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April 2018, Volume 24, Number 2

Wine, Food

California crushed 4.2 million tons of wine grapes in 2017, the same as 2016, including 2.2 million tons of red and 1.8 million tons of white varieties. Napa or District 4 crushed 142,000 tons of grapes or 3.4 percent of the total, while Fresno (District 13) crushed 1.3 million tons or 31 percent of the total.

Chardonnay was 15 percent of the crush; Cabernet Sauvignon 14 percent; Zinfandel nine percent; French Colombard eight percent; and six percent each were Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Gris, and Rubired. The top three varieties were almost 40 percent of the crush, and the top seven almost two-thirds of the crush.

Growers received an average $778 a ton for wine grapes, including $966 a ton for red varieties and $588 a ton for white. Napa Cabernet was worth $7,500 per ton, while Fresno Chardonnay was worth $391 a ton. It takes 2.7 pounds or 620 grapes to make a 750 ml bottle of wine, so the value of the grapes in an average bottle of California wine is $1.05, and ranged from 54 cents for Fresno Chardonnay to $10.12 for Napa Cabernet.

US retail wine sales in 2017 were over $14 billion, according to Wine Business Monthly, including $12.5 billion or 90 percent sold in standard 750 ml bottles. The growth in US wine sales has slowed, prompting speculation about prices rising too fast and competition from legalized marijuana.

Wine that sold for less than $4 a bottle generated five percent of 2017 wine sales; wine selling for $4 to $8 a bottle 25 percent; wine selling for $8 to $11 a bottle 24 percent; wine selling for $11 to $15 a bottle 18 percent; wine selling for $15 to $20 nine percent; wine selling for $20 to $25 four percent; and wine selling for over $25 a bottle five percent.

The three largest wineries accounted for 60 percent of US wine sales in 2017. E&J Gallo shipped 70 million cases of wine; the Wine Group, 53 million; Constellation, 50 million; Trinchero. 19 million; Treasury, 16 million; and Delicato and Bronco, 10 million each. The 50th largest US wineries, Rutherford and McManis, shipped 350,000 cases.

Most wineries have many labels, and sell wines at various price points. The top labels by US dollar sales in 2017 were Barefoot, five percent of food-store sales; Woodbridge, three percent; Franzia and Sutter Home, 2.5 percent each; and Yellow Tail, Kendall-Jackson, Black Box and Chateau Ste. Michelle, about two percent each.

Food. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that almost 40 percent of US adults were obese in 2015-16, with a body mass index of 30 or more. Over 10 percent of the world's adults are obese. Most experts cite less physical activity and the accessibility of fast food and inexpensive packaged foods.

Many consumers are willing to pay premium prices for "natural" foods, but there is no legal definition of natural. Lawyers known as the "Food Bar" are filing class action suits alleging misrepresentation on food labels when "natural foods" with premium prices include artificial ingredients. Most of the suits are settled for the difference between the natural and conventional price, since food companies are reluctant to risk having a judge define natural.

Polls suggest that 60 percent of Americans believe that natural means no artificial colors or ingredients, no pesticides, and no genetically modified materials, suggesting they confuse natural and organic.

Why do richer and better educated consumers buy more healthy foods than poorer consumers? One answer is food deserts, the fact that many poor people live in areas with few stores offering fresh fruits and vegetables. Other explanations focus on culture and tastes. Nielsen scanner data show that shoppers in states such as Kentucky and Tennessee buy the least healthy food, while Manhattan is a county with healthy food buyers.

Amazon Go, which opened in January 2018 in Seattle, is one high-tech example of future grocery retailing. Only those with the proper apps may enter the 1,800-square foot store, which has no cashiers. Consumers select products, put them in bags, and walk out, with the app charging them for their purchases. There are cameras and sensors to ensure that the items selected are paid for and shelves are restocked. There are about 3.5 million cashiers in US stores whose jobs may be affected if Amazon Go technology spreads.

Should cattle, pigs and chickens be fed antibiotics as prophylactics to avoid disease? About three-fourths of the antibiotics used in the US are fed to livestock and poultry, which may contribute to diseases in humans that are resistant to antibiotics. Many doctors worry that overexposure to antibiotics could leave people vulnerable to infections that cannot be treated as they were in the past.

Prices of commodities produced in one or a few countries can be volatile, rising if drought or pests reduce production. Madagascar produces 80 percent of the world's vanilla. After a cyclone hit the country in 2017, the price of vanilla rose from $30 to $700 a kilo. A persisting drought in India raised the price of chickpeas, of which India is the dominant producer.

French travel writer Pierre-Jean Grosely in the 18th century wrote that the Earl of Sandwich asked for beef between two slices of toasted bread to sustain him during a 24-hour gambling binge. The Earl of Sandwich directed the British Admiralty for 11 years when the main meal of high society was eaten at 4pm. Sandwiches may have spread to allow people to work through normal mealtimes.

The British sandwich market, one of the largest on a per capita basis, has two distinct segments, fresh sandwiches from chains such as Subway and Pret A Manger, and sandwiches made away from the place where they are sold by firms such as Greencore and 2 Sisters, as in supermarkets. Many of those employed in sandwich making are immigrants, and the prospect of Brexit and fewer immigrant workers is speeding the mechanization of sandwich making.