UK Overtakes Germany to Become World’s Leader for Vegan Food Launches

The UK was the nation with the highest number of new vegan food products launched in 2018, toppling Germany from its number one spot, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD)

From the UK at the forefront global vegan new product development to a sharp rise in UK meat-free consumption – all helped by the rise in popularity of initiatives like Veganuary – UK vegan new product development (NPD) is flourishing.

As many as one in six (16 per cent) food products launched in the UK in 2018 had a ‘vegan’ or ‘no animal ingredients’ claim, doubling from just 8 per cent in 2015, Mintel reveals.

According to the research, Germany has seen numbers of vegan food NPD drop, with the total share of food launches classified as ‘vegan’ falling from 15 per cent in 2017 to 13 per cent in 2018.

Overall, one in 10 (9 per cent) food products launched in Europe in 2018 had a vegan/no animal ingredients claim, doubling from 5 per cent in 2015.

Edward Bergen, global food and drinks analyst at Mintel said, “For a number of years Germany led the world for launches of vegan products. However, 2018 saw the UK take the helm. Germany has certainly plateaued, likely driven by a flooded market with little room to grow further.

“The UK, by contrast, has seen a huge promotion of vegan choices in restaurants and supermarkets. The most poignant of these is the expansion of supermarket own-label options with dedicated vegan ranges in mainstream stores. Additional space is also being freed up by UK supermarkets in the on-the-go aisles and small format stores to help promote vegan food and drink, making it easier for meat-eating consumers to try these new concepts out.

“Meanwhile, initiatives like Veganuary and meat-less Monday allow consumers to flirt with veganism without the long-term commitment.”

Source: Speciality Food magazine


Our Genes Affect Where Fat Is Stored in Our Bodies

A recent study from Uppsala University has found that whether you store your fat around the trunk or in other parts of your body is highly influenced by genetic factors and that this effect is present predominantly in women and to a much lower extent in men. In the study, which is published in Nature Communications, the researchers measured how fat was distributed in nearly 360,000 voluntary participants.

“We know that women and men tend to store fat differently — women have the ability to more easily store fat on the hips and legs, while men tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen to a higher extent,” says lead author Mathias Rask-Andersen, Ph.D. and postdoctoral researcher at the department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology at Uppsala University. “This has been attributed to the effects of sex hormones such as estrogen. But the molecular mechanisms that control this phenomenon are fairly unknown.”

The researchers used data from UK Biobank, which is a cohort study of half a million participants in the UK. The participants gave blood samples for genotyping and the distribution of fat tissue was estimated using impedance measurements, i.e. measurements of electrical resistance when an electrical current is fed through the body. In the current study, millions of genetic variants across the genome were tested for association with distribution of fat to the arms, legs or trunk, and the research team identified nearly a hundred genes that affect distribution of adipose tissue to the different compartments of the human body. The researchers also saw a high degree of heterogeneity between sexes.

“We were struck by the large number of genetic effects that were stronger, or only present, in females. Upon closer examination, several of the associated genes were found to encode proteins that actively shape the extracellular matrix, which makes up the supporting structure around cells,” says the group leader docent Åsa Johansson. The findings suggest that remodeling of the extracellular matrix is one of the mechanisms that generates differences in body fat distribution.

Fat stored in the trunk has previously been associated with increased disease risk. Men have a greater amount of abdominal fat than women and this may explain the increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease observed in males. Epidemiological studies have even shown that the ability to store fat around hips and legs gives women some protection against cardiovascular disease. The result of the current study may therefore lead to the development of new interventions to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The biological systems we highlight in our study have the potential to be used as points-of-intervention for new drugs that are aimed at improving the distribution of body fat and thereby reducing the risk of disease,” says Mathias Rask-Andersen.

Source: Science Daily

A Cocoa Expert Highlights 3 Chocolate Trends

Kristy Leissle wrote . . . . . . . . .

‘Tis the season to eat chocolate. And for the chocolate industry, there’s nothing sweeter, since this is the time of year when it enjoys a spike in sales and, at least for some, rising profits.

Globally, chocolate and its source, cocoa, are in a moment of dynamism and change. In some cases it’s for the worse, as the industry faces the realities of climate change. Other changes, however, are for the better, as cocoa producers, chocolate makers, researchers and even retailers offer creative new ways to interact with this beloved food and the people who bring it to us.

I’ve been researching and writing about all things chocolate for 15 years, from its politics and geography to its history and culture. Here are three fascinating trends I’ve been following that are reshaping the industry.

Craft chocolate explodes

One of the biggest changes has been the rise of craft chocolate.

For most of the 20th century, a few major brands like Hershey, Mars and Nestlé dominated the market. That began to change in 1997, when Scharffen Berger opened its doors in Berkeley, California, and became the first new bean-to-bar maker in decades.

To see how much things have changed, look no further than the Northwest Chocolate Festival, held every autumn in Seattle, which recently celebrated its 10th year. When I became education director for the festival in 2010, I knew maybe a dozen craft chocolate makers to invite. In 2013, the last year I held the role, I surveyed the market and was able to locate 37 bean-to-bar makers operating commercially in the U.S.

Today, there are more than 200.

The rise of craft chocolate has meant a true renaissance. These makers often take an artisanal approach, getting to know their materials well – in this case, cocoa and sugar – and shaping them carefully from bean to finished product. The results are lovingly crafted bars, many of them single origin that showcase cocoa’s natural flavor range.

Stories and labels

With this artisanal market shift has come rising consumer demand for education about chocolate.

My own analysis of the craft market shows that consumers now want more than just a piece of chocolate. They expect makers to also share a story, from who grew the beans to the flavor profile of the finished product.

But this surge in craft chocolate makers and stories can also create confusion at the grocery store.

A visit to a typical sweets section these days reveals dozens of new and attractive chocolate bars stretching down the aisle, bearing a dizzying array of labels: Fairtrade, direct trade, Rainforest Alliance, IMO Fair for Life, bean to bar, raw, handmade, craft and artisan – to name just a few.

Is there any real difference among these claims, or are they all simply marketing hype? And what does it really mean to be artisanal?

By and large, labels do one of two things: say something about a chocolate maker’s ethics or its process.

Fairtrade, for example, sets a price floor for cocoa. In a market where cocoa’s price can fluctuate dramatically, this introduces some budget stability for certified producer organizations, because they know in advance the minimum price they will receive. Fairtrade certified organizations also receive what is called the social premium – an amount paid over and above the price for the cocoa, which is reinvested into community development projects or, in some cases, distributed as cash payments to growers.

Direct trade, which Taza pioneered for chocolate, approaches things a bit differently, focusing on maintaining close and mutually supportive relationships with producers over the long term.

As for process, and consumer understandings of it, I examined how new chocolate makers use the term “artisan.” An artisan once was a person who spent long years as apprentice to a master, training in a craft, and “graduated” only when that master said the trainee was ready.

Opportunities for apprenticeship vanished in the U.S. because the few chocolate companies that dominated the 20th century guarded their manufacturing secrets so closely. But once Scharffen Berger began marketing its chocolate as artisanal, the number of makers calling themselves “artisan” grew at an astonishing rate.

In consumer surveys I conducted for this research, I found that people associated the term “artisan” with passion for chocolate making, rather than formal training in the craft. Furthermore, my findings suggested that consumers translate passion into good flavor. So the word “artisan” seems to sell a delicious chocolate eating experience, which may or may not be true.

I also concluded that terms like artisan are meant to do more than sell a product. The term, and the storytelling that accompanies it, is intended to educate consumers about what makes this chocolate different from mass-produced candies.

For consumers eager to get a story with their chocolate, these labels provide plenty of information. My advice is not to try to learn every story but to follow the ones that you find compelling. The more we learn about the people who bring us chocolate, the more mindfully we can enjoy it.

Melting in our mouths

One of the main reasons chocolate is so enjoyable and compelling to the human palate is because cocoa butter, the natural fat of the bean, melts at just below our body temperature, at around 93 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives it its distinctive mouth-feel, covering our taste buds thickly and evenly.

But it’s also a major headache for chocolate makers and retailers because it means their wares are susceptible to melting into mush in hotter regions and during the summer. And so the industry has been hard at work for decades on creating chocolate that doesn’t collapse in the heat.

The effort began in 1937, when Hershey developed a heat-resistant bar for the U.S. Army, which resulted in over 3 billion Field Ration D units being distributed to solders during World War II.

More recently, in 2015, researchers at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences announced their discovery of the gene that determines cocoa butter’s melting point. If this gene can be manipulated, it may mean another route to heat-resistant chocolate.

Today, Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest chocolate maker, reportedly makes a bar that remains stable at up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Nestlé, Hershey and Mondelēz also have heat-resistant projects that aim to conquer the melt problem while maintaining the mouth-feel.

For the company that solves this challenge, and still keeps chocolate feeling silky smooth, the prize will be enormous: vast new potential markets throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

And for consumers, the result may one day be a planet covered in chocolate – sharp and square, in its most pleasing form, and ready to melt where it ought: in our mouths.

Source: The Conversation

Annual Survey Reveals Food Trends Among Consumers and Registered Dietitians

We’ve heard of the ketogenic (“keto”) diet, fermented foods, nondairy milks, and plant proteins, but what do they all have in common? They are some of the hottest food and nutrition trends to look for in 2019, according to dietitians surveyed in the 7th annual Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey. With 1,342 Registered Dietitians (RDs) responding, the survey divulges what leading RDs predict consumers are thinking and eating. While fermented foods hold steady as the No. 1 superfood for 2018 and 2019, some surprising newcomers have made the list, including beets, blueberries, and nondairy milks. And in a shocking switch, RDs predict that a “healthy” label will begin to surpass cost and taste when it comes to consumer purchase drivers. A not-so-surprising trend dietitians report is the rise of keto as the most popular consumer diet, ousting clean eating from last year’s top spot, with intermittent fasting making its debut as No. 2. It’s clear from these predictions that consumers are on the hunt for a flat belly and will take extreme diet measures in their pursuit.

“It’s not that ‘clean eating’ has declined in popularity,” says Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RDN, senior vice president of Pollock Communications. “We are still seeing the consumer push for cleaner labels, and the industry continues their work to deliver it. But what’s different here is that millennial consumers are going beyond eliminating a food group, like cutting gluten, to making more drastic changes that require real lifestyle adjustments.” Dr. Bell explains that this movement reflects a greater recognition of the importance of what we eat. She says, “it’s beyond food is medicine; now food is the core of wellness.”

Top 10 Superfoods for 2019

RDs predict fermented foods—such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, and miso—will continue to be highly sought after by consumers in 2019, likely for their powerful benefits from boosting gut health to blunting inflammation. Kale has fallen off the top 10 list, with nondairy milks nabbing the No. 10 spot. This underscores the rise in popularity of plant proteins and finding plant-based swaps. Other superfood list newcomers, beets and blueberries join this list of dietitian superfood predictions for 2019:

1. Fermented foods, like yogurt
2. Avocado
3. Seeds
4. Ancient Grains
5. Exotic fruit, like acai, golden berries
6. Blueberries
7. Beets
8. Nuts
9. Coconut products
10. Nondairy milks

“Plant-based eating has been a major focus in the dietetic community,” Bell says. “Now, consumers are hearing this message and it’s what they want.” This is apparent in the growth of seeds, nuts, and nondairy alternatives. The supermarket milk case has gone from cow to soy, rice, almond, coconut, walnut, and oats. Consumers are fulfilling their health and protein needs with a diverse number of dairy and nondairy products.

To Eat or Not to Eat — That Is the Trend

Consumers realize that what they eat affects how they feel, and based on the trends reported, RDs think that consumers are looking for diets that primarily drive weight loss. As RDs predicted, keto was a diet trend to watch in 2018, and it has soared in popularity. RDs agree the keto craze will continue in 2019, with consumers significantly reducing carbohydrates, grains, and sugar in favor of vegetables, animal fat, and meat. According to the survey, RDs believe the next big diet—or lack thereof—will be intermittent fasting, with clean eating coming in as third most popular.

“We have witnessed a progression in consumer demand for ‘health’ and ‘clean’ throughout the seven years of our survey and as millennials have been moving into their 30s,” says Louise Pollock, president of Pollock Communications. “We have seen the food industry respond by changing their strategy from a taste, cost-driven approach to one that appeals to these powerful health and wellness-seeking consumers.”

Choose Wisely — ‘Healthy’ Holds the Halo

One of the most interesting findings for 2019 is RDs predict that consumers will be more concerned about the healthfulness of food products than the cost and taste when making purchasing decisions. Healthfulness has hovered near the top three purchase drivers in recent years, but it’s notable that for the first time it has moved up to the No. 2 spot, reinforcing the demand for better-for-you food choices. Convenience remains a steady stronghold at No. 1, with cost and taste at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, followed by natural, organic, and gluten-free.

Advice From the Experts — RDs Know Best

According to RDs, Facebook is still the No. 1 source of where consumers receive nutrition misinformation, followed by blogs and Instagram. And celebrities and friends/family remain the top sources of who consumers get nutrition misinformation from. But when in doubt, RDs feel that it’s always best to ask the experts—RDs—who agree that consumers should eat more servings of vegetables per day and increase fiber intake, which helps promote a healthy gut and improve overall well-being.

“RDs are experts at predicting trends because they consistently know what to expect from consumers,” says Mara Honicker, publisher of Today’s Dietitian. “Their trustworthy nutrition knowledge educates and improves consumer wellness, and their insights drive the future of food in industry and public policy.”

Source: Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian

In Pictures: Food of 360 Restaurant in Toronto, Canada

Continental and Canadian Cuisine

The Revolving Restaurant at the CN Tower