Skip to content
Mar 23, 2017 / Richard Hall

Nutrition labelling muddle

Why have nutrition labelling ? To inform ? To change behaviour ? The answer should be both.

So labels must have an immediate visual impact, backed up by easy to read numbers that can be compared and acted on.

6 food and drink companies – Coca-Cola, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever – have now come out in support of a traffic light format across Europe. This makes sense to me.

There has been criticism of using portion sizes as a reference but, if portion sizes are reduced to stay green, that may not be so bad.

Whatever path is chosen, action should be taken without further delay.

I was on the UK Food and Drink Industries Council Nutrition Labelling Panel back in the mid-1980s. And still the debate lingers on.

Only last week, a new alternative approach was put forward in France. Impending Brexit negotiations and European elections won’t make resolution easier. But this is one of many issues where European harmony would serve us well.

Mar 21, 2017 / Richard Hall

Water overtaking carbonates

It’s World Water day tomorrow and we’re now drinking it like never before.

Earlier this month, the International Bottled Water Association declared that Americans were consuming more bottled water than carbonated soft drinks.

Last week, Zenith issued forecasts indicating that water drinks would soon overtake carbonated soft drinks … in the United Kingdom.

These are seismic shifts. Bottled water scarcely existed in these countries 40 years ago. Leading carbonated soft drinks brands remain the world’s most iconic.

Our tastes are certainly changing. And our behaviours embrace more variety as well as contrasts between different occasions.

Back in 1999, I wrote about bottled water as the optimum consumer product of the new millennium – natural, healthy, convenient, stylish and so much more.

Less than 10 years later, I chaired a seminar with journalists challenging the very concept of bottles when taps provided all that was needed and no waste.

The bottle had to prove its mettle by answering the critics and explaining its far lower environmental impact than other packaged beverages.

But tomorrow, we should celebrate all water. And all beverages. They all hydrate and most of us would benefit from more hydration.

So, salute, in all its senses.

Mar 16, 2017 / Richard Hall

Healthy food is not more expensive

Six years ago, at Zenith’s Global Beverages Summit in Washington DC, we heard from a White House adviser that healthy food is not more expensive.

This has now been confirmed by the respected UK think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Comparing prices by edible weight rather than by calorie, it assessed 80 food and drink categories on sale in Tesco and Asda.

The most startling finding was that the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day could be bought for as little as £0.30.

Two comparisons amply illustrate the affordability of good health:

• For £1, instead of a cheeseburger, one could buy 7 bananas, 10 apples, 1kg of sweet potatoes, 2kg of carrots or 2.5kg of pasta.

• “A diet of muesli, rice, white meat, fruit and vegetables is much cheaper than a diet of Coco Pops, ready meals, red meat, sugary drinks and fast food.”

It concludes: “The idea that poor nutrition is caused by the high cost of healthy food is simply wrong.”

Mar 14, 2017 / Richard Hall

10 years of blogging

Yes, my first blog was on 14 March 2007. 10 years ago today. It was headed ‘What’s wrong with soft drinks ?’ and was prompted by Coca-Cola seeking to become known as a sparkling beverage instead of a carbonated soft drink.

According to my archive, I’ve written 123 blogs on health, 112 on mergers and acquisitions, 80 on soft drinks, 73 on beverages, 65 on bottled water, 56 on water, 52 on dairy, 51 on the environment and 46 on recycling. Out of 923 in total.

Have I served a purpose ? The mergers and acquisitions database provides the most up to date and comprehensive free searchable source I know of anywhere. I have also tried to anticipate change.

• April 2007 foresaw Monster overtaking Red Bull in the US.

• October 2007 commented on how bottled water should respond to an environmental backlash.

• September 2008 was the first time I wrote about virtual water and water footprints.

• March 2009 featured examples of massive cost savings from new technology.

• July 2009 had me going on about food waste amounting to 25% of all we purchase.

• August 2009 introduced an idea whose time still has yet to come – an eco label showing a product’s carbon footprint, renewable energy %, recycled material %, water usage, carbon reduction % and carbon offset %.

I very much hope that I’ll stay with it. And that you’ll stay with me.

Mar 7, 2017 / Richard Hall

41 acquisitions in February

February added 41 food and drink transactions to the global mergers and acquisitions database. 4 involved sums over $500 million:

• $17,900 million for UK based Reckitt Benckiser to buy US infant nutrition business Mead Johnson.

• $6,970 million combined sales from the dairy fusion of Japan’s Morinaga & Co with Morinaga Milk.

• €664 million for Dutch based Heineken to purchase Japanese Kirin’s beer operations in Brazil.

• $640 million for UK based RPC to win US based Letica in packaging.

Among the 41 total, 8 were in dairy followed by 5 each in alcohol, ingredients, packaging and soft drinks.

24 countries featured, led by the United States on 21, then the United Kingdom on 6, the Netherlands on 4 and Japan on 3.

21 were within national borders, including 14 in the United States.

Mar 2, 2017 / Richard Hall

Fruit juice under threat

Many Government recommendations for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day include fruit juice as 1 of the 5.

But fruit juice is now in danger of being cut out. It’s already happened in the Netherlands. Apparently it could happen next in France.

Yet, according to Europe’s ‘Fruit Juice Matters’ campaign, juice is under consumed. “If more people drank a glass per day, we would increase the numbers meeting fruit and vegetable recommendations by 51% … Cutting nutrient-rich juice from diets is really doing more harm than good.”

Once change that would certainly help fruit juice is being able to state on pack that it contains no added sugar. It does not contain added sugars but, under European legislation, is not allowed to say so.

Feb 28, 2017 / Richard Hall

Lower taxes for healthier products

If Governments want to tax us more for less healthy products, why won’t they tax us less for more healthy products ?

There is no law that taxes can only go up, even though it sometimes seems that way.

I’m not an advocate of taxing sugar or even taxing any particular group of products containing sugar. That alone won’t make enough difference to obesity.

But if there are to be sticks, there should also be carrots.

I find it astonishing that two beverages high recommended in many national dietary guidelines are taxed at all and sometimes more than other food and drink products.

In the United Kingdom, the tax rates on a selection of products is:


There’s a new UK campaign called ‘DontTaxHealthy’. They deserve to be heard.

Feb 23, 2017 / Richard Hall

Canada water tax up 13,477%

Turning to other incomprehensible government action, Ontario has increased the charge for extracting water from $3.71 per million litres to $503.71.

This applies to bottled water, but not to water extraction for alcohol and some other purposes.

The Canadian Bottled Water Association has calculated that Ontario’s bottled water industry extracts as much water in a year as ten golf courses.

Guess how many golf courses there are in Ontario. Eight hundred and twenty five !

You couldn’t make this up.