Fake Meat: Growing Bloody Fast

Business Insider: “Fake meat is a fast-rising food category that could change the way we eat. It replaces animal products with alternatives made from plants that look and taste like meat, with the goal of reducing the global dependence on animal agriculture.”

“The substitute meat market is expected to grow 8.4% annually over the next three years, reaching $5.2 billion globally by 2020, according to Allied Market Research … Companies that produce fake meat and seafood, ranging from ‘bloody’ burgers to sushi made from tomatoes, have targeted college campuses as testing grounds for their creations … In October, startup Impossible Foods announced it will expand distribution of its vegan burger, which sizzles on the grill and bleeds juices like real beef, to universities and company cafes.”

“Impossible Foods opened its first large-scale production facility in September, which will allow it to produce at least four million meatless burgers a month by year’s end … New Wave Foods, which manufactures an algae-based shrimp alternative, and Ocean Hugger Foods, which is working on plant-based seafood — including a raw tuna substitute made from tomatoes — have also set their sights on food-service companies as a path for distribution.”

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Klatch: The $55 Cup of Coffee

The Wall Street Journal: “Earlier this year, Extraction Lab, a coffee shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., that is connected to Alpha Dominche, a manufacturer of brewing equipment, began selling an $18 cup of coffee. It is made using a $13,900 Alpha machine that controls every aspect, from water temperature to timing. The brew is a Panamanian-sourced variety, called Gesha, sometimes spelled Geisha, once described by Don Holly, a veteran of the gourmet-coffee industry, as seeing ‘the face of God in a cup’.”

“In Southern California, $55 is what it will cost to get a special cup at Klatch Coffee, which plans to roll out a particularly prized version next month, dubbed Esmeralda Geisha 601. The ‘601’ refers to the price per pound that the coffee sold for at auction … The store is set to offer it at ticketed events. But for those who can’t attend, Klatch will ship the coffee out—for the same $55—in 15-gram packages of pre-roasted beans, good for making one cup. A souvenir mug will come with mail orders.”

“Some Starbucks enthusiasts have created their own price-be-damned drink by ordering extra shots of espresso and bringing their own oversize vessel … William E. Lewis Jr., a political consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he once paid $148.99 for a Starbucks Flat White coffee with 170 extra shots. Mr. Lewis said he didn’t consume it all at once, saying that much caffeine in one sitting might be deadly. Instead, he packed it to go and enjoyed it over a couple of days. ‘It’s all about the hunt. It’s all about doing it’.”

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Leinenkugel: Cult Classic or Soda Beer?

The New York Times: “Leinenkugel’s and its parent company, MillerCoors, would like to make the brand more than just a cult or local favorite. And they have largely succeeded with Summer Shandy, a breakout hit released in 2007 that has inspired a whole line of flavor-enhanced brews — watermelon, pomegranate, cocoa-raspberry — and, for the first time, brought the country’s seventh-oldest brewery to taps and store shelves nationwide.”

“But for some longtime drinkers, including many among the 11,000 who gathered in Chippewa Falls for the anniversary party, watching trendy shandies eclipse the workingman’s beers their grandparents once enjoyed is disorienting. During a question-and-answer session with the company’s brewmasters, one wistful Leinie’s drinker shouted, ‘When are you going to brew some beer that tastes like beer?'”

“In August, MillerCoors released Leinenkugel’s Original nationwide for the first time, part of a fall sampler pack of Leinie’s classic brews … with light-bodied German beers enjoying a resurgence, Leinenkugel sees an opportunity to attract new drinkers to the clean, malty lagers beloved in Wisconsin — particularly the 35 percent of shandy drinkers who, company research suggests, didn’t previously drink beer. It won’t be easy. ‘That’s a tall order,’said Ryan Schmiege, assistant brewmaster at the 29-year-old Deschutes Brewery in Oregon and a Wisconsin native. ‘Shandies are the soda of beer. They’re fun, but I wonder whether they’ll really convince people to try the old stuff.'”

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Down Under: Introducing Vegemite Blend 17

The New York Times: “Vegemite, the classic condiment found on breakfast tables in every corner of Australia for nearly a century, is going posh. Bega, manufacturer of the iconic — if divisive — yeast extract spread, released a new and more expensive version of the product this week, raising questions about whether the brand had abandoned its humble roots in favor of a more affluent demographic.”

“The new variety, Vegemite Blend 17, is sold in achingly artisanal packaging that includes an unnecessary cardboard box, a gold-colored lid and a price tag more than double that of a traditional jar, coming in at 7 Australian dollars, or nearly $5.50 … Anthony Agius, a Melbourne resident who says he has eaten Vegemite for 32 years, purchased the new product out of curiosity … Mr. Agius said he could not easily distinguish the new blend from the original.”

“When asked whether the new product may be a cynical, short-lived marketing ploy to draw attention and stoke lighthearted controversy, (marketing director Ben Hill) simply encouraged Australians to ’embrace the taste.’ The company, he said, did not plan to reissue the product after its initial run of 450,000 units. But if the new blend proved popular, Mr. Hill said, Bega might keep making it.”

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Beer Yourself: Self-Serve Suds

The Wall Street Journal: “When customers make their way to the Williamsburg location of Randolph Beer, a brew-centric bar, they will find an impressive 24 choices on draft, from pale ales to stouts to a seasonal Oktoberfest offering. But if they want to do any drinking at the Brooklyn spot, they will have to work the taps themselves sans bartender. As a sign says, ‘Beer Yourself.’The self-serve aspect is actually a selling point for craft-beer buffs. They say they appreciate not only the sheer novelty of it, but also that they can sample new and unusual brews without having to commit to a full pint.”

“The beer is priced by the ounce, from 50 cents for some of Randolph’s house-made brews to slightly above $3 for extremely hard-to-find varieties. Customers are given a ‘beer ATM card,’ as it has sometimes been described, that records all their pours.” A happy customer comments: “You can try a dozen different beers in a night and only spend $30. It’s amazing.”

Self-serve “can bring down costs—not only in terms of needing fewer bartenders, but also in terms of eliminating waste. In most drinking spots, it is a given that bartenders will ‘overpour, either by accident or because they offer customers the occasional freebie.” Yet, not everybody loves the idea: “At some bars, the interaction between customers and bartender is just as important as the drinking itself.” Jeff Isaacson of Ark Restaurants explains: “When you’re getting your own beer and not talking to anybody, you might as well stay home.”

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The Future of Plant-Based Protein

“Look at the dairy category: 14 percent of it now is plant-based, like soy or almong or rice milk. I believe the same could be true for meat. If we get to that meat [department] I believe there’s potential for at least 14 percent of this category to become plant-based.” – Seth Goldman, executive chairman, Beyond Meat, in brandchannel.

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Starbucks Shutters Digital Store

The New York Times: “As customers increasingly shift their retail shopping toward e-commerce, Starbucks is bucking the trend: It shuttered its online store … Maggie Jantzen, a company spokeswoman, said that the decision to shut down the online store was part of a push to ‘simplify’ Starbucks’ sales channels … The company’s chief executive, Kevin Johnson, spoke on Starbucks’ most recent earnings call about a ‘seismic shift’ in retailing. To survive, he said, merchants need to create unique and immersive in-store experiences.”

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz told investors last April: “Every retailer that is going to win in this new environment must become an experiential destination. Your product and services, for the most part, cannot be available online and cannot be available on Amazon.”

“Starbucks said it would continue to sell branded products like coffee through grocery stores and some online sites managed by its sales partners. But it broke the hearts of some fans by ending retail sales of a cult-favorite product line: flavored syrups. The mixes used to concoct drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Latte are generally not for sale in the company’s stores, but Starbucks stocked them on its website … On eBay, a jug of Starbucks pumpkin spice syrup could be had on Sunday for $100.”

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Cereal Killers: Food CEOs On The Firing Line

The Wall Street Journal: “A cereal killer is stalking the executive offices of packaged food companies, with Kellogg boss John Bryant being the latest victim. Other companies where chief executives have left since the spring of 2016 or are on their way out include General Mills, Mondelez, Hormel, Hershey, Nestlé and Coca-Cola.”

“Of the 10 largest U.S.-listed food companies by revenue, not a single one has outperformed the S&P 500 in the past 12 months … One reason is moribund food prices. Last month’s U.S. consumer-price index for food eaten at home was essentially unchanged from the spring of 2014.”

“Even as prices stagnate, consumer preferences have shifted toward fresher and healthier food. Meanwhile, supermarkets are suffering too and are responding by cutting the number of brands stocked or pushing store brands. Food companies have reshuffled or pruned brands to appeal more to consumers and done expensive acquisitions, such as General Mills’ 2014 purchase of organic food company Annie’s. To really move the needle, though, they will have to focus ruthlessly on costs.”

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Breath Mints as ‘Social Currency’

The Wall Street Journal: “For makers of breath-freshening mints and gum, there is no such thing as over-sharing. From big candy companies to small artisanal confectioners, the makers of mints are tinkering with product design, packaging, and marketing, all to encourage us to share … A mint is ‘a social currency,’ said Jeff Wurtzel, a marketing brand director for Mars Wrigley Confectionery, which makes Wrigley’s gum, Life Savers, Altoids and other breath-freshening treats. ‘You connect with someone else by offering something small’.”

“This year, the company plans to launch Extra Chewy Mints, which will come in a plastic package with an opening designed for easy sharing … In the early 1900s, Altoids were packaged in a tin to keep the mints fresh, according to Mr. Wurtzel. But the container turned out to have unexpected sociable benefits. ‘It’s literally in your hand and it’s an extension of you when you open it,’ Mr. Wurtzel said of the Altoids tin.”

“Mints can play a communal role in offices and restaurants. At the Minneapolis location of Industrious Office, a co-working space, the community manager, Marie Adrian, keeps a bowl of individually wrapped mint Life Savers on her desk. The mints have become a post-lunch routine for many people, creating a natural ‘touchpoint’ with the space’s members, Ms. Adrian said … All that sharing doesn’t just spark sociability. It means more business for Tic Tac and other mint makers.” Todd Midura, the vice president of marketing of Tic Tac North America, comments: “If you’ve got people sharing, it adds more occasions.Before you know it, you pass around that pack and it’s empty.”

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Cake Ladies: Inside The Box Thinking

The New York Times: “Elsewhere, the American appetite for packaged baking mixes is waning, according to the market research firm Mintel, as consumers move away from packaged foods with artificial ingredients and buy more from in-store bakeries and specialty pastry shops. Yet in the small, mostly indigenous communities that dot rural Alaska, box cake is a stalwart staple, the star of every community dessert table and a potent fund-raising tool.”

“The offerings in village stores often resemble those in the mini-marts or bodegas of America’s urban food deserts, at two and three times the price. Food journeys in via jet, small plane and barge. Milk and eggs spoil fast. Produce gets roughed up. Among the Hostess doughnuts, Spam and soda, cake mix is one of the few items on shelves everywhere that require actual cooking. As a result, tricking out mixes has become a cottage industry, and many villages have a ‘cake lady’ with her signature twist. Some bake as a hobby, while others do a brisk business selling cakes in places where getting to a bakery requires a plane ticket.”

“In America’s northernmost town, Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), the baker Mary Patkotak is an expert at gaming cake economics. She uses Betty Crocker triple chocolate fudge mix for her famous cherry-chocolate cake. In the village store, it costs $4.59 a box. On Amazon, where Ms. Patkotak orders it, it’s $1.29. Alaska’s many weather delays mean the mix never shows up on time, but she doesn’t care because it qualifies her for partial refunds on her annual Prime membership.
‘I can’t remember the last time I paid the Amazon Prime fee,’ she said.”

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