food & drink

There is plenty of room for skepticism about whether Beijing’s latest austerity drive will have any lasting impact on the per capita consumption of Lamborghinis by government officials. But in one area it clearly has had a marked effect: luxury dining. Government-funded consumption of meals that cost as much as the monthly income of a lower tier city have certainly fallen. And that seems to be one reason why some upmarket eateries are increasingly shifting their focus to the middle market. Read more

Try the yoghurt

The mere mention of frozen yogurt evokes images of weight-conscious US college students, unable to resist the temptation of a sweet, queuing up at frozen yogurt shops for the so-called healthy alternative. Read more

Though Egypt’s economy has been badly damaged by continuing post-revolution turmoil, the food sector has bucked the trend and an unlikely beneficiary has been a company that established its reputation supplying gourmet products to upmarket hotels and wealthy consumers.

Wadi Food, an agricultural business that has carved out a niche in gourmet olive products, has managed to thrive despite the loss of the important tourism market.

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By Libby Costin of Tetra Pak

The International Monetary Fund has projected that global growth will reach 3.25 per cent in 2013 and rise further, to 4 per cent, in 2014 – with developing countries being the main driver.

One sector where new opportunities are being created by developing markets is the dairy industry. According to the latest figures from Tetra Pak, the world’s largest liquid dairy processing and packaging company, demand for liquid dairy products in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa is projected to grow at an estimated annual compound growth rate of 3.5 per cent in 2012-15, compared to 2.4 per cent for the world as a whole. Within that total, among the fastest growth rates is expected in flavoured milk. Read more

For years, investors and analysts have asked what Wal-Mart de México y Centroamérica, Mexico’s largest retailer, was doing with a chain of budget restaurants. They have even suggested to top executives that they should sell it.

Well, it looks like their wishes may soon come true.

Walmex, as the affiliate of Wal-Mart is better known, on Friday said it was putting its Vips restaurant chain up for sale.

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Just as picanha, the juicy Brazilian cut of steak, whets the appetite of denizens of Latin America’s biggest country, so do mergers and acquisitions for the Batista brothers, Josely, Wesley and José Batista Junior, who control the world’s biggest “protein” company.

After all, you don’t grow from being a butcher shop in the back of nowhere – that is, Anápolis, Goiás state (Brazil’s equivalent of the US Midwest) – slaughtering a couple of head of cattle a day to the world’s biggest beef exporter by shying away from deals. Read more

The average American in the US pork belt knows one thing about pigs in China: they float.

So it’s hardly surprising that some US legislators have raised concerns about the food safety implications of the proposed takeover of the pork powerhouse Smithfield Foods, by a Chinese purveyor of pig meat.

The issue, of course, is not just the flotation properties of Chinese porkers, over 10,000 of which were found dead in the Shanghai water supply earlier this year. It’s the health worries that they bring to the surface. Read more

Nothing stimulates chatter about the rise of China like a big US-targeted M&A deal, and last week we had one of the biggest to date. The deal struck by the Chinese meat processor Shuanghui to buy US pork producer Smithfield Foods for just shy of $5bn will – if completed – be the biggest ever Chinese takeover of a US company. But what’s the overall picture when it comes to China-US M&A? Chart of the week takes a look. Read more

Commodity markets may have lost their lustre as many investors have gone elsewhere. But there’s often a chance of a profit for those who know where to look.

Pu’er, a strong, earthy tea produced in China’s Yunnan province has seen its price rise by as much as 80 per cent over the past six months – even as prices for other Chinese teas have remained stable. Pu’er traders have seen it before – in a speculative bubble that burst six years ago. This time the run-up in prices has been more modest – so far. Read more

The China Food and Drug Administration has promised to get tough on health foods before, with little result. This time, it seems, it is serious.

The recently-reformed CFDA has promised a five-month campaign from May to September to crack down on illegal activity in the health food industry, part of a broader drive by authorities to stamp out corruption and unethical business practices. Read more

Yum or yuk?

If the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation has its way, celebrity chefs will soon be whipping up a dish of dried crickets, rather than strawberry fondue.

Insects may not look particularly appetising, but they could provide a solution to the world’s looming food crisis. And the FAO’s shining example? Thailand. Read more

Shares in Mengniu, China’s largest milk seller by volume, soared more than nine per cent on Monday on news that Danone of France was set to invest €325m in two joint ventures with the Chinese company.

Danone will take a four per cent indirect stake in Mengniu through a joint venture with Cofco, a state-owned agricultural company that is Mengniu’s largest shareholder. Danone is also purchasing a 20 per cent stake in Mengniu’s yoghurt businesses, subject to regulatory approvals. Read more

Jesus never came across as a big fan of markets – as he showed when he chased the moneychangers from the Temple – but now a group of Polish monks is looking to enter, albeit indirectly, into Mammon’s unholy precincts by floating on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

A company called Produkty Klasztorne (Monastery Products), which pays Cistercian monks a licensing fee to use their trademark, recipes, and raw materials, is listing on the exchange’s smaller companies’ alternative marketRead more

A rising middle class, expanding population and stagnant local agricultural production are driving up Africa’s food imports. Bad luck is partly to blame. Weather-related damage has hit rice crops in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Niger and Madagascar. Foot and mouth disease has hurt Egypt’s bovine sector, and cassava – one of Africa’s major offerings to world agricultural trade – is being felled by a fast-spreading virus.

But policy volatility is also at fault. Nigeria – Africa’s largest rice importer – announced a hike in import taxes last year which prompted a sudden rise in purchases. And across Africa, weak infrastructure hinders agri-markets.

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Brazilians must be broke – they’ve even stopped drinking beer, it seems.

Anheuser-Busch InBev on Tuesday blamed disappointing profits in the first quarter on lower beer volumes both in the US and Brazil.

Total volumes fell 4.1 per cent after a hefty 8.2 per cent drop in beer volumes in the Latin American country. Read more

By Tassos Stassopoulos of AllianceBernstein

Evolving trends in emerging markets are not always driven by macro-economic policies or demographics. Sometimes, something as simple as a fridge can change millions of people’s lives and re-define an entire industry.

This is exactly what’s happening in India’s milk market. The world’s second most-populous nation is also the world’s largest market for milk, yet less than 20 per cent of households own a fridge. The popularity of the white stuff in India, combined with the proliferation of refrigerators from a very low base, are perfect conditions for a milk boom, driving by the unique consumer situation in this market. Read more

It took him a long time to reel in his trophy, but it looks as though Russian alcohol and finance magnate Roustam Tariko has finally landed Poland’s Central European Distribution Company, a leading regional vodka producer.

In an announcement on Monday, Nasdaq-listed CEDC said that it was going into Chapter 11 proceedings which will result in Tariko’s Roust Trading owning all the shares of the reorganised company. Read more

Looking much like the sketches from Charles Darwin’s “Voyage of the Beagle”, the wrapper illustrations on the chocolate bars made by Ecuador’s República del Cacao make much of the traditions and history of Ecuadorian chocolate, and of the adventures and journeys of discovery made by its pioneer chocolatiers.

Now República del Cacao is embarking from its own humble origins on a similar voyage of discovery. Read more

Tourists associate Bolivia with dizzy heights, blindingly white salt flats and Aymara women in flouncy skirts, plaits and tiny bowler hats. But haute cuisine? Not so much.

Unlike neighbouring Peru, which has pioneered a new Andean cuisine that has charmed Europe and the United States and attracted a valuable new class of tourist – the foodie – to the country, Bolivian “fine dining” tends to mean foreign food.

But Claus Meyer, the chef behind Denmark’s Noma, thrice named the best restaurant in the world, is determined to change that. Read more

Starbucks is launching its first espresso branded with a place of origin – undeterred by the fact that Guatemala, home of the new “cocoa and baked spices” brew has declared a state of agricultural emergency because of rampant coffee tree fungus.

Guatemala’s blighted crops and 275,000 coffee farmers stand in sharp contrast to the pomp surrounding Monday’s launch of the Guatemala Antigua, the first time Starbuck’s customers anywhere will have a choice of bean for their drink. Read more