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January 2022, Volume 28, Number 1

Food, Wine

Food price inflation accelerated in fall 2021 as input costs rose and supply chain disruptions raised food manufacturing and distribution costs. Supermarkets say that price increases of more than five percent prompt shoppers to change their behavior, such as substituting a store brand for a company’s advertised brand.

Americans get almost 60 percent of their calories from ultra-processed food such as ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat meals, including fast-food meals, canned soup, and breakfast cereal.

Chipotle has almost 2,000 US restaurants, each with its own kitchen to make fresh food. Everytable prepares fresh food in industrial kitchens and trucks the food to smaller outlets that sell salads at different prices in different areas, aiming to underprice gourmet salad maker Sweetgreen. The average cost of an Everytable meal is $3.25, and the retail price is $5 plus a delivery charge for meals delivered to homes.

DoorDash and Uber Eats reported that the top food item delivered in 2021 was French fries. The most desired delivery time was 5-7pm on Saturday. Cabernet Sauvignon was the most popular wine delivered, and Tito’s vodka the most popular spirit.

The FAO hosted a dialogue on tea and coffee in October 2021, emphasizing that 80 percent of the world’s coffee, and 60 percent of the world’s tea, is produced by smallholder growers. The FAO aims to improve coffee and tea agriculture with its four betters program, better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.

FAO estimated that tomato production was 187 billion kilograms in 2020, including 65 billion produced in China, 21 billion in India, 13 billion in Turkey,12 billion in the US and seven billion in Egypt. Yields averaged 3.7 kg per square meter on the five million hectares planted to tomatoes, but varied widely, from 50kg per square meter in the Netherlands to six in China and three in India. US yields average 11 kg per square meter from 110,000 hectares.

Wine. A 2020 UCCE cost study estimated that an acre of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon grapes yielded four tons worth $8,200 a ton, generating gross revenue of $32,800. UCCE assumed that hand labor costs were $31 an hour, including $21 an hour in wages and $10 an hour in payroll taxes and benefits. Hand workers are assumed to pick a ton of grapes in an eight-hour day, making the cost of picking one ton of grapes $248.

Gallo’s Barefoot is the best-selling US wine, retailing for about $6 a bottle and available in most grape varieties. At the end of 2021, Barefoot launched a wine aimed at enhancing the taste of Oreo Thins cookies, joining the pairing of Usual Wines and Cheez-It crackers.

The US chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, created in 1997, expelled six of 22 members for sexual harassment in November 2021. The Court recognized 155 US residents as Master Sommeliers after they passed tough exams, including 131 men. The 2012 documentary Somm followed candidates as they prepared for the exam to become master sommeliers.

The Liv-ex Champagne 50 index, which measures fine wine prices, rose over 30 percent in 2021, double 15 percent increase in global stock indexes. Most champagnes are released ready to drink and consumed soon after purchase, unlike top-end Bordeaux or Burgundy wines that are often kept for years and resold in secondary markets. However, the prices of vintage champagnes such as Dom Pérignon 2008 and Krug 2000 rose about 50 percent due to stock market gains in 2021 and a reduced harvest in 2020 that prompted some champagne houses to release less vintage champagne.

France is expected to ship 320 million bottles of champagne in 2021 worth €5.5billion. Shipments, which peaked at almost 340 million bottles in 2007, were 245 million bottles in 2020 and 300 million bottles in 2019. Champagne producers blend wines from different years and have a four-year supply in their cellars around Reims and Epernay.

Beer accounts for 44 percent of US spending on alcoholic drinks, spirits 39 percent, and wine 17 percent. Beer’s share of alcohol spending has been falling, the share spent on spirits is rising, and the share spent on wine is steady.

The amount of alcohol is about the same in a 12-once beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5 once shot of 80-proof spirits. The popularity of low-alcohol ready-to-go cocktails has increased pressure to reduce taxes on spirits, which average $0.21 in federal and state taxes for a 1.5 once shot and $0.14 for a 12-once beer. Constellation Brands in January 2022 announced plans to market spirit-based ready-to-drink cocktails under the Fresca label. Sales of alternative beverages such as ready-to-drink cocktails are about $8 billion a year.

A 2021 survey found that 40 percent of US drinkers said that they most often drank beer and over 25 percent said spirits, leaving wine with a 35 percent share.

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