January 21, 2022
Friday by Noon:
Vax On, Vax Off
We tracked several policy moves this week that will have big implications for food, beverage and agriculture companies:
- The Supreme Court weighed in on vaccine mandates.
- States regulated everything from labor unions to leftovers.
- More brands defined their own uniquely “good” practices.
On January 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers with 100 or more employees. In the unsigned opinion, the court ruled OSHA exceeded its statutory authority, noting that never before has OSHA or Congress imposed such a mandate.
- In a statement, President Biden expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision: “It is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees.”
- The National Retail Federation called the ruling “a significant victory for employers,” stating that “OSHA clearly exceeded its authority promulgating its original mandate under emergency powers without giving stakeholders the benefit of a rulemaking process.” (Promulgate: to promote or make widely known an idea or cause.)
- Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, applauded the decision that “will help ensure the food industry is able to continue meeting our customers’ needs as efficiently and effectively as possible amid the ongoing supply chain and labor disruptions.”
- Service Employees International Union accused the Supreme Court of bowing to corporate pressure.
- The New York Times reported that “businesses are whipsawed again,” noting that “some companies with vaccine mandates said keeping those policies might become more difficult in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”
- Following the ruling, Starbucks sent a memo to employees that it will no longer require U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (The Associated Press).
- Nation’s Restaurant News spoke to labor attorney David Miller, who warned: “Employers should be wary of the stay even though Biden’s law was overturned because it will come down to enforcement on a local level.”
On the State Side
We generally focus on national policies because their wide effects generate more consistent conversations. But gridlock on Capitol Hill stirred states to seize the moment and make their own rules. In order of admittance to the union:
- On January 19, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that will restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) praised the bill as “a science-based, narrowly tailored approach” because it protects pollinators while allowing farms to continue using a valuable tool.
- New York became the sixth state to require large companies to donate or recycle food waste, reported EcoWatch. The rule, which took effect January 1, does not overrule an existing law in New York City.
- Civil Eats shared Capital & Main coverage of the first farmworkers union in New York. Meanwhile, Maine Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill allowing the state’s farmworkers the right to organize (CBS).
- In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom was generous with funds for food production in a proposed budget. Agri-Pulse covered plans around drought mitigation, Farm Progress highlighted use of cattle grazing to deter wildfires and NRDC welcomed funds for school meals.
- In a January 10 address, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey requested $1 billion to invest in water resources over the next three years (Western Growers). Environmental Defense Fund challenged state lawmakers to heed the call.
- On a lighter note, Instacart mapped each state’s favorite hot sauce. Our takeaway: Putting a state in your brand name guarantees it won’t sell well there.
Our fascination with the dynamic definition of what makes food “good” continues this week.
- In its 2022 Power List, Nation’s Restaurant News profiled 50 leaders shaping the future of foodservice. These influential voices define good with everything from helping workers clear criminal records to teaching them financial literacy to “making rice cool again.”
- In a podcast interview, Yum! Brands COO Tracy Skeans explained the company’s recipe for Growth and Good takes a customer-centric approach: “As the consumer changes, we want to make sure that we are relevant and more focused on having cravable [sic] food, the trends that the consumers want, being able to customize what you want.” (Triple Pundit)
- On the other end, CNN reported the Chinese government is rebuking Yum!’s KFC restaurants for food waste: Customers are dumping KFC meals in a frenzy to collect plastic promotional toys. “A few people have even bought more than 100 meals at once, spending almost 10,500 yuan (about $1,650) in an attempt to collect the full line.”
- Nestlé announced it would remove 25% of the added sugar from the venerable Carnation Breakfast Essentials products while retailer Meijer joined the cohort of retailers halving their carbon emissions.
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
In its series documenting trends that will shape food in 2022, Food Dive’s Megan Poinski dove deep into Nature’s Fynd, an innovative company that produces a versatile protein food by fermenting a volcanic fungus commonly found at Yellowstone National Park. Poinski interviewed chief marketing officer Karuna Rawal, who said that interest in these fermented proteins has increased by double digits during the pandemic.
Private, Not Generic
The Wall Street Journal’s Jane Black explored how private-label foods are gaining acceptance as retailers attempt to differentiate themselves and more food shopping is done online. The article addressed efforts from trendy startups like Thrive Markets to established national chains like Target and Whole Foods that are all upping their private label game.
God Save the Ketchup
U.K. tabloid The Sun shared news that the royal family will be entering the condiment market, launching a “tomato” and “brown” sauce (equivalent to ketchup and steak sauce stateside) to rival market leader HP (owned by Heinz). Author Rob Pattinson appeared concerned about the high MSRP: “It will set you back an eye-watering [$9.50] for a [10 oz.] bottle, compared to [82¢] for Sainsbury’s [16 oz.] version.”
Cognac Is Everywhere
Reuters reported that worldwide cognac sales surged a whopping 31% in 2021. After a long decline in sales, the U.S. alone imported 115 million bottles of the brandy, which is produced in the Cognac region of France. This represents the rare case in which a recovery can be categorized by increased consumption.
The Guardian writer Kate Connolly delved into the rapid spread of an all-female variety of crayfish that reproduces by cloning itself. The unique breed of decapod has sparked curiosity in academic circles as it spreads from continent to continent, with one German startup eventually realizing: “These crayfish have no natural predators … the more of it we eat the better.”
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