There was no shortage of chatter as business leaders talked bottom line.

  • A plethora of earnings reports revealed conflicting forces in food production.
  • Ongoing shortfalls harried the supply chain.
  • An overabundance of pathogens brought safety concerns back to the spotlight.

Earnings Season

A wave of earnings reports provided a snapshot of how food companies are navigating current economic conditions. Between supply chains, food prices and consumer preferences, many companies see change on the horizon.

  • Ingredient maker Kerry attributed strong growth to “an increased level of innovation activity” among foodservice and retail outlets addressing a “highly dynamic marketplace” (Food Ingredients First).
  • Nation’s Restaurant News reported that Starbucks set a quarterly earnings record, even as unions continued to pressure the chain.
  • Food Manufacturing tracked CPG companies, including Kraft Heinz, Nestlé and Coca-Cola, that benefited from rising prices. Complicating matters, New York Times writers cited Unilever findings that shopping habits are changing along with prices.
  • Similarly, Supermarket News tracked a tradeoff between rising dollar sales and falling volume of perishable food items.
  • The middle of the supply chain exemplified market volatility. Looking at year-over-year changes, Tyler Jett of the Des Moines Register contrasted ADM’s 61% profit increase with Bunge’s 43% profit decrease.
  • Meanwhile, underperformance led a couple companies to lay off workers. Bloomberg attributed Beyond Meat’s shortfall to lower retail sales and the end of McDonald’s McPlant test. The Wall Street Journal pegged Walmart’s struggles to logistics.

In Short

We’ve become accustomed to hearing about short supplies of goods and services across the food supply chain, but some recent stories caught our attention.

  • Workers: More than 100 ag industry organizations — covering just about everything planted, grown or fed that becomes food — signed an appeal to the U.S. Senate to grant access to a year-round labor force through the H-2A visa program. “We must address this workforce crisis threatening farmers across the United States so our producers can continue to feed, clothe, and fuel our nation.”
  • Fertilizer: The Scoop offered advice on how to deal with historically high prices on fertilizer, where short supply is at the mercy of geopolitical events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Candy: Food Manufacturing reported that Hershey’s warned it won’t be able to meet demand for candy this year, citing year-round consumer demand.
  • Baby Formula: Washington College of Law’s podcast “A Hard Look” took a hard look at the infant formula shortage (Spotify). Food and health regulatory superstar Stuart Pape is the featured guest.
  • Pumpkin Spice: Just kidding. It’s August and we’ve been on the lookout for the first sighting of the ubiquitous fall flavor. This year, Krispy Kreme will kick things off on August 8 (still summer?) with a doughnut and coffee offering.

Don’t Eat That

Food safety was top of mind as USDA focused on reducing Salmonella illnesses while others raised concerns about the safety of plant-based meat alternatives and TikTok’s latest “Pink Sauce” viral trend.

  • USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service announced Aug. 1 that it would declare Salmonella as an adulterant — meaning the meat will fail inspection if a colony of Salmonella is present — in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products. Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, said it was an important first step “to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry in the U.S.”
  • Food Safety News highlighted 10 years of FDA inspections at J.M. Smucker’s production facility in Lexington, Kentucky, after analysis showed that a “2010 environmental sample matches the [Salmonella] strain causing illnesses in this current outbreak” that triggered the recent Jif peanut butter recall.
  • Tara flour has been identified as the source of severe illness reported by people who consumed Daily Harvest crumbles and Revive smoothies. In Food Safety News, Michigan State University professor Neal Fortin clarified that tara flour is not federally approved as a “generally recognized as safe” food ingredient, only tara gum is.
  • Scientists with the USDA Agricultural Research Service said that “faith in the inherent safety of plant-based products is misplaced” (Feedstuffs). While quality continues to improve, “there is a shortage of data on their safety as it relates to microbial pathogens.
  • TikTok’s latest viral trend — Pink Sauce — has food safety experts concerned as consumers complained about “shipping issues, including ‘bloated’ or exploded bottles, or changes in color and texture upon arrival” (Health).

Worth Reading

Ramen a la Vodka

Among the many benefits of immigration, the intermingling of diverse cuisines hovers near the top of the list. The Washington Post’s Jess Eng cited culinary sources who celebrate the overlap between Asian and Italian foods. Said TikTok creator Pearl Ma: “Pasta is a lot easier to get in America than Asian noodles. That is just the truth.”

Sausage Best

If you enjoy cured meat products and/or niche competitions, the 2022 American Cured Meat Championships would be right up your alley. In addition to its 29 categories (from “braunschweiger” to “frankfurters – emulsified”), The American Association of Meat Processors bestowed this year’s best of show award to the heavyweight bacon category winner. To be fair, “lightweight bacon” sounds like an oxymoron.

Wurst Side of Humanity

After Cracker Barrel posted on Facebook encouraging customers to try its new Impossible sausage offering, fans of authentic meats sparred with vegan activists in a debate that exceeded 11,000 comments. NBC’s “Today” recapped, “This seemingly innocuous announcement riled up many in its Facebook community, with some fans commenting how angry at the restaurant they were for offering a meatless option at all.”

Strange Brews

Today (August 5) is International Beer Day. To commemorate, food research group Mintel listed a few standout beer innovations, covering sustainability and novelty flavors. One notable entry included a collaboration between food-tech startup Probicient and Singapore craft brewer Brewerks that developed a “gut-friendly” brew laced with a dollop of probiotics. Oh, that kind of gut-friendly.

Bowled Over

Food Management explored the popularity of bowls in on-site foodservice menus. “Well, okay, sandwiches are still great, but one-bowl meals, bowl concepts and globally inspired bowls are getting chefs excited when planning new concepts for fall: Plant-based, sustainable, protein-packed, seafood-forward and more.” The caramelized pineapple-ginger rockfish and gingered brown rice looks especially promising.