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Summit News

Top quotes from the Reuters Food Summit

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Here are some of the top quotes from speakers attending the Reuters Food Summit being held in Chicago:

RICHARD RAYMOND, UNDER SECRETARY FOR FOOD SAFETY, U.S.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

“The (meat) industry is right now fighting an image problem with the American consumer. We have to make certain what happened at Hallmark (Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co) never happens. Another hit like that and I’m afraid you see consumption of ground beef go into a tailspin.”

GARY RODKIN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CONAGRA FOODS INC CAG.N

“Historically, the last thing any of our sales people would want to do is go and talk about pricing with any customer. It’s never fun to do that, but the environment is such today that there’s much more understanding that there’s no choice ... even at Wal-Mart, prices are going up.”

JUAN CARLOS DALTO, CEO OF DANONE CO, A UNIT OF GROUPE

DANONE SA DANO.PA

“We don’t foresee today that we are going to have a significantly better cost structure. Milk is giving me good news, oil is giving us very bad news. We don’t foresee prices coming back ... we don’t believe we will be able to afford price decreases.

JIM CALI, GLOBAL HEAD OF CHEWING GUM BUSINESS, CADBURY

SCHWEPPES CBRY.L

“If there’s a good category to be in now, candy is not a bad one ... Fundamental demand for chewing gum is not as dependent on the economy as many other categories ... One of the things we need to be careful of is to not be overconfident that we’re recession proof.”

BOB GOLDIN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TECHNOMIC INC

“The consumer mindset among almost all income strata is they feel nervous, cautious. There are probably a lot of investment bankers on Wall Street right now who may feel that way as well. Per Se may not have as good a year this year.”

“This is the perfect storm for the food industry. I can never remember demand being as challenged, simultaneous with a terrible cost environment. The industry has benefited from relatively benign cost increases for a fairly extended time period. That certainly isn’t the case now. The industry has become preoccupied with cost. A year ago there was certainly some concern, but every food company you will talk to, that will be issue One, Two and Three on their minds right now.”

MICHAEL MENDES, CEO OF DIAMOND FOODS DMND.O

“Americans, when they are happy they like to eat, when they are upset they like to eat. We are quite pleased to be there at both ends of the spectrum.”

“The thing about food safety is it’s not something you can really trim your sales on. We look at it as a cost of being in the business. The damage you can do to your brand as a result of an issue related to a recall is very very expensive if not impossible to undo.”

(For summit blog: summitnotebook.reuters.com/)

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Gary Hill

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