Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some bottled teas contain far lower polyphenol levels

When you buy a bottled tea, you may not be getting the health boost you expect.

A new study finds that these increasingly popular beverages may contain far lower levels of antioxidants called polyphenols than green or black tea that you brew at home. In fact, some commercial tea beverages contain such small amounts of polyphenols that you would have to drink 20 bottles to get an amount equal to what's in one cup of home-brewed tea.

Polyphenols are believed by scientists to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties.

"Consumers understand very well the concept of the health benefits from drinking tea or consuming other tea products," researcher Shiming Li said in an American Chemical Society news release. "However, there is a huge gap between the perception that tea consumption is healthy and the actual amount of the healthful nutrients -- polyphenols -- found in bottled tea beverages. Our analysis of tea beverages found that the polyphenol content is extremely low."

Li and colleagues measured the levels of polyphenols in six brands of bottled tea beverages purchased at supermarkets. Half of them contained virtually no antioxidants, while the polyphenol levels in others were so low that they would have little effect on health.

"Someone would have to drink bottle after bottle of these teas in some cases to receive health benefits. I was surprised at the low polyphenol content. I didn't expect it to be at such a low level," said Li, an analytical and natural product chemist at New Jersey-based biotechnology company WellGen Inc.

In fact, consumers buying commercially bottled teas may actually be spending money on substances detrimental to health, including sugar, high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners, Li said.

The study was presented Sunday at the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Boston.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Retail chocolate sales increased 3% from 2008 to reach a record $17 billion in 2009

The U.S. market for chocolate products displayed its recession resiliency, as retail sales increased 3% from 2008 to reach a record $17 billion in 2009, according to Chocolate Market in the U.S.: Trends and Opportunities in Premium, Gourmet and Mass Chocolate Products by market research publisher Packaged Facts. The growth was attributed to the 75% of Americans who have purchased chocolate products since 2008 and increases in manufacturer prices, which didn't discourage budget-conscious households from buying quality chocolate as an affordable indulgence.

Global demand for chocolate is expected to rise over the next several years, as the market capitalizes on chocolate's incredible ability to shapeshift into an array of products suitable for the confectionery, beverage, restaurant, hospitality and personal care industries. Packaged Facts forecasts the U.S. chocolate market will exceed $19 billion in 2014. The demand for premium chocolate will persist as a leading growth trend, especially when the economy recovers. The healthy chocolate trend, featuring "better-for-you" ingredients such as lavender and blueberry, is likewise expected to fuel the market as a subset of product premiumization.

"For many chocolate-loving Americans it's more about the experience than it is about mere consumption. To meet this demand, premium chocolatiers are setting off on culinary adventures, discovering new layers of flavor and textures by experimenting with umami flavors or developing products to match consumers' moods," says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. "This may be a mature market, but it's also a market that isn't afraid to innovate, whether that means using savory influences such as bacon and cheese or ethnic flavors such as curry and chipotle. This bold creativity effectively provides chocolate products that satisfy diverse consumer palates at reasonable prices."

Creativity is particularly important when marketing to notoriously brand-averse and highly skeptical consumer segments such as the Millennials, for whom product preference is a moving target and eating is all about culinary experimentation with limited-edition flavor items and internationally inspired twists. Not only must marketers realize the potential of online social networks as vehicles of influence comparable to conventional media channels, but chocolate manufactures must provide this cohort with confectionery products featuring fresh, seasonal and natural ingredients and out-of-this-world flavor combinations, such as those developed by the beverage and restaurant trades.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fancy frozen popsicles - both purchased and homemade - are reportedly becoming the new gourmet treat of choice for adult

The line of people in the sweltering gas station parking lot grows longer as the sun beats down. They aren't here for gas.

One-by-one, each person steps up to a small cart festooned with a multicolored umbrella and is handed what they've all come miles to get — what they probably have been craving all day: a frozen pop.

And not the red, purple and orange sugary pops from childhood, either. These sweets are full of unexpected ingredients like cardamom, cilantro, lavender and ginger. They're iced tea mixed with lemonade — called an Arnold Palmer — or banana pudding with chunks of vanilla wafers.

Meet the King of Pops, as he's known to the throngs of people who stop by his cart in Atlanta each week to buy ice pops loaded with fresh fruit in delectable combinations. Some show up with out-of-town guests, while other bring coolers full of dry ice so they can tote dozens home.

"My favorite thing right now is talking to everyone," said Steven Carse, 26, who started the King of Pops cart last year when he was laid off from his job as an analyst with AIG in suburban Atlanta.

"Everyone's usually pretty excited, or at least in a good mood, if they're coming to get a popsicle," he said. "You don't get too many people that are super mad at the world, so you get people at their best instead of their worst."

First, there was the cupcake. Then, the doughnut. Now, fancy frozen pops — both purchased and homemade — are taking their turn as the favorite sweet treat of adults looking for a little nostalgia and some tongue-tingling flavors.

Pop shops from Austin, Texas, to Nashville, Tenn., to Brooklyn, N.Y., have developed cult followings, while carts have become staples in farmers markets in Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles.

Shoppers at Williams-Sonoma, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target can pick up an array of pop molds, from rocket ships to rabbits. And daring cooks can select recipes from several recent cookbooks or from dozens of recipes available online at sites such as Epicurious.com.

"It's just so easy to make and so refreshing," said Tanya Wenman Steel, editor-in-chief of Epicurious, which has seen a spike in the number of searches for pop recipes this year. "There's definitely that harkening back to that time when all you had to do on a lazy, hot day was throw a ball and eat a popsicle."

In Raleigh, N.C., Summer Bicknell at Locopops dishes out treats for humans and dogs, serving up frozen beef and chicken stock with a rawhide stick for the critters while their owners munch on pops made with white chocolate, peanut butter and plum.

"I hope that it's not just a trend," said Bicknell, who quit her corporate job and opened Locopops in 2005. "Popsicles have a wonderful thing in that they're current and they're also nostalgic, which is kind of neat. We strive on our menu to have a little something for everybody."

Locopops now has stores in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, with carts at the University of North Carolina and Duke University during the school year. Flavors include bacon, hot sauce and chili peppers.

"You don't really find those in the grocery store in the freezer section," said Nick Popio, 31, who was eating in Locopops' Raleigh store on a recent afternoon with his girlfriend.

Whole Foods Markets stores in Austin and Houston carry Goodpops, which are made by Manuel Flores and his wife at their Austin shop that opened last year. The treats, fashioned after Mexican paletas with bright colors and strong flavors, are full of organic fruit and natural ingredients because Flores said that's what he is comfortable feeding his family.

"We'll pay a premium for a product that's good for our kids," Flores said. "Old things seems to repeat themselves. For a long time people have forgotten about popsicles and how fun they could be and what you can do with them."

For Carse, who started his Atlanta business in March and now sells nearly 2,000 pops a week, the sky is the limit. He's booked for two weddings this fall and gets calls about catering corporate events across the city.

His customers line up, sometimes half an hour before he opens at 3 p.m., to get the popular flavors, such as blackberry mojito and Georgia peach. On a recent day, a group of friends met up in the parking lot where he sets up each day to hang out and try some new flavors.

"He's making something very unique and something that's a necessity because of how freaking hot this summer has been," said Matt Vaughn, 28, a musician from Atlanta. "People want to buy in to something original and local."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Black rice is a good source of antioxidants

Blueberries and blackberries have high levels of antioxidants, which help the body deal with potentially dangerous cellular oxidation, but scientists say they've also found a cheaper source of antioxidants for consumers: black rice.

"Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants," study co-author Zhimin Xu said in a news release from the American Chemical Society.

"If berries are used to boost health, why not black rice and black rice bran?" suggested Xu, associate professor at the food science department at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge. "Black rice bran would be a unique and economical material to increase consumption of health-promoting antioxidants."

The study authors noted that black rice bran could be used to boost the health benefits of breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies and other foods. It could also be added to beverages, and may serve as food coloring, allowing food manufacturers to avoid artificial colorants, the team said in the news release. The scientists explained that pigments in black rice bran extracts range from pink to black.

In the study, the researchers tested black rice bran grown in the Southern United States. Although brown rice is the most common rice variety produced worldwide, Xu said the study results suggest that black rice bran may be healthier than brown rice bran in terms of antioxidants.

In Asia, black rice is most commonly used for food decoration, such as in noodles or sushi. One variety of black rice is known as "Forbidden Rice" because in Ancient China, it was only permitted to be eaten by nobles and no one else, according to background information in the news release.

The study results were scheduled to be released Thursday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Extracts of broccoli and banana may help in fighting stomach problems

Extracts of broccoli and banana may help in fighting stomach problems, research suggests.

Laboratory studies show fibres from the vegetables may boost the body's natural defences against stomach infections.

Trials are under way to see if they could be used as a medical food for patients with Crohn's disease.

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes symptoms such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

It affects about 1 in 1,000 people, and is thought to be caused by a mixture of environmental and genetic factors.

The condition is common in developed countries, where diets are often low in fibre and high in processed food.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool looked at how roughage from vegetables influenced the passage of harmful bacteria through cells inside the gut.

They found that fibres from the plantain, a type of large banana, and broccoli, were particularly beneficial. But a common stabiliser added to processed foods during the manufacturing process had the opposite effect.

Dr Barry Campbell, from the University of Liverpool, said: "This research shows that different dietary components can have powerful effects on the movement of bacteria through the bowel.

"We have known for some time the general health benefits of eating plantain and broccoli, which are both high in vitamins and minerals, but until now we have not understood how they can boost the body's natural defences against infection common in Crohn's patients.

"Our work suggests that it might be important for patients with this condition to eat healthily and limit their intake of processed foods."

The research, published in the journal Gut, and carried out in collaboration with experts in Sweden and Scotland, investigated special cells, called M-cells, which line the gut and ward off invading bacteria.

Work was carried out in laboratory-grown cells and tissue samples from patients undergoing surgery for stomach problems.

Clinical trials are now underway in 76 Crohn's patients to find out whether a medical food containing plantain fibres could help keep the disease at bay.

"It may be that it makes sense for sufferers of Crohn's to take supplements of these fibres to help prevent relapse," said Professor Jon Rhodes of the University of Liverpool.

Commenting on the study, a spokesperson for Crohn's and Colitis, which represents patients with inflammatory bowel disorders, welcomed further insight into how the gut combats bacteria like E.Coli.

"Knowledge of the M-cell role offers a more detailed explanation as to why a healthy diet can improve the health and well being for people with Crohn's disease and healthy individuals alike," she said.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cinnamon Extract Reduces Diabetes Risk

Cinnamon extract might help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. For a 12-week study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 22 obese participants with prediabetes, or impaired blood glucose values, were divided randomly into two groups and given either a placebo or 250 milligrams (mgs) of a dried water-soluble cinnamon extract twice daily along with their usual diets. Blood was collected after an overnight fast at the beginning of the study, after six weeks, and after 12 weeks to measure the changes in blood glucose and antioxidants.

The study demonstrated that the water-soluble cinnamon extract improved a number of antioxidant variables by as much as 13 to 23 percent, and improvement in antioxidant status was correlated with decreases in fasting glucose.

Prediabetes occurs when cells are resistant to the higher-than-normal levels of insulin produced by the pancreas (in an attempt to help remove elevated glucose levels from blood).


* ARS: Researchers Study Cinnamon Extracts

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Soluble Fibers Reduce Post-Meal Glucose

At the 2010 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo, a scientific panel presented several studies supporting the link between a high-fiber diet and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

In one study, presented by Britt Burton Freeman, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of California, Davis, results showed that soluble viscous fibers, such as psyllium, guar gum, pectin and beta-glucan, are most effective at reducing post-meal glucose. High post-meal glucose is a significant issue for people with diabetes.

Results from another study found that each daily single-serving of whole grain lowers the risk of developing diabetes by 10 percent, according to In one analysis, scientists found that each one serving per day increment in whole grain intake is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, said Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, professor of nutrition, epidemiology and medicine in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.

The metabolic and digestive benefits of whole-grain fiber are many, Hu said, including increased satiety, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation and binding of bile acids and increasing excretion of cholesterol.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adding fish oil to a diet low in saturated fats and high in complex carbohydrates

For people with the metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats or triglycerides and high blood sugar -- adding a little fish oil to a diet low in saturated fats and high in complex carbohydrates might be just the ticket, a new study suggests.

"When you add omega-3 to a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet, you can prevent the long-term adverse effect that a high-carbohydrate diet induces on [blood fats]," said study author Dr. Jose Lopez-Miranda, a professor of medicine at the Reina Sofia University Hospital and the University of Cordoba, Spain.

The study is published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Lopez-Miranda and his team looked at 117 people with metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. They assigned them to one of four diets for 12 weeks. The diets were: high fat/rich in saturated fats; high fat/rich in monounsaturated fats (such as fish and olive oil), low fat and high in complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables), low fat and high in complex carbs but with the fish oil supplement included.

All four diets included about the same number of calories. The researchers tested blood before and after eating, looking for blood fat levels.

At the study's start, all participants had similar post-meal blood fat responses. But by the end of the three-month trial, those on the high-fat/monounsaturated fat-rich diet or the low-fat, high complex carbohydrate diet with fish oil had better responses.

For example, those on the low-fat/high-carb diet plus fish oil showed lower levels of triglyceride blood fats, compared to people eating a high-fat diet rich in saturated fats, the researchers found. And people eating the low-fat/high-carb regimen alone (without fish oil) had a rise in triglycerides and cholesterol, compared to when fish oil was added.

The researchers believe that adding polyunsaturated fat -- such as those found in fish oil -- can help undercut the effects of a long-term low-fat, high complex carbohydrate diet on triglyceride levels in those with metabolic syndrome. In the study, participants got 1.24 grams of fish oil a day (between one and two standard capsules).

"This is a good study," said Tracy L. Nelson, an associate professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University School of Public Health in Fort Collins, who has researched omega-3 fatty acids.

"The interesting aspects are that they found the low-fat complex carbohydrate group, when supplemented with a 'realistic' amount of omega-3 fats [1.24 grams] did not increase trigylcerides as seen with the low-fat complex carbohydrate diet without the addition of omega-3s."

"This study is encouraging, because these individuals consumed their 'own' food given the parameters of the study, similar to what a metabolic syndrome patient would be told to do in the 'real world,' and by simply adding a very realistic amount of omega-3s, these individuals can change [after-meal] triglycerides without weight loss," Nelson added. "The fact that they found changes in a 'diseased' group adds to the impact of the paper."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Some 35% of employers use social media to promote their company.

As companies emerge from one of the steepest economic downturns in history, they understand the significant reach and importance of using social media to promote and rebuild their organizations. A new CareerBuilder survey reports that 35 percent of employers use social media to promote their company. One-quarter (25 percent) of these employers said that they are using social media to connect with clients and find new business, while others are using it to recruit and research potential employees (21 percent), or strengthen their employment brands (13 percent). The survey was conducted among more than 2,500 employers between May 18 and June 3, 2010.

Businesses of all sizes and industries report using social media to promote their companies. Twenty-nine percent of organizations with 500 or fewer employees said they do so, followed by 38 percent of companies with 501 to 1,000 employees and 44 percent of companies with more than 1,000 workers. Comparing industries, leisure and hospitality topped those surveyed with 57 percent saying the use social media to promote their business, followed by IT, (48 percent), retail (43 percent) and sales (41 percent).

When it comes to managing social media strategy, 43 percent of employers report that their marketing department handles social media outreach, followed by public relations (26 percent) and human resources (19 percent). One-quarter (25 percent) of employers have 1-3 people communicating on behalf of their organization, while 7 percent report that 4-5 people handle the work. Eleven percent said that more than six people communicate for their company via social media. Fifty-seven percent said they didn't know.

"As communication via social media becomes increasingly pervasive, organizations are harnessing these sites to help achieve a variety of business goals," said Jason Ferrara, vice president of corporate marketing for CareerBuilder. "Social media allows organizations to communicate in ways that didn't exist ten years ago, promoting their services and brands while also supplementing their recruitment strategy."

Workers report that they are turning to social media sites for more than connecting with friends. They're also using social media to research companies and jobs. Workers who come across company pages on social media sites shared what they would most like to see, including:

* Job listings – 35 percent
* Q&A or fast facts about the organization – 26 percent
* Information about career paths within the organization – 23 percent
* Evidence that working at the company is fun – 16 percent
* Employee testimonials – 16 percent
* Pictures of company events – 12 percent
* Video of new products/services – 10 percent
* Company awards – 9 percent
* Research or studies that the company has conducted – 9 percent
* Videos of a day on the job – 8 percent

On the flip side, workers also shared the biggest turnoffs when encountering a company via social media, including the company's communication reading like an ad (38 percent), failure to reply to questions (30 percent), failure to regularly post information (22 percent) and removing or filtering public comments (22 percent).

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder.com among 2,534 U.S. hiring managers and 4,498 U.S. workers (employed full-time; not self-employed; non government); ages 18 and over between May 18 and June 3, 2010 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset of U.S. employers and/or employees, based on their responses to certain questions). With a pure probability sample of 2,534 and 4,498 one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.95 and +/-1.46 percentage points, respectively. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A diet rich in green leafy vegetables may reduce the risk of developing diabetes

In an analysis of six studies into fruit and vegetable intake, only food including spinach and cabbage was found to have a significant positive effect.

A portion and a half a day was found to cut type 2 diabetes risk by 14%, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports.

But experts urged people to continue to aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

The researchers from Leicester University reviewed data from the studies of 220,000 adults in total.

They found that eating more fruit and vegetables in general was not strongly linked with a smaller chance of developing type 2 diabetes but "there was a general trend in that direction".

Yet when it came to green leafy vegetables, which the researchers said also includes broccoli and cauliflower, the risk reduction was significant.

The team calculated that a daily dose of 106g reduced the risk of diabetes by 14% - a UK "portion" is classed as 80g.

It is not clear why green leafy vegetables may have a protective effect but one reason may be they are high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and another theory is that they contain high levels of magnesium.

Study leader Professor Melanie Davies, professor of diabetic medicine at the University of Leicester, said the message to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day remains an important one.

But she added: "People like very specific health messages.

"We know that intake of fruit and vegetables is important, but this study suggests that green leafy vegetables seem to be particularly important in terms of preventing diabetes."

The team are now planning a study in people at high risk of developing the condition to see if increasing their intake of vegetables like spinach and kale can help to reduce their chances of being diagnosed with diabetes.
Fruit and veg

In 2008/09, the National Diet Nutrition Survey showed that, although fruit and vegetable intake has risen over the past decade, only a third of men and women eat the recommended five-a-day.

In an accompanying editorial in the BMJ, Professor Jim Mann from the University of Otago in New Zealand, stressed that the message of increasing overall fruit and vegetable intake must not be lost "in a plethora of magic bullets," even though green leafy vegetables clearly can be included as one of the daily portions.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK said: "We already know that the health benefits of eating vegetables are far-reaching but this is the first time that there has been a suggested link specifically between green leafy vegetables and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes."

But he warned the evidence was limited and it was too early to isolate green leafy vegetables and present them alone as a method to cut the chances of developing the condition.

"We would be concerned if focusing on certain foods detracted from the advice to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, which has benefits in terms of reducing heart disease, stroke, some cancers and obesity as well as type 2 diabetes."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The total market for food gift-giving in the U.S. grew from $16 billion in 2007 to $18 billion in 2009

Specialty foods have become the foundation of the U.S. market for food gifting, which has helped the industry expand sales and product offerings in a challenged economy where few other areas of gift-giving have found success, according to Food Gifting in the U.S., 2nd Edition, from market research publisher Packaged Facts.

"There's a reason why specialty foods are the main components of food gifts, especially popular items such as gift baskets," says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. "People want to give gifts that are that are unique, personal, indulgent, convenient, and fun. For many consumers, buying specialty foods during recession is an affordable luxury that meets the criteria of their 'ideal' gift for others or even themselves."

Packaged Facts estimates the overall market for gift-giving in the U.S. increased 7% from $113 billion in 2007 to $121 billion in 2009. Likewise, the total market for food gift-giving in the U.S. grew from $16 billion in 2007 to $18 billion in 2009, representing a 9% increase. Packaged Facts projects that healthy growth across all food gifting channels will propel the market past $21 billion by 2014.

It comes as no surprise that the specialty food sector is fueling growth in the food gifting market, as that coincides with continuing consumer interest in all foods organic, natural and gourmet. Often positioned based on perceived health or environmental benefits, as well as better taste, organic and natural foods are increasingly finding their way into gift food baskets. Moreover, healthy food gift baskets are becoming more popular -- perhaps as a way of giving a friend or loved one a subtle push toward a better lifestyle.

Packaged Facts' consumer research, conducted in May/June 2010, found that 53% of adults are interested in high-quality foods and 30% said they wanted healthy products, both of which represent increases in interest from 2007, when Packaged Facts last conducted this survey. This suggests that there's a clear market for better and healthier food gift items, and as the category matures, one could expect to see more variation in specialty food gifts. Consumers like the convenience of specialty food gifting: 74% of respondents in the 2010 survey liked being able to purchase specialty food gifts online.

Food Gifting in the U.S., 2nd Edition focuses on the U.S. market for consumer and corporate food gifts, with an emphasis on this sector as part of the total gift-giving market. The report analyzes the highly fragmented market by channel, including brick-and-mortar retailers (representing nearly half of all food gift sales), online and direct marketers, and independents, franchises and distributorships. Trends in food gifting are examined, along with factors driving the food-gifting market. The report also reviews the results of an exclusive Packaged Facts online poll, along with marketing, retail and consumer trends and growth opportunities. For further information, please visit: http://www.packagedfacts.com/Food-Gifting-2642049/.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Performance standards pose problems Putting the onus of raw-meat safety completely on the poultry industry has raised concerns

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service believes new performance standards it proposed to lower levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young raw chickens and turkeys will result in 65,000 fewer illnesses each year from these pathogens after the new standards are in place for two years.

The proposal, a key recommendation from President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group, has twin goals of reducing the incidence of food-borne illness and making meat and poultry safer for consumers. The new standards, which USDA hopes will be commented on by industry and consumer groups, academics and others with an interest in food safety, are the first ever proposed by USDA for Campylobacter. For Salmonella, they are the first revision for chicken since 1996, and for turkeys, the first since initial standards were set in 2005.

Salmonella standard
For starters, the President’s FSWG would like to see 90 percent of all poultry-processing establishments achieve the revised Salmonella performance standard by the end of this year. The standards were developed by using recently completed studies measuring the baseline level of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young broiler and turkey carcasses across the U.S. Accompanying the standards is the third version of a compliance guide for poultry slaughter including recommendations for controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter. USDA has voiced optimism, predicting half the establishments not meeting the new standards now would do so during the first two years they are im-plemented.

But putting the onus of raw-meat safety completely on the industry, while seemingly absolving consumers of any responsibility for food safety such as properly cooking raw poultry, has raised concerns in the poultry industry. Why is the government concerned about the microbiological profile of raw chicken, for example, if chicken is cooked before it’s eaten by consumers, or should be? “‘When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,’ as the old saying goes,” says Richard Lobb, communications director for the National Chicken Council. “USDA’s biggest weapon against foodborne illness is its Pathogen Reduction program. Faced with a continuing problem with foodborne illness from a wide variety of food sources, USDA’s answer is to focus on the one it is already measuring, Salmonella. Campylobacter is an organism also found on raw chicken, so USDA wants to create a program for that, as well.” Lobb points out the heat of normal cooking destroys the pathogens, however, “As long as we have raw product, consumers will have some level of responsibility for safe handling and cooking,” he adds.

Improving micro profile
Dr. Scott Russell, professor of poultry processing and product microbiology at the Univ. of Georgia, and a science advisor to NCC, says the broiler industry has worked for years to improve the microbiological profile of raw product. “We have the safest poultry products in the world. All we ask are government programs and expectations be guided by sound science, and take place within the proper scope of federal law,” he adds.

Many in the poultry industry think the USDA compliance guide will be helpful to plants, because it is based largely on input from the companies, and because they are experts in the management of live production and in-plant QA, Stephen Pretanik, director of science and tech-nology for NCC, says. Russell points out other issues.

“Industry is concerned about whether the new standards are achievable on a consistent basis,” he says. “Even plants with excellent quality assurance and pathogen reduction programs will sometimes encounter problems beyond their control and will experience levels above the new standards, because microorganisms are natural, not something built into the product.”

Because the two organisms respond differently to a particular intervention, he says, a blanket regulation lowering allowable prevalence for both may be a problem. He notes new standards will not affect the level of sanitation necessary in plants.

European comparison
For years, the American poultry industry has faced criticism that its Salmonella and Campylobacter numbers are higher than European companies. But Russell says the opposite is true. “Statistics show the U.S. industry does a better job of controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter on raw product than the European industry does. According to a report from the European Food Safety Authority, 70 percent of broilers coming into plants in Europe have Campylobacter on them, about the same as U.S. plants.” After processing, more than 70 percent of chicken carcasses in Europe still carry it, compared to only about 10 percent in U.S. plants. “The U.S. does a much better job,” says Russell.

He says in the U.S., only five percent of broiler carcasses have Salmonella on them after processing, but in Europe 15 percent have Salmonella on them. The data show U.S. plants do a superior job in controlling microbiological contamination on raw chickens, Russell says.

While FSIS wants to reduce the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chicken and turkeys in processing plants, Lobb says the public understands raw poultry may have microorganisms on it and should be cooked before it is eaten. “We think the government is taking its program to an unreasonable extreme,” he says.

Dr. Russell says performance standards should be based on reasonable and practically achievable expectations, and industry believes the proposed standards are unreasonable, because they could be met most of the time but not all of the time. One reason, the industry says, is because the new 7.5 percent standard does not take into account seasonal variability in Salmonella prevalence.

Concerning the new pre-harvest recommendations as part of the guidelines, Pretanik says certain things can be done on the farm by growers. But Salmonella and Campylobacter are naturally occurring phenomena not easily controlled in live animals, and there is a lack of effective strategies for controlling Campylobacter in live broilers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Women who ate an average of one to two servings of dark chocolate per week had a 32% lower risk of developing heart failure

Middle-aged and elderly Swedish women who regularly ate a small amount of chocolate had lower risks of heart failure risks, in a study reported in Circulation: Heart Failure, a journal of the American Heart Association.

The nine-year study, conducted among 31,823 middle-aged and elderly Swedish women, looked at the relationship of the amount of high-quality chocolate the women ate, compared to their risk for heart failure. The quality of chocolate consumed by the women had a higher density cocoa content somewhat like dark chocolate by American standards. In this study, researchers found:

* Women who ate an average of one to two servings of the high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure.

* Those who had one to three servings per month had a 26 percent lower risk.

* Those who consumed at least one serving daily or more didn't appear to benefit from a protective effect against heart failure.

The lack of a protective effect among women eating chocolate every day is probably due to the additional calories gained from eating chocolate instead of more nutritious foods, said Murrray Mittleman, M.D., Dr.P.H., lead researcher of the study.

"You can't ignore that chocolate is a relatively calorie-dense food and large amounts of habitual consumption is going to raise your risks for weight gain," said Mittleman, director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "But if you're going to have a treat, dark chocolate is probably a good choice, as long as it's in moderation."

High concentration of compounds called "flavonoids" in chocolate may lower blood pressure, among other benefits, according to mostly short-term studies. However, this is the first study to show long-term outcomes related specifically to heart failure, which can result from ongoing untreated high blood pressure.

In the observational study, researchers analyzed self-reported food-frequency questionnaire responses from participants 48-to-83-years-old in the Swedish Mammography Cohort. Combining the results with data from national Swedish hospitalization and death registries between 1998 through 2006, the researchers used multiple forms of statistical modeling to reach their conclusions on heart failure and chocolate consumption.

Mittleman said differences in chocolate quality affect the study's implications for Americans. Higher cocoa content is associated with greater heart benefits. In Sweden, even milk chocolate has a higher cocoa concentration than dark chocolate sold in the United States.

Although 90 percent of all chocolate eaten across Sweden during the study period was milk chocolate, it contained about 30 percent cocoa solids. U.S. standards only require 15 percent cocoa solids to qualify as dark chocolate. So, by comparison, American chocolate may have fewer heart benefits and more calories and fat per equivalent amounts of cocoa content compared to the chocolate eaten by the Swedish women in the study.

Also, the average serving size for Swedish women in the study ranged from 19 grams among those 62 and older, to 30 grams among those 61 and younger. In contrast, the standard American portion size is 20 grams.

"Those tempted to use these data as their rationale for eating large amounts of chocolate or engaging in more frequent chocolate consumption are not interpreting this study appropriately," said Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., immediate past chair of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "This is not an 'eat all you want' take-home message, rather it's that eating a little dark chocolate can be healthful, as long as other adverse behaviors do not occur, such as weight gain or excessive intake of non-nutrient dense 'empty' calories."

Heart failure occurs among about 1 percent of Americans over age 65. A condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to the rest of the body, heart failure rates are increasing as our aging population grows.

"Anything that helps to decrease heart failure is an important issue worth examining," Mittleman said.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some 34% of consumers recognize soy's heart-healthy properties

Americans increasingly recognize soyfoods' ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and appear primed to embrace emerging biotech soybean oils with even more heart health benefits. The United Soybean Board's (USB) 17th annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition survey reports that 34 percent of consumers recognize soy's heart-healthy properties, up significantly from 27 percent in 2009. Eighty-five percent of respondents consider heart-healthy soybean oil (commonly labeled as "vegetable oil") as very or somewhat healthy. Soybean oil naturally contains zero grams of trans fat per serving; however, there is always room for improvement through innovative technology.

"High-oleic, low-saturate and increased omega-3 traits will soon be available to food companies for better-for-you product formulation and the resulting benefits for the consumer could potentially increase Americans' appreciation for heart-healthy soybean oil even further," explains Lisa Kelly, MPH, RD for the United Soybean Board.

The Consumer Attitudes study found that, among respondents who are familiar with agricultural biotechnology, one-quarter are aware of the resulting health and nutrition benefits, such as increased vitamin and mineral content. Half also said that they view biotechnology's role in food production very to somewhat positively. Biotech innovations allow farming practices that grow more food on less land with less water, fuel and pesticide/herbicide use – resulting in cleaner air and water as well as healthier soil.

Heart Health Concerns Probed

Consumers respond positively to products carrying heart-health claims on their packaging, which makes sense since over 90 percent believe they have the power to alter the course of their heart health with interventions such as diet and exercise, according to Mintel (Attaining Optimal Heart Health, December 2009). For example, the USB study found that 38 percent of consumers consider margarine to be healthier than butter; however, when the product includes a heart-health claim, attitudes reverse with 60 percent considering margarine to be the healthier of the two.

In response to consumer receptiveness to heart health claims, data from the Institute of Food Technologists shows a three-fold increase in new heart-healthy product launches over the last five years. The introduction of more biotech soybean oils to the market, such as those with higher omega-3 content, will likely increase these numbers even further.

Attitudes about Soy & Nutrition Explored

Americans overwhelmingly look for foods that maximize health and nutrition; in fact, 86 percent of Americans express concern about the nutritional content of the food they eat and 93 percent consider nutrition important when purchasing foods at the grocery store.

Overall, soyfoods received a positive consumer report card, as 84 percent of Americans rate soy as healthy, up 25 percentage points over the last 13 years, and one-third of Americans say they purchase foods specifically because they contain soy. Americans indicate they seek out soy products because they are heart-healthy, low in fat, provide good sources of protein and can help to lower cholesterol.

Awareness and usage of soy protein products continue to climb as 37 percent of consumers eat or drink soyfoods once a month or more (as compared to 32 percent in 2009). Soymilk remains the most popular, with nearly one-quarter of Americans reporting they drink it regularly. Consumption of edamame (13 percent) and plain white tofu (9 percent) round out the three most popular soyfoods.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Successful promotions can result in improved customer loyalty and sales

Today’s cost-conscious consumer is increasingly on the lookout for a bargain. For many shoppers, price is emerging as a top consideration, edging out brand loyalty and other past preferences. This shift in behavior represents an opportunity for retailers to win new customers with promotions and special offers.

Successful promotions can result in improved customer loyalty and sales and enhanced inventory management. A critical component of promotions and special offers is the ability to accurately predict demand and order accordingly. For many retailers, forecasting is a process of trial and error based on antiquated spreadsheet models, past experience and educated guesses.

Retailers can remove the guesswork and grunt work from promotions, however, by taking a more holistic view of promotions and with accurate forecasting.

Retailers that know these five key considerations will stand to improve their promotional forecasting:

1. Take a holistic view of promotions: Make sure to study the impact of promotions on sales of both the products included in the promotion and those that aren’t. By doing so, retailers can identify the halo and cannibalism effect, avoiding unintentionally affecting the sales of nonpromotional items.

2. Integrate promotions with overall operations: Recognize that promotions affect all operations, including finance and the supply chain. By including all operations in promotions, retailers can help further streamline the supply chain and enhance inventory management, avoiding overstocks and out-of-stocks, freeing up capital, and increasing customer satisfaction.

3. Implement a scalable system: Retailers must factor in the unique characteristics of each location when undertaking promotions. However, they must be able to plan and execute promotions successfully at both the store and overall company level. It’s critical to have a system that’s agile enough to handle promotions for individual and multiple stores.

4. Build a solid foundation: Data is the backbone of every retailer’s operations, whether it’s inventory management or sales and promotions. Before undertaking promotions, make sure to have unified, accurate and up-to-date data. Retailers can tap into data on sales and consumers’ shopping behaviors to more accurately predict demand for promotions.

5. Invest in the proper resources: Promotions are becoming increasingly complex, often involving multiple products and even different categories. Invest in your staff and identify outside resources, ensuring that you have the skills on hand to undertake promotions.

While special offers and promotions are a common practice for retailers, they’re becoming increasingly complex. Promotions are also growing more critical as consumers change their shopping patterns in an evolving economy. While these factors combine to create challenges, they also create opportunities for retailers. By learning to effectively plan promotions in advance, retailers are able to gain a competitive advantage over those that are using outdated strategies.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Some 35% of those with kids younger than six in their household are at least somewhat interested

Once, coupons and offers delivered to mobile phones were used mostly by early-adopters of smartphones, predominantly young males.

No longer. Today, the demographic embracing mobile coupons is the same one most likely to be clipping them offline: parents with young children.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive found adults with children at home are more likely to be interested in text alerts about sales and promotions than those with no kids at home. Of people with kids younger than 6 in their household, 35% are at least somewhat interested in getting opt-in text alerts from favorite businesses, compared to 32% of households with older kids and 25% of homes with no children. (The study, conducted in May with 2,000 adults, does not distinguish between childless adults and empty-nesters.)

That's a big shift from last year when the same study found mostly young males were interested in receiving marketing alerts on their phones, which coincided with the demographic most quickly adopting smartphones -- young, affluent males. Mobile marketing firm Placecast funded the Harris studies both years.

The new data also show that parents of youngsters are also more likely to sign up and redeem coupons via e-mail, online or through services such as Groupon. While the difference is less dramatic, it's the same group most likely to clip and redeem coupons from fliers, mailers or newspapers.

In the year between studies, the balance has tilted away from men, as adoption of smartphones such as the iPhone and various Android devices has become more popular. Most receptive to mobile offers are still young adults 18-34, and women's interest has grown year over year.

"Men might do these things first, but women will take it over because they remain the primary shoppers," said Kathryn Koegel, a Primary Impact consultant involved with the study. "Especially when there are children, it all becomes about convenience."

Forrester mobile analyst Julie Ask is less convinced that there's any correlation with having children, just that those interested in mobile coupons are under 40.

"From our data, it doesn't matter if you have kids or not, it's just that they're young," she said of audiences with affinity to mobile coupons. "Parents with young kids are probably also younger."

A 2009 Forrester study on mobile coupons found that 70% of respondents younger than 39 receive coupons or promotions on their phones at least monthly.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Doctors at three health centers in Massachusetts began advising patients to eat "prescription produce"

The farm stand is becoming the new apothecary, dispensing apples — not to mention artichokes, asparagus and arugula — to fill a novel kind of prescription.

Doctors at three health centers in Massachusetts have begun advising patients to eat “prescription produce” from local farmers’ markets, in an effort to fight obesity in children of low-income families. Now they will give coupons amounting to $1 a day for each member of a patient’s family to promote healthy meals.

“A lot of these kids have a very limited range of fruits and vegetables that are acceptable and familiar to them. Potentially, they will try more,” said Dr. Suki Tepperberg, a family physician at Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, one of the program sites. “The goal is to get them to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables by one serving a day.”

The effort may also help farmers’ markets compete with fast-food restaurants selling dollar value meals. Farmers’ markets do more than $1 billion in annual sales in the United States, according to the Agriculture Department.

Massachusetts was one of the first states to promote these markets as hubs of preventive health. In the 1980s, for example, the state began issuing coupons for farmers’ markets to low-income women who were pregnant or breast-feeding or for young children at risk for malnourishment. Thirty-six states now have such farmers’ market nutrition programs aimed at women and young children.

Thomas M. Menino, the mayor of Boston, said he believed the new children’s program, in which doctors write vegetable “prescriptions” to be filled at farmers’ markets, was the first of its kind. Doctors will track participants to determine how the program affects their eating patterns and to monitor health indicators like weight and body mass index, he said.

“When I go to work in the morning, I see kids standing at the bus stop eating chips and drinking a soda,” Mr. Menino said in a phone interview earlier this week. “I hope this will help them change their eating habits and lead to a healthier lifestyle.”

The mayor’s attention to healthy eating dates to his days as a city councilman. Most recently he has appointed a well-known chef as a food policy director to promote local foods in public schools and to foster market gardens in the city.

Although obesity is a complex problem unlikely to be solved just by eating more vegetables, supporters of the veggie voucher program hope that physician intervention will spur young people to adopt the kind of behavioral changes that can help forestall lifelong obesity.

Childhood obesity in the United States costs $14.1 billion annually in direct health expenses like prescription drugs and visits to doctors and emergency rooms, according to a recent article on the economics of childhood obesity published in the journal Health Affairs. Treating obesity-related illness in adults costs an estimated $147 billion annually, the article said.

Although the vegetable prescription pilot project is small, its supporters see it as a model for encouraging obese children and their families to increase the volume and variety of fresh produce they eat.

“Can we help people in low-income areas, who shop in the center of supermarkets for low-cost empty-calorie food, to shop at farmers’ markets by making fruit and vegetables more affordable?” said Gus Schumacher, the chairman of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit group in Bridgeport, Conn., that supports family farmers and community access to locally grown produce.

If the pilot project is successful, Mr. Schumacher said, “farmers’ markets would become like a fruit and vegetable pharmacy for at-risk families.”

The pilot project plans to enroll up to 50 families of four at three health centers in Massachusetts that already have specialized children’s programs called healthy weight clinics.

A foundation called CAVU, for Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited, sponsors the clinics that are administering the veggie project. The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and Wholesome Wave each contributed $10,000 in seed money. (Another arm of the program, at several health centers in Maine, is giving fresh produce vouchers to pregnant mothers.) The program is to run until the end of the farmers’ market season in late fall.

One month after Leslie-Ann Ogiste, a certified nursing assistant in Boston, and her 9-year-old son, Makael Constance, received their first vegetable prescription vouchers at the Codman Center, they have lost a combined four pounds, she said. A staff member at the center told Ms. Ogiste about a farmers’ market that is five minutes from her apartment, she said.

“It worked wonders,” said Ms. Ogiste, who bought and prepared eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, corn, bok choy, parsley, carrots and red onions. “Just the variety, it did help.”

Ms. Ogiste said she had minced some vegetables and used them in soup, pasta sauce and rice dishes — the better to disguise the new good-for-you foods that she served her son.

Makael said he did not mind. “It’s really good,” he said.

Some nutrition researchers said that the Massachusetts project had a good chance of improving eating habits in the short term. But, they added, a vegetable prescription program in isolation may not have a long-term influence on reducing obesity. Families may revert to their former habits in the winter when the farmers’ markets are closed, these researchers said, or they may not be able to afford fresh produce after the voucher program ends.

Dr. Shikha Anand, the medical director of CAVU’s healthy weight initiative, said the group hoped to make the veggie prescription project a year-round program through partnerships with grocery stores.

But people tend to overeat junk food in higher proportion than they undereat vegetables, said Dr. Deborah A. Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation. So, unless people curtail excessive consumption of salty and sugary snacks, she said, behavioral changes like eating more fruit and vegetables will have limited effect on obesity.

In a recent study led by Dr. Cohen, for example, people in southern Louisiana typically exceeded guidelines for eating salty and sugary foods by 120 percent in the course of a day while falling short of vegetable and fruit consumption by 20 percent.

The weight clinics in Massachusetts chosen for the vegetable prescription test project already encourage families to cut down on unhealthy snacks.

Even as Ms. Ogiste and her son started shopping at the farmers’ market and eating more fresh produce, for example, they also cut back on junk food, she said.

“We have stopped the snacks. We are drinking more water and less soda and less juice too,” Ms. Ogiste said. “All of that helped.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nearly all Americans fail to follow MyPyramid

Nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations with the federal MyPyramid, according to a study appearing on-line Aug. 11 in The Journal of Nutrition and involving researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Alexandra, Va.

“These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis,” the researchers said.

They obtained data for 16,338 people age 2 and older from the 2001-04 NHANES. Quantities of food reported on 24-hour recalls were translated into amounts of various food groups using the MyPyramid equivalents database.

More than 80% of people age 71 or younger and more than 90% of all other sex-age groups had intakes of empty calories that exceeded the discretionary calorie allowances. The majority of the population failed to meet recommendations for all of the nutrient-rich food groups, except total grains and meat and beans.

Overconsumption of energy from solid fats, added sugars and alcoholic beverages was ubiquitous.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Energy drinks/shots manufacturers are having difficulties attracting new customers

According to exclusive Mintel research, energy drinks/shots manufacturers are having difficulties attracting new customers, despite a 136% increase in sales from 2005-2009. In fact, 74% of those surveyed say they don't consume energy drinks/shots and 69% of those non-users are not interested in trying them.

Americans consume 3.05L of energy drinks per capita each year, but energy drink market penetration remained flat at 15% of all adults aged 18+ during 2007-2009. Energy drinks/shots non-users cite high prices (48%), too much caffeine (43%) and a general feeling that energy drinks/shots just aren't good for you (43%) as reasons why they have not consumed any in the past three months.

"Sales of energy drinks and shots have remained relatively strong for the last few years, but the same core group of customers continues to buy them," says Garima Goel Lal, senior analyst at Mintel. "The category added only one million new energy drinks users aged 18+ during 2007-2009, compared to 9.3 million new users during 2005-2007, so manufacturers are eager to grow that number again."

Sixteen percent of energy drink non-users and 14% of energy shots non-users would be encouraged to try an energy drink or shot if free samples were offered at a store where they usually shop. Meanwhile, 14% of non-users would be more likely to try energy drinks (11% for energy shots) if they had natural ingredients.

"The fact that seven out of 10 people are not interested in the energy drink category suggests the need for manufacturers to develop products aimed at a wider audience," adds Garima Goel Lal. "Providing consumers with more flavors, less sugar and reduced caffeine content are all ways for companies to attract more customers."

Seventy-one percent of energy drink users (80% of energy shot users) consume them for an energy boost, 57% of energy drink users employ them to stay awake and 60% of energy shot users say they drink them for mental alertness. Energy drink/shot consumers are more likely to use energy shots (30%) than energy drinks (23%) to enhance sports performance.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Millennials are more likely than other age groups to say their food choices at main meals are motivated by cravings

America’s twenty-somethings, known as the Millennial generation or generation Y, are connected, confident, and tend to live in the moment when it comes to making food choices, reports The NPD Group, a leading market research company. According to recent NPD food market research, Millennials are more likely to say their food choices at main meals are motivated by cravings, cost control, and minimal preparation time.

According to NPD’s National Eating Trends® , which has continually tracked America’s eating behaviors for 30 years, Millennials’ food selections indicate a here-today-gone tomorrow mentality. They are much more likely than consumers in other age groups to use frozen entrees or other food items that are portable and do not require preparation. As with most of these food offerings, there is usually little opportunity for leftovers, which correlates to their relatively low rate of leftover usage. National Eating Trends reports that a typical Millennial has 68 meals a year that contain a leftover item, but adults in their 30s to early 40s are using leftovers in 82 meals a year.

In addition to convenience, cost control is a major motivation for Millennials, and frozen food and other convenience-oriented food products often provide relatively inexpensive meal solutions.

“Cost concern is particularly important to this age group since they have been among the hardest hit by the recession,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for The NPD Group. “The unemployment rate for adults under 30 was 19.5% for the second quarter of 2010, a rate more than double the 9.5% seen for the total workforce.”

Millennials are coping with their economic challenges by making use of low-priced retailers. National Eating Trends finds that one-third of Millennials use mass merchants, such as Walmart, as their primary food store, compared to 23 percent for all adults.

“The Millennial generation has grown up in a time of tremendous technological advances, coupled with new societal norms,” says Seifer. “They are connected like no other generation before them. This connectedness is both an opportunity and challenge for marketers. Communicating with – and selling to – Millennials requires an understanding of their attitudes and behaviors.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some 94% of Americans are concerned about the long-term effects

A recent BeveragePulse.com study by Concept Catalysts and iModerate Research Technologies found that 94% of Americans are concerned about the long-term effects that their packaged beverage purchases and consumption have on the environment. The free study also shows that recycling was cited frequently (45%) as the most important environmental concern for packaged beverages. Health concerns and economic issues also contribute to recent category declines in packaged beverage purchases.

This BeveragePulse.com report "Environmental Concerns: The impact on beverage and package decisions" contains these and many other findings such as:

* Environmental concerns are driving down the consumption of bottled water
* Although 56% of consumers cite recycling as a critical issue, many are not recycling at work or away from home
* Concern for environmental issues among consumers has heightened as a result of the Gulf oil spill
* Half of the respondents are confused about the meaning of sustainability, some citing it as a negative environmental attribute

The research utilized a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative methods to explore what drives consumers' packaged beverage purchasers. The study sampled over 500 respondents giving a margin of error of +/-4.29 at the 95% confidence level.

Bob Falkenberg, founder of BeveragePulse.com and president of Concept Catalyst says, "Our research shows that consumers think about the environment when they are making beverage purchases; specifically, the findings indicate that consumers relate positively to packages that are easy to recycle. Beverage companies should start a full court press on recycling."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Consumer interest in food and beverages was stronger in products that offer better digestive health

Consumer interest in food and beverages that offer health benefits is greater than, or similar to, interest in vitamins and supplements that provide the same health-and-wellness benefits, according to a new global study conducted by New York-based Ipsos Marketing, Consumer Goods.

Within the food and beverage category, consumer interest was strongest in products that offer better digestive health, increased energy, weight loss and healthy blood sugar levels. In fact, shoppers’ level of interest in food and beverages with these benefits equaled or surpassed their interest in vitamins and supplements offering corresponding benefits. Although not as high as vitamins and supplements, interest in food and beverages that provided heart health, cancer prevention and better immunity was also substantial, with one-third of consumers expressing such interest.

Vitamins and supplements were the preferred source for a host of other benefits, most notably better immunity, increased brain power, bone and joint health, cancer prevention, hormonal balance, and eye health. When it came to beauty and personal products, consumers were interested mostly in skin care benefits, followed by relaxation and stress relief.

“The data suggests that consumers are most interested in health-and-wellness products in which there is already an established connection between the product and the benefit,” said Lauren Demar, CEO, Ipsos Marketing, Global Consumer Goods Sector. “However, consumer packaged goods companies should not feel constrained to offer only benefits that consumers immediately understand and believe. Consumers can be educated through advertising, packaging and testimonials about health-and-wellness benefits.”

Demar concludes: “CPG marketers should not only look within their categories to learn which aspects of health and wellness are most relevant to consumers, but outside their categories as well. In particular, looking at the vitamin and supplement category can provide important clues as to which benefits are on the leading edge. Consumers express strong interest in using products associated with better immunity, increased brain power and memory, and bone and joint health – making these strong innovation platforms for tomorrow.”

The study was conducted between Nov. 4, 2009, and Jan. 13, 2010, of 21,623 adults age 18 and up in 23 countries, including the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Soluble Fibers Reduce Post-Meal Glucose

At the 2010 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo, a scientific panel presented several studies supporting the link between a high-fiber diet and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

In one study, presented by Britt Burton Freeman, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of California, Davis, results showed that soluble viscous fibers, such as psyllium, guar gum, pectin and beta-glucan, are most effective at reducing post-meal glucose. High post-meal glucose is a significant issue for people with diabetes.

Results from another study found that each daily single-serving of whole grain lowers the risk of developing diabetes by 10 percent, according to In one analysis, scientists found that each one serving per day increment in whole grain intake is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, said Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, professor of nutrition, epidemiology and medicine in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.

The metabolic and digestive benefits of whole-grain fiber are many, Hu said, including increased satiety, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation and binding of bile acids and increasing excretion of cholesterol.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Study Links Meat Intake to Weight Gain

New research from Imperial College London reveals that individuals who eat a lot of meat, especially poultry, are more likely to gain more weight over five years than those who eat less meat or no meat at all even if they consume the same amount of calories. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consuming chicken and turkey had the most impact on weight gain, followed by processed meats and red meat.

The study involved more than 100,000 men and 270,000 women from 10 European countries who took part in the large European population who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Physical Activity, Nutrition, Alcohol, Cessation of Smoking, Eating Out of Home and Obesity (EPIC-PANACEA) project.

Diet was assessed at baseline with the use of country-specific validated questionnaires. A dietary calibration study was conducted in a representative subsample of the cohort. Weight and height were measured at baseline and self-reported at follow-up in most centers. Associations between energy from meat (kcal/d) and annual weight change (g/y) were assessed with the use of linear mixed models, controlled for age, sex, total energy intake, physical activity, dietary patterns, and other potential confounders.

Over a 5-year follow-up period, both men and women gained an average of one pound a year, although women gained a little less. For each additional 250 grams of meat a person ate daily, the 5-year weight gain was 4.4 pounds greater than those who didn’t eat as much meat.


* American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The average household spends $148.48 per month (or 19% of all monthly spending) on categories that have a wellness halo

Since 2005, spending on wellness products shows an upward trend with a higher proportion spent on wellness for fresh categories. The average household spends $148.48 per month (or 19 percent of all monthly spending) on categories that have a wellness halo.

This is one of the key findings in a new report by The Hartman Group, the predominant consumer culture consultancy and primary research firm. According to their report, Reimagining Health + Wellness 2010, wellness, as we know it, is currently undergoing a great transformation. Over half of all consumers (54 percent) say they have recently changed their views on health & wellness. Younger consumers, for example, cite stress (51percent) and energy levels (47percent) as triggers for changing their views on health & wellness.

“Increased spending on products beneath a wellness umbrella, particularly in fresh categories, reflects what we have been witnessing for more than a decade now,” says Laurie Demeritt, Hartman Group president and COO. “Consumer understanding of Wellness has moved away from traditional notions of condition treatment and disease prevention and toward attaining a better quality of life. They are looking for products and services that help them meet their wellness goals and aspirations. With virtually all consumers involved in wellness on some level, this represents tremendous opportunities for CPG manufacturers and retailers.”

This most recent report aligns with previous Hartman Group Wellness Lifestyle Insights reports that point to health and wellness no longer being a niche market dominated by a small group of consumers. Consumers across the full spectrum of involvement in wellness can now, at least aspirationally, articulate quality of life as the meaning of wellness. The reports finds consumers are practical and seeking more flexible, simple ways of incorporating wellness into everyday life and view indulgence and pleasure as essential to wellbeing.

Reimagining Health + Wellness 2010 is the most comprehensive exploration of consumer and shopper health and wellness perceptions, behaviors and trends available in the marketplace today. It is an indispensible roadmap for reimagining health and wellness brands, products, services, marketing and retail experiences.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Antioxidant Peptides Discovered in Yogurt

Yogurt is considered a healthy food making it a good candidate for fortification with other healthful ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, and helping it reach an estimated $4.1 billion market in 2009 according to Mintel. But it’s essential the finished product retain a desirable taste and long shelf life when working with oxidation-prone omega-3 PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids).

Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark conducted a study was to investigate factors that contribute to the oxidative stability of fish-oil-enriched yogurt, particularly the possible antioxidative effects of peptides generated from the breakdown of dairy proteins during yogurt fermentation.

They removed the sugars and lactic acid from yogurt samples and then fractionated tem via ultrafiltration. The various yogurt fractions were tested for antioxidant activity by investigating the inhibition of oxidation in a liposome model system, radical-scavenging activity, iron-chelating activity, and reducing power.

The scientists found that the lower-molecular-weight peptide fractions were more-effective antioxidants than the fractions with higher molecular weights. These lower-molecular-weight fractions were then studied as antioxidants in fish-oil-enriched milk. Based on the measures of the milk’s peroxide value, volatiles, tocopherol and sensory characteristics, the lower-molecular-weight fractions (3 to10 kDa and less than 3 kDa) protected the test dairy product against oxidation of fish oil to the same extent as caseinophosphopeptides. In addition, the oxygen content of the yogurt was found to be lower than that of milk.

The researchers say these findings suggest that the higher oxidative stability of yogurt might result from antioxidant peptides developed during the fermentation of the milk by lactic acid bacteria and/or by the lower oxygen content of yogurt (which reduces the oxidative stress on the unsaturated fatty acids in the fish oil.). They believe that antioxidant peptides might also be added as an ingredient to fish-oil-fortified foods to increase their oxidative stability.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Individuals who had the highest intake of nitrite in their diets had an almost 30% increased risk

A new epidemiological study has reported modest support for suggestions that some components in processed meat may increase risk of bladder cancer.

Consumption of red- and processed meat has previously been linked to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, and animal studies have indicated that certain compounds could be behind the purported link.

These compounds include nitrites and nitrates, which are added to processed meats as preservatives and to enhance colour and flavour and break down into N-nitroso compounds, as well as heterocyclic amine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

For their new prospective study published online (ahead of print) in the Wiley Blackwell journal Cancer, Amanda Cross and colleagues from the US National Cancer Institute studied data amassed from dietary questionnaires completed by around 300,000 men and women aged 50-71 years in 1995 and 1996.

They were able to see what types of meat were consumed and how it was prepared, and from this calculate what people’s exposure to nitrates and nitrites would have been.

The participants were followed for 7 years for the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, during which time 854 people were diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Those with the highest intake of nitrite in their diets – from all sources including meat – and those with the highest intake of nitrate plus nitrite from meats, were seen to have a 28-29 per cent increased risk of developing bladder cancer compared to those with the lowest intakes.

Cross and colleagues concluded: “These findings provide modest support for an increased risk of bladder cancer with total dietary nitrite and nitrite plus nitrate from processed meat.”

In addition, a positive association was observed between red meat consumption and PhiP, the most abundant hetercyclic amine in cooked meat, and bladder carcinogensis.

“Our findings highlight the importance of studying meat-related compounds to better understand the association between meat and cancer risk,” said Cross. “Comprehensive epidemiologic data on meat-related exposures and bladder cancer are lacking; our findings should be followed up in other prospective studies.”

In particular a need has been observed for more studies focused on red meat and bladder cancer, and especially PhiP, “as prospective investigations of meat-related mutagens and this malignancy are lacking”.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Shade-Grown Coffee Farms Support Biodiversity

Shade-grown coffee farms support native bees that help maintain the health of some of the world's most biodiverse tropical regions, according to a study published n the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at the University of Michigan University of California, Berkeley found that by pollinating native trees on shade-coffee farms and adjacent patches of forest, the bees help preserve the genetic diversity of remnant native-tree populations.

"A concern in tropical agriculture areas is that increasingly fragmented landscapes isolate native plant populations, eventually leading to lower genetic diversity," the researchers wrote. "But this study shows that specialized native bees help enhance the fecundity and the genetic diversity of remnant native trees, which could serve as reservoirs for future forest regeneration."

Approximately 32.1 million acres of tropical forest are destroyed annually by the expansion of cropland, pasture and logging. Often grown adjacent to remnant forest patches, coffee crops cover more than 27 million acres of land in many of the world's most biodiverse regions. Over the last 30 years, many Latin American coffee farmers have abandoned shade-growing techniques, in which plants are grown beneath a diverse canopy of trees. In an effort to increase production, much of the acreage has been converted to "sun coffee," which involves thinning or removing the canopy.

Previous studies reveal that shade-grown farms boost biodiversity by providing a haven for migratory birds, nonmigratory bats and other beneficial creatures. Shade-coffee farms also require far less synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides than sun-coffee plantations.


* University of Michigan: Shade-coffee farms support native bees that help maintain genetic diversity in remnant tropical forests

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Packaged wheat bread surpassed white bread in dollar sales

Whole grains are the hottest trend in sliced bread, with whole wheat edging out soft white bread in total sales for the first time.

Flooded with messages about heart health, fiber intake and the need for omega-3s, more consumers are looking for bread that can taste good and deliver nutrients.

That's why shopping for sliced bread is increasingly about one of two things: what's affordable, and what seems healthiest. And the breads in the middle of the market seem to be getting squeezed.

The best-performing breads are promoting credentials like "whole grain" and "natural," sometimes asking consumers to pay more for those loaves. And it seems to be working. Breads with "natural" in the name, or grains visible through the packaging, are among the best performing at grocery stores. Among them: Nature's Own, Nature's Pride, and Arnold.

It's part of a major turning of the tide. Packaged wheat bread recently surpassed white bread in dollar sales, according to Nielsen Co. For the 52 weeks ended July 10, wheat bread sales increased 0.6 percent to $2.6 billion, while white bread sales declined 7 percent to $2.5 billion. White bread is still ahead in volume, but the margin is shrinking. Americans bought 1.5 billion packages of white bread in the last year, a 3 percent decrease, and 1.3 billion packages of wheat bread, a 5 percent increase.

The environment has been hard on midprice players. Among them, Downers Grove-based Sara Lee, which has put its $2.2 billion bread business up for sale, people familiar with the matter say. The company declined to comment on the possibility of a sale.

Sara Lee-brand bread sales are down 10 percent over the last 52 weeks to $359 million, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market-research firm. IRI figures do not include Wal-Mart.

Many other brands also are slipping, including Bimbo's Oroweat, down 10 percent to $301 million, Hostess' Wonder bread, down 5 percent to $220 million, and Bimbo's Stroehmann, down 6 percent to $116 million.

Sliced-bread sales as a whole fell 3 percent, to $6.5 billion, over the same period.

Sara Lee had been the second-highest grossing bread brand at grocery stores, behind Campbell's Soup Co.'s Pepperidge Farm, until it was surpassed in 2009 by Nature's Own, a whole-wheat bread owned by Thomasville, Ga.-based Flower Foods. Nature's Own sales are up 3 percent over the past year to $416 million.

As an overall business, however, Sara Lee's bread is faring a little better than its namesake brand, with sales down 4 percent and volume up 2 percent for the year ended April 4.

In a statement, Jeff Dryfhout, director of marketing for Sara Lee North America Bakery, noted a series of product launches, including Sara Lee Soft & Smooth made with whole grains but having the texture of white bread, and a 100 percent whole wheat bread in 2005.

This year, Sara Lee introduced a Soft & Smooth bread made with DHA omega-3. Because of these products and others, Dryfhout said, "We are in a strong position with a robust and meaningful portfolio of products that address the evolving trends."

Sharon Glass, group vice president of health and wellness at Catalina Marketing, said many consumers are trying whole-grain products, especially with more variety on shelves and less association with dry, dense breads of the past. She said some people will need coupons to get them to try a whole-grain bread, but once they find something they like, it will become a habit.

Samantha Dulles, a stay-at-home mom in Downers Grove, said since she found a whole-grain bread that her whole family enjoyed — Pepperidge Farm's Farmhouse Soft Oatmeal bread — she has never bought anything else.

"It's great if it's on sale, but I don't really worry about that," she said.

Dulles first started buying the brand about two years ago after examining nutritional claims and other information on just about every whole-grain loaf in the bread aisle.

Dulles is the kind of shopper Euromonitor industry analyst Francisco Reduello said will drive the bread industry in the U.S. during the next few years. "People are going to continue to buy bread, and some consumers are going to buy for function, with a high added value," he said.

While bread consumption in the U.S., as in Western Europe, is expected to remain flat, the popularity of whole grains has created an opportunity for the bread industry to grow in the U.S., especially with niche consumers.

And as a result, dollar-sales of bread are expected to grow here, and be flat or slightly down in Europe, where there's little or no premium placed on bread's nutritional content.

Glass said that whole grains are a top priority with consumers these days, ranking between healthy food to feed children and heart health in a recent study by Catalina Marketing. Bread benefits from interest in whole grain, she added, because it's an easy way for consumers "to get their nutrients without having to prepare a meal."

Still, white bread isn't dead.

Angela Saliani of Rogers Park, mom to Christopher, 5, and Cassandra, 10 months, feeds her family Sara Lee's white wheat bread. She buys wheat bread for herself, but partner Kirk O'Keeffe prefers sandwiches made with white bread. But it's important to her that the family eat bread with some nutritional value.

Saliani said she isn't brand loyal in most cases, and she looks online for coupons before shopping to save money. Yet if O'Keeffe is going to the grocery store, Saliani said she reminds him "don't get the 99-cent bread, spend the $3 on the Sara Lee whole-grain white if you're going to get white."

Some consumers want healthier breads but are focused on price.

Kendra Frost, a first-time, single mother who owns a small business, said she's working hard to keep grocery expenses down while also eating healthy.

"I like the whole grain, but I usually try and go with the least expensive whole grain," Frost said. And since labels have gotten confusing, "I look for the thick pieces that you can see the grains on the top of the bread."

Consumer shifts to premium breads and value pricing has sliced into sales at some bread-makers.

J. Bohn Popp, vice president of marketing for Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Aunt Millie's Bakeries, acknowledged the recent difficulties. Aunt Millie's, the namesake brand, which includes everything from whole-grain to cranberry-apple swirl bread and even bagels, has experienced a 10 percent sales decline in the last year, as measured by IRI. But Popp said sales of Aunt Millie's brand has improved in the past 13 weeks.

The family-owned company also makes private-label bread for major grocery chains, including Meijer and Wal-Mart in certain regions, and those breads have been performing better, he said.

In the last decade, several major changes have occurred in the industry, Popp said, including the popularity of low-carb diets until about 2005, and the era of bakery consolidation that began in 2004. And consumers now want whole-wheat and whole-grain bread at low prices.

The company does about 20 percent of its business in whole-wheat breads, compared with about 1.5 percent nine years ago.

"That's what the market is demanding," Popp said. The whole-grain craze has, after all, raised the bar on what consumers are willing to pay for bread that's perceived as healthy, he said.

And while he said the industry is bracing itself for sales declines as baby boomers cut back on bread consumption, there's a light at the end of the tunnel: their grandchildren.

"Millennials are going to have kids," Popp said. "Families with kids, that's where your consumption goes up."

Monday, August 02, 2010

Study Says Media Misrepresents Organic

A new study published in the British Food Journal finds U.S. media coverage of organic agriculture and organic food are more likely to be positive than negative and inaccurately claim organic food is safer.

Researchers from Kansas State University explored how topics of organic food and agriculture were discussed in five North American newspapers. Using the content analysis technique, the 618 articles collected were analyzed for topic, tone and theme regarding food safety, environmental concerns and human health. The prominent topics of the articles were genetic engineering, pesticides and organic farming.

The researchers found 41.4 percent of the articles had a neutral tone toward organic agriculture and food; 36.9 percent had a positive tone; 15.5 percent were mixed; and 6.1 percent were negative.

"We concluded that articles about organic production in the selected time period were seldom negative," said lead author Doug Powell. "Organic agriculture was often portrayed in the media as an alternative to allegedly unsafe and environmentally damaging modern agriculture practices. That means organic was being defined by what it isn't, rather than what it is."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has repeatedly stated that the organic standard is a verification of production methods and not a food-safety claim, Powell said.

"Food safety was the least important in the media discussion of organic agriculture," he said. "The finding that 50 percent of food safety-themed statements in news articles were positive with respect to organic agriculture, while 81 percent of health-themed statements and 90 percent of environment-themed statements were positive toward organic food, indicates an uncritical press."



Sunday, August 01, 2010

Bottled water was predicted to grow 3.6%

With American consumer confidence seemingly stuck in neutral, the back to school season can be an insightful view into the state of consumer spending, as well as a precursor to what retailers can expect for the upcoming holiday season. The Nielsen Company forecasts a modest increase in dollar sales on Back to School items, up 1.7 percent to $2.6 billion, although unit sales are projected to drop.

“Unlike the holiday season, many consumers view back to school shopping as required versus discretionary purchases,” said James Russo, vice president, Global Consumer Insights, The Nielsen Company. “Kids need back to school supplies as they start the school year. That said we see an extremely modest sales increase for this year’s Back to School season. While more U.S. consumers feel the country is coming out of the recession, they still feel the weight of a stubbornly weak labor market. Look for consumers to spend their money carefully and focus on purchasing the essentials.”

Back to school study guide:

* Units on the Decline: Nielsen forecasts Back to School unit sales for the office/school supply category to drop 5.25 percent to 1.04 billion.

* Critical Season for Retailers: The July – September Back to School season is important for the office/school supply category, generating nearly 40 percent of annual dollar sales and more than 50 percent of annual unit sales for the $7 billion office/school supply category.

* Shop Now, Shop Early: Many prices for Back to School items are up in 2010 compared to 2009. Nielsen’s research shows that the lowest prices are available in July (down 55 percent) and August (down 50 percent.)

* Back to School Winners: Gains are expected for supercenters, dollar stores, drug stores, and to a lesser extent, club and grocery stores.

* Bring Me Some Water: Nielsen forecasts bottled water, a related Back to School category, to grow 3.57 percent on a dollar basis, outpacing juice sales. Once considered a discretionary item, bottled water is increasingly consumed as a staple, driving its growth.

“Back to School prices are up this year,” said Russo. “With consumers applying more pressure for lower prices and promotions on basic consumable items, retailers are looking to make up margins in seasonal categories. Those retailers offering strong discounts and appealing to consumers’ desire for savings and value will be this year’s Back to School winners.”