Five Ways to Get Your New Products on the Shelf

Selling food and beverages in the United States or Canada is an expensive endeavor. Here is a comprehensive list of your “costs of doing business” to consider before you make the first appointments with importers, brokers, wholesalers or retailers:

  1. Competitive analyis. Don’t waste your retail buyer’s time. Before you send your standard sales brochure, pause and think.  You better know what products are needed, how much they will cost the retailers once delivered, how they will be delivered, how they fit into the shelves and category, why the shoppers of the respective chain might be interested in trying your products and what your competitors offer.
  2. Well connected Broker or Sales Manager. Just picking up the phone and dialing a retail buyer will get you nowhere. You need someone to get appointments and prepare customized sales presentations for your brand and products.
  3. Listing fees. New products are risky for all parties involved and the costs of failure are completely on the shoulders of manufacturers.
  4. Listing Fee Alternatives: Retailers love cold cash to limit their risk of putting new products on the shelves. Mit many smaller companies or specialty food producers from abroad don’t have or want to spend the cash. Here are some alternatives to persuade the buyer to add your product to his category assortment:
    • Exclusivity
    • Pay Fee Over Time
    • Free Gods
    • Non-Slotting Retailers
    • Promotions (Displays, Feature Ads, Price Reductions)
    • Reduced listing fees for multiple items
    • Store Manager Contest
    • Higher Every Day Margins
    • Distributor Contribution
    • Small Brand Bonus
    • Extended Payment Terms

From Field to Fork – New Ways to Feed The World

If you think that foods comes from a supermarket, don’t bother to read on. If you are interested in why we need to – and how we can – change our ways to plant, grow, harvest, process, deliver and sell food, this post is for you. Click on the links to get additional information on the topics…

Co2 Increases Plant Sugar Content

Here is another sad fact of human induced climate change: the more CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere, the fatter we may become. These are the latest findings of crop science. Over the next decades, the sugar content of any kind of grain will dramatically increase, while healthy protein, mineral and vitamin content will decrease. Why? Carbon dioxide in the air fuels sugar production in plants (remember photosynthesis) and even whole or healthy grains will become less nutritious and more caloric over time.
The consequences: More CO2 in the atmosphere = more sugar in crops =  more calories in your average diet = higher obesity = more health problems = higher health care costs.
That’s one reason to cut greenhouse gases now and to implement the latest Paris Climate Change Treaty.

Looking for Affordable Fruits & Vegetables? Try In-Door Farming

As more people flock into cities and live in high rises, while farm land around cities decreases by the minute, housing developers, builders and tenants seek to put a field on the roof. What’s needed are green attitudes, a re-modeled home and weekend farmers with a green thumb.

Don’t Shy Away from Eating That Bug

One day, even you may bit into a roasted cricket. The protein-laden hoppers, especially their larvae, are increasingly used to create nutritious protein powder for supplements and food.  Yes, Cricket Farming is in.

Eat well, sleep well, eat better

Sleep is not just vital for mental fitness but also to keep a healthy waistline.

Getting enough sleep is the next frontier to a healthy lifestyle. In Germany alone, close to 50% of survey respondents complained about sleeping problems, while one out of seven takes sleeping pills at times. Consumption of sleeping pills increased five-fold over the past two decades. The worldwide trends are even more alarming.

Good sleep is as important as good food, drink and exercise. It influences creativity, performance, quality of life, and relationships. As Jürgen Zulley, Professor at the University of Regensburg puts it:” Too little sleep makes you fat, dumb and sick.”

Even worse: a recent study conducted by universities in Chicago and Brussels revealed that sleep deprivation alters brain chemicals in such way that the non-sleeper are unable to resist midnight snacking, which in turn leads to weigh gain, less sleep and more snacking, a vicious cycle.

It starts in middle school, continues at college and stretches across most of the adult working life: our modern day schedules are too full, consume content of too many media, engage online in too many social networking, and are stressed by ever increasing demands by employers, family and friends.

Due to stress, clutter and distractions we can’t fall asleep, wake up too often, and don’t sleep the hours we need. The result in many people: crankiness, sadness, overeating, depression, burn-out.

The solution does not require sleeping pills, drugs or alcohol: sleep awareness and mental training are an inexpensive, first start. Here are some interesting facts and factoids:

  • Sleep happens in four phases: a) falling asleep, light sleep, deep sleep, and dream sleep (also called REM or rapid eye movement sleep).
  • According to research of the University of Regensburg, the normal sleeper wakes up on average 28 times a night, most times immediately forgetting the incident.
  • What you think after waking up makes all the difference between good and bad sleep. Imagine some pleasant moments or simply tell yourself that you don’t have to get up and still have time for a good sleep. These auto-suggestive methods likely make you fall right back to deep or dream sleep.
  • Why do we and most other animal have to sleep? – a question that occupies the minds of researchers worldwide these days. What is known so far: sleep de-clutters the brain, reduces synaptic connections and strengthen those that are important, makes you able to learn and absorb more information. Thoughts, feelings and memories are re-ordered to make sense the next day.
  • Another vital role of sleep: to regulate the “metabolic brain” which influences the immune system and metabolism. Chronic sleeping disorder is one of the reasons for obesity, frequent sickness, and depression
  • Sleep builds memory and enables creativity (most associations and insights from what you learned during the days are made while you sleep). Thus you can adapt to changing environmental changes and impacts

In other words: sleep dopes your brain, builds consciousness and mental performance. That why we recommend to take sleep serious in 2012. Here are some essential preconditions:

  1. Your bedroom needs to be quiet and dark. If you have to choose: silence is better than fresh air from an open window;
  2. Set your thermostat so that you don’t freeze or sweat;
  3. Silence is better than open windows.
  4. Choose a mattress that is not too hard, just right for your weight;
  5. If your bed partner snores and disturbs your sleep, choose separate bedrooms over lack of sleep, anger and frustration;
  6. Don’t go to bed straight from working on your computer. Give it at least a 20 -minute intermission;
  7. If you can’t sleep, do something relaxing, like reading, ironing, putting stuff away;
  8. Overcome your fear of not being able to fall back to sleep, like any other fear can be overcome;
  9. Take sleeping pills like headache pills: only occasionally.

This blog summarizes an article in Der Spiegel (Issue 44/2011) and

Food Safety Modernization Act – Update

fda_buildingIt took five years from the president’s signature to the publication of the final rule.

Now it’s here: as of September 2015, the first final rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) comes into force.

In the following, we’ve summarized the most significant aspects of the FSMA rules and how they may impact producers, exporters and the import community (click on links to read more):

Significance:

  • The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 ist the largest overhaul of the US food safety system and Food & Drug Administration’s mandate since the presidency of Franklin Delaneor Roosevelt (the 1930s)
  • Prior to FSMA, the FDA’s food safety policies were primarily geared towards preventing the spread of food poisoning outbreaks. FSMA gives FDA the authority to prevent food outbreaks before they happen and puts the responsibility to prevent food-borne illnesses and outbreaks squarely onto the shoulders of food manufacturers and suppliers.
  • This increases the liabilities to own, operate and manage a food business. Shipping mis-branded or adulterated foods can be very costly, even if no consumer is harmed. The risk for manufacturers and importers residing in the US is financial, reputational and personal: owners and managers may go to jail, if their products caused severe harm to the health of consumers due to negligence or bad intent.

Scope:

  • FSMA and related laws literally affect anyone in the food industry: Retailers, Manufacturers, Distributors, Warehouse Operators, Transport Agencies, Importers, Exporters, Consultants, Audit Firms (Certification Bodies), and even Foreign Governments.
  • FSMA rules affect all segments of the food and beverage industries, with the exception of seafood, produce, and fruit juices. These three categories are subject to very similar, but separate rules, established in previous decades.   A separate law also regulates low acid canned foods; however, only in regards to microbiological hazards. FSMA also aligns with US Department of Agriculture (USDA) safety protocols guiding the meat industry.

The Eight Segments of FSMA

FSMA rulemaking is structured and implemented in four phases (final rule dates)

  1. Preventive Controls for Human Food (September 2015)
  2. Preventive Controls for Animal Food (September 2015)
  3. Standards for Produce Safety (November 2015)
  4. Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers (November 2015)
  5. Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (November 2015)
  6. Accreditation of Third Party Auditors/Certification Bodies (November 2015)
  7. Transportation of Human and Animal Foods (April 2016)
  8. Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration/Food Defense (June 2016)

Implementation Schedule

The rules for Preventive Controls for Human and Animal Foods are final and must be implemented as follows:

  • Manufacturer
    • Medium to Large Size Businesses by September 2016
    • Small Businesses with fewer than 500 employees by September 2017
    • Very Small Businesses with less that $1 million in sales and assets, with FDA approved records that support their status by September 2018
    • Dairy Businesses subject to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance by September 2018
  • Distributor/Warehouses/Receiving Facilities:
    • Medium and Large Businesses by March 2017
    • Small Business with less than 500 employees by September 2017

The 5 steps for Preventive Controls:

FSMA Preventive Control rules are essentially about risk based Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) Most established and experienced food manufacturers around the world will already employ CGMP in some form or another, especially if they are certified by standards under the Global Food Safety Initiative. Risk-based preventive controls include:

  1. hazard analysis and risk assessment
  2. preventive controls
    1. the process
    2. food allergens
    3. sanitation
    4. supply-chain program
  3. verification of these controls and corrective actions as necessary
    1. monitoring
    2. corrective actions
    3. verification
  4. recall plan
  5. record keeping requirements (all of the above)

Hazards? What Hazards?

  • Allergens: The failure or accidental mistake to declare all allergens present in a food is by far the Number One reason for recalls in the US
  • Microbiological contaminants: Interestingly, spices imported from around the world are most frequently identified as sources of contaminated food. Herbs, sprouts and produce follow suits as frequent carriers of dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella, listeria and E coli. FSMA mandates the verification of the entire supply chain!
  • Chemical contaminants, such as pesticide and herbicide residues or residues of chemical solvents or detergents, may be detected in food.
  • Physical hazards in food, such as glass, metal, plastic
  • Sanitation: The FDA has now the power to revoke the registration and order the shutdown of food facilities with unsanitary conditions or lack of proper cleaning procedures. This happens more frequently now.
  • Environmental contamination: This is especially important for processors of produce, but also applies to areas with a lot of wildlife, water pollution or animal diseases
  • Intentional contamination. Do you have procedures in place that prevent disgruntled employees or outsiders to enter your food production areas and contaminate your food intentionally?

Investment in People and Procedures (Preventive Controls)

  1. Employee Qualification: FSMA mandates that you have to employ a “qualified individual(s)” to conduct preventive controls and write a food safety plan. A random employee assigned to the task, including a senior manager, do not qualify, if he or she has not undergone extensive training. Similarly, all employees directly involved in “manufacturing, processing, packing or holding food” need to be qualified to perform their assigned duties.
  2. Education and Training: Qualified Individuals must receive training in the principles of food hygiene and food safety, including the importance of employee health and hygiene.
  3. Product testing & Environmental Monitoring FSMA specifically mandates product testing and environmental monitoring for all manufacturers, on a risk based frequency. The results of the tests have to properly recorded and kept on file.

Written Food Safety Plans and Record Keeping

  • All steps of the hazard analysis and preventive controls, monitoring and verification, corrective action, and recall plans have to be documented and updated every three years.This is part of the FSMA’s record keeping mandate.
  • The Written Food Safety Plan must or should be shared with you importer of record. FSMA obliges importers to verify the safety of the products they bring into commerce in the US under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program
  • Also share the results of all food safety and quality audits with your importer. The audit schemes benchmarked under the Global Food Safety Initiative, such as IFS, BRC, SQF or FSSC 22000, are likely to be FSMA compliant (see below).

Foreign Supplier Verification and, if applicable, Voluntary Qualified Importer Program

Importers will be obliged to verify the food safety of their export partners on an annual basis and keep records of their verification. Specifically, importers have to

– Determine known or reasonably foreseeable hazards with each food

– Evaluate the risk posed by a food, based on the hazard analysis, and the foreign supplier’s performance

– Use that evaluation of the risk posed by an imported food and the supplier’s performance to approve suppliers and determine appropriate supplier verification activities

– Conduct supplier verification activities

– Conduct corrective actions

More specifically:

  1. Importers must establish and follow written procedures to ensure that they import foods only from foreign suppliers approved based on an evaluation of the risk posed by the imported food and the supplier’s performance or, when necessary on a temporary basis, from unapproved suppliers whose foods are subjected to adequate verification activities before being imported.
  2. Importers are required to develop, maintain and follow an FSVP for each food brought into the United States and the foreign supplier of that food. If the importer obtains a certain food from a few different suppliers, a separate FSVP would be required for each of those suppliers.
  3. Importers will be obliged to inspect foreign manufacturers facilities at least once a year if the food they import is deemed to be high risk, i.e. could cause “serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.”
  4. Like domestic and foreign manufacturers, importers will also be subject to controls by FDA inspectors.
  5. Importers or the designated manufacturer agent will be liable for all costs related to FDA mandated recalls and re-inspection of facilities, if these failed the first inspection.
  6. Importer investment into verification, record keeping and qualified food safety personnel will likely increase the costs of doing business for many small importers (and may limit the number of available importers for exporters in the long run)
  7. Manufacturers samples and food imported for research purposes is not subject to Foreign Supplier Verification, but need to be produced according to FSMA standards.
  8. FDA will more vigorously target and pursue smugglers of food who illegally introduce imported food into commerce that could have a potential public health risk.

Third Party Accreditation and the Global Food Safety Initiative

This (not yet final) rule is all about enlisting non-governmental organizations, foreign governments, accreditation agencies and audit/certification bodies to control food safety in lieu of the FDA. The agency already has to few inspectors and limited budgets. The question is: who will be an accredited third party and what will that cost the accredited organization.

For example, most consumer packaged food and beverage companies are subject to retailer audits according to four major standards or schemes:

The accreditation of the private standards holders and their audit/certification bodies may fulfill the FSMA requirements for the audited firm and importer, which will greatly lower the risk for the imported or distributed foods.

However, the current draft rules suggest that a third party may have to pay in $16,000 per year for the accreditation and have to submit the audits to the FDA based on request. Many foreign governments and private organizations view these requirements as potential trade barriers and sticking points for compliance – issues that will likely be resolved before the final rules come out.

 

When the soil disappears

Ever heard of the “Global Soil Week,” which took place during the first week of April? Do you care?

After watching these videos, you likely will.

Good, fertile, unpolluted, and available top soil, which is essential to grow food for humans and animals, disappears at such alarming rate, that all of humanity needs to listen and change ingrained attitudes and behaviors.

The disappearance of fertile soil around the world costs everyone of us $40,000 per year.

Watch the English version here

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Watch the German version here:

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For more information visit www.globalsoilweek.org

As NON-GMO Label Thrives, Calls for Mandatory Labeling Get Louder

Tomato_Inspected_iStock_000006170909MediumAs sales of non-GMO labeled products eclipsed $10 billion in 2014 and continues to pace at double digit growth, consumer and food industry advocates pressure the FDA and USDA to provide a clear guidance to what and what not constitutes foods free of genetically modified organisms. Current definitions and mandatory labeling laws vary from state to state, potentially leading to regulatory challenges for suppliers whose products are sold in multiple states, and confusion among consumers, who are paying more attention to such labels.

A Nielsen consumer survey found that 80 percent of respondents would pay a premium for non-GMO foods, though most say they don’t trust food labels. The independent Non-GMO Project, so far the most successful non-profit agency that has iussued guidelines for GMO-free foods, lists more than 24,500 products to date bearing the NON-GMO seal. Some of the Global Food Safety Initiative standards, such as IFS Food, the leading European standard, also audits Non-GMO records of food companies in Europe and the US.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a guidance of voluntary labeling of GMOs nationwide, but food industry critics demand mandatory labeling laws.

As the Food Safety News reported in February 2015:

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reintroduced legislation February 12 to label genetically engineered (GE) food.

The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label GE food and foods containing GE ingredients.

“Consumers have a right to know what is in the foods they eat and parents have a right to know what they are feeding their families,” Boxer said.

“We cannot continue to keep Americans in the dark about the food they eat,” DeFazio said. “More than sixty other countries make it easy for consumers to choose. Why should the U.S. be any different?”

In 1992, FDA stated that it had no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.

FDA currently supports voluntary labeling in which food manufacturers indicate whether their products have or have not been developed through genetic engineering, “provided such labeling is truthful and not misleading.”

“The public wants more information about the food they are buying and how it’s grown,” said chef Tom Colicchio, who joined the lawmakers and advocates from Just Label It, Food Policy Action, Environmental Working Group and Center for Food Safety at a press conference announcing the bill. “I applaud Sens. Boxer and Blumenthal and Rep. DeFazio for their leadership and urge their colleagues to join them in standing up for the 93 percent of Americans who want to know whether their food has been genetically modified.”

To date, the Just Label It campaign has collected 1.4 million signatures on its petition to FDA seeking mandatory labeling of GE foods.

2015 Trend: New Era for International Trade

Cargo Ship3A nation’s economic prosperity depends on open and free trade with other nations and the international community is trying hard for the past 60 years to lower trade barriers, alas, with mixed success. The latest attempt to establish global free trade, administered by the Word Trade Organization, dubbed the Doha Round, went nowhere. So, the main economic centers are now working on bilateral deals, called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP = US and various Asian countries), and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP = US and the European Union). Despite ferocious opposition by vocal consumer and special interest groups, it is widely believed, that these trade deals are inevitable and will be signed in the next two years.

Here we’d like to focus on the the US-Europe free trade negotiations (TTIP) and highlight the opportunities and challenges for a final deal especially for the food and agricultural sectors.

The goal of TTIP:

– enable stronger economic activity and GDP growth,
– expand markets especially for small and mid-size producers,
– increase consumption and consumer choices
– provide long-term financial stability on both sides of the Atlantic.

How can that be done? First: reduce or remove all tariffs and customs duties. Second: harmonize as many import and regulatory rules in as many industries and as fast as possible.

The main sticking points:

a) although industry standards and regulatory frameworks are similar in many respects, especially in the US and European Union, it is very hard to harmonize or change them overnight. Governmental procedures, oversight authority and rule making differ substantially, often for historic and cultural reasons.

b) some regions and industry segments still need protection from open competition, especially in rural areas, or those vulnerable to unemployment.

c) Different world views about privacy, consumer vs.investor protection,  financial market regulation and de-regulation, business owners vs. employee rights and food production and safety practices  persist. These differences are based, again, on historical and cultural traditions, and are therefore highly emotionally charged. Even scientists cannot agree.

TTIP for the food and agricultural industries:

A transatlantic trade agreement would have to overcome a range of technical and perceptual hurdles, both of which are highly emotionally charged:

From the European side:

– widespread use of genetic modification, hormones and antibiotics in animal and crop farming
– food safety measures such as the chlorination of chicken
– disregard for the Protection of Geographic Indication for some foods, like Parmesan Cheese
– the domination of multinational corporations in the consumer foods industries and a penchant for mass produced, fast food in the USA

From the American side:

– High tariffs and protective measures
– Preference for imports from former colonial regions
– A disregard for science in regards to biotech and use of steroids and pharmacological products in agriculture
– A certain European arrogance in regards to the quality, taste and traditions of foods produced and consumed in the US

More to follow…

2015 Trend: Changing Palates, New Flavors

Hagebutten Shake1Every 8 seconds, a child is born, while every 11 seconds a person dies in the United States. Just in 2014, the US population grew by 2.5 million people (including immigration) to reach 320 million. Different kinds of family structures have evolved, the average household size decreased over the years, „Millenials and Generation Z“ (the marketers terms for young folks between the ages of 15 to 35) determine, what’s hip and what’s not, as do “minorities” who today constitute the “majority” in many large urban markets. These demographic changes influence what new flavors and food products will be offered in the next few years and how they are to be sold. Here are the predictions from the Specialty Food Association and the world’s leading flavor provider McCormick & Company:

  1. Changing palates:  Population growth, immigration and changes in family structures are the main reasons why households in the next 110 years buy and consume very different foods than generations before them. By the end of 2014, the population in the US surpassed 320 million, growing by 2.5 million people in just one year. By the year 2050, about 400 million people may live in the United States.
  2. The new normal: Any successful new food that hits the market must be clean (few ingredients) and clear (transparent about ingredients, origin, production). This is especially important in the restaurant industry. A recent survey confirms chefs’ attitudes and inclinations towards local and nutrient-rich foods, as well as “estate-branded” items and some imported food that is truly authentic. Some venerated mass market food brands and fast food restaurants will further decline in market share or sales.
  3. New Asian: Korean and Vietnamese regional cuisine (banh mi, ramen); Japanese 7 Spice (shichimi togarashi = chile, nori, sesame, orange zest)
  4. New Mediterranean, Turkish Shawarma Spice Blend (cumin, coriander, garlic, paprika, turmeric, cloves cayenne, blackpepper, cinnamon)
  5. New emerging “super” crops and fruits include Kaniwa (a South American grain ) baobab powder, fonio (two new African grains) and soursop (a Latin American fruit). Cauliflower in various new formats will resurge in restaurants and gourmet home kitchens;  nutritious natural ingredients, such as seaweed, seabuckthorn, sage, and rosehip (the latter three are especially popular natural health foods in Germany) will be increasingly used in a variety of “health foods”
  6. New flavors for comfort foods:  Some of the American standard comfort foods, such as cupcakesm cookies and casseroles will be Re-imagined with different spices or cooking methods.
  7. Online sales and delivery; social media; Same Day grocery delivery of fresh, local produce and customized deliveries Google Express, Amazon, Instacart and Whole Foods, Customized Delivery USPS, central pick up.
  8. Tea: Away from cheap mass- produced tea to unique loose tea blends, tea infusions, celebrity tea blends, tea and spice blends (tea and turmeric) black tea and grain blends (matcha, kombutcha).
  9. Savory snack bars with bold flavors, such as roasted jalapeno, sweet chile, hiney smoked barbecue, honey or Bavarian Sweet mustard, orange honey and cherry pistacchio, sundried tomato, basil and olive walnut bar.
  10. Meals in Bowls: Breakfast muesli bowls (fruits, nuts, granola, juice blend, milk, Lunch bowl, chicken hummus, baby spinach, chopped cilantro, Dinner Bowl: rice bowl, microwaveable.
  11. Culinary Cannabis. Back to earth! The legalization of Marihuana in various US states and an ever-more relaxed attitude towards “grass” in the US and EU motivated food scientist to take a new look at the health benefits of “Cannabis sativa.” Expect teas, soft drinks and snacks to contain some “weed” without the buzz.
  12. Eggless mayo:  When Hampton Creek came our with “Just Mayo”, the maker of Hellmann’s – the world’s leading real mayonnaise brand – was up in arms and went straight to court. After all, there’s an FDA standard of identity for mayonnaise that Hampton Creek does not follow. Instead of eggs, they use yellow chick pea protein, and thus a perfectly vegan ingredient. Unilever dropped the lawsuit in December 2014, most likely due to popular pressure and negative publicity. But can real Mayo ever be vegan?

2015 Trend: Transparency and the Right to Know

Eating food is easy, but the path from seed to stomach has become ever more complex and complicated. As consumers demand ever more quality, safety, flavors and package sizes at ever-lower prices, food producers, retail stores, and restaurants owners (have to) use ever-new processes, food science, and biotech ingredients to fill demand. What fell by the wayside is a solid understanding of what’s in a food product and how it affects health and well-being.

This is about to change.

European and US regulators have enacted new labeling and food safety laws that come in effect in 2015 and 2016, all designed to provide more transparency around ingredients, origins and caloric values. As food establishments have an obligation to make expensive label changes, consumers will be asked to take the time, get informed and make the right nutritional choices for themselves.

New EU Labeling RegulationsEU Label Law

As of 2015, EU food producers, retailers and restaurants have to design product labels with new specifications:mandatory nutritional information have to be easily read (larger typefont); ingredients that can cause allergies have to be highlighted;

  1. restaurants and food service operators also have to flag allergens for all applicable menu items
  2. vegetable oils and fats have to identified by plant used in the process;
  3. Added proteins or nano-particles have to be identified
  4. Added water (in certain meats) have to be identified
  5. The origins of meat from pigs, sheep, goat and poultry has to be identified;
  6. Frozen foods need to indicate date of first freezing
  7. Online wholesalers and retailers have to post all mandatory nutritional information posted on product labels in brick & mortar stores.

New FDA Labeling Regulationsfda_building

As mandated by the Affordable Care Act, certain FDA label requirements for packaged food products have now mandatory for restaurants, retail food establishments and vending machines.

  1. Food service and vending machine operators have to post the caloric content of main menu items on menus and menu boards.
  2. Other nutritional information, such as total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein—will have to be made available in writing on request.
  3. Included are meals and snacks, such as take out food, delicatessen sandwiches, muffins at bakeries, popcorn at movie theaters, hot dogs sold at convenience and warehouse stores, and even certain alcoholic beverages
  4. New FDA proposals even envision a new label for packaged foods with clearer definitions of portions sizes and caloric content of the whole pack.

The Dispute about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the USAGrains 03_00414_2200x1600

The labeling of genetically modified ingredient is mandatory in the state of Vermont since 2014 and supposedly will have to be adhered to as of July 2016. The “Right to Know” Movement is growing stronger, even in face of well-financed opposition by food agricultural industry associations. Mandatory GMO labeling was – almost- approved in the states of Oregon, Washington and California. A federal bill  – The “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” – is pending in the House of Representatives, which advocates the voluntary GMO labeling.

What makes labeling of GMO’s in consumer foods sold in the US so difficult: very few, if any, foods actually contain GMOs.

  1. Many food producers, like General Mills with their flagship brand Cheerios, now only use non-GMO ingredients for their products. The “Non GMO Project” has already certified over 16,000 everyday consumer food products in recent years
  2. According to Gregory Jaffe, Director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (a non-profit agency and outspoken critic of the US mainstream agricultural and food industry), only 8 crops in the US use GMO seeds: alfalfa, sugar beet, corn, soybean, canola, cotton, papaya, squash. And those crops are used primarily in animal feed, biofuels, clothes, and processed foods. However, the GMO proteins break down during processing, so processed foods actually do not contain GMO ingredients anymore.

All NaturalCourt Battles over “False Advertising” Will Continue

Many well-known, large food retailers and food processors faced legal battles over certain claims on their food products in recent years, among them

  1. Whole Foods – understating the amount of sugar in some Private Label yogurts,
  2. General Mills – over the claim All Natural on Nature Valley Granola Bars (while high fructose corn syrup was present in the the products. General Mills settled out of court and withdrew the claim
  3. Trader Joe’s – over the claims “All Natural” on several products that contained processed ingredients, and on claims “no added sugar” on products that contained evaporated cane juice, deemed as sugar nontheless
  4. Hain Celestial – over the claim “Unpasteurized and 100% Raw”  on their BluePrint Juices, which were treated with High Pressure Processing to kill harmful bacteria

While some law suits were dismissed as frivolous, most food companies and retailers settled out of court to avoid lengthy legal battles and a damage to the brand reputation. It is likely that food companies will be  more cautious using “health” claims in coming years and resort to other ways to compete and differentiate new products in the crowded  marketplace.

 Product Sales with “Better for You Labels” are on the decline

The Specialty Food Association News (February 2, 2015) reports that consumers are purchasing fewer products that feature one or more of the predominant 12 “better-for-you-food” BFY labels, including low-sugar, caffeine-free, low-carb, and reduced sodium. Since 2008, products sales declined 27 percent since 2008 in the US, according to the research fim NPD Group in its 29th annual “Eating Patterns in America” report. Last year saw the lowest support for BFY products among consumers since 2004.

Analyst Harry Balzer is quoted that “consumers have gone through a few phases of food consumption, and today the focus is on foods that are unaltered or minimally processed. “Have we altered the food supply so much to make it better for us, that there is now a backlash against those products?” he suggests. “I think we’re looking for foods and beverages to be as they were meant to be.”

Shoppers are shifting their attention towards local, GMO-free, raw, fresh and “few ingredient” products.

2015 Trend: Novel Foods to Save Future Generations

GreenhouseIndustrial farms, biotech firms and global mega food corporations emerged over the past decades to provide safe, reliable and low cost foods for 7.2 billion global consumers. With efficient operations and large budgets for research and development of new products, “Big Ag/Big Food” has undoubtedly helped to mitigate hunger and increase nutrition around the globe. But large-scale industrial agriculture and food production has also been part of the global environmental and health problems, contributing to climate change, soil erosion and over-consumption. Entrepreneurs in various countries, some supported by Silicon Valley high tech investors, have come up with intriguing new ideas to feed a growing global population with environmentally and socially sustainable methods  – or no animals at all.

  1. New protein sources: This is the new frontier: generating protein without raising and slaughtering cattle, hogs, sheep or chicken. What sources of protein are more abundant and do not emit methane into the atmosphere?  How about insects and jelly fishes, of course.
    • New start ups like Exo, Six Foods, and Bitty Foods ave already launched snacks with protein powder derived from crickets. If consumers in the North Western hemisphere can overcome their gag reflexes, a big new market beckons to be explored.
    • Climate change also has a huge impact in the oceans: warmer weather and surface water temperatures prevent oxygenBoy with jelly fish to get into the deeper waters, especially in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, which causes the death of many fishes we love to eat. Those species that survive with less oxygen: octopus and jelly fish.  Jelly fishes are actually highly nutritious, providing first rate protein and collagen. Several companies have invested large resources to use jelly fishes for nutritional supplements and increasingly in food.
  2. Laboratory Meats. Ever had a 3-D printed steak? Bioprinting is the latest fad to create meat without violating animal welfare. A new venture Modern Meadows, financed by Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel, is betting on acceptance on meaty dishes, served on the Star Trek or on the Jupiter mission in 2001 Space Odyssee.
  3. Nanotechnology: Many scientists agree: the use of advanced nanotechnology could make food production and packaging safer and prevent cross-contamination and the transmission of food-borne illnesses. It’s just that consumers are still wary of the unknown side effects, if there are any, to manipulate micro-molecules that are 100,000 times smaller than a human hair. Nano-particles or compounds can have different physical and  chemical properties than larger version of the same  compounds, which allows them to function in different manners guided by quantum mechanics. Sounds too much like science fiction? Certainly to some consumers. A backlash in recent years have prevented food companies to use nano-technology in production processes and packaging, but with new labeling laws in the EU, consumers may feel safer using food products containing nano-particles, as long as their features and benefits are well explained.
  4. Efforts to eliminate food and packaging waste: Every restaurant, retail store and consumer in the developed, wealthy world is guilty of wasting food. Whether it’s taste, transportation, storage, expiration dates or a lack of smart inventory management – more than a third of all food produced on the globe is wasted. That provides a huge strain on lesser developed countries where hunger is still a norm for many families. In addition, plastic waste from packaging pollutes oceans and landfills. Reducing food and packaging waste through technology, communication and “attitude adjustment” will be a major trend in the next 10 years.