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Dec 18, 2014 / Richard Hall

Most bizarre product of year award

Normally the silly season of summer produces the strangest stories, when serious news is less forthcoming.

This year, however, the whackiest has waited until the winter.

It’s a Wireless Speaker Water Bottle that costs $59.95.

• The bottle holds less than 12 ounces of water.
• The Bluetooth speaker in the lid takes 3 hours to charge for just 6 hours of play.
• Perhaps the climbing clip is its defining feature.

Can you beat that ?

Dec 16, 2014 / Richard Hall

Spilt milk for Coke ?

So Coca-Cola has had to withdraw sexist advertising for a new brand before it has even been launched. Wait a minute. What’s happening may be more radical than most people think. Here’s an alternative point of view.

Coca-Cola wants to build a more balanced brand portfolio with more natural, healthier, ideally nutritious products. It’s looking at milk. It needs to be bold. What if it created a milk that’s better than nature ?

For lots of consumers, the answer will be yes. What can you add to milk to make it better ? Well, 50% more calcium and protein sounds good. What can you take out ? 30% less sugar looks intelligent. And removing lactose will appeal to the 24% of Americans who are lactose intolerant.

Now, what is the most all embracing brand name you could wish for that’s not already taken? Ah, FairLife.

For the financial community, a premium price is attractive. And the international opportunity is potentially far greater, since lactose intolerance increases to over 90% of the population in parts of Africa and Asia.

As for the advertising, it made people look and started new conversations.

I suspect we may find FairLife has a lot to offer a very large number of households in time. Or I’ll drink my words.

Here’s to a white Christmas.

Dec 11, 2014 / Richard Hall

Merit for milk fat

The scientific pendulum is steadily swinging back in favour of milk fat.

Over 25 years ago, when I was a Director of the London-based Dairy Trade Federation, I found myself on live national radio being challenged about milk fat causing heart disease.

A new research summary issued by the Global Dairy Platform shows how far scientific opinion has shifted.

“Overall, existing research indicates that consumption of dairy products does not cause an increased risk in cardiovascular disease despite the saturated fat content in these foods. An impressive amount of recent evidence points to neutral or beneficial effects of specific dairy foods, including full-fat products …”

“… dairy fat consumption is not typically associated with an increased risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.”

“The long-held view that saturated fatty acid intake increases cardiovascular disease risk is not only losing steam, it may even be reversing course.”

“… substantial improvement in health and reductions in healthcare costs … could be achieved by meeting dairy intake recommendations.”

Powerful stuff.

Dec 4, 2014 / Richard Hall


November was a big month for food and drink industry transactions, with 53 recorded on the database, including 5 reaching sums over $1,000 million:

• $4,660 million for Canada’s Onex private equity group to buy the SIG Combibloc packaging business based in Switzerland from Rank of New Zealand.

• £2,900 million for Turkey’s Ulker to purchase the UK’s United Biscuits from the Blackstone and PAI private equity groups.

• $2,900 million sales from the combination of SABMiller, Gutsche Family Investments and Coca-Cola in forming a soft drinks joint venture in Africa.

• $1,450 million for JBS Australia to buy Australia’s Primo meat business.

• $1,250 million for Canada’s Cott to purchase the DS Services bottled water business in the United States.

Among the 53 total, 11 were in soft drinks, 10 were in alcohol, 6 in dairy, 6 in packaging, 5 in ingredients and 5 in meat.

27 countries were affected, with 2 changes from the usual pattern. A higher proportion were international and the United States was less dominant. The US participated in 21 to 17 for the UK and then a large gap before Spain on 5, Canada on 4, Switzerland on 4, then Australia, France, Germany and India on 3 each.

Dec 2, 2014 / Richard Hall

Big news about obesity

It doesn’t come much bigger than this. The problem. And the analysis.

The problem is so huge, there aren’t enough clichés to go round it. According to The Economist magazine on 22nd November:

• More than 2.1 billion people, nearly 30% of the world’s population, are overweight.
• About 5% of deaths worldwide are related to excess weight.
• Almost 50% of the world’s adults could be too fat by 2030.
• No nation has slimmed down over the past 30 years.

The analysis was undertaken by McKinsey Global Institute in an effort to understand which of 44 policy measures are most cost-effective.

The 5 most effective were:

• Portion control
• Product reformulation
• Restricting high calorie contents
• Weight management programmes
• Educating parents.

Apparently, “leaving it to individuals to slim down through dieting and exercise without any such help, MGI concludes, consistently fails.”

Nov 27, 2014 / Richard Hall

Good habits and bad habits

Food Matters Live hosted an eyebrow-raising 450 speakers at an innovative trade show in London last week, so I was bound to learn a lot from attending, which I was pleased to do as a speaker and session chairman. Two sets of findings particularly struck me. Both were about how we link our eating habits, especially in terms of health.

The first was from Kantar Worldpanel’s continuous analysis of 30,000 households in Britain:

• When people drink water, 18.3% also eat fruit, 3.6% eat crisps and 2.3% eat chocolate.

• Among cola drinkers, 8.8% eat fruit, 5.2% eat crisps and 3.8% eat chocolate.

Whatever conclusion you reach, reducing the availability of bottled water isn’t one that makes any sense to me.

The second was from Tropicana, drawing from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It discovered that fruit juice consumers also eat more fruit and vegetable portions than people who don’t drink fruit juice.

• Adult juice drinkers also eat 5.1 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with 3.7 for non-drinkers.

• Children consuming juice eat 3.5 portions in contrast to 2.5 for non-consumers.

Fruit juice consumers appear to be healthier in Britain too, with “a lower body weight, body mass index and waist circumference than non-consumers”.

Nov 25, 2014 / Richard Hall

Bottled water under the microscope

A new infographic on US bottled water argues that it involves “very small water use with very big health benefits.”

1 It uses less than 0.004% of water in the US, compared with 31% for irrigation and 49% for electricity.

2 The amount used in production to make 1 litre of product is 1.46 litres for bottled water, compared with 2.02 litres for soft drinks, 3.68 litres for wine and 3.8 litres for beer.

3 Bottled water “helps people choose fewer soft drinks”, accounting for 40% of all water servings.

4 “By switching from soft drinks to bottled water, Americans have saved 300 billion calories each year and 6.4 billion gallons of water …”

For more, go to

Nov 20, 2014 / Richard Hall

America’s favourite beverage

Is not what you think.

Figures were published recently as part of a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, with 5,627 respondents reporting on all they drank over 2 days in 2009-10, a surprisingly long time ago.

• 1st came tap water.
• 2nd was plain bottled water.
• After a big gap, 2% fat milk ranked 3rd.
• Ground coffee was 4th.
• Whole milk was 5th.
• Cola came 6th.

Average consumption of all water was 0.55 litres a day.

Coffee consumption was 6 times higher at 8.00 in the morning than at lunchtime and still lower after dinner.

Soda consumption peaked at midday and again in the early evening.