Opinion from global food and drink experts, Zenith Global

Meat substitutes may be the biggest focus for investment in new food concepts over the past few years, but it seems vertical farming could be next in line.

I saw various examples of vertical farming on display at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, but I was concerned about the cost of energy as well as infrastructure.

Now there are various companies

• using empty industrial buildings,
• concentrating on small volume, high value products like herbs,
• which can produce crops on almost a monthly cycle.

The great advantages of vertical farms are:

• total control of conditions, such as light, humidity and temperature
• improved food safety conditions and
• better flavour, according to chefs.

The largest vertical farm in Europe is reported to be Jones Food Company in Britain, which has already received £4.9 million of funding.

In the United States, some investments have been substantially higher:

• $200 million in 2017 for Plenty, including support from the founders of Amazon and Google
• $90 million in 2018 for Bowery Farming, backed by Google Ventures
• $40 million for AeroFarms with backers including Dubai.

A shorter month, but more acquisitions. February saw 72 food and drink transactions recorded on the bevblog.net mergers and acquisitions database.

PepsiCo’s $465 million purchase of CytoSport from Hormel Foods was only the fifth biggest, with 4 others involving sums greater than $500 million.

• £975 million for Canada’s Saputo to acquire Dairy Crest in the United Kingdom

• $1,000 million for South Korea’s MBK private equity to buy Godiva chocolate production in Belgium and licences in Asia from Turkey’s Yildiz Holding

• $750 million for Britain’s Marks & Spencer to take a 50% stake in the UK online food delivery operations of Ocado

• $538 million additional sales gained by Japan’s Nisshin Seifun in winning Australia’s Allied Pinnacle bakery business from Pacific private equity.

Out of the 72 total, 11 were in soft drinks, 9 in alcohol, 8 in dairy, 6 in ingredients, 5 in packaging, 4 in snacks and 3 in meat.

Among the newcomer sectors, 2 were in cannabidiol, 1 in insects and 1 vegan. 13 were funding rounds.

43 of the 72 were within individual countries, with 25 in the United States, 10 in the United Kingdom and 3 in Canada. 28 were international.

Overall, 30 countries were involved. The United States featured in 36, the United Kingdom in 15, Canada in 5, France in 5, Australia in 3, Italy in 3, Netherlands in 3 and Switzerland in 3.

Plastics in perspective

March 5th, 2019 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

I had often wondered, but had never researched, how much oil is required for plastic.

An article in the Financial Times on 18th February enlightened me.

• Over half of global oil consumption is for transport.
• Under 15% is required for petrochemicals.
• Two thirds of this is for plastic.
• 45% of plastic production is for packaging.

The International Energy Agency has forecast that petrochemicals will account for half of global oil demand growth up to 2040.

The article by Christof Rühl challenges this, due to:

• reduced use of plastic bags
• slower growth for other plastic and
• increased recycled content.

I would add:

• greater use of plant-based plastic
• enhanced sustainability of other materials
• increased choice of re-usable containers and dispense systems.

Some personal news

February 21st, 2019 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

All blogs are personal. They involve a selection of issues for attention. They reflect a degree of opinion. Sometimes the personality is masked by objective analysis. Sometimes the content is unashamedly individual. As today.

My most significant new personal insight is that I have become a grandfather for the first time, to a delightful girl born early on Sunday 17th February.

She is not just a joy to my family, she also represents a new way of looking at the world and I look forward to seeing where that leads.

My second personal insight comes from an email I received to celebrate British Airways’ 100th year. It told me that, since 1991, I “have flown 474,687 miles” with BA, “which is the same as flying 19.1 times round the world.”

I was pleased at both the systems that keep such records and the imaginative approach to telling me. I wasn’t so pleased at the carbon footprint it entails, multiplied by the other airlines I use.

We must all do better, for the sake of that next generation.


February 20th, 2019 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

It was a revelation when I discovered some years ago that the world’s third most populous country in 2050 would be … Nigeria.

This week, the Financial Times published an IMF league table of the world’s leading economies from 2000 to 2023 in purchasing power parity. It did not surprise me at all that Asian economies are rising fast up the rankings, but it did surprise me that by 2023:

• Indonesia may push past Russia, Brazil, the United Kingdom and France to 6th.

• Bangladesh may beat South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium to 30th.

• Portugal and Greece may slip behind Kuwait and Sri Lanka below 50th.

The full top 10 are:

Source: IMF

Nigeria is expected to reach 26th.

Plant-based packaging promise

February 19th, 2019 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

Welcome news to learn of the new US Plant Based Products Council.

Certainly, it will be helpful to combine expertise on opportunities for bio-sourced materials.

The Council has already launched an online database covering 480 different plant-based products currently on the market, with a commitment to expand its coverage as new products are developed.

Also of interest is a survey undertaken by the Council in August 2018. Among US millennial consumers:

• 90% have favourable views of bioplastic when explained, with just 13% so far ‘very familiar’ with bioplastic.

• 60% are surprised by the apparent lack of alternatives to plastic.

• 48% feel guilty about their use of plastic, compared with 33% for paper, 31% for water and 19% for the amount they drive.

68 acquisitions in January

February 12th, 2019 | Posted by Richard Hall in Richard Hall - (0 Comments)

2019 started with 68 food and drink industry transactions recorded in the bevblog.net mergers and acquisitions database for January.

Most were modest, including 17 fund raising rounds, with just 2 involving sums of more than $500 million. In fact, both of these exceeded $3,000 million.

• £3,320 million for US-based Apollo private equity to buy UK-based RPC in packaging.

• €3,200 million sales for the French co-operative merger between d’Aucy and Triskalia to form Eureden.

Of the 68, 10 were in alcohol, 9 in dairy, 9 in packaging, 6 in ingredients and 4 in bakery.

Emerging categories included 3 for meal kits, 2 for plant-based and a first for CBD (cannabidiol) as well as for hydroponic (vertical farming).

34 were within national borders, 19 in the United States, 5 in France and 4 in the United Kingdom. 34 were international, spanning 30 countries.

Across the total, 32 featured the United States, 12 France, 10 the United Kingdom, 4 Germany and 3 India.

Every January, around the time of the World Economic Forum in Davos, there are various announcements of new initiatives on global issues.

This year, there have been 3 of major significance.

  • The first was from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, criticising current food production practices and advocating a more circular economy, with increased local and regenerative sourcing, less waste and better planning.
  • The second was the EAT-Lancet Commission report, saying that we must halve our meat and sugar intake while doubling our consumption of nuts, fruits, legumes and vegetables for future global health and sustainability.
  • The third was the launch of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste by 30 energy and supply chain companies, with a $1,500 million investment in recycling and clean-up projects over 5 years.

It is increasingly clear that governments no longer have the capability to tackle these issues alone.

Only if industry acts in partnerships will companies be able to chart a course of long term, strategic common sense amidst the competing pressures of the day.