Monthly Archives: January 2013

Haute Culture: The Rise of Yogurt

2012 appears to have definitely produced a dairy and food industry powerhouse: yogurt. Sales of yogurt are up 15% from 2010 and yogurt interests are gearing up for more of the same ahead. In the grocery store, in fast-food settings like McDonald’s, and elsewhere, the popularity of yogurt has seen remarkable growth in the past few years in the United States.

Several key industry moves indicate the strength of yogurt in the U.S. market. The introduction of greek-style yogurts by companies like Chobani and Fage has agreed with American taste buds: both are expanding their operations in the United States. Dannon, a well-known yogurt brand in the U.S. is increasing the size of its operation, and perhaps most interestingly, PepsiCo has put their hat into the ring. Partnering with Theo Muller, a German dairy company, PepsiCo is “investing $206 million in a 363,000-square-foot plant in Batavia, N.Y., announced in February, that will employ some 180 people and churn out five billion cups of yogurt a year.”

One of the hopes yogurt makers have is that this trend will continue, and that American consumption will begin to mirror consumption in Canada and in European countries: “Americans on average consumed 12 pounds of yogurt a year, or half as much as Canadians and a third the amount of Europeans.”

With such unprecedented growth, it is hard for yogurt producers to not be excited, but the question remains if the growth that has been witnessed reflects a fundamental change in the American palate, or if this surge of popularity reflects an extended fad. Only the coming years will be able to dictate which is the right answer, but in the meantime, the food industry is looking at yogurt with a new sense of vigor and respect.

At this juncture, the immediate future looks good for the product and yogurt producers are attempting to meet and push demand even further. As Stephanie Strom stated in her piece for the New York Times, “Let the yogurt wars begin.”

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Getting on the Same Page: Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are quite familiar to anyone working with hazardous chemicals in such environments as: labs, distribution warehouses, food operations, etc. The sheets describe “the physical and chemical properties, physical and health hazards, routes of exposure, precautions for safe handling and use, emergency and first-aid procedures, and control measures.” OSHA cites that these documents, along with labels and training in the workplace, are key elements in maintaining proper handling of hazardous materials in the workplace. It is also essential that employees are familiar with MSDS documents and know where to find them in your operation.

In essence, the documents are meant to clarify and simplify the pertinent information for each hazardous chemical for employees. As an active inventory of all hazardous chemicals going in and out of an operation, MSDS assist in assuring both the safety of the workers and the security of any operation. When properly implemented, controls like MSDS are a part of creating necessary transparency for your employees and inspectors; an improperly implemented MSDS program can actually create headaches and liabilities down the road. Due to this, the more one is able to read, understand, and properly implement the standards set forth in state and federal law, the better. For updated information and language on OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200 click here.

GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. It is a global approach to identifying hazardous chemicals and communicating those hazards to workers via labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS). OSHA revised the current HCS to align with GHS principles and create new compliance obligations for everyone in the life cycle of hazardous materials. For example, if OSHA adopts its proposed changes, then chemical manufacturers will need to author new MSDSs and employers will need to update their entire MSDS library in a short time frame.

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An Art in Defining “Artisan”

It might sound peculiar to draw a line of comparison between the food industry and the fashion industry, but the fact is they both follow trends. This isn’t a huge secret. What is always of interest to food industry players in this process is to follow the changing palate of the American public, and to see which of these “trends” become new standards in American tastes. One trend (and really one amorphous term) is: “artisan.” The word has been used a lot in the past few years in the food industry. Artisan breads, artisan candies, artisan cheese, and even for our four-legged friends…artisan dog food, are all products, among many others, offered in the market today.  What does all of this mean?

Defining “Artisan” is sort of like defining “Art.”  In a recent report in Cheese Market News, for instance, concern was voiced that as “more companies label a wider range of products ‘artisan,’” there is some “worry that the significance of the term has been diminished.” Part of the problem, according to the article is that, “When it comes to drafting hard and fast standards for what constitutes artisan products or restricting the term’s use, though, opinions across the industry vary.”

Case in point, an article in the Phoenix New Times reported that local perspectives amongst vendors in the Phoenix area varied greatly. One respondent defined “artisan” in the following way: “A food stops being artisan when the concern for profit supersedes the love of what pure, honest, natural ingredients offer. Making a decent living at artisanal food is possible, but it cannot follow the ‘logic’ of traditional business.” Another individual saw it more in the following light, “Food stops being artisan when it is mass-produced and more machines are creating the food than actual skilled hands,” They continue, “Food loses its soul when this happens — and you can always taste that disconnect.”

For the food industry and for the consumer, “artisan” can carry a great deal of meaning or can be an empty term. As the food industry continues to follow the trend, the term continues to amass numerous definitions, linked by an overarching interest in craft and perhaps a search for authenticity. What standardization, if any, might occur is not yet apparent, or as one interviewee stated, “It could be that ‘artisan’ is a term that is hot now, but there will be other words or terms that come along for dairies to describe themselves.” Until some common ground is reached, the art of defining “artisan” will continue to develop and exist in many forms.

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Labeling Labs: The ISO/IEC 17025 Accreditation Process

In the food industry and in food safety, accuracy is key. To be able to sample, test, and conduct other lab-related operations on-site or via a third-party lab, is no longer the territory of just large operations. Businesses like small cheese makers, craft breweries, and countless other kinds of small and medium size operations depend on labs for quality control and quality assurance purposes.

Due to this demand for accuracy in testing by regulators, consumers, etc., some businesses have found themselves somewhat jumping into the deep end of laboratory science. A recent article in Food Quality highlighted ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation and indicated to labs that becoming accredited was the “first and most important step in setting your laboratory apart from some of your competition.”

More than an impressive, George Lucas-like combination of letters and numbers, ISO/IEC 17025 is an accreditation process food industry interests may want to know more a bit about. The process was originally developed by the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission. It essentially is a process in which a lab is certified as being “competent to carry out specific tasks” with valid and accurate systems. In industries that demand accurate testing, like the medical field and the food industry, accreditation might be an attractive feature for companies looking to work with a third-party lab. The accrediting process is carried out by several organizations: some for-profit, and others being non-profit.

Becoming accredited is often problematic for labs in terms of cost. Fee structures vary depending on the accrediting body and the accreditations sought. Regardless, labs have to foot the bill for many costs such as the following: application fees, annual fees, report fees, assessments, and travel expenses for the assessors. These costs, however, can mean increased business for the labs, as the accreditation certification may pull in more businesses.

As food industry interests contend with greater regulations, international regulations, and federal regulations, there are some difficult choices to be made. Figuring out how something like accreditation might fit in with your company’s QA/QC may prove to be difficult due to the cost of doing business with an accredited lab, but the investment may also be one that will pay off in the long run, with a greater assurance of testing accuracy/reporting. The issue is further complicated when choosing a lab, in that there also is the possibility that some labs may be claiming false accreditation.

Hence, for operations large, small and everywhere in between, some homework needs to be done on how best to choose a lab and how to work closely with a lab to ensure QA/QC. How much does accreditation mean, how much will it cost you to work/not work with such a lab, and what level of QA/QC is possible, are all discussions labs and food industry operations are having. In the era of the Food Safety Modernization Act, some homework can go a long way in establishing a good relationship with a lab, or in establishing standards for in-house lab operations.

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Nelson-Jameson, Inc. Announces Wisconsin Warehouse Expansion

MARSHFIELD, WI, January 3, 2013 – To better serve their customers, Nelson-Jameson, Inc. will begin construction this spring on a warehouse addition at their headquarters in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Ground was broken in early December 2012 on a 20,000 square foot warehouse addition with completion expected in early fall of 2013. The expansion will be connected to the existing warehouse and will be the same height (40 feet) with narrow aisle stacking. This addition will bring the total warehouse space in Marshfield to approximately 2.2 million cubic feet.

“I believe strongly that this additional space will greatly enhance our efficiency in our Marshfield location,” said Jerry Lippert, President, Nelson-Jameson, Inc.

Nelson-Jameson, Inc. has further warehouse space at the branch locations in California, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Nelson-Jameson, Inc. has been an integrated supplier for the food industry since 1947. Product lines include safety & personnel, production & material handling, sanitation & janitorial, processing & flow control, laboratory & QA/QC, and bulk packaging & ingredients. The company is headquartered in Marshfield, Wisconsin, with other locations in Turlock, California; Twin Falls, Idaho; York, Pennsylvania; and Dumas, Texas. For more information visit

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