Food & drink
With an ageing population increasingly concerned with health issues and products, there has been an increase in the so-called wonder foods that claim to cure us of our health woes. Dubbed ‘phoods’ and ‘bepherages’ because of their pharmaceutical benefits, these products offer nutrition, energy or even medicinal benefits in a bite-size package. Food giant Unilever has just unveiled a yoghurt shot that claims to lower your cholesterol, Airforce Nutrisoda’s Renew drink claims to stabilise blood sugar levels, while Heinz’s famous tomato ketchup contains an ingredient believed to fend off prostate cancer. And consumers are lapping it up. While the rest of the food industry grows at 3-4%, these fortified foods have a growth rate of around 20% – with 39% of all new food products launched between 2004 and 2006 featuring a healthy proposition. But why are these products proving so popular? Mainly it’s because baby boomers wish to age gracefully and are willing to employ the all technology at their disposal to do it. And faced with the choice of exercise and a healthy diet or a 30ml shot of yoghurt, they are taking the quick fix. But are the fortified foods all they’re cracked up to be? Apparently not, as some nutritionists claim that taking this ‘single nutrient’ approach to health can be a little simplistic, stating that isolating the ‘healthy’ components in a given food may not work. Additionally, a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report saying that research into 47 different supplements found them not only ineffective, but even harmful.
Ref: Business Week (US) 14 March 2007, ‘Health-Savvy Wonder Foods’. Author? www.businessweek.com
Search words: food trends, fortified foods
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Baby food and other bay-sized innovations
In the world of baby food, two new start-ups have filled a gap in the gourmet sector. While gourmet and organic baby foods have previously been available in jars, now busy parents can find fresh and frozen health foods for their hungry tots. Swedish company Gapa have created a range of fresh, convenient baby foods available in supermarkets and also in four trendy restaurants too. In the US, Homemade Baby and Bohemian Baby offer a similar range of fresh food products – all certified organic. And in the freezer you’ll find gourmet baby foods from MomMade, PlumOrganics, Happy Baby and NummyNums – all organic and flash-frozen.
Another health product to enter the market is the VIZcap – a packaging design that allows customers to add vitamins or supplements to their drink immediately before consumption. Concerned that health and sports drinks were losing their potency sitting on shelves, the inventors developed a cap with a sealed chamber that stores the vitamins or supplements until they are ready to be used. The cap can be used with any standard sized bottle (not just sports drinks) to deliver anything from baby formula to over-the-counter medicines.Last but not least, the founder of Atari video games, Nolan Bushnell, has brought together food and technology to create a new digital dining experience. At the uWink Bistro diners place their orders via a touch screen terminal at their table, which they can use to surf the net, watch movie trailers or even play table-to-table trivia while they await their meals.
Ref: Springwise (Neth) 17 April 2007, ‘Fresh & frozen gourmet baby food’, www.springwise.com; Springwise (Neth) 18 April 2007, ‘Push & fizz bottling innovation’, www.springwise.com; Springwise (Neth) 22 February 2007, ‘Where food & tech meet for dinner’, www.springwise.com.
Search: food, baby food, organic, vitamins, sports drinks, packaging, restaurants, video games
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Water is off the menu (for a while)
A restaurant in Sydney has a menu that says, ‘Each day we dispose of many litres of unconsumed water. Please remain aware that water restrictions are in place.’ This might be a sign of things to come. And in San Francisco, restaurants are offering their customers local tap water on the basis that foreign bottled water isn’t environmentally friendly. ‘Shipping bottles of water from Italy doesn’t make sense’, says Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez-Panisse. With ‘food miles’ the phrase on everyone’s lips, cafes and restaurants are getting on board and doing their bit to minimise their carbon footprint. So while bottled water used to be the height of fashion, the free stuff could now prove to be much more credible. Although should far away countries stop trading with each other on this basis and how far do you take the idea? Should we stop reading books if they are printed in China and we live in Denmark? Moreover, just how scientific is the data about food miles and the impact of imported goods anyway?
Ref: Slate Magazine (US), 26 April 2007, ‘Evian criminals: the new snob appeal of tap water’, Daniel Gross, www.slate.com
Search words: water, food miles, ethics, environmentalism, carbon footprint
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With global warming currently the flavour of the month, consumers are for the most part aware of the effect that their flying or driving habits may have on the environment, but not aware of the environmental effect of their diet. However, that may soon change with food and clothing products beginning to display the details of their environment impact. Clothing label Timberland has added a ‘nutrition label’ to some of its footwear displaying the energy consumed making the shoes, the percentage that is renewable and the factory’s labour record. As of February, the company introduced the next step in its labelling –the labels now provide information of climate effect. In Britain, supermarket chain Tesco plans to spend US$1 billion over the next five years to introduce eco-labelling to products on shelves, starting with thousands of Tesco-brand items. All of this information, while helping to compare products from the same company, does little to show how one big-brand burger, for example, weighs up against another. Both Tesco and Timberland would like to see the introduction of industry guidelines (similar to those set up for food labels in the US), with Tesco hoping to fund a Sustainable Corporation Institute that would come up with a universal carbon measure. While these efforts are attracting praise from others, there are some that believe the most credible option would be certification from an independent third party, such as Climate Counts.
Ref: International Herald Tribune, 21 March 2007, ‘How green is my purchase?’, Amy Cortese, www.iht.com
Search words: food, packaging, carbon footprints, global warming
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Food trends (still room for a few more)
The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) has revealed its list of Top Ten Trends for 2007 which includes:
1. The Age of the Individual – in a reaction to mass marketing and a decline in trust of traditional authorities, consumers are seeking personalised products and services.
2. A Deeper Values Experience – a greater interest in sourcing, materials, social causes and trade practices.
3. Back-to-the-Future – consumers are looking for authenticity, quality not quantity and are seeking out artisan or hand-made goods
4. The New Fear Factor – in an increasingly fear-based society, people are turning to safer products such as organic foods and environmentally-friendly products.
5. The New Consumer-Centric Media – the Internet is providing an increasingly popular channel for purchases of healthy and natural products.
6. Memory Fast Lane – market research reveals that people in all age groups have a significant concern about memory loss and concentration, and hence an increasing preoccupation with products that increase brain power.
The Institute of Food Technologies has also brought out a Top Ten Food Trends list which includes an increased tendency for people to dine at home, people seeking more convenient products, healthy snacks for kids, ‘free’ products (think fat-free, sugar-free etc), eating locally (‘foodmiles’ is the new buzzword), and snacks or mini-meals as the latest restaurant trend – Taco Bell even promotes eating a ‘Fourth Meal’. The overriding theme is consumer control and an increasing convergence of health, premium, convenience and ethical eating.
Ref: Stolen Moments: A Green Digest, 2 March 2007, ‘Top ten food trends for 2007’. timethief.wordpress.com; Yumsugar, 2 May 2007, ‘Top 10 Food Trends for 2007’. yumsugar.com
Search words: food trends, food, eating
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