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Sunday, May 19, 2024


Some interesting food facts and findings from the other side of the globe have caught our attention this month.

The first comes in the form of a new project funded by the Swedish Research Council, which has resulted in the ability to grow durum wheat in the extreme heat of famine-affected Senegal, Mauritania and Mali, potentially boosting the income for 1 million farming families, and therefore winning the 2017 Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security.

The genome fingerprinting research project led by Dr Filippo Bassi of ICARDA and Professor Rodomiro Ortiz (SLU, Alnarp), used non-GM molecular breeding techniques to develop a set of durum wheat varieties that can withstand constant 35-40 degree heat along the savannah of the Senegal River basin. In this region, farmers grow rice for eight months of the year but the land remains unproductive for the other four months.

The new durum varieties have therefore been developed to grow at enhanced speeds so that farmers can grow the wheat between rice seasons, which could produce 600,000 tonnes of new food, equivalent to 175 servings of pasta per person per year in the region, and could generate USD$210 million in additional income for the farmers. As the wheat has 5 times more protein than rice, as well as vitamins and minerals, it will also help to improve diets.

While projects like these could see some real change in eating habits, there are some habit that can’t be broken in terms of consumer behaviour – Vietnam’s fondness for beer being a classic example. Traditionally, beer has been the country’s favourite drink and its thirst for the beverage is not being quenched by availability of other alcoholic beverages. Beer accounted for 95% of Vietnam’s total alcoholic beverage consumption in 2016. But Vietnamese beer drinkers are increasingly picking up premium and superpremium products from shelves, with discount beers becoming less popular. According to GlobalData’s latest report, Vietnam Beer and Cider Market Insights 2017, premium beer consumption rocketed to 10 million hectoliters in 2016, while the volume of discount beer that includes Bia Hoi (a local unfiltered ‘homebrewed’ beer, popular in rural areas) has been steadily declining since 2011. It dropped to three million hectoliters of sale in 2016 from 3.5 million in 2011, while premium beer jumped from 4,000 thousand hectoliters in 2011 to around 10,000 thousand hectoliters in 2016, clearly indicating the changing trend in the country.

Though limited in share, sales of superpremium beer sales have more than tripled in 2016, from around 100 thousand hectoliters in 2011, driven by the rise in disposal income among Vietnamese.

Food and drink suppliers from all over the globe will be gearing up for the next Anuga FoodTec, the international supplier fair for the food and beverage industry, as soon as the Christmas and New Year break are over. Around 1,700 suppliers from more than 50 countries will be presenting their new products for the production and packing of all types of food on 140,000 square metres of exhibition space at the international supplier fair. The event, which takes place from March 20th to 23rd in Cologne, Germany, will feature lectures, conferences, forums, guided tours and networking events. Speakers include the internationally-renowned experts Prof Michael Braungart (Scientific Manager of the Hamburg Environmental Institute (HUI), Hamburg,), Prof Ruud Huirne (Food & Agri Director, the Netherlands, Rabobank), Prof Pierre Pienaar (President of the World Packaging Organisation) and Prof Alexander Sauer (Director, Institute for Energy Efficiency in Production EEP, University of Stuttgart).

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