Emerging Trends: July 2013

Published in FSD Update

Catch up on July's Emerging Trends, including building food maps, Meatless Mondays, vending machines with nutritional info and much more.

> Google It

Looking for nutrition info? Try Google. The search engine behemoth announced last month that it plans to add nutritional information for more than 1,000 food types to its search engine results. When a person searches for a food, say avocado, the search results would include a box at the top that shows the amount of calories, protein and fat that are in an avocado. Google is using nutritional information provided by the USDA for the project.

> Where’s the Beef?

Your customers might be asking you that very question later this year. The USDA says that while food inflation should be low this year, the price for beef will continue to rise in the next six months. The reason: Beef exports are increasing and the amount of beef available domestically is down because of the drought. The USDA says many ranchers have liquidated their inventory in order to cut costs to cope with the drought. 

> $90

That’s the price you’ll pay for a cup of Kopi Kuwak coffee, which originates on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The coffee is made from beans that are extracted from the excrement of the paradoxurus, a mammal that looks like a cross between a cat and a mongoose. The process of getting the world’s most expensive cup of joe goes like this: The paradoxurus eats coffee cherries and digests them. The beans are removed from the animal’s excrement, cleaned and roasted. Or you can stick with Starbucks.  

> Researchers Building Food Map

Where you live impacts what you eat. Take the different regional variations of barbecue, for example. Researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill are taking this regionality concept even further by developing a food map of sorts. The researchers are culling millions of data points from super markets, convenience stores and food companies to determine what people eat where. Take chips, for example. There are dozens of varieties of chips. The UNC team is collecting data, most of it through bar code scanners at grocery stores that record what people purchase, to determine what type of chip is most often purchased where. When that data are compared with area demographics, the researchers can learn things such as, do different ethnic groups purchase different chips? The data will also be used to assess nutritional patterns in consumers. Along with what types of items customers are purchasing, the researchers are also collecting nutritional information for each variety of the food product (Sun Chips, Doritos, etc., in the case of the chips). The goal of the project, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is ultimately to help consumers eat healthier.

> Meatless Mondays Gets Mixed Reviews

The Meatless Monday movement received both good and bad news last month. The San Diego Unified School District adopted the program, saying the meat-free program will be a healthier option for students. The initiative will run in K-8 schools only.

On the other side of the coin, Restaurant Associates (RA) won’t be promoting its Meatless Monday program at the cafeterias it runs for the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. A coalition of trade groups that represent livestock producers sent a letter to the House Administration Committee asking that RA “cease immediately” the promotion of the meatless day, according to E&E Daily. The trade coalition said the promotion of Meatless Mondays in House cafeterias was “unfortunate and political.”  

> Hunger Strike Over Cut Workers

The School District of Philadelphia is set to lose 1,200 lunchtime aides as a result of the district’s $304 million deficit. That’s not sitting too well with some community members. Two district employees and two parents are staging a hunger strike to protest the cafeteria cuts. The strike was organized by Unite Here, the union that represents the lunch aides. To be fair, the cafeteria workers aren’t the only ones set to lose their jobs. Another 2,600 district employees will also receive pink slips.

 > Vending Machines Get Nutritional Info

Vending machines in Washington, D.C.’s municipal buildings will soon offer customers nutritional info. The Calories Count Vending Program is part of an initiative led by the American Beverage Association. The program began last October in San Antonio and Chicago. Under the program, foodservice operators and vending companies are encouraged to increase the availability of lower-calorie beverages and display Calories Count signage that encourages customers to select better-for-you options. In D.C., this initiative includes posting calorie counts for each beverage option. 

> $48 million

The amount that the Meals on Wheels Association of American says its more than 5,000 senior nutrition programs will lose by Sept. 30. That’s a 5.6% reduction in funding under the Older American Act, but because the cuts were initiated in such a short time—the cuts came about as a result of sequestration—the association says the loss of funds will be felt much harder.