Friday by Noon summarizes what the most important voices in food, beverage and agriculture had to say this week. Here are the top trending discussions:

  • Environmental stewardship: discussions of new policies and commitments.
  • Wine: spirited conversation about both drinking and slowing down drinking

We’re also providing some insights about what we see coming up in the near future. Drop us a line and let us know what you’re looking out for.

Corporations: the New Environmentalists

Leading up to Earth Day (April 22), leading voices in food production committed to a variety of environmental and climate change goals.

  • On April 13, Walmart pledged to “reverse nature loss” by encouraging producers to restore habitats for pollinators (bats, bees, butterflies, etc.) and promoting “pollinator-friendly” goods in stores.
  • Corteva Agriscience announced on April 8 that it had created a carbon market initiative to “help farmers increase profitability while contributing to a climate change solution.” The move supplements Corteva’s 2030 sustainability goals.
  • PepsiCo committed $5 million to AgMission, a partnership with Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action, to “develop and implement climate-smart solutions at scales previously unimagined.”
  • Environmentalist group As You Sow reached an agreement with Keurig Dr. Pepper for the drink maker to “cut use of virgin plastic for packaging by 20% by 2025.” As You Sow made similar agreements with Mondelez and PepsiCo in March.
  • The Forestry Commission of Ghana partnered with the World Cocoa Foundation on April 14 to reduce deforestation in cocoa production. The partnership between the second-largest cocoa-producing nation and the makers of 80% of the world’s chocolate partially resolves a dispute that flared up in November of last year.

Wine Time

We had to double-check that it wasn’t wine appreciation week, because the beverage popped up in so many conversations. Health concerns, trade disruptions, labeling fraud and even memes contributed to this compilation.

  • On the health front, The New York Times’ Anahad O’Connor documented the significant uptick in pandemic-induced alcohol use, and offered some ways to cut back.
  • On April 13, Harvard Health tweeted a link to a 2018 article that explained the association (not correlation) between moderate wine consumption and heart health.
  • Forbes explained that a harsh frost damaged grapes in Northern France, which will drive up wine prices.
  • The Washington Post reported on two additional factors pressuring prices of imported wine: a lack of shipping containers and tariffs on French, German and Spanish wines set during the Trump administration.
  • Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle described a study that found “how wines taste depends on what you think they cost.”
  • Rudy Kurniawan, the subject of the 2016 Netflix documentary “Sour Grapes,” was deported this week by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for counterfeiting Napa and Burgundy wines (The Associated Press).
  • Wine Enthusiast reflected on popular “wine mom” memes, asking, “Is it harmless fun, or a dangerous means of normalizing alcoholism?” The Counter responded, “Like so much cultural flotsam in 2021, it’s complicated.” As cultural flotsam so often is.

Looking Ahead

Seasons change, but recently, the seasons themselves are changing. More on this and two other topics we’re keeping our eyes on in food production. The announcements continue a trend of consumer-facing brands addressing farm-level practices.

  1. The Weather: Spring weather usually has a huge impact on food production, with the past several springs being considerably unpredictable. Compared to Midwest floods that delayed planting two years ago, much of the western U.S. is experiencing a megadrought, putting much of agriculture at risk (Farm Journal). Follow what influential voices say using hashtag #plant21, and look for USDA’s Crop Progress Report, which updates weekly.
  2. Food Prices: Maybe you haven’t noticed yet because you’re still eating out less than before the pandemic, but the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says food prices are on the rise. Port slowdowns, shipping container shortages and trade barriers pinched supply chains during the pandemic. Gas prices, crop damage and higher demand have also raised grocery prices (NBC News).
  3. Climate Commitments: With Earth Day approaching on April 22, we expect to hear: corporate commitments addressing climate change, advocacy groups encouraging those changes and, most prominently, President Biden potentially announcing the United States’ return to the Paris climate agreement (Scientific American).

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Green Jackets & Red Peppers

On April 9, Atlas Obscura dove into the scandal surrounding the popular pimento cheese sandwich at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia: “An event so wedded to perfection, so shrouded in its own tradition, is surely one of the last places you’d expect to find successive episodes of food-based spite politics.” The original vendor for the peppered cheese, Nick Rangos, took the recipe to the grave, leaving tournament organizers in the rough. Also, check out Food Insider’s list of each state’s best sandwich: the pimento cheese made the list for Georgia.

Iftar Fare Is Everywhere

During the holy month of Ramadan, which started on April 12, faithful Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, then break the fast at dusk with a sip of water and a snack of dates. After evening prayers, a meal called “iftar” follows. Food media has increasingly covered the holiday from a culinary angle. A few examples include Al Jazeera explaining where “Ramadan dates” come from, while Eater outlined how area Halal foodservice, including a Mexican restaurant, prepared for the month.

Food: Polling Positive

Purdue agricultural economist Jayson Lusk shared results from a Gallup poll that asked Americans how they viewed different business and industry sectors. The results showed that for the first time in 20 years, “Farming and agriculture is the clear leader,” gaining 11% in approval ratings from the survey conducted in 2019. The grocery and restaurant industries both followed closely behind in the number two and three spots. For some reason, the advertising and public relations industry ranked near the bottom … below lawyers.

One Good Guy

CBS News reported that the mayor of Flavortown (aka Guy Fieri) helped raise $25 million for the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund during the pandemic. With his help, the relief fund was able to give $500 grants to 43,000 workers in the restaurant industry across the country. Fieri stated, “So many people work in the restaurant industry in multiple jobs, second jobs, single moms, single parents, students, retirees. And the restaurant industry is massively important to our communities.” Nice work.