Food delivery took the spotlight this week as coronavirus pressures kept dine-in foodservice largely at bay.

  1. Uber acquires Postmates and other important food delivery topics.
  2. Partnerships influence the future of food production.
  3. Food insecurity continues to rise domestically and worldwide, alongside the pandemic.

“SNAP is an essential safety net for millions, but it is fraying because demand is growing and the federal government’s response is not. A tattered net provides no safety at all.”

Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center (The Hill)

Delivery Deals

Uber’s recent investments in food ordering and delivery are accelerating consolidation and leaving influential voices to assess the impact this shake-up will have for delivery as a whole. With regional strongholds weakening, a nationwide battle for delivery dollars is getting fierce.

  • Uber announced plans to buy competitor Postmates for $2.65 billion, giving Uber a 20% share of the U.S. delivery market, trailing only DoorDash.
  • Grub Street analyzed what consolidation in food delivery means for restaurants, with NYC restaurant owner Michele Gaton stating, “It’s not something you can fight because we have to do so much delivery … I’m nervous … But it’s something that we clearly can’t do without.”
  • Last month, European food ordering platform Just Eat Takeaway agreed to acquire Grubhub in the U.S. for $7.3 billion, an acquisition Uber walked away from.
  • On June 7, Supermarket News unveiled a joint venture between Uber and grocery delivery platform Cornershop to provide services in select Canadian and Latin American cities, and in test markets in the United States later this year.
  • Technology business analyst Scott Kessler spoke to Bloomberg on the deal’s significance in signaling Uber’s interest to “move more than people.”
  • Portland, Oregon, approved a 10% cap on service fees delivery apps can charge to restaurants, joining New York and San Francisco to help restaurants address financial struggles heightened during COVID-19.

Howdy, Partner

A series of new and interesting partnerships announced recently span food production with goals to deliver groundbreaking products and new approaches to environmental stewardship.

  • Food Navigator reported on June 24 that PepsiCo-owned Quaker Oats and pure-play agriculture company Corteva Agriscience partnered to produce the first-ever sequencing of the full oat genome and will publish open-source findings. PepsiCo’s hope, according to the report, is to improve resiliency and result in “heartier oat varieties with improved sustainability, taste and nutrition.” To date, no bioengineered oat products are available in stores.
  • Meat+Poultry reported that Burger King, Cargill and the World Wildlife Fund would reseed and replant 8,000 acres of “marginal cropland” in Montana and South Dakota with ecologically diverse plants for cattle grazing.
  • Animal health leader Zoetis announced a collaboration with Trianni for the development of new veterinary treatments.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) partnered with ag-focused Rabobank on an environmental stewardship initiative in developing nations, supporting FAO’s Hand-in-Hand program (Feedstuffs).
  • On the lighter side, ConAgra’s Swiss Miss teamed up with General Mills’ Lucky Charms on a new hot cocoa complete with hearts, stars, horseshoes, unicorns and rainbows (FoodBev Media). We bet it will be magically delicious.

Hungering for Better Policy

Widespread unemployment tied to the coronavirus crisis has caused a massive rise in food insecurity. While the USDA created the Farmers to Families Food Box Program to help families in need, a wide array of influential voices called for boosts to the proven Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka “food stamps”).

  • Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich noted that food insecurity rates have risen more for Black and Hispanic households. Additionally, “Across the board, [food insecurity] rates are now higher than the worst period in the aftermath of the previous economic downturn.”
  • The Counter’s H. Claire Brown reported that the food box program fell 25% short of its 40-million-box goal and did not renew contracts with 11 distributors.
  • Greg Trotter of the Greater Chicago Food Depository told Reuters, “[The food box] was supposed to ease some burden from food banks. That has not been the case here for us.”
  • National Farmers Union commented, “Though it has had some success, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program alone is not enough to address a growing food insecurity crisis in the United States.”
  • In a June 18 letter, more than 2,400 anti-hunger organizations urged Congress to boost SNAP benefits, citing the health and economic benefits of the policy.
  • Agriculture subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) backed a lawsuit to block two Trump administration rules from limiting SNAP participation: “As tens of millions of Americans are without work, the administration, with equal parts arrogance and ignorance, continues its ideological crackdown on SNAP recipients.”
  • A July 9 Brookings Institute study found that 14 million children (roughly 18%) experienced food insecurity in the past month — and that’s taking into account parents who take the hit so their kids can eat enough.

“We uncovered that Odwalla had attempted to sell its juice in 1996 to the U.S. Army – no, not as a biological weapon – but to be sold in base grocery stores to our men and women service members and their families.”

Bill Marler, food safety attorney (Food Safety News)

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Breaking Down the Double-sawbuck Burger

On July 7, Washington Post reporter Jessica Contrera recounted the many hands involved in the production of a gourmet $20 burger from Le Diplomate, an upscale restaurant in our nation’s capital. The journey traces the burger from the conception of the steer to “harvesting” to cooking and delivery; making note of the risks and dangers each worker faced along the way.

More Than a Buck

In a heartwarming opinion piece, Meatingplace editor Tom Johnston offered a salient parallel to his parenting experiences. We don’t want to spoil it all here (it’s well worth 3 minutes), but in the end he reassured the beleaguered meat industry: “We have the privilege of documenting not only a historic moment in the industry’s timeline but also that of humankind — and its collective endurance.”

Striving for Sameness

Food Dive’s Chris Doering interviewed Greg Suellentrop, Anheuser-Busch’s director of brewing and quality​, about maintaining quality control and consistency across 17 facilities around the world. As he detailed the human-based tasting process of Budweiser and other brands for consistency, Doering called it “a tactical exercise in precision.” We call it a dream job.

Corporate Social Justice

Victoria Campisi from The Food Institute reflected on a Harvard Business Review article describing corporate social justice, and how this new mode of thinking is working its way into the ethos of food brands. The article, posted in mid-June, describes corporate social justice as a progression from corporate social responsibility: “A framework regulated by the trust between a company and its employees, customers, shareholders, and the broader community it touches, with the goal of explicitly doing good by all of them.” Campisi listed several prominent food brands, such as McDonald’s and PepsiCo, and how each brand is delivering on the promise.

Shedding Light on Plant Genetics

Modern Farmer highlighted recent research that found different colored LED lights can affect how plant genomes activate. Lead researcher Ben Miller explained, “Having a gene ‘on’ all the time unnecessarily would be a waste of energy and cellular resources. Expressing a gene at the wrong time could also potentially interfere with plant processes, like growth and development, so it’s really important to control when and where genes are expressed.”

Au Revoir, Odwalla!

After Coca-Cola announced that it would discontinue juice and smoothie brand Odwalla last week, food safety attorney Bill Marler reflected on the matter in Food Safety News’ publishers platform. Marler called the product “bad rubbish,” and listed a number of severe illnesses attributed to the brand’s unpasteurized apple juice.