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Mar 8, 2018 / Richard Hall

54 acquisitions in February

With 54 food and drink transactions recorded in the food and drink mergers and acquisitions database for February, the rate of deal making was as busy as ever.

The character of investment, however, is changing. 8 of the 54 were funding rounds.

The scale of activity was also down for the month. Unusually, there were no trades above $500 million and just 2 over $250 million, both in fresh produce:

• $361 million for Fresh Del Monte Produce to buy Mann Packing in the United States

• €242 million for Ireland’s Total Produce to take a 45% stake in US based Dole.

Of the 54 total, 10 were soft drinks, 7 in dairy, 5 in alcohol, 5 in ingredients, 4 in fresh produce, 4 in packaging and 3 in bakery.

28 were inside national borders, 17 of these in the United States and 7 in the United Kingdom.

24 countries were involved overall, with the United States featuring in 26 of the 54, the United Kingdom in 11, Germany in 4 and Denmark, France, Netherlands and Switzerland each in 3.

Mar 7, 2018 / Richard Hall

Milky tea water in Japan

Most curious of all during my trip to Japan last week was an absolutely clear water drink called Premium Morning Tea.

So you know what to expect of its taste, the bottle carries a picture of a glass of milky tea with ice together with a small jug of milk.

Unfortunately I could not decipher the label to identify how you can create such a taste from a clear drink, but the producer is Suntory and I would readily rely on them to find a way.

I pictured this next to another curiosity – bright pink coloured Pepsi Halloween Cola.

These were both shown to me by Beverage Japan and it’s evident that Japan has some very advanced technology for producing fun tastes and colours as well as fun tastes without any colour at all.

Mar 6, 2018 / Richard Hall

Yogurt tea and yogurt water

Where on earth ? Japan, of course.

I’ve just returned from a fascinating trip there. National dairy market leader Meiji kindly took me round some Tokyo stores and I discovered endless innovative beverage ideas on shelf that went beyond what I’ve ever seen elsewhere. Most notable were some totally different yogurt drinks from quite unexpected sources.

• There was a bright pink Açai Yogurtea, that tastes and looks quite acceptably yogurty, from leading brewer Kirin.

• And I found a clear natural mineral water with ‘Yogurina’ from leading spirits and soft drinks producer Suntory. This tasted similar to many lightly flavoured waters.

I also came across Coca-Cola’s new peach flavour as well as the higher carbonation Pepsi Strong Zero, which I hadn’t seen before.

And I saw three fat and sugar blocking colas – Coca-Cola Plus, Pepsi Special O and Mets Cola.

But most curious of all… I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Mar 1, 2018 / Richard Hall

Water pressure – cities at risk

The danger of Cape Town running out of water is severe enough, but our disrespect for water is far wider.

According to a recent BBC News story:

• 1 in 4 of the world’s 500 biggest cities face water stress.
• 1 billion people have inadequate access to water.
• 2.7 billion people face shortages for at least 1 month a year.
• Fresh water demand will exceed global supply by 40% as early as 2030.

The 12 major cities most at risk were reported as Cape Town, Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami. So no region escapes.

Nor is the Cape Town situation unique. Sao Paulo’s main reservoir dropped to less than 4% of capacity in 2015. Istanbul’s fell below 30% in 2014. Moreover:

• Bangalore loses over 50% of its drinking water through leakage.
• 40% of Beijing’s surface water is unfit even for agriculture or industry.
• 40% of Jakarta is below sea level because of illegal wells.
• London anticipates serious shortages by 2040.

There is certainly enough water. We just don’t use it wisely.

Feb 20, 2018 / Richard Hall

Rethinking coffee

Is coffee about to become as much a cold drink as a hot drink ?

Two recent acquisitions suggest the future of iced coffee could be about to heat up.

Iced coffee has been gaining ground, especially in the United States. It sells at a premium price and has outpaced many other drinks. But its global sales are still relatively niche.

Then along comes the new beverage shake up group of JAB and Mondelez to merge Keurig with Dr Pepper Snapple for $18.7 billion.

One of the reasons put forward by JAB was: “An increasing percentage of coffee is being drunk by millennials – as cold brew or ready-to-drink… For us to be a broad player in the coffee industry, we have to have access to distribution capabilities to tackle these segments.”

This was just after Vietnam’s Masan had spent $75 million on a similar move to buy the remaining 31.5% of Vinacafe. Masan already markets a coffee energy drink called Wake-up 247.

Personally, I’ve been more impressed in the past by the advance of iced teas, but iced coffee is beginning to achieve new appeal, most notably with the smoother taste of cold brewing.

It is no coincidence that Zenith has just issued a new report on ready to drink Coffee Innovation. For further details, go to

Feb 15, 2018 / Richard Hall

Cow urine as health drink

I’m just back from a week in India preparing to organise the first India Beverages Congress.

India is on fine form, with a golden economic decade or more in prospect.

I did not, however, expect to open my copy of The Times of India on 6th February and read of another golden opportunity.

The Principal and Superintendent of the Uttar Pradesh Government’s Ayurveda College and Hospital has announced plans to “collect, process and sell packaged bottles of cow urine as a health drink.

“Drinking 10ml to 20ml cow urine daily will act as a preventive against seasonal diseases like liver, cough and stomach-related ailments. Daily consumption … will also help increase people’s immunity.”

I wonder whether we’ll have to include this innovation in the Congress programme.

Feb 13, 2018 / Richard Hall

63 acquisitions in January

January was a bumper month for food and drink industry transactions, with 63 recorded on the mergers and acquisitions database.

5 deals over $1 billion had a combined value of $61.5 billion:

• $30,000 million in agribusiness for Archer Daniels Midland to buy Bunge in the United States

• $18,700 million for Luxembourg’s JAB Holdings to merge Keurig Green Mountain coffee with Dr Pepper Snapple soft drinks in the United States

• $5,100 million in spirits for Bermuda’s Bacardi to purchase the remainder of Mexico’s Patron

• $4,900 million in packaging for WestRock to take on Kapstone in the United States

• $2,800 million for Italy’s Ferrero to gain Nestlé’s confectionery business.

The spread among the 63 total was broader than usual, with 11 in alcohol, 7 in dairy, 5 in confectionery, 4 in soft drinks, 4 in services and 3 each in equipment, general food, ingredients, nutrition and plant-based.

29 were within national borders, with 19 of these in the United States, 4 in the United Kingdom and 3 in Spain.

34 were international, involving 32 countries.

Of the 63, 29 featured the United States, 11 the United Kingdom, 6 Spain, 5 Switzerland and 4 Italy.

Feb 1, 2018 / Richard Hall

Responsible business – Suntory

Many companies are exploring new ways to reduce the environmental impact of packaging materials and waste.

I am still hesitant about bio-degradable packaging because it can’t be recycled, it takes years to degrade and it might discourage consumers from collecting used packs.

I am much more in favour of bio-based materials, which are derived from food or plant waste.

At present, there are various examples of 30% plant-based PET bottles which can be fully recycled, but none that is 100% plant-based. The technology exists, but not as a commercially viable proposition.

Japan’s Suntory is seeking to do just that. Last month it invested $9 million in a sustainable technology company called Anellotech.

Anellotech is aiming to produce cost-competitive new materials from non-food biomass that will not only enable the commercial development of 100% plant-based PET bottles but will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The target is to have multiple plants in commercial scale operation within 10 years. I’d say we could all benefit from this investment.