Food marketing, school lunch and legal battles livened up conversations among the most influential voices in food, beverage and agriculture this week.

  • Our team spotlighted three powerhouse food marketers’ takes on “good.”
  • Back to school, back to reality. Well, kind of.
  • Courts weighed in on complex food production policies.

An Exceptionally Good Panel

On August 25, Bader Rutter’s Defining “Good” LinkedIn Live webinar was quite a success, and we want to thank everyone who participated. What started as a theory we kicked around the office a few years ago — that food marketing’s definition of “good” continually evolves — came together as an hour-long discussion with three remarkably insightful food marketing leaders. Moderated by Bader Rutter Executive Creative Director Dennis Ryan, marketers from Quaker, Tillamook and the National Pork Board shared their experiences and perspectives on defining “good” in their brand and products.

  • National Pork Board Chief Strategy Officer Jarrod Sutton pointed out that pig farmers have long focused on environmental stewardship: “We were doing regenerative agriculture before it was cool, and that’s what’s great about the current position that this industry finds itself in.” Sutton also explained the industry’s decade-old responsibility commitment, We Care, which “essentially establishes six ethical principles by which our farmers operate.”
  • Quaker Foods Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Kroepfl explained the bold decision to transition the Aunt Jemima brand to the heritage Pearl Milling Company. She emphasized how thoughtfully and intentionally they approached this change, calling it “as important as anything we do when it comes to the environment or agricultural practices because it’s about human beings, it’s about people.”
  • Calling in from the company’s headquarters in Oregon, Tillamook Executive Vice President of Brand Joe Prewett shared insights on how this storied dairy brand defines “good” through a premium positioning that addresses far more than taste: “We’re constantly exploring the intersection of health and wellness and joy and indulgence. That’s where we hang out as a brand.”
  • If you missed it, you can watch the full replay on LinkedIn. Expect a formal recap and highlight videos on our website soon.

Lunch Logistics

As students prepare to return to in-person learning, influential voices in food production discussed a range of school-related issues around school lunch, food waste, nutrition and the rising cost of school essentials.

  • Food Safety News interviewed experts on school lunch food safety and healthfulness.
  • Agri-Pulse discussed the influence of President Biden’s “Buy American” executive order on USDA’s purchase of American-made products for school meals.
  • Meanwhile, the School Nutrition Association raised concerns about supply chain disruptions and requested flexibility on nutrition requirements.
  • Estimating that families waste the equivalent of $1,500 each year on school lunches, the USDA shared tips on reducing food waste as parents prepare to resume the daily ritual.
  • Institutional foodservice operator Aramark introduced school menu items, new dining concepts and company support for extended universal free-meal waivers.
  • The Washington Post offered parents back-to-school recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch and after school snacks.
  • An infographic from the Consumer Brands Association illustrated how “unprecedented demand, a pandemic, port delays, shipping challenges and rising commodity prices mean it is costing more to produce and deliver this year’s back-to-school essentials.”

Courtroom Complications

Food production is complicated. Laws and lawsuits often complicate things further. Several long-running conversations on food and ag policy cropped up again. We’re just scratching the surface on each of these (complicated, remember?), so don’t hesitate to click through for more info.

  • California leads the pack with three separate voter-passed propositions drawing attention. On August 23, Specialty Food Association shared optimism for legal reprieve from Proposition 65, which requires companies to label certain foods as “known to the state of California to cause cancer” — in this case, starchy foods that form acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures.
  • Eater detailed an August 20 ruling on Proposition 22, which deemed drivers for companies like UberEats to be independent contractors and not employees. A judge declared the rule unconstitutional because it prevents California lawmakers from granting collective bargaining rights to delivery drivers.
  • After a federal judge upheld Proposition 12, Republican senators introduced the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act to prevent California from dictating out-of-state livestock housing practices. Cool acronym, bro.
  • Meanwhile, three Midwestern states garnered attention for similar laws that limit undercover videos at livestock operations, commonly known as “ag-gag” laws. Activist groups led by Animal Legal Defense Fund defeated laws in Arkansas and Kansas last week on the grounds that the laws violate the First Amendment.
  • Food Safety News editor Dan Flynn explained the more nuanced ruling on Iowa’s “ag-gag” law. A panel of judges upheld a narrower interpretation of the false speech rule “because it prohibits exclusively lies associated with legally cognizable harm — namely, trespass to private property.”
  • Politico dove into legal battles the USDA faces in its attempt to distribute relief funds to “socially disadvantaged” farmers. The Guardian interviewed intended recipients, with some farmers stating the relief is “Not what it was sold to be.”

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Getting Real

Emily Sundberg from Grub Street believes we are on the cusp of a new trend: Real milk is back. After a summer trip in Europe drinking whole milk, Emily took to the streets of NYC for a firsthand account. “The case against dairy ignores many of the complexities of our food system, and I think people are starting to realize that,” said Caroline Hesse, a local cheese facility manager.

Hey, Pigweed!

New York Times writer H. Claire Brown posted a detailed description of Palmer amaranth (aka pigweed). This “superweed” threatens many crops as regulations reduce the tools farmers have available to fight it, including certain pesticides. Brown wrote, “If there’s a plant perfectly suited to outcompete the farmers, researchers and chemical companies that collectively define industrial American agriculture, it’s Palmer amaranth.”

Currying Flavor

In response to an article by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, chef Padma Lakshmi decried “racist insults about the ‘stinky’ foods of immigrants” and provided context for modern misunderstandings of Indian food. Lakshmi noted, “People are slowly realizing there’s a lot more to the world of gastronomy than the French, Eurocentric worldview.”

Defining ‘Healthy’

Scientific American explored the recently introduced Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2021, which would standardize front-of-package labeling, rating the relative healthiness of a given food product. The article compared the opinions of agricultural economists Jasyon Lusk from Purdue and David Just from Cornell, both of whom saw pros and cons. Just warned, “The meaning of symbols might also get lost in a supermarket, which is often a chaotic and overstimulating place even for the savviest, most nutrition-conscious consumer.”

Oh, I Wish …

While wishes of becoming an Oscar Mayer hotdogger didn’t come true for most of us, the next best thing could be a ride in the Wienermobile. And now that’s a real possibility. Oscar Mayer and Lyft have teamed up to offer rides via the #WienermobileLyft, where select lucky users of the rideshare app may be surprised by a Wienermobile pulling up to drive them to their destination. We’d give it five stars.