Here’s this week’s lowdown:

  • Sustainability commitments forced innovation in packaging.
  • State rulings and regulations planted seeds for potential national policy.
  • Food trends surfaced in private label, personal pizzas and more.

Short on Cans, Long on Innovation

Constant consumer and market pressure for better packaging sustainability is inspiring forward-thinking in recyclability, compostability, partnerships and outright bans.

  • Supermarket Perimeter captured the thoughts of a handful of baked goods packaging suppliers who are caught between consumer demand for durability, sustainability and price. Something’s gotta give.
  • Conagra — purveyor of Hunt’s Manwich, Armour Vienna Sausages and the venerable Chef Boyardee line — has suffered a lesser shelf presence in grocery stores due to a can shortage. CEO Sean Connolly blamed a labor shortage earlier in the supply chain (Food Processing).
  • Food Dive described PepsiCo’s trial of faster-composting packaging at its Plano, Texas, R&D facility. It’s part of the company’s sustainability goal to design all of its packaging to be recyclable, reusable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025.
  • Food Manufacturing reported on proposed legislation in Boston that would ban “airplane bottles” (50-11 milliliters/1.7-3.4 oz.) of booze. A city councilor said this very special ban would curb alcohol abuse and excessive litter. Boston “packies” (local parlance for liquor stores) oppose the legislation because the small bottles are profitable.
  • Dairy Foods outlined some of Tetra Pak’s collaborations and investments ahead of Earth Day. The company is investing up to 40 million euros annually on sustainability and recycling initiatives, which includes gaining recyclability for its packages in all countries where it operates.
  • Triple Pundit helped promote a Yum Brands initiative to update iconic packaging like the KFC chicken bucket, the Pizza Hut box and the Taco Bell sauce packet to be more sustainable.

“The best time to get ready for gene-edited food products was yesterday, but today can work, too.”

David Fikes, Executive Director, FMI Foundation

Stately Rules

Conversations among leaders in food, beverage and agriculture production often focus on federal regulation, but state laws tend to precede national rules on many fronts. Any of these developments could factor into the 2023 Farm Bill later this year.

  • Colorado passed the first “Right to Repair” law on April 12, requiring equipment manufacturers to allow farmers and repair shops to work on tractors (Reuters). Security and emissions measures are to remain unaltered.
  • On April 11, the California Assembly Health Committee advanced a bill that would ban five food ingredients beginning in 2025: titanium dioxide, red dye #3, brominated vegetable oil, potassium brominate and propylparaben (California Globe). The ingredients are used to enhance appearance, texture and shelf life of various foods.
  • Activist organizations Consumer Reports and Environmental Working Group sponsored the bill. Brian Ronholm of Consumer Reports stated, “Despite the well-documented risks these five food chemicals pose to our health, the FDA has failed to take action to protect the public.”
  • An alliance of industry groups — including the American Bakers Association, Consumer Brands Association and National Confectioners Association — countered: “All five of these additives have been thoroughly reviewed by the federal and state systems and many international scientific bodies and continue to be deemed safe.”
  • Spectrum News Syracuse reported that a proposed measure in the state of New York would prohibit the purchase of farmland by “entities tied to foreign adversaries and nations deemed hostile to the United States.” The move comes in the wake of political uproar around a Chinese-owned organization that bought land near an Air Force base in North Dakota.
  • On behalf of two Native American organizations, activist law outfit Earthjustice filed suit against the state of Alaska for setting groundfish catch limits based on “outdated environmental studies.” The tribes seek protection of their ability to practice subsistence fishing.

It’s Current …

Since January 2022, online grocery shopping has steadily declined, as we crawl out of the pandemic. In the same study, consumers rated what’s important on food labels. Not surprisingly, expiration dates and ingredients led, while gluten-free and religious certifications bottomed out the list. Read Purdue University economist Jayson Lusk’s blog for more consumer food insights at the first link or other stories for deeper dives on specific trends.

Worth Reading

You Will Find True Love on Flag Day

OpenFortune, a company that writes quips for fortune cookies, announced on April 7 that it has enlisted the artificial intelligence ChatGPT to aid in cookie comment composition. OpenFortune contends that “only several thousand fortunes have been in circulation” in the 100-year history of the novelty treat, praising ChatGPT for its “seemingly endless creative capabilities.” After years of stale fortunes and fresh cookies, we hope fresh fortunes don’t come with stale cookies.

BE the Future

David Fikes, executive director of FMI, wrote about the new breed of bioengineered foods headed to stores shortly. “Gene-edited food products will soon be making their way onto supermarket shelves, so the time to be preparing staff and customers for the advent of these new biotech enhanced products was twenty months ago. But if you’ve not done that, then right now works well, too.”

Time’s up for Tup?

Washington Post writer Emily Heil explored what might be the end of Tupperware, the 77-year-old brand of food containers, whose primary sales took place at in-home gatherings. Despite trying to revive the brand by selling for the first time in-store at Target, the company on April 7 announced an effort to refinance. “Analysts say the very thing that helped make Tupperware such an iconic brand also might have been part of its downfall: The Tupperware party,” Heil explained.

Worth Screaming About

The Atlantic’s David Merritt Johns detailed what he labeled “science’s most preposterous result” in describing a mysterious health benefit of ice cream uncovered by a Harvard doctoral student. “Once again, the data suggested that ice cream might be the strongest diabetes prophylactic in the dairy aisle. Yet no one seemed to want to talk about it.”

Banana for Scale

The Economist published a unique visualization of the carbon emitted by producing various foods … in comparison to bananas. With a triumvirate of charts to compare weight, calories and protein per kilogram of carbon emission, there are some surprising front-runners for climate-friendly foods and beverages. Onion rings and beer beat bananas on all three measures — guess we’re off to the pub.