Saturday, May 31, 2008


April poultry, red meat, egg, butter stocks up
WASHINGTON — Frozen stocks of turkey, chicken, pork, beef, eggs and butter in warehouses on April 30 were greater than year earlier levels, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest Cold Storage report. MORE

April milk outturn up 2.5% from year ago
WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 23 major producing states totaled 14.8 billion lbs in April, up 2.5% from the same month of 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest Milk Production report. MORE

U.S.D.A. forecasts winter wheat output up 17%
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast 2008 U.S. winter wheat production at 1,777,532,000 bus, up 17% from 1,515,989,000 bus last year, in its May Crop Production report. MORE

U.S.D.A. projects record global wheat crop
WASHINGTON — In its first projections for the 2008-09 marketing year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast global wheat production at a record 656 million tonnes, up 8% from this year and 5% above the previous record set in 2004-05. MORE

Average price of all wheat drops 50c a bu in April
WASHINGTON — The preliminary national average price received by farmers for all wheat in April was $10.10 per bu, down 50c from $10.60 in March but $5.21 above the April 2007 average of $4.89, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its April Agricultural Prices report. MORE

March egg product output down 4% from 2007
WASHINGTON — The total amount of edible liquid product from shell eggs broken in March was 212,023,000 lbs, down 4% from a year ago but up 7% from February 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest Egg Products report. MORE

March butter, pork, chicken and turkey stocks up
WASHINGTON — Frozen stocks of butter, pork, chicken and turkey in warehouses on March 31 were greater than year earlier levels, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest Cold Storage report. MORE

U.S. orange forecast up 1% from March
WASHINGTON — All orange production in the United States for 2007-2008 was forecast at 10,128,000 tons (236,138,000 boxes), up 1% from the March 1 forecast and 33% above 2006-2007 final utilization of 7,626,000 tons (177,280,000 boxes), the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest Crop Production report. MORE

February nonfat dry milk production up from year ago
WASHINGTON — February production of both nonfat dry milk and skim milk powders was up significantly from a year ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest Dairy Products report. MORE

Intended plantings top expectations
WASHINGTON — U.S. farmers intend to plant more soybeans, other spring wheat and durum in 2008 than most analysts expected, but less corn, according to the Prospective Plantings report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. MORE

Friday, May 30, 2008

Getting the Word Out

Companies are using technology to provide nutritional information to consumers.

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 76 percent of adults say they are trying to eat healthier at restaurants than they did two years ago. As a result, they are seeking out more nutritional information for menu items at area restaurants. Using such technology as Web sites, text messaging, and point-of-sale systems, quick-serve restaurants are delivering on that demand.

For those consumers who rely heavily on their cell phones, launched Nutrition on the Go in February. With this service, customers send in a text message with a restaurant name and menu item and receive a return message containing the item’s calorie count, fat grams, and carbohydrate amount. “We found a need among the users to have information available to make healthy decisions when dining out and when they are too busy to plan ahead,” Nutrition on the Go Marketing Director Meredith Oliver says. “With most consumers using cell phones today, this is a great tool that is available to anyone using a cell phone.”

The free service accesses information from up to 1,700 national and local eateries, but the nutritional information is not provided directly by the restaurants. Instead, obtains the information from a variety of public sources, including the USDA Nutritional Database, restaurant Web sites, and various books on the topic.

While some restaurants have contacted the Web site expressing interest in becoming directly involved with the service, many more are not familiar with Nutrition on the Go.

Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith says he hasn’t heard of the service, but Burger King applauds any effort to relate nutritional information to consumers. “We believe strongly in educating our consumers so we advocate any service that makes this information readily available,” he says.

Working in tandem with the NRA, Healthy Dining in San Diego launched in March 2007. The site provides a search engine that helps users find area restaurants offering between four and six healthy menu options. When pulling up the results, the listing contains a chart, which lists the menu items and such nutritional content as calories, fat grams, cholesterol, fiber, and protein.

Restaurants, which pay a fee to be a part of the program, provide all the information, and it can be updated as often as the business likes. “[Our team] has a huge commitment to making this program a really outstanding tool for consumers and restaurants,” says Erica Bohm, vice president and director of strategic partnerships for Healthy Dining. “It’s really a win-win. Nobody loses with this.”

In fact, Healthy Dining nutritionists will even work with restaurants to identify the four to six healthy menu options, as well as help them publicize their affiliation with the Web site via press releases, on-site window stickers, and Web site logos.

To advertise both the Web site and its participating restaurants, offers a free, bi-weekly e-newsletter along with a healthy recipe from a participating restaurant. The company also is looking into making the Web site accessible on mobile phones later this year.

Another such service is the Nutricate Receipt System, which provides order-specific nutritional information directly on the customer receipt at the time of the order. Founded in 2004 by Jay Ferro, the system satisfies both customers’ desire for nutritional information and regulatory requirements for disclosure.

Each receipt includes the calorie count, total fat grams, and carbohydrate and protein amounts for each menu item ordered. In addition, it shows the recommended daily value percentages of the nutrients based on both a 2,000- and 2,500-calorie diet.

Many restaurants also provide comprehensive nutritional information via their own Web sites, in-store posters, brochures, and tray liners. Some take it a step further, offering additional educational tools to customers. For example, Taco Bell maintains a nutritional calculator on its Web site, where users can enter their specific menu items and get the total nutritional information.

While each service reaches its clientele in different ways, Sheila Weiss, director of nutrition policy for the NRA, says this multipronged approach is beneficial for everyone involved. “A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t fit all of our customers,” she says. “All of these [services] reach all audiences. It really is a benefit to the consumer. Finding new and innovative ways to get this information to consumers is great.”

Although incorporating one of these services into your offerings is voluntary, many states, counties, and cities are trying to implement mandatory menu-labeling laws requiring restaurants to list a variety of nutritional information on menuboards. Both Seattle and New York City have passed such regulations, with more than 20 others pending around the country in cities including Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia and in states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont.

The New York State Restaurant Association even filed in federal district court to strike down the city’s measure. Further controversy arose from the filing’s affidavit by Dr. David B. Allison, president-elect of the Obesity Society, who stated that “labeling might deter over-eating but might not and, in fact, might be harmful.”

Most recently Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced federal legislation in March to extend the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act to food sold at restaurants with more than 20 locations. The law would require chains to list the nutritional information of all its menu items and would even apply to vending machine fare.

Oliver says she hopes Nutrition on the Go will impact how the regulations are played out. “With potential mandates for restaurants to include nutritional information on menus, we hope we may be a viable alternative to this legislation that is threatening restaurants in several states,” she says.

Since it appears the desire for full disclosure of nutritional information—by both consumers and legislators—doesn’t seem to be fading any time soon, expect to see more tools and services develop in the future.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Mother of All Health Foods

One successful strategy for increasing nutrition in food products is increasing the presence of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. And now we know that Mom approves.

An in-depth analysis of the 2008 edition of the “Generation X Moms” survey from the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, DE, reports American mothers eat fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than they should when compared to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. What’s key is that the survey suggests moms are ready to introduce more fruits and vegetables into their and their families’ diets.

Preliminary findings show nearly all the moms surveyed say that fresh fruits and vegetables are very healthy, followed by frozen fruits or vegetables, and 100% fruit or vegetable juice. This trend continues with more mothers stating they consider canned fruits and vegetables healthy foods, as well.

The message is clear that moms want to include more fruits and vegetables in their families’ meals every day. However, they feel that practical issues?some that the food industry can address?often prevent them from following through, including:

• A family of fussy eaters, or varying family preferences (64%);

• Fresh produce spoiling too quickly (57%);

• Lack of fruit and vegetable varieties in restaurants (51%).

“Generation X Moms” surveyed 1,000 women between the ages of 24 and 41, all of whom had at least 1 child under the age of 18 in their household. The survey was conducted online in Jan. 2008 by OnSurvey, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cocoa can be 'boost to diabetics'

A cup of enriched cocoa may help improve the working of blood vessels in diabetic patients, research suggests.

Doctors prescribed three mugs of specially formulated cocoa a day for a month, and found "severely impaired" arteries regained normal function.

The German study, featured in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggests chemicals called "flavanols" may be responsible.

But charity Diabetes UK said eating more normal chocolate would not work.

People with diabetes are at greater risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and strokes, partly due to the effects of high blood sugar on the linings of blood vessels, which stops them being able to expand as much when needed by the body.

This can result in higher blood pressure, which can then cause further problems.

While a healthier lifestyle can reduce the risks, it often does not solve the problem completely.

Cocoa naturally contains "flavanols", antioxidant chemicals which are also found in some fruit and vegetables, green tea and red wine, and has been linked with health benefits by other studies.

The type of cocoa used in the study cannot be found in the shops and is a version enriched with far higher concentrations of the chemicals.

Other studies are looking at whether flavanol-enriched chocolate could benefit patients.

Ten patients were told to drink the cocoa three times daily for 30 days, and a special test was used to measure the function of their blood vessels.

The ability of the vessels to expand in response to a demand for extra blood from the body appeared to increase almost immediately.

On average, a healthy person's arteries could expand by just over 5%, while the average of the 10 diabetic patients was just 3.3% prior to drinking their first mug of cocoa.

Two hours after drinking the cocoa, their response averaged 4.8%, and over the 30 days, this improved, to 4.1% even before cocoa, and 5.7% two hours after a mugful.

Chocolate warning

Dr Malte Kelm, from the University Hospital in Aachen, who led the study, said that the flavanols could be working by increasing the production of nitric oxide, a body chemical which tells arteries to relax and widen.

He said: "Patients with type II diabetes can certainly find ways to fit chocolate into a healthy lifestyle, but this study is not about chocolate, or about urging those with diabetes to eat more chocolate.

"Our results demonstrate that dietary flavanols might have an important impact as part of a healthy diet in the prevention of cardiovascular complications in diabetic patients."

A spokesman for Diabetes UK said the findings were "interesting".

"Flavanols do seem to offer potential health benefits for people with diabetes but, at this stage, we don't advise people to start drinking lots of hot chocolate as it can be high in sugar and fat.

"More research is needed in to the long-term effects of consuming such high amounts of flavanols."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Consumers Want More Sandwich Variety

New research found that though preferences for traditional sandwiches remain strong, consumers are looking for greater variety in sandwich ingredients available from limited- and full-service restaurants. A survey of more than 1,500 consumers revealed that over one third (39 percent) of those eating at LSRs and 51 percent at FSRs were not fully satisfied with available sandwich options, wanting new and unique ingredient offerings, flavors and combinations.

Sandwich Consumer Trend Report combines the results of extensive quantitative consumer research, menu analysis from its proprietary MenuMonitor database and restaurant data from its Top 500 Report to generate fresh and timely insights into the sandwich segment.

Among the more interesting findings of the report:

  • Sandwiches continue to be a strong mainstay of restaurant fare, making up 31 percent of all limited-service restaurant entrees and 15 percent of entrees at full-service restaurants.
  • Bold flavor profiles and the use of artisanal and premium breads, ingredients and sandwich spreads are growing trends in sandwich differentiation. The sandwich concept itself allows for a great deal of innovation as well as portability to meet the needs of consumers on the go.
  • The sandwich segment is appealing to health-conscious consumers through offering high-quality, fresh, local and organic ingredients. Consumer interest in healthy sandwich ingredients continues to grow, with 44 percent of consumers wanting sandwiches made with locally-grown ingredients and 30 percent with organic ingredients.
  • Sandwiches, once viewed as lunch fare, are important to all dayparts. Toasted sandwiches and paninis are increasing in popularity as entrée options in the dinner daypart, while the portability of breakfast sandwiches boosts breakfast daypart sales. Sandwiches are also gaining ground in the growing away-from-home snacking segment.

“Sandwiches are growing in share in all dayparts while consumers are asking for more variety in sandwich selections,” says Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic Information Services. “Given strong consumer trends toward healthy eating and an increasing consumer appetite for bolder flavors and premium ingredients, this presents an enormous opportunity for operators to menu more innovative sandwich offerings.”

The new Sandwich Consumer Trend Report was developed to give operators and foodservice suppliers vital market and consumer insights to drive business-building efforts in this category. In addition to extensive consumer and menu analysis, the report’s Competitive Insights section examines 11 leading sandwich chains plus another seven leading chains that serve sandwiches but are not categorized within “sandwich.” Operators can use this information to identify competitive advantages and examine best-in-class competitors across five service- and menu-related attributes.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Does Coffee Raise Cholesterol?

Does your daily morning jolt boost the risk of heart disease?

We were asked to do some research on this dilemma and here is what we found.

For the millions of people who depend on coffee to jumpstart their day, cholesterol is probably the last thing on their mind as they wait for the morning jolt of caffeine to kick in. In the past few years, though, more and more evidence hints that coffee can increase cholesterol levels.

Experts say that the majority of coffee-drinking Americans do not need to worry about the impact of a cup of joe on cholesterol levels. That's because most Americans drink filtered coffee, which is believed to have much less of an effect on cholesterol than unfiltered coffee. Filters seem to remove most of the cholesterol-boosting substances found in coffee.

But a cholesterol check may be in order for people who use a French press or percolator to make their coffee or who prefer espresso or other varieties of unfiltered coffee, according to Dr. Michael J. Klag, the vice dean for clinical investigation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

In 2001, Klag and his colleagues reviewed more than a dozen studies that looked at the relationship between coffee consumption and cholesterol levels. They found that drinking an average of six cups of coffee a day was associated with increased total cholesterol and LDL, the harmful type of cholesterol. Nearly all of the rise in cholesterol was linked to unfiltered coffee.

The coffee culprit
Although caffeine is often cast as a villain, the stimulant is not to blame for unfiltered coffee's effect on cholesterol levels. According to Klag, the increase in cholesterol is believed to be caused by oils called terpenes that are found in coffee, but are mostly removed by filters.

"Persons who drink unfiltered coffee should get their cholesterol checked to make sure it is not elevated," says Klag.

The Johns Hopkins researcher notes that in a 1994 study he and his colleagues found an association between coffee consumption and an increased risk of heart disease. But most of the increased risk was linked to coffee-drinking before 1975. It was during the mid-1970s, Klag points out, that drip-coffee makers became widely used in the United States, making filtered coffee the norm.

Although Klag advises his patients who drink unfiltered coffee to switch to filtered brew, he says that not everyone needs to be overly concerned about the effect of unfiltered coffee on cholesterol. He notes that cholesterol levels are a "combination of how you live, what you eat and what genes you inherit." A healthy person with low cholesterol probably does not need to worry too much about the effect of coffee on cholesterol levels, he says.

A Dutch researcher who has also documented the cholesterol-boosting effect of unfiltered coffee agrees that the risks need to be seen in perspective.

"Unfiltered coffee has much less effect on your heart-disease risk than smoking, high blood pressure or being overweight," says Dr. Martijn B. Katan, a professor at the Wageningen Center for Food Sciences and Wageningen University. "But if you want to optimize your cholesterol levels, you should avoid large daily amounts of unfiltered coffee."

Unfiltered coffee seems to boost cholesterol the most, although a handful of recent studies hint that filtered coffee may have an effect on cholesterol, too. In one study, researchers in Sweden found that people who normally drank filtered coffee experienced a small drop in cholesterol levels when they stopped drinking coffee for a few weeks. The results were "surprising," according to Dr. Elisabeth Strandhagen, of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, who led the study.

"We have done some tests on coffee filters, but we cannot explain why the filtered coffee had this effect on serum cholesterol," she says.

Despite the findings, filtered coffee seems to have a much smaller effect on cholesterol than unfiltered coffee. Strandhagen encourages people with high cholesterol or who are at high risk of heart disease to choose filtered coffee. They should also avoid coffee filters that have "aroma holes," which are very common in Sweden, she says.

Pieces of the puzzle

But filtered vs. unfiltered may not be the most important question to ask about coffee and cholesterol, according to a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

"People try to pin a culprit" when it comes to coffee and cholesterol, "but people do not live in an isolated world," says Dr. Gail C. Frank, a professor of nutrition in the department of family and consumer sciences at California State University, Long Beach. According to Frank, there are "several pieces to the coffee story," including not only whether people drink filtered or unfiltered coffee, but how much they drink and what they are doing besides drinking coffee, such as smoking.

And a study by Greek researchers published in the Nov. 2 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that combining smoking with coffee-drinking can increase the stiffness of arteries more than each of the activities alone. "Given the frequent combination of smoking and caffeine intake, these effects on arterial function may have important implications for human health," the researchers wrote.

Filtering through old habits

When making decisions about coffee, Frank encourages people not to look for a yes or no answer. It's not a simple question of "do drink coffee" or "don't drink coffee," she says.

While unfiltered coffee may contain substances that raise cholesterol levels, many popular coffee drinks sold at coffee houses contain other ingredients — cream and sugar, for example — that raise questions of their own about cholesterol.

Instead, Frank encourages people to "filter through" their own lives and their own cardiovascular risk factors to make a decision about how much and what type of coffee to drink.

Friday, May 23, 2008

U.S.D.A. examines food prices, biofuels not to blame

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 20 released an economic analysis showing higher energy prices, increased worldwide demand and the weather are the primary factors contributing to higher food prices, not biofuels.

In a briefing on the report, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer noted that oil prices have climbed to record rates this year, and that global biofuels production cut crude oil consumption by 1 million barrels a day, per International Energy Agency data.

"Developing diversity in our portfolio of fuels is if anything an even more urgent matter than it has been in the past," Mr. Schafer said. "And it is one that remains central to our energy security and our national security. The policy choices we have made on biofuels will deliver long-term benefits."

Mr. Schafer went on to criticize recent efforts to repeal U.S. biofuels policy, and urged the focus to stay on long-term solutions.

"The need for food and fuel is only going to grow," he said.

Industry associations applauded the report, and reiterated the commitment to explore alternative fuels.

"The press conference today echoed our message to consumers that corn ethanol production plays just a small role in food price increases," said Ron Litterer, president of the National Corn Growers Association. "American corn farmers will continue to work to meet the country’s food, fuel, and feed needs."

The U.S.D.A. posted the economic analysis and charts on-line at

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dietary Benefits in the Bag for Popcorn Consumers

Popcorn Consumption Associated With Higher Intake of Whole Grains, Dietary Fiber, Other Nutrients

Popcorn consumers have about a 250 percent higher intake of whole grains and a 22 percent higher intake of fiber than people who do not eat popcorn, according to an article in the 2008 May issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA). The research, funded by ConAgra Foods, Inc., and led by The Center for Human Nutrition, comes as the low-carb diet fad fades and consumers look for foods high in whole grains and fiber, which are important components of the government's most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Popcorn eaters averaged 2.5 servings of whole grains and 18.1 grams of dietary fiber a day (which cannot be attributed entirely to popcorn) while non-eaters consume 0.7 servings of whole grains and 14.9 grams of fiber. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage the daily consumption of three or more one-ounce servings of whole-grain foods and 28 grams of fiber as part of a 2,000 calorie diet.

Popcorn consumers ate an average of 38.8 grams (about six to seven cups of popped popcorn, which is equal to a little more than one labeled serving) of popcorn a day, according to the study. The analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 1999-2002 indicated that approximately six percent of the survey participants (910 out of 15,506 individuals aged four years and older) were popcorn consumers (survey participants who reported eating popcorn on the single 24-hour dietary recall used for NHANES). Popcorn consumption was reported by more females than males; more white individuals than those from other ethnic groups; and more 12- to 19-year-olds than other age groups.

As part of an overall healthful diet, whole-grain foods have been associated with improved weight management and reduced risk of several chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Yet, most Americans don't get enough. Fewer than 10 percent of Americans consume the recommended three servings per day(i).

In fact, a Whole Grain Awareness(ii) survey conducted on behalf of Orville Redenbacher's revealed that only 12 percent of Americans are aware that popcorn is a whole grain. "Popcorn is a great way for adults and children to get the whole grains they need on a daily basis. One serving of SmartPop! popcorn (six cups) actually equals two full servings of whole grains," explained Kristin J. Reimers, Ph.D., manager of nutrition for ConAgra Foods, Inc., and an author of the study.

"Snacks account for one-third of whole grain consumption, and popcorn is the most popular whole grain snack food. That's why dietitians can feel good about recommending snacks such as low fat Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! popcorn to their clients," said Reimers. "It contains more fiber per gram than many other whole grain foods, including oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice. The Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! line offers a number of varieties."

This is the first study to investigate popcorn consumption among American consumers and to examine pertinent associations between the consumption of popcorn, food group intakes, nutrient intakes, and biomarkers of cardiovascular disease using the NHANES 1999-2002 database. NHANES is an ongoing data collection initiative conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NHANES is designed to collect information about the health and diet of a cross-sectional, nationally representative sample of the noninstitutionalized civilian population in the United States.

Orville Redenbacher's® Gourmet Popping Corn is the leader in microwave popcorn. It's the perfect snack for the entire family -- popping up hot, fresh and delicious every time. Orville is available in a wide variety of products and flavors, including SmartPop! 94% fat free, NATURAL and Organic. It took Orville Redenbacher more than 40 years to develop a corn hybrid unlike any other, and continues to lead product innovation. In 2006, ConAgra Foods reformulated its microwaveable popcorn brands to be free of trans fat and in 2007, to help consumers decrease the amount of sodium in their diets, introduced SmartPop! 30% Less Sodium offering consumers a great healthy snack that is now even better for them. Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! line continues to garner more consumer interest in the healthy snack segment by appealing to consumers on the basis of its whole-grain content(iii).

For more information on Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! popcorn, consumers can visit Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn is a brand of ConAgra Brands, Inc. For more information, please visit us at
About ConAgra Foods

ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE: CAG - News), is one of North America's leading packaged food companies, serving grocery retailers, as well as restaurants and other foodservice establishments. Popular ConAgra Foods consumer brands include: Banquet, Chef Boyardee, DAVID, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, Reddi-wip, PAM and many others.

(i) United States. Department of Agriculture. Human Nutrition Information Service. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, United States. Agricultural Research Service. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the dietary guidelines for Americans, 2005: to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture. Washington, DC: The Committee; 2004.

(ii) Fielded by Opinion Research Corp.'s CARAVAN service from Sept. 21-24, 2006. Survey conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,023 Americans. The margin of error of the findings is +/- 3 percentage points.

(iii) Salty Snacks-U.S., March 2007, a report from Mintel, a leading market research company

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Upcoming Coffee Shortage

Bloomberg reports that global warming, the fear of which has already sent the alternative energy marketing to overdrive, may soon be affecting the coffee houses near you. Nestor Osorio, the head of the International Coffee Organization, is predicting that Brazil’s 2007-2008 coffee crop, the one which will be flowering in the fall of 2007, will be lower, and possibly significantly lower, than the 41.6 million bags the 2007 harvest is expected to produce.

Osorio says that, due to drier weather patterns, the flowering of the coffee plants for the 2008 crop will be affected. The lack of rain will stunt the bloom and increase the amount of time it takes the plants to develop the “cherries” from which the coffee beans are harvested. “The rain has not been the proper one”, Osorio said.

He is certain the 2008 crop will be less than 40 million bags, and could be as low as 32 million, a decrease of 20%.

Coffee is traded in 60-kilogram–about 132-pound-bags–and, since the market’s most recent bottom in 2001, its prices have increased significantly. The usual harvest produces 105 to 120 million bags a year, and Brazil, as the world’s largest coffee producer, accounts for one-quarter to one-third of that.

2006 has seen the price of Arabica coffee beans, which are grown for their flavor, increase sixteen percent, while robusta coffee beans, with a much higher caffeine content, widely used to control the cost of supermarket coffee blends, have experienced a twenty percent price hike.

And because Brazilian coffee accounts for so much of the global output, unless its coffee harvest shortfalls can be compensated for elsewhere, they will “account for a large portion of the change in the world total supplies,” according to a June 2007 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As Economics 101 teaches us, any imbalance between supply and demand will eventually make its way to the wallets of those demanding what cannot be easily supplied.

So, if you have a favorite blend of coffee, do a little research and find out how much of it came from Brazil.

Then, act accordingly.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Juice 'prevents clogged arteries'

Juices made from apples or purple grapes - and the fruit themselves - protect against developing clogged arteries, a study suggests.

Researchers fed hamsters the fruit and juice or water, plus a fatty diet.

The animals who were fed grape juice had the lowest risk of developing artery problems, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reports.

The University of Montpellier team said the juice's benefits came from its high levels of phenols - an antioxidant.

Antioxidants in various foods have been regularly cited as being beneficial to heart health.

The French team looked at how juicing affected the phenol content of fruit - because most studies look at raw fruit.

Four glasses a day

They then looked at how being fed various kinds of fruit affected the hamsters' risk of atherosclerosis - the build-up of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

The amount of fruit the hamsters consumed was equivalent to three apples or three bunches of grapes daily for a human.

Hamsters given juice drank the equivalent of four glasses daily for a person weighing 70 kilograms (154 pounds).

The apples and grapes had about the same phenol content, while the purple grape juice had 2.5 times more phenols than apple juice.

Compared with animals given water, those given fruit or fruit juice had lower cholesterol levels, less oxidative stress, and less fat accumulation in their aorta, the main vessel supplying oxygenated blood to the body.

Purple grape juice had the strongest effect, followed by purple grapes, apple juice and apples.

The researchers say their findings suggest the amount of phenols contained in a food have a direct effect on its antioxidant properties.

Other antioxidant compounds in the fruits, such as vitamin C and carotenoids, could also contribute to their effects, they added.

The team, led by Kelly Decorde, said their findings "provide encouragement that fruit and fruit juices may have a significant clinical and public health relevance."

A British nutritionist said: "High levels of antioxidants are recognised as being good for you."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rice Joins Ranks of Whole Grain Health Claim

FDA extended its health claim for whole grain foods to include whole grain rice. Further, FDA states that all single ingredient whole grain foods qualify for the claim, regardless of whether they meet the requirement for a minimum level of dietary fiber, as long as they meet the other general health claim requirements.

The dietary fiber requirement was established in 1999 in order to monitor compliance with the claim. FDA now states that compliance for single ingredient whole grain foods will be monitored by examining package ingredient statements, not through fiber content.

The whole grain health claim reads: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2007 Organic Coffee Market Hits $1 Billion in North America, New Data Shows

The North American organic coffee market reached one billion dollars in 2007, according to new data released today during a sampling event featuring new organic coffees. The event was hosted by the Organic Coffee Collaboration, a project of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), at New York City's popular Union Square Cafe.

Participants in the Collaboration are: Dallis Coffee (New York City, NY), Elan Organic Coffees (San Diego, CA), Equal Exchange (West Bridgewater, MA), Fresh Harvest Products (New York City, NY), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Waterbury, VT), and Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company (Vancouver, Canada).

The amount of organic coffee imported into the U.S. and Canada increased 29 percent from 2006-2007 from approximately 65 million pounds to approximately 84 million pounds, according to Philadephia, PA - Daniele Giovannucci, author of the upcoming North American Organic Coffee Industry Survey, who presented the data at the event. Most of the coffee was sold in the United States. The survey will soon be available from the Organic Trade Association.

"By purchasing any of the delicious and high quality organic coffees available today, consumers are helping protect the environment around the world," said Caren Wilcox, OTA executive director.

Giovannucci estimates the organic coffee sector now represents 3 percent of the total U.S. green coffee imports in 2007, growing an average of 32 percent annually between 2000 and 2007. This growth dwarfs the estimated 2 percent annual growth rate of the conventional coffee industry. Organic coffee is grown in 40 countries worldwide, including the United States (Hawaii).

According to Giovannucci, factors driving the increase in organic coffee production and consumption include: growth in values-based purchasing (including the desire to support organic production practices) and personal health or food safety concerns.

The perennial Zagat-favorite Union Square Cafe is one of the many restaurants and other food establishments across the United States offering organic coffees to their discriminating clientele.


Organic coffee is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, avoid the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic farmers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production.

The Organic Coffee Collaboration - a project of the Organic Trade Association, the business association for the North American organic industry, includes:

Dallis Coffee (New York, NY) - A leading provider of organic and Fair Trade Certified™ coffees, selling to Whole Foods, universities and top cafés and restaurants across the country.

Elan Organic Coffees (San Diego, CA) - Elan Organic Coffees is a coffee developer and importer offering a line of certified organic socially responsible coffees it has developed through partnerships with village co-ops in coffee producing countries. Elan has pioneered the supply of the world's finest certified organic coffees, while supporting farmers and protecting the environment.

Equal Exchange (West Bridgewater, MA) - Worker-owned, Fair Trade Certified™ cooperative and one of the largest U.S. organic coffee roasters.

Fresh Harvest Products, Inc. (New York, NY) - Its Wings of Nature® brand coffees are small-batch roasted to a temperature that peaks the flavor and aroma of each bean, and then custom blended after roasting to provide unique and flavorful varieties.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Waterbury, VT) - Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is recognized as a leader in the specialty coffee industry for its award-winning coffees and socially responsible business practices. The company offers a broad selection of double-certified organic and Fair Trade coffees under the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters® and Newman's Own® Organics brands.

Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company (Vancouver, BC, Canada) - A wholesome process for decaffeinating coffee - pure water, 100% chemical-free - ensures the best of the bean remains, while only caffeine is removed. Swiss Water decaffeinates organic coffees for premium companies including Elan Organic Coffees and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Look for the SWISS WATER® logo on pack or in store to guarantee great tasting, 99.9% caffeine-free coffee.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Waving Your Coffee Wand

“The prettiest girl I ever saw Was sipping cider through a straw.”–Traditional Boy Scout song. “The prettiest girl I ever saw Was sipping coffee through a straw.”–Song not yet written, but now it could be. Meet the newest gadget in the coffee gadget universe. It’s called the “Wand” from Wisdom Wands, Inc. The “Java Wand” consists of a glass straw attached to a miniature French press filter.

For those new to the coffee culture, a French press is normally made of a narrow glass or plastic cylindrical jug, a snugly-fitting lid lined with a wire or nylon mesh, and a plunger. The user places the coffee and hot water in the jug, allows it to brew, and, by pressing the plunger, separates the coffee grounds at the jug’s bottom.

French presses are popular because the ground coffee releases more of its essential oils, and therefore flavor, into the water with which it is in contact. But, because the used grounds remain in the jug, the coffee should be consumed immediately so that it does not become overly bitter.

In the “Java Wand’s” case, the French press filter is contained in a tiny cube at the base of a glass straw.

You can brew your coffee directly in your favorite cup, with one or two tablespoons of your favorite beans, ground medium, and water. You can experiment to your heart’s content in deciding the best temperature for the water, the correct brewing time, and ratio of coffee grounds to water.

If you are trying a new coffee, let it brew for one or two minutes, and sip it through your straw. If it’s too weak, brew it a little longer; if too strong, make a note of the brewing time and decrease it the next time.

Add milk, sweetener, or whatever suits you fancy in creating your own unique coffee brew. Then carry your cup to your favorite coffee-drinking spot, and sip away.

One possible drawback to the whole concept? The straw eliminates your ability to gauge the temperature of the coffee before it hits your tongue.

Small sips, please.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Restaurants Battle Rising Food Costs

Weathering food price storms might mean restaurant operators need to change their distribution and purchasing habits.

The patrons who waited to place orders at Paisano’s Pizza in Leominster, Massachusetts, didn’t seem to mind paying an extra 75 cents for certain menu items.

The management of the central Massachusetts pizzeria, which also sells homemade pasta and fresh cheeses, recently posted a sign thanking customers for their business while apologetically explaining increases were due to soaring commodity costs.

Quick-serves, like Paisano’s, are often forced either to raise prices or shave profits from already slim bottom lines, but what worsens the struggle is striking a balance between maintaining sales and offsetting rising food costs.

“It’s a constant battle,” says Craig Moore, president of CiCi’s Pizza, based in Coppell, Texas. “To raise prices is to carve out guests, and you can’t cut back. You have to think about sales and the fact that the consumer can’t absorb any more increases.”

Intensified by high fuel prices, growing demands in developing countries, the weak dollar, and the diverting of grain to biofuel production, wholesale food prices increased 7.6 percent in 2007, the greatest single-year food price increase in 27 years, according to a National Restaurant Association (NRA) analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The data shows that food commodities central to a quick-serve’s mission have increased dramatically between February 2006 and February 2008. For example, the price of eggs has jumped about 187 percent, averaging $2.20 a dozen, while flour is nearly 108 percent more, or about $30 for a 50-pound bag. Other increases include fat and oil, 63.1 percent; fresh fruit, 42.1 percent; confectionary materials, 30.5 percent; cheese, 30.4 percent; milk, 25.3 percent; fresh vegetables, 15.9 percent.

With food prices being one of the most significant line items for restaurants, accounting for about 33 cents on every sales dollar, the NRA indicates that these costs can heavily impact bottom lines, which average 4 to 6 percent

“If I was out there running a pizza place on my own, I’d be petrified,” Moore says. “It’s pretty bleak, and the smaller mom-and-pop restaurants might not survive this because their margins are much smaller.”

CiCi’s, he says, has managed to absorb the bulk of food price increases, thanks to the benefit of distributing to its own stores. “We are not competing with other restaurants for our food products, and we are constantly banging on our food providers’ doors to give us a better deal,” Moore adds

Food commodity prices will continue to rise, but price hiking and minimizing profits can be avoided if restaurateurs are willing to modify purchasing and distribution habits, says Eric Arthur, president of Marketplace Management Group LLC, a Collierville, Tennessee–based consulting firm offering promotion planning, distribution, and contract and logistics management.

“The saying that if you keep doing the same thing you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same results, is true—except for one factor,” he says. “If you keep doing the same thing in purchasing and distribution, you’re going to get increasingly worse results because the market is stacked against you.”

Arthur also cautions that the days of the supplier being the source of industry information are over. As markets continue to escalate, he says restaurateurs will be forced to ask questions about what they are doing and why, or else risk going out of business.

“I have clients who have experienced dramatic increases in food costs, from 32 to 38 percent,” he says. “That’s a big bite out of your bottom line. But many clients are allergic to change, and they do not like to ask questions. They have been too dependent on the supplier.

One client of Arthur’s that operates a chain of barbecue restaurants learned their supplier was charging them 20 percent more for polystyrene drink cups. With that knowledge, the chain was able to renegotiate the price and save.

It’s all a matter of asking the right

“Ask yourself why you’re using this brand of chicken breast or that kind of bread,” Arthur says.

“Are there other alternatives that won’t affect the quality and portion? If you’ve always used brand X turkey and have never used another brand of the same quality, you could have saved big money, sometimes as much as 30 to 40 percent. There is wiggle room in the doom and gloom.”

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Citrus essential oils could be anti-fungal additives for food

Essential oils from citrus like mandarins and lemon could be natural anti-fungal agents for food, tapping into the search for natural alternatives to synthetics, suggests new research from Spain.

The tide is currently turning against chemical-based anti-fungal additives for food use, opening up opportunities for alternatives from natural sources. The reasons for this are manifold and include general consumer preferences for natural foods, legislative changes, and the isolation of antibiotic resistant pathogens.

"It seems that citrus essential oils could be considered suitable alternatives to chemical additives for use in the food industry, attending to the needs for safety and satisfying the demand of consumers for natural components," wrote the researchers from Miguel Hernandez University in Alicante.

The study, published in the journal Food Chemistry, reports that essential oils of lemon, mandarin, grapefruit and orange all exhibited antifungal activity against the common food moulds Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus, Penicillium chrysogenum and Penicillium verrucosum.

According to the researchers, essential oil from orange was the most effective against A. niger (50 per cent reduction). The mandarin produced the best effects against A. flavus (65 per cent reduction), and grapefruit came out on top against P. chrysogenum and P. verrucosum (48.1 and 48.3 per cent, respectively).

The protective effects against growth were proposed to be due to toxic effects of the essential oil on the functionality and structure of the cell membrane in the mould.

The researchers also note that other studies have indicated that inhibition may also be due to the monoterpenes content of essential oils. "These components would increase the concentration of lipidic peroxides such as hydroxyl, alkoxyl and alkoperoxyl radicals and so bring about cell death," they said.

Potential for essential oils

"The main advantage of essential oils is that they can be used in any foods and are considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS), as long as their maximum effects is attained with the minimum change in the organoleptic properties of the food," wrote the Alicante-based researchers.

Indeed, the search for natural alternatives to synthetic additives has increased the attention on essential oils. Katie Fisher and Carol Philips of the University of Nottingham's School of Health, UK, reviewed the potential of essential oils as inhibitors of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

The review, published in Trends in Food Science and Technology, noted that the antimicrobial properties of citrus essential oils have only started to be explored quite recently.

Fisher and Philips sounded a note of caution, however: "Should essential oils be applied to food they may be able to inhibit a wide range of organisms, but they could also cause an imbalance in gut microflora," they wrote.

Thus, while more research is conducted on the effect of certain essential oils throughout the whole intestinal tract, they recommend that a good starting point for the food industry would be to look at using those citrus oils that are already being used as food flavours.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tomato dishes 'may protect skin'

Pizza and spaghetti bolognese could become new tools in the fight against sunburn and wrinkles, a study suggests.

A team found adding five tablespoons of tomato paste to the daily diet of 10 volunteers improved the skin's ability to protect against harmful UV rays.

Damage from these rays can lead to premature ageing and even skin cancer.

The study, presented at the British Society for Investigative Dermatology, suggested the antioxidant lycopene was behind the apparent benefit.

This component of tomatoes - found at its highest concentration when the fruit has been cooked - has already been linked to a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer.

Now researchers at the universities of Manchester and Newcastle have suggested it may also help ward off skin damage by providing some protection against the effects of UV rays.

Anti-ageing paste?

They gave 10 volunteers around 55g of standard tomato paste - which contains high levels of cooked tomatoes - and 10g of olive oil daily. A further 10 participants received just the olive oil.

After three months, skin samples from the tomato group showed they had 33% more protection against sunburn - the equivalent of a very low factor sun cream - and much higher levels of procollagen, a molecule which gives the skin its structure and keeps its firm.

"The tomato diet boosted the level of procollagen in the skin significantly. These increasing levels suggest potential reversal of the skin ageing process," said Professor Lesley Rhodes, a dermatologist at the University of Manchester.

"These weren't huge amounts of tomato we were feeding the group. It was the sort of quantity you would easily manage if you were eating a lot of tomato-based meals."

There was a warning however that tomatoes should be viewed as a "helpful addition" rather than an alternative to sun cream.

The study was both small and short, and the team are now looking at carrying out fresh research into the benefits of lycopene for the skin.

Dr Colin Holden of the British Association of Dermatologists said: "While the protection offered by lycopene is low, this research suggests that a diet containing high levels of antioxidant rich tomatoes could provide an extra tool in sun protection".