Four reasons to check out FERN’s SXSW panel on Big Food

Next week, FERN is headed to Austin, where I’m moderating two panels at SXSW! One of them — The Future of Big Food: What’s at Stake? — will take on big questions about where Big Food companies are headed. As eaters increasingly want transparency about ingredients, healthier options, and more sustainable packaging, where does that leave manufacturers? And will new labeling regulations shift the grocery environment? (No paywall)

FDA on ‘fast track’ to assess labeling of non-dairy milks

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday that it is moving ahead on modernizing its standards of identity for plant-based dairy alternatives, like soy and almond milks.

FDA plans to update definition of “milk”

Dairy farmers lament that the supermarket dairy case is packed with soy milk and almond milk as well as milk from cows. FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the agency will update its definition of milk over the next year. "An almond doesn't lactate, I will confess," said Gottlieb at a Politico showcase.

Is non-dairy milk about to be mainstream?

Market research company Mintel says sales of non-dairy milk grew 9 percent in 2015, while dairy milk sales fell 7 percent, the food industry news site Food Dive says. "The non-dairy segment started out as an alternative category catering to those with food allergies but it has since evolved beyond a trend."

Bipartisan group in Congress takes aim at plant-based milk

With sales of cow milk flat or falling and those of plant-based "milk" soaring, a bipartisan group of 34 House member sent a letter to the FDA, urging it to "more aggressively police the improper use of dairy terms, which are used on the labels of many products that have no real dairy ingredients," reports Feedstuffs.

Almonds gain bigger share of milk market

California is the U.S. leader in both dairy and almond production, and it illustrates the rise in popularity of almond milk while Americans are cutting back on milk from dairy cows, says Bloomberg. With a bit of a push from the multi-year drought, some dairy farmers are converting their fields to almond groves for a higher return per acre.