November 20, 2020
Thankful, but Different
We’re grateful for our loyal readers, and for lively conversation about food production. Have a happy Thanksgiving and we’ll see you on Friday, December 4, by noon!
Until then, here’s the rundown of the latest:
- The pandemic upended many, but not all, Thanksgiving traditions.
- A diverse group of food and ag leaders teamed up to address climate issues.
- New end-of-year business deals, goals and product announcements picked up.
“Some people want Thanksgiving to be normal, so they’re going to buy that turkey come hell or high water. And if they’ve got leftovers, they’ve got leftovers.”John Zimmerman, Minnesota turkey farmer (Vox)
All the Trimmings but the Guests
This year’s cornucopia of Thanksgiving-related food and beverage conversation is noticeably spiced with pandemic-related disruption:
- The Specialty Food Association summarized research from FMI and IRI; both indicated downsized Thanksgiving plans for consumers. Smaller turkeys and early shopping are prevalent themes.
- Vox captured the perspective of small-scale turkey farmer John Zimmerman in Minnesota, who has to deal with new levels of unpredictability this year.
- Meatingplace shared Texas A&M research that indicates a very abnormal year for turkey production: a tight supply has led to a 19% increase in prices for both tom and hen turkeys over last year.
- With the CDC recommending limited travel and small gatherings, The Washington Post gave tips on having a virtual Thanksgiving gathering, like Zooming with relatives while cooking. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
- Burned your bird? Whole Foods teamed up with Progressive to offer a first-ever turkey insurance program. Seriously.
- Sick of pie? LA Times food columnist Ben Mims offered many alternative dessert recipes, such as “Pumpkin Nemesis,” a gluten-free “godsend.”
- Need a checklist? This year’s Food Safety News Thanksgiving tips included special planning amid the pandemic and USDA posted tips to reduce food waste.
- CNN commented on a presidential pardon: “In a 2020 riddled with disappointments and disaster, the news Wednesday that the annual pardon will go on, is somehow both comforting and unsettling, and sure to ruffle some feathers.”
‘Strange Bedfellows’ Address Climate
On November 17, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) issued climate policy recommendations “built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities” for the food and agriculture sector. The full report provides suggestions on soil health, livestock and dairy, forests and wood products, energy, research, and food loss and waste.
- FACA is a coalition of major industry groups with power to implement change in food production. Farm-focused groups chair the organization, and membership has expanded to include FMI and The Nature Conservancy.
- Modern Farmer’s Dan Nosowitz wrote that the coalition of “strange bedfellows” represents the likely route of bipartisan agriculture policy under the Biden administration.
- Indeed, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall stated, “We began discussions not knowing whether we would ultimately reach agreement. … We are proud to have broken through historical barriers to form this unique alliance focused on climate policy.”
- The group’s efforts began in February of this year. Coincidentally, that’s when the same groups — and a dozen others — announced the Farmers for a Sustainable Future coalition.
Business Quick Hits
With 2020 winding down (finally), noteworthy news of earnings, acquisitions and new products dominated our dashboard:
- Mars secured many headlines on November 17, announcing its purchase of the maker of KIND bars for an undisclosed sum. The New York Times estimated the value of KIND at $5 billion.
- The Wall Street Journal outlined DoorDash’s “blistering” growth pace as the company filed for an IPO, despite having only one profitable quarter this year. Meanwhile, Grub Street’s Chris Crowley strongly urged people not to use delivery apps, and to order directly from restaurants.
- Grocery Dive reported that Ahold Delhaize agreed to buy 80% of FreshDirect, an NYC-based online grocer.
- Food Business News covered two new patties Beyond Meat will launch in 2021, one intended to be Beyond’s most nutritious patty to date.
- On November 18, Israeli-based Aleph Farms debuted the prototype for its commercially produced cell-cultured steak. Meat+Poultry shared the news, quoting Aleph’s chef Amir Ilan, “Aleph Farms is establishing a new category of meat, imbued with its own culture and a new world of meaty experiences.”
- Bloomberg reported on Walmart’s most recent positive earnings report, in which U.S. same-store sales rose 6.4% due to pandemic stockpiling and online sales.
- Unilever President of Foods and Refreshment Hanneke Faber told Reuters the company set a sales goal for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives at €1 billion ($1.2 billion) over the next five to seven years.
- Politico reported how leading foodservice distributor Sysco is ditching minimum delivery sizes for restaurants, which continue to struggle under COVID restrictions.
“There are concrete actions farmers can take to build resilience to weather extremes and pull carbon out of the atmosphere, but they need strong policy behind them.”Rob Larew, National Farmers Union
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
Raising the Protein Bar
Ingredient-maker Kerry published a white paper detailing protein choices for snack bar production. The paper suggests cultural “snackification” and a consumer interest in health and wellness are boosting the $6 billion industry.
Pandemic Pizza Party
On Medium, Moe Tkacik penned a piece on the restaurant industry and how pizza has managed to remain profitable amidst a pandemic, while those in the salad genre have struggled. Tkacik asserted, “We are a nation in the throes of an unprecedented eight-month pizza binge that shows no signs of abating.” With not a salad bar in sight.
Save the Mexican Pizza
Grub Street contributor Foram Mehta explored the growing backlash among Indian Americans who are upset with Taco Bell’s decision to remove a number of vegetarian items from its menu. A “Save the Mexican Pizza” petition on Change.org has generated more than 144,000 signatures. “I think it’s a huge mistake. Taco Bell is deeply intertwined with Indian American culture,” said New York City businessman Krish Jagirdar.
Tyson Foods made national headlines after the Iowa Capital Dispatch broke news about plant supervisors wagering money on how many workers would contract COVID-19. A lawsuit filed by the family of a worker who died from the virus accused Tyson Foods of “willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety.” On November 19, CNN reported that the managers involved had been suspended and quoted Tyson CEO Dean Banks: “If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company.”
Food Factors Into Finance
It has been a little over one year since Business Roundtable declared that a corporation’s purpose no longer needs to be limited to profits alone. It seems the finance industry is starting to catch on, and food issues are already factoring in. Bloomberg’s Alastair Marsh outlined how biodiversity is playing a larger role in fund management. And Triple Pundit analyzed data on meat companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies.
Bacon Beer for Breakfast
USA Today reported on a new entry in the breakfast category this week. Oconee Brewing Company partnered with Waffle House restaurant chain to release a breakfast-themed beer, appropriately named Bacon and Kegs. According to the brewery, the ingredients include “bacon extract.” We don’t know what that means, but we want it. Stat.
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