Consumers are confused about the definition of plant-based, survey finds

Dive Brief:

  • Plant-based and clean-eating are two diet choices gaining popularity, but not everyone knows what those terms mean, according to the International Food Information Council’s annual Food and Health Survey. The survey was conducted online by Greenwald & Associates on behalf of the IFIC. Participants were 1,012 Americans ages 18 to 80.
  • Clean eating was the most frequently cited diet of those surveyed, with 10% saying they follow that eating style. Another popular option was plant based, even though people expressed confusion surrounding the definition.
  • About 32% of those surveyed described a plant-based diet as vegan, while almost the same number (30%) described it as a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods that come from plants. Another 20% thought it was a vegetarian diet, and 8% said the diet encouraged eating a maximum amount of fruits and vegetables with no limit on consuming animal meat, eggs and dairy.

Dive Insight:

Labeling has become a hot discussion point in the last few years. From Food and Drug Administration regulations — or lack thereof — of definitions of “healthy” and “natural,” to the term “milk” becoming a point of contention between the dairy industry and its plant-based competition, a lot of what is printed on today’s food and beverage products asks consumers to read between the lines. And it seems like manufacturers may be causing more confusion than clarity.

Although IFIC recently released another survey that found about three-quarters of consumers know that plant-based milk doesn’t contain cow’s milk, this more recent survey demonstrates that when it comes to foods and beverages overall, the terminology isn’t clear cut. That may be due to people’s different exposure to plant-based diets as a whole.

Americans across the country aren’t eating the exact same foods, so their familiarity with the versions of plant-based diets vary with circumstance. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the most vegan-friendly cities in America are concentrated on the coasts and more liberal cities like Austin, Texas. Unsurprisingly, the Huffington Post reported more liberal individuals are more likely to be vegan or follow a plant-based diet. What is surprising, however, is that less affluent consumers tend to also be vegan.

With different social circumstances and backgrounds affecting consumers’ associations with what “plant based” means, it’s no wonder there is little consensus. To help straighten this out, companies will likely have to work with trade associations and regulatory bodies to agree upon the best practices for using the term. Leaving the label nebulous could result in lost sales or unhappy customers, depending on the set of expectations each individual carries into a purchase. 

As for clean eating, although IFIC did not report any confusion over the use of the term, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Shoppers have started to see chemical-sounding ingredients as red flags for products they don’t want to put in their bodies. Although manufacturers have tried to respond, it’s a bit of a challenge for the industry to provide foods with fewer ingredients and the same functionality. This has caused consumer confusion, conflating the terms “clean” and “healthy.” Consumers often take issue with multi-syllabic words that sound like chemical formulas, but are actually common ingredients. Regulatory requirements, for example, require vitamin E to be labeled “tocopherol.” 

The result of the intersection of the clean eating trend with regulatory requirements, Roger Clemens, the former president of the Institute of Food Technologists, told Food Dive earlier this year, causes confusion. “The consumer wants clean to be simple, but in the science of food, clean is not simple.” 

Both plant-based and clean eating trends are tied into the wider push toward sustainability. As consumers look to keep both themselves and the planet healthy, they are searching for minimally processed products with the fewest ingredients and the least environmental impact possible. Until the trend toward environmental sustainability takes a back seat, it is unlikely that either clean eating or plant-based trends will disappear. It would behoove manufacturers to work toward a consensus on what these terms mean — either through regulation or continued conversations with consumers — to provide clarity.

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Study: Juice is worse for health than soda

Dive Brief:

  • A new study published in JAMA Network found that each 12-ounce daily serving of fruit juice is associated with a 24% higher mortality risk. Juice was more hazardous than other sweet drinks, researchers discovered. Each 12-ounce daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages — like soda and non-juice drinks — was linked to an 11% higher mortality risk.
  • Researchers could not make similar connections between sugary beverage consumption and death from coronary heart disease, saying longer-term research was needed to draw any sort of conclusion.
  • The study was conducted by researchers from Cornell University, Emory University and the University of Alabama who observed 13,440 adults 45 and older for an average of six years. The data was analyzed from November 2017 to December 2018. 

Dive Insight:

This is the latest study that warns against the potential dangers of juices and sugary drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends children younger than 1 not be given fruit juice because of its high sugar content. Also, recent Consumer Reports tests showed elevated levels of heavy metals in 21 of 45 different juices tested.

Consumers have become more concerned about sugar consumption in recent years, and this study validates their apprehension. According to this study, the nutrient content of 100% fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages is very similar. While juice has vitamins and phytonutrients that sugar-sweetened beverages don’t, sugar and water are the main ingredients in both, and the biochemical response when they are metabolized is the same. Linking both juices and sugary beverages to increased risk of death is a way to worry both consumers and the juice industry.

The study used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, which enrolled participants from 2003 to 2007 and conducted follow-ups every six months through 2013. The research pointed out the study’s strengths and weaknesses. While the data from the REGARDS study used a validated dietary assessment instrument, breaking out this part of the study included only a small number of participants who died during the relatively short follow-up period. The data was also limited by participants reporting their own beverage consumption — and their inability to estimate how much they drank of all types of sugary beverages, including sweetened teas.

The industry has already started to come out against the results. The Florida Department of Citrus, a state agency that oversees marketing, research and regulation of the state’s citrus fruits, found several limitations, according to Food Business News. The agency said the group studied was rather homogenous, being mainly white men who were obese and overweight. The study focused on 12-ounce servings, while consumers looking at 100% fruit juice labels see information broken down for 8-ounce servings. The dietary data was also only collected once.

The department also noted that other research has shown no association between drinking 100% orange juice and health problems such as being overweight or obese, and orange juice provides vitamins and minerals.

“Suggesting that a higher consumption of 100% fruit juice is associated with an increase in all causes of mortality without acknowledging the limitations of the study leads to confusion and conflicting messages for consumers,” the department told Food Business News

Different study results and interpretations could confuse consumers who prefer healthier beverages and aren’t clear whether fruit juice fits the bill. It may help them figure it out when the FDA’s added sugar information requirements on Nutrition Facts panels officially kicks in, or if the agency ever redefines what the term “healthy” means. However, those won’t be perfect measures either, since 100% juice will still have a high sugar content, but no added sugars.

While research like this can inspire reformulation, there’s not much that 100% juice products can do to change. If more in the juice industry agree with the shortcomings called out by the Florida Department of Citrus, it may make sense for researchers and industry to quickly put together another study specifically targeting juice’s impact on health before this report can do much damage to the total market.

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Ultra-processed foods lead to weight gain, study says

Dive Brief:

  • Eating ultra-processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt causes overeating and weight gain when contrasted with a diet of whole foods or minimally processed ones, according to a new study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, is the first randomized, controlled trial to show these findings.
  • The study admitted 10 male and 10 female adults to the NIH Clinical Center’s Metabolic Clinical Research Unit for 28 days, where they were randomly given either an ultra-processed or unprocessed diet for two weeks, followed by two weeks of an alternate diet. They were told to eat as much or as little as they wished.
  • Participants who ate the ultra-processed diet consumed an average of 508 more calories daily and gained 2 pounds on average over the two-week period. Those on the minimally processed diet lost about 2 pounds on average over that same time. 

Dive Insight:

These study results could have a significant impact on manufacturers of ultra-processed foods. It’s the first randomized, controlled trial of its kind to show that eating two different diets — with the same total amount of calories, fats, protein, sugar, salt, carbs and fiber — can still lead to weight gain because participants ate more ultra-processed foods. 

Processed foods have already gained a bad rap with consumers in recent years. Shoppers have grown more wary of unpronounceable ingredients and more studies have shown the potential negative impact of ultra-processed foods. Besides the connection between ultra-processed foods and weight gain, previous studies have linked them with cancer and early death. In addition, eating more fresh produce and whole grains has been linked to a lower risk of cancer.

Many foods sold in the U.S. are ultra-processed, with about 60% of calories consumed by average Americans coming from ultra-processed foods, according to a study published in BMJ Open. But companies who manufacture these products could refute the results.  

The researchers acknowledged a limitation of the study was that eating ultra-processed foods is easier and cheaper than preparing unprocessed whole foods. Because the meals were prepared and given to participants for free, they didn’t choose them nor how they were presented. Therefore, the question was not addressed about how consumers choose between ultra-processed and minimally processed meals given the variables of cost and convenience. The small number of participants was also noted, although Kevin Hall, the study’s lead author, indicated the results were still important.

“Though we examined a small group, results from this tightly controlled experiment showed a clear and consistent difference between the two diets. This is the first study to demonstrate causality — that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight,” he said in a release from NIH.

Many food manufacturers are aware of the already proposed connections between ultra-processed food and health concerns, and some have reformulated products to achieve a healthier profile and respond to consumer demand for less processed foods. If people become aware of study results like this NIH one, they may double down on better-for-you products and continue to turn away from ultra-processed foods loaded with salt, sugar and fat.

One thing the study found that might influence dietary preferences has to do with PYY, an appetite-suppressing hormone, and ghrelin, a hunger hormone, NPR noted. Participants who ate the minimally processed diet had higher levels of PYY and lower levels of gherelin, while it was the opposite for those eating the ultra-processed foods. This raises interesting questions about what and how these gut hormones are triggered, which could be the subject of followup studies on this topic.

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Why an e-tongue should be used when formulating spicy food

Dive Brief:

  • An “electronic tongue” in use at Washington State University can distinguish spiciness levels between different samples of paneer cheese more quickly and accurately than human taste buds can, according to research published in the Journal of Food Science.
  • WSU graduate student Courtney Schlossareck and her adviser Carolyn Ross found the e-tongue is very efficient at discriminating between two samples at both low and high levels of spiciness. That contrasts with human testers, whose taste buds become fatigued and need at least five minutes between tasting samples.
  • The research findings could assist manufacturers, since the market for hot food is growing, Schlossareck noted. “Spicy cheese is really popular. So helping cheese-makers dial in the optimum level of spiciness would be even more helpful,” she said in a WSU release.

Dive Insight:

Researchers in the U.S. and Europe are using the e-tongue for a number of food-related purposes — including detecting adulterated honey, finding the right salt blendsassessing beer quality and measuring grape ripeness.

In essence, the technology is an analytical instrument that mimics how people distinguish tastes. The e-tongue uses tiny sensors to detect substances in a sample of food or drink and sends signals to a computer for processing, just as taste buds sense and transmit flavor messages to the brain. The machine is proving to be particularly helpful when it comes to hot and spicy foods.

Spicy food has become more popular in recent years as consumers seek out regional ethnic flavors and more interesting culinary experiences — particularly those from Central and South America. Millennials are pushing the trend, while foodies and older consumers are wanting to reduce sodium, fats and sugars in foods without sacrificing flavor.

The challenge for manufacturers is finding just the right balance between the spiciness that more of today’s consumers like and the extreme heat a smaller segment of the population enjoys. While certain milder chili peppers — including Anaheim and dried guajillo, pasilla, ancho, morita and cascabel​ varieties — can add intriguing flavors to dishes, jalapeño, serrano, habanero, poblano and green and red New Mexico chilies are often much hotter and should be handled with care.

The e-tongue’s practical applications could be useful to companies making food and beverage products where spiciness, flavor and quality are major considerations, and in situations where human taste buds tend to wear out or take too long to assess distinctions.

The WSU researchers noted, however, that human sensory evaluation is also useful for detecting spiciness levels, along with the e-tongue’s qualitative discrimination ability. So while the e-tongue will probably continue to augment human taste testers, it is unlikely to replace them anytime soon.

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IFT 2019: When colors pop, flavor happens!

Lycored is a global leader in all-natural, lycopene-based color and taste-enhancing ingredients for food, beverages and supplements.

Super-stable, vibrant colors from super tomatoes

Made from natural lycopene extracted from the company’s own custom-bred tomatoes, Lycored’s colorants are proven by science and tested for stability across multiple applications including flavored waters, UHT treated dairy drinks, juice-based beverages, hard coated confectionery, cheeses, fruit preparations and syrups, yogurts, fortified gummies and surimi seafood.

Centered on quality and stability, every member of Lycored’s cast of colors is focused on delivering a stellar performance at every stage, from process to consumer.

From vibrant reds to brilliant yellows and bright oranges, Lycored offers a range of colors from its cultured tomatoes, as well as from its own strain of Blakeslea Trispora fungus. All are pH-neutral and highly stable under a wide range of light and high-temperature conditions. The whole range is fully traceable – backward integrated, non-GMO, allergen free, Kosher and Halal, offering an array of opportunity across vegan and clean label focused opportunities.

Colorful names, memorable performances

Lycored recently unveiled a series of new, evocative names to identify its high-performance cast of colors from nature, all featuring memorable shade names like SteadfastScarlet™, ConstantCrimson, OrangeOvation,™ GoldHold and StellarYellow™.

Every color in the company’s palette has a new name to better reflect each hue’s vibrancy and stability.

Tough coloring and processing challenges accepted

Lycored’s color portfolio is both proven and versatile and can offer solutions to help meet food processors’ toughest color, taste and shelf-life challenges. Lycored’s colorants can also help food and beverage engineers achieve clean-label attributes and better overall processing stability with few color compromises.

For example, ConstantCrimson A and ResoluteRuby A were shown to perform exceptionally well in colored, flavored milk drinks. Lycored subjected both formulations to four different UHT process technologies: steam injection, plate, tubular and infusion without impacting color or affecting flavor. Additionally, they withstood harsh accelerated shelf life studies, which highlights their capability to survive in chiller cabinet conditions with no change visible to the naked eye.

Lycored’s colors also delivered excellent performance in sparkling water containing strawberry-flavored syrup. With over a 12-month shelf life and a broad range of shades true to typical fruit varieties, these colors are ideal for flavored waters or carbonates demonstrating resistance to fading, ringing and lack of sedimentation. While a typical shelf life in this category is 6 – 9 months, this 12 month stability can give beverage manufacturers an additional edge of a longer time on shelf with high quality visual appeal for their product.

High-performance, all natural umami flavor

Lycored is also featuring SANTE, the company’s proven umami taste enhancer that provides a high concentration of natural compounds for a naturally delicious taste and a cleaner label formulation in thanks to a reduction in levels of less attractive ingredients such as salt, MSG and yeast. Lycored’s analysis showed the all-natural tomato-based alternative to sodium additives offers significant levels of sugar and salt reduction – above 40% in many cases, and in some cases allowing 100% reduction of any added salt or sugar, while creating the foundation of great taste in broths as a base for many other recipes.

Partnering with culinology pioneer Charlie Baggs​

Lycored is also partnering with top US chef Charlie Baggs’ Culinary Innovations Inc to demonstrate SANTE’s taste-enhancing versatility and flavor, as well as the power of the product to make recipes healthier by enhancing natural umami and kokumi characteristics.

For those attending IFT and other shows, Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations will be preparing contemporary takes on international recipes with SANTE, including flavorsome vegetable and chicken broth fusions, orange Thai curry and rice with vegetables.

A culinology pioneer, Baggs continues to develop new recipe concepts that showcase SANTE, and demonstrate how Lycored’s advanced food ingredient science is making great food and drinks healthier while looking and tasting better.

Pop by and see Lycored in New Orleans, at #801 or schedule a meeting here:

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Perdue Farms to acquire grass-fed beef brand Panorama Meats

Dive Brief:

  • Perdue Premium Meat Company, a unit under Perdue Farms, is acquiring Panorama Meats, the nation’s largest producer of 100% grass-fed and grass-finished certified organic beef. Terms of the deal were not disclosed and Panorama’s leadership will remain in place in Woodland, California.
  • Founded in 2002, Panorama is made up of nearly 50 independent family ranchers that graze their cattle on USDA Certified Organic grasslands in California, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
  • Panorama Meats will be joining Perdue’s growing portfolio of premium, sustainable meat options including Niman Ranch, Coleman Natural and Prairie Grove.

Dive Insight:

Although Perdue is more closely associated with poultry, the company has been branching out in recent years, acquiring an antibiotic-free meat brand and looking at plant-based meat alternatives. But this latest acquisition is the first to focus on grass-fed beef.

As consumers become more conscious of the quality of what they eat, both plant-based and premium proteins have seen their popularity rise. Grass-fed beef, in which animals are raised and allowed to graze on small, independent farms — has particularly benefited from this trend. Perdue previously announced efforts to improve conditions to its facilities, and Panorama’s farms already meet these new standards. 

The Food Marketing Institute and North American Meat Institute’s recent “Power of Meat” report said grass-fed claims increased sales by 4.8% this past year, and 54% of consumers would like more grass-fed items in stores. This acquisition opens up that market for Perdue. 

Although this method of cattle rearing is more economically intensive, product sales have shown it’s worth the investment. A report from Stone Barn Center found although grass-fed beef is still a small percentage of the entire retail market, sales have grown from $17 million in 2012 to $272 million in 2016. While a significant jump, not all of that growth is from America’s pastures. According to the Stone Barns report, 75% to 80% of grass-fed beef sold in the U.S. comes from abroad.

With Panorama, it seems like Perdue saw an opportunity to cater directly to the consumers who are asking for grass-fed beef. Although Niman Ranch and Coleman Natural both also produce beef that Perdue sells under its Premium Proteins portfolio, Perdue can use this acquisition to appeal to consumers with environmental concerns — but who still really like hamburgers. After all, recent Nielsen data showed that nearly half of U.S. consumers may switch their purchasing decisions based on environmental standards. According to a study sponsored by the American Grassfed Association, beef producers raising grass-fed cattle are better stewards of prairie grasslands because of their stake in the continued health of the ecosystem.

But Perdue isn’t alone. A new study by Market Growth Insight pointed to Conagra Brands, Verde Farm, Hormel Foods, JBS and Sysco Corporation as key players in the grass-fed market. Hormel has grass-fed beef under its Applegate brand. JBS owns Grass Run Farms, where cattle are not only grass-fed but sourced primarily from the Midwest. Conagra has Duke’s grass-fed, smoked meat snacks.

While Panorama allows Perdue to appeal to consumers searching for beef products that are better for their bodies and the environment, there is a lot of competition. Highlighting the fact that Panorama cattle are exclusively raised in the U.S. could be a good place to start. This provides significant appeal to consumers looking to keep their environmental footprint small as they continue to enjoy red-blooded American fare like steak and burgers.

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FDA backs ‘Best if used by’ voluntary date labeling for food products

Dive Brief:

  • In a letter to the food industry, the FDA said it strongly supports voluntary industry efforts to use the “Best if used by” phrase on products when including date labels to indicate quality. 
  • The letter — signed by FDA’s Deputy Commissioner of Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas —​ said standardized use of the phrase could reduce food waste since consumers often toss out items because of misunderstandings about what product date labels mean. The FDA estimates that confusion is estimated to account for about 20% of consumer food waste, worth about $161 billion annually.
  • The agency’s position reflects that of industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, which have advocated “Best if used by” and “Use by” to help simplify and streamline product date labels. However, FDA said it is not currently addressing implementation of “use by” product date labels.

Dive Insight:

FDA said it wants to encourage standardized labeling phrases for quality reasons because consumers continue to be confused about what date labels mean and how to use them. Besides the “best if used by” and “best by” phrases, the food industry also uses “expires on,” “use before,” “sell by” or “best sold by” on products. None of these are required by federal law except for infant formula, which must have a “use by” date.

It makes sense to standardize date label terminology, especially when it’s a phrase consumers understand and industry is already using. The move also lines up FDA policy with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose Food Safety and Inspection Service adopted similar guidance in 2016

“We expect that over time, the number of various date labels will be reduced as industry aligns on this ‘Best if Used By’ terminology,” Yiannis wrote in a consumer update from FDA. “This change is already being adopted by many food producers.”

The agency didn’t explain why it wasn’t taking a position on “use by” product date labels, which GMA and FMI support. That term applies to “perishable products that should be consumed by the date on the package and discarded after that date,” FDA’s letter said. It may be the agency doesn’t want to support a term that prompts consumers to discard food when it’s trying to reduce waste. 

Industry response to the FDA’s letter has been positive so far. Food Marketing Institute President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a statement the group’s members appreciate FDA’s acknowledgement of industry’s desire to reduce consumer confusion with this label.

“The agency’s endorsement signals a best practice in ways industry partners can truly deliver on a promise to provide guidance to our customers that is easier to understand,” she said.

A survey by GMA and FMI released in December found 85% of U.S. consumers thought simplified date labels would be helpful, so this latest move could push more companies to use the “Best if used by” phrase.

Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in a statement emailed to Food Dive that FDA’s support of the standardized phrase shows the CPG industry is working to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions. GMA and the Food Marketing Institute came together with 25 companies in 2017 to find a way to reduce consumer confusion that led to unintended food waste, he said.

“Our solution was a streamlined approach to date labeling that has been recognized by USDA and now FDA as a smart approach and an important step in alleviating confusion and reducing food waste,” Freeman said in the statement.

While standardized use of the “best if used by” phrase on food products could begin to cut down on food waste, FDA supports additional consumer education by industry, government and non-government groups about what quality-based date labels mean and how to use them. Such ongoing efforts will likely be important to make sure “Best If Used By” continues to stand for something and that food waste declines as a result.

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Leftovers: Fritos pays tribute to America’s military; Ferrero sweetens its lineup

Leftovers is our look at a few of the product ideas popping up everywhere — some are intriguing, some sound amazing and some are the kinds of ideas we would never dream of. We can’t write about everything that we get pitched, so here are the leftovers pulled from our inboxes.

Fritos salutes veterans

It’s one thing for food brands to honor veterans with product launches, patriotic labels and donations to advocacy groups.

It’s quite another to create one product for every veteran who has ever served the United States. Just in time for Memorial Day, Fritos is partnering with nonprofit group Carry the Load to create 22 million specialty bags — one for every person ever to serve in the U.S. military — honoring the nation’s heroes. The PepsiCo-owned snack brand is also donating $100,000 to the group to support members of the military, veterans, first responders and their families.

Food products such as candy and ice cream wear their patriotism by featuring the U.S. flag, but those that take it a step further and support veterans groups resonate with consumers.

Last year, Budweiser launched a new beer, Freedom Reserve Red Lager, which was inspired by a recipe the company said was found in George Washington’s military journal. The brewer had veterans — whose signatures were featured on the bottles — make the beer, and a portion of the proceeds were donated to Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that gives educational scholarships to military families.

The beer helped boost sales for the alcohol giant, according to a transcript of an earnings call. It’s a strategy the company has often been successful with, using patriotic labels and making donations to Folds of Honor.

It’s not surprising for Fritos to go big with support for the military. Its parent company PepsiCo has an annual nationwide campaign called the Rolling Remembrance Relay. It raises money for the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, which provides college scholarships for those whose parents were killed in military service. This year, several veterans who drive Pepsi’s trucks took an American flag originally flown on a Blackhawk helicopter in Afghanistan in 2012 from coast to coast, starting in Seattle last month. Drivers also visit students benefiting from the funds to thank them for their families’ sacrifices.

The relay finished up at PepsiCo’s corporate headquarters in New York on Thursday. And while PepsiCo’s annual relay is not advertised to consumers on its packaging or specifically featured in marketing, the flag-carrying drivers hold events across the nation to rally support and raise money.

— Megan Poinski


Tic Tac X-Freeze



Ferrero sweetens product offerings with spin on iconic classics

Ferrero International has been bulking up its offerings in recent years through a series of high-profile M&A deals, but the global confectionery company best known for Ferrero Rocher, Nutella and Tic Tac is tapping into its iconic legacy brands in a bid to boost sales and widen its growing footprint in the U.S.

Ferrero this week said the internationally popular Kinder Bueno —  a milk or white chocolate-covered wafer with hazelnut filling and drizzled with dark chocolate — is coming to the U.S. in November. The Italian confectioner also will roll out a boxed chocolate assortment of premium candies called Ferrero Golden Gallery Signature. And Tic Tac is launching X-Freeze, a spin on its classic mint that is bigger, sugar-free and lasts longer than the original product. Ferrero Golden Gallery Signature and Tic Tac X-Freeze will be available nationwide in September.

“We’re a company that has a reputation of tending well and being good stewards of brands,” Paul Chibe, president and CEO of Ferrero North America, told Food Dive.

In recent years, Ferrero has been rapidly growing in the U.S. In 2018, it spent $2.8 billion to purchase Nestlé’s U.S. confectionery business — a deal that added more than 20 American candy brands including Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, 100 Grand, SweeTarts and Nerds to the fold.

And earlier this year, Kellogg agreed to sell its cookie business and a host of other snacks and baked goods — a collection that included ​Keebler and Famous Amos — to Ferrero for $1.3 billion.

But for the family-owned Ferrero — which traces its roots back to war-ravaged Italy in 1946 — to establish a more meaningful presence in the U.S., analysts say the company will need more than just M&A. Ferrero will need to keep growing and innovating the lineup that has been a stronghold in premium candy sales for decades. Its newest product offerings do that by taking candy brands already well-known by consumers and adding new versions to the market place.

“I do think there are opportunities for growth, particularly behind firms that are investing behind product innovation,” Erin Lash, a director of consumer equity research at Morningstar, told Food Dive.

— Christopher Doering


Field Roast Grain Brat

Field Roast Grain Meat Co.


Cheers to this crafty plant-based brat

The booming plant-based trend is ushering in some unlikely partnerships.

Field Roast Grain Meat Co., part of Maple Leaf Foods’ plant-based company Greenleaf Foods, partnered with Elysian Brewing Company to launch a plant-based, beer-infused bratwurst, according to a release.

The meat-free brat will be launched at the Brat Fest in Wisconsin this weekend. It will be available at Meijer stores in the Midwest and PCC Community Markets in Washington. The product has all natural colors and flavors, and no preservatives or GMOs.

Field Roast brand is an artisan plant-based meat and cheese company based in Seattle. Elysian Brewing Company is a brewery with four pubs in Seattle that was acquired by AB InBev in 2015.

The growing demand for plant-based products pushed Field Roast and Elysian to create this bratwurst flavored with garlic, caramelized onions, caraway seeds and Elysian beer, the companies said in the release. The plant-based sector continues to expand and is predicted to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 15% from 2019 to 2025, reaching $27.9 billion by 2025. With predicted growth like that, there are likely to be many more partnerships in the space.

As U.S. beer volumes have dropped for five years straight, companies are turning to collaborations like this to boost their presence and its earnings. Meat and beer isn’t an unusual pairing. Coleman Natural and Budweiser teamed up to unveil a beer-basted meat line earlier this year. Other alcohol brands have infused sauces. Jack Daniels and Jim Beam developed liquor-infused barbecue sauce, while Budweiser sold self-branded sauce in 2016. 

Plant-based meat is a crowded field. Impossible Foods’ new meat-free Impossible Sausage will appear on Little Caesar’s pizzas. More big brands in the category are moving into retail. It will likely be difficult for Field Roast to stand out in the crowded plant-based space with big players like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, but the beer-infused taste will set it apart.

—​ Lillianna Byington

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