Food production is alive with contradictions: simultaneous record hunger and food waste, alongside big brands playing in small spaces. Influential voices have been:

  • Trying to measure and mitigate alarming rates of food waste and hunger.
  • Rolling out sustainable sourcing commitments.
  • Adding twists to traditional products on shelves and menus.

Waste & Want

One of the great tragedies of food production is that many go hungry — both in the U.S. and worldwide — while huge amounts of food go to waste in fields, stores and homes. Structural changes from the pandemic have only worsened this effect, but many are working to mitigate the problems.

  • In its July 12 Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found that nearly 10% of the world is undernourished.
  • The Associated Press quoted UN agency officials: “A full 3 billion adults and children remain locked out of healthy diets, largely due to excessive costs,” made worse by COVID-19.
  • On July 20, WWF and British retailer Tesco published fresh data on rotten food, estimating that nearly 40% of all food produced globally is wasted each year, roughly 2.75 billion tons of food.
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts reported earlier this month that “At least eight states … have laws requiring some reprocessing of food waste, to keep it out of landfills and cut down on greenhouse gases.”
  • In June, the Upcycled Food Association opened public enrollment to certify foods made with ingredients that would otherwise have gone to waste.
  • Feeding America launched the online grocery system OrderAhead on July 20, aiming to reduce “the physical and social barriers encountered by neighbors facing food insecurity.”
  • Following his July 20 Blue Origin space flight, billionaire Jeff Bezos donated $100 million to José Andrés’ hunger-fighting organization, World Central Kitchen (Eater).

“People of the world: now is the time to think really big, to solve hunger with the fierce urgency of now.”

Chef José Andrés, founder, World Central Kitchen (Eater)

‘Good’ Policies

Food producers continue to articulate their brand stories in ways well beyond what hits your plate. In recent weeks, sustainable sourcing, environmental stewardship and human rights all factored into policy announcements. Someone should host a LinkedIn Live event to discuss this in detail.

  • Ahead of the U.N. Food Systems Summit, which kicks off next week in Rome, a group of 12 U.S. animal agriculture leaders launched a joint initiative: the Protein PACT (People, Animals, and Climate of Tomorrow). They formed the union because “producing the meat, poultry, eggs and dairy we need using less land, water and energy has never been more important.”
  • On July 19, Unilever-owned ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s captured tons of headlines when it announced it will halt sales in Israel, citing inconsistency with the brand’s values concerning the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Unilever of “severe consequences.”
  • On July 14, JBS, the largest meat producer in the world, released its 2020 sustainability report, which recapped progress and set new goals for GHG emissions, renewable energy usage, water use and deforestation. Notably, the company will tie executive compensation to performance against environmental goals.
  • Food Ingredients First shared news about Barry Callebaut’s “Better For You” chocolate and vanilla sourcing, which is now “100% sustainable.” The initiative goes beyond nutrition to address the needs of “consumers, producers and promote sustainable agricultural practices.”

New Spins on Old Favorites

Our team observed a collection of new and interesting product launches recently. Earlier this week, a panel at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) virtual conference discussed one particular trend that spans a few of our featured debuts:

  • As part of the IFT panel, Rabobank’s Nicholas Fereday explained how food companies are focusing innovation efforts more on traditionally fast-moving products, like cereal and soup, and less on developing new concepts (Food Business News).
  • NPR covered mixed reactions to the recently released Kraft mac & cheese ice cream that sold out in stores and online due to high demand.
  • Johnsonville launched bacon-inspired sausage strips on July 15: “When we thought of slicing sausage like bacon we thought we had a pretty darn good idea and needed to share it with the world.”
  • Food & Wine credited Chuck E. Cheese for making the best of pandemic upheaval as the company unveiled frozen pizzas available exclusively at Kroger stores (with the bonus of 250 free e-prize tickets included).
  • Kellogg’s subsidiary RXBAR announced its “bringing its ‘No B.S.’ approach to the cereal aisle with the launch of new RX Cereal — a breakfast worth waking up for!”
  • Long John Silver’s offered a “fish-free fillet” and “crab-free cake” as part of a limited test of plant-based seafood. Pro tip: Long John Silver’s tweets in pirate jarrrgon.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

‘Thirsty & Bleak’

California peach farmer and organic industry darling David Mas Masumoto wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times explaining the impact the severe drought has had on his farm. Shying from making an economic or political argument, Masumoto said, “We must re-envision water as something scarce and sacred and shared by all.”

GMOs or: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Purple Tomatoes

Five years after scientists, activists and policymakers clashed over labeling genetically modified foods, New York Times writer Jennifer Kahn offered a conciliatory take on the topic. Khan explained that the Indigo tomato, which has double the antioxidant quantity of blueberries, “might be the first genetically modified anything that people actually want.” Heads up: this piece is long, but there’s a 47-minute podcast version if you want someone to read it for you.

Lunchtime Listening

The Guardian profiled half a dozen small-platform podcasts and magazines that address food politics and culture in unique ways. The article cites a podcast author: “These stories, in their broadness and diversity, refute the notion that the only people who consider where their food comes from are those with the means to do so.”

Returning the Bird

Reversing yet another pandemic trend, people who adopted chickens and roosters last year are now abandoning their backyard egg producers. Block Club Chicago reported that chicken rescue crews are overwhelmed: “We’re closed for intake, because we have too many [birds] and our vet bills are tremendous.” Guess you could say what crows around, comes around.