Amazon Opens First Physical “Fresh” Grocery Store
Last week, Amazon did a soft open of its new in-person grocery store called Fresh. The e-commerce company invited select California customers to test drive the store’s features, including Amazon Dash Cart, which allows customers to skip the checkout line, and Alexa AI to keep customer shopping lists in order and to help shoppers navigate through the aisles. The store will also be offering same day delivery and pickup. Amazon hasn’t released the exact date the store will open to the general public but has confirmed that there will be at least three more locations opening in California and Illinois. Amazon will be implementing strict COVID-19 related safety measures throughout the stores.
Netflix Queues Up The Competition With American Barbecue Showdown
Netflix is launching a new video series, American Barbecue Showdown. The food competition show will follow some of the country’s best backyard competition pitmasters as they vie for the title of American Barbecue Champion. The eight-part show begins airing on September 18th and will be hosted by popular NASCAR host Rutledge Wood. BBQ judges include Kevin Bludso, founder of L.A.’s always-busy Bludso’s BBQ, and Melissa Cookston, owner of Memphis BBQ Company and 7-time world barbecue champion. “Competition doesn’t get more delicious than in the world of barbecue,” said the show’s producer John Hesling, “especially when it comes to our eight hopeful pitmasters as they stoke their flames against each other, and the clock, to be crowned American Barbecue Champion.”
Bon Appetit Names Book Publishing Veteran Dawn Davis As Editor In Chief
The food media outlet Bon Appetit has named Dawn Davis as the new editor-in-chief after facing racial conflicts with former editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, who resigned in June. Bon Appetit’s parent company, Conde Nast, announced that Davis is expected to begin her new role on November 2nd. The position gives Davis editorial control of Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Healthyish and Basically, the company’s food outlets, across all media, including print, digital, social media, and video. Ms. Davis is currently a vice president at Simon & Schuster, where she founded and publishes 37 Ink, an imprint emphasizing marginalized voices. Davis also wrote “If You Can Stand the Heat: Tales From Chefs and Restaurateurs,” a book including chef profiles such as Anthony Bourdain.
Without Stimulus Checks, Americans Are Spending Less At The Grocery Store
While grocery spending has generally soared during the pandemic, it shifted rapidly when $600 in additional weekly unemployment pay from the U.S. government expired in July. According to market research firm IRI, sales growth in August fell in several grocery categories compared to July and the months prior. Frozen dinners, for example, averaged only 9% growth in the first three weeks of August, compared to around 17% growth for the previous two weeks in July. In August, cereal sales averaged only 2% growth while they had seen 6% growth in the latter part of July. Gordon Reid, president of grocery chain Stop & Shop, said he anticipates that consumers will feel the pinch of high grocery prices during the last quarter of the year and continuing into next year. Walmart US Chief Executive John Furner said, “People perceive they’re spending more money on food, despite eating out less. So we’ll be thoughtful about the way we plan the rest of the year and react to changes in the trends we see from our shoppers.” The typical pandemic grocery bill has dropped enough that stores have begun offering additional discounts to attract shoppers. President Trump signed an executive order in early August authorizing an additional $400 in weekly stimulus pay, but payments have been delayed by state unemployment systems that required reconfiguring for the new payment. Only three states are currently distributing the new stimulus payments.
World’s Most Expensive Sheep Sells For $490,000 In Scotland
A ram sold for the equivalent of $490,000 US dollars in Scotland has broken the record for the world’s most expensive sheep. The Texel breed of sheep named Double Diamond was bred via artificial insemination with another champion ram and a ewe. The father ram was valued at $86,000, and the mother ewe was valued at more than $46,000. The Texel breed is known for its fast growth and ideal musculature that makes it easy on butchers preparing the animals for sale. The previous record of more than $300,000 was set in 2009, according to the BBC.
Library of Congress Includes AmazingRibs.com In Foodways Archives
The United States Library of Congress has picked AmazingRibs.com to be added to its historic Food and Foodways Web Archive. Only 43 other websites are currently archived at the Library of Congress, including sites such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, James Beard Foundation, Southern Foodways Alliance, Grub Street, Jose Andres, Pioneer Woman, and US Food & Drug Administration. The Library of Congress is the country’s oldest federal cultural institution, a national library that maintains important “cultural artifacts” and gives US citizens access to them. Entirely independent, AmazingRibs.com has no corporate parent and has been in the barbecue game for more than 15 years. AmazingRibs.com began in 2005 just as a hobby and has grown into a professional website with an experienced staff and a Pitmaster Club that has more than 16,000 members.
Chains Seize The Moment By Buying Shuttered Independent Restaurants
Although large restaurant chains have lost some business during the pandemic, severely low sales and closures are not nearly as widespread as they are among smaller independents. Now that more restaurant real estate has become available at a reasonable cost, several large chains are investing in infrastructure. CEO of Domino’s, Ritch Allison, stated that the chain anticipates expansion, crediting real estate opportunities that “weren’t available in the past.” According to Restaurant Business, Chipotle has reportedly been seeking out restaurants that have not even shuttered, offering to buy their leases whenever they are “looking for relief.” Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs and food safety officer, Laurie Schalow, stated that Chipotle will proceed to “open new restaurants and sign new leases to satisfy customer demand for Chipotle restaurants.” Steve Rafferty, Dunkin’s senior director of franchising development, also said in a statement “franchisees, who are small, independent business owners, are always looking for new development opportunities, in the communities where they live and work.”
One report from Bank of America in early July showed spending at large chains decreased just 4% year-over-year, compared to a 25% plummet for independent restaurants and small chains. A survey by the James Beard Foundation and the Independent Restaurant Coalition reports that only 66% of independent restaurant owners felt confident that they would remain open in October. The IRC predicts that as many as 85% of independent restaurants may shutter for good by the end of the pandemic. Restaurant consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates anticipates that one in three may shutter by the end of the year, freeing up a significant amount of real estate for restaurant chains looking to expand.
British Government’s 50% Discount On Restaurant Meals Becomes Huge Success
For the month of August, the British government has been paying for a 50% discount on all meals eaten in pubs, restaurants, and cafes. The “Eat Out To Help Out” campaign has succeeded in aiding the ailing hospitality industry by getting consumers outside again and spending money at restaurants. “Last Wednesday, my God, was pandemonium,” said David Williams, co-owner of the Liverpool food court Baltic Market. “There were more people in the queue than there were inside of the building,” added Williams. Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced the campaign as a lifeline to the country’s restaurant industry, which suffered an 87% plummet in sales between April and June. On the very first day of the government’s campaign, August 3, food sales rose 100% compared to the previous Monday, according to data from British food industry consultants CGA. The government’s latest Treasury figures show that British diners have used the discount more than 64 million times in the first three weeks of the campaign. While the government program expires at the end of August, many restaurants plan to continue offering it in some form throughout the month of September. .
Omnivorous Chefs Experiment With Plant-Based Charcuterie
It would be easy to dismiss certain culinary trends as a simple “veganizing of the American diet,” says BBQ chef Steven Raichlen. But some of the most popular dishes recently have been created by omnivorous chefs applying classic techniques of charcuterie to vegetables that take well to salt, smoke, and fermentation. Will Horowitz, the chef and co-owner of Ducks Eatery in Manhattan, is well known for his smoked goat neck tacos, but watermelon ham is the dish that went viral. He serves it on a vegetable charcuterie plate with radish prosciutto. “We use the same ancient techniques of meat charcuterie — salting, curing, drying, fermenting and smoking,” Mr. Horowitz said. “The trick is finding the right cocktail for each vegetable.”
Jeremy Umansky is chef and co-owner of Larder Delicatessen & Bakery in Cleveland, which was a semifinalist in the 2020 James Beard awards. The co-author of Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation, Umansky is well-versed in meat curing techniques. Lately, though, he has been pushing the forefront of vegetable cookery by approaching plant-based dishes as charcuterie made with vegetable flesh. His chewy cured burdock jerky shares the menu with house-cured pancetta, pastrami and coppa ham. Umansky is in talks with a Japanese koji manufacturer about creating a company that will sell his koji-cured vegetable charcuterie in the U.S.
Vegan chefs have also been pushing the boundaries between techniques of meat cookery and vegetable cookery. In Philadelphia, Chef Rich Landau and his wife, pastry chef Kate Jacoby, put plant-based fine dining on the culinary map when they opened Vedge in Philadelphia. At Fancy Radish, their newest spot near the Capitol in Washington DC, a vegetable charcuterie board is the signature dish. Landau, who is vegan, likes using words reminiscent of meat, such as mushroom “bacon” and tofu “ham.” In his plant-based charcuterie board, crispy smoked shiitakes are scattered among pastrami-spiced carrots, deviled kohlrabi, and fire-charred Chioggia beets. “Our goal is not to replicate meat, but to give vegetables some of the flavors that carnivores love,” says Landau. “Our menus may be vegan, but 95 percent of our clientele are omnivores.”
Restaurant Chains Invest Millions In Enhanced Drive Thru Lanes
Fast-food and fast-casual chains are expanding their reach, while their overall revenue has still seen a roughly 30% plummet in 2020. While the loss of dine-in service has dampened sales, the drive-thru has proven to be the most lucrative revenue stream for major chains, accounting for 65% or more of a store’s revenue. According to a recent poll, 74% of Americans have gone to a drive-through the same amount or more than usual this year. To capitalize on changing consumer habits, most chains are expediting their expansion plans for drive-thru options. Last year, McDonald’s spent $300 million to obtain the AI company Dynamic Yield, which aims to increase drive-thru sales by giving digital menu boards predictive technologies, such as adapting to the time of day, weather, and even current restaurant traffic. Taco Bell has invested in speeding up wait times with its mobile priority lanes, which incentivize customers to order by phone. The Taco Bell app also uses GPS geofencing to determine when a customer pulls in and to guarantee that the order is ready as soon as the customer arrives at the pick-up window. For its part, Chipotle has been adding drive-thru “Chipotlanes” and opened its 100th lane this month, forgoing menu boards altogether so that customers order via their app to expedite drive-thru transactions.
San Francisco Restaurant Sales Have Dropped 91%, According To Credit Card Data
To assess the health of San Francisco’s businesses and plan future lawmaking, the city’s Chamber of Commerce consulted with credit card companies to analyze swipe data during the pandemic. According to Chamber spokesperson Jay Cheng, the analysis revealed that 66.8% of the city’s customer-serving businesses that remain open are restaurants or grocery stores. The data also showed that San Francisco restaurant sales fell 84% in July compared to the same time last year. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, restaurant sales have fallen 91%. According to Cheng, credit card activity indicates that 51.5% of the city’s restaurants are not generating any sales at all, presumably because they are closed temporarily or permanently. That figure aligns with expectations of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), a lobbying group that represents SF’s dining business. Back in May, the group’s executive director, Laurie Thomas, predicted a 50% permanent closure rate. It was “a gut number based on talking to people,” said Thomas. “Anecdotally, one out of two people can’t see a way to stay in business,” she added.
Soaring Demand For Canned Beverages Deepens Can Shortage
Can manufacturers are ramping up production as demand for canned beverages continues to increase throughout the pandemic. When restaurants, sports stadiums and other venues closed, brewers switched their packaging from kegs to cans. As a result, U.S. sales of aluminum cans for beverages rose 24% by volume in March, according to the research firm IRI. Cans’ share of the beer and hard-seltzer market in the U.S. shot up to 67% from 60% in the first quarter, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Molson Coors Beverage Co., which owns Miller Lite, said they had to suspend production after struggling to find enough tall 16-ounce cans, and they expect a shortage in 12 ounce cans as well. “Every company that makes anything in the 12-ounce can has been challenged to some degree by the global can shortage,” said Molson Coors Chief Executive Gavin Hattersley. According to Timothy Donahue, CEO of major U.S. can manufacturer Crown Holdings, “From now until the end of the year, and in almost every market where we produce, cans will be in short supply.”
Craft Beer Industry Takes Steps To Hire Black Brewers
According to a survey by the Brewers Association, which represents America’s craft beer industry, less than 1% of US craft brewers are Black. “I’ve been sitting in the brewmaster’s chair for more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen a single African-American applicant for a brewing job,” said Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery. To help change that, Mr. Oliver started the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling, named after the influential beer and whiskey writer who died in 2007. The foundation has already received $97,000 in GoFundMe donations and will use the funds to create brewing and distilling scholarships for people of color. The Brewers Association itself has also changed its policies and created a new position to bring more Black people into the industry. Kevin Blodger, chairman of the Association’s diversity committee and founder of Union Craft Brewing, announced the hiring of the Association’s first diversity ambassador, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham. The Association also announced a new code of conduct aimed at curbing discrimination, racism, and bias in the workplace.
Starbucks Institutes Supply Chain Transparency For Coffee Farmers And Consumers
Bags of Starbucks coffee at its US stores now include a code allowing consumers to determine where the beans came from, where they were roasted, and advice on brewing, according to Michelle Burns, Starbucks senior vice president of global coffee, tea and cocoa. Coffee farmers also have access to a reverse code allowing them to track what happens to the coffee they grew. The code is part of tool by Microsoft Corp. that uses blockchain technology and allows Starbucks to share traceability data with its customers concerned about fair trade and sustainability issues in the coffee market. Starbucks isn’t the only company offering transparency in its supply chain. Coffee roasters such as J.M. Smucker Co. and Jacobs Douwe Egberts joined a blockchain initiative last year in a partnership with IBM and the startup Farmer Connect, which helps the firms track the origin and pricing of their beans along the supply chain. For Starbucks, bags with blended coffees will be traced to the country of origin, while single origin beans will be traced to the region where the beans were grown or to the farm itself. Farmers will have access to the same tool so they can trace what happens to their beans when they leave the farm.
USDA Tightens Eligibility Rules For Farm Subsidies
In an effort to close a few loopholes, the USDA is tightening up its subsidy rules by limiting who can collect a payment a “farm manager.” The new regulation requires at least 500 hours of management or at least 25% of management work annually in order to receive a subsidy check. “This is way stronger than what we had before this week,” said Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Prior to the new regulation, subsidy checks could be given as long as farming operations were profitable. Subsidy recipients can collect up to $125,000 a piece, and spouses are automatically eligible for payments as well.
USDA Adds $1 Billion To Farmers To Families Food Box Program
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was given an additional $1 billion to its program redirecting surplus food from farmers to families in need. The Farmers to Families Food Box program purchases food directly from farmers who typically would be supplying restaurants, most of which are now shut down or operating at reduced capacity. The program delivers the redirected food to millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet as a result of furloughs and joblessness caused by the pandemic. In July, Reuters reported that the government had not delivered its promised amount of food by the end of June as part of the roughly $3 billion program announced in April. The latest infusion of funds helps meet the stated goals of the Agriculture Department, which plans to finish purchasing roughly $2.7 billion of food by the end of August, according to the USDA website. On Monday, the White House said that the program had delivered more than 70 million boxes of food to food banks and nonprofit organizations to date. Even though it is getting closer to meeting its objectives, the program has been criticized by food banks, market analysts, and some U.S. senators, who say that contracts were often given to inexperienced vendors who could not source and deliver the food efficiently.
High-Tech Produce Greenhouses Begin Supplementing Traditional U.S. Agriculture
In Kentucky, a 2.76 million-square-foot facility is being built on 60 acres of land using environmentally-friendly techniques to help feed the country while adapting to a changing climate. Jonathan Webb, founder and CEO of the high-tech greenhouse company AppHarvest, says, “By 2050, we’re going to need 70% more food. [The University of California at] Berkeley says we will need two planet Earths to have enough land and fresh water to produce that food.” Webb added, “We got the United Nations saying we have 60 years left of topsoil before the topsoil is degraded to a point to where it’s not going to be very fertile.” According to AppHarvest, the eastern region of Kentucky is the ideal location for distributing produce to 70% of America’s population in a one-day drive. Another company, Kentucky Fresh Harvest, has also positioned itself in Kentucky with its own high-tech greenhouse. The 30-acre, $13.5 million Kentucky Fresh Harvest facility is located in Stanford and takes some of its inspiration from the high-tech, high-output greenhouses currently used in the Netherlands. That country is the size of Connecticut yet it became the world’s second-largest agricultural producer through its agricultural technologies. After the famine of World War II, the Dutch pledged to produce twice as much food with half the resources. Through its advanced greenhouses, they have drastically reduced the amount of water required on key crops by 90% while cutting the use of chemical pesticides on plants.
A Closer Look At The New “Bioengineered” Food Labels Coming In 2022
After decades of controversy about whether or not genetically engineered foods should require labels, the United States will require them starting in 2022. In 2015, market research firm the Mellman Group found that 80% of Americans strongly supported mandatory labels for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, passing a labeling law has been rather unsuccessful. Now, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted the national bioengineered food disclosure standard in 2018, USDA officials have put together a list of bioengineered foods for consumers to get a better idea of what will be labeled. Food manufacturers will have three options to choose from for their labeling. The first calls for food products to be labeled “bioengineered”, and if there is only one bioengineered ingredient, it will be labeled “contains a bioengineered food ingredient.” The second option allows manufacturers to use a symbol, which consists of a stem growing from a field with the sun shining in the background and the word “bioengineered” surrounding it. The third and final option for manufacturers is a QR code that can be scanned on a smartphone to obtain more information. While the new label regulations take effect in 2022, food served at restaurants, food trucks, salad bars and other similar establishments will be exempt from labeling requirements.
Taiwan Eases Restrictions On US Pork And Beef Imports, Encouraging Trade
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has eased regulations that had prevented imports of American pork carrying trace amounts of the animal-feed additive ractopamine as well as blocked beef products made from US cattle aged 30 months or more. US officials viewed the former regulations as the main barrier to creating closer trade relations with Taiwan. “This move opens the door for even deeper economic and trade cooperation,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. Ms. Tsai hopes her decision will address both food safety issues and the Taiwan pig farming industry’s opposition to the decision. Taiwanese officials “believe that opening up further to US pork and beef imports at the present time is a decision in line with overall national interests and strategic-development goals for the future,” according to Ms. Tsai. The US is Taiwan’s second largest trading partner, as the two countries traded $94.5 billion in goods and services in 2018, according to US economic data.