January 21, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Vax On, Vax Off

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies:

  • The Supreme Court weighed in on vaccine mandates.
  • States regulated everything from labor unions to leftovers.
  • More brands defined their own uniquely “good” practices.

Un-mandated

On January 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers with 100 or more employees. In the unsigned opinion, the court ruled OSHA exceeded its statutory authority, noting that never before has OSHA or Congress imposed such a mandate.

  • In a statement, President Biden expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision: “It is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees.”
  • The National Retail Federation called the ruling “a significant victory for employers,” stating that “OSHA clearly exceeded its authority promulgating its original mandate under emergency powers without giving stakeholders the benefit of a rulemaking process.” (Promulgate: to promote or make widely known an idea or cause.)
  • Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, applauded the decision that “will help ensure the food industry is able to continue meeting our customers’ needs as efficiently and effectively as possible amid the ongoing supply chain and labor disruptions.”
  • Service Employees International Union accused the Supreme Court of bowing to corporate pressure.
  • The New York Times reported that “businesses are whipsawed again,” noting that “some companies with vaccine mandates said keeping those policies might become more difficult in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”
  • Following the ruling, Starbucks sent a memo to employees that it will no longer require U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (The Associated Press).
  • Nation’s Restaurant News spoke to labor attorney David Miller, who warned: “Employers should be wary of the stay even though Biden’s law was overturned because it will come down to enforcement on a local level.”

On the State Side

We generally focus on national policies because their wide effects generate more consistent conversations. But gridlock on Capitol Hill stirred states to seize the moment and make their own rules. In order of admittance to the union:

  • On January 19, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that will restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) praised the bill as “a science-based, narrowly tailored approach” because it protects pollinators while allowing farms to continue using a valuable tool.
  • New York became the sixth state to require large companies to donate or recycle food waste, reported EcoWatch. The rule, which took effect January 1, does not overrule an existing law in New York City.
  • Civil Eats shared Capital & Main coverage of the first farmworkers union in New York. Meanwhile, Maine Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill allowing the state’s farmworkers the right to organize (CBS).
  • In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom was generous with funds for food production in a proposed budget. Agri-Pulse covered plans around drought mitigation, Farm Progress highlighted use of cattle grazing to deter wildfires and NRDC welcomed funds for school meals.
  • In a January 10 address, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey requested $1 billion to invest in water resources over the next three years (Western Growers). Environmental Defense Fund challenged state lawmakers to heed the call.
  • On a lighter note, Instacart mapped each state’s favorite hot sauce. Our takeaway: Putting a state in your brand name guarantees it won’t sell well there.

The Goods

Our fascination with the dynamic definition of what makes food “good” continues this week.

  • In its 2022 Power List, Nation’s Restaurant News profiled 50 leaders shaping the future of foodservice. These influential voices define good with everything from helping workers clear criminal records to teaching them financial literacy to “making rice cool again.”
  • In a podcast interview, Yum! Brands COO Tracy Skeans explained the company’s recipe for Growth and Good takes a customer-centric approach: “As the consumer changes, we want to make sure that we are relevant and more focused on having cravable [sic] food, the trends that the consumers want, being able to customize what you want.” (Triple Pundit)
  • On the other end, CNN reported the Chinese government is rebuking Yum!’s KFC restaurants for food waste: Customers are dumping KFC meals in a frenzy to collect plastic promotional toys. “A few people have even bought more than 100 meals at once, spending almost 10,500 yuan (about $1,650) in an attempt to collect the full line.”
  • Nestlé announced it would remove 25% of the added sugar from the venerable Carnation Breakfast Essentials products while retailer Meijer joined the cohort of retailers halving their carbon emissions.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Volcanic Protein

In its series documenting trends that will shape food in 2022, Food Dive’s Megan Poinski dove deep into Nature’s Fynd, an innovative company that produces a versatile protein food by fermenting a volcanic fungus commonly found at Yellowstone National Park. Poinski interviewed chief marketing officer Karuna Rawal, who said that interest in these fermented proteins has increased by double digits during the pandemic.

Private, Not Generic

The Wall Street Journal’s Jane Black explored how private-label foods are gaining acceptance as retailers attempt to differentiate themselves and more food shopping is done online. The article addressed efforts from trendy startups like Thrive Markets to established national chains like Target and Whole Foods that are all upping their private label game.

God Save the Ketchup

U.K. tabloid The Sun shared news that the royal family will be entering the condiment market, launching a “tomato” and “brown” sauce (equivalent to ketchup and steak sauce stateside) to rival market leader HP (owned by Heinz). Author Rob Pattinson appeared concerned about the high MSRP: “It will set you back an eye-watering [$9.50] for a [10 oz.] bottle, compared to [82¢] for Sainsbury’s [16 oz.] version.”

Cognac Is Everywhere

Reuters reported that worldwide cognac sales surged a whopping 31% in 2021. After a long decline in sales, the U.S. alone imported 115 million bottles of the brandy, which is produced in the Cognac region of France. This represents the rare case in which a recovery can be categorized by increased consumption.

Crawmoms

The Guardian writer Kate Connolly delved into the rapid spread of an all-female variety of crayfish that reproduces by cloning itself. The unique breed of decapod has sparked curiosity in academic circles as it spreads from continent to continent, with one German startup eventually realizing: “These crayfish have no natural predators … the more of it we eat the better.”

Related Articles:

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

Givers Deliver
Friday by Noon | December 3, 2021

A collective post-Thanksgiving hangover offered the most influential voices in food, beverage and agriculture an opportunity to discuss: Retail and ...

January 14, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Contrarian Centenarians

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting:

  • Healthy conversations about what’s healthy.
  • Speculation around rising food costs.
  • Commentary on worker shortages, strikes and union activity.

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964)

No Time to Diet

Health was top of mind with many influential writers and organizations. However, much of the discussion sought to debunk January’s conventional reputation.

  • Health concerns punctuated the International Food Information Council’s report on 2022 food trends: “Consumers are proactively looking for positive food attributes like whole grains and fiber, and they’re exploring immune health more so than previously.”
  • Instead of starting a new diet, New York Times author David Leonhardt suggested that readers “audit” their current diet choices in January: “The key issue is finding a sustainable way to eat healthily, in terms of both quality and quantity. Very few New Year’s resolution diets are sustainable.”
  • Eater interviewed registered dietitian Christy Harrison, who explained how to survive January’s tough climate of diet messaging and “the insidious ways that the diet industry is seeking to turn decades-old diet plans into ‘new and improved’ programs that allegedly promote ‘wellness.'”
  • In The Washington Post, registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom explained that detox juices are unnecessary.
  • Challenging conventional wisdom that kids need different types of foods than adults, the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) could not be more clear: “There is no difference between healthful foods for adults and for children aged 2 and older, except for age-appropriate adjustments in texture and portion size.”
  • Food & Wine compiled a list of several contrarian centenarians whose diets included consistent doses of things like gin-soaked raisins and Big Macs. Yes, it’s as inspirational as it sounds.

Price Creep

The ripple effects of disrupted supply chains have compounded over the past two years and continue to inflate the costs of food production. As everything from frankfurters to fertilizer becomes more expensive, fast food does, too.

  • As non-food inflation reached 40-year highs, the most recent food inflation figures showed a 6.3% price rise in December compared with last year (The Washington Post).
  • Food Manufacturing reported on USDA figures that show butter prices have risen by 40% year-over-year.
  • Bloomberg tracked a 60% increase in romaine prices, but failed to factor in expansive recalls of Fresh Express and Simple Truth branded leafy greens.
  • In a January 13 investor call, Conagra Brands explained that inflation has outpaced earlier predictions. Food Business News quoted President and CEO Sean Connolly on a related prediction: “Millennial and Gen Z consumers … will remain more value-focused than their predecessors.”
  • While some restaurants switched to cheaper cuts of meat, Domino’s Pizza opted to instead limit value offers and reduce chicken wing orders from 10 to eight pieces, according to Restaurant Business writer Jonathan Maze.
  • On the farm, rising costs are hitting farmers’ bottom lines. A Purdue University survey found that 39% of respondents had “difficulty purchasing crop inputs.” Texas A&M estimated that, on average, fertilizer will cost between $64,000 and $128,000 more per farm in 2022.

Worker Woes

Exasperating the existing labor shortage, the omicron variant’s quick spread among U.S. workers is disrupting everything from meat plant production to retail store hours. Weary workers are being pushed to their limits, reinforcing moves to unionize and strike.

  • As COVID-19 infections spread through the workforce, meat plants were forced to slow production at a time when demand is booming. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that “a sustained period of lower production could further increase high meat prices.”
  • The spread of the omicron variant at the nation’s busiest port complex hindered efforts to clear a large backlog of container ships. The Wall Street Journal said “about 800 dockworkers — roughly 1 in 10 of the daily workforce at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — were unavailable for COVID-related reasons as of Monday.”
  • The New York Times reported retail workers are calling out sick after contracting COVID-19 or being exposed to someone who had it while at work. Workers say that with so many out sick, morale is low and consumers are experiencing longer checkout lines and empty store shelves.
  • In Denver, more than 8,000 Kroger supermarket workers went on strike this week for better wages after negotiations stalled (Reuters). To remain open, the stores hired temporary staff and promoted online ordering.
  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) scheduled a second unionization vote for workers at an Alabama Amazon facility (CNBC). NLRB found that Amazon violated a labor law during the first election held last year, when the workers voted against unionizing.
  • The Counter revealed that, since a Buffalo-area store voted to unionize last month, Starbucks is experiencing “a swelling wave of labor activism.” In the past week, four additional stores across the U.S. have filed for union elections with NLRB.
  • On January 13, the Supreme Court overturned the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employees at large companies (CNBC).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Defining a Good Cap

Packaging Insights reported that global packaging leader Tetra Pak partnered with French creamery Elvir to develop the industry’s first carton cap made from recycled materials. “As a signatory of the UN Global Compact and in support of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, responsible sourcing is a strategic objective for our organization,” Tetra Pak’s Davide Braghiroli told the publication.

Yeah, but How Do You Pronounce It?

After years of battling European cheese authorities over nomenclature, a U.S. District Court ruled that gruyere cheese made in the United States can be called as such (Feedstuffs). The Consortium for Common Food Names (it’s a thing) and U.S. dairy groups called this a “vital precedent” in the ongoing battle over food names, paving the way perhaps for parmesan, bologna or chateau. On top of this, The Association for Dressings & Sauces (also a thing) petitioned the FDA to revoke the standard of identity for French dressing — and won.

Football Field to Fork

Frito Lay is commemorating its return to Super Bowl advertising by releasing one-of-a-kind, limited-edition Lay’s potato chips. According to Lay’s, the Golden Grounds chips were made from potatoes grown in fields containing dirt collected from 29 different NFL fields. Fun fact: only 16 NFL stadiums have real grass.

Swimming in Data

Our World in Data presented fascinating data visualizations on the global fishing industry. The accompanying article suggests that, over the past half century, the world population has doubled and eats twice the fish per capita. In response, the global fishing industry has quadrupled in size: taxing resources, forcing aquaculture to eclipse traditional fisheries and disrupting many species.

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

Givers Deliver
Friday by Noon | December 3, 2021

A collective post-Thanksgiving hangover offered the most influential voices in food, beverage and agriculture an opportunity to discuss: Retail and ...

January 7, 2022
Friday by Noon:

BE the Change

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition of what makes food “good.”

  • President Biden attempted to mitigate meat industry consolidation and rising prices.
  • Labeling for bioengineered food is now the law.
  • Brands turned up the volume on goodness.

Let it BE

As of January 1, food makers must disclose whether products are made with detectable levels of “bioengineered” ingredients (including genetically engineered, genetically modified and gene edited varieties). It may seem like small potatoes now, but the rule is the culmination of the biggest food fight of the past decade. After years of activist campaigns, the national law only came about in July 2015 to avoid Vermont kicking off a patchwork of state labeling laws.

  • Laura Reiley of The Washington Post provided a thorough synopsis of the history and particulars.
  • The law still faces opposition. Gregory Jaffe of Center for Science in the Public Interest criticized the use of the term “bioengineered” when most consumers more readily recognize GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
  • Leaders from Natural Grocers and activist group Center for Food Safety reiterated complaints in a lawsuit that alleges the use of QR codes instead of on-package labels is “a regulatory scam … trying to keep us in the dark.”
  • Meanwhile, a Cornell University study concluded that in Vermont, mandatory labels did not make a significant difference in sales volume compared with voluntary Non-GMO Project Verified labels.
  • In Modern Farmer, lead researcher Aaron Adalja asked: “Do [mandatory labels] actually serve a purpose? … What sort of message are we sending if the government slaps a label on a product when it has nothing to do with safety or health?”
  • Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich summed up the net result in a tweet: “GMO labeling is finally here & basically no one cares.”

Billion-dollar Beef

On January 3, the Biden administration announced it will invest $1 billion to support independent meat and poultry producers. They argued that consolidation is responsible for consumer price increases and suggested that more competition will lead to lower prices. Additionally, the USDA and Department of Justice released shared principles and commitments “to protect against unfair and anticompetitive practices.”

  • The White House readout explained “that just a small handful of companies control the majority of the markets for beef, pork, and poultry, enabling them to squeeze farmers and ranchers while also raising prices on consumers.”
  • Fortune profiled the big four — Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS and National Beef Packing — that “control 55% to 85% of the hog, cattle, and chicken markets,” predictably casting each with some negative light.
  • A USDA working paper found that just 17 pork processing plants accounted for 65% of the nation’s pork production in 2020. The paper also found that pork production rates decreased early in the pandemic, then recovered to match and even exceed 2019 levels.
  • Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute, claimed this was “the third time in six months” that the Biden administration has “announced the same plans to spend $1 billion to fund government intervention in the market.”
  • The National Chicken Council (NCC) accused the Biden administration of “scapegoating” meat and poultry companies for inflation and rising prices. Mike Brown, NCC president, labeled the action plan as “a solution in search of a problem.”
  • Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, supported the action plan: “We must get to the bottom of why farmers and ranchers continue to receive low payments while families across America endure rising meat prices.”
  • The National Farmers Union welcomed the action plan and hoped “the administration’s renewed focus on boosting competition and reducing prices will force changes needed to create an even playing field.”

Finding the Goods

At Bader Rutter, we believe that the definition of “good” food is dynamic and has evolved significantly over recent years. We feel it’s important to track how influential brands define good food and how marketers share the message. The range of definitions of “good” is considerable; here are a few recent standouts:

  • Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle wrote about a United Nations installation in Rome that brought attention to the organization’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many food producers model their own policies after this set of 17 SDGs that address hunger, poverty, employment and more.
  • Smithfield Foods got some positive ink for joining the USDA and EPA’s U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions by committing to cut its food loss and waste by 50% (Supermarket Perimeter) and for joining Farm Powered Strategic Alliance, “a collaborative movement to boost food waste reduction and recycling, and expand renewable energy production across America” (Feedstuffs).
  • Swiss Chocolatier Barry Callebaut proudly shared its “A List” status after being ranked by the Carbon Disclosure Project for transparency on deforestation.
  • Meatingplace summarized the philanthropic efforts of Triumph Foods, Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods, many of which involved feeding needy families during the holiday season.
  • Nation’s Restaurant News shared that Culver’s Thank You Farmers project donations surpassed $3.5 million since its creation in 2013.
  • Maker’s Mark took the award for stretching the limits of doing good: They offered to pay checked bag fees for holiday travelers if their bags included a bottle of the premium bourbon (Mashed).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Januaryisms

Right on cue, the new year brought no shortage of solutions to reverse the effects of holiday excesses. U.S. News published its annual review of diets and, to no one’s surprise, the Mediterranean Diet held the top spot. (We prefer scouring the bottom of the list to review the more colorful options like the “Modified Keto” and the “Dukan.”) Veganuary, a vegan UK nonprofit founded in 2014, worked with noteworthy brands like Kroger and Domino’s (Plant Based News). Finally, Popular Science questioned the positive long-term benefits of a “Dry January.”

Ham Sniffers

The Wall Street Journal explored the life of the Spanish calador, or sniffer, whose job is to act as quality control for an Iberian ham company during the massive rush for holiday hams. “A cadre of six sniffers whose job is to poke each pork loin in four specific places with probes made of cow bone and take evaluative whiffs.”

Clam Diggers

New York Times journalist Jamie Lowe closed out 2021 by offering advice on how to dig for clams. Basically, start with a permit and look for bubbles. Fact: clams feel the cold too: “When it’s colder, they bury themselves deeper, so it’s harder to dig them up. You can clam year-round … but because the mollusks are closer to the surface in the summer, that’s when most recreational clamming is done.” Yes, “clam” is apparently a verb too.

She Thinks My Tractor’s Techy

At the Consumer Electronics Show, John Deere unveiled the first fully autonomous tractor to be produced en masse. Existing tractors can already autopilot by GPS, but Deere’s new model adds the ability to avoid obstacles. Wired writer Will Knight noted that autonomous equipment may alleviate some pains of worker shortages, but cited farmers’ concerns about Deere farming data with the machines too: “They’re trying to be the Facebook of farming.” While we’re on the subject, The Wall Street Journal reviewed Neil Dahlstrom’s “Tractor Wars,” a history of the tractor starting from the 1902 foundation of International Harvester and following competition between firms.

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

Givers Deliver
Friday by Noon | December 3, 2021

A collective post-Thanksgiving hangover offered the most influential voices in food, beverage and agriculture an opportunity to discuss: Retail and ...

December 17, 2021
Friday by Noon:

Trials and Resilience

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it’s not the last email you’ll get from us this year. Look for a short piece next week that lays down our predictions for the biggest topics in food, beverage and ag in 2022.

In the meantime, here’s what leaders in food, beverage and agriculture discussed to close out the year:

  • Tornadoes wreaked havoc, but prompted some to step up to help.
  • Animal protein groups focused on climate-friendliness.
  • Big players reflected on this year and predicted next year.

“In times of great need like these, it’s important that we help in the way we know best — by providing essentials like food and water as well as a helping hand.”

Randy Edeker, Chairman and CEO, Hy-Vee

Disaster Begets Goodness

The weather continues to severely hamper food production. All summer long, wildfires and drought plagued the western U.S., hampering produce, grains and livestock. By late August, hurricanes ravaged the Gulf Coast region and the East Coast, crippling food transportation and international trade.

The weather incident in Kentucky illustrates how vulnerable our food system is to extreme weather after a series of tornadoes killed dozens of people and wreaked havoc in five states. The episode highlighted another key theme of recent years: Food companies are often first to jump in and help with disaster relief efforts.

  • On December 13, Reuters’ Tom Polansek summarized the damage in poultry powerhouse Kentucky, where an entire Pilgrim’s Pride hatchery was destroyed. The tornadoes also ruined many grain silos and a John Deere tractor dealership.
  • The Daily Scoop detailed the damages to the University of Kentucky Extension’s crop research efforts in Princeton, Kentucky, where the tornadoes flattened every single structure.
  • Food companies were quick to help victims. Meatingplace described how poultry producers Pilgrim’s and Tyson Foods activated “funds and food” immediately in response.
  • Ahead of a high-profile 2022 partnership with KFC, Grammy-nominated “What’s Poppin'” rapper Jack Harlow and Yum! Brands (KFC’s parent company) will donate $250,000 to the American Red Cross to aid tornado victims (Variety).
  • The Specialty Food Association covered Hy-Vee’s mobilization of 37 employees, 327,000 bottles of water, and 222,000 snack bars to help tornado victims.

Carbon Catch-up

There has been a notable uptick in animal protein brands adopting and marketing environmentally friendly practices. Perhaps in response to the emphasis on environmental claims made by alternative protein makers, many of these adaptations cite consumer preference at their foundations.

  • Modern Farmer covered the first USDA-approved low-carbon beef certification that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by incentivizing farmers who chose environmentally friendly practices. What, exactly, is “low-carbon beef”? Food & Wine detailed its origins, as well as what it means for farmers and consumers.
  • Do Good Chicken raises “climate-friendly” poultry on diverted grocery store food waste and will be available at major national retailers in February. Politico cited the product launch as “a sign of things to come as the food industry increasingly grapples with consumer concern about the climate crisis.”
  • Kroger has entered into a partnership with Kipster Farms to produce a “carbon-neutral, cage-free egg.” The farm “uses chicken feed made from surplus food from bakeries and other food producers” and “minimizes fine particle emissions, resulting in better air quality.”
  • Fifteen years after it launched a “Cleaner Wiener” made of organic, grass-fed beef, Applegate introduced the Do Good Dog, “the first nationally available hot dog sourced from verified regenerative U.S. grasslands” (New Hope Network). Our opinion as marketers: “Do Good Dog” lacks the breakthrough panache of “Cleaner Weiner.”
  • Popular Science presented a well-researched comparison weighing the environmental impact of plant-based proteins like the Impossible Burger versus its animal protein counterparts. The verdict was complex, suggesting that legumes and vegetables were better overall: “while plant-based meat may fit in the climate solution, it’s far from the only, let alone most impactful one.”

Farewell ’21, Hello ’22

We’ll have an exhaustive list in our year-end wrap-up, but here’s a core sample of interesting retrospectives and predictions to hold you over through the holidays.

  • Food industry leaders got into the giving spirit. Yelp established a $100,000 fund to help Texans winterize restaurants. Consumer Brands Association compiled a list of charitable efforts by companies ranging from Conagra to PepsiCo to Tyson.
  • WWF published a report on plastic packaging, finding that Coke, Keurig, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Starbucks collectively cut “use of problematic plastic by 57%” since 2018.
  • The Washington Post and The New York Times offered competing takes on the best cookbooks of 2021. Of the 22 recommendations, only “Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ” and “Cook Real Hawai’i” appeared on both. You’re welcome, last-minute shoppers.
  • Nation’s Restaurant News Editorial Director Sam Oches discussed the ever-evolving future of ghost kitchens with Kitchen United’s Corey Manicone.
  • Not to be topped by Whole Foods’ annual trend predictions (which included Kernza and yuzu), Technomic presented a wish list of emerging global flavors for 2022: halloumi, mutabal, tlayudas and avocado coffee. These might all be delicious, but can we learn one new food at a time?

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Insta-granola Famous

After Instagram influencer Tom Bannister’s love for granola became fodder on his celebrity wife’s instagram, he got into the granola business. What has been deemed “the Birkin of granolas” has grown so popular, that at one point there were 17,000 people on the waiting list to subscribe. Grub Street mentioned that Tom’s Perfect 10 releases a new flavor each month and each 10-ounce bag costs $20.

‘What Is Art? What if Food?’

Travel writer Geraldine DeRuiter (aka “The Everywhereist”) reviewed Bros, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lecce, Italy in a blog that went viral. DeRuiter describes a chaotic 27-course meal, but “there was nothing even close to an actual meal served,” and courses varied from meat droplets to citrus foam served in a plaster cast of the chef’s mouth. The restaurant provided a three-page “Declaration by Chef Floriano Pellegrino” to TODAY, complete with drawings and comparisons of the food to modern art.

Pinpointing Price Proliferation

Talk of inflation and rising food prices persists. Ag economist Jayson Lusk’s team at Purdue University created a dashboard that auto-updates information on price increases by category. (The UX could use a little help, but the info is quick and valuable.) Also, UK marketing firm Ingredient Communications published research results that found “the exact point at which shoppers will consider a product to be too expensive.” Spoiler: it’s a 40% increase, but the methodology is interesting.

Enter the Triple Whopper

On December 14, Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle summarized her latest paper, which tracks increasing portion sizes in foodservice, in the American Journal of Public Health. Although some chains have reduced things like “supersizing,” the problem remains a “triple-threat” because big portions “have more calories (if only this were intuitively obvious, but it is not), encourage people to eat more, confuse people about how much they are eating.” This reminded us of two classics: Prevention’s 25 foods you should never eat, and the list of the most unhealthy restaurant meals, according to Men’s Health. Yes, Cheesecake Factory’s breakfast burrito still has 4,630 mg of sodium.

Mustard Gas

Ever eat fresh mustard and felt like your nostrils were on fire? Well, it turns out jet engines might get that feeling, too. USDA research suggests that oil from Ethiopian mustard seeds “could reduce up to 68% of carbon emissions compared to a unit of conventional aviation fuel.” Don’t get your heads in the clouds just yet, sustainable aviation fuels have sky-high prices — currently five times higher than regular fuel.

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

Givers Deliver
Friday by Noon | December 3, 2021

A collective post-Thanksgiving hangover offered the most influential voices in food, beverage and agriculture an opportunity to discuss: Retail and ...

December 10, 2021
Friday by Noon:

Making It Work

Worker policy served as this week’s conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational topic, pandemic or not. Two less common topics rounded out the plate:

  • Unionization and bonuses dominated worker discussions.
  • Food waste solutions surfaced from the Feds.
  • Labeling conversations bubbled back up about lab-grown meat.

Striking Out

From unionizing to joining picket lines, workers continue to demand better wages and working conditions. While some companies are fighting back, others are showing their gratitude with bonuses and wage increases.

  • Workers at a Buffalo-area Starbucks store voted to unionize this week, with Starbucks arguing that “its workers enjoy some of the best wages and benefits in the retail and restaurant industry and don’t need a union.” Two other stores voted against unionizing, reported The New York Times.
  • After more than two months on strike, the union representing 1,400 Kellogg cereal plant workers rejected a tentative labor agreement reached last week (USA Today). In a statement, Kellogg resolved to hire permanent replacements for the positions left vacant by striking employees. Hacktivists organized on Reddit to clog the online application portals.
  • Workers at a Pennsylvania Coca-Cola distribution center went on strike this week. Food Manufacturing noted 77 Teamsters union members — including delivery truck drivers, loaders and warehouse workers — began picketing at midnight when their contracts expired on Sunday.
  • About 40 first-shift employees at Wayne Farms staged a walkout Tuesday, a day before a scheduled vote on a three-year collective bargaining agreement. Meatingplace mentioned it was the second demonstration in recent months.
  • Tyson Foods plans to spend $50 million on bonuses this year to thank front-line workers for their performance during the pandemic. The one-time bonuses range from $300 to $700 and are based on length of service (Food Processing).
  • A Conference Board survey found that companies are planning an average of 3.9% of total payroll on average for wage increases next year, the most since 2008. For 39% of respondents, inflation factored into the decision to increase wages.

Wasted, but Different

Food waste came back into focus when the U.S. government tackled the issue from both a legislative and regulatory perspective. The latest ripples involve making it easier for companies to donate food and associating food waste reduction with climate change mitigation.

  • Quick background: the FDA estimates 30% to 40% of food in the U.S. is lost or wasted at some point in the production chain, but this issue has largely taken a back burner to pandemic-related priorities. In 2016, the FDA and EPA named a board of “Champions” in the private sector and committed to a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030.
  • Members of the U.S. Senate introduced the bipartisan Food Donation Improvement Act on November 30. The bill would remove some liability roadblocks restaurants and grocery stores face when trying to donate to food banks. The Hill reported that the action was prompted by a letter by several influential food brands including WW International, Grubhub, Hellmann’s and Impossible Foods.
  • In support of this legislation, WW International will host a free virtual panel featuring many high-profile voices on December 16.
  • Last month, the EPA published a report, “From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste,” that underscores the importance of reducing food waste to address climate change.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council interviewed a co-author of the report who said food waste is “where we are going to get the most bang for our buck from a climate change perspective.”
  • GMO Answers, a group dedicated to informing the public about genetically engineered foods, suggested one solution to food waste: GMOs. Specifically, the group plugged genetically engineered non-browning apples that “mean fewer perfectly good apples thrown away that end up in landfills.”
  • The FDA published a comprehensive guide to reducing food waste at home and at restaurants.
  • The Guardian offered holiday food shopping advice to prevent food waste: “Don’t shop as if you are under siege.” We keep it simple; don’t load up on fruitcake.

So … Cultured

On December 3, the USDA closed a comment period for labeling of foods derived from cell-cultured protein. USDA will use the feedback when developing its rules for marketing standards while FDA establishes regulations for production safety.

  • In comments submitted by Consumer Federation of America and Center for Science in the Public Interest, the groups outlined the goal of labeling: “A phrase that is accurate, neutral, and informative to consumers.” The hard part is that everyone disagrees about what is “accurate.”
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association argued in favor of “lab-grown meat,” “meat byproduct” or “meat food product” as “a clear and unambiguous description that effectively distinguishes the product from traditionally harvested meat.”
  • Producers represented by the Alliance for Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Innovation countered that products will be indistinguishable from traditional meat, and “large-scale production … will occur in a food production facility that will not resemble a laboratory.”
  • The National Milk Producers Federation objected to the term “cultured” because of its association with yogurt and kefir.
  • National Chicken Council requested a prohibition of terms like “wing” and “breast” due to lack of cell-cultured anatomy.
  • However, Good Food Institute contended that cuts of meat should be allowed: “Prohibiting the use of a well-known word like ‘bacon’ on this cultivated product package would cause consumer confusion and create potentially severe health risks for consumers with pork allergies.”

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Don’t Ask Alice

Breakthrough Institute founder Ted Nordhaus penned a scathing profile of farm-to-table pioneer Alice Waters in left-leaning Jacobin: “If we followed the advice of ‘slow food’ advocates like Alice Waters, we’d end up with literally billions hungry and more workers hyperexploited. There’s nothing progressive about the ‘slow food revolution.'” Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel tweeted, “He is absolutely right that the way to fix [industrial ag] isn’t with non-industrial ag. It’s with better industrial ag.”

The Cream Cheese Incident

The New York Times described a supply chain issue dear to New Yorkers’ hearts: bagel shops are having a hard time sourcing cream cheese. “Problems have popped up at every point along the supply chain that brings cream cheese from factories to the morning bagel.” One contributing factor: The top maker of cream cheese, Schreiber Foods, shut down production after being hit by a cyberattack (Bloomberg).

Caring is for Everyone

​​Food Ingredients First shared insight from key suppliers in the industry on the “shared planet” trend prediction for 2022, which it described as “planetary health is everyone’s shared responsibility.” “Our food system is resilient, but it’s never faced environmental or social challenges quite like the ones facing us today. Our population is growing, our water sources are dwindling, and our climate is changing,” said a spokesperson for Cargill.

Why Red?

Modern Farmer explored the old tradition of painting barns red. American farmers in the 1800s often mixed linseed oil and pigments to make their own paint, and they often chose a “Venetian red” pigment. “This red pigment penetrated well into wooden barn boards and resisted fading when exposed to sunlight, so it could age gracefully for generations.”

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Givers Deliver
Friday by Noon | December 3, 2021

A collective post-Thanksgiving hangover offered the most influential voices in food, beverage and agriculture an opportunity to discuss: Retail and ...

Friday by Noon:

Givers Deliver

A collective post-Thanksgiving hangover offered the most influential voices in food, beverage and agriculture an opportunity to discuss:

  • Retail and foodservice channel delivery
  • Workers’ continued struggles
  • Giving Tuesday’s power to fight hunger and showcase good deeds

At Your Doorstep

After a long weekend in the kitchen, it comes as no surprise to us that food delivery garnered more attention this week. From reducing time in the grocery store to meals prepared in restaurants with no storefront (“ghost kitchens”), American innovation seems hellbent on shortening the time between wanting food and eating it.

  • On November 29, online retailer Boxed.com announced an expansion into food with the purchase of grocery delivery company MaxDelivery.
  • Winsight Grocery Business reported that Walmart launched drone-based delivery in Arkansas on November 22.
  • Supermarket News shared survey findings that suggest the online grocery market is likely to continue growing.
  • Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal published a double feature on counter-trends for restaurant delivery. Heather Haddon and Preetika Rana noted that dine-in-focused brands — including Cheesecake Factory, Dine Brands and Darden — have opted to limit delivery during short-staffed times.
  • Reporter Eliot Brown documented ramifications of rapid growth in the ghost kitchen industry, particularly for category leader Reef.
  • In Nation’s Restaurant News, Euromonitor’s Michael Schaefer wrote: “Consumer demand for delivery is not going away — this is … more about where and how those wings are being prepared.”

“In any given city, the question is whether it is more efficient … to produce wings, pizza, pad thai, etc. through dozens of small kitchens or through a smaller number of larger, more centralized, automated facilities.”

Michael Schaefer, Euromonitor (Nation’s Restaurant News)

Labor Pains

The big workforce news this week was Kellogg’s announcement that it reached a tentative agreement with its striking cereal plant workers. The vaccine mandate also stirred discussion with many trade associations applauding the temporary hold placed on the vaccine mandate. Meanwhile, the labor shortage trudges on.

  • After threatening to hire permanent replacements just last week, Kellogg’s has reached a tentative agreement with the 1,400 cereal plant workers that, if approved, would end a nearly two-month-long strike. On December 5, the worker union will vote on the agreement, which includes 3% raises, “cost of living adjustments and maintains the workers’ current health benefits,” according to the Associated Press.
  • When a Louisiana judge placed OSHA’s vaccine mandate on a temporary hold only a day and a half after it was issued, trade associations like the National Retail Federation applauded the pause due to the “unprecedented burden on millions of businesses across the country.”
  • While the labor shortage is making it hard to find good employees, it’s not all the pandemic’s fault. Food Manufacturing found that “data shows employee turnover has been rising steadily for the past decade and may simply be the new normal employers are going to have to get used to.”
  • Official employment figures reinforced the shortfall in the food and beverage service sector. CNBC covered the issue, noting that a gain of 120,000 workers in October still leaves the industry at a shortfall of more than 500,000 workers from pre-pandemic levels.
  • September job numbers revealed 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September, up from 4.3 million in August and 3.6 million pre-pandemic. The Wall Street Journal noted “there were 10.4 million job openings at the end of September, amounting to 1.4 jobs for each unemployed person seeking work.”
  • As many Americans rethink their jobs, some rural community leaders hope they’ll be drawn to the country “for a better and more affordable quality of life,” reported Agri-Pulse.

‘Radical Generosity’

Giving Tuesday provided an opportunity for nonprofits to fundraise and for brands to showcase their do-gooding. ABC News reported American donors gave a record $2.7 billion. Food companies, always in a unique position to help with their communities through hunger relief, contributed to the efforts.

  • In her blog in Meatingplace, Animal Agriculture Alliance’s Hannah Thompson-Weeman discussed the importance of “unleashing the power of radical generosity to transform communities and the world.”
  • Announcing it would donate $1 per sandwich to hunger relief organization Blessings in a Backpack, KFC called a truce on the chicken sandwich wars and challenged its rivals to do the same. All we are saying, is give piece of chicken a chance …
  • As part of its Better Days program, Kellogg’s teamed up with Associated Wholesale Grocers to donate more than $22,000 to Feeding America (Shelby Report).
  • Following through on a company policy “to take care of our customers, team members and community,” retailer Meijer announced plans to donate nearly $3 million to the people and communities it serves in the Midwest (Specialty Foods Association).
  • For every meal ordered through its app or online, Noodles & Company donated $1 to its own foundation dedicated to helping employees (aka “Noodlers”) fund their educations (Nation’s Restaurant News).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

The New Ice

Researchers at UC Davis have developed a “cooling cube” that offers a triple threat of benefits: it’s compostable, won’t melt, and will cut down on cross contamination. Wait, why didn’t whiskey stones catch on?

Microbes > Microchips

Aanika Biosciences has come to the rescue for those of us who still struggle with the motherly admonition of “don’t eat that, you don’t know where it’s been!” The company, which recently landed $12 million in funding, has developed “edible microbial ‘tags'” that can track food items through the supply chain and boost traceability. The technology can be used directly on crops and has applicability for meats, oils, greens and grains.

Green Mountain Saffron

Modern Farmer described the burgeoning saffron farming industry in Vermont, which now boasts about 200 saffron farms. The spice is typically grown in Iran and Spain and can cost thousands of dollars per pound: “It’s slow work, and must be done by hand. This is one of the reasons for its great cost; it takes an estimated 75,000 flowers to yield a pound of saffron.”

The Champagne of Gingerbread

The Milwaukee Sentinel covered how Molson Coors is promoting its Miller High Life brand this season with build-your-own gingerbread dive bar kits. “The gingerbread walls are infused with Miller High Life and there’s Vermont maple syrup to pour on the branded bar floor to “recreate that distinct sticky floor feeling.” The kit will cost $50 and will be available here on December 6.

Bottle Bottleneck

A Food Processing article explained causes of the liquor bottle shortage: “A glass supplier estimated that before the Trump administration, 60% to 70% of America’s glass bottles were made in China. After trade sanctions were imposed on China, orders began to shift to suppliers in Europe and South America. When lockdowns hit, they lasted longer in those regions than in China, roiling the supply chain for glass bottles.”

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

November 19, 2021
Friday by Noon:

Big Birds, Big Bills

Thanksgiving provided a concrete example of rising food costs and the effects supply chain issues are having on food production. This week, the most influential voices in the business discussed:

  • Food prices at a decade-long peak
  • Turkey talk, which has crescendoed ahead of the holiday
  • Interesting highs and lows

Prices Take a Hike

As supply chains adapt to the new normal, the costs of making and buying food have risen. Concerns about prices have been elevated for food producers and consumers since the beginning of the pandemic, but media coverage ramped up ahead of Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

  • In its most recent Food Price Index, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found that global food prices rose 3.9% in October, reaching the highest level in a decade.
  • Purdue University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk explained in Econofact, “Wage rates in the food industry have significantly risen over the course of the pandemic and these higher wages get reflected in higher food prices.”
  • Meanwhile, activist group Food & Water Watch attributed some price hikes to retailer consolidation in a report titled “The Grocery Cartels.”
  • The New York Post lamented that budget pizza joints have had to raise per-slice prices despite marquees that declare “$1 pizza.”
  • Specialty Food Association offered advice to manufacturers looking to address the “current pricing situation.” In addition to assessing options like smaller packaging, the article suggests that brands ask: “What price can you live with? What price can you grow with?”
  • But not every company has been hurt by rising prices: Walmart (Wall Street Journal) and Tyson Foods (Food Manufacturing) both reported higher earnings this quarter. Meanwhile, Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison told Meatingplace that wing prices are “trending in the right direction.”
  • American Farm Bureau estimated that the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people increased by 14% to $53.31 … which brings us to the next topic.

The Big Turkey’s Back

After the pandemic led many to stay home last year, Thanksgiving is poised to make a major comeback. A record number of Americans plan to host larger gatherings with extended family and friends. But, the return to semi-normalcy has brought vaccination status back into the conversation, causing potential conflicts leading up to turkey day.

  • 47% of Americans claimed that they plan to host the holiday dinner this year, a record percentage, reported Specialty Foods. That’s up from 41% in 2020 and 33% in 2019.
  • With the cost of Thanksgiving dinner on the rise, many are looking for ways to save. The Washington Post offered money-saving tips, while Meat+Poultry highlighted affordable Thanksgiving meal options from Aldi and Meijer. Of course, it’s cheapest to let one of the 47% of your neighbors host this year.
  • CNN wrote that turkey producers stocked up on bigger birds to account for bigger events this year.
  • Many Americans are planning larger Thanksgiving celebrations, and dinner guest immunization status has become “a topic of conversation, concern and conflict,” noted The New York Times.
  • Apparently, finding the perfect Thanksgiving wine is imperative. The Washington Post provided strategies to help limit stress on your quest for “the one,” and recommended a “food-friendly” pinot noir. The New York Times presented its “no-sweat” guide to Thanksgiving wine selection, and suggested 12 wines for “Thanksgiving and beyond.” Finally, The Wall Street Journal declared dessert wine as the finale your holiday feast deserves.
  • Salt & Straw, an ice cream maker from Portland, Oregon, is again offering its full Thanksgiving meal in ice cream form. This year’s flavors include: Parker House Rolls with Salted Buttercream, Caramelized Turkey & Cranberry Sauce, Candied Walnut Cheesecake, Sweet Potato Pie with Double Baked Almond Streusel, and vegan Pumpkin & Gingersnap Pie (Food & Wine).

Still Baked

We all know tractors are sexy. That’s why they’re part of our attempt at a hot-or-not list capturing some of the trends and non-trends spanning food production from farm to fork.

  • HOT: Baking. The NPD Group reported that baking at home is still a hot trend, despite decent vaccination rates and lives starting to resemble normalcy. NPD cited a 42% increase in sales of baking cookbooks and continued interest in streaming baking TV shows.
  • NOT: Plant-based Protein. Food Business News interviewed Chris DuBois from IRI to discuss reasons behind the well-publicized decline in alternative protein sales: “The products don’t meet the consumer’s perception of clean, companies in the category have not proven their products are more sustainable than conventional meat products, and competition.” Purdue ag economist Jayson Lusk acknowledged and helped quantify the slump, but underscored that demand in foodservice may indeed be up. Meanwhile, Swedish alternative milk maker Oatly’s stock tanked 20% after having quality issues and production delays (The Guardian).
  • HOT: Tractors. Sustainable food fund Astanor Ventures led a massive series B capital push, channeling $61 million to autonomous tractor maker Monarch (Yahoo News). Supply chain issues and a strike at John Deere — finally resolved this week (Gizmodo) — both contributed to a huge spike in used tractor prices (The Counter). Finally, Case IH rolled out its revolutionary Patriot 50 sprayer which “feels planted to the ground,” according to Case IH marketing manager Mark Burns (Progressive Farmer).
  • NOT: Plastics. The issue of what to do with packaging waste was of interest this week. Civil Eats editor Matthew Wheeland criticized how the pandemic increased plastic use. The Consumer Brands Association called for standardization of recycling systems. And Meijer teamed up with Dow to pave a parking lot with 12,500 pounds of recycled plastic bags.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

And the Predictions Begin …

Better-for-you options and sustainability will drive restaurant menus in the coming year, the National Restaurant Association predicted in the What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. After turning to comfort foods during the pandemic, the association noted that consumers are refocusing on foods “believed to have immunity-boosting qualities.”

‘Mini Livestock’

GreenBiz discussed the ethics of insect farming, also known as “mini livestock,” a business expected to exceed $1 billion by 2023. Author Matan Shelomi explored the topic from environmental resource consumption and animal care perspectives. Also in question is the astonishing number of creatures involved: more than a trillion individual insects are farmed annually for food and feed, and the industry is young.

BEtter Berries

Modern Farmer’s Dan Nosowitz explained how Simplot’s bioengineered (BE) strawberries will likely be in stores within a few years. Because these strawberries employ gene-editing technology CRISPR, the process is less intensive than full-blown GMOs and require only switching on and off genes within the species. The goal is to extend shelf life and conserve water. Bonus: GMO corn may soon be grown in China (Reuters).

Kosher Conversations

An article in The Wall Street Journal described discussions and debates over religious bans on eating pork amid the emergence of plant-based alternatives. Both Jewish and Islamic groups, which prohibit the consumption of pork, have advised against eating products like Impossible Pork. However, Jewish authorities have allowed the consumption of Impossible cheeseburgers (the faith typically bans the combination of meat and dairy). So, chili cheese fries would be OK by this logic as well, further distancing alt-protein from the better-for-you sector.

Onion Drug Rings

A Polish truck driver attempting to enter the United Kingdom was found with 418 kilos of cocaine hidden in a load of frozen onion rings. Authorities estimated the drugs had a street value of around $44 million (Food & Wine). It seems that describing food as tasting “like crack” may not always be metaphorical …

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

November 12, 2021
Friday by Noon:

Mandates and Indecision

In our weekly review of trending topics from the most influential opinion leaders in food, beverage and agriculture production, three major topics dominated discussions:

  • The vaccine mandate generated predictable controversy
  • The COP26 summit led to predictable finger-pointing
  • Business deals and developments proved decidedly less predictable

Jabs for Jobs

On November 4, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 that requires large employers to obtain either proof of vaccination or weekly negative test results from workers. The short deadline for the rule, January 4, prompted concerns from industry groups — but some food makers had a head start.

  • In a White House press release, the Biden administration emphasized research that “vaccination requirements will ‘promote a faster and stronger economic recovery.'”
  • United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone called the rule a “critical first step” to “hold companies accountable to the safety of their workers.”
  • Jennifer Hatcher of FMI, the Food Industry Association, worried that the requirement “Will exacerbate an already existing shortage of transport and supply chain capacity, further slowing delivery times and driving up costs for consumers, retailers and manufacturers.”
  • As an example of success, The New York Times featured Tyson Foods’ accomplishment of a 96% vaccination rate since August 3.
  • Dave Puglia, CEO of produce group Western Growers, objected to the rule in favor of a libertarian approach: “Every individual has the right to choose … private employers have the right to mandate that their employees be vaccinated … employees can choose to be vaccinated or seek employment elsewhere.”
  • NPR covered legal challenges to the mandate from two dozen state attorneys general. A Louisiana judge placed a temporary hold on the rule until the lawsuits can proceed.

COP26 Closeout

Discussions continued in Glasgow, Scotland, as the COP26 summit wraps up today. Tensions and disagreement boiled inside and outside the doors of the conference, particularly about the role of animal agriculture in the climate conversation.

  • For general coverage, Bloomberg Green posted a reliable daily recap capturing many perspectives. CNN reported on the disagreements between nations in reaching the final Glasgow Agreement as the conference winds down.
  • Triple Pundit executive editor Leon Kaye pushed an opinion piece suggesting that the next generation will be able to 3D print their food and literally “reshape the global food sector.” They wanted flying cars …
  • Environmental Defense Fund outlined the methane liabilities typically blamed on livestock production. Author Britt Groosman offered, “Financial institutions and supply chain partners have a key role to play in helping farmers overcome financial and technical barriers” to solve the problem at scale.
  • Feedstuffs summarized the perspectives of environmental groups and activists opposed to animal agriculture who say livestock is responsible for as much as 16.5% of human-induced GHG emissions.
  • The same article captured the latest thinking from the Biden administration: major reductions in meat consumption may not be necessary for Americans. USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said the agency can equip farmers with tools and feed additives to reduce methane from cows.
  • In an interview with The Guardian, Vilsack commented further: “take the [cow] manure and use it as biofuel — then you have made livestock production more sustainable. I do not think you need to reduce meat consumption to get that.”
  • Independent journalist CJ Clouse explored the complexities of the bovine digestive system in a long read in GreenBiz: “To both lower emissions and take good care of our four-legged friends would require all the pieces of a complex puzzle falling into place.”

Deal With It

Acquisitions were big news this week and everyone is getting in on the action. From DoorDash to Hershey to Panera to Presto, some are merely expanding through acquisitions while others are looking to go public. Plus, Beyond Meat shared bad news and TreeHouse is “exploring strategic alternatives.”

  • DoorDash has agreed to acquire Wolt Enterprises Oy, a European food-delivery company for more than $8 billion. AFN noted that this is the company’s second acquisition this year, having purchased Chowbotics, a kitchen automation startup behind salad-making robot Sally in February.
  • Hershey has reached a deal worth $1.2 billion to acquire Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels and Pretzels Inc. Food Dive said the combined deal would be the second-largest in its history. The company’s largest acquisition was when they purchased Amplify, the parent company of SkinnyPop popcorn for $1.6 billion.
  • Panera Brands — the parent company of Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels — is planning to go public, as covered by Eater. Shake Shack Founder Danny Meyer and his special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) will become “a cornerstone partner with Panera Brands.”
  • Restaurant technology provider Presto is close to a deal to combine with a SPAC and go public, reported Restaurant Business. The combined company will be valued at $1 billion and “the public funds will allow Presto to continue developing its products … to make staff more productive and improve the customers’ experience.”
  • Beyond Meat announced disappointing fourth-quarter projections, sparking concern the company’s growth was slowing. Bloomberg wrote that it’s “the second time in the past month that Beyond Meat’s guidance failed to meet Wall Street’s expectations,” in reference to the company reducing its revenue guidance for the third quarter.
  • The board of directors of private label manufacturer TreeHouse Foods, Inc., is “exploring strategic alternatives,” including the possible sale of the company or splitting off a large portion of its meal prep business to focus on its higher-growth snacking and beverage business (Food Manufacturing).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Attack of the Drones

Robot-mounted lasers aren’t just for sci-fi anymore. Farm Journal profiled the Autonomous LaserWeeder from Carbon Robotics. Founder Paul Mikesell explained, “We’re exploding the plant cells and delivering a high level of trauma to the weed.” Like shooting womp rats.

‘Ideal for Enrobing and Decorating’

Food Ingredients First covered Cargill’s top-secret formula for a bright white chocolate. They claim the super-white confection is “destined to be a hit on Instagram.”

Holy Sushi!

The New York Times posted a cool electronic feature detailing the history of sushi in America. The article details the almost mytho-historical establishment of True World Foods by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church. Before hardly any Americans knew the difference between a toro and a makase, Moon told a group of followers at the Grand New Yorker hotel ballroom in 1980: “You are the pioneers of the fishing business — the seafood business. Go forward, pioneer the way and bring back prosperity.”

Fried Potato Juice

The A.V. Club’s headline says it all: “Arby’s would like to sell you french fry-flavored vodka.” Made in a partnership with a Minneapolis distiller called Tattersall Distilling, the vodka will be available in a very limited run between November 18 and 22. The “curly fry” and “crinkle fry” varieties will sell for $59.99.

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

November 5, 2021
Friday by Noon:

Scattered Efforts

This was one dense week in food policy on national and international stages. We tried our best to unscramble and condense it for you, but buckle up, it’s a long one. And we expect a deluge of debate next week on OSHA’s vaccine requirement that will take effect in January.

  • COP26 drew commentary from makers of food and food policy.
  • Big names continued to weigh in on sustainable food production.
  • Food-related disease in the U.S. earned poor assessments.

“I am yet to meet a credible business leader that does not recognize the threat of climate change and the urgent need to deliver the Paris Agreement. Net zero is now table stakes.”

Unilever CEO Alan Jope (World Business Council for Sustainable Development)

Climate Conversations

The U.N. kicked off its annual climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow on October 31. The conference, which runs through November 12, has sparked actions and announcements regarding food production from international leaders, brands and activists.

  • Aljazeera posted an infographic explaining the goals discussed at the conference: net zero carbon emissions by 2050, protecting ecosystems and habitats, mobilizing $100 billion finance per year to underdeveloped nations and collaboration to enforce the Paris Agreement.
  • On November 3, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the international Agriculture Innovation Mission, which will boost research in “climate-smart” farming practices. The move doubles down on a September pledge — which now has 80 nations signed on — to reduce methane emissions from agriculture by 30% by 2030.
  • Agriculturalist groups, including the American Feed Industry Association and CropLife America, praised the moves and touted their own contributions.
  • Not all were impressed. Vox’s Jenny Splitter raised concerns about opaque data and Friends of the Earth objected, “If President Biden is serious about tackling methane, he needs to be serious about regulating industrial animal agriculture.”
  • The Chicago Council on Global Affairs addressed the contribution of food waste to emissions.
  • Food Navigator covered questions about previous years’ commitments to reduce deforestation.
  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos answered a challenge from the U.N. by dedicating $2 billion from the Bezos Earth Fund to bolster “landscape restoration and food systems transformation.”

Commit, Share, React

Significant organizations have been busy sharing sustainability commitments from packaging to soil health. Meanwhile, sustainable farming and food production continue to receive funding from prominent sources.

  • Plastics Today described a partnership between Tim Horton’s and Tupperware as the chain is one of the first to test returnable, reusable packaging. Author Norbert Sparrow quipped, “I just don’t think that consumers will go to the trouble of returning the empties and, presumably, paying a premium for the privilege.” Maybe in Canada?
  • Unilever’s Knorr brand launched a series of regenerative agriculture projects to improve soil health, biodiversity, climate resilience, water efficiency, and air and water quality.
  • On November 3, FMI, the Food Industry Association, promoted a pair of studies that suggest responsible practices in food retailing are trending and lucrative: “Social responsibility initiatives offer an effective avenue for food retailers to uphold public trust and uplift the communities they serve.”
  • On November 1, Mondelez joined the ranks of CPG companies committing to net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Food Business News covered Groupo Bimbo’s similar announcement. The companies aligned with the Science Based Targets Initiative’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C and the related United Nations Race To Zero Campaign.
  • Reactions to this trend of corporate commitments to net GHG emissions is not all positive. Last week, Friends of the Earth documented a letter signed by more than 350 organizations calling these commitments a “dangerous distraction.”
  • Further agriculture philanthropy from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will support smallholder farms with $315 million as they adapt to climate change.

‘Overfed, Undernourished’

Early in the pandemic, studies identified obesity as a significant risk factor for severe illness and death. While other countries ramped up efforts to combat diet-related diseases, the U.S. took little action. This week, a panel of nutrition experts warned Congress that the U.S. is on a path to disaster and called for a national strategy to combat obesity, diabetes and heart disease in America.

  • Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich outlined the U.S. government’s inaction despite diet-related diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, being linked to an increased risk of severe COVID and death. A Government Accountability Office report released a report that concluded there are scattered efforts, but no overarching plan.
  • Successful Farming detailed Tufts nutrition school dean Dariush Mozaffarian’s warning that the U.S. is in a health crisis: “Three-quarters of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, half of U.S. deaths are due to diet-related diseases and $1 of every $5 in the country is spent on health care.”
  • During the hearing, nutrition experts also called for a second White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger and Health, as covered by AgriLife Today. The first conference, commissioned by President Nixon in 1969, triggered significant progress in federal food and nutrition policy, including the modern food stamp program.
  • Citing the prevalence of diet-related diseases, the FDA released recommendations to encourage food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in foods. Health experts worry the voluntary measures don’t go far enough to compel the food industry to change, reported The New York Times.
  • If the pandemic isn’t enough to drive U.S. food and nutrition policy, a study published last month by the American Public Health Association found that diet-attributable cancer was higher among younger adults, men, non-Hispanic Blacks and individuals with lower education and income. The largest disparities were cancers related to the high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and low consumption of whole grains.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Coke + BodyArmour

The Coca Cola Company announced its full acquisition of sports drink brand BodyArmor in a $5.6 billion deal. The news came as little surprise, as Coke already had a significant stake in the company. North America Operating Unit President Alfredo Rivera said, “BodyArmor has been a great addition to the system lineup over the last three years, and the company has driven continuous innovation in hydration and health-and-wellness products.”

Criticizing Chris K

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski found himself in hot water this week when a public records request revealed a text message to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot from earlier this year. Nation’s Restaurant News reported that Kempczinski walked back comments that blamed the parents of victims of shootings at McDonald’s restaurants.

Avocadon’t

Chefs around the world are swapping avocados for ingredients like peas, pistachios and artichokes to reduce environmental impacts of avocado production. The Guardian quoted Tim Lang, food policy professor at City University of London, “Parts of the food industry are beginning to wake up to the enormity of the issues we face as a result of intensive farming,” calling the popular fruit a “global commodity crop.”

Daylight Snacking Time

If you feel extra snacky on Sunday, know you’re not alone. The Specialty Foods Association shared the findings of a survey commissioned by “sleep-friendly” ice cream, Nightfood. The study found that eight out of 10 respondents reported their nighttime cravings for snacks increase when it gets dark earlier in the evening. It also discovered that 83% of Americans say they sometimes or always feel out of control about their nighttime snacking.

Lotsa Mozza

Mozzarella sticks are back. The New York Times proclaimed the cheesy fried snack has made a comeback, taking over social media and restaurant menus everywhere. Author Priya Krishna referenced DoorDash’s Game Day Eats report that ranked mozzarella sticks as the top game day food ordered during last year’s NFL season. Krishna believes “Americans’ desire for nostalgic comfort food during a pandemic, or simply the pleasant aesthetics” could be the cause. Maybe we, as humble Midwesterners, missed when fried cheese became less popular?

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...

October 29, 2021
Friday by Noon:

Sugar Rush

Happy Halloween! In this spooktacular edition, prominent voices in food, beverage and agriculture:

  • Dealt with tricky topics around getting food out the door.
  • Dished out holiday treats for the kids (mostly).
  • Delivered nutrition advice to cure the candy hangover.

Tricky Situations

On the less-fun side of the Halloween equation, industry leaders navigated troubled waters. From supply chain struggles and crop diseases to sustainability and ingredients.

  • The Guardian reported on October 22 that U.K. grocers disguised empty store shelves with cardboard cutouts of unavailable food items. That’s a new take on ghost peppers.
  • In the wake of a hard seltzer bust, Boston Beer Company Chairman Jim Koch explained to CNBC: “We want Truly to have that fresh, bright taste, so we’re going to crush millions of cases … just to make sure consumers didn’t get stale product.”
  • Food Business News shared news of Beyond Meat’s third-quarter earnings: the company expects $106 million … $15 million to $35 million shy of predictions.
  • Activist group Break Free From Plastic conducted an audit of global plastic pollution, finding that food and beverage makers topped the list of brands whose packaging washes ashore.
  • Environmental Working Group criticized candymakers for using the “ghoulish trio” of titanium dioxide, TBHQ and BHT. Ghoulish or not, the FDA considers these ingredients safe.
  • Modern Farmer suggested rushing the canned pumpkin aisle. Bad weather and a sprouting fungus could dent the crop in the pumpkin capital of the world — central Illinois — by as much as 30%. Don’t lose your gourd just yet, there’s still plenty of pumpkin spice out there.
  • Ken Ferrie called the corn harvest “scary,” with average harvest losses five to seven times average levels in the Midwest (Farm Journal). Ferrie also gets into the nitty-gritty, if you need help negotiating flattened or wet fields. We’re all ears.

A Happier Halloween

With a less spooky outlook than last year for neighborhoods across the country, we tracked these fun-sized tidbits about All Hallows Eve. As always, we have a keen ear toward cool data visualization, responsible policymaking, and … general wackiness.

  • This thinkpiece on candy corn, courtesy of the Hustle, brought to our attention the recent “Thanksgiving Dinner + Apple Pie & Coffee” variety bag. Registered dietitian Heather Martin’s Facebook review called the stuffing flavor “an unrepentant violation of the Geneva Convention” and the green bean “unforgivable.”
  • KFC started a legitimate change.org petition to encourage households to swap out candy corn in favor of KFC corn.
  • Heinz promoted “Tomato Blood” in its Halloween store. Let’s hope the same litigious Pop Tart haters don’t go after Heinz on this one.
  • To help celebrate the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead; November 1), a Washington Post article described the pan de muerto (bread of the dead) at a Mexican bakery in Tucson. The recipe originally called for anise, according to baker Erica Franco “to ward off the evil spirits.”
  • For data geeks, Chicago-based Numerator shared a graphic “Candy Tracker” that tallies weekly candy sales, promotional spending and other bite-sized nuggets of data.
  • Danone North America tweeted about its Two Good Yogurt brand’s limited food-waste-preventing pumpkin flavor made with verified rescued pumpkins.
  • CropLife America shared a Farm Bureau article titled “Halloween Starts on the Farm.”
  • Popular Mechanics suggested an equation to help households calculate candy purchases for trick-or-treaters: time × kids × generosity. But we were told there would be no math.

“After a full year of celebrating seasons through the pandemic, people have expanded their ways of celebrating, adding more at-home activities while resuming cherished community and social traditions.”

Phil Stanley, global chief sales officer, Hershey (Supermarket News)

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

A Meaty Take on History

Protein didn’t become a nutritional superstar overnight. In The Conversation, University of Oregon history lecturer Hannah Cutting-Jones provided an overview of the decades-long journey from John Harvey Kellogg’s research in the early 1900s through the modern obsession with the macronutrient.

Sweating Out Insulin Resistance

With the association of Type 2 diabetes and diet, we’re happy to report that insulin resistance is reversible. Research shows that calorie reduction, weight control and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58%. According to The Washington Post, the most effective tool to do so is exercise.

‘Your Brain on Food’

CNBC asked Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist, faculty member at Harvard Medical School and author of “This Is Your Brain on Food,” what she eats daily to sharpen her memory, focus and overall brain health. On her list: extra-dark chocolate, berries, turmeric (with black pepper), leafy greens and fermented foods. She says berries alone can “reduce symptoms of anxiety and help fend off neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.”

Sweet Tooth

According to a study published in the health journal PLOS ONE, our taste buds know the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners. Researchers at Rutgers University described the way we perceive sweet flavors as “a molecular calorie detector, of sorts. … it could help explain the overall preference for sugared beverages over non-caloric sweetener beverages.”

Know Your Rights

On November 2, Maine voters will determine if the Pine Tree State will become the first to declare a “right to food” for its citizens. It won’t protect anyone who poaches or steals food, but it could affect intellectual property for seed traits. Notably, the measure includes no funding for hunger relief (Food Safety News).

Related Articles:

Vax On, Vax Off
Friday by Noon | January 21, 2022

We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies: The Supreme ...

Contrarian Centenarians
Friday by Noon | January 14, 2022

New-year energy continued to drive discussions this week, prompting: Healthy conversations about what's healthy.Speculation around rising food costs.Commentary on worker ...

BE the Change
Friday by Noon | January 7, 2022

As we crossed into 2022, much-discussed policies finally took effect. All the while, we kept track of the evolving definition ...

Trials and Resilience
Friday by Noon | December 17, 2021

While this is our last edition of Friday by Noon for 2021, it's not the last email you'll get from ...

Making It Work
Friday by Noon | December 10, 2021

Worker policy served as this week's conversational main course among the most influential in food, beverage and agriculture: a foundational ...