Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mid-Week Roundup

News, Information and Ideas You Can Use

Locally Grown Foods

In the spirit of the "locally grown" food movement a new film called Tableland is premiering on Monday, October 1 in New York City. Tableland, made by award-winning Canadian director Greg Noble, describes and talks with farmers who operate local, small-scale farms. The film also features chiefs and retailers who support these farmers and sell their crops, and consumers who eat, enjoy and advocate for seasonal, fresh foods produced by small growers throughout North America.

The film examines four main issues: sustainability, economics/marketing, health and taste education, and eating locally and seasonally. Noble says these issues are discussed intensely and often humorously by the farmers, chiefs and others in the film. "They are passionate people committed to their cause and bound by principles," says Noble.

The October 1 NYC premiere is a 7:00 p.m. at the Anthology Film Archives located on 32 Second Avenue (at Second Street) in Manhattan. Following the NYC premiere the film will be shown in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. You can learn more about the film and watch an online video trailer here.

Do American Consumers Spend Too Little Money On Food?

Speaking of buying locally produced fresh foods, Barb Stuckey, executive vice president for the food industry product development firm Mattson in Foster City California, says American consumers actually spend too little money for good food and as a result are eating less-healthy foods. Stuckey says American's have their food priorities all wrong, and even if the cost of fresh, healthier foods costs a bit more it's still an overall bargain to buy and eat them in the long run. She also discusses her work in food product development for U.S. food companies and how often their priorities and direction to her firm to produce fresh, upscale quality foods doesn't mesh with the cost structures they give Mattson. Read her piece here.

Stuckey also recently interviewed Michael Pollan, author of the popular book on food trends and the food industry called the "Omnivor's Dilemma." The two discuss this dilemma and more in the interview. You can listen to a podcast of the 30 minute interview here. You also can read a profile about Mattson, the innovative food and beverage product development firm, in today's New York Times business section.

Bringing the Farm to the Kids

A new PC-based game gives children (especially urban ones) a feeling for what it's like to live and work on a farm. The simulation game is called Alice Greenfingers and can be downloaded from Yahoo Games here. The full simulation costs $19.99 but Yahoo provides an extensive FREE trail at the site linked. By playing the simulation kids can learn how to grow, water and harvest a wide-variety of crops as well as how to raise a barnyard full of animals. Once they learn how to produce the crops and livestock the game then shows them how to bring their bounty to the town market and price it for sale to shoppers. The simulation is realistic yet simple and fun for kids and will leave them with a solid understanding of what it takes to produce and sell the foods most of them are only familiar with from the supermarket.

Home Refrigerator Market Research

We've found what we think is one of the more interesting, as well as voyeuristic, websites on the internet. The site is called and it features pictures, sent in by readers, of the content of their home refrigerators. The pictures are detailed and complete. Some home refrigerators are full of junk-type foods others are filled with natural, organic and specialty foods, with most a mix containing a little of everything.

Anthoropologists have a method of studying people and societies called "Ethnographic" research. Essentially is means living with and closely observing people and societies in order to learn about their habits, social norms and the like. You can take a peek into the refrigerators of folks like Sabine in the Netherlands (she likes champagne and natural foods), college student Lindsay in Louisiana (she has lots of student convenience foods) and those of many others and do your own ethnographic consumer research (its fun as well) and see what people keep in their refrigerators. Click here for

Industry News Briefing

Junk Foods or Not? New U.S. Nutritional Laws On the Way

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has authored new federal legislation that would limit the sale of certain high-calorie beverages, candy and snacks in America's schools. The bill would have the government set new nutritional standards for the foods and drinks sell to students outside cafeterias. The legislation if passed would effect not just soft drink companies but new- age and vitamin water-type bottlers as well. It also will have an effect on candy and snack food manufactures. The problem with the legislation thus far is what the new nutritional standards will be. And that's a subject of serious debate involving the Senate, the food and beverage industry, consumer groups, academics and others. Read more here.

The Anatomy of the Hostess Twinkie

Speaking of "junk foods," do you know what a Hostess Twinkie has in common with sheetrock, hair shampoo, laundry detergent and rocket fuel? Give up? All five contain cellulose gum, calcium sulfate and polysorbate 60 as active ingredients. Still hungry? These are only three of the 39 ingredients that make up a Twinkie. All but one of those ingredients is processed, according to Steve Ettlinger, who spent five years tracking down the source of every ingredient in a Twinkie for his book Twinkie Deconstructed.

in the book Ettlinger details where each of the 39 ingredients come from as well as discussing the history and other aspects of this favorite junk food. Popular you say? Yes, over 500 million Hostess Twinkies are sold each year. There also are numerous websites and blogs devoted to the worship of the golden, cream-filled cake. Well, about the cream filling. It's actually not cream. "There's no real cream in the middle," Ettlinger says. "It's almost all Crisco. Ettlinger also found that many of the Twinkie's ingredients come from petroleum, and at least five come from rocks he says. "The vitamins, artificial flavors and colorings all come from petroleum and phosphates from limestone make Twinkies light and airy," he says.

For it's part Hostess, maker of Twinkies, says merely "Deconstructing the Twinkie is like trying to deconstruct the universe. We think the millions of people would agree that Twinkies just taste great." Somehow this makes me picture astrophysicists Stephen Hocking sitting in his chair, eating a Twinkie as he deconstructs the universe.

Food Giant General Mills Has Soul (Food)

General Mill's Betty Crocker icon is turning her attention to something new for the food giant, soul food. Using Betty as the spokesperson the food company is launching a major recipe initiative targeted to African American and other consumers to help them prepare authentic soul food at home. GM has created what they call the "Supper Club" as part of the promotion and has launched a Supper Club website called where consumers can get tips, advice and recipes for easy soul food cooking and entertaining from popular celebrity hostess B. Smith.

General Mills commissioned a survey of 504 African American women that found 70% want to play hostess but are afraid to because they lack confidence in the kitchen. This finding led to the creation of the promotion, the relationship with B. Smith, the website and recipe program. As part of the overall promotion GM is going to hold a series of "Supper Clubs" throughout the U.S. These will be real gatherings where woman can meet with chefs, professional hostesses and others and discuss and learn about soul food cooking and entertaining. The first Supper Clubs begin this fall in Baltimore, Maryland and Birmingham, Alabama.

Pomegranate-Juice Inspires New Alcohol Beverage Products

Researchers have found the pomegranate to be a rich source of antioxidants and believe the fruit may help destroy cancer cells, help with kidney disease and offer other health benefits. This research has created a market for such products as POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and other brands. Prior to just a couple years ago pomegranate juice was a rarity in most parts of the world. Now a number of companies are introducing a variety of beverages made with pomegranate juice. Many of these new products contain alcohol. The popular pomegranate juice-based Mojito cocktail, served in bars and restaurants around the world, also is an inspiration for these new juice and booze-based beverage products. Read more here.

Better-For-You Confections Steal the Show

Healthier, all natural, organic and fortified confection products were the star of the just-concluded All Candy Expo show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Premium chocolate products fortified with everything from vitamins, nutritional supplements and coffee and chai tea were featured at the show, along with a slew of organic and premium gourmet dark chocolate items. Not just smaller natural and artisan confections companies are getting into the upscale, healthy chocolate market either. Big players like Mars and Hershey also introduced all-natural, fortified and premium chocolate lines at the show. You can read all about the confection industry and it's going upscale and healthy here.

Fine Foods: Aussie U.S. Food Invasion

Peter Brennan, the Washington, D.C.-based food and beverage specialist for Austrade, the Australian Trade Commission, says he is aggressively encouraging Aussie food and beverage producers (especially natural and specialty foods purveyors) to get more active in exporting products to the U.S. Brennan is in Sydney, Australia this week attending the Fine Foods Australia event and show, the major fine foods convention in that country, and says he is encouraging all attending to get more involved in the (more than trillion dollars overall) U.S. food and beverage market. "By tapping into the world's largest importer (the U.S.) of processed food the local Australian sector can generate more business and income by exporting their products to the U.S. which imports about 11% of its consumption needs," says Brennan. "The U.S. natural and organic food market is estimated to be in excess of $10 billion U.S. a year." Brennan wants Australian natural and specialty foods companies to participate more in U.S. trade shows like the three annual Fancy Food shows held in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Retail News Briefs

Tesco to Expand Fresh & Easy Stores into Northern CA

Tesco, which has been leaving the guessing about its full plans to publications like Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM), has announced it will expand from its current Southern California, Arizona and Nevada market focus into the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in Northern California possibly as early as next year. Tesco also detailed the precise locations of its 48 stores currently under construction and planning in Southern California.

The majority of these stores will be located in the fast growing Inland Empire region of Southern California. The chain confirmed its average Fresh & Easy store size will be about 10,000 square-feet, which most observers have been quoting but until wasn't confirmed by Tesco. The first stores are scheduled to open in November, with about 30 more opening in February, 2008. Tesco says an additional 100 stores are in the pipeline and scheduled to be opened in the next 2-3 years.

Tesco also gave details about its large food processing and distribution facility in Riverside, California. The food kitchen there will prepare fresh and healthy private label prepared foods for the stores. Tesco says it expects to employ nearly 2,000 people at the distribution facility in the next five years. The retailer also said the initial 48 stores will employ about 1,400 people. the fresh, prepared foods will be made without any added trans-fats, artificial colors or flavorings, said Tesco Fresh & Easy chief commercial officer John Burry. The prepared foods also will be made with a restricted amount of preservatives Burry said.

Private-label prepared foods will be the centerpiece for the stores but they also will merchandise and extensive selection of name brand conventional, specialty, natural and organic groceries, beverages and perishable goods across all categories. Burry also said with Tesco's distribution facility and offices in Southern California the retailer plans to source as many products as it can from local producers and suppliers.

The announcement of the expansion into Northern California perhaps as early as next year means Tesco will become a major retailing presence in the golden state with it's Fresh & Easy stores. This will add some competitive pressure on both supermarket retailers and convenience store operations in the state. In fact, Steve Burd, CEO of Pleasanton California-based Safeway Stores, Inc. has already said (as we have reported) that the chain is researching the market for the possible introduction of it's own Fresh & Easy-like upscale convenience-style retail format. Safeway is the food retailing market share leader in California. It operates Safeway banner stores in Northern and Central California and the Vons banner in Southern California.

First-Of-A-Kind Whole Foods Store Opens Today

As we reported last week, Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s new "food hall" design store is having it's grand opening today in Oakland, California. See our previous story here. The store's design is a first-of-a-kind for Whole Foods. It's also different than nearly every other supermarket design in the U.S. the store, inspired by food halls in Europe, has a unique U-shaped design. All of the 55,000 square-foot store's perishable departments are grouped together in the U in the center of the store. The grocery sections are around the perimeter. Shoppers excess the store departments via a loop, which takes then from one area to the next. Large floor displays of fresh produce, wine and cheese pull shoppers farther in to the core of the store.

The new Oakland store has a "Market Bistro" restaurant located front and center. It has large windows looking out on Bay Place which is the new downtown Oakland development the store is located in. This is the second "Market Bistro" chain-wide for Whole Foods. The first one is in its new San Francisco store in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. That store opened last week. The Oakland "Market Bistro" features food entrees from around the world, keeping with the stores international food hall theme, as well as soups, salads, rotisserie items, sandwiches and a wood-fired pizza oven for fresh pizza's made in house.

Other features of this first-of-a-kind food hall store for Whole Foods include a large full-service bakery, a fresh juice bar, a coffee bar/cafe, a live shellfish display area, aged prime meats, upscale chocolates produced by local Bay Area artisan confectioners, and a Gelato stand with Gelato made locally by a company called Galeteria Naia.

The food hall format store is located in a former car dealership building which Whole Foods completely renovated to look like a European food hall yet fit into its urban location in Downtown Oakland. The area is increasingly being gentrified and is filled with office workers during the day. New urban housing developments also have been built in the area making it an increasingly popular residential area in the city as well. You can read more about the details of the new Oakland Whole Foods store here along with details of some promotions and community service activities the grocer is doing as part of the store's grand opening.

Promotions: Balducci's Goes Greek

New York City-based Balducci's, an operator of ten gourmet grocery stores in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virgina, is going Greek with a Greek foods and wine promotion at its Bethesda, Maryland store beginning on September 29 and running through October 21. The event will run all day every Saturday for the next four weeks. The gourmet retailer will feature a wide variety of foods and beverages from greece, ranging from grocery items to cheeses, meats, bakery goods and wines. Among the grocery items will be imported gourmet preserves, honeys, condiments, olive oils, flavored vinegars and more. Greek perishable items include the upscale Greek Table line of prepared foods, which are making their debut during the promotion at all Balducci stores in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. Balducci chefs also are cooking up homemade Greek dishes for sale in-store during the event. Each Saturday the store will feature tastings of Greek foods, cooking demonstrations by guest chiefs and promotions on scores of Greek items. The retailer also is having a drawing for a free trip to Greece as part of the promotion.

Promotions: CP World Market Celebrates Oktoberfest

Specialty foods and beverages retailer Cost-Plus World Market is featuring an Oktoberfest German food and beverage promotion in all of its 300 stores nationally in the U.S. The specialty retailer, which sells products such as furniture, kitchenware, household goods, food, beverages, coffees and other goods imported from throughout the world, is featuring a large selection of imported German foods, beers, wines and non-alcholic beverages in its large international specialty foods and beverages departments. The chain also featured the German foods and drinks in its weekly advertising circular which it direct-mailed to households in all the regions it has stores. Among the imported German foods and beverages featured in the promotion include condiments, preserves, sausages, bread mixes, cookies, confections, mineral waters, wines and beers packaged in special beer keg-like cans, which is an Oktoberfest tradition in Germany.

German Oktoberfest is celebrated throughout Europe, the U.S. and other countries. It officially began on September 22 and runs until October 7 but is generally celebrated throughout October in most of the Western world. The mayor of Munich, Germany officially kicked-off the celebration on September 22 by hammering a tap into Oktoberfest's first barrel of beer in Munich to announce the beginning of the near month long beer drinking and eating festival. Retailers like Cost-Plus World Market and others, restuarants and pubs, celebrate the early fall event with promotions and celebrations. Beer companies and distributors and specialty foods importers and distributors offer retailers and bars numerous Oktoberfest-themed promotional marterials as does the German Agricultural Marketing Board in the U.S. Last year the marketing board funded Oktoberfest retail promotions in 26 U.S. states, Canada and with online retailers. The group has retail promotions lined up and going on for this year as well.

Anugu International Trade Fair Coming Up

October, 2007 also brings the world's largest international trade show. The Anugu International Trade Fair runs from October 13-17 in Cologne, Germany. The trade fair is attended by food and beverage industry professionals from throughout the world. In 2005 6,294 suppliers and 158,817 visitors from 156 countries attended Anuga, which is held every other year. The theme of this year's trade fair is "Taste The Future." More information about Anugu, which is for food and beverage industry professionals only, can be found here.

Wal-Mart to Invest $100 Million in Argentina

A representative of Wal-Mart's Agentina retail unit announced today at the United Nations in New York City the company plans to invest $100 Million this year in that country to build new stores. That comes on the heels of the $150 million Wal-Mart spent in Argentina last year. Read more in this report by Reuters. The announcement was made at U.N headquarters as the President of Argentina, Nestor kirchner, was there attending the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting along with nearly all of the world's leaders.

Wal-Mart Gets Presidential Endorsement For Green Efforts

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton highlighted the efforts of Wal-Mart today at the opening day of his annual Clinton Global Initiatives conference in New York City. Clinton began the conference last year, timing it to occur during the United Nation's annual General Assembly, a time when most of the world's leaders are at the U.N. building in NYC. At Clinton's side today at his global conference was Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. Clinton said "if the company generates wealth and jobs while reducing its carbon footprint, then other businesses will follow suit." The former two-term U.S. President, who's wife Senator Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic Party nomination for president, also urged the World Bank to work with and encourage developing countries to mimic Wal-Mart's environmental practices. Read more about Wal-Mart at the conference today here.

New Hispanic Supermarket Goes Upscale

Mike Pina and his two brothers, Oscar and Armando, are ready to take on all comers with their new, upscale Hispanic Supermarket which just opened in East El Paso, Texas. The Pina brothers aren't afraid of the "big boys" either. There's a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a SuperTarget food and general merchandise mega-store right nearby the Pina's 40,000 square-foot upscale Vista Central Market. You can read more here about the new store's (they currently have three) upscale features and how the family-owned independent ethnic grocer plans to be the Hispanic customer retail leader in the area with their new store.

Big Screen TV's, In-Store TV Network Hitting Supermarkets

Virginia's Ukrop's Supermarkets is the latest food retailer to sign up with SignStory Networks for its in-store Digital television network. SignStory places big-screen digital TV's in the stores and through its relationship with CBS Television and Meredeth Publishing provides an in-store TV network where shoppers can watch famous chefs cook, get recipe ideas and tips and watch food and lifestyle-oriented programs produced by CBS and Meredith Publishing. Advertisements also are shown between programs. Other retailers currently participating in the in-store media program include Pathmark, Save Mart Supermarkets, Price Shopper and other regional chains. Read more here. Ukrops operates the upscale Joe's Market, a regional specialty and natural foods retail format, and plans to have programing in those stores geared to its upscale demographic.

Vancouver B.C. Gourmet Grocer On an Upscale Roll

Vancouver, B.C.-based gourmet grocer Urban Fare is opening its second upscale grocery in Vancouver this Sunday. The specialty retailer not only merchandises a large selection of specialty gourmet foods, beverages and prepared foods but also offers a taste of the exotic such as fresh Texas rattlesnake meat and fresh poilane bread ($100 per loaf) air-shipped from France daily. Exotics are the exception rather than the norm though. The retailer's focus is specialty and gourmet foods and beverages from all over the world at fairly resonable prices, in addition to its own signature prepared foods, baked goods and fresh items. Urban Fare is rapidly expanded its gourmet concept. In addition to the 21, 500 square-foot new store opening Sunday in Vancouver, the upscale grocer plans to open at least four more stores in the international city in the next 3-4 years.

Mid-Week Roundup Ender

The acai berry is hot. the Brazilian berry, which is full of omega fatty acid and nature-blessed with antioxidant-rich nutritional properties, has become the latest trend in the functional foods category and is finding its place in numerous food and beverage products such as smoothies, teas, juices, muffin mixes and more.

We even reported last week about two new interesting beverages based on the wonder-berry, one a Mojito-like cocktail alcoholic beverage which was served backstage at last weeks Emmy Awards in Hollywood, and the other a juice called MonaVia which is endorsed by such luminaries as Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone as the "healthiest beverage he has ever drank." The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) newspaper (9-25-2007) has a well-written feature article describing this trendy berry, it's nutritional attributes, and how its currently being used in foods and beverages. You can read the story here.

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