Kelapo Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is now available in the form of baking sticks. The pre-measured sticks allow customers to bake with this flavorful alternative to butter, says the company, one that is trans-fat free and complements tastes from savory to sweet. Each pack contains two 4-ounce baking sticks, each one of which measures out to ½ cup, or 8 tablespoons. The butter replacement ratio is 1:1, and recipes can be found inside each package.

Washington, D.C.—Pizza is a vegetable, right? According to Congress, it should be. Congress’ proposed changes to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-mandated school lunch programs have some people questioning whether the government has our children’s or our corporations’ best interests in mind.

Melbourne, Australia—A recent study by researchers from St. Vincent Hospital, Melbourne demonstrated that the merits of the Mediterranean Diet can extend beyond just weight loss.

A recently released study highlights the accessibility of organic food in the Southeastern portion of the United States, where investigations found price points lower, on average, at farmers’ markets than in chain stores. SCALE, Inc.’s Is Local Food Affordable for Ordinary Folks? report noted that organic was 16% less expensive at farmers markets in 88% of the studied communities in Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.

East Lansing, MI—Heart disease and diabetes risk can be reduced in teens by sticking to a diet rich in fiber, new research shows. While consuming certain vegetables and whole grains was correlated with avoiding these conditions, the study also found, perhaps surprisingly, saturated fat or cholesterol intake was not linked to a risk of metabolic syndrome in young people.

Black Beans and Spicy Refried Black Beans, two products from Eden Foods, Clinton, MI, were cited in Men’s Health magazine’s “The 125 Best Foods for Men,” in its November 2011 issue. The black beans were named best “Canned Bean,” and the refried beans were tops in the “Best Refried Bean” category. This marks the sixth time Eden products have been similarly honored in Men’s Health.

It is an exciting time to be involved with the sweetening of our foods and beverages. Chief among the factors driving change is the movement toward healthier foods, which for many consumers starts with how they ate sweetened. Manufacturers big and small are taking notice, and leveraging their changes in an effort to grab consumer attention. Food and commodity prices are other influencers, affecting product formulation across the manufacturing industry.

2011 has been another ride on the financial roller coaster. Anyone who has not felt the tremors, bumps and absolute death drops of the economy is extremely lucky. The same is true of small and large businesses alike, even though there are some rays of hope breaking through the cloudy economic storms. It’s arguable that the natural and organic industry is among the bright spots.

Introducing Ayala’s Herbal Water, a line of zero-calorie, USDA organic herb-infused drinks. Varieties such as Lemongrass Mint Vanilla and Cinnamon Orange Peel comprise the 16-oz. plastic bottle offerings, while Sparkling varieties are available in 25.4 and 12 oz. glass bottles. Ayala Laufer-Cahana, M.D., developed Herbal Water in 2005, and now they are available nationwide.