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Apr 12, 2018 / Richard Hall


Well, it hasn’t failed if its true purpose was to boost Government tax revenue. In just 4 years, the Mexican soft drinks levy has generated $5,500 million of extra tax payments.

But, it was supposed to reduce obesity and there is no sign of that.

An exclusive interview on with ANPRAC, the Mexican soft drinks association, shows:

• Mexicans consume an average 3,072 calories per day; and
• the contribution from soft drinks has fallen by just 6.6 calories per day, a negligible 0.2%.

This is despite:

• soft drinks price increases at twice the rate of inflation; and
• a 7% reduction in the average calorie content of all soft drinks in the last 6 years.

The social consequences, however, have been serious:

• 30,000 small stores have closed, according to ANPEC, the small traders alliance; and
• 62% of the amount collected has come from the lowest income households – “the pattern of consumption of the lowest strata has not changed significantly … their economic wellbeing has been affected.”

It remains clear to me that obesity does need tackling and this requires a comprehensive strategy across all food and drink involving information, education, communication, activity and incentive.

My greatest concern is that ineffective action, as in Mexico, merely delays effective action, by creating the illusion of a strategy which is really no strategy at all.

I fear the same for this month’s new taxes in South Africa and the United Kingdom as well as next month’s in Ireland.

Apr 10, 2018 / Richard Hall

56 acquisitions in March

March seems to have been an average month for food and drink transactions, with 56 registered on the mergers and acquisitions database. Link

3 amounted to more than $500 million:

• $1,600 million in dairy for France’s Danone to reduce its stake in Japan’s Yakult from 21.29% to 6.61%.

• $700 million in nutrition for Clorox to buy Nutranext in the United States.

• €522 million in ingredients for Switzerland’s Givaudan to purchase 40.6% of France’s Naturex.

Among the 56 total, 7 were in soft drinks, 6 in packaging, 5 in alcohol, 5 in dairy, 4 in ingredients and 4 in snacks.

5 were in relatively new categories – 3 in meal kits, 1 in insects and 1 in plant-based. 11 were funding rounds.

31 were within national borders – 18 of these in the United States and 5 in the United Kingdom. 25 were international. 24 countries were involved overall.

The United States featured in 28, the United Kingdom in 9, Canada in 6, Germany in 6, followed by Australia, Denmark and France on 4 each.

Apr 3, 2018 / Richard Hall

World record pizza

It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, but it so easily could have been.

Two weeks ago a pizza was served with a topping from 111 different cheeses.

Guinness World Records acknowledged the feat by awarding it the record for “Greatest Variety of Cheese on a Pizza.”

Quite an acheesement. But where ? It couldn’t have been Italy, could it ? No, it was Germany.

Mar 29, 2018 / Richard Hall

Lower interest rates by doing good

This came from Forbes. It’s a significant change of approach by the financial world. And by a publicly quoted company.

Danone from France has secured the world’s first credit facility, amounting to $2 billion, where the interest rate it must pay is lowered “if Danone increases its verified positive impact on the world”.

More technically, the rate is “explicitly tied to its third-party-verified ESG performance.” ESG stands for Environment Social Governance.

One of the reported key ESG criteria is the “percentage of Danone’s consolidated sales from its certified B Corp subsidiaries. Higher B Corp sales equals lower cost of capital.” B Corps are for profit companies independently certified to meet specific standards of benefit through transparency, accountability, social and environmental performance.

So far, there are over 2,400 B Corporations in more than 50 countries.

I believe this could catch on.

Mar 27, 2018 / Richard Hall

100% fruit juice with 30% less sugar

One great attraction of 100% fruit juice is that it’s all natural with nothing added.

One problem with this is that it’s not been possible to have a 100% fruit juice with less calories.

Until now.

The first time this came to my attention was earlier in March when I saw that Joker in France had launched a 100% fruit juice with 30% less sugar, because some of the juice was coconut water.

This lowers the calorie content from 44 calories per 100ml in pure orange juice with or without pulp to 37 calories per 100ml for the new range, a calorie reduction of 16%.

I’ve also seen that Welch’s in the United States has adopted a similar strategy. Its Tropical Berry Grape “100% juice with coconut water” contains 100 calories per 240ml serving, compared with 140 calories per 240ml serving for other 100% juices.

That’s 29% fewer calories. I wonder how far this idea can develop.

Mar 22, 2018 / Richard Hall

Reinventing drinks

I speculated some time ago about opportunities for selling drinks that are not drinks.

There are many examples of tablets, capsules, concentrates, powders, twist-caps and punch-caps that sell separately from, and can be added to or attached to, bottles for dispense and consumption.

Little did I expect a lead would be taken by one of the world’s biggest soft drinks manufacturers.

PepsiCo trialled its Drinkfinity concept in Brazil in 2014. Now it’s being launched in both the United States and United Kingdom.

The US prices are not low. The UK prices are higher. £35 for 1 reusable bottle and 16 single-serve pods. £20 for the bottle. £6.50 for a pack of 4 pods.

The pricing may change, but the strategy is of note:

• Re-usable bottles to answer growing concerns about single-use plastic.

• Online sales only to create a direct relationship with consumers and avoid a separate margin for retailers.

• Reduction in the transport of water in bottles.

• Acceptance of tap water as a potential consumer choice.

This is a radical break with retail tradition. One question I have is how much the environmental impact of individual home delivery will differ from the environmental impact of transporting water.

Mar 15, 2018 / Richard Hall

Wake up call on recycling

Could UK plastic recycling really be as low as 23%, when it’s reported to be 39%?

Unfortunately, that seems entirely possible. Probable, even.

The reasons are multiple:

• Plastic usage is grossly understated. The figure is based on the amount of packaging “placed on the market”, but this excludes smaller producers and has no robust mechanism for capturing imports, exports or online sales.

• A new analysis by the Eunomia consultancy argues that actual plastic use is between 36% and 73% higher than officially estimated.

• Plastic collection is seriously overstated because the measured weight of waste includes a combination of residues, moisture and contaminants.

• Two thirds of UK plastic collected for recycling is exported and no one has a full view of what really happens then. Eunomia estimates “losses of anywhere between 10% and 40%.” It also cites a Netherlands study indicating conversion of “little more than 50%”.

I’d wish to be a defender of the good that packaging can do. But it is not acceptable if public policy is based on incomplete figures.

Mar 13, 2018 / Richard Hall

Beauty is more than skin deep

It must be true that ‘what you are is what you eat’, but this is clearly not the whole story.

More food, drink and supplement products today are designed to improve our skin appearance from within. Apparently, the global beauty supplements market alone is forecast to reach over $7 billion by 2023.

This has all been put into a fresh perspective in a review entitled ‘Nutraceuticals and skin appearance: Is there any evidence to support this growing trend?’ in the March issue of Nutrition Bulletin, published by the British Nutrition Foundation.

There were some positive findings. Vitamins A, B2, B3, B7 and C along with minerals iodine and zinc were ‘proven to contribute to the maintenance of normal skin’ and ‘deficiency of these essential micronutrients could result in skin abnormalities’.

But other ingredients such as borage oil, carotenoids, co-enzyme Q10, collagen, evening primrose oil, fish oil, green tea extract and pomegranate extract offered limited evidence ‘to suggest that, as nutraceutical ingredients, they could provide any real anti-ageing benefit to skin’.

The British Nutrition Foundation concluded that “while there is a body of research on the science of skin ageing, evidence for the benefit of nutraceuticals to skin appearance is currently not strong enough to draw firm conclusions”. It advised that eating a nutritious diet, not smoking, not drinking excess amounts of alcohol and using sunscreen were likely to be both more effective and healthier.