Saturday, March 31, 2012

U.S. retail and foodservice sales of specialty foods and beverages increased 6.9% in 2011

Surging demand for yogurt, energy bars, nut and seed butters and coffee drinks is sending the specialty food industry to new highs for the second year in a row.

U.S. retail and foodservice sales of specialty foods and beverages rose 6.9 percent in 2011, topping $75 billion, according to new research from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.

"Consumers are making better food a part of their lifestyle," says Ron Tanner, Vice President, Communications and Education, for the NASFT. "They are embracing new foods and flavors and are willing to choose top-quality even while they economize elsewhere."

Cheese claims the top spot in spending for specialty foods, with $3.44 billion in retail sales in 2011. The next largest retail sales categories are meats, poultry and seafood; chips, pretzels and snacks; coffee, coffee substitutes and cocoa; and bread and baked goods. Functional beverages are the fastest growing segment, followed by yogurt and kefir.

Behind the robust numbers, manufacturers, importers, brokers, distributors and retailers interviewed for the study are talking about growth opportunities for specialty food and the challenges they face. Cash flow, rising expenses for raw materials and energy, and increasing competition are top concerns.

In 2011, product introductions took a back seat, with a 6.2 percent drop as manufacturers focused on existing lines. Nevertheless, there is clearly positive momentum for the industry as the average transaction size for specialty food stores jumped 11.4 percent to $41.49.

These findings are presented in The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2012, an annual report from the NASFT prepared in conjunction with market researchers Mintel International and SPINS. The report tracks sales of specialty food through supermarkets, natural food stores and specialty food retailers.

Here are some highlights from the report:

• Specialty foods represent 13.7 percent of all food sales at retail.
• Kosher is the leading claim for new specialty food products, followed by All Natural.
• Natural food stores are the fastest growing retail channel, with a sales increase of 19.8 percent from 2009 – 2011.
• In 2011, 41 percent of specialty food manufacturers reported a sales increase of more than 20 percent.
• Local is the most influential product claim today, according to three quarters of retailers surveyed and two thirds say the claim will grow the most in the next three years.
• Latin is the fastest emerging cuisine, retailers say. Importers report growth in cuisines from Eastern Europe and India.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Top 5 Heart-Healthy Snacks

Of all the nutritious snack options available, new research suggests that raisins and soy may pack some of the biggest wallop when it comes to being heart-healthy.

At the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting this past weekend, researchers presented results of separate studies that evaluated the effects of raisins and soy on blood pressure. The studies found that both foods lowered blood pressure when consumed regularly.

Experts weighed in on these and a few other snacks that offer heart-healthy benefits. compiled a list of the top five.


It's long been believed that raisins have a positive effect on blood pressure, and a study by doctors at the Louisville Metabolic and Athetosclerosis research Center (L-MARC) now offers some proof to that claim.

In their study, Dr. Harold Bays and his colleagues randomly assigned 46 men and women who had borderline high blood pressure to consume either about 60 raisins or a pre-packaged snack three times a day.

"We monitored blood pressure, and when we did that and looked at the final result, we found that compared to the snack group, the raisin group showed a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure," said Bays, who is medical director and president of L-MARC.

Bays believes the potassium in the raisins brought about the decrease in blood pressure.

"Prior studies had already supported that if you give people potassium, blood pressure would go down," he said.

What is also significant about his study, Bays added, is that it is one of the only studies that evaluated the relationship between blood pressure and raisins.

"There has not been any objective research to study this," he said.

Soy Products

Soy products are protein-rich dietary staples found to have positive cardiovascular effects, including lowering blood pressure.

Researchers led by Safiya Richardson, a fourth-year medical student at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons studied the relationship between isoflavones, compounds found in soy, and blood pressure among subjects participating in the nationwide Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

They found that consuming only 2.5 milligrams of isoflavones a day (by comparison, an 8-ounce glass of soy milk has 22 milligrams) lowered blood pressure by about 5 points. The effect was especially strong among African Americans.

"Studies have shown that one particular isoflavone, genistein, has been found to have cause blood vessels to dilate, which is why it can lower blood pressure," Richardson said. Genistein was one of three isoflavones examined in the study.


While experts consider nuts as a whole to be heart smart if they are consumed in moderation, walnuts are a particularly healthy choice.

"With walnuts, you are getting alpha-linoleic acid, which converts to an omega-3 fatty acid, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease," said Allison Stowell, dietitian at Guiding Stars, XXX.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also abundant in fish, and according to the American Heart Association, they can lower the risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms and can also decrease the levels of triglycerides in the blood.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When it comes to coffee, cancer risks, read fine print PLEASE!!!!

Have you read or heard headlines about the “latest” study on caffeine, wine or some other substance and felt confused? You are not alone.

Headlines you may have seen include “Caffeine can increase breast cancer risk,” “Caffeine Consumption Not Associated With Breast Cancer Risk In Most Women, Study Suggests,” “Caffeine, Breast Cancer Link Minimal,” and “Does Coffee Cut Breast Cancer Risk?” Besides being about caffeine and breast cancer, all of them also have this in common: they refer to research published in scholarly journals.

Confusing? You bet. Some of the conflicting headlines even refer to the same study.

What’s a person to do? Cut out caffeine entirely? Have more? Have less?

Start by reading the fine print. In the study that generated the headline “Caffeine can increase breast cancer risk,” all participants were women 45 years or older and the increased risk correlated with drinking more than four cups of coffee daily. This research cannot be generalized to women younger than 45 or who drink fewer than four cups of coffee daily. What other things about the people in a study are like you or different from you?

Go to the original article the story is based on. The name of the journal that published the study and at least one of the authors is usually in the news report. If you cannot get a copy of the original article, look for other stories on the same topic for comparison. Three of the headlines noted above came out on the same day.

In my examples, the research subjects are people, but sometimes you see headlines like this for studies done in animals, petri dishes or test tubes. Again, read the fine print. Animal and laboratory research are important steppingstones, but we cannot assume that human research will show the same results. Also, research that looks at a few people or subjects of only one gender, age or ethnicity cannot be generalized to everyone.

Consider other research on the topic. For instance, many women stopped hormone replacement therapy after one well-publicized study a few years ago. Now, more information on the data from that study and other research allows us to individualize decisions regarding risks and benefits of hormone replacement.

It also helps to know that results can be reported as absolute risk and relative risk.

Imagine a new blood pressure medication is tested against an older medication for one year. Everyone in the study has high blood pressure: 100 people take the new medication, 2 have heart attacks; another 100 people take the older medication, 3 have heart attacks. So for people with high blood pressure taking the new medication, we expect one less heart attack per year for every 100 people using it. This is absolute risk.

Looking at the same information as relative risk, the new medication reduces heart attack risk by 33 percent or one third. If 12 out of 100 of the new medication users have heart attacks and 18 out of 100 people taking the older medication do also, then the new medication still reduces the relative risk of heart attack by one third or 33 percent. Relative risk often sounds more impressive. A brochure with more information on risk and other aspects of medical study results is at understanding_risk_0.pdf.

This may seem awfully complicated. I recommend asking your health care provider to guide you in understanding new research, making sense of the headlines and what it means for you personally.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Individuals who eat chocolate regularly are thinner than those who do not

The latest health news is a chocolate lover’s dream: People who eat chocolate regularly are thinner than those who don’t, a study shows.

You can thank researchers at the University of California, San Diego, for this one.

The authors of the study came up with the hypothesis that regular chocolate consumption was calorie-neutral. That means the health benefits from eating small amounts of chocolate would offset the added calories.

What they found was even better than they expected. The adults in their study who ate chocolate more days per week were thinner than the occasional chocolate imbibers.

Even more surprising, the chocolate eaters consumed more calories and did not exercise more.

In the chocolate study, the weight difference for chocolate consumers was not huge, but it was significant, the researchers said. They couldn’t find any behavior differences that might explain their finding in terms of calories in vs. calories out.

They found eating chocolate five times a week, compared with not eating any, was associated with about a one-point drop in body mass index. That would amount to about seven pounds for a person 5' 10", or about five pounds for a five-footer, according to a report in MedPage Today.

“Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight,” Beatrice Golomb, associate professor in the university’s Department of Medicine, said in a news release.

“In the case of chocolate, this is good news – both for those who have a regular chocolate habit, and those who may wish to start one.

The researchers based their study on 1,000 people, assessing their body mass index and dietary information that they provided.

The study does not prove that chocolate caused the weight difference, the MedPage Today article said. However, the researchers said the findings were “intriguing” and may lead to further investigation of chocolate’s metabolic benefits.

The researchers also said they found no link to the quantity of chocolate consumed, only with the frequency of consumption.

This is not the first study linking chocolate to better health. Chocolate, which has high amounts of antioxidants, has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and strokes.

But because it often comes with added fat and sugar, researchers and dietitians urge caution in applying research findings to real life (or real waistlines). Plenty of research also shows the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Popcorn Has More Antioxidants Than Fruit and Vegetables, Study Says

Popcorn, when it's not slathered in butter and coated in salt, is already known to be a healthy snack food and now a group of scientists say it may even top fruits and vegetables in antioxidant levels.

The researchers said they found great amounts of antioxidants known as polyphenols in popcorn and explained that the substances are more concentrated in the snack, which is made up of about four percent water, while the antioxidants are more diluted in fruits and vegetables, many of which are made of up 90 percent water.

That's the same principle that gives dried fruits an antioxidant edge over their fresh counterparts.

One serving of popcorn has up to 300mg of polyphenols, which is much higher than previously believed and nearly double the 160mg for all fruits per serving, according to the researchers, who presented their findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.

They also found that the crunchy hulls of the popcorn have the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber.

"Those hulls deserve more respect," said researcher Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. "They are nutritional gold nuggets."

The scientists warned, though, preparation is key to culling popcorn's health benefits.

"Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course," Vinson guided.

"Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Coffee not linked to psoriasis

First it was beer, then it was cigarettes. Finally, researchers have found a vice that's not tied to psoriasis: coffee.

In fact, when Dr. Abrar Qureshi and his team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston first set out to study whether there was a link between the skin disease and java, they thought the anti-inflammatory properties of caffeine might actually protect against psoriasis.

That had been reported by a group of Irani researchers, who applied caffeine directly to the skin of volunteers with psoriasis and found an apparent benefit.

Scientists believe psoriasis is caused by an abnormal immune system attack on the body's own cells, which causes them to form red, scaly patches all over the body that usually itch.

Typical treatments for psoriasis include topical creams, ultraviolet light exposure and systemic drugs that target the immune system.

To see whether consumed caffeine had any influence on whether a person developed psoriasis, Qureshi and his colleagues looked at more than 82,000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study.

All of the participants had filled out questionnaires about their daily food and beverage intake in 1991 and were free of psoriasis at that point.

Over the next 14 years, nearly 1,000 people in the study developed psoriasis, the team reports in the Archives of Dermatology.

Initially, the risk did seem a bit higher among those who got a lot of caffeine in their diet, whether from coffee, tea, soft drinks or chocolate.

But coffee drinkers also smoked more than people with a smaller caffeine intake.

Earlier studies from Qureshi's team have tied psoriasis to both alcohol and tobacco, so when the researchers took the latter into account they found there was no longer any link between caffeine and skin problems.

Although the earlier research doesn't prove that either smoking or drinking causes psoriasis by itself, the findings are another good reason to cut back on unhealthy habits, Qureshi told Reuters Health.

"From a lifestyle point of view," he said, "I'd recommend exercising more, drinking less and quitting smoking."

Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia, who was not involved in the new work but has studied the health effects of coffee, said there is good evidence that the brew -- at least when filtered -- isn't harmful for healthy people.

"There is also a growing body of evidence suggesting that coffee drinking may decrease the risk of diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer," Lopez-Garcia, of Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain, told Reuters Health in an email.

But she warned that the drink can worsen problems like insomnia, anxiety and high blood pressure.

"Because of these side effects of coffee, it is prudent to recommend moderate coffee consumption," she said.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The foods Americans eat have a lot to do with factors such as race, age and where they live

The foods Americans eat have a lot to do with factors like race, age and where they live, and can be categorized into five distinct dietary patterns, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed food questionnaires from a large group of black and white adults aged 45 and older in the continental United States, with a focus on southeastern states.

The strongest association they found was that black people were more likely than whites to have "southern" diets, which are rich in fried foods, processed meats and sweetened drinks.

"Nobody has defined dietary patterns in a population like this," said Suzanne Judd, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and study co-author.

The findings are slated for Tuesday presentation at the American Heart Association meeting in San Diego.

The southern diet probably emerged as a clear trend because the study included so many participants from the Southeast, Judd added.

In addition to the southern diet, the authors identified four other eating patterns.

The "traditional" pattern was characterized by a mixed diet of mostly takeout and prepared foods.

A "healthy" diet was mostly made up of fruits, veggies and grains.

"Sweets" consisted largely of sweet snacks and desserts.

An "alcohol" pattern, which included salads, proteins (and alcohol), was associated with younger ages and higher socioeconomic status.

The researchers limited their study to black and white adults because the largest difference in stroke risk exists between these two racial groups. Previous research has found that black people are three times more likely to have a stroke than their white counterparts at 45 years of age, although the gap in risk shrinks in older adults.

People from the Southeast region, known as the "stroke belt," are also more likely to suffer a stroke.

The current study involved nearly 22,000 adults, half of whom lived in the Southeast, representing a range of income and education levels.

Participants filled out a food frequency questionnaire about their diet over the past year. From these responses, the researchers grouped similar foods into categories, then looked at how food groups were consumed together to define dietary patterns. Participants each received a score reflecting how closely their diet resembled each pattern.

The researchers identified a number of trends, notably that younger age groups (45-54 years) were more likely than older adults to have a traditional diet, which features convenient, ready-to-eat foods.

And while black participants were associated with a southern diet, white people were more likely to have a traditional or sweet diet. These diet differences could not be explained by income and education differences alone, Judd said, adding that culture and upbringing probably play a part in eating habits.

Previous research suggests that one of the major culprits for increased stroke risk among black people is high blood pressure. The southern diet, and in particular sodium intake, probably has an effect on stroke risk by driving up blood pressure, although it may have other important effects, such as on obesity, Judd said.

"Not maintaining a healthy weight leads to so many problems in terms of how well blood vessels function," she explained.

Although studies have explored the intake of individual nutrients, such as sodium and calcium as well as fats and fiber, among black and white people, there is a less clear understanding of how overall diet differs between these groups.

Commenting on the study, Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, said, "We have to start looking at dietary patterns because it is about the whole of what we do; it is not single nutrients or single foods that are the cause or the blame for disease."

When it comes to helping people change their eating habits, dietary patterns are also more useful than labeling foods as "good" and "bad," Diekman added.

The next step is to look at the relationship between these dietary patterns and health, in particular stroke risk. "I'll be surprised if we don't see an association," Judd said.

If further research shows an association, it would provide some foods to target, similar to how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to reduce sodium in the food supply, Judd said.

"Even from just what is here [in this study], it certainly will add to the body of evidence that's encouraging the change in sodium, portions, and the increased need for education around nutrition and physical activity," Diekman said.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Peanut allergies often cause life-threatening allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis; however, researchers from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have identified a new cost-effective and convenient two-step test to accurately identify peanut allergies, according to a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Currently, an oral food challenge is the standard for diagnosing peanut allergy, and while an oral food challenge is definitive in diagnosing patients, it's time-consuming, costly and risks a severe reaction in patients. The new test uses part of the peanut protein called “Arah2" and involves a two-step screening process—a blood test, followed by the Arah2 test, which was more accurate and highly predictive than using one of the tests alone.

The researchers said the two-step testing process reduced the need for oral food challenges by fourfold. They predict the new test will help minimize over-diagnosis and reduce the number of patients requiring referral to specialist services for confirmation of a food allergy by using oral food challenges.

"By reducing the number of oral food challenges, this helps prevent many peanut allergics undertaking the unnecessary risks involved with an oral food challenge," the researchers said.

They noted the “Arah2" two-step process can be used in children with high risk of food allergy, such as those with eczema and other food allergies, and for those who haven't eaten peanuts but have a strong family history of food allergy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Local Produce Edging Out Organic in Importance Among Consumers

It seems like just yesterday natural/organic was the hot ticket, but local is quickly becoming a consumer favorite, as locally-sourced products are becoming more popular at grocery stores and restaurants alike. According to recent Mintel research, the same is true in the fruit and vegetable industry with more than half (52%) of consumers reporting that it's more important to buy local produce than organic options

Data from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) supports this statement, as fruit products with a natural/organic claim have declined 58% between 2008 and 2011, while vegetable product launches with that claim have decreased by 77% during the same time period.

"Natural and organic produce items aren't completely passe, but local varieties are steadily gaining ground," says John N. Frank, category manager, CPG food and drink reports at Mintel. "Interestingly enough, senior citizens are even more likely to believe that buying local produce is more important than organic."

While it's true that consumers have their preferences when it comes to the type of fruits and veggies they consume, they still aren't eating the recommended daily amounts. Fourteen percent of Americans don't eat any servings of fruit on a typical day and 7% report the same of their vegetable eating habits. Meanwhile, 69% agree that they should eat more fruits and veggies than they currently consume.

"Consumers may respond well to a marketing message touting the idea that eating vegetables is a healthier way to get important vitamins than taking a pill," suggests John Frank. "Some 81% of respondents agree with that statement. Another effective marketing message could be ways to make meal salads with vegetables, as 59% of respondents say they eat salads as a meal at least once a week."

Furthermore, giving vegetable preparation ideas could also go a long way in increasing produce consumption. It may be lack of ideas that leads 37% to say the fresh vegetables they buy often go bad before they have a chance to eat them, and 27% who say they would eat more vegetables if they knew how to prepare them.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


An estimated 1.2% to 1.4% of Americans are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both; however, adults and children with allergies often struggle to accurately identify peanuts and tree nuts that are among the most common food allergens in the United States, according to a new study published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Researchers at Ohio State University recruited 1,105 people (649 adults and 456 children) to investigate their nut knowledge. Participants completed questionnaires about their demographic information and any personal history of an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts. Those age 15 or older were asked to complete family histories of this food allergy and document any current or previous jobs in child care or teaching, food preparation or serving, or in a patient-care setting. Participants then were asked to visually identify each of 19 nuts in a display box by writing the name of the food in a corresponding area on an answer sheet.

The 19 samples included various nuts in and out of the shell, and some were chopped, sliced or diced just as they appear on grocery store shelves. The study included samples of peanuts as well as cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, Macadamia nuts and pine nuts.

On average, the participants correctly identified 8.4, or 44.2%, of the nuts. Adults did better than children, averaging 11.1 correct answers compared to 4.6 correct, respectively. Those age 51 or older got the most right, with an average correct number of 13 out of the 19 nuts displayed.

Peanuts were the most commonly identified item, and the shell made a significant difference. Almost 95% of participants correctly identified peanuts in a shell, compared to 80.5% who could identify a peanut outside the shell. Among tree nuts, cashews without a shell were the most commonly recognized, and hazelnuts in the shell were the least identifiable.

Only 1.9% of the study population, correctly identified all 19 forms of nuts; 2.4% of participants reported that they had a peanut or tree-nut allergy. There was no statistical difference between their average number of correct answers vs. correct answers by those who did not have allergies. Though being a parent was associated with better overall performance on the survey, parents of allergic children did not perform any better than did parents of nonallergic kids.

Participants who had backgrounds in child care, food preparation or a medical field did not do significantly better than others at identifying the nuts.

The findings suggest that education about the appearance of all forms of peanuts and tree nuts is an important follow-up to the diagnosis of any kind of nut allergy, researchers say.

"When we ask patients to avoid peanuts and tree nuts, we shouldn't assume patients know what they're looking for, because they may not. It's worthwhile to do some education about what a tree nut is, what a peanut is, and what they all look like," said Todd Hostetler, assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Several cupcake brands are expanding domestically and internationally in spite of slowing growth

This business is overrated and to specialized to succeed. It is just a short time fad.

A handful of big-name players within the cupcake industry are betting that America’s cupcake obsession will continue as they embark upon ambitious expansion plans.

Recent data back up this confectionery gamble — but with a caveat. Growth within the cake decoration stores industry is expected to slow to 3.7 percent annually over the next five years, according to an October 2011 report from research firm IBISWorld. This forecast represents a dip from the 4.9 percent growth that the industry was predicted to have enjoyed during the past five years.

“The market is becoming more and more saturated as cupcake stores open, but ones like Crumbs or Sprinkles that have a more recognizable brand can succeed,” said Mary Nanfelt,

Several high-profile cupcake brands are in the midst of expansions from Boston to Beirut.

Magnolia Bakery — one of the most recognizable cupcake shops, made famous by the hit TV show "Sex and the City" — aims to add 200 stores within the next five years, said Bobbie Lloyd, the company’s operating partner and president.

One franchise location opened in February 2010 in Dubai while another is currently under construction in Doha, Qatar — thousands of miles from the company’s original New York City location.

“We’re working on agreements in other places such as Russia, Japan, Morocco, Turkey and China, so that’s the world-domination factor, which is always our internal cupcake joke,” Lloyd said.

The cupcake’s reputation as a small luxury at an affordable price has fueled growth within the bakery industry.

“I think that when times are tough, people can still afford $2.75 for a cupcake,” said Katherine Kallinis, one half of the sister duo who founded Georgetown Cupcake in 2008. “It’s a luxury that everyone can afford — it’s not going to break the bank.”

Kallinis and her sister Sophie LaMontagne are the stars of TLC's "DC Cupcakes," which is currently in its third season. In February, they opened the company’s third location, in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. Another location is set to open in Boston in May.

Although the pair eventually wants to expand their business to the major cities and open a location on the West Coast, they do not want to franchise their business. Instead, they plan to keep their locations privately owned.

“Our approach is that we want to keep Georgetown Cupcake special, and there’s a way to do that without being on every street corner,” LaMontagne said.

Although franchising is becoming more popular, aspiring bakers can still prosper if they choose to launch their own concepts, Nanfelt said.

“People like to buy local now and support the small businesses,” she said about franchising. “It’s important for the larger cupcake stores, but small bakeries can survive if they create a loyal clientele.”

No company currently dominates the highly fragmented U.S. cupcake business, but Crumbs Bake Shop is the largest retailer of cupcakes. The company went public at the end of June, but its shares have since fallen sharply.

Still, the company plans to expand to 200 locations from its current 50 by the end of 2014. Although Crumbs plans to expand, the company said in its in fourth-quarter earnings report that it may close some existing locations.

“In 2012, the company has already opened two stores, is in the construction phase with two other locations, and anticipates opening between five and seven mall-based stores within the Boston to Washington, D.C. corridor,” the report said. “In addition, the company may also selectively look to terminate some existing leases as part of its efforts to strengthen its overall portfolio.”

As cupcake stores sprinkle their locations across the U.S., Nanfelt said they face a number of challenges. In recent years, volatile commodity prices for flour, sugar and milk have dented bakery profits. This year, egg prices are expected to increase 2.9 percent, while sugar prices are expected to increase 6.4 percent and milk 1.6 percent, the USDA forecasts.

Consumers are also becoming more health conscious, moving away from sweets while bakeries are experiencing stiffer competition from grocery stores and mass merchandisers, such as Costco, that sell baked goods at a lower price.

But the biggest challenge for the cupcake may also be the key to its current succ

“It depends on the trend of cupcakes and if it will remain popular with consumers; that’s unpredictable,” Nanfelt said. “The trend could easily change. Food trends change often.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eating More Red Meat May Mean Quicker Death

Increasing consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat was associated with a greater risk of dying during the study period, data from two large, prospective studies showed.

Through up to 28 years of follow-up, each additional serving of red meat per day was associated with a relative 13% to 20% increased risk of all-cause mortality, with the higher risk attributed to processed meats, according to Frank Hu, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues.

It was estimated that 9.3% of the deaths in men and 7.6% of the deaths in women could have been prevented by consuming less than half of a serving of red meat (42 grams) per day, roughly equivalent to about one hot dog, the researchers reported online in Archives of Internal Medicine.

However, 77.2% of men and 90.4% of women consumed more than that during the studies.

Hu and colleagues examined data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which tracked men ages 40 to 75 at baseline from 1986 to 2008, and from the Nurses' Health Study, which followed women ages 30 to 55 at baseline from 1980 to 2008.

The current analysis included 37,698 men and 83,644 women, all of whom were free from cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline.

Diet was assessed at baseline and every four years using a food frequency questionnaire. Unprocessed red meat included beef, pork, lamb, or hamburger and processed red meat included bacon, hot dogs, sausage, salami, and bologna.

During follow-up, the amount of red meat eaten declined for both men and women.

There were 23,926 deaths, including 5,910 from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 from cancer.

Consistent with the analysis of all-cause mortality, each additional serving of red meat per day was associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular mortality (HRs 1.18 for unprocessed products and 1.21 for processed products) and cancer mortality (HRs 1.10 and 1.16).

That was after adjustment for several potential confounders, including age, body mass index, alcohol consumption, physical activity levels, smoking status, race, menopausal status and hormone use in women, family history of diabetes, MI, or cancer, personal history of diabetes, hypertension, or hypercholesterolemia, and intakes of total energy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Additional adjustment for other foods or nutrients yielded similar findings. Adjustment for saturated fat, cholesterol, and heme iron weakened the relationships with cardiovascular mortality slightly, although they remained statistically significant.

The researchers estimated that substituting one serving per day of various other foods -- like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains -- for red meat was associated with a 7% to 19% lower risk of dying during follow-up.

In an accompanying commentary Dean Ornish, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, noted that "plant-based foods are rich in phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, and other substances that are protective."

"In other words," he wrote, "what we include in our diet is as important as what we exclude, so substituting healthier foods for red meat provides a double benefit to our health."

Hu and colleagues said that the saturated fat, cholesterol, heme iron, sodium, and nitrites in red meat might explain some of the risk of cardiovascular death, and that some compounds either found in red meat or created by high-temperature cooking -- including nitrosamines, nitrosamides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and heterocyclic amines -- are potential carcinogens and might explain some of the risk of cancer death.

They acknowledged that the study was limited by potential errors in measuring red meat intake and by the uncertain generalizability of the findings outside of the study population, which was predominantly non-Hispanic white health professionals.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Consumers are beginning to prefer bottled water over carbonated soft drinks

Consumers are shunning carbonated soft drinks in favor of bottled water, even in the face of recent price increases caused by commodity inflation, Nestle Waters North America's top executive said.

And even though commodity prices have moderated, those increases are here to stay, said Kim Jeffery, president and chief executive of Nestle Waters North America, at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago on Monday.

"They're not going to come back down. This industry has been operating at substandard margins for the last five years due to all the competitive desire to gain market share," Jeffery said.

Over the last decade, bottled water prices have fallen 35 percent, Jeffery said, as a host of companies, including Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc fought their way to prominence with inexpensive offerings that pressured the whole category.

Yet in the face of unprecedented commodity cost increases last year, Nestle Waters raised prices on its regional water brands and its value brand Nestle Pure Life by about 30 cents per case, or about 10 percent. That was the first increase in a decade for the company, which sells a billion cases of water a year.

"We led the category in that and we suffered for a little bit at the hands of some people who took advantage of that for a few months," Jeffery said. "We went from positive to negative for a few months."

Still, the business ended 2011 with revenue growth of about 4 percent, Jeffery said. He said 2012 was off to a good start as well. He does not see further price increases on the horizon.

Commodity prices that prompted the price increase have stabilized, though they remain at "nosebleed levels", he said.

Nestle Waters' biggest purchases include resin to make plastic bottles, cardboard and plastic for case packaging and bottle caps.


The United States is the only developed country in the world where soft drinks outsell bottled water, Jeffery said, but predicted that could change as soda consumption declines and bottled water consumption increases.

Over the last decade, U.S. carbonated soft drink consumption has fallen to 44 gallons per person per year from 54 gallons, he said. At the same time, bottled water consumption went to 24 gallons from 16 gallons.

"Our category has captured 80 percent of their loss," said Jeffery, who has been with the company for 34 years. "The trends favor continued growth for bottled water. I don't think the decline for carbonated soft drinks is going to stop."

Bottled water already out sells soda in several U.S. markets, he said, primarily along the coasts.

Nestle Waters North America is a unit of Switzerland's Nestle SA 000000the world's largest food company with brands ranging from Nescafe to Maggi to Carnation.

It sells 15 different water brands including Poland Spring, Perrier and San Pellegrino.

Jeffery sees the potential to build a stable of bottled tea brands as well. The company already owns the Sweet Leaf and Tradewinds brands, and will start selling Nestea in the United States next year following the dissolution of a joint venture between Nestle and Coca-Cola.

Jeffery said there could "possibly" be room in the portfolio for other tea brands as well.

"I think there's still another place to occupy in the category. I think there's an opportunity to do more," Jeffery said, declining to elaborate.

Jeffery is picky about the categories he wants to play in.

"Bottled water has done so well in my opinion due to the absence of negatives....I'm pretty much in the camp of, 'I want to sell healthy beverages to people'. I think the connection for tea is an easy one, especially green tea," he said.

"I have a harder time trying to understand ... products that offer efficacy. I'm not a big believer in the whole 'functional' thing. I take a couple vitamins a day. I don't necessarily need to get more fairy dust in my beverages," Jeffery said. "I'm a little bit iconoclast in that area."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eating white rice daily ups diabetes risk

White rice is a dietary staple for more than half the world's population, and not just for people living in China, India, and Japan, but for many Americans as well.

 A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows people who eat lots of white rice may significantly raise their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Harvard researchers analyzed four earlier studies on white rice consumption that involved more than 352,000 people from China, Japan, U.S., and Australia, who did not have diabetes. The researchers found after follow-up periods that ranged from four to 22 years, that almost 13,400 people had type 2 diabetes. People who ate the most rice were more than 1.5 times likely to have diabetes than people who ate the least amount of rice. What's more, for every 5.5 ounce-serving of white rice - a large bowl - a person ate each day, the risk rose 10 percent.

"This applies for both Asian and Western cultures, although due to findings suggesting that the more rice eaten the higher the risk, it is thought that Asian countries are at a higher risk," the researchers wrote in the study, published in the March 15 issue of the British Medical Journal.

In China people eat an average of four servings of white rice per day while those in Western countries eat fewer than five servings a week, the researchers said.

Study author Dr. Qi Sun, a diabetes researcher at Harvard School of Public Health, told WebMD that eating white rice could cause a sudden spike in blood sugar. Because white rice is rapidly converted to sugar, it could mean a person get's hungry sooner than if they ate a low-sugar food like porridge, The Telegraph reported. This effect could lead to people overeating, another risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

White rice also doesn't contain as many nutrients as brown rice, which is packed in fiber, magnesium and vitamins. The researchers said not getting enough of these nutrients could contribute to type 2 diabetes risk.

People who eat lots of rice aren't the only ones at risk. Sun said starchy carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta and white potatoes likely have the same effect if eaten enough.

What should people do? Sun touts moderation, telling WebMD, "Eating white rice one to two times per week is fine."

Other experts, like Dr. Tracy Breen, director of diabetes care for North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y, downplayed the study, saying other factors might raise a person's diabetes risk more than white rice.

"It is never just one thing," Breen told WebMD. "It's what you eat, what you do, and your genes. We can't change our genes, so it's important to think about how food plays into our culture."

Saturday, March 17, 2012


A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found foodborne disease outbreaks caused by imported food increased in 2009 and 2010, with fish being the most common source of implicated imported foodborne disease outbreaks, followed by seasonings and spices.

CDC experts reviewed outbreaks reported to CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System from 2005-2010 for implicated foods that were imported into the United States. During that five-year period, 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses were linked to imported food from 15 countries. Of those outbreaks, nearly half occurred in 2009 and 2010. Overall, fish were the most common source of implicated imported foodborne disease outbreaks, followed by spices. Nearly 45% percent of the imported foods causing outbreaks came from Asia.

“It's too early to say if the recent numbers represent a trend, but CDC officials are analyzing information from 2011 and will continue to monitor for these outbreaks in the future," said Hannah Gould, Ph.D., an epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases and the lead author. “As our food supply becomes more global, people are eating foods from all over the world, potentially exposing them to germs from all corners of the world, too. We saw an increased number of outbreaks due to imported foods during recent years, and more types of foods from more countries causing outbreaks."

According to a USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) report, U.S. food imports grew from $41 billion in 1998 to $78 billion in 2007, with much of the occurring in fruit and vegetables, seafood and processed food products. The report estimated that as much as 85% of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported, and depending on the time of the year, up to 60% of fresh produce is imported. ERS also estimated that about 16% of all food eaten in the United States is imported. The types of food causing the outbreaks in this analysis aligned closely with the types of food that were most commonly imported.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Berries Boost Brain Health

Berries pack a nutritional punch due to their vitamin, fiber and antioxidant content, and now a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests eating tasty blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits help boost brain health and may even prevent age-related memory loss.

Researchers at the USDA-ARS Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University analyzed the strength of the evidence about berry fruits, they extensively reviewed cellular, animal and human studies on the topic. They concluded berries change the way neurons in the brain communicate, and the changes in signaling can prevent inflammation in the brain that contribute to neuronal damage and improve both motor control and cognition.

They noted further research will show whether these benefits are a result of individual compounds shared between berry fruits or whether the unique combinations of chemicals in each berry fruit simply have similar effects.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coffee, Tea Brew Up $18 Billion in Sales

Sales of coffee and tea in the foodservice sector is projected to reach $18.7 billion in 2012, according to a new Packaged Facts market report. Sales increased 11% in 2011, driven by the return of consumers to the restaurant industry, aggressive coffee and tea menu innovation, increased penetration of coffee and tea among restaurant units, and menu price increases.

According to the “Coffee and Tea Foodservice Trends in the U.S." report, 173.5 million consumers drink tea and 183 million consumers drink coffee, which creates a challenge for foodservice operators to expand varieties and occasions for use while converting home and office coffee and tea users into foodservice users.

Dunkin Donuts, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, McDonald's and Starbucks captured the lion’s share of the market—each generating coffee and tea revenues in excess of $1 billion. Coffee and tea players continue to outperform restaurant industry growth, with restaurant brands across the foodservice spectrum pursuing incremental profits through improvements in coffee and tea quality and variety.

Data revealed most leading coffeehouse/donut shop brands have grown same-store sales since 2005. While the percentage of restaurants that offer coffee rose across the board in the 2007-2011 period, the presence of specialty coffee drinks such as cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos and Macchiatos grew 50%.

The average price for coffee on the restaurant menu has risen 25% since 2007, with the highest increase at quick-service restaurants. The price trend reflects operators passing on coffee commodity cost increases to consumers.

The rise in coffee prices has created significant challenges for industry players. Coffee commodity prices significantly affect coffeehouse expenditures, as well as those of restaurant operators with a significant coffee stake on the menu. But after rising to record levels in early 2011, coffee prices have begun to trend downward. Tea pricing stability may provide operators with higher margins than they receive for coffee, and, if history proves a barometer for the future, leave them less vulnerable to pricing volatility.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Store Brands Step Up Their Game, and Prices

Angela Bartorillo is a bit of a snob when it comes groceries: She finds the store-brand at Costco Wholesale Corp. "less trustworthy" than her favorites.

But her attachment isn't to labels like Jif peanut butter or Quaker Oats. The 25-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., says she's partial to the apple juice and other products made by Archer Farms, the brand owned by Target Corp.

"It just tastes better—it's not as sweet. I like it better than Mott's," Ms. Bartorillo said while loading up on paper towels on a recent afternoon. "Sometimes it's about price, but sometimes I just like the Target brand."

Every year, U.S. shoppers buy more generic goods, many of them trading down from more expensive, name-brand labels to save money. But consumers are developing loyalty to store brands for reasons besides price, and that could be a problem for food and consumer-products companies as the economy rebounds.

In some cases, consumers even pay more for store brands, many of which have been positioned as gourmet or specialty items.

Private-label products still cost an average of 29% less than their nationally branded counterparts. But they are rising faster in price, at a rate of 5.3% last year compared with the industry average of 1.9%, and can sometimes be the most expensive product in a category, according to market-research firm Symphony IRI.

Prices of private-label perishable foods are rising even faster, up 12% last year versus an 8% jump for national brands.

Target's two-pound jars of Archer Farms roasted almonds, prominently displayed on the end of the nut aisle, recently cost about 16 cents more per pound than Planters' roasted almonds.

"It's much less about value and price than it used to be," says Clarkston Consulting analyst Steve Rosenstock, who conducted a two-month study last fall across major grocery and drugstore chains to examine why shoppers buy store brands. He says 28% of his survey respondents didn't cite price as a factor in choosing store brands over name brands—loyalty and positive experiences, instead, drove their purchasing decisions.

Grocery chains have abandoned the traditional, cut-rate white-label approach to generics. Taking a page from the playbooks of consumer-goods giants like Procter & Gamble Co. and PepsiCo Inc., chains including Safeway Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are pouring money into polishing up their private labels as brands in themselves. They are expanding lines, adding new flavors and packaging, and finding ways to charge more.

Kroger Co., for example, is rebranding its "Naturally Preferred" and "Private Selection" organic products under the name "Simple Truth."

Supervalu Inc. is in the process of replacing all the individual store-name labels at its chains—like Jewel, Albertsons and Cub Foods—with a new, single brand called "Essential Everyday."

Target, meanwhile, is introducing its own frozen pizza, ethnic family meals and concentrated "liquid beverage enhancers" later this year. Coming soon from the Southern grocery chain Harris Teeter: store-brand sriracha—the popular Thai condiment—and "Wasabiyaki" sauce.

"If customers have a good experience with the brand in one category, we have the ability to leverage the whole program," says Sam Mayberry, Supervalu's vice president of private brands.

With their dressed-up store labels, retailers aim to increase market share and boost profit margins amid rising food costs, and the payoff is evident in the narrowing price gap between mainstream brands and stores' private labels.

At Target, the Archer Farms label is positioned a few notches above the store's more traditional generic line, Market Pantry. For example, Archer Farms Triple Berry instant oatmeal was $4.80 a pound, for instance, compared with $4.22 for Quaker Oats instant oatmeal.

Target's Market Pantry line came in at $3.99 a pound, according to Clarkston Consulting's study.

For decades, generics accounted for about 20% of the foods and beverages consumed in American homes, according to the NPD Group. But their market share has climbed to 29%, and stores are trying to push that figure higher.

Not all sales grabbed by store brands amount to a lost sale for manufacturers. That's because private-label items sometimes are produced by the same companies making the national brand, although they keep mum about it.

H.J. Heinz Co., Hormel Foods Corp. and Tyson Foods Inc. all produce private-label products for retailers. Kimberly-Clark Corp., which makes Huggies diapers, quietly makes private-label training pants.

In addition to improving quality, stores are also embracing more innovative packaging and presentation for their private-label goods. Safeway's vice president of marketing, Diane Dietz, hired three years ago after 19 years at P&G, says she has applied loads of tricks "ingrained in her head" from her days at the Cincinnati-based marketing behemoth. She says one tactic is close observation of how people use products, because "the consumer won't tell you what they want."

She recently helped introduce Safeway's "Snack Artist" chips with resealable bags—a design feature that comparable name brands weren't offering at the time. She also oversaw the decision to list the ingredients in the store's Open Nature brand on the front of packages to tout purity.

Consumer-product companies are fighting back. Name-brands have rolled out more discounts and coupons to defend their market share in recent years.

In addition, Procter & Gamble Chief Executive Bob McDonald says the maker of Pampers and Tide has been balancing its exposure to chains with store brands by expanding distribution in other channels like dollar stores, which don't sell private labels that compete against P&G products.

They are also redoubling efforts to develop new products, particularly at lower prices.

"We invest $2 billion a year in research and development, $400 million on consumer knowledge and about 10% of sales on advertising," Mr. McDonald said in a recent interview. "Store brands don't have that capability."