Santa Maria – how to sell (mostly) sugar and salt for 359 sek/kg.

 Recently, I had reasons to look a little closer at the food company Santa Maria’s assortment – they who supply all of Sweden with their ”Friday-tacos”. It led to a thorough examination of their ingredient lists and ended with the email below, which was signed today and sent to Santa Maria.


Hi Santa Maria! Since some time back, I’ve followed your business and I’m writing to express my admiration for your sense regarding business. It actually started when I was about to  buy a rub in the store and fell for this one:

Just the word chipotle makes me feel good, but as usual (an acquired work injury), I could not help examining the ingredients:

Sugar. And the nutrition declaration:

34 grams of sugar. Ok? In my opinion, a rub should primarily consist of spices. At first, I was pretty doubtful, I’ll admit that. But then I glanced at the kilo price:

359 sek/kg. It’s quite brilliant. You make a spice-mix where one third is sugar, which has a world-market price of around three SEK, mix it with salt (that I guess is even cheaper), a little lemon peel and other spices and then it becomes a product where sugar and salt are sold for more than a HUNDRED times what it’s worth.

A profit machine

I hope you don’t perceive me as intrusive, but already in the store, I had to visit the site, to check your annual report. Darn, you’re making money – year after year! 217 million in profit and a profit margin of 13.16 percent last year. Economy is not my strong side – but I assume you all are pretty pleased with that? You beat Nordic Sugar’s profit margin of 8.87 percent by far. Arla and Dafgårds are moving in slow-motion with their 4.8 and 6.03 percent.

Your profitability caused some curiosity. How do you get such a viable company in the tough world of food industry?

Chemistry instead of raw ingredients

In your case, it must have been about hiring chemists instead of cooks. Take your guacamole for example. In store, Tóp and you are about the same kilo price, but they have 95 percent avocado in their guacamole while you have succeded to reduce the amounts to 1.5 percent. It’s just to congratulate: of course, it’s better business to sell a hodgepodge colored with chlorophyll (e141), mostly made from water and that gets its consistency with starch and thickeners, than to sell a real guacamole (that also must be cooled). People are so difficult when it comes to additives – but chlorophyll is all natural.

4 percent cheese instead of 62 percent

I bet you also feel satisfied with the composition of the Cheddar Cheese dip. Again, you’re able to have the same price as your competitors, but without spending money on expensive raw ingredients. Your main ingredients: skim milk, water, sunflower oil, modified starch (tapioca), cheddar cheese (4%), salt…

Texas Longhorn’s main ingredients: Water, Cheese (Cheddar cheese (48%), Cheese (14%), Water, Butter, Milk Protein…

A thumb up to the longhorn, who has 15 times more cheese in it’s dip.

Sauces based on water and sugar

The price per kilo on some of your sauces is also impressive. The Pad Thai sauce (124 sek/liter in store), Sweet Chili (52 sek/liter) and American BBQ (96 sek/liter) as some kind of development of ketchup (25 sek/liter). Your sauces costs more than ketchup, but instead of expensive tomato puree, you base the sauces on water and sugar, or sugar and water. At least there is some variation!

Dextrose – the main ingredient of the ”taco-spice”

Then you’ve been very wise when it comes to the presentation of the ingredients in your best-selling ”taco-spice” (355 sek/kg):

At first I wondered why you had put chilipeppers, cumin and garlic into the group ”spices”. But of course, it’s so that dextrose won’t be first on the list. If you had presented the spices separately (as you still do in parentheses), all spices had fallen after dextrose. Then the list would be:

Dextrose, onions (19%), chilli peppers (11%), cumin (10%), garlic (6%), salt, oregano (4%), yeast extract, potato starch, potato fiber, antifungal agent (e551), seasoning extracts (peppers).

Clearly, the spice mix sells better if you’re able to conceal that it’s based primarily on sugar. One tip: oregano is also a spice, which you can put in the parenthesis (before dextrose).

I’m sorry this all became so lengthy. Before I finish, I just want to say that I miss a part of your Tex Mex assortment: the minced meat itself. Can that also be made out of water, sugar and modified starch?


Ann Fernholm

Ps. I eventually bought another rub that gave me more spices for the buck.

Ann Fernholm runs the blog and has written the best-selling books ”Ett sötare blod”, ”Det sötaste vi har” and ”Smakäventyret”. She writes here at Food Pharmacy once a week.

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Three favorite supplements.

1) We usually try to stress that you can get most of the nutrition you need through your food, but as our nutritionist Maria Berglund Rantén wrote so wisely on Monday: itamin D  (from exposure to sunlight) is hard to get in the wintertime, at least here in Sweden. We have received many questions about this, and people often ask what brand we choose. We are not strictly faithful to any particular brand, but recently we bought some liquid vitamin D in a bottle from Swedish Holistic. It has a cool little dropper, so we can administer a dose directly by mouth. Reminds us of puberty a bit (in a good way), those carefree childhood days when you could drink straight from the milk carton with no embarrassment.

2)  Omega-3 is another challenge, and is often just as hard to get enough of as Vitamin D. For this we like to go with krill-oil supplements. Yup, krill, those little guys you may know from the bottom of the food chain. Same thing goes here: we have no favorite brand. We usually just go to one of our trusty local health food stores, for example Lemuria on Nybrogatan in Stockholm (whose physical store location has unfortunately closed recently), or Gryningen on Folkungagatan, and ask what they recommend.

3) And last but not least, we take Stig’s Synbiotic15 every day. This is a supplement of good bacteria and fibers, which are so important in nurturing intestinal flora. The Swedish National Food Agency recommends that we eat 25 grams of fiber a day, so the 5 grams in Stig’s bag is a good start.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

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Book signing and The Court of Appeal.

Last Thursday, we had a very nice book signing at Alma. ”Alma” is not the name of a friend, it’s the name of the office space where we’re located. When people ask where in Stockholm it is, we usually answer ”old Beckmans College of Design”, and then about 30 percent knowingly nod their heads. For the remaining 70 percent, ”above the Asian restaurant Koh Phangan on Nybrogatan” usually works fine.

So here we are! One 42-year-old trainee, two crazy writers, a wonderful administrator and a brilliant designer. Food Pharmacy!

The 42-year-old trainee is, by the way, not only a trainee but also an absolutely exquisite musician. Right now, some of the tasks he’s taken on include helping us to record and edit our podcasts, as well as composing music for our lectures (!). In the picture above he can be seen warming up for the small performance he gave during the book signing. He was drumming on pots. And oven trays. And a grater. And it rocked!

We also gave a little speech and took the opportunity to boast a bit about the success of the books. Something you can do among friends.

And then we signed about 10,000 books (ish).

After that, we went out and had dinner with a select crew on Milles, but that’s a completely different story. High on all the attention, pep-talk and love, we could have stayed up all night if it weren’t for one little thing:

The lecture we had to give at 9 am at the Court of Appeal in Stockholm the following day.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

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Maria Berglund Rantén: One billion people have vitamin D deficiency.

It’s time for another interview with our new favorite nutritionist, Maria Berglund Rantén, and today we’ll talk about vitamin D. Or, to be correct, it’s actually about vitamin D3 (there are two different forms of vitamin D).

– So, how many people have vitamin D deficiency?

– There are studies from many different parts of the world that show that up to one billion people in the world have vitamin D deficiency – an extremely large number. This doesn’t only apply to people up North, it turns out that even in Miami and Sydney, in the midst of their summer, people have low levels of vitamin D too. With globally widespread vitamin deficiency chronically bad health has increased.

– It’s crazy that people who live in countries with much more sun than us in Sweden would lack a vitamin that you can easily get from the sun?

– I agree, it sounds crazy, but the fact is that people have become so insanely afraid to be out in the sun without sunscreen. It’s like we’ve been brainwashed by the entire sunscreen and dermatology industry that we will get cancer as soon as we’re out in the sun. Many people are really afraid and cover themselves and their children with sunscreen all day long. When using SPF 15 or more, you counteract the body’s chance of producing this valuable vitamin by 99%. In addition, we are moving less now than before. Children (and adults) can often find it hard to find things to do and feel bored outside (it’s so easy to get instant kicks from their mobile or iPad).

– But should you not use sunscreen?

– Of course you should protect yourself from not getting burned and prevent skin cancer, but we must get rid of the fear we have for the sun. Did you know that all cells in the body have vitamin D receptors? This means that your entire body is dependent on this vital vitamin to function normally and to be healthy. Sufficient or even better, optimal levels of vitamin D can prevent various cancers, chronic and autoimmune diseases, various inflammatory diseases, Crohns, diabetes, MS, infections, respiratory/pulmonary disorders, cardiovascular symptoms, depression and fractures. Have you noticed that some people, young and old, quite easily get fractures? If that is due to only a vitamin D deficiency, damaged intestinal villi that obstructs the absorption of vitamins and minerals needed to build the skeleton, or just bad luck is hard to say without testing …

– It’s interesting that deficiency can lead to depression. Many Swedes have low energy and are feeling depressed during the winter.

– Right! Vitamin D can be both an effective and inexpensive way to prevent depression. The body needs vitamin D to be able to produce serotonin. Imagine a person who always wears sunscreen during the summer, does not eat supplements for the rest of the year, and possibly has intestinal problems – no wonder that they feel low during our dark winter.

– How much are healthy and optimal levels?

– Ideally, you should bunker up on vitamin D during the summer months, and it should last you for the rest of the year. In the spring, is when one definitely has the lowest levels of vitamin D. Depending on where you live and what skin color you have (light skin produces more vitamin D), 5-30 minutes in the middle of the day 2-3 times a week should be enough. Take a walk with exposed arms and legs for example. A Spanish study showed that you can produce 1000 IU in ten minutes during a sunny summer day (in Spain). In the late summer/autumn it may take 30 minutes for the body to produce the same amount (same Spanish study). We who live here up in the north, and mostly wear thick clothes covering the skin, therefore need to take supplements. An adult may need anything between 2000-5000 IU daily, and children a little lower doses. If you have chronic and autoimmune diseases you’ll need more.

– You can also test your vitamin D levels.

– Yes, that’s true. You have a severe deficiency if you have less than 25 nmol/liter. A level between 25-50  is insufficiency according to conventional medical care, and over 75 is good. From a functional-medicine point of view, I think everything under 75 is bad. I prefer that people have levels around 100-150 nmol/liter. I often get the question if that’s not too much and I always answer: Do you know if you genetically have good vitamin D receptors that can actually use the levels you have in your body? If not, then you should be at this optimal level so that you give your body a fair chance to be healthy.

– And for people who do not want to add – what can they eat?

– I’m always able to offer dietary advice instead of supplements, but when it comes to vitamin D it’s harder. There is definitely some in fat fish (like salmon) and eggs, but the levels are so low. If you want to get your 2000 IU daily you have to consume 50 eggs, and before you have done that, you have already vomited … Therefore, I always recommend eating foods that are rich in vitamin D in addition to your dietary supplement.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

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Book signing for family and friends.

Sorry for the last-minute update, but we have been 1) editing the podcast all day (SO fun) and 2) prepping ourselves for this evening’s book signing with loved ones.

We never had a signing for the first book, and in general we don’t like to pat ourselves on the back too much. But today we have invited family and friends to the office to see and ”feel” the new book, have some bubbly (champagne) with us, and hug each other a lot.

And, rumor has it that our trainee Sebastian will be performing. It’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do, but last we saw him he was holding a) a saucepan and b) a drumstick.

To be continued.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

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This year’s inspirer.

”Congratulations! You are nominated in the category – This Year’s Inspirer – at the Swedish Health Awards 2017”.

That’s how the email begins that we just received from the Swedish Health Awards (correct, we are in Lina’s car getting some work done in between two meetings, with only 3% left of the battery, so we better hurry up before the computer dies). So, we are nominated for This Year’s Inspirer and if we’re really lucky we’ll get to receive this price from Swedish TV icon Agneta Sjödin, at Münchenbryggeriet in Stockholm, on November 9th.

Again – we’re not telling you this to brag, it’s more like a kind evidence that we are doing something good. After three years of hard work we finally get heard, and that inspires us to keep working, of course.

Anyhow, you can apparently vote for us here: We barley dare to ask you if… yes, you know… but we will be very happy if you can!

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

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Research on bacteria is all the rage these days.

When we were young, we learned three things:

  1. Pink is a girly color.
  2. You will go bankrupt if you call the ”Hot Line” too much.
  3. Bacteria are evil.

Don’t believe everything you learn – putting aside gender discussions and the problems surrounding ”hot lines,” today we are going to focus on bacteria.

Despite what we learned as kids – that germs are bad – research has since shown that we should not be thinking of bacteria as something to avoid. It’s actually quite impossible to avoid bacteria, as they outnumber the actual cells in your body (making you, in a sense, more bacterial than human).

To put it simply, bacteria can be divided into two categories: good and bad. The good bacteria protect us from various debris entering our bodies, and have proven to have a positive effect on our immune system, while the bad bacteria (if they grow too large in quantity) can make us sick. Therefore, research on good bacteria is now one of the hottest research areas, and every other day, we read about the exciting connections between our bacteria and our health.

The other day, our friend, science journalist Ann Fernholm, sent us the happy news that treatment with good bacteria, a so-called probiotic treatment, has been shown to help with peanut allergies. Researchers have known for some time that peanut allergies tend to decrease when the allergic person eats small doses of peanuts on a daily basis, but as soon as they stop, the allergy resurfaces. Now, however, it has been concluded that if the peanut treatment is combined with a good bacteria, known to have a calming effect on the immune system, called Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC 1.3724 (for those who feel like memorizing that), the effect may be long-lasting – at least for the majority of patients who have been treated.

This is just one example of all studies that show the positive effects of good bacteria on our health. We feel like we’re on to something! Might be time to make our coconut yoghurt, chock full of very good bacteria.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

Food Pharmacy

Fiber improves your memory, concentration and mood.

We usually brag about being nutrition hunters, and how it’s better to focus on what to add rather than remove when it comes to food. It’s easier, more enjoyable and also gives you greater chances of reaching long term goals. So, where does one start? What should you add if you could only add one thing? The answer is undoubtedly: FIBER (sorry for screaming).

Fiber is good for the good bacteria in our bodies, and helps them grow and reproduce. Fiber is also vital for a balanced intestinal flora, and studies constantly show the connection between a balanced flora and our health. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now discovered that fiber can improve our memory and learning ability. In this article, we read about how the food we eat affects the gut flora and therefore our health. The researchers have specifically studied how fiber affects the so-called metabolic system, that, if not taken care of, impacts our cognitive functions and learning ability negatively. High fiber foods can decrease the risk of inflammation in the body, and help with both the metabolism and the blood sugar regulation.

Are we surprised? Not at all. The only thing that bothers us is that only a minority reaches the FDA (and Swedish National Food Agency) recommended goal of 25 grams/day. Today’s tip is therefore to make this smoothie or our optimal dinner smoothie from our new cooking book, it’s filled with nutrition and fibers. And, why not add a small tube of Stig’s Synbiotic15 and increase the fiber content with 5 grams (and 15 billion bacterias, like icing on the cake).

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.


The chocolate cake that makes you wanna throw away all other recipes of chocolate cakes.

As you know we like talking, but today we thought the pictures could speak for themselves. Here you are, a style study in the best we know: chocolate cake.

The intestinal flora’s chocolate cake
(only 1 unfortunately) 

almost 1 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp grated coconut
10 fresh dates
5 tbsp cacao 
3 tbsp melted coconut oil
3 eggs
1 pinch of sea salt

Put a thin layer of coconut oil in the cake pan. Mix the dates and coconut. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and stir together. Then add the coconut oil, the eggs and stir again.

Pour the batter in a cake pan, and let it bake in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius. Our friend that introduced us to this cake had the oven at 175 Celsius for EXACTLY 10 minutes, but if you want to make the cake even healthier, you should lower the temperature and practice your patience. Better to take it out too early then too late, don’t want to miss the stickiness!

Let it cool in the fridge, and eat with fresh berries.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.

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Like us on Facebook.

We’ve noticed lots of new followers on our blog recently, guess that’s what happens when you release a new book? We were also guests at the Swedish TV show ”Malou after 10” on Monday (rerun from the spring). That probably also contributed to the new faces we see (yes, we are rocket scientists).

So now, we would like to take the opportunity to welcome you here! We recommend liking us on Facebook, that way you’ll get daily updates and links to other interesting articles. Click here or search for ”Food Pharmacy” on Facebook, it’s easy!

And if we were you, we would do it straight away, because tomorrow we’ll reveal the recipe for our chocolate cake (see picture above), something you don’t want to miss.

You’re more than welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And buy our first book in German here or in Polish here, and our new cookbook in Swedish here. And buy professor Bengmark’s Synbiotic15 here.