Throughout food production, big brands and organizations took the opportunity to focus on solutions to many lingering challenges:

  • Earth Day provided a backdrop for showcasing environmental stewardship.
  • Food waste persisted as a problem worth solving.
  • Corporate earnings pointed positive.

A Mother of a Month

For Earth Day, organizations love showcasing their environmental efforts on behalf of Mother Earth. But this year, a single day was apparently not enough; a growing number of brands spread their ESG announcements across “Earth Week” and even “Earth Month.”

  • Kroger kicked off Earth Month by matching donations to the World Wildlife Fund and the Arbor Day Foundation over the month of April.
  • Packaging solutions company Tetra Pak highlighted its recycling initiatives.
  • On April 19, caterer Elior North America and retailer BJ’s Wholesale Club both published inaugural ESG reports.
  • PepsiCo unveiled a soccer field made from reused Lay’s chip bags. For the Brits in the audience: that’s a football pitch made of Walkers crisp packets.
  • Industry groups for pork, dairy and eggs all emphasized efficiency gains they’ve made over recent decades — such as using 25%-32% less water per pound.
  • The EPA and USDA recognized Earth Day by extolling the benefits of urban agriculture.
  • Concurrently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ended a comment period for updates to its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (aka “Green Guides”).
  • The Consumer Brands Association, which represents food manufacturers, suggested that the FTC use the opportunity to “provide clear, specific and actionable insights for industry that accurately reflect consumer expectations” as well as distinguishing between environmental claims and recycling.
  • Food & Water Watch welcomed the Green Guides update as an opportunity to “stop this greenwashing and help consumers make informed decisions.”

Still Wasted After All These Years

Way back in 2011, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization revealed that up to one-third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted somewhere along the way. This shocking number opened eyes and begged for solutions along the production chain. Perhaps parlaying Earth Day/Month messaging, some heavy hitters chimed in, some to further quantify the issue and others to offer solutions.

  • On April 20, Bloomberg updated the numbers for domestic food waste: “Uneaten food represented about 38% of the total food supply in 2021, valued at roughly $444 billion, according to [ReFED, an anti-food waste nonprofit]. On a per-person basis, this equates to about 548 pounds of extra food, a 1.9% increase since 2016.”
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council declared the second week in April Food Waste Prevention Week. “We need to see much more action from all levels of government, from every food business, and from each household to ensure that good food nourishes us rather than feeding climate change.”
  • Eater covered a recent trend in cookbooks: recipes dedicated to wasting less food. Two titles, The Everlasting Meal Cookbook and Perfectly Good Food, encourage improvisation, and using what’s available, rather than following recipes to a “T.”
  • Spoiler Alert is a new discounting software that enables food manufacturers to better communicate with retailers about food getting close to its “sell by” date. This technology provides “more sales and less write-offs for the brands. Faster service with more shelf life for their customers, and less waste in the landfill,” a rep from the company told Supermarket Perimeter. Sweet name, bro.
  • The Washington Post’s Rachel Jackson acknowledged that preventing food waste often breaks social norms. “Reducing food waste might mean being the weirdo who boxes their wedding entree, who takes a chicken carcass home from a dinner party or who has to explain a frozen blob on the X-ray machine to airport security.”
  • The World Resources Institute tallied the global benefits of reducing food loss and waste. The world could reap big-ticket benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved global food security and financial savings of up to $300 billion.

“Reducing food waste might mean being the weirdo who boxes their wedding entree, who takes a chicken carcass home from a dinner party or who has to explain a frozen blob on the X-ray machine to airport security.”

Rachel Jackson, The Washington Post

Back in Black

The first quarter of 2023 turned out well for many big players in the food, beverage and agriculture industry. No quarter is perfect (sorry, Costco), but this is the closest to a clean sweep that we’ve seen in over a decade.

Worth Reading

Busted Bubbly

Miller High Life, “The Champagne of Beers,” attracted some attention when customs agents in Belgium destroyed 2,352 cans of the product, claiming it violated France’s protected designation of origin (PDO) for champagne (Food & Wine).

No Reservations Allowed

Grub Street ran a pair of articles addressing the limited availability of reservations, an issue that vexes many diners. Charlotte Druckman dove into “Impossible Tables” in New York City, describing the situation as: “These restaurants may have Resy pages, but they won’t be much help.” As a possible solution, Rachel Sugar explained an emerging market of “semi-illicit third-party solutions” that seek to bridge the gap. Appointment Trader founder Jonas Frey described his platform as “the epicenter of capitalism … we want people to make a sh*tload of money.”

Ninja-level Criticism

Tamar Haspel filed a missive praising the newest generation of diet pills in The Washington Post. With decades of experience writing about food and health as well as having “ninja-level nutrition chops,” Haspel ripped food science, manufacturing, retailing and marketing as being complicit in contributing to the U.S. obesity epidemic. “We’re fat because we’re not equipped for engineered, industrial-strength temptation. These drugs confer industrial-strength resistance.”

Problem … Solution?

With her trademark wit, Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle calls out food marketers for conflating menopause with a marketing opportunity. It’s a short smack-talking read that rings painfully true.

Almanac Attack

Dating back to 1792, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is among the oldest continuously published periodicals in North America, but it has faced competition in recent years. Modern Farmer profiled The New Farmer’s Almanac, identifying climate change as a motivating factor for taking on the bicentenarian brand. Editor Renee Rhodes explained, “A big part of this year’s theme had to do with recognizing the ways in which we do have agency, despite being in a moment of stacked crises.”