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95% of Consumers Buy Private Brands

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Boston (Trace One, September 29, 2015):  Trace One, a global leader in private brand product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions and transparency software, recently announced the results of its "Global Consumer Food Safety and Quality" research. The survey of over 3,000 shoppers across nine countries found that despite buying private food brands often, consumers are concerned about the safety and quality of the foods they eat.

Only 12 percent of the consumers surveyed said that they wholeheartedly trust the safety of the private and National food brands they consume and only 10 percent wholeheartedly trust the quality. In fact, more than a quarter (27 percent) of consumers do not even trust the information on food product labels.

An impressive 95 percent of consumers buy private brands, but trust was not a driver of that action. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they chose private brands because of lower prices, whereas only 22 percent said they buy private brands because they trust the product's quality.

Weeds Acclimate to Roundup

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Madison, WI (Food Manufacturing, September 25, 2015):  Monsanto's popular Roundup brand of herbicide endured a tough few months after a global health agency classified its key ingredient as a possible human carcinogen. But that's not the only problem producers of glyphosate are facing: now research has shown the chemical is not nearly as effective as it once was.

Roundup originally allowed farmers to cheaply and easily obliterate weeds in their fields while Monsanto crops — engineered to resist the chemical — grew unimpeded. As a result, glyphosate use jumped more than eight-fold in the U.S. between 1996 and 2012.

Today, however, Chemical & Engineering News reports that at least 15 species of weeds developed resistance to glyphosate in the U.S. and that those plants are spreading. In some areas, farmers are being forced to dramatically alter their practices. They tilled fields and hired crews to cut weeds by hand. Others rotated their crops or used cover crops to combat weeds.

Still others, like southeastern Nebraska's Mike Pietzyk, turned to pesticides used by his father's generation. He told C&EN that 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, in particular, "will give me a headache if I smell it."

National Certification for Service Technicians

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Las Vegas (Food Processing Education Consortium, September 25, 2015):  At PROCESS EXPO 2015, the Food Processing Education Consortium (FPEC) announced the creation of the Food Industry Technicians Development Program (FIT), the first national certification program for service technicians in all segments of the packaging, processing, and food and beverage manufacturing industry. In the U.S. there are currently 3.5 million unfilled middle-skill jobs that do not require a four-year degree and make up the largest part of the labor market in the country. The FIT Program addresses this great need for trained service technicians that food manufacturers can hire in the U.S.

The FPEC was created in August 2014 by the Foundation of the Food Processing Supplier Association with the goal of creating, developing, and implementing a career path for technicians in all segments of the processing, packaging, and food and beverage industries.

"The FPEC has been working very closely with leading food manufacturing companies in the U.S. to carefully develop a program that directly applies to the positions these companies need to hire," said Scott Scriven, who is both Chairman of the Foundation of the Food Processing Suppliers Association (FFPSA), and the Food Processing Educational Consortium in addition to being the Vice President of the Slicer Business Unit of Provisur Technologies. "Technicians that receive the FIT Certification will have incredible job opportunities in the U.S. food manufacturing industry that include high-end salaries and benefits."

Lancaster Food Company Creates Healthy Products

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Lancaster (Central Penn Business Journal, September 18, 2015):  You can't be known as a serial entrepreneur without having a few ideas along the way.

Charlie Crystle has worn that hat for various software ventures during his career, including ChiliSoft and GiftWorks. But in his latest company — The Lancaster Food Co., a city-based organic food producer with a social mission — Crystle's product ideas have not yet been needed.

He's OK with that, though, because his partner and chief product officer, Craig Lauer, is connecting with retailers and restaurants — and most importantly, the consumer — on all of his early creations. That includes a growing line of breads and spreads, which sell across Lancaster County and over to the Philadelphia area, up to New York and down into Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

"This is more fun. There is no question," Crystle said. "It's more fulfilling. We can have a direct positive impact every day."

One-Third of US Children Eat Fast Food Daily

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New York, NY (Associated Press, September 17, 2015):  About one-third of U.S. children and teens eat pizza or other fast food every day, a new government report shows. That's about the same as it was in the 1990s.

"At least we're not seeing it go up," said one of the report's authors, Cheryl Fryar. The report was released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There's also been no change in the proportion of calories that kids get from fast food daily. It's been at about 12 percent for the last decade, slightly more than the 11 percent previously reported for adults.

Fast food is considered heavy in calories, and scientists have pointed at drive-thru french fries and takeout pizza as contributors to kids being overweight. Childhood obesity — a national health concern — has been stable at about 17 percent over the last decade.

For the study, the CDC asked about 3,100 children ages 2 through 19 — or their parents — what they ate over the previous 24 hours. The survey was done in 2011 and 2012.

The findings are averages: Included are some people who almost never eat fast food, as well as others who eat a lot of it.

The researchers found:

— Adolescents got about 17 percent of their daily calories from fast food, compared to about 9 percent in younger children.

— Black, white and Hispanic youth all got roughly the same proportion of their daily calories from fast food — around 12 percent. For Asians, the average was significantly lower, at 8 percent.

— There was no significant difference between kids from families of different income levels. Some studies have found a difference, Fryar noted.

The study didn't give calorie totals, but other government research suggests kids consume about 1,900 calories a day. That means kids average about 245 calories each day from fast food. That's about the equivalent of a basic McDonald's hamburger.

The report was the first by the government on fast food calories in children, but other researchers have used CDC survey data to report on the topic.

Ag Summit Gathers Input on Ag Plan

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Lancaster:  Agriculture economic development was the topic of the Lancaster County Agriculture Summit held today at the Lancaster County Farm and Home Center and attended by more than 60 farmers, elected officials, planners, representatives of agribusinesses, and other interested parties. The Summit was the second major event of Ag Week in Lancaster County sponsored by the Lancaster County Agriculture Council, Lancaster Farming, LNP, the Lancaster Chamber, and other partners of the Agriculture Council.

Chair Michael Peachey opened the meeting by explaning that the Lancaster County Agriculture Council is working on a plan for agriculture economic development.  Lisa Riggs, Executive Director of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, and James Cowhey, Director of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, spoke to the timeliness of the Plan in the course of remarks through the morning.

In addition to sharing information from the US Census of Agriculture, Peachey shared new information on the impact of agriculture in Lancaster County.

  • With multipliers related to supply chain, jobs in agriculture and food in the County total 36,399 or 12% of the total workforce (compared to 6.75% statewide;
  • Sales of $8.8 billion or 21% of all sales in the region (compared to 8.42% for Pennsylvania)

A panel consisting of Cowhey; John Frey, Executive Director of the Center for Dairy Excellence; Chris Herr, Executive Vice-President of PennAg Industries; and Dan Heller, Owner, Flintrock Farms sparked lively discuss during the day on the threats to and opportunities for agriculture in Lancaster County over the next ten years.  Attendees were able to prioritize their contributions. 

Top concerns included the regulatory environment, permitting, the aging farm owner population and the capital requirements for succession, getting and keeping the needed workforce, development pressure on farmland and land use, and consumer opinion of agriculture based on ideology not fact.  Top opportunities included a constructive dialogue on the environment, exploration of alternative revenue sources, niche and specialty markets to address consumer demand, smart growth and better zoning, building on the Lancaster brand, increased use of technology, and more technology-based training.

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