This year seems to have been crammed with enough news to fill more than a mere 12 months. From the World Cup to a royal wedding to devastating wildfires out west, there’s been no shortage of headlines in 2018.
The food and beverage business has been no exception. So, in the spirit of embracing the close of a tumultuous year, TraceGains presents what we believe were some of the most important stories in the industry this year.
Recurring Romaine Recalls
Romaine lettuce had a particularly bad year, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulling it from the shelves completely around Thanksgiving after more than 50 cases of E. Coli cropping up in the fall across 15 states. This followed an earlier, unrelated, outbreak in late spring. The romaine outbreaks, in addition to several other news-making recalls, highlight the ongoing struggles manufacturers and suppliers experience in bringing safe products to market.
Tariffs Test Supply Chain
The Trump Administration has brought back trade tariffs in a big way, slapping them on a number of products imported from China, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. In retaliation, most of those countries have levied tariffs, on a number of Americans goods, especially in the food and beverage space. Dairy, pork, produce, soybeans, and whiskey have been hit particularly hard. As a result, the administration ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help soybean farmers out with $12 billion in assistance. Tariffs will almost certainly continue making news well into the new year.
Food Delivery Business
Driven by time-starved consumers and improving technology, the food delivery business exploded into the mainstream this year. Whether it’s a neighborhood grocery store, a major restaurant chain, or a meal kit service, there are more ways than ever to get food on consumers’ dinner tables. Revenue in the online food delivery segment grew more than 8 percent in 2018, with more than 78 million consumers spending nearly $17 billion this past year. That’s expected to grow more than 7 percent annually over the next decade. Finally, Nielsen Research expects online grocery sales to pick up 20 percent of total grocery retail sales by 2025.
Lab-Grown Food Face Backlash
While the dairy industry – and FDA Administrator Dr. Scott Gottlieb – question whether almond milk is, in fact, milk at all, meat producers are pushing back against lab-grown meat products. Driven by growing sustainability concerns, scientists have begun growing “meat” in the lab using cell cultures. This year, The Good Food Institute filed the lawsuit against the state of Missouri after it passed the nation’s first law that insists that products labeled as “meat” must come from slaughter animals. Specifically, the law says that meat products must “derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” The Show-Me State got ahead of similar regulations being considered at the federal level.
Congress Passes Farm Bill
After fits and starts, including a rare defeat in the House earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed an $867 billion farm bill earlier this week. The Senate quickly followed suit, passing legislation that, according to the Washington Post, includes “billions of dollars in subsidies to American farmers, legalizes hemp, bolsters farmers markets and rejects stricter limits on food stamps pushed by House Republicans.”
The Organic Farmers Association declared their support for the bill since it includes a number of provisions that support organic farming initiatives, not the least of which is permanent, mandatory funding for organic research with incremental increases that top out at $50 million by 2023.
The legislation also keeps intact the controversial sugar subsidy program.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law next week.