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Frozen food forum.

HIGH-TECH MASHED POTATOES. Is it my imagination, or is the trans-Atlantic traffic in frozen food technology transfers markedly picking up again? It is refreshing to see that some of the world's leading multi-national food companies continue to shop near and far to incorporate the latest innovations into their operations. Take H.J. Heinz Co., for example. Its Ore-Ida Foods division recently introduced retail packs of frozen mashed potatoes that are being promoted as the first product of its kind in the USA freezer section. Hardly new to European consumers, the mashed potatoes are made from patented Finnish technology. So impressed were the executives of Boise, Idaho-based Ore-Ida that last year they chartered a 747 jet to fly the high-tech machinery to America. "This new process involves taking fresh Russet potatoes that have been peeled, cooked and mashed, and then dehydrating them before freezing," explained Bob Ginkel, the brand's general manager."

TRIMMING DOWN, SPREADING OUT. Time was when conventional wisdom had it that the food business was recession-proof. So much for that maxim. The recent economic slump has shown just how vulnerable the US food industry is to the frugal buying habits of consumers who demand every-day low prices. After selling at as much as a 30% premium to the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index in 1989, food issues as a category have under performed the market since the recession began three years ago. Management's response has been to cut costs by slashing unneeded labor and shutting down unprofitable plants. And the result, at least for some firms, has been a much improved bottom line. Just look at Campbell Soup Co. It eliminated 8,000 jobs and closed 20 factories during the past several years. That strong medicine is beginning to have rejuvenating effects as far as share holders are concerned. Sales advanced just 1% to $6.3 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 2, while profits jumped a healthy 22%, to $490.5 million. Meanwhile, as markets mature in the USA, food manufacturers are increasingly looking overseas for future growth opportunities. This summer General Mills and Pepsi Co. merged their European snack foods operations to become the leading force in that $17 billion market. Closer to home, Pillsbury Co. has announced that it will acquire a 49% share of Mexico's Pacific Star de Occidente, a major distributor of frozen and refrigerated foods.

BETTER DAYS ARE COMING. Do the lingering recession blues still have you down in the dumps? Don't worry, everything is going to be OK--by the year 2010! That's the kind of long-term good news that futurist David P. Snyder dispensed at the recent International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses meeting in Arizona. Of course economist John Maynard Keynes had his own terminal opinion about where we would all be in the long run. At any rate, in the Brave New World according to Snyder, we have now reached the mid-point of the Great Information Revolution that is being spearheaded by computers, fiber optic communications and so-called smart technology. He points out that historically it takes a society about 40 to 50 years to re-tool for, and efficiently adapt to, a new economy. Such was the case during the last monumental shift, when steam power was replaced with electricity. Unfortunately, during the first half of major technical transformations, living standards temporarily fall before rising again and eventually surpassing their old mark. This scenario is evident in America today, where the middle class has shrunk by as much as 8%, according to Snyder. The economies of Europe and Japan are also slowing down, but America is "leading the way" because it has been at the forefront longer. While the next six to seven years will be tough going for restructuring global economies, better times are surely ahead -- and in spades. By the year 2010, the total number of middle- and upper-income jobs will be greater than ever before. We suppose that this bodes especially well for the frozen food industry. But unfortunately some of the players on the contemporary stage may not survive into the next century. In the meantime, though, folks still have to eat. No doubt the savvy FF manufacturers will restructure their marketing strategies where required and continue to get their piece of the pie.

ONE FOR THE ROAD. Police in Malmo, Sweden, recently stopped a motorist for a routine check and ended up dishing out two scoops of indignance. When requested to blow into a balloon that measures sobriety, the amiable driver complied without hesitation. The balloon turned yellow, indicating the presence of alcohol. But since it did not become red, no offense was perpetrated. The officers warned the man that he had a legal level of alcohol in his blood, and allowed him to drive on. The motorist refused to accept their judgment--and for good reason, as he was a teetotaler. Indignant over the incident and determined to clear his name, he went to the local automobile association and submitted to a blood test. The results provided more proof that he had consumed something with proof. Thinking back, he recalled haven eaten some rum-raisin ice cream immediately before getting behind the wheel. The automobile association contacted GM, the producer of the ice cream. The company revealed that indeed ethanol is used to release the natural flavors in some of its products. A portion of vanilla normally contains 0.12% alcohol; blueberry, 0.37%; and rum-raisin, 0.61%. Police conducted some tests themselves and discovered that the balloons they breathed into turned a light red hue, indicating the presence of alcohol. Authorities said later that the "intoxicating effects" could be measured for only around 15 minutes after consumption, even if the "imbiber" has a double serving. They insisted that it is impossible to eat enough to get drunk.
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Author:Williams, E.W.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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