This week saw further evidence of the growing international focus evident from Japanese food powerhouses who are being forced to look overseas for growth to offset weak consumption trends at home. Japan’s Mizkan further diversified its portfolio and international footprint with the acquisition of the Bertolli and Ragu brands from Unilever. In other news, sustainability and food security issues continued to be high on the agenda, with the EC signalling moves to cut food waste while Oxfam called on the “big 10” food manufacturers to take a more active stance on climate change. Here are some of the highlights from just-food’s week in words.

“We are now faced with a major challenge to make sure there is enough food available for the very large world population. This challenge is getting increasingly difficult because of climate change and the repercussions of this on agricultural production. We should not make this challenge even more difficult by wasting the products we produce.” – European minister for food and rural development Athanassios Tsaftaris on the EC Agriculture and Fisheries Council’s resolution to act of food waste 

“Too many of today’s food and beverage giants are crossing their fingers and hoping that climate change won’t disrupt the food system imagining somebody else will fix it. The “Big 10″ companies generate over US$1bn a day and have great power to influence global food chains. The industry needs to do more to work towards ‘zero hunger’ in the world while undergoing a revolution in their production methods.” – Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima criticises the world’s largest food companies for failing to tackle climate change

“Climate change is a serious issue, we agree. But we strongly disagree with this assessment of our efforts. Despite what Oxfam suggests, General Mills has had greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets since 2005. We also established an additional transportation fuel usage target in 2009. Specifically, General Mills pledged to reduce GHG emissions in our direct operations by 20% by 2015, and to reduce transportation fuel usage rates 35% by that same year. General Mills is also helping measure and reduce GHG emissions in agriculture through our leadership in Field to Market (FTM). In fact, reducing agricultural emissions is a key objective in our 2020 sustainable sourcing commitment across eight of our 10 ingredients.” – a General Mills spokesperson refutes Oxfam’s assessment alongside rebuttals from many other food companies singled out by the charity 

“Whilst the Forum of Private Business is a great supporter of supply chain finance schemes in the right circumstances, they should not be used as a justification for a company extending payment times to its suppliers. We are concerned to learn that Mars UK is doing just this, extending payment times up to 120 days for some of their suppliers. Lengthy payment terms can be extremely damaging for small businesses. At a time when our economy is beginning to grow again it is fundamentally unfair that small businesses are being used as a line of credit for larger organisations.” – Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business, on Mars UK’s move to change supplier payment terms

“We are not immune from the pressures that retailers are under quite clearly. It is a very, very competitive set. One area we have been able to benefit from is the pricing mix of products we do. We have tried to situate ourselves at the premium end of the marketplace. Investing in our facilities and coming up with innovative products and approaches to the product offering that we have. That has stood us in pretty good stead.” – Cranswick CEO Adam Couch highlights the importance of maintaining relevance in the competitive UK market

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“The export market is a real key feature for us moving forward. It is one key area we are looking to grow. That is not just standard packages, we are looking to develop our premium ranges in the Far East in particular – both in bacon and basted products and other premium-end charcuterie products. It is very much in keeping with our heritage if you like, looking to develop premium ,not just in the home market but further afield as well. We have a lot of interest from potential customers out in the Far East in particular. We have a lot of aspirations around premium cuts we are looking to develop. Certainly the Chinese, the requirements we are seeing at the moment is to more products at the premium end of the marketplace and to move to a more westernised eating style.” – Couch reveals Cranswick’s overseas ambitions in part 2 of the just-food interview

Mizkan is strongly committed to the long-term growth of Ragu and Bertolli, and we will work to help ensure that both brands continue to grow and prosper. We believe this acquisition will create more opportunities for our company and our workforce, including Ragu and Bertolli’s talented employees, and create significant value for our global stakeholders.” – Mizkan chairman and CEO Kazuhide Nakano is upbeat on the prospects for the Ragu and Bertolli following their acquisition from Unilever

“This sale represents one of the final steps in reshaping our portfolio in North America to deliver sustainable growth for Unilever, and enables us to sharpen our focus within our foods business.” – Meanwhile, Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America, is equally upbeat on the outlook for a leaner Unilever in the US

Although I am encouraged by our 7% sales increase in US simple meals, I am disappointed that our plans did not drive stronger sales results in US soup. Despite an increase in the frequency of our promotional activity in the third quarter, we did not realise the anticipated lifts in a challenging consumer environment.” – Campbell president and CEO Denise Morrison frustrated at the pace of change in US soups

Our strategy of focusing on the food to go market is working well in both the UK and the US. Over the past six months we have stepped up our strategic investments in Minneapolis, Jacksonville, Rhode Island and Northampton to support confirmed new business with several large customers.” – CEO Patrick Coveney optimistic on the prospects for food-to-go in UK, US