Friday, May 12, 2017

Phil's Friday Rap

What I'm watching this week.

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"I have to go home and have dinner with my family."

Those were the parting words on Tuesday as President Barack Obama concluded his remarks with Sam Kass at the Seeds & Chips conference in Milan, Italy.

What was notable about this event is not what he was or was not paid but that his first post office speech was given at a food conference, on a subject that clearly is near and dear to the Obamas hearts. He spoke about the impact of climate change on agriculture and how the changing global diets were the cause for increases in carbon emissions. Probably among his most notable comments was the one that agricultural interests tend to stick together politically across party lines – clearly something we saw occur in the recent presidential election and in the new administrations cabinet appointments. There seemed to be a bit of frustration in his tone when he added, "Because food is so close to us and is part of our family and is part of what we do every single day, people, I think, are more resistant to the idea of government or bureaucrats telling them what to eat, how to eat and how to grow," possibly a result of the changes being made to our nation's school lunch program by Secretary Perdue.

What I'm reading this week:

Publix's new meal kit program is notable. Let's first give the chain credit for starting the idea of meal kits way back when decades ago they launched their Aprons program. On their website their mission is simple, "Publix created our Aprons program to help our customers discover (or re-discover) the joys of cooking," and put all the ingredients needed together with recipes. A common sense offering, which frankly surprises me that every grocer didn't copy. Now, once again Publix is leading the industry with their test of what we now call "meal kits" to compete with the likes of Blue Apron and Martha Stewart's Amazon Fresh kits. It's notable because Publix is offering their kits in three levels of culinary expertise: simplest, simpler and simple – which no doubt will spur the other meal kit brands to do the same. I spoke with a reporter at the Tampa Bay Times who bought a few of the meals and cooked them up and said all were delicious. Prices range from $9.99 to $37.99 for meals that serve two or four people.

Drug chains CVS and Walgreens have been a thorn in supermarkets side since they focused on their food offerings and now build stores that are half grocery offerings. CVS has launched what they are calling "trend zones" in some stores that highlight healthier offerings and are further segmented by health or societal preferences such as "Vegan Favorites," "Better Bites," (which assortments are obvious) and "Snacks That Give Back" (which focuses on brands that donate to charity).

New data from the Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey tells us about when Americans eat and drink as their main activity (primary eating and drinking), or when they eat while doing something else (secondary eating). Over an average day in 2015, 95 percent of people age 15 and older engaged in primary eating and drinking at least once, with an average of 2.1 times. Americans have two peak times for primary eating and drinking—noon to 12:59 pm and 6:00 to 6:59 pm. More Americans make time for dinner than for lunch as a primary activity; 77 percent reported primary eating and drinking between 5:00 and 7:59 pm and 62 percent between 11:00 am and 1:59 pm. Forty percent reported eating breakfast as a primary activity between 7:00 and 9:59 am in 2015. Those breakfast skippers—and others—may be grazing throughout the day, as 54 percent ate as a secondary activity at least once during a typical day in 2015, with an average of 1.4 times. From 9am to 9pm, at least five percent of Americans engaged in secondary eating each hour. The top three activities that accompanied secondary eating were watching television and movies, paid work, and socializing with others. A version of this chart appears in ERS's Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Aldi's $1.6 billion investment made a lot of traditional grocers panic; but that was only a slingshot compared to CEO Jason Hart's announcement that their prices are 21% lower than its "lowest priced rivals." Typically Aldi has been a closed mouthed company that hasn't been an active player in the traditional grocery wars, but this salvo marks an end to all that, as a Reuters report in February revealed that Walmart was pushing vendors to undercut Aldi by 15 percent.

A great ad campaign to change the world (I can only hope)! Heineken launched Worlds Apart a video experiment where six people who held opposite views on issues that included climate change, feminism and transgender rights discussed their views over a bar and drinking of course, Heinekens. Worth the video watch that over 11 million people have already viewed.

Have a great weekend!

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