A classic sign of spring: perennial topics are sprouting anew.

  • Lab-grown meat hit by tough legislation.
  • Food company earnings more down than up.
  • Brands and regulators push for food safety.

Sunshine State Throwing Shade

On May 1, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will “prohibit the sale of lab-grown meat.” Although several states have addressed labeling, Florida is the first U.S. state to fully ban cultivated meat products.

  • DeSantis explained, “Florida is fighting back against the global elite … Our administration will continue to focus on investing in our local farmers and ranchers.”
  • An Upside Foods spokesperson opposed the law in a statement to Food Processing: “Florida’s decision to criminalize cultivated meat is a reckless move that ignores food safety experts and science, stifles consumer choice and hinders American innovation.”
  • Food Processing noted that both Upside Foods and Eat Just have paused production plans in the past year, further detailing how other competitors trail on product development and regulatory approval.
  • In stark contrast with Florida, South Korea established a “regulation-free special zone” specifically for the development of lab-grown proteins (Food Ingredients First).
  • As for competitors in the space, plant-based protein producers have turned to deals with retail outlets to overcome a plateau in sales. Impossible Foods partnered with Whole Foods, and Meati Foods expanded to Kroger-owned stores (AgFunder News).
  • A different interpretation of lab-grown meat got attention from the FDA when the agency issued guidance on May 1 that addresses genetically modified livestock. Tech-loving environmentalist group The Breakthrough Institute found “few improvements … after years of revision.”

Our Takeaway: So far, only two companies have both USDA and FDA approval to sell cultivated meat products and neither has done so in Florida. Regulation is one of the shorter hurdles — scalability and consumer acceptance are bigger barriers to profitability.

Inflation Anxiety

Recent earnings reports in the food production and food marketing sectors did not point in a singular direction, but more companies posted negative results than celebrated higher profits over the past quarter.

  • Good: Maple Leaf, Pilgrim’s Pride (Meatingplace) and Coca-Cola (Food Business News) all celebrated first-quarter profits, overcoming depressed market conditions through focussed corporate strategies.
  • Bad: Syngenta, ADM (Agri-Pulse), Yum! Brands, FAT Brands (Nation’s Restaurant News) and Kraft Heinz (Supermarket Perimeter) all reported first-quarter losses. Syngenta and ADM cited “economic uncertainty” and “challenging market conditions” in agriculture. Meanwhile, the foodservice holding companies cited “resiliency” as they look to expanding portfolios and technology as keys to better operating results. Kraft Heinz blamed softness in its away-from-home business.
  • Ugly: Starbucks (Nation’s Restaurant News); Tyson (Reuters) and DoorDash (Supermarket News) had disappointing quarters. Starbucks and Tyson cited diminished demand from cautious consumers, high costs and inflation. DoorDash noted increased gross order value and strength in its U.S. grocery category, but it was slammed by recently imposed minimum wage hikes in Seattle and New York City.
  • Overall, food giants are struggling with “inflation anxiety,” according to Quartz. Consumers are being careful with spending as they seek deals and trade down. Retail food and hospitality sector executives suggest wooing customers back by focusing on lower prices and sales on apps while doing it all with fewer employees.

Our Takeaway: While measures of inflation may have tempered, consumers aren’t feeling it yet and are holding back on food spending, leading to ramifications up and down the food chain.

Food Safety Dance

Keeping food safe is a fundamental challenge for food manufacturers and distribution channels. The supply chain has been busy dealing with the FDA’s implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) as well as a spate of recalls. Avian flu has not factored into those issues — but not for a lack of testing.

Weekend Report From Louisville

​​Far more than food, the Kentucky Derby conjures thoughts of drinks, particularly the signature blend of bourbon, simple syrup and mint. Of course, within Churchill Downs that mint julep runs $22, which saddles day drinking with a hefty price and definitely eats into your betting resources. Long before Mystik Dan nosed his way to win the 150th running, the hype and coverage began:

  • Here’s how many pounds of brisket Churchill Downs downs | Food and Wine
  • How to feed over 150,000 Kentucky Derby fans | Forbes
  • The best food at the Kentucky Derby | Food Network
  • Inside Wagner’s Pharmacy, a Kentucky Derby must-visit restaurant | Courier Journal 

Correspondent Dennis Ryan was on the scene: “It was a singular thrill to witness the 150th Run for the Roses trackside from the Homestretch Club along the rail. Sadly, I missed visiting Wagner’s Pharmacy. And, yes, I regret that more than my 0-9 exacta box picks.”

Worth Reading

Counterfeit Caffeine

The Wall Street Journal detailed how some coffee companies are turning to biotechnology and food science to produce synthetic coffee that minimizes the impact of deforestation, low wages for farmers and carbon emissions. From chickpeas and date pits to lab-grown cells, these so-called “beanless” alternatives can actually make for a solid “alterna-brew.” While the biggest competitor of synthetic coffee remains regular coffee, caffeine fiends should prepare to enjoy cheaper, more sustainable coffee that, with some zhuzhing, tastes enough like the real thing. 

AI Cowboys

Oklahoma State University introduced a digital resource that grants public access to agricultural expertise throughout the United States. Driven by artificial intelligence, ExtensionBot sources information from nearly two-dozen universities’ extension services to help agricultural professionals, educators and home gardeners address topics and strategies concerning everything from crop and pest management to best practices for lawns and gardens. Don’t you love it when AI tools are practical?

Brooding Appetite

Trillions of cicadas are emerging after a years-long absence. They’re considered food for small animals and birds, but they could be a great source of protein in your next meal, according to CBS News. Described as having “a nutty flavor with a nice crunch,” chefs say cicadas are a sustainable protein option and a way for consumers to branch out in food diversity. We hear cicada pizza is all the buzz.

Artificially Illustrated
Once broods XIII and XIX emerge, it’ll be free crunchy cicada rolls for everyone!
Midjourney illustration by Heyward Coleman