Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Food wrappers are about to get a makeover after four manufacturers in the US volunteered last week to phase out the use of a PFAS chemical called 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol, or 6:2 FTOH. PFAS – short for polyfluoroalkyl substances – are known as “forever chemicals” because of how long they take to disappear. They have been in use for decades to stop food from sticking to wrapping but some studies suggest a link between PFAS and health issues such as cancer and autoimmune diseases, among others. 

The US Food and Drug Administration explained that the agreement was done on a voluntary basis but health advocates said this was not enough and argued that PFAS must be phased out entirely. Mind the Store tested wrappers used by the US’ main fast-food chains and found that at least one food packaging item used by each of the companies was likely to have toxic PFAS. 

Several companies have already been pushing for PFAS-free wrapping. Whole Foods announced a plan to stop using them over a year ago while Taco Bell – the US’ fourth-biggest fast-food chain – said it would stop using it by 2025. Lawmakers in New York are also hoping the Governor will sign off a bill banning the food packaging that contains PFAS chemicals, following in the footsteps of places like Washington state and San Francisco. Mind the Store urged fast-food chains to be more proactive, however, in making the change happen. 

The UK gave the green light to Amazon to buy a 16% share in delivery platform Deliveroo for GBP 442 million (USD 575 million). The Competition and Markets Authority reportedly approved the deal because Deliveroo said it needed Amazon’s cash injection to survive and, if Deliveroo went down, there would be less competition in the market. Similarly, UberEats, which bought Postmates last month for USD 2.65 billion, saw its Apr-Jun revenues double to USD 1.2 billion but the unit still recorded a loss of USD 232 million. Uber’s CFO noted that losses had narrowed from last year’s USD 286 million but he expects the segment will continue to post losses for the next couple of years. Analysts doubt whether food delivery apps can ever become profitable as they continue to focus on market share over profitability and therefore continue operating at a loss. 

The issue goes deeper as more and more restaurants are complaining about the commission fees charged by the apps. An investigation by LAist said that none of the food delivery apps were transparent with their fees and that each restaurant negotiated their own terms. However, the Los Angeles-based restaurants interviewed all said the fees were around 30%, much higher than their own margins of 3-6%. A number of restaurants have been looking at alternative ways to cope, including delivering food themselves or focusing on drive-throughs. 

Countries continue to gear up their fight against obesity and the consumption of unhealthy foods. In the UK, Google announced that it will require advertisers to label their products if they contain a lot of sugar, salt or fat, and will not display them to people under 18. In Mexico, the state of Oaxaca took it several steps further and passed a law banning the sale of soda and junk food to minors

But if you were thinking you have to give up on your fast-food fix for the sake of your – and the environment’s – sake then there’s good news coming your way. This piece in Wired forecast that fast-food chains switching to plant-based meat could be a game-changer. Arguing that “You can have happy cows or cheap burgers, but you can’t have them both” and that “big problems demand big solutions,” the magazine explains that the sheer reach of fast-food chains would help lower the cost of alternative proteins and scale up their production. As such, replacing every burger in the US with an Impossible burger would lead to a 90% reduction in land and water use as well as a 90% cut in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Having said that, S&P Global Market Intelligence noted that there was very little disclosure about the real environmental impact of plant-based proteins. Looking at data from 2018, it noted that Beyond Meat scored 0% on their weighted disclosure for greenhouse gases, compared to 100% for meat companies Hormel and Tyson. 

And for those of us who are still on a coronavirus-induced baking binge, you can try out this new trend: cloud bread. Not convinced? You can also try Dalgona coffee

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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