November 13, 2020
Days after a tumultuous and still-unresolved election, industry leaders reacted to an uncertain future while a foodservice giant made some giant announcements, leaving no shortage of things to talk about. Also, the pandemic.
- Food and ag leaders welcomed the Biden administration.
- McDonald’s focused on core products, and introduced new ones.
- Pandemic surges brought new and diverse food supply issues.
Unfashionable though that may seem in certain quarters, bipartisan solutions are the best solutions. They acknowledge that one side doesn’t have a monopoly on the best ideas, a basic sign of mutual respect.National Milk Producers Federation
Although official vote counts and legal challenges remain outstanding in several states, The Associated Press called the presidential race for Joe Biden on November 7. Industry leaders welcomed Biden as president-elect.
- Unions endorsed Biden’s pro-labor policies early on, with Service Employee International Union President Mary Kay Henry claiming, “Essential workers made the difference in this election.”
- The Washington Post covered anti-hunger groups’ push for the new administration to expand food assistance programs (such as SNAP and WIC).
- Nation’s Restaurant News highlighted Biden administration transition plans for COVID-19 recovery.
- Consumer Brands Association leaders published a set of LinkedIn posts examining Biden administration stances on COVID-19 recovery, sustainability, regulation and supply chains.
- American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall congratulated Biden and affirmed: “The issues facing agriculture and rural America are larger than political parties.”
A bevy of topics introduced in a November 9 investor update put McDonald’s at the top of many food industry conversations. During the event, CEO Chris Kempczinski announced the “Accelerating the Arches” strategic initiative that focuses on McDonald’s brand, food and experience.
- Beth Kowitt, writing for Fortune, summarized the COVID-forward strategy Kempczinski outlined in an exclusive interview, referencing digital ordering and drive-thrus as key to McDonald’s success.
- While the burger giant will continue to focus on beef, McDonald’s announced a new crispy chicken sandwich and the plant-based McPlant. By many accounts, details of McPlant’s production and timing were scarce.
- Beyond Meat’s stock value dropped 10% after the McDonald’s announcement, then quickly regained value after the alt-protein company emailed reporters, claiming to “co-create” McPlant. MSN Money sought to clarify the situation after McDonald’s officially introduced the McPlant as “a delicious plant-based burger crafted for McDonald’s, by McDonald’s.”
- The Washington Post’s Tim Carman captured the confusion and initial questions reporters had about McPlant’s meatless patty itself. Carman jabbed, “Trying to get McDonald’s to name the supplier for its McPlant burger is like trying to get Woodward to name Deep Throat back in the day.”
- Many plant-based-focused advocates weighed in, including The Good Food Institute’s Zak Weston: “McDonald’s global launch of a plant-based burger is the clearest signal yet that plant-based meat will be the future of meat.”
Back to the Pandemic …
The ongoing toll from the pandemic and new state restrictions triggered discussions among influential voices. Notably, Minnesota, Illinois and San Francisco once again restricted indoor restaurant dining and grocery leaders reported stockpiling as cases surge.
- The Wall Street Journal explored why “investors just can’t stay away from fast food,” and highlighted how restaurants are defending keeping indoor dining open, despite closures in other states.
- New sales data and market research continued to show shifts in pandemic-related eating habits, including increased indulgence of cookies and chocolate.
- A Humane Society International white paper linked livestock production to pandemic risk and outlined ways to reduce reliance on food animal production.
- The New York Times pointed to cell phone research that is informing new COVID restrictions, specifically citing that “restaurants, gyms, cafes and other crowded indoor venues accounted for some 8 in 10 new infections in the early months of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic.”
- The Counter underscored rising food insecurity among college students, highlighting how campus pantries are getting creative to distribute food.
- Leading grocery chains have limited purchase of paper products and hand sanitizer, telling CNN they are seeing some evidence of stockpiling.
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
As humans travel less these days, animals have stepped up to take advantage of empty aircraft. The Wall Street Journal reported an increase in live animal cargo flights this year due to COVID-19 and the consequent decrease in commercial air travel. “Cargo planes this year have taken thousands of pigs, goats, alpacas, cats and dogs on international flights, and livestock handlers say demand for the fastest mode of animal transportation is rising.”
The Other Kind of Farm Vet
Wednesday marked Veterans Day. Brands across the food and agriculture industries paused to thank servicemen, with gestures ranging from Hy-Vee providing breakfast to Michigan State University’s college of agriculture and natural resources offering aid in the transition to civilian life. Broadcaster Max Armstrong noted that nearly one-quarter of veterans have a connection with agriculture before or after service.
8-inch Hunger Gap
The Lancet published a study on November 7 that compared growth rates of school children around the world. The study found a 20 cm (7.9 in) gap in kids’ height between poorer and richer nations and cited school nutrition as a major cause.
Protein Footprints Get Vertical
Fast Company featured startup Grōv Technologies, which has repurposed vertical farming to address environmental footprint concerns around growing livestock feed. “The industry can utilize this technology as a counterpunch, really, to some of the lab-based protein efforts or the competitive efforts that are trying to pull people away from beef and/or dairy products,” explained company president Steve Lindsley.
How ’bout a Fresca?
“Devoid of calories, it was first stocked among medicines rather than soft drinks, but focus soon shifted to the growing number of weight loss dieters nationwide,” wrote Jezebel author Emily Contois, recounting “The Bittersweet History of Diet Soda for Women.”
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