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Tech Flash Vol. 5 No. 16 -- Food Engineering's E-Newsletter

August 26, 2009
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Private label sales up 7.4%

New research from The Nielsen Company found that both private label dollar and unit sales significantly increased for the 52-week period ending July 11, 2009 versus the prior year. The US Store Brand Development study discovered that dollar sales grew by 7.4% to $85.9 billion within food, drug and mass merchandisers (including Wal-Mart) with shares recorded at 16.9%. This reflects an increase of 0.7 points from the previous year.

According to the study, unit sales similarly experienced high growth during the same period. Sales increased by 5% to 39.5 billion units, and unit shares rose by 1.3 points (a total of 17.5%).

All store brand food and non-food categories experienced better performance versus brands, but edible food categories saw the greatest uptick in both dollar and unit sales.

Top dollar growth categories were frozen pizza and snacks (38%), flour (36%) and dry vegetables and grains (31%); dry grocery and dairy departments accounted for 59% of total sales, says the Nielsen study. Baby food (37%), frozen pizza and snacks (22%), cheese (16%) and flour (15%) topped unit sales.

With the down economy and more people eating at home, sales in basic food categories have risen, says the study. Flour (36% increase in store brand vs. 17% branded), dry vegetables and grains (31% vs. 20%), salad dressing and mayo (30% vs. 8%), pasta (27% vs. 15%) and baking mixes (22% vs. 10%) were the largest categories.

For more information, visit The Nielsen Company’s Web site.


Packaged, long-life ready-to-drink milk drives growth as loose milk declines. This graph includes packaged dairy products (PDPs), but does not include soy and dairy alternatives. Source: Tetra Pak.

Global milk demand to increase 2.2% annually

Global consumption of milk and other liquid dairy products (excluding soy and dairy alternatives) reached an all-time high of 258 billion liters (68.16 billion gallons) in 2008, according to research from Tetra Pak.

Consumption in 2008 was up more than four billion liters (1.06 billion gallons) or 1.6% from 2007- marking a 2.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) globally over the past four years, according to the semi-annual report, Tetra Pak Dairy Index (Issue 1, June 2009). This growth comes despite a sharp spike in prices over the past two years, which saw milk prices increase by up to 75% in some markets before stabilizing in late 2008.

The report forecasts that worldwide dairy consumption will continue to grow at a CAGR of 2.2% until 2012. However, this does not mean the industry will be unaffected by market conditions. According to current trends, global consumers are increasingly likely to economize-as evidenced by the fact that milk sold through discounters and other non-grocery retailers, such as convenience stores, has grown by 9.6% globally over the last three years.

While consumers may not stop buying milk, they are more likely to choose value offers when feeling budget pressure. For example, they will increasingly buy budget or private label brands when available. In Western Europe alone, sales of private label products now represent nearly 36% of white milk sales.

Driving much of the growth in the global dairy industry (95.8% over the past four years) are emerging markets-such as India, Pakistan, the Middle East and China. Growth in these countries has been boosted by growing populations and rising household incomes.

For more information, visit Tetra Pak’s Dairy Index Web site.


DOJ, Tyson Fresh Meats reach settlement over plant discharges

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. has agreed to pay a $2,026,500 civil penalty to settle allegations that it violated terms of a 2002 consent decree and a federally issued pollution discharge permit at its meat processing facility in Dakota City, NE, according to the Justice Department and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In April 2002, Tyson Fresh Meats, known as IBP Inc. until May 2003, entered into a consent decree with the federal government and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to bring wastewater discharges at its facility into compliance with state and federal laws. Tyson discharges an average of five million gallons of treated effluent from its Dakota City facility into the Missouri River each day.

According to Tyson, after it became aware in 2003 that some treatment plant processes were not performing as intended, operational changes were made and additional equipment and systems added, enabling the treatment system to function consistently. Some of the improvements included: installing additional process monitoring equipment; expanding technical training in operations, awareness and troubleshooting; enhancing administrative, process and engineering controls; and improving ongoing environmental and technical surveillance via the facility’s environmental, health and safety management system.

Over the past nine years, Tyson spent approximately $27 million in upgrading and improving the IBP wastewater treatment system at Dakota City. This includes more than $4 million spent on modifications since 2003.


Automation News



PFM’s PEARL packaging machine replaces an older model, speeding up the production process and creating less waste. (Inset, left) Markem-Imaje’s 18 Series thermal transfer printer allows Sweet Eddie’s to date code each individual package. Sources: PFM, Markem-Imaje.

Sweet Eddie's puts new wraps on its rolls

Ed Allen founded Sweet Eddie’s in 1998 as a small retail outlet serving cinnamon rolls to local customers. Eventually, the company evolved into a wholesale business serving major airlines and later transitioned into the food service industry with sales to national retailers, food service accounts and distributors. As the company’s business model evolved, so did its product offerings. Aside from the specialty cinnamon rolls that have been produced since day one, the company also produces various cakes and cookies.

“Sweet Eddie’s has really transformed over the years, and we’ve been fortunate to experience steady business growth throughout,” says Allen.

To keep pace with the influx of business, Sweet Eddie’s required new wrapping and date coding equipment that would improve its overall line efficiency. While visiting PACK EXPO, Allen looked at several suppliers’ machines and compared features. After some post-show follow-up, Allen moved forward with the purchase of a PEARL horizontal wrapping machine from PFM Packaging Machinery Corporation and an 18 Series thermal transfer printer from Markem-Imaje.

PFM’s machine wraps products in pillow-pack style packs from a flat reel of heat sealable wrapping material. The full-servo wrapper is equipped with an axis motion controller and brushless servomotors, and has a color-touch screen, allowing users to adjust machine settings and save them for regular automatic adjustments to bag length, print registration position, positions of the crimpers, the dwell and the wrapping speed.

The new wrapper replaced a smaller wrapping machine from PFM, which Sweet Eddie’s had outgrown. Installing the new system allowed the company to wrap its products faster and more efficiently, resulting in a significant increase in daily productivity and output.

Special features of the horizontal wrapping machine further improved the efficiency of Sweet Eddie’s operations. A no-product, no-film function saves on packaging waste costs by immediately halting the machine’s crimper and stopping the machine if there is no product on the line. The system’s product-out-of-place function stops the line if it senses a product is positioned incorrectly, preventing machine jams.

Additionally, the servo-driven machine simplified operations and reduced the amount of manual labor for employees. The computerized settings enabled workers to quickly and easily adjust the size settings for different products running on the machine. With fewer manual adjustments to make, the company also saw a reduction in changeover time.

“Workers have found the new machine to be very user-friendly,” Allen says. “We don’t change the product out on the machine too often. However, if we were to run cookies for three hours and switch to running muffins for six hours, it would save time to have the automated settings.”

Though the machine is primarily used to wrap the company’s cinnamon rolls, it also has the capability to wrap other offerings in different sizes, leaving the door open for future expansion.

After comparing printers, Allen purchased an 18 Series thermal transfer printer from Markem-Imaje to meet customer demand for date-coded individually wrapped products.

“Prior to this purchase, we only date coded boxes of items, rather than each individual one,” explains Allen. “The new system changed that, ensuring our customers knew they were getting the freshest product possible.”

The printer features real-time digital coding, a 1mm gap between prints, a dockable LCD handheld user interface and the ability to set automatic date rollover, eliminating manual type changes. The compact coder maximizes the use of ribbon consumables to reduce waste. It requires little maintenance and allows the user to change information instantaneously, which reduces downtime.


Wells’ Dairy implemented E-WorkBook Suite to integrate manufacturing and R&D data and replace traditional paper recording. Source: IDBS.

Software helps dairy link R&D with manufacturing data

Wells’ Dairy, established in 1913, is probably the largest family owned and managed dairy processor in the United States. Owner of the Blue Bunny brand, Wells’ Dairy manufactures and sells ice creams and frozen food products throughout the United States.

Wells’ Dairy required more robust data capture than that offered by traditional paper recording, plus the ability to capture information at the point of invention for the establishment and defense of potential intellectual property (IP). Furthermore, the digitization of information within the research and development functions at Wells’ Dairy had to support its QA (quality assurance) activities.

Deployment of E-WorkBook Suite from IDBS at Wells’ Dairy has enabled the capture, analysis and reporting of data across the R&D function. As a result of the software’s broad range of workflows and user roles, the system is easy to use and has a high level of user adoption. It also allows the application to be used across culinary arts, manufacturing, materials planning and collating consumer feedback.

According to John Kennedy II, Wells’ Dairy culinologist, “E-WorkBook Suite was chosen over rival applications primarily because it is easy to use. We were particularly impressed with the ability to consolidate information by simply using drag and drop functionality.” This has led to E-WorkBook being adopted throughout the organization, from research through to manufacturing. “In addition, the clear audit trials and traceability available with E-WorkBook secure data and prevent experiments and tests being repeated,” Kennedy states.

For more information, visit http://www.idbs.com/.


Food Safety News



Food safety bill's future in question

Originally intended to improve food safety in the US, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, as approved by the House of Representatives before summer recess, may result in spending more dollars for less consumer protection, says Rod Leonard, IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy) board member. Leonard is also the executive director of the Community Nutrition Institute and a former food safety official in the USDA, where in the 1960s, he merged food agencies in the USDA and created food standards to improve food safety.

According to Leonard, the legislation has two strikes against it. First, the proposal took shape in a series of compromises among a tightly knit group of consumer and non-government organizations. They wanted to see the creation of a single group, a merger of FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA to safeguard America’s food supply. Second, Leonard says the legislation will have little future in Congress without the White House taking a strong leadership role in advancing the bill.

The new bill could leave the public more vulnerable to food-borne disease, says Leonard. For example, FDA will be mandated to operate a risk-based food safety system. It would put food into five risk categories, ranking food makers and producers from the least to most risky. According to Leonard, with limited resources, FDA would concentrate on those producers producing the most high-risk foods. Where this concept falls apart, says Leonard, is the increasing number of incidents of horticultural products (traditionally low-risk) contaminated with pathogens of animal origin (traditionally high-risk).

The House bill on FDA reforms goes to the US Senate, where the outlook is dim, according to Leonard. “Any Senate action in 2009 must wait until health reform and climate legislation is adopted,” says Lenoard.

To read the entire document, Food safety in the legislative grinder, visit IATP.


Tracing tainted beef to the retail level

Beef Packers, Inc. (Fresno, CA) recalled approximately 825,769 pounds of ground beef products that may be linked to an outbreak of salmonella, according to the USDA’s FSIS. The ground beef products were produced on various dates ranging from June 5 through June 23, 2009 and bear the establishment number “EST. 31913” printed on the case code labels. The ground beef products were distributed to retail distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah. FSIS stated, “Because these products were repackaged and sold under different retail brand names, consumers should check with their local retailer to determine whether they may have purchased any of the products subject to recall.”
While FSIS published the list of affected cases of meat, it has not published a list of retail outlets affected by the recall. However, the California Department of Health has provided a ten-page list of retail outlets in California. The California Department still suggests that consumers should check with their local retailer to determine whether they may have purchased any of the products. Consumers should also check in their refrigerators and freezers and either dispose of the product or return it where it was purchased.

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