Keeping it simple this week by flagging developments along the supply chain in foodservice and retail, against a backdrop of global food safety.

  • Retail outlets served as a focal point for food price discussions.
  • Foodservice brands updated plans as recovery continues from pandemic lows.
  • National and international organizations honored World Food Safety Day.

“In a world grappling with supply chain issues, war, climate change, and hunger … grocery delivery, especially in 15 minutes or less, is starting to look very frivolous.”

Jennifer Marston (AgFunder News)

Puffed Up in Aisle Four

Retail has become the focal point for the impact of food price inflation, with many brands watching the space closely for changes in consumer habits.

  • Supermarket News shared results of a Feedback Group survey that found consumers believe grocers earn a net profit of 33% — a far cry from the 3% margin of 2020.
  • Progressive Grocer noted that Lidl is the latest retailer to commit to a price-cutting campaign, joining Giant Eagle, Weis Markets and Natural Grocers.
  • National Retail Federation worried that the EPA increasing biofuel requirements will raise food costs as “there simply isn’t enough food oil for everyone, and unless the biodiesel mandate is temporarily relaxed, food manufacturers and American consumers will take a backseat to fuel refiners.”
  • GlobalData published its annual Top 25 retailers (by revenue) list, with U.S.-based grocery heavyweights taking several spots: Walmart (#1), Amazon (#2), Costco (#4), Kroger (#7) and Albertsons (#17).
  • AgFunderNews analyzed seed-stage funding from 2021, finding that online grocery startups pulled in $18.5 billion of the $51.7 billion invested in agrifoodtech last year. The outlet wrote that the recipients have not fared well.
  • Blue Apron — a company that knows something about under-delivering on investments (Seeking Alpha) — partnered with Walmart to offer non-subscription meal kits online. I think we just call those “groceries.”
  • Kroger, on the other hand, seems to have found a less-frivolous angle. Winsight Grocery Business reported that the retailer is expanding online farmers market access to Atlanta in partnership with Market Wagon.

Driving Convenience

Consumers’ preference for foodservice convenience hasn’t waned in the post-pandemic world. To adapt, some restaurant brands rolled out new restaurant design concepts, while others embraced cryptocurrency.

  • NPD Group reported that demand for foodservice at tourist hot spots recovered this year, with distributors shipping 46% more food year over year to lodging and recreation outlets during spring break.
  • Food Management broke down how onsite foodservice groups are implementing sustainability measures, from local sourcing to reducing food waste.
  • The Verge highlighted the new Taco Bell Defy and its reimagined drive-thru located in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The convenience-centric two-story restaurant features four drive-thru lanes, three of which are dedicated to pickup orders.
  • Tim Horton’s announced two “next-generation restaurant designs” (QSR magazine). One design will be drive-thru only, and both will have simpler menus featuring items like refreshers and energy drinks.
  • Chipotle has begun accepting cryptocurrency in U.S. stores and online using payment provider Flexa (Nation’s Restaurant News).
  • Food & Wine said that Wendy’s will introduce an LTO flavor of its iconic frosty: strawberry. As the “most-requested item,” Wendy’s chief marketing officer said adding the strawberry frosty to the menu was a “no-brainer.”
  • If you missed scoring a free donut on National Donut Day last week, don’t fret. Thrillist noted that Krispy Kreme is giving away free donuts through Labor Day. Freebies can be obtained whenever a location’s “Hot Now” light is on.

“DON’T use soap or detergent on fruits and vegetables.”

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (Twitter)

‘Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill’

On June 7, World Food Safety Day, industry leaders recognized the critical importance of measures to combat foodborne illness. Meanwhile, several developments in food safety kept the industry on its toes.

  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared June 7 to be World Food Safety Day. “Every year, 600 million people fall sick as a result of around 200 different types of foodborne illness. The burden of such illness falls most heavily on the poor and on the young.” The organization published a guide explaining how to build awareness and action.
  • Food Safety News summarized U.S. resources to mitigate food safety risks from USDA, FDA and the Alliance to STOP Foodborne Illness.
  • Self-proclaimed “food safety futurist” and FDA deputy commissioner Frank Yiannas tweeted, “When it comes to food safety in an interdependent & global food system, we all win or lose together. Let’s work TOGETHER to make everyday a world food safety day.”
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plugged USDA’s four steps to food safety: “clean, separate, cook and chill,” and linked to a page that pointed out that 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year.
  • A quick run-down of recent issues: Sabra cleaning up Salmonella, PFAS in food packaging, hepatitis A in organic strawberries, Salmonella status as an adulterant in meat, FDA supplement registry, peanut butter, generally recognized as safe (GRAS) approvals and, of course, infant formula were all on the docket this week alone.

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

On June 7, General Mills announced that it will spend $3 million to scale Eco-Harvest, a non-profit partnership that funds farm and ranch stewardship practice investments. Eco-Harvest and General Mills have already committed to reduce GHG emissions by 30% by 2030, with the ultimate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Worth Reading

Sparkling Vinegar

If you’re craving a cool, crisp cola but want to maintain your summer bod, the latest TikTok trend may be just for you. A slew of TikTokers have joined the “Healthy Coke” trend, which claims the combination of balsamic vinegar and seltzer water tastes just like Coca-Cola. Eater tasted the concoction so you don’t have to: “The sour notes of the vinegar don’t come anywhere close to approximating the weird chemical flavors of America’s favorite soda.” Converting this madness into a new hard seltzer offering in 3 … 2 …

Montana, Land of the Lentils

Fun fact: half of the nation’s lentils are grown in Montana. Modern Farmer reviewed research from Montana State University on the relationship between environment, variety, yield and nutrition of legumes. While we’re lovers of lentils at The Intel Distillery, Washington Post writer Tamar Haspel is a proper evangelist. As she has poignantly tweeted, “Lentils still 99 cents/pound.”

Sizzling Science

Researchers from Utah State University, University of Waterloo and University of Hawaii investigated the “morphology of bubble dynamics and sound in heated oil” — aka the physics of deep fryers. The research features slow-motion capture of “explosion cavities” that occur when water contacts oil, punctuated by complicated math. The math is there to placate worried mothers.

Take Two Spoons of Goose Fat and Call Me in the Morning

As early as 2,000 BCE, people were using food as medicine. According to a timeline WebMD compiled, the ancient Egyptians used goose fat for pain relief and, in 1747, a Scottish surgeon discovered how citrus would remedy sailors’ scurvy in the first-ever clinical trial.