Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues to dominate headlines worldwide. From a food perspective, most discussion focused on supply chain disruptions and ongoing debate over how Western companies should operate in Russia. Reuters described how sanctions against Russia caused a fertilizer shortage that put global food supplies at risk. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal described how some major food manufacturers are grappling with what counts as essential.

  • Stewardship got some heavy attention ahead of sustainability-heavy April.
  • Workers remain a top topic, even as unemployment rates plummeted.

Stewardship Trifecta

March 22 marked a big day for stewardship concerns. World Water Day, National Ag Day and a proposed federal rule emphasized the “how” of producing food.

  • PepsiCo unveiled four water stewardship initiatives to celebrate World Water Day, including technology that recovers 50% of the water used at a potato chip facility.
  • With worldwide water demand expected to double by 2030, AgFunderNews predicted more agri-food companies will make “net water positive” commitments.
  • Pro-organic researchers at the Rodale Institute highlighted how preventing soil runoff protects local watersheds.
  • National Ag Day spurred a cascade of “thank you” notes across social media, ranging from Corteva Agriscience lauding the bounty of agriculture to Zoetis supporting livestock farmers.
  • Case IH joined the Association of Equipment Manufacturers with an exhibit of modern farm equipment on the National Mall.
  • The National Pork Producers Council thanked public-private partnerships for helping protect pigs from foreign animal disease.
  • On March 22, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a rule requiring publicly traded companies to disclose climate-related risks and greenhouse gas emissions. Agri-Pulse examined how the effects will reverberate through the supply chain.

Long on Unions, Short on Workers

Striking workers, unionization and worker shortages have punctuated recent headlines. Workforce concerns remain a high priority, with a recent focus in transport and foodservice.

  • 3,000 workers walked off the job at Canadian Pacific Railway for two days, stalling deliveries of fertilizer and other products (Reuters).
  • The Wall Street Journal reported a shift in tipping habits at restaurants. A trend of tipping as much as 30% to help businesses stymied by COVID-19 is in reverse, with foodservice patrons holding back due to increased food costs.
  • Starbucks employees at the company’s flagship store in Seattle voted unanimously to unionize, just after long-term CEO Howard Schultz announced returning for a third term (Seattle Times).
  • Food Manufacturing ran a guest article from Fleet Advantage, a trucking consulting company, which addressed the trucker shortage. The article outlined what needs to be addressed to overcome this issue: driver safety, input, new vehicle technology and flexible operations.
  • On the bright side, Associated Press summarized Labor Department statistics that unemployment claims are the lowest they’ve been since 1969.

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

On March 22, World Water Day, Keurig Dr Pepper committed to “net positive water impact” by 2050. The company made the announcement in conjunction with the Water Resilience Coalition, “a CEO-led initiative committed to reducing water stress by 2050.” This type of stewardship is increasingly popular; could “net water positive” be the next version of “carbon neutral” commitments? More to the point for Keurig: will emphasizing this good spur attention to its ongoing issue of packaging waste? As Starbucks saw last week, defining your good can’t be a sometimes thing.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

‘Foodie’ Defined

Purdue University Agricultural Economist Jayson Lusk undertook what he estimates is the first academic approach to defining a “foodie.” Using data from consumer surveys, Lusk determined that roughly one-third of Americans consider themselves foodies, and they tend to be younger, more educated and likely to spend more money on food. Let’s be honest: “foodie” is just easier to spell than “connoisseur.”

Emergency Assistance Needed

The Washington Post’s Laura Riley explored the surge in need at food banks that has come despite a recovery in the American labor market. Many Americans are struggling with the discontinuation of child tax credit payments and other pandemic assistance programs. At the same time, food banks are paying more for food, transportation and distribution due to inflation. In response, USDA is authorizing $100 million in grants through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Revolving Door

A series of high-profile CEO changes made headlines this week. Amid a growing worker push to unionize, The Wall Street Journal reported that Howard Schultz will step in as interim Starbucks CEO, his third stint at the helm. Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown announced he is transitioning to a new role to focus on strategic initiatives and named former Chobani President Peter McGuinness as his successor. Filling the vacancy at Chobani, Food Processing revealed that Kevin Burns will return as CEO, who most recently led Juul Labs. Burns resigned in 2019 after criticism over the company’s marketing to kids.

Pusha T Dishes on Fishes

Rapper Pusha T joined forces with Arby’s to drop a diss track against McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich — and promote Arby’s own entry into the fish sandwich market. Venting his frustration for not being paid more for McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle, Pusha T dropped harsh burns: “A little cube of fish from a clown is basic.” McOuch.

Sarcasm in Raw Milk

In Meatingplace, Arm & Hammer’s Christine Alvarado criticized the Iowa State Senate’s decision to approve selling raw milk on farms: “it still baffles me why we are considering this to be OK. I also understand that the proposed bill will require raw milk producers to post their coliform counts and other tests for customer review. I guess I didn’t realize consumers knew how to interpret coliform counts (sarcasm here).” Given that we find most coverage of raw milk in Food Safety News, we can’t help but agree.