Triple W’s commanded the top topics in food production this week:

  • Weather’s impact on food crops
  • Weight loss and its relation to diet
  • Worker wages and well-being

It Ain’t Just Small Talk

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the weather has a massive impact on food production. Unfortunately, the issue draws more attention when things are going wrong, so it’s worth celebrating that drought levels in California are at the lowest in a decade.

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor tracked severe and extreme drought across much of the Midwest. The Associated Press covered concerns about underperforming corn crops, while The Scoop highlighted the erratic impact on wheat harvests.
  • Agri-Pulse noted that severe drought in Missouri has brought the level of the Mississippi River close to historic lows, which limits a main thoroughfare for transporting food crops.
  • Corteva Agriscience explained how wildfires increasingly factor into farming, including problems from smoke limiting sunlight to plants hundreds of miles away: “Based on what is known … it seems very plausible that wildfire smoke could cause reductions in crop yields.”
  • Prospects for a strong grape crop in New York’s Finger Lakes region have soured due to a cold snap in mid-May, reported Washington Post columnist Dave McIntyre.
  • Kim Severson of The New York Times wrote that the Georgia peach crop is in the pits due to a late frost, as well.

Losing It

In a nation where nearly one-third of adults and one in six children are overweight (National Institute of Health), we regularly track a substantial amount of conversation aimed at understanding and solving this issue. Medication and diet led recent discussions on the topic of weight loss.

  • Ozempic persists in making headlines due to the diabetes drug’s ability to suppress appetite. The Wall Street Journal described a tension among some patients: “Just at the moment they are making real progress after years of struggling with their weight, patients say they feel judged for taking what their family and friends view as an easy way out.”
  • Food Dive’s Chris Casey interviewed General Mills Chief Innovation Technology Officer Jodi Benson about how the maker of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is addressing nutrition. Benson described strategies that include focusing on protein and partnering with Weight Watchers as a path to success.
  • Science Daily captured how USDA scientists have built a healthy diet plan with 93% of calories from ultra-processed foods. Hot dog salads anyone?
  • A Tufts University study predicted the clinical and financial benefits of prescription produce programs. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and Jean Mayer professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition, summarized: “These innovative treatments are exciting because they can not only improve health and reduce health care spending, but also reduce disparities by reaching those patients who are most in need.”
  • Good news for dairy lovers: WebMD reviewed the PURE diet and recommended 14 weekly servings of full-fat dairy.
  • Despite the continued “battle of the bulge” in the U.S., Food Ingredients First insisted: “There is a notable shift toward a more balanced and holistic approach to nutrition,” and interviewed key players in health and nutrition to outline how to pursue a healthy, nutritious lifestyle.
  • Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle applauded the World Health Organization’s guidance to restrict food marketing to kids. She also shared her favorite easy-to-eat healthy snack: a boxed kiwi. The fruit, not the bird.

Wage Rage

From Waffle House strikes to unpaid fines and scorching heat waves, the world of work seems to be heating up. With a mix of labor woes and legal battles, it’s clear that the work landscape is sizzling with controversy.

  • Doordash, Grubhub and Uber sue New York City over minimum wage law | CNN
  • Here’s what grocery executives made in 2022 | Supermarket News
  • Waffle House employees in South Carolina go on strike | Nation’s Restaurant News
  • Dollar General has $21M in unpaid safety violation fines | Supermarket News
  • The Biden administration wants to protect farm workers from heatwaves | NPR
  • Purdue study: grain entrapments rise to highest level in a decade | The Scoop

What’s Good This Week? Sustainable Pizza.

Yahoo Finance Live host Julie Hyman interviewed Nestlé North America CEO Steve Presley about the $94 billion food maker’s recent commitment to sustainable farming practices in its supply chain. Presley spoke specifically about Nestle’s July 12 commitment to 100,000 acres of regenerative agriculture for farms producing wheat for the DiGiorno pizza brand. “It has to be good for Nestlé, it has to be good for the farmers, it has to be good for our consumers, and ultimately, we believe it’s the right thing to do for the planet as well.”

Worth Reading

A Hill of Fries

The Hill’s 12:30 Report (of all places) listed a summary of the best fried potato deals honoring French Fry Day, July 13. “Today may only be Thursday, but it’s also Fry Day — as in National French Fry Day! Fast food spots across the country are celebrating by giving out free french fries and other perks!”

Gastro-tourism Levels Up

There may be a new standard in food tourism. The Wall Street Journal detailed how the desires of food-focused travelers have shifted from casual restaurant visits to extensive experiences that intertwine local heritage with the expertise of well-known chefs and esteemed experts. Despite the considerable cost of these culture-driven adventures, many are selling out quickly. Better start saving that lunch money.

Public Springs for Private Label

Private-label food sales often serve as a good proxy for consumer beliefs about the broader economy. Given that most Americans have a pessimistic view of the economy (The Pew Charitable Trusts), it makes sense that store brands saw an 8.2% increase in sales so far this year. The Private Label Manufacturers Association welcomed the data, celebrating that the category reached a record 18.8% of grocery sales.

Fine Dining Hits Supermarket Shelves

Food retailers are recruiting more culinary pros to enhance their prepared foods, according to a recent article posted on Progressive Grocer. Many independent grocers, co-ops, regional operators and major national chains are tapping into these skilled chefs to work their culinary magic and expertise to give shoppers more choices on convenient gourmet meals. Looks like it’s time to snag a reservation at your nearest supermarket.