This week, the leading voices in food, beverage and agriculture kept their content focused on the food supply:

  • Encouragingly, brands throughout the food chain continue to “do good.”
  • Happily, our buckled supply chain shows signs of recovery.
  • Concerningly, stewards of crops and livestock feel stress over droughts.

Responsible: Check.

Our team tracks a continuous stream of environmental, social and governance (ESG) announcements and progress reports as brands continue to find ways to align with the values of their audiences. Here are some highlights from this week:

  • Hershey unveiled its “Cocoa for Good” strategy to support farmers and communities involved in cocoa production: “We’re working to holistically address the most pressing issues these communities are facing — from poverty to climate change.”
  • Kellogg’s celebrated a milestone for its Origins program, which has partnered with more than 440,000 farmers across the world to implement practices that “restore agricultural ecosystems.”
  • Supermarket News reported that Albertson’s expanded its supplier diversity program. “We’re taking these steps as part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in our company and the businesses we choose to partner with so that we reflect the wonderfully diverse communities we serve,” said Albertson’s Jonathan Mayes.
  • With the release of its 2020 Sustainability Progress Report, Tyson Foods shared its commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2050.
  • Food Ingredients First covered Cargill’s plans to build a plant in Indonesia that aligns with its commitment to increase production of sustainable palm oil and “provide verified deforestation-free products to customers.”

Supplying Stability

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the food supply chain. Shortages have become much more commonplace due to a domino effect of shifting demand, workforce challenges and transportation snarls. To address this, USDA announced a $4 billion fund to strengthen supply chain resilience as part of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better initiative.

  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained: “USDA will help to ensure the food system of the future is fair, competitive, distributed, and resilient; supports health with access to healthy, affordable food; ensures growers and workers receive a greater share of the food dollar; and advances equity as well as climate resilience and mitigation.”
  • The New York Times outlined how small inventories associated with Just in Time production created potential for cascading shortages.
  • Consumer Brands Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman cautioned: “Modern supply chains are complex, and there is no silver bullet solution to achieving resiliency.”
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) praised the USDA’s move: “Overall, these investments will help the supply chain recover from COVID-19 and be better prepared to weather the next crisis too.”
  • Separate from the pandemic, last week’s cyberattack against JBS also raised concerns about supply chains. Kansas State University economist Glynn Tonsor told The Scoop’s Tyne Morgan, “We’ve had labor challenges for months … Now you have an IT challenge. Anything that keeps certain plants offline will make that particular challenge worse.”

It’s a Megadrought

The effects of a drought that has much of the world in its grip keep worsening due to days of warmer weather with no precipitation. Domestically, the U.S. Drought Monitor visualized how much of the western United States is in a drought, including all of California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

  • Yale’s Climate Connections digital magazine posted a thorough overview of the situation on June 8, highlighting the water-intensive crops cultivated by California’s $50 billion agricultural industry.
  • In Utah, drought conditions prompted Gov. Spencer Cox to hold an interfaith “weekend of prayer” for rain to seek divine intervention (The Hill).
  • Referring to grazing land for cattle, University of Missouri’s Scott Brown told Brownfield Ag News: “I don’t know if we can recover in South Dakota very well, even if we start to get some significant rain, just given where we are in the growing season.”
  • Modern Farmer outlined some of the difficult decisions farmers are making, like cancelling CSA (community supported agriculture) programs, dropping fruit from young trees to keep them alive and skipping planting altogether.
  • DTN/The Progressive Farmer reported on parched conditions in the northern Plains where wheat, canola, barley and fava bean crops suffer.
  • CNN described the situation around the Klamath River basin in Oregon which “has pitted local farmers against Native American tribes, government agencies and conservationists, with one group threatening to take the water back by force.”
  • The drought’s effects extend well beyond food production with major concerns about another extreme wildfire season (CBS News) as well as hydroelectric power production cramped by low lake levels (The Guardian).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Can It Survive a Drop From a Helicopter?

Priya Krishna of The New York Times explained a pandemic-driven fascination with military rations, or meals ready to eat (MREs), sparked by both caution and curiosity. “On platforms like YouTube and TikTok, a growing cadre of MRE taste testers (most of them nonmilitary) are transfixed.”

Pilot Program

The very first grocery delivery by drone took flight this week near Dayton, Ohio, known as the birthplace of aviation. Kroger flew a box with rice and a piece of cloth from the first Wright Brothers Flyer directly to the mayor’s front lawn. The program will begin to deliver via drones to those living within a mile of the participating store, with future plans to expand the operation.

Andrés for Livable Wages

Chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés advocated for increasing the pay for food industry workers in a video interview with Nation’s Restaurant News: “The people that feed America, sometimes it seems they can’t feed themselves.”

‘Smart Mouth’

Meatingplace blogger Tom Johnston discussed the importance of texture in meat as a preference attribute, alongside tenderness and juiciness. “That someone prefers medium-cooked meat over medium rare has nothing to do with a person’s desire to comply with a certain cultural doctrine and browbeat others with differing tastes. … the way their mouths (and brains) interpret texture dictates those preferences for them.”

Plant Butcher?

Dom’s Kitchen & Market, a new concept store from the founder of Mariano’s, opened in Chicago this week. Proving to be anything but conventional, the store features sections dedicated to ordering prepared foods, dining, cooking classes and even a “plant butcher” station — all on a smaller footprint. “We want to be a place where customers can gather and get great food,” Bob Mariano said.