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Jun 14, 2018 / Richard Hall

Safeguarding access to water

According to one estimate, it will take an investment of $449 billion a year to achieve the water availability targets set out by the United Nations for 2030.

Another estimate puts the total required at $6,700 billion.

Today, the World Health Organisation and Unicef calculate that 2.1 billion people still don’t have access to safe drinking water and 4.5 billion lack adequate sanitation.

The financial world is taking more note and some have gone so far as to characterise water as the ‘new oil’ or ‘blue gold’.

In fact, the Chief Executive of Suez has predicted that water ‘could become more valuable than oil’.

His assessment is a stark warning. “Companies will have to rely on wastewater recycling or desalination … If astronauts can drink their own recycled urine, then we can also drink treated waste water. From ‘toilet to tap’ is a challenge for the public to accept, whereas from ‘showers to flowers’ does appeal.”

I’ve always thought this will be increasingly reflected in the valuations of protected natural water sources, but possibly more in the long term than the short term.

Jun 12, 2018 / Richard Hall

Running out of water

Well, Cape Town didn’t in the end.

Now satellite data from NASA on fresh water reserves has identified dozens of regions around the world at high risk, including the Middle East, the Caspian sea, northern India and north east China.

Out of 34 regions where there has been the greatest change in fresh water availability, human activity is the primary cause in 14 and climate is the primary cause in 8.

The Financial Times on 17th May noted that “prolonged droughts in California, eastern Brazil and the Middle East led to depleted groundwater reserves.”

An author of the study has concluded that “water insecurity is much closer than we think.”

When I was in Hong Kong last week, one of the regional newspapers charted the levels of water in all of Hong Kong’s reservoirs because of low rainfall in May. Reassuringly, it was raining as I left for the airport.

Jun 7, 2018 / Richard Hall

67 acquisitions in May

May was a massive month for food and drink transactions, with 67 being recorded on the mergers and acquisitions database. Do take a look at or

6 deals topped $500 million, including 4 above $1,000 million and 2 over $5,000 million.

• At $7,150 million, Nestlé’s acquisition of Starbucks ready to drink retail rights outside its outlets was just ahead of

• $7,100 million in ingredients for US-based IFF to buy Israel’s Frutarom.

• £1,500 million was the price agreed for UK-based Pret A Manger to move from Bridgepoint private equity to JAB Holdings.

• $1,000 million enabled Middleby to buy Taylor Company in equipment from United Technologies in the United States.

Of the 67 total, 8 were in ingredients, 7 in alcohol, 7 in soft drinks, 6 in dairy, 6 in packaging, 5 in snacks, 4 in equipment, 4 in nutrition and 4 in meat-free/vegan.

17 were funding rounds of some kind.

29 countries featured in May. 30 deals were within national borders, 23 of these in the United States. 37 were international.

Overall, the United States was involved in 36, the United Kingdom in 16, France in 6, the Netherlands in 5, Israel in 4, Germany in 3 and Switzerland in 3.

May 17, 2018 / Richard Hall

New alternatives to plastic

There are, of course, numerous alternatives to plastic already – paper, glass, metal and more. Plastic has many forms too. All have advantages and disadvantages.

I’ve noted four innovations in recent weeks that seem worthy of greater attention.

• In February, Tetra Pak announced it had produced 500 million beverage cartons entirely from renewable materials including the cap. The Tetra Rex bio-based cartons were introduced in October 2014, using paperboard certified by the Forest Sustainability Council and plastic caps derived from sugar cane.

• More companies are using opaque plant-based bottles that look like plastic, such as the US So Delicious Organic Almondmilk with Cashew launched in February. The bottle is 80% plant-based from sugar cane and can be recycled.

• Mondi has created a new recyclable plastic laminate, known as BarrierPack Recyclable, consisting of 2 PE film layers to make pouches.

• CCL Label has developed a new EcoSource label, which provides a bottle sleeve with up to 94% bio-based material.

Bio-based materials offer an increasingly important alternative to oil-based materials, if that’s what society chooses for the future.

BLOG-17MAY2018-1-Tetra Rex Bio-Based Cartons

BLOG-17MAY2018-2-So Delicious



May 16, 2018 / Richard Hall

Making plastic acceptable

One question I have often asked myself is what level of plastic collection and recycling would make it acceptable ?

Recent statistics from Germany’s Forum PET show that:

• Almost 99% of “mandatory PET deposit bottles are collected for recycling in Germany.”

• “93.5% of disposable and reusable bottles are recycled – and up to 98% for disposable deposit bottles.”

• “34% of the recycled material is processed into new PET bottles”, with packaging film using 27% and textile fibres 23%.

• 80% of the PET is recycled in Germany and the rest is exported to neighbouring countries rather than Asia.

One answer is for all countries to ensure as much as possible is both collected and recycled. That won’t halt the debate, but it will reduce the problem.

May 15, 2018 / Richard Hall

Mixed messages on plastic

I am an admirer of plastic. It has made food and drink safer and more affordable, with better presentation and less product waste.

But its ubiquity has led to carelessness and our wildlife as well as seas are suffering.

There is so much that can be done to improve this.

The first is better understanding.

I have written before about confusion over the word ‘bio’.

• In many countries, bio means organic – nothing to do with packaging at all.

• Bio-based means from plant materials, as opposed to from oil, but bio-based does not necessarily decompose naturally.

• Bio-degradable will eventually break down, but this can still take a matter of years unless it is accelerated by a range of composting techniques.

Yet more confusion surrounds bio-degrading compared with recycling.

• Recycling preserves a material and gives it second life, sometimes even continuous life.

• Bio-degrading has great advantages in some circumstances but discards the material and may create gas emissions.

And then there is the question of what is plastic ?

• When the Dutch supermarket Ekoplaza opened the world’s first plastic-free aisle, most of the packaging still looked like … plastic.

My final point about understanding relates to recycling.

• We naturally think that recycling one bottle into another bottle, known as closed loop recycling, is a good thing – which it is.

• But sometimes it may be more viable to convert plastic into building or clothing materials.

• We may also assume that everything collected for recycling is actually recycled, but it isn’t.

All these confusions, added to our own emotional reactions, make an already complex issue far more difficult.

May 10, 2018 / Richard Hall

Organic momentum renewed

Organic is undoubtedly part of the ‘natural’ trend that encompasses related themes such as local and authentic, transparency and provenance.

After the 2008 economic downturn, however, organic growth faltered along with other premium and functional concepts.

Today, organic seems back on the front foot.

• UK organic food and drink purchases rose 6% in 2017, compared with 2% growth for non-organic products.

• This took sales to their highest ever level of £2,200 million in 2017, breaking the 2008 record of £2,100 million.

• Dairy products accounted for the biggest share of 29%. Chilled and delicatessen products achieved the biggest increase of 21%.

• Just 3 chains – Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – were responsible for 70% of all supermarket trade.

It is no coincidence that Arla Foods has stepped up its focus on the organic opportunity with its purchase of Yeo Valley Dairies.

• According to Nielsen research, organic milk has reached 29% of fresh milk sales in Denmark, with a share of 16% in Sweden and 10% in Germany, but only 4% in the United Kingdom.

• Arla’s Organic Free Range milk is reported to have driven 60% of all UK organic milk growth in the past year.

May 9, 2018 / Richard Hall

61 acquisitions in April

April saw several large scale food and drink industry transactions among the 61 recorded on the mergers and acquisitions database.

7 amounted to more than $500 million, with 3 of these topping $1,000 million:

• $9,500 million for China’s Alibaba to buy the food delivery service.

• $4,200 million for US based Procter & Gamble to purchase German based Merck’s consumer health unit.

• $1,320 million for Canada’s Transcontinental to take on the Coveris Americas packaging business from US based Sun Capital Partners.

Alcohol was the most popular sector with 13 deals, followed by soft drinks on 6, with nutrition and services on 5 each, ingredients and packaging on 4, then plant-based and seafood on 3.

27 occurred within single countries, including 15 in the United States, and 34 were international.

30 of the 61 total featured the United States, followed by 8 for the United Kingdom, then 5 for Australia, Canada, France and Spain.