Food makers support fight against obesity

If Congress makes combating childhood obesity a priority in 2010, the food industry will do its part to help. That was the message delivered to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health last month by Mary Sophos, senior vice president at the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

“The food and beverage industry already has taken significant steps to create and encourage healthier choices,” Sophos said in her testimony. “In recent years, we have changed our packaging to promote portion control and we have reformulated more than 10,000 products to reduce or remove saturated fats, trans fats, calories, sugar and sodium.

“Changes in advertising practices have resulted in a significant shift in the product mix of advertising viewed by children, and companies continue to compete by focusing on consumers’ desires for healthy products and a healthy lifestyle,” Sophos added.

Dr. Bill Dietz, director, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, an arm of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, told the committee the rise in childhood obesity can be linked to too much unhealthy food and drink and too much television viewing. The combination magnifies the problem, he suggested.

“The impact of television on childhood obesity is likely mediated by the food advertisements directed at children, and the consumption of foods advertised on television,” Dietz said.

Sophos wants government to step up its efforts and devote more of its resources to combating obesity. “It is critical that Congress and the states do more to increase investments in physical education, nutrition education and workplace wellness,” she said.

Federal aid slated for dairy industry

Struggling dairy producers are getting a one-time infusion of $290 million in federal aid under the 2010 Farm Bill. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak accelerated the payments in late December to help producers cope with the severe economic crisis facing the industry.

“This is an essential stop-gap measure that will help many dairy farmers stay in business in the short-term,” said Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “Looking forward, it is obvious that our existing dairy programs are not providing an adequate safety net for dairy farmers, and we need to look at ways we can reform dairy policy to ensure that it provides adequate support for the long term success of the industry.”

Dairy processors, who are not always in agreement with producers on dairy price support issues, supported the measure.

“We still need to look for longer-term solutions as our current dairy programs were not designed for the realities of the 21st century dairy industry,” said Jerry Slominski, senior vice president of legislative and economic affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association.

Nestlé to acquire Kraft Foods' frozen pizza business

Nestlé plans to acquire Kraft Foods' frozen pizza business in the US and Canada for $3.7 billion. Including the DiGiorno, Tombstone, California Pizza Kitchen, Jack’s and Delissio brands, the pizza business provides a new strategic pillar to Nestlé’s frozen food portfolio in the US and Canada. The cash transaction is subject to US and Canadian regulatory approval and is expected to be completed this year.

The acquisition brings leadership in the frozen pizza category, where Nestlé previously had a minor presence. “This frozen pizza business greatly enhances Nestlé’s frozen food activities in North America, bringing together a selection of great US and Canadian brands, industry-leading R&D and excellent route-to-market capabilities, which complement our existing ice cream direct-store-delivery,” said Paul Bulcke, Nestlé CEO.

With estimated sales of $2.1 billion in 2009, Kraft Foods was the leader in the frozen pizza category and enjoyed double-digit growth in the US and Canada over the last four years. The business will become part of Nestlé USA, adding to Nestlé’s strong presence in prepared dishes and hand-held product categories under the Stouffer's, Lean Cuisine, Buitoni, Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets brands.

Pepsi Throwback

Pepsi, others go retro sweetening soft drinks with sugar

The Sugar Association recently applauded Pepsi-Cola for reintroducing Pepsi Throwback, which is sweetened with all natural sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. The beverage appeared briefly on store shelves in the spring of 2009 in retro can and bottle packaging and does so again in this latest limited-time appearance.

“Consumers are making a move back to sugar, and we’re thrilled that Pepsi is getting back to the basics,” said Andy Briscoe, CEO of the Sugar Association. “Pepsi Throwback gives shoppers another opportunity to choose natural sweeteners instead of manufactured ones.”

Pepsi is not the only beverage bottler making a return to sugar. Dr Pepper recently released Heritage Dr Pepper, and Gatorade has also announced plans to move back to sugar. Snapple and Jones Soda have likewise moved away from corn syrup, the association said.  

Hillenbrand to acquire K-Tron International

Batesville, IN-based Hillenbrand Inc. and K-Tron International Inc., Pitman, NJ, have agreed to a merger, with Hillenbrand acquiring K-Tron for $150 per share. The cash transaction is expected to be completed at the end of March.

Following completion of the transaction, K-Tron will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Hillenbrand, and it will remain headquartered in Pitman. Kevin Bowen will be president of K-Tron’s Process Group, and Donald Melchiorre will be president of K-Tron’s Size Reduction Group; both will report to Kenneth Camp, Hillenbrand president and chief executive officer. Edward Cloues II, chairman and chief executive officer of K-Tron, will be appointed to the Hillenbrand board.

“We are delighted that K-Tron will be joining the Hillenbrand family of companies,” Camp said. “Although K-Tron’s products differ from ours, we are both manufacturing companies that share similar processes and core operational values.”

“We’re looking forward to taking advantage of Hillenbrand’s lean business strengths in planning, processes and talent development to help create even more opportunities for growth and financial success,” said Cloues.

Wise Water Usage, Treatment and Reclamation

With potable water prices going up, and water treatment costs going up even faster, processors are looking at pre-treating or completely treating their own wastewater for reuse.

Asset Management: The 8760 Plant

A more disciplined approach to asset utilization is being adopted as food and beverage companies push the outer limits of what is possible in existing facilities.

Packaging Materials Innovation

Lightweighting of PET containers is front and center in packaging change, but cracking down on weight isn’t the only focus of material innovation.

Let There Be Better Light

A focus on energy efficiency has produced big improvements in industrial lighting, but other factors also need to be considered, experts say.

Tech Update: Software as a Service

Renting software may be a cost-effective approach compared to purchasing it, but performing due diligence is critical.

People, Plants and Industry News

Cincinnati, OH-based, Ingredient Masters a designer and manufacturer of dry bulk material batching systems, and Horizon Systems Inc., an engineering and manufacturing company specializing in pneumatic conveying and bulk material handling systems based in Lawrence, KS, have partnered to produce integrated, turnkey systems for precision weighing, batching and conveying of materials, according to Scott Culshaw, president of Ingredient Masters.
Industry veteran Bruce Richardson recently joined Infor as chief strategy officer. Formerly chief research officer at AMR Research, Richardson will also serve as a strategic advisor to Golden Gate Capital.
Jay Bryant, CEO of the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association Inc.; Patricia Stroup, group manager, dairy, for Nestle USA, Inc.; Sue Taylor, vice president, dairy policy and procurement for Leprino Foods Co.; and Robert Wills, president of Cedar Grove Cheese, Inc., were appointed this week to the federal Dairy Industry Advisory Committee.
Onset Computer Corp., Bourne, MA, hired Justin Testa as its new president. Testa has more than 28 years of sales, marketing, and management experience, and he served most recently as the executive vice president and business unit manager for Cognex Corp.
SG Systems LLC launched a new Web site at The site details the company’s Food Traceability & Factory Floor Efficiency product range, featuring pictures, videos, customer application reports, PDF downloads and information on food recalls.
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