Public Labeling

According to The New York Times, a remarkable percentage of Americans are interested in the labels on the foods they buy. The daily's telephone survey of 554 adults nationwide found that 85% “read the label closely some or all of the time.” No, that is not a typo: 85%.

Of that substantial group, 66% said that information has influenced their purchase decision. Keep in mind, however, that the 85% number includes the 56% of the total who only sometimes look at the labels.

Follow-up interviews ascertained which label items were of most interest. Apparently, consumers are concerned with only a few aspects of the food label, the Times finds. Some 25% are interested in fat content, 18% calories, 10% sugar, 9% sodium content and 8% carbohydrates. The paper admits the survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points; however, a look at the startling numbers suggests that number could be even greater, if the survey itself can be believed at all.

For instance, 18% of respondents look for calorie content first when reading the label, yet none said they were dieting, begging the questions: Is this purely semantics over the term “dieting”? Were the responses truthful and, if so, exactly what is the interest in calorie content?

Of course, all of the concern over dieting and obesity may be less cause for concern, considering newly released internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Atlanta) documents. Originally, the study found a 33% rise in obesity-related, preventable deaths between 1990 and 2000. However, mathematical errors may have inflated the CDC study's death toll by about 80,000 fatalities—or 20% of the total deaths. Admittedly, the U.S. is far from healthy; the nation still reported a 10% growth in obesity-related, preventable deaths between 1999 and 2000.


  • The food products division of National Starch & Chemical Co. (Bridgewater, N.J.) is now known as National Starch Food Innovation. The company also has completed a new starch production facility and technical center in Shanghai, China, and a new process innovation center in Bridgewater.

  • Griffith Laboratories (Alsip, Ill.) named Bob Wotzak vice president of research and development.

  • Danisco AS (Copenhagen, Denmark) will invest $3 million to build a new flavor production facility at the group's existing emulsifier and functional systems plant in Penang, Malaysia. The new facility will double the group's flavor production in Asia and is expected to be completed in mid-2005. It will replace the present site in Singapore.

  • International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF, New York) will construct a new specialty ingredients (aroma chemical) manufacturing plant in China. A groundbreaking ceremony for the $29 million plant was held on November 9. The new plant is expected to open in late 2006 and reach fully optimized operation in 2008.

  • ISP Food Ingredients (Wayne, N.J.) will implement an average price increase of 7% to 10% for food-grade alginates and other hydrocolloid-based functional food systems. These increases apply to pricing worldwide.

  • Baltimore Spice Inc. (Owings Mills, Md.) named Stephanie L. Frisque as its new vice president of foodservice.

  • CP Kelco (Chicago) announced immediate plans to expand capacity at its production site in Limeira, Brazil. When complete, the expansion will double Limeira's current capacity. CP Kelco's expansion plan consists of two phases. The first phase, scheduled to be fully implemented by mid-2005, will increase capacity by 25%. The second phase, targeted for completion by at least first quarter 2007, ultimately doubles existing capacity.

  • David Michael & Co. (Philadelphia) promoted Denis Blais to senior account manager, responsible for sales in the Eastern portion of Canada; and Jennifer Jacobs to senior account manager, responsible for sales in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, Mississippi and Kansas. David Michael also added D. Richard Ensor to its strategic alliance advisory board.

  • Solbar Industries (Ashdod, Israel) opened its first representative office in Shanghai, China, in July 2004, establishing a new company Solbar Ningbo Food Co. Ltd. The company also is establishing a company called NutriCognia.

  • The LycoRed Group (Beer Sheva, Israel) promoted Scott M. Larkin to vice president of sales and marketing for North America. Larkin was formerly the company's director of marketing and business development for the North American market. In addition, Dave Thomas joined LycoRed Natural Products as the North American director of marketing and business development for the food and beverage division.

  • Virginia Dare (Brooklyn, N.Y.) named Joyce Igasaki account executive, responsible for accounts in California, Arizona and New Mexico; Jorge Stern is now director of international sales and marketing, and Luz Alena is regulatory associate.

  • Wixon (St. Francis, Wis.) was purchased by its top management team, ending its 24-year ownership by foreign investors. New owners of the firm are president Peter Gottsacker, executive vice president Chuck Ehemann and chief financial officer Peter Caputa. Also, the Beijing Gingko Group (Beijing) has established an exclusive sales & marketing partnership for the U.S. market with Wixon Inc. for the complete line of Ginnovay branded licorice root extracts and derivatives.

  • Bunge Limited (White Plains, N.Y.) formed an alliance with Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati) and Peter Cremer North America (Cincinnati) to produce and market cholesterol-reducing phytosterol ingredients for pharmaceuticals and foods.

  • SPI Polyols Inc. (New Castle, Del.) hired Clement Opawumi as a senior food scientist in the applications research/technical services laboratory.

  • Givaudan's (Geneva) board of directors elected Juerg Witmer, the current chief executive officer, as the new chairman of the board, effective April 27, 2005. Gilles Andrier, currently head of Givaudan's global fine fragrance business, will succeed Witmer as chief executive officer in Vernier, Switzerland.

  • Ajinomoto Co. (Tokyo) plans to overhaul its food business, unifying its domestic and international operations by next April. Two different in-house companies currently control the international and Japanese units of Ajinomoto's food business. These operations will be brought under the in-house firm that currently oversees the domestic processed food business.

  • The food and beverage employment site has acquired, another industry niche employment site.

  • In Canada, New Democrats introduced a motion in the House of Commons to outlaw the “unhealthy” fats found in everything from fast food to peanut butter. The World Health Organization has recommended countries eliminate processed trans fats, as Denmark did last year.

  • Sargento Foods Inc. (Plymouth, Wis.) named Rod Hogan director of new business development. The company also reassigned portions of its sales group under the direction of Scott Hackbarth and Randy Winker, group vice presidents of sales; Jim Hinsenkamp will be retail operations manager, sales.

  • Brian Jurcak joined Univar USA (Kirkland, Wash.) as product manager and will manage the company's phosphates and phosphoric acid business.

  • Charles E. Sizer was appointed director of the National Center for Food Safety and Technology (Bedford Park, Ill.).

  • Archer Daniels Midland (Decatur, Ill.) elected Vikram Luthar vice president-treasurer.

  • Velvet Ice Cream Co. (Utica, Ohio) created a new foodservice division, with Joanne L. Dager as its director.

  • The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company (Chicago) will purchase certain confectionery assets of Kraft Foods (Glenview, Ill.) for $1.48 billion. The transaction includes ownership of Life Savers, Creme Savers, and Altoids--as well as a number of local or regional brands and production facilities in the U.S. and Europe.

    Healthful at SIAL

    Paris played host to SIAL Paris from October 17-21, as six halls featured culinary specialties from around the world to more than 135,000 visitors. One of the more-notable trends impacting formulators globally, health-consciousness is not an issue confined to the U.S.; however, manufacturers elsewhere demonstrated a variety of approaches to the concept.

    Products boasting lower fat, sugar, calories, etc., could be found in abundance, many adding a degree of functionality. In France, Benefic Groupe Glon Sanders was one of the companies offering enhanced eggs, this range boasting selenium, iodine, nutrine, phosphorous, vitamins D and A and omega-3s. The latter was particularly popular, as European manufacturers have been quick to boast omega-3 on packaging. Yogurts, eggs and oils were but a few of those proudly announcing omega-3 content.

    For some consumers, however, the benefits of omega-3s are of relatively little concern and, internationally, manufacturers have made great strides for those with gluten or lactose allergies. One such product, Sojasun Cuisine from France's own Triballat-Noyal, this 100% vegetable, soya-based alternative to sour cream is rich in omega-3 and vitamins B and E. Italian shoppers, meanwhile, have a gluten-free option for crackers, breadsticks and cookies from Malgara Chiari & Forti.

    Lactose concerns have been addressed in an interesting way for French consumers looking for milk. Caraibos' Vita Latte is a tropical banana drink made with “vegetable milk,” and it is rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamins A and D.

    Health and wellness, while certainly a major area of interest at SIAL Paris, is just an example of the trends featured. Flavors, convenience and packaging innovations also were on display, and more on all of these trends will be seen in Prepared Foods' “Going Global” columns in the months to come and in March's New Products Annual.

    In addition, SIAL Montreal will be held April 13-15, 2005, at the Palais des Congrès de Montreal.

    Carb Culling Up North

    In the first of what is promised to be an annual weight loss survey, ACNielsen Canada (Markham, Ontario) has found that 12% of Canadian households include at least one individual currently on a low-carbohydrate diet. However, the diet may be fading up north, as a slightly higher number of households (15%) reported that someone had been on the diet but had abandoned it.

    Of the 12% currently cutting carbohydrates from their eating, 7% had been on a similar diet in the past and had gone off of the diet and returned to one. Perhaps even more surprising is that, of the households without any interest in avoiding carbs, a wide majority, 73%, reported no individuals had ever tried such a diet.

    That is not to say that Canadians are uninterested in weight loss. Some 52% of Canadian adults said they had participated in a weight loss program in the past six months. The most popular strategy among the group was a normal diet but with smaller portions, favored by 26%, while 15% tried a low-fat approach. While many are not on a low-carb diet, in the strictest sense of the term, quite a few (26%) claim that they have reduced their carbohydrate consumption.

    In general, diets were more popular among higher-income households, but a majority of respondents indicated awareness and concern about health risks from obesity, trans-fatty acids and saturated fat. That concern is impacting consumer behavior as well, with 56% reducing their consumption of fat, 47% foregoing sugar, 37% avoiding fatty acids, 34% cutting salt/sodium, and the aforementioned 26% curbing carb intake.

    For more information on the survey, contact ACNielsen Canada, Kristen Ridley, 905-943-8343.