A review of nutrition data has led Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.) researchers to conclude that soda consumption has no link to childhood obesity.

Basing their opinions on analysis of the USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals 1995-1996, 98, scientists at Virginia Tech's Center for Food and Nutrition Policy believe, “(O)ur study showed no statistically significant association between age- and gender-specific body mass index (BMI) and regular carbonated soft drink consumption, but there is a positive association between BMI and diet carbonated soft drinks. In other words, there was no relationship between obesity and regular soft drink consumption, but overweight children drank more diet soft drinks. This analysis suggests that carbonated soft drinks are not solely responsible for the increased numbers of overweight children and adolescents.”

Furthermore, the peer-reviewed study, which appeared in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, advises that policies intended to curtail consumption of carbonated soft drinks and fruit drinks ultimately will not result in children and adolescents rejecting soft drinks.

The study also demonstrated the association between age, race and gender with beverages consumed by children. White youngsters consumed more beverages than African-American young people, although no reasons were cited for this.

Ultimately, all ethnicities consumed milk more than any other beverage, but African-American kids drank less milk than white children and adolescents. In all, 13% to 14% of young African-Americans reported drinking no milk. The researchers expressed concern about the lack of milk consumed by adolescent African-American girls, considering future bone-health issues and research showing the benefits of calcium-rich dairy products in reducing the risk of hypertension.

The Kraft

Kraft Foods Inc. (Glenview, Ill.) will seek to combat the global obesity problem with a multi-tiered program that will “further strengthen the alignment of its products and marketing practices with societal needs.”

Guided by an as-yet-unformed “global council of advisors,” the strategies will focus on four areas—product nutrition, marketing practices, consumer information, and advocacy and dialogue. Under the product nutrition objectives will be a cap on the portion sizes of single-serve packages, nutritional guidelines for all Kraft products, an effort to improve the nutritional characteristics of existing products and providing “alternative choices, where appropriate.”

Considering the recent moves to ban so-called junk food from areas of academia, two of Kraft's marketing moves will come as no shock. All in-school marketing will be eliminated, and locally appropriate criteria will guide the vending industry in different areas of the world, assisting them in selecting proper Kraft products to be sold via in-school vending machines. Outside the schoolyard, all forms of Kraft's marketing efforts will encourage “appropriate eating behaviors and active lifestyles.”

Efforts to discourage sedentary lifestyles will be a hallmark of Kraft's advocacy and dialogue measures. The company will promote public policies to “engage schools and communities in helping to improve fitness and nutrition.” In addition, an increased dialogue with “key stakeholders” will assist the company in its responses to the global obesity issue.

More information on Kraft's obesity-fighting efforts may be found at www.kraft.com/obesity.

Sidebar: Case Studies: Starbucks, Tyson Foods and Cadbury Schweppes

Consumer tastes are as varied as ever and can change entirely over short time periods. Keeping up-to-date is key to success, and Prepared Foods' New Products Conference provides developers with insights and advice on the creation of new foods and beverages.

In addition to world-class speakers offering statistics and trends on global new product introductions, attendees have the opportunity to sample innovative foods and beverages from around the world, plus the chance to network with hundreds of industry-leading R&D, marketing and executive professionals.

Last year's event saw enlightening presentations as “Guaranteeing the Future of Innovation,” “What Food Safety Means for Product Development” and “Culinary Creativity to Foodservice Fundamentals,” and the variety of this year's agenda promises to leave attendees with fresh ideas for fueling the creativity of their product development efforts.

Case studies at this year's Conference offers the chance to learn from the success of others. Larry Wu, director of product development, and Tom Barr, director of the hot beverage category, with Starbucks (Seattle), will examine the process used to define, develop and commercialize a new product launch. Colin Gutteridge, director of confectionery R&D with Cadbury Schweppes (Stamford, Conn.), will address product, package and manufacturing challenges faced and strategies implemented in the global launch of its 24-7 product. In addition, Craig Bacon, senior director of R&D with Tyson Foods (Springdale, Ark.), will demonstrate Tyson's take on innovation, as exemplified by their recent launches.

For more information on this year's New Products Conference, contact Marge Whalen, phone: 630-694-4347 or e-mail: whalenm@bnp.com

Sidebar: THE IN BOX

Kemin Foods (Des Moines, Iowa) named Beth Thompson global regulatory affairs manager.

Louis Sanna has been elected president of the American Spice Trade Association (Washington).

Shuster Laboratories (Canton, Mass.) hired Michael Chubb as vice president of sales.

Univar USA Inc. (Kirkland, Wash.) created a new team to “capitalize on the company's extensive distribution and logistics capabilities.” The team is led by Jane Wells, vice president of marketing.

Robertet Flavors (Piscataway, N.J.) hired Allessandra De Cicco as associate regulatory coordinator.

Snapple Beverage Group (New York) plans to launch a licensing program with Brandgenuity (New York), a boutique trademark licensing agency.

Mel Coleman Jr. has been named chairman of Coleman Natural Meats (Denver).

Humko Oil Products (Memphis) added a state-of-the-art flake-production system to their Jacksonville, Ill., manufacturing facility.

Chr. Hansen (Milwaukee) opened a new dairy flavors pilot plant within its North American headquarters in Milwaukee.

Dean Foods Co. (Dallas) has agreed to spend approximately $216 million for the purchase of the 87% interest in Horizon Organic (Boulder, Col.) that it does not already own.

Sara Lee Corp. (Chicago) named William J. Nictakis president of U.S. Fresh Bakery for the Sara Lee Bakery Group.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. (Decatur, Ill.) made several appointments in its oilseed processing division. Brent Fention is now vice president of N.A. oilseed processing, a title shared by Mike Livergood. The company also named Todd Saathoff vice president of the specialty fats and oils group.

Kagome Co. (Nagoya, Japan) has begun marketing three vegetable juice drinks in the U.S., aiming for sales of the items in about 1,000 outlets by the end of the year. Varieties include tomato, carrot, and mixed vegetable juice-based beverages.

Hain Celestial Group (Melville, N.Y.) acquired Acirca Inc. (Arlington, Va.), the owner of the Walnut Acres brand of organic fruit juices, soups, pasta sauces and salsas.

SureBeam Corp. (San Diego) named John Arme chief executive officer.

Brown-Forman (Louisville, Ky.) promoted Paul C. Varga to president and chief executive officer of beverages, James L. Bareuther to executive vice president and chief operating officer of beverages, Phoebe Wood to vice chairman of Lenox, and Michael B. Crutcher and James S. Welch Jr. both vice chairmen of the corporation.