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May 23, 2017 / Richard Hall

Diffusiophoresis – don’t be put off

According to The Economist magazine on 20th May, based on research by Princeton University and published in Nature Communications, this could be the solution to many of the world’s problems with water access and quality.

It’s only at an experimental stage, but the test was remarkably successful. It:

• removed 99.95% of particles
• used under one thousandth of the energy required for membrane filtration
• is cheap and should prove easy to maintain
• only requires carbon dioxide.

My explanation may not be sufficient, but essentially the process involves:

• a flow of water with
• gas permeable membranes on either side,
• one containing carbon dioxide and
• one containing air.

As the carbon dioxide moves from one side to the other, the positively charged particles gravitate towards it and the negatively charged particles gravitate towards the air, leaving the main flow clean.

We may well hear more about diffusiophoresis.

May 18, 2017 / Richard Hall


You wouldn’t find it hard to guess 4 of the top 6 soft drinks brands sold online in the United States, but what about the other 2 ?

According to 1010data as reported on Bloomberg, Coca-Cola was number 1, Pepsi 3, Mountain Dew 4 and Sprite 6 in the year to February 2017.

The other 2 were not Dr Pepper, Fanta or 7Up.

No 2 was zero calorie Zevia with a 17% share to Coke’s 22% and Pepsi’s 12%. No 5 was Hansen’s on 4%, behind Mountain Dew on 5% but in front of Sprite on 3%.

On Amazon earlier this month, Coca-Cola variants took 3 of the top 4 positions and Dr Pepper Snapple’s recently acquired Bai Bubbles Voyager was number 2.

May 16, 2017 / Richard Hall

“Fizzy water makes us fat”

There’s only one place you could expect to find a story like this. A national newspaper, where it took up nearly a half page. I guessed immediately.

A University study was conducted on 16 rat siblings with 4 different drinks, 2 fizzy and 2 still. The rats consuming fizz became heavier than the rats consuming still. Oddly, neither of the fizz options were plain sparkling water.

A second test was conducted on 20 adults. Those drinking sparkling water at breakfast were hungrier.

Hey presto. Dream headline: “Eau No! Now Scientists say fizzy WATER makes us fat”. Thank you, The Mail on Sunday of 14 May. Can’t see the connection myself.

May 11, 2017 / Richard Hall

Sugar tax quiz

I didn’t make this up. The answer is really quite shocking.

Nielsen has just undertaken a Sugar Tax Survey of 500 UK consumers. How many do you think were aware that the new levy in April 2018 only applies to soft drinks ?

Well, some 8 out 10 knew about the tax.

Two thirds thought it applies to confectionery, 59% said chocolate, 57% picked out biscuits and 56% selected cakes.

28% did not think it applies to soft drinks at all.

And the number who correctly knew it only affects soft drinks ? 0%. 0 people. No one. Not even one.

May 9, 2017 / Richard Hall

53 acquisitions in April

April saw continued strength in the level of food and drink transactions recorded on the mergers and acquisitions database as well as an increase in the number of greater value.

Out of the 53 total, 7 amounted to more than $500 million, with 4 over $1,000 million.

• $7,500 million for Luxembourg-based JAB Holdings to buy US-based Panera Bread

• $4,200 million for Tyson Foods to purchase AdvancePierre Foods in the US

• $1,760 million for Post Holdings of the US to take over the Weetabix cereals business in the UK from China’s Bright Food Group

• $1,200 million for Loews Corporation to gain Consolidated Container Company from Bain Capital in the US and create Loews Packaging Group

• $856 million for Atkins Nutritionals to merge with Conyers Park in the US and form The Simply Good Foods Company

• $660 million for Ashland to absorb the Pharmachem Laboratories ingredients business in the US

• $600 million for Germany’s Klöckner Pentaplast to take on UK-based Linpac in packaging.

8 of the 53 were in alcohol, 7 in soft drinks, 6 in ingredients, 4 each in bakery, meat, packaging and services, 3 each in dairy and snacks.

32 were within national boundaries, including 21 in the US and 7 in the UK. 21 were international, involving a lower than normal 20 countries.

The main countries overall were the US on 31, UK on 16, then Australia and Germany on 3 each.

May 4, 2017 / Richard Hall

Fake news in beverages

Two prominent media stories in the past few days prompted me to dive into the detail so I could find out how true they really were.

The first was the front page splash about “Diet cola link to dementia and strokes”, stating that “Drinking a diet cola a day almost triples your risk”.

The study was admittedly big – 4,300 people in the US over 10 years. But the samples for drinking habits were smaller and the incidence of strokes and dementia was 3% and 5%.

Moreover, the study made no claims about cause and effect. Critics said even the association with diet drinks was weakened after taking account of other factors such as hypertension and diabetes.

It was also pointed out that “Public Health England is actively encouraging food and drink companies to use low calorie sweeteners as an alternative to sugar and help people manage their weight.”

The second was the California Berkeley soda tax being hailed as a success because it led to a 9.6% sales drop after a year.

In fact, it transpires untaxed diet soda sales fell 9.2% over the same period. And sales outside the tax area increased by 6.9%.

The tax may have raised $1.4 million. But was it worth it ? I very much doubt it had any real impact other than annoyance, more traffic and more paperwork. The self-reported consumption decline of 6 calories a day was reported to be “not statistically significant”.

Apr 28, 2017 / Richard Hall

Bottled water environmental impact

The International Bottled Water Association issued some encouraging statistics to coincide with Earth Day on 21 April. For bottled water in the United States:

• The average weight of a 50cl PET bottle has fallen to 9.25 grams, under 40% of the 23.9 gram average for soda.

• It takes just 1.32 litres of water to produce 1 litre of finished product, the lowest for any packaged beverage.

• Less energy is required than for any other packaged drink.

• Using recycled PET requires 84% less energy than virgin PET.

• Water cooler bottles are re-used 30-50 times and then recycled.

• The share of beverage containers that end up in landfills is 66.7% glass, 13.3% soda PET, 7.9% aluminium and 3.3% water PET.

Apr 25, 2017 / Richard Hall

Food and you – part 2

The UK Food Standards Agency has now issued the detailed tables behind its 4th biennial Food & You Survey, based on interviews with 3,118 adults in 2016. They show what I think is best summarised as less good and less bad than you might expect.

26% miss out on dairy daily and 63% miss out on cooked vegetables daily.

The biggest changes appear to be an increase in eggs 3 or more times a week from 31% in 2012 to 35% in 2016 and a drop in beef, lamb or pork 3 or more times a week from 26% in 2012 to 18% in 2016.

There have been relatively minor changes in the consumption of fruit, vegetables or fish.

I do hope the next survey includes beverages as well.