Opinion from global food and drink experts, Zenith Global
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Investing in innovation

July 20th, 2017 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

So many big companies now have their own units to invest in, incubate or mentor start-up concepts, brands and technologies.

They are all very clear about what they are looking for and how they operate, but what do they find?

PepsiCo’s new European Nutrition Greenhouse is instructive because it offered support for 8 projects at the same time.

I was fascinated by the selection:

• 3 were from the UK and 1 each from France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
• 3 featured protein and 3 fibre.
• 2 aimed to improve convenience and 2 to reduce calories.
• 2 were vegetable-based and 2 more from plants.
• 1 was based on edible insects, 1 on edible seaweed and 1 was a tree juice.
• Superfood and organic credentials were also prominent.

I am always looking for clues pointing to the future. There are plenty here.

Concern about the impact of obesity and the need to tackle it is spreading, but most of the policies that follow are hollow.

Take last month’s encouraging call by EU health ministers. They argued for better education, more informative labelling and greater control over advertising to children. They called on countries to improve unhealthy diets and boost physical activity. But they stopped at guidelines and left it there.

The European Health Commissioner has gone further in supporting sugar taxes, but that is only one aspect of the debate.

Estonia has just adopted a sugar tax, but this only applies to beverages. It also includes flavoured milks, plant-based drinks and zero calorie drinks with sweeteners.

It doesn’t really seem policy makers are sufficiently serious because they are not adopting comprehensive measures.

Milk should be milk

July 13th, 2017 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

It never caused me much difficulty that soya based products used words like milk to describe what they are seeking to replace.

Many words have been stretched, even abused, through history – from democratic to natural – but few people have been misled.

Water is another word applied to a range of products, notably cosmetics as well as beverages. I only protested (and won) when a boiled sweet was marketed as offering hydration benefits.

Yet I was quietly pleased when the European Court of Justice ruled last month that use of words such as milk and cheese should be treated with more care.

It seems the ruling was not as categoric as some press reports made out. Coconut milk and almond milk are among the exceptions, but the principle has been asserted and I think it is a good one.

Truth about free from

July 11th, 2017 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

I have every sympathy with people who are not able to enjoy certain foods because of allergies or medical conditions.

I also have no problem with others who avoid particular products out of a lifestyle choice.

What concerns me, however, is that some of the medical reasons are based on supposition and many of the lifestyle reasons are based on misinformation.

For example, I read recently that gluten-free products typically contain far more fat and less protein than those they are seeking to replace.

A study comparing 654 gluten-free samples with their regular equivalents concluded they are an obesity risk after finding “significantly higher” fat levels and up to two thirds less protein.

Elsewhere, I learned that natural whole milk contains 8 times more protein than some plant-based milks.

Our diets and choices would definitely be better served if substitutes were either comparable or at least transparent about key differences.

55 acquisitions in June

July 6th, 2017 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

June saw 55 food and drink transactions recorded on the bevblog.net mergers and acquisitions database.

3 involved sums in excess of $1,000 million. The biggest, at $3,500 million, was for just a 1.25% stake. The buyer was US based Third Point, taking a strategic interest in the world’s biggest food group Nestlé.

The other 2 over $1,000 billion were:

• $1,146 million in packaging for UK based DS Smith to buy an 80% stake in US based Interstate Resources

• $1,000 million in spirits for UK based Diageo to acquire US based Casamigos.

Among the 55 total, 11 were in alcohol, 8 in soft drinks, 7 in packaging, 5 in ingredients, 4 in meat and 3 in dairy.

29 were within national borders, 16 of these in the United States, 6 in the United Kingdom and 3 in Canada.

26 were international, covering 25 countries.

Of the total, 28 featured the United States. 14 the United Kingdom, 5 Canada, 4 Italy, 3 France and 3 Ireland.

59 acquisitions in May

June 20th, 2017 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

An active month. 59 food and drink transactions were recorded on the bevblog.net mergers and acquisitions database during May, including a record 11 on a single day – the 24th.

Exceptionally, however, there were none over $1 billion or even $500 million. The biggest in May was the $446 million US private equity purchase of Nutraceutical International by HGGC.

Of the 59, 10 were in alcohol, 10 in soft drinks, 5 in dairy, 5 in nutrition and 3 each in bakery, equipment, frozen food, ingredients, meat and packaging.

The deals took place across 24 countries. 35 were within national boundaries, including 19 in the United States and 8 in the United Kingdom. 24 were international.

Overall, the United States featured in 28, the United Kingdom in 14 and Germany in 4, then China, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Spain each in 3.

Last month, Nestlé launched a milk powder in China for people over the age of 50, to help their brains stay fitter for longer.

It’s a remarkable ambition. The Yiyang brand already offers an array of protein and nutrition powders for adult nutrition.

This goes further in seeking to improve brain response and memory, thereby delaying the effects of ageing.

The market could be huge as the proportion of the Chinese population over 50 is expected to rise from the current 28% to around 50% by 2050.

“As an old Chinese saying goes, ‘diet cures more than the doctors’,” a Nestlé representative commented.

“You can’t just pull 1 or 2 policy levers, you need to pull 50.” This was the conclusion of Richard Dobbs, Senior Partner at McKinsey and author of a major study on obesity in 2014, commenting recently on its $2 trillion global economic impact.

He made 3 other observations, which also chimed with my own thinking.

• ‘Politicians are distracted by single policies’, such as soda taxes, because it is easier to target a single sector than a coalition of resistance.

• ‘Industry lacks the level playing field that regulation can create’, such as common international nutrient profile standards for claims.

• “Everyone from retailers and manufacturers to the drug companies … were all united in wanting to fix the problem. “

It’s time for policy makers to focus on ingestion not gesture.