Seafood Scotland awarded £100,000 to support industry with new training programme

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Seafood Scotland has been awarded £100,000 of funding from the National Transition Training Fund and Skills Development Scotland to support onshore activities of seafood businesses across the country, upskilling and training employees to support company growth. Delivered by a range of training providers, the ‘Business Improvement Programme’ will provide bespoke training packages to companies to help support their objectives. Free webinars and funded courses will be available to meet business and team needs and strategic goals. Companies will have access to over 60 courses covering four key training areas: 1. Upskilling and multiskilling staff – training for employees and teams 2. Career recruitment and retention toolkits for businesses – helping to develop recruitment and retention policies 3. Process automation and business implications 4. Women in Seafood in Scotland The programme will be delivered to current staff members over the age of 25, using flexible and hybrid methods, such as self-taught online modules and guided virtual sessions. Courses range from fish frying, knife skills and monger training to customer and human resource services, as well as guidance on business planning and strategy. The National Transition Training Fund was launched in 2020 by Skills Development Scotland following the rise in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme aims to give individuals the opportunity to gain industry recognised qualifications to support with employment. Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive at Seafood Scotland, said: “It’s important that the businesses in our onshore seafood sector continue to grow and this funding can help them do just that. With the support received from the National Transition Training Fund and Skills Development Scotland, we will help companies plan their training opportunities and the courses available to them in line with their business objectives. “The window for this funding is open until March and I would strongly encourage any onshore seafood businesses to take this great opportunity to upskill and train staff without the burden of additional costs.” Gerry McBride, Strategic Relations Manager – Food & Drink at Skills Development Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to see this valuable work given the green light and now being able to see the positive impact it will have to seafood businesses across Scotland. “Given all the challenges the sector has been forced to face into over the past two years due to the pandemic and other huge obstacles, everyone recognises the need for businesses to be as agile as possible. “The programme will enable businesses to retrain, upskill and adapt their workforce to meet the ever-changing requirements of the marketplace and the economic landscape. We’re really looking forward to seeing all this excellent work coming to fruition.”

Inquiry launched into UK-Australia free trade deal

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The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has launched an inquiry into the impact the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) the UK Government has signed with Australia will have on farmers, food producers, retailers and consumers.
The Government has said the arrangement with Australia will boost the economy by £2.3 billion and add £900 million to household wages in the long-run. It has further called it a gateway to the UK joining a wider trading arrangement – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This Australia FTA is the first ‘new’ trade deal the UK Government has signed since leaving the European Union (EU), as opposed to ‘rolled over’ agreements based on former deals the UK had with different parts of the world when it was an EU member. The inquiry will examine, among other things, the impact the agreement will have on consumers, farmers, food producers and retailers; whether the deal will reflect the UK’s commitment to high animal welfare and environmental practice; and the implications of the FTA for future trade deals with other parts of the world.

UK food and drink sees a significant and persistent drop in exports

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UK exports of food and drink are down £2.7bn (-15.9%) in the first three quarters of 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). This is largely due to a drop in sales to the EU of £2.4bn (-23.7%) resulting from new barriers to trade with the EU and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Exports to core markets including Germany (-44.5%), Italy (-43.3%) and Spain (-50.6%) have been particularly badly hit since 2019, while UK exports to Ireland – the industry’s biggest overseas market – are down more than a quarter since 2019. This represents a loss of nearly £0.75bn in sales. Global exports of whisky and salmon have started to recover, with sales of both products up 21% compared to 2020. All other major products, including beef (-18.4%), cheese (-13.2%) and pork (-5.7%) have continued to decline, with the exception of soft drinks which grew 11% from 2020. More positive news can be seen in non-EU markets in the past year, with exports up 11%, driven by a return to strong growth in China (+22.1%), Taiwan (+21.8%), the UAE (+18.3%), Japan (+10.6%) and Singapore (+5.4%). Imports have been badly impacted since 2019, with sales from the EU down nearly 11% in the nine months to September compared to pre-COVID levels – a fall of more than £2.5bn. Imports from the Netherlands (-19%), Ireland (-20.1%) and Germany (-33.1%) were most severely hit over the last two years. With the UK due to implement its delayed import controls on products arriving from the EU in 2022, this will further impact the cost and availability of supplies of food and drink from the EU, including essential ingredients and raw materials required by UK manufacturers. Dominic Goudie, Head of International Trade, the FDF, said: “It is extremely disappointing to see how badly our trade with the EU has been affected, with our smallest exporters hardest hit. It is essential that the Government works constructively with the EU to improve the implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to ensure that it works for small businesses, otherwise this downturn will be here to stay. “The UK Government’s recent announcement of plans to take forward the FDF’s proposals to set up a new Food and Drink Export Council and put in place new in-market support are welcome. It is vital that the UK Government and devolved nations continue to work with industry to put in place a new model of partnership to support food and drink exporters. “Food and drink, from farm-to-fork is uniquely placed to deliver on the Government’s levelling up agenda, delivering jobs and growth in every part of the UK. However, our supply chains continue to struggle, particularly through a lack of available workers. Businesses want to help the Government realise its Global Britain ambitions, but they need Government to clear the obstacles and help them take advantage of new opportunities.” John Whitehead, Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), said: “The much-needed bounce back for salmon, whisky and soft drink exports is a real boost for the industry. It’s also encouraging to see meat sales to ASEAN countries rising driven by an increasing demand for pork. Our In Market Associates in both ASEAN and GCC markets report that there is also strong demand for added value products from the UK. It is the SME producers of value-added products hit hard by both Brexit and the pandemic who continue to need support to take advantage of these opportunities.”

JBS acquires King’s Group and premium Italian charcuterie brands

JBS, the protein-based food company, has signed an agreement to acquire 100% of King’s Group by its subsidiary Rigamonti, currently the leader in production of bresaola. With this acquisition, JBS will have a presence in Italy’s three largest regions for specialties of pork with the D.O.P. and I.G.P. seals — Protected Denomination of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication. These classifications used by the European Union recognize the quality and unique characteristics of food produced in specific locations. With the investment of €82 million (US$ 92.5 million), the company acquires four plants in Italy, two in the province of Parma, one in Vicenza and the fourth in Udine, as well as the entire operation of Principe in the United States, which includes a plant dedicated to slicing cuts in New Jersey. The deal also covers the commercial operations of two historic brands renowned for their high quality in the Italian delicatessen market: King’s brand, founded in 1907 in Sossano, in the Veneto region, recognized by the Italian government as a “Historical Brand of National Interest”, and Principe brand, founded in 1945 in Trieste, in the region of Friulli-Venezia Giulia. Rigamonti now holds a 20% equity stake in Piggly, Italy’s first producer of sustainable, 100% antibiotic-free pigs, with facilities in Mantova and Verona. Present in the United States and in over 20 countries, King’s Group is a market leader in the production of Prosciutto di San Daniele D.O.P. and is an important player in the production of Prosciutto di Parma D.O.P., in addition to producing specialties like GranSpeck and Prosciutto Veneto D.O.P. The entire management of these assets will be assumed by Rigamonti, world leader in the production of Bresaola I.G.P. The acquisition of King’s Group facilities and brands is strategic to the expansion of JBS in the United States and Europe, but also in other regions because the company will now have a portfolio and structure for producing and distributing authentic Italian specialties like prosciutto, bresaola, bologna sausage, speck and salami with certification of origin, using craft manufacturing and curing techniques. “This acquisition is in line with our strategic approach of growing in high value-added products. It puts us among the leaders in Italian ‘salumeria’ and leverages our commercial strategy in the US, where we are investing US$ 200 million in an Italian specialties plant. The growth potential of the King’s and Príncipe brands in Europe and the United States is significant,” said Gilberto Tomazoni, JBS global CEO. “We are certain that JBS will work to preserve the intangible value of our brands and products with certification of origin, protecting the history of these veritable items of Italian heritage as it has already done with Rigamonti,” said Claudio Palladi, Rigamonti CEO. JBS will also reap additional synergy in the US market where the company’s subsidiary Swift Prepared Foods is building a new Italian meats and charcuterie facility in Columbia, Missouri, expected to open in 2022. The deal was approved by the JBS board of directors and will be concluded after approval by antitrust authorities.

Glass bottle manufacturer to build national distribution hub for UK and European drinks industry

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Glass bottle manufacturer and filler Encirc – a Vidrala company – has revealed plans to build a next generation national distribution hub for the UK and European drinks industry. It is anticipated the fully automated ‘mega hub’ will be built within the next three years, subject to planning permission, and will mark a significant step forward in the evolution of glass packaging supply chains in the UK. While the exact location is yet to be confirmed, the hub will have around 170,000 pallet storage spaces for customers’ bottles filled at Encirc’s Cheshire plant, as well as others which have been filled elsewhere, and imported to the UK. Encirc’s parent company, Vidrala, is planning to invest around £75 million in the hub, which will feature state-of-the-art robotic case picking, with the prepared pallets able to be delivered directly to retailers across the UK and Europe. By going straight to retail and reducing the reliance on regional distribution centres, the hub is set to significantly reduce lorry movements nationwide and achieve notable carbon savings across supply chains in the UK. The new hub will complement Encirc’s existing automated warehouse in Elton, which is one of the largest of its kind in Europe with more than 250,000 pallet spaces. Adrian Curry, Managing Director at Encirc, said: “Our new national distribution hub will represent the evolution of drink supply chains in the UK and Europe. This will be a huge leap forward for how the UK drinks industry imports and distributes key brands. “At Encirc, we already have the most advanced, complete beverages supply model for glass in the world, where we manufacture, store, fill and distribute all from one site. So, this is the obvious next step for us. With the backing of Vidrala, we’re taking this long-term decision to ensure that we’re best placed in the market to offer our brand owner customers an unrivalled bottling and distribution service. “This will be another milestone moment in Encirc’s story of growth and evolution, as well as the carbon reduction strategy for the wider industry.”

Taylor Farms acquires Curation Foods’ fresh packaged salads, green beans and fresh cut vegetables business

Taylor Farms has acquired Curation Foods’ fresh packaged salads, green beans and fresh cut vegetables business from Landec Corporation. The assets include the Eat Smart® brand and production facilities in Guadalupe, CA and Bowling Green, OH. The addition of Curation Foods’ packaged salad and fresh cut vegetables business will help the Taylor Farms Retail Division meet consumers growing demand for chopped salads and fresh cut vegetables. “This acquisition will enhance our commitment to assured supply for our customers with the addition of a sixth Taylor Farms source based production facility, this one located in the fertile Santa Maria Valley,” said Bruce Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms. “We look forward to a smooth transition for associates and customer partners.” Mark Campion, President of Taylor Farms Retail, will have leadership responsibility of the facilities and business integration. Taylor Farms is a North American producer of salads and healthy fresh foods with production facilities across the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Fazer to buy Swedish plant-based drink producer

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Fazer Group has agreed to acquire Trensums Food AB, a Swedish producer of plant-based drinks, with a strategic focus on oat drinks. Trensums Food is currently owned by Profuragruppen. This acquisition is a further step in the implementation of Fazer’s growth strategy and ambition to become one of the leading players in non-dairy and plant-based food in Northern Europe. The transaction is subject to Swedish Competition Authority approval. The global demand for plant-based drinks, especially oat drinks, is currently growing strongly due to the good taste profile as well as low environmental impact. With its sizeable capacity, efficient operations and state-of-the-art production, Trensums Food, one of the leading oat drink producers in Europe, is well positioned to answer to the growing demand for plant-based food. The acquisition, which will multiply Fazer’s oat drink production capacity, provides Fazer a platform for further growth and access to new non-dairy markets. Trensums Food will become part of the Fazer Lifestyle Foods Business Area which focuses on oat-based non-dairy products, breakfast products, fruit-based snacks, plant-based meals and foodtech. Christoph Vitzthum, President and CEO of Fazer Group, said: “Fazer’s growth is based on in-depth consumer insights turned into innovative products and meaningful food experiences. Consumer demand for nutritious plant-based foods is growing fast and our ambition is to become one of the leading players in oats and plant-based food in Northern Europe. “The acquisition gives Fazer an even stronger foothold in a rapidly growing category and the opportunity to expand in our current and future markets. With its long history in oat drinks, Trensums Food will also offer us extensive manufacturing and R&D expertise to further strengthen Fazer’s already strong know-how in oats.” “I am very pleased that Fazer, the Nordic food experience company with a long history, will be the new owner of Trensums Food AB. In Fazer we see a strong owner, who is good at oats and wants to invest in plant-based products. This creates good opportunities for Trensum’s continued development, which of course is also positive for Tingsryd,” says Mikael Thörnkvist, CEO of Profura AB, owner of Trensums Food AB.

1 in 5 consumers plan to eat more plant-based alternatives over coming months

Nestlé Professional research has revealed that 22% of UK consumers plan to eat more plant-based meat alternatives, and 19% more plant-based dairy in the coming months. As well as increasing consumption of these less traditional plant-based foods, vegetables and legumes are in ascendency, with 39% and 24% of consumers looking to up their intake of these. With health and wellbeing traditionally front of mind for consumers at the start of the New Year, Nestlé Professional has released these key findings to help food operators plan their 2022 menus. In addition to learning about attitudes towards diet, Nestlé Professional surveyed changing consumer awareness of sustainable food. Findings revealed that more than three quarters of consumers (78%) equate sustainable food choices with their own personal health and wellbeing. And with 71% saying they would be likely to choose sustainable options if available, this presents a big opportunity for food operators to adapt – to meet consumer needs while making a lasting impact on the environment. Eating out, most consumers are conscious about choosing sustainable dishes, with 58% choosing plant-based or vegetarian options: sometimes, often, or always. They could be persuaded to eat more plant-based, however, if presented dishes with improved flavour and texture (30%), greater variety (23%), and plant-based alternatives to popular meat dishes (20%). And a quarter (25%) would like extra encouragement, in the form of free samples or taste testing events. For food operators, this translates into an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and rework classics with meat alternatives. This is while promoting healthy and sustainable meal choices through events and samples of plant-rich dishes. Katya Simmons, Managing Director, Nestlé Professional UK&I, says: “With Veganuary kicking in at the start of the year, it’s likely that food operators have already been considering what they offer the growing ranks of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians. These figures indicate a clear opportunity to provide delicious, plant-based meals that offer greater choice for consumers wanting to eat more healthily and sustainably too. “No doubt food operators are already looking at their carbon footprint and ways in which they can reduce this across their operations. This represents a win-win: giving consumers the healthy, sustainable dishes they demand, while decreasing carbon emissions. “The growth in demand for plant-based products is being driven by two powerful trends: health and concern for the planet. “Now it’s up to food operators to give consumers that extra nudge – through greater innovation, and encouragement to try something different. It’s good for business, it’s good for the customer, and it’s vital for the planet!”

Kraft Heinz to acquire majority stake in Just Spices

The Kraft Heinz Company has reached an agreement to acquire an 85% stake in Germany-based Just Spices. The remaining 15% ownership stake will be retained by Just Spices’ three founders, who will continue on with the company and focus on driving the business and its international growth. Launched in 2014, Just Spices is an innovative start-up with annual sales of approximately €60 million. Its 170-plus product portfolio includes spice blends, salad dressings, and easy-to-prepare “In Minutes” blends for diverse meal occasions ranging from breakfast and light snacks to salads and baking, with a broad range of savory, sweet, classic and exotic flavors. Just Spices’ rapidly growing spice revolution business sells approximately 70% of its ready-made and one-step spice blends directly to consumers, with its remaining sales through major grocery retailers both in-store and online in Germany, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland. “This is a great opportunity to further accelerate our growth agenda by strengthening our ability to anticipate trends in consumer tastes and preferences, as well as our speed to innovate,” said Rafael Oliveira, International Zone President at Kraft Heinz. “We will leverage our scale and agility to accelerate Just Spices’ business in the fast-growing taste elevation market beyond its current German base and its recent market entries in Spain, Austria, and Switzerland. We also see tremendous potential to strengthen and enhance our own direct-to-consumer operations and go-to-market expansion.” “In the last few years, Just Spices has been further strengthening its successful omni-channel approach, with some of the best-in-class direct-to-consumer analytics in the food space. We are extremely excited by the potential for expansion that comes from combining Just Spices’ innovation and brand power with the Kraft Heinz team and the scale they bring to the table,” said Florian Falk, Just Spices CEO and one of the company’s three founders. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, including merger control approval, and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2022.

Better Juice is going commercial with sugar reduction deal

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FoodTech start-up Better Juice, Ltd. sealed its first commercial deal to bring reduced-sugar juices one step closer to supermarket beverage aisles. The company inked an agreement with a major US fruit juice manufacturer for commercial installment of its sugar-reduction technology. This is Better Juice’s first official commercial venture in its long-term collaboration with GEA Group, AG, Germany, a world leader in process engineering for the food and beverage sectors. The two companies joined forces in a strategic move to scale up and promote the sugar-reduction technology throughout the global beverage market. Start-up receives patent and a self-affirmed GRAS approval Better Juice was granted a patent for its sugar-reduction enzymatic process in Europe. Armed with recent self-affirmed GRAS status, the company is out to market its innovative system to food and beverage manufacturers worldwide. “These achievements, together with GEA’s knowhow and cutting-edge technology, will open doors to work more closely with food and beverage companies,” explains Eran Blachinsky, PhD, co-founder and co-CEO of Better Juice. Better-Juice’s patented enzymatic technology uses all-natural ingredients to convert fructose, glucose, and sucrose sugars into prebiotic and other non-digestible fibers. The juice passes through a continuous flow bio-reactor housing non-GMO microorganism that transform the unwanted sugars into beneficial, non-digestible molecules. It boasts capabilities to reduce sugar loads by up to 80%, while preserving the full complement of vitamins and other nutrients inherent in the fruit. The process moderates the sweetness of the juice, while intensifying the fruit flavor.    Sugar-reduced juices will line the shelves next year Under the new venture, GEA will design, manufacture, and install the bioreactor that reduces sugars, and offer follow-up technical support. Better Juice will produce the microorganisms for the enzymatic process. According to the first commercial order, the fruit drinks manufacturer will produce natural juices with a minimum sugar reduction of 30%, and anticipates the product to arrive in supermarkets by spring 2022. “This new agreement marks an exciting milestone in our mission to get our sugar-reduction technology off the ground, to penetrate the US market, and to expand our global footprint,” enthuses Blachinsky. “We’ve officially launched our drive to help consumers enjoy reduce sugar in their favorite fruit juice.” “Scaling up is always a challenge,” confesses Gali Yarom, co-founder and co-CEO of Better Juice. “But when your partner is GEA, with its vast industrial food processing capabilities and global presence, the acceleration of the Better Juice commercialization is much faster and brings added value to the supply chain. Imagine—in just a few months, affordable, reduced-sugar fruit juice will be a ready option for American consumers.” The equipment has been tested in GEA’s quality assurance facility in Germany and can be easily integrated into existing juice production lines, providing product at a capacity of up to 200 liter per hour. Total production capacity of reduced-sugar juices can be adjusted to the manufacturer’s needs. “Better Juice has incredible potential to transform the global juice industry,” notes Colm O’Gorman, Head of Sales Management for GEA’s Global Technology Center for Non-Alcoholic Beverages. “As consumer demand for lowered-sugar beverages continues to surge, we are eager to  join Better Juice  on this momentous journey. We look forward to delivering products that address one of the top consumer needs of reducing their sugar intake, especially in daily beverages.”   About Better Juice Israeli foodTech start-up Better Juice was founded in 2017 by a team of food industry professionals with the aim to help beverage manufacturers produce healthier, lower-sugar fruit juice. Better Juice has developed a groundbreaking solution that naturally reduces the amount of sugar in fresh juice drinks by up to 80 percent, without affecting its nutritional value or taste. The company is supported by The Kitchen FoodTech Hub – Strauss Group’s incubator, whose goal is to nourish promising foodTech ventures that can disrupt the global food system – making it more productive, more affordable, more sustainable and healthier. About GEA GEA is one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. The international industrial technology group specializes in machinery and plants as well as advanced process technology, components and comprehensive services. With more than 18,000 employees, the group generated revenue of more than EUR 4.6 billion in fiscal year 2020. A major focus is on continuously enhancing the sustainability and efficiency of customers’ production processes. GEA plants, processes and components help achieve significant reductions in carbon emissions, plastic use and food waste in production worldwide. In this way, GEA makes a decisive contribution toward a sustainable future, fully in line with its corporate philosophy of “engineering for a better world.” GEA is listed in the German MDAX and the STOXX® Europe 600 Index, and is also among the companies comprising the DAX 50 ESG and MSCI Global Sustainability Indices.