 63 percent. Issued by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK and the Organic Naturally Different campaign, the study analyzed test data collected between 2000 and 2013 on 2,951 bread samples. About 62 percent of the non-organic samples contained pesticide traces; 17 percent contained more than one trace. Seven percent of the organic samples – three of 42 products tested –  contained a single residue, and none contained multiple residues. Cross-contamination from non-organic crops, either during production or storage, is probably the reason for the tainted organic samples.
"Two thirds of bread products contain pesticide", telegraph.co.uk, July 16, 2014, © Telegraph Media Group Limited
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New Brunswick Adopts Strict Canadian Organic Guidelines

July 15, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Canada’s New Brunswick Province has issued new organic rules designed to ensure that products labeled as organic meet strict national standards. The Canadian government implemented organic regulations five years ago that provide for certification and yearly inspection of products that cross provincial borders. So far, only New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba have adopted the strict guidelines within their own borders. Organic agriculture has tripled in the country since the start of the recession and is now worth more than $3.5 billion annually.
"Organic Sector Encourages Provinces to Adopt National Organic Rules", News release, Organic Trade Association, July 15, 2014, © Organic Trade Association
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Cargill To Sell Only Turkeys Raised Without Growth-Spurring Antibiotics

July 15, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Cargill says consumer research coupled with federal government initiatives have led it to source and sell only turkeys that were raised without antibiotics. The company worked with the USDA on developing a verification plan that ensures that turkeys it buys from independent farms were not given antibiotics to spur growth. Last year, the FDA announced a three-year plan to phase out the use of antibiotics used to improve growth or feed efficiency in livestock and poultry.  “Ending the use of antibiotics to promote growth in turkeys is an important step that provides consumers with nutritious and affordable options,” a Cargill executive said.
"Cargill Turkey says “NO” to growth-promoting antibiotics", News release, Cargill, July 15, 2014, © Cargill, Incorporated
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Feeding America Its Cheeseburgers Is A Costly Proposition

July 15, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
American pays a lot more than the average $4.49 for a cheeseburger, according to food writer Mark Bittman, who attempts to describe and quantify “the true costs” – beyond the price – of buying fast food, symbolically the simple cheeseburger. Those true costs include “external” costs borne by producers, including litter from the packaging. The external costs of the 16 billion cheeseburgers eaten by Americans each year range from $0.68 to $2.90 per burger. Included are carbon generation of beef cattle and obesity, and ensuing health costs related to cardiovascular disease.  Other external costs are difficult to quantify, but include elevated fertilizer nitrates in water supplies,  the cost of food stamps to help support poorly paid fast food workers, the beef industry’s role in increasing antibiotic resistance, etc. The conclusion: “Industrial food has manipulated cheap prices for excess profit at excess cost to everyone.”
Mark Bittman, "The True Cost of a Burger", The New York Times, July 15, 2014, © The New York Times Company
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Hershey Bumps Up Candy Prices As Ingredient Prices Soar

July 15, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Faced with soaring ingredients costs, Hershey Company has raised prices on certain of its candy lines by eight percent. The commodity cost inflation is taking a toll on the company’s bottom line: Hershey adjusted its 2014 profit forecast downward. Spot prices for candy ingredients such as cocoa, dairy and nuts have risen “meaningfully” since January, Hershey said. Cocoa futures reached a near-three-year high this month. The price hikes will affect instant consumable, multi-pack, packaged candy and grocery lines.
"Hershey increases prices as commodity costs rise", Reuters, July 15, 2014, © Thomson Reuters
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Americans Check Food Labels For Sugar And Protein, But Sodium Not So Much

July 14, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
American consumers are not as worried about sodium in their diet as they used to be, despite the fact that many regularly eat more than the government-recommended daily amounts, according to NPD Group research. Though 60 percent of U.S. consumers say they are trying to eat less sodium, that number is eight percent less than what it was in 2010. NPD says people aren’t paying as much attention to nutrition label information about sodium, calories, fats and carbs, but are still concerned about sugar and protein. The FDA is preparing to release voluntary guidelines on sodium content for food manufacturers and restaurants.
"U.S. Consumers’ Diminishing Concern About Sodium Intake Will Continue in the Future, Reports NPD", News release, report by NPD Group, July 14, 2014, © The NPD Group, Inc.
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Bakery Companies Take Note: The Kids Home Baking Market Awaits You

July 14, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
The home baking trend presents a global marketing opportunity for the bakery industry, according to researcher Innova. Especially intriguing are healthy home baking packages targeted at children, who represent a “whole new world of new young chefs that want to do things at home”. Boys are just as interested as girls, according to analyst Lu Ann Williams, and the market stretches around the world. Besides the traditional pies and syrups, kids will be receptive to fruit fillings, mousses and dried fruits for toppings. And, she advised, engaging interactive marketing campaigns – e.g., a YouTube channel where kids can upload their baking videos – are a must.
Kacey Culliney, "Healthy home baking for kids could boom, says Innova Market Insights", FoodNavigator.com, July 14, 2014, © William Reed Business Media SAS
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Can Sprouted Wheat Buff Up The Tarnished Image Of Wheat Products?

July 11, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Flour made from sprouted wheat offers functional and production benefits that are increasingly attractive to consumers and producers respectively. Sprouted wheat is nutritionally superior to non-sprouted, because of higher levels of vitamins, minerals, phenolic compounds and antioxidants. Non-fibrous carbs are lost during sprouting, leaving higher levels of fiber and protein. Sprouted wheat also tastes better, has faster proof times (10 percent faster in some tests), and produces bigger bread loaf volumes. Loaves were 10 to 20 percent bigger when sprouted whole wheat flour was used to bake whole wheat bread. In some tests flour stability increased from 6.7 minutes to 11.7 minutes thanks to sprouting. The bottom line is that, as concerns about gluten and overconsumption of wheat continue to bother the public, “sprouting can give wheat products a whole new healthy image and an easier time in the factory”.
Robby Gardner, "Baking With Sprouted Wheat Flour", Nutrition Outlook, July 11, 2014, © NutritionalOutlook.com
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Taco Bell Replaces Cantina Bell Menu Items With Higher-Protein Meals

July 10, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Taco Bell has jumped on the protein bandwagon with the launch of Cantina Power bowls and burritos that also offer fewer carbs. The Cantina Power line, packed with double the meat and 20 grams of protein, replaces Cantina Bell burritos and bowls. It’s a fairly crowded bandwagon, now that food chains like Panera Bread and Subway have begun including more protein and other ingredients considered more healthful. A Taco Bell exec, noting that its customers aren’t looking for diet food, said, “Cantina Power is a big step forward in pleasing customers who like to eat a lot of protein.” Cantina Power menu items will remain less than 500 calories each and cost about the same as the Cantina Bell items.
Anne D'innocenzio , "Taco Bell pushes more protein with 'Cantina Power'", Businessweek, July 10, 2014, via Associated Press, © The Associated Press
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Quinoa Trend Reaches Supermarkets, Restaurants

July 9, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Nutritional powerhouse quinoa, an ancient Inca grain that provides a complete protein like meat, is gaining ground in the food industry. Quinoa cooks like a grain, but is really a seed or chenopod related to beets and spinach. Supermarkets in the U.S. are now stocking quinoa-based pasta, cookies, flours, burgers and breads that not only satisfy vegans, they appeal to the gluten-free crowd. Restaurants have picked up on the trend as well.  One restaurant group in Florida recently fortified its menu with pesto chicken quinoa and cherry chicken quinoa power bowls, while another added a red quinoa crunch parfait to the menu.
Kimberly DeFalco, "Integrate This: Quinoa", Creative Loafing, July 09, 2014, © Creative Loafing Tampa
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Fungal Pathogens Can Be As Dangerous As Bacteria, Viruses

July 8, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Last September, Chobani recalled Greek yogurt manufactured in its Idaho plant after customers complained of severe gastrointestinal discomfort. The company said the yogurt had been contaminated by a relatively harmless fungus dangerous only to people with unhealthy immune systems. After complaints from otherwise healthy individuals, however, scientists took a closer look. They found that the yogurt had been tainted by one particular fungal strain that, unlike other strains, showed an ability to cause lethal infections in mice when spores were injected into the bloodstream. They also  survived passage through the GI tract when ingested orally. The conclusion? “Fungal pathogens can threaten our health systems as food-borne pathogens."
Soo Chan Lee et al., "Analysis of a Food-Borne Fungal Pathogen Outbreak: Virulence and Genome of a Mucor circinelloides Isolate from Yogurt. ", mBio, July 08, 2014, © Lee et al.
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Eating Gluten-Free Is A Growing Trend, But Is It “A Bunch Of Baloney”?

July 6, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
The gluten-free foods industry is valued at $4 billion, but the movement is generating a backlash – some call it “a bunch of baloney” – against the industry and against people who, for whatever reason, avoid eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. One skeptic calls it a fad pushed by food companies "as a way of making money”. Eating gluten-free is growing in popularity though most people on a gluten-free diet don't have the severe intestinal reaction to gluten known as celiac disease. And, oddly enough, most celiac sufferers – about 300,000 people – don't know that they have the disease and should be avoiding gluten. The backlash “reached an apex”, according to a Washington Post reporter, when late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel said that in Los Angeles gluten was "comparable to Satanism”.
Ellen McCarthy , "Backlash has begun against gluten-free dieters", The Washington Post, July 06, 2014, © The Washington Post
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Mustard’s Growing Stature In The Condiment World

July 4, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Mustard, a spicy sauce known to the ancient Romans and to cultures worldwide, is today's trendy condiment. Industry researchers report that U.S. sales of mustard brands hit $508 million in 2012, an 11 percent rise over five years. Though cousin ketchup still leads the spicy sauce market – $743 million in 2012 – mustard is positioned to grow in popularity. It is global, low in calories, available in a wide variety of brands and flavors, and versatile, spicing up an array of foods, from pretzels to hot dogs to roast beef, etc.  “Mustard is the new butter, the new mayo,” says one chef and restaurateur.
Charles Passy, "The yellow commodity hotter than gold", Report, MarketWatch, Inc. , July 04, 2014, © MarketWatch, Inc.
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Sugar Industry’s Arguments Against More Detailed Food Labeling Are Bogus – Blogger

July 3, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Food industry blogger Gretchen Goldman told a public FDA meeting on food labeling – especially  labeling of added sugar amounts – that the  “sugar interests” are obfuscating the science on sugar and health. The sugar industry claims there is no scientific evidence linking sugar with health problems. In fact, studies show that eating too much sugar increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lipid abnormalities and hypertension. A large part of sugar overconsumption is due to sugars added to foods during processing, a fact that needs to be addressed in labeling. The FDA is accepting written public comments on proposed food labeling changes until August 1, 2014.
Gretchen Goldman, "Five Things Sugar Interests Get Wrong About FDA Added Sugars Labeling", Food Safety News, July 03, 2014, © Food Safety News/ Marler Clark
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Cocoa-Rich Dark Chocolate Makes Walking Easier For PAD Patients

July 2, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Reduced blood flow to leg arteries – called peripheral artery disease or PAD – can make it painful for people to walk. A new clinical study in Italy suggests that eating dark chocolate might provide some relief from the pain, cramping and fatigue associated with PAD. Twenty patients aged 60 to 78 walked on a treadmill in the morning and later after eating 40 grams of dark and milk chocolate on separate days. Participants increased their ability to walk unassisted after eating dark chocolate (85 percent cocoa content and rich in polyphenols), compared to eating milk chocolate. The authors suggested that the polyphenols in the dark chocolate reduced oxidative stress and improved blood flow in the leg arteries.
Lorenzo Loffredo et al., "Dark Chocolate Acutely Improves Walking Autonomy in Patients With Peripheral Artery Disease", Journal of the American Heart Association, July 02, 2014, © Loffredo et al.
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Survey Results Indicate A Shift In America’s Fast-Food Preferences

July 2, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Wake up call for the big fast-food chains: Americans don’t think your food tastes very good. A survey of more than 32,000 subscribers by Consumer Reports finds, for example, that hamburger aficionados prefer the fare served at In-N-Out-Burger, The Habit Burger Grill and Culver's over the burgers served at McDonald's. In fact, McDonald’s came in at No. 21 on the list of best-tasting burgers, behind Jack in the Box, Wendy's and Burger King. The best-tasting Mexican food is not served at Taco Bell, either, but at Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba Mexican Grill (Taco Bell came in at No. 8 on the list). A Consumer Reports editor noted that "more and more, food quality – not just low price – is emerging as a deciding-factor for many Americans”.
"McDonald's, Taco Bell, KFC laggards in U.S. fast-food survey", Reuters, July 02, 2014, © Thomson Reuters
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Freshly-Made Pies And Cakes Pique America’s Taste Buds

July 1, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Retail sales of prepared cakes and pies in the U.S. are on the rise – up 24 percent over the last five years to $11.2 billion – but that robust trend does not include frozen varieties. Frozen and refrigerated cake and pie sales dropped 2.4 percent in the same period, the only segment to do so, according to Mintel. The bigger trend is America’s love affair with pies and cakes, especially freshly-made ones, which are increasingly viewed as indulgent between-meals snacks. Leading the retail sales segment are in-store baked cakes and pies (52 percent), followed by shelf-stable cupcakes and brownies (23 percent). “The snacking mindset has permeated the dessert segment,” a Mintel analyst says, as long as the snacks are fresh and made with high-quality ingredients.
"Bye bye frozen American pie: Frozen pies and cakes decline", Report, Mintel, July 01, 2014, © Mintel Group Ltd.
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Orange Honeydews, Cantaloupes Are Packed With Healthful Beta-Carotenes

July 1, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Researchers at the USDA say that orange honeydew and cantaloupe melons are both rich in beta-carotene, the precursor compound of vitamin A, which is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication. People in many parts of the world are deficient in vitamin A and lack access to supplements. The researchers said the beta-carotene found in orange-fleshed honeydews and cantaloupes provides a solution to vitamin A deficiency , because it is as readily bioavailable as the beta-carotene found in carrots.
"Orange-Fleshed Honeydew Melon: Ripe for Beta-Carotene Analysis", Report, USDA, July 01, 2014, © USDA
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Food Companies Boosting Protein Content To Keep Up With Growing Demand

June 30, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Food companies sat up and took notice when sales of protein-rich Greek yogurt soared. Health-conscious consumers apparently want more protein in their diets, and the food industry is eagerly working to meet the demand. A new version of Cheerios, for example, boasts seven grams of protein – 11 “with milk” – compared to only three grams in original Cheerios. Other new products like pretzels, pasta and pancakes also boast higher levels of protein. Eating sufficient protein daily is important for health, because it helps maintain muscle mass that in turn helps burn calories. But some nutritionists say protein intake is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Too much can adversely affect bones and kidneys.
Becky Worley and Cathy Becker , "Food Companies Cash In on Protein Trend, But How Much Is Too Much?", ABC News, June 30, 2014, © ABC News Internet Ventures
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To Get Kids To Eat Veggies, Start Young, Feed Often

June 30, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A British clinical study involving 332 kids between four months and three years of age found that the children were more likely to eat vegetables if introduced to them before 24 months. Children that young are more receptive to new eating experiences. After that, they tend to get pickier and more wary of novel foods, especially green ones. For the study, children from the U.K., France and Denmark were fed between five and ten servings (100 grams) of artichoke puree, served straight, sweetened with sugar, or mixed with vegetable oil for added energy. Twenty percent of the kids cleaned their plates, and 40 percent learned to like artichokes. About 16 percent of the children were termed “non-eaters” because they ate less than 10 g even when it was offered for a fifth time.
"Offer vegetables early and often to fussy toddlers, study says", BBC News Health, June 30, 2014, © BBC
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Insects May Someday Solve World’s Growing Demand For Protein

June 25, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Are insects the answer to the problem of feeding the world’s fast-growing population? According to entrepreneurial and academic panelists at a recent food technology meeting, the answer is a resounding yes. The world devotes 70 percent of its agricultural land – 30 percent of all land –  to growing the livestock that provides most of the protein we eat. The burden would be eased considerably by introducing insects into the diet. They provide a promising, economically viable alternative source of high quality protein, but require less feed, water, land and energy to produce. Insects are frequently eaten in other parts of the world, but not in America. "We have to overcome the 'ick' factor," said a food product development specialist at the University of Nebraska.
Florence Dunkel et al., "Insects as the food of the future: Locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, silk moth pupae, and beetle and moth larvae", News release, Institute of Food Technologists, June 25, 2014, © Institute of Food Technologists
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“Foodies” Should Be Into Much More Than Just Eating Good Food

June 24, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A New York Times op-ed contributor explains why “foodies” need to be more than just people who are passionate about eating good food. In fact, he says, foodies should be aware of how their food is produced and how it impacts our world. Foodies should care that their food is real (not ”hyperprocessed”), healthy (as in “whole”), sustainably produced, affordable, and perhaps even prepared at home or communally. Foodies should support societal changes and government actions that help make good food more accessible to all people. To do that will of course affect “the whole system”, ultimately involving issues of justice, equality, rights, and enhanced democracy across the globe.
Mark Bittman, "Rethinking the Word ‘Foodie’", The New York Times, June 24, 2014, © The New York Times Company
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Invented By The Navajos Maybe, But Alaskans Swear Fry Bread Is All Their Own

June 23, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Non-native Alaskans associate the state with many things – oil, gold, salmon, moose, dog mushing, Sarah Palin, etc. But native Alaskans add a fairly obscure – some say “magic” – item,  with murky origins in Southwest U.S. Navajo culture, to the list: fry bread. Whether made savory or sweet, the high-calorie airy treat crafted by Garfield Katasse, starts the day as 175 pounds of wheat dough. Katasse – owner of the Famous Fry Bread shop – spends all day hand working the dough, stretching slices into disks that are then cooked in hot canola oil in a big stainless steel tub until puffy and golden brown. Devotees from as far away as California swear his product is better than any other fry bread they’ve ever tasted.
Jeremy Hsieh, "Fry bread: An Alaska Native treat with a mysterious origin", KTOO News, June 23, 2014, © KTOO News / Alaska Public Television
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Bread Consumption Trends Could Create Political Fallout

June 19, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Shifting trends in the baked goods Americans buy – whether white bread, whole grain bread, bagels, buns, rolls or tortillas – say a lot about the population, the country and about politics, according to The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. One key indicator is tortilla sales, which a few years ago accounted for 12 percent of industrial bread sales but are now up to 17 percent. The love affair with “wraps” is a sign of America’s growing focus on carbs and weight management. But it also reflects the buying power of America’s fast-growing Hispanic population which, in terms of politics, is significantly left leaning. Another interesting facet of bread politics: the Republican Party may take a hit in contributions if major Republican donor Flowers Foods, maker of Wonder Bread and other brands, continues to be adversely affected by falling white bread sales.  
Roberto A. Ferdman, "What Americas changing bread preferences say about its politics", The Washington Post Wonkblog, June 19, 2014, © The Washington Post
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Shoppers In U.K. Are Comfortable Buying Store Brand Foods

June 18, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A survey of a thousand British food shoppers finds that a majority (55 percent) believe the best of the “own label” (i.e., store or house) brands are as good as national brands, and 63 percent regard “regular” own-label brands the same quality as major brands. The bottom line is that shoppers have grown very comfortable buying store brands in most – but not all – categories. Sixty-one percent of shoppers regard “value” own-label brands as worse than manufacturer brands. Only 27 percent see them as the same. A spokesman for the research company that conducted the survey says the results certainly show the impact of the recession on food shopping. But they also show a longer-term trend: retailers are more sophisticated in developing and marketing their store brands.
Jonathan Bacon, "Retailer brands are holding their own", Marketing Week, June 18, 2014, © Centaur Communications Ltd (a member of the Centaur Media plc group)
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“Gluten-Free” Seems To Be America’s Answer To A Laundry List Of Dietary Concerns

June 16, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Only one percent of Americans – 316,000 – suffer from celiac disease, a severe gastric reaction to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye flour. Another two million or so are considered gluten intolerant. But more than a quarter of Americans – about 79 million – are trying to become gluten-free, and that’s what’s driving the multi-billion-dollar gluten-free foods market. The trend is here to stay, according to food industry experts. Top restaurants in New York City, for example, are all serving gluten-free versions of their most popular pastas. But why? A “perfect storm” of trends: an increase in food allergies, growing concerns about digestive health, worries about genetic modification of grain, and other dietary qualms “are at an all-time high and food itself is the current cultural currency”. Gluten-free seems to be the panacea.
Kim Severson, "Gluten-Free Eating Appears to Be Here to Stay", The New York Times, June 16, 2014, © The New York Times Company
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A Whole Grain Revolution In The Making On The West Coast

June 16, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
The West Coast is home to a growing phenomenon in the bread industry: local grain economies whose goal is to scale up production of whole grain products in a way that is profitable for farmers and competitively priced for consumers – “a true alternative to an industrial economy”. The whole grains movement is based on locally grown grain varieties that result in flour very different from what’s available commercially today. The grains are milled without ever separating the germ, the embryo of a grain kernel, and the bran, the protective outer layer. Baked goods – from cookies to bread – not only taste better than the so-called whole grain products available in supermarkets today, they may also be healthier. Advocates and scientists say people who are gluten sensitive – but not celiac sufferers – report they can enjoy breads made from whole grains without the adverse effects.
Sophie Egan, "A Long Way From Wonder Bread", NewYorkTimes.com , June 16, 2014, © The New York Times Company
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Modified Turmeric Compound Eases Symptoms Of Major Depressive Disorder

June 11, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
An Australian clinical trial that tested a proprietary curcumin-based supplement on 56 people diagnosed with major depressive disorder found that it worked better than a placebo on reducing self-reported depressive and anxiety symptoms. BCM-95 Curcumin, developed by DolCas Biotech, LLC, worked even better on people with atypical depression, which is generally more difficult to treat. Curcumin is the main curcuminoid derived from the spice turmeric. DolCas Biotech scientists developed a way to process curcumin – which is highly insoluble – to make it much more bioavailable and therefore therapeutically useful.
Adrian L. Lopresti et al., "Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study", Journal of Affective Disorders, June 11, 2014, © Elsevier Inc.
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Food Industry Researcher Lists Top Trends In Natural, Organic Eats

June 10, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A food industry research organization has come up with a list of top trends in organic and natural foods. Heading the list is lentils, a food that has grown in popularity as people search for plant-based proteins. Lentils are now found in pasta and waffles, to cite two examples. Other trends identified by Sterling-Rice Group include: prebiotics, “co-biotics” and probiotics; beets (in juices, fruit leathers and yogurt); whole grains in beverages; grass-fed beef, chickens and pigs; “beeless” honey made from fruits; savory sauces and dressings; African superfoods such as nutrient-dense baobab fruit snacks to moringa leaf snack bars and bissap tea.
"Top Ten Natural & Organic Food Trends That Will Either Make You Go Yum or Make You Go Hmmm", News release, Sterling-Rice Group, June 10, 2014, © Sterling-Rice Group
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Demands For Higher Wages At Quick-Serve Eateries May Accelerate Automation Trend

June 10, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Software and machines may not replace fast-food restaurant workers in the foreseeable future, but automation is beginning to play a part in food service. Some industry observers say the demand among low-wage fast-food workers for higher pay may actually speed up the development of food service automation. Others say it takes a lot of time to introduce advanced technology and it’s not likely to eliminate the need for human interaction. Nevertheless, restaurant chains are tiptoeing into the future: Panera Bread is introducing self-service ordering kiosks. Chili's and Applebee's are putting tablets on their tables that would give customers the ability to order and pay without any contact with human wait staff at all.
"Robots will replace fast-food workers", CNN Money, June 10, 2014, © Cable News Network
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Food Producers Are Casualties Of Price War Among U.K. Supermarket Giants

June 8, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
It seems like good news for British consumers that sales at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Asda – the big four supermarket chains that control 74 percent of retail grocery – are down significantly. Their answer has been to cut prices, and that eases the strain on U.K. shoppers. But what’s good news for shoppers is bad news for producers: the price war is damaging Britain’s food self-sufficiency. A government department released data showing that for the third year in a row, self-sufficiency was down, from 78 percent in 1984 to 60 percent now. The retail giants are negotiating such brutal price deals with producers that many have simply stopped producing.  The result? British wheat production has dropped 25 percent. And the national sheep flock has declined 33 percent.
Jay Rayner, "Why a supermarket price war is bad news for Britain's ability to feed itself", The Guardian, June 08, 2014, © Guardian News and Media Limited
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Company Unveils Smart Assistant That Takes Guesswork, Innacuracy Out Of Baking

June 3, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Targeting the 30 million home bakers looking for reliable recipes at their fingertips, Drop is introducing a tablet and iPad-connected kitchen scale via a pre-order marketing campaign. The app features photographs of step-by-step recipes with tips, rescaling quantities and suggestions for ingredient substitutes. Instead of measuring materials using cups and spoons, ingredients are placed in a bowl on the interactive scale. The idea is that measuring by weight, instead of volume, is more accurate by eliminating variables that can ruin a recipe. “In my opinion,” says Drop’s team baker, “cups are for bra sizes.” The Drop scale/app baking assistant combo is expected to retail for $99 after the 20 percent pre-order discount expires.
"Drop Launches New Recipe Platform and Connected Kitchen Scale", News release, Drop, June 03, 2014, via Business Wire, © Drop
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Germany’s Local Bakeries Struggle, Thanks To Mass-Production Technology

June 3, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Technology has nearly dealt a death blow to Germany’s neighborhood bakeries, which until recently supplied the lion's share of the breads and rolls so important to the German diet.  Mass-produced loaves, rolls and pastries are now mostly baked on an industrial scale, then frozen for shipment to supermarkets around the country. Stores reheat and sell them for a fraction of the price of the handmade versions. Old-style bread makers, like Fritz Trefzger in Schopfheim, are fighting back, opening their kitchens to the public so customers can see and appreciate the old-fashioned craft. The national bakers association is even seeking special protection. But the trend may be unstoppable: as of 2013 only 13,171 bakeries remain, down from 55,000 sixty years ago.
Melissa Eddy, "A Growing Challenge for Germans Who Live by Bread Alone", The New York Times, June 03, 2014, © The New York Times Company
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Is America Ready For Finland’s Version Of Rye Bread?

June 1, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A Finn transplanted to Manhattan is single-handedly trying to change America’s bread-eating habits. Simo Kuusisto, former chef and owner of Nordic Breads bakery, sells his Finnish rye bread in an area famous for reubens and hot pastrami sandwiches made with, well, Jewish rye bread. Kuusisto’s ”rye-volution”, marketed with social media and personal showmanship, is based on two key facts: his bread, made without wheat or yeast, tastes really good and it’s all-natural. And the “coarse, dark, labor-intensively chewy rye bread” known as Ruis is gradually carving a niche in the city’s competitive artisan bread market. There are problems, of course. Because it contains no preservatives, it has a short shelf life. And a major challenge has been to convince customers that the bread is not supposed to be “soft like Wonder Bread or Italian bread,” Kuusisto says.
Nina Roberts, "The Finnish 'rye-volution' begins in New York, without wheat or yeast", theguardian.com, June 01, 2014, © Guardian News and Media Limited
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Countries Worldwide Have Failed To Come To Grips With The Obesity Epidemic

May 31, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Global obesity is on the rise, and countries are failing to effectively intervene in the problem, according to a U.S. analysis of trend data from 188 countries. In fact, not one country has reported success in combating obesity in the past 33 years. More than 2 billion people – or about 30 percent of the world’s population – are either obese or overweight. Study authors said the rise in global obesity rates over the last three decades is a major public health epidemic in both the developed and the developing world. The highest proportion of obese people (13 percent) live in the United States, while China and India together represent 15 percent of the obese population.
Ng M et al., "Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013", The Lancet, May 31, 2014, © Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation/The Lancet
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Natural Sweetener From “Miracle Berry” Needs Work Before It Supplants Sugar In Foods

May 29, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Though its use as a healthful sweetener in everyday cooking and baking is probably far off in the future, a naturally occurring taste-modifying protein known as “miraculin”, found in the berries of the Synsepalum dulcificum plant, is getting a lot of attention these days. The so-called “miracle fruit” from West Africa provides a “sweet fix” before eating a sugar-free dessert, for example. It is being tested at high-end restaurants around the world, where it turns sour flavors to sweet without the obesity-inducing effects of sugar. But before the full potential of the berry can be realized, some technical problems need to be resolved. Refrigerating and heating miraculin cause the protein to activate long before food can be sampled.
David Cox, "The 'Miracle' Berry That Could Replace Sugar", The Atlantic, May 29, 2014, © The Atlantic Monthly Group
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Decline In Preschooler Obesity Tied To Fewer Purchases Of Junk Food

May 28, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
One reason childhood obesity rates have stalled and started to drop in recent years is the fact that parents of preschoolers are buying less junk food and sugary drinks, according to a U.S. study. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that obesity rates among preschoolers (aged two to five) have slid from 12.1 percent to 8.4 percent. To find out why, the researchers analyzed food and beverage purchase data between 2000 and 2011 from 43,000 U.S. households with preschool-age children. They identified the top 20 foods and beverages purchased per capita, finding declines especially in milk, soft drinks, juices and juice drinks, and grain-based desserts, all of which include higher calorie solid fats and added sugars.
Christopher Ford et al., "Families with preschoolers buying fewer high calorie foods and beverages", News release, upcoming study in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, May 28, 2014, © Ford et al.
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Ultimate Health Food Mix For Busy Office Workers Leaves Something To Be Desired

May 28, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
Blogger Farhad Manjoo recently spent a week taste-testing a new health drink touted by its creators as a scientific solution to a purported need for quick, nutritious meals made from a mix. Soylent, as it’s called, is meant to replace “staple meals” in the lives of people who have too little time to prepare healthful foods. The inventor of Soylent says it’s cheap ($3 a serving), easy to prepare, and more nutritious than the junk most office workers stuff themselves with. The problem, according to Manjoo, is that Soylent is “punishingly boring” and “joyless”. It tastes and looks bland: it is the same color as motel carpets. It may offer complete nourishment, but it does so “at the expense of the aesthetic and emotional pleasures many of us crave in food”.
Farhad Manjoo, "The Soylent Revolution Will Not Be Pleasurable", The New York Times, May 28, 2014, © The New York Times Company
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Super-Food Chia May Be Next Super-Ingredient In Baking Industry

May 28, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
The gel produced by chia seeds when placed in water could be used in food formulation as a thickening agent, emulsifying agent, and as a stabilizer in frozen food product, a new Australian study has found. Chia, an ancient crop cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico, is high in fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia gel is a polysaccharide consisting of crude fiber (58 percent) and carbohydrate (34 percent). with good water binding and oil-holding capacity, viscosity, emulsion activity and freeze-thaw ability comparable to guar gum and gelatin, common ingredients in baked goods and sauces.
Ranil Coorey et al., "Gelling Properties of Chia Seed and Flour. ", Journal of Food Science, May 28, 2014, © Institute of Food Technologists
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Granola Churns The Breakfast Market In Japan

May 23, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
The traditional Japanese breakfast is gradually disappearing, due mostly to the time constraints of the modern lifestyle. Lengthy preparation of miso soup, salmon filets, pickled vegetables, etc., is being replaced by breakfast cereals, especially granola, which Japanese adults do not associate with kids’ sugary ready-to-eat-cereals. Key evidence of the trend: shipment value of granola increased 55.3 percent from 2012 to $143 million in 2013. Sales of granola, introduced in Japan in the 1990s, stagnated for years until snack manufacturer Calbee changed the brand name to Calbee Frugra, marketing it with free sample giveaways. Exposure increased on social media, a cookbook was added, and positive health publicity boosted granola’s image. “As granola in Japan demonstrates, the opportunity to shake up the breakfast market is there,” according to Datamonitor.
"Can Japan's granola boom spark a breakfast revolution in Asia?", Report, Datamonitor, May 23, 2014, © Datamonitor
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U.S. Schools Find That Cafeteria Upgrades Are An Expensive Undertaking

May 17, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
School districts nationwide are moving to upgrade their cafeteria food preparation equipment to provide more attractive, and healthful meals to their kids. But the special blenders, food processors, walk-in freezers, salad bars, pass-through coolers and warmers are expensive, and it’s difficult to pay for the stuff through regular operating funds. To fill the gap, schools are trying a range of money-raising techniques, including bond programs and highly competitive federal grants. But despite the aggressive efforts, a survey of school food service officials found that 88 percent of districts still need at least one more piece of kitchen equipment.
Jamie Stengle, "Schools seek upgrades to entice healthy eating", Associated Press , May 17, 2014, © The Associated Press
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“Wonder Grain” Spelt Supplies Running Low In The U.K.

May 15, 2014: 12:00 AM EST
A steep rise in worldwide demand for the ancient grain spelt, a distant cousin of wheat, is causing a scarcity in the U.K., producers say. The immediate impact is a doubling of the price of the “wonder grain” that sustained the Roman army 2,000 years ago. The dwindling supply of spelt flour is forcing some bakers to stop spelt bread making altogether. Great Britain’s largest spelt  flour maker Sharpham Park is rationing supplies to current customers and turning away new business. One of the main reasons for spelt’s increased popularity is the fact that it has a ”unique gluten structure” that makes digestion easier.
Rebecca Smithers, "Spelt flour 'wonder grain' set for a price hike as supplies run low", The Guardian, May 15, 2014, © Guardian News and Media Limited
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