September 23, 2022
With Farm Safety Week overlapping Climate Week, food producers had lots to discuss all along the supply chain:
- Conversations on climate reinforced familiar themes.
- Competition for grocery delivery heated up.
- TikTok promoted both smart and stupid trends.
September 19-22 marked Climate Week 2022, spurring conversations around food and beverage production practices. The New York City-based event boasted corporate sponsorships from Unilever, PepsiCo, Oatly, Impossible Foods, AB InBev and Indigo Ag.
- U.N. representatives estimated “top farming and food firms could lose up to a quarter of their value by 2030.” The researchers projected that, without changes in GHG emissions, shareholders stand to lose $150 billion by 2030 (Reuters).
- Environmental Defense Fund suggested that agricultural emissions could drop by 23% by 2030 through a combination of improvements to cattle feed, manure storage, fertilizer use and preventing land conversion.
- Tech-oriented environmentalist group The Breakthrough Institute called for more agriculture research funding: “If DC can fund General Motors, it can also fund alternative meat and other environmental breakthroughs.”
- Last week’s USDA Climate-Smart Commodities pilot program proved to be one such investment. The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance — a supergroup of ag interests — welcomed the investment for “[recognizing] differences between regions, farm size and forest type, and diversity of production in the United States.”
- The program provided grants to groups focusing on a wide range of issues, including soil health, financial incentives, fresh produce, organic foods and potato production.
- Activist group Friends of the Earth objected that much of the funding will go to large companies with established R&D departments: “These grants fly in the face of President Biden’s executive order calling for USDA to combat consolidation in agriculture.”
The last mile for getting groceries into homes remains up for grabs. Giants like Amazon have faced off against foodservice delivery specialists to gain that business while the retailers themselves have started their own delivery systems. All of these compete against the established American grocery shopping experience. Recently, third-party delivery services have gained ground.
- Supermarket News shared recent research that delivery has grown faster than pickup: “Delivery now owns 48.3% of all digital grocery fulfillment, against pickup’s 51.7%. Meanwhile, after declining 2.3% from June to July, third-party platforms’ share of overall digital grocery sales rebounded by 21.2%.”
- On September 19, Instacart unveiled its Connected Stores solutions bundle, which blends online and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences. We’re confused too.
- The next day, DoorDash announced a big expansion beyond foodservice, “introducing on-demand grocery, convenience store, alcohol delivery, and more on the DoorDash app” with some major food retailers.
- Grocery technology firm Invafresh polled 100 retail decision-makers about what they see as the biggest threats. Despite some mention of competition from the likes of Amazon, inflation and pandemic-rooted supply chain disruptions remain high on the list.
- Progressive Grocer profiled Ahold Delhaize’s success, which is based on omnichannel momentum, private brands and sustainability commitments. The article could not confirm rumors about a merger with rival Albertsons.
- The New York Times explained why retail trailblazer Wegmans has discontinued its self-checkout app, citing theft as a major reason.
- Despite rumors of candy shortages, Bloomberg reported National Retail Federation data that U.S. consumers will spend a record $10.6 billion on Halloween.
- Looking further ahead to the holiday season’s retail labor situation, The Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart will hire fewer seasonal workers, pegging the estimate at 40,000 workers to complement its 1.7 million employees. That’s a lot of blue vests.
The Nighttime Sniffling, Sneezing, Coughing, Aching, Stuffy-head Chicken
Pew Research Center on September 20 published research that said about half of Americans use social media to get the news. Over the past year, TikTok experienced the most explosive growth, compared with the other platforms. And there’s food and nutrition advice aplenty on the platform. But it’s not all helpful food hacks. Pew’s research coincided with lots of coverage of a viral recipe involving cooking chicken in cough medicine.
- NPR’s Matt Adams summarized the #sleepychicken TikTok trend that involves cooking chicken breasts in NyQuil, and how the FDA sternly warned it is “a recipe for danger.”
- TechCrunch insisted this was a meme posted by a troll at least five years ago on 4chan.
- Eater chronicled the popularity of the butter board, another food trend that remained obscure since 2017. It’s basically a layer of softened butter with herbs and such on top. For what it’s worth, butter also tastes amazing unadorned.
- Apparently using bread to scoop the butter proved difficult for some. TikTok recipe developer Justine Doiron, who kicked off the craze, had to clarify: “YOU CAN USE A KNIFE JUST LIKE A CHEESEBOARD CALM YOURSELVES.”
Hey, What’s Good This Week?
Two major grocery store chains committed to addressing hunger in their communities this week. Publix donated $5.65 million to 300+ Feeding America food banks throughout the southeastern U.S. The grocer committed to addressing the issue even further, pledging that 6,300 of its associates will partner with 205 other local nonprofits to address food insecurity as part of its annual Publix Serves Week.
Meanwhile, Albertsons partnered with Kellogg to fight childhood hunger by donating to No Kid Hungry. The retailer’s E.A.T. program and its foundation’s Nourishing Neighbor’s program will receive half of a $100,000 pledge from Kellogg to explicitly target childhood hunger at breakfast. The chain has also been accepting donations at their checkout counters throughout the month of September.
As hurricane season begins, humanitarian groups already have their work cut out for them. The Specialty Foods Association highlighted efforts from Mercy Chefs, World Central Kitchen and Global Giving after Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico on September 19.
Don’t Mind the Maggots
In response to a global fertilizer shortage brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen many reports of farmers getting creative. The Associated Press reported on developments in Uganda, a regional food basket for Africa, and the country’s burgeoning maggot trade: “The maggots are the larvae of the black soldier fly, an insect whose digestive system effectively turns food waste into organic fertilizer.”
Farm Safety Week
High Plains Journal described the purpose of Farm Safety Week: “Dedicating a week to saving the lives and limbs of farmers and their employees, which oftentimes are their own children, is a must. Danger lurks and at the blink of an eye [and] a routine day can turn into a serious injury or fatality.” The Biden Administration provided $65 million to “minimize the risks” of such injuries.
Older, But None the Wiser
Researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University analyzed how well people stick to a balanced diet, finding a modest 1.5% improvement worldwide in the past 30 years. Lead author Victoria Miller explained, “overall improvements in dietary quality were offset by increased intake of unhealthy components.”
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