Chocolate “Snow” Dusts Swiss Town After Lindt Factory Malfunction
The Swiss town of Olten was treated to a light dusting of chocolate “snow” after the ventilation system malfunctioned at a local chocolate factory. Leading Swiss chocolate maker, Lindt & Spruengli, which also owns Ghirardelli, Whitman’s, and Russell Stover chocolate brands, said that the ventilation issue occurred during the production of roasted cocoa nibs. Strong winds that day, combined with the malfunction, caused a fine chocolate powder to lightly blanket the area surrounding the factory. Many locals in Olten reacted positively to the malfunction, saying things like, “2020 is turning around” and “My dream come true.”
46-Year-Old Association Of Food Journalists Shuts Down
After 46 years of serving America’s food editors and writers, the Association of Food Journalists has dissolved. The organization is known for its journalism ethics code, including strong commitments to diversity and transparency while avoiding conflicts of interest. The association also held a popular annual conference and gave prestigious food media awards. Hanna Raskin, AFJ board president and food editor at South Carolina’s Post and Courier newspaper, explained the closing in a letter: “To make a sad story short, AFJ’s financial model was long based on print newspapers footing the cost of members’ dues, contest entries and conference attendance. Unfortunately, it didn’t shift course until it was too late, leaving the organization fiscally dependent on the magnanimity of laid-off staffers and underpaid freelancers.”
DoorDash Launches Grocery Delivery Service
Restaurant delivery platform Doordash is partnering with regional grocers to offer on-demand grocery delivery. Partner grocers currently include Smart & Final, Meijer, and Fresh Thyme. In the next few weeks, D’agostino, Gristedes and Hy-Vee will join DoorDash as well. Other grocery chains, including Wegmans and Gelson’s, will give DoorDash customers access to their apps, which customers can use to order prepared foods.
Prior to the pandemic, the market for online grocery shopping was growing, but slowly. Delivery demand has since shot through the roof in all sectors. During a recent call to discuss second-quarter results, Amazon/Whole Foods CFO Brian Olsavsky, reported that “online grocery sales tripled year-over-year.” Other players in the grocery delivery market are capitalizing on changing consumer habits, including market leader, Instacart, which announced a partnership with Walmart that allows customers same-day delivery from Walmart locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Tulsa. Not to be outdone, DoorDash pledged that groceries from its providers will be ready for “Dasher” pick up within the hour. DoorDash charges a $3.99 delivery fee for each order unless customers are members of its $9.99/month subscription service, DashPass.
Company Offering Home Cooked Meals Delivered On Demand Raises $8.8 Million
As tens of thousands of restaurants remain partially or fully closed due to the impact of COVID-19, food delivery has dominated the restaurant industry. A new home-cooked meal delivery platform, Shef, recently raised $8.8 million in funding to expand its network of chefs who prepare home cooked meals for delivery. Chefs who apply to the Airbnb-like platform must have their home kitchens certified and inspected to meet food safety laws. “Shefs” then set up a profile and a menu, and each dish has a detailed ingredient list. The company’s co-CEOs Alvin Salehi and Joey Grassia prioritize immigrant cooks, first-generation cooks, and newly laid-off restaurant workers, and they currently have more than 4,000 pending “Shef” applications. The platform offers home cooked meals in a wide variety of cuisines, including Shanghainese, Bangladeshi, and Maldivian, and the company estimates that some “Shefs” earn up to $1,000 a week. Shef currently operates in areas of California and New York, and Salehi regularly lobbies other state governments to ease restrictions on selling food prepared in certified home kitchens.
Chef Dan Barber Departs From Michelin-Starred Blue Hill Restaurant That Made Him Famous
In 2019, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, earned two Michelin stars. But in 2021, its chef, Dan Barber, will no longer be in the kitchen. Barber, who runs the restaurant along with his brother and sister-and-law, is pivoting to a chef-in-residence program focused on diversity. Plans are still developing, but they aim to welcome four chefs next year, one per season, to run the restaurant under the visiting chef’s name. “The kitchen and the cuisine will be theirs,” says Barber. Both Blue Hill at Stone Barns and the Blue Hill location in Greenwich Village will not use the “Blue Hill” name throughout 2021. While the chef-in-residence program had been in works prior to the pandemic, “This came about because we have been reflecting on this moment in time and where a restaurant belongs in our culture,” Barber said. The new program will take effect when the restaurants reopen for full dine-in service in 2021, and the team has not determined who will run the kitchens afterward.
Chili’s Parent Company Bets Big On Virtual Restaurants
As Chili’s begins to return sales to pre-pandemic levels, the popular chain’s parent company Brinker International has been investing more in virtual restaurant concepts. Brinker’s first virtual venture, It’s Just Wings, is now generating sales at an annual rate of over $150 million, according to CEO Wyman Roberts. With a whimsical menu and recipes, says Roberts, “we created this business overnight.” Wings, curly fries, fried Oreos and other specialties at It’s Just Wings are currently being offered for delivery-only from more than 1,000 Chili’s units around the country. After analyzing customer data, Brinker discovered that 70% of It’s Just Wings’ customers had never ordered delivery from Chili’s. Although Roberts recognizes the opportunity to drive delivery customers to Chili’s, he stressed that It’s Just Wings should not compete with the core brand. Other concepts are in the works as Brinker plans to build a portfolio of virtual restaurants offering different cuisines.
Meet The Pitmasters In Netflix’s Chef’s Table: BBQ
The upcoming season of Netflix’s popular food documentary series Chef’s Table is dedicated to barbecue and the pitmasters who prep, smoke, and craft it. The new season’s first episode focuses on Tootsie Tomanetz, the 85-year old pitmaster at famed Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Texas. Next up, Lennox Hastie of Firedoor in Sydney, Australia, shows how they do barbecue down under. The third episode is all about whole hog barbecue with Rodney Scott, pitmaster of Rodney Scott’s BBQ in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina and in Birmingham, Alabama. The final episode features Rosalie Chay Chuc, a pitmaster in Yaxunah, Mexico, who shows viewers how she keeps the thousand-year-old outdoor cooking traditions of the Mayans alive. .
Seniors Increase Digital Restaurant Ordering By 428%
According to the NPD Group, digital restaurant orders skyrocketed 135% in June compared to a year ago. NPD found that the greatest increases were among adults age 65 and older, who ramped up their digital ordering by 428%. Adults age 55 and older also increased digital ordering by 200%. Older adults often dine out but they are also a demographic at risk of the coronavirus, driving them toward the convenience and safety of digital ordering. Over the past decade, older adults have also increased their e-commerce in other sectors. According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of adults age 65 and older now use the Internet regularly, an increase from 14% in 2000. More than half of that age group also owns a smartphone, and NPD found that since the start of the pandemic, use of third-party services has doubled among buyers who were new to the services six months ago. Like other segments of the population, older adults tend to order from quick-service restaurants, including menu items such as burgers, fries, Mexican foods, sandwiches, and pizza, reports NPD.
Influential James Beard Chef & Restaurant Awards Canceled Until 2022
Last week, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced that it will not issue its prestigious chef and restaurant awards this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The foundation has also suspended its awards for 2021 for similar reasons as well as to allow time to restructure the awards by removing “systemic bias” and increasing the diversity in its pool of candidates. The 2020 JBF food media award winners were announced online in May. The chef and restaurants winners were chosen in June and scheduled to be announced this September. Instead, the foundation will broadcast a live Twitter event, celebrating previously announced honorees in categories including America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, Humanitarian of the Year, Design Icon, and Leadership. “The uncertainty of this time for our industry is already a hard reality and considering anyone to have won or lost within the current tumultuous hospitality ecosystem does not in fact feel like the right thing to do,” James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach said. “In short, an honor which we know is held in high regard, at the moment, feels minor when compared to the dire situation we are in. As we strive to provide an awards program with the highest ethical standards, one that is fair, equitable, and reflective of the industry which we serve, we know that the right move is to step back and take stock of the nominees’ and honorees’ achievements.” .
Craft Distillers To Lose $700 Million As On-Site Sales Plummet
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States forecasts that the nation’s craft distillers will lose 41% of anticipated sales this year, totaling about $700 million. Nearly a third of the industry’s workers have been furloughed during pandemic, and shuttered restaurants, bars, and tasting rooms have decimated sales. A study by the Council surveyed 300 distillers in 50 states, finding that on-site sales fell 25% or more since the start of the pandemic and over 15% of tasting rooms had closed entirely. Last year, tasting rooms brought in the majority of sales for 40% of U.S. craft distillers. Wholesale revenue to retailers and distributors also decreased by 25% or more for at least 40% of the distillers surveyed, and 11% of them said sales had completely stopped. .
The Science Of Barrel Char And Its Influence On Whiskey Flavor
American oak barrels are typically charred before being filled with whiskey for aging. Charring the inside of a barrel doesn’t necessarily create a smoky taste in whiskey. But it does change the chemistry of the oak, which greatly enhances the flavors and aromas in the spirit. Compounds in oak wood that are affected by charring include cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, tannins, and oak lactones. When charred, hemicellulose breaks down into wood sugars, which effectively caramelize, imparting notes of brown sugar, caramel, and toffee to the whiskey. Charring lignin creates the compound vanillin, which gives whiskey the aromas of vanilla. The more a barrel is charred, the more vanilla aroma the whiskey will have. A higher char level also reduces tannins in the barrel, making the whiskey taste less bitter and astringent. American oak is particularly high in oak lactones, which lend woody and coconut flavors to many bourbons. The higher the char level, the lower the oak lactones and its associated flavors.
While char levels vary among distillers and brands, most American oak barrels are charred for less than a minute and the char is only about 1/8″ to 1/4″ deep. Official char designations range from #1 to #4. In a #1 char, the barrel interior is burned for 15 seconds, #2 for 30 seconds, #3 for 35 seconds, and #4 for 55 seconds. A #4 char is also known as “alligator char” because the intense burning roughs up the wood’s texture, causing it resemble alligator skin. Char levels #3 and #4 are most common among American bourbons and whiskeys, giving a spicy, smoky flavor profile. Charring also helps filter out unwanted compounds from whiskey. When wood is charred, it leaves behind carbon, one of the most widely used substances in filtration systems. Inside a charred bourbon barrel, the carbon filters away unwanted sulfur and other compounds, creating a softer and mellower flavor profile in the whiskey.
Italy Becomes World Leader In Organic Wine Production
Nomisma Wine Monitor, using data from industry sources Sinab, Eurostat and Fibl, found that Italy now leads the world in total acreage used for growing organic wine grapes. As of 2018, 16.6% of Italy’s vineyards were organically cultivated, making up 26% of the world’s organically farmed vineyards. According a recent report from Nomisma’s, the country’s organic vineyard area grew 57% from 2013 through 2018. Europe’s green organic wine logo requires certified wineries to follow regulations, including bans on GMOs and on synthetic chemicals in vineyards. In the U.S., wines with under 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfites naturally developed through fermentation can be considered organic; however, according to European standards, there may be up to 100 ppm for reds and 150 ppm for whites added as a preservative. Many Italian wineries assert that they have low carbon and water footprints, although no international industry guidelines exist to determine and regulate sustainability. Michele Minelli, co-owner of Salcheto in Tuscany, says, “Equalitas is working tirelessly with international institutions to create standards to officially define and regulate sustainability in the industry.” Salcheto was one of the first nine wineries to get a sustainable certification in 2018 by the trade organization Equalitas.
Second Worst Wildfires Ever Halt California Wine Country Harvest
Wineries in Sonoma County, Napa Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains all began battling wildfires earlier this week after 12,000 lightning strikes hit the area. “It’s the perfect storm,” said Tony Bugica, director of farming for Atlas Vineyard Management, which farms 3,500 acres on California’s North Coast. The fires around Napa (known as the LNU Lightning complex) have already burned 1.1 million acres, making it the second largest fire in the state’s history. “2020 is like nothing we’ve ever been through,” added Bugica. Even without the recent wildfires, excessive heat had already put pressure on the ability of vineyards to maintain quality standards, said Bugica. Temperatures in some northern areas are regularly reaching above 100ºF during the day. Five people have died in the blaze, more than 1,000 businesses and residences have been destroyed or severely damaged, and the 2020 Sonoma County grape harvest has been put on hold. In addition to the destruction, wildfires also bring the unique threat of smoke taint, a phenomenon that happens when smoke lingers in the air, settles on grapes, and imparts an irreversibly smoky flavor to the wine. “We’ve been lucky so far when it comes to smoke taint,” said Dave Golnick, owner of Mindego Ridge Vineyard. Coupled with the pandemic pressures of diminished tourism, tasting room closures, and social distancing restrictions, recent wildfires in wine country have challenged California’s wine industry like never before. Meanwhile, southeast of San Francisco, another fire called the SCU Lightning Complex is currently the third largest fire the state has ever seen.
Lawsuit Alleges “All Natural” Salmon “From Maine” Is Neither
A recent lawsuit by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) on behalf of the people of Washington, D.C., alleges that fish distributors Mowi Ducktrap and Mowi USA used misleading marketing for smoked salmon sold under the brand name Ducktrap River of Maine. The fish was sold as sustainable salmon from Maine, but OCA alleges it was raised outside the U.S. with antibiotics, according to internal audit reports cited in the complaint. In addition to the antibiotic oxytetracycline, also used for infections in humans, the lawsuit alleges that a formaldehyde-based disinfectant and bleach were used in the salmon processing. In the defendant’s defense, there is no binding definition for “sustainable” in food or packaging. Additionally, seafood is not required to be labeled with its country of origin unless it is raw or unprocessed. To help provide clear labeling, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated in 2018 that he sought agreed-upon definitions for terms like “natural” and “healthy.” The FDA had asked for public comments on the “natural” term and received more than 7,600 responses. However, the proposal to define terms was never passed, and the Gottlieb resigned. .
A Deep Dive Into The Canned Tuna Price Fixing Scandal
In the 1950s and 60s, canned tuna emerged as an iconic American convenience food. It was a primary source of healthful protein in everything from tuna sandwiches to casseroles. By the 1970s, the tuna business had consolidated into three big brands, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumble Bee. Tuna consumption peaked in the 1980s, and over the next two decades, concerns over harmful fishing practices and mercury levels in tuna caused sales to plummet by 40%. To increase profits, the big three shifted operations off shore and changed ownership. By 2015, StarKist was owned by a South Korean conglomerate, Chicken of the Sea was owned by a Thai company, and Bumble Bee belonged to a British private equity firm. These days, the big “American” tuna companies are not even American.
When the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an inquiry into the industry several years ago, investigators discovered that the three brands had actually been colluding for years, fixing prices to ensure that cans of tuna would always cost a few pennies more than they should have. From 2011 to 2013, the size of tuna cans among all the brands also dropped from 6 ounces to 5 ounces, so there was less tuna per can, another profit-boosting move. Chicken of the Sea ended up cooperating with investigators to avoid federal prosecution, but StarKist and Bumble Bee were found guilty. The DOJ slapped the companies with $125 million worth of fines, and Chris Lischewski, the longtime CEO of Bumble Bee, was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison this past June. Now, the three tuna companies also face civil suits from restaurants and grocers.
E.U. Removes Tariffs On U.S. Lobsters, Aiding Trade Negotiations
Last week, the United States and the European Union announced a $200 million deal aimed at cutting import tariffs on some products, including U.S. lobsters. Under the agreement, the EU will be removing tariffs of 8% to 12% on imported lobster, and the U.S. will do the same on some glassware, ceramics, disposable lighters and prepared meal imports. The move shows a sign of easing transatlantic trade tensions, which have been quite prevalent in recent months over aircraft subsidies and the imposition of punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminum. “The importance of the deal is that it has unleashed positive results elsewhere,” an EU official said. The deal will also level the playing field, considering the EU and Canada made a deal that caused for a removal of tariffs on Canadian lobster, which damaged the US’s European sales dramatically, US Senator Angus King said.