A Little Bit Country

Country music star and Grammy Award winner Tim McGraw is joining forces with Frito-Lay in what is being billed as “an integrated partnership to reach fans everywhere--from television to retail to on tour.” Select stores have begun carrying Tim McGraw Spicy Jalapeno flavored Fritos corn chips, and these locations will have the products for a limited time. However, Frito-Lay notes, the chips will become nationally available in the fall.

The snacks, however, are only one part of the partnership between the musician and snack icon. McGraw will appear in the brand’s television advertising campaign, as well as a print campaign, centered around a theme: “good, simple fun with family and friends.” Also, Fritos will be the “official snack” of McGraw’s concert tour.

Omega Syndrome

Dietary trends indicate Americans are failing to consume proper amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and manufacturers are responding with a plethora of omega-enhanced products. In an effort to improve their health and well-being, consumers are flocking to foods fortified with such fats as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

“A growing body of evidence links omega-3 fatty acids with a long list of health benefits,” says Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to the New Food Pyramids. “Don't let the word ‘fat’ scare you,” Ward says. “It is important to avoid saturated and trans fats, but omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial, and studies show that children and adults should be consuming more omega-3s for optimal health.”

Sorrento is the latest to join the omega-laden ranks. Sorrento +Plus String Cheese has joined the company’s +Plus snack string cheese line. The string cheese is made with milk containing high levels of DHA and EPA omega-3s, as well as 7g of protein.

It joins Sorrento’s other +Plus products: +Plus Calcium and Vitamin D and +Plus Lactose Free.

Plastic Surgery

Pepsi has an-nounced a new design for its flavored, non-carbonated packaging, which it claims will eliminate 20 million pounds of waste from the environment. The company notes it is its lightest 500ml flavored, non-carbonated bottle yet. The amount of plastic in the bottle has been reduced by 20%. The lighter bottles also have a 10% reduction in label size, and the multi-packs feature a 5% reduction in their shrink-wrap film. 

The new bottle will feature a number of the company’s established brands: Lipton Iced Tea, Tropicana juice drinks, Aquafina FlavorSplash and Aquafina Alive.

“As a company, we’ve challenged ourselves to consistently identify ways to lessen our impact on the environ--ment,” said Robert Lewis, vice president of Worldwide Beverage Pack-aging and Equipment Development with PepsiCo. “We’re constantly striving to make our packaging an even smaller part of the waste stream.”

Crossing Over

Starbucks Coffee Company may have seen its strong growth undergo a bit of a disruption in recent months, but the brand still maintains significant drawing power. The latest example of this was on display at the FMI Show in Las Vegas from May 4-7.

The Hershey Company booth featured Starbucks Chocolate, a portfolio of artisan-style chocolate inspired by Starbucks’ coffees and teas. The line draws upon the experience of Artisan Confections Company, a subsidiary of Hershey’s.

The chocolatiers have created a line of chocolates crafted with cacao from around the world and then blended with premium natural ingredients, authentic Starbucks coffee, its Tazo tea and other authentic coffeehouse flavors. The line includes signature dark, mocha and milk chocolate bars and squares; Tazo Chai, Passion and Citron tea-infused chocolate tasting squares; a line of truffles; and chocolate-covered coffee beans.

No 'Stimulus' for Restaurants

In its most recent consumer sentiment survey, researchers from foodservice consultancy Technomic Inc. found that very few consumers plan to spend their economic stimulus checks at restaurants. Rather, the evidence suggests that consumers will be far more likely to save/invest the money, use it to pay off debt and/or go shopping for necessities.

Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic, noted that the restaurant industry downturn is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. "Consumers are strapped and have other non-discretionary priorities with respect to the tax rebate checks they will be receiving. Unfortunately, it does not appear the restaurant industry will be a beneficiary of the stimulus program."

IN BOX

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* D.D. Williamson promoted Graham Merryweather to vice president of global sales, hired Connie Sandusky to replace Merryweather as regional sales manager and named Megan Mullinix business development manager.
* Cargill has expanded its capabilities to serve the baking industry with the opening of a new Product Innovation Center in Minneapolis. Cargill also has developed natural specialty cheese flavor ingredients producing the complex, authentic aged notes of Gouda, Swiss, cheddar, Parmesan, Romano and blue cheeses.
* Sargento has introduced Salad Finishers and Potato Finishers--chef-inspired blends of Sargento natural cheeses and other premium toppings. The move into the produce category is a first for Sargento.
* Mars Inc. purchased the Wrigley Company in a transaction valued at approximately $23 billion.
* X Café LLC received the 2008 Award for Innovation in Business by the Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE).  
* Arya Tulva joined MGP Ingredients Inc. as project engineer, and Monique Huber has been named quality assurance laboratory manager. Mike Finfrock is now the company’s textured protein sales representative, and Irasa Downing has been named corporate director of human resources.
* Eric Schwartz has joined SK Foods as vice president of Corporate Strategic Planning for the international tomato- and vegetable-processing firm, while Michael Hoversen has joined SK Foods as chief financial officer. 
* Silliker announced a licensing agreement with Kraft Foods for a patent-pending, in vitro method for predicting the Glycemic Index (GI) of foods.
* Robert Constantino joined Roth Käse USA as vice president of retail sales.
* The grapefruit flavonoid naringenin inhibits the secretion of Hepatitis C virus in infected cells and could offer a new approach for treating the disease.
* Symrise GmbH Co. KG and Italian biotech company Cutech Srl have founded a highly specialized, biotechnology joint venture called Scoutech, to offer screening services for cosmetic raw materials, cosmetic formulations, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. 
* A one-week, practical short course on “Texturized Vegetable Protein” will be presented on August 24-29 at Texas A&M University. For more information, programs and applications forms, contact Dr. Mian N. Riaz; Food Protein R&D Center; Texas A&M University; College Station, TX 77843-2476; phone: 979-845-2774; fax: 979-845-2744 or e-mail: mnriaz@tamu.edu.
* PCI Company acquired the dairy flavor systems business of Givaudan Flavours North America, renaming it SensoryFlavors Inc.
* Gary Reineccius has been named head of the food science and nutrition department at the University of Minnesota.
* Symrise has acquired the Dairy Flavors, Savory Flavors, Sweet Flavors and Seasonings sectors of the Danish manufacturer Chr. Hansen.
* Multisorb Technologies named Robert Sabdo business development leader, Food & Beverage Packaging.
* Fillo Factory acquired Mimi’s Gourmet brand of organic chili products.
* FONA International hired Melissa Battles as senior applications technologist with the grain business unit, William Churchwell as environmental health and safety compliance officer, Theresa Guess as quality assurance supervisor, Angel Ray Pimienta as plant manager, Eileen Liu as senior beverage technologist and Paul Krause as director of human resources. At the same time, the company promoted James Evanoff to chief financial officer and Andrea Weinecke to analytical supervisor, while announcing Jeff Banes earned the status of Certified Culinary Scientist (CCS) from the Research Chefs Association.
* Kraft Foodservice awarded Kendall College student David Reyes a $20,000 culinary scholarship for winning the 2008 Chefs of Grey Poupon Student Culinary Competition with his original recipe, Dijon Surf and Turf in a New World Romesco Sauce. Laura Curtis, a student from The Culinary Institute of America, received a $5,000 scholarship for second place with her recipe, Dijon-Ancho Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Chayote and Tequila Rice. Johnson & Wales University student Elizabeth Bova took third place and a $2,500 scholarship for her recipe, Sole Mousseline with Lobster in a Filo Pastry Crust, Israeli Cous Cous Ragout and Dijon Lobster Sauce.

Deep Impact

In recent years, the main driver of growth in the Western European food and drink industry has been consumers purchasing products with more added value. This has been driven by an increased demand for convenience products, increased health consciousness and a greater demand for premium and indulgence products, explains Western Europe Food and Drinks Insights. Multinational food and beverage companies, with their high research and marketing budgets, have been able to launch many new products to take advantage of these trends and have seen their revenues and profits rise accordingly.

With volume sales of many food and beverage products fairly stagnant across many Western European markets, encouraging consumers to trade up to higher value products remains the key way for multinational food and drink firms to grow their sales in this region, the report indicates. However, relying on this trend puts firms in a precarious position, as consumers are also able to trade down when they are feeling stretched financially. This means that the Western European food and drink producers are in no way immune to the effects of a global economic downturn.

Business Monitor International’s (BMI) “U.S. Deep Recession” scenario attempts to examine the impact a severe and prolonged economic downturn in the U.S. during 2008-2009 would have on the global food and drink industry. Although this event is not part of BMI’s core scenario, it remains a possibility and is worth modeling, as the effects would be so sizable and far-reaching.

The effect on food and drink consumption is expected to be pronounced. States dependent on trade with the U.S., or even dependent on trade with the U.S.’s leading trading partners, are expected to be affected most. Although the rapid growth of emerging markets means that Western European countries are less dependent on the economic prosperity of the U.S. than they once were, there is little doubt that a severe U.S. recession would still have a knock-on effect in every country in the region.

In general, a slowdown in economic growth, due to a loss of trade with the U.S. or simply weak investor confidence, will translate to lower disposable incomes for consumers. A severe U.S. downturn looks to have the most severe impact on countries that have the biggest trading links with the U.S. In Western Europe, this translates to the largest impact being felt in Germany and the U.K.

An unabbreviated version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash.