Coronavirus: no evidence that food is a source or transmission route

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EFSA is closely monitoring the situation regarding the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is affecting a large number of countries across the globe. There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.

EFSA’s chief scientist, Marta Hugas, said: “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said that while animals in China were the likely source of the initial infection, the virus is spreading from person to person – mainly?via?respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale. More information on coronavirus and food can be found in this FAQ by the BfR, Germany’s risk assessment body.

Scientists and authorities across the world are monitoring the spread of the virus and there have not been any reports of transmission through food. For this reason, EFSA is not currently involved in the response to the COVID-19 outbreaks. However, we are monitoring the scientific literature for new and relevant information.

Regarding food safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on following good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods. More information can be found on the WHO website .

Reducing the chances of contagion – measures in place at EFSA’s headquarters

EFSA is based in Parma, in the north of Italy, which is one of the areas currently subject to emergency restrictions on movement imposed by the Italian government. As of the last week in February, we have adopted a series of?measures in line with advice from the Italian authorities.

We have introduced homeworking for most of our staff and telemeetings with experts and partners, while events, staff travel and public visits to EFSA premises have been suspended until at least 8 April. These measures are being reviewed constantly in light of new information.

Rolling information on the outbreak and risks assessments used by the EU Member States and the European Commission in their response activities are being updated continuously by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control?(ECDC). The World Health Organization is coordinating global efforts.

You can find more information, on the website of the European Commission.



EU delegation briefed on cocoa production under Nestlé Cocoa Plan

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The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Diana Acconcia, has asked stakeholders to work together to engender sustainable cocoa production that conformed to good agricultural practices (GAPs).

“We have seen that it is possible to have cocoa, which has higher and better yields, and at the same time grants good living conditions for farmers – free of child labour and also attentive to the environment,” she noted.

“I hope that in the future there would be more examples of this. Certainly, the EU is ready to cooperate and support Ghana in this direction,” Ambassador Acconcia told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview at Banko near Bekwai in the Ashanti Region.

This was after she led a delegation of some EU officials and Members of Parliament (MPs)on a working visit to a cocoa plantation at Banko, one of the beneficiary communities of the ‘Nestlé Cocoa Plan‘.

The programme, being spearheaded by Nestlé, a leading food and beverage company, seeks to source cocoa sustainably from certified sources, while tackling child labour, improving the lives of cocoa farmers and the quality of their products.

The vision is to enhance the lives of farmers in the cocoa supply chain, with the focus being on the world’s largest sources – Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Key stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Plan in Ghana include; Cocoanect Ghana, a cocoa trading and supply chain management company, International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), a programme seeking to end child labour in cocoa growing communities, amongst others.

Cocoa production at Banko since the implementation of the Plan, had witnessed significant boost with a harvest yield of about 450 bags per year, and targeting to reach 500 bags by the end of the 2019/2020 cocoa season.

Currently, there are 28 smallholder farmers captured under the Plan in this community and working on about 58 hectares of land.

Ambassador Acconcia said she was impressed with the manner in which the beneficiary farmers adhered to good practices, saying the integration of agro-forestry into their activities was a step in the right direction.

Mr. Norbert Neuser, a Member of the EU Parliament, encouraged the farmers to continue to work hard for increased yield.

Mr. Prince Gyamfi, the Country Deputy Director in-charge of the ICI, said engaging the child in all forms of labour on the farm was prohibited under international and local laws.

Madam Deborah Kwablah, the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager of Nestlé Ghana, affirmed the company’s resolve to ensure better cocoa production – which guaranteed the Ghanaian farmer of sustainable and improved livelihood.

The delegation, as part of its visit, was taken through some of the cocoa farming activities and supply chain as related to good agricultural practices.



Market Snapshot: Candy & Confectionery

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According to “2019 Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing,” a report by PMMI Business Intelligence, candy and confectionery holds a 5.1% share of the nine food categories, with the number of establishments decreasing to 1,942 between 2014 to 2017 (a CAGR of -0.2%), though the number of employees increased to 83,927 in the same period, at a CAGR of 7.5%.

Candy/confectionery product packaging trends include a growing demand for new, unique flavors and sensations, and smaller sized packaging and zip closures. There is a demand for clear paneled packaging machinery, and more use of claims such as natural, sustainable and free trade.

Of a market that has shown declining growth, one Packaging Engineer at a confectionery company said, “Keeping profitable as ingredient costs increase is our drive in the year ahead.”

Candy and Confectionery Product Processing Trends

• Premium chocolate with fruits or nuts saw double-digit sales growing in recent years – consumers perceive it as healthier.

• Market growth hampered by rising cocoa prices.

• Industry performance expected to improve with new products containing less sugar or alternatives such as coconut palm sugar or stevia.

• Seasonal candy claims about one-fourth of annual market sales.

On the consumer end, gum is expected to see continued growth globally. In the U.S. gum grew 2% from 2018 to 2019, accounting for 11% of the total retail candy market.

Chocolate remains the largest confectionery category in the U.S., and portable packaging options for convenience, and the additions of healthful ingredients such as nuts and fruit have helped maintain the top category position.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence “ 2019 Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing”

Download the FREE Executive Summary below, or PMMI Members can download the entire report here .

Make plans to visit PACK EXPO International in Chicago, November 8-11, to see on-trend food processing and packaging machinery and materials.



Craft Baking Essentials: Choosing the Right Oven

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Artisan bakeries and patisseries are the loving home to creativity and innovation for any and all eating occasions. The work behind the counter involves much more than original ideas for tasty creations, as bakers are balancing between planning, organizing, prioritizing, calculating, and baking. A good oven is key to handling this.

Bringing a new oven into the baking area should be in itself the start of a radical change of the entire routine. Choosing the best fit is taken quite literally because the oven must efficiently cover the space and positioning allotted to it, while also having the capacity to produce the desired quantities for all occasions. Energy-efficiency is a must on the checklist when evaluating this purchase; the oven must help save energy and also be easy to use by anyone in all shifts, regardless of their background.

“First and foremost, the device must fit the overall concept of the customer. In the handicraft sector, combinations of convection-, deck- and snack devices often tend to be suitable in order to be able to offer the best baking quality,” Maximilian Eder, product management, WIESHEU highlighted.

Bake Everything

PAVAILLER designs, manufactures and distributes an extensive range of ovens for baking bread, cakes, and Viennese pastries specialized for the needs of artisan bakers, distribution groups and franchises. The company has recently launched its newest in-store oven, the ONYX. It stands out due to its modern design; “its baking surface (up to 6.4 m²) and footprint (3.4m²), as well as its thermal isolation that enables the baking of baguettes in just 18 minutes with smooth power (30kW or 30kVA),” Sebastien Audras, product manager, Pavailler, described for us. This oven also includes the new regulation-compliant touchscreen “Easy-Touch”, enabling the baker to monitor the oven at a glance and adjust its consumption strictly as needed, to save energy. The ONYX oven bakes bread very fast thanks to its deck height, which has been lowered to 140 mm. This brings the resistances closer to the bread, so it is more efficient because of the decrease in the volume of the baking chamber that needs to be heated.

The Easy-Touch panel includes an ECO mode that saves energy when the oven is not full or when production is no longer in a “rush” mode. It also turns to sleep mode after if it is not used for a while. “We also recommend the baker to completely stop the oven as soon as he knows that he won’t bake any goods in the coming 15 minutes. The oven will save energy as it doesn’t regulate as empty. The temperature will quickly come back to the set value, as these PAVAILLER ovens are very powerful and well insulated. It would take less than 10 minutes to jump from 200° to 250°C,” Audras said.

The Utmost Flexibility

End customers expect a wide range of baked goods and tasty snacks. Eder (WIESHEU) underlined: “It is important for us to provide our customers with the most flexible solutions possible. A good example of this is our networking solution Wnet, which allows baking programs to be created and sent to the devices via an easy-to-use web-interface. This helps our customers to adapt their baking assortment flexibly and without effort.”

The various types of equipment for craft baking in WIESHEU’s portfolio (convection ovens, deck units) are also available in different chamber sizes and can be combined modularly. “This allows our customers to use the full capacity of the devices during peak periods and simply switch off devices when they don’t need them,” Eder explained.

To simplify workflow, ovens are often used for frozen baked goods. An oven with a powerful steaming system and an optimal airflow in the baking chamber is the key to obtaining good quality products, consistently. WIESHEU’s specialist explained: “For sophisticated snack products, we recommend our customers to use an Atollspeed high-speed oven. This small snack oven combines a classic convection oven and a microwave. In this way, fantastic snacks can be produced in a very short time.”

Multiple Benefits

A new oven should be easy to operate, able to store complex baking programs, have a low energy consumption, and high stability in a compact architecture, with the possibility of networking the oven controls.

WP ovens designed for craft baking combine these features; benefits include energy-saving capabilities, achieved by improving the insulation and the efficiency of the heat exchanger. In addition, the modified airflow enables shorter baking times combined with reduced baking loss. Dr. Christoph Adams, technical manager, WP Bakery Technologies, detailed features to look for:

  • WP ISOTHERMIC BAKING – automatic uniform baking results for full and partial occupancy
  • WP THERMOGATE – Burner runs when the trolley is changed and during the steam exposure time, so full energy and low temperature drop immediately when baking starts.
  • WP THERMOGATE – Burner runs when the trolley is changed and during the steam exposure time, so full energy and low temperature drop immediately when baking starts.
  • WP NAVIGO 3 – State-of-the-art computer oven control with visualization of the baking process.

“The oven control system can store up to 250 different baking recipes with up to 25 baking phases each, making it very easy to bake different products one after the other,” Dr. Adams explained for us. These phases include baking time, baking temperature, swath volume, swath time, and circulator speed (for rack ovens). High-precision water meters accurately add the necessary water for controlled humidification.



Mondelez projects continued revenue growth for Oreo

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Mondelez Philippines expects to see continued revenue growth for Oreo this year.

“While we cannot disclose sales figures, Oreo continues to grow in revenue,” Mondelez Philippines Inc. biscuits marketing manager Criselle Villafuerte said in a text message.

“This year, we want to be part of more playful moments of families and that is how we plan to drive growth,” she said.

Oreo, which celebrated its 108th birthday on March 6, is the number one brand in the sweet biscuits category in supermarkets in the Philippines based on Nielsen retail audit data.

“Oreo believes that it’s important to help families spend time together to help them strengthen their bonds and provide a loving environment for children’s development,” Villafuerte said.

Last year, the cookie brand achieved a milestone as its global annual net revenue reached $3.1 billion.

OREO is available in more than 100 countries around the world.

The brand has expanded its offerings to include the Oreo Thins, Oreo Minis, Oreo Wafer Roll and Oreo Chocolate Coated snacks.

Oreo is under global snack giant Mondelez International.

In the Philippines, the firm has been present since 1963 and its product portfolio includes Tang powdered beverages, Eden cheese, mayonnaise and sandwich spread, Cheez Whiz spread, Tiger energy biscuits, belVita breakfast biscuits as well as Toblerone and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolates.

Mondelez Philippines has a manufacturing facility for Eden cheese in Parañaque City, and employs 450 individuals.



Mars warns of confectionery shortages after ‘breakdown’ at factory

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Mars warned it had experienced a ‘mechanical breakdown’ which would hurt supply

Mars has blamed a “mechanical breakdown” for shortages of several of its biggest chocolate brands.

The Galaxy and Maltesers owner said this week (3 March) it was “really sorry” that it was not “able to make as many treats as we would like”.

“For the time being, you may not be able to find Maltesers, Revels, and some other Galaxy treats including Minstrels, Counters, Galaxy Milk and Ripple.”

It stressed no other lines were affected.

One senior industry source in the wholesale sector said Mars’ impulse service levels were “very, very poor at the moment”.

“They are communicating well on shortages but that doesn’t help us – customers are frustrated,” they said.

At the time of writing, Tesco’s website was listing numerous Mars SKUs, including multipacks of Galaxy and Galaxy Ripple as well as 118g packs of Minstrels, 189g packs of Maltesers and 93g packs of Maltesers Buttons, as unavailable.

Meanwhile on Morrisons’ website, the likes of block bars of Galaxy Smooth Milk, Counters and Galaxy Instant Hot Chocolate were out of stock.

Mars would not share further details of the mecanical breakdown with The Grocer. However, a spokeswoman insisted the brand was “doing everything we can to maximise our production volume and to mitigate the impact on our customers as much as possible.”

“We understand the situation is frustrating but our priority has always been to be transparent about our recovery progress and we will continue to keep our customers regularly updated so that they can plan accordingly.”

It is understood Mars does not expect Easter availability to be affected.



New research links gene found in wild wheat to drought tolerance in cultivated wheat

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New research from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has led to the discovery of a novel gene that improves drought adaptation in wheat — a breakthrough that could contribute to increased world food security.

In new research published in Plant Biotechnology Journal, Harkamal Walia, associate professor and Heuermann Chair of Agronomy and Horticulture at Nebraska, and colleagues describe a novel form of a gene obtained from wild wheat that has the potential to improve drought tolerance in cultivated wheat. Introducing this gene into cultivated wheat improved the plant root structure so that it continued to grow in search of water under dry soil conditions.

Wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world and, together with rice, provides more than 50% of the caloric intake of humans globally. Like other crops, wheat is exposed to a wide range of environmental limitations, such as high temperature, disease pressure and drought.

The scavenging nature of wheat root systems during times of drought may have been lost when wild wheats were adopted for agriculture by early humans or as cultivated wheat was bred for improved responsiveness to irrigation and fertilizers during the mid-1900s. This improved responsiveness was key to feeding a booming world population during the 1960s.

As today’s producers strive for “more crop per drop” to feed a world population that is again in the midst of a boom and is expected to grow from about 7.5 billion today to more than 9.6 billion by 2050, it is evident that future crops will need greater drought resilience. The discovery by Walia and his colleagues could represent an important new genetic resource, enabling breeders to recapture this natural survival trait in cultivated wheat. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has secured a patent on the discovery via NUtech Ventures, enabling future commercialization of this technology.

The potential impact of the discovery grew substantially when the team found that adding the wild root gene also resulted in plants with larger grains in the absence of drought. Walia and his team were not expecting this, as introducing tolerance to a stress can sometimes result in lost productivity when the stress is absent.

“This particular trait may have the opposite effect, which is a benefit in both conditions,” Walia said. “We are now working to understand the reason behind this surprising finding.”

The genetic engineering of wheat plants was performed at Nebraska’s Center for Biotechnology.

Walia is one of many researchers worldwide helping to develop a catalog of genes that will contribute to creating more robust plants for the future. Drought response is a complicated trait, Walia said, which involves many genes contributing to survival and productivity when water is limited. He hopes that research in this area will continue to discover new genetic resources that plant breeders and geneticists can use to develop more drought-tolerant crops.

“From a genetic improvement perspective, it takes a community to make a crop more adaptive,” Walia said. “This finding is one piece of a very large puzzle.”

The research was spearheaded by doctoral students Dante Placido and Jaspreet Sandhu in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. The work was supported by the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute.



Bakery giant Bimbo to build 1,000 electric trucks per year

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The dynamics of the commercial vehicle market are very different from those of the fashion-driven passenger vehicle market. When it comes to electric trucks, it’s fleet buyers who are taking the initiative, from Germany’s Deutsche Post to Amazon to UPS . Now the bakery giant Grupo Bimbo has announced plans to build its own EVs.

Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo is the world’s largest baking company, with more than 100 locations in 17 countries. Its brands include Sara Lee, Entenmann’s, Thomas’ English Muffins and Nature’s Harvest.

The new plan calls for Bimbo subsidiary Moldex to build around 1,000 electric trucks per year for the next four years for the company’s fleet, and possibly to sell vehicles to other companies as well.

“In 2012 we started planning and designing what would be Grupo Bimbo’s first electric vehicle. Today, thanks to the talent of Mexican engineers at our subsidiary Moldex, located in Lerma, State of Mexico, we have an electric distribution fleet of more than 400 vehicles, and we are ready to take this big step of expanding the fleet by 4,000 units,” said Executive VP Javier González Franco. “This will provide sustainable distribution to corner stores in Mexico using a fleet that will operate without leaving a trace on the planet.”

Energy for the electric distribution trucks will be generated by Grupo Bimbo’s Piedra Larga wind farm in Oaxaca.

José María-Aguilar, CEO of Moldex, said Grupo Bimbo has invested $146 million in its electric truck initiative. “These are the new generation of trucks, which have lithium batteries for greater load capacity and speed,” María-Aguilar said. “We have the ability to assemble up to 3,000 units per year, but we will make 1,000.”



Nutella And Nutella Biscuits Boost Ferrero’s Results In FY 2019

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Italy’s Gruppo Ferrero reported a consolidated turnover of around €11.4 billion, up 6.2% year-on-year, in its financial year ended 31 August 2019.

The company generated almost €8.1 billion of its total turnover in Europe, driven by strong performance in Germany and France.

In non-European markets, the confectioner’s turnover amounted to approximately €3.3 billion, with the US as a top performer.

Growth was mainly driven by Nutella, Ferrero Rocher, Kinder Bueno, as well as new products such as Nutella Biscuits and Kinder Cards, which were launched in some markets.

The sales data for Nutella Biscuits only includes the period between May to August 2019, when the product was only sold in France.

Profit Growth

The multinational confectionery company saw profits increase by 4.3% to €703 million, with a profit margin of 6.2%.

The group invested €663 million in expanding its production capacity and installing new equipment, mainly in Italy, Germany, Canada, Poland, Belgium.

It also completed the construction of its new headquarters in Luxembourg.

Last year, Ferrero also finalised the acquisition of a portfolio of biscuit brands from Kellogg Company , including Keebler, Famous Amos, Mother’s, Murray and Little Brownie Bakers.

It also acquired a majority stake in Spain’s Ice Cream Factory Comaker (ICFC).

Expansion Plans For Nutella Biscuits

After successful launches in France and Italy, Gruppo Ferrero is planning to rollout Nutella Biscuits in Germany from April 2020.

The company, which sold more than 17.5 million packs of Nutella Biscuits up to 26 January 2020, has increased production levels by 30% at the Balvano plant from 1 February, according to IRI data published by  Il Sole 24 Ore .

Nutella Biscuits account for 15% of the €1.2 billion Italian biscuit market.

Initially, Ferrero forecast annual sales worth €70-€90 million from Nutella Biscuits in Italy.



Mondelez International to Acquire Leading In-store Bakery Company, Give & Go

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Mondelez International today announced an agreement to acquire a significant majority interest in Give & Go, a North American leader in fully-finished sweet baked goods and owners of the famous “ two-bite”® brand and the “ Create-A-Treat”® brand known for cookie and gingerbread house decorating kits. Give & Go is being sold by funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. (THL).

With a leading position in brownies, cupcakes, pastries and muffins, as well as access to the fast-growing in-store bakery channel, the acquisition of Give & Go expands Mondelez International’s leadership in broader snacking. Founded in 1989, Give & Go’s delicious and on-trend products are a complementary addition to Mondelez International’s portfolio of global and local brands such as Oreo, Cadbury, Milka and belVita , as well as Tate’s Bake Shop and Perfect Snacks. The company has delivered attractive growth over the past several years with net revenues of approximately $500 million in 2019.

“Our ambition is to lead the future of snacking by offering consumers a broad range of snacks in key growth channels and categories,” said Glen Walter, Executive Vice President and President, North America, for Mondelez International. “Give & Go’s leading position in the large and fast-growing in-store bakery channel gives us a unique opportunity to expand into new, on-trend consumer spaces. Similar to our recent acquisitions of Perfect Snacks and Tate’s Bake Shop, this is yet another great example of our bolt-on acquisition strategy to establish foundations in faster growing snacking adjacencies. We look forward to working with Joel Flatt and the entire Give & Go management team to build upon their strong success.”

“Our previous owner, THL, has been a great partner and invested significantly to grow our business. We are now very excited to be joining the Mondelez International family and this amazing portfolio of iconic snack brands,” said Joel Flatt, President and CEO of Give & Go. “There are significant opportunities for us to accelerate the growth of our business by utilizing Mondelez International’s unique capabilities, and our shared desire to invest in innovation that drives consumer engagement and deeper strategic retail partnerships.”

As with other recent acquisitions such as Perfect Snacks , Mondelez International will operate Give & Go separately in order to nurture its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit while providing access to consumer and channel insights, procurement and marketing resources to accelerate growth. After the deal closes, Give & Go’s senior leadership team will retain a minority interest in the company and continue to run the business from their existing headquarters. All Give & Go products will continue to be made at their current manufacturing locations.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and expected to close in the second quarter of 2020.