AS Thanksgiving approaches with the pandemic still raging, we can be grateful that at least one of our basic support systems has operated better than expected: the food supply.
When Covid-19 first hit the United States, fears spread that the meat supply would be severely disrupted. Because of the hard work of farmers and food suppliers, however, plenty of protein is available for everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner. The pandemic has nonetheless left its imprint on how and what we eat.
This year, as a result of Covid-19, Americans – many for the first time – will question where their turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie were produced and how they reached their table.
The pandemic has also accelerated a shift in the type of food that consumers demand. Months of lockdown and quarantine have brought greater focus on personal health and wellness. Sales of plant-based protein, nutritional supplements focused on gut health and immunity, and other better-for-you products have skyrocketed.
Even after the pandemic ends, these consumers, led by the millennial generation, can be expected to continue to seek more foods with clean and authentic ingredients, from supply chains that align with their values.
Taking note of these trends, investors have homed in on environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges and opportunities across the food value chain. Covid-19 has led consumers and investors to push for faster progress on ESG, and companies with better-for-you and ESG-centric stories have seen their value rise.
From 2015 to 2019, US$72bil was invested in agri-food technology companies, plus a projected US$10.5bil in the first half of 2020, according to AgFunder – money aimed toward transforming the global food system. This investment will help speed new food industry technologies to farms and consumers. Advanced biological science and CRISPR gene-editing tools enable us to design plants with maximum benefits.
We should take a moment during our Thanksgiving dinners to appreciate the crisis that didn’t happen in the food supply chain, and the opportunities ahead to make that chain even more robust. — Bloomberg
Peter R Orszag is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and CEO of financial advisory at Lazard. Brook Cunningham, a managing director for Lazard in Chicago, leads the company’s North American agribusiness and nutrition practice. Views expressed here are their own.
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