Opinion from global food and drink experts, Zenith Global


May 21st, 2010 | Posted by Richard Hall in Environmental | Recycling - (1 Comments)

If something can be simplified, that’s the route I’d wish to take.

My simple view of PET has been this. Oil is a finite and brilliant but polluting resource. PET is a fantastic product from oil and 100% recyclable. So the solution is to maximise recycling and the use of recycled material. Ideally to 100%. But that may be too simplistic.

We had a brief debate about this at our UK Soft Drinks Industry Conference last week.

Various companies have used 100% recycled PET for their products in the past few years. Among the pioneers were GlaxoSmithKline and Innocent in Britain as well as Naya in Canada.

In the past few days, I’ve come across Britain’s Silver Spring using 55% rPET for Perfectly Clear sparkling flavoured water and Belgium’s Spadel opting for 50% rPET in its relaunched Spa Reine.

25% rPET is becoming the new aspirational standard for many companies and 10% rPET the gesture of others who may be having difficulties obtaining sufficient supplies.

What then is the ideal? At our conference, 25% was being held out to be a sustainable optimum. It was suggested that 100% rPET can only be used, in bottles at least, a few times before it becomes too brittle.

I’m an economist, not a technical person. I’d genuinely welcome other views.

All 224 pages of Nestlé’s latest annual reports thudded on to my desk last Friday. Since today is World Water Day, I thought I should check how Nestlé is doing on water.

Proven buoyancy

  • I was most impressed by its 33% reduction in water usage since 2000 despite a 63% increase in production volume. That’s an eye watering 59% drop in the amount withdrawn per tonne of product in nine years.
  • No wonder Nestlé was ranked in the top three food and drink companies worldwide for sustainability last week.
  • I also noted that Nestlé Pure Life is now the biggest water brand in the world, achieving 14% organic growth in 2009.

Bubbling under

 There were good examples of environmental initiatives making a big impact in particular countries:

  • 60,000 fewer truck loads saving 12 million litres of fuel in France and Belgium by using trains instead;
  • 356,000 million tonnes of emissions avoided by a new Eco-Shape water bottle in the United States (though I rather think the word million was left in by mistake).

Below the surface

 More disappointingly:

  • Water had the lowest performance of any Nestlé division in terms of both growth and margin.
  • While I appreciated much of the information provided and its presentation, I would also have welcomed more on the lightweighting and recycling of packaging.

Fortunately, I don’t see Nestlé taking a raincheck in dealing with water issues. Nor shall I.


March 16th, 2010 | Posted by Richard Hall in Environmental - (1 Comments)

Shame on you, public at large.

A recent survey by Litter Heroes collected 7,796 branded items of litter in British cities and found that:

  • The most common were 34% drinks cans and bottles, 16% confectionery wrappers, 13% fast food, 10% cigarette packets and 8% crisp packets.
  • The five most prevalent brands were 4.9% Coca-Cola, 4.1% Walkers crisps, 3.6% McDonald’s, 2.7% Cadbury and 2.0% Red Bull.

This leads me to three conclusions:

  1. We should all put more pressure on those who litter.
  2. We should also demand better facilities to collect litter and recycling.
  3. We should ask Litter Heroes to include cigarette ends and gum next time as I fear the wrappers would be heavily outnumbered by the contents. Literally.


March 11th, 2010 | Posted by Richard Hall in Environmental | Health - (0 Comments)

A fortnight ago, I had the privilege of chairing a conference session during Gulfood in Dubai. Four eminent speakers presented their views on the top trends in the industry. After a lively discussion, I asked the audience to vote on the three most important.

Three of the speakers highlighted food safety. Two mentions each were given to convenience, value for money, health, naturalness, innovation, customer service and traceability.

The audience voted most strongly for food safety as the key issue, followed by value for money and health.

If a similar poll had taken place in Europe or North America, I imagine that the environment and product benefit would have been additional contenders.

I’ve just been reading a disturbing report by the WRAP environmental group into avoidable food and drink waste disposed of down UK kitchen sinks.

It estimates a staggering total of £1,799 million a year. The throwaway leaders are:

UK kitchen sinks

Waste not, want not ?

There were quite a few good news stories in January on the packaging innovation front, with a combination of sound environmental and convenience credentials. Among them:

  • Sidel has claimed a lightweighting record for hot fill PET bottles at 18.9 grams for 50cl.
  • Kingsland Wines and Spirits has introduced what it heralds as the lightest screwcap glass wine bottle at 300 grams instead of the standard 420 grams, a 29% reduction.
  • Carling has unveiled new Taste Lock technology on its cans and improvements to its on-can temperature indicator from April.
  • Looking ahead to 2011, Arla has declared its intention to start using HDPE derived from sugar cane to reduce the carbon footprint of its milk bottles.

It is particularly welcome to see that all beverage sectors are contributing.

Wine has a carbon footprint 6.5 times that of bottled water, according to recent research by Nestlé Waters. Its figures are in grams of CO2 equivalent per litre.

Product Grams Index
Bottled water 340 100
Soft drink 510 150
Beer 910 268
Milk 1200 353
Fruit juice 1200 353
Wine 2200 647

Across the European Union, apparently, bottled water accounts for 17% of beverage consumption, but only 8% of beverage greenhouse gas emissions.


January 13th, 2010 | Posted by Richard Hall in Environmental | Health - (0 Comments)

… and the decade ahead … in food and drink.

Will it be caution ? No, we want to be confident and don’t want to be left behind.

Health ? Definitely, but without sacrificing taste and with the minimum of effort. Functional benefit will be an increasingly important dimension of this.

The environment ? For certain. Recognition of the need for change is gathering momentum and new regulations will be a major feature of the next ten years.

Convenience ? Yes, along with pleasure and choice. But these will be hard fought over. Few of us want to be told, yet most of us could act more intelligently.

Nature will continue to compete with science. We’d like everything to be fresh and local, but are also keen to benefit from technical innovation.

Value will be vital. Premium value. Low cost value. Social values. Value and values make consumers feel good about what they consume and will ensure they keep coming back.

Will supplies suffice ? Sadly, no, not evenly or fairly. Water has to become better priced, used and shared. All markets need to be kept as free and competitive as possible.