Things are hardly “normal,” but conversation volume is normalizing. The chart below compares average weekly conversations in 2020 to our five-year average, confirming that the coronavirus crisis dramatically increased food-related discussions, peaking in late April. With the exception of Memorial Day, it took until July for the amount of content to return to normal levels, dropping by 40% from peak to trough. In this normal-volume week:

  • Mounting losses from last week’s derecho garnered a delayed response.
  • Walmart earned attention for new beef policies and e-commerce dominance.
  • Plant-based protein reemerged as the hot trend.
TID weekly content capture chart

World’s Largest

As the world’s largest retailer (Forbes) and the largest grocer in the United States (Progressive Grocer), Walmart commands its share of industry-driving policy.

  • In an August 7 blog post, Walmart announced a partnership with The Nature Conservancy that charts a path to source more sustainable beef by 2025.
  • On August 18, The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Nassauer reported that Walmart exceeded expectations for the quarter as consumer demand for household staples surged amid the pandemic. Nassauer also noted that Walmart has been a secondary beneficiary of government stimulus payments, as a great number of consumers spent their benefit checks at Walmart stores.
  • Supermarket News reported on a four-market same-day delivery test partnership between Walmart and Instacart. CNBC suggested that this partnership will enable “a stronger position against Amazon, which offers grocery delivery services Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now.”
  • TABS Analytics published a study that found online grocery shopping attracted only a small amount of new users this year, and that Walmart has overtaken Amazon as the retailer with the highest share of grocery e-commerce.

“Given the focus on online shopping … during the COVID-19 crisis, we expected online grocery to see a massive upswing this year. But, in reality, that was not the case.”

Dr. Kurt Jetta, TABS Analytics

Walloping Storm

Already facing worsening drought conditions in parts of the state this month, Iowa suffered another direct hit from Mother Nature when a derecho storm tore through the Midwest on August 10, damaging critical farm infrastructure and flattening nearly 14 million acres of corn and soybean crops.

  • On August 12, the USDA announced assistance and resources for eligible farmers and ranchers to “reestablish their operations.”
  • President Donald Trump visited Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on August 18 to discuss the storm’s impact with other state officials (Feedstuffs). The White House approved Iowa for disaster relief as part of an August 17 declaration.
  • Reuters credited crop scouts with offering a clearer picture on the extent of damage and noted that the latest reports show nearly 20% of Iowa to be in “severe drought.”
  • Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig asked USDA to offer Iowa farmers a “no-harvest option” for crop insurance (DTN/The Progressive Farmer).
  • Meatingplace blogger Mack Graves suggested the storm uncovers a bigger issue with the U.S. livestock industry that requires fundamental changes to improve the livelihoods and longevity of farmers and ranchers.

“There’s a lot of stress in the countryside. … It was already very stressful. This just adds insult to the injury that was already there.”

Craig Floss, CEO, Iowa Corn Growers Association

Plant-based Premieres

Ingredient companies, manufacturers and retailers returned to a pre-pandemic trend: procuring plant-based food products.

  • On August 18, Hormel Ingredient Solutions launched a line of pea-based protein “crumbles … ranging from traditional and Italian, to breakfast and Chorizo-style flavors.” The word “sausage” is notably absent from the announcement.
  • Nestlé bragged that it “developed [a] tuna alternative within 9 months” and will debut the item in Switzerland.
  • Dunkin’ expanded the availability of oatmilk to the full nation as of August 19.
  • After KFC Canada added Lightlife plant-based patties to its menus, Food & Wine wondered if such products will reach U.S. consumers.
  • Additionally, NYU nutrition professor emeritus Marion Nestle responded to a Beyond Meat-funded Stanford study: “Whether substituting Beyond Meat for real meat is truly useful for health in the absence of other dietary changes remains to be confirmed, hopefully by independently funded research.”

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Tuna Rich

Curious about where that bluefin tuna sushi came from? Writer Sasha Chapman with Hakai Magazine posted an in-depth look at the tuna fishing industry out of North Lake, Prince Edward Island, the tuna capital of the world.

‘The Wu-Tang Van Is Coming!’

Ice cream brand Good Humor took to Instagram to discuss the racist legacy of “Turkey in the Straw,” a song commonly played by ice cream trucks. Though the brand does not own any trucks itself, it has teamed up with RZA, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, to “reimagine the ice cream truck jingle for a new era.” Good Humor added, “We know that changing a song alone will not solve racism, but it is one immediate and simple step we can take.”

Jamón Ibérico Americano

The Counter drew attention to a Guardian article about two companies in Texas and Georgia attempting to replicate Iberian ham, the pricey and delicious acorn-fed Spanish delicacy. Georgia-based Iberian Pastures is taking advantage of the state’s native crop — peanuts — to fatten its pigs. Spanish industry ham consultant Constantino Martínez is “furious with the failure of the Spanish government to protect jamón’s integrity and allow native blackfoot pigs to be exported to the United States.”

Anti-mask and the Law

Restaurant Hospitality outlined “5 Steps for Dealing with Anti-Mask Guests” for foodservice operators. The list originated with five Atlanta attorneys who advised, “Figure out what you want your front-line people to say. Literally, give them a script.”

‘Both Greasy and Fun’

The Iowa City Press Citizen reported that, despite the cancellation/virtualization of the Iowa State Fair, the famous butter sculptures will live on in the form of an online how-to session. “While the no-experience-necessary, DIY creations may not measure up to the 600-pound butter cow, the class, and the resulting project, promises to be both greasy and fun — just like the Iowa State Fair itself.” Let’s stop and recognize that brilliant use of descriptive words. Well played.