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TrendWire, September 2012

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The Food Channel Trendwire
September 2012 • http://www.foodchannel.com
IN THIS EDITION

NYC Jumbo Drink Ban Passes, Industry Gears for Battle 




As you’ve no doubt heard by now, New York City’s Board of Health unanimously approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban the sale of sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces at the city’s restaurants, delis, food carts, stadium concession stands and movie theatres. It will be the first such ban in the nation.

The restriction includes soda, iced tea, energy drinks, some smoothies and certain coffee drinks served in containers bigger than 16 ounces. Unless blocked in the courts, the ban will take effect next March.

According to the NYC Department of Health, over half of New York City residents are now overweight or obese. In the Bronx, this number climbs to 70%. The City calculates that if everyone drinking 20-oz sugary drinks switched to 16-oz, the city would “save” about 2.3 million pounds per year.

Many analysts expect the foodservice industry to fight back, and soon. The National Restaurant Association expressed disappointment in the passage of the ban, saying it unfairly targets restaurants and is a misguided tactic to impact the obesity problem.

"This proposal creates an uneven playing field from a business perspective, and produces a false sense of accomplishment in the fight against obesity," said Scott DeFife, the NRA's executive vice president of policy and government affairs. "The restaurant industry is committed to a proactive role in addressing obesity. We are disappointed in the board's vote . . . and will continue to push for solutions that will truly impact consumer health in a positive way."

According to the mayor's office, the ban was proposed as a way of dealing with the city's growing obesity problem. Critics, however, say the ban by itself would not impact the issue and would just be a detriment to business growth.

Eliot Hoff, spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a coalition that opposes the ban, said the group would continue to fight against the measure. The group, which is financed by the soft drink industry, has already spent more than $1 million on a public relations campaign against the controversial ban, and has announced they are exploring ways to challenge it, including legal action. The NRA is a founding member of the coalition. According to the group, more than 250,000 people signed a petition against the measure.

During the six-month gap between the Board of Health’s vote and the enactment of the restriction, the industry could seek an injunction from a judge or an outright rejection of the restrictions by the courts.

"This is not the end," Hoff said. "We are exploring legal options and all other avenues available to us. We will continue to voice our opposition to this ban and fight for the right of New Yorkers to make their own choices, and we will stand with the business owners who will be hurt by these arbitrary limitations."

Critics of the restrictions point to a lack of scientific evidence that the ban will reduce obesity rates. Restaurants have complained that grocers and c-stores are being excluded. Infringements on personal liberties have been particularly played up, with ad copy from the beverage group reading, "If this now, what's next?" In the wake of the ads, a New York Times poll last month found 60 percent of New Yorkers said they disapproved of the ban.

While soft drink companies have mostly shied away from speaking publicly on the ban so far, Peter Shankman, digital branding expert and marketing pundit says he doesn’t expect consumers to view them any differently. “I don't think this will change Americans' perceptions of soda companies, per se,” Shankman says.“ Americans know when they drink a Coke, they're getting sugar--that's why they drink it. What it might do, hopefully, is make people think twice before ordering that massive soda.”

Shankman also noted inconsistencies in Mayor Bloomberg’s restrictions. “The ban itself has loopholes big enough to drive an armored tank through. Seven-Eleven ‘Big Gulps’ are excluded, as are fruit juices, milk-based juices, and alcoholic drinks. The only real visible change will be that fast food restaurants will not be able to sell cups bigger than 16-ounces if they have self-serve fountains. The beverage industry is already up in arms, as I'm sure their publicists and lawyers told them to be.”

It remains to be seen whether other cities will follow suit, the way some have responded to previous efforts which began in New York, such as bans on trans fats and smoking in public places, and moves to reduce salt consumption and to require restaurants to post calories on the menu. "We were the first city to ban trans fats; we were one of the early cities to prohibit lead in paint," the city's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, told the New York Times. "You can understand why the industry feels the stakes are high here in New York City."

Legal efforts to block the ban will almost certainly fail, says Paul Samakow, writing for the Washington Times. “The city has a great deal of authority to make laws that address public health,” Samakow writes. “Banning cigarette smoking in public places stands out as the prime and closest example.”

Still, the industry vows to fight on. Joy Dubost, Ph.D., the NRA’s director of nutrition and healthy living, calls the pending ban “bewildering” because it restricts restaurants while other outlets such as convenience stores and supermarkets are exempt from the restrictions.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of consumers purchase their sweetened beverages from convenience and grocery stores," Dubost said, "and those stores aren't even included in the Mayor's proposal. Instead of demonizing sugary beverages in restaurants, we need to focus on policies and education that will truly influence behavioral change."

Of course, New Yorkers who are determined to drink a vast amount of soda at a restaurant or movie house can always purchase two 12-oz drinks. We expect they’ll figure that out pretty quick.

But perhaps all this publicity the ban is getting has shined a light on the obesity issue, and will make people think, “You know, maybe I should cut back on my soda drinking.” We suspect that’s the thinking of the mayor and health advocates who first pushed for the ban. One thing for sure, the ban and the efforts to fight it will be watched closely by stakeholders across the country.



Farm-to-Menu Restaurants Growing and Growing




Whether you call them farm-to-menu, farm-to-table or home-grown, the trend that has American restaurants growing and harvesting their own fresh foods continues to, well, grow.

Chefs across the nation are not only plotting new menu creations, they’re also planting gardens and sowing seeds for future dishes.

Some of the plots can be found out back, some take the form of rooftop gardens. But wherever they’re planted, the aim is to serve tastier fare with fresher ingredients harvested right on premise.

These efforts are starting to yield serious results, with some eateries producing up to half of the produce themselves.

Among the top green thumb restaurants is The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis. Chef Paul Berglund has received national notoriety for his Scandinavian-Minnesotan menu. The eatery, open for just over a year, features a rooftop garden where about a quarter of the dishes on the menu include foods grown up top, including radishes, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, lettuce, turnips, and herbs.

One good example of his home-grown food is the summer salad, served with rooftop Bibb lettuces topped with aged goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes and anchovy aioli.

“It’s a pretty great experience for the kitchen staff to be able to be hands-on with food grown right above us and it’s a really neat experience for the diner to be able to sit down to a meal knowing that their food was harvested from the roof within the past day,” says Berglund. “The freshness of it really translates.”

At the Zazu Restaurant and Farm in Santa Rosa, Calif., the husband and wife chef team, Duskie Estes and John Stewart, raise Mangalista pigs. The end result is delicious pork entrees served at the restaurant, Zazu, and at the take-out joint, Zazu on the River. You can even order their Black Pig bacon by the pound right off the menu. And the couple’s backyard garden has gotten so big, they now employ two full-time staff farmers who help them grow dozens of different types of organic vegetables, fruits and herbs that supply nearly a third of the restaurant’s ingredients during peak season. Turkey, chicken and rabbit are also raised on the farm and featured on the menu.

Farmer Cheryl Rogowski of the Rogowski Farm in Pine Island, N.Y., typically serves dinner with vegetables she harvested that very morning. “If the deer ate the carrots last night and carrots were on the menu, the chef needs to change the menu at a moment’s notice,” Rogowski says. The operation has been voted one of the best farm-to-table experiences in Orange County, N.Y. by readers of the local newspaper there. The farm itself has been lauded by environmental groups for its land stewardship & environmental practices.

Carol Clement, a farmer in nearby Preston Hollow, N.Y., recently opened up the Bee’s Knees Café. “There is great satisfaction for me in presenting delicious finished dishes based on the products we have created here, showing off how good the products are,” she says.

Some farm operations present farm-to-table public dining events only occasionally. One of those is the Hatcher family farm in College Grove, Tenn., where a bountiful buffet table of farm-fresh dishes was served at an event this month, with proceeds going to the Farm Bureau Federation, which offers aid to farmers and farm families. “We can accommodate up to 200 people,” says Charles Hatcher, a fifth-generation farmer. “We have tables and chairs and a beautiful setting out under the stars.” The “Farm Strong” events have sometimes been seated, gourmet full-service affairs and other times more casual self-service buffets. This year’s Labor Day weekend event featured one-third pound Hatcher beef burgers, Hatcher lamb burgers and marinated boneless chicken breasts.

No doubt one of the big factors in the growth of farm-to-table operations is consumers’ desire to know where their food is coming from. When it’s coming from the very grounds where you’re dining, well, it doesn’t get any fresher than that. Diners feel more free to ask questions about how the ingredients are grown, whether pesticides are used, and how the livestock is treated.

We can expect to see this grow-your-own trend to just keep growing and growing.



Wine Brands Target New Moms




In the latest issue of TIME magazine, Joel Stein offers a humorous look at a new trend in the wine biz: brands targeted specifically at young mothers.

Have you heard of MommyJuice? It’s a real California wine. Another one is called Mommy’s Time Out, from Italy.

Stein imagines moms sitting on park benches watching their little ones while sipping a glass of Mommy’s Time Out Pinot Grigio.

But these brands know what they’re doing. They’re responding to the current culture that includes a Facebook group called Moms Who Need Wine—it has 640,000 subscribers. There’s another website with a rather verbose and somewhat threatening title, OMG I So Need a Glass of Wine or I’m Gonna Sell My Kids. That site has 127,000 Facebook fans. You can even go there and buy stemless wine glasses imprinted with that OMG brand/logo.

There’s also a Twitter group that meets for online wine “parties,” where moms sit at their respective computers and drink a glass of wine in solidarity while they tweet away about the joys and challenges of mommyhood.

These mom wines aren’t obscure or particularly hard to find, either. You can find them at some Target stores and supermarkets, including Safeway.

Are these wines any good? Stein asked Ray Isle, executive wine editor of Food & Wine. He says if you’re looking for American reds and whites around $10 a bottle, “they’re perfectly nice.” He continues, “It’s not a wine I’d stick away in a cellar and age. But they’re going for the opposite: you’re supposed to drink it while your child is an infant.”

MommyJuice is rather direct in its marketing approach, claiming in its advertising that the wine is "Made for Mom's Who Have Survived the Grocery Store Temper Tantrum."

Now one of the country’s biggest wineries, Washington winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, is getting into the Mom-and-Wine business. The company has begun running a Facebook campaign asking women to customize an equation to sum up what makes them want a glass. Its suggestion: “Me + a glass of wine – juice boxes + quiet time for 15 minutes = My Chateau.” The ads include the tagline, “It’s where you become you again.”

The new Chateau campaign also includes a sweepstakes called the “Ultimate Girls Night In,” where, according to a print ad, the brand will “send you and your best girlfriend” on a trip to New York.

Cheryl Durzy, the mother of two who founded MommyJuice Wines in San Martin, Calif., in 2010, has done no advertising. She has relied instead on promoting the brand through Facebook and on YouTube, where she posts branded videos, and through mom bloggers, to whom she sends bottles in the hope that they will post reviews.

It’s no secret that women are a key demographic for wine; 52% of females choose it as their favorite alcoholic beverage, compared with 20% of men, according to a recent Gallup poll. But the phenomenon of wines marketed and even branded directly to moms is a more recent and focused development.

Hey. I think we just figured out what makes the perfect gift at the next baby shower!





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