Russia lifts nut import duties The Russian government has eliminated import duties on nuts used in confectionery and snack products, after a temporary zero-tariff stimulated the market, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The resolution, which came into effect 10 December 2007, applies to shelled cashew nuts, almonds, shelled hazelnuts and sesame seeds, the USDA agriculture report said. The decision comes as the Russian government is attempting to get rid of duties on foods that do not compete with Russia's domestic products, and could encourage foreign nut manufacturers to increase trade in the country. According to the USDA, the average import price for these commodities has shot up since the temporary resolution came into place, increasing 54 per cent compared to the January - June period 2006. The US is currently the largest supplier of almonds to the Russian market, and nut exports almost tripled under the more liberalized trade regime: to $36.1m or 6,444 metric tons in January - June 2007, from $12.7m or 3,766 metric tons during the same period last year. Herbal gum launched for overall mouth health A new chewing gum product contains a mixture echinacea, licorice, myrrh and gotu kola, as well as more xylitol than any other product, to keep all parts of the mouth healthy and bacteria free, the manufacturer claims. The mixture of herbs in PowerBite, the new gum from WhiteDove Herbals, supports mucous membranes in the gums, and thereby strengthens the gums by increasing blood flow and rebuilding lost tissue, the company said in a press release. The herbs also help protect against gum problems such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, the company added. The product also contains a higher concentration of Xylitol than in any other gum currently on the market - over 900mg - to help freshen breath and prevent tooth decay. According to market analysts Global Business Insights, functional and sugar free gum are currently the fastest growing confectionery category, as consumers turn towards products that are low in sugar and sweeteners, as well as having added health benefits. This category is expected to show compound annual growth rates of 9.5 per cent, compared to the overall confectionery average of 3.5 per cent, and will represent 67.8 per cent of the total gum category value by 2010 in the US, the analysts said. Hershey announces new executive team Hershey head David West this week announced the appointment of several new executives, after dire financial results prompted the US-based company to rethink its business strategy. The company first got rid of eight members of the executive team after third quarter margins fell a massive 13 percentage points from the same period in 2006. Consolidated net sales for the period also dropped by 1.2 per cent to $1.39bn, compared to $1.41bn the year before. West has now named John Bilbrey, former head of international operations, as senior vice president. "J.P.'s sense of urgency, proven record of delivering growth and knowledge of our brands and customers make him the right leader to continue our focus on regaining momentum in Hershey's North American business," West said. Other appointments include Ted Jastrzebski as president of Hershey International, and Michele Buck as global chief marketing officer. The new team will have to deal with controversies that continue to dog the company's progress, such as allegations of price fixing in Canada, and outrage over the "drug like" packaging used for a brand of Hershey mints.