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Mar 21, 2019 / Richard Hall

Plastic plans from France

A group of leading manufacturers and retailers in France have announced recycling targets that go beyond most other initiatives.

Signatories include Coca-Cola, Danone, Nestlé and Unilever along with Auchan, Carrefour, Franprix, Monoprix and Système U, backed by WWF.

There are 6 key goals:

• eliminating problem materials, such as PVC by 2022 and polystyrene

• developing new business models for consumers to adopt reusable packaging

• requiring 100% reusability or recyclability by 2025

• achieving 60% recycling by 2022

• incorporating a minimum 30% recycled content by 2025

• trialling new solutions.

Nestlé has now launched a new paper sachet for Nesquik powder. And Coca-Cola has just introduced some PET bottles with 50% recycled content, having already reached an average 27% recycled content across all its French production.

Mar 19, 2019 / Richard Hall

Social footprint labelling

11 years ago, Zenith proposed a new concept of environmental impact labelling to accompany the current system for nutrition labelling.

Now, the French organisation Ferme France has announced a far broader social footprint label, to be introduced on trial products before the end of this year.

The French scheme has an admirable simplicity, summarising social impact in a single score out of 100.

Underpinning the French figure is a complex structure of analysis:

• 6 categories – environment, traceability, nutrition/health, work conditions and animal well-being, equity and economic contribution, general interest

• 36 sub-categories

• 185 indicators

• 4 performance levels

• full supply chain analysis.

Other existing methodologies such as the Nutri-Score will be incorporated.

Even the Zenith proposal was going to incur considerable cost, but there will be a time when social footprints are as common as nutrition labels.

Mar 14, 2019 / Richard Hall

Competing views on livestock emissions

The EAT-Lancet Commission report on Food, Planet and Health, published on 16 January, looks set to become a major reference document for future policy on food and diet.

Its central recommendation is that healthier diets need to be more plant-based and this will help the planet environmentally.

The research is emphatically endorsed by a recent analysis from Barclays, which rather dramatically states that “Burping cows are more damaging to the climate than all the cars on this planet” and warns of “Government action … in the form of interventions such as a methane tax.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, agriculture and food account for a quarter of all emissions worldwide.

And yet, the US National Dairy Council also uses FAO research to point out that “From an environmental perspective, dairy is not a major contributor to GHGe. Globally, the dairy sector contributes just 2.7% of total global anthropogenic GHG emissions.” The US figure is an even lower 2%.

Moreover, the US dairy sector has made some huge reductions in its carbon footprint, with substantially more to come:

• “In 2007 compared to 1944, the US dairy community was able to produce a gallon of milk using 65% less water, 90% less land and with 76% less manure – resulting in a 63% smaller carbon footprint.”

• “US dairy farmers have committed to further reduce GHGe by 25% by 2020.”

It’s so important to base policy on the full facts.

Mar 12, 2019 / Richard Hall

High investments in vertical farms

Meat substitutes may be the biggest focus for investment in new food concepts over the past few years, but it seems vertical farming could be next in line.

I saw various examples of vertical farming on display at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, but I was concerned about the cost of energy as well as infrastructure.

Now there are various companies

• using empty industrial buildings,
• concentrating on small volume, high value products like herbs,
• which can produce crops on almost a monthly cycle.

The great advantages of vertical farms are:

• total control of conditions, such as light, humidity and temperature
• improved food safety conditions and
• better flavour, according to chefs.

The largest vertical farm in Europe is reported to be Jones Food Company in Britain, which has already received £4.9 million of funding.

In the United States, some investments have been substantially higher:

• $200 million in 2017 for Plenty, including support from the founders of Amazon and Google
• $90 million in 2018 for Bowery Farming, backed by Google Ventures
• $40 million for AeroFarms with backers including Dubai.

Mar 7, 2019 / Richard Hall

72 acquisitions in February

A shorter month, but more acquisitions. February saw 72 food and drink transactions recorded on the bevblog.net mergers and acquisitions database.

PepsiCo’s $465 million purchase of CytoSport from Hormel Foods was only the fifth biggest, with 4 others involving sums greater than $500 million.

• £975 million for Canada’s Saputo to acquire Dairy Crest in the United Kingdom

• $1,000 million for South Korea’s MBK private equity to buy Godiva chocolate production in Belgium and licences in Asia from Turkey’s Yildiz Holding

• £750 million for Britain’s Marks & Spencer to take a 50% stake in the UK online food delivery operations of Ocado

• $538 million additional sales gained by Japan’s Nisshin Seifun in winning Australia’s Allied Pinnacle bakery business from Pacific private equity.

Out of the 72 total, 11 were in soft drinks, 9 in alcohol, 8 in dairy, 6 in ingredients, 5 in packaging, 4 in snacks and 3 in meat.

Among the newcomer sectors, 2 were in cannabidiol, 1 in insects and 1 vegan. 13 were funding rounds.

43 of the 72 were within individual countries, with 25 in the United States, 10 in the United Kingdom and 3 in Canada. 28 were international.

Overall, 30 countries were involved. The United States featured in 36, the United Kingdom in 15, Canada in 5, France in 5, Australia in 3, Italy in 3, Netherlands in 3 and Switzerland in 3.

Mar 5, 2019 / Richard Hall

Plastics in perspective

I had often wondered, but had never researched, how much oil is required for plastic.

An article in the Financial Times on 18th February enlightened me.

• Over half of global oil consumption is for transport.
• Under 15% is required for petrochemicals.
• Two thirds of this is for plastic.
• 45% of plastic production is for packaging.

The International Energy Agency has forecast that petrochemicals will account for half of global oil demand growth up to 2040.

The article by Christof Rühl challenges this, due to:

• reduced use of plastic bags
• slower growth for other plastic and
• increased recycled content.

I would add:

• greater use of plant-based plastic
• enhanced sustainability of other materials
• increased choice of re-usable containers and dispense systems.

Feb 21, 2019 / Richard Hall

Some personal news

All blogs are personal. They involve a selection of issues for attention. They reflect a degree of opinion. Sometimes the personality is masked by objective analysis. Sometimes the content is unashamedly individual. As today.

My most significant new personal insight is that I have become a grandfather for the first time, to a delightful girl born early on Sunday 17th February.

She is not just a joy to my family, she also represents a new way of looking at the world and I look forward to seeing where that leads.

My second personal insight comes from an email I received to celebrate British Airways’ 100th year. It told me that, since 1991, I “have flown 474,687 miles” with BA, “which is the same as flying 19.1 times round the world.”

I was pleased at both the systems that keep such records and the imaginative approach to telling me. I wasn’t so pleased at the carbon footprint it entails, multiplied by the other airlines I use.

We must all do better, for the sake of that next generation.

Feb 20, 2019 / Richard Hall

WORLD’S TOP 10 ECONOMIES

It was a revelation when I discovered some years ago that the world’s third most populous country in 2050 would be … Nigeria.

This week, the Financial Times published an IMF league table of the world’s leading economies from 2000 to 2023 in purchasing power parity. It did not surprise me at all that Asian economies are rising fast up the rankings, but it did surprise me that by 2023:

• Indonesia may push past Russia, Brazil, the United Kingdom and France to 6th.

• Bangladesh may beat South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium to 30th.

• Portugal and Greece may slip behind Kuwait and Sri Lanka below 50th.

The full top 10 are:

Source: IMF

Nigeria is expected to reach 26th.