The most influential voices in food, beverage and ag measured progress (and the lack thereof) on several fronts, including sustainability commitments, corporate performance and all-encompassing food system legislation.

  • Brands implemented sustainability plans
  • Earnings reports provided a glimpse of industry health
  • Negotiations of the 2023 Farm Bill ramped up sharply

Seeking Sustainability

Sustainability has become a corporate strategy staple for major food, beverage and agriculture brands. As companies pursue their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water use, some brands are leaning on venture capital funds to support these commitments.

  • AgFunder News published a list of agrifood companies that have issued commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. AFN relied on data from the Science Based Targets Initiative (a coalition that includes the United Nations and World Resources Institute), which showed 348 new commitments since January 2022.
  • Coca-Cola established a fund to develop packaging and supply chain solutions to reduce emissions.
  • Tyson Foods’ venture capital arm held a demo day on July 21 that saw innovators pitching businesses that reduce food waste through “upcycling.”
  • Cargill developed a standard for measuring cattle methane emissions. The methodology drew the blessing of emissions tracking group Gold Standard.
  • An Oxford University study estimated that reducing meat consumption lowered the environmental impact of 55,500 U.K. citizens’ diets by 30% to 75%. The study garnered most attention from vegan-aligned organizations and publications, such as The Guardian.
  • Supermarket News covered a Carnegie Mellon University study that found grocery delivery tends to increase emissions and energy use because “deliveries replaced grocery trips when customers were on their way home from somewhere else.”
  • Food Business News highlighted a pair of commitments to boost regenerative agriculture. PepsiCo partnered with Walmart on July 27 to fund conversion of 2 million acres of farmland by 2030. ADM expanded its re:generations program to 2 million acres in 2023 and will double that number by 2025.

The Earnings Gamut

As we emerge from the challenges of Q1, food and beverage companies published earnings and growth trends. There’s a mixed bag of results — from double-digit growth to bankruptcy.

  • Subway has reported that it has reached its tenth consecutive quarter of positive sales during the second quarter of its fiscal year. Yes, the brand is still for sale.
  • Cal-Maine Foods, the country’s biggest egg producer, published that it nearly doubled its revenue and its profits went up sixfold as egg prices skyrocketed due to avian flu.
  • AppHarvest, a high-tech vertical-farming company revealed that it’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The indoor agriculture industry is facing a harsh new reality — funds are drying up.
  • National Restaurant News anticipated the impact of menu price inflation on Q2 earnings for leading restaurants such as Domino’s, Chipotle, McDonald’s, Sweetgreen and Texas Roadhouse.
  • Food Business News advised that the Kellogg’s split is on track for completion by Q4. Kellanova will include snacks, international cereal, noodles and frozen foods business while WK Kellogg Co. will include U.S., Canada and Caribbean cereal businesses.
  • The world’s largest food company hit its largest growth rate in a decade and half. Food Ingredients First summarized that e-commerce sales and pet care increases were major contributors to an 8.5% lift for Nestlé over the first half of 2022.
  • Bloomberg described Oatly’s earnings recalculation as the snarky maker of oat beverages missed recent sales targets: “The oat-drink maker now expects full-year revenue growth in a range of 7% to 12% … down from 23% to 28% previously.” On the flip side, Coca-Cola posted $2.5 billion in Q2 earnings (Food Manufacturing). As Coke knows well, it’s hard to beat a classic.
  • More fallout continues to riddle AB-InBev after the Bud Light controversy. The St. Louis Dispatch covered a recent earnings call during which Brendan Whitworth, Anheuser-Busch CEO, announced layoffs for 2% of its corporate staff.

Harvest Season for the Farm Bill

With the September 30 deadline quickly approaching, the 2023 Farm Bill faces a crucial moment as policymakers work together to shape the future of American food and farm policy. Amidst differing opinions from Congress, advocacy groups, individuals and economists, we’ll be watching to see what makes the cut. 

​​What’s Good This Week? Giant Solutions to Food Waste.

After launching a collaboration with technology company Divert last summer, Giant Food announced impressive first-year results. By processing unsold food that couldn’t be donated, it avoids organic landfill and creates renewable energy. The numbers are impressive; the companies processed almost 31 million pounds, preventing over 3 million pounds of GHG emissions.

Worth Reading

Thinking Outside the (Butcher) Box

At a time when most meal kit businesses are floundering, ButcherBox is thriving. From investor-free operations and economical value-add promotions to outsourced food production and retargeted marketing programs, Forbes detailed how calculated strategies have spearheaded the online meat seller’s success. Despite a monthly price tag that commonly exceeds $200, current subscribers seem content with their ButcherBox investment, yielding food for thought among the brand’s industry counterparts.

The Great Swiss Cheese Crisis

According to customs data, Switzerland imported more cheese than it sold abroad in the first few months of 2023. New York Times reporter Claire Moses described how low-cost imports, fewer farms across the Swiss countryside, and an increasing preference for different varieties have turned the balance. But fear not, the Swiss still dominate the high-value cheese game with Gruyère leading the charge. 

‘A Real Opportunity’

Wall Street Journal’s Patrick Thomas and Jacob Bunge revived content from the publication’s June Global Food Forum in which insurance companies explained how they are using food as medicine to improve their actuary ledgers. Over the past two decades, food-related health issues have increased sharply. Now, insurers such as Elevance Health are working with medical professionals on solutions such as produce prescriptions to counter the ill effects of poor diets. “We know that for adults, around 45% of those who die from heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, [or] stroke, that poor nutrition is a major contributing factor. Healthy food is a real opportunity,” said Gail Boudreaux, Elevance CEO.

Ticked Off

The CDC released a report on July 27 that the carnivore’s nightmare is steadily expanding — since 2010, as many as 450,000 Americans may have been infected by tick bites that cause red meat allergies. CBS explained that it’s not just meat, “Other products derived from animals, like gelatin, can contain alpha-gal and in rare cases cause reactions to some vaccines or capsules used in medication.”