Economy makes food consumers trade down
Oy! Kosher sign omitted from Girl Scout cookies
Nano-technique points to extra-high barriers
Your cookies aren’t so ‘good,’ UK tells Kellogg
Clamshell showcases colorful pasta
Fresh Israeli chicken lasts 8 days



Economy makes food consumers trade down

By Pan Demetrakakes
Executive Editor


A spate of recent studies are confirming, and quantifying, what any casual observer of the food and beverage industry knows: The economic downturn is profoundly affecting consumer behavior.

Consumers wracked by threatened or actual job loss, pay cuts and other economic problems are changing their spending patterns for food and drink in several ways.

Private-label goods, as might be expected, are getting a big boost. Sales of store-brand products increased 10% through most of 2008, compared with 3.5% growth for name brands, according to a Nielsen survey. Kroger Co. found that 14% of its customers reported buying a store-brand item instead of a national brand during the last quarter of 2008.

The recession also is affecting consumer acceptance of premium prices for organic and natural foods. Although demand is still growing, the rate has slowed considerably. Year-over-year sales for December were up 5.6%, compared with 25.6% the year before, according to Nielsen.

Organic Monitor, a consulting firm specializing in organic products, notes that the remaining demand is being pushed to more downscale products and venues, which is one reason Safeway is now the leading U.S. retailer of organic food. The Organic Monitor report goes on to note that falling demand is expected to bring down prices in the near future.


TOP DEVELOPMENTS

Oy! Kosher sign omitted from Girl Scout cookies
The kosher symbol was mistakenly left off 14 million boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies recently produced by ABC Bakers, Richmond, Va., a division of Interbake Foods. The company quickly secured a letter from the Orthodox Union, the largest U.S. kosher certification agency, confirming that the product is, in fact, kosher. The thin peppermint wafers account for about 25% of Girl Scout cookie sales, making them by far the best-selling flavor. Their fans include Rabbi Yisroel Bendelstein, a spokesperson for the Orthodox Union, who called them his favorite.

Nano-technique points to extra-high barriers
A new technique in nanotechnology has the potential to increase the barrier properties of packaging film with less material. Researchers from Case Western University, Cleveland, published an article in the journal Science describing how polyethylene oxide can be confined as nanolayers. The result is single crystallized polymeric layers that can be coextruded, resulting in a compound that has hundreds of times more barrier potential than conventional polymers with a fraction of the material.

Your cookies aren’t so ‘good,’ UK tells Kellogg
A British advertising watchdog agency forced Kellogg Co. to pull ads for Nutri-Grain Oat Softies cookies that referred to the product’s “wholesome cookie goodness.” The Advertising Standards Agency ruled that while the ads made accurate references to the product’s fiber, vitamins and iron, they neglected to disclose its high levels of sugar and saturated fat. The requirement of having to disclose negative nutrients along with positive ones is similar to regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

NEW PACKAGES

Clamshell showcases colorful pasta
Fresh pasta uses a clear clamshell to show how it’s arranged in the colors of the Italian flag. Tricolor Linguini from Pasta Etc., Santa Rosa, Calif., comprises three bundles of red, white and green linguine arranged side-by-side. The package is a thermoformed tub, with a simple litho-printed, pressure-sensitive label centered on the lid.

Fresh Israeli chicken lasts 8 days
Fresh chicken from an Israeli processor uses a new variation of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) to double its shelf life. Poultry from Teva-Off is packaged in a tub with a lidded tray that, if unopened, can offer eight days of shelf life. Teva-Off uses a new MAP system from Israeli company Hefestus Ltd. that gas-flushes packaging without drawing a vacuum, making it suitable for delicate products like poultry.