June 20, 2019
Other Analysis:

Perspective Inventory – Food Safety

Intel Distillery tracks consumer versus opinion leader discussion on trending topics over the past 12 months. Based on keyword volumetric analysis, we compile comparative graphics that allow for quick contrast of which issues and subtopics are discussed the most, and by whom.

Different Viewpoints, Different Conversations.


Influential Voices

Consumer social media data acquired via Buzzsumo. Data from influencial voices acquired via The Intel Distillery. All data collected from June 2018 – May 2019.

Consumers Tune in to Outbreaks

Our analysis shows that consumers tuned in to topics surrounding food safety most heavily when there was a food-related outbreak. Meat and dairy products were more problematic than in previous years due to large-scale recalls of ground beef and turkey. In produce, noteworthy occurrences include sweeping recalls of romaine lettuce due to E. coli concerns.

Influential Voices Are Concerned with Prevention

The influential voices we track and monitor are a bit further up the supply chain and tend to be more concerned with prevention and consumer confidence in food safety, than specific food safety incidents. Their biggest food safety-related concerns included: allergens, inspections, and the implementation of The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which granted the FDA more authority to regulate how food is processed and produced.

When we compare the data, we see that everyone is concerned about food safety. Influential voices discuss it year-round, closely following policy decisions and industry changes. Consumers take special notice when there is a heavily publicized outbreak. Among consumers and influential voices, however, the same three foodborne illnesses are discussed most often — Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria (in that order). The government shutdown earlier this year also added volume to the conversation surrounding regulation and inspections among both influencers and consumers.

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May 31, 2019
Friday by Noon:

Let’s Order In

Some restaurants aren’t as fitting for delivery, right? Like Chuck E. Cheese, for instance. Don’t people go to see an animatronic mouse, not for the pizza?

Food & Wine’s Mike Pomranz

Delivery Dive

Food delivery’s inception is intrinsically linked to the restaurant business. This week, reporting from various corners of the food industry illustrated the real effects food delivery can have on a restaurant’s success or failure.

  • Restaurant Business interviewed an Applebee’s franchise owner who operates more than 400 locations and is experimenting with nixing the delivery option altogether. The results thus far? “Almost no pushback, and in-restaurant sales increased in those markets.” The owner, Michael Flynn, left Restaurant Business with one major takeaway: often, the service isn’t “worth the disruption it can cause to the in-store business if it’s not going to at least be margin-neutral.”
  • We’ve previously covered ghost restaurants (restaurants that don’t seat customers and exist only for delivery). This week, in a nod toward the future of food delivery services, Bloomberg profiled a Russian company that “allows a customer to tell a restaurant what to cook, whether it’s on the menu or not.” This new offering is being classified by the company, Yandex NV, as a “cloud restaurant.”
  • Eater provided coverage of a class-action lawsuit against Grubhub in which a number of their restaurant partners allege that the delivery service is falsely charging them hundreds of extra dollars per month. The suit claims Grubhub charges customers on a per order basis, but the plaintiffs are accusing them of “counting non-order calls as orders, and charging restaurants for things like customer questions or complaints.”
  • AP reposted new data from on-demand restaurant delivery service Bitesquad, predicting the “Top 10 summer food delivery Items by percentage increase in popularity.” Of the top 10 items, eight are meat-based, and all 10 are made of animal byproducts, in contrast with the increasing popularity of plant-based and cell-cultured meatless alternatives.
  • Even the restaurants that you wouldn’t typically consider suitable options for delivery are trying to get in on the action. Thursday, Food & Wine covered Fogo de Chao’s announcement that it would be entering the delivery game, with plans to begin testing in-house delivery in three major U.S. cities as soon as this year. Food & Wine acknowledges that “half the fun is watching the servers walk around with giant skewers of meat” but also implies that “the chain had little choice if they wanted to keep growing sales.” Nation’s Restaurant News presented the initial story, reporting that “off-premise delivery, investment in blockchain technology and opportunity around meatless proteins” are also in the restaurant chain’s future plans.
  • Reuters discussed Beyond Meat’s fight for a spot in your grocer’s meat case. Beyond Meat can boast being the “world’s first plant-based burger sold in the meat case of U.S. grocery stores” — a distinction that has stirred up a lot of debate among retailers and competitors. “Competition over placement is clearly heating up as everyone vies for a spot in the meat case,” Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert told Reuters.
  • Finally, Epicurious editor and cookbook author David Tamarkin makes a stand for cooking in a New York Times opinion piece, digging at the “Prepared Food Industrial Complex (P.F.I.C.): “But the not-very-secret truth about the P.F.I.C. is that some of these [delivery] services don’t save any time at all, and all of them exaggerate the time and effort cooking involves.”

Supply & Demand

Analysts predict that the long-term impact of the ongoing trade war with China will start to hit the consumer food budget soon. Tariffs are driving up production costs of metal food packaging, farm durable goods and restaurant equipment. The wet weather has stalled crop planting across the Midwest this spring, adding further uncertainty to commodity crop prices.

  • The Trump administration announced a tariff aid package to farmers last Thursday. New Food Economy reported that the government’s past purchase of affected food items — primarily pork and dairy — overwhelmed food banks under a similar plan from last year: “Food banks are drowning in milk China won’t buy.”
  • The Trump administration announced a tariff aid package to farmers last Thursday. New Food Economy reported that the government’s past purchase of affected food items — primarily pork and dairy — overwhelmed food banks under a similar plan from last year: “Food banks are drowning in milk China won’t buy.”
  • Farm Journal writer Anna-Lisa Laca explained that this season is “the slowest corn-planting season on record.” The article includes a collection of captioned photos and videos from farmers.
  • Bloomberg reported that higher feed costs (from a small corn crop) will eat into profits for pork producers and processors.
  • Ohio State University agricultural marketing professor Ian Sheldon cautioned, “Farmers have borne the brunt of this trade war so far, but this recent round is going to hurt all American consumers” (Farm Progress).
  • Politico warned that the aid could affect planting decisions and “add to already record supplies [of soybeans] and further depress prices that have been falling for five years.”
  • This morning, Reuters described how the tariffs are increasing costs and driving Chinese importers to purchase less American goods, including wine, pork, beef, pet food and tree nuts.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.


On Wednesday, Civil Eats posted a piece on Cook’s Ventures, “One of several players angling to revolutionize the chicken industry by combining slower-growing chicken genetics, unrestricted access to lush pasture, and attention to soil and the ecosystem. And it wants to do so at a scale much larger than others, meant to one day rival America’s top poultry companies.” Many influential advocates of niche food production tweeted attention to this profile including sustainability writer Marc Gunther, Farm Forward’s Andrew deCoriolis, and US Right to Know’s Carey Gillam.


A Business Insider article this morning explored how the alternative protein trend might make its way to quick-service chicken outlets soon. The article referenced interviews with leaders from KFC, Restaurant Brands International and Chick-fil-A. “We’re certainly wanting to broaden our thinking and really start big in that funnel and come down,” said Amanda Norris, Chick-fil-A’s menu executive director, “We think it is certainly beyond just no meat on salads or no meat in a wrap. It might be some kind of alternative protein on a sandwich.”


Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel offered up some personal insights as to what she considers the biggest barrier stopping plant-based meat alternatives from competing with or even replacing beef in the mainstream market. Taking into account the positive effects switching to a plant-based lifestyle would have on the environment, livestock and human health — the one major factor she believes will stall the complete overhaul of animal-based products? “Whole-muscle cuts like steak and roast.” Haspel quoted Sara Place, senior director of sustainable beef production research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association: “We’ve got convincing substitutes for hamburger, but whole-muscle cuts like steaks and roasts are a lot harder to duplicate,” Haspel forecasted. “Whole-muscle cuts are at least a decade away, conceivably much longer.”


Eater revived the issue of food fraud with coverage of the forthcoming book The Truffle Underground by the deputy editor of Pacific Standard Magazine, Ryan Jacobs. The book delves into the illegal truffle trade in Italy’s Asti province, where the prized Piedmont truffles originate, and goes on to describe the great lengths that shady distributors will take to defraud consumers and food investigators. Citing research from “The Coldiretti,” an Italian association of farmers and other food producers, Jacobs estimates, “Each year, criminal organizations … make about $27 billion on counterfeit, mislabeled or otherwise manipulated food and beverages.”

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