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Oct 12, 2017 / Richard Hall

Refillable bottles from Coca-Cola

This seems as if it’s one to watch.

Coca-Cola European Partners has introduced refillable bottles for students and staff at the University of Reading in England, so they can select from over 100 drinks options using Freestyle dispense machines.

The 591ml bottles, which cost £9.95 including 2 free refills, contain a microchip that allows for pre-payment of £12.00 for 10 servings or £39.95 for unlimited use during an academic term.

The University calculated that it disposed of 650,000 plastic bottles last year. 1,500 refillable bottles have been purchased so far.

Filtered water is available free from the vending machines, whatever bottle people bring.

The project is designed not only to encourage healthier choices and reduce waste, it will also cut emissions from deliveries.

Of course, the initial experiments were made in the United States. This is the first international trial.

Oct 10, 2017 / Richard Hall

51 acquisitions in September

September saw a total of 51 transactions recorded on the mergers and acquisitions database.

7 involved sums of $500 million or more and 3 of these exceeded $1,000 million:

• €2,500 million for Mexico’s Femsa to sell a 5.24% stake in the Dutch brewer Heineken

• $1,500 million for Post Holdings to buy the Bob Evans Farms meat business in the United States

• £1,000 million for US based Pilgrim’s Pride to take control of UK based Moy Park from Brazil’s JBS, also in meat.

Of the 51 total, 10 were in ingredients, 7 in alcohol, 6 in meat, 5 in packaging, 4 in soft drinks and 3 each in dairy and snacks. There was also 1 in insects.

23 deals involved the United States, 10 the United Kingdom, 5 Switzerland (all purchases), 4 Australia, 4 Canada (all local) and 3 apiece Belgium, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

23 countries featured, with 20 inside national boundaries and 31 international.

Oct 5, 2017 / Richard Hall

Cheese-topped tea

Most summers, there is no shortage of stories about odd product launch ideas, which make the news because nothing much else is going on and then disappear. But not this year.

Instead, the oddest innovation of 2017 so far seems to be catching on and spreading worldwide.

It’s the phenomenon of adding a savoury, whipped cream-style cheese foam topping to a cup of hot tea.

Apparently, the initiative originated in Taiwan’s food stalls. It then spread to Asian tea houses in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. Now it’s travelled over to the United States.

The foam is made from real cheese or cheese powder. The Heytea brand has four flavours.

This is a story I could not have made up. Is it a trend ? Or is it all froth ?

Oct 3, 2017 / Richard Hall

Food e-commerce insights

There is a lot to digest in Tetra Pak’s latest Index report on The Connected Consumer. I’ve picked out two ingredients of its analysis that jumped off the menu for me.

The first was a world view of online value shares for selected national grocery markets in June 2016, with South Korea the highest by far.


E-commerce is forecast to reach 10% of all food purchases by 2021, reaching over 25% in Korea and more than 15% in the United Kingdom. E-commerce is currently rising by 22% a year for food and drink sales overall and by 38% a year for non-alcoholic drinks.

The second finding of note was the extraordinary spread of social media users posting food and beverage images online. The global figures are:

Food E-Commerce Insights-2

The figures for China are significantly higher, with 93% posting images at least once a month.

Sep 28, 2017 / Richard Hall

Beverage trends – Dear Google

I was delighted to read about Google recently issuing a Beverage Trends Report, but disappointed when I studied its content.

The opportunity was enormous. 4 countries – US, UK, Mexico, Spain. 3 sources – search queries, YouTube and consumer interviews. 2 year time span – April 2015 to March 2017. 3 key trends identified – cold brew coffee, earthy flavours, premium water.

But the headlines did not reflect the details.

• Earthy flavours really meant plant-based.
• Premium water turns out to have been spearheaded by water dispensers.

Moreover, the 62 page report was:

• devoid of quantities, with no baseline and no reference points for comparison, not even between the three selected trends
• lacking any link to sales, market data or shopper decision making.

It would have been more instructive if Google had picked up on declines as well as growth and told us how it predicted noise would convert to action.

It’s great that Google produced this report, but future reports would benefit from more expert content and interpretation.

Dear Google – May I suggest an advisory panel? I’d be pleased to help.

Sep 26, 2017 / Richard Hall

World history of tea

A new 568 page book has been written by Erika Rappaport, with the ambitious title of ‘A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World.’

A review in the Financial Times of 19th August shows the claim is not altogether unfounded. It is a story of how “moralists and marketers” turned “an obscure China drink to a universal beverage imbued with civilising properties.”

• In the 1700s, temperance campaigners promoted tea as “a pleasure that cheered but did not inebriate”.

• Industrialists used this to advance the case for free trade.

• Factory owners appreciated the benefit of having a sober workforce.

• Christian missionaries found tea “would soothe any colonial encounter.”

• In the Second World War, tea service was seen as a “social and patriotic activity that uplifted soldiers and calmed refugees.”

Reviewer Pietra Rivoli summed up the contribution of tea to society as ”more an idea – friendship, community, respect – than a drink.”

Sep 21, 2017 / Richard Hall

US should halt Philadelphia tax

I have long argued that obesity should be tackled urgently and comprehensively.

Evidence last month demonstrates that the Philadelphia soft drinks tax introduced on 1st January merely creates unnecessary car journeys and displaces jobs.

Yes, carbonated soft drinks sales volumes were down 55% in Philadelphia between January and May, but just outside Philadelphia they were up 38%. Bottled water sales were up strongly in the first 6 weeks, but they might have grown as fast anyway.

It’s worth remembering that the tax includes diet soft drinks too and happens to be raising tens of millions of dollars, even if the amount is less than expected.

Sep 19, 2017 / Richard Hall

US halts national parks ban

This was one of the more astonishingly bad ideas conceived by public authorities in recent years. In 2011, the US National Park Service approved a ban on selling bottled water in single serve containers. The policy was implemented by 23 national parks.

It took 6 years to realise they had had a Simpsons D’oh! moment.

The ban didn’t help the environment because other drinks’ bottles were heavier and contained ingredients with a higher carbon footprint.

It didn’t make anyone healthier because most alternatives contained calories and were sweetened.

According to the International Bottled Water Association, research has shown that, “when bottled water isn’t available, 63% of people will choose soda or another sugary drink – not tap water.”

Fortunately, Americans have more common sense, as 92% believe bottled water should be available wherever other beverages are sold.