June 24, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Celebrations and Breakups

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!

In addition to the solstice, herbicides, big brands splitting up and a federal holiday were the major stories this week.

  • Many celebrated Juneteenth with nods to food and drink.
  • Kellogg’s announced a split that proved emblematic of the times.
  • Glyphosate rushed back into headlines, again defending the safety of this herbicide.

Juneteenth

2022 marked the second year of official recognition of Juneteenth, which celebrates General Gordon Granger bringing news of the Emancipation Proclamation to Galveston, Texas, in 1865 — two and half years after its decree. The federal holiday inspired many discussions about the intertwined histories of Black culture and food. Unlike the inaugural year, we did not notice an uptick in food brands publicizing revamped diversity and inclusion policies.

  • To commemorate the holiday, The Washington Post detailed the Caribbean Red Drink, “a modern take on traditional African hibiscus ginger tea, and is often said to revitalize the mind, body and soul. In fact, the color red is often associated with ancestral reverence in West African traditions.”
  • NPR and AP both shared stories about commercializing Juneteenth with things like T-shirts, ice cream and even mattress sales. T-shirts? Ice cream?
  • Eater’s Stephanie Wo described “celebration queen” Nicole A. Taylor’s Juneteenth cookbook: Watermelon & Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations.
  • Secretary Tom Vilsack commented on Twitter: “To heal we must remember and commit to ensuring racial justice, equity, and equality is made real for all Americans. We must stand against bigotry and hate.”
  • Food waste reduction nonprofit ReFED compiled a list of resources and change-makers in the food system: “Food, community, and celebration go hand in hand.”
  • Chef Marcus Samuelsson tweeted about his tasty concoction, the Freedom Reign: “The perfect sip for the occasion, it’s made with Haitian rum (notably the first Caribbean country to receive its independence), strawberry lemonade, ginger beer, lime juice and a tajin rim.”

Brand Name Breakup

On June 21, Kellogg’s unveiled plans to split into three distinct companies — snacks, cereals and plant-based foods. Although the decision was billed as a benefit for shareholders, the move highlighted analysts’ concerns about the viability of certain segments.

  • Kellogg’s CEO Steve Cahillane explained, “These businesses all have significant standalone potential, and an enhanced focus will enable them to better direct their resources toward their distinct strategic priorities.”
  • ESG consultant Dave Stangis, who spent 11 years at Campbell’s, tweeted: “For better or worse, the world moves from #meals to #snacks.”
  • Food Ingredients First emphasized that the split separates companies by growth potential — cereal has stagnated while snacks have gained steam — and disentangles competing priorities.
  • Aaron Back of The Wall Street Journal compared the move to Kraft spinning off Mondelēz in 2012, but questioned the viability of a cereal standalone business.
  • Morningstar Farms, Kellogg’s plant-based brand, will face stiff competition in a market full of venture capital-funded startups. Consultant Gary Stibel told Reuters: “They are brilliant for getting out now.”

Back to Court

The importance of pest management in crop production is rarely considered by the average consumer, but lately it has become a common concern for judges. Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup, has generated most of the buzz.

  • Farm Journal reported that a June 17 jury decision marked the fourth consecutive case in which Roundup was not found to have caused cancer.
  • However, the Supreme Court rejected Bayer’s appeal on June 21 to reconsider an earlier case that did find that Roundup caused a man’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Agriculturalist groups responded: “With the conflict in Ukraine threatening food security around the world and the persistent dangers posed by climate change, too much is on the line to allow the emergence of an unscientific patchwork of state pesticide labels that would threaten grower access to tools needed for productive, sustainable farming.”
  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on June 17 that the EPA failed to fully evaluate the environmental safety of glyphosate when it issued an approval in 2020 (The Associated Press).
  • Environmentalist group Center for Food Safety welcomed reevaluation by the EPA after the previous administration “[failed] to even consider impacts to endangered species.”
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick Thomas summarized the impact of these legal battles on farmers’ plans to date: “Business as usual.”

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

Ahead of its annual global summit this week, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) compiled a report developed with leaders of 13 global consumer companies and consultants from EY (formerly Ernst & Young). Highlighting five actions food brands must take to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the report also reflects how companies see their sustainability activities accelerating and integral to success. At the halfway point to the SDG’s 2030 deadline, this reflects the genuine incorporation of ESG principles into corporate DNA.

Worth Reading

Broccoli Is the Best

Broccoli topped the list of Americans’ “favorite veggie” once again. WebMD broke down the results of Green Giant’s annual survey, noting that “Americans now consume, on average, 7.1 pounds of the leafy stalks per capita yearly, compared to 1.4 pound per capita in 1980.” Heavy is the crown.

Off the Clif

The other big-brand food business news story was Mondelēz’s purchase of Clif Bar for “at least $2.9B.” Food Dive summarized: “Clif finally agreed to be acquired for a much higher price tag after turning down a $120 million sale to Quaker Oats in 2000. . … It will quickly accelerate Mondelēz’s presence in the $16 billion global snack bar category that is growing more than 5% annually, the Chicago-based company said.”

$24 Billion Bees

The Detroit Free Press posted a smart summary of Pollinator Week 2022, June 20-26. “Without pollinators like bees, butterflies and some other insects, the global food supply would be in jeopardy. In fact, pollinators contribute $24 billion to the U.S. economy annually through agriculture and jobs, according to White House analysts.”

Honey, I Shrunk the Restaurants

Nation’s Restaurant News explained a growing trend in foodservice: shrinking restaurant sizes. Using Focus Brands-owned Schlotzsky’s as an example, author Joanna Fantozzi explains, “Schlotzsky’s investment in shrinking real estate is a direct response to changing customer demands, who want more off-premises convenience in a post-COVID world.” NRN also reported “Tectonic Shifts in the Top 10 Restaurants,” as the restaurant industry continues to recover from the pandemic.

Related Articles:

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

Emissions and Omissions
Friday by Noon | May 13, 2022

Big-picture policies drove discussions this week, with particular attention to: Tracking and trimming greenhouse gas emissions.Restructuring and reinforcing global food ...

June 17, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep upward. Meanwhile, shipping reform legislation passed with bipartisan support and wide approval across food and agriculture production.

Supply in Short Supply

Global food supply chains hadn’t fully recovered from the pandemic when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. And things haven’t gotten easier since then. Leaders from across the globe are calling attention to the situation.

  • The New York Times cited United Nations experts who said the war is only compounding existing food insecurity: “They were calling it a crisis even before the war began.”
  • In a BBC interview, World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned that a global hunger crisis is mounting, as Russia has cut off access to Ukrainian wheat supplies that typically feed 400 million worldwide.
  • Food Ingredients First covered how vegetable fat markets are adapting to global trade upheaval. Ukraine accounts for 42% of the world’s sunflower oil exports, often imported by less-developed countries.
  • Bloomberg wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the food crisis as leverage for peace talks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Russia’s blockade “blackmail.”
  • Global Farmer Network board member Terry Wanzek argued in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that U.S. farmers could help fill market shortfalls, but need policy change: “The genetic-modification technologies that make my production more efficient and defend my corn and soybeans from weeds, pests, extreme weather and disease aren’t available for wheat.”
  • On June 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act (Agri-Pulse). The bill largely bolsters Biden administration food and ag policies: investigating meatpacker consolidation, establishing a food supply chain task force, boosting ethanol production and incentivizing certain farm practices.
  • Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Penn.) commented that the bill “[doubles] down on the idea that more spending and big government will feed the world” and countered with a bill that would instead deregulate agriculture.

Big Bills

Ongoing issues with global food supplies added to ongoing inflation. The U.S. Consumer Price Index report showed inflation sped up again in May — rising 8.6% from a year earlier and 1% from April.

  • The New York Times reported the monthly CPI increase “was more rapid than economists had predicted and about triple the previous pace.”
  • AgFunder News covered research findings that show that “food producer costs were 1.4% higher than consumer costs in the US as of March 2022.”
  • Meatingplace shared recent government data that showed the “costs for food purchased away from home (restaurants) rose 7.4% for the 12 months ended April 30, while food bought for home consumption (grocery stores) rose 11.9% from a year ago.
  • The Specialty Food Association’s State of the Specialty Food Industry Report research found that “inflation is hitting shelf-stable, center-store categories the hardest,” with soup coming in as the most-affected by inflation.
  • The Associated Press declared “shrinkflation” is on the rise worldwide as manufacturers reduce package sizes to offset rising costs.
  • The Wall Street Journal said some of the nation’s largest food suppliers and restaurants plan to continue raising prices as costs rise. Kraft Heinz notified retailers it would raise prices in August, while McDonald’s plans “more frequent increases but at smaller levels.”
  • As prices increase on everything, NPR highlighted the inflation immunity of the rotisserie chicken despite climbing chicken prices.

Cracking the Whip on Ships

In a bipartisan vote on June 13, U.S. House of Representatives approved the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022. Three days later, President Biden signed the bill into law. With exports and maritime transportation such a critical part of the global food supply, the legislation has been widely supported as it hopes to curb inflation and pork backlogs.

  • Reuters reported that the bill would “allow [the Federal Maritime Commission] FMC to launch probes of ocean common carriers’ business practices and to apply enforcement measures … and would bar ocean carriers from unreasonably declining opportunities for U.S. exports under new rules to be determined by the FMC.”
  • Shortly after signing the legislation, President Biden tweeted, “During the pandemic, these carriers increased their prices as much as 1,000% — the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 allows us to crack down on those excessive hikes.”
  • Progressive Farmer’s Chris Clayton reported on American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall’s conversation with President Biden. “He [Biden] wholeheartedly agreed that we must get past the bottleneck at our ports to get America back on the move and that means breaking the logjam on Capitol Hill.”
  • In a press release, National Pork Producers Council President-elect Scott Hays added, “Exports add significantly to American pork producers’ bottom line. Having more assurances that our products will reach their destination by addressing problems that have plagued our ports for years is a huge win for our industry.”
  • The National Restaurant Association’s statement indicated hope for relief: “Whether it’s food, packaging, or equipment restaurants depend on, supply chain disruptions are so bad, American importers and exporters are paying the highest shipping rates ever recorded for the worst service levels ever experienced.”
  • The Consumer Brands Association addressed the entire supply chain in its praise for the legislation: “The pandemic and subsequent disruptions highlighted the fragility of the complex supply chain system and the need to modernize decades-old ocean regulations to address declining maritime shipping performance and unfair practices that hurt American manufacturers, farmers and, ultimately, consumers.”

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

Walmart released its 2021 Culture, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report this week that highlights continued growth in representation by women and people of color in their leadership ranks, with both up roughly 2% year over year. People of color are also nearing half of Walmart’s total U.S. workforce. The multinational retailer has made significant investments in this effort over the past five years.

Worth Reading

Short on Pungency

The Hill explained the complexities behind the Sriracha shortage, a topic that had social media ablaze with speculation: “Drought stress decreased reproductive growth parameters and pungency of pepper fruit, and that the most important factor in the production of chili peppers is the availability of water at the flowering and pod formation stage, which are critical time periods to ensure good yield and pepper quality.” The most important factor when eating Sriracha is the availability of water, too.

‘Bolshoi Burger’

After McDonald’s sold most of its 850 units operating in Russia, much of the branding and menu items remained intact. The New York Post reported on an abundance of legacy Big Macs (not the renamed Bolshoi Burger) and other McDonald’s-branded materials: “Their lingering presence highlights the challenges Western companies face in extricating themselves fully from the Russian market over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.”

Golden State, Global Cuisine

Los Angeles Times correspondent Jaweed Kaleem highlighted a recent food export: Californian cuisine. As one Parisian chef put it, “People recognize California as at the forefront of cuisine. Europeans visit Los Angeles or San Francisco and seem to decide they want a bit of them back home.” Totally.

Recognizing Diversity in Fine Dining

The James Beard Foundation announced the 2022 cohort of culinary, humanitarian and media award-winners. Bon Appétit welcomed the foundation’s more inclusive selections, concluding: “Time will tell whether these changes stick and continue to result in more diverse honorees in the future.”

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

Emissions and Omissions
Friday by Noon | May 13, 2022

Big-picture policies drove discussions this week, with particular attention to: Tracking and trimming greenhouse gas emissions.Restructuring and reinforcing global food ...

June 10, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Balancing Safety and Convenience

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

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

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

Jennifer Marston (AgFunder News)

Puffed Up in Aisle Four

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

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

Driving Convenience

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

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

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

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (Twitter)

‘Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill’

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

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

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

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

Worth Reading

Sparkling Vinegar

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

Montana, Land of the Lentils

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

Sizzling Science

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

Emissions and Omissions
Friday by Noon | May 13, 2022

Big-picture policies drove discussions this week, with particular attention to: Tracking and trimming greenhouse gas emissions.Restructuring and reinforcing global food ...

June 3, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Negotiating Scarcity

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as:

  • Shortage concerns, domestically and globally
  • Efforts to regulate meatpacking
  • Factors in negotiating future policies

No Shortage of Shortages

With wheat and infant formula shortages deepening, focus shifted to immediate measures taken for relief. Meanwhile, less-urgent shortages provided evidence that supply chains remain fragile.

  • As wheat shortages brought on by the Ukraine war continue and the world hunger crisis deepens, The New York Times covered the effort to free the estimated 25 million tons of grain from last year’s harvest that are at risk of rotting.
  • Food Business News noted that a sunflower seed oil shortage spurred by the war in Ukraine has forced food companies to search for alternatives, such as soybean and canola oils.
  • Bloomberg reported that 74% of stores nationwide ran out of infant formula stocks last week. Ten states and 14 metropolitan areas had out-of-stock rates above 90%.
  • As infant formula shipments from overseas continue to arrive in the U.S., Danone said it would send 5 million bottles of special formula for infants with milk allergies (MSN).
  • The Wall Street Journal reported moviegoers may see fewer options on concession stands this summer as supply chain issues persist. Most notably, movie theaters fear a popcorn shortfall as farmers grow less popcorn in favor of more lucrative crops like corn and soybeans.
  • Just two weeks after the Mexican pizza returned to Taco Bell’s menu, fans are complaining the item is sold out at restaurants (Nation’s Restaurant News). On its Mexican pizza FAQ page, Taco Bell noted that demand was seven times higher than when it last appeared on the menu.

Packing the Stockyards

On May 26, the USDA announced a series of updates to the Packers and Stockyards Act, which has governed relationships between farmers and meatpackers since 1921. The changes come as part of the Biden administration’s push to increase competition in the meatpacking industry and the economy at large.

  • A soon-to-be-proposed rule will require poultry processors to be more transparent about the chicks, feed and other inputs that are provided to growers as well as potential earnings. Furthermore, the USDA is reevaluating some practices used in the “ranking system” that rewards growers who produce the largest birds.
  • Agricultural groups representing farmers — the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union — welcomed the announcement.
  • The North American Meat Institute, which represents meat processors, worried, “While the Meat Institute supports transparency … we remain concerned about further government intrusion in the market.”
  • National Chicken Council President Mike Brown responded, “It’s ironic that these regulations are being proposed under the guise of promoting competition. The performance-based structure of how chicken farmers are compensated is literally the definition of competition.”
  • Politico reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich shared a Washington Monthly piece that examined the Obama administration’s failure to update the Packers and Stockyards Act a decade ago.

National Measures

Legislators and stakeholders got a jumpstart on conversations about large-scale national policies, including the 2023 farm bill, the upcoming White House food & nutrition conference and the FDA’s 2025 dietary guidelines.

  • Talk of the 2023 farm bill has started to brew. For reference, the Congressional Research Service posted this useful explainer for this package of laws that garners a heavy load of commentary every five years: “The farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues.”
  • “This could be the first trillion-dollar farm bill and we know critics who don’t appreciate modern agriculture will come out of the woodwork to try to derail this,” said USA Rice Federation Farmers Board Chair Kirk Satterfield. “The world was a totally different place when the current farm bill was written.”
  • American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall emphasized, “It is our responsibility to engage with members of Congress from urban districts, too, who may not understand how farm bill programs impact all families.” The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps) has been included in the farm bill for this very reason.
  • The American Soybean Association listed its 2023 farm bill priorities, which address incentive-based conservation programs, exports and building biofuels.
  • After more than 50 years, the White House in September plans to host a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. The goal: “End hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”
  • Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle pondered whether the conference will focus on hunger or health topics.
  • Looking far ahead, the comment period for the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines ended in mid-May and some themes emerged. Many observers, including the Nutrition Coalition, said 77% of the comments advocated for a review of low-carb science as a measure to improve Americans’ health.

Worth Reading

Lunar Garden

The Scoop reported that University of Florida scientists successfully grew plants in soil collected from the moon (fun fact: moon soil is also known as “regolith”) on Apollo missions 11, 12 and 17. “After two days, they started to sprout. Everything sprouted. I can’t tell you how astonished we were! Every plant — whether in a lunar sample or in a control — looked the same up until about day six,” reflected Anna-Lisa Paul, a professor in horticultural sciences at the University of Florida. Question: Why did they wait so long to try this?

Soothing Hangry Kids

Science Daily shared the results of an Ohio State study on diet’s role in ADHD symptoms in kids. Respondents who ate more fruits and vegetables had less signs of inattention, a hallmark of ADHD. Food insecurity also plays a role in ADHD symptoms: “Everyone tends to get irritated when they’re hungry and kids with ADHD are no exception. If they’re not getting enough food, it could make their symptoms worse,” summarized one of the researchers.

Table Science

Food Ingredients First profiled an ambitious endeavor known as the Periodic Table of Food Initiative. The group, which draws funding from the American Heart Association and the Rockefeller Foundation, seeks to create “a technical platform for standardized mass spectrometry-based analytical approaches for deep compositional analyses of food.” In normal words: they’re creating an open database with a molecular breakdown of the 1,000 most important foods in the world.

The Drones Are Coming!

…from Walmart. The retail giant posted about a partnership with DroneUp with the potential to reach 4 million households in six states. “Between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items, such as Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes. For a delivery fee of $3.99, customers can order items totaling up to 10 pounds, so simply put, if it fits safely it flies.”

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

Emissions and Omissions
Friday by Noon | May 13, 2022

Big-picture policies drove discussions this week, with particular attention to: Tracking and trimming greenhouse gas emissions.Restructuring and reinforcing global food ...

May 20, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Politics on the Plate

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.

Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in food production:

  • President Biden stepped in to solve an infant formula shortage.
  • Leaders raised concerns about global supplies of wheat.
  • Food brands took on political positions.

Formula for Trouble

A shortage of infant formula is forcing parents to take extreme measures to keep their babies fed. While the shortage has largely been attributed to a February recall, a plant closure and supply chain disruptions, there’s much more to the story.

  • In an explainer piece, The Hustle attributed the shortage to additional factors including pandemic hoarding, higher birth rates, strict U.S. regulation and high import taxes.
  • Politico linked the shortage to the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC). The program is the largest purchaser of formula in the U.S., and due to how contracts are awarded, two companies provide 90% of the formula for infants receiving program benefits.
  • The Biden administration announced several actions to ease the shortage, including reopening a manufacturing plant and increasing imports. On May 18, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up production and authorized flights to import supplies from overseas (The Associated Press).
  • Abbott Laboratories said it could resume formula production at its Michigan manufacturing plant in two weeks, with store shelves restocked in “several weeks” after reaching an agreement with the FDA on the steps needed to reopen the plant (The New York Times).
  • Nestlé committed to flying in extra formula from Switzerland and the Netherlands, in addition to ramping up formula production to alleviate the severe shortage (The Wall Street Journal).
  • The U.S. House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee grilled FDA Commissioner Robert Califf in a hearing on May 19, reported CNBC. Lawmakers criticized the FDA for “failing to promptly investigate a whistleblower complaint sent in October,” when an Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan was first accused of safety violations.

Amber Waves of Pain

Discussions about corn and soy tend to overshadow all other crops, but recent developments in worldwide wheat production have made headlines in the U.S. and abroad. It’s been a hot topic since Russia invaded Ukraine, as the two countries combined make up almost 30% of world wheat exports, but wheat issues extend far beyond that region.

  • An early May Wall Street Journal report warned, “crop shortfalls will keep prices high, imperiling food security in places like the Middle East and North Africa, where surging food prices have contributed to political instability.”
  • A more recent report from Food Ingredients First summarized how climate conditions in India and France are further choking global wheat production. A USDA report complemented this, saying that world wheat stocks will drop to a six-year low.
  • Meanwhile, in India, the government has halted all exports of wheat except to areas of high food insecurity (Bloomberg).
  • On May 12, Reuters reported that Argentina became the first country to authorize planting GMO wheat. The new seeds are drought- and herbicide-tolerant and will be available for the next planting season.
  • Closer to home, the Grain Foods Foundation canceled its campaign for a checkoff program, which would authorize the USDA to tax wheat production to fund advertising for the commodity. The group called the proposal “a distraction” (Food Processing).
  • Finally, Iowa native Alexis Taylor lit up the ag internet after President Biden nominated her for USDA under secretary for trade and foreign agriculture affairs. Groups representing pork, soybeans, rice, milk, and, of course, wheat posted statements praising her nomination.

Mealpolitik

Infant formula wasn’t the only food and beverage news on Capitol Hill this week. Politics motivated several prominent developments in the industry, from rethinking Russia to midterm elections.

  • McDonald’s has long served as a bellwether for the viability of American businesses in rival countries. After 32 years in Russia, the chain announced that it will sell all 850 locations to a current licensee in response to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. In a letter, CEO Chris Kempczinski cited the company’s core value: “do the right thing.”
  • While many brands have paused or siloed Russian operations, the burger chain’s complete withdrawal marks a turning point in “burger diplomacy.” Washington Post food critic Tim Carman elaborated on the historical importance of McDonald’s entry in the market during the Cold War.
  • Meanwhile, Democratic legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to establish a special investigator for consolidation in the U.S. meat industry (Agri-Pulse). The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association objected that the bill would be a “confusing bureaucratic mess” instead of “focusing on adequate staffing and funding for the woefully under-resourced Packers and Stockyards Division at USDA.”
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz sought nomination for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary on May 17 (results are still pending). Amanda Zluckyj of The Farmer’s Daughter rebuffed the TV personality as “a leader in demonizing modern agriculture.” Should Dr. Oz make it to the Senate, he’ll work alongside politicians who accused him of “peddling … snake oil” diet solutions in June 2014.
  • Starbucks jumped into a hot-button political issue on May 16 by committing to cover travel costs for workers who lose access to abortion services if/when Roe v. Wade is overturned. Nation’s Restaurant News noted that the chain has taken a similar stance on gender-affirmation surgery.

Worth Reading

Edible Art

If you’ve perused Instagram lately, surely you’ve seen short videos of knives plunging into realistic-looking food sculptures. Bon Appetit explored this trend: “It’s not surprising that these playful images, which are all art imitating life, took off in a culture underpinned by tweeters besotted by the meme-ification of, well, everything. Combine that with roughly two years of confinement to home and screens due to the pandemic, and you get a sculpted food obsession spectrum.”

GrubFlub

Eater New York covered food delivery company Grubhub’s May 17 free lunch attempt, which proved to be quite a disaster. Shortly after announcing free lunch to “give back” (up to $15, not including tax, tip and delivery), Grubhub’s server crashed, and frustrated customers flooded social media with criticism. “Who at Grubhub thought it was a good idea to promise 8 million New Yorkers free lunch during a 3 hr period,” asked one Twitter user.

Avoidant & Restrictive — It’s a Thing

The Washington Post’s Susan Shain explored avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), which identifies “picky eaters.” The article explains that people with ARFID eat fewer than 20 foods, mostly carbs and dairy. An eating behavior psychologist explained that “nature, rather than nurture, is probably to blame, with potential factors including heightened sensory and disgust sensitivity, as well as cognitive rigidity.”

Under Pressure

High-pressure processing (HPP) has proven to be invaluable for foods and beverages that typically wouldn’t be cooked. Modern Farmer explained some of the benefits: “HPP extends ‘sell-by’ dates — almost five-fold for coconut water and 30-fold for raw juices — without compromising freshness or nutritional properties.”

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Emissions and Omissions
Friday by Noon | May 13, 2022

Big-picture policies drove discussions this week, with particular attention to: Tracking and trimming greenhouse gas emissions.Restructuring and reinforcing global food ...

Friday by Noon:

Emissions and Omissions

Big-picture policies drove discussions this week, with particular attention to:

  • Tracking and trimming greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Restructuring and reinforcing global food supplies.

“This stuff is not going away: more reporting, more traceability, more visibility in the system. He who figures it out and can figure out how to make their own business better — and not just at a cost to their system — is gonna win.”

Dr. Jim Lowe, Associate Professor, University of Illinois (YouTube)

Emissive Discourse

Discussions around measuring, analyzing and cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions surfaced this week in legislative, agricultural and CPG circles.

  • On May 9, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) extended a comment period to June 17 for a proposed rule that would require public companies to report GHG emissions in their supply chains (e.g., farm inputs). The extension was granted after requests from leading industry organizations.
  • Agricultural groups, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, celebrated the extension: “While farmers and ranchers would not be required to report directly to the SEC, they provide almost every raw product that goes into the food supply chain.”
  • On May 4, Reuters explained how a satellite measured GHG emissions from a California cattle feedlot.
  • Food Ingredients First reported on research conducted by Nomad Foods that concluded frozen food products frequently have lower carbon emissions than their non-frozen counterparts. Nomad Foods is a large purveyor of frozen foods in Europe. What are the odds?
  • On May 10, Unilever ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s announced Project Mootopia, “a potentially game-changing and planet-healing initiative that aims to cut [GHG] emissions in half on 15 dairy farms by the end of 2024.”
  • Want the latest deep dive on agricultural GHG emissions and sinks? Check out the Congressional Research Service’s May 10 report.

Grain Trade Blockade

Global food markets continue to adjust to disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By shutting down one of the world’s largest exporters of grains and oilseeds, Russia has threatened the food security of millions worldwide — and the U.S. agriculture sector is stepping up to the challenge.

  • Tufts University focused on increased hunger levels, citing World Food Programme projections that 33 million to 47 million people will face acute food insecurity as a result of the war.
  • Keith Good of the University of Illinois covered the added difficulties of concerned nations banning food exports. This includes a graph of a worrying metric: “calories affected by export restrictions.”
  • DTN/Progressive Farmer writer Todd Neeley noted that Ukrainian farmers are expected to plant a majority of the usual crop this year. However, DTN analyst Todd Hultman warned that getting food out of Ukraine is the biggest difficulty at the moment.
  • Politico’s Meredith Lee cited Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.): “They’re sitting now on 12 million tons of agricultural products from the last harvest that will spoil by this fall unless it’s shipped.” Lee also outlined efforts by the U.S. and E.U. to break Russia’s blockade.
  • On May 11, President Biden announced a set of policies aimed at increasing crop production. The policies include increasing access to crop insurance and tech tools, as well as boosting domestic production of fertilizer: a key input cut off by sanctions against Russia.
  • Industry groups for grain producers, such as soy and corn farmers, welcomed the support.

“American farmers are on the frontlines of the response to Putin’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine. Through production of homegrown biofuels and crops, our farmers are lowering the cost of gas and growing food to feed the world.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (Twitter)

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

A practical solution to retail food waste? There’s an app for that. On May 5, Meijer announced its Flashfood Program has redirected over 1 million pounds of food waste in the best way possible — by getting it to consumers. With up to 50% discounts on short-dated foods, value-hungry shoppers become part of the solution — preventing waste of meat, produce, seafood, deli, dairy and bakery products.

Customers make orders on the free app, then pick them up from refrigerators and racks at the front of Meijer stores. After a one-store pilot reduced in-store food waste by 10%, Meijer expanded Flashfood to all its stores in 2021. It’s a simple, elegant win-win for sustainability and value.

Worth Reading

Paper, Please

On May 10, Kraft Heinz unveiled paper-based packaging for its flagship ketchup products. The new design will undergo consumer testing before it hits markets, serving as an early step in the company’s plan to “make all packaging globally recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.”

Doughy Demographics

Economist Jayson Lusk shared the latest results of Purdue University’s Consumer Food Insights survey. For those who dive into data headfirst, check out the dashboard to see how different demographics eat raw cookie dough, buy private-label products or compost food scraps.

Hunger Hurts Health

NBC News covered a Washington State University study that found food insecurity increases the likelihood of developing Type-II diabetes later in life. Lead author Cassandra Nguyen commented, “Eating according to the dietary guidelines tends to cost more money, and it may cost more time.”

Bad Formula

On May 13, Wall Street Journal reporters Annie Gasparro and Jaewon Kang updated the grim baby formula shortage situation: it could last for months longer. The category has suffered greatly after food safety problems were detected in Abbott Laboratories’ Similac product in February, and supply chain issues have made it difficult for competitors to fill the void.

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

May 6, 2022
Friday by Noon:

April Showers Bring May Showers

This week was marked by particularly hard work along many facets of the supply chain, including production, legislation and promotion.

  • Farmers struggled to get seeds in the ground.
  • Congress worked to get cash in ranchers’ wallets.
  • Brands pushed to get beverages in consumers’ hands.

A Slow Start

This cold, wet spring isn’t just dragging down moods, it’s causing serious concern by holding up planting season for Midwest farmers. This, and the continued drought in the western U.S., is adding to already volatile supply issues for most agricultural products.

  • The Des Moines Register explained how Iowa farmers are playing catch-up, trying to avoid yield losses from delayed planting. Axios broke down the Midwest situation, adding that this is the slowest corn planting season since 2013.
  • The Farmer’s Daughter blogger Amanda Zaluckyj posted about how farmers know when to plant. Zaluckyj quoted her brother, joking, “When Mother Nature gets her act together,” but read on for the real calculus.
  • Summarizing the situation out west, the Public Policy Institute of California reported on the prolonged drought’s increased food prices and reduced income in a state that employs more than 420,000 people and whose farm revenue exceeds $50 billion.
  • CNBC summarized how Arizona farmers’ access to water is nearly cut off due to declining reservoir levels and dry irrigation canals.
  • Further complicating weather-related matters, surging global fertilizer prices are exacerbating this difficult growing season. Bloomberg listed a range of drivers including natural gas prices, economic sanctions on Belarus (a major potash producer), summer storms in the U.S. Gulf Coast and (let’s say it together) COVID-19-related supply chain issues.

Beefs With Beef

Like many foods, meat is getting more expensive. Unlike other parts of food production, meatpackers are drawing criticism for consolidation. Congress and the Biden administration contend that the four largest meatpackers have artificially held beef prices above competitive market levels.

  • At an April 27 House of Representatives hearing, agriculture committee chairman David Scott argued, “Fair and competitive markets should engender opportunities for many, and not just benefit a few at the top. We created antitrust laws for a reason, and unfortunately, we have gotten away from enforcing anticompetitive practices, and we have moved toward a system that prioritizes efficiency at all costs.”
  • Food Processing captured one such anticompetitive concern brought by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb): “None of our [Nebraska Cattlemen] producer members we encouraged to testify were willing to put themselves out front for fear of possible retribution by other market participants.”
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Don Schiefelbein welcomed moves to increase transparency of cattle pricing.
  • Tyson CEO Donnie King defended pricing practices as “straightforward market forces” (The Washington Post).
  • The meatpackers’ industry group, North American Meat Institute, reiterated that there are other middlemen involved: “Packers don’t buy fed cattle from cow-calf producers; nor do packers sell beef to consumers.”
  • Colorado State University Economist Stephen Koontz testified that certain regulations have “no research nor documented evidence that there is any benefit, much less a benefit similar to well‐documented costs.” (Agri-Pulse)
  • In an April 26 Senate hearing, John Boozman (R-Ark.) asked: “Do we really think that creating yet another government entity is a real solution?” Boozman brought up another important concern: “This legislation also impacts the pork, poultry, and lamb industries. Yet, none of those stakeholders are testifying today.”

Bottoms Up!

Today is National Beverage Day, a day that honors all things drinkable. The site “National Today” admits the day’s origins are murky, but traced some of its roots as an industry attempt to promote bottled fizzy drinks. In honor, here are a few developments in the oft-neglected “B” in “F&B.”

  • Next to spiked seltzers, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails are the next hottest trend in booze, perhaps due to more pandemic-driven in-home consumption. Food Dive profiled Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits, a celebrity-driven brand of RTDs associated with names like Sarah Jessica Parker and John Cena.
  • Punch, a media brand “dedicated to drinks and drinking culture,” dove deep on vodka. “It’s come to stand, instead, for an inherent blandness and lack of sophistication, which is reflected upon the person ordering it.” Hey, hey – that sounds judge-y.
  • Fox Business profiled “Flippy” and “Sippy,” two robot concepts Jack in the Box is testing in San Diego to flip burgers and pour soft drinks.
  • Bloomberg reported that brewers like AB InBev have pulled in higher profits after raising prices.
  • The Journal of Marketing analyzed the growing trend of craft products that has grown beyond beer and coffee.

Worth Reading

Office Guy in Aisle Five

Supermarket News reported on retail chain Hy-Vee’s singular response to its workforce crunch: the Des Moines, Iowa, based chain placed newspaper ads explaining how it asked more than 500 corporate staff to shift to retail positions.

Organic Impact

Ever wonder how organic production actually stacks up against conventional counterparts? GreenBiz writer Theresa Lieb walks through the pros and cons at a high level (with links to supporting research). Ultimately, Lieb determines that it may not be a cure-all: “Introducing some regenerative practices to large farms while continuing to rely on synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, as the USDA and many major agricultural companies promote, may be the best we can hope for.”

Misinformation Nation

After cable TV personality Tucker Carlson suggested that the government was behind a series of fires at food production facilities, rumors began to spread that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had been arrested. Farm Journal’s Tyne Morgan set out to clear Vilsack’s name: “The story is plastered with disinformation and simply not true.” Regrettably, we can confirm that food production facility fires are a weekly event.

Tundra Dash

Even Alaskans are getting in on the food delivery boom. The New York Times detailed the expansion of services like DoorDash and Grubhub to the tundra: “Depending on the destination, the weight of the food and the space available on the flight, rural Alaskans can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $30 just to get their food to the plane.”

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

April 22, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Meanwhile, Back on Earth

Several grim numbers piled up this week. But at least today the leading voices in food, beverage and agriculture are collectively celebrating Earth Day and looking for ways to reduce climate impact.

  • Hunger never went away, but conversations about it are coming back.
  • Avian flu continues to spread, surpassing past outbreaks.
  • Earth Day is every day for some; an important occasion for all.

“The world is shaken by compounding crises. The fallout of the war in Ukraine is adding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that now enters its third year, while climate change and increased fragility and conflict pose persistent harm to people around the globe.”

World Bank, IMF, UN WFP and WTO (statement)

Still Hungry

The quote above opened an April 13 joint statement from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations World Food Program and World Trade Organization that renewed a call for urgency to address a global food security crisis. The situation in the United States is also dire, as federal hunger relief funds are set to expire and the majority of food banks report a drop in donations.

  • Feeding America detailed the domestic situation, which has seen a 20% increase in food bank demand, and called for action in the form of federal aid, food donations from manufacturers and monetary donations.
  • Politico and The Specialty Food Association both helped circulate Feeding America’s plea for help.
  • An article in the Los Angeles Times explained the correlation between food prices, inflation and a first-time food bank user surge.
  • Following up on a piece published in Civil Eats last week, Eater on April 20 examined the friction between dollar stores and the communities they serve. Both stories highlighted increased concern about a correlation between small-box discount stores (SBDS) and food deserts.
  • To increase access to SNAP (aka food stamps) benefits at retail, Wegman’s opened up benefits to Instacart orders (Supermarket News) and Meijer accepted SNAP for pickup and delivery (Specialty Foods).

Bird Flu Blues

Since being detected in the U.S. in January, avian influenza (aka bird flu) has quickly spread to 31 million birds across 29 states, according to the USDA. The rapid spread is affecting egg prices, backyard and commercial flocks, and even wild birds, including bald eagles.

  • Food Safety News reported: “Prior to just 70 days ago, the worst case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the United States occurred in 2015.
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) suggested, “The higher numbers might be attributed to improvements in detection and reporting protocols.” AFBF President Zippy Duvall added: “The HPAI outbreak is an urgent reminder to all poultry farmers to ensure their biosecurity measures are in place.”
  • Pennsylvania confirmed its first commercial case in a flock of 1.4 million commercial layer chickens, while more commercial cases were reported in Minnesota and Indiana (Feedstuffs).
  • The Washington Post found the price of eggs has nearly tripled since November due to the culling of flocks to prevent further spread.
  • Associated Press writer David Pitt examined the conundrum of free-range egg producers who wish to protect vulnerable flocks — the best defense is to bring the birds indoors.
  • Citing the profound harm to farmers and the food supply, Wired writer Maryn McKenna called for the “reevaluation of the possibility of vaccinating U.S. poultry against disease, a step that parts of the poultry industry and also federal policymakers have rejected for years.”

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day and influential voices have been celebrating all week long. Most influential voices in our database addressed the occasion, covering topics as varied as planting practices, food waste, water stewardship and diet choices.

  • Agriculturalists — from The Dairy Alliance to the American Sugar Alliance — reiterated the theme that “every day is Earth Day” for farmers, emphasizing how good stewardship practices help farms thrive long-term.
  • National Association of the State Departments of Agriculture shared a speech from President Richard Ball where he positioned agriculture as “part of the answer” to climate change.
  • United Egg Producers cited statistics that today’s egg farmers save the equivalent of 3,716 swimming pools of water compared to 1960.
  • National Retail Federation shared research on “sustainably minded consumers.”
  • ReFED advocated for food waste reduction as a means of lowering methane emissions.
  • The EPA posted a retrospective series on Twitter using the hashtag #USAbeforeEPA.
  • Commodities giant ADM announced that it will achieve deforestation-free supply chains in 2025, five years ahead of schedule.
  • Mars touted its recent commitment to reduce plastic waste.
  • Indigo Ag looked forward to “the first crop of” carbon credits for encouraging sustainable farming practices.

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

With rising food costs so in focus these days, one brand has earned consumer loyalty by defining and promoting a fiscal take on good. Even as food prices increased 10% over the past year, those 23 oz. cans of Arizona Iced Tea somehow remain at the same budget-friendly price of 99 cents that they’ve maintained since 1992. As the LA Times reported, company founder and Brooklyn native Don Vultaggio remains committed to his pricing: “Consumers don’t need another price increase from a guy like me.” It’s a unique brand of good, and singularly their own, but clearly a differentiator that consumers find relevant.


Worth Reading

Twisted Research

Science is finally catching up with some of life’s greatest questions. In Food Manufacturing, MIT researchers shared their insights on why the filling of an Oreo sticks to one side when the cookie is twisted apart. The team even developed a 3D-printable “Oreometer” for home use in a bid to make science more accessible. … aaaand then they immediately countered that accessibility: “Scientifically, sandwich cookies present a paradigmatic model of parallel plate rheometry in which a fluid sample, the cream, is held between two parallel plates, the wafers.”

Sparing Kids

On April 20, Unilever announced it would stop marketing to children under 16. “Recognising the power that social media and influencer marketing can have on children’s choices, we believe it’s important to raise the bar on responsible marketing to a minimum age of 16 years old across both traditional and social media,” read the CPG giant’s press release. Marketing Dive added, “Marketers have come under increasing fire for collecting data on children using apps and social media platforms, while facing a growing number of data privacy laws.”

‘Relaxation Culture’

Also on April 20, an unofficial holiday for marijuana use, Vox writer Melinda Fakuade summarized the recent abundance of edibles: “These days, though, the THC snack marketplace looks very different — chips and candies and chocolates and cocktail kits and other products that are meant to get consumers high without smoking a puff — and it is blossoming into a cornerstone of American relaxation and consumption culture.”

Safety First

For all of you drone operators out there, The Daily Scoop offered seven tips for not interfering with agricultural aircraft. We thought some are obvious, such as Rule #1: “Give the right of way to a manned aircraft. It’s the law.”

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

April 15, 2022
Friday by Noon:

The ‘F’ Is Silent

One of the biggest U.S. government regulators got hit with a highly critical series of articles, bringing its role in regulation of food safety into question. Food prices and inflation continued to drive leading conversations as the war in Ukraine grinds on. Meanwhile, talk about sustainability in its many forms ratcheted up ahead of Earth Day.

FDA’s Failing Grade

On April 8, Politico published an investigation into the FDA’s failure to act on critical food issues. Based on more than 50 interviews, the article details the agency’s slow responses that often come too late. “There’s a long-running joke among FDA officials that the ‘F’ in FDA is silent.” Ouch.

  • In response, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Director Susan Mayne said her “division is working with limited resources and funding” (Agri-Pulse).
  • In her Food Politics blog, Marion Nestle called the “blockbuster exposé of the FDA” a “must-read” and noted her long belief “that it would be better all the way around if the FDA strongly regulated the food industry.”
  • By April 11, Politico reported that lawmakers were demanding answers following the findings. In a letter sent to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Pat Murray (D-Wash.) sought “immediate action to ensure the FDA is doing all it can to fulfill all aspects of its mission to protect the health and safety of the American people.”
  • Michael Taylor, who served as FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine from 2010 to 2016, suggested breaking up the FDA, noting that “the problem of food’s low priority within FDA is not new” (Politico).
  • Food Safety News Editor Dan Flynn proposed taking Taylor’s suggested solution a step further by recommending the creation of “a single, independent body that combines all the food safety functions of the FDA and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Agency.”
  • Earthjustice, which is currently suing the FDA to force decision on petitions to ban PFAS in food, used the Politico investigation to call out the agency on Twitter for being “asleep at the job and allowing countless harmful contaminants into our food.”

Supply Goes Down, Price Goes Up

It’s a basic rule of economics that a reduction in supply leads to a rise in price. Given that the past two years have thoroughly messed with supply chains, it’s no surprise that consumers are leaving grocery stores with lighter wallets these days.

  • Politico explained the factors affecting different food segments through the lens of a bacon cheeseburger. Politico is on a roll this week.
  • In its April 8 Food Price Index report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization attributed record-high food prices to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • In a bid to ease gas price spikes from the war, the Biden administration lifted restrictions on ethanol blending for the summer. The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick Thomas cited National Chicken Council concerns that this will limit corn supply and drive up feed costs.
  • Reuters noted that egg prices are rising globally as Feedstuff remarked that avian influenza infections in the U.S. have surpassed the 2014-15 outbreak.
  • Food brands are feeling the pain too. Conagra Brands told investors that its profits dropped by 22% due to rising input costs.
  • Discount grocer Aldi doubled down on maintaining low prices (Supermarket News), contrasting a broader trends of grocers passing costs along to consumers (The Wall Street Journal).

Shouting Sustainability

Is it really doing good if no one’s watching? From third-party verifications to partnering with NGOs to earning media attention, food and agriculture groups explored various ways to make their good known.

  • Burger King and Cargill partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, donating $5 million to target climate change on cattle ranches. The program will manage grasslands and greenhouse gas emissions in six states (Meat+Poultry).
  • Going against the grain in an atmosphere that typically criticizes the environmental impact of livestock, Theresa Lieb from Greenbiz described the positive impact of raising cattle. Two of the pluses include grazing on invasive plants and helping Native American people thrive.
  • Modern Farmer summarized recent research on cable bacteria, which are “naturally-occuring living wires” that may reduce methane emissions from rice farms with electricity.
  • The Washington Post interviewed the sustainability director from Fetzer Vineyards about the granularity that goes into the comprehensive carbon footprint analysis of its wine. From the thickness of the bottles to the gas needed from employees’ cars, a climate-neutral certification is difficult to measure and earn.
  • Urban salad greens grower Gotham Greens earned B Corp certification. New Hope interviewed Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO: “The certification adds in additional layers of accountability and transparency for our employees, customers, retail and foodservice partners, and investors.”

Worth Reading

Funky Flavors

If you think those guacamole Takis you saw at the gas station are exotic, check out Eater’s write up of Asian snacks like hot chili seaweed chips, sour plum umeboshi sticks and shrimp chips. In Japan, “enthusiastic snackers are met with an overwhelming abundance of options in snack-food categories as narrow as chips, with brands like Calbee and Koikeya consistently remaining on top.”

Interdependent Corn

Ethanol conversations were on tap this week, emphasizing the relationship between the Russia-Ukraine war, gas prices, corn farming and food prices. The Des Moines Register summarized President Biden’s April 11 visit to Iowa, where he announced lifting a summertime ban on E15 gasoline (gas blended with 15% corn-based ethanol). This was good news for corn farmers and drivers complaining about high gasoline prices. Because the same corn is used for livestock feed, Wall Street Journal’s Jinjoo Lee opined this might be a poor choice: “Even implied impacts on food should be enough to make E15 an unappetizing option.” Predictably, the Farm Bureau and many ag groups welcomed year-round E15.

Anti-antibiotic Labels

Researchers at George Washington University published research in Science Magazine that found 10% of urine samples from cattle “raised without antibiotics” tested positive for trace evidence of antibiotics. The researchers accused USDA of failing to adequately test the livestock, noting that “an approved USDA label cannot be deemed false or misleading by any entity other than the USDA.” The Washington Post’s Laura Reiley captured the response from Whole Foods, the most-affected retailer.

Wasted at Home

Food Waste Prevention Week ran April 4 to 8. While the topic isn’t the lightning rod it was circa 2012, reducing food waste is one of the few things on which everyone agrees. Natural Resources Defense Council broke out where food loss happens in the supply chain. The biggest contributors? Households.

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...

April 8, 2022
Friday by Noon:

Upticks

This week, discussions about upticks in prices continued to capture headlines. Things like gas, eggs and fertilizer are all important staples in food production and facing headwinds for different reasons, but they all contribute to higher food costs. Meanwhile, food safety raised a few eyebrows in both detection and regulation. And on the labor front, unionization and strikes gained momentum with workers industrywide in their quest for better pay and benefits.

Safety Strategies

Despite a lull in major foodborne illness outbreaks in the U.S., food safety remains front-of-mind for many influential figures in the industry. Concerns aren’t limited to consumer-facing brands either: the topic holds sway everywhere from farm fields to ivory towers.

  • In Meatingplace, Texas Tech food safety professor Mindy Brashears considered what on-farm conditions can and can’t do for meat safety.
  • Consumer Reports supported an FDA rule that sets safety standards for water used to grow produce, but worried the rule “leaves too much to the discretion of the farmer.”
  • On March 31, Yelp added inspection ratings to its listings in the Chicago area. This comes full circle, as back in 2019 the CDC analyzed Yelp reviews to track foodborne illness outbreaks.
  • The National Grocers Association suggested Listeria management strategies for retailers that prepare food on-site. NGA also shared a map showing how up-to-date states are on adopting FDA’s Food Code.
  • Food safety attorney Shawn Stevens wrote that food processors are beginning to realize that recalls are no longer considered “a single failure during a single shift of production.”
  • The Acheson Group warned that food price inflation increases the risk of “economically motivated adulteration by unethical suppliers.”
  • A North Carolina State University study found that one-quarter of home cooks could use more safety education: study participants contaminated salads by washing or sharing prep areas with raw poultry.

Inspired Organization

As union wins inspire more industry workers to organize in foodservice, retail and transportation, the efforts have a fair share of critics.

  • Amazon is determining its next steps after Staten Island workers voted in favor of unionization last week; Alabama workers rejected a bid to organize for the second time (Supermarket News). The New York Times asked whether the labor movement needs to get more disorganized after the win in Staten Island by the Amazon Labor Union, “a little-known independent union that didn’t exist 18 months ago.”
  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said that companies are “being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionizations” during an open forum with employees (Nation’s Restaurant News).
  • Eater outlined how the growing momentum for unionization among Starbucks workers may inspire workers at other chains to organize, considering the company has “often acted as a bellwether in the restaurant industry, for better and worse.”
  • Nearly 47,000 Southern California grocery workers signed a three-year contract with Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions, barely averting a planned strike, reported the Los Angeles Times.
  • With contract negotiations looming for west coast dockworkers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Modern Farmer outlined the potential impact a strike could have on agriculture. Worker slowdowns during contract negotiations in 2014 caused billions of dollars in losses.
  • The Wall Street Journal summarized Walmart’s strategy to attract truck drivers by raising starting salaries to as high as $110,000 a year. The company will also start an internal training program that offers workers in other roles the chance to become a certified truck driver and join the company’s internal fleet.

Worth Reading.

Lite of Our Lives

Just in time for National Beer Day on April 7, Miller Lite released Beer Drops, a liquid flavor enhancer meant to make other light beers taste more like Miller Lite (Food & Wine). Dissatisfied light beer drinkers can add Beer Drops to their subpar flavored brew to enjoy “the irreplaceable taste of a fine pilsner.”

Lard It Up

Grub Street writer Chelsea Peng featured NYC restaurants proudly proclaiming to use lard in their menus. Calling it a “divisive” ingredient, Peng reflects that “somehow, the idea of lard remains associated with cheap, grease-trap cooking that will leave yellow clumps on your artery walls — even though the reality is that it’s an inexpensive, versatile fat with a relatively high smoke point and rich, aromatic flavor, an ingredient that also happens to contain less saturated fat than almighty butter.”

Taste the Database

Food Business News highlighted Tastebase, a digital food and beverage database for “certified snackers” that allows users to discover and rate new brands in the snack world. “Tastebase was created to fill that gap and allow for discovery of new food and beverage products and … for new, emerging brands to easily reach prospective consumers,” said CEO Phil Chen.

Two Stories About Number Two

The war in Ukraine has prompted increased discussions about a global fertilizer shortage and, in turn, more talk about using manure to fertilize crops. Reuters reported that there’s a shortfall of farm-friendly feces as a lack of fertilizer also sapped supplies of manure. In Eater, cookbook author JJ Goode brought up the topic in a culinary context. “For almost two decades I’ve written about eating and never even considered acknowledging the aftermath,” Goode said.

Related Articles:

Celebrations and Breakups
Friday by Noon | June 24, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will be back in two weeks, on July 8. See ya then!In addition to the ...

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
Friday by Noon | June 17, 2022

Two consistencies and one oddity marked this week. Global supply chains continued to buckle and food prices continued to creep ...

Balancing Safety and Convenience
Friday by Noon | June 10, 2022

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

Negotiating Scarcity
Friday by Noon | June 3, 2022

Supply chains once again drove discussion, playing out as: Shortage concerns, domestically and globallyEfforts to regulate meatpackingFactors in negotiating future ...

Politics on the Plate
Friday by Noon | May 20, 2022

Programming note: Friday by Noon will return on June 3.Politics and policy led the way for the top conversations in ...