A slew of stories about UK private label and the latest developments in stevia, the low-calorie sweetener, demanded analysis this week, while we shone the spotlight on two US firms reporting their latest results – ConAgra Foods and General Mills. The week’s M&A whispers centred around snack brand Pringles and commodity traders Louis Dreyfus and Olam International.

Talking shop: UK grocers focus on private-label innovation
Private labels have returned to the spotlight in the UK this week with Asda, Sainsbury’s and Ocado all relaunching or launching new own-label ranges. 

In the spotlight: stevia, the intense sweetener
With the pull of consumer demand for diet or low-sugar foods and the push of regulatory pressure to reformulate products, food and beverage manufacturers are increasingly looking to intense sweeteners – and the new kid on the block, at least in key markets like the US and Europe – is stevia. 

On the money: ConAgra bets on recent buys, innovation after tough Q1
ConAgra Foods said today (21 September) that the impact of recent acquisitions and NPD will help improve sales and profits after the US food giant had a tough fiscal first quarter. 

On the money: General Mills sees “good start” to year overseas
General Mills, the US firm behind brands like Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Nature Valley snack bars and Cheerios cereal, revealed its overseas business had gotten off to “a good start” in the first quarter of the company’s fiscal year. 

US: Talk of Pringles-Diamond “merger” garners mixed reaction
Procter & Gamble’s reported rejection of a proposal to merge its snacks business Pringles with US snack maker Diamond Foods has attracted a mixed response from industry watchers. 

SINGAPORE: Olam International considers Louis Dreyfus merger
Singapore-based agribusiness group Olam International has confirmed that it is considering merging with Louis Dreyfus, a global commodity trading house. 

UK: Asda to sell 47 Netto outlets to satisfy OFT
UK grocery operator Asda has offered to sell some 47 Netto outlets to satisfy local competition concerns raised by its acquisition of the discount retailer. 

UK: Warburtons to close Welsh bakery
UK bakery Warburtons today (23 September) revealed plans to close its bakery at Newport, South Wales and has begun consultation with its 114 employees and their representatives. 

Comment: Nestle aims to be among leading pack in India
India has attracted criticism for its preparations – or lack of – for next month’s Commonwealth Games and is facing questions about its reputation among investors. The market, however, remains an attractive one for FMCG firms. 

AUS: Metcash acquisition of Franklins comes under ACCC scrutiny
The sale of Australian grocery retailer Franklins to local rival Metcash has come under scrutiny from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which said it has serious concerns about the planned acquisition.