Value, variety drive shoppers’ habits
During this period of slow economic recovery, a majority of consumers still choose grocery stores that offer the lowest prices in general, according to new research published by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

Consumers reported that they are willing to travel farther for lower prices overall (61%) and lower prices on specific items (53%) followed by better variety and selection (41%) and better quality and variety of fresh foods (39%), stated FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends. A majority of consumers (61%) said that they have always sought discounts, with an additional 28% stating that they began doing this during the recession. The value-seeking habits of some consumers may continue as 17% of consumers reported that they will continue to seek discounts. Cost-conscious consumers are relying more on store brands to save money at the grocery store. More than two-thirds (70%) of respondents believe that store brands are a great value, an additional 68% plan to keep buying these brands after their financial situation improves, and 47% currently believe that store brands have the same quality as national brands.

Price and variety are not the only drivers affecting grocery shopper trends. There has been a renewed interest in health and wellness and sustainability, with 78% of consumers noting their interest in reading nutrition labels, paying more for organic products, and looking for locally sourced products. More than 40% of respondents said that health and wellness products are “worth spending a little more on.”

Authors evaluate packaging benefits
While advances have been made to develop packaging to maximize the safety and quality of meat, further work is needed to support efforts in both preslaughter and postslaughter that will improve meat shelf life and safety, according to an article published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

The authors of the review article present some benefits and challenges to different types of packaging and packaging technologies. Active packaging, for instance, may improve the safety and quality of fresh meats but still has to overcome some regulatory hurdles, argued the authors. Modified atmosphere packaging with different combinations of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide can be used to meet certain product and distribution requirements, but there is some consumer concern that using carbon monoxide in low-oxygen packaging systems may mask spoilage.

The review article, “Antimicrobial and Antioxidative Strategies to Reduce Pathogens and Extend the Shelf Life of Fresh Meats,” appeared in the July 2012 issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

Green lentils aid probiotic growth
Green lentils helped enhance the growth of probiotic bacteria in yogurt and maintained overall microbial counts during storage, according to a study published in LTW–Food Science and Technology.

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The researchers from Carleton University in Canada and University of Burgundy in France added whole ground green and red lentils to pasteurized yogurt samples containing microbial starter cultures with or without probiotic bacteria. They measured the microbial counts, pH, and total titratable acidity of the samples. In the samples with the ground green lentils, the number of probiotic bacteria increased during the initial states of storage, and overall microbial counts (starter cultures and probiotics) were maintained during the 28-day storage period. The results also showed that there was an overall reduction in pH and increase in total titratable acidity in the samples containing lentils after the 28-day storage period, which suggests that the starter cultures continue to utilize lentils throughout the storage period, reported the researchers.

The study, “Lentils Enhance Probiotic Growth in Yogurt and Provide Added Benefit of Antioxidant Protection,” appeared online early in LTW–Food Science and Technology, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2012.07.032.

McDonald’s is counting calories
McDonald’s USA recently introduced a new menu board that highlights some of the company’s popular foods and beverages with calorie counts less than 400.

The “Favorites Under 400 Calories” menu boards appear at counters and drive-thrus across the United States, and list 39 products that contain less than 400, 300, 200, and 100 calories. Neil Golden, the chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA, reported that 80% of the company’s menu choices in the U.S. have less than 400 calories for the standard recipe. In addition to using the new menu board to obtain nutritional information, customers can access additional information electronically, by phone, or in the stores.

Food science dept. celebrates 40 years
The University of Minnesota’s Dept. of Food Science will celebrate its 40th anniversary Nov. 2–3, 2012, with plenty of activities that highlight the department’s successes over the years.

Join current and former students, industry members, and government officials at a number of events, including tours of the facilities, student scientific poster competitions, presentations by leaders in the food industry, and many more. Attendees will also have the chance to learn how to become more involved in shaping the future of the food science and nutrition field. For more information, visit http://fscn.cfans.umn.edu.

Fat matters for nutrient intake
To absorb the most nutrients from salads, consumers need to use the right type and amount of fat, according to Purdue University researchers.

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Pairing salad with a fat-based dressing helps the body to absorb more of the fat-soluble nutrients like lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. The researchers showed that both the amount and source of fat affects this. The subjects were randomized using a Latin square design (3x) and consumed three identical salads with 3 g, 8 g, or 20 g of butter (saturated fat), canola oil (monounsaturated fat), or soybean oil (polyunsaturated fat). The researchers analyzed blood samples taken from the subjects. The results showed that the soybean oil was the most dose-dependent, with butter following at a lesser extent. The same amounts of carotenoids were absorbed when consumed with 3 g, 8 g, and 20 g of canola oil, making this fat source a good option for those who want to reduce the amount of fat in their diet, said the researchers.

“Even at the lower fat level, you can absorb a significant amount of carotenoids with monounsaturated fat-rich canola oil,” said Mario Ferruzzi, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of food science at Purdue. “Overall, pairing with fat matters. You can absorb significant amounts of carotenoids with saturated or polyunsaturated fats at low levels, but you would see more carotenoid absorption as you increase the amounts of those fats on a salad.”

The study, “Meal Triacylglycerol Profile Modulates Postprandial Absorption of Carotenoids in Humans,” appeared in the June 2012 issue of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

What’s new with food companies
• 3M Health Care has received a 2012 Silver Edison Award for its 3MPetrifilmAerobic Count Plate.

• American Pasteurization Co. and The National Food Lab are partnering to provide a full suite of high-pressure processing services.

• Barry Callebaut AG has agreed to purchase the assets of Batory Industries Co.’s Chatham, Ontario, Canada facility.

• A number of China-based companies will purchase at least $50 million of almonds from Blue Diamond Almonds.

• DuPont Nutrition & Health and Seegene will develop multiplexed molecular assays for food safety testing.

• Frutarom Health has increased production of uniK2™ vitamin K-2 MK-7 to meet the growing demand in Western Europe, particularly in France and Germany.

• LycoRed has acquired Vitan, which produces beta-carotene biomass and other types of carotenoid biomass.

• Naturex’s plant in Avignon, France, has received Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series 18001 certification.

• Nutiva in September 2012 will move its headquarters from Oxnard, Calif., to Point Richmond, Calif.

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• Savoury Systems has added about 13,000 sq ft to its headquarters warehouse in Branchburg, N.J.

• Symrise has signed the United Nations Global Compact, committing itself to sustainable and economic activities.

• Tate & Lyle has opened its Commercial and Food Innovation Center in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The facility is used for new food and beverage product development and for ingredient innovation.

• Zumbro River Brand’s facility in Albert Lea, Minn., has received SQF 2000 Code–Level 2 certification.


Karen Nachay,
Associate Editor 
[email protected]