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

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.

Future Food-Tech Announces Two Innovation Challenges in Partnership with Danone North America and Givaudan

Food-Tech Start-Ups are Invited to Submit Solutions that Improve the Texture and Functionality of Plant-Based Cheese OR Natural Ingredients for Use in Foods that Support Immunity, Energy and Sleep. APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN until January 31. Apply now at: www.futurefoodtechsf.com/innovation-challenges/#APPLYNOW Oliver Katz, Conference Producer at Future FoodTech says “We’re delighted to be working with Danone North America and Givaudan to launch these Innovation Challenges to highlight and scale solutions to some of the most fundamental challenges facing food producers. The Innovation Challenges provide start-ups with the opportunity to collaborate with corporate leaders and access top-level support, expertise and facilities to scale their solutions. We can’t wait to hear from a diverse range of ambitious start-ups on how they plan to address these two major challenges.” DANONE NORTH AMERICA CHALLENGE: Technologies to Improve the Texture and Melting Properties of Plant-Based Cheese Danone North America is growing its plant-based cheese category, and one of the main challenges is delivering the texture and melting properties associated with traditional dairy. Its innovation and R&D team is looking for technologies that deliver more functionality to cheese alternatives, replicating its stretch and melting properties. Danone North America is interested in shredded or sliced cheeses such as mozzarella or cheddar, rather than artisan cheeses. It is seeking technologies that are both ready to be applied in the short term, like plant-based extrusion, as well as microbial fermentation and cell-culturing that’ll likely be implemented in the medium to longer-term. Applicants should, at a minimum, have proof of principle and prototypes. Takoua Debeche, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Danone North America shares: “Danone North America is a leader in plant-based food & beverage, including the growing cheese alternative category with our So Delicious Dairy Free and Follow Your Heart brands. Plant-based cheese alternatives is also one of the most technically challenging categories when it comes to dairy alternatives, especially when it comes to stretch and melt because casein is the only protein known to deliver those functionalities. I am very excited to partner with Future Food-Tech on new and innovative ways to solve this challenge collaboratively and to see the entrepreneurial ideas that come to the forefront.” GIVAUDAN CHALLENGE: Natural Ingredients that Support Immunity, Energy and Sleep For consumers around the world, health has taken center stage, with challenges that range from pandemics and stress to performance pressure at both work and at home. Givaudan Taste & Wellbeing strives to support all aspects of healthfulness with its Health Essentials and Wellness Essentials, a selection of natural solutions that meet many of today’s most common health needs, including immune system support, mind, energy and wellbeing. In this challenge Givaudan is looking for science-driven start-ups who are working on natural, clean label ingredients for use in food that support consumers by boosting immunity, energy, and sleep. It is most interested in companies who, at a minimum, have proof of principle and prototypes, and its preference is for companies that are clinically backed. Fabio Campanile, Global Head of Science & Technology, Taste & Wellbeing at Givaudan shares: “Creative thinking that leads to true innovation is reliant on collaboration and co-creation and we have found that this mentality works beautifully between Givaudan and start-up companies. Together, we’re able to get further faster, and often better. We’ve now partnered with Future Food-Tech for a number of years and know that this is the place to pose a challenge focused on the development of ingredients that help boost immunity, mind, energy and sleep.” WEBINAR INSIGHTS ON JANUARY 13: Join Takoua Debeche, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Danone North America, Alexandre Bastos, Head of Front End Innovation – Taste & Wellbeing and Emilie Fromentin, Head of Explore Health & Nutrition – Taste & Wellbeing at Givaudan on Thursday, January 13 as they take part in a free live webinar, discussing the innovation challenges, their innovation priorities at the company, and answering questions from the live online audience ahead of the challenge submission deadline on Monday, January 31. The webinar is open to all – sign up now at: www.crowdcast.io/e/future-food-tech INNOVATION CHALLENGES TIMELINE: Applications Open: Thursday, December 9 Innovation Challenges Webinar: Thursday, January 13 Application Deadline: Monday, January 31 Final pitches and the winner crowned at Future Food-Tech, San Francisco: March 24-25, 2022

Hilton to acquire smoked salmon producer

Hilton Food Group has agreed to acquire a leading international smoked salmon producer, Dutch Seafood Company, which trades as Foppen, for an enterprise value of €90 million. The move will expand Hilton’s presence in a growing protein category, as well as see it enter the US, a new geography for Hilton. The company has also launched an equity placing to raise gross proceeds of approximately £75 million to part fund the acquisition. Foppen further brings two smoked salmon facilities in Harderwijk, the Netherlands and Preveza, Greece, and an experienced management team and workforce. The announcement follows the recent acquisition of Dalco, a vegan and vegetarian food manufacturer, the acquisition of Fairfax Meadow, as well as Hilton’s expansion into Hilton Seafood. Hilton’s CEO, Philip Heffer, said: “The acquisition of Foppen is an exceptional opportunity for Hilton and another step towards our goal of becoming the global protein partner of choice. More and more consumers around the world are seeking affordable, high quality, and sustainable protein, and this acquisition will help Hilton take our offer into new markets and to new global customers for the first time. “Foppen’s premium product portfolio and strong customer relationships are a great fit for Hilton’s model, while Hilton’s strong ESG credentials in seafood will make sure our future growth plans are sustainable in every sense of the word. We welcome Foppen’s management and employees and look forward to delivering profitable growth through the combination of Hilton and Foppen.” Andre van der Padt, Foppen CEO, added: “We are excited by the future prospects of Foppen under Hilton’s ownership and look forward to working with Philip and team. Foppen’s offer to customers, suppliers and employees will be enhanced as part of Hilton Food Group.”

Stem cell study paves way for manufacturing cultured meat

Scientists have for the first time obtained stem cells from livestock that grow under chemically defined conditions, paving the way for manufacturing cell cultured meat and breeding enhanced livestock.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences, together with colleagues at the Universities of Cambridge, Exeter, Tokyo and Meiji (Japan) have developed stem cell lines from pigs, sheep and cattle embryos grown without the need for serum, feeder cells or antibiotics. The research “Pluripotent stem cells related to embryonic disc exhibit common self-renewal requirements in diverse livestock species” has been published in the journal Development and was funded by BBSRC, EU (ERC), MRC and Wellcome Trust. The chemically defined conditions are growth medium suitable for the in vitro cell culture of animal cells in which all of the chemical components are known. Standard cell culture media commonly consist of a basal medium supplemented with animal serum (such as fetal bovine serum, FBS) as a source of nutrients and other ill-defined factors. The technical disadvantages to using serum include its undefined nature, batch-to-batch variability in composition, and the risk of contamination so this new chemically defined approach provides greater consistency and safety, making it an ideal solution for manufacturing new lab grown food products. Professor Ramiro Alberio from the University of Nottingham, said: “The ability to derive and maintain livestock stem cells under chemically defined conditions paves the way for the development of novel food products, such as cultured meat. The cell lines we developed are a step change from previous models as they have the unique ability to permanently grow to make muscle and fat.”
These novel cell lines can differentiate into multiple cell types, they can be genetically manipulated using Crispr/Cas9 gene editing tool and can be used as donors for nuclear transfer. This technology offers new opportunities for expanding research into gene editing animals to improve their productivity, and adaptation to climate change and modifications of diets to reduce the environmental impact of livestock production. Professor Alberio adds: “Gene editing in this way makes modifications that could happen naturally over a long time but in a selective a rapid manner to customize specific traits. This can accelerate the pace of genetic selection of livestock and cultured meat to improve productivity and creation of healthier foods. With a growing population to feed in a changing climate finding reliable and sustainable food is vital. This research offers potential solutions that the food industry could use at scale.” Professor Austin Smith, Director of the University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute, one of the world’s leading experts in stem cell research said: “It is very exciting that starting from a fundamental question about early development in different animals we have discovered a technique that may revolutionise future production of meat.” The full study can be found here.

McCain Foods invests $55m in plant-based frozen food company

McCain Foods is investing $55 million USD in Strong Roots, a plant-based frozen food company, to take a minority stake in the business. The companies say the partnership enables Strong Roots and McCain Foods to continue meeting the rising consumer demand for healthy and natural food globally. They will work together to “leverage both companies’ complementary strengths to continue Strong Roots’ rapid growth and further its mission to ‘fix the freezer aisle’ and provide plant-based, environmentally responsible, positive food choices, for everyone – globally and impactfully.” Strong Roots will continue to operate in an independent capacity. Strong Roots will use McCain Foods’ global presence to expand its own footprint in existing markets, including GB, Ireland, United States, and to enter new markets working with new retailers. The partnership will also allow Strong Roots to expand into the foodservice market through McCain Foods’ out-of-home network. Partnering with Strong Roots, McCain Foods will gain an expanded product portfolio that reaches out to the rising number of consumers looking for healthy, natural and simple meals that include real fruits and vegetables. The partnership also bolsters McCain Foods’ commitment to planet-friendly foods. Strong Roots is focused on creating products that are sustainably farmed, shipped and sold, and was the first Irish plant-based food business awarded a B Corp Certificate in 2020. Samuel Dennigan, Strong Roots founder and CEO, said: “As food producers, our role is to be better, food can be better, and our duty is to lead the betterment of ingredients, sourcing, packaging, process and taste, at the same time as working with our partners to achieve this. “Working in partnership with McCain Foods means that we are able to grow our brand and the values it stands for, while providing us at Strong Roots with the resources and capabilities we need to see change through globally and impactfully.” Max Koeune, president & CEO of McCain Foods, said: “Since the McCain family founded McCain Foods in 1957, our entrepreneurial roots and passionate focus on creating the best tasting food has led to us being at the centre of mealtimes for generations. “That’s why we’re so excited to be partnering with Strong Roots, a company that not only aligns with our innovative approach to creating food, but also helps us grow our portfolio of healthier food that meets changing consumer demands in a sustainable way. We’re looking forward to working with Samuel and the Strong Roots team to help bring a healthy range into more homes across the world.” Howard Snape, regional president of McCain GB & Ireland, said: “As a family-run business, we take a long-term approach to everything we do, whether that’s focusing on making our products in a sustainable way to support the planet, or ensuring our food continues to meet constantly changing consumer needs. “Strong Roots is a company that not only focuses strongly on sustainability but is also doing incredible work to grow the range of healthy frozen foods available when consumers are looking for it most.” In connection with the transaction, Goode Partners LLC, a New York-based consumer private equity fund, which led the Series A investment in Strong Roots, is exiting the Board of Strong Roots and selling its shareholding, marking a successful exit for the investors.

Food Standards Agency launches consultation on ‘may contain’ packaging

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a consultation to gather views from businesses and consumers on the use of precautionary allergen information and labels, often written as “may contain” on food packaging. Recent FSA studies have found that food-hypersensitive consumers – people who live with food allergies, intolerances, or coeliac disease – appreciate precautionary allergen information or labelling when it clearly tells them about an unavoidable risk of allergen cross-contamination. But consumers can also be confused by the range of precautionary labelling statements on prepacked foods, such as chocolate bars, biscuits and other products sold in supermarkets, where the wording can differ between products and it may not be clear precisely what the risk is. The studies found that the majority of food businesses are using these labels to try to protect consumers but are confused about when and how they need to do so. There is evidence that businesses need clarity on the measures they need to take to control the risk of allergen cross-contamination, which then informs their labelling decision. To help develop work on this issue, the FSA wants to hear from businesses, local authority food teams, healthcare professionals, allergy charities, consumers and any other interested parties through a consultation and a series of online workshops. The FSA is also seeking views on the provision of precautionary allergen information about non-prepacked foods, such as meals served in restaurants, where precautionary information can be given verbally – but sometimes is not provided at all. Food Standards Agency Director of Policy, Rebecca Sudworth, said: “Consumers have told us that inconsistency in how precautionary allergen labelling and information is given can cause a lack of trust in the labels and stop them being able to enjoy certain foods. “We know that precautionary allergen information is difficult for businesses and local authorities responsible for enforcing the law, and we very keen to hear from them about how to make the law clearer and easier to follow. “The responses we get will help inform our next steps in making a workable system for businesses to put into practice that consumers understand and trust.” The consultation on precautionary allergen information runs until 14 March 2022, and the FSA will also be gathering the opinions of businesses, local authority food teams responsible for enforcing the law, industry bodies and consumers through a series of in-depth workshops.

PPMA Group announces the launch of the Grant Jamieson Engineering Scholarship

At the Chairman’s Lunch held last week, the PPMA Group of Associations’ Chairman David Barber announced the launch of the Grant Jamieson Engineering Scholarship to the 100 plus attendees. Grant Jamieson, Managing Director of Winkworth Machinery, was most recently the PPMA Group’s Marketing and Communications Director and stands down after 11 years of loyal service. Grant became Chairman of the PPMA in 2015 which provided a platform for him to speak passionately about the engineering skills shortage. In this time, he has continually voiced concern that the UK manufacturing industry continues to suffer from an ageing workforce, caused by diminished entrants into the engineering sector over the last 25 years. This, in turn, has created a leadership vacuum. Grant didn’t just highlight the vacuum, he provided pragmatic solutions and pathways to re-address the balance. Giving up his time to make a difference in something that he is truly passionate about. He provided a wide perspective on potential solutions. There was obvious focus on greater promotion and funding of apprenticeship’s but he also saw academia and wider industry institutions as potential contributors to the solution. He was a frequent guest speaker within UK universities providing insightful and practical presentations to students on design approaches and guidance factors to consider when choosing their employment path. He encouraged visits to his manufacturing facility for budding engineers to improve their understanding of a manufacturing company and to open their eyes as to how they could apply their education to the engineering workplace. He attended National Manufacturing Conferences and the likes of the MTC, presenting papers aimed at improving the advice and guidance given to young people in their career choices. “In recognition of Grant’s service to the PPMA, and in support of his passion to aid re-generation of future engineering talent, it gives me great pleasure to formally announce the launch of the Grant Jamieson Engineering Scholarship in 2022,” said PPMA Chairman David Barber. “The PPMA are committed to funding the scholarship and the trustees of PPMA Best will define and execute the scholarship aligned to Grant’s request. The aim is to support people who have a genuine interest in pursuing a career in engineering, demonstrating practical application outside of study. “This will most likely see individuals lacking funding from elsewhere being supported; those most likely to benefit and make a difference through funding and also to nurture future talent.”

Florida Food Products acquires flavor business Comax

Florida Food Products (FFP) is to acquire Comax Manufacturing Corporation (Comax), a provider of clean label flavor solutions focused on the beverage & nutrition markets. Under the stewardship of the Calabretta family, Comax has grown to become one of the largest providers of clean label flavors in the U.S. since its founding in 1977. Comax formulates natural ingredients that replace synthetic flavors and maintains a portfolio of nearly 1,000 natural flavor SKUs. As part of the FFP family, Comax will continue to operate its Melville, NY R&D and manufacturing facility, and develop formulations in its Marlton, NJ R&D facility. The Calabretta family will maintain an equity position in the combined business. FFP is a leader in clean label food and beverage natural ingredient solutions. “We are thrilled to welcome Comax to the FFP family. Comax has built an impressive portfolio of natural flavors, which we intend to augment with FFP’s industry leading clean label, natural ingredient capabilities”, said FFP’s CEO Jim Holdrieth. “Our acquisition of Comax represents our first major investment of the Ardian and MidOcean partnership, and accelerates our objective of becoming the industry’s largest independent provider of natural ingredients across all food and beverage segments.” Peter Calabretta Jr., Comax’s CEO, said: “Comax is the result of 40+ years of dedication to our craft and the hard work of hundreds of our colleagues. We are incredibly proud of the business that we have built and our confident that the Comax legacy will live on as part of the FFP family. “We are excited to partner with the FFP, Ardian, and MidOcean teams, who share our belief that natural ingredients provide consumers with healthier options while offering our customers high-quality alternatives to traditional, synthetic ingredients. “This partnership gives Comax access to new technologies, ingredients, and distribution that will accelerate the existing Comax business and provide more solutions and capabilities for our valued customers.” Weil acted as legal advisor to Florida Food Products, Ardian, and MidOcean. Houlihan Lokey acted as exclusive financial advisor to the Calabretta family.