Friday, August 14, 2020 launches first US online food trade show: ‘Food and beverage is a high priority’ for b2b platform launches first US online food trade show: ‘Food and beverage is a high priority’ for b2b platform

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

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John Caplan: charges suppliers a flat annual membership fee of $2,399 to list their wares on the platform, but does not charge commission on transactions

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For the bulk of its 21-year lifespan, served as an online directory to help buyers identify Chinese suppliers of everything from farm equipment to iPhone cases. Today, it’s a multibillion-dollar global b2b e-commerce platform, and food & beverage is a “high priority development area,” says president for North America and Europe John Caplan.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA ahead of’s​ first online trade show (August 18-21) dedicated to US food & beverage​, Caplan said the last three years had been transformative for the platform, which charges suppliers* a flat annual membership fee of $2,399 to list their wares on, but does not charge a commission on transactions.

‘This year the platform will do well north of $20bn of transactions’

He added: “ started 20 years ago as a kind of yellow pages directory for the highest quality factories in China – mainly small and mid-size businesses - to demonstrate their capabilities, and buyers from around the world could go there to make connections… so for years, it was all about qualified leads going to quality suppliers, primarily in China.

“But when my team and I got involved ​[just over two years ago], we authored a business plan that looked at transforming from being a directory into an end-to-end transaction platform, so you could not only find the factory, but message the factory, negotiate with the factory, create a contract with the factory, have an escrow service, have integrated logistics, and create an end-to-end platform with a suite of services.”

The second element of the transformation, he said, was about expanding’s geographical reach beyond China: “We began an initiative to add suppliers from all over the world, from Vietnam to India, to Italy and Germany, and then in July 2019, we opened up the platform to make it available for US small and mid-size businesses so they could sell to someone 8,000 miles away… but also to their neighbor two cities away.”

To put this in context, he said, “When I joined the company a couple of years ago, we did zero dollars in transactional volume, and this year the platform will do well north of $20bn of transactions.”

‘Food & beverage is a high priority development area for the business’

So what kinds of US food & beverage brands might benefit from joining Alibaba, and who are they trying to reach?

Some CPG brands might be trying to attract buyers at domestic retailers such as Walmart, Kroger and Target, he said, while others might be looking to interest buyers in Europe or southeast Asia. US-based CPG manufacturers are also using the platform to connect with ingredients suppliers from China and other countries, he said, noting that around 60% of the buyers on are based in the US or Europe.

Food and beverage is a high priority development area for the business. The global food and beverage market is incredibly fragmented and we wanted to welcome food & beverage entrepreneurs and give them access to well north of 8 million business buyers that are on our platform every day in 190 countries.

“Say you’re a hot sauce company in Detroit looking to reach buyers in San Francisco or Toronto, then is the place to do it.”

To raise their profile on the site, sellers can buy advertising, he said, but “does not eat into your margins.”

As for the rankings (ie. which suppliers appear on the first page of a search, for example), these are based primarily on buyer feedback and ratings, he said. “If you’re highly responsive, and you have robust product descriptions, compelling video content, the more value you provide for end buyers, and the better you’ll do as a seller.”

To reassure users on the platform, has a product called Trade Assurance​, whereby if a participating buyer purchases 12 container loads of tomato paste, for example, the funds go into escrow. When the goods arrive, the buyer confirms that they are as represented in the agreement, and if so, the funds are then released to the seller, said Caplan.

Online trade show August 18-21

While a lot of US manufacturers procure food ingredients via, it’s still very early days for the platform when it comes to attracting US food & beverage companies selling CPG brands, he acknowledged (most of the food & beverage​ CPG brands currently listed are from Asia although there are some familiar brands such as Oreos, Fanta, Gerber and Mtn Dew sold by third parties based in Europe, for example).  

However, the new US food & beverage online trade show​ (August 18-21) is designed to raise awareness of among US food and beverage brands, and help firms from RXBAR and Split Nutrition to Elmhurst and The Matzo Project connect with buyers at a time when all of the key food trade shows have been canceled thanks to COVID-19, he said.

The event, which will feature one-on-one meetings, ‘speed dating’ and educational presentations, will enable qualified brands to present their wares and “meet high quality buyers one on one, but also build their brand by having a global audience tune in and see their capabilities,” ​added Caplan.

"The event is going to be livestreamed across all of Alibaba's social media channels, so folks in 190 countries around the world can also tune in and watch."

Asked whether leading US retailers see Alibaba as a place to discover new food & beverage CPG brands, he said: “Increasingly they do. As we digitize more food and beverage products, we attract more of the enterprise buyers from the big retailers.”

So what kinds of CPG brands tend to benefit the most from joining The bread and butter of the site is small and medium sized companies, said Caplan, but even some larger brands that may have contacts and distribution networks all over the world may "still have parts of the market that they don't penetrate​," he said.

Launched in 1999 by Jack Ma,​ is part of Alibaba Group​, which operates multiple businesses, including the world's biggest b2c e-commerce marketplace Taobao​.

* Sellers go through a verification process when they join, whereby a third party company reviews the proposed seller’s business documents (articles of incorporation/W9 etc) to confirm that a company stakeholder is applying to, ensure that the supplier is a legitimate business and that the person who is signing the company up has the authority to do so.

Impossible Foods raises another $200m; products under development include milk and steaks

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Impossible Foods raises another $200m; products under development include milk and steaks

By Elaine Watson 

 - Last updated on  GMT

Impossible Foods raises another $200m; products under development include milk and steaks

RELATED TAGS: plant-based meatplant-basedImpossible Foods

Impossible Foods has raised $200m in a Series G funding round led by new investor Coatue, with participation from existing investors including Mirae Asset Global Investments and Temasek as well as new investor XN. The move brings its total funding since 2011 to about $1.5bn.

The money will be used to expand its R&D programs; accelerate its manufacturing scaleup; increase its retail presence and its availability in key international markets; and accelerate commercialization and development of “next-generation, plant-based products​” including Impossible Pork, milk, steak and other foods, said CFO David Lee in a press release​.

“2020 has been a year of explosive growth for us, but this is just the beginning. We plan to create plant-based upgrades for every major category of animal-derived food products. This investment will allow us to continue to develop and commercialize the technology that will enable that transformation.”

New products: ‘Plant-based upgrades for every major category of animal-derived food products…’

Impossible Foods – which has a stated goal to “produce a full range of meats and dairy products for every cultural region in the world” ​​– recently launched the Impossible Sausage, but is also working on other products, chief communications officer Rachel Konrad told FoodNavigator-USA in March.

“We started with beef, because unquestionably beef is #1 from an environmental perspective, followed by pork, which is the most ubiquitous animal meat in the world. But Pat Brown is also really concerned about how we’re strip mining the oceans, which is utterly unsustainable, so we’ve done a lot of prototyping around fish.”​​

As for dairy, she said: “Our goal is to collapse the livestock industry and that means going after every piece of consumer value that comes out of a cow.”​​

'When we launch Impossible Milk From Plants, it will truly rival milk from cows'

The company has not said whether its approach to the dairy category will be plant-based (using nuts, seeds, legumes etc) or whether it plans to produce 'real' dairy proteins via microbial fermentation (along the lines of what Perfect Day ​​​​is doing) given its experience with yeast fermentation to produce the star ingredient in its burgers: heme.

Published patents don’t provide too many clues as to what the company is working on today, although a patent​​​ published in April 2015 describes methods of producing non-dairy milks and cheeses using a variety of plant-based sources from nuts and seeds to legumes.

Speaking to us this morning, Konrad added: "The current generation of plant-based milks are delicious... but you wouldn't confuse the current generation of plant-based milks with milk from cows. When we launch Impossible Milk From Plants, it will truly rival milk from cows."

Jaw-dropping sums

Impossible Foods has raised a jaw-dropping amount of money for a food startup (the latest round values the startup at a cool $4bn, according to PrimeUnicorn Index), albeit one supported by a lot of IP, acknowledged president Dennis Woodside in an interview with FoodNavigator-USA last year.

However, the addressable market is huge, he argued: "Think about the market opportunity. Our investors are smart and they are thinking long term, and there are very few companies that can say with a straight face, 'Every person on the planet is a potential customer.

“A lot of tech companies with very big valuations can't say that. The market potential, if we are successful, is absolutely vast​​.”

Impossible burgers retail pack

The plant-based Impossible Burger is now available at 2,100 Walmart stores in 50 states, says Impossible Foods, which has been aggressively ramping up its retail presence this year, with distribution expanding from just 150 stores in January 2020 to more than 8,000 today including Trader Joe's, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Gelson’s, H-E-B, Kroger, Safeway, Stop & Shop, and Wegmans.

The Unsung Meal Maker: Lentils Can Improve Cost, Environment and Nutrition of Food Products



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The Unsung Meal Maker: Lentils Can Improve Cost, Environment and Nutrition of Food Products

As the demand for nutritious, environmentally-responsible food products continues to grow, so too does the interest in more plant-heavy diets. According to insight from Datassential, nearly one-third of Americans identify as flexitarian, and a majority of consumers—regardless of dietary preference— are interested in increasing the grains, nuts, and legumes in their diets.

Developing a plant-based product that is nutritious, cost-effective, versatile and tasty can be a tall order. How can food manufacturers meet these changing consumer demands? The answer may lie in a protein-packed ingredient that has been used for centuries: lentils. A new study​ funded by​ and Pulse Canada,​ explores just how lentils can make a difference in manufacturing costs, environmental impact and nutrition.

Lentils Multimedia Image

All About Lentils

Lentils are a type of pulse crop, along with beans, field peas, chickpeas, and faba beans. The term “pulse” is used to describe the dry, edible seeds of legumes. Lentils come in a variety of shapes and sizes, though the most commonly grown varieties in North America are red and green lentils. Lentils are relatively inexpensive, nutrient-dense, and can be stored for up to a year without refrigeration, making them a staple in dishes across the globe. From Indian dal to pumpkin muffins, lentils are ingredient champions and extremely versatile—not only can they help improve the nutrition of food products, but they can help improve the cost and environmental impact as well.

Lentils are high in protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates and low in fat and calories. They are also great sources of essential minerals and nutrients, including potassium, folate, iron, and manganese. On their own, lentils are plant protein superstars—but when added to meat-based recipes like meatballs and burgers, lentils pack an extremely powerful punch. The and Pulse Canada study found that substituting just one-third of a lean beef patty with cooked lentils results in a blended burger that is more nutritious.2​ The research found that the blended burger had an added 3 grams of fiber, 12% fewer calories, 32% less saturated and total fats and 32% less cholesterol per 4oz serving.

Incorporating lentils into food products can also help their environmental impact. The same study found that reformulating a lean beef patty with 33% cooked lentil puree reduced the burger’s carbon footprint, water footprint and land-use footprint by about 33%. About one in four Americans (27%) say they have rewarded food companies that take steps to reduce their impact on the environment by buying their products at least once in the last 12 months.3​ As food manufacturers trying to meet sustainability goals know, a 33% reduction in key environmental measures can make a significant impact.

Additionally, as a source of plant protein, lentils are particularly unique because they are carbon negative—meaning they actually remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than they emit during their production. 

Not only do lentils offer positive nutrition and environmental impacts, but they can help manufacturers and their bottom lines, too. At the time of the study, and Pulse Canada found that the cost per serving for a lean ground beef burger was 65 cents while the cost for the blended burger was 48 cents per serving—a 26% reduction in production costs.4

Lentils Multimedia Image 2

Market Opportunities

With 33% of Americans identifying as flexitarian, we’re already starting to change the way we think about food. The industry is swiftly adapting, already seeing a huge growth in the application of pulses. For context, in 2008, 1,500 new products with pulse ingredients were launched worldwide; in 2018, that number rose to more than 8,000.5

Our diets aren’t black-and-white anymore, and the products we purchase don’t have to be either. Even small formulation changes can have a positive impact on manufacturing and the food industry as a whole. As the flexitarian market continues to grow, more consumers will look to brands that offer products with plant blends and plant-based ingredients. Lentil blends like the lentil-beef burger provide manufacturers an opportunity to develop a host of blended food products—ranging from patties to pasta sauce—that not only address this trend, but improve their products’ nutrition, environmental impact and cost, too.


Study: Plant-based meat alternatives improve cardiovascular risk factors compared with animal meat

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Study: Plant-based meat alternatives improve cardiovascular risk factors compared with animal meat

By Mary Ellen Shoup 

 - Last updated on  GMT

Photo Credit: Beyond Meat
Photo Credit: Beyond Meat

RELATED TAGS: plant-based meatBeyond meat

Adults who swapped out animal protein for plant-based protein saw lower levels of LDL cholesterol, moderate weight loss, and similar sodium intake and blood pressure levels (compared to animal protein consumption) after eight weeks, revealed a two-phase study conducted by researchers at Stanford Medicine and funded by Beyond Meat.

The SWAP-MEAT (The Study With Appetizing Plantfood—Meat Eating Alternatives Trial), published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, was conducted as a single-site, randomized crossover trial with no washout period. 36 participants (67% women, 69% Caucasian) received plant and animal products, dietary counseling, lab assessments, microbiome assessments, and anthropometric measurements.

The study was funded by an unrestricted gift from Beyond Meat and used products from the company in comparing the health effects of animal meat with plant-based meat. Beyond Meat was not involved in designing or conducting the study and did not participate in data analysis.

Addressing the health backlash vs plant-based alternatives

While plant-based protein has seen strong consumer adoption from people looking to minimize their meat intake (for health or environmental reasons), some brands in the space have come under fire over the use of ingredients such as coconut oil (high in saturated fat) and their 'highly processed' credentials.

"There's been this sort of backlash against these new meat alternatives,"​ said lead researcher, Christopher Gardner, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

"The question is, if you're adding sodium and coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat, and using processed ingredients, is the product still actually healthy?"

To find out, study participants were split into two groups with one cohort instructed to consume at least two servings a day of plant-based protein (i.e. a variety of Beyond Meat products) and the other group told to eat two servings per day of animal protein (primarily red meat and sometimes chicken) for eight weeks while keeping all other foods and beverages as similar as possible between the two phases. Then the two groups switched diets.

"Whereas the plant-meat and animal-meat products were provided, the remainder of the diet was self-selected, thus limiting the ability to control the intake of other foods and nutrients,​" acknowledged the authors. "Although this limited the rigor of dietary control, it increased the generalizability of the findings."

Beyond Meat Burger vs. 100% Beef Burger Nutrition


‘Not all highly processed foods are created equal’

The effect consuming plant-based meat alternatives for eight weeks straight had on participants is statistically and clinically significant, said Gardner.

Researchers found that participants' levels of LDL cholesterol dropped, on average, 10 milligrams per deciliter after consuming plant-based products for eight weeks. In addition, participants lost an average of 2 lbs during the plant-based portion of the diet.

"The modest weight loss observed when participants substituted the plant-based meats in place of the red meats is an unexpected finding, since this was not a weight-loss study,"​ added lead author of the study, Anthony Crimarco, PhD.

"I think this indicates the importance of diet quality. Not all highly processed foods are created equal," ​noted Crimarco.

Another notable indicator of the health impact replacing animal with plant-based alternatives can have was participants levels of fasting serum TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), a molecule linked to cardiovascular disease risk. One study​ found that people with elevated TMAO had a 60% higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events such as a heart attack.

According to the study findings, TMAO levels were lower when study participants were eating plant-based meat.

“At this point we cannot be sure that TMAO is a causal risk factor or just an association," ​Gardner said, but noted that TMAO is an emerging risk factor health area to pay attention to in future related health studies.

Source​: A randomized crossover trial on the effect of plant-based compared with animal-based meat on trimethylamine-N-oxide and cardiovascular disease risk factors in generally healthy adults: Study With Appetizing Plantfood—Meat Eating Alternative Trial (SWAP-MEAT) 

Authors​: Anthony Crimarco, Sparkle Springfield Christina Petlura, Taylor Streaty, Kristen Cunanan, Justin Lee, Priya Fielding-Singh, Matthew M Carter, Madeline A Topf, Hannah C Wastyk, Erica D Sonnenburg, Justin L Sonnenburg, and Christopher D Gardner

The Fiber Effect: Why Immune Health Matters & How the Food Industry is Innovating in the Era of COVID-19


The Fiber Effect: Why Immune Health Matters & How the Food Industry is Innovating in the Era of COVID-19

Format: External webinar | Document type: Webinar

The Fiber Effect: Why Immune Health Matters & How the Food Industry is Innovating in the Era of COVID-19

The pandemic has changed the way consumers think about and purchase foods. Their definition of healthy is evolving and immune health is gaining serious mindshare. We’ll take an in-depth look at what foods are gaining relevance, especially fiber-rich products, through the latest consumer trend data. And, with the link between immune health and prebiotic fiber evolving, we’ll share the most recent nutrition science on why these products are increasingly relevant now. We’ll also take a closer look at products that are bringing new fiber-rich foods to consumers through unexpected applications.

Preventive Health, Wellness and Nutrition: Self-care in Focus


Preventive Health, Wellness and Nutrition: Self-care in Focus

Preventive Health, Wellness and Nutrition US

Staying well has never been more important as Americans deal with unprecedented levels of anxiety and economic uncertainty. At the same time, budgets are tightening and consumers are looking for affordable foods and beverages that deliver the nutrition that they are looking for.

In this webinar, we explore how consumers are thinking about self-care. Is it about healthier eating, or are they ditching the diet and indulging more? Where are the growth opportunities in functional foods and beverages as we come out of this crisis? (From collagen, choline, and plant-based proteins, to vitamins and minerals, beta-glucans, resistant starch, pre- and probiotics, omega-3s, adaptogens, trending botanicals, and energizing ingredients such as green tea and guarana.)