Skip to content
Sep 20, 2018 / Richard Hall

China’s water armies and fake news

Apparently, 20% of social media followers for many Chinese businesses are fake.

Their social media presence is inflated to improve their positioning and profiles are often managed by agencies.

These fake forces are known as water armies, because they pour water into the online dialogue.

The practice gained wider awareness when a $110 million film backed by Alibaba was suddenly withdrawn after just one weekend.

The blame was put on water armies.

I am indebted to the Financial Times magazine on 4th August for this extraordinary insight. But then, if it’s anything to do with beverages, you should be able to rely on bevblog.

Sep 18, 2018 / Richard Hall

Online subscription opportunity

I’ve just been in China again for 2 weeks. Online sales there are booming and I had my first experience of having payment by cash refused.

In the United States, online sales are expected to account for 20% of the grocery total by 2025, upwards of $100 billion.

Online subscriptions were just $57 million in 2011, but rocketed to $2.6 billion in 2016, according to McKinsey.

Numerous beverage companies are already taking advantage:

• Soylent meal replacement drinks started in 2013 with an exclusively e-commerce model, combining Amazon, direct to consumer and subscriptions from an early stage.

• Sudden Coffee backs up its subscription service with discounts and newsletters encouraging free trials.

• Hint water has prioritised direct to consumer subscriptions to have greater customer knowledge.

• Others such as Dirty Lemon functional drinks use SMS text messaging.

Apparently, three key success criteria are ensuring security and transparency to build trust. And one commentator has identified the biggest problem as being … stockpiling.

Sep 17, 2018 / Richard Hall

Record 80 acquisitions in August

August indeed. The mergers and acquisitions database registered an all time record 80 food and drink transactions in the course of the past month.

Many of them were enormous. In fact 6 exceeded not just $1,000 million but also $2,000 million:

• $6,800 million in packaging for Australia’s Amcor to buy US based Bemis
• $5,100 million in coffee for Coca-Cola to acquire UK based Costa from Whitbread
• $3,900 million in cannabis-based non-alcoholic beverages for Constellation Brands to gain 38% of Canada’s Canopy Growth Corp
• $3,200 million in soft drinks for PepsiCo to take over Israel based SodaStream International
• $3,100 million in beer for Heineken to build a 40% stake in China Resources’ CRH Beer
• $2,160 million in meat for US based Tyson Foods to win Keystone Foods from Marfrig of Brazil.

That’s almost $25,000 million from those 6 alone.

The key categories were soft drinks with 14 deals, alcohol with 12, dairy with 11, services with 10 and packaging with 7. Meat, plant-based and snacks came next with 3 each.

44 were domestic affairs. 29 of these were in the United States, with 4 each in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. 36 were across borders.

Of the 80 total, 47 involved the United States, 12 the United Kingdom, 6 Australia, 5 Canada and 4 each France, India and the Netherlands.

11 were funding rounds.

Sep 4, 2018 / Richard Hall


Since my blog on 19 June about dairy alternatives worldwide, the Plant Based Foods Association has published research by Nielsen for the year to 16 June 2018.

This puts US retail sales at $3.3 billion, up 20% on the previous year. The figures include meat and other animal product alternatives, but exclude some outlets and non-dairy products.

The research highlights the scale of advance by non-dairy and non-meat products.

More on plant-based growth

Plant-based milks now account for 13% of total US milk sales. Plant-based meat, however, could prove by far the bigger opportunity.

Aug 30, 2018 / Richard Hall

Beer for health

And wine. But without alcohol.

There’s a huge amount of innovation these days in low alcohol and non-alcoholic beers and wines.

Strong growth is predicted too.

I had thought the primary reasons were centred around:

• general concern about excess alcohol intake
• cultural and social constraints, from religion to drink driving
• improved product taste.

I hadn’t realised there was such a direct correlation with health and obesity:

• not only significantly lower calories
• also lower potential risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and stress
• even suitability for pregnant women.

The global market for non-alcoholic beer and wine has been estimated at $16 billion in 2017, with forecast growth of over 7% a year. That’s a lot higher than most beverage markets.

Aug 28, 2018 / Richard Hall

Functional Beer

There is no doubt in my mind that more of the food we consume in the coming years will offer functional benefits.

It is unlikely, however, that taste and pleasure will diminish in importance.

So, where are the boundaries between food and medicine ?

There are many products testing the limits in dairy especially. But not in beer. Until now.

A Czech brewer Zatec has developed an unusual beer for the Mamma Help breast cancer group.

Mamma Beer is designed to help women combat the side effects of chemotherapy. It is fortified with nutrients such as potassium and vitamin B. It also helps tackle dysgeusia, which affects the taste buds after treatment.

And it’s non-alcoholic.

That seems a degree of innovation worth acknowledging.

Aug 22, 2018 / Richard Hall

65 acquisitions in July

July was another busy month for deals, with 65 transactions and funding rounds recorded on the food and drink mergers and acquisitions database.

Most were relatively small, but two amounted to more than $500 million:

• $1,800 million in foodservice for US Foods to buy Service Group of America’s Food Group

• $695 million in condiments for Huabao to purchase Jiahao Foodstuff in China.

Of the 65 total, 8 were in ingredients, 7 in soft drinks, 5 in dairy and 4 each in alcohol, confectionery, meat, nutrition and services.

Among newcomer categories, 2 were in meat-free, 2 in plant-based, 2 in recycling and 1 in meal kits.

32 were inside individual countries, 22 of these in the United States. 33 were international, led by the United States on 13 including 9 sales, followed by France and the United Kingdom on 8, then the Netherlands on 5, Switzerland on 4 and Australia on 3.

10 of the 65 were funding rounds.

Aug 7, 2018 / Richard Hall

Who’s responsible for our health ?

Another new UK report – there has been a flurry this summer – shows who the public think is responsible for our health.

The report was issued to mark the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service and included the findings from a survey of 2,083 adults aged 15 or over in May 2018.

This is significant because the United Kingdom has the highest obesity levels in West Europe and the report described healthy lifestyles as “the most important influence on people’s health.”

In answer to the question “How much responsibility, if any, do you think that each of the following have for ensuring that people generally stay healthy?”

• 97% said the individual
• 68% said the National Health Service
• 61% said the national government
• 55% said local government and
• 75% said the food and drinks industry.

Yes … food and drink companies are being held more accountable than government.