Lindt & Sprüngli invests $201m to expand US chocolate plant

Chocolate producer Lindt & Sprüngli has announced that it will invest CHF 200 million ($201 million) to expand its chocolate production facility in Stratham, New Hampshire.

New “high-tech” production lines will be added at the plant over the next four years, which will create cocoa and chocolate mass for its premium chocolate products.

Lindt & Sprüngli has approved the upgrade as it seeks to expand its presence in the US chocolate market. The company currently stands as the third largest chocolate producer in the US, following consistent sales growth in recent years.

The company reported that its sales in North America have grown 4% in the first half of 2018, following the strong performance of its Lindt brand in both Canada in the US.

Lindor and Excellence products performed particularly well, while Lindt-owned Russell Stover’s stevia-sweetened chocolate range was also well-received by consumers.

In Europe, product sales rose 5% to CHF 856 million ($862 million), as sales in markets such as Austria, Spain, the UK and the Nordic countries were “well above average”.

Earlier this year, the company invested CHF 30 million ($30 million) to expand the production capacity of its cocoa mass factory in Olten, Switzerland, growing its chocolate production capabilities in Europe.



Food revolution: robots takes over

      No Comments on Food revolution: robots takes over

The rate of growth is going at a rapid pace, for over 30 food businesses. As the use of robots allows them to turn to automation, during a showcase at OAL’s Food Manufacturing 2030 Conference.

With a combination of inspirational speakers and demonstrations, OAL, the University of Lincoln and ABB educated food manufacturers on the use of robotics and automation to overcome their manufacturing challenges.

The UK is uniquely placed to pioneer the food robotics revolution bringing with it higher skilled jobs and fantastic export opportunities. In the process, a new food manufacturing industry will be created, no longer characterised by low paid, unskilled labour but higher skilled, better paid jobs to run our autonomous food factories.

OAL demonstrated the use of digital technologies with their APRIL Robotics Flexible Food Manufacturing platform. APRIL puts robotics at the heart of food manufacturing allowing end to end handling and processing of food ingredients with minimal human interventions.

Applications demoed included cooking, weighing and use of artificial intelligence systems for validation.

To inspire action, the event featured major British automation success stories:

  1. Chris Brett from Ocado technology shared how they were transforming food retailing with digital technologies.
  1. Steve Sanders explained how JSP Safety Products had transformed its manufacturing processes with over 30 robots, onshoring jobs to the UK.
  1. Mike Wilson from ABB discussed robot adoption best practices.

And it definitely sunk in. A Director at from a major UK food business stated:

“This is something that [major food manufacturer] need to do now! The day has opened our eyes to what is around and available.”

During the debate, the need for demonstrators and funding was raised. These areas were addressed by Liz Berry from the Food and Drink Federation. Liz explained the latest funding opportunities for food companies. While Val Braybrooks encouraged food manufacturers to work with academia more to explore and trial these new technologies.

Source: Asia Food Journal


Oldest Candy Company in the U.S. Shuts Down

Massachusetts NECCO factory was shut down this week by owner Round Hill Investments LLC.

The company, known for it’s colorful, chalky candy, specifically it’s Valentine’s Sweethearts, has been in trouble for a while.

Round Hill Investments, which is owned by billionaire C. Dean Metropolous, purchased the candy company out of bankruptcy for $17.3 million.

Round Hill, known for saving struggling companies like Hostess, re-named NECCO Sweethearts Candy, after its most beloved product.

The company confirmed the closure in a statement on Tuesday, according to the Boston Globe.

“Round Hill Investments was very excited to acquire NECCO’s historic brands and to be part of their national resurgence,” the statement said. “After careful engagement and consideration, however, the firm decided to sell the brands to another national confection manufacturer and today announced the closure of the operations in Revere, Massachusetts.”

Round Hill has sold NECCO to an unidentified company and it unclear whether the company will continue candy production of NECCO’s Sweethearts, NECCO Wafers, Clark Bars and Mighty Malts.

The announcement came as a surprise to employees as the plant lease was scheduled to end in August and was later extended to November.

Mayor dissapointed with NECCO plant being shut down

The factory employed 230 workers who were told not to return to the factory, but to pick up their final paychecks on Friday, according to the Boston Globe.

NECCO is the oldest candy maker in the world, operating under various names since 1847 and is beloved by many for its historical and classic brands. Many, including Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, were upset about the closing of the company plant.

“We are disappointed that Round Hill could not follow through on the enthusiasm it expressed when it acquired Necco barely two months ago,” Mayor Arrigo said in a statement. “We received no advance word about the situation from any representative of any of the involved parties and only learned about it after receiving media inquiry.”

In the statement, Mayor Arrigo mentioned trying to find jobs for the workers and expressed his encouragement at six private companies in food service who were already interested in hiring the former candy factory workers.

“We are gratified, certainly, that the private sector is in a position to help these workers,” said the Mayor. “But that doesn’t lessen our exasperation with the way Round Hill went about the process.”

Source: Abasto


Ensuring a safe flour supply

      No Comments on Ensuring a safe flour supply

Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. Unsafe food can cause hundreds of diseases. Food can become contaminated at any point during production, distribution and preparation, and everyone along the production chain, from producer to consumer, has a role to play in food safety.

Julie Miller Jones, PhD, distinguished scholar and professor emerita, foods and nutrition, St. Catherine University, said food safety for the grain industry is a farm-to-fork activity. For grain, it begins with using Good Agricultural Processes to minimize contamination during harvest, drying and transport to the mill.

“Proper sampling and testing of the grain as it enters the mill ensures that standards for heavy metals, agricultural chemicals and contaminants such as mycotoxins are observed,” she said.

Good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and HACCP plans should be in place to ensure that grain is not contaminated during the milling process, she added.

“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” said Leslie Smoot, PhD, senior adviser in the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Food Safety.

If an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.

Common “kill steps” applied during food preparation and/or processing include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving and frying. But with raw dough, no kill step has been used. However, flour mills have taken steps to establish a safe flour supply.

Easing raw flour worries

Flour in the ready-to-eat category, most of which is heat-treated, has been available in the market for several years. Some products include Ardent Mill’s SafeGuard, introduced by ConAgra Mills in 2011. Honeyville’s TempSure all-purpose, ready-to-eat flour also goes through a proprietary process. Other products include Siemer Milling Co.’s heat-treated soft wheat flours and Bay State Milling’s SimplySafe products.

The safety of our food products, employees, customers and consumers is a core value of Ardent Mills,” said Kent Juliot, vice-president of research, quality and technical solutions, Ardent Mills. “From the receipt of grain to flour production, labeling and shipping, our food safety and engineering experts are involved in every aspect of our operations to meet the highest standards.”

In addition to following GMPs, Ardent Mills employs operational programs, trains team members, monitors processes and maintains pristine manufacturing facilities, he added. To make its ready-to-eat product, Ardent Mills uses a patented SafeGuard treatment and delivery system that’s a comprehensive, integrated solution and extends flour food safety assurance from the plant to consumers. SafeGuard is a functional flour with up to a 5-log validated pathogen reduction that can be customized based on specific product requirements. It is made by a proprietary process that doesn’t alter gluten functionality.

Reuben McLean, senior director of quality and regulatory, Grain Craft, said food safety is paramount, and millers work diligently to produce safe flour.

Grain Craft has developed and implemented HACCP-based food-safety plans and procedures at each of its milling facilities to ensure compliance with Global Food Safety Initiatives (GFSI) and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Grain Craft also works closely with its industry partners and leads process improvement discussions to champion the establishment of dedicated peanut transportation to abate the risk of cross-contact with wheat.

“As a leader in the industry, we have implemented procedures to mitigate the serious risk of peanut allergen cross-contact within the transportation of bulk agricultural commodities,” McLean said. “Furthermore, we support customer and consumer education and have adopted safe handling instructions on packaged products to promote awareness of the control measures that must be implemented within their processes to reduce misuse of raw flour.”

Protecting more of the process

Protecting the final product and ensuring its safety for consumption is an ongoing effort, and it begins with the design of a milling facility. Jennifer Robinson, vice-president of corporate quality, Bay State Milling, said the company is undergoing expansion efforts at its new Woodland, California, U.S., mill to further protect its product.

“Construction plans incorporate design elements to deliver a clean-room environment separate from the remainder of the facility,” Robinson said. “The clean room incorporates filtered air, positive pressure, dedicated equipment and a robust environmental program.”

Access is limited to specially trained associates who must pass through a changing and sanitizing area prior to entering the clean room.

When it comes to government regulations and enforcement, FSMA enables the FDA to focus more on preventing food safety problems rather than reacting to problems after they occur. However, with each step of the process being more closely scrutinized, there may be complications with FSMA requirements.

Jeff Gwirtz, a milling industry consultant and president of JAG Services Inc., said FSMA requirements are open-ended and may lead to significant challenges depending on the views of the inspection agent or agencies.

“This may be problematic if milling organizations are asked down the road to evaluate potential sources of biological and chemical contamination associated with air used for conveying, processing, handling and dust control that can contact food product,” Gwirtz said.

For example, compressed air used to reject product that may eventually be returned for processing has come under more scrutiny, he explained, suggesting that air used for gravity selectors and purifiers could also come under scrutiny, as well as suction systems where material collected is returned to the product stream via collection systems. It is also important to watch for air moving across product in spouts above purifiers or in sifter knees that could create a risk of microbiological or chemical contamination.

“Reliance on the notion that flour is a food product intended to pass through a kill step prior to use is likely to be eroded by unreasonable expectations,” he concluded.

Microbial safety

Consumer demand for ready-to-bake products — and bad habits like eating raw cookie dough — call for higher microbial safety. As a rule, controlling hazards requires a value chain approach.

For instance, preventing mycotoxins starts with good agricultural practices, said Béatrice Condé-Petit, group expert and food safety officer at Bühler AG. Mycotoxins cannot be destroyed by baking, but mechanical cleaning and optical sorting of wheat contribute to significant mycotoxin reduction. Likewise, microbial safety requires protection of wheat from pests and hygienic handling to reduce the risk of bacteria introduction.

Keeping wheat dry during storage and transport is the most effective method of preventing bacteria growth. Furthermore, sanitary designed milling equipment is key to preventing the risk of contamination. Finally, heat treatment allows the reduction of bacteria by inactivation for ready-to-eat food applications. Condé-Petit suggested a need for efficient and cost-effective bacteria inactivation that might be achieved with non-thermal technologies.

Source: World Grain


EU Court Sends the KitKat Case Back to Trademark Office

The European Court of Justice has thrown out an appeal by the chocolate bar’s maker, Nestlé, which argued that it owns the shape of the teatime treat.

Nestlé has spent more than a decade fighting to trademark the four-fingered wafer shape – something that rival Cadbury had fought hard against.

A long-running legal battle was sent back to the EU’s trademark office on Wednesday, when judges dismissed appeals by both companies.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice means the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) must review a 2012 decision to uphold Swiss-based Nestlé’s (NESN.S) trademark on the shape of the four-finger chocolate-covered wafer biscuit over objections raised by Mondelez (MDLZ.O) of the United States, according to Reuters.

The Luxembourg court found that Nestlé had failed to show that consumers in enough EU countries recognized the shape as distinctive, but also dismissed an appeal by Mondelez against some of the grounds for a lower EU court ruling in 2016 that had found the EUIPO was wrong to reject the U.S. firm’s complaint.

The outcome leaves open that the trademark agency could, while respecting the judges’ ruling, take account of other evidence — such as new proof the shape is distinctive to people in more countries — and might preserve protection for KitKat’s shape. The brand name “KitKat” is not at issue in the case.

Source: World Bakers


FDA backs Impossible Foods’ “magic ingredient”

Impossible Foods has received a no-questions letter from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), validating the unanimous conclusion of food-safety experts that its key ingredient – “heme” – is safe to eat. Impossible Foods makes meat directly from plants and the company uses science and technology to create wholesome, nutritious food, restore natural ecosystems and feed a growing population sustainably, thus with a much smaller environmental footprint than meat from animals.

The company’s flagship product, the Impossible Burger, is available in nearly 3,000 locations in the US and Hong Kong. Earlier this year, America’s original fast-food restaurant, White Castle, added the Impossible Slider to menus in 140 restaurants nationwide.

The Impossible Burger is made through a combination of plant-based ingredients. The key ingredient soy leghemoglobin is a protein that carries “heme,” an iron-containing molecule that occurs naturally in every animal and plant. Heme is the so-called “magic ingredient” that enables the Impossible Burger to satisfy meat lovers’ cravings, according to Impossible Foods, and makes it look, taste and behave like real meat.

Before issuing its no-questions letter, the FDA reviewed comprehensive test data about soy leghemoglobin to assess its status as “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. As the standard process, the FDA posted the full, 1,066-page submission from Impossible Foods on its website for public review. FDA researchers also reviewed the comments of top food safety experts, who unanimously concluded that soy leghemoglobin is safe to eat and compliant with all federal food-safety regulations.

“We have no questions at this time regarding Impossible Foods’ conclusion that soy leghemoglobin preparation is GRAS under its intended conditions of use to optimize flavor in ground beef analog products intended to be cooked,” the FDA states.

“Getting a no-questions letter goes above and beyond our strict compliance to all federal food-safety regulations,” explains Impossible Foods CEO and Founder Dr. Patrick O. Brown. “We have prioritized safety and transparency from day one, and they will always be core elements of our company culture.”

In issuing the no-questions letter, the FDA also noted that soy leghemoglobin could be considered a “color additive” in some potential future applications. The FDA has a separate regulatory process to approve the use of color additives and Impossible Foods is preparing to engage in that process to ensure it has maximum flexibility as its products and business continue to evolve.

Heme is an essential molecular building block of life, one of nature’s most ubiquitous molecules. It is most familiar as the molecule that carries oxygen in your blood.

Heme is in virtually all the food we eat, and it’s particularly abundant in animal muscle. It’s the abundance of heme that makes meat (both meat from animal carcasses and Impossible Foods’ meat from plants) uniquely delicious and craveable. Heme is not just safe to eat – it’s required for life – says Impossible Foods.

To satisfy the global demand for meat at a fraction of the environmental impact, Impossible Foods developed a far more sustainable, scalable and affordable way to make heme and therefore meat, without the catastrophic environmental impact of livestock. The company genetically engineers and ferments yeast to produce a heme protein naturally found in plants, called soy leghemoglobin.

The heme in the Impossible Burger is identical to the essential heme humans have been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years in meat – and while the Impossible burger delivers all the craveable depth of beef, it uses far fewer resources.

Producing the Impossible Burger uses about 75 percent less water, generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and requires around 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows.

Safety and transparency

Impossible Foods has prioritized safety and transparency since the company’s founding and the Impossible Burger has so far complied with all food-safety regulations since before it was available to the public.

In 2014, years, before the company began selling the product to restaurants, a panel of leading food safety experts gave the opinion that the Impossible Burger’s key ingredient, soy leghemoglobin, is GRAS.

Additional testing – including a stringent rat feeding study – provided even more objective, scientific data that the product is safe. A 2016 study examined whether consumption of soy leghemoglobin in amounts orders of magnitude above regular dietary exposure would produce any adverse effects. There were none. And a comprehensive search of allergen databases found that soy leghemoglobin has a very low risk of allergenicity and it’s shown no adverse effects in exhaustive testing.



Remains of world’s oldest bread, baked 14,400 years ago, found in Jordan

Manual stone mill of the NeolithicArcheologists have discovered the burnt remains of a flatbread baked 14,400 years ago, more than 4,000 years before the advent of agriculture.

The findings, excavated in northeastern Jordan’s Black Desert, reveal the oldest direct evidence of bread. Twenty four bread-like discoveries were found at two fireplaces in a Natufian hunter-gatherer site known as Shubayqa 1.

“The presence of hundreds of charred food remains in the fireplaces from Shubayqa 1 is an exceptional find, and it has given us the chance to characterize 14,000-year-old food practices,” said University of Copenhagen archeobotanist Amaia Arranz Otaegui, the first author of the report.

“So now we know that bread-like products were produced long before the development of farming,” said Otaegui, who added that the bread production could have contributed to the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic period.

The Neolithic flatbread — known nowadays as pita or Arabic bread — was made of domesticated cereals and club-rush tubers, according to the study released on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Prior to these findings, evidence of bread production was found in late Neolithic sites in Turkey and the Netherlands. The charred remains in Jordan are the first direct evidence that bread production preceded agriculture.

“Natufian hunter-gatherers are of particular interest to us because they lived through a transitional period when people became more sedentary and their diet began to change,” said University of Copenhagen archeologist Tobias Richter, who led the excavations.

The authors of the report noted that cereal-based foodstuffs were difficult to make. Hunter-gatherers may have considered them luxury foods “employed to impress invited guests and secure prestige for the hosts.”



      No Comments on

Kohlberg & Company has completed its acquisition of Tyson Foods’ frozen bakery business, including the Sara Lee, Van’s, Chef Pierre and Bistro Collection brands. The new business will encompass all four brands and be called Sara Lee Frozen Bakery.

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery will be based in Oakbrook Terrace and continue operations at two manufacturing facilities in Traverse City, Mich., and Tarboro, N.C. The company plans to build a new R.&D. facility and test kitchen, including a pilot plant, co-located with the corporate headquarters. Sara Lee Frozen Bakery will employ approximately 1,300 at the headquarters and plant locations.

“Tyson Foods did a great job with this portfolio of businesses, but their primary focus was on protein,” said Craig Bahner, chief executive officer of Sara Lee Frozen Bakery. “Moving the frozen bakery products into a standalone company concentrated in the frozen bakery business will enable us to continue delivering quality products while accelerating growth, increasing innovation and achieving operational excellence.”

Mr. Bahner was previously president of U.S. Morning Foods at the Kellogg Co., and before that was chief marketing officer at Wendy’s Co. He will be joined by new president and head of sales Don Davis, who was most recently senior vice-president of sales for Tyson Foodservice.

“From this point onward, our customers will benefit from Sara Lee Frozen Bakery’s singular focus on being the frozen bakery products of choice, and we’re investing in our people, processes and infrastructure to make it happen,” Mr. Davis said.

Additionally, Jeff Gronbeck has been appointed chief financial officer. Mr. Gronbeck was most recently c.f.o. for Pittsburgh Glass Works, L.L.C., and previously held other senior financial roles at PLS Logistics Services, Fast Forward, Union Switch & Signal and Price Waterhouse.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to breathe new life into this outstanding portfolio of brands,” said chairman CJ Fraleigh, who worked for Sara Lee from 2005 to 2011, including as its North American c.e.o. “We have assembled an exceptional management team, and our partners at Kohlberg have a long track record of success in carve outs and reemerging businesses. Together we will accelerate Sara Lee Frozen Bakery’s growth.”



The FAO Food Price Index fell in July. Sharpest monthly drop since December 2017

» The FAO Food Price Index* (FFPI) averaged 168.8 points in July 2018, down as much as 6.5 points (3.7 percent) from June and 10.3 points (3.7 percent) from the corresponding period last year. The July fall marked the first significant month-on-month decline in the value of the FFPI since December 2017, reflecting notable drops in the values of all sub-indices.

» The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 160.9 points in July, down nearly 6 points (3.6 percent) from June and also 1.3 points (0.8 percent) below its level in the corresponding period last year. The decline in July was driven by weaker export quotations for wheat, maize and rice. International wheat prices were generally weaker during the first half of the month, but concerns over production prospects in the EU and the Russian Federation started to push export values higher towards the end of the month. In coarse grains markets, maize prices remained under general downward pressure, largely on weak demand and good production prospects in the United States. However, similar to wheat markets, maize values made solid gains towards the end of the month, on weather worries and a faster pace in export sales. International rice prices also fell, pressured by frail demand for Indica and fragrant varieties as well as currency movements in some leading exporters.

» The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 141.9 points in July, down 4.2 points (or 2.9 percent) from June, marking a sixth consecutive fall and a two-and-a-half year low. The latest slide mostly reflects weakening values of palm oil and soy oil. International palm oil prices fell further under the influence of sluggish export demand, ample stocks held by leading producing countries, and expectations of higher production in the coming weeks. As for soy oil, the fresh drop in prices was largely driven by spill-over weakness from the soybean market and persistently high crushing rates in the United States, supported by attractive crush margins. On the other hand, rapeseed oil values trended upward, underpinned by improved demand from biodiesel producers and negative crop prospects in the EU.

» The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 170.7 points in July, down 3.3 points (1.9 percent) from its revised value for June. The June upward revision primarily reflects a sharp rise in bovine meat prices from Brazil, caused by a decline in exports following logistical problems due the prolonged truck drivers’ strike. In July, the Index shed few points, in part due to a gradual normalization of meat exports from Brazil. Overall, price quotations for bovine meat fell, while those of pig and poultry meat also weakened. However, ovine meat prices increased marginally on strong import demand, especially from China and the United States.

» The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 199.1 points in July, down 14.1 points (6.6 percent) from June. At this level, the index stood at 10.7 percent above January 2018 but still 8 percent below the corresponding month a year ago. International price quotations across all dairy commodities (represented in the Index) fell, with the sharpest falls registered for butter and cheese. Whole Milk Powder (WMP) and Skim Milk Powder (SMP) prices also weakened. Dairy markets have remained under downward pressure, supported by ample export supplies, including good production prospects in New Zealand.

» The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 166.7 points in July, down 10.7 points (6 percent) from June and nearly 20 percent lower than its level in the corresponding period of last year. The sharp decline in July was largely driven by improved production prospects in the main sugar producing countries, notably India and Thailand. Expectations of lower sugar output in Brazil, the world’s largest producer and exporter, resulting from protracted drought conditions, as well as a greater use of sugarcane for the production of ethanol, limited the fall in international sugar prices.

* Unlike for other commodity groups, most prices utilized in the calculation of the FAO Meat Price Index are not available when the FAO Food Price Index is computed and published; therefore, the value of the Meat Price Index for the most recent months is derived from a mixture of projected and observed prices. This can, at times, require significant revisions in the final value of the FAO Meat Price Index which could in turn influence the value of the FAO Food Price Index.

Download full dataset: Excel, CSV

Download full dataset: Excel



EverSweet™ Zero-calorie Sweetener

      Comments Off on EverSweet™ Zero-calorie Sweetener

The future is here and it’s sweeter than ever! Cargill’s EverSweet™ next-generation sweetener has great taste with up to 100% sugar replacement. It is made with the same sweetness that is found in the stevia leaf, to delight your taste buds with calorie-free joy.

Our secret? The age-old technique of fermentation – with a modern twist. Using a specially crafted baker’s yeast, our EverSweet™ sweetener delivers the best of the same sweetness in the stevia leaf.

At a time when more consumers are watching their calorie intake and striving to live a healthier lifestyle, our EverSweet™ sweetener offers a new, delicious choice for reduced and zero calorie food and beverages.