We’re psyched for this weekend’s “big game” broadcast (we opted not to pay for the right to use the actual name) and its annual focus on advertising. A number of food and beverage companies have ponied up their $5.5 million for 30 seconds this year, with many of them spending even more to secure celebrity talent.

Once again, snacks (Frito Lay, Pringles, M&M’s, Oikos Yogurt); sodas (Rockstar Energy, Mountain Dew, the Pepsi halftime show); and beer brands (Stella Artois, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Anheuser-Busch) dominate the lineup, but we’re intrigued to see a condiment — Hellmann’s mayonnaise — making such a main-dish play. Uber Eats, DoorDash and Jimmy John’s will also make first-time showings. Another we’re keen to see is a Chipotle spot that asks, “Can a burrito change the world?” With a focus on how its food is sourced, the burrito chain once again made its supply chain the focus of their consumer messaging. Read on for:

  • Interesting takes on Super Sunday food advertising
  • A bucketful of boozy anecdotes
  • How food brands promoted the importance of workplace diversity

“Remember last year when Planters killed off Mr. Peanut? We were so innocent then. We’re willing to bet the ad content at this year’s game will be heavy on sentimentality and light on Groundhog Day riffs.”

The Editors of The Counter

Super Foods

Recent discussion about the “big game” indicates aspects of normalcy amid the pandemic, compared with some radical shifts in advertising and behavior. But as always, food factors heavily into these conversations.

  • Triple Pundit’s Megan Amrich summarized what’s in, out and different about this year’s advertising, including more details about Hellmann’s and Chipotle’s campaigns.
  • CBS News posted a list of “leaked” ads, many of which plug food products. Northwestern University business professor Derek Rucker said in the article, “Going to the Super Bowl means you are speaking to an audience of 100 million or more — you have to make sure you don’t convey an unintended message, that you don’t hit an iceberg along the way.”
  • On January 22, Wall Street Journal writer Sahil Patel discussed DoorDash’s first advertising entry for the event as well as other brands that have done well during the pandemic to “keep the momentum going after a strong year.”
  • On its website, Anheuser-Busch proclaimed, “For the first time in 37 years, Budweiser will not be airing an ad on Super Bowl Sunday. Instead, we are redirecting our advertising dollars to raise awareness of the COVID-19 vaccines.”
  • Food Safety News opted to share some stats on the popularity of pizza and wings (in addition to their annual food safety plan for the day).
  • Washington Post reporter Cara Rosenbloom compared the vast differences between the players’ and fans’ diets.
Click to read BR's POV on supply chains

Spirited Discussions

February marks the end of Dry January, or Dryuary as it’s become known, which corresponds with more spirited discussions around alcohol sales and pandemic drinking behavior.

  • Drinking during the pandemic spurred high-end liquor sales in 2020 (Wall Street Journal), with industry stakeholders crediting consumers for experimenting more at home. Earlier in January, reporter Lettie Teague explained her decision to “drink wine in modest amounts with dinner every day in January,” in contrast with the goals of Dry January.
  • Reuters Paris shared 2020 champagne sales data showing an 18% drop in volume, valued at $1.2 billion.
  • The Chicago Tribune explored the ongoing can shortage that has hit small brewers especially hard. Hopewell co-founder Samantha Lee explained, “It becomes an emergency at that point and you’re asking around, ‘Does anyone have a pallet of cans they can sell us?'”
  • Bloomberg reported that Uber will acquire on-demand alcohol delivery app Drizly in the biggest deal since the company acquired Postmates last summer.
  • On the lighter side, the release of a gluten-free Oreo inspired Colorado-based Holidaily Brewing Company to create an Oreo stout for its gluten-free customer base (Food & Wine). To us, this is not a beer; it is a science experiment.

Inclusion of Diversity

An array of stories showcased the diverse workforce in the food production industry, including benchmarks of worker well-being, commitments to corporate change and observations of cultural heritage.

  • On January 28, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) published its 2021 Corporate Equity Index. The group rated more than 50 food brands — from Aramark to Zoetis — a perfect 100 on treatment of LGBTQ+ workers.
  • Coca-Cola, which also earned a perfect score from HRC, scolded its law firms for “not treating the issue of diversity and inclusion as a business imperative.”
  • DoorDash declared support for immigrant workers, citing co-founder Tony Xu’s own family as inspiration.
  • The Daily Meal kicked off Black History Month on February 1 with a feature on Black chefs who have shaped culinary trends.
  • The House Agriculture Committee celebrated David Scott, the committee’s first Black chairman.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Farmers for Dinner?

Data intelligence leader Morning Consult underscored the critical role farmers play in the Paris Climate Accord and the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Authors A.G. Kawamura and Roger Johnson reminded readers of the old ag policy adage: “If you’re not at the table, you’ll be on the menu.”

Danger in Baby Foods

PBS shared the news about a congressional investigation that found dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in many different brands of baby foods, including organic ones. Consultants to the article said the source of heavy metals often comes from the minerals added and that rice, a common ingredient in baby food, also tends to acquire high levels of arsenic from watery soils.

Coke Is It

Food Business News relayed a Brand Finance ranking of U.S. brands, which placed Coca-Cola at the top spot. Interestingly, Pepsi is the only other food or beverage brand in the top ten. The consulting firm evaluates global brands based on “three fundamental pillars: Brand Investment, Brand Equity, and Brand Performance.”

Brits Balk at Bargain Ban

Food Ingredients First covered a debate in the UK that pits a rule made last year to “Tackle Obesity” by eliminating in-store food promotion. Consumers who rely on sales and “BOGOF” (buy one get one free) promotions have protested the move. We all saw how that turned out for JCPenney, right?

Johnny Pumpkin Seed

Food Dive explained some of the reasoning behind pumpkin seeds’ recent rise in popularity: “They offer high protein and omega-3 content for plant-based diets, have an allergy-friendly reputation, and a mild taste that works well with sweet and savory flavors to add a dynamic element to everything from smoothies to snacks.”