Category Archives: food industries

General Mills going green?

General Mills Going GreenHere at FoodFacts.com we understand that sometimes it takes a little convincing to help major food manufacturers clean up their act. But regardless of what motivates a mainstream industry player to commit to product and process improvement, we’re still in favor of giving credit where it’s due. So today we want to acknowledge General Mills for just such an effort.

We should first discuss the “Behind the Brands” campaign from Oxfam America. Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice and their “Behind the Brands” campaign tried to encourage manufacturers to commit to climate change strategies.

Food giant General Mills has announced industry-leading initiatives on climate change.

Oxfam gathered over 230,000 signatures on petitions for General Mills alone as part of their campaign. Along with Kellogg, the two companies are at the bottom of the big 10 food corporations on addressing the problem.

As a result, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Haagen-Dazs, Green Giant and other well-known General Mills brands publicly will advocate for action and clean up their operations and supply chains.

The company said it will sustainably source 100 percent of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020 — half its raw material purchases. And it’s committing to long-term science-based targets — those that keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C. These targets include a clear commitment to address its supply chain, which generates 92 percent of its emissions from agricultural ingredients and packaging.

Palm oil and pulp and paper industries are the leading cause of deforestation, accounting for almost 85 percent of Indonesia’s carbon emissions — the third highest in the world. 2.5 million acres a year are clear cut, releasing more carbon than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the United States combined.

Supply chain targets also will include direct emissions (such as dairy farms), water use, waste, packaging and transportation.

To advocate for strong policy, General Mills signed the Climate Declaration and joined Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), which is working to pass meaningful climate and energy legislation.

“This would not have happened without the remarkable outpouring of public action from individuals who are fed up with the lack of effort to address climate change from too many food companies and governments,” said Monique van Zijl, who manages Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign.

General Mills said it lost 62 days of production in the first quarter alone from extreme weather. “Too many of today’s food and beverage giants are crossing their fingers and hoping that climate change won’t disrupt the food system, imagining somebody else will fix it. The ‘Big 10′ companies generate over $1 billion a day and have great power to influence global food chains,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam.

General Mills said it will:
1. Set and disclose emission-reduction targets for its total supply chain by August 2015, with a focus on agriculture.
2. Aim for net-zero deforestation in high-risk supply chains — palm oil, packaging fiber, beef, soy, sugar cane — by 2020.
3. Disclose top three suppliers of palm oil and sugar cane.
4. Participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project, including annual reports on supply chain emissions data and forest health.
5. Publicly advocate for effective public and industry policy, such as encouraging peers to join the Consumer Goods Forum’s net-zero deforestation commitment.
6. Join BICEP and sign the Climate Declaration.
7. Regularly review company statements and policies to ensure alignment with mitigation targets and initiatives.

Kellogg is next on Oxfam’s list, so far refusing to take serious action. “We applaud General Mills for taking this vital first step,” said van Zijl. “We look forward to tracking the actions the company takes to follow through on their promises. The ball is now in Kellogg’s court to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate action.”

FoodFacts.com wants to add our own applause for General Mills. We would like to remind them, however, that this is just one step towards improving their brand. There’s plenty more that the company can do to make its products more appealing to conscious consumers. General Mills might want to think about tackling its ingredient difficulties next. Just a thought, General Mills. Betty Crocker might be a good place to start.

http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/07/31/will-general-mills-become-green-giant

Just because it says it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it is .

iStock_000003492931SmallPretty simple concept, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. But food marketers are well aware that minds can be swayed in a particular direction with the use of some very simple language.

Health-related buzzwords, such as “antioxidant,” “gluten-free” and “whole grain,” lull consumers into thinking packaged food products labeled with those words are healthier than they actually are, according to a new research study conducted by scholars at the University of Houston (UH).

That “false sense of health,” as well as a failure to understand the information presented in nutrition facts panels on packaged food, may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States, said Temple Northup, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at UH.

“Saying Cherry 7-Up contains antioxidants is misleading. Food marketers are exploiting consumer desires to be healthy by marketing products as nutritious when, in fact, they’re not,” said Northup, principal investigator of the study, “Truth, Lies, and Packaging: How Food Marketing Creates a False Sense of Health.”

The study examined the degree to which consumers link marketing terms on food packaging with good health. It found that consumers tend to view food products labeled with health-related euphemisms as healthier than those without them. The research also showed that the nutrition facts panels printed on food packaging as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do little to counteract that buzzword marketing.

“Words like organic, antioxidant, natural and gluten-free imply some sort of healthy benefit,” Northup said. “When people stop to think about it, there’s nothing healthy about Antioxidant Cherry 7-Up — it’s mostly filled with high fructose syrup or sugar. But its name is giving you this clue that there is some sort of health benefit to something that is not healthy at all.”

The study also looks at the “priming” psychology behind the words to explain why certain words prompt consumers to assign a health benefit to a food product with unhealthy ingredients.

“For example, if I gave you the word ‘doctor,’ not only ‘doctor’ would be accessible in your mind — now all these other things would be accessible in your mind — ‘nurse,’ ‘stethoscope,’ etc.,” Northup said. “What happens when these words become accessible, they tend to influence or bias your frame of mind and how you evaluate something.”

This triggered concept is then available to influence later thoughts and behaviors, often without explicit awareness of this influence — the so-called priming effect, Northup said.

Northup developed an experiment using priming theory to gather quantitative research on how food marketers influence consumers. He developed an online survey that randomly showed images of food products that either included actual marketing words, like organic, or a Photoshop image removing any traces of those words, thereby creating two different images of the same product. A total of 318 study participants took the survey to rate how “healthy” each product was.

The products with trigger words in their labels analyzed in the study were: Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks (Organic), Apple Sauce (Organic), Chef Boyardee Beefaroni (Whole Grain), Chef Boyardee Lasagna (Whole Grain), Chocolate Cheerios (Heart Healthy), Cherry 7-Up (Antioxidant), Smuckers Peanut Butter (All Natural) and Tostitos (All Natural).

Northup found when participants were shown the front of food packaging that included one of those trigger words, they would rate the items as healthier.

“I took a label from Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant and Photoshop it without the word ‘antioxidant’ and only the words, ‘Cherry 7-Up.’ I then asked people via the online survey which one they thought was healthier,” said Northup. “Each time a participant saw one of the triggering words on a label, they would identify it as healthier than the other image without the word. ”

After completing the product evaluations, the study participants then reviewed the nutrition facts panels on a variety of products. These labels would be presented two at a time so the participants could choose the healthier food or drink option.

“Food marketers say there are nutritional labels, so people can find out what’s healthy and what’s not,” he said. “Findings from this research study indicate people aren’t very good at reading nutritional labels even in situations where they are choosing between salmon and Spam. Approximately 20 percent picked Spam as the healthier option over salmon,” said Northup.

Northup hopes the results of this study will contribute to an increased dialogue on how food is marketed, guide development of specific media literacy and help people understand the effects of how food is marketed to consumers.

While we like to think of ourselves as sophisticated consumers (and just about everyone these days considers themselves as such), the proliferation of those small , yet powerful words on food labels everywhere — even where they don’t make sense — speaks directly to their actual influence. Antioxidant soda? Whole grain canned macaroni? Can those words actually manage to make an unhealthy product full of bad ingredients healthy? We know they can’t and yet, somehow, time after time, consumers are fooled. Armed with the insight as to why this manufacturers ploy continues to work, FoodFacts.com suggests we all think a little harder the next time we’re attracted to a product label bearing an extra descriptive word or two.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140613130717.htm

The internet, food activism and food manufacturers

Internet influence on consumers is everywhere. Online information has changed so much about how we approach purchases of all kinds. We’re more educated, more aware and definitely more discerning about the products and services on which we choose to spend our money. And because of the internet, we can be a lot more vocal about our likes and dislikes – and our product requirements.

That fact is especially true when it comes to food purchases. American consumers are paying much closer attention to the foods and beverages they consume. And we’re letting manufacturers know loud and clear what we DON’T expect to find in our foods. Online petitions and popular blogs – as well as FoodFacts.com (our own website), are helping consumers learn more than they ever have before about the ingredients in the food products in our grocery stores. In addition to a much more detailed ingredient education, those resources are giving us all a bigger voice that is clearly being heard by food manufacturers.

Earlier this year, for example, PepsiCo Inc. said it would stop using brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade and find a another way to evenly distribute color in the sports drink. That action was based on an online petition started by a teenager from Mississippi.

Last year, Starbucks said it would stop using a red dye made of crushed bugs based on comments it received “through a variety of means,” including an online petition, and switch to a tomato-based extract.

Kraft Foods plans to replace artificial dyes with colors derived from natural spices in select varieties of its macaroni and cheese, a nod to the feedback it’s hearing from parents.

The internet has made consumers much more powerful in the eyes of food manufacturers. It’s helped our voices be heard and our demands be met. Online resources have certainly created a shift in how those manufacturers respond to their customers.

Ali Dibadj, a Bernstein analyst who covers the packaged food and beverage industry, says the changes reflect a shift from “democratization to activism” by consumers.

“It used to be that people would just decide not to buy the product. Now they’re actually agitating for change,” Dibadj said. “There’s a bullhorn – which is the Internet – so you can get a lot of people involved very quickly.”

There are no numbers tracking how many companies are reformulating products in response to consumer demand. But even if recipe changes aren’t in direct response to petitions or blogs, executives understand that ingredients can become a liability once they fall out of favor with the public.

High-fructose corn syrup, for example, has gained a negative image in recent years and has been blamed for fueling bad eating habits. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, says the sweetener is no more harmful than ordinary sugar in large amounts. But Kroger Co. decided to remove it from store-brand cereals following surveys with consumers in 2011.

The supermarket chain isn’t alone. Over the past decade, the use of high-fructose corn syrup in packaged foods and drinks has fallen 18 percent to 6.1 million tons last year, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.

Not all companies are making changes, at least not right away. The same teenager who called for the removal of brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade, for instance, is now taking aim at Coca-Cola’s Powerade, which also contains the ingredient in select varieties. As of Tuesday, her newest petition had more than 57,000 supporters.

In a statement, Coca-Cola noted that all its ingredients comply with regulations. But the company also said it is “always looking for ways to evolve” its formulas.

Another petition that asks Mars Inc. to remove artificial colors from M&Ms had more than 141,000 signatures. In an emailed statement, the privately held company stressed the safety of its ingredients.

As the internet continues to evolve, it places more and more power into the hands of the consumer. No manufacturer likes bad press. And news travels very quickly through online channels. Food manufacturers are adapting to the idea that our opinions are more influential than ever and that our voices can be heard quickly by millions. That’s all good news for us, as we continue to express our nutritional and ingredient requirements to the food industry.

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=H9WkyLl7

Lawsuits being brought against food manufacturers for product misrepresentation

FoodFacts.com has long held the opinion that many of the products on our grocery store shelves are labeled in a misleading fashion, and don’t actually give consumers a clear representation of the products held in their boxes, cans and bags. Our community has always agreed with us. And it does appear that a controversy may be brewing over this practice.

Information has come to light that the same lawyers who brought millions of dollars in lawsuits against big tobacco companies (and won tremendous settlements form the likes of R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris) have been busy filing 25 new cases against food manufacturers, including ConAgra Foods, Heinz, General Mills and PepsiCo. These suits have been filed over the last four months and are claiming that these food manufacturers are mislabeling products and ingredients. Currently there are also lawsuits regarding Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

While the food manufacturers are claiming that these are frivolous lawsuits and are strictly financially motivated, the lawyers are claiming that these cases could result in a cost of billions of dollars to the food companies.

For example, two mothers have brought a lawsuit against the makers of Nutella, claiming they were deceived into believing that the chocolate hazelnut spread was healthy for their kids. A similar suit was brought against PepsiCo three years ago accusing them of false advertising for Cap ‘n Crunch Crunch Berries cereal because it does not contain actual berries. The court felt that a “reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the product contained a berry that does not exist.” But is that really an analogous case? Of course, there are no such things as “crunch berries,” but Nutella certainly advertises itself as a healthy product that moms can feel good about serving their families. As a note, the product does not rate well on the FoodFacts.com website for a number of reasons.

In addition to the lawyers who filed suit against Big Tobacco, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has also filed suits against General Mills and McNeil Nutritionals over claims they make on Nature Valley and Splenda Essentials products. Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are faced with many suits regarding the 100% natural claims on many of their products, as well.

The focus seems to be – as we would have suspected – on products that make claims of “natural” or “Healthy.” These claims, often, seem to be subjective. And since these products aren’t subjected to the same federal standards as organics, the claims really do reflect the purposes of the food manufacturer and not the nutrition labels or the ingredient lists.

With obesity at epidemic levels in this country, and food additives being linked every day to increasing health problems, FoodFacts.com wonders whether or not this will go the way of the old tobacco lawsuits. Initially, the courts declared smoking a personal choice that consumers make, hopefully understanding the health risks they are inflicting on themselves. It wasn’t until the tobacco companies were sued on behalf of states on the basis of the hundreds of millions of dollars caring for sick smokers that the settlements were won by the lawyers.

It does appear that this is a new trend that is just beginning to emerge. It’s a trend that may cost offending food manufacturers a tremendous amount of money and cause them to actually pull products from the shelves, until they rebrand, rename or redevelop many of their products so that they accurately depict nutritional value and ingredients used.
FoodFacts.com thinks that this is a trend worth watching and we’ll be keeping you informed as we discover more about what companies are being sued and why. In the meantime, here are two links for you to read and discover more about what’s happening: http://www.bendbulletin.com/article/20120819/NEWS0107/208190394/ and http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/lawyers-of-big-tobacco-lawsuits-take-aim-at-food-industry.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&smid=tw-share

Food Industries Pressuring Congress to Scrap New Healthy School Lunch Guidelines

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Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed common-sense nutrition guidelines to improve school lunches and breakfasts, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk and less salt, unhealthy fats, and calories. So you thought all that news about Congress passing a new Child Nutrition Bill meant that we had solved the problem of junk food in our schools, right?

Think again.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the french fry industry and other food groups are pressuring Congress to scrap the USDA’s new healthy school lunch rules and start from scratch. They write:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed common-sense nutrition guidelines to improve school lunches and breakfasts, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk and less salt, unhealthy fats, and calories.

If industry is successful in convincing the Senate to do the same, the goal of seeing healthy school lunches in cafeterias across the country will be in serious jeopardy.

Click here to find out how you can tell Congress not to cave to the food industry lobbyists.

(TakePart.com)