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January 2023, Volume 29, Number 1

Food, Wine

Supermarket chain Kroger offered $25 billion for Albertsons in October 2022. If the buy-out is completed, Kroger-Albertsons would have annual sales of $210 billion, just below the $220 billion of Walmart grocery sales in 2021. Kroger has 2,750 stores under the Ralphs, Dillons and Harris Teeter labels, while Albertsons has 2,200 stores under its own name as well as Safeway and Vons.

There are several measures of grocery sales. One measure suggests that Walmart has a 22 percent share of grocery sales and that a Kroger-Albertsons combination would have a 13 percent share. Amazon is an emerging competitor in selling food, as are German discounters Aldi and Lidl, which sell mostly store-brand items. Europeans buy a higher share of store-brand items than Americans, but food price inflation is encouraging many Americans to switch to store brands.

IRI data suggest that three-fourths of US fruit and vegetable spending is on fresh produce, 15 percent on canned, and 10 percent on frozen fruits and vegetables.

Some 40 percent of US adults are obese, and obesity is rising around the world, raising questions about whether obesity is primarily an individual issue or a societal concern. Some researchers say that the most promising strategies to reduce obesity lie in systemic changes, such as taxing junk food and promoting walking.

The Food and Drug Administration in September 2022 outlined strategies to ensure that imported produce is safe. The US imports over half of its fresh fruit and a third of its fresh vegetables, and the FDA aims to ensure that foreign producers adopt US food safety protocols, inspect produce arriving in the US and respond to illness outbreaks.

California’s iconic cooks include Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters. Sally Schmitt opened the French Laundry in 1978 and offered dinners based on local ingredients until she sold the French Laundry to Keller in 1994.

Wine. Market researcher DISCUS estimated that beer accounted for 42 percent of the total $238 billion in US alcohol sales in 2021, spirits 41 percent, and wine 16 percent. About 350 million cases of still wine were shipped in the US in 2021, including 85 million cases or a quarter that was imported. Some imported wine arrived in bulk, was bottled in the US, and labeled “imported and bottled by” the US importer.

US wine drinking is concentrated: the 15 percent of Americans who drink the most wine drink 85 percent of the wine consumed in the US. The share of wine in US alcohol sales has been falling as the share of spirits rises.

There are many reasons for wine’s shrinking share of the alcohol market, including the aging of core baby boomer wine drinkers, the fact that a glass of wine can be more expensive than a cocktail, and consumer confusion over the 400,000 wines available and the 125,000 new labels introduced each year. Wine consumption typically rises as parents reach their 40s, reflecting the adage that kids drive parents to drink.

Winemakers typically discard pomace, the grape skins and seeds left after fermentation. Some are making piquette, a weaker wine with less than 10 percent alcohol made from pomace. Many natural wineries make fizzy piquette by adding carbon dioxide.

Bordeaux has 108,000 hectares of vineyards, and up to 10 percent are expected to be removed due to reduced demand for Bordeaux wine in China. Farmers want a subsidy of E10,000 per hectare for removing their vineyards, but EU CAP rules have barred payments for vineyard removal since 2008.

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