Suggestions: Drone Soda, 'Packaged Bulk,' and an Update on Oatly

Norman Weiss, Weavers Way Purchasing Manager

Greetings and thanks for writing. Email suggestions to As usual, suggestions and responses may have been edited for brevity, clarity and/or comedy. In addition, no idea, concept, issue, remark, phrase, description of event, word or word string should be taken seriously. This also applies to the previous sentence.

In food trade news recently, Progressive Grocer reported that the new Coca-Cola with Coffee was scheduled to be delivered Jan. 26 and 27 via drone to single-family homes in Coffee County, GA within a one-mile radius of a Walmart supercenter. I wonder what will happen if a drone has mechanical problems and conks someone in the head with a Coca-Cola can?

This could create a whole new customer base for personal injury lawyers, but it should also result in some good ads. However, I think someone at Coca-Cola is missing the boat. If they really want their beverages to be everywhere quickly, why not lobby to include them in municipal utility services? They could plumb a line right to residences, and no other delivery technology would be needed.

In other news, “packaged bulk” is now fashionable due to COVID shutting down a lot of self-serve bulk departments. This seems oxymoronic to me. Once you take a bulk item and put it in a package and seal and label it, by definition, it’s no longer bulk. It becomes part of the grand scheme of products known as “CPG,” or “Consumer Packaged Goods,” of which food is one category.

CPG drives our economy and is mostly what fills Amazon and other distribution centers. Once the “goods” are consumed, what you mostly have left is the package, also known as trash. Whatever happens to it now, be it recycled, landfilled, burned, composted, reused, etc., it will require more energy. If you could eat it, then it would supply energy. So what we really need is EPG — Edibly Packaged Goods, delivered via drones. Then if it falls on your head, at least you won’t go hungry.

We’ve heard from a few members about Oatly, the popular oat milk that sold a 10% ownership share to the investment group Blackstone, whose chief executive has donated millions to a super-PAC that supported political candidates many of our members oppose. In response, Oatly published this on their website:

“Getting a company like Blackstone to invest in us is something we have been working on to create maximum change to benefit the planet. From a sustainability perspective, we are convinced that helping shift the focus of massive capital toward sustainable approaches is potentially the single most important thing we can do for the planet in the long term. We realize that all of you may not share this view and disagree on the right path forward to create a more sustainable world.”

In general, we do not vet vendors or brands for politics. It can be a bit of a Pandora’s box, with some companies having staff and owners that donate to a variety of issues and candidates — some in line with our values, some not. In addition, some companies may change ownership without us finding out. It would take an investigative reporter to keep track of it all.

We do encourage members to read up on brands and products they use. Products that don’t sell well usually get deleted, which is kind of a de facto boycott. Members can also propose boycotts by getting them on the agenda of a General Membership Meeting. See our bylaws on the member portal of our website for detailed info.

suggestions and responses:

s: Hey Norman. The chicken noodle soup was OK, but I was a little surprised to find that the Co-op would actually sell fresh chicken soup with MSG. I am not particularly sensitive to MSG, so it was no biggie for me, but some people are very sensitive to it. I’m surprised that we do not have a policy prohibiting MSG.

r: (Norman) Thanks for pointing that out. We don’t have a policy prohibiting MSG (or really, any specific ingredient). Our product policies are pretty general to allow a broad variety of products and price ranges.

Our info is that MSG is not harmful for the majority of the population. However, in general we do avoid MSG, since so many shoppers have complained about it over the years. In this case it was a label issue; we did switch to a no-added MSG soup base years ago, but it looks like this soup’s label was never updated. It has now been fixed.

s: “Sometimes I buy produce and when I take the sticker off of it, there’s a little bit of the sticky paper stuck to it. Can we get less sticky stickers or less adhesive produce?”

r: (Norman) Probably. With “sticky” problems like this, we involve our Magic Wand department. They’ll wave it away.

s: “FreeBird chicken” is labeled “vegetarian fed.” Chickens are natural omnivores. If FreeBird chickens are fed a 100% vegetarian diet, doesn’t that mean that 1) they never get outside to scratch for their own worms, and 2) they are being fed an unnatural diet? Why would the Co-op support this unethical treatment?”

r: (Norman) Most large-scale egg and chicken producers make this claim as if it’s a benefit. Despite labels like “cage free,” “free range,” “free roam,” etc., the reality is that most commercial chicken producers don’t give their chickens that much freedom, so few get to eat insects, wrestle small snakes, etc. Nevertheless, in our factory food system, this is considered progress compared to keeping chickens in battery cages and feeding them animal byproducts. It’s ironic that modern, naturally-raised chickens live on a plant-based diet.

s: “Wanted to reach out to you about Mochi! Since most of the companies in the United States that made it went under in the last few years, I have been craving it so much. We found this place in Vermont and have ordered a case and it’s great! Funny that it comes in a log style like polenta instead of flat, but I thought that Weavers Way might want to give it a try. P.S. Have you tried the new Philly Tempeh yet? It would be great to stock at the Co-op, too.”

r: (Norman) Thanks for the suggestion. Mochi just doesn’t sell these days at Weavers Way; I think it slipped off people’s radar. Philly Tempeh is a small-scale producer and right now, we are stocking it in our Mt. Airy store in the freezer section. As they scale up, we can see about adding it to our other stores. If shoppers want Mochi back, please let us know.

s: “Brianna’s salad dressings have a plastic seal around the cap and then a second cardboard disc inside the cap that then must be removed before you can use the dressing. How much security does salad dressing need? Can you tell Brianna that it’s annoying?”

r: (Norman) We did and they took offense and called us a bunch of liberal whiners. Now we have to consider if that’s grounds for a boycott.

s: “The Co-op’s hold music is awful. Can we do something about it?”

r: (Norman) We tried to change it, but then we found out our hold music was being controlled by Russian hackers. Our IT department is no match for the Russian hacker community, so we have accepted our fate. You can always hum to yourself to drown it out, maybe something patriotic.