Money is the driving force in conversations across the food, beverage and agriculture industry:

  • Big brands pursued mergers, spinoffs and public offerings.
  • Congress navigated three concurrent budget deadlines.
  • Makers of alternative protein sought alternative business opportunities.

For Every Merger …

From grocery store mergers to sweet snack acquisitions, market valuations to corporate restructuring, business — or should we say money — is the name of the game. It can be hard to keep up …

  • Food Business News’ Jeff Gelski reported that Kroger and Albertsons have finalized the divestiture of 413 stores, eight distribution centers, two offices and five private-label brands across 17 states to avoid antitrust violations. C&S Wholesale Grocers will pick up the leftovers for approximately $1.9 billion. 
  • After the recent announcement, UFCW International President Marc Perrone emphasized: “These companies are successful because it is our members who make them a success, and no proposed merger or divestiture of stores should endanger or threaten the vital role they play.” The union pledged to analyze the proposed deal’s impact on members, customers and communities.
  • On the sweeter side, J.M. Smucker is ready to acquire Hostess Brands, renowned for Twinkies, for about $5.6 billion, aligning with the consolidation wave in the snack food sector (Bloomberg). 
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, Instacart is finally gearing up for an IPO after two years of failed attempts. The company is targeting a valuation between $8.6 billion to $9.3 billion, a significant drop from its 2021 valuation of approximately $39 billion. 
  • Kellogg Co. is set to complete its split into two entities in the fourth quarter: WK Kellogg Co. concentrating on cereals and Kellanova on snack foods and global markets (Detroit News).

Down to the Wire

Congress is up to its usual tricks again. Funding for the FDA, the USDA and other programs under the farm bill is set to expire on September 30. The crew of elected hagglers is expected to pass temporary extensions for vital programs, but negotiations are far from settled.

  • Politico expounded on Republicans’ difficulties in balancing food program budget plans with broader social policies.
  • For its part, the White House requested $1.4 billion for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) hunger relief program as well as $16 billion for wildfire relief in Hawaii and hurricane relief in Florida (DTN/Progressive Farmer).
  • But overall spending increases are unlikely. Agri-Pulse reported that Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) have urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to dip into alternate funding sources.
  • At the same time, Sen. Stabenow proposed an increase in support for the Office of Urban Agriculture. Unsurprisingly, senators who represent the largest cities supported the move.
  • The National Governors Association outlined specific policies that will benefit “all 55 states and territories” in the farm bill, including continued support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps).

Alternative Protein Facts

There haven’t been any groundbreaking developments in protein alternatives since the FDA approved the safety of two cultivated meat products in June. But a number of smaller changes spread across the wide variety of production approaches:

Worth Reading

AI-infused Coke

Coca-Cola is giving the world a taste of the future with the help of artificial intelligence. Food Manufacturing detailed how the soft drink giant created Coca-Cola Y3000 Zero Sugar by pairing AI-driven insights with fan perspectives from around the globe. The company also will offer fans an opportunity to envision the future through the Coca-Cola Creations Hub as well as a limited-edition line of futuristic apparel and accessories. Talk about a multi-sensory experience.

A Liquid Future for Fertilizer?

Can urine reshape the fertilizer market? AgFunder News revealed that Toopi Organics has acquired financial support and regulatory approvals in many European countries to remove urine from the drinking cycle and turn it into an agricultural resource. By installing collection systems on portable toilet blocks, Toopi Organics will collect “raw materials” and add it to a patented fermentation process for a root biostimulant that is designed to enhance crop yield.

Regenerative Confusion

People are scratching their heads over regenerative agriculture. While the concept is positioned as a solution to restoring soil health and a landscape’s natural water cycles, The Guardian reported that some producers view it as a marketing ploy that provides little guidance beyond pre-existing best practices. Author Stuart Walmsley suggested that, as farmers debate and an increasing amount of shoppers search for greener choices, one thing is apparent: standards are needed to provide clarity for consumers and professionals alike.

Chemical Crackdown

California’s state legislature passed a bill that could potentially ban the use of four food ingredients. Forbes specified that, if signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the bill would ban the sale, distribution or manufacture of potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, red dye No. 3 and propylparaben — all ingredients currently permitted by the Food and Drug Administration. Food whitening agent titanium dioxide was dropped from the list before the bill’s final passage.

When the Streets Run Red

Decanter covered a distillery accident that caused a massive red wine spill on the streets of São Lourenço do Bairro, Portugal. “Firefighters had to intercept the alcoholic flash flood and divert the wine into a nearby field. There were fears that the Certima River could be contaminated, but local officials said they managed to avoid that outcome.” Brian Quest (@AweInspireMe) shared a video of the gush on X (formerly Twitter).