Going Nuts
Frito-Lay is well-known for its snack expertise, but the company is taking that knowledge and innovative capability into a new area: the nut aisle. TrueNorth is the company’s range of 100% natural nut snacks with 5g of protein in every 1oz serving.

The line includes three forms of nut snacks: nut clusters, nut crisps and nut crunches. The nut crisps are described as “a unique snacking experience,” made from either roasted peanuts, toasted almonds or pistachios, along with other 100% natural ingredients baked together to create a cracker-like texture.

The nut clusters pack roasted nuts (peanuts, almonds or pecans-almonds-peanuts) in a crunchy cluster form, while the nut crunches (in either a honey wheat peanut variety or toasted sesame peanut version) “reinvent traditional nut snacks by applying a(n)...outer crunchy coating.”

Paws That Refresh
Large dogs and smaller breeds can have drastically different personalities, but one company is making the most of the “distinctly different” dietary needs between larger and smaller dogs. Wellness Pet Food is adding a pair of products to its Super5Mix family of dry dog food--Large Breed Puppy and Adult Health, and Small Breed Adult Health.

Larger breeds have special considerations for their weight and bones, so Wellness developed a nutritional solution for these needs, with precise calcium and phosphorus levels for proper bone development and controlled fat and calories for well-paced growth. Plus, the formula delivers DHA for brain development, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin to aid in supporting joints, and live probiotics and increased natural fiber.

For the smaller breeds, Wellness recognized that these pups need increased energy to support their metabolisms and to control calories. The Small Breed Adult Health product provides “a proper ingredient balance” for smaller pooches.

Taking the Pressure Off
A review in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension finds an increase in potassium, coupled with a decrease in sodium, may be the most important dietary choice (after weight loss) to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Recognizing most Americans consume only about half the recommended daily amount of potassium and double the recommended amount of sodium, Unilever is introducing a functional shot to address both concerns.

Promise SuperShots are essential fruit blend shots that provide a good source of calcium and are low in sodium. Available in strawberry banana, peach apricot and mixed berry varieties, each 3oz shot has 350mg of potassium, comparable to the amount in a serving of a fruit that is a good source of potassium.

The American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee says the daily intake of 4,700mg of potassium is “an effective dietary change to lower blood pressure,” and high-potassium diets help remove excess sodium from the body.

Living Large-less
Recent months have seen a number of food companies called to task about decreasing the contents in their packaged food products, while keeping prices the same. The move has been seen in several potato chip and other snack offerings, and restaurants have reduced portion sizes as well, though more notable foodservice moves have also dropped the price.

One coffee chain in Chicago, in fact, has decided to abandon larger sizes altogether; however, it says the move is related more to “showing respect for the daily brew.” Intelligentsia Coffee is phasing out its 20oz coffees and espressos, as the extras in these sizes are “masking and adulterating the pure, intense flavors we work hard to source, roast and produce,” explained Intelligensia CEO Doug Zell in the July 9 Chicago Tribune RedEye. Asked for comment, Starbucks noted it has no such plans to eliminate its venti size.

Inflated and Deflated
At the Restaurants 2008: Trends & Directions Conference, Technomic gathered experts and economists to explore the current foodservice market and the state of the U.S. economy, in general. Opening the conference, Ron Paul, Technomic founder, president and CEO, explained, “Chains were responsible for the bulk of industry growth in 2007. That year’s growth had slowed [from the prior year] and has slowed further in 2008.” Fiscal 2007 was a down year, as consumers began trading down (venturing more into limited-service restaurants [LSR] than full-service restaurants [FSR]), a trend that has continued.

As for the economy, it is hard to find any improved areas. Paul expects a boost from the economic stimulus package in May and June statistics; however, this is likely to have little effect on the foodservice industry, as 34% of consumers plan to put their rebate checks in the bank, and a quarter plan to pay off credit card or other debts, according to Technomic’s “April 2008 Consumer Sentiment Survey.”

Paul notes barely positive growth in 1Q 2008, and consumer confidence is low. Making matters worse, real growth of restaurant sales (when evaluating the 12-month moving average) was only 1.5% in December 2007 (a distinct drop from the 3.6% in December 2006) and had dropped further to 1.4% in May 2008. All of these numbers have been adjusted for inflation, and Paul has observed that, historically, this measurement goes down before a recession, but it also goes up before an economic comeback.

“The mood is poor, and consumers are feeling even poorer about the next six months,” Paul reports. “Confidence is at a 35-year low, as gas and grocery prices take a toll. Even LSRs are not immune.”

For 2008, Paul foresees slow if not declining GDP, less spending and higher inflation, costs and unemployment. The few positives are not terribly uplifting: a cheap dollar means more international tourists, as prices are attractive for foreign travelers to visit the U.S. In addition, consumers will become more value-oriented, turning to LSRs, c-stores and what Technomic defines as retail meal solutions (RMS)--RTE meals purchased in grocery stores.

However, Paul predicts the “lowest growth in the restaurant industry since 1991.” LSRs are expected to grow 3.0% in 2008, a drop from the 4.9% registered in 2007; FSRs will grow 1.0% (down from 2007’s 2.9%), and bars and taverns should maintain their 2.8% growth from 2007. Overall, the 2.1% growth is the lowest since 1991 and barely more than half of 2007’s 4.0% growth.

So, is any segment benefitting from these declines? Supermarkets would appear to be set to grow, as Technomic predicts a 7.0% growth in those channels in 2008, up from the 5.7% reported in 2007. Convenience stores and retailers, however, are likewise expected to register declines in growth.

Paul explained that increasing food costs are compelling operators to employ a variety of tried-and-true tactics. Some 71% are looking to reduce food waste/spillage; 57% are attempting to improve yield; and 54% are raising menu prices. At the same time, 48% plan to shop more among distributors, while 41% plan switches to lower-priced brands.

IN BOX
For daily industry news updates, see the homepage of www.PreparedFoods.com and www.NutraSolutions.com.

* CP Kelco U.S. Inc. and Fluxome Sciences A/S entered into an agreement to develop and commercialize fermentation-derived resveratrol for the dietary supplement, food, beverage and cosmetics markets.
* Cargill opened a new Snacks and Cereal Product Innovation Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
* MGP Ingredients Inc. reorganized certain top-level management positions: Don Coffey, Ph.D., is in the newly created position of vice president of the company’s ingredient solutions business segment; Randy Schrick assumes the new role of corporate director of manufacturing for the distillery products business segment, while also continuing to serve as vice president of engineering; Scott Phillips becomes corporate director of manufacturing for the ingredient solutions business segment; and Asif Malik is manager of MGPI’s distillery co-products technology platform.
* Dave Linne joined ConAgra Foods as senior vice president of advertising, Global Marketing Strategy.
* Bunge Limited and Corn Products International Inc. entered into a definitive agreement in which Bunge will acquire Corn Products in an all-stock transaction. Bunge also announced an agreement to acquire the international sugar trading and marketing division of Tate & Lyle PLC.
* David Michael & Co.'s Strategic Alliance Advisory Board added a new member: Myron Feinstein is an executive consultant specializing in strategy development/implementation and large-scale change management, leading high-profile project and process work with major corporations.
* Belgian brewer InBev plans to purchase Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion, the Associated Press reports, to become the world’s largest brewery conglomerate.
* Campbell Soup Company acquired the Wolfgang Puck soup business from Country Gourmet Foods.
* Soyatech LLC formed a strategic business partnership with HealthFocus International (HFI) to market and distribute HFI’s proprietary market analyses through the Soyatech website, www.soyatech.com.
* Unilever plans to divest its oils business and plantations in Cote D’Ivoire, as a part of its broader strategy of offloading its non-core assets.
* The USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Mars and IBM will pool scientific resources to sequence and analyze the entire cocoa genome.
* The secrets of a healthy life may lie at the bottom of a glass of red wine, but scientists warn the ingredient shows no signs of prolonging life.
* Drinking coffee after a workout can help refuel muscles and quicken recovery from rigorous exercising.
* Scientists have found mice with an MS-like condition did not develop symptoms of the disease, if they had the caffeine equivalent of eight cups of coffee a day.
* General Mills agreed to purchase Humm Foods, makers of Larabar and Larabar Jocalat.
* Monsanto's vegetable seed company and Landec's food subsidiary entered into a collaboration agreement to develop novel broccoli and cauliflower products.
* An extract of red yeast rice cuts cancer death rates by two-thirds and heart disease by a third.
* Michael Green is now vice president of tna Americas, a supplier of turn-key, integrated packaging and processing solutions for food production companies.
* Mizkan Americas promoted three executives within the company: Dennis Dedmond to senior vice president of marketing and brand management; Mike Smith to senior vice president of sales; and Mark Majewski to senior vice president and chief financial officer. 
* The Wheat Foods Council announced the 2008-2009 executive committee council: Hans Hayden, wheat producer and member of the Idaho Wheat Commission, as board chair; outgoing chair Kathy Wiemer, M.S., R.D., as an officer; Betsy Faga as vice chair; and David Moore as secretary-treasurer.
* Lonza named Stacy Baca western regional account manager, Food & Nutrition.
* Attune Foods hired Silvia Cheskes as vice president of marketing.
* NutraCea developed a proprietary method for stabilizing rice bran, the nutrition-rich outer layer of the brown rice kernel, for use as a food ingredient, nutritional supplement and “enhancer” for processed meat products such as hot dogs, sausage, burgers and chicken nuggets. In addition, NutraCea announced a landmark agreement with a China food distributor to build the largest rice bran refinery in China. The facility will process an estimated 500,000 metric tons of raw rice bran annually for the China market.
* Mellace Family Brands added Clint Welker to its executive team as director of sales. 
* A new collaboration between the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Consulting Services Group and The National Food Lab (The NFL) combines product development and commercialization strengths to create “a unique culinary-driven concept development process.”