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Articles from 2009 In December

Get Ready for the SHEconomy

BOULDER, Colo.While HIStory may prove them wrong, the pundits at the Fresh Ideas Group (FIG) released the third annual FIG Consumer Trends Forecast, focusing on the SHEconomy and giving a nod to the overwhelming influence on women in 2010. The FIG team noted, We serve up for 2010 our forecast of The New SHEconomy with the disclaimer that the HE in our society is still very much an influence, but with some new roles at last, as both genders face another sobering year with healthy doses of pragmatism learned in 2009.

Among the trends to watch in 2010:

Women in the Drivers Seat: As women make up the majority of workers and make the vast majority of consumer purchases, expect to see more flexibility in the workplace, and convenience and health in the grocery aisles.

Men in the Grocery Aisles: Expect to see men taking on more cooking, shopping and child care as the responsibilities for home life are distributed across both parents.

Retro Transportation Solutions: Bike purchases are on the rise (2.6 million in 1Q09 alone), as is the use of public transportation, as consumers seek ways to save money, get fit and help the environment. Expect to see more government investment in alternative transportation infrastructure.

The New Flexitarian Workplace: Results-oriented work cultures will become more common, with flexibility a given and wellness programs incorporated into health benefits.

Pragmatic Plates: Look for a proliferation of more economical restaurant offerings, from ethnic eateries to diners, as well as grab-and-go grocery options.

Pint-Sized Palates: Kid Foodies (coined Koodies by Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert) with sophisticated palates are challenging their parents to keep the menu interesting. This may lead to product introductions featuring unusual twists on everyday kids favorites like gourmet PB&Js, Asian-influenced easy lunches, Mexican-themed snacks and beverages and increased culinary change on the school lunch menu as well.

Nonprecious Organic: Organic foods will not only continue to expand their reach in mass market grocery chainsbranded products and private label alikebut expect to see pricing making organic more affordable.

Pass the Soda; Hold the Sugar and the Energy Drinks: Attention on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and childhood obesity will likely beget a wave of lower-sugar options as HFCS slips further from favor.

Supercharged Foods and Calories That Count: Counting calories alone will not be as important as assessing the quality of those calories. Salba will be the next supergrain, and superfruits like acai, yumberry and mangosteen will jump from the beverage aisle to jam jars and frozen foods.

Health Under the Magnifying Glass: Look for increases in health insurance premiums based on level of healthfulness for employees and employer-sponsored contests to incent healthy habits like quitting smoking, reducing cholesterol levels and maintaining regular exercise.

More Fast Casual Catering

LOUISVILLE, Ky.As more consumers seek a wider diversity of foodservice options for entertaining, catering as jumped into the fray as an alternative to hosting a party at a restaurant but boasting the convenience of not having to prepare all of the food from scratch.

Catering by fast-casual restaurants, such as Panera Bread and Wingstop, is poised to take off in 2010. Not only does catering diversify the business avenues for fast-casual restaurants, but it helps drive exposure and awareness of menu items, notes Rick Vanzura, COO, Panera Bread. Wingstop has noted that it is hoping to ramp up efforts to secure more 100-plus wing orders during 2010.


Nature's Products Acquires Iceland Health Brand

SUNRISE, Fla.Natures Products purchased the Iceland Health vitamin brand and store brand business from Nutrition 21, Purchase, NY; financial details were not disclosed. Natures Products, a contract manufacturer and marketer of consumer health care products, previously purchased the Rainbow Light brand in 2002, and the Champion Nutrition brand in 2008. Iceland Health is a leading brand in the direct response and mass market channels, with a focus on omega-3 and joint care supplements.

The acquisition of Iceland Health will compliment our ongoing strategy of diversification, said John Kelly, vice president of sales and marketing, Natures Products. This acquisition will provide synergies in many areas including materials and operations, and will allow us to achieve greater efficiencies by streamlining the supply chain. In addition, the acquisition will give us a strong foothold in the direct response nutritional arena and broaden our customer base in the mass market. Our plan is to develop enhanced marketing campaigns for both direct response and mass-market channels, and secure new leadership to drive this effort. We plan to leverage the Iceland Health brand and all of our global affiliated businesses to develop unique and innovative new products for nutritional supplement consumers.

ERS 2009 Food Price Report

WASHINGTONThe Economic Research Service (ERS) has released its Food Price Outlook, 2009, which indicates that consumers are paying significantly less for groceries this year. In 2009, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is projected to increase 1.5% to 2.5%. The modest increase is attributed to lower commodity and energy costs coupled with weaker domestic and global economies.

The agency forecasts that food-at-home prices will see an increase of 0.5% to 1.5%, while food-away-from-home prices will rise 3.0% to 4.0%. Pressure on retail food prices has subsided, resulting in low-to-moderate food price inflation in 2009 after seeing an all-food CPI increase of 5.5% between 2007 and 2008, the highest annual increase since 1990. The at-home prices were led by fats and oils (up 13.8%) and cereals and bakery products (up 10.2%), increased 6.4%, while food-away-from-home prices rose 4.4% in 2008.

The latest data in is for November, where the CPI for all food decreased 0.1% from October to November 2009, and is now 0.7% below the November 2008 level due to declines in meat, dairy and produce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will issue the December 2009 CPI on Jan. 15, 2010.


Antibiotics in Agriculture

FRANKENSTEIN, Mo.The Associated Press released an investigative report on antibiotics in American agriculture.  They report farmers and consumers are at risk from antibiotic-fed animals that develop drug-resistance infections, which can be spread to humans. They say drug-resistant infections killed more than 65,000 people in the United States last year.

They also report the pressure against using antibiotics in agriculture is rising from government and consumer organizations. However, many farmers and pharmaceutical companies say antibiotics are a crucial to speeding growth and warding off disease.

National Steak E. coli Recall Update

The number of people identified as infected by E. coli O157:H7 in beef products manufactured by National Steak and Poultry, Owasso, OK, has risen to 21 people in 16 states, according to The Washington Post.

The level of recalled meat248,000 pounds of blade steak (tenderized prior to further processingremains the same at this time. The products may have been commingled with E. coli-contaminated beef used by the plant for chopped steak.

USDAs FSIS has released a partial list of restaurants that received the recalled beef, including two chains, Moe's and Carino's Italian Grill, located mainly in the West and Midwest.

National Steak and Poultry released a statement on its website: We take the safety and wholesomeness of our products very seriously and that's why we are working with the USDA to conduct this recall. This is the first recall in our company's nearly 30-year history. Given our long history of focusing on product safety and our standards of excellence, we will error on the side of being cautious with this recall.

The Post notes this outbreak is at least the fourth associated with mechanically tenderized beef since 2000. This is something that's been coming along. It's not an overnight problem, says Carol L. Tucker-Foreman of Consumer Federation of America, in the article. The USDA has been looking at this for a long time.

Because the mechanical tenderization process can introduce bacteria into the center of meat products that are often cooked rare, consumer advocates and legislators are calling for labeling of these products.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut released a statement that says: The USDA should move immediately to require labeling that clearly identifies mechanically tenderized beef and pork products for all processing facilities, retailers and consumers. Restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers should be made fully aware of the products they are receiving so they can assure that they are cooked at the appropriate temperature.

But James H. Hodges, executive vice president of the American Meat Institute, disagreed with the labeling proposal, saying in a statement: Because blade-tenderized steaks have been found to be comparable in safety, we don't believe that special labeling declaring the mechanical tenderization process will provide meaningful or actionable information to consumers.

Ginkgo Shows No Effect on Cognitive Decline

CHICAGOOlder adults who used ginkgo biloba for several years did not see a reduction in cognitive decline compared to adults who received placebo in  the largest randomized controlled trial of ginkgo to date (JAMA. 2009;302[24]:2663-2670). However, the American Botanical Council (ABC) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) both responded to the study, saying it does not prove the botanical isnt effective.

Researchers analyzed older adults who had normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study. The GEM study previously found ginkgo was not effective in reducing the incidence of Alzheimer dementia or dementia overall. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial included 3,069 community-dwelling participants, ages 72 to 96 years, who received a twice-daily dose of 120-mg extract of ginkgo (n = 1,545) or identical-appearing placebo (n = 1,524). The study was conducted at six academic medical centers in the United States between 2000 and 2008, with a median follow-up of 6.1 years. Change in cognition was assessed by various tests and measures.

Researchers found no evidence for an effect of ginkgo on global cognitive change and no evidence of effect on specific cognitive domains of memory, language, attention, visuospatial abilities and executive functions. They also found no evidence for differences in treatment effects by age, sex, race, education or baseline cognitive status.

In response to the study, ABC questioned the studys validity. ABC states the study is limited and the public should focus on the well-documented cognitive and cardiovascular benefits of ginkgo. There are many significant limitations of this study, said Mark Blumenthal, ABC founder and executive director.

In a press release, ABC said the trials results may be inaccurate for a number of reasons. First, they said, the data being published this week are drawn from a previous clinical trial, which was not designed to determine the decline in cognition. Second, about 40 percent of the subjects dropped out over the six-year duration of the trial; the statistics reported in the study include the dropouts for which no final data are available. Further, the subjects in the study were not monitored for certain cognitive parameters until several years after the trial began, creating difficulty in determining accurately whether they experienced a decline in cognition or not. Also, the age of the subjects is quite advanced, at an average of 79 years at the beginning of the trial. ABC said this age group is not typical of the age of both healthy people and those with mild cognitive impairment who use ginkgo for improving mental performance.

Further, ABC noted that another weakness of this trial is the lack of an active control, i.e., a potential third arm of the trial (i.e., besides the patients on ginkgo or placebo) in which patients would have used a pharmaceutical medication with presumed efficacy, to determine to what extent the particular population being tested would respond. This was not possible for this trial since no conventional pharmaceutical drug has ever demonstrated the ability to prevent the onset of dementia or diminish its progression.

Also in response to the study, Douglas MacKay, N.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN, said it should be viewed in context to the a large body of previously published evidence suggesting that Ginkgo biloba may help improve cognitive impairment in older adults. He noted ongoing clinical trials may address some of the limitations of the current study. The results of this single study add to the overall data on Ginkgo biloba, including valuable evidence in support of Ginkgos safety profile, but should not be viewed as the final word, he said. In addition, several studies have demonstrated that Ginkgo biloba can be used to improve blood circulation and reduce oxidative stress, two risk factors associated with the progression of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimers disease.

Mackay further noted he hopes this study doesnt send the wrong message to consumers. I would continue to recommend Ginkgo biloba to older adults as a safe, effective option for supporting cognitive health and would encourage consumers to talk to their own healthcare professional about what is right for them.

More US Food Exports to Hong Kong

WASHINGTON, D.C.Hong Kong is the fastest-growing market for U.S. food and beverage exports according to a new USDA report. During 2009, it grew to become the fourth-largest market for U.S. food productsand is the top market for all global export markets. USDA notes that this situation is particularly notable since most other export markets are shrinking.

The report notes that the Hong Kong market is valued at (US)$1.4 billion. Due to the currently weak value of the dollar, U.S. products see highly competitive pricing overseas. Also, the high level of food safety U.S. products are known for adds to their value in Hong Kong where consumers are leery of the safety of the products coming from neighboring countries.

USDA notes the top food and beverage prospects for U.S. export to Hong Kong include red meat, fresh and processed fruits, tree nuts, poultry, vegetables, wine, craft beer, and cheese.

Organics Weather Economic Storm

CHICAGODespite lingering concerns about the economy, most of the consumers who have routinely purchased natural and organic foods have continued to remain loyal to such products, according to a recent survey by Mintel. The survey shows nearly 40% of consumers claim they havent changed organic product purchasing habits because of the recession, and only 3% have stopped buying organic products

However, natural and organic products are still cultivating their images. The survey showed that only one-third (33%) of respondents trust the term natural on labels while almost half (45%) trust the term organic. Meanwhile, roughly 30% of respondents report that they still cant trust either term.


Calming Kava Drink on the Fast Track

LOS ANGELESKava drinks formulated to provide relaxation might be the next big thing according to the LA Times. Marketed as an alternative to energy drinks, relaxation beverages are hot in the Southern California market.

The article highlights Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda, a kava-containing supplement drink that relies on the effects of kava. Mary Janes joins a cadre of slow-down or anti-energy drinks like Slow Cow and Ex Chill, which is predicted to be among the top food trends of 2010, according to advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. These beverages contain herbal preparations known for sedative effects, including kava, chamomile and valerian. The drinks not only claim to relax but also to boost mental focus and concentration.

It is a new category, kind of like energy drinks, but designed to relax people, says Travis Arnesen, spokesman for Ex Drinks, Henderson, NV. Just recently it has been picking up steam.

The FDA does not ban the sale of kava (Piper methysticum) products sold as dietary supplements, but did issue a 2002 consumer advisory: Kava-Containing Dietary Supplements May be Associated With Severe Liver Injury due to liver-related problems, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure, in over 25 reports of adverse events in other countries.