Heinz, HP Foods to Merge
The UK's Competition Commission has provisionally cleared the acquisition by HJ Heinz Company of the HP Foods Group. Both Heinz and HP produce ketchup, brown sauce and barbecue sauce. Heinz also produces baked beans and canned pasta products, while HP branded baked beans and pasta products are currently produced by Premier Foods plc, under a license from HP.

Heinz, HP Foods to Merge

Soup's On for Sensible Eating

Struggling to find a revitalized identity after the low-carb bubble burst, weight-loss producers are refocusing their energies on low fat, low sugar, and low glycemic index products to regain market momentum, according to The US Market for Weight-Loss Products & Trends, a new report from market research publisher Packaged Facts. Packaged Facts projects that the weight-loss products industry-once expected to reach $9 billion by 2008-won't regain the go-go drive of the low-carb craze, which helped the market surge by 22.2% between 2002 and 2003. With sales in the next four years showing a compounded annual growth rate of 7%, Packaged Facts anticipates the market will reach $7.5 billion by 2010, bolstered by strong growth in the weight-loss desserts and diet candy sectors.

"People still want to lose weight," said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts, "but they've lost their taste for extreme diets. They want to eat sensibly with a little indulgence."

In another move toward sensible eating, Campbell Soup Company plans to reduce sodium in its soups and beverages. It will offer new versions of its top-selling soups and reformulate some of its existing soups and beverages with less sodium. The reduction efforts will utilize an all-natural sea salt to help lower sodium by at least 25 percent, directly impacting one-third of Campbell's soup volume in the United States.

Can We Talk? South Korea Opens Up

Food exporters are hailing the opening of new talks with South Korea, aimed at creating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two trading partners. The Asian nation is the sixth largest importer of US agricultural products. Food industry representatives say the potential exists for significantly increasing the $2.5 billion in food exports to South Korea under a free trade agreement.

"Currently, South Korea maintains high tariffs on processed food imports, and our exports are hindered by other technical and sanitary barriers to trade," said Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the Food Products Association. "For the United States, an FTA would provide US food companies with increased access to the South Korean market, as well as new opportunities for processed foods and beverages," he added.

RFID Solutions Center Doors Open

Alien Technology Corporation opened a new facility last month strictly focused on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, discovery, innovation and implementation. Located in Dayton, OH and comprising 23,000 sq. ft. of educational, R&D and real-world implementation resources, the RFID Solutions Center will work to capture the benefits of RFID applications such as improved asset visibility within supply chains, enhanced consumer safety and security and greater operating efficiencies for private and public sector organizations.

The center's services are available to organizations involved in the implementation of RFID technology, including enterprises, government agencies and their partners. It houses sophisticated technical labs and extensive test and piloting facilities, as well as the capital equipment needed to simulate a wide range of real-world RFID situations in consumer packaged goods, retail, transportation, defense and pharmaceuticals. The center aims to help organizations address RFID in the global supply chain-from packaging and manufacturing to distribution and point-of-sale.

Organizations partnering with the center have access to its resources as well as the opportunity to interact with other Solutions Center supporters. Partners will include hardware solutions providers, software solutions providers, systems integrators, end users in both the public and private sectors, and university-based educators and researchers. The Ohio State University, Ohio University Center for Automatic Identification, part of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Wilberforce University, Wright State University and the University of Cincinnati have agreed to collaborate with the RFID Solutions Center.

More information on the RFID Solutions Center can be found at www.rfidsolutionscenter.com.

Allergens & Labeling: Got it Under Control?

While the allergen labeling law explicitly impacts ingredient statements on packages, it also implies better control of in-plant processes.Full Story

Make it Better, Not Cheaper

By focusing primarily on material costs, packaging suppliers have short-changed functional improvements. That is beginning to change.Full Story

Automated Sanitation

Manual sanitation regimens gradually are giving way to automated cleaning systems, with CIP only part of the mix.Full Story

People, Plant & Industry News

Jeff Woosterhas been named senior value chain manager, food and specialty packaging for plastics at theDow Chemical Co.The company also appointedRob Cottonas North American application technology leader for food and specialty packaging for its plastics business.

Interstate Warehousing Inc. recently opened a 157,000-sq.-ft. public refrigerated warehouse in Franklin, IN, which offers more than 4.8 million cubic feet of storage with room for expansion. The company plans to complete an 83,000-sq.-ft. addition that will boost capacity by 15,000 pallet positions to its cold storage warehouse in Newport News, VA, early this year. The company also expects to complete construction of a 165,000-sq.-ft. refrigerated warehouse in Murfreesboro, TN, in 2007.

PureTex Water Works is building a high-speed water bottling plant in Wharton Country, TX. The first lines will be in operation by the end of 2006. Upon completion, the facility will hire 380 new employees.

Thomas Damiano will lead The Solae Co.'s global food platform strategy. He will help the company find applications for soy protein in baked goods, beverages, cereals, bars and other food categories.

APV North America is opening a $2.5 million, 43,000-sq.-ft. facility in Amherst, NY. The new Centre of Excellence will provide APV clients with a centralized source for access to technologies for the dairy, beverage, brewery and food industries.