Broad Street Licensing Group Food News

Food Safety Part 1: High Pressure Pasteurization

September 22nd, 2014

Each year, one person in six gets sick from something they ate.[1] The concentration of food distribution points means that illness is easily spread to large numbers of the population. Continuing outbreaks of food-borne pathogens make it imperative to look at various means for safeguarding our food supply & insuring healthy, nutritious and tasty fare end up on store shelves, restaurants and all food outlets.

With fresh vs. frozen less than 20% in the U.S. and the reverse in Europe, food marketers are looking for ways to get the “shelf” (as in “shelf life”) that retailers need to embrace non-frozen prepared meals.

Companies like Gourmet Boutique have extended shelf to 21 days, but with no returns or credits allowed for spoilage, large chains are resisting the fresh-prepared category, demanding 60-day “shelf” that few vendors can yet provide. One solution has been to deliver products frozen that are then “slacked out” (thawed), a process that destroys the texture of many foods. Now, you might ask why any sane consumer would buy a fresh meal or side with an expiry date two months out, but in the case of the “slacked” frozen foods, the date stamp is started once the food is thawed. Still, the challenge for the retailer is how to overcome the time lost in shipping, storage, distribution and sale.

One solution is high pressure pasteurization (HPP)[2], a process which puts foods under intense liquid pressure[3] for 3-5 minutes, rendering bacteria, mold and yeast inactive.

It is also known by the names Pascalization (after Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century thinker who wrote about pressure in liquids), and bridgmanization after Percy Bridgman, who received a Nobel Prize for his work on the physics of high pressure.

HPP facilities are expensive ($500,000-$2.5MM),  but the process eliminates the loss of flavor and freshness associated with conventional high heat pasteurization (though some foods require heat to kill certain microbes).

HPP works best with foods high in acidity, and so far has been used primarily on cooked ready-to-eat meats, guacamole, tomato-based salsa, applesauce, orange juice, and oysters. Cargill has recently developed a process for ground beef using HPP which doubles shelf life from 21 to 42 days, and doesn’t reduce the beef to mush or lighten it to the point it looks like ground veal.

Quebec food manufacturer Natur+l XTD has not only added HPP equipment to its site, but is using a special 2D barcode on the product’s label that will allow shoppers to access information about the process with their cell phones. Not surprisingly, Chinese equipment manufacturers are investing in HPP technology, both for domestic use and export.

Come back tomorrow to find out about Irradiated Foods

[1] Source: Vital Signs, a paper from the Centers for Disease Control.

[2] The process is also known as high pressure processing, pascalization (named for Louis Pasteur), bridgmanization (named for Percy Williams Bridgman, 1946 Nobel Laureate for work in high pressure physics) high hydrostatic pressure processing (HHP), ultra high-pressure processing (UHP) and cold pasteurization.

[3] 87,000 pounds per square inch.

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Cows With Guns

September 19th, 2014

The meat eater’s nightmare. Share this with your vegan and vegetarian friends…

From humorous songster Dana Lyons, composer of the hilarious “I’d Go Anywhere To Fight For Oil To Lubricate the Red White & Blue.”

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Guiding Stars Gives Consumers “Better for You” Options

September 18th, 2014

We’ve been hearing for years how consumers want “better” or “healthier” options, but then go out and gorge themselves on Big Macs and processed foods high in fats, sodium and calories.

One of the problems has been sorting through the mountain of information available to shoppers.

Some of it is deliberately misleading, yet even truthful packaging can require a dietician to sort out the conflicting details. How much salt, for example, is too much? Are whole grains really better for you, or just a plot by the tree huggers? The media doesn’t help matters, often going off on obscure problems like “pink slime” while ignoring the dangers of sugary sodas or processed foods. And “common knowledge” may be no help. For example, we’ve all been told it’s better to buy canned tuna that’s packed in water rather than in oil, right?

Not necessarily.

At least, not according to Guiding Stars, a system of food ratings first developed by New England grocery retailer Hannaford Bros., now being licensed to other retailers and even foodservice outlets like university & corporate cafeterias, schools and hospitals. That’s because salt might be a hidden downside, and not all processors use the same amount of sodium. You can scan the label, but Guiding Stars makes it easier to compare products. The principle is simple: all the foods in the store get a star rating that tells you at a glance whether it’s better or not so better.

And the good news is: you make the choice. One of the objections to government regulation in the food space is that it takes away personal choice and responsibility. The Guiding Stars system allows consumers to choose what they eat while making informed choices. The ratings are science-based, having been developed by a panel of five nutritional experts who came up with a proprietary, patented algorithm that measures the “good” and “bad” in food, debiting bad things like added salt or sugar or trans-fats, and giving points for good things like vitamin & minerals, or whole grains. The food then receives 0-3 stars.

For example, whole milk receives a “fat” zero while skim milk earns a “lean” 3 stars. Hot dogs get zero stars, while 96% lean ground beef gets three. Canned green beans with added salt are a fail, while spinach (fresh, frozen or canned without added salt) all get three stars.

Popeye would be proud.

The markings appear on marketing materials, department signs, scale labels (for meat & fish), but most importantly, on unit price tags. This makes it easy for shoppers to make quick comparisons and judgements. Despite talk about smart phone apps that can give you nutritional information from Q-codes, they’re still relatively untried. No app beats your own eyes.

Unlike some efforts to mask a corporate marketing wolf in a “better for you” sheep’s clothing, Guiding Stars claims to not be influenced by price, brand or manufacturer trade groups. The program boasts over 100,000 foods in its database, and participating retailers and foodservice operators have to upload nutritional information on all items sold (fresh foods are rated by data from the USDA/ARS National Nutrient Database SR-22). The results can be tough: while 100% of all fruits & vegetables get at least one star, only 28% of breads & baked goods and just 11% of soups do. Ouch.

Currently Guiding Stars is in 1,700 stores in 20 states. And of course it has an iPhone App. While not surprisingly, Hannaford’s parent company Delhaize Group banners have embraced Guiding Stars, other chains including Marsh are coming on-board by licensing the concept. The Surgeon General has even cited Guiding Stars as “a powerful model” that helps consumers make smart choices without policing their food or restricting what they can eat.

It’s nice to report a little good news.

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Food Additives & Coloring Again Under the Microscope

September 17th, 2014

Advocacy groups have insisted for decades that food colorings and other additives cause or aggravate hyperactivity in children.

The FDA had an expert panel review the science on this question. Natural food additives don’t require approval, but their application to foods does (huh?).

In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the agency to ban Yellow #5, Red #40, and other synthetic food colorings because they “have long been shown in numerous clinical studies to impair children’s behavior.” The European Parliament has enacted what critics call a de facto ban on additives by requiring the labeling saying “may have an effect on activity and attention in children.” European manufacturers our agency regularly work with point to pressure from retailers for a “clean label” (i.e., no additives).

But the FDA has recognized no link between food additives and behavioral changes in children, despite a 2007 study[1] that found “mild but significant” increases in hyperactivity when a cocktail of colorings was given to children aged 3-9.[2]

The anti-regulatory atmosphere in government & industry has made any significant action unlikely unless scientists can find a “smoking gun” showing that additives do harm children.

[1] Published in the UK medical journal The Lancet.

[2] Background material included in this edition of Food Industry Newsletter.

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Will The Government Ever Outlaw Marketing to Kids?

September 16th, 2014

Regular readers know we have been watching the efforts of both government regulators and lobbying groups to curb or even ban ads and other marketing of high-fat foods aimed at kids that most authorities believe are helping fuel this country’s obesity problem.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed guidelines on what marketers can do; now a group of 550 health institutions and professionals[1] even took out newspaper ads two years ago asking McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner to cease marketing products high in salt, fat, sugar and calories in “whatever form they take,” and to retire Ronald McDonald and the ubiquitous toys in Happy Meals. McDonald’s has shot down the idea, cloaking its greed in claims that Ronald is the “heart and soul of Ronald McDonald House Charities.” There is no greater scoundrel than one who would hide behind sick children.

[1] David L. Katz, director of Yale Prevention Research Center and editor-in-chief of Childhood Obesity; Robert S. Lawrence, director of the Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Marion Nestle, Paulette Goodard professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University; and Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health.

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Cranberry Juice & UTIs: It’s Complicated

September 15th, 2014

For years cranberry juice has been thought to help fight bladder infections and UTIs (urinary tract infections) because of the chemical proanthocyanidin.

But studies[1] indicate the chemical has no effect, though cranberry juice does keep bacteria from adhering to bladder cell walls.[2] With over 200 active compounds, as well as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) plus several other acids, cranberries are keeping researchers in the dark about what actually helps prevent the infections. Best guesses are the ascorbic acid or even the dye used in coloring the juice. After all, antibiotics were first developed by German dye researchers such as Paul Ehrlich.

In other health news, while only studied for one month, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have concluded heirloom tomatoes like the Tangerine variety may have more of the powerful antioxidant lycopene than red tomatoes. Conventional tomatoes have trans-lycopene, or isomer, while tangerine tomatoes have tetra-cis-lycopene. You will be tested on this next week.

[1] Source: Clinical Infectious Diseases.

[2] The mechanism by which cranberry juice provides its anti-bacterial action.

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Dollar Store Wars Heating Up

September 12th, 2014


At first, it looked as though Dollar Tree would gobble up discount rival Family Dollar.

Then rival Dollar General weighed in with a $9.1bn offer for Family Dollar that has been rebuffed twice, claiming it would not clear government anti-trust objections.

Now Dollar General is appealing directly to FD shareholders hoping to short-circuit management objections to the acquisition.

Dollar General is also trying to get anti-trust permission for the merger in advance of the sale closing.

All of this is contingent on the retailer persuading FD shareholders to reject management’s rejection.

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Adulterated Honey Prevalent in US

September 11th, 2014

Here’s an old post that needs repeating:

An investigation has shown that upwards of a third of honey sold in the US is smuggled in from China, and may be contaminated with heavy metals or antibiotics.[1]

According to the FDA, the law preventing adulterated honey from being sold here is easy to ignore with little likelihood of even getting caught.

In 2011, the EU banned all honey imports from India after shipments were found contaminated with lead and animal antibiotics. One shipment wasn’t even real honey, but an artificial concoction made to mimic honey. Large honey packers are importing unusually large quantities of honey from China, and likely know the product is not safe or unadulterated.

[1] Source: Food Safety News.

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Know the Difference Between Private Label & Licensing

September 10th, 2014

Companies often contact us about securing a brand to put on their products. But sometimes they’re really hoping to have someone else (the brand) do all the heavy lifting.

That’s the difference between brand licensing and private label or store brands.

A private label wine, for example, is one that a retailer sells with their store brand on it. Some other types of entities have done the same (e.g., Manchester United Football Club in the UK). The retailer “sources” the wine or other product from a vineyard or distributor, who does nothing more than deliver the product to a warehouse or other distribution center. Stores sell their own branded products with the assurance that it’s “just as good as” the more expensive national brand. And many PL products are manufactured by the national brands who have excess plant capacity. Most, in fact, are made by “co-packers” who may or may not faithfully replicate the copied brand.

And over the past few years, PL products have been rising in price faster than national brands, who have also fought back with promotional spends designed to keep or win back customers. Some larger retailers are beginning to offer their own products that are not copies of national brands, though this trend has been overstated by the apologists for PL like the Private Label Manufacturers Association.

Being a supplier is, of course, easier:

  • No sales force needed
  • Less risky financially (no marketing spend)

However, a supplier or co-packer has little or no job security. A licensee, on the other hand, has a lot more risk but a greater reward potential.

A licensed wine or other product means that a licensee “rents” the brand name and puts it on their product, then markets the licensed item to retailers. The licensor (the brand owner) is paid a royalty based on net sales (the amount actually sold, not “net” as the opposite of “wholesale”).

A licensor (the brand owner) usually expects the licensee to guarantee a certain amount of their sales. This is a point of contention with many potential licensees who say “we’re taking all the risk.” But in fact, if the licensed product is a failure in the marketplace, then no one will say “X vineyard failed,” they will say “the Y brand was a bad idea” (like NASCAR raw potatoes, for example, a real license in the US some years back).

You will be tested on this tomorrow morning.

Class dismissed.

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Foo Fighters: “Walk” Live on “Letterman”

September 9th, 2014

More music we’re playing around the offices these days:

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