Friday, March 17, 2017

Phil's Friday Rap: SxSW move into food, Trump's budget, Russia's meat opportunity, Kale is out

SxSW move into food, Trump's budget, Russia's meat opportunity, Kale is out

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Welcome to the Friday Rap where you will find some of the most important events of the week that will have an effect on the food industry with added insights.

This week at SxSW Addie Broyles (Austin Statesman), Anna Tauzin (Texas Restaurant Association, Jag Bath (Favor Delivery) and I delivered a terrific discussion on "Grocerants, Dark Kitchens and the New Food Economy" to a packed room. South Bites continues to impress me with their programming and relevancy – their food track programming is worth a review to see what's next. The panel prior to ours discussed food waste and two very smart and valued friends – Sam Kass and Dana Gunders (NRDC) were frank and honest in their evaluations of what can and cannot be done realistically. Sam's insights on a new dynamic pricing model for perishable foods based on how close they are to their expiration date are of note. And of course on the list was a visit to the new Voodoo Donuts in Austin.

Here are the news stories I'm tracking:

  • The Environmental Working Group has released its latest "Dirty Dozen" report that continues to make headlines and earn criticism from the scientific community. Studies from Johns Hopkins and Illinois Institute of Technology report that EWG is among the biggest culprits of advancing inaccurate, negative safety messaging. Interesting that since they started issuing their report twenty years ago the industry has not learned how to communicate as effectively as they clearly know how to do. 
  • The Trump Administration's budget, posted online Thursday morning, makes cuts to nearly all federal agencies while boosting funding for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Seems like both parties in Congress have major issues and problems with the bill. Some think that these cuts are being used as the beginning steps of the "negotiation" rather than the actual plan: 
                    - 21% cut to the Department of Agriculture.
                    - 17.9% cut to Health and Human Services.
                    - 13.2% cut to Housing and Urban Development. 
                    - 31% cut to the EPA. 
                    - 12% cut to the Department of the Interior. 
                    - 13% cut to the Department of Education. 
  • USDA's Economic Research Service reports that from 2000 to 2015, average annual meat production rose in Kazakhstan (39 percent), Russia (116 percent), and Ukraine (50 percent). This chart appears in the ERS report Changing Crop Area in the Former Soviet Union Region released in February 2017. Which makes me wonder if these countries will become a significant source for US imports of livestock protein in the wake of the new administration and possible tariffs on foods from Mexico and China.
  • Looks like kale is out. At least in the produce department where sales increased only 5%. Nielsen's Product Insider reports that the number one product that has added kale as an ingredient is Baby Food realizing a dollar share growth rate of over 390% in the twelve months ending February 2017. Perception vs. reality time.
  • Ask your Alexa (I did) to order food from Grub Hub and you can reorder any one of your last three orders. You have to go to your Alexa and first set up GrubHub (which I didn't do, so I'm now starving here's how you can set it up); but the idea has legs for supermarkets, unless Amazon will keep this advantage for themselves, in order to order groceries based on past orders. If Amazon won't offer to others, we can only hope OK Google will.
  • Memphis Meats has, as reported by The Wall St. Journal "has created the world's first chicken strips grown from self-reproducing cells without so much as ruffling a feather" and the opening billboard on the company's website proclaims "announcing the world's first chicken produced without the animal." Cellular agriculture is here to stay. Ignore those comments about how much beef, chicken, eggs or other proteins cost to make. The first cellphone made by Motorola was the 8000x and retailed for $3,995.00.
  • Restaurant and supermarket delivery is changing as the pioneers are being challenged by Favor (which estimates adding 25,000 jobs in 15 cities in Texas and Shipt (adding 10,000 jobs) to deliver groceries to Meijer's customers in six states.
  • And lastly, we mourn the passing of Jack Harris at the great age of 98 who was the producer of that classic sci-fi The Blob. What we learned with his passing is that his daughter is Lynda Resnick – yes THAT Lynda Resnick of POM, FIJI and the Wonderful brands of pistachios and citrus – clearly one of the outstanding food marketers of our time. The Blob's movie poster proclaimed: "indescribable, indestructible, nothing can stop it." Words that Lynda and her husband Stewart have clearly built their fortune on. 

Have a terrific weekend. For those on the East Coast, you can put away those snow shovels, for now!

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