Natural Foods Merchandiser


Program watches the watchdogs
A new project from Consumers Union aims to provide shoppers with timely information about food safety and to pressure government agencies to improve oversight of the food industry.

The Website made its debut Dec. 7. It includes ?You Are What They Eat,? an investigative report about animal feed, mad cow disease and what CU considers lax oversight by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture.

Consumers Union is urging Congress to provide the FDA and USDA with the power to order mandatory recalls of contaminated food. ?There?s more and more attention being paid to this,? research biologist Michael Hansen says.

Momentum picks up in mergers, acquisitions
As the stock market strengthens, merger and acquisition activity in the food business has increased, and Pat Turpin of USBX Advisory Services expects the trend to accelerate next year, especially among healthy-food producers. In the first three quarters of 2004, M&A transactions rose 36 percent from the year-ago period.

Turpin cites such strategic deals as Hain Celestial Group?s acquisitions of H.J. Heinz Co.?s Ethnic Gourmet and Rosetto brands and Jason Natural Cosmetics. Kerry Group PLC, a global food conglomerate, bought Oregon Chai, Extreme Foods and Da Vinci Gourmet. Monterey Pasta paid $8.5 million to acquire Cibo Naturals.

Financial investors in the naturals and healthy sector include New York private equity group Harvest Partners, which invested at least $50 million of equity to acquire Levlad Inc., maker of Nature?s Gate personal care products.

Turpin writes, ?In the near term, the lack of larger acquisition targets will continue to force strategic and financial buyers alike to look at smaller transactions in this sector.?

OrderDog system learns new tricks
Retailer suggestions prompted OrderDog Inc. to improve search and buying functions and to offer a leasing package that includes Order Management Service and the iPAL scanner.

The Lewisville, Texas, company rolled out a more accurate search across half a million items from more than 250 vendors. It includes a partial-word-matching feature; simplified vendor and brand look-up; a better shopping cart; prices from multiple vendors on all product pages; ordering by UPC or item ID numbers; and saved shopping lists for future orders.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 2/p. 14

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