Food & drink

The Future of Wine

Wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd have released their Future of Wine Report, which explores predictions for the wine industry over the next 50 years. In volume wine trends, wines from the new world are expected to rise. China is already the world’s sixth largest wine producer and could be in first place by 2058. Global warming could see many non-traditional wine growing areas experiencing a climate suitable for grape growing. If droughts continue in Australia, it could be forced away from volume production and instead focus on niche fine wines. The other big movement in volume wines is a shift towards big brand wine. Berry’s suggest that by 2058, big brand wine could be grape specific, rather than being sourced from a particular country. Investment from spirit companies and supermarkets could push the big brand rise, and there’s the dubious prediction that customers will no longer care about wine regions, but ask for wines by brand or flavour.

Growing consumer demand could see a genetically-modified grapes coming into use, while companies will look for more lightweight packaging to reduce transport costs. In fine wines China will also be a contender. The country’s current 400 vineyards are expected to multiply ten-fold in the next 50 years, with up to a quarter of these producing fine wine. India’s wine industry is still in its early stages, but a growing appreciation for fine wine, along with an increasing number of vineyards could see the country become a serious wine-producing nation. In fact by 2058, there could be more nations that produce wine than those that don’t, with places such as Mexico and Brazil following the lead of nearby wine-growing areas like Chile. The en primeur market, in which people buy cases of wine before they’re even bottled, is expected to continue attracting big bucks. As prices continue to rise, so do opportunities for investment. Growing demand for fine wines, both as drinking and investment opportunities, will push prices of top-end wines sky high. Markets could become so competitive that limited production wines or wines from a great vintage could spark bidding wars. At the current rate of increase of 15% per annum, a ₤9,200 case of Chateau Latife-Rothschild would be worth just under ₤10 million by 2058.

Wine producers are continuing to search for alternatives to cork, which currently still has a failure rate of around 2%. The hope is for the development of a product with cork’s ability to only allow in a small amount of oxygen. With increasing demand for fine wines, so comes a rise in the production of fake bottles. Little has been done to combat the problem as yet, but embedding chips in bottles or corks could help with battling counterfeit. And finally, there has been a recent discovery that bees have a highly developed sense of smell – discerning enough to be able to detect the odours present in corked wine. Useful yes, but it would mean sommeliers carrying the bee around with them.
Ref: Berry Bros & Rudd Future of Wine Report. (August 2008)
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Search words: wine, drink, wine trends, drink trends

Health Food Trends

This year has seen an inundation of new food products on the market that boast health benefits. These foods claim to do anything from fight colds to preventing wrinkles or cancer, by the addition, or in some cases the omission, of certain ingredients. Here are ten trends you can expect to see. Junk-free foods – companies are removing additives, preservatives, artificial colourings or flavourings and ‘otherwise unknown ingredients’ in order to boast their junk-free status. Even Coca Cola has launched a multi-million dollar campaign to advertise its lack of additives. Naturally nutrient rich – people are seeking more authentic sources of their nutrients. Rather than reaching for fortified foods, they’ll be heading for foods such as pomegranates and acai berries in their natural state. Ethical eating – growing concerns about the environment are leading companies to promote their ethical position, and more consumers are ‘eating green’. Phytonutrients – these natural plant compounds may be hard to pronounce – with names like polyphenols, qercetin and anthocyanins – but it’s suggested their ability to fight disease is greater than that of vitamins.

Better-for-you kids’ food – concerns about childhood obesity are seeing a new wave of kids’ food products that contain less sugar, more fruit and more organic ingredients. Inner beauty – dubbed ‘nutricosmetics’ these food claim to provide all kinds of beauty benefits. A collagen injected marshmallow in Japan boasts lip-plumping properties, while other products claim to erase wrinkles or give you shinier hair. Brain food – claims of brain-boosting properties have nearly tripled in recent times according to research firm Datamonitor – most of them fortified with omega-3s found in fish oils. Being good to your gut – Datamonitor recorded that 200 new products claiming benefits for digestive health were introduced in 2007 – some fortified with fibre and others with probiotics. Probiotics are now popping up in foods including cheese, milk, smoothies, juice, snack bars, cereals and soon, even chocolate. Foods with fullness – satiety is the next buzzword in the diet world. Products such as Quakers Weight Control Oatmeal and Kellogg’s Protein Water claim they keep dieters full for longer and thereby aid in weight loss. Eating to ease inflammation – ageing Baby Boomers are increasing demand for ‘joint health’ foods and beverages that to provide pain relief from arthritis or exercise.
Ref: Various
Search words: Food trends, probiotics, nutricosmetics, Phytonutrients
Trend tags: well-being, health

The Bulking Up Trend

With the rising cost of raw ingredients such as corn, eggs, milk and oils, manufacturers in the food industry are feeling the pinch. Prices of electricity and fuel are also up, making it harder to keep the cost of production and distribution down. Some companies are reluctant to pass these price rises on to customers, instead finding ways to absorb the costs. Nestle claims it has coped with the rise in commodity prices thanks to well-planned sourcing, buying stocks directly from farmers rather than on the open market. It has, however, also changed the recipes of some of its products to reduce the amount of milk used.

Kraft also, has been working hard to adapt its products for leaner times. Kraft’s Miracle Whip, a salad dressing and sandwich spread, has seen a revamp, marketing the spread for leaner times. It now comes in a plastic jar instead of a glass one, and has a wider opening that allows consumers to scrape the very last remnants out of the jar. It is also being marketed as having half the fat of mayonnaise, which has actually been a cost-cutting measure for Kraft. Miracle Whip now contains less of the fattening (and expensive) soya oil, and more water, which is slimming and obviously a lot cheaper. Another Kraft product, Cool Whip, could inspire other companies looking for a way to cut down on high-cost raw ingredients and bulk out their products. Although it is essentially a whipped cream substitute, it contains no dairy. The texture of whipped cram is achieved through the use of semi-solidified plant oils such as coconut and palm kernel oils, which are relatively cheap. These are then whipped, which means the product contains a high percentage of water and air – both cheap ingredients. The only dairy element in Cool Whip is sodium caseinate, a protein derived from milk, which is used to help the oil and water mix. The rest is a delightful mix of (among other things) corn syrup, sodium monostearate (also used as haemorrhoid cream) and polysorbate 60, a major ingredient in sexual lubricants.
Ref: The Economist (UK), 12 April 2008, ‘Tightening belts’.; Wired (US), 24 July 2007, ‘Cool Whip’,
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Patrick Di Justo.
Search words: Food inflation, resource scarcity, bulk

The End of Food

Amid the rising global food crisis, experts are returning to the predictions of Thomas Malthus. In 1798, the English parson predicted that in the event of the population outgrowing food supply, an increasing mortality rate (mainly mass starvation) would readdress the balance. Currently we are facing a worldwide food crises, with food prices in as many as 33 countries skyrocketing and 800 million people going hungry. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that Malthus was right. Malthus made his predictions before the industrial revolution meant farmers could produce more food at a faster rate, and also based his theory on the idea that the population would continue increasing in times of prosperity.

The main food crisis that we are facing now is not a problem with underproduction, but with overproduction. The rich are not only eating the wrong kinds of food (mainly more meat and cheese) but are eating far too much of it. So while there are 800 million people starving, one billion people worldwide are obese. In an attempt to put food back within the reach of the very poor, there is a huge emphasis on creating cheap, plentiful food – a move that has been detrimental to food and the food industry.Chickens are now reared at great speed in an attempt to keep up with demand, and the resulting breast meat is often pale, soft and exudating or PSE. Rather than prevent PSE, which results from a large volume of lactic acid released after death, poultry firms pump the breast full of salts and phosphates to keep it artificially juicier. Other parts of the industry see a great deal of waste. The demand for bacon means more pigs, and more pigs mean more pig poo. In traditional farming situations, this waste would be used to fertilise crops, but an emphasis on monoculture means animal and crop production is kept separate.

A waste storage facility for pig poo in North Carolina burst in 1995, emptying into a river and destroying aquatic life for 17 miles. Fish is not necessarily a safe option either. Most people consume fish at the top of the food chain such as cod or bluefin tuna, while shunning fish such as mackerel or herring, seriously upsetting the balance. Fish farming may help protect supplies of fish stocks, but as with industrial chicken farming, it has become an unsustainable form of production. A demand for popcorn shrimp in America’s strip malls becomes the destruction of wild shrimp stocks in South East Asia and the deforestation of mangroves in Ecuador. The result of the current system is that in the Western world, where people who seemingly have more food and more choice, the products on the shelves are quite removed from real food – high-yield, low-maintenance crops made into different forms.
Ref: The New Yorker (US), 19 May 2008, ‘The Last Bite’, Bee Wilson.
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Search words: Food inflation, resource scarcity, food crisis

Hidden Culprits in the Global Food Crisis

There has been plenty of attention given to the crops-for-energy debate, with the rise in the production of biofuels blamed for fuelling the current world food crisis. In fact, in a report from the World Bank, as much as three-quarters of the recent price rises can be attributed to the shift to biofuels. But others suggest that this is a narrow interpretation of the situation, claiming there are bigger contributors to food shortages. The argument is that food-producing land has not simply been lost to biofuels, but been lost from production altogether. For at least the past 20 years, both the US and the EU have implemented polices that have reduced food output. Farmers have been offered rewards for retiring land from food production, while in Africa, farmers have been penalised for trying to increase yield. Much of the land retired has been used to increase the number and size of national parks, with the area taken up by national parks worldwide has grown from nine million square kilometres in 1982 to 19 million in 2003. As farmers look to boost yields on the land that is available for crop growing, the use of GM crops is expected to rise.

The past decade has seen a 70-fold increase in the use of GM crops, with a further doubling of use expected by 2015. The pressure on food supplies also results from the rising incomes of those in emerging economies. Higher incomes means people not only eat more, but eat more meat, and production of meat takes its toll not only on the environment, but on natural resources. The world’s total meat supply has risen from 71 million tonnes in 1961 to 284 million in 2007. During this time, per-capita meat consumption more than doubled. The American market accounts for around 15% of the world’s total – around 10 billion animals per year. And all of these animals need both land and food. It’s estimated that 30% of the world’s ice-free land is used either directly or indirectly for livestock production. In the five months to January 2008, 1,250 square miles of rainforest in Brazil were cleared for grazing.

Meat production is also an inefficient way of using resources. It takes two to five times the grain required to produce the same number of calories through livestock as it does through eating the grains directly. So while 800 million people are hungry, the majority of the world’s corn and soy supplies go to feeding pigs, cattle and chickens. Meat production is also takes an unexpectedly high toll on seafood supplies, with cows, pigs, sheep and chickens fed seafood in the form of fishmeal. Cattle alone consume more fish than the world’s sharks, dolphins and seals combined. And although meat is a valuable source of protein, we are consuming far too much of it. Although the recommended daily intake of protein is around 55 grams, Americans are eating around 110 grams per day, with 75 grams coming from animal protein.
Ref: Spiked (UK), 7 July 2008, ‘Food price rises: are biofuels to blame?’, James Heartfield.; Financial Times (UK), 13 February 2008, ‘GM crop growth set to double by 2015, ‘Salamander Davoudi’.; The New York Times (US), 27 January 2008, ‘Rethinking the Meat Guzzler’ Mark Bittman,; Natural Health and Vegetarian Life (Aus), Summer 07/08, ‘Stopping Whaling and Environmental Hypocrisy’, Paul Watson.
Search words: Food crisis, food supplies, food inflation