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Top Stories for 8/29/14
Rising protein prices are driving customers to change up their grocery habits, and not just in the meat aisle. According to new research from Nielsen, beef and pork are two to three times more sensitive to price increases than in 2011, but chicken remains relatively stable. The price increases that have occurred this year have already passed the point at which consumers plan to decrease their meat purchases. During the second quarter of 2014, the amount of households purchasing fresh beef, pork, and chicken declined compared with the same time period in 2013. Overall, shoppers are buying beef, chicken, and pork less frequently. This not only has an effect on fresh meat sales, but other items that are purchased with it, such as pasta, rice, sauces, and seasonings.
Shoppers are replacing their meat in a variety of ways, not just by buying inexpensive cuts, but by substituting one protein for another, such as chicken breast in place of pricier fresh ground beef. Research also shows that when a customer needs to spend more on one item, such as fresh meat, they will cut out other items they would normally purchase.
Forgeries of Swiss cheeses are contributing to declining revenue for the industry, worth about $706 million in exports last year. About 10 percent of the Swiss cheese in supermarkets is fake, according to Switzerland Cheese Marketing. To combat this, Swiss producers have turned to bacterial DNA fingerprinting, which can allow for cheeses to be tested to verify their authenticity. Each Swiss cheese has its own identifiers, with Emmental the first to get the technology, in 2011; Tete de Moine has since been covered, and Gruyere and Sbrinz are slated to be set up with the protection next year. Scientists created rotating batches of three DNA markers that only registered producers can order, and the project's organizers are conducting spot-checks in supermarkets to catch fraudulent versions, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Full Story
Diners are calling for healthier options and more variety when buying lunch. According to a consumer study by Technomic, 80 percent of consumers want higher-quality lunch fare and more unique items. Survey respondents reported eating lunch away from home an average of two times a week, and 60 percent stated that menu variety influences their lunch purchase. Offering healthy items and smaller portion sizes, especially during weekday lunch visits, could be key to gaining new customers and building loyalty.
As 36 percent of respondents report eating a lighter lunch during the week, nearly half (49 percent) said that health factors impact what they purchase, while 29 percent expect restaurants to offer smaller lunch portions. Sandwiches have an opportunity for lunch-menu innovation, with this year's top trends calling for pork-based preparations with a regional flair and trendy Asian-fusion varieties.
Eatwell Farm in Dixon, Calif., wants to bring diversity and traditional methods back to chicken farming, with sustainable, tech-savvy upgrades. With the vast consolidation and corporatization of farming, genetic diversity in chickens has dwindled to near-complete uniformity. The breeding of poultry has been controlled such that every chicken is destined for meat production (called broilers) or egg laying (layers); in the latter realm, male chicks are rendered useless and typically killed shortly after birth. Even farmers who operate sustainable, humane farms are still generally forced to buy eggs from huge hatcheries that employ such hatchling destruction.
These compounded issues have driven Eatwell to launch a crowdfunding project on Barnraiser—a Kickstarter for sustainable food and farming projects—to start raising heritage breed chickens and remove itself from the chicken-factory supply chain. Its method will allow chickens to live longer, restore nearly lost breeds, and eliminate the layers versus breeders dichotomy that results in the killing of hundreds of male chicks every year. Plus, the farm plans to bring some modern technology into the mix, in the form of data-collecting nesting boxes that identify top-performing hens, reports National Geographic. Full Story
Ice cream is trending in the tech world. Recent innovations have given way to new methods of making ice cream—but generally with the goal of maintaining its look, texture, and flavor. A group of MIT students have developed a way to print ice cream with a 3-D printer; the creators say novelty is part of its appeal and potential success. In a less futuristic but still more efficient way of making the frozen dessert, a number of producers, like Smitten Ice Cream, are making custom ice cream using liquid nitrogen, a faster process that makes for a smoother ice cream with fewer preservatives needed. Smitten emphasizes its tack of making each serving to order in front of the customer with local, fresh ingredients.
One company is looking to take ice cream out of the carton, cup, or cone altogether. WikiPearls developed an ice cream that can eliminate the need for individual packaging, while also making ice cream more portable. Harvard biomedical engineering professor David Edwards created these frozen spheres with the principles of foods like grapes and coconuts, that essentially come with built-in packaging, in mind. The ice cream is contained in edible skins made of natural food particles ... Continue Reading
Australia’s Wild Hibiscus Flower Company has introduced a line of concentrated floral extracts, pushing the current edible flower trend and molecular mixology to new heights. The line includes three varieties, each highly concentrated to add vibrant color to any recipe. Rose + Hibiscus, a fragrant blend of highly prized Bulgarian rose oil and fresh hibiscus juice, has a pink hue; Hibiscus Flower, fresh hibiscus juice infused with premium dried hibiscus flowers for a deep berry flavor, is a brilliant bright red; and b’Lure (pronounced ba‐lure), made from the blue butterfly pea flower, adding a delicate sweetness and morphing from blue to purple to pink.
Completely natural—containing no alcohol, additives, preservatives, artificial colorings or flavorings—the extracts can be used like bitters in cocktails or in spritzers; the visual appeal makes them ideal for experimenting with coloring ice cubes and foam or layering presentations.
Lindt & Sprungli has acquired a 400,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center in Carlisle, Pa. The new facility is expected to be operating as a warehouse and distribution center by early 2015, part of the chocolate company's multimillion-dollar expansion plans. As part of the second phase of facility updates, Lindt will also construct a retail store, which is slated to open to consumers also in early 2015. An expansion of its U.S. headquarters in Stratham, N.H., is simultaneously in the works. With the new facility, Lindt now has three warehouses in the U.S., reports Area Development. Full Story
St. Clair Winery in New Mexico was awarded a $50,000 grant from the federal government to expand production of its chile-infused wines. The grant will reimburse production, marketing, and distribution costs to help boost revenues and grow a customer base for the chile-infused line of wines, which uses hot peppers from the Hatch Valley in southern New Mexico. The grant is part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that helps agricultural producers market products and improve business. Funding is often given to specialty producers based in rural areas, reports Bradenton Herald. Full Story
State officials in Indiana are conducting a survey to let residents have a say in the specialty crops grown in-state. With funding from a federal grant, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture is inviting consumers to voice their preferences in the realms of fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops (such as flower farming), to determine specialty food hubs that could have strong demand among consumers seeking local specialty foods, reports The Republic. Full Story
The Miami Dolphins asked their fans what improvements could be made in its foodservice offerings at its stadium, and overwhelmingly people said they wanted more variety, quality, and value. The stadium brought in all-new offerings of high-quality, local foods that stray from the traditional hot dog and nachos typically associated with sporting events. Local chefs and businesses, such as Burger Fi, Cuban Guys, and chef Michelle Bernstein, are behind the new offerings, which include slow-cooked barbecue made on the premises, sushi, and a variety of finger foods. Special menu items will be available to reflect the team the Dolphins are playing, such as lobster rolls for the New England Patriots, reports CBS Miami. Full Story