As we enter the dog days of summer, pandemic vaccine controversies and big business decisions dominated the discussions of the most influential voices in food, beverage and ag.

  • Vaccines – to absolutely no one’s surprise, there’s major controversy.
  • Big Business – themes include new investments, downsizing and marketing moves.

Vax-driven Policy

In a flashback to the first half of 2020, COVID-19 regained its position as the most-discussed topic of the week. Right, we’re not happy about it either. Meatpackers and metropolises addressed the resurgence in cases, with Tyson Foods and New York City stepping up vaccine requirements.

  • Tyson President and CEO Donnie King announced on August 3 that all employees must be fully vaccinated prior to November 1. King commented: “We take this step today because nothing is more important than our team members’ health and safety.”
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers Union objected, “This vaccine mandate must be negotiated so that these workers have a voice in the new policy.”
  • It appears rival meatpacker JBS learned from the pushback and is negotiating with unions prior to any such requirements (Meatingplace).
  • On August 3, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that, as of August 16, people will need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to dine indoors at city restaurants.
  • Larry Lynch of the National Restaurant Association supported the move, but cautioned: “Last year when mask mandates across the country were put in place, restaurant workers suffered terrifying backlash when enforcing those rules. … We hope that the city will take this into consideration and will work with us to ensure there is clear guidance and support for our workforce.”
  • Chicago (Sun Times) and Los Angeles (Times) are reportedly considering vaccine requirements for indoor dining as well, though none have been implemented.
  • Eater reported that several restaurants in San Francisco started receiving retaliatory one-star Yelp reviews from out-of-state users after San Francisco Bar Owners Alliance members implemented vaccine requirements mid-July (Forbes).
  • The Washington Post’s Laura Reiley noted that some restaurants have instead opted to close shop or postpone reopening.

“Vaccination is the key to further economic recovery, reopening and rebuilding.”

Jack Kleinhenz, Chief Economist, National Retail Federation

Simplify, Protest, Promote, Invest

Some major players in food production made noteworthy business decisions to simplify and promote their brands. Meanwhile, major investment in the latest food production trends continues to flow.

  • Concerning PepsiCo’s sale of the Tropicana and Naked brands to a French private equity firm, Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz commented, “The sale continues a trend of companies pruning their brand portfolios to simplify their businesses in the pandemic, or to free resources to pour into up-and-coming product categories.”
  • Downsizing beer happened, too. On August 3, Yahoo’s Kirk Miller lamented Molson Coors’ retirement of 11 “economy” brands from its portfolio: “Pour one out for the terrible cheap beer you drank in college, because 11 of those brands will soon be gone.” Careful, Kirk, some of us like macrobrews.
  • Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (aka Ben & Jerry) wrote a guest essay in the July 28 New York Times that addressed fallout from the brand halting sales in Israel: “Ben & Jerry’s is a company that advocates peace.”
  • Food Processing described Coca-Cola’s first-ever commemorative NFT (non-fungible token). The company will share this four-piece multi-sensory collection “with the metaverse” to benefit the Special Olympics. Confused? Us too.
  • BTS out. Saweetie in. McDonald’s captured so many headlines by featuring pop star Saweetie in its latest celebrity meal, which you can drown in the limited edition “Saweetie ‘N Sour” sauce (CNN).
  • High-tech protein and delivery got a jolt of investment on many fronts, including $235 million to plant-based tech group NotCo (Food Business News), $75 million to Nobell Foods to research synthetic casein for alt-cheese (Food Ingredients First) and $1 billion to delivery company Gopuff (Speciality Foods). Meanwhile, GMO fishery Aquabounty announced it will build a $200 million Ohio facility (Agri-pulse).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Defining ‘Good’ Domestic Aquaculture

Because of growing concerns over using federal waters for farm-raised seafood, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) launched a poll to gauge consumer perception of the practice domestically. According to EDF’s summary, the United States imports more than 85% of the seafood it consumes, and more than half of that is farm-raised in countries with inconsistent stewardship policies. The poll found that Americans are eager to consume more domestically farmed seafood, as long as fisheries follow good stewardship practices.

Should Snacks Be Healthy?

Food Ingredients First shared insight from industry experts on “polarizing” snack trends that have surfaced as a result of the pandemic. A mix of consumer interests including health concerns, meal replacements and even nostalgia, have contributed to the “rise of snackification,” which is redefining the post-pandemic snack market. “Savory snacks are facing a challenge to reposition in a market with a tension between indulgence, quality, health and convenience,” said Sam Russell from Symrise.

A (Carbon) Neutralizing Partnership

Triple Pundit covered The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) partnership to help the dairy industry reach environmental goals. TNC’s Alisha Staggs explained, “The U.S. dairy industry is leading by example with a commitment to environmental sustainability, working toward a set of goals that include cleaner water with maximized recycling and carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Bagels ‘N’ More

Grub Street contributor Jason Diamond penned an opinion about the meaning of “Jewish” restaurants in today’s world. Diamond argued that a true Jewish restaurant needs to take into account a more broad-spanning experience than “an account with Acme Smoked Fish, somebody with a brisket recipe, and a few vintage glass seltzer bottles for decoration.”