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Mar 3, 2015 / Richard Hall

Next big thing on obesity

Or perhaps I should say, the next big think.

Here’s an idea to think about.

More and more evidence points to our health being influenced by our diet.

Also, we are generally eating out more frequently than in the past.

Yet, so often, restaurant meals do not automatically include vegetables as part of the main course.

Many even make it more difficult to eat healthily by charging extra for vegetables.

So, should restaurants be obliged to include vegetables with their main courses ?

If they did, we would have a far better chance of a healthier meal.

It might be a small gesture, but it could make a big difference.

One to think about, I hope.

Feb 26, 2015 / Richard Hall

Plastic waste soils the seas

Imagine a beach.  Measure one metre.  Place on the sand 15 shopping bags full of plastic.  Then do the same for every other metre of coastline around the world.  That’s how much waste plastic finds its way into the sea … every year.

An appalling 8 million tonnes a year.  And the amount is growing.

A new US-Australian study assembled data from 192 countries and found that China was responsible for 28% of the total, followed by Indonesia on 10%.  All the other main offenders were middle and low income countries, many from Asia, with the United States ranked 20th.

Plastic is a re-usable resource from a non-renewable resource.  Surely we must treat it better ?


Feb 24, 2015 / Richard Hall

Calories down, benefits up

More companies are now radically changing recipes in the search for a better nutritional balance, even to the point of challenging nature’s own formulations.

Coca-Cola has done this with its recently launched Fairlife milk.  Next month, General Mills will be altering its Yoplait Original flavoured yogurt to provide:

  • 20 fewer calories per 170g pot
  • 30% less sugar
  • 20% more protein.

Also, the fat content will rise from 0.9% to 1.2%.

This reflects two new trends:

  • The food and drinks industries are intent on reducing the sugar content of regular products.
  • Butterfat is gradually beginning a rehabilitation.
Feb 19, 2015 / Richard Hall

Milk, meat and climate crisis

Two respected research authorities have poured cold water on the sustainability of the Western diet.

UK think tank Chatham House has said that avoiding a rise in global temperatures by more than two degrees, to prevent serious adverse climate change, is unachievable without a strong shift in dietary patterns.

“Meat and dairy consumption is set to grow rapidly in the next 40 years and it is unlikely dangerous climate change can be avoided unless consumption falls,” concluded its research director.

The Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has also advised that ‘the greatest potential for livestock-related emissions reduction relies on people choosing to eat less meat and dairy.’

There is no doubt that meat and milk are responsible for high emissions and have a substantial water footprint.

But dairy offers such important nutritive value as well as pleasure, I have every confidence that more intelligent policies linking agriculture to nutrition as well as reductions in resource and other waste would allow future generations to continue benefiting from dairy without regret.


Feb 17, 2015 / Richard Hall

Shower with Greek yogurt

Maybe you do already, but it’s new to me.

Yes, there’s now a shower gel in France called Fa Greek Yoghurt.  It has an almond aroma and its creamy formula is “enriched with 2 x more yoghurt.”

Thinking of new bathroom accessories, I’ve just come across a German cosmetic range called “Stop the water while using me!” written in English.  That’s quite a way of making a point.

It also shows how some new products are taking performance as given and emphasising social messages well beyond the traditional borders of brand marketing.


Feb 12, 2015 / Richard Hall

Who thinks these up ?

Every week, I read stories that soar well above the flights of my own imagination.  Here are two from January that challenged my credulity.

The first was the ingenious launch of a coffee that helps you sleep.  It’s from Vancouver and is appropriately called Counting Sheep Coffee.  It’s decaffeinated and blended with a herbal sedative, valerian root.  I fear, however, that the owners were somewhat carried away when they remarked with enthusiasm: ‘This brand can explode.’

The second was the most micro-niche claim I have ever come across –‘the most stainless steel water bottles sold through crowdfunding ever.’  How many ? 6,397 to be precise.  The value, however, was an impressive $205,000, 4 times Fred Water’s target of $50,000. More than enough to shake a divining stick at.



Feb 10, 2015 / Richard Hall

47 acquisitions in January, again

January 2015 saw the same number of food and drink industry transactions recorded on the database as for January 2014 – a total of 47.

Last year, the first month focus was on alcohol.  This year, it was packaging, with 3 deals involving sums over $1,000 million – all 3 in packaging:

  • $15,700 million sales from the US merger of RockTenn and MeadWestvaco
  • €2,300 million for France’s Wendel to buy Constantia Flexibles in the United States
  • $1,400 million for Verso Paper to purchase NewPage in the United States.

Of the 47, as many as 11 were in packaging, with 6 in dairy, 6 in soft drinks, 5 in alcohol and 4 in bakery.

21 countries featured.  The United States was active in 28, the United Kingdom in 9 and France in 7, with all the rest on 1 or 2.  26 took place entirely within national borders and 21 were cross-border deals.


Feb 5, 2015 / Richard Hall

Hidden water

If water shortage is the world’s biggest threat, then better understanding of its use is literally vital.

So, could you estimate how many litres of water it takes to produce the food you consume in a year ? 100 tonnes ? 1,000 tonnes ?

The actual answer is nearer 1 million tonnes or 1,000 million litres !

The institution of Chemical Engineers has now advocated the imposition of water footprinting to make everyone more aware.

I proposed exactly this some years ago as part of an environment labelling initiative to complement existing nutrition labelling.  I wonder whether the food industry will decide to act this time.  Or does it have too many other things on its plate ?