The news spotlight shone far away from food production this week. Initial food-related news out of the Ukraine includes massive volatility in soybean and wheat futures (S&P) spiking more concerns over global inflation (Bloomberg), ADM shutting down facilities (Reuters), and European food companies like Nestle evacuating workers (The Telegraph). The Daily Livestock Report predicted minimal impact on global meat trade. In food and beverage specifically:

  • Bad baby formula and Rodentia highlighted food safety.
  • Delivery again drove conversations.
  • Manufacturing leaders committed to waste less.

“You can have the best policies, written procedures, rules and laws on the books but if they’re not put into practice by people, they are absolutely useless.”

Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner (National Grocers Association)

Recalls Beget Recalls?

The FDA was busy investigating a wide range of issues from contaminated baby formula to a rat-infested dollar store distribution facility. Fortunately, food safety is not a frequently addressed topic in Friday by Noon, but it remains a pillar of food production’s sustainability story.

  • On February 17, the FDA warned consumers about contaminants found in Abbott Nutrition Similac infant formula. While Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner expressed “deep concern,” Abbott issued a prompt, voluntary and sweeping recall of product produced in its Michigan plant.
  • The following day, Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich reported that the FDA had learned about illnesses caused by tainted infant formula four months earlier.
  • Food Safety News posted descriptions about the dangerous Cronobacter bacteria and its life-threatening symptoms.
  • The New York Times reported another FDA investigation that led to the closing of hundreds of Family Dollar stores. Inspectors found a shocking amount of living and dead Rodentia at a warehouse facility in Arkansas.
  • Meatingplace interviewed Shawn Stevens, an attorney at Food Industry Counsel, who said recalls are likely to increase because “COVID safety protocols and enhanced government advocacy — point to a reinvigorated emphasis on Food Safety Assessments (FSAs) and, as a result, a greater likelihood of recalls.”

On-demand Convenience

Consumers want convenience. From on-demand grocery delivery to coffee drive-throughs, consumer demand is booming and brands are adapting quickly to meet the need.

  • Supermarket News found that Instacart helped supermarket chains grow online sales last year. Aldi saw a 2% increase and Kroger and Publix each saw a 1% increase, while Costco Wholesale and BJ’s Wholesale Club lost share on the platform.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that next year, in an effort to improve efficiency and cut losses, DoorDash will begin charging higher commissions to McDonald’s restaurants that keep delivery drivers waiting.
  • Albertsons and DoorDash have jointly introduced an express delivery service, according to Progressive Grocer. The new service, which will launch in 20 major cities, would deliver fresh groceries to consumers in less than 30 minutes.
  • Kiwibot — a robotic sidewalk delivery firm — will expand its service to 50 Sodexo-served college campuses by the end of the year. Food management said its fleet of kiwi robots will grow from 200 to 1,200 units in the process.
  • Another autonomous delivery service provider, Starship Technologies, expanded its partnership with The Save Mart Companies to launch an exclusive grocery delivery service for its Lucky California flagship store in Modesto, California (Specialty Food Association).
  • Target will begin offering Starbucks products to customers through its popular “Drive Up” service (Bloomberg). Prior to a broader rollout, the offering will be tested this fall in Minneapolis and another yet-to-be-determined location.

Food Unwasted

With food making up the largest category of waste in landfills, more companies have committed to reducing food loss and waste. Startups are focusing on predictive technology and creative upcycling to help prevent waste and monetize surpluses.

  • The USDA announced seven new U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions. Albertsons Companies; BJ’s Wholesale Club; Danone North America; Smithfield Foods, Inc.; Starbucks; Sysco and Tyson Foods join other food industry leaders committed to reducing food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50% by 2030.
  • Relex Solutions, a software platform that automates retail supply chains to help grocers reduce food waste and better meet customer demand, raised $568 million. Ag Funder Network noted the platform “relies on ‘AI-driven demand forecasts’ that work across the entire supply chain, from retailers’ stores to distribution and fulfillment centers.”
  • Food Ingredients First covered Blendhub’s collaboration with Essence Food to use surpluses to create highly nutritious new ingredients for 3D printing.
  • The Los Angeles Times highlighted the intensely coordinated effort by the Food Recovery Network, to recover and donate nearly 2,000 pounds of excess prepared-but-unserved foods from the annual Players Tailgate held prior to the Super Bowl.

Hey, What’s Good This Week?

In addition to the major leadership shown by the seven newly announced U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, two other food and beverage leaders promoted significant new examples of their corporate good.

  • Kellogg Company announced Kellogg’s InGrained: a five-year, $2 million program focused on reducing the climate impact of methane emissions from Lower Mississippi River Basin rice farmers.
  • Denny’s raised $1.5 million through its partnership fundraiser with No Kid Hungry. The money raised can provide up to 15 million meals for children in need.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Vilsack Check

Civil Eats writer Ricardo Salvador opined on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s performance in 10 key areas, addressing climate, business, rural development, workers and more. It’s Vilsack’s first year of his second stint there and Salvador thinks his term can be “transformational.”

Arctic Barbecue

Research firm NPD studied sales of grilling equipment and found more of us are grilling year-round. “Elevated pandemic-driven concerns, combined with prior consumer adoption of innovative grilling options and exploration of new outdoor cooking skills, have taken the grill market to new heights.”

Uncured = Cured

Washington Post’s Tamar Haspel wrote a Label Translator for some “misleading” food labels in the grocery store, suggesting: “there are laws about what you can and can’t put on a food package — it’s definitely not always on the up-and-up.” Our favorites? Uncured means cured and garden veggie chips means “greenish potato chips.”

Coffee Break Capitalism

Eater delved into the history of the American coffee break and found its origins rooted in capitalism. It turns out, what we know as a coffee break is all thanks to a Denver tie maker who instituted mandatory coffee breaks to encourage productivity, but decided he didn’t want to pay workers for the time they spent enjoying their cup of joe. The Department of Labor got involved and a 1955 court case sided with the workers, “since the business was positively affected by employees being jacked up on caffeine,” Eater reported.