Bühler Gathering Puts Spotlight on Challenges in Global Food System

How will the food industry feed nine billion people healthily and sustainably in the not too distant future?

buhler logoBühler addressed this issue, together with key customers, scientists and partners at the Bühler Networking Days gathering in Uzwil, Switzerland, August 22-24. Approximately 750 participants took part in the event.

The challenges for the food industry are enormous. Around 65% of global water consumption and 25% of all energy use is related to food and feed production. The world population is still growing and more than 30% of all food is wasted. Far too many people in developed countries are overweight or obese, with an estimated impact of US $2 trillion worldwide. At the same time, an estimated 840 million people suffer from hunger or malnourishment.

The world population is predicted to grow to over 9 billion by 2050. Feeding humankind healthily and sustainably is a huge task for agricultural systems and the international food industry. Indeed, it is believed that even today’s production of animal protein is not sustainable. Only 40% of vegetable proteins (in the form of rice, corn, wheat or soy) land on our plates, with the rest ending up in the stomachs of livestock or as food waste. Despite efforts and political agreements, no turnaround to a sustainable economic model and grain value chain has been achieved so far.

NWD Stefan ScheiberBühler Group CEO Stefan Scheiber talks about “Innovations for a Better World” during his address at the Bühler Networking Days event.“We take the responsibility of the food and feed industry for a sustainable world very seriously. It’s time now that the private industry steps up and makes a difference,” said Stefan Scheiber, chief executive officer of the Bühler Group.

Bühler Networking Days were organized, among other things, to discuss major trends that are shaping the grain-processing industry, including developments in nutrition, sustainability, food and feed safety, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“We want to anticipate megatrends and lead the discussion about how our businesses will evolve in the future,” said Scheiber. “Our industry plays a key role – since corn, rice and wheat are the most important staple foods for four billion people. And with the impending protein gap, grain processing will become even more important.”

During the three-day event speakers provided valuable insights into the latest developments in the areas of nutrition, food and feed safety, sustainability and IoT. Break-out sessions, expert tours and a major solutions space created an inspiring environment in which participants exchanged and developed ideas, networked and discussed how the grain-processing industry can successfully feed nine billion people healthily and sustainably.

Bühler’s long-standing commitment to educating and training customers to be able to operate the latest equipment sustainably was in high profile at the event, with the presence of the Swiss and the African Milling Schools, as well as the Swiss Institute of Feed Technology.

Every year, the company invests up to 5% of its turnover into research and development. The resulting innovations make a big difference in feeding a growing world population and reducing energy and water usage. During the Bühler Networking Days, the company presented more than 30 innovations in a specifically built exhibition area covering 1,800 square meters.

A number of newly developed solutions were launched during the event. Among them: the latest generation of pasta-drying technology, Ecothermatic, which boasts energy savings of up to 40%; and the Tubex high-precision scale, which is said to reduce energy costs by over 90%.

Iceland Foods’ Sales Dip in Challenging UK Retail Market

Iceland Foods has reported a 2.7% sales decline, to £2.675 billion, for the 52-week year-on-year period that ended on March 26. Adjusted EBITA (excluding exceptional items) amounted to $150.2 million, showing a slight improvement driven primarily by a strengthening of gross margins and control of operating costs.

iceland 2015Capital expenditure during the year rose to £63.5 million, up from £28.9 million in 2015.) This included major investments in a new electronic point of sale system, the introduction of LED lighting across all stores, and modernization of the company’s Manchester manufacturing facility.

As the overall sales drop was less than the 4.4% slide registered during the previous year, Malcolm Walker, chairman and ceo of the Deeside, Flintshire, UK headquartered frozen food retail chain, was upbeat when announcing the results on June 10.

“We have achieved good progress with a range of strategic initiatives designed to differentiate our business, and stabilize our financial performance, in what remains an extremely challenging UK marketplace,” he said. “Our ‘Power of Frozen’ marketing campaign is successfully re-¬emphasizing our long-¬established credentials as the UK’s leading frozen food specialist. It is also helping to improve public perceptions of frozen food by underlining the real advantages only it can offer to consumers in quality, authenticity, freshness, choice, convenience and waste reduction as well as in providing consistently good value.”

This new marketing approach has been combined with Iceland’s biggest-¬ever program of product development and enhancement, bringing many new distinctive and exclusive frozen lines into its stores, including the Slimming World range which was launched in February of 2015 and has grown into Britain’s number one healthy eating brand.

Iceland delivery 300Building on 20 years of expertise in home delivery, Iceland has developed a fast--growing online business that has been recognized in an independent survey as offering the best customer service in the United Kingdom. The company, which employs over 22,300 people system wide, makes 200,000 home deliveries to customers in the UK.

Iceland has also begun an accelerated roll¬out of its larger store concept, The Food Warehouse, operating at retail parks where foot traffic is growing faster than at outlets in traditional high street locations. These outlets target families and bulk buyers, as well as persons engaged in small- to mid-size foodservice businesses.

“Together these initiatives have delivered a moderation of the decline in our like--for-¬like sales, the planned stabilization of our EBITDA and continued strong cash generation,” said Walker. “Our like-¬for-¬like performance principally reflected a reduction in total customer transactions, partly offset by an increase in our average basket values. We benefited from sales generated by the nine net new stores opened during the year, and by the net 28 new stores opened in the previous financial year.”

Tough Marketplace

The UK food retail market remained exceptionally challenging throughout the year, due to the combination of intense competition, food price deflation and changing consumer shopping patterns. The “Big Four” food retailers in Britain have continued to be impacted by an array of competitors including limited assortment discounters, pound shops, convenience stores, more upmarket specialists and online retailers.
Iceland has been affected by the decline in high street footfall and a reduction in smaller basket sales because of the wide range of alternative outlets now offering everyday top-¬up shopping lines at deeply discounted prices.

Products, Pricing and Marketing

Iceland fish“Against this background, we have maintained our focus on highly competitive pricing and also sought to give consumers even more reasons to shop at Iceland through a major program of new product development, coupled with our ‘Power of Frozen’ marketing campaign,” said Walker. “One of our most successful initiatives has been a major expansion of our frozen fish and seafood range beyond the traditional British staples of cod and haddock to include lines such as sea bass, scallops, lobsters, Dover sole, red mullet, monkfish and red snapper. The quality and value that we can deliver by freezing fish at sea ensures that we can consistently outclass purportedly “fresh” fish offered by our competitors, much of which has in any case been previously frozen and defrosted for sale. All our new lines have been well received by customers across all demographics and in every part of the UK.”

The company reported having “also achieved great success” with the Slimming World range of prepared meals, soups and sauces, developed in conjunction with Slimming World and produced at the Iceland Foods facility in Manchester. Since launch of the first lines in February of 2015, this has become the UK’s fastest--growing prepared meal range and by far the country’s biggest healthy eating brand.

New ranges of Iceland frozen premium prepared meals, “superfoods,” soups and gourmet pizzas rolled out during the year have also performed well, while the chain’s new luxury range of starters, main courses, accompaniments and desserts helped to deliver a strong performance in the frozen food category over the key Christmas trading period.

Throughout the year Iceland has supported its brand with a substantially increased investment in marketing and public relations. The “Power of Frozen” campaign has embraced national TV advertising, billboards, press advertising and door drops, promoting the advantages of frozen food.

“Because it’s frozen, we are able to bring our customers top quality food from around the world at truly amazing prices: food that not only tastes good but also has authentic provenance, such as our genuine Italian pizzas and gelato,” said Walker. “Freezing minimizes the need for artificial additives and preservatives, helping our customers to eat more naturally and healthily. It also substantially reduces the amount of food that households waste, which is good for the environment as well as saving money.”

Store Count Rises

Iceland 2During the past year Iceland opened 16 new stores in the UK (including six larger operations under The Food Warehouse fascia) and closed 11 units, resulting in a net gain of five outlets and a total of 864 UK stores (including 12 Food Warehouse stores) at the year-¬end. Elsewhere, two new stores were opened in the Republic of Ireland and one in the Czech Republic, making for a net addition of nine stores across the group as a whole, and a grand total of 881.

The Food Warehouse

The number of Food Warehouse operations doubled from six to 12 during the year. These stores are based on a 10,000-square-foot concept (more than twice the size of the average Iceland store) doing business at retail parks, and designed to operate at a substantially lower cost than the traditional Iceland store model.

As well as the full Iceland range of frozen and chilled products, warehouse stores offer extended ranges of luxury and specialty frozen food, chilled meat and fresh produce, and a wide selection of value bulk packs of grocery products.

The company has also successfully tested a larger 15,000-square-foot store carrying a wider range of general merchandise. All the outlets are trading successfully and the concept has proved a valuable test-bed for initiatives in ranging and store operation that have then been applied across the Iceland core estate.

Shifting Grocery Shopping Patterns Forecast for 2016

Ordering groceries online and digitizing retail stores rank among the top trends in grocery shopping for 2016, according to John Karolefski, veteran supermarket watcher and purveyor of Cleveland, Ohio-based GroceryStories.com. He also predicts that grocers will lure more shoppers into stores with special events and dining options.

trends2016"The top trends for 2016 indicate that traditional shopping patterns are changing. Look for grocers get creative and enliven what has been a mundane chore," he said.

Karolefski lists his top trends for 2016 as follows:

Shopping Online
Ordering groceries online has been growing steadily for a few years in North America, but will surge in 2016. Many supermarkets that have not offered such an option will jump on board.

H-E-B and Hy-Vee supermarkets have recently opened impressive online stores. More grocers will join the 65 retailers partnering with Instacart, which lets consumers order groceries online and pairs them with a personal shopper who hand picks items at customers' favorite stores and delivers to the home. Also, there will be more testing of curbside pick-up of groceries that have been ordered online.

Digitizing the Supermarket
Retailers will look to connect digitally with smartphone-carrying shoppers, especially Millennials who will account for most grocery purchases as they start families. Grocers such as Marsh Supermarkets and others have equipped stores with beacons. These Bluetooth-enabled devices connect with nearby smartphones to send ads, coupons or product information to shoppers.

More grocers will install Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) now being tested by Kroger. ESLs display prices, ads and nutritional information. Meanwhile, all of Kroger’s stores are being equipped with temperature monitor sensors in the frozen and refrigerated food cases to ensure product quality and safety.

Shrinking the Supermarket
Less is more as grocers continue to open smaller supermarkets to cater to the needs of small households, especially in growing urban areas. These shoppers will cruise the perimeter for prepared food, dairy, baked goods and produce.

Hy-Vee now operates four 14,000-square-foot Mainstreet stores, Ahold has opened the first of its 10,000-square-foot "bfresh" grocery stores in Boston, and further north near Portland, Maine, Hannaford opened a 20,000-square-foot store with a focus on fresh foods.

shopping cart

Entertaining in Stores
Operators of large supermarkets will take advantage of their space to lure customers with special events. More product sampling, nutritional tours and cooking demos will take place.

Chefs at H-E-B stores prepare a variety of recipes every day as part of the Cooking Connection program. At Giant Eagle's Market District store in Solon, Ohio, it is Food and Wine Friday every week. Shoppers sample wines and hors d'oeuvres at serving stations throughout the store.

Dining in Stores
Before customers go about their grocery shopping, they can have a bite to eat or something to drink. Operators of many new large supermarkets are including a cafe with a light menu to nourish customers. For example, the lunch crowd at Mariano's in Wheaton, Illinois can enjoy pizza and other edibles in the cafe. Giant Eagle's Market District in Strongsville, Ohio has a full-sized bar next to a cafe. Starbucks are being added to the perimeter of more supermarkets for a quick coffee break while shopping.

Dreaming of a Frozen Christmas in New York, with Babeth

With the temperature expected to climb as high as 72°F (about 22°C) in New York City on December 24 and the mercury likely to hover around the mid-60° (18°F) mark on the 25th, anyone dreaming of a White Christmas in the metropolitan area will be disappointed – especially as rain as in the forecast. But this doesn’t mean that festive folks in the Big Apple and beyond can’t enjoy a Frozen Christmas.

babethsfeastemaillogoBabeth’s Feast, an all-frozen food retail emporium at 1422 Third Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, will be open until 8 PM on Christmas Eve, so there’s still time for kitchen skill-challenged New Yorkers who are home for the holidays to “make it merry” with Babeth’s heat-and-eat gourmet cuisine.

Editors of FrozenFoodsBiz.com toured the establishment recently as it was gearing up for the seasonal sales surge anticipated as party planners prepare for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Susie Cover, product development chef, saw to it that a smorgasbord of holiday-perfect hors d’oeuvres, side dishes and desserts were served. The treats ranged from flaky puff pastries prepared with sherry-infused black mission figs, caramelized onion and creamy goat cheese filled appetizers; to creamy mashed sweet potatoes blended with butter, a hint of maple syrup and a pinch of salt; to spiced pumpkin tarts with just the right amount of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg inside a flaky pecan crust.

dupe DuckOrangeSauce 213Babeth’s holiday menu main courses serving two persons include Duck a l’Orange, dauphine potatoes, a green bean medley and chocolate soufflés for $40. For five dollars more, two can indulge in Rack of Lamb with red wine sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, sautéed mixed mushrooms, green beans and crèmes brulées. They are both in-store and online (www.babethsfeast.com) through New Year’s Eve.

There are more than 400 products stocked in New York’s only exclusively upscale frozen food store, which features gourmet fare that runs the gamut from Pan-seared New York Strip Steaks with chimichurri sauce, Duck Confit with collard greens, Grilled Tuna Steaks with corn and mango salsa, Lobster Risotto on the half shell, and Beef Bourguignon.

Belgian-born Elisabeth de Kergorlay, an investor in Le Pain Quotidien, and Jason Bauer, founder of Crumbs Bake Shop, opened Babeth’s Feast a bit more than a year ago. The idea for the business was imported from France, where frozen food retail outlets are a way of life for shoppers seeking quality food that is quick and easy to prepare and serve at home.

PD0116 rack of lamb“I discovered frozen food there in my late 20’s,” said de Kergorlay. “Although French people are notoriously picky about food, shopping daily at specialty shops and markets for ingredients, I noticed habits beginning to shift and that an additional stop was being made to another type of specialty shop: the frozen food store.

“I had just moved to Paris, and wanted to entertain my friends at home. With an interest in food but having a busy workday, I had no time to consider preparing a full meal in the evening. Instead, I invited my friends over for drinks and began buying frozen hors d’oeuvres by the dozen to complement them. All I had to do was either let them thaw in the refrigerator, or heat them in the oven for a few minutes before serving them. At last I could enjoy the food as well as the company of my guests.

“On weekends, I could experiment much more freely. Each Sunday I would shop for a more elaborate assortment of products, from an amazing variety of frozen pastries, appetizers, soups, quiches, meats, pasta, desserts etc … With these at hand I was able to serve an impressive brunch buffet-style. Additionally, I was able to add a personal touch each time, and my guests never guessed the origin of my creativity; this was my best-kept secret. Amusingly, my friends came to call our generous Sunday meal ‘Babeth’s Feast.’

“Upon moving to New York I was unable to find a store providing the quality and variety of frozen food that would allow me to easily and spontaneously entertain friends and family at home. I did not want to be limited to calling a caterer or ordering in. Hence, after carefully sourcing excellent products, and development of my own recipes, I decided to launch Babeth’s Feast in my new home town.”

Babeth’s Feast SKUs feature traditional French recipes already known in the United States, as well as others, which are re-interpreted in a more American way.

Why Frozen?
De Kergorlay, a champion of the many merits of frozen foods, points out that the ingredients making up all products sold at Babeth’s Feast are “fresher than fresh and with more nutritional value – ‘fast’ food that is good for you and is ready well before your local delivery man can make it to your door. A sit-down dinner every night, even when mom’s been too busy to cook. Chef recipes without the restaurant price tag and little mouthfuls of luxury even for those who can’t boil a pot of water – are all possible thanks to frozen food.”

From nutrition and convenience to conviviality, efficiency and indulgence, she spelled the many advantages of Babeth’s Feast offerings as follows:

Produce is harvested, picked and frozen, or picked, prepared and frozen in a very short amount of time. Once flash frozen, these foods – fruits, vegetables, meats, condiments, prepared dishes and more – retain their nutritive capacity until the moment that they are consumed. This means more nutritional value, more minerals, and more healthy goodness in every bite. Recent studies show that while on average, Americans consume more than enough daily calories; many are in fact malnourished due to their nutrient-low diet. Eating food with higher levels of nutrients is also an important key to losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

The magic of frozen food is that it provides as much convenience as the meals that are famously bad for you, while giving you as much pleasure as a meal freshly made from healthy ingredients would. Most frozen dishes will be ready to enjoy in minutes, and only require as much skill as opening a package, turning on an oven or – even simpler– popping a tray into the microwave oven. Frozen food products do not risk quick expiration, making them very stockable for the convenience of those who don’t have time to shop for groceries on a regular basis.

What if the key to health, weight control, good relationships and happy families was as simple as sharing meals? Well, it just might be. Sit-down meals provide ‘down-time’ for conversation, laughs or vents, and general unwinding in good company. All of these are a necessary outlet from the fast-paced, stressful lives that we lead. The long-term benefits have been recorded in children. Studies show that children who eat at the family table have better nutrition habits and seem better behaved. Frozen food permits even the busiest party-makers to entertain a hoard of hungry friends and relatives while enjoying themselves with their guests.

Frozen food, to put it simply, is the cheapest and least wasteful way to eat tasty, healthy food without making it yourself. The alternatives (catering, restaurants) are either costly or unhealthy (processed food, takeout). In terms of value for money, you can’t beat frozen. And since it stays fresh in your freezer for so long, you’re never wasting any of it.

If you’re not a great cook or don’t have the time to cook for yourself, you probably find it hard to enjoy foods that you really love at home. Highly processed packaged meals might satisfy cravings but will not give you that magical moment of enjoyment that you get out of truly great food. Apart from making it yourself, your options for good food at home are a personal chef, catering, or Babeth’s Feast! The store’s frozen recipes are created by top-flight chefs and made from top quality ingredients with a minimal amount of preservatives.

Christmas table