UK organic sales are experiencing their slowest rate of growth in recent years, it emerged this week. However, some of the big FMCG companies are still looking to promote their ethical credentials. Mars today (9 April) announced it is to spend millions of dollars a year certifying that the cocoa it uses is sustainably sourced by 2020.

Meanwhile, another company promoted on its ethical values, Innocent Drinks, this week sold a minority stake in its company to Coca-Cola Co. for GBP30m (US$44.5m). Other companies looking for growth are Swiss dairy group Emmi, which is looking to expand internationally and 7-Eleven, a company keen on expanding its Asian franchise. These are the top stories on just-food this week.

UPDATE: UK: Organics will grow in ’09 – Soil Association
UK organic sales will increase this year, the Soil Association insisted today (6 April), despite the economic downturn weighing on certain parts of the sector in 2008.
Leading executives at the Soil Association remained upbeat about the future of organic food in the UK and said demand for organics would continue to grow this year.

US/UK: Mars launches ethical cocoa push
Mars, the US-based confectionery giant, has outlined plans to use only “sustainable” cocoa in its products by 2020. The M&M’s-to-Snickers maker has teamed up with the Rainforest Alliance and the company said it wants the not-for-profit organization to certify 100,000 metric tonnes of cocoa annually for use in its products.

UK: Innocent sells stake to Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola Co. has secured a minority stake in UK smoothie company Innocent Drinks. The UK-based firm confirmed today (6 April) that Coca-Cola Co. will take a share of “between 10% and 20%” in Innocent, for GBP30m (US$44.5m). The funds will be used to “help fund the mission to get more natural healthy products to more people across Europe”, Innocent said.

US: 7-Eleven expands Asian franchise
US convenience retailer 7-Eleven has announced plans to expand its business into Indonesia through a franchise agreement. The agreement with PT Modern Putraindonesia of Jakarta, a retailer and manufacturer of photographic, electronic and telecommunications products, will see Indonesia become the twelfth Asian country where 7-Eleven licenses or offers master franchises for its stores.

US: FDA finds salmonella in Setton Ca. plant
US food safety officials have discovered salmonella at Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella’s plant in California, which last week set off a nationwide recall of pistachios in the country. The US Food and Drug Administration said an inspection had indicated salmonella was present in “critical areas” of the facility.

UK: Cranswick to buy pork processing firm Bowes
UK meat processor Cranswick is to acquire the pork processing business Bowes of Norfolk in a deal worth GBP17.2m (US$x). The transaction, which remains subject to regulatory approval, will see members of the Bowes family retain the company’s arable farming business together with a portfolio of properties.

UPDATE: SWITZ: Emmi to expand international business
Swiss dairy group Emmi said it will “significantly” expand its international business in the next few years in a bid to bring foreign sales up to the level of Swiss sales. The company told just-food today (8 April) that its strategy is “mainly based on international growth in Europe and North America”.

US: Tate & Lyle infringement case upheld
A US trade commission has upheld an initial ruling that found Chinese manufacturer Niutang did not infringe Tate & Lyle’s patents for manufacturing the sweetener sucralose. In an initial determination announced in last September, US International Trade Commission (ITC) Judge Charles Bullock rejected Tate & Lyle’s infringement allegations against both Changzhou Niutang, one of the largest global manufacturers of sucralose, and its US subsidiary, US Niutang.

US: Unilever to close plant with 201 job cuts
Consumer goods giant Unilever is to close its Breyers ice cream plant in Massachusetts with the loss of 201 jobs. The closure is expected to be completed “no later than” the second half of 2010, the company said Friday (3 April) and will involve production from the Framingham-based plant shifting to “other sites” within the Unilever business.