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Period: March 15, 2016 to April 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

Campbell’s Supports Mandatory GMO Food Labeling

In a letter to employees, Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison explained why the company supports mandatory national labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and why it proposes that the federal government provide a national standard for non-GMO claims on food packaging. In addition to the fact that 92 percent of consumers say they want GMO ingredients listed on food labels, the “Campbell’s purpose” requires the company to acknowledge that people want to know what’s in their food “so they can feel good about the choices they make, for themselves and their loved ones.” Campbell’s also promises to set the standard for food transparency.

"Why We Support Mandatory National GMO Labeling", News release, Campbell Soup Company, January 07, 2016

Tyson Debuts Antibiotics-Free Pork Brand

Though American consumers increasingly say they prefer antibiotics-free meat and poultry, and food companies announce moves in that direction, producers continue to buy large amounts of drugs used in human medicine – 32.6 million pounds in 2013, a factor in the decline in antibiotics effectiveness in humans. According to Takepart.com, the FDA’s voluntary control guidelines “have thus far proved ineffective at reducing the use of antibiotics by the agriculture industry.” Still, the trend toward antibiotics-free meat is working its way from the avian sector into livestock. Most recent example: Tyson Foods' Open Prairie Natural Pork brand made from pigs raised without antibiotics, hormones, or the use of gestation crates. The move makes Tyson the leading producer of antibiotics-free pork in the U.S.

"A Major American Meat Company Is Going Big With Antibiotic-Free Pork", TakePart.com, February 25, 2016

Subway’s Newest Sandwich To Feature Antibiotics-Free Chicken

The Subway sandwich shop chain has introduced a new menu item that features chicken raised without antibiotics. Rotisserie-style chicken also contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The company has also committed to serving only eggs from cage-free layer hens by 2025. Subway said it had a difficult logistical problem with its rotisserie-style chicken at first: finding enough suppliers of antibiotics-free poultry to meet the chain’s needs. The problem was solved, however, and beginning April 1, the company will begin serving all-white meat chicken strips that will also be free of artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and antibiotics.

"Subway Sandwich Shop Introduces New Rotisserie-Style Chicken Raised without Antibiotics", News release, Subway, February 26, 2016

NRDC Praises Perdue, Subway For Antibiotics Policies

The Natural Resources Defense Council said it was pleased to find that both chicken producer Perdue Farms and sandwich shop chain Subway have fully committed to eliminating antibiotics. According to the NRDC, Perdue “leads the chicken industry’s welcome conversion toward antibiotics stewardship.” Two-thirds of the company’s chickens, and more than half of its turkeys, are now raised without antibiotics. The NRDC is seeking wider adoption of third-party verification programs that assure consumers that companies are transparent about their stewardship claims. Third-party verification would also build confidence that animals raised without antibiotics are living in “high welfare conditions.”

"Perdue, Subway move full steam ahead on antibiotics use commitments", Switchboard Blog (NRDC), February 26, 2016

Perdue Expands Product Offerings That Claim “No Antibiotics Ever”

Perdue Farms announced that it is extending its “No Antibiotics Ever” initiative into mainstream grocery categories and foodservice menu items. The move, which begins this months and continue into May, means that all of Perdue’s protein products, including frozen, refrigerated and fresh value-added chicken products, and all foodservice turkey products, will be antibiotics-free. The foodservice turkey products join the company’s No Antibiotics Ever menu-ready chicken distributed under the Perdue Harvestland and other foodservice brands. The number of Perdue products with the no-antibiotics claim totals more than 200.

"Perdue Expands No Antibiotics Ever Poultry into Mainstream Grocery, Foodservice", News release, Perdue, February 26, 2016

Ohio Food Maker Schwan To Switch To Cage-Free Eggs By 2020

The Schwan Food Company, maker of Freschetta and Red Baron frozen pizzas, said it will transition to 100 percent cage-free eggs by the end of 2020. The move will include all foods containing eggs sold by subsidiaries Schwan’s Home Service, Inc., Schwan’s Consumer Brands, Inc. and Schwan’s Food Service, Inc. The Ohio-based company consulted with animal-welfare experts and its suppliers about the future cage-free egg supply. It said its plans will depend on the availability of certified cage-free eggs.

"The Schwan Food Company Announces Five-Year Transition Plan for Cage-Free Eggs", News release, Schwan Food Company, February 29, 2016

Annie’s Introduces Three Organic Breakfast Cereals

Natural and organic food company Annie's has unveiled three USDA certified organic breakfast cereals in partnership with parent company General Mills. Each is free of artificial flavors, synthetic colors, preservatives and artificial sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup. All are made with whole grain oats as the first ingredient and contain only eight grams of sugar per serving. The three varieties include Berry Bunnies, Frosted Oat Flakes and Cocoa Bunnies. Annie’s was acquired by General Mills in 2014.

"New Annie's Cereals bring the yum, plus the benefits of organic", News release, Annie's, Inc., March 03, 2016

Candy Maker Mars Plans To Replace Artificial Colors Across Product Lines

Mars, Incorporated says it will spend the next five years replacing artificial colors in all lines of chocolate, gum, confection, food and beverage brands. The company stresses the move is a response to consumers demanding more natural ingredients, and is not because artificial colors are dangerous. The process will take five years because extensive testing is needed to make sure natural colors are safe and high quality. It will also require collaborating with suppliers to identify ingredients and formulas that meet all legal and regulatory requirements. About 50 brands will be affected.

"Mars, Incorporated to remove all artificial colors from its human food portfolio", News release, Mars Incorporated, March 05, 2016

Rubio’s Simplifies Ingredients In Its Western U.S. Eateries

Mexican restaurant chain Rubio’s, based in California, said it is extending its quality ingredients program beyond sustainable seafood, handmade salsas and guacamole, and fresh produce. The company – which already uses no artificial sweeteners, FD&C colors, MSG or hydrogenated oils – plans to serve only all-natural chicken without antibiotics and bacon without added nitrates or nitrites. It is looking into adding sustainable, wild-caught salmon, beef raised without antibiotics, and flour tortillas made with simple ingredients. Rubio’s operates 194 restaurants in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.

"Rubio’s Restaurants Reveals Latest Commitment to Food Quality", News release, Rubio's, March 06, 2016

General Mills To Double Organic Acreage By 2019

General Mills says it is doubling farm acreage devoted to organic agriculture to 250,000 acres by 2019, when it expects sales of its organic and natural products will reach $1 billion. The company has increased organic acreage by 120 percent since 2009, making it one of the top five organic ingredient purchasers in North America. It has also been on a buying spree since 2000, acquiring natural and organic brands that totaled $675 million dollars in sales last year. Brands include Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, LÄRABAR, Liberté, Mountain High, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate Baking, and Annie’s.

"General Mills to double organic acreage sourcing to meet growing demand for natural and organic foods", News release, General Mills, March 09, 2016

Apollo Global Management Closes In On Deal To Acquire Fresh Market

Apollo Global Management is close to completing a deal to acquire specialty grocery retailer Fresh Market. Expected to be worth more than $1.3 billion, the deal would highlight Apollo Global Management’s confidence in its ability to turn around companies in the highly competitive grocery market in the United States. Apollo Global Management’s cash offer of $28.50 per share helped it win in an auction for the retailer.

"Apollo Global Nears Deal to Acquire Fresh Market", Fortune, March 13, 2016

Chipotle May Relax Some Emergency Measures, As Food Safety Crisis Eases

Chipotle Mexican Grill, beset by food safety breakdowns since last summer, may scale back or get rid of some of the emergency measures it implemented to stem the crisis. It has been precooking beef to ensure destruction of E. coli bacteria, for example, and using high-resolution DNA-based testing to detect pathogens. It has also shifted preparation of some produce items to a central kitchen. But now, as sales and share price begin to climb, the company may reduce pathogen testing while keeping other safety procedures in place, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

"Chipotle Weighs Stepping Back From Some Food-Safety Changes", The Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2016

Will Coca-Cola Benefit From Alliance With Filtered Milk Producer?

Coca-Cola has taken a minority stake in Chicago-based dairy cooperative Fairlife, betting on the future popularity of milk that is filtered, high-protein, low-sugar and lactose-free, a kind of “designer milk” that costs more than organic and is twice the price of conventional milk. With soda sales sagging, Coca-Cola has been experimenting with beverages that can be presented as healthier.  Another dairy producer is also offering milk that claims health benefits. The regional Dean Foods brand DairyPure sells milk that is hormone- and antibiotics-free. Fairlife should benefit considerably from its partnership with Coke, which has a huge distribution network and access to hundreds of thousands of U.S. supermarket shelves.

"Coke Thinks Designer Milk Could Be a Billion-Dollar Brand", Bloomberg Business, March 17, 2016

General Mills Calls For National GMO Food Labeling Policy

In a company blog, General Mills Chief Operating Officer Jeff Harmening says he is disappointed that there is still no national policy on labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms. It’s true that many consumers want to know which foods contain GMOs, so the company has created a public database of GMO foods. This despite the fact that “every major health and safety agency in the world agrees that GMOs are not a health or safety concern.” But a national policy on labeling is still needed, because Vermont requires it or companies can be slapped with stiff fines. Harmening insists, nevertheless, that General Mills will not retool its packaging for one state only, a move that would drive up costs for customers everywhere.

"We need a national solution for GMO labeling", Blog, General Mills, March 18, 2016

Waitrose Continues Grow And Sell Gardening Program For School Kids

UK retailer Waitrose relaunched its “Grow and Sell” program, which encourages school children to grow vegetables and other crops. On its fourth year now, the program gives away “Grow and Sell” kits, with each kit containing seeds for species, such as basil, beetroot, lettuces, and snap peas. In addition to encouraging children to learn about where food comes from, the program also helps them develop entrepreneurial skills. As part of the program, participating children are encouraged to sell their produce outside their local Waitrose stores.

"Waitrose relaunches 'Grow and Sell' gardening kit scheme", The Grocer, March 18, 2016

Citing Vermont Law, General Mills Bites The GMO Labeling Bullet Nationally

General Mills executives last month expressed hope that a bill establishing a national standard for GMO food labeling would pass the U.S. Congress. Instead the bill died in the Senate, leaving the company and many others to deal with a Vermont law that requires labeling taking effect on July 1. Similar statutes could also also pop up in other states. Though the company believes GMO foods are safe, it would be enormously expensive to relabel products for only one state “without significantly driving up costs for our consumers,” said Chief Operating Officer Jeff Harmening. Newly relabeled General Mills products, noting GMO ingredients, will begin to reach grocery stores over the next few weeks.

"General Mills Will Label GMO Food Amid Stalemate in Congress", Bloomberg Business, March 19, 2016

Private Labels Are Growing Part Of CPG Market, Study Reveals

In the United States, 32.2 percent of shoppers said they are currently buying more private-label brands, with only 6.6 percent of them saying they plan to return to name brands, according to a 2016 edition of “The Checkout” study. Results of the survey revealed 11.9 percent of respondents said they are buying fewer store brands, while 17.4 percent are buying more private labels and will keep on buying them. Also, 8.2 percent of respondents said they are buying more store labels and plan to buy even more. Data also revealed a decline in consumer perception of name brands as offering more new products, varieties, and innovations, from 56 percent of respondents in 2010 to 45 percent in 2015. Among African-American consumers, more are likely to prefer name brands, with respondents saying they are more likely to perceive name brands as of higher quality than their private-label counterparts. Results of the study offers some insights for marketers and retailers, including the fact that ...  More

"New Checkout Study: Private Label", Shopper Culture, March 28, 2016

Companies, Organizations  

Unilever Joins UNICEF In Promoting Safe Water Access In Sub-Saharan Africa

Unilever partnered with UNICEF to improve access to safe water in countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Initially focusing on Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire, the agreement includes financial investment and strategic engagement with government and civil society partners. Also, the agreement seeks to put in place community and school-based programs aimed at promoting sustainable management of safe water. In addition, the deal looks to improve hygiene and handwashing practices of people living in these countries.

"UNICEF and Unilever unite to improve access to safe water in Africa", Unilever, March 22, 2016

Unilever Will Expand Production Capacities In Russia, Company Chairman Says

Unilever plans to expand its manufacturing capacities in Russia in the long term, according to chairman Michael Treschow. Speaking at the 2016 Boao Forum for Asia in China, Treschow said, however, that his company is not relocating production facilities from China to Russia. Operating in Russia since 1992, Unilever operates four large manufacturing locations in the country. It manufactures dressing, tea, and home and personal care products in Saint Petersburg, food and ice cream in Tula and Omsk, and cosmetics in Ekaterinburg.

"Unilever plans to scale up production capacities in Russia in long term — chairman", TASS, March 22, 2016

Unilever Africa Chief Says Company To Stay In Nigeria For The Long Haul

Unilever Africa remains committed to investing and supporting economic growth in Nigeria, according to company president Bruno Witvoet. Speaking at a CEO Forum in Abidjan, Witvoet said he believes Nigeria’s economy is improving. He expressed his hope that the government would address the country’s foreign exchange situation, resolving issues posed by allowing black market rates to exist alongside official rates.

"We are committed to Nigeria’s economic growth – Unilever", The Nation, March 23, 2016

General Mills Hopes for Cereal Payoff

The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2016

Earnings Release  

Unilever Nigeria Reports Strong Sales Growth in 2015

Unilever Nigeria Plc reported sales grew 6.2 percent to N59.2 billion for the year ending December 2015, compared with N55.7 billion from the previous year. Sales grew 36.3 percent to N16.52 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared with the same quarter of 2014. Profit after tax for the full year, however, dropped 51 percent from N2.4 billion in 2014 to N1.19 billion in 2015. For the fourth quarter of 2015, profit after tax jumped 78.3 percent to N1.05 billion, compared with the same quarter of the previous year.

"Unilever PAT run rate improves significantly", The Nation, March 25, 2016

Unilever Reports Slower Profit And Sales Growth In Indonesia In 2015

Unilever Indonesia reported its net profit increased 2 percent to Rp 5.85 trillion, or $428.75 million, in 2015, a growth rate significantly lower than the 7.5 percent profit gain in 2014. Net sales grew 5.7 percent to Rp 36.5 trillion, compared with around 12 percent in the previous year. Export sales dropped 8.86 percent to Rp 1.86 trillion, while domestic sales grew 6.6 percent to Rp 34.6 trillion.

"Unilever sees slower growth in 2015 as economy ‘not conducive’", The Jakarta Post, March 31, 2016

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