Chinese talks over United Biscuits

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Chinese food company Bright Food is reportedly in talks to buy Britain’s United Biscuits for than £2 billion (€2.3bn), according to the Sunday Times.

United Biscuits saw good performance in 2009 with revenues of £1.26 billion (€1.46bn) but rumours of a possible sale of the business have been circulating since July.

Bright Foods’ confectionery business manufactures a popular Chinese brand of sweets called White Rabbit. It recently lost a bidding war for Australian sugar refiner CSR. The Chinese group generated sales of more than 76 billion yuan (€8.3bn) in 2009. Reuters reported in July that United Biscuits’ owners, private equity firms Blackstone and PAI Partners, were considering selling. Last month, it was also reported that US group Campbell Soup Company was considering making a move on the biscuit arm of United Biscuits.

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Baltic bakery merger unlikely to usurp Finnish throne

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The dominant position of two Finnish bakery manufacturers in the Baltics will make it difficult for Estonian’s Eesti Pagar to boost the market share of the Latvian baked goods producer that it acquired a stake in this week, claims an industry analyst.

Veikko Vaara, chairman of Eesti Pagar, the second largest bakery company in Estonia, did not disclose the financial details of this week’s deal.

He said that the Estonia company had bought the controlling shares in Latvian bread, cake and pastry manufacturer, Dinella, in a move that he claims will give both companies greater leverage against the leading position of Finnish duo Vasaan and Karl Fazer in the Baltics.

Vaara said that Latvian bakery player was a financially sound company, with a stable market position. He maintains that it is ripe for further development and he added that “the experience and knowledge of Eesti Pagar in product development and marketing will help increase the turnover of Dinella”.

Lithuanian based market analyst at Euromonitor, Rusne Naujokaityte, told that the large share purchase by Eesti Pagar will help Dinella grow and survive in what are extremely tough economic trading conditions in Latvia currently.

Dinella, which has a workforce of 460 employees, has a 6.3 per cent share of the overall baked goods market in Lativa, she said.

And while it rode out 2009 well, recording a growth of 6 percentage points, Naujokaityte notes that the bakery manufacturer firm has only a 9 per cent share of the Latvian industrial packaged bread sector against the 25 per cent and 23 per cent grip that Finnish giants Vasaan and Karl Fazer have respectively.

“It will be somewhat of a challenge for the Estonia and Latvia firms to take some of the ground from their Finnish rivals and become larger regional players but perhaps with the product expansion push planned by Eesti Pagar, Dinella can grow penetration in Latvia,” said the Euromonitor analyst.

Bread, particularly the rye market, dominates in the Baltics. In value terms, in Latvia the cakes and pastries segment has an 8 per cent and 2 per cent share of the baked goods sector, with Naujokaityte adding that the cake category in particular is in decline as consumers become more health and weight conscious.

The pastry segment though in Latvia, she continued, is recording a slight growth as the local retailers introduce greater product variety, with berry and other fruit inclusions increasing. With more supply of these fresh unpackaged pastries, demand follows, said the Baltic market specialist.

She said that Latvian bakery manfacturers are bringing out more packaged pastry line to complete but consumers are not responding in kind, as they are favouring freshness and products with a shorter shelf life.

And bread consumption is also waning in Latvia as well as in the Baltics generally on both health and economic concerns, said Naujokaityte.

“During the height of the recession, bread became somewhat of a premium style product, with manufacturers increasing prices, despite the lack of a significant raw material cost spikes. Consumers sought out bread substitutes such as crisp bread to compensate and have also cut out bread from their regular meal patterns.

Women, in particular, have moved away from the staple product, believing it to contribute to weight gain,” she commented.

According to Naujokaityte, the Western European trend for gluten-free, wholegrain and other more health orientated breads is also taking hold in Latvia and the Baltics, as is consumer demand for products with clean labels.

Source: Bakery and snacks

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Baker Perkins System to Reduce Contamination Risk

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Baker Perkins will launch its TruClean range of food safety machinery systems which allows manufacturers to select the grade of hygiene applicable to their particular operation.

The company said its wire cutter line provides a hygiene level which has been designed for dry or wet cloth cleaning with no cross-contamination issues.

The rotary moulder sanitation level is applicable for low-pressure wet or chemical cleaning.

Bake Perkins said its rotary cutter line has been developed for high-pressure wet, steam or chemical cleaning when a high risk of cross contamination exists, particularly post-baking.

Source: Food processing technology

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Grupo Nacional de Chocolates to Acquire US Cookie Firm

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South American food giant Grupo Nacional de Chocolates is to acquire US cookie manufacturer Fehr Foods for US$84m.

Grupo Nacional de Chocolates said  that the acquisition is a “positive step” for the company and that it will continue to develop the Fehr business further.

Additionally, the firm said that Fehr’s proximity to centres of wheat production, a major raw material of the biscuit business, will bring “major economies” and allow it to develop its supply chain to Colombia and Costa Rica.

Fehr produces and markets cookies through two production platforms located in Texas and Oklahoma. Products are sold under the brand names Lil ‘Dutch Maid, Sun Valley and Tru-Blu, which are available in 43 US states, Mexico and Panama.

The agreed sale price is subject to Fehr’s operating performance for the current fiscal year. If set targets are not achieved, there will be a discount of up to $4m.

To finance the transaction, Grupo Nacional de Chocolates has used its own resources and bank loans secured by a number of its subsidiaries.

The closing date is expected to be in October.

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World Chocolate Masters US Selection Competition Results

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Best Degustation : Chef Frederic Loraschi
Best Showpiece : Chef Sylvain Bortolini
Third place : Chef Stephen Durfee
Second place : Chef Frederic Loraschi

And the chef who will be representing the United States in the 2011
World Chocolate Masters Competition in Paris (during the Salon du
Chocolat Professionnel) is Chef Sylvain Bortolini

Recap on the judges …
Chef Pascal Janvier – Head of the Jury; Fleur de Cocoa, CA
Lisa Shames; Chicago-based food writer
Chef Randy Sebastian; Caesars Palace, NV
Chef Lionel Clement; 2008 US National Chocolate Master,
Chef David Ramirez; Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel, FL
Chef Vincent Pilon; Mandalay Bay, NV

Judging system:
Plated Dessert 11%
Entremet 11%
Molded bonbon 11%
Enrobed bonbon 11%
Showpiece 22%
Recipe book 11%
Technical skills 23%
Perfect Score :: 900 points

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Cassava starch may improve gluten free bread

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The addition of starch to sorghum dough could improve certain negative characteristics of gluten-free sorghum bread, according to researchers.

The new study published in LWT – Food Science and Technology, reports that adding fifty per cent cassava starch to sorghum bread gave “the best overall crumb properties”, improving the overall quality of the nutrient-rich gluten free bread.

Ancient grain

Sorghum is one of the world’s oldest known grains, and is one of a range of ancient grains that are naturally gluten-free. It has gained popularity as the market for gluten-free foods has grown, based on its greater nutritional value, compared withother gluten-free flours such as rice, corn or potato flour – however, it has physico-chemical properties that can negatively affect dough quality.

Sorghum dough lacks the consistency and elasticity associated with wheat flour dough, and when cooked, forms extended structures with embedded starch that can affect various technological properties of sorghum bread.

The dough mixture also retains gases produced from fermentation during proofing poorly, often resulting in rigid “brick-like bread with a low volume,” said the researchers.

The addition of starch to sorghum dough is thought to aid the development of a “cohesive crumb network that traps gas bubbles and prevents loss of carbon dioxide and crust collapse,” noted the authors.

Starches from different origins have different compositional and structural properties, and it is known such variance in starches can affect the properties of bread dough.

“It is … reasonable to assume that the botanical origin of starch will affect the rheological and crumb properties of sorghum batter and bread,” wrote the researchers.

The new research tested gluten-free sorghum bread made with varying levels of four different starches (cassava, maize, potato, or rice starch), investigating their effects on the properties of bread.

New study

Crumb properties of sorghum bread were reported to improve with increasing starch content.

Increasing starch content was also seen to change the consistency from soft doughs to thin pourable batters, whilst increasing starch content decreased crumb firmness and chewiness, and increased cohesiveness, springiness and resilience in of all the breads.

The researchers noted that cassava sorghum and rice-sorghum breads had better overall crumb properties than maize-sorghum or potato sorghum breads.

The crumb properties of all breads declined upon storage, however, the formulation containing 50 per cent cassava starch was seen to retain the best overall texture.

Breads made from pourable batters were observed to possess better crumb properties than for those made from soft doughs – bread containing 50 per cent cassava was reported to have the best overall crumb properties.

Source: Bakery and Snacks

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Bamboo salts may act as sodium replacer

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Purple bamboo salts may improve the chemical and sensory properties of meat products – whilst reducing sodium content, according to researchers.

The new study, published in Meat Science, suggests that meat batters formulated with bamboo salts have better physical, chemical, and sensory properties when compared to batters made with conventional, commercially available sodium chloride.

“Bamboo salts effectively improved the physicochemical properties of the meat batter… Thus bamboo salts may have potential in the food industry,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Cheon-Jei Kim, of the Konkuk University, South Korea.

Common use

Commercial salt (sodium chloride – NaCl) is commonly used in the production of meat products because it acts as a flavour enhancer, increasing the intensity of flavours. Salt solutions also extract myosin proteins from muscle fibres – increasing emulsion stability, processing stability, water binding, and yield of meat batters.

However, high salt intake is correlated with hypertension – a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

As such reducing sodium levels in meat products has become a major goal for manufacturers. But such reductions can have major negative impacts as it can not only reduce the perceived saltiness, but also impair the overall flavour of meat products.

Nevertheless with consumers increasing interest in foods that not only meet nutritional needs, but also offer health benefits, it is important to investigate options for salt replacement, note the authors.

Bamboo salts are produced by placing sea salt in thick bamboo stubs and baking them together with pine tree firewood, the process is suggested to purify the sea salt and infuse the oils from the bamboo.

Ancient bamboo salts were baked two or three times, before being used in traditional medical treatments, however it is now common for bamboo salt to be baked more than nine times before use.

In Korea, bamboo salts are often eaten to promote health, as they are not associated with the health risks of commercial salt and contain additional minerals that have been suggested to offer health benefits.

The new research investigated the effects of bamboo salts on meat batter – using three different batters: one made from conventional NaCl (CON), one with twice-baked bamboo salts (BS-2), and one produced with bamboo salt that was baked nine times (BS-9).

Significant differences

The researchers reported the overall acceptability score between commercial (CON) and bamboo salts (BS-9) to be significantly different. Differences were observed in tenderness, colour, flavour, juiciness and overall acceptability between, with CON having a lower colour and flavour score than the other treatments.

In a texture profile analysis, batter containing BS-9 bamboo salt was observed to have the lowest hardness, and reduced gumminess and chewiness.

Bamboo salts also influenced the physico-chemical properties of the meat batter, the researchers observed that the pH of the batter containing bamboo salt was higher – the authors noted that this is because bamboo salt contains high levels of K, Ca, and alkali minerals.

Bamboo salt meat batters were also seen to have improved water holding capacity (WHC), viscosity, cooking yield, emulsion stability, and texture.

The authors concluded that bamboo salts could have potential uses in the food industry, especially in processed meat products. However they warned that further work investigating the physico-chemical properties of bamboo salt products is needed before they could be safely used in foods.

“Research is needed on the shelf-life of meat products with added bamboo salt because of their higher pH,” added the researchers.

Source: Meat Science

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Honey powder proves shelf life booster in bread, study

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Honey powder could potentially be used as a dough improver, and may also act as a sugar replacer in bread, according to new research from China.

The authors of the study, published in the journal Food Research International, said that the addition of honey powder at a level of 5 to 10 per cent improved the baking quality by retarding staling and increasing shelf life.

“Because fructose in honey powder tends to absorb more moisture than sugar, the incorporation of honey powder resulted in higher retention of moisture in bread crumbs, thereby retardating staling and extending the shelf life,” they found.

The researchers also concluded that the ingredient had a desirable effect on the colour development of crust and crumb. “When honey powder was incorporated into the bread, the products had higher volume, softer crumb, and yellower colour,” found the authors, based at Jiangnan University.

The study

Bread samples were prepared using a straight dough method with slight modification.

The authors said the control consisted of 500 g flour, 240 g water, 90 g sugar, 40 g butter oil substitute, 20 g milk powder, 6 g dry baker’s yeast, 6 g bread improver 5 g fine salt, and one egg (total about 50 g).

For the fifteen bread samples containing honey powder, the dough formulation was identical with that of the control bread except for the fact that the sugar was replaced by the honey.

The authors explained that flour, fine sugar, honey powder, milk powder were uniformly mixed in a stirrer using a dough hook, followed by the addition of yeast and bread improver. The dough was prepared in the stirrer for 1 min at 40 rpm, and 10 minutes at 70 rpm after egg and water were added. Final dough temperature was 28 °C.

The dough was rested in bulk for 10 min, divided into pieces of 100 g, rounded by hand (ball shape), and submitted to an extra fermentation period of 10 minutes.

The dough was then kneaded, put in well-greased pans, proofed at 37 °C and 85 per cent relative humidity for 2 hours and baked in an electric oven set at upper temperature 170 °C and down temperature 220 °C for 20 minutes. The bread was removed from the pans and cooled at 25 °C for 1 hour before testing.

Results

After cooling and before storage, there was no obvious difference in crumb hardness between honey and the control bread samples. However, the sugar bread became harder than the honey breads after storage, said the China based team.

The researchers found that honey breads had lower hardness, adhesiveness, gumminess, and chewiness, along with higher springiness and cohesiveness than the control bread after one day of storage.

The increased bread softness as the honey powder content increased may be attributed to the fructose present in honey was more hygroscopic than sugar, added the authors.

“The positive effect of honey powder on yeast activity and gas production during fermentation, in combination with the softening effect promoted by fructose on the gluten proteins led to increase in volume of loaves and longer shelf life.

It appeared that honey powder had a softening effect on crumb hardness,” noted the researchers.

The team also determined that high levels of honey powder – over 10 per cent – could weaken the intension of dough and could cause stickiness problems during kneading, making the dough difficult to work.

Thus, they recommend honey power be added to bread formulation at levels of between 5 to 10 per cent to ensure good sensory characteristics.

Source: Food Research International

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Campbell’s Pepperidge Farm to cut sodium in breads

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Pepperidge Farm Inc. says it will cut the sodium levels in the majority its breads, rolls and bagels by 2011, making it the latest of many food makers to respond to demands for healthier products.

The company, owned by Campbell Soup Co., said the reductions will ultimately result in sodium levels 10 to 33 percent lower in 69 of its U.S. bakery products.

Health experts say Americans eat too much salt and the vast majority is from processed food. That excess is dangerous because sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, kidney disease, heart disease or heart failure.

The issue has become so pressing that the Institute of Medicine issued a report in April that urged the federal government to limit salt allowed in food.

Pepperidge Farm said it has already begun some of the reductions, such as cutting sodium in its original white bread from 225 milligrams per slice to 150 milligrams last year.

Based on positive response to those changes and growing consumer demand, the company said it decided to aim to lower sodium levels 80 percent of its products by February 2011.

“We would like to think we were involved in reducing sodium before it was fashionable,” said Bibi Wu, business director for Pepperidge Farm Fresh Bakery.

A number of food makers have announced recently that they are lowering sodium in their products based on consumer demand and increasing scrutiny by health groups. Bumble Bee Foods, General Mills Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. all announced sodium reductions to their products in this spring alone.

Campbell has been cutting sodium for years. It makes more than 200 reduced-sodium products, an eight-fold increase compared to just five years ago, when the company offered 25.

Lowering sodium levels in canned soup, notoriously high in salt, is one thing. Doing the same in the bakery was a notable achievement, given that complex role salt plays in bread — affecting flavor, texture, shelf life and interacting with the yeast that helps it rise.

“Neither one is easy,” said David Smith, vice president of research and development and quality assurance for Pepperidge Farm. “It’s very complex.”

The company said it relied on the move to sea salt, which Campbell used in its soups, to help make the transition.

Source: The Associated Press.

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Nestlé to open R&D centre in India

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With a global network of 29 research and development (R&D) centres, Nestlé has recently announced its plans to establish its 30th R&D centre in India. The facility will be built in Manesar, close to Nestlé India’s headquarters in Gurgaon, and will be operational by July 2012. The company has planned an investment of around Rs 230 crore in developing the centre, which will have an area of around 2,00,000 sq.ft.

The new centre will focus on popularly positioned products (PPPs), especially for India. PPPs are the ones that meet the specific needs of consumers with lower income levels, by offering them high-quality, nutritionally enhanced products at affordable prices. “Nestlé India has benefited from its global R&D network, with innovative PPPs such as Maggi Noodles and Chotu Munch chocolate confectionery,” said Antonio Helio Wasyzk, CMD, Nestlé India, while making the announcement.
“This new centre will facilitate innovation in a wide variety of foods, including culinary, cereals beverages and dairy products,” said Klaus Zimmermann, head of Nestlé R&D centres worldwide.

“Nestlé India is the country’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company. Our continuous access to Nestlé’s global R&D has significantly contributed to our performance and Nestlé’s decision to establish an R&D centre in India will provide additional competitive advantage in the future. It will help us to accelerate the company’s growth and contribute towards reducing nutritional deficiencies in India,” said Wasyzk.

Highlighting the importance of R&D in the company’s growth, he shared last year over a third of all Nestlé sales came from the innovations launched since 2007.
Revealing further details, Zimmermann said, “The site has been chosen for its proximity to Nestlé India’s headquarters. The proximity will help in facilitating cross-functional team work and ensure the R&D programme is relevant. The centre in India will initially have a team of about 40 scientists and engineers and we expect this number to grow significantly in the coming years.”

The Manesar R&D centre will work in collaboration with Nestlé’s research centres in Switzerland and Singapore, the product technology centre in Germany and the centre facilitating research in the Unites States. Besides, the centre will also work in association with Indian universities and research institutes in order to expand its knowledge-base and fast-track innovation.

Sharing Nestlés approach towards the much debated genetically modified (GM) food ingredients, Zimmermann said, “We have always followed the policies accepted by consumers in their respected countries and we will do the same in India as well. However, we are open to the use of GM foods/crops as we feel that in the long run this technology will provide food security.”

Apart from the plans for the R&D centre, Wasyzk said the company was investing around Rs 350 crore in building up a manufacturing unit for noodles in Karnataka “and in the future we plan to open more such factories”.

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