The Lempert Report LIVE

Unveiling Big Tobacco's Influence on Our Favorite Foods and Exploring the Future of Meat

September 26, 2023 Phil Lempert Episode 96
The Lempert Report LIVE
Unveiling Big Tobacco's Influence on Our Favorite Foods and Exploring the Future of Meat
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Did you ever consider that a bite of your favorite snack might be playing into the hands of big tobacco? Hold onto your shopping carts as we unravel the untold story of how tobacco industry giants have influenced the food we eat, creating hyper palatable products that are impossible to resist. We'll also take a hard look at the controversial idea of a city-owned grocery store in Chicago, and discuss why it's crucial to have the grocery industry run by those who understand it best.

But that's not all. We'll be serving up a plateful of insights on the alternative meats industry, exploring the promise and potential pitfalls of hybrid meats and cell-based agriculture. We'll dissect the role of Monell in personalizing medicine and reducing non-compliance and poisoning risks. And because it's not all doom and gloom, we'll round off our conversation by celebrating the enduring appeal of Martha Stewart. This episode is a smorgasbord of revelations you won't want to miss!

Phil:

Welcome to the Lempert Report Live. On today's episode, How big tobacco changed the food world? Chicago wants in on the supermarket business. Is that a good idea? NRDC issues its toilet paper report card. Is hybrid meat all it's cracked up to be, and is it safe? A new test to predict kids' taste buds? And on Food Not Phones, what Martha Stewart has to say about cell phones at the dinner table. And on the Bullseye, it's all about predicting food trends. Let's get started. Sally's off today. So a report by the Washington Post came out last week, which was really interesting. It was based on new research that was published in the journal Addiction, and it focused on the rise of hyper palatable foods, those that contain potent combinations of fat, sodium, sugar and other additives that can drive people to crave and to overeat them. The addiction study found that in the decades when the tobacco companies owned the world's leading food companies, the foods that they sold were far more likely to be hyper palatable than similar foods that were not owned by tobacco companies. Uh-oh, let's see what it says. Now, the steepest increase in the prevalence of hyper palatable foods occurred between 1988 and 2001, when Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds owned the world's leading food companies. They no longer own them, by the way, but they were engineered by people who basically engineered cigarettes to become addictive, and it was the same kind of strategy that they used. So the lead author of this study, Terry Fazino, who's an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas, found at the University of California at San Francisco's Industry Documents Library millions of internal tobacco industry documents that shed light on how the companies designed their products to be addictive and the strategies they used to market them. They identified 105 foods that were among the best selling products for brands owned by Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds and at that time, rjr owned the Bisco, obviously, oreo cookies, Teddy Grahams, rich Crackers and Snackwells, and Philip Morris owned Kraft, general Foods, holycraft, mac and Cheese, jell-o Kool-Aid and Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs. They compared the nutritional makeup of these foods to 587 similar products that were sold by competing brands that were not owned by tobacco companies, and they found get this that those that were owned by tobacco companies were 80% more likely to contain potent combinations of carbs and sodium that made them hyper palatable. Tobacco-owned brands were also 29% more likely to contain similarly potent combinations of fat and sodium. So, even though the tobacco companies don't own, you know, craft anymore and general mills and so on, general foods. Sorry, the reality is that a lot of these formulas still are the same. Even though the tobacco companies divested themselves of the food brands, it doesn't mean that somebody went back in and reformulated them. So, for example, luchables by Oscar Meyer, introduced in 1988, contained so much sodium and saturated fat that some doctors called it a blood pressure bomb. One Philip Morris executive joked about references that the healthiest item in a package of Luchables was the napkin. So what we really need to do is have these brands that were owned by the tobacco companies really investigate what their nutritionals are, what their ingredients are, and it's time for a reformulation. So Chicago announced a feasibility study to explore the idea of having a city-owned grocery store, as the South and West Side grocers continue to close. And so what they're looking for and this is part of the Economic Security Project a non-profit, what they're looking for from the feds is $2 million to do the research for this to be the first municipally owned grocery store. So I am all for grocery stores and food deserts. Let's remember we had food stores in grocery deserts and food deserts, but they closed. They closed because they were not profitable. They closed because two people didn't wanna work there because they were concerned about their own safety and security. And number three, they closed because the people in that community didn't shop in those stores and didn't buy those products. So to me, this is a horrible idea. Now I'll tell you why in a minute. What we did see in Chicago is a company Yellow Banana. It's a majority minority owned company that owns and operates save a lot stores. They received $13.5 million in funding and another $13 million in new market tax credits to buy and revitalize six stores on the South and West Side. Some of them have closed, but Yellow Banana has come under fire from activists who say that the save a lot discount stores they operate or unclean routinely marked spoiled produce. They also faced criticism when it took over a whole food space that closed in late 2022 after receiving $11 million in city funds to open up that store. Now the thing to know about Yellow Banana is again these are not grocery people. These are investment bankers who basically came in, took the money and decided that what they were gonna do is open up a grocery store. Hey, chicago, this is not the way to do it. What you wanna do? Is you wanna do similar to what Jeff Brown did in Philadelphia, where he got federal support to open up stores and food deserts? But Jeff Brown is a shop right owner. He understands the grocery business and I'm not suggesting that Jeff needs to expand to Chicago. But we need people in the grocery business to operate grocery stores. This is a very complicated business, there's no question about that. Whether it's a supply chain, whether it's staffing, whether it's hiring, whether it's slicing deli meat, you can't just have Chicago, as a city, open up a supermarket and have it successful. In fact, the one that I thought might've been successful was when Salvation Army opened up a store in the Washington DC area in a food desert. Salvation Army has been dealing with food banks forever and I thought they might make it Well. That store closed. So let's let grocers run stores and not cities run stores. Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, just issued their toilet paper scorecard. Who knew that there was a toilet paper scorecard? So what they found is one million acres of the climate critical Canadian forest are clear cut each year in part to make the ultimate disposable single use item toilet paper. Toilet paper made with recycled content, as one third of the carbon footprint of toilet paper made from trees. So obviously, excuse me, what NRDC is urging us to do is use recycled toilet paper because to save forests and just to be more environmentally friendly and hose the water and after all, it is toilet paper. So what they found is Procter Gamble, kimberly Clark and Georgia Pacific the three major producers of toilet paper all earned the grade of F Across all their flagship brands, like Charmin, contnell, quilted, northern. Across all five editions of what NRGC was studying, they scored 145 tissue products in three categories toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissue. Of these 145 products, 20 received an A grade, 15 received an A plus, with brands that use post-consumer recycled content. They also evaluated 63 toilet paper brands. 13 toilet papers were made with recycled materials got an A or an A plus. That's Trader Joe's 365 by Whole Foods. Market, natural Value and Green Forest got the top spots and, as I said, the major brands that we're used to seeing on TV advertising. They all got an F. If you want more information, just head to NRDC's website and you could see the entire study. Hybrid meat is really one thing that people are looking at very, very carefully, as cellular agriculture isn't as stalled as plant-based. You know, plant-based is stalled. What a lot of people are saying is that hybrid meat, where you combine whether it's plant-based with real meat or cellular agriculture with real meat, could be what we go for, because from a taste standpoint, just from a psychological standpoint so that phrase now called hybrid meat, and what they're saying and this was released at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture 2023 annual meeting the members advocated for standards that ensure clear and consistent labeling for cell-based meat products. That's a must have for all of us. They also analyzed impossible burger and found that its carbon footprint is 89% smaller than a burger made from beef. It also uses 87% less water and 96% less land. But it doesn't stop there, because a lot of these products, including impossible, contain more sodium than animal meats, sometimes up to six times as much, and also a lot of the energy use from these bioreactors, especially as it relates to cellular agriculture, use more energy. So you've gotta do this trade-off here. We're concerned about methane gas from cows, we're concerned about that animal footprint, but yet these bioreactors take a lot more energy than anything else that is in business right now. So what they're saying is let's go hybrid. What we do know is these alternative sources. Bypassing the cow, you bypass a lot of food safety problems. That's one of the concerns, as we have recall after recall as it relates to E coli. If you're buying plant-based, if you're buying cellular agriculture, you avoid that, and also one of the reasons for that and we've talked a lot about that here is you pick up some ground beef and that comes from not a single cow, but it could come from different cows, actually even in different countries, whether it's Mexico, canada or the US, and they're all pulled together and that's one of the reasons that we have these food safety nightmares. So the other results of what they did and this is in a food publication called Food Safety Aspects of Cell-Based Foods they found that there's problems and negative health consequences which include contamination with heavy metals, microplastics, nanoplastics, allergens such as additives to improve the taste and texture of these products, chemical contaminants, toxic components, antibiotics and prions. Then, in 2019, there was a study done in Oxford that showed the production is very intensive, very energy intensive. These bio-reactors could have worse long-term environmental consequences than livestock farming when looking at CO2 emissions. So we haven't come up with the solution, which is why one of the reasons that plant-based. I was just at Expo East last week. I didn't see any plant-based meat products there. I saw a lot of plant-based beverages, plant-based cosmetics, but no plant-based meat. So the jury's still out, whether it's hybrid, whether it's cellular, whether it's plant-based, whether it's beef from a cow. We still haven't solved this problem, and one of the reasons that, or one of the outcomes that I get from this, is, regardless of where the meat comes from, we probably and this has been in the dietary guidelines for years we probably just need to consume less meat. I don't care where it comes from, whether it's a cow or a bioreactor. Let's just start cutting down meat. In general, could we know we overeat meat and really rely on other protein sources, whether it's plant-based protein, whether it's seafood or the like, in order to help solve this problem? That's one of the things that we really need to focus on and really need to do. In Philadelphia there's a great company called Monell and what they do is they focus on taste and creating taste markers, and it's a sensory company whether it's sight, sound and really help food companies develop products that are proper for consumption. So they now have a new study. Julie Minella, phd from Monell, has identified a wide variation in the sensory perception of a pediatric formulation of ibuprofen, and some that were tied to genetic ancestry and some that were not, and why this is important is there's so many kids' medications that contain ibuprofen that what they wanna do is really make it more palatable for these kids. Bitter taste and irritating sensations in the throat, or the top reasons for non-compliance, as a child at adult is less likely to ingest a medicine that's unpleasant or taste bad. However, I'll take issue with this, going back to our grandparents day, where it was cob liver oil that they would have consumed for whatever ills that they might have. Maybe what we wanna do is we wanna avoid these kids and adult medications that taste like candy, because what we find, and what Monell found, is that if a child finds a medicine bottle uncapped and it tastes sweet like candy, they consume it. They consume too much of it. So what we really need to do is take this kind of data, this kind of research that's being done, and really make it in a way that is good for consumers, not just making everything like Nyquil tasting sweet, like candy and cherry flavored and so on, because what we know is people frankly consume too much. What they found is Manila says it's a small study, but it's the first step in showing how research on diverse populations is needed to be able to unravel the genetic, cultural, dietary and developmental paths that underlie medicine adherence and also risk for poisoning. Basically, personalization. So let's just think about my DNA being able to personalize any kind of medication that I might need and doing it that way, that's the level that we're getting to and that's the promise of personalization, as we're really getting much more steeped into science and having people like Monell do this. So great work. On Food not Phones. Today it's all about Martha Stewart. So Martha obviously a great brand, a great image. A friend for many years, talked about what people should do with their cell phones and the question is is it rude to use your cell phone at the dinner table? So what she says is talking on your phone when you're in someone's home is a no-no. She admitted that cell phone usage at a table in a private home is rude, with the caveat that this rule pertains specifically to individual homes rather than large-scale gatherings. And that's interesting to me, because dinners at big events, she says, like award ceremonies, are fair game for phone use because of our busy schedules, overlapping commitments. So she's saying, if you're out and about, yeah, use your cell phone. If you're at an award dinner, if you're gonna be invited to the Oscars this year, okay, you can use your cell phone. But if you're going to somebody's house, that's a no-no. So Daniel Post Seeming, who's the writer of Emily Post Etiquette, told the Washington Post he can pay real dividends if you put down your phone during dinner getting to know people and avoiding unintentional rudeness. And also, what Daniel says is guests barely realize they're on their phones, glancing at them or responding to message out of sheer habit. So it should be remembered as well that it may not be someone's intention to be rude, but it's best for all parties just to put down the phone and save the calls, text and FaceTimes for after the meal. So that's Food, not Phones. Make sure you go to FoodNotPhonescom. Our next challenge is gonna be on Thanksgiving, and the clock is ticking now for Thanksgiving. So look for a lot more on Food Not Phones. Check out our social media on Food Not Phones and also on Supermarket Guru to get the latest news on it. On Lost in the Supermarket, I spoke with Chip Carter, founder of CBC3 Media and the creator, producer and host of the evocative TV show when the Food Comes From. Together we navigated the hard truths about farming and its future. For the complete interview, just log on to supermarketgurucom. Here's what he had to say. It's the problem when we look at monoculture that it's just easier for farmers to do that, you know, or the seed companies, or whatever. How do we move away from what you're describing, which saves our food supply, gives us better tasting products, gives us safer products? How do we move?

Chip:

that we keep encouraging that diversity. That is what started this whole conversation. What the retailer ultimately decides to put on their shelves is up to them and certainly, as you of all people know, what decides that is what the people buy and what the people go to them and say they want. Most farmers and most crops are already aware enough to practice to not practice monoculture. I'll give you a perfect example about a Vidalia onion Fantastic, wonderful. One of my favorite things, one of my favorite stories, is a Vidalia onion. There's not just one variety of Vidalia onion. They plant 45 different varieties of Vidalia onion. You would never know to look at one taste, one smell, one cook with one, that it was a different variety from the one sitting next to it. They do that to maintain diversity in the crop, to protect from diseases and pests, and also some of the varieties might bear earlier. They might come up, might be ready two weeks before a different one, Of course, in any season. Now what a farmer is trying to do is stagger that they're harvest, so you don't get everything it wants and have to deal with it, but you have a flow that you can manage and supply the marketplace. I think we're always going to need variety of development. It's a critical part of agriculture. Will it be part of our real world in the supermarket moving forward? I don't think so, but I think there are probably different pressures that are about to reshape the mix of the skews and what's on the shelf in our supermarkets and the two things that are impacting that are going to be food miles, food waste and the public opinion that is starting to gather and is going to become a force. As regards food miles and food waste, whether we want to change the system or not, they're about to make us change the system.

Phil:

On the bullseye. Everyone wants to be able to predict food trends, but it's not that simple. As Americans become more diverse demographically, economically and socially, it's critical that we do a deep dive into segmenting each generation's preference and understand that the days of a great food product that everyone loves and buys is long gone. Sorry. P&g DataCentral developed a new report using its consumer preferences proprietary database to give us a glimpse of just how food preferences have shifted over time. But before we dig into this report, let's do some food generation history. To kick things off, let's briefly outline the generations. There's Baby Boomers, gen X, millennials and Generation Z. Baby Boomers that were born between 1946 and 1964 came of age in a post-war era. Generation X followed them from 1965 to 1980 and experienced the rise of modern technology. Millennials from 1981 to 1996 came of age during the tech boom, while Generation Z, born in 1997 and up, are the digital natives. Baby Boomers brought convenience foods like TV dinners and fast food chains. Generation X saw a fusion of international cuisines. Millennials, with their health consciousness and tech sobbingness, ushered in organic food, meal kits and food delivery apps. Generation Z is all about plant-based diets, sustainability and global flavors. So, considering all these shifts, how can we predict future trends? Well, number one we have to study generation values. For example, if Generation Z prioritized sustainability, we can expect more eco-friendly packaging or farm-to-table concepts. It's all about aligning with the core values, their heart and soul, of each generation. As we look at emerging trends, we're seeing a rise in virtual dining experiences, ai generated recipes and personalized nutrition thanks to the tech-driven Generation Z and younger Alpha generation. The emphasis today is on experience, technology and personal health. Back to the data-essential report. Now here are some of the highlights that they found. Spices and sauces set the stage for consumers to become more comfortable with new foods and new cuisines. For consumers, these flavors, no matter what part of the globe they come from, help bridge the gap in the introduction to new cuisines. Now don't count out older consumers. Data-essential says the baby boomers are catching up with younger consumers in terms of food trend awareness, and that's across nearly all categories in the supermarket. Boomers are a group for the food industry to reconsider focusing on, as they appear to be using their retirement monies and time to indulge a passion for food. Maybe we're going to see baby boomer cooking schools, why not? Millennials, dubbed the foodie generation, are aware of new food trends but aren't necessarily loyal to those trends. Once they experience them, they're on to the next one, and the next one, and the next one. While having a new food product can get noticed on a menu or supermarket shelf is half the battle, a sole focus on this generation may not offer desired brand loyalties. Boomers and Gen X tend to take more time to become aware of new trends they're not a Spanish but once they do, they rate their affinity of consumers who love or like higher than millennials do. Because of this, generation X tends to be a key demographic to focus on for the proliferation stage trends or those trends that have been adapted from mainstream appeal. Now here's the top line. No consumers are alike and in their era of data, data, data to succeed you must target and know your consumers before you try to sell them. Of course, let's head to the Q&A. John Pandol is with us, as always. John, thanks for your comment. He says perhaps Chicago should consider nonprofits to own and operate the stores, the Salvation Army store in inner city Baltimore being a model. My visit not just a great little store but a great job training and mentoring of local young by who I assumed were retired grocers. John, you're a thousand percent correct. There's no question about it. Let's take these retired grocer workforce, do a nonprofit in Chicago, but have them operate and train it, because if we rely on the city and the mayor kudos to the mayor for wanting to do this, but it's a different business than running a city government Let the grocers do their job. Thanks for joining us, John, thanks all of you for joining us and we'll see you next week.

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