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Jul 18, 2017 / Richard Hall

Governments not serious about obesity

Concern about the impact of obesity and the need to tackle it is spreading, but most of the policies that follow are hollow.

Take last month’s encouraging call by EU health ministers. They argued for better education, more informative labelling and greater control over advertising to children. They called on countries to improve unhealthy diets and boost physical activity. But they stopped at guidelines and left it there.

The European Health Commissioner has gone further in supporting sugar taxes, but that is only one aspect of the debate.

Estonia has just adopted a sugar tax, but this only applies to beverages. It also includes flavoured milks, plant-based drinks and zero calorie drinks with sweeteners.

It doesn’t really seem policy makers are sufficiently serious because they are not adopting comprehensive measures.

Jul 13, 2017 / Richard Hall

Milk should be milk

It never caused me much difficulty that soya based products used words like milk to describe what they are seeking to replace.

Many words have been stretched, even abused, through history – from democratic to natural – but few people have been misled.

Water is another word applied to a range of products, notably cosmetics as well as beverages. I only protested (and won) when a boiled sweet was marketed as offering hydration benefits.

Yet I was quietly pleased when the European Court of Justice ruled last month that use of words such as milk and cheese should be treated with more care.

It seems the ruling was not as categoric as some press reports made out. Coconut milk and almond milk are among the exceptions, but the principle has been asserted and I think it is a good one.

Jul 11, 2017 / Richard Hall

Truth about free from

I have every sympathy with people who are not able to enjoy certain foods because of allergies or medical conditions.

I also have no problem with others who avoid particular products out of a lifestyle choice.

What concerns me, however, is that some of the medical reasons are based on supposition and many of the lifestyle reasons are based on misinformation.

For example, I read recently that gluten-free products typically contain far more fat and less protein than those they are seeking to replace.

A study comparing 654 gluten-free samples with their regular equivalents concluded they are an obesity risk after finding “significantly higher” fat levels and up to two thirds less protein.

Elsewhere, I learned that natural whole milk contains 8 times more protein than some plant-based milks.

Our diets and choices would definitely be better served if substitutes were either comparable or at least transparent about key differences.

Jul 6, 2017 / Richard Hall

55 acquisitions in June

June saw 55 food and drink transactions recorded on the mergers and acquisitions database.

3 involved sums of $1,000 million or more. The biggest, at $3,500 million, was for just a 1.25% stake. The buyer was US based Third Point, taking a strategic interest in the world’s largest food group Nestlé.

The other 2 hitting $1,000 million were:

• $1,146 million in packaging for UK based DS Smith to buy an 80% stake in US based Interstate Resources

• $1,000 million in spirits for UK based Diageo to acquire US based Casamigos.

Among the 55 total, 11 were in alcohol, 8 in soft drinks, 7 in packaging, 5 in ingredients, 4 in meat and 3 in dairy.

29 were within national borders, 16 of these in the United States, 6 in the United Kingdom and 3 in Canada.

26 were international, covering 25 countries.

Of the total, 28 featured the United States, 14 the United Kingdom, 5 Canada, 4 Italy, 3 France and 3 Ireland.

Jun 20, 2017 / Richard Hall

59 acquisitions in May

An active month. 59 food and drink transactions were recorded on the mergers and acquisitions database during May, including a record 11 on a single day – the 24th.

Exceptionally, however, there were none over $1 billion or even $500 million. The biggest in May was the $446 million US private equity purchase of Nutraceutical International by HGGC.

Of the 59, 10 were in alcohol, 10 in soft drinks, 5 in dairy, 5 in nutrition and 3 each in bakery, equipment, frozen food, ingredients, meat and packaging.

The deals took place across 24 countries. 35 were within national boundaries, including 19 in the United States and 8 in the United Kingdom. 24 were international.

Overall, the United States featured in 28, the United Kingdom in 14 and Germany in 4, then China, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Spain each in 3.

Jun 15, 2017 / Richard Hall

Brain fuel launch by Nestle

Last month, Nestlé launched a milk powder in China for people over the age of 50, to help their brains stay fitter for longer.

It’s a remarkable ambition. The Yiyang brand already offers an array of protein and nutrition powders for adult nutrition.

This goes further in seeking to improve brain response and memory, thereby delaying the effects of ageing.

The market could be huge as the proportion of the Chinese population over 50 is expected to rise from the current 28% to around 50% by 2050.

“As an old Chinese saying goes, ‘diet cures more than the doctors’,” a Nestlé representative commented.

Jun 13, 2017 / Richard Hall

Truth about action on obesity

“You can’t just pull 1 or 2 policy levers, you need to pull 50.” This was the conclusion of Richard Dobbs, Senior Partner at McKinsey and author of a major study on obesity in 2014, commenting recently on its $2 trillion global economic impact.

He made 3 other observations, which also chimed with my own thinking.

• ‘Politicians are distracted by single policies’, such as soda taxes, because it is easier to target a single sector than a coalition of resistance.

• ‘Industry lacks the level playing field that regulation can create’, such as common international nutrient profile standards for claims.

• “Everyone from retailers and manufacturers to the drug companies … were all united in wanting to fix the problem. “

It’s time for policy makers to focus on ingestion not gesture.

Jun 9, 2017 / Richard Hall

UK diet – what else ?

Concluding my selection of highlights from the latest British Government Family Food survey, I note:

• Meat consumption has generally been falling, while fish consumption has tended to rise.

• Bread purchases, excluding pre-packed sandwiches, have dropped by 50% in 50 years.

• Potato purchases have fallen 20% since 2005, with fresh potatoes declining most.

• Sodium intake is in long term decline, but still 11% above the recommended maximum 2.4 grams per day, at 2.65 grams in 2015.

• Eating out accounted for 11% of total energy intake and 22% of sodium intake in 2015.

• All vitamin and mineral intakes reached 100% or more of the minimum Reference Nutrient Intake where set, except for potassium.

• Fibre intake at 14.5 grams per person per day is 3.5 grams below the recommended 18 grams.

• Between 2007 and 2015, households saved 4.8% on unit prices by trading down to cheaper products. Poorer households traded down less.