Since 2003, Hunter PR has commissioned a study to determine the nation’s top food news of the year. More than 1,000 Americans were surveyed and asked to select their top three stories from the 12 months ending Oct. 2016. The top five stories are listed below.
In an ever-evolving dining landscape, restaurants’ implementation of no tipping policies entered the media spotlight. As more industry favorites eliminated gratuities for their wait staff, news coverage delved into how the trend impacted overall menu prices, service costs and the eating out consumer experience. Danny Meyer ignited the ‘no tip’ movement in 2015, and with national chains like Joe’s Crab Shack and smaller establishments following suit in 2016, the new service model became mainstream news.
President Obama’s signature on the federal bill that requires labeling products made with genetically modified organisms was covered widely in 2016. Providing new opportunities for consumers to access information about their food products, the bill was met with mixed reviews. While food-labeling advocates were pleased with the new requirements, some critics expressed concern that the bill’s allowance of food companies to rely on QR codes or 1-800 numbers as a form of GMO labeling would require consumers to take the extra step of making a call or scanning a code to access the information.
Listeria outbreaks resulting in major product recalls of frozen foods - from fruits and vegetables to ice cream – made headlines multiple times. In April, a Washington-based processing plant underwent a large-scale voluntary recall of more than 350 frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. Later in the year, following a series of listeria issues the year prior, Blue Bell took precautionary measures to recall packages of ice cream that contained chocolate chip cookie dough which was potentially contaminated with listeria.
Bees, colony collapse disorder and the potential impact on the food we eat continued to make news in 2016. For the first time ever in the United States, bees were added for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Seven yellow-faced bee species, Hawaii’s only native bees, were put on the list by federal authorities in October. Throughout the year, environmental concerns such as mites as well as other factors including pesticides and poor nutrition were reportedly blamed for the rapid decline of honeybee colonies.
Topping the list as the No. 1 food story of 2016 was fast casual restaurant Chipotle’s ongoing efforts to rebound from a bout of serious food safety issues in 2015. Chipotle spent this year implementing a number of changes to win back its loyal and lapsed customers, which were widely documented by media. Changes included hiring a food safety expert to implement new procedures and protocols, consumer couponing and loyalty programs, extensive employee training and taking out advertising to broadly communicate all of the above.