Pinot Envy

The year 2004 may not have been the best for food representation at the movies. Sure, there were the occasional concerns about starvation (Shaun of the Dead), the havoc of running a fast-food restaurant (Fries with That) and a dog entering an animal contest to win a lifetime supply of “Tummy Yummies”--no, really--(Clifford's Really Big Movie), but a couple of films took serious issue with the food industry.

The Future of Food billed itself as “an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery shelves for the past decade.” Negatively impacted farmers naturally proffered their take on the situation, and the movie went on to elaborate health implications stemming from genetically altered crops in the food supply.

Then, of course, there was Super Size Me, the documentary that chronicled filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's month-long, thrice-a-day McDonald's diet. The Oscar-nominated film purported to show the mental and physical effects of a regimen consisting of nothing but the fast food giant's fare. Good Burger, it was not.

However, on the beverage side of things, one movie is being credited with single-handedly boosting sales of Pinot Noir wine. Sideways also was nominated for an Academy Award, though not in the documentary category with Super Size Me. No, Sideways scored acting, directing, writing and best picture nods; it features a wine snob extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir over Merlot--well, that and a guy taking full advantage of his last week of “freedom” before he is to be married.

Audiences apparently have been captivated by the Pinot Noir elements, for tourism in wine country near Santa Barbara, Calif., has peaked. Furthermore, according to ACNielsen (New York), the benefits have extended to sales of Pinot Noir. While the varietal's sales have been on the rise for years, purchases have been especially strong since the film's release, driven mostly by domestic brands.

A recent FDA decision could benefit sales even further. Willamette Valley Vineyards (Turner, Ore.) announced it has received the first federal government label approval of resveratrol content, the antioxidant, on its Pinot Noir wines.

The In Box:

  • The Wright Group (Crowley, La.) named Vicky Kennedy Berkman Northwest regional sales manager.

  • Flavors of North America Inc. (Carol Stream, Ill.) is changing its name to FONA International Inc., effective April 15, 2005.

  • Degussa AG (Düsseldorf, Germany) is selling its fruit systems business to private equity company Speyside Equity (Delaware). The new business will operate under the name Sweet Ovations LLC.

  • Sargento Foods Inc. (Plymouth, Wis.) promoted Mike McEvoy to trade promotion manager, sales services.

  • David Michael & Co. (Philadelphia) renamed its European subsidiary to David Michael S.A.S. (Valence, France). The company also announced it has completed a revamp of its website at

  • Main Street Ingredients (La Crosse, Wis.) named Chad Miller chief financial officer.

  • Colloides Naturels Inc. (Bridgewater, N.J.) has opened a representative office in Shanghai, China.

  • Archer Daniels Midland (Decatur, Ill.) has acquired the global soy isoflavone business of Solae, including its entire portfolio of U.S. and foreign patents.

  • Danisco USA Inc. (New Century, Kan.) promoted John Breeden to director of sales, Mike Parsons to dairy sales director, and Shannon Neuens to business development specialist, cheese cultures and enzymes, North America. The company also added Beth Jones as product manager of fresh dairy and probiotics and named Scott Bush business development director, culture division and probiotics. In other news, Danisco A/S announced it would buy biotechnology firm Genencor International (Palo Alto, Calif.).

  • Chr. Hansen Inc. (Milwaukee) appointed David R. Carpenter president and CEO. The company also reorganized its sales management team in North America, naming Paul Duddleston vice president of sales for food and beverage, Kristian Elsborg vice president of sales for dairy and Don Cox vice president of sales and marketing.

  • Univar USA (Kirkland, Wash.) hired Tom Bongiorno as food technical specialist.

  • Chef Solutions (Schaumburg, Ill.) named Carl W. Warschausky executive vice president and chief financial officer.

  • Cargill (Minneapolis) and Bayer CropScience (Monheim, Germany) have entered into an alliance for the production of specialty canola for the supply of high-stability oil. Cargill also added Dr. Chris Mallett as corporate vice president of research and development.

  • Lipid Nutrition (Channahon, Ill.) has launched a new website (, incorporating the new company image and logo, as well as more comprehensive information on the company's lipid-based products.

  • GTC Nutrition (Golden, Colo.) named Barbara Homs manager of marketing and customer service, and promoted Ken Bender to national account manager--dietary supplements.

  • CP Kelco (Atlanta) and Noviant, part of the J.M. Huber Corp., have united as one business under the CP Kelco name.

  • ConAgra Foods (Omaha, Neb.) named Laurie Ryan vice president of marketing for its Specialty Potato Products division.

  • Loders Croklaan (Channahon, Ill.) unveiled a new company logo underlining its connection with parent company IOI Group (Putrajaya, Malaysia).

  • Fortitech Europe ApS (Gadstrup, Denmark) has transferred production operations to its new facility in Gadstrup, outside of Copenhagen.

  • Northland Cranberries Inc. (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) sold its branded juice business to Apple & Eve LLC (Roslyn, N.Y.).

  • PepsiCo U.K. (PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y.) bought the British smoothie and fruit juice brand PJ Smoothies (Newark, U.K.).

  • Campbell Soup Co. (Camden, N.J.) announced a price increase of its ready-to-serve Chunky and Select soups by an unspecified amount.

  • American Italian Pasta Co. (Excelsior Springs, Mo.) formed a multi-year strategic alliance with World Finer Foods (Bloomfield, N.J.), owners of the DaVinci brand of Italian food products.

  • CoolBrands International Inc. (Markham, Ontario) settled with Weight Watchers International (Woodbury, N.Y.) and Wells' Dairy Inc. (Le Mars, Iowa), ending several lawsuits over trademark rights. As a result, CoolBrands will not produce, sell or distribute products using the Weight Watchers and Smart Ones trademarks after May 1. In addition, in the wake of the death of Richard Smith, CoolBrands named David Stein sole CEO and co-chairman.

  • Unilever (London) promoted Manvinder Singh Banga to head of its worldwide food business.

  • Sara Lee Corp. (St. Louis) named Brenda Barnes president and chief operating officer, as well as announced plans to spin off its U.S. apparel portfolio, organizing the remainder of the company into three divisions: North American retail, North American foodservice and international.

  • Parmalat Dairy & Bakery Inc. (Toronto) sold its North American bakery group to Catterton Partners Corp. (Greenwich, Conn.), with the bakery changing its name to Archway & Mother's Cookie Co. Inc. in the U.S. and A&M Cookie Co. Canada in Canada.

    Victual Reality

    Anyone who has had to endure the seemingly interminable wait for a loved one to “finish the next level” or “just get past this final boss battle” is well aware of the challenges real life can impose on the serious matter of playing videogames. Never mind that these pursuits are being lumped among the many reasons for the nation's looming obesity crisis, some are taking the opportunity to put a slice of life into the gaming world, so to speak.

    To explain, EverQuest from Sony Online Entertainment (SOE, San Diego) is a widely popular videogame, and boasts hundreds of thousands of players. Put simply, a player creates a character, logs in to venture into the online world of EverQuest, finds others that have done likewise, and they go on quests together. Simple enough, right? Yes, some would say too simple, for the game is incredibly addicting. It is not unusual to find users routinely spending eight to 15 hours a day in the realm of Norrath.

    With all of those hours spent slaying dragons and battling monsters, such real-world concerns as eating and working can be forgotten--or at least delayed greatly. While a job with a videogame magazine or website may be the only cure for the latter dilemma, SOE and Pizza Hut (Dallas) have devised a solution to the former.

    The sequel EverQuest II will offer the gamer the ability to order a pizza in the real world. While playing, the user simply has to type the command “/pizza”, which brings forth a Pizza Hut web page where orders can be placed for delivery. Furthermore, SOE has plans to allow users to charge the order to their monthly game bill.

    Considering how heavily the food industry markets to females, it might be important to know that a study by the Entertainment Software Association (Washington) found that 39% of gamers are women, the average age overall is 29, and 66% of most-frequent game players are over 18, with 41% over the age of 35. In light of that data, companies would be well advised at least to consider the marketing possibilities of the virtual world.

    Salty Banter

    With trans fats quickly on their way out of a great many items on store shelves, food watchdogs are turning their attention to other ingredients to vilify as the downfall of humanity. For a few weeks, it appeared that high-fructose corn syrup would be next to face the wrath of the food police, but that movement appears to have lost steam. Now, sodium levels are at issue.

    Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI, Washington), has selected sodium as his group's latest target. Decrying salt as possibly “the single deadliest ingredient in the food supply,” he announced that the CSPI is suing the FDA as part of an effort to demand a crackdown on sodium levels in food.

    Jacobson finds no fault with consumer attitudes; he merely wants requirements to mandate manufacturers and restaurants to use less salt. He drew attention to the sodium levels of a pair of food items: the 5,410mg in a frozen turkey dinner and the 4,462mg in a breakfast offering at a national chain. Each was considerably above the government-recommended 2,300mg and even higher than the daily American average of 3,375mg.

    Jacobson wants salt to be stripped of its generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status and re-designated a food additive, allowing the FDA more power to limit salt levels in processed food. This is not the first time the CSPI has attempted the sodium switch; a similar lawsuit was dismissed in 1983.

    The FDA declined comment. A spokesperson for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA, Washington) noted that the industry has been reducing salt levels in foods for years, though at incremental levels due to the public's general rejection of low- and no-sodium foods. Efforts to find a salt substitute have been to little avail. Unsurprisingly, the Salt Institute (Alexandria, Va.) defended the ingredient as GRAS “because it is safe” and knows of no reason to change salt's status to that of a food additive.