Black Friday Shopping Shifts Online; Plant-Based Burgers: Popularity and Controversy

Q4 | December 2019

stack of old newspapers, pile of old newspapers

Topic: Pearls of Wisdom

Devin Crago CFA

December 18, 2019

Image used with permission: iStock/hanohiki


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Black Friday Shopping Shifts Online; Plant-Based Burgers: Popularity and Controversy

Q4 | December 2019

Reading is one of the principal occupations in our profession. As we digest a wide range of material, interesting ideas and surprising facts – some serious and some light-hearted – rise to the surface. We attempt to share a few of those with you in each of our issues of Nexus Notes.

Black Friday shopping shifts online

For many of us, Black Friday shopping brings to mind crowded stores and the occasional dust-up among shoppers fighting to get that last big-screen TV. However, the popularity of crowded stores is waning as more people turn to online shopping. This year, digital sales on Black Friday set a record of $7.2 billion in the U.S. Of those sales, a remarkable 56% were finalized on a mobile device (tablet or phone). While the convenience of online shopping has been a benefit to consumers, it has pressured holiday retail employment. The trends in the number of employees hired to work in retail stores in the busy October-December shopping season has declined from a peak of 787,000 in 2013 to 629,000 last year, reflecting the expansion of online ordering. (“Record Black Friday Sales: 14% Growth To $7.2B In Digital Revenue”, Forbes, November 30, 2019.)

Plant-based burgers: popularity and controversy

In response to perceived consumer demand, McDonalds recently announced a 28-store trial in southwestern Ontario of a Beyond Meat sandwich called the PLT – plant, lettuce, tomato – which is intended to test consumer appetite for a plant-based burger. Marketed as healthier and just as tasty, these “meat alternatives” appear to be gaining traction: in the 12 months ended in October, U.S. retail meat sales fell 0.4%, while newer meat alternatives grew 8%. However, alternative meats have also kicked up some resistance from incumbent ranchers. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Over the past two years, the beef industry has pushed legislation that restricts terms like “beef” and “meat” to the kind raised on the hoof, not products derived from plants or future ones developed using animal cells in labs.” In fact, 45 bills have been introduced in 27 states to prevent plant-based food producers from using the terms “meat” and “milk” on their packaging. (“America’s Cattle Ranchers Are Fighting Back Against Fake Meat”, The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019.)

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