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.

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.


Photo of Annie Chun's savory roasted Korean seaweed with wasabi3. 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.” [Seen at left “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..”


Photo of Oatstanding Beverage4. 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. [Seen at right “A pleasantly flavored and textured beverage, Sneaky Pete’s Oatstanding Beverages are said to “sneak” dietary fiber into one’s diet.”]

— 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

What is the Difference between Blogs and Articles?

Posted on:March 14, 2012
Trend Products at Natural Products Expo West

Many speakers and attendees at Natural Products Expo West tout the ideal food as being unprocessed and "natural." However, most all vendors are selling packaged foods and supplements.


Since I have written hundreds of articles over some 20 years as an editor on Prepared Foods (and originally Dairy Foods) magazine, most of my blogs end up looking like short articles. They probably take too long to write since I tend to research, fact check and reference them. I can’t help myself.

However, there is a certain enjoyment in just writing what comes to mind. Consider the following. I could write a year’s worth of blogs on the annual Natural Products Expo shows. Missing the show would be like being deprived of oxygen for any trend watcher. Seeing the products in 2,000+ booths striving to attract the trendy LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) demographic group provides key insights. While the majority of vendors offer valid and even intriguing products, the convention offers other sights and conversations as well.

Where else can one stumble across the male model Fabio working a protein supplement booth in the basement level (he did last year as well). A few aisles over, a band playing reggae with Bob Marley’s relatives promoted Marley Coffee. I found myself in a conversation with one lady earnestly telling me that the owner of Whole Foods has stock in Monsanto (the GMO seed company) so that USDA certified organic foods were not to be trusted to be GMO-free as regulations require, which is why a new non-GMO certification system has to be developed. Seriously? Oh yes, and the complicated new system would not cost processors nor consumers a dime. Hmmm. “Natural, unprocessed foods” were where often promoted as the ideal health product, yet almost every booth promoted packaged foods, beverages and supplements. Click here for a larger version of the above slide.

The claims were perhaps the most interesting. During a visit to the lady’s room I overheard one woman explaining to two others that an oleander-based product “ had been researched as a cancer cure but then it was discovered that it got rid of wrinkles.” Really?!

Maybe that’s the difference between a blog and an article. I would never quote restroom conversations in an article.

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

Sweeteners to Kale-Trends at Natural Products Expo West

Posted on:March 11, 2012
Kale maybe a hot new nutrition trend

At least four manufacturers at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West were offering kale as a snack.

First day of 2012 Natural Products Expo West was, as usual, packed solid by attendees. The show itself provided hints on to upcoming mainstream trends. As one attendee said “It’s where you go to see what will be popular in big consumer markets in three or four years and to figure out which companies will be bought by large food corporations in a few years as well.” In this and several other new blogs, I’ll be providing a perspective on what is new or growing, what trends are holding their own, and what may be fading.
Sweeteners: Humans being human, sweeteners will always be in demand. Although the natural-positioned high intensity sweetener stevia was certainly in many products, monk fruit extract was also found in products such as the Probiotic & Prebiotic Ready-to-Drink Beverages from GoLive™. Monk fruit extract (luo han guo), another natural-positioned, high-intensity sweetener, has not been recommended to be used as a stand-alone sweetener. It was used instead along with cane sugar in the forumla. For more information on monk fruit extract, see Ingredient Profile: Monk Fruit Extract.
Indeed, what seemed to be the two of the most popular “new” sweetener ingredients called out on labels were two ancient favorites, honey and cane sugar (basically sucrose, although heaven forbid that it ever be referred to as by that chemical-sounding name). Agave syrup had fallen due to “a bad rap” as one attendee explained. Other natural sweeteners such as brown rice syrup (generally an enzymatic hydolysis of rice resulting in a mixture of  maltose, maltotriose and small amounts of glucose), barley malt syrup (sweetness from maltose), and juices (apple and pear in particular), also graced the ingredient label of many products positioned to be natural.
The Coming of Kale (Brassica oleracea): I have often used kale as an example of how unrealistic career nutritionists can be about the American diet. It is generally within the context of “kale is a great source of vitamin K.” Right…kale consumption is right up there with pizza. However, yesterday, although I only covered maybe half the NPEW show floor, at least four companies where offering up kale snacks. And, with the flavorings such as cheese and no doubt a good dose of salt, a few were so tasty that I went back for seconds.

More food and ingredients trends to come.

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

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