Leading voices in food, beverage and agriculture production have been gearing up for the COP28 climate conference, which started yesterday. In the meantime, they’ve talked about:

  • Year-end corporate do-gooding.
  • Menu prices and grocery receipts.
  • Alcoholic beverage trends and related health impacts.

Turkeys Take Flight, Emissions Take a Dive

As the holiday season begins — and the end of the year approaches — food companies have emphasized their efforts to meet ESG commitments. Environmental policies covered GHG emissions and regenerative farming. Social efforts included an array of charity donations. And governance goals covered sourcing and reporting policies.

  • PepsiCo stepped up its regenerative agriculture game, backing eight diverse projects worldwide through the Positive Agriculture Outcomes (PAO) Accelerator. 
  • Danone claimed the title of first corporate funder of the Global Methane Hub’s R&D Accelerator, working on farmer-friendly solutions to reduce methane emissions.
  • Fast Company covered King Arthur debut of “climate blend” flour, which supports the brand’s goal that 100% of the flour in its bags will be milled from regeneratively grown wheat by 2030.
  • In collaboration with NBC’s TODAY, Jennie-O set a Guinness World Record by donating 15,000 turkeys (over 320,000 pounds) on World Kindness Day, November 20. That’s quite the feather-ruffling feat.
  • Progressive Grocer covered a pair of hunger-related donations: Ahold Delhaize subsidiary The Giant Co. created a mobile food pantry that will launch in early 2024 and SpartanNash donated $440,000 to local food pantries.
  • On the governance side: Barry Callebaut maintained its top ranking on MorningStar’s ESG ratings for the fifth consecutive year (Supermarket Perimeter), Flowers Foods surpassed emission reduction goals by 21% (Food Business News) and Tetra Pak outlined a comprehensive strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across its value chain by 2050.

Inflated Expectations

When it comes to food prices, the 2020s have been a sharp break from the previous two decades. Inflation remains a common cause for concern, even if price increases have slowed from pandemic-era highs.

The News on Booze

The alcohol industry continues to evolve with changing consumer demand. Recent news highlighted shifts in spirits sourcing and production as researchers continue to study the various effects consumption has on consumer health. And apparently diner-inspired, sandwich-flavored cocktails are becoming a thing.

  • Tufts University shared a study that indicates how different metabolites associated with alcohol consumption can impact cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. The findings demonstrate the intricate relationship between alcohol and heart health — both positive and negative.
  • UC Davis researchers explained how headaches caused by red wine consumption may stem from quercetin, a flavonol found in wine and grapes that interferes with alcohol metabolism. An upcoming clinical trial is expected to offer further insights into why some people are more susceptible to pre-hangover “red wine headaches.”
  • Supermarket News reported that state regulators in New Jersey have approved alcohol permits for certain delivery app companies. Three and a half years after several states legalized similar exchanges, the New Jersey approval comes with one stipulation: deliveries can only take place at customer residences.
  • The National Resources Defense Council and Organic Trade Association celebrated organic agriculture on Capitol Hill this week by advocating for local “farm to glass” alcohol sourcing.
  • Grub Street highlighted the growing popularity of cocktails that taste like sandwiches (yes, seriously). These deli-inspired elixirs may currently appeal to consumers who crave newfangled novelty drinks, but the duration of their meteoric rise may be short-lived. Or you can go the bloody mary route and just put a sandwich on top of your cocktail.

Worth Reading

COP-ping to It

In a foreshadowing of what’s to come at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General QU Dongyu explained: “The climate and food crises are inseparable. … At COP28, FAO will systematically highlight how agrifood systems transformation accelerates climate action to the benefit of people, prosperity and the planet.”

Bugs on Board

Author Sarah Scoles contributed an article to The New York Times about the future of growing food on Mars. For a variety of reasons, humans need to bring insects along to aid in cultivating food on the Red Planet. “To stay for an extended time on the surface of Mars, though, astronauts won’t be able to rely on their space pantries. They’ll need Martian gardens. And Martian gardens will need a little help — maybe from black soldier fly larvae and their excretions.”

‘In the Red’ Lobster With Endless Shrimp

There’s a reason offers last a “limited time.” Food & Wine reported that adding the Ultimate Endless Shrimp Deal to its menu in June cost Red Lobster over $11 million in its third quarter. Meant to drive traffic, the promotion brought heavy losses despite a price increase from $20 to $25. This bodes poorly for the 670-restaurant chain, since parent company Thai Union warned earlier this year that they could abandon Red Lobster over its unprofitability. Stockpile the Cheddar Bay Biscuits now.

Minnesotan Melon Malaise

On November 30, the FDA expanded a recall of cantaloupe and fruit medleys due to an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning that has hospitalized 61 and killed two. While the outbreak affects 34 states, The Star Tribune noted that Minnesota has been the worst hit — claiming 15 illnesses and both deaths — and highlighted the efforts of “Team Diarrhea,” the state’s foodborne illness surveillance team.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dollars

In a twist that we would not have predicted a decade ago, Guy Fieri signed a three-year, $100 million contract with Food Network on November 29. The deal makes Fieri the highest-paid culinary figure in the U.S. and Delish wrote that the salary may be worth it: “[Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives] reportedly garnered $230 million in ad revenue in 2020 alone.” And you know he gets a good per diem, too.