All posts by javava2012

Kroger’s New Mobile Market A Joint Effort with Food Bank

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Kroger’s 44-foot long mobile market   (The Courier-Journal)

Not content to offer plenty to attract shoppers into its stores, Kroger has launched a mobile store – to take food and more to where their neighbors live. Called the Zero Hunger Mobile Market format, the single-aisle store-on-wheels was introduced by the Louisville Division to serve neighborhoods with limited or no access to fresh foods and vegetables, And Know U Know reported August 15.

“There Are Other Ways”

Quoting Erin Grant, Corporate Affairs Manaager and Media Spokesperson for the division, ANUK said Krroger believes “It does not have to be a brick-and-mortar store for us to provide access to healthy food for people. That might not always be the solution. There really are other ways.”

This way, serving up 20+ meat items and close to 60 produce selections curbside around the city, is an envelope-stretcher. In reaching out to actual or near ‘food deserts’ – areas supermarkets shy away from – is an anything-but-inexpensive way for the nation’s Number 2 (after Walmart) food retailer to grow its customer base.

And while that’s certainly an objective, Kroger officials are, in expanding their coverage in this way, acting on a long-time company objective: To serve, in the best and most effective ways possible, the communities it serves. Thus this partnership with the “Dare To Care”13.4 foodbank.

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Inside Kroger’s 44-foot long mobile market   (The Courier-Journal)

Due to visit 29 locations this month (August), the colorfully-outfitted, 44-foot long (13.4 m) trailer offers close to 200 different items. It’s been a huge hit with shoppers, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported on Aug 15.

Two Fridge Cases Onboard

The paper noted that the mobile market’s product range includes two refrigerated cases holding meat, milk, eggs and cheese, among other items; A row of shelves contains baking ingredients, pasta, cereal and other pantry staples. A wall displays fruits and vegetables, from mustard greens to clementines. The market does not sell chips, soda or alcohol,” the article added.

And why should it? Those (chips, soda, alcohol, etc.) are what local ‘markets’ in food deserts specialize in.

Good job, Kroger!

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Hey, That Coffee Cup’s a Has-Been Coffee Bean (and friends)

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Here’s a fact that’s hard to swallow: The world produces, and discards, no less than 16 billion plastic and Styrofoam coffee cups annually. All told, some 500 billion plastic cups are used once and discarded. Gulp!

Here’s worse news: making sufficient coffee to satisfy those cup users with regular coffee, expresso, lattes and an untold of other varieties results in an unimaginable volume of coffee grounds. (The volume truly is ‘unimaginable’ because different preparations require varying amounts of ground beans – translating to an unmeasurable volume of grounds.

For the most part, this huge waste issue largely ignored, or lost in the mind-boggling tonnage of plastic and other type items humans throw away annually.

‘Away’ Doesn’t Exist

(I saw a sign many years ago with an absolute truism more people should keep in mind: There’s no such place as ‘away’!)

In Australia, though, efforts are underway to salvage and recycle coffee grounds… into biodegradable plastic coffee cups. The concept was founded and brought to fruition by Dominik Kopp, at the time a senior at Macquarie University, Sydney. It involves turning the grounds into lactic acid, which then is used to produce disposable cups.

BeverageDaily.com reported that Kopp and other students rescued the grinds, before they were put into the trash stream, from a coffee shop on their university’s campus. Back in the lab, “We assembled a synthetic pathway to convert the most abundant sugar in the coffee grounds, mannose, into lactic acid,” he told the website. Lactic acid, he explained, “can be used in the production of biodegradable plastics, offering a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil-fuel derived plastics. Kopp had figured that 50% of coffee grounds are sugars, and anticipated – rightly – that a sizable share of that mineral compound would have the potential to be converted into a usable material: A form of plastic.

Aim Was Environment-Saving

“We were looking for new ways to convert biowaste – whether that be agricultural, garden, paper, or commercial food waste – into valuable raw materials that could be used to produce high-value compounds in more environmentally-friendly ways,” said Anwar Sunna, an associate professor of biomedical science and Kopp’s supervisor at the time,” BeverageDaily reported.

“The simple idea that we are converting waste into a valuable and sustainable product is extremely exciting,” Sunna told the trade journal.

View farm with coffee plantation in Brazil

A coffee plantation (stock photo)

BeverageDaily.com went on to report that engineers at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology have been turning used coffee grinds into building materials for roads. The publication also noted that, in 2015, two entrepreneurial health workers left their jobs in Western Australia to form a company that uses formerly-wasted coffee grounds from coffee shops to cultivate mushrooms.

It’s only a matter of time before someone devises a way to use coffee grounds as a form of fertilizer for coffee bean plants – completing the circle.

I’ll sip to that!

DNA Can Be Used To Track Products’ Origins

Ripped from the Headlines:

Watch CBSN Live

USDA Issues Listeria Warning

BY CBSNEWS.COM STAFF CBSNEWS.COM STAFF

MAY 25, 1999 / 6:23 PM / CBS

There are several practical reasons for being able to determine, precisely, food products origins: Finding the source of product responsible for a listeria outbreak, for one; Providing verification for products ‘guaranteeing’ to be from a specific area is another.

miniDART-homepage

A commercial product described and explained in a recent in-depth FoodDive report has both those issues in mind. It seems to be living up to its promises, too.

FoodDive noted that a 2011 listeria outbreak involving cantaloupe killed 33 people and sickened 137 others. Had SafeTraces’ tools been available and in place then, the results could have been quite different, because authorities would have been able to quickly pull candidate cantaloupes from stores where problem ones were purchased, and track them back to the fields they were grown in – thus finding, or at least being way closer to finding, the source of the offending bacteria.

Alas, that listeria outbreak was, ultimately the source of the solution to the ‘source identification’ issue.

Anthony Zografos, who as chief operating officer of CPAC, (company Compact Particle Acceleration Corporation), previously helped develop a cancer therapy system, saw in that listeria situation a need to understand how to pinpoint the source of product contamination – particularly the type that causes listeriosis. He wanted to solve that problem.

He told FoodDive that while most traceability applications on the market do a good job of keeping track of food packaging, he wanted to find a way to trace further back in the system, to where the product – cantaloupe, in this case – originated. With that aim (and some sound ideas how to proceed), in mind, he founded SafeTraces, a company dedicated to enabling DNA-level tracking of food products.

In short, this now-a-few-years-old company, under its mechanical engineering PhD leader (Zografos), developed a sort-of bar code – comprised of a seaweed extract – that is applied to foods as they are processed (washed and sorted, in the case of cantaloupes). The embedded code can tell anyone who needs to know anything and everything about its provenance – where it came from – and more.

Last week, the company announced a deal with safety science giant UL to enhance palm oil traceability. This partnership gives businesses dealing with palm oil — a common food ingredient that has a reputation for being farmed using substandard sustainability and human rights practices — a potentially easy solution to guarantee the ingredient’s source.

Last month, SafeTraces announced a partnership with JBT FoodTech, a leading producer of food processing and packaging equipment. This partnership has not yet been fully defined, SafeTraces Vice President of Business Development Ulrike Hodges told Food Dive, but the companies are looking for a way to pursue food processing while integrating SafeTraces technology.

Links in the article will lead you to more details, if you’re interested.

Tariffs on China Hitting US Farmers, Too

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Pigs at farm near Fuyang city in China’s Anhui province. Photo: AFP via Asia Times

A well-known saying declares there are two things you don’t want to know a lot about: sausage-making, and the process of legislating. Bordering on both those issues is this recent note in Politico,

China would not normally be able to satisfy its consumer demand for pork, even before the epidemic of African swine fever has cut the nation’s pig population in half. Farmers in the United States would, normally, step in to help fill the gap.

But in retaliation to the tariffs placed on Chinese imports by President Donald Trump, pork going to China from the U.S. now faces a 62 percent levy, essentially making American products too expensive for consumers in China. It’s also leaving exporters frustrated that they cannot take advantage of a prime opportunity to gain long-term access to a lucrative market.

American pig farmers are estimated to be losing out on $1 billion in exports as a result of the continued tensions between the two global economic powers.

Whether you agree or disagree with Trump’s tariff actions, you can’t deny that – for good or ill – he is legislating via financial penalties. In one sense, this simplifies the legislative process, in that it forces a change based on a single opinion, or point of view, as opposed to the accepted, ‘normal’ process involving debate between or among varying points of view.

As Politico notes, the use of tariffs relative to China and pig trade isn’t just hurting China – meaning, but not actually, the Chinese government: American farmers, and producers of pig-based products, are being hurt as well; More, from some perspectives.

Asia Times noted a few days ago that, “More than 1.1 million [Chinese] pigs have been killed or culled so far as authorities scramble to contain a [Swine flue] virus that emerged last year… for which there is no vaccine.”

And that’s just the official cull count, the Asia Times notes: “But the figure is widely believed to be much higher, as official data show China’s pig herd totaled 347.6 million in the first half of the year, down 60 million from the same period last year. Pork prices soared by a fifth in June alone.”

“The worst is yet to come,” Jan-Peter Van Ferneij, who monitors foreign markets at the French Pork Institute, said.

“For now it’s the numbers [of pigs] that are falling. Then it will be production … and consumption will fall,” he said.

Pigs

Reassure consumers

But swine fever does not affect humans, and butchers have been seeking to reassure consumers that their meat is safe in the country that produces and eats more pork than anywhere else in the world.

“Look at this blue stamp,” a seller at Beijing’s Sanyuanli market said, pointing to the seal from health authorities showing that the pork is safe. “Here’s the certificate that goes with it,” she added.

Standing in front of pork chops and ribs, Feng Shuyue recalled that people were “scared” of buying the meat last year when the epidemic spread across the country. “Today people are not afraid at all … because the [health] controls are very strict,” Feng said.

To meet demand, Beijing has increased pork imports, with shipments from the European Union rising 37% between January and April, according to European Commission figures.

Brazil has also become a big source of imports.

China is only importing frozen pork and the meat is going to larger cities, according to Jan-Peter Van Ferneij, who monitors foreign markets at the French Pork Institute.

Prices, meanwhile, could go up as much as 40% in the next six months, according to a note by Nomura bank.

Authorities have sought to reassure the public.

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Pork for sale at a wholesale market in Beijing. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of the meat. Photo: Bloomberg

Earlier this month, agriculture officials said production was “slowly recovering”, with 44 new incidences of fever detected over the past seven months, compared with 99 from August to December last year.

But the malady is far from over. Another outbreak was reported earlier this week in southwest Sichuan province, with 21 pigs infected in a farm of 102 pigs.

 

Supermarkets in Much Flux Some Places… But Not in Others

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Change has become so important to supermarket executives that it’s virtually a ‘product’ these days. Sadly, for some of us consumers, that’s lots more a fact elsewhere than in our neighborhoods.

I live in a small town (pop. <4,900) in Central Virginia. Two larger communities within an hour’s drive have populations of 42.8k and 76.5k.

My town has three food-shopping options: A Walmart, a Food Lion, and a locally-owned market. The larger communities have that same mix as well as an Aldi in each of them, a Lidl in one, several Kroger stores in the larger city, and a Fresh Foods-like (and also Amazon owned) Fresh Market in the latter.

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Supermarket Changes

Food Lion supermarket changes include aggressively updating many stores within the past few years – with few truly beneficial changes, from the average shopper’s perspective. (This seems to be an effort being done, understandably, in waves: Seven or so years ago, the effort was centered in Southside Virginia – in towns near or bordering the state’s border with North Carolina. Most recently, within the past two-three years, the focus has been on towns closer to the center of the state.)

Walmart supermarket changes locally most significantly have inluded, over the past decade, the ongoing addition of Pickup spots and expanded self-checkout areas. Lately, they’ve been adding security gates at entrances. The pickup spots are being welcomed by consumers as a great customer service – but not in my town: The store has an exterior labeled as the pickup area, but it is unused.

An assistant manager told me yesterday that the company is working in preparation of starting home delivery of food. But the evidence suggests they need to work first on getting existing home delivery programs, for other-than-food items, and delivery-to-store systems working as they’re supposed to: We’ve tried at least three times in recent weeks to get a specific (but hardly special) cat litter delivered — first to our door. Then, when we were told that couldn’t be done (after it had been, several times!), we tried arranging for a store pickup.

Delivery Issues? “It’s a Dot-Com Issue” At Walmart

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Yesterday, I was told the fact the reason the product isn’t available for pickup is “a dot-com problem; You need to call the headquarters number and talk to a dot-com rep.”

Walmart has also been subtly shifting its product mix – surprisingly, not always in the direction of healthier choices. But product-mix shifting is hardly a new ‘trend’ in food stores.

Too bad their local competitors don’t follow Kroger’s lead in this area: Not only have Kroger supermarkets changed to offering more healthy choices, it’s offering more variety, overall.

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And Kroger quality, particularly in fresh (prepared) foods, produce, meat, and seafood, is oceans ahead of all other stores in Central and Southern Virginia.

Another store where a fair amount of change has been – and is likely to continue – occurring is the Lynchburg Fresh Market. Like its compatriots in the Fresh Foods/Market family, this store has seen a fair amount of product shift since being taken over by Amazon. But not so much change as you might imagine: The product count has actually dropped, as in Fresh Markets elsewhere, and the prices have, while fractionally lower, remained at a level ensuring – unintentionally, one would hope! – that this is far and away the area’s most costly place to fill a shopping cart.

Food delivery services are beginning to catch on. Kroger is the first supermarket chain to join that fray, largely comprising, hereabouts, specialty restaurants, many oriented toward the sizable student community (Lynchburg is home to Liberty University, with a local student population approaching 45,000, and Lynchburg University, whose student count is less than half that.)

And, as noted, Walmart plans to offer food delivery “soon,” but shoppers hereabouts aren’t holding their breath: real, customer-friendly supermarket change at Walmart is more promise that fact.

Other traditional supermarkets more than likely won’t jump on this bandwagon, but Walmart has pledged to do so – with a clear focus, though, on other-than-food lines – over the next few years.

My town’s local supermarket – a fraction of the size, at less than 10,000 sq ft (929 sq m) – of the other two major food sellers – also has altered its product mix a fair amount in the last year, since being taken over, as an expansion, by the owner of a store in a nearby town. This company calls its stores ‘butchers’, but, truth be told, their meat offerings still fall short of their competitors’.

It’s produce offerings have been slightly upgraded, and the center-store mix no longer contains what was undoubtedly the widest, deepest offering of canned beans in (and well beyond) its trading area. (Why? “Our customers like beans,” a member of the staff before and since the takeover told us. Good enough!)

And the store’s meat offerings, customers say, have improved in… quality? quantity? Maybe a bit, in the former area, but certainly not in the latter: As is common in this area (except at Kroger), they refuse to stock lamb, stating “there’s no demand for it.” ‘Sounds like a chicken-vs-egg argument: availability-vs-demand, in this case.

An odd ‘feature’ of our local independent store is its refusal to stock beer. Stores sticking to that religion-based practice are fewer and further between these days. But this one’s customer base is skewed toward the older members of the community – the people more likely, traditionally, to be strict follow Southern Baptist traditions, alcohol-avoidance among them.

So even as change occurs to a shaking-things-up degree elsewhere, in some places, things largely remain the same.

Cricket Protein: Untapped Potential of Insect ‘Meat’

 

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Crickets inside Terreform ONE’s Cricket Shelter — FORBES

Let’s face it – Raising land animals and harvesting sea-based ones for protein is costly, and getting more so. It also involves morally questionable practices and, despite automation, is incredibly labor-intensive, involving tasks (and lifestyles) fewer people are willing to engage in.

For those and other reasons, alternate proteins are becoming increasingly popular. There’s been great growth in the plant-based protein area in the past couple of years. Similarly, insect-sourced protein – long a mainstay in the diets of millions – is being exploited in an assortment of new ways and places in recent years.

A UK based startup called SENS Foods is aiming, co-founded Radek Hŭsek told NewFood magazine for its April issue (p 38)-40), to make cricket protein cheaper than chicken. Their initial cricket farm, in Thailand – “which has a long and deep tradition of farming crickets,” New Food noted — has a production capacity of 14 (metric) tons, or tonnes, of crickets per month. (A metric ton, 1,000 kilograms, is 2,204.6 pounds.)

SENS’ farm, called Cricket Lab, is one of if not the largest cricket farms in the world. One of its greatest challenges, Hŭsek said, is having to compensate for the fact that, as he put it, “There has been exactly zero research on large scale cricket farming, while the costs are already competitive with animal protein.”

By comparision, he said, “Over 80 years of research on poultry farming has brought about a sharp decline in costs. This is where I see the potential for crickets.”

In February, 2017, I wrote a Brief for Fooddive.com noting that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded food startup Bugeater Foods with $100,000 to “find new ways to turn insects into safe, healthful staple food products that taste good,” according to Omaha World-Herald.

In November 2016, in another Fooddive.com brief, I noted that, as my headline said, “Insects can provide as many nutrients as beef, researchers say.” Here are a few highlights from that Brief:

  • Minerals are more available for absorption from eating insects like grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets than eating beef, according to a study done by a researcher at King’s College, London that was reported in Food Ingredients First.
  • “The study suggests that commonly consumed insect species could be an excellent source of bioavailable iron and could provide for an alternative strategy for increased mineral intake in the diets of humans,” researcher Yemisi Latunde-Dada told Food Ingredients First.
  • Researchers said now they want to look at which insects could help make a well-rounded meal, especially to ensure adequate iron consumption.

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The Terreform ONE Cricket Shelter — FORBES

A perfect example of good things coming in small packages, crickets are, it appears, likely to be showing up in an assortment of ways in food products. And not far into the future, either: In January of 2018, Forbes magazine billed these tiny insects as “the next big food source.”

Their article made some of the same points this one does. If you’re interested, you no doubt can find a good deal more on this topic via a google search.

Bluetooth Technology Aids In-store Product Pushing

Do consumers need, when they go to the grocery store, more help than already is available from print coupons, downloadable coupons, window-poster ads, shelf extender ads, on-the-floor ads (for crying out loud!), and – less often these days – samplers hawking product samples in the deli, meat and produce section?

Retailers (and, bless ‘em!) manufacturers are always seeking to play their part in the ‘wait, there’s more!’ game popularized on late-night TV ads. The latest instore gambit, described in a New York Times article running to nearly 1600 words, is to reach out to unwitting (and even unwilling) shoppers through their smartphones.

Here’s how The Times leads into its article:

Imagine you are shopping in your favorite grocery store. As you approach the dairy aisle, you are sent a push notification in your phone: “10 percent off your favorite yogurt! Click here to redeem your coupon.” You considered buying yogurt on your last trip to the store, but you decided against it. How did your phone know?

Your smartphone was tracking you. The grocery store got your location data and paid a shadowy group of marketers to use that information to target you with ads. Recent reports have noted how companies use data gathered from cell towers, ambient Wi-Fi, and GPS. But the location data industry has a much more precise, and unobtrusive, tool: Bluetooth beacons.

These beacons are small, inobtrusive electronic devices that are hidden throughout the grocery store; an app on your phone that communicates with them informed the company not only that you had entered the building, but that you had lingered for two minutes in front of the low-fat Chobanis.

Bluetooth beacons, the article goes on to say, “are accurate within centimeters, using little energy, functioning like little lighthouses that emit one-way messages that can be detected by apps on your phone – even if the app is closed.

‘Living’ Version of ‘The Stalker Song’:                                      I’ll Be Watching You

All that’s bad enough, if you care a whit about your personal privacy, but The Times goes on to note that:

  • If your phone and a nearby beacon hookup, the computer on the other end of the beacon can be told what products you’ve walked by, and how long you’ve lingered in this or that department.
  • Foot traffic monitored by the beacon can reveal personal details such as your income and exercise habits; When paired with other information about you, companies can build a rich profile of who you are, where you are, and what you buy — all without your knowledge.
  • The app can be prompted to display ads for products you seem likely to buy.
  • It can send you a coupon after you leave, urging you to come back — a practice called “retargeting.”

Most people, The Times notes, “aren’t aware they are being watched with beacons, but the “beacosystem” tracks millions of people every day. Beacons are placed at or on airports, malls, subways, buses, taxis. sporting arenasgymshotelshospitalsmusic festivalscinemas and museums, and even on billboards.

The System Works Via A Phone App

In order to track you or trigger an action like a coupon or message to your phone, companies need you to install an app on your phone that will recognize the beacon in the store. Retailers (like Target and Walmart) that use Bluetooth beacons typically build tracking into their own apps. But retailers want to make sure most of their customers can be tracked — not just the ones that download their own particular app.

So a hidden industry of third-party location-marketing firms has proliferated in response. These companies take their beacon tracking code and bundle it into a toolkit developers can use.

The makers of many popular apps, such as those for news or weather updates, insert these toolkits into their apps. They might be paid by the beacon companies or receive other benefits, like detailed reports on their users.

That’s less than half what this article reveals. I urge you to read it to read it here.