News briefs: Alcohol sales, Sara Lee and functional beverages

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Drink, Coffee, Mintel

This week in briefs, examines how alcohol beats recession, Sara Lee beefs up its coffee business, and Uruguay sees the launch of its first cholesterol-lowering drink.

Americans pay up for alcohol

Consumers in the US view alcohol as an “indulgent pleasure” ​that they are not willing to give up despite the tight economic environment, according to Mintel.

New research from the firm reveals that despite tighter finances, higher fuel costs and more expensive bar tabs, Americans are not drinking less. Instead, they are increasingly opting to drink at home, it said.

The market researcher places alcohol in the same bracket as chocolate and cigarettes, all of which, it said, “seem relatively recession-proof”.​ Sales continue to remain strong and steady, following a historic performance from these sectors during times of economic recession, it said.

"People might be cutting back or switching to store-brands, but they definitely aren't giving up their small daily indulgences,"​ said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst at Mintel.

Mogelonsky said that most Americans can still afford these products, no matter how much their finances have been cut. "Because people are being so cautious with their spending, they feel they are entitled to small rewards and they won't give them up easily."

Mintel’s research reveals that the market for at-home alcohol is expected to reach $77.8bn in 2008, a 32 per cent increase from 2003. Mintel expects both in-home and out-of-home alcohol sales to rise steadily in coming years.

Sara Lee invests in coffee

US bakery and packaged food giant Sara Lee has made one more step towards the beveage market, announcing yesterday that it intends to acquire a Brazilian coffee business.

The transaction for Sao Paulo-based Café Moka is due to close next month, and will be filed with the Brazilian competition authorities for review and approval.

The company, which recorded $65m net sales in 2007, serves the mainstream and econmy market, and its products are sold in 4,000 retail outlets.

CEO of Sara Lee’s international beverage and bakery business Frank van Oers said the acquisition will strengthen its postition in the Brazilian coffee market, and has “ample expansion opportunities”.

"The transaction also includes a green coffee processing plant, which will give us access to the coffee farmers in Brazil´s main coffee growing state Minas Gerais and will help to advance our sustainable coffee program even further,"​ he said.

Last October, the company said it would double the amount of sustainable coffee used in its brands to 20,000 tonnes, a move it said would make it the market leader in the category.

Cholesterol-lowering drink hits Uruguay

Canadian ingredient manufacturer Forbes Medi-Tech said today that its flagship Reducol cholesterol-lowering ingredient is being used ina a dairy beverage to be marketed in Uruguay.

The new drink, which will be marketed under the Vital+ brand and distributed by Conaprole, is said to be the first cholesterol-lowering dairy product to be launched in Uruguay.

Reducol contains plant sterols and stanols, commonly known as phytosterols, which the firm says have been clinically proven to significantly lower Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol.

The global market for phytosterols was recently estimated by Leatherhead Food International to be worth some US$555m to $585m. It is seen as one of the most compelling areas of the functional food market; the first carrier products were fats and margarines, but now sterol-containing juices, milks and yoghurts are coming on the market.

According to Laura Wessman, senior vice president, Forbes Operations, the new product launch demonstrates how the company is expanding the reach of its ingredient in a variety of different applications.

These include yoghurts, yoghurt drinks, processed cheese, breads, milk drinks and spreads.

Last month, Forbes said its revenues from phytosterols in the first six months of 2008 had increased to C$2.69m, from $2.11m in the same period of last year.

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