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Tag Archives: Food & Beverage

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As many struggle, some small businesses are thriving during COVID-19

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For a pandemic that has been particularly bad for small businesses across the country, some sectors of the economy are using these months as a revival of sorts. As the demands of consumers have changed, some stagnant industries are getting a second chance.

Economists have noted this trend is not uncommon in times like these. In nearly every major economic downturn, there are some small businesses that manage to provide exactly what the economy needs. Rashmi Menon, an economist at the University of Michigan, said that Airbnb, Uber and Venmo are all products of an economic crisis.

“Downturns or challenging times are seen as good times (for some) business for two reasons,” Menon said. “One is, there is less competition for resources. The second reason is that whatever changes we face, positive or negative, bring up new customer needs. And customer needs are at the core of any business.”

In 2020, delivery services and cleaning services have benefitted the most. Crystal Hughey, a co-owner of a cleaning service in Ohio, said her business has seen some of its greatest numbers since the pandemic arose. Ryan Van Orden, an owner of a similar company in New Hampshire, echoed that call.

“Our clients want more frequent deep cleanings,” Van Orden said. “We are hiring to make sure we can deal with the demand.”

Most delivery services are also hiring. But growth for small businesses has not been limited to these two sectors. Other essential services, such as canned and jarred food companies, meal prep delivery services and grocery stores, have also seen an uptick.

The president of the National Grocers Association, Greg Ferrara, indicated that with fewer people ordering from restaurants, it has created a larger demand that he can remember. While many restaurants are still doing takeout, consumers have opted for the cheaper and more isolated option of making food at home.

“Independent grocers are helping larger chains meet demand during this time and grocery stores are being restocked at unprecedented speeds,” Ferrara said in an interview with NBC.

Some socially distanced forms of entertainment have also been on the rise. It has been well-documented that drive-in movie theaters have gone back in style. Americans in particular have been looking for safer forms of interaction and ways to get out of the home.

Beau Bianchi, an owner of a drive-in movie theater in California, has said his business has been ready to meet the moment, even if he didn’t see it coming.

“(Our business) has been a welcome relief for families and adults looking for a little getaway from the house,” Bianchi said. “We’ve been trying to let people know that we have a safe environment and offer a little escape.”

But perhaps the industry that has seen the largest increase in the entertainment sector has been wine and liquor stores. Bars in most places have been closed for almost two months now, leading to the obvious transition.

Whether these trends continue as shelter-in-place orders are eased across the country remains to be seen. As of now, though, these industries are hiring and growing at rates most workers have not seen.

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Preventing hate crimes: If you see something, say something

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After 9/11, when it became apparent we had to change our approach to security in the skies, as well as on the ground, the TSA was formed to manage new airport passenger screening protocols. A wave of mass shootings has led to enhanced security systems in public buildings. In many places, all visitors go through X-ray screening to gain access.

Because these measures alone can’t stop bad actors, we know we all have to be vigilant to what’s going on around us. If we see something, we have to say something.

Now, we need to be on alert for a different type of threat. The number of hate crimes in the United States has risen consistently for the last three years. The Department of Justice says that nearly 60% of these attacks are motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen horrific video evidence of inappropriate use of force against unarmed black men. This pattern is not new — it’s just the ubiquity of cellphone cameras and social media now provides clear video documentation. The massive protests across the country since the death of George Floyd result from frustration that the same issue continues to occur over and over again.

This situation is not limited to African Americans. Asian Americans are suffering increased discrimination, due to inaccurate beliefs that the pandemic was caused by a “Chinese virus.” Muslim Americans have faced violence and discrimination because of false rumors they are all terrorists.

Hispanic Americans have been mislabeled as all criminals and rapists. And now we have violent altercations between those who believe masks should be worn in public to prevent the spread of coronavirus and those who say this infringes on their personal freedom.

What can we as businesspeople do in these situations? When and how should we get involved? Here are a few guidelines:

Be clear that acts of bigotry and violence are not acceptable. This means clearly reminding those in your employ that this behavior is not acceptable and will not be excused or tolerated. Such acts will have severe consequences.

Don’t tolerate unacceptable behavior anywhere in your ecosystem. This means when you are aware of such incidents — whether within your supply chain, with partners or with customers — you are clear about where you stand. Letting even a verbal attack on a customer or employee go without proper investigation allows the problem to grow and fester.

Be public about where you stand. Reach out to your communities — both in your local area, as well an industry or trade association. There’s strength in numbers. How can you work with others to improve the environment for everyone?

Create opportunities for education and learning. Not everyone who exhibits bias does it out of malice or with bad intent. Many of us never consider how an offhand action or comment might be hurtful to others. Becoming aware of how we impact others allows us to act more appropriately in the future.

Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” When we see something, it is our responsibility to say something.

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Pandemic origin controversy aside, Wuhan still harbors zoonotic viruses

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With global cases of COVID-19 pushing past 3 million — and with approximately a quarter-million deaths — the precise origin of this stealthy virus remains up for debate.

While it is certain to have emerged from the central China city of Wuhan, most but not all experts agree that the virus spread from one of the city’s “wet markets.” These sprawling outdoor markets are similar to farmers’ markets in the West except that, in addition to produce, the typical Chinese wet market includes the live slaughter of animals and the sale of wildlife.

Scientists do, however, seem to concur that the disease evolved from bats — nature’s only flying mammal — one common to the region and to the diet of many locals.

A different school of thought, reportedly sparked by unnamed U.S. intelligence sources, claims the virus escaped from a high-security virology lab in Wuhan. Spread by Fox News, conservative talk shows and a host of online conspiracy theorists, the story has gained intensity — despite the lack of any tangible evidence of a lab leak — and the strong denial of a breach by the Chinese government and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Most experts believe that what occurred was a natural, animal-to-human spread of the virus — almost certainly originating from live and/or wild animals sold at one of Wuhan’s traditional wet markets. Scientists further reason that transmission of the deadly disease was facilitated via an intermediary species, namely bats.

“The idea that this virus escaped from a lab is just pure baloney,” says Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that works globally to combat infectious diseases. “I’ve been working with that Wuhan lab for 15 years. It is a very well-run lab, staffed by some of the best scientists in the world. There was no viral isolate in the lab. There was no cultured coronavirus. So, a leak was just not possible.”

Daszak also decries the politicization of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During every outbreak of a novel virus, somebody somewhere says it was manufactured in a lab, and that’s really unfortunate,” says Daszak. “There are people out there who still believe HIV is a bioengineered virus that spread around the world.”

Eco-Alliance’s studies surrounding the origin of emerging diseases reveal that more than 75% of new diseases — including such pandemic viruses as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1 flu and Ebola — originated in wildlife.

Bats may be the planet’s most proficient virus carriers but every species of wildlife carries viruses that are a natural part of its biology, much like the common cold is to humans. While these viruses don’t have much effect on species in the wild, when we make contact with them we can pick up those viruses — and they can be lethal as clearly evidenced by the current coronavirus pandemic.

Daszak points out that there are an estimated 1.7 million viruses circulating in wildlife and with such diversity there’s just no telling what diseases might emerge in the future.

“The way to deal with this is not to wait for them to emerge,” says Daszak. “The way to do it is to get out there ahead of the curve, find out what’s out there in wildlife, find out who’s at risk, work with people on the frontline and reduce that risk.”

Another expert who expounds on the need for a global proactive approach in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is Dr. Dennis Carroll, formerly the senior infectious disease adviser at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For decades, Carroll was the leading voice on the threat of “zoonotic spillover,” the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans.

Carroll recognized that emerging infectious diseases, far and wide, have mostly come from wildlife — and there needed to be investment in research in the wildlife sector. Working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), he formed a program called PREDICT, where he guided trailblazing research into viruses hiding, and waiting to emerge, in animals around the world.

For 10 years, PREDICT received federal funding of $15 to $20 million annually, but the program was dropped by the Trump administration in 2019 — just months prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Carroll left USAID to form a new program, the privately funded Global Virome Project (GVP), to confront the emergence of viral epidemics and pandemics.

The 10-year project will “build on PREDICT’s scientific insights and experiences,” says Carroll, who is dedicated to an international effort that will “identify and characterize 99% of all zoonotic viruses with epidemic/pandemic potential in order to better predict, prevent and respond to future viral threats.”

To achieve this core objective, GVP aims to build a comprehensive database in order to design science-based surveillance, preparedness and prevention plans enabling the development of countermeasures well in advance of future epidemic/pandemic events.

Back at ground zero for the current pandemic, Wuhan has made remarkable progress in stemming the virus outbreak and returning to a cautious state of normalcy.

But the government, which doesn’t take kindly to criticism, has taken a series of knee-jerk reactions in responding to universal outcries to shut down wildlife markets, stem the trade of live animals and drastically improve sanitation at traditional wet markets. The government initially closed all the Wuhan markets in January, and then reopened them in February, while imposing a ban on the sale and consumption of wild animals.

The ban has been seen as somewhat half-hearted, however, as China began offering tax breaks to the multibillion-dollar animal-products industry for exporting some of the creatures overseas. Value-added tax rebates were raised on nearly 1,500 Chinese products, including a 9% rebate on exports of animal products, like edible snakes, turtles, primate meat, beaver and civet musk and rhino horns. Vietnam is the largest importer of China’s wild animal exports, followed by South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

The challenge facing Beijing’s central government as Wuhan and the rest of the country returns to life as normal will be how to keep open such markets while enforcing rules against the live slaughter of animals or the sale of wildlife on site.

“Banning wet markets is not only going to be impossible, but will also be destructive for urban food security in China as they play such a pivotal role in ensuring urban residents’ access to affordable and fresh food,” warns Dr. Zhenzhong Si, a research associate studying food security at University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada

Meanwhile, U.S. officials continue to call for President Xi Jinping’s government to close the markets, saying they are breeding grounds for disease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s favorite virus guru and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated recently that the coronavirus was a “direct result” of unsanitary markets and said it was “mind-boggling” that the markets remain open.

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Food supply chain comes under tremendous pressure due to COVID-19

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Tyson, one of the world’s leading meat processors, suspended operations at its largest pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, on April 22. Earlier, Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, announced the closures of plants in Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Missouri. Both companies decided to close facilities after COVID-19 outbreaks among their workers.

Speaking to the closure and the crisis, John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, warned Americans on April 27 that the food supply chain is breaking. As the coronavirus outbreak forces food processing plants to shutter, he predicted that “millions of pounds of meat” will disappear from the national supply chain.

The strain on the system

Consumers have been feeling the effects of disruption on the supply chain, but industry experts say that more pronounced disruption is yet to come.

Panic buying and hoarding; medical equipment and cleaning supply shortages; and empty aisles in grocery stores all point to the consequences of the incredible strain on the global supply chain system.

Understanding the strain

Along with the top names, dozens of smaller pork, beef, and chicken plants are having trouble, too. Long-haul trucking is having a tough time meeting the faster purchasing pace, with additional time needed for sanitizing trucks and supplies and ensuring the drivers’ health. As shoppers continue to clear out grocery stores and supply chains are strained, the crisis will likely exacerbate the potential for shortages and high prices.

Food supply chains are a complex web of interactions involving farmers, processing plants, logistics, shipping, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. A protracted pandemic crisis will put a severe strain on this system and retailers and wholesalers whose inventories might be small already could be wiped out. The system becomes even more complicated for urban and suburban centers in major industrial nations.

Supply and assistance: keeping America fed

Anti-hunger advocacy groups are trying to help meet demand but are inundated with applications. For now, citizens in need of food are going to food pantries and soup kitchens.

With retail and hospitality industries brought to a standstill and educational institutions closed, there have been food shortages and wastage on a large scale. Food banks and food pantries have limited means of storage. Food-strapped food banks are now competing with the general public in retail establishments, adding to their woes.

One challenge is to maintain the food supply at all levels. Then, there is the need to manage the various programs needed to keep Americans fed. While government officials continue to reassure the public that the U.S. has plenty of food, there is a disconnect between official reports of food supply and what the economically challenged are experiencing.

At the ground level, workers, volunteers, and social work organizations are calling for a reevaluation of food systems. They are witnessing empty grocery store shelves, long queues for bags of free groceries, and food pantries completely out of supplies.

Even for families with children usually receiving free- and reduced-price lunch, it is hard to get assistance. The state agencies responsible for these programs still must find the food to buy, and restrictions on what they’re allowed to purchase can be burdensome.

The next few months

The discussion around disruption in the food supply chain has grown in the past week due to the closures of meat processing facilities. Along with meat processors, large food warehouses are on the brink as well. As more workers fall sick, staffing shortages are shrinking the food supply.

The lack of foreign-raised meat imports and onerous immigration restrictions impacting the planting and harvesting of many of our nation’s crops are going to add to the strain. Plant worker shortages have led to the killing of perfectly edible and healthy animals instead of selling them, a tragic and mindless result.

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Pandemic sheds light on weak links in inventory strategies

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In the weeks after COVID-19 began sweeping across the United States, the pandemic succeeded in revealing chinks in the country’s retail and manufacturing supply chains.

Some supply chains simply broke. Stores quickly sold out of items like hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, toilet paper and paper towels, to the frustration of many anxious consumers. Meanwhile, lockdowns in the industrial city of Wuhan, China, where the virus was first identified, disrupted many American manufacturers’ and other industries’ access to suppliers in the area as shipments of raw materials suffered interruptions and delays.

Many factories and retailers use an inventory system called the just-in-time (JIT) method to save on costs and, in the case of factories, to support lean manufacturing practices. But in light of the recent disruptions to supply chains due to the coronavirus pandemic, some experts say it is time to review current supply chains and inventory processes like JIT.

The JIT management strategy originated in Japan. Those in the auto industry also refer to it as the Toyota Production Model (TPM) after the Japanese carmaker that adopted the system nearly 50 years ago.

With the JIT inventory system, the goal is to keep on-site inventories low. Manufacturers using JIT order supplies and raw materials only as they are needed for production while many retailers use it to keep in stock only the amount of product needed to meet current demand. The JIT method lowers costs, saves on space and increases efficiencies since there is less inventory taking up space.

On the other hand, the traditional “push” inventory management system involves predicting how much product customers will actually buy and then producing and placing the products in inventory to sell later.

JIT, however, comes with drawbacks. One major problem is that if an unexpected event such as a natural disaster, political unrest, or pandemic occurs and disrupts supply chains, it can cut manufacturers’ and retailers’ access to materials or products from suppliers and, therefore, their ability to meet customer demand.

So, should manufactures and retailers start keeping larger inventories? Not so fast, says supply chain management expert and consultant Arthur Koch.

“For non-perishable goods, canned foods and dry goods, the only use of JIT in the retail sector is from the distribution center to the store location,” Koch says. “From manufacturing to distribution centers is traditional ‘push’ manufacturing utilizing highly sophisticated forecasting/demand planning, or JIT inventories.

“When digging deeper into the outages occurring today, the demand variability of these items is extremely low, meaning their demand is highly predictable,” he says. “What we’re experiencing is a once in a 100-year event. No demand planning or forecasting system is capable of predicting this type of event or crisis.” Koch says that, in addition, traditional push systems are not flexible, responsive or agile enough to quickly pivot for sudden demand changes.

So why have stores experienced shortages of toilet paper and paper towels? Koch says that since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, long-term toilet paper demand will be unchanged. And, with no foreseeable, long-term changes in demand for goods like toilet paper, manufacturers are reluctant to spend, over time, money on already thin profit margin products, only to see in-store demand drop once public fears over the pandemic subside.

“With this false demand, if manufacturers were to make more of these products, technically they would be overproducing at a higher cost, which would cause long-term financial distress,” he says. Koch also points out that many products like antibiotics, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers come from China, which lengthens the supply chains.

“For many products, the supply chain starts or begins from halfway around the world. When a product is shipped thousands of miles, there is nothing just-in-time about it,” he says.

The longer the supply chain, says Koch, the lower the flexibility and responsiveness to meet consumer changes, and the higher total cost of ownership. What is needed are shorter supply chains and to manufacture more products regionally or locally. “Shorter supply chains,” says Koch, “equate to reduced lead times, increased delivery speed, flexibility and responsiveness, improved quality and total cost of ownership.”

In a report, “COVID-19: Managing Supply Chain Risk and Disruption,” by the consultancy firm Deloitte, it suggests short-term actions to address and prepare for challenges with supply chains during unforeseen events.

For companies with suppliers in China, Deloitte advises identifying and analyzing suppliers’ risks and abilities to meet supply demands and looking for alternative supply sources. In addition, companies should revise their inventory policy and planning parameters since many lack the inventory buffers needed during supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All companies need to quickly consider how they will refine their inventory strategy to mitigate the risks of supply shortages, balancing a number of factors such as assessed supply base risk, cash flow, perishability, etc.,” the report says.

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How local, urban farming could help alleviate international food supply chain issues

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Globalization has meant a lot of things: More opportunities for economic advancement, an easier way for pandemics to spread (as we’ve seen with COVID-19), and the rise in internationally supported food production and consumption in recent decades.

Regarding food stocks, cultivation has become more efficient, and diets have diversified. People are eating food that their parents never experienced nor knew previously existed. But this edible bounty is leading to a situation where the majority of the world’s population lives in countries now dependent on — partially — imported food.

This food distribution model makes for a fragile food supply chain, especially during a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new study published in Nature Food and led by Pekka Kinnunen modeled the minimum distance between crop production and consumption by humans around the world to meet food demand.

The study was facilitated in collaboration with the University of Columbia, the University of California, the Australian National University, and the University of Göttingen, which found wide-ranging differences between various areas and their local foliage and food production. In Europe and North America, temperate crops, including wheat, are found mostly within a radius of about 300 miles, while the global average is about 2,400 miles.

The study examined six key crop groups: cereals (wheat, barley, rye), rice, corn, tropical grains (millet, sorghum), tropical roots (cassava), and pulses/legumes.

The findings show that 27% of the world’s population could get their cereal grains within a radius of fewer than 100 kilometers. Alternatively, researchers found that 22% for tropical grains, 28% for rice, and 27% for pulses/legumes could be found in the same distances.

In the case of corn and tropical roots, the proportion was 11% to 16%.

The researchers also found that foodsheds — areas of sustainable food production — are compact areas for single crops. When looked at as a whole, foodsheds formed larger regions, spanning the globe.

Thus, local production alone cannot meet the demand for food, at least not with current production methods and consumption habits.

Researchers note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shows the importance of self-sufficiency and local food production.

However, there may be one solution to this problem, a separate study suggests. Also published in Nature Food, growing fruit and vegetables in just 10% of a city’s gardens and other urban green spaces could provide 15% of the local population with their basic needs.

The University of Sheffield examined the potential for urban horticulture by mapping green spaces across the city, finding that green area, including parks, gardens, allotments, roadside verges, and woodland, covers 45% of Sheffield, which is similar to other U.K. cities.

The research team used data from Ordnance Survey and Google Earth to reveal that an extra 15% of the city’s green space, including parks and roadside verges, also has that which can be converted into community gardens or allotments.

If 100% of this space was used for growing food, it could feed about 709,000 people per year their “five a day” fruits and vegetables — 122% of the population of Sheffield.

Researchers say that even converting 10% of domestic gardens and 10% of available green space, could provide 15% of the local population — 87,375 people — with sufficient fruit and vegetables.

Currently, just 16% of fruit and 53% of vegetables sold in the U.K. are grown domestically. Such a strategy could improve the nation’s food security.

Dr. Jill Edmondson, an environmental scientist at the University of Sheffield and lead author of the study, said: “At the moment, the UK is utterly dependent on complex international supply chains for the vast majority of our fruit and half of our veg — but our research suggests there is more than enough space to grow what we need on our doorsteps. Even farming a small percentage of available land could transform the health of urban populations, enhance a city’s environment, and help build a more resilient food system.

“But with careful management of green spaces and the use of technology to create distribution networks, we could see the rise of ‘smart food cities,’ where local growers can support their communities with fresh, sustainable food.”

In other words, a small amount of action here could be a model for significant results in areas suffering their own lack of local food production.

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Infographic: How to survive a layoff or furlough during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Becoming unemployed due to a layoff or furlough can be an unsettling event that can cause a wide range of emotions. Understanding your options and making the right financial decisions during this period of time can help you successfully navigate through this challenging period in your life.

This infographic outlines both the prevalence of layoffs as well as how to apply for unemployment benefits and eventually get back to work.

Infographic courtesy Finivi

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Milk: Does it do what we think it does?

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Most of us grew up hearing, “drink your milk; it’s good for your bones.” But is it? Let’s look at what the research is saying about milk.

Milk Consumption and Fracture Risk

Milk Consumption During Middle-Age and Later Adulthood

A meta-analysis of cohort studies on milk consumption and hip fracture published in the Journal of Bone Mineral Research found that there is no association between milk consumption and hip fracture risk in adult women and possibly men.

A meta-analysis assesses the results of many research studies to conclude a research question. So, the results of this study were not merely the results of one study, but the results of several studies.

This particular meta-analysis looked at research assessing the effects of milk consumption on the middle-aged and older. Data was taken from studies appearing in the Medline and EMBASE databases up to 2010. Prospective cohort studies were used to calculate the risk of hip fracture per glass of milk per day.

Milk Consumption During Adolescence

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics — a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Medical Association — assessed whether milk consumed during the teenage years affected hip fractures later in life. The results indicated that lower hip fracture risk is not associated with higher milk consumption in adolescence.

Milk Consumption and Mortality

A large Swedish study examined the role of milk consumption in fractures and mortality. Three counties in Central Sweden were used to create two cohorts. One had 61,433 women between the ages of 39 and 74; the second had 45,339 men between the ages of 45 and 79.

Food frequency questionnaires were used to assess the diet for both cohorts. Both men and women were followed for 20 years. The results showed that higher milk consumption was associated with higher mortality and a higher incidence of fracture in women. However, the researchers encourage a cautious interpretation of their results.

One theory behind the results is that our bodies have a hard time metabolizing milk.

What About Nondairy Milk?

While specific research studies seem to suggest that milk consumption may not be all it’s cracked up to be, milk still has important minerals, and it can be a good source of protein for picky toddlers. Pediatricians will generally recommend cow’s milk for toddlers.

Nondairy milk may be a viable alternative, especially if it contains relatively similar amounts of minerals, added vitamins, protein, and in some cases fat.

Those who are lactose-intolerant benefit from dairy alternatives because they are easier to digest.

However, less is known about how nondairy milk stacks up against cow’s milk in terms of associations between non-dairy milk and bone fractures or mortality.

Conclusions

Milk may not be all it’s cracked up to be — it doesn’t necessarily reduce bone fracture risk and in some cases higher milk consumption was associated with higher mortality rates.

Adults concerned about milk can obtain calcium, protein, and minerals through a variety of other sources. For example, leafy greens have lots of calcium. However, you should still consult your pediatrician for recommendations regarding milk consumption in chi

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The new rules for working influencers in the age of COVID-19

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As a digital/social media marketer, you know the power and value of having strong influencers tout the benefits of your brand. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, the way you work with and position influencers for your audience has to be appropriate and strategically wise.

Consumers are focused on issues of survival these days, not as much about how a celebrity is promoting a product. Consumers still want influencer connection, though. In fact, new research from Mavrck finds that 34% of influencers surveyed have seen their engagement increase during the pandemic.

So, you absolutely should not abandon your influencers — you just need to reframe your relationship with them to suit these unprecedented times. Here are the key new rules you need to follow to do this successfully:

Make genuine voices your only voices.

Adweek data indicates that brands need to “pursue authenticity” with their spokespeople right now. It’s crucial that the influencers you choose to speak for you now are honest and have a track record for professional trustworthiness. Your influencers also must have respectable personal reputations.

Let them know you’re going to check their social media for any missteps when it comes to any posted statements on COVID-19. Several public figures have recently gotten into hot water this way, so you want to make sure that the folks you work with have not communicated any negative or inappropriate references. Your influencers should earn gravitas through kindness and empathy now, above all else.

Enact key promotional switches.

EMarketer indicates that brands are now shifting their influencers’ marketing might to newly in-demand products. Swap your most popular influencers’ product assignments to the most practical items or services you offer.

It’s OK if a particularly popular influencer promoted nonessential items in the past — you can, for example, successfully move a fashion influencer to a home goods assignment, as long as they express genuine enthusiasm for that cleaner or appliance they are now promoting. If you do this logically and make sensible new influencer-product pair-ups, what your audience needs will seamlessly mesh with the voices they trust and like the most.

Consider “faceless” campaigns.

Having an influencer do a voice-over while key informational data is on the screen can be doubly powerful. To choose the right influencer for this kind of job, it’s perfectly fine to ask your influencers to “audition” for the assignments.

You want to make sure they’re as comfortable reading prepared copy as they are free-associating in posts. Surprisingly, you may see the most vivacious and personable influencers don’t do as well or feel comfortable in a more scripted messaging situation. The point of asking your influencers to read copy for you will show you who needs a bit of coaching so they can deliver your copy well.

Put your executives up front.

Making your CEO into an influencer is a great way to win your customers’ trust and calm their worries, as they are getting their brand info straight from the top.

Work on your executives’ social media profiles so your audience can know more about them, and relate to them as living, breathing human beings. Then, open up a Q & A forum weekly or monthly, so your audience can have live interactions with your top brass, and feel free to ask questions or make suggestions directly.

Avoid frivolity.

Don’t allow any influencer you work with to post silly fluff content at this time. If you find you have an influencer who doesn’t want to cooperate in this way, it you should part company with them, at least temporarily.

Comforting, warm, humane content that’s packed with solid information and help for your consumers should be your focus. Your influencers are a true reflection of your brand, so get them on the same page with you, and your customers will stick with you now and for the long haul.

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The home appliances market has shifted thanks to COVID-19

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COVID-19’s impact on businesses has been devastating, but for retailers and manufacturers who can scan consumer trends and pivot, things may not be so bad in the days to come. For one, industry reports show that the pandemic is driving the sale of all kinds of small appliances.

Most of these purchases are for cooking and cleaning, including products that will allow people to lead a healthy lifestyle, stay motivated, and practice social distancing.

During the initial panic buying phase, consumers raced to stock up on toilet paper, frozen foods, disinfectant wipes, cleaning supplies, and other household necessities. Afterwards, they slowly turned their attention to appliances that aid in cooking, health, and wellness.

Target is among the retailers witnessing this shift in spending to small appliances. Water filtration devices, air purifying machines, hand-held cleaning devices, and countertop kitchen appliances are flying off the warehouse shelves. Data shared by the NPD Group shows that the sale for small appliances grew 8% for the week ending March 14.

A report from Coresight Research data shows that nearly two-thirds of those polled (64.5%) said they were avoiding restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. No eating out, limited takeout orders, and more people in the kitchen have necessitated the sale of these small kitchen appliances. Products like bread makers, sandwich makers, electric skillets, electric pasta makers, rice cookers, electric pressure cookers, air fryers, and citrus juicers have been selling like hotcakes. Some have even witnessed a triple-digit percentage jump compared to the same time last year.

Euromonitor International’s new report on consumer behavior analyzes the long- and short-term implications of COVID-19 lockdowns on our buying patterns. Consumers have been forced to reevaluate priorities, adopt new habits, and shift consumption. Businesses need to prepare for these shifts to survive the hard times ahead.

Meanwhile, SEMrush compiled the latest data on consumer behavior and e-commerce trends to help businesses navigate through these challenging times. The report shows that more people are shopping online for small appliances as they practice social distancing.

While many big companies were already selling these online, not all were prepared for the rapid rise in some categories. For example, appliances were one thing that most consumers like to see and buy from stores and were forecasted to see such a rapid rise in online shopping.

Do-it-yourself projects have also gained ground during the lockdown. Consumers are stuck at home, but they are trying to stay motivated. Most are using this time constructively to learn new skills. They are baking, cooking, decorating, sewing and spending time on arts and craft projects. Some are taking on home improvement projects in a bid to become more self-reliant.

Baking has been reported as one of the top DIY kitchen projects. According to a Nielsen report, yeast sales were up nearly 650% for the week ended March 21 compared to the same time last year.

Best Buy reported a surge in merchandise that helps people work from home and make their workstations functional. Various tech devices, laptops and related accessories are gaining ground as well. The other trend is the demand for fridges and freezers, which has resulted from panic buying and buying in bulk. NPD, too, reported a surge in sales for work-from-home supplies. The home office products and home cleaning segments will see strong growth this year as well.

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