business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•. The Washington Post reports that as "supply-chain problems and virus outbreaks in meat-processing plants have led to meat price increases that far outstrip those of groceries overall," the moment is proving helpful for the plant-based meat business.

"It’s getting easier and less expensive for companies to create a lot more of these plant-based proteins, bringing down the costs of the soy and pea-protein meats, dairy and eggs much faster than anticipated," the story says, reversing concerns in some quarters of about a year ago that the plant-based segment might be more fad than trend.

These price reductions, the Post writes, "against a backdrop of surging grocery prices overall, have pushed the skeptics and the curious over the edge: They’re trying it. Beyond Meat’s grocery store revenue was up 108 percent in 2020, with more people reportedly becoming repeat customers. And while Impossible Foods, a private company, doesn’t release sales numbers, in 2020 it expanded retail sales from fewer than 150 grocery stores to 17,000 stores, as well as via direct-to-consumer sales.

"And the playing field got more crowded. In a year when groceries were just about the only thing consumers were buying, an eye-popping 112 new plant-based meat, egg and dairy brands hit grocery aisles in 2020, reflecting some $3.1 billion worth of new investments in “alternative proteins,” according to the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes alternatives to traditional meat, dairy and eggs."

•. Business Insider reports that "Costco will open new stores in: Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arizona; Moore, Oklahoma; Springfield, Missouri; and Naperville, Illinois. These stores are due to open between July and August, Costco said.

"It was also opening one new store in each of Australia and Japan, it said.

"Lots of retailers in the US pulled back on physical stores during the pandemic - Costco is one of the few to be opening new locations."

•. CNBC reports that "Starbucks customers can start using their personal cups again at company-owned locations in the United States on June 22.

"Starbucks and other restaurants and retailers are making strides to return to business as usual after changing many policies due to the pandemic.

"The coffee giant paused the reusable cup program in March 2020."

The story says that "to fill a customer’s personal cup, a Starbucks barista will first check that the cup is clean and place it in a ceramic vessel. The beverage will be made without any contact with the cup, and the customer will pick up their drink at the handoff area of the counter. Only clean cups will be accepted. Reusable cups will not be accepted at drive-thru lanes, although the company is testing ways to do so safely at its Tryer Center in Seattle."

The CNBC story also notes that while Starbucks has made a point of embracing sustainability and using this program as one way of underlining its commitment, it has a long way to go - Starbucks goes through some seven billion disposable cups in a typical year.