What Came First, Easter or the Egg-Laying Bunny?

 

real easter egg

Neither (the egg-laying bunny or Easter came first): It was the chocolate-loving British public, which will scarf down chocolate in any form on any occasion – or so some press reports would have you believe.

So how did that public react when Cadbury’s and other candy companies altered their packaging in recent years so the word Easter, once prominent on chocolate egg packaging at this time of year, was either eliminated or relegated to a spot on the back of the pack?

They kept right on buying their chocolate eggs!

But now they have an option to buy one called ‘The Real Easter Egg,’ from Manchester-based  Meaningful Chocolate Company.

An article on The Blaze website says that company “emerged six years ago with the goal of spreading the Christian message through a variety of Easter and Advent products. Instead of politically correct bunnies, flowers and chicks, Meaningful Chocolate Company openly declares Christ as the reason for all of the festivity.”

The Blaze continues:

But since the company first walked onto the Easter candy scene, its founder, David Marshall, said the descriptions on other company’s Easter treats have become more and more bleak.

As an example, the company mentioned Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trail Pack, whose name was changed to “Egg Hunt Pack.” In addition, this season’s label on Nestlé’s Quality Street Easter egg reads: “Large Milk Chocolate Egg.” Another Nestlé product, the Milkybar Easter Egg, now has the blunt name, “Milkybar White Chocolate Egg,” proving that Cadbury is not the only company to blame for the pull.

“It looks like there is a trend,” Marshall told Telegraph.

“A lot of businesses are not comfortable with the religious aspect of the festival,” he continued. “If they want to make their product as attractive to as many people as possible it could well be that they want to remove references to the Christian festival because that will be seen as attaching to one faith tradition.”

A spokesman for Nestlé told Telegraph that there had been “no deliberate decision” to remove the word “Easter” from its holiday products and assured that customers would make an “automatic” connection even if the word was not explicitly mentioned.

“Chocolate eggs have been synonymous with Easter and the Easter story since the beginning of the last century and the association is now an automatic one,” he said. “There has been no deliberate decision to drop the word Easter from our products and the name is still widely used at Nestlé.”

Cadbury has also denied accusations that it has caved to secular pressure and removed Easter from its iconic chocolates, stating that the word “Easter” still appears, if not prominently, on the back of its creme egg wrappers.

A website focused almost entirely on statistics — including some that nobody should want to be aware of! — just published a list of “14 Staggering Easter 2016 Sales Statistics”. Among them: Sales associated with Easter in the UK were expected to be some  £775 million this year. That is, indeed, a ‘staggering’ statistic!

I encourage you to ask your friends, family and colleagues to check out what my two blogs – Food TradeTrends.com and YouSayWhat.info – do in the interest of providing information you might, otherwise, never become aware of. You never know: Some of my research could prove useful, or possibly amusing, to you (and them).

(In the few months these blogs have been published, they’ve been seen, between them, in no fewer than 30 countries! I’m pretty staggered by that statistic!)

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The Automat Restaurant Returns! Bon Chance, Eatsa!

eatsa

A story last month (February) in Business Insider described Eatsa, a new restaurant chain. as “unlike any fast-food chain we’ve seen before.”

The reporter, Hayley Peterson, who appears to be, in her photo, in her youngish thirties, clearly was using the ‘royal we’ – speaking as one as if she were, like the queen, somehow greater than the sum of her parts.

But then, no one of her generation ever had an opportunity to see Eatsa’s spiritual and practical predecessor, because Horn & Hardart, shut down its last New York City Automat in 1991 – a fact that Haley later alludes to in her well-done, highly-illustrated article.

Horn & Hardart, which opened its first restaurant in 1902 in Philadelphia, quickly caught the public’s attention for a couple of reasons. Its several walls of shiny glass-door compartments held individual portions of sandwiches, salads, desserts and more. Combinations of nickels (five-cent pieces) would be deposited in a slot by each door featuring a desired item. The door would unlock, and the item became yours!

On one side of the usually-large rooms – some seemed to be nearly the size of Rockefeller Center’s ice rink – there were steam tables where hot dishes were available. Whether you stopped by the hot tables or skipped them, you sat wherever you wanted – beside whomever happened to be there – and tipping was discouraged.

There was, after all, no service: You could enjoy a pretty good ‘fast food’ experience – this was, in fact, the nation’s first true fast-food restaurant chain – without once interacting with a person, with the possible exception of a ‘nickel thrower’: A woman who exchanged your larger coins and/or bills for their value in nickels.

The food was prepared either behind the scenes on the same location or at a central commissary elsewhere in either New York or Philadelphia, the two principal cities where Automats operated. The food was, by standards of the day, healthy and nutritious, and ordinarily pretty tasty, too.

So what happened to the Automats – which, by the way, were based on an earlier automat concept in Germany? A couple of things: The arrival of McDonald’s, Burger King and local variations on the same theme(s) provided a more ‘exciting’ atmosphere and, significantly, drive-thrus. At the same time, in the late- ‘60’s – early ‘70’s, as food costs rose, there weren’t a lot of things that could be offered for a combination of nickels.

Then there was the rent factor: For obvious reasons, Automats tended to located in high-traffic locations. Horn & Hardart at one time operated 40 of their restaurants in New York City, and as the rents rose – as they seem to do with tide-like regularity in ‘The Big Apple,’ their share of overhead, coupled with the higher food costs, made Automats economically unviable.

A company calling itself Bamn! attempted to revive the concept in New York City’s East Village in 2006.  It survived a mere 2.5 years – probably, in part, because the street it was on, St. Mark’s Place, has been ever-more ridiculously pricey real estate since the 1960’s, when it was a popular draw as home to Gerdy’s Folk City, when ‘folk music’ was all the range, then to clubs of more advanced genres, and, for a while, to one of NYC’s hottest jazz clubs – frequently inhabited by Thelonious Monk – and the kid of gift/memento stores tourists flock to.

(I often ‘hung’ there when Monk was in residence – selling nonsense poems written on bar napkins to tourists!)

Eatsa is a truly modern-day version of the automat-type restaurant. It’s brightly lit, it’s décor is plain but in tune will Millennials’ tastes.

eatsa_interior

It’s computer-based ordering system – for the sole specialty, a bowl of quinoa priced at $6.96 and topped with whatever the customer orders, from a wide range of choices – is recorded and stored so when a customer returns, his/her previous preferences are  displayed and alternates are suggested as part of the approach to encouraging repeat visits.

So far, there are Eatsa locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Nation’s Restaurant News has reported that the chain plans to open at least ten more locations this year.

From that, point who knows?

 

Latest Fast Food Trend: Organic

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People are inspired to create restaurants by all sorts of things, for all sorts of reasons. Former NBA star Ray Allen, who just opened one of  the first organic restauranst in the U.S., was inspired by the special food needs of his son, Walker, who has Type 1 diabetes. Ray’s partner in the venture, which will see its first location, called Grown, open in Miami this spring, is his wife, TV producer Shannon Allen. Walker is one of five Allen children.

allen_family

Grown intends to offer organic soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, gluten-free baked goods, fruit smoothies, cold-pressed juices, coffees and teas at price points in the $4-18 range, the South Florida Business Journal reported recently.

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The Journal’s web site also noted that Grown – which doesn’t appear to have its own web site yet – “will have the perks of fast food restaurants, without the grease.” Its amenities will include a drive through, indoor and outdoor seating, a rooftop garden, and space for such events as cooking classes and wellness demos.

Overseeing the food side will be Executive Chef Todd Kiley, whose LinkIn profile describes him as (a) co-founder of Grown. His background includes experience with Boston’s Legendary Restaurant Group, Legal Sea Foods, and the Back Bay Restaurant Group.

He says on LinkedIn that at Grown, “We are marrying fast and nutritious to not only bridge the enormous divide in the market: but to provide busy people with an option they can finally feel good about, health and convenience.”

The latter part of that statement pretty well sums up what Shannon Allen said in describing to the Miami Herald how the concept was developed:

“I had an aha-moment where I realized I couldn’t sit around helpless waiting for someone else to create a fast food option that met our family’s dietary needs,” she said. “… As we did our research, it became obvious that this wasn’t a struggle unique to us: families everywhere are looking for convenience without compromise.”

Even less compromising, in a unique way, is another new organic restaurant, this one in California, and the first in the nation to be ‘certified’ organic by the USDA.

Opened recently by Erica Welton, formerly a food buyer for Costco, The Organic Coup

organic_coup

has the ultimate in simple menus: The main (and, apparently, the only) ‘entrée’ is “Mary’s Spicy Organic Air Chilled Chicken Breast Fried in Organic Coconut Oil” on a bun, in a multigrain tortilla wrap, or in a bowl. All options include “organic spicy shredded veggies,” and an assortment of sauces are offered. One (and only one) side is offered: Organic caramel-covered popcorn with a chocolate ‘drizzle’.

Business Insider noted recently that The Organic Coup “is pricier than your average fast-food restaurant: [Its] fried-chicken sandwich costs $8.99, compared to under $4 for a chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A.”

But as the photo above suggests (!), there isn’t much price resistance from customers, who clearly are willing to wait more than a minute or two to be served reliably organic fare.

And they truly like what they are served, judging from the fact that in its first four weeks, The Organic Coup accumulated more than 100 reviews on Yelp!

(One five-star giver said: “Fabulous new fast food style restaurant with a twist: the first USDA certified organic restaurant in the US. I class this as the In N Out of fast food joints – definitely got the right idea with a limited menu because what they do, they do REALLY well. For those that crave something cleaner, fresher, and more eco friendly, The Organic Coup is the answer.”)

Welton has ambitious plans – intending to  open 25 more restaurants over the next year or so.

organic-coup

And while hers is the first USDA certified-organic restaurant, you can bet others will follow!

Levy on Sugary Soft Drinks Coming to Britain in 2018

sugary_soft_drink

Photo: New Food Magazine

In Great Britain, where childhood obesity has reached crisis proportions, the government has just put forth a plan to tax sugar in both domestically-made and imported soft drinks starting in 2018. The plan was presented to Parliament as part of his annual budget proposal by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who anticipates the levy will raise as much as £520 million ($740 million) annually. Much of that sum will be dedicated to school sports, he said.

A report on the plan by New Food magazine said this morning (March 22) that those who have been advocating for such a levy are overjoyed, but – as you’d expect – the soft drinks industry considers it “simply absurd” to target “the only category in the food and drink sector which has consistently reduced sugar intake in recent years – down 13.6% since 2012.”

Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drink said his is “the only category with an ambitious plan for the years ahead – in 2015 we agreed a calorie reduction goal of 20% by 2020.

“By contrast,” he went on, “sugar and calorie intake from all other major take home food categories is increasing – which makes the targeting of soft drinks simply absurd.”

Those on the other side of the issue no doubt think it is equally absurd that, as Mr. Osborne put it, “Five year old children [today] are consuming their body weight in sugar every year, [and] experts predict that within a generation over half of all boys, and 70% of girls could be overweight or obese.”

Indeed, New Food reported, “Public Health England recently revealed that four to 10 year old children consume around 22kg (49 lbs) of sugar a year,” and the Chancellor called that a significant contributor to the childhood obesity crisis.

He said: “One of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity is sugary drinks.

“A can of cola typically has nine teaspoons of sugar in it. Some popular drinks have as many as 13.

“That can be more than double a child’s recommended added sugar intake.”

The plan is to not implement the levy until 2018 to give the industry time to prepare, he noted.

His plan calls for two levy levels –one for total sugar content above 5 grams per 100 ml and a higher band for drinks containing more than 8 grams of sugar per 100 ml.

Study: Aussie Kids Eat Way Too Much Salt

salt_shaker

 

A study in Australia indicated recently that children aged 4-12 – the age group studied – consume, on average, way more salt than they should. The study’s immediate interest was if, or how, dietary sodium – table salt and the assorted versions of sodium that show up in foodstuffs, particularly manufactured ones – might affect obesity. But if even a few minutes research were necessary (which it shouldn’t be, for anyone interested in this blog), it is quite clear that excess sodium consumption sets bodies up for an assortment of health risks, including hypertension potentially leading to strokes or heart attacks.

The study was centered at Deakin University in Burwood, Victoria. There also was involvement by Queen Mary University in London.

The same study sample was used – a 24-hour urine collection – as the type that showed sodium-intake/obesity relationships in such other countries as the U.K., the U.S. and Korea, in each of which urine sodium levels were compared with energy intake (EI) – calorie consumption. In the end, after measurements including BMI (body mass intake), waist/height ratios, age, sex, and other factors, it was seen that higher consumption rates of sodium exposed many in the studied subjects group to greater risk of both overall and abdominal adiposity (obesity).

In addition to looking at total fluid intake, the scientists focused particularly on the children’s intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. Hardly surprisingly, children without either the best training or observation by parents (or other principal caregivers) tend to take advantage of too many opportunities to down the latter – a practice far from unique in Australia.

While this study didn’t seem to pay a lot of heed to sweetened/excessively sweetened cereals, these most certainly have an effect on a child’s overall health as well as his/her weight/height relationship.

Increasingly, in the U.S., parents are being encouraged to limit their children’s consumption of such cereals and, as or more importantly, manufacturers are being encouraged to cut cereals’ sugar content both to keep their existing customers and to be able to attract new, more-health-oriented ones.

Sadly, but hardly unexpectedly, manufacturers are being slower to react to pleas of those sorts than are parents. Manufacturers seem to be similarly less interested in taking serious steps to reduce sodium content in foodstuffs.

The reality today, in many places, is that people are leaning toward healthier diets – diets that will keep them more lean – and younger parents are, being health-oriented themselves, sure to make serious attempts to instill good eating habits in their kids.

Pay particular attention, for a couple of days, to the physic of men and women you see on the interviewer or presenter side of news stories, and as characters in whatever TV shows you watch. If you have time, google a few old show titles, and take a look at an episode or two on YouTube or wherever. You more than likely will see a disconnect from the physical shapes of (particularly males) in say, the 1980’s and today: Today’s versions tend to be slimmer, more fit-looking.

Somehow, those from those years who continue to be alive and thriving – Michael Douglas, featured in the current issue of AARP The Magazine, for example, is amazingly fit-looking for age 71. We (including me, two years his elder) should all be so lucky!

(But remember: It’s not really a matter of luck. It’s a result of taking care of one’s self!)

 

Those For and Against GMO Labeling Lost With the Defeat of a Senate Bill

 

corn_seed--monsanto

Increasingly, scientists are modifying, or altering, organisms (such as seeds) for any of several reasons. Seeds are modified to make them more resistant to diseases. They also are altered to speed the growth of whatever a given seed was ‘designed’ to produce.

Other reasons for modifying an organism can include [1] to either speed or slow its ripening process and [2] to improve its ‘stability’ on long journeys from its place or origin to the place it will be processed or consumed.

Some segments of the public believe that any modification done to an organism, for whatever reason, should be disclosed. Many of those people believe that such disclosures of a Genetically Modified Organism, or GMO, should be on a product’s label – either, from one perspective, identical labels comprising details established at the federal level (in the U.S.) or, from another perspective, state-mandated labels that could, in any number of ways, vary from state to state.

The U.S. Senate refused to give the go-ahead to a bill that would have allowed voluntary GMO labeling at the federal level – for products distributed nationwide, in other words – and disallowed another approach to labeling: Mandatory labeling at the state level.

gmo_label

It’s hardly surprising that a leader among those opposing state-level GMO labeling is the Grocery Manufacturers of America, a trade group. Their view is based on the not-unreasonable assumption that state-level labeling would be a nightmare for manufacturers, since states’ standards could conflict with each other both as regards the information GMO labels must include and, for example, the size and positioning of the type to be used. Then there’s the issue that a plethora of existing label rules already get in the way of each other and, even setting that aside, often tend to leave consumers worse off rather than better-informed.

Two examples:

[1] [portion sizes, relative to their content. An 8-ounce (226g) bag of Ritz Toasted Corn Chips declares a serving size to be 13 chips, or an ounce of chips. Thus, there are eight servings per bag.

‘Reminds me of an old potato chip (crisp) commercial, “Bet you can’t eat just one!”

But you should limit yourself to one ‘serving’ in this and many similar instances: Each of those in this bag contains 160 calories, 60 of them from fat. And that serving also contains 140mg of sodium – 6% of the governments ‘recommended daily allowance’ (RDA) for that mineral.

Compare that to a 3.5 ounce (100g) box of Nabisco’s Gluten Free Rice Thins. Its serving size is 18 pieces, or thins, containing 130 calories, 15 of them from fat. And its 84mg of sodium are said to represent 4% of the RDA for salt.

Is the portion size, on many packages, truly reflective of consumer behavior? Or is it, more accurately, a measure designed to let manufacturers/packagers express, in the most favorable way, an ingredient content level they anticipate consumers will view as ‘reasonable’ relative to their own health or their RDA?

[2] label size/contents. As it happens, both of the above-described products are served up in packages large enough to include all the details – some of them ‘optional,’ where the label is too small for all the details – spelled out in the government’s existing labeling standards.

Those standards are up for revision under the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2015, which has been kicking around since it was the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013.

Among that Act’s provisions is one that would require manufacturers and/or importers foods of introduced into the U.S. to provide the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) “information that must be included in the labeling of food (the NFB, or Nutrition Facts box; ingredient statement, and any natural or artificial flavoring; any applicable allergy statements; nutrient content claims; health claims; a copy of the principal display panel; and whatever else FDA might request),” the FDA Law Blog website of the Hyman, Phelps & McNamara law firm says.

So, the already-crowded (and not-as-informative-as-was-originally-intended) NFB is likely to get more crowded, or not feature more ‘optional,’ potentially-valuable bits of information.

GMO labeling came into effect in Europe in 2004. At that time, the just-cited website gmo-compass.org initiated an online survey for “stakeholders with interests in the risks and/or benefit assessment of GMO’s.” Scheduled to end last July (2015), the survey’s aim was “to identify which research needs should be prioritized, thereby contributing to the commissioning of research on the health, environment and economic impacts of GMO’s.”
Results of that survey haven’t been announced, but you can count on one thing: The “research needs” identified by European participants, at whom the survey was directed, will vary, perhaps significantly, from comparable GMO-related findings in the U.S.

That’s as sure as the fact that the just-defeated bill in the U.S. Senate was applauded by the website NaturalNews.com, reflecting its labeling of that bill as The DARK Act – with DARK standing for Denying Americans the Right to Know Act – because it would have outlawed state-level GMO labeling laws.

It’s one thing to argue for the public’s right to know this, that or the other thing. But it’s another thing altogether to favor legislation that would have, beyond a doubt, push food prices up because of manufacturers’/packagers’ higher costs due to their need to comply with various states’ differing rules.

Yes, genetically modifying organisms has both proponents and opponents. As is usually the case, the argument for one or the other side of that position will no doubt continue – possibly long beyond the working or even actual lives of the arguers.

But here’s the thing: It would make no sense, from anyone’s perspective, to have a patchwork of GMO labeling laws, conflicting with each other in any number of ways. Sadly, unless Congress (which can’t, these days agree on anything) acknowledges the need for and passes legislation for a nation standard, people like Mike Rogers, the guy behind the NaturalNews.com website, will continue to favor faulty public, state-level policy not likely to truly benefit anyone.

Just as he promotes dietary supplements that may, perhaps, be just as beneficial.

 

Going Organic to the Billionth Degree

 

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General Mills, which in FY 2015 did some $675 million in annual sales of organic products, making it the U.S.’s third largest organic and natural food maker, is planning to double the amount of acreage from which it harvests the ingredients for its products of that type.

By 2019, New Food Magazine reported this week (on March 15), the company intends to be sourcing organic ingredients from some 250,000 acres.

That UK-based magazine quoted Jeff Harmening, the company’s executive VP and Chief Operating Officer for U.S. Retail, as saying they expect to achieve $1 billion in annual organic/natural products sales by 2019, a year earlier than previously predicted.

“We’re building strategic relationships directly with farmers for our products and are dedicated to working with growers to optimize production and quality, adopt standard practices and accelerate supply,” Harmening said.

The company’s growth in organic acreage is, New Food said, part of its “sizeable investments to meet growing consumer interest in natural and organic foods, which is expected to drive double-digit industry sales growth over the next five years.”