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Period: January 15, 2016 to February 1, 2016
Comment & Opinion or Companies, Organizations or Consumers or Controversies & Disputes or Deals, M&A, JVs, Licensing or Earnings Release or Finance, Economics, Tax or Innovation & New Ideas or Legal, Legislation, Regulation, Policy or Market News or Marketing & Advertising or Other or People & Personalities or Press Release or Products & Brands or Research, Studies, Advice or Supply Chain or Trends

Marketers Face Growing Consumer Efforts To Avoid Ads

Consumer packaged goods companies are trying to find ways of maximizing marketing efficiency when consumers are doing their best to avoid advertisements. For example, Unilever spends $7.7 billion on advertising worldwide and another $15 million to protect that investment by working with marketing-technology startups through its Foundry program. In the United States, the Great Recession and economic policy changes have battered the middle class, pushing more people into the lower class. Clorox shifted more than 40 percent of its media spending to digital marketing, which uses programmatic media, to serve most relevant ads to consumers. Also, marketers are putting their ad spending into media where ads are harder to avoid, such as sports and other live TV programs.

"The Big Agenda: What Lies Ahead for Marketing in an Increasingly Ad-Free Future", Advertising Age, January 11, 2016

Unilever Receives Top-Employer Honors From China's Top Employers Institute

Unilever was named the number 1 employer in China by the Top Employers Institute. Unilever China, which has a number of initiatives aimed at meeting the challenges posed by the China market, has been implementing programs to always improve its HR strategies and policies. Its efforts to put people at the heart of its business has earned Top Employers Institute’s recognition, the company said.

"Unilever named top employer in China", Unilever, January 14, 2016

Companies, Organizations  

Unilever Reports Strong Profit Growth In 2015

Unilever said its turnover rose 10 percent to €53.3 billion, including 5.9 percent in positive currency impact, in 2015, compared with the previous year. Underlying sales growth was 4.1 percent, with volume expanding 2.1 percent and price rising 1.9 percent. Underlying sales in emerging markets grew 7.1 percent, with volume 2.7 percent higher and price 4.3 percent up. Unilever reported core operating margin was at 14.8 percent, an increase of 30bps, while core operating profit was up 12 percent. Operating profit dropped 5.8 percent.

"Unilever 2015 Full Year Results: Consistent Profitable Growth In Volatile Markets", Unilever, January 19, 2016

McDonald’s Tries New Menu Items In Japan

McDonald’s fans in Japan will find an unusual sweet treat on their menus this month. The company is adding French fries slathered in “chocolate with cacao flavor and white milk chocolate” sauces. The company reportedly has no plans to introduce the “McChoco Potato” in the U.S., however. As McDonald’s seeks an investor to buttress its money-losing Japanese subsidiary, it has been experimenting with its menus in the country. This month it added the “chicken cheese burger” and the “cream stew pie” filled with potatoes, mushrooms, bacon, and onions.

"McDonald’s Is Adding This Weird Topping to Its Fries", Fortune, January 19, 2016

Unilever's First Foundry Event For 2016 Focuses On Smart Packaging

Unilever announced its first Unilever Foundry event for 2016, which will focus on Smart Packaging. Held on a quarterly basis, the Foundry is Unilever’s platform for collaboration with potential partners and for innovation. AIPIA managing director Eef de Ferrante will present an overview of the latest trends in smart packaging.

"Unilever Foundry Club kicks of 2016 with Smart Packaging", Packaging Europe, January 20, 2016

Unilever Shrinks U.K. Single-Portion Ice Cream Packs To Cut Calories

Unilever is trimming the sizes of single-serve ice cream products by as much as a third in the U.K. to reduce calories per serving. Included in the effort are packages of Magnum, Cornetto, Ben & Jerry’s and Feast, all of which will be shrunk to bring the calorie totals below 250. According to reports, the prices of the products will only be cut 26 percent. Beginning in the spring, Ben & Jerry’s single portion packs will be reduced by 33 percent, from 150ml to 100ml. A Unilever spokesman admitted there was a risk of a customer backlash. But he said he expected shoppers to “appreciate what we are trying to do, and buy more.”

"Unilever to shrink Magnum and Cornetto in bid to cut calories", The Guardian, January 22, 2016

Earnings Unilever Indonesia Expected to Improve in 2016

Indonesia-Investments , January 22, 2016

Smaller Sizes Add Pop to Soda Sales

The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2016

Innovation & New Ideas  

Artificial Colors, Flavors, Mostly Gone From General Mills Cereals

The General Mills Cereal Division announced that three quarters of its breakfast cereal products are free of artificial colors and flavors from artificial sources. The company said it just unveiled seven old favorites – Trix, Reese’s Puffs, Cocoa Puffs, Golden Grahams, Chocolate Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios and Fruity Cheerios – with new recipes that contain no artificial colors, flavors, or high fructose corn syrup. A new ad campaign, dubbed “Again,” touts the recipe changes while encouraging consumers to love General Mills cereals Again. The company has been working for more than a year trying to figure out how to get rid of the offending colors and flavors ”across some pretty big cereals where color was central to the product identity.” The process included investigating 69 colors and 86 flavors

"Cereal team celebrates milestone", News release, General Mills, January 19, 2016

Bake Mix Entrepreneurs Target Health-Conscious Consumers With A Sweet Tooth

Shifting diet trends toward natural, organic, and generally more healthful foods have taken their toll on bake mix brands like Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines and Pillsbury. U.S. sales of cake and pastry mixes fell 8.5 percent in 2015; frosting sales fell 5.3 percent. Meanwhile, sales of organic baking mixes grew more than 15 percent. It doesn’t mean traditional bake-at-home mixes will disappear from store shelves anytime soon (for one thing, they’re a lot cheaper). But their ingredients lists are being reworked to get rid of at least some of the unpronounceables and unrecognizables. Bake mix entrepreneurs focused on natural ingredients are convinced that mixes made with pure ingredients will find their market: health-conscious people with a sweet tooth who hate to waste decadent calories on mediocre treats.

"Millennial-focused all-natural baking line battling Betty Crocker", USA Today, January 21, 2016

Mars to work on ag development, food safety in India

Baking Business.com, January 08, 2016

Legal, Legislation, Regulation, Policy  

EU Authorizes Digestive Health Claims Of Company’s Inulin Ingredient

The EU Commission has approved a digestive health claim for a functional ingredients manufacturer’s chicory root inulin fiber product. German company Beneo says its customers may now use the claim: "chicory inulin contributes to normal bowel function by increasing stool frequency." In addition, the 13.5 authorization also applies to general health-related well-being claims under article 10.3. These include "promotes digestive health" or “supports a healthy and balanced digestive system." The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewed the company’s scientific proofs, which included six human intervention studies that proved that consumption of Orafti Inulin increases stool frequency and supports a healthy digestive system.

"Authorised 13.5 health claim with proprietary use for Beneo’s inulin promoting digestive health", News release, BENEOnews.com, January 01, 2016

Chipotle Says It Has Righted Its Food Safety Ship

Battered by a loss of customers and sales, a severe drop in stock value, and facing a bundle of lawsuits and even a federal criminal probe, Chipotle Mexican Grill says it has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the spate of foodborne illness outbreaks at its restaurants since July 2015 does not continue. The company hired a food safety specialist who says all of his recommendations have now been adopted, and the risk of further food contamination is now at “a level of near zero.” But Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler, who is handling several of the lawsuits against Chipotle, believes that the company still doesn’t know “how to embrace food safety with the same zeal they’ve shown for the other things” – i.e., being local, organic and fresh – “they’re striving for.”

"Chipotle’s New Mantra: Safe Food, Not Just Fresh", The New York Times, January 14, 2016

Products & Brands  

Will Coke’s New Advertising Them Reverse Bleak Sales Trend?

Coca-Cola is launching an ad campaign with a new theme – “Taste the Feeling” – in hopes of revving up sales in an era of anti-sugary drink hoopla. The ten-year slide in soda consumption continues: Coke’s sales rose only one percent in the first nine months of 2015. New ads will feature the refreshing taste of Coke and relate stories about special Coke-centered moments in life. The challenge for the company is to somehow counter the flood of criticism that ties sugary sodas to some major health woes, including obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Coca-Cola says the criticism is unfair because soda drinking makes up only a small part of peoples’ diets.

"Coke Looks to Get Pop From New Ad Campaign", The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2016

Unilever’s Polman Argues Against Tax On Sugary Foods, Drinks

Attacking the U.K.’s obesity problem – two-thirds of adults are now overweight – by imposing a sugar tax would be a mistake, says Unilever CEO Paul Polman. A growing number of politicians and others are calling for a levy on sugary products as a way to cut down on sugar consumption. But Polman says the taxation idea is “too simple” and “not the Holy Grail.” There is no evidence that a tax on sugar-sweetened foods and drinks would help relieve the obesity epidemic, he argues. Part of Unilever’s answer to the problem is to revamp product packaging. It recently announced it was shrinking the packaging of its single-serve ice creams by 33 percent to get calories under 250.

"Unilever boss warns UK against sugar tax", The Guardian, January 25, 2016

Naked unveils Kale Blazer blend

Talking Retail, January 18, 2016


Africa’s Beleagured Cocoa Farmers Get Needed Help From Chocolate Makers

Cocoa production is down, especially in Ghana, and prices have soared by 40 percent in the last four years. Worse, this frustrating situation has occurred at a time when demand is up in markets like China and India, where chocolate treats have always been considered unaffordable. To rectify the problem, Mondelez and 10 big chocolate producers and cocoa processors are investing a billion dollars in cocoa-sustainability programs to boost crop productivity. Cocoa production in Ghana in 2014 fell 18 percent from 2013 earlier, thanks to disease, dry weather and shifts in government policy. Ivory Coast’s cocoa harvest increased 2.8 percent. Global demand for chocolate rose 0.6 percent in 2015, but production fell 3.9 percent to 4.2 million tons.

"Chocolate Makers Fight a Melting Supply of Cocoa", The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2016

Unilever CEO’s New Commission Encourages Business To Develop Sustainably

The head of Unilever has joined a former U.N. deputy secretary general to launch a commission whose goal is to inspire businesses to “take the lead in poverty reduction and sustainable development.” The Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development will comprise business, labor and civil society leaders, according to co-founders Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Mark Malloch-Brown. The Commission will try to convince businesses of the economic value of achieving global sustainable development goals (SDGs). Benefits include new markets, investment opportunities and innovations; a reduced risk of instability, fragmentation and fragility; encouragement of a future where businesses can perform with inclusive, sustainable growth and widespread job creation.

"New global commission puts business at heart of sustainable development", News release, Unilever , January 21, 2016

Snack trend: Think thin

Food Business News, January 07, 2016

Ad Age's Marketing Predictions 2016

Advertising Age, January 12, 2016

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