PLUS: The state of vaccines.
|The Big Idea|
How the pandemic shook up this year’s turkey market
Butterball — the 80-year-old food brand that sells 1 in 3 turkeys in America — will probably have the busiest phone line in the US this week.
According to Marker, its Turkey Talk Line (a free hotline staffed by 51 chefs, dietitians, and food stylists) is expected to field 100k+ inquiries from Thanksgiving newbs, including questions on how to deep-fry a turkey outdoors.
The calls are pretty standard fare for Butterball — but 2020 has been a very atypical year for the turkey market at large.
Americans eat about 40m turkeys during Thanksgiving
More than half of all turkeys sold over the course of the year in the US will be eaten this week, according to The Economist.
With social distancing measures in place, the biggest change in 2020 is the size of the bird. Smaller gatherings mean greater demand for smaller turkeys (known as hens; ~10lbs.) as compared with larger turkeys (Toms; 15-25lbs.).
But there’s a tiny problem: While demand for smaller turkeys is up, farmers have been culling their supply of hens since 2018.
It’s hard to pivot turkeys
Retailers order turkeys months in advance for Thanksgiving — and it’s been hard for them to provide an adequate supply of smaller birds.
Turkeys are an important loss leader, and grocers are doing everything they can to find alternatives to get people into their stores.
Per The Economist, Walmart has adapted by upping its turkey breast offering by 20-30%, while Kroger is upping its game with ham, beef, pork roast, and vegetarian options.
COVID nearly shut turkey production down
Butterball (~$1.5B annual revenue) operates 6 plants and has a force of 7k+ employees who work in very close quarters on the production line per Marker.
In March, there was very real concern from management that the plants would have to close up for the holidays. Butterball persisted, even as some employees expressed concerns over working conditions.
All things considered, Butterball is as prepared as it can be for Thanksgiving.
And if you’re wondering what to do with the inevitable leftovers, they have 70+ recipes just for you (the “Artichoke Turkey Noodle Bake” hits the hardest).
- Another first: After serving as the first female Fed chairman, Janet Yellen is being tapped to be the first female US Treasury secretary under President-elect Joe Biden.
- Wholly moly: Shopify rolled out its wholesale platform (Handshake), which gives retailers access to tens of thousands of suppliers.
- Listen, we all knew it was coming: Snapchat released its TikTok copycat product, called Spotlight.
- Return of the Merck: Drugmaker Merck bought OncoImmune, which is developing a coronavirus therapeutic, for $425m.
- Jeff Spy-Zos: A report from Motherboard reveals Amazon’s extensive monitoring operation of warehouse workers, labor unions, environmental activists, and other social movements.
- Bonus: “The Queen’s Gambit” is now Netflix’s most successful limited scripted series, with 62m household views in the first 28 days.
|Who gets the credit?|
How much does a founder really matter?
Prevailing wisdom in the VC community holds that the founding team behind a new business is often the most important determinant of investment worthiness.
In certain cases — Bezos (Amazon), Zuckerberg (Facebook), and a South African entrepreneur who likes memes (Tesla) — this has held very true.
But, hold onto your seats…
A new study by Harvard Business School (HBS)
Eisenmann conducted a survey across 470 founders and CEOs, targeting companies that had raised $500k+ (and under $3m) in funding across biotech, energy, and material-science startups.
When it comes to founder DNA, Eisenmann concluded that founder variables such as age, education, and personality traits didn’t “move the needle” when it came to early stage company valuations.
Another HBS professor says, ‘Hold my beer’
Eisenmann’s colleague Paul Gompers threw some shade across the Cambridge quad, finding the research “problematic on several fronts” (e.g., small sample size).
In an earlier study, Gompers surveyed almost 1k VCs, and 47% said management was the top reason to invest, while 37% said the business itself was the primary driver.
Clearly, investors have been happy making founders the most important variable — contrary to what prevailing data might say.
If you want a nonacademic take, famed founder and investor Marc Andreessen believes that, of the 3 “core elements” of a startup — team, product, and market — the most important is market.
“In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers,” writes Andreessen, “the market pulls product out of the startup.”
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Then you’re reading the right newsletter, friendo.
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They’re only handing out upgrades until November 30th, so head over to the eDesk site before you enter your post-Turkey food coma and take advantage while you still can:
The state of vaccine development
Vaccine news has moved fast in the past few weeks:
The VC firm a16z is providing excellent coverage on the latest vaccine progress (this 22-minute podcast is a great primer). Here are a few nuggets from their assessment:
Pfizer and Moderna results are important for 2 reasons
Preliminary efficacy for Pfizer (95%) and Moderna (94.5%) were both found in clinical settings. There is no guarantee that these results will translate to the real world, but there are 2 takeaways from the trials worth noting:
Rolling out a vaccine comes with many downstream challenges
If these vaccines clear all the medical and regulatory hurdles, the additional challenges can be summarized by the “4 D’s”:
These challenges are befitting a process that has been compressed from the typical 10-15 years into a 12- to 18-month time frame.
What happens when we let our copywriter try Noom?
(And then writes about it in the third-person.)
I’ve been doing Noom for a few months now, and folks, I gotta tell ya… I look good.
And with Thanksgiving coming up, I finally feel like I’m in control.
That’s because Noom’s approach to weight loss — which involves focusing on behavioural change, instead of burning anything containing gluten — is actually sustainable.
I used the app to build healthy habits (byeeee, 11:55PM Crunch Wrap Supreme trips), and everything else followed.
Want help staying in control this Thanksgiving? Get a 7 day trial of Noom for $0.50 right here:
|Start your trial →|
|Food of the day|
Source: Austin Culture Map
Not turkey: We’re giving a special shoutout to Austin’s own Torchy’s Tacos, which — like Zoom, Shopify, and Peloton — has been growing like gangbusters this year. (Evidence that fried avocado is pandemic proof!)
The creator of “Damn Good” tacos just landed a $400m investment to expand to another 10 states over the next 4 years and prep for a potential 2021 IPO. Per Axios, Torchy’s currently has 83 stores in 7 states, with an average unit volume of $3.8m.
(Fun fact: The favorite beverage at The Hustle’s Austin office isn’t kombucha. It’s Torchy’s queso, which we drink by the gallon.)
Talk about thinking big: crowdfunding a mountain
Meet Ryan Begelman. You may not recognize his name, but he has impressively operationalized multiple successful businesses. Starting with Bisnow Media (which sold for $60m, doing $20m in revenue and $7m in profit), he went on to co-found Summit Series, a company that among other cool things…literally bought a $40m mountain (that Sam visited in August).
In this week’s exclusive Trends pod, Sam talked to Ryan about how he’s scaled these ventures and how to…
- Hire and onboard talent
- Structure tests and filter people for high intelligence (hint: he looks for people from unexpected backgrounds like bookies or party promoters)
- Exactly how much to pay recruiters
- And more…
Your $1 trial will get you the entire episode, plus weekly Trends reports and access to our community, full of people just like Ryan. With some luck, you might just find yourself at Powder Mountain.
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