Food and Drink

Shuanghui sausages on display at a Beijing supermarket

First Alibaba, then Watson, now WH Group. The decision from the world’s top pork producer – with dominant businesses in China, the US and much of Europe – to ditch its initial public offering in Hong Kong is not just a blow to the company, which must now fork out millions in extra debt service costs, but also to the city itself. Having started the year with four possible blockbuster deals, Hong Kong will be lucky now to get even one.

The first blow came in January, when Hong Kong Electric – a spin-off by Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong – chose to slash the size of its deal on tepid demand. Even the smaller deal was tough – getting it over the line was a ‘near-death experience’ according to those familiar with the sale. Investors just weren’t convinced.

 Read more

Adam Jones

Oral haptics – more simply known as “mouthfeel” – is one of the food industry’s subtler (or murkier) arts. New research gives an intriguing glimpse into how snackmakers can use it to manipulate grazing customers: for better or for worse.

A group of people were offered either a hard or soft version of the same chocolate and asked to estimate how many calories it contained. They erroneously assumed that the hard version had fewer calories, when the energy content in each of the treats was actually the same. Read more

The world has a new banana behemoth. While investors will be preoccupied with the earnings per share implications of Monday’s merger between Chiquita and Fyffes, the deal is important for banana eaters and growers too. Here are three key questions about the merger.

1. How big is the banana market and is this new company going to dominate it? Read more

Andrew Hill

Million-dollar endorsement: Honus Wagner teaches lessons to modern celebrities (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Bloomberg)

In the strange world of celebrity endorsements, it is usually the brand that dumps the celebrity – as happened, say, when Nike dropped cycling cheat Lance Armstrong in 2012 – rather than vice versa. So it stood out last week when Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan revealed he stopped endorsing Pepsi some years ago, after a young girl asked him why he was advertising a drink her teacher said was “poisonous”.

“The Big B’s” declaration, during a talk with Indian business school students, coincided with a controversy that took the more predictable route. Actress Scarlett Johansson maintained her endorsement of SodaStream, the Israeli fizzy drinks company, and severed ties with Oxfam, the charity for which she had been a long-standing (and, people in the NGO world tell me, interested and involved) goodwill ambassador.

But his wider comments shed light on the other side of such endorsements and how celebrities can limit the risk of cross-contamination. Read more

Emma Jacobs

Usually limited to geeky product launches such as iPhones or high-street fashion collaborations, such as H&M’s tie-up with Karl Lagerfeld, the cronut queuers are inspired by similar motivations.

There are bonders who come to meet people who share their cake interests. And then there is the trophy value of being caught in the media and buzz. Even a humble cronut has bragging rights attached to it: “All day I waited for the flaky donut confection,” queuers will tell their children one day. Read more

Andrew Hill

No doubt, if Microsoft reverses course over Windows 8 – for instance, by restoring the familiar “Start” button to the opening screen – it will provide abundant fodder for the writers of business school case studies.

But is the comparison with Coca-Cola’s famous 1985 marketing U-turn, when it brought back “Coke Classic” following a consumer backlash against its “New Coke” recipe, correct? Read more

It has been a frustrating week for well-intentioned and interventionist political leaders. Michael Bloomberg and David Cameron have been roundly defeated in their efforts to prod citizens into health.

Not since Sweeney Todd has there been such uncertainty about what exactly goes into processed meat. This time, it isn’t the customers of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street but Romanian horses.