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October 2018, Volume 24, Number 4
California harvested four million tons of wine grapes from 600,000 acres in 2018, an average yield of 6.6 tons an acre. US households spent an average $485 a year on alcoholic beverages in 2016. San Francisco households spent the most, an average $1,130 per year.
Many retailers are introducing private-label wines, including Costco and Trader Joe's. Walmart introduced Winemakers Selection wines in 1,100 stores in June 2018, with bottles priced from $11 to $16 each.
Constellation Brands, which owns Robert Mondavi wines and Corona beer, is a major investor in Canada's Canopy Growth. Constellation says that recreational marijuana is not reducing sales of wine and beer.
US beer consumption is falling, to an average 73 liters per adult in 2017, compared with 103 liters in Germany. One reason is that beer prices have risen faster than prices for wine and spirits. Beer prices rose 42 percent between 2000 and 2007, compared with 11 percent for wine and 19 percent for spirits.
Within the beer category, consumers are shifting from mass market to craft beers. Young white men prefer to drink beer, but African Americans prefer spirits. Women tend to prefer wine to beer.
There was a 20 percent drop in the number of German pubs between 2010 and 2016. Those most likely to close were in villages with less than 5,000 people, where pubs were also social halls for special occasions. The Bavarian government is providing assistance to struggling pubs in rural areas and small towns.
Food. Romaine lettuce from Fresh Express and distributed by McDonald's was blamed for a Cyclospora outbreak that sickened over 400 people in July-August 2018. Cyclosporiasis, which causes diarrhea, is often spread by water contaminated with feces.
About 40 percent of American adults, some 93 million, are obese. In 2009, there was speculation that the lack of supermarkets in so-called food deserts contributed to obesity among the poor. However, there is no evidence that inducing supermarkets to move into food deserts changes nutrition or obesity among area residents.
Many social justice advocates believe that obesity is a result of environmental factors rather than personal choices, so they urged governments to subsidize supermarkets and fresh fruits and vegetables in poor areas. Research consistently shows, however, that simply making healthy food available does not necessarily translate into consuming that food.
The negative calorie illusion is the tendency of people to believe that healthy food coupled with less healthy food has fewer calories. In one test, people guessed that a hamburger alone had 600 calories, but had only 500 calories when accompanied by a salad. The negative calorie illusion explains why fresh fruit is often pictured on cereal boxes, even though most people do not put fresh fruit in their cereal.
Sugar. The global price of sugar declined to $0.11 a pound in summer 2018. Brazil is the world's largest sugar producer, and accounts for about half of global sugar exports, but number two India has expanded production and exports. Sugar prices in China, Japan and the US are regulated at higher prices, about $0.22 a pound in the US.
Consumers are switching from sugary soda to flavored waters, which is encouraging drink makers to reduce the amount of sugar in food and drink products. Sudzucker and DouxMatok announced a process to amplify the sweetness of sugar so that less is necessary to use in food.
Books such as "Salt, Sugar and Fat" decry three key elements of modern diets, unleashing a debate over which is worst. Many burinists note that salt and fat have long been part of human diets, but sugar did not become affordable for most people until the 1600s, when European colonization of Brazil and the Caribbean islands increased production and made sugar in coffee and tea a source of cheap energy during the industrial revolution.
Historian Walvin called sugar the oil of the 1600s and 1700s. Sugar was the largest global industry for two centuries, and producing sugar involved the movement of slaves from Africa to the Americas and sugar and rum to North America and Europe. This triangle trade led to innovations in finance, shipping and milling that affected a wide range of industries.