Clean Labels, Global Consumer and Food Manufacturers

Posted on:April 28, 2012
natural or organic foods

As in many countries, Mexico has regulations governing organic products. The National Counsel for Organic Production (CNPO) was established in 2007.

Processed and formulated food products that seem unprocessed and unformulated are of interest to both consumers and manufacturers around the globe.
Many discussions of the clean label trend (where only a few consumer-friendly ingredients are used to formulate a product) seem to imply that consumer attitudes are the sole driving force.
I would argue that clean labels benefit food manufactures in other ways as well. For example, as the processed foods industry becomes increasingly global and CPG companies strive to distribute their branded products around the globe, formulated foods are transferred across country borders more easily when only a few traditional ingredients are used (1). That is, countries tend to have more restrictions on the use of an ingredient like “hydrogenated oil” than on an ingredient like “butter.”
Secondly, although “natural” and “organic” are two similar product attributes generally valued by consumers, they are also in competition with each other. A food processor can chose to market an organic product or a natural one. The first is often more expensive to do since it often has to meet more specific regulations than the second. An earlier Global Food Forums blog written on this received more comments than usual, “Giving Consumers What They Want: Natural or Organic”. Manufacturers tend to lean towards developing and marketing natural rather than organic foods and beverages due to operational issues.
So what makes a label “clean?” The website owned by National Starch/Corn Products International provides a few insights. Global consumer research conducted by MMR Research Worldwide in January 2011 and reported on the website’s research page notes among other findings that:

  • in France, “Natural”/”all natural” is the most appealing front-of-pack claim and 81 percent of French consumers rate the ingredient list as quite or very important when buying a food or drink,
  • in the UK, 68 percent of British consumers find on-pack claims relating to “no additives” / “no artificial ingredients” important,
  • in Spain, 69 percent of consumers rate on-pack claims relating to “no additives”/”no artificial ingredients” as important.

Are clean labels the ultimate goal? No. In consumer poll after poll, taste, price and convenience often trump all else. Consumers have the right to “want it all.” Trying to figure out how to deliver an optimal combination of valued benefits is the food industry’s challenge.

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums,Inc., a conference and seminar service provider

(1) The academic paper “Factors Impacting New Food Introductions in Emerging Markets” discusses the three key influences impacting new product decisions; company specific factors (related to the company launching the product), product specific factors (the nature of the product itself) and region or country specific factors (the area into which the product is launched). Regulations on food and beverage ingredients fall under governmental policies and regulations, a regional factor.

Global Trade to Saliva & Obesity to Breast Cancer

Posted on:April 21, 2012

A new study points to genetic differences in vitamin D receptors as potentially being responsible for higher breast cancer rates among African American women compared to European American women. A lower vitamin D level in the blood is linked to higher risk.

I keep a running copy of news items that I think may be useful for presentations, reports, articles and so on. Here’s a short list of news items that I’ve recently posted on Global Food Forums. It covers studies such as a recent one on amylase enzymes in saliva and the potential link to diabetes to the size of the U.S. and Chinese grocery market. I hope it’s useful, or at least interesting.

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar organizer

Pink Slime and Sustainability

Posted on:March 31, 2012
Photo of beef ground up
A large percent of ground beef contains very finely “ground” beef known as lean finely texture beef or inaccurately “pink slime.”

I’m confused (it sometimes happens).

After reading many blogs and comments on lean finely textured beef, opps, I forgot to call it by its inflammatory name, “pink slime,” it seems that often the same people that are criticizing it are also the same ones promoting “sustainability.”

A May 29, 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “’Pink Slime’ Defense Rises,” quotes Kansas Governor Sam Brownback as saying “You effectively need to kill 1.5 million more head of cattle in a year to replace the meat that would go off the market…”

Now consider American Indians who have often been portrayed as being more in harmony with the environment than today’s consumers. An example often given of their resourcefulness and natural sustainability activities was that they were said to “use almost every part of a buffalo” for some need or another. “The tongue, heart, liver, and back fat were special treats,” notes one history site. They sought to use more of an animal than just choice cuts meat.

Although I do understand why “pink slime” has had such traction among the American public, for one, I guess many prefer to believe their hamburger is just ground up filet mignon, I’m confused as to why so few recognize that certain aspects of it are “earth-friendly.”

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar service provider

Five Trends-Chips, Black Soybeans, Seaweed, Ginger and Gluten-free Oats

Posted on:March 27, 2012

Here are five more trends seen at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West to be added to the “sweetener,” “kale,” and “coconut water” trends discussed in previous Global Food Forum blogs this March 2012.

Photo of Oatstanding Beverage

A pleasantly flavored and textured beverage, Sneaky Pete's Oatstanding Beverages are said to "sneak" dietary fiber into one's diet.

Photo of Annie Chun's savory roasted Korean seaweed with wasabi

Annie Chun's added Sesame and Waskabi flavored varieties to its Roasted Seaweed Snack line, an example of the on-going interest in both seaweed and cracker-type snacks.

1. Health Bars Down, Chips Up. This year at NPEW the flood of new health bars finally seems to have slowed some. The “new kid on the block” that is taking their place may well be crackers, chips and related snacks. Veggie chips, pita chips, black bean and other legumes, sesame, seaweed, popcorn and, of course, tortilla and potato chips and crackers in a multitude of flavors appeared in many dozens of booths. Examples include Popcorn Indiana Chipins (I tried the sea salt variety, they were tasty) and Michael Season’s “Popped Black Beans Crisps” to name just two.
2. Black soybeans. Speaking of black, black soybean products popped up at a number of booths. They were promoted as being more healthful and able to deliver more antioxidants than the more common beige soybeans due to the dark outer soybean coat. Wikipedia notes that the hull of soybeans come in a variety of colors such as “black, brown, blue, yellow, green and mottled.” Examples include Nasoya’s new Black Soybean TofuPlus. Eden Organic also has canned Black Soy Beans on the market.
3. Seaweed “crisps” (for a lack of a better word). The show always has a proper showing of algae-based foods and beverages, but paper thin, salty and still “seaweed-tasting” products appeared in more than a few booths. Annie Chun’s added two new flavors, Sesame and Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks. Another example is Yama Moto Yama’s “Seawood Snack Chips.”
4. Ginger. A trend that showed up a few years ago seems to continue unabated this year. Always a popular traditional flavor and medicinal spice for aiding digestive health, ginger-flavored and ginger-containing beverages and foods were everywhere. Examples include Reed’s Ginger Brew Culture Club Kombucha Gogi Ginger variety and a range of Bruce Cost Ginger Ales made from “fresh ginger (no extracts or oils)…”.
5. Oats. Oats have a great health reputation to begin with and their use is expanding as technology allows for broader applications. Examples include Oat Tech’s OatSweet (syrup from an enzymatically hydrolyzed oat slurry of reduced bran content); Sneaky Pete’s Heart Healthy Oatstanding Beverage in flavors from Raspberry Beret to Mango Mystique (a 12 oz. bottle contains 11% DV dietary fiber); and, Simpli’s Gluten-free Instant Oatmeal, Oats and Oat flour made from non-wheat contaminated oats imported from Finland.

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar organizing service

Coconut Water Conversation

Posted on:March 19, 2012
O.N.E. coconut water in Tetra Pak containers

The 500ml containers of plain O.N.E. Coconut Water are bottled in the Philippines. 500ml containers of Pineapple, Mango and Pink Guava varieties have the USA as country of origin. The 250ml varieties list "Indonesia/USA" as the countries of origin.

A multitude of exhibitors at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, offered coconut-based foods and beverages. The trend is not new. Two years ago in May 2010 I wrote in Prepared Foods magazine that “virgin coconut oil (heck, anything coconut, such as beverages, coconut milk-based ice cream and fat-replacer pastes)…” were being introduced in large numbers at the show. See Trends from the Frontline. This year as I started to wonder about the source of all that coconut water, a poster at the O.N.E. Coconut Water booth caught my eye. It pictured a relatively young, blond company founder, Rodrigo Veloso, with the title “Conscience Capitalist.” When I asked a person in the O.N.E. booth what this meant, here is the story he told me.

The representative at the booth said that Brazil is the only developed country producing large quantities of coconut products. I said I had not thought of Brazil as a developed country, but he said that in comparison to some of the primary Asian countries that produced coconut water, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, Brazil was developed. I was told that industrially, coconut husks were one of the first commercially-important components of coconuts. The fibers were used for car seat fillings. The coconut meat is also a popular ingredient of foods such as baked goods and candy bars and coconut oil is also desired for foods and personal care items. However, coconut water was a by-product in processing these coconut ingredients. I was told that Mr. Veloso, along with another student, Eric Loudon, made this part of a thesis for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree some seven-eight years ago. Coconut water has long had a reputation for its healthfulness.

Eventually, the business plan was turned into a real company, One World Enterprises, LLC. At some point, interest in the by-product coconut water grew so much that it was in short supply. The production process to obtain it was not efficient. Veloso’s company went on to partnered with a Peter Paul plant in the Philippines. The plant, I was told, uses some half a million coconuts a day. (Mounds and Almond Joy candy bars are brands of Peter Paul.) A process was developed where the coconut water was captured, processed and packaged into Tetra Pak drink containers in the Philippines and shipped to the U.S. The brand O.N.E. Coconut Water has not only achieved commercial success in the U.S., but has an ethical angle in that money ends up in the hands of a developing economy.

I did less “due diligence” than usual for this story, but did stop by the booth of Coco Café, another coconut water company, where I was told that they imported coconut water from Asia and Brazil then with after the addition of milk, coffee, sugar and certain other ingredients, “bottled it” into Tetra Paks in Chicago. At the Vita Coco coconut water booth, I was told they packaged their product in Brazil or Asia, depending on the coconut water source.

One last bit of coconut water trivia. A few years ago I had been told that coconut water use to be used for blood transfusions. I get told a lot of things, particularly at this Expo. However, I checked it out to the best of my ability and indeed coconut water indeed has an osmotic value similar to blood. Supposedly during World War II it was used for intravenous hydration when alternatives were in short supply and research since then has confirmed its value for this use. See Campbell-Falck, D, et al. 2000. Am J Emerg Med. 18(1):108-11.

– Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar service provider

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