Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Many workers in the US food industry have been taking a stand as part of the #blacklivesmatter movement. On-duty officers have been asked out of a Starbucks in Arizona while employees staged a walkout in a Condado Tacos in Ohio after refusing to serve patrol officers during protests. This piece in Eater explains that this is in part because a majority of the food industry is made of minority workers. However, companies, too, are taking a stand. In Georgia, Coca-Cola was one of 60 signatories to a letter urging the state to pass hate crime laws. And Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s issued a statement with a call to investigate the consequences of discrimination. Last September, it had launched a new ice cream called Justice ReMix’d in support of a reform to the criminal justice reform. 

Unilever’s head of marketing said consumers expect brands to have an opinion, explaining that “Brands need to move at the speed of culture and culture is moving faster than ever.” She warned, however, that while brands had an important role to play, they should make sure that they don’t come across as opportunistic which would result in a backlash, as L’Oreal discovered last week.  

Cargill just announced it would no longer release quarterly reports to reduce costs but also to keep the focus on long term goals. In its sustainability report, it said it was on schedule to meet the goals in the palm oil sector, notably to eliminate deforestation from its third-party supply chain – which represents 95% of its supply – by the end of the year. It added, however, that getting indirect suppliers to fall under the “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation” compliance was an issue and may require a different approach. 

Cargill said it had reduced CO2 emissions in ocean transportation by 800,000mt in the last two years as part of a commitment to reduce emissions in its supply chain by 30% by 2030. It is also working on a standard greenhouse gas emissions reporting process and has partnered with technology experts to find solutions for its beef supply chain as part of its BeefUp Sustainability initiative. 

The group launched a new sweetener made from wheat and barley malt syrup, called SweetPure. A company official said the sweetener was “label-friendly,” explaining that consumers want to know everything that goes into their food. This comes at a time when the US’ Sugar Association petitioned the FDA to force manufacturers to clearly identify the use of alternative sweeteners in their products. The FDA recently mandated that products list the amount of added sugar, so manufacturers are often exchanging sugar for other sweeteners that do not have to be labelled as such. Another Cargill official added that “The call for radical transparency is increasing.”

A class action lawsuit in Minnesota is taking Cargill, JBS USA, National Beef Packing and Tyson Foods – which control 80% of the meat industry – to court accusing them of fixing the price of meat since 2015 and deliberately running plants at below capacity to create a livestock surplus. This is coming out of an investigation started last month by 11 Midwestern states looking into explaining the rally in retail meat prices during the coronavirus outbreak while the price for livestock collapsed. The head JBS subsidiary Pilgrim’s Pride was already charged with fixing chicken prices by the Justice Department last week. 

In Tyson Foods’ 2019 Sustainability Report, it noted that the group was the country’s largest meat producer to go into plant-based protein via its Raised & Rooted line. However, its meat production throughput is picking up again with the easing of lockdown measures. It expects that demand for meat would continue to be strong even if people eat more at home. Besides, a survey by FMCG Gurus in 18 countries found that people were increasingly worried about the weight they gained from increased snacking during lockdown. It suggested there would be a growing demand for healthy snacks, as people will likely continue to snack amid the stress of a second wave of the coronavirus but will be more health conscious about it.

A Yale study looking at the impact of posters showing the carbon emissions of dishes in dining halls showed that two-thirds of students took this information into account when making their choice. Project Drawdown wants to get food delivery apps to join the initiative, arguing that people were likely to choose more sustainable dishes if they had the information at hand. The restaurant Just Salad has already added the estimated emissions next to each of its dishes in the menu. Those who come in can thus find out that a salad with a yogurt dressing has a heavier carbon footprint than a salad with chicken. In Europe, meanwhile, Danone’s water brand Volvic has been certified as carbon neutral by the Carbon Trust.

Nestle joined the Race to Zero campaign which commits to net-zero emissions by 2050. The group’s head of digital innovation and transformation in the US said she was putting together a common, single agenda to streamline and strategise the testing and adoption of new technologies across the group. She added that the media often hyped-up new technology, when in fact it was just a nascent stage. 

On the topic of testing, Nestle Australia is looking for a paid chocolate taste tester. If you’re interested, you can apply here

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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