Cauli-flower power


March 5, 2020

What’s the world’s most valuable vegetable? The soybean is queen in overall crop value with an annual global harvest worth $65B+. But pound for pound, things get more gourmet. Soybeans cost about 16¢/lb, while wasabi roots sell for $73/lb, La Bonnotte potatoes go for $320/lb, and hop shoots — the parts NOT used to brew beer — sell for $426/lb. Today:

  • Cauliflower is a one-stop shop for health food needs
  • Self-care subscription boxes are coming to your Instagram feeds
  • Agriculture giants are squabbling over soybean seeds
Keto Kronikles

How cauliflower cauli-flourished

It’s bland. It stinks when cut and cooked. And it’s now the hottest commodity in the produce aisle.

It’s cauliflower, baby. US sales of raw cauliflower and cauliflower-adjacent foods hit $700m last year, up almost 40% from 2016.

Why? Low-carb diets have cauli-powerful appeal

Cauliflower is the veggie equivalent of a blank canvas, and it’s low in carbs. So many amateur chefs are getting keto-curious that cauliflower items could fill an entire grocery aisle. There’s:

  • Cauliflower rice. (Ever wanted to STAB YOUR DAMN CUTTING BOARD because your knife sent freakin’ cauli crumbs everywhere? No wonder the bagged stuff is popular.)
  • Cauliflower crust. (A picky pie-lover’s delight or a crime against 🍕, depending on your POV.)
  • Actual cauli-flour. (Do. Not. Want.)
  • “Hidden” cauliflower smoothies. (You can hide the cauliflower, but you can’t hide the shame.)
  • Cauliflower ear. (Wait, no, that’s a wrestling injury.)

The trend is so strong that entire companies have popped up around the booming demand. You can declare your love of cauli-zza by wearing it on your chest, or join a curious campaign to create the caul-emoji. 

Chipotle’s CEO said recently that the fast-food chain wants to make “the world’s greatest cauliflower rice.”

Caul it the ‘flower’s edge

Occasional shortages have sent the price of a head skyrocketing, but farmers say cauliflower takes far less time to grow than other veggies, like tomatoes or peppers (about a month, vs. 70-100 days).

Cauliflower is even starting to sprout into Super Bowl-munchies territory. One pizza chain in the Northeast told The Wall Street Journal that cauliflower-crust pizzas account for 25% of all its pie sales.

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Big Bean Battle

A new bean baron has planted seeds of doubt about Monsanto’s soy supremacy

Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer in a $63B mega-deal in 2018, has dominated the $4B American soybean-seed market since the 1990s.

But due to a combo of weed-killer woes and competition from a new rival, Monsanto’s seed sales stagnated this year. Now the company’s caught in a seed-selling arms race. 

Big M finally got lost in the weeds 

Monsanto rose to seed-selling supremacy in the 1990s by packaging seeds and weed-killers: First, Monsanto sold a best-selling weed-killer (Roundup), and then it genetically engineered and sold seeds resistant to that very same product (“Roundup Ready” seeds). 

The model was hugely successful: Roundup sales made up a big chunk (17%, in 1997) of Monsanto’s revenue, AND supercharged sales of Monsanto’s specialized seeds.

But Monsanto’s most recent combo — a seed called Xtend and a weed-killer called dicamba — ran into trouble when the weed killer started laying waste to neighboring crops. Farmers went in search of other seeds.

And a rival planted a problem at the worst possible time

Corteva (formed last year in a Dow-DuPont mega-merger) launched a seed called the Enlist E3 just this year, and it’s expected to shoot up to 20% of soybean market share in 2020… largely because farmers are ditching Monsanto.

Now, sales of Monsanto’s seeds — which grew steadily in the past 3 years — are expected not to increase this year, for the first time since their launch.

Later this year, Monsanto plans to roll out a new seed called XtendFlex, which will work with several different weed-killers… but the seeds of this struggle have already been sown.

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Just What You Needed

This company will mail you an hourglass for your wellness

If you’ve ever researched breathing techniques and thought, “I wish I could pay someone to mail this advice to me,” you’re in luck.

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, is making moves with a subscription box called Madefor. It will include such essentials as an hourglass, a “calibrated water bottle,” and booklets that explain “the science of how we flourish.”

Each Madefor box aims to teach wellness strategies, including how to breathe properly and drink enough water — tips that you definitely can’t just crib from WikiHow.

The price of the privilege: $750 to go ‘all-in’

Unlike its boxy competitors, Madefor calls itself a program: 10 boxes in 10 months. Each box includes a monthly challenge, a gizmo to help build a healthy habit, and a booklet explaining the science behind it all.

If the price tag seems steep, not to fear. Mycoskie is offering “scholarships” to select applicants, though they might not cover everything. When it comes to staying healthy, Madefor told Fast Company  you need “some skin” — meaning money — “in the game.”

But in the booming wellness box market, Madefor requires a bit more, er, skin from subscribers than its competition. 

  • Therabox arrives with wellness products, and a rotating “happiness activity” ($30.99/month).
  • Go Love Yourself peddles books, teas, and snacks grouped into themes like “Forest Bathing” ($50/month).
  • Feeling Fab brings you healing crystals, skincare products, and a self-care guide (starts at $30/month).
  • FabFitFun lets you customize boxes of notebooks, makeup, hats, and sunglasses organized by season ($49.99/month).
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The Hustle Says

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Sure, their founder just resigned, and we may be sick and tired of seeing the same royal blue “Doing Things” hat all over Instagram, but we gotta hand it to Outdoor Voices — they’ve got some sweet gear. Plus, we were never great with our indoor voices anyways.

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Galaxy Brains

The sun sets on an amateur alien-hunting project

Pour one out for extraterrestrial enthusiasts everywhere.

[email protected], a groundbreaking project that used crowdsourced computing power to scan the stars for intelligent life, is winding down its volunteer army at the end of the month.

ET phone home? More like ET phone your home

Launched in 1999, [email protected] used a network of volunteers — and the horsepower of their idling computers — to crunch cosmic data from radio telescopes.

The program was famous for its trippy screensaver, with its field of colorful spikes.

As Wired put it, using the software basically “meant that if ET called Earth, it could very well be your own CPU that picked up the phone.”

But the phone’s going back on the hook

This week, researchers behind the project announced that it would stop sending new data to [email protected] volunteers. They’ve only been able to analyze small parts of what’s been parsed in 2 decades.

That doesn’t mean the hunt for ET is coming to an end. Breakthrough Listen picked up the interstellar baton, and uses major computing firepower, not the kind farmed out to your home office.

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