“For too long, the conversation around climate change has taken place in echo chambers: Businesses talking to business leaders, regulators talking to regulators, scientists, just talking to scientists and NGOs, with other NGOs. It turns out all of us are part of the solution here.”

Jim Collins, CEO of Corteva Agriscience (Agri-Pulse)

Selling Sustainability

On September 23, at the UN’s Climate Action Summit, 19 prominent food and ag companies, including Nestlé, Kellogg’s and Danone, came together and formed One Planet Business for Biodiversity. The coalition committed to taking individual and collective action to “protect and restore biodiversity within their supply chains and product portfolios.” A number of other companies also publicized their CSR initiatives this week, possibly to coincide with the Climate Action Summit.

Animal-based Meat

Recent prominent discussions about meat and protein have focused on alternative protein marketing, regulation and labeling. While this week was no different (see the below entry on the P.L.T.), traditional meats garnered considerable attention as manufacturers compete to own the center of the plate.

  • We first discussed U.S. consumers’ increased demand for chicken thighs in the July 26 edition of Friday by Noon. This week, Rabobank detailed a global oversupply of chicken breasts and rising prices for dark meat.
  • In an interview with Drovers, Diana Clark, meat scientist for the Certified Angus Beef brand credited millennials’ “demand for taste and visual appeal” for changing how beef is cut and merchandised.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that China is importing more meat, “straining global supplies and sending ripples across the global economy” amid an outbreak of African swine fever. The disease has decreased China’s pork supply while demand holds steady.
  • Meat + Poultry summarized a new report by research analysts at Hartman Group. “Food & Technology 2019: From Plant-based to Lab-grown” predicts blended burgers are “an underdeveloped category with significant potential.”
  • Bloomberg reporter Mario Parker attributed Cargill’s quarterly earnings gain to an “expanding global appetite for meat.”

Beyond the Big Mac

On September 26, McDonald’s Canada announced the arrival of the P.L.T., or plant, lettuce and tomato sandwich. The new offering is “made with a juicy, plant-based patty made with Beyond Meat and served on a sesame seed bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayo-style sauce, ketchup, mustard, and a slice of processed cheddar cheese.” McDonald’s is gearing up to serve the sandwich at 28 locations in Southern Ontario during a 12-week test starting Monday, September 30. The cost will be $6.49 (Canadian) or roughly $4.89 (U.S.).

  • Beyond Meat’s founder Ethan Brown said, “Being of service to McDonald’s has been a central and defining goal of mine since founding Beyond Meat over a decade ago. It comes after a long and productive collaboration to make a delicious plant-based patty that fits seamlessly into McDonald’s menu, and we’re thrilled with the outcome.”
  • Bloomberg pointed out that, while McDonald’s partnered with Beyond for this Canadian trial, “The real prize will be the fast-food giant’s roughly 14,000 locations in its home market and that race is still anybody’s game.”
  • Preceding this product debut, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook detailed his plans to “reclaim the company’s image as a beacon of innovation,” in a September 25 Bloomberg Businessweek feature.
  • Food & Wine asserted, “While it is meat free, it will be cooked on the same grills as hamburgers, meaning that the new sandwich isn’t being advertised as vegetarian.”
  • CNN contrasted the P.L.T. with a vegan test McDonald’s did in Germany in May — the “Big Vegan TS.”
  • Paul Shapiro, former vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States and vegan advocate tweeted, “Woke up expecting some kind of major news. Didn’t expect it would be this!”

Worth Reading

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Antioxidants L Through Z

The Washington Post highlighted lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that are found in foods with yellowish pigments and are reported to be beneficial for eye health, brain function, reduce the risk of dementia and can even improve your ability to recover from illness. The article lists products including face creams, eggs, dairy products, sports drinks, baby formula and nutritional supplements that are starting to be fortified with the antioxidants, but according to University of Georgia neuroscientist Billy Hammond, “Food is always the better choice.”

More From Less

A group of Australian scientists featured in the September 24 edition of The New York Times have taken on the task of figuring out how to feed an ever-expanding global population. To achieve this, United Nations estimated crop yields would need to rise by 70% or more by 2050. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis is developing more photosynthesis-efficient crops of wheat, corn, rice and sugar, predicting, “If they could make plants just 5% more efficient at the process, they could boost the yield of most crops by 20%.”

Retail: Top Five Innovations

Specialty Foods Association listed friction reduction, artificial intelligence, personalization, automation and new e-commerce platforms as the top five innovations driving shifts in grocery and retail. Author Denise Purcell suggested that consumers have come to expect a seamless multichannel shopping experience that uses data to personalize the experience, automation to enhance operational efficiency and an e-commerce platform that exceeds expectations. To keep up with these growing consumer expectations and shifting cultural trends, she encourages traditional companies to evolve past a “build versus buy” mentality and partner with emerging tech platforms to remain competitive.

Subtracted Sugar

Per the FDA, “added sugar” labeling on the Nutrition Facts panel will become a requirement as of January 1, 2020. Ahead of the deadline, Food Business News suggested some alternative sweeteners that will still allow producers to achieve “no sugar added” status. The article encourages manufacturers to reconsider the role of traditional sugars in their products and quotes Tate & Lyle’s Abigail Storms, who advises: “In nearly every case, if you can improve sugar and calorie count, replace them by meaningful amounts, you will definitely improve the overall perception of that label and likely also improve purchase intent.”

Love Ag Research, Hate Soda Taxes

Purdue University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk published results of a nationwide survey he conducted that ranked consumer preferences for 13 different food policies. The research studied and compared how consumers feel about food and agriculture industry policy in areas such as investments in education, nutrition counseling subsidies, advertising bans and taxes. Funding agricultural research garnered the most votes for implementation, GHG impact implementation sat near the middle and taxes on ingredients (soda, fat, etc.) landed squarely at the bottom.