As we work to provide insights from the full food and agriculture continuum, this week revealed many examples of the food system’s interdependence.

  • Bader Rutter sponsored and spoke at Ad Age Next: Food & Beverage, which showcased interesting perspectives on recovery.
  • Companies and organizations stopped to recognize agriculture’s critical role on Ag Day.
  • Your federal government made important rulings on organic foods, food stamps and school lunch.

“Leaders are … leaning in to build the future of agriculture. And when we’re grounded in a shared vision of what a decade of success looks like, we’re able to go further and faster together.”

Erin Fitzgerald, CEO, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action

What’s Next?

On March 23, nearly 400 food and beverage marketing professionals gathered online to learn what lies ahead as we emerge from the pandemic. Bader Rutter’s JoDee George and Corteva Agriscience’s Rajan Gajaria had a lively discussion around sustainability and its increasing relevance to consumers. Both agreed that business and sustainability shouldn’t have separate strategies. Here are five major themes we took away from the webinar. Take a look at the full report on our website.

  • Pivot is the word of the past year. Other interesting terms tossed around included lean-in food, a term coined by Buffalo Wild Wings; adaptogens, which could be the next big beverage trend; and point-of-sweat, a term Gatorade minted, perhaps not surprisingly.
  • New brand success depends on truly understanding your core audience. Again and again, start-up founders and brand managers of new products discussed how critical this is to ensuring growth.
  • Independent restaurants face a tough road. Chef Marcus Samuelsson outlined some grim statistics, predicting that full recovery for family-run operations could take up to 10 years.
  • Forward-thinking F&B sectors are thriving. Not new news by any stretch, but anecdotes about successful e-commerce, cook-at-home plans, and delivery were inspiring.
  • The future prioritizes sustainability. Most panelists provided insights about what the future might hold. Many agreed that sustainability and environmental stewardship will re-emerge as dominant themes during recovery.

The Ag Day

President Biden proclaimed March 23 National Agriculture Day to “recognize the unique and irreplaceable value that farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards have contributed to our Nation’s past and present.” Leaders from agriculture and allied industries weighed in.

  • The day was originally founded by the Agricultural Council of America in 1973, on the principle that “every American should understand how food and fiber products are produced.”
  • By far the most active platform on Ag Day this year was Twitter (often tagged #AgDay21). McDonald’s Supply Chain Sustainability manager Sara Kroopf thanked farmers for “resilient practices and mindset,” on … Twitter.
  • U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA) announced its Decade of Ag commitment to “investing in the next generation of agricultural systems, restoring our environment, regenerating natural resources and in doing so, strengthening the social and economic fabric of America.”
  • A coalition of 34 industry groups — ranging from farmers and foodservice to bakers and distillers — published the Feeding the Economy report. The report attributed 40 million jobs and $2 trillion of wages to the industry.
  • Kansas State University highlighted land grant universities’ role in ag research. And Farm Progress Edit Director Willie Vogt shared an ag-focused photo album.

Rollbacks and Rule Changes

Developments on food stamp requirements and organic rules fueled discussion this week. Meanwhile, momentum keeps building to reauthorize school lunch benefits in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack applauded the D.C. circuit court’s decision that allowed the USDA to drop an appeal on SNAP (food stamp) work requirements, a polarizing issue during the Trump presidency.
  • Lawmakers and a coalition of interest groups made separate appeals to the Biden administration to reinstate the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule that the Trump administration blocked (New Hope Network). The rule clarifies how producers and handlers raise and treat different species seeking organic certification.
  • Food Safety News explained the debate over hydroponic-raised products following a U.S. district court decision that cleared the way to include soil-less production under the National Organic Program.
  • The plaintiff group, led by the Center for Food Safety, responded to the “double standard” for producers: “Hydroponic producers can sell their crops as organic without building soil fertility, yet organic farmers growing food in soil have to meet various soil-building requirements to be certified organic. On March 25, the U.S. Senate held a hearing titled “Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Healthy Meals and Healthy Futures.” Lawmakers are looking to minimize child hunger and malnutrition in a way last attempted in the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

“For every job created in confectionery manufacturing, another ten are supported in related industries, creating a 1:10 multiplier effect. That’s what we call the Power of Sweet.”

National Confectioners Association (Feeding the Economy)

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Hardly Hard Times

Dutch financial firm Rabobank’s report on hard seltzers positioned the drinks as a North American success story, with high levels of innovation and marketing. Food Ingredients First summarized the report, furnishing it with new product examples like Leinenkugel’s beer-seltzer hybrid Spritzen. Molson Coors’ entry in the space, Vizzy, hit a speed bump when the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the FDA to crack down on the drink’s health claims. Meanwhile, nearly every U.S. beer player has released or soon plans to debut their own fizzy drink brand.

Dollar General Gets Fresh

Grocery Dive reported that Dollar General is planning to add produce to about 700 stores this year, more than doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables sold through the chain. Supermarket News outlined Dollar General’s big growth and future plans to expand beyond its current reach of 75% of the U.S. population.


New York Times health reporter Roni Caryn Rabin summarized a study that found Americans gained about two pounds per month during lockdown. The study was small, and not nationally representative, but Rabin brought up several interesting anecdotes reflecting on pandemic-induced changes in diet, activity and health.

Doctor’s Orders

We could save $100 billion if Medicare and Medicaid subsidized healthy food to prevent chronic illness. At least that’s the claim prominent cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and his colleagues published in PLOS Medicine on March 19. Fast Company’s Rina Raphael shared the findings, adding: “70% of diseases in the U.S. are chronic and lifestyle-driven, according to the CDC.”

Hot Takes on a Warming Climate

Eater published a series of articles on potential effects of climate change on everyday food and beverage items. The series includes features on lettuce safety, truffle abundance, wine grape weather, beef demand, olive oil production and the rising availability of jellyfish. But how do they taste with peanut butter?

Building a Better Pasta

It took three years, but Dan Pashman has finally realized his dream of introducing a new and improved pasta shape. His cascatelli — which means “little waterfalls” in Italian — features right angles designed to hold more sauce. NPR highlighted the inspirational story of this food podcaster’s obsessive quest.