In our weekly review of trending topics from the most influential opinion leaders in food, beverage and agriculture production, three major topics dominated discussions:

  • The vaccine mandate generated predictable controversy
  • The COP26 summit led to predictable finger-pointing
  • Business deals and developments proved decidedly less predictable

Jabs for Jobs

On November 4, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 that requires large employers to obtain either proof of vaccination or weekly negative test results from workers. The short deadline for the rule, January 4, prompted concerns from industry groups — but some food makers had a head start.

  • In a White House press release, the Biden administration emphasized research that “vaccination requirements will ‘promote a faster and stronger economic recovery.'”
  • United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone called the rule a “critical first step” to “hold companies accountable to the safety of their workers.”
  • Jennifer Hatcher of FMI, the Food Industry Association, worried that the requirement “Will exacerbate an already existing shortage of transport and supply chain capacity, further slowing delivery times and driving up costs for consumers, retailers and manufacturers.”
  • As an example of success, The New York Times featured Tyson Foods’ accomplishment of a 96% vaccination rate since August 3.
  • Dave Puglia, CEO of produce group Western Growers, objected to the rule in favor of a libertarian approach: “Every individual has the right to choose … private employers have the right to mandate that their employees be vaccinated … employees can choose to be vaccinated or seek employment elsewhere.”
  • NPR covered legal challenges to the mandate from two dozen state attorneys general. A Louisiana judge placed a temporary hold on the rule until the lawsuits can proceed.

COP26 Closeout

Discussions continued in Glasgow, Scotland, as the COP26 summit wraps up today. Tensions and disagreement boiled inside and outside the doors of the conference, particularly about the role of animal agriculture in the climate conversation.

  • For general coverage, Bloomberg Green posted a reliable daily recap capturing many perspectives. CNN reported on the disagreements between nations in reaching the final Glasgow Agreement as the conference winds down.
  • Triple Pundit executive editor Leon Kaye pushed an opinion piece suggesting that the next generation will be able to 3D print their food and literally “reshape the global food sector.” They wanted flying cars …
  • Environmental Defense Fund outlined the methane liabilities typically blamed on livestock production. Author Britt Groosman offered, “Financial institutions and supply chain partners have a key role to play in helping farmers overcome financial and technical barriers” to solve the problem at scale.
  • Feedstuffs summarized the perspectives of environmental groups and activists opposed to animal agriculture who say livestock is responsible for as much as 16.5% of human-induced GHG emissions.
  • The same article captured the latest thinking from the Biden administration: major reductions in meat consumption may not be necessary for Americans. USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said the agency can equip farmers with tools and feed additives to reduce methane from cows.
  • In an interview with The Guardian, Vilsack commented further: “take the [cow] manure and use it as biofuel — then you have made livestock production more sustainable. I do not think you need to reduce meat consumption to get that.”
  • Independent journalist CJ Clouse explored the complexities of the bovine digestive system in a long read in GreenBiz: “To both lower emissions and take good care of our four-legged friends would require all the pieces of a complex puzzle falling into place.”

Deal With It

Acquisitions were big news this week and everyone is getting in on the action. From DoorDash to Hershey to Panera to Presto, some are merely expanding through acquisitions while others are looking to go public. Plus, Beyond Meat shared bad news and TreeHouse is “exploring strategic alternatives.”

  • DoorDash has agreed to acquire Wolt Enterprises Oy, a European food-delivery company for more than $8 billion. AFN noted that this is the company’s second acquisition this year, having purchased Chowbotics, a kitchen automation startup behind salad-making robot Sally in February.
  • Hershey has reached a deal worth $1.2 billion to acquire Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels and Pretzels Inc. Food Dive said the combined deal would be the second-largest in its history. The company’s largest acquisition was when they purchased Amplify, the parent company of SkinnyPop popcorn for $1.6 billion.
  • Panera Brands — the parent company of Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels — is planning to go public, as covered by Eater. Shake Shack Founder Danny Meyer and his special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) will become “a cornerstone partner with Panera Brands.”
  • Restaurant technology provider Presto is close to a deal to combine with a SPAC and go public, reported Restaurant Business. The combined company will be valued at $1 billion and “the public funds will allow Presto to continue developing its products … to make staff more productive and improve the customers’ experience.”
  • Beyond Meat announced disappointing fourth-quarter projections, sparking concern the company’s growth was slowing. Bloomberg wrote that it’s “the second time in the past month that Beyond Meat’s guidance failed to meet Wall Street’s expectations,” in reference to the company reducing its revenue guidance for the third quarter.
  • The board of directors of private label manufacturer TreeHouse Foods, Inc., is “exploring strategic alternatives,” including the possible sale of the company or splitting off a large portion of its meal prep business to focus on its higher-growth snacking and beverage business (Food Manufacturing).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Attack of the Drones

Robot-mounted lasers aren’t just for sci-fi anymore. Farm Journal profiled the Autonomous LaserWeeder from Carbon Robotics. Founder Paul Mikesell explained, “We’re exploding the plant cells and delivering a high level of trauma to the weed.” Like shooting womp rats.

‘Ideal for Enrobing and Decorating’

Food Ingredients First covered Cargill’s top-secret formula for a bright white chocolate. They claim the super-white confection is “destined to be a hit on Instagram.”

Holy Sushi!

The New York Times posted a cool electronic feature detailing the history of sushi in America. The article details the almost mytho-historical establishment of True World Foods by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church. Before hardly any Americans knew the difference between a toro and a makase, Moon told a group of followers at the Grand New Yorker hotel ballroom in 1980: “You are the pioneers of the fishing business — the seafood business. Go forward, pioneer the way and bring back prosperity.”

Fried Potato Juice

The A.V. Club’s headline says it all: “Arby’s would like to sell you french fry-flavored vodka.” Made in a partnership with a Minneapolis distiller called Tattersall Distilling, the vodka will be available in a very limited run between November 18 and 22. The “curly fry” and “crinkle fry” varieties will sell for $59.99.