Premiere at ProSweets 2019: TOMRA Presents New Sorting Equipment

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TOMRA Food, part of the Norwegian TOMRA Group, is showcasing innovative sweets sorting systems for gummies and delicate confectionery products at ProSweets 2019 in Cologne, Germany for the first time.

TOMRA systems help food manufacturers ensure that their end products always meet the highest quality standards by reliably and efficiently removing defective articles and foreign materials.

Sorting systems for sweets: maximum product safety and competitive advantages  

TOMRA’s sorting equipment detects cross contamination, starch, and foreign materials, as well as identifying clumping and misshapen products. These imperfections are removed in a safe and reliable process. This increases throughput and production yields, ensuring end products of consistently high quality and providing brand owners with an all-important competitive advantage.

Sophisticated technology and reliable detection 

TOMRA uses advanced technology for the reliable sorting of sweets. Product color and structure is checked by laser scanners. In addition, the scanners identify contaminated products or foreign objects that are not visible to the naked eye. When augmented by an Advanced Foreign Material Detector (AFMD), sorting can be supplemented to include product-specific properties. TOMRA has developed special high-resolution cameras for optical food sorting on the basis of color and outline. A further module for shape recognition ensures that, through scanning, individual products comply with the desired dimensions and shapes.

Focusing on today’s customer needs, TOMRA can make a recommendation between two user-friendly modular platforms. Both the horizontal belt and vertical free-fall sorting equipment can be extended after installation, for the highest production flexibility.

TOMRA’s Genius: high-performing optical belt sorting machine 

The Genius optical belt sorter utilizes a combination of different sorting technologies to reliably remove discolored products and foreign materials. A variety of inspection technologies such as high-resolution cameras and lasers are deployed in different inspection areas of the system. State-of-the-art ejectors remove faulty gummies or delicate confectionery within milliseconds and in two or three different streams. Only products of perfect quality are allowed to proceed along the production line, achieving an exceptionally high sorting performance.

TOMRA’s Nimbus free-fall sorter: effective combination of laser detection and camera technology 

The Nimbus represents a new generation of sorting solutions that sort objects in free-fall. This modular platform uses laser scanning and camera technology to separate falling products according to unwanted discoloration and deformation. In addition to these conventional sorting methods, the Nimbus is able to sort articles by biological characteristics.

The front ejection system (FES) uses optimal pitch for the enhanced removal of defects, reduce false rejects and improve yield. Karel Strubbe, Regional Sales Director EMEA at TOMRA Food, emphasizes: “Our innovative sorting systems for sweets such as gummies demonstrate TOMRA’s many years of expertise in food sorting systems. Reliable detection guarantees food safety. This protects our customers’ brand reputations through consistently high product quality, and therefore provides a real competitive advantage. We invite trade visitors to experience for themselves our high performing systems by joining us at ProSweets.”

TOMRA Food will be at ProSweets in Cologne from 27th to 30th January: Hall 10.1, Stand G-068.

Source:  packagingeurope.com

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UK confectionery market expects growth despite Brexit trading challenges

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Market uncertainties with Brexit have made many UK firms wary of investment, including within confectionery. But as Neill Barston reports, Euromonitor research indicates there may be hope ahead 

As the Food and Drink Federation has recently highlighted, the manufacturing sector in the UK is facing an overhanging cloud in the form of Brexit.

The ongoing uncertainty over how the economic picture is likely to unfold over the next few years is already having a dramatic effect on a number of industries, and much will hinge on whether the government’s draft agreement with Brussels over Britain’s departure from the EU is accepted.

The industry is still sizeable though – with 2018 registering a 1% year-on-year retail growth to £6.4 billion, making it one of the most significant markets in Europe.

However, mounting pressure on manufacturers to reduce sugar content have also prompted ripples of disquiet, in the knowledge that reformulation is a costly process.

Despite such factors, research from Euromonitor suggests that value and volume growth is expected to be marginal in chocolate confectionery between 2018 and 2023 as the category reaches maturity.

However, pockets of growth within the premium segment will boost the overall performance. This is underpinned by growing premiumisation and indulgence trends that the research group says are expected to see more consumers turning to premium chocolate as they adopt the “better but less” approach.

As Euromonitor notes, there has been Increased awareness of cocoa sourcing that saw ethical products perform well in 2018, with organic chocolate recording growth.

Similarly, the gifting trend saw more British consumers purchasing chocolates with toys and novelty items such as Kit Kat Senses. But, increasing concern around sugar consumption and its correlation with weight gain and food-related diseases is expected to put pressure on chocolate consumption.

As consumers increasingly pursue a healthy lifestyle for their children and themselves, it is expected to prompt them to look for healthier and more nutritious snacking alternatives.

However, it seems the industry is now taking note, including product reformulation from the likes of Nestle seen this year, and also Mars due in the New Year.

There has also been growth in smaller-scale artisan production, as with the likes of Alana Spencer’s brand supported by Lord Alan Sugar, known as Ridiculously Rich by Alana.

Furthermore, as Adrian Ling, director of Plamil Foods confirmed, there has been an upturn in free-from confectionery.

He said: This has been an exciting year of settling in with our product ranges, but it’s been rewarding, and from speaking to everyone that we deal with in the market, they have all been so positive about what we are doing.

“We have seen that there has been definite growth in the free-from market, and there has been strong demand for our products.”

Meanwhile, Rob Whitehead, of Fudge Kings, added that there had been challenges during the past year for many in the sector. While he says that general economic uncertainty, he believed that the company’s focus on quality had given it cause for optimism.

“We’re well placed to deliver new products, and the fact that fudge is relatively inexpensive, between £1-£2, means that it has done well with retailers we deal with, and we are actually doing well with our exports to Germany and Scandinavia.”

Source:  confectioneryproduction.com

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The BreadBot Debuts at the Consumer Electronics Show

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Baked in Front of Your Eyes – Bread that is Fresh, Healthy, Preservative Free and Eco-Friendly

The BreadBot Mixes, Forms, Proofs, Bakes and Cools Bread All on its Own

Retailers Can Benefit from Potential 20-Fold Lift in Profit Margins by Cutting Out Distribution Process

The Wilkinson Baking Company, a family-owned business that is transforming the world of baking one loaf at a time by pioneering a first-of-its-kind, fully automated breadmaking machine.  The BreadBot, a machine that goes to from flour to loaf all on its own, harnesses the marvels of modern technology to take us back to the old world with its artisan bread that is tasty and nutritious.

Compared to center aisle bread, The BreadBot produces loaves that are fresher, healthier, preservative free and eco-friendly. The BreadBot mixes, forms, proofs, bakes and cools ten loaves of bread per hour – all on its own and is capable of making most varieties of bread that require dry ingredients – including white, wheat, whole wheat, nine grain, sourdough and honey oat. The bread can even be organic if preferred!

BY THE NUMBERS – HOW THE BREADBOT MEASURES UP

  • Produces 10 loaves per hour
  • Time to first completed loaf is 90 minutes
  • New loaves produced every 6 minutes
  • Operates up to a 24 hour duty cycle
  • Yields a maximum of 235 loaves per day
  • Requires about 30 minutes for daily cleaning

“Bread is a staple of American life. But in most supermarkets today, it has lost its emotional connection with the shopper,” said Randall Wilkinson, CEO of The Wilkinson Baking Company. “In the age of home delivery, The BreadBot attracts consumers back to the store because it delivers fresh, delicious bread that is produced with theater and engagement. We’re so excited with The BreadBot this year and to demonstrate how we have increased a retailers’ bread sales by more than 30 percent while also decreasing the environmental impact.”

Retailers using The BreadBot can benefit from a potential 20-fold lift in bottom line profit margins through the elimination of the costly current bread distribution process, as well benefiting from increased consumer interest and maximized employee productivity. Grocers can get a head start on their daily production demands by scheduling The BreadBot to start baking hours before they open. And, as nearly half of topline revenue of a commercial baker is spent on the process of transport from factory oven to store shelf and related out-of-date product waste, The BreadBot is disrupting commercial baking and helping the environment through the elimination of brick and mortar facilities and distribution overhead.

Most food providers – including grocery stores, convenience stores, schools, the military and more – can benefit from the compact 22-square-foot BreadBot, which is more automated than a $75 million bread factory.

Source:  prnewswire.com

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Bread Eternal

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In the ruins of Ostia Antica, where Roman roads have disintegrated into a tangle of worn stones and earth, past market stalls where tall grasses jut from meticulously laid mosaic floors, one can find about three dozen stone basins in which bakers once placed bread dough to rise. This is one of several baking sites archaeologists have identified in the ancient seaside town, which suggests that bakeries were established in order to fulfill the imperial custom of providing free bread to citizens, most of whom lived in small apartments and lacked the ability to bake for themselves. Our circuses are quite different from those of the Ancient Romans, but our bread, perhaps not so much.

Bread is the closest thing civilization has to an eternal flame. While the origin of bread-baking is ­usually associated with the rise of agriculture, archaeologists studying Natufian hunter-gatherer sites in northeastern Jordan discovered the remains of 14,400-year-old flatbread made from wild cereals, predating agricultural societies by at least 4,000 years. And in 2010 scientists identified traces of starch on Paleolithic-era grinding tools, suggesting our ancestors made flour from wild plant grains as many as 30,000 years ago. When we bake a loaf of bread, we commune with the Natufian hunter-gatherers, Byzantine imperial bakers, the widow of Zarephath, and the Israelites who fled Egypt with their kneading bowls slung over their shoulders.

Leavened bread appeared as early as 4,000 b.c., perhaps in Egypt. Anyone who has cultivated a sourdough starter from wild yeast has been initiated into the ancient Greek vision of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Make a sludge of flour and water and leave it open to the air. A variety of single-celled fungi known as yeast find their way inside, feast upon the hydrated flour, and produce carbon dioxide that makes the dough bubble. Warmth accelerates the process of fermentation. Local bacteria also contribute, and their acidic byproduct creates the familiar tang of sourdough. As yeast and bacteria multiply, a leaven is born. Bakers mix a portion of leaven with a batch of dough until the whole batch rises into a cathedral of air pockets burgeoned between glutinous strands. Because fungal and microbial colonies vary by ecosystem, so do breads: a Parisian pain au levain tastes different from a San Francisco sourdough. Yet the process remains the same across time and place. A sourdough boule baked fresh this morning has more in common with a loaf from Ostia Antica than with a bag of Wonder Bread made with commercial yeast.

Bread can be for feasting or fasting, indulgent or ascetic. It can be simple and functional: a hunk of pain de campagne for a meager soup, a slab of spongy Ethiopian injera which is as much utensil as food. Or it can be elaborate: a pumpkin-seed-studded fougasse, a Christmas stollen bejeweled with fruits, or—my favorite—an epi baguette scored to resemble a stalk of wheat. Baking bread can be refreshingly uncomplicated, requiring only salt, water, flour, and a keen eye, or it can demand rigor and precision, the correct temperature, humidity, and a meticulously cultivated levain. Still, it is a humble food, often yielding the limelight to a companion like olive oil or cheese. Bread: always the bridesmaid, never the bride (until, that is, it becomes the bridegroom, but more on that later). And yet we notice immediately when the bread is not good, for the food around it loses its luster. Even G. K. Chesterton’s essay celebrating cheese includes a hearty condemnation of the pub that served it to him on biscuits, violating the “sanctity of the ancient wedding between cheese and bread!”

Two experiences have shaped my love of bread: an eight-week internship at the bakery of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis, and a two-year position behind the counter at Clear Flour Bakery in Boston.

The Abbey of Regina Laudis is a cloistered community in Connecticut, where Benedictine nuns chant the Mass and full Divine Office daily and maintain a 450-acre farm. As a summer intern, I had to bale hay, tend the gardens, and help in the abbey bakery several days a week. On bakery days, my alarm rang before 6 a.m., and I’d stumble from the guest house to meet Mother Dorcas Rosenlund. She dressed in an all-white habit, instead of the usual denim work habit, because of the bakery flour and the heat of the industrial-sized oven. She’d grin at my tired face and cup of coffee—she had probably been awake chanting Matins at 2 a.m.—and escort me through the garden gate into the cloister. At times like this, I felt like the Angel had lowered his fiery sword and snuck me in the back door of Eden.

The bakery was simple, clean, and functional. Shelves of cookbooks lining one wall. A smooth wooden work surface for shaping loaves. A looming black oven with a peel tucked beside it, and cooling racks close at hand. A secondhand yellow industrial mixer in the corner. Mother Dorcas, who practiced pediatric gastroenterology before entering the abbey, was meticulous. She scheduled things so the dough would complete its first rise by the time we returned from terce and Mass. We made the same bread every day: Regina Laudis bread, a round wheat loaf scored with a simple cross. I was gradually initiated into the process. I first had to demonstrate that I knew what lukewarm water was. Soon I was operating the formidable mixer, hoping the ingredients would coincide with the temperature and humidity to produce the right consistency of dough.

There was no feeling quite so validating as when Mother Dorcas peeked into the bowl, eyes bright, and exclaimed, “What a good dough!” She declared it good, just as God saw that it was very good to breathe life into dust. Bread has a special kinship, too, with God’s reminder after Adam and Eve’s fall: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” In the same breath, he declares, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.”

Sometimes special occasions called for special breads. On the anniversary of Mother Lucia’s profession, we made Lucia buns from an enriched dough of butter and cardamom, garnished with a single raisin. We produced hundreds of crescent rolls for the funeral dinner for Mother Stephen. At the end of the summer, I introduced Mother Dorcas to monkey bread, a pull-apart loaf bathed in butter, cinnamon, and sugar. “This is too rich,” she chided, but I caught her sneaking a bit during clean-up.

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened,” Jesus says (Matt. 13:33). Rabanus ­Maurus, ninth-century Benedictine and author of the Veni Creator Spiritus, comments on this passage, “He says ‘Until the whole was leavened’ because that love implanted in our mind ought to grow until it changes the whole soul into its own perfection.” Rabanus, I’ll wager, knew a good loaf of bread when he saw one.

Several years later I moved to Boston to begin a master’s degree in theology. But I missed the gentle scent of a good dough and the sound of crust crackling atop a loaf just pulled from the oven. I found not only a bakery but a dream job at Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline, Massachusetts, purveyor of European breads and pastries, two-time finalist for a James Beard Award, and two-time winner of Boston Magazine’s famed “Boston’s Best Croissant.” Once a German exchange student walked into the store, saw the artisan loaves poised on antique bakery racks, and started crying.

A few days a week I’d set aside my studies, grateful to work with my hands after grappling with ideas. I’d don a white apron and cap and send customers home with loaves of German rye, rustic Italian rounds, and fruit tarts tucked away in neat white boxes. Beauty in presentation required precision, rigor, and discipline. As I chopped chocolate and zested lemons, the pastry chefs laminated croissant dough and churned out chocolate chunk cookies. The bakers slipped baguettes in and out of an enormous French oven with a wooden peel the length of a pickup truck. More than once a batch of loaves failed to make it to the shelf because it was overbaked or misshapen. Once in a peak moment of tragedy, several trays of gleaming, crumbly Apfelstreusel had to be discarded because they were left too long in the oven. It was cheery but exacting work. A quotation from Hesiod’s Works and Days was posted on the staircase: “Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat. Long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first, but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning.”

Employees could take home bread for free. As a graduate student, I took somewhat bold advantage of this. After closing up the bakery, I’d leave with a few loaves tucked away for study sessions, potlucks, and football watching. It felt good to be generous with friends in a way that was otherwise impossible. And yet, who does not give thus? “What do you have that you have not been given? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you had not been given it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

To give even when we are empty, to loot the granaries of charity: This is what is required of a Christian’s daily work, our work epiousion. To sanctify the world from within, as leaven, we must know what prompts the leaven’s rise.

Bread, a humble substance, bespeaks our origin and destiny. It is a companion in prayer and work, in feast and fast. But all at once, bread alone is not enough, no longer enough, as the two disciples discovered on the way to Emmaus when the Lord vanished in the breaking of the bread. All at once, something familiar and instructive becomes, in Christ and because of Christ, entirely new, so that in recognizing bread we meet something that is bread no longer. “Take, eat, this is my body.”

Source:  firstthings.com

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World Confectionery Group launches takeover bid for Spanish chocolate maker Natra

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Natra, the Spanish confectionery business, is the subject of a takeover bid from World Confectionery Group, an investment vehicle controlled by Luxembourg-registered investment group Investindustrial Advisors.

A statement on Investindustrial Advisors’ website said it has offered EUR142m (US$161.1m) for the Madrid-headquartered Natra’s shares and convertible bonds.

Investindustrial Advisors is a pan-European private-equity house that predominantly invests in medium-sized companies active in industry sectors such as industrial manufacturing, consumer, leisure and business services.

Natra specialises in chocolate products for private-label brands and other food companies, as well as in cocoa derivatives.

Its consumer goods division is responsible for the manufacturing of chocolate tablets, countlines, spreads and Belgian chocolates and specialities, which are targeted mainly at Europe, with Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain and the UK as main markets. Natra has six production centres in Spain, Belgium, France and Canada.

In a series of stock-exchange filings, Natra said the bid represented “a discount of approximately 1.1%” to the closing market price of its shares yesterday, the last trading day before the offer was announced and “a premium of approximately 2.8%” to the volume-weighted average price of its shares in the 12-month period leading up to yesterday.

The bid has been tabled for just under 60m ordinary shares in Natra and a batch of convertible bonds. Investindustrial Advisors has offered EUR0.90 in cash for each Natra share and EUR900 euros for each convertible bond, which the private-equity firm said it considers an “equitable” price.

Natra said a group of its shareholders and Investindustrial Advisors had “entered into an irrevocable undertakings agreement” that will see the group of investors convert into shares the convertible bonds held by them by no later than 27 January.

The investors have also agreed to accept the offer with the more than 91.2m shares in Natra to be issued through the conversion – which will represent approximately 57.58% of the chocolate maker.

In the event conditions are met, Investindustrial Advisors intends to exercise a “squeeze-out right” at buy out remaining Natra shareholders at the price on the table.

The stock-exchange filings also contained Natra’s latest estimates on its 2018 financial results. Natra is forecasting it would have generated net sales of EUR372.3m in 2018, up 7% on 2017 but down 7.3% on what it had budgeted.

Natra provided a forecast EBITDA of EUR36.6m, up 13.9% on 2017 and up 6.3% on budget. It is also estimating a 2018 net profit of EUR23.8m, against a 2017 net loss of EUR9.9m.

Under plans for the business drawn up last year, Natra is forecasting net sales of EUR476m, EBITDA of EUR50m and a net profit of EUR21m in 2023.

Source: Just Food

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European wheat lacks climate resilience

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The climate is not only warming, it is also becoming more variable and extreme. Such unpredictable weather can weaken global food security if major crops such as wheat are not sufficiently resilient—and if we are not properly prepared.

A group of European researchers, including Professor Jørgen E. Olesen from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, has found that current breeding programmes and cultivar selection practices do not provide the needed resilience to climate change.

Current breeding programmes and cultivar selection practices do not sufficiently prepare for climatic uncertainty and variability, the authors state in a paper recently published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Not only that, the response diversity of wheat on farmers’ fields in most European countries has worsened in the past five to fifteen years, depending on country.

Researchers predict that greater variability and extremeness of local weather conditions will lead to reduced yields in wheat and increased yield variability.

“Needless to say, decreased yields are not conducive to food security, but higher yield variability also poses problems. It can lead to a market with greater speculation and price volatility. This may threaten stable access to food by the poor, which in turn can enhance political instability and migration,” Jørgen E. Olesen points out.

Decreasing variation in response diversity

The researchers base their assessments on thousands of yield observations of wheat cultivars in nine European countries for qualifying how different cultivars respond to weather. They identified the variation of wheat response diversity on farmers’ fields and demonstrated the relation to climate resilience.

The yield responses of all cultivars to different weather events were relatively similar within northern and central Europe, and within southern European countries—the latter particularly with regard to durum wheat. There were serious gaps in wheat resilience across all Europe, especially with regard to yield performance under abundant rain.

“The lack of response diversity can pose serious problems with regard to food security. Therefore, farmers, breeders, and dealers in seeds and grain need to pay more attention to the diversity of cultivars grown,” warns Professor Olesen.

Climate resilience is imperative

Wheat is an important staple food crop in Europe and is the leading source of plant protein in our diet globally, so it is important to ensure that we have climate-resilient wheat cultivars on hand.

Rain, drought, heat or cold at vulnerable times during the growing season can seriously damage yields. Wheat yield is generally sensitive to even a few days of exposure to waterlogging and to wet weather that favours disease. In addition, heat stress rather than drought sensitivity appears to be a limiting factor for adaptation of wheat to climate change in Europe.

The dominant approach of adapting crops to climate change by tailoring genotypes to the most likely long-term change is likely insufficient. The capacity of a single crop variety to maintain good yield performance under climatic variability and extremes is limited, but diversity in responses to critical weather events can effectively enhance climate resilience. Therefore, a set of cultivars with diverse responses to critical weather conditions is prerequisite to promoting crop climate resilience.

The authors stress that the need for climate resilience of staple food crops such as wheat must be better articulated. Increased awareness could foster governance of resilience through research and breeding programmes, incentives and regulation.

Source:  phys.org

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Sugar confectionery Market Growth 2018-2023

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Sugar confectionery products are attractive and sweet which is gaining traction among all the age groups. Changing consumption pattern followed by increasing disposable income is boosting the growth of the sugar confectionery market.

Market Definition:

Sugar confectionery products are attractive and sweet which is gaining traction among all the age groups. Changing consumption pattern followed by increasing disposable income is boosting the growth of the sugar confectionery market. Moreover, growing trend of gifting confectioneries is driving the growth of the sugar confectionery market.

Confectionery products majorly include pastilles, gums, jellies, and chews which are high in sugar content. Increasing demand for confectionery products has given an opportunity to the sugar confectionery manufacturers to come up with various innovative sugar confectionery products. Furthermore, high demand for sugar confectioneries among children is considered to be a major driving factor for the market growth. Additionally, demand for medicated sugar confectionery is pushing the growth of the market in a positive direction.

Market Scenario:

Various innovations in the sugar confectionery products are boosting the growth of the market globally. Moreover, key players are growing their market through attractive packaging, which is adding fuel to the growth of the sugar confectionery market. However, increasing health conscious population followed by increasing obesity may hamper the growth of the market. Nevertheless, all these factors are projected to contribute to the estimated CAGR of 3.2% of sugar confectionery market during the forecast period, 2017-2023.

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Key Players:

Some of the key players profiled in the global sugar confectionery market are THE HERSHEY COMPANY (U.S.), Nestlé (Switzerland), Mars Incorporated (U.S.), Mondelez International (U.S.), HARIBO (Germany), Ferrero (Italy), Wrigley (U.S.)

Key Findings:

China, Spain, Argentina, India, and the Netherlands are the major producers and exporters in the confectionery market.

Organic sugar confectionery is gaining tremendous growth over the forecast period

Intended Audience:

Confectionery industry

Retailers, wholesalers, and distributors

E-commerce industry

Traders, importers, and exporters

Competitive analysis

The major players in the sugar confectionery market

THE HERSHEY COMPANY (U.S.)

Nestlé (Switzerland)

Mars Incorporated (U.S.)

Mondelez International (U.S.)

HARIBO (Germany)

Ferrero (Italy)

Wrigley (U.S.)

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Regional Analysis

The global sugar confectionery market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and rest of the world (RoW). North America is dominating the global market. Use of sugar confectioneries on various occasions for gifting is a major driver for this market in North America.

Europe is the second largest sugar confectionery market across the globe.

Asia Pacific is the fastest growing sugar confectionery market owing to high usage of confectioneries in the festivals and customs in India. Moreover, continuous innovation and new product launches with innovative packaging are supporting the growth of sugar confectionery market in rest of the world.

Source:  digitaljournal.com

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The FAO Food Price Index steady in December but lower in 2018 compared to 2017

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» The FAO Food Price Index* (FFPI) averaged 161.7 points in December 2018, nearly unchanged from its November value as lower dairy and sugar quotations were largely offset by firmer cereal prices and somewhat higher prices of meat and oils. For the whole of 2018, the FFPI averaged 168.4 points, down 3.5 percent from 2017 and almost 27 percent below the highest level of 230 points reached in 2011. Sugar values dropped the most in 2018, with also vegetable oil, meat and dairy prices registering year-on-year decreases. However, international prices of all major cereals rose in 2018.

» The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 167.1 points in December, 3.0 points (1.8 percent) higher than in November and 9.6 percent above December 2017. Wheat prices were up slightly in December, mostly supported by harvesting concerns in Argentina due to untimely rains and tightening export supplies in the Russian Federation. However, strong competition for exports limited the rise in prices. International maize prices also rose in December, amid firm global demand coupled with weather concerns in the southern hemisphere. By contrast, international rice prices subsided for the sixth successive month, pressured further by a quiet pace of trade. Over the whole of 2018, the FAO Cereal Price Index averaged just over 165 points, some 9.0 percent higher than in 2017 but still 31 percent below its peak reached in 2011. Falling world output of wheat and maize contributed to the increase in prices during 2018, although overall global supplies of all the major cereals remained more than sufficient, leaving inventories still at high levels.

» The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 125.8 points in December, posting a marginal increase of 0.5 points (0.4 percent) from the previous month and marking the first rebound after ten consecutive falls. The slight recovery was driven by higher palm oil prices, which reflect both rising domestic demand in major producing countries and firmer global import demand. By contrast, international soy and rapeseed oil prices continued to drift downward on account, respectively, of ample supplies in the US and weak demand in the EU. Falling mineral oil prices also weighed on vegetable oil values. For the year as a whole, the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 144 points, down 15 percent from 2017 and reaching the lowest level since 2007, with palm oil prices registering the largest decline amid weak global demand accompanied by an accumulation of stocks in major producing countries.

» The FAO Meat Price Index* averaged 163.6 points in December, 1.3 points (0.8 percent) higher than its slightly revised value for November. While poultry and bovine meat prices changed only little in December, international price quotations for ovine meat fell slightly, mostly as a result of increased export supplies from Oceania. By contrast, pigmeat prices partially recovered, supported by strong global import demand, especially from Brazil. In 2018, the Index averaged 166.4 points, down 2.2 percent from 2017. The year-on-year decline reflected drops in the prices of pig and poultry meats, which more than offset higher ovine meat quotations. In bovine meat markets, prices remained close to their 2017 levels.

» The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 170 points in December, down 5.9 points (3.3 percent) from November, marking the seventh successive month of decrease. In December, international price quotations for butter, cheese and Whole Milk Powder (WMP) declined, underpinned by increased availability of export supplies, especially from New Zealand. However, Skim Milk Powder (SMP) prices increased marginally on stronger world  import demand. For the whole of 2018, the Index averaged 192.9 points, down 4.6 percent from 2017, as a result of declines in price quotations for all dairy products included in the Index during the second half of the year.

» The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 179.6 points in December, down 3.6 points (1.9 percent) from November. International sugar prices fell under renewed downward pressure, in part because of reportedly faster growth in sugar production in India in recent months. Falling international prices of crude oil also contributed to the slide in sugar quotations, as lower energy prices tend to reduce the use of sugarcane to produce ethanol, resulting in more supplies  for the production of sugar, notably in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer. Overall for 2018, the Index fell by almost 22 percent year-on-year, underpinned by ample world production and accumulating inventories.

* 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.

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FAO Food Price Index registered another decline in November

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» The FAO Food Price Index* (FFPI) averaged 160.8 points in November 2018, down 2.1 points (1.3 percent) from October, the lowest since May 2016, and nearly 15 points (8.5 percent) below its level in the corresponding period last year. The decline in November was led by much weaker vegetable oil, dairy and cereal prices. Meat values also fell, though slightly, while sugar prices firmed.

» The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged almost 164 points in November, some 1.7 points (1.1 percent) below October and 11 points (7.1 percent) down from November 2016 average. Large nearby export supplies weighed on wheat prices while intensified export competition put downward pressure on maize quotations. New crop arrivals continued to weigh on rice export quotations despite some support provided by demand from the Philippines and expectations of lower fragrant rice production in some key exporting countries.

» The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 125.3 points in November, down 7.6 points (5.7 percent) month-on-month, marking the tenth consecutive monthly fall and a twelve-year low. The decline reflects weakening prices across the vegetable oil sector. International palm oil quotations posted a marked drop, fuelled by both persisting large inventories in leading exporting countries and the recent contraction in global mineral oil prices. At the same time, soy oil and sunflower oil values weakened amid, respectively, abundant supplies across the US, the EU and several emerging markets and positive production prospects in the Black Sea region.

» The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 175.8 points in November, down 6 points (3.3 percent) from October, representing the sixth consecutive month-on-month drop. At this level, the index is 13.9 percent below its value in the corresponding month last year and 18.3 percent below its highest level reached this year (in May). In November, international price quotations of butter, cheese and Whole Milk Powder declined, driven by large stocks coupled with increased availability of export supplies, especially from New Zealand. By contrast, Skim Milk Powder prices partially recovered in November, mainly on stronger import pace by buyers seeking immediate deliveries.

» The FAO Meat Price Index* averaged 160 points in November, marginally lower than its slightly revised value for October, and 7.4 percent below its level in the corresponding month last year. In November, international price quotations for poultry, pig and ovine meat continued to ease, with ovine meat falling the most, while those of bovine meat marginally recovered. Notwithstanding increased demand from Asia, ovine prices declined, underpinned by high export supplies from Oceania.  Pigmeat price quotations fell for the third consecutive month, reflecting availability of large export supplies from main producing regions and continued trade restrictions imposed on account of African swine fever outbreaks. Poultry meat prices remained under pressure due to slack demand. By contrast, after five months of declines, bovine meat prices rebounded slightly, supported by somewhat limited spot supplies and firm demand from Asian markets.

» The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 183.1 points in November, up 7.7 points (4.4 percent) from October, marking the third consecutive monthly gain. The increase in sugar price quotations mostly reflects production developments in Brazil, where according to the latest estimates, sugar output in the Center-South region is heading to a 27 percent decrease from last year. In addition, the share of sugarcane used to produce sugar is seen to have dropped to 35.8 percent from 47.4 percent in 2017, with the bulk of the cane harvest directed to ethanol production. However, the cut in Brazilian gasoline prices last month prevented sugar prices from rising even further, by diverting some sugarcane away from ethanol production.

* 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.

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