Is it a coincidence that discussions about drinking have increased as Election Day approaches? We couldn’t help but notice …

  • Eater talks who drinks what, with lots of hard seltzer
  • Election talk picks up, but we make it easy
  • A federal judge talks hunger relief, with lots of hard words

“It’s been exactly six months since I started tracking Covid-19 outbreaks at food plants and farms. Hard to believe that, in April, there were just 40 outbreaks and <2,000 worker cases. Today, there’s been over 1,400 outbreaks, 71,600 cases, and 321 deaths. And counting.”

Leah Douglas, FERN (Twitter)

‘Drinking in America’

The B in F&B figured prominently with hard and soft drinks prompting conversations and commentary.

  • Eater editor-in-chief Amanda Klutt introduced the publication’s city-by-city guide “Drinking in America” outlining the hardships — and innovation — bar businesses are experiencing. The collection concisely outlines local nuances, whether beach dives in LA, nightclubs in Miami or the bar/liquor store combos in Chicago.
  • On October 16, Coca-Cola cancelled the venerable Tab brand, which launched in 1963 as the first diet soda. USA Today said the company plans to focus on its AHA sparkling water and the new Topo Chico hard seltzer.
  • Also entering a hard seltzer into an increasingly competitive marketplace, Heineken partnered with AriZona Beverages. Heineken’s release said the brand will capture AriZona’s innovative flavor ideas with Heineken’s broad distribution.
  • Washington Post’s M. Carrie Allan reviewed the state of canned cocktails. The writing was surprisingly coherent, considering the author tried “30 different canned cocktails while researching this story.”
  • PR Week posted an interview with Beam Suntory CEO Albert Baladi about the company’s community-focused efforts to address the pandemic, including manufacturing hand sanitizer.
  • On the non-alcoholic side of things, BMJ published a study that concluded coffee and green tea decrease mortality rates, especially for type-2 diabetics.

Politics on the Plate

As Election Day draws nearer, companies and interest groups have ramped up efforts to sway voters and not always legally.

  • Activist group coalition Food Policy Action released a scorecard that grades senators and members of Congress on their voting history.
  • The National Milk Producers Federation observed that leading dairy-producing states are likely to play a deciding role in the election.
  • Nation’s Restaurant News published an election guide “through the lens of the restaurant industry.”
  • The Counter compiled examples of ways that food and beverage companies are encouraging citizens to vote.
  • Politico reported on October 8 that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue violated ethics laws by campaigning for President Trump while on a USDA-funded trip.
  • On October 13, CNN highlighted a move by Instacart to have its shoppers include political messaging in orders. The proposition in question could determine how Instacart classifies its workers: as employees or contractors. Shopping for votes is one thing, that’s just shady.
  • Here at The Intel Distillery, we published our own summary of where candidates stand on agriculture issues.

‘Decency’ Enters the Hunger Conversation

On October 18, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the US District Court in Washington, DC, struck down a Trump Administration rule that would have saved the USDA about $1.1 billion per year while denying food stamp benefits to 700,000 Americans. The controversial late-2019 proposal would have limited states’ ability to waive existing work requirements for those applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

  • Howell chided the USDA in a scathing 67-page commentary, criticizing the agency for pushing the rule during the pandemic and being unclear about the number of people who would be denied benefits.
  • NPR’s Bill Chappell summarized the situation and quoted Howell’s reasoning for the ruling: “In the pandemic’s wake, as of May 2020, SNAP rosters have grown by over 17 percent with over 6 million new enrollees.”
  • Grub Street quoted New York Attorney General Letitia James: “At a time of national crisis, this decision is a win for common sense and basic human decency.”
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition and Oversight Chair Marcia Fudge wrote, “I am pleased the District Court ruled on the side of decency and respect.”
  • Author and journalist Matt Taibbi tweeted, “Trump: yes to Space Force, no to Food Stamps. Another equation that might be remembered in a few weeks.”

“The [USDA] agency has been icily silent about how many [able-bodied adults without dependents] would have been denied SNAP benefits had the changes sought in the Final Rule been in effect while the pandemic rapidly spread across the country.”

Judge Beryl Howell, US District Court (Memorandum Opinion)

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Maybe Not the Rest of the World

On October 20, Whole Foods posted its Top Ten Food trends for 2021, according to the retailer’s panel of “culinary experts, buyers and foragers.” You read that right: “foragers.” Food Business News reported on the list descriptively, Biz Journal added a bit of skepticism while the bloggers at Pure Wow drank the Kool-Aid: “The experts of Whole Foods … have a pretty good idea what you (and the rest of the world) will be munching on come 2021.”

Oat Meat: ‘The Next Wave’

Yes, they’re serious. Food Navigator featured Finnish startup Gold & Green’s plant-based brand, Pulled Oats, and its introduction to the U.S. market. “We’re not trying to mimic every aspect of meat, the products should stand on their own. There’s a clear demand for healthier plant-based products with a good ingredients list and nutritional profile, it’s the next wave, with a cleaner label.” We struggle to imagine oat patties “standing on their own.”

One Giant Leap for Chicken Nuggets

On October 19, Food & Wine reported on a space operation like no other. To celebrate a milestone birthday, Iceland Foods sent a single chicken nugget on a very important mission … to space. “2020 is a huge year for us as we celebrate our 50th birthday, and we wanted to find ways to mark the occasion, just like anyone celebrating a birthday in lockdown,” said Andrew Staniland, the company’s trading director.

Last Mile

Food Business News described how convenience stores are playing catch up with delivery services for last-mile fulfillment: “Less than a third of convenience stores that provide last mile fulfillment utilize delivery services. Those offering delivery are most likely to use a combination of services (51%), followed by their own staff (48%) and DoorDash (33%).” And here, we thought that C-stores were last-mile fulfillment.

Reusable Whopper Box

On October 22, Burger King announced a reusable packaging partnership with TerraCycle’s “Loop” circular packaging service. In this test, customers pay a deposit on cups and burger boxes, and receive a refund when the packaging is returned. QSRweb quoted TerraCycle’s CEO: “During COVID, we have seen the environmental impact of increased takeaway ordering, which makes this initiative by Burger King all the more important.”

If You Like (Pink) Piña Coladas

Pink pineapples are now a thing. Last week, Del Monte unveiled their Pinkglow Pineapple, a project 15 years in the making. The “Jewel of the Jungle” was created by genetically modifying pineapples’ naturally occurring enzymes to stay pink, resulting in a fruit that is “less sour than a traditional pineapple, juicier and sweeter in taste.”