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Jul 18, 2019 / Richard Hall

Decomposition quiz

Well, it’s summer and the holiday season is upon many of us.

So here is a quiz about how long it takes for a range of commonly used materials to decompose.

There figures are taken from a recent article in The 10 materials are listed below. The answers follow.

It would, however, be so much better to collect and re-use as much as possible.

Jul 16, 2019 / Richard Hall

Swallowing credit cards

In case you missed it, analysis of more than 50 research studies, by Australia’s University of Newcastle, has found that everyone in the world on average ingests:

• 5 grams of plastic each week, the weight of a plastic credit card, by consuming

• up to 102,000 tiny pieces during a full year.

90% of this microplastic reportedly comes from water, mainly tap but also bottled, with 72% of tap water samples tested containing plastic particles.

Other products with high levels of plastic include shellfish, salt and beer.

The research has apparently been endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund.

While no product may be immune from microplastic, I would imagine an artesian natural mineral water that has been filtered through rocks for a number of years is far more likely to be free of microplastic than virtually anything else we consume.

Jul 11, 2019 / Richard Hall

Scientific backing for personalised nutrition

And financial. $27 million, in fact. For a UK start-up called Zoe, which means ‘life’ in Greek.

Funded by Zoe, research was undertaken by King’s College London in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital.

According to the Financial Times on 11 June, it “measured changes in blood levels of biological markers such as sugars, insulin and fats after volunteers had eaten specific meals, together with data on their physical activity, sleep, hunger and gut bacteria.”

The study found that “Individuals’ metabolic responses to the same foods vary remarkably, even between identical twins.”

This led to the striking conclusion that “our metabolism is not fixed; we have the power to change it.”

As a result, Zoe aims to develop a test and app that we can use to select personalised diets that match our own individual metabolism and lifestyle.

The world has been heading towards more personalised nutrition for at least a decade. Now, technology is being developed to make it a far more widespread reality.

Jul 9, 2019 / Richard Hall

Carbon-free countries

We all have to applaud the United Kingdom for declaring a wish to have zero net emissions by 2050.

This will require a concerted strategy from energy to waste as well as huge investment. It may well accelerate economic growth rather than slow it down.

The proof will, of course, be whether or not the target is actually achieved. Some would argue that it should be sooner rather than later.

Nevertheless, we should not overlook the altogether mightier ambition of Costa Rica in Latin America. Although, far smaller, Cost Rica has:

• since 2014 derived 99% of its energy from renewable resources

• including 2 periods of more than 2 months each relying 100% on renewable energy;

• in June 2017 set a target of eliminating all single-use plastic by 2021 and

• in summer 2018 agreed a goal of becoming completely carbon-neutral by 2021.

This would make it the first country in the world to go carbon-free.

Where one goes, others will surely wish to follow.

Jul 4, 2019 / Richard Hall

53 acquisitions in June

53 food and drink industry transactions were added to the mergers and acquisitions database in June.

Only 2 reached the $500 million mark:

•  €475 million in foodservice for UK-based Compass to buy Fazer Food Services in Nordics

•  $500 million in spirits for Asia’s Hillhouse Capital private equity to purchase a majority of Loch Lomond Group in UK.

Of the 53 deals, 8 were in dairy, 7 in alcohol, 6 in soft drinks and 4 each in equipment and ingredients.

Among the newer categories, there were 2 in vertical farming, 1 in alcohol-free, 1 in CBD, 1 in dairy-free and 1 in liquid food.

27 were within national borders, with 14 of these in the United States and 4 in the United Kingdom. 26 were international.

19 countries featured overall, with the US involved in a total of 22, the UK in 11, France in 5, Germany in 5, Australia in 4, Italy in 4 and Switzerland in 3.

Jul 2, 2019 / Richard Hall

European Union targets bottled water

It’s extraordinary how much tap water we use, compared with what we drink. According to the European Commission, the average EU citizen consumes 106 litres of bottled water per year. Most of us use more tap water than that in a DAY. The average in Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom is 150 litres or more per day.

A European Commission public consultation in 2015 identified the proportion of Europeans always using tap water for particular purposes as:

• 95% for washing and personal hygiene

• 84% for cooking, directly from the tap

• 53% for drinking, directly from the tap

• 10% for drinking, after filtering it.

Over 80% said there is good access to quality drinking water where they live.

“Only 20% find drinking water outside of their home country acceptable.”

The previous European Parliament voted to improve drinking water quality and access, including free fountains in public spaces and free tap water in restaurants.

A European Parliament news statement dated 19 October 2018 states: “According to the European Commission, access to better quality water could reduce bottled water consumption by 17%. Less bottled water would help people save money and also have a positive impact on the environment, by reducing CO2 emissions and plastic waste.”

It’s great to improve tap water quality and access, but not to target bottled water.

• Bottled water has a far lower environmental impact than all other packaged drinks as well as being healthy.

• I have also long contended that the full comparable cost of tap water for drinking is not dissimilar to that of cheaper, local bottled waters.

Jun 27, 2019 / Richard Hall

Drinks launches set the pace in US

Out of all food and drink new product launches in the US that completed their first full year in 2018, drinks accounted for 8 of the top 10 in convenience stores, according to the latest IRI Pacesetters analysis.

The other 2 entries were confectionery launches, which also topped the supermarket rankings, where only Gatorade Flow on $78.1 million and Mountain Dew Ice on $59.9 million featured in the top 10.

Rising stars launched more recently and contending for the 2019 top 10 include Bubly water, Corona Premier beer, Eight O’Clock K-Cups coffee and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold beer.

As a reflection of increasing market fragmentation, it now takes less than $50 million of sales to reach the top 10, whereas the threshold used to be $70 million. Most of the top 100 now sell less than $20 million in their first full year. More of today’s entries are new brands rather than brand extensions, though larger companies still dominate the tables.

PepsiCo and General Mills each owned 7 of the 2018 top 100.

Jun 25, 2019 / Richard Hall

Naming the trend – NOLO ?

The trend is clear. The name is not.

The trend is towards adult taste drinks with less or no alcohol. It’s there in:

• spirits, from 30% alcohol by volume sugar-free Smirnoff Infusions to distilled non-alcoholic Seedlip

• wines, from 9-10% alcohol by volume Barefoot Refresh to organic non-alcoholic Zéra

• beers, from 0.5% alcohol by volume BrewDog Nanny State to alcohol free Heineken 0.0. It’s also growing in soft drinks, such as:

• mixers from Fever-Tree to Coca-Cola Signature

• cordials from Bottlegreen to Robinsons Fruit Creations • carbonates from Purdey’s multivitamin juice drink to South Africa’s The Duchess non-alcoholic gin and tonic

• plus kombucha and so much more. So, what should the category be called ? Is it

• Alcohol-free ?

• Zero alcohol ?

• Zero proof ?

• Non-alcoholic drinks ?

• Adult drinks ?

• Adult soft drinks ?

• Craft soft drinks ?

• Low and no alcohol ?

These names all represent different aspects, with different limitations. How about NOLO ? It’s terrible, but it might work. It’s short and embraces the full spectrum. I’d be interested in other views.