News that Flowers Food has emerged as the “stalking horse” bidder for various Hostess Brands bread brands in the US caught our attention last week. Meanwhile, an entirely different kind of horse got tongues wagging on this side of the pond when food safety officials found horse meat had been used in the production of burgers in the UK and Ireland. There has also been a flurry of news from the confectionery sector, with Barry Callebaut, Lindt and Thorntons hitting the headlines. We can expect more from this category in the coming weeks as the industry gears up for ISM, one of the calendar’s biggest trade shows. just-food will be reporting live (and possibly even indulging our sweet tooth).

The just-food interview – Jonathan Hart, Thorntons
UK confectioner Thorntons is undergoing something of a transformation. The chocolate and toffee producer, which has been hit hard by the consumer downturn, is midway through a strategic shift to close the bulk of its store network and focus on commercial sales. Since taking the helm in May 2011, Jonathan Hart has had a mountain to climb: rebalancing the portfolio while tackling weak consumer demand. Nonetheless, the chief executive tells Michelle Russell that the firm is now on the right road for its strategy re-think to deliver improved results

COMMENT: Lindt sweetens Europe’s austerity pill
As Europeans brace for more austerity in hard-hit national economies, sweet-toothed consumers have been seeking light relief in chocolate maker Lindt & Sprüngli.

UPDATE: SWITZ: Barry Callebaut growth skewed to emerging markets
Barry Callebaut expects emerging markets to increasingly contribute a greater proportion of group sales, driven by M&A and organic growth.

UK: R&R Ice Cream acquires Yoomoo frozen yoghurt brand
UK firm R&R Ice Cream has acquired the Yoomoo frozen yoghurt brand for an undisclosed sum.

Deal or no deal: “Stalking horse” Flowers eyes Hostess bread brands
Flowers Foods showed its hand when it emerged as the “stalking horse” bidder for parts of Hostess Brands’ bread business, notably the Wonder and Nature’s Pride brands. While the deal is not yet in the bag, Flowers has clearly emerged as the front-runner to snap up a significant chunk of Hostess’ bread interests. Katy Askew takes a look at the impact the potential acquisition could have on Flowers.

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By GlobalData

In the spotlight: Horse meat scandal: What’s at stake?
News of horse DNA in the economy beef burger ranges of some major retailers raises serious questions around corporate food governance, government monitoring and the implications for public confidence.

US: Mondelez sues Kellogg over patent infringement
Kraft Food Global Brands, the US snack subsidiary of Mondelez International, has filed a lawsuit alleging that Kellogg has infringed a patent protecting packaging used in its resealable cookies.

Interview: Corkers Crisps is one to watch
Corkers Crisps is the latest brand to seek a wedge of the UK’s premium snacks market and, judging by key accounts already captured, this family farm-based enterprise could be on to something. Co-founder Rod Garnham speaks to Chris Mercer at The Driver bar and restaurant in London.

COMMENT: Premier update reassuring in troubled times
Premier Foods today (17 January) said its trading was “in line” with market expectations. This albeit subdued update will likely comfort investors, given the growing pressure UK branded food manufacturers are coming under from weak consumer sentiment.

On the money: Associated British Foods on the up
Analysts’ superlatives for the ‘stunning’ performance of Primark do not stretch to the food units of Associated British Foods, but the group as a whole looks healthy in 2013 – and it might also have cash to splurge.