Numlock News: August 8, 2023 • Feta, Funko, BQE
By Walt Hickey
Sovos Brands, the company best known for producing Rao’s pasta sauces, will sell to Campbell Soup in a $2.7 billion deal, sending a shock of panic through the nation’s Italian-American boyfriends who live and die by the unassailable quality of Rao’s wares. The sauce accounts for 69 percent of Sovos’ adjusted sales last year, though the company does also produce frozen pizzas, dry pasta and yogurts. Sovos managed to post a 16.3 percent jump in sales in its most recent quarter at the same time Campbell’s sales were down 1 percent, so the big company is buying into some growth.
On a national level, members of both U.S. parties are trying to make it easier to build energy infrastructure like new transmission lines as well as wind turbines and solar panels. On a local level, town halls and county legislatures are often trying to throw up as many impediments as possible to upgrade or install new infrastructure. A 2018 survey of counties by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found 286 regulations in 105 municipalities on wind turbines. When they did the survey again in 2022, that jumped to 461 municipalities averaging four ordinances per jurisdiction, with a spike to 315 municipalities that tried to prevent solar panels.
The European Union has expanded its list of foods, wines and spirits that are reserved by local producers to 3,500 protected items, up 28 percent since 2010. This is stuff like it’s only technically feta if it’s made in Greece, or it’s only Gorgonzola if it’s from Italy. There are about 300 cheeses on the list, which ticks American dairy producers off to no end, especially as other non-European countries agree to those standards. For instance, BelGioioso Cheese of Wisconsin has to sell its Asiago as “Belgiago” in Mexico, its fontina as “Fontal” in Japan and Korea, and its Gorgonzola, hilariously, as “CrumblyGorg,” which sounds like a D&D NPC made up on the spot.
Bobblehead manufacturer Funko finds itself in a difficult financial position amid reduced demand for its pop culture merchandise, with third quarter sales dropping 24 percent between now and the second quarter of a year ago. The company had a $73 million loss in Q2 of this year, mainly because the retailers it sells to were trying to wind down their inventory, with the company itself taking a write-down on its own inventory. Gone are the days when every background Glup Shitto in The Mandalorian gets their own bobblehead, and gone too are the days when every show in the Blorbo franchise will get their own line: The company has announced it’s slashing the variety of items it sells by 30 percent.
As of August 3, 13,092,367 hectares of Canada were burned as a result of the latest fires season, the worst fire season since records were first kept in 1983. It’s more than two times as bad as the next-worst season on record, 1995, when 7,105,998 hectares were burned over the course of the season. On average, just 2.1 million hectares per year burn. Fueled by heat and dry weather, out of 350 fires burning in British Columbia, fully 15 are wildfires of note and are out of control, while hundreds more are burning in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
New York City is home to engineering marvel the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which features an architecturally fascinating triple-cantilever section in Brooklyn Heights. The primary reason it is architecturally fascinating is, of course, that it is essentially collapsing in real time. The highway remains open only because in 2021 the city removed a traffic lane in each direction so as to extend the life of the doomed stretch of road until a sufficient permanent solution could be found. Excitingly, trucks that weigh over 80,000 pounds continue to use the questionable stretch of roadway with alarming regularity — of the 155,000 vehicles that were estimated to use the 1.5-mile stretch each day, 18,000 are heavy trucks above that weight limit — and now the city has taken the bold step of doing literally anything to incentivize against that. Starting this week the city will issue warnings to trucks that are automatically detected to be over 80,000 pounds, and starting in November they’ll start automatically issuing fines of $650 to those trucks.
Sparrows have friends, according to a new study that looked at long-lasting flockmates of migrating golden-crowned sparrows. Monitoring tagged birds from 2009 to 2019, researchers were able to track the long-term social networks of individual sparrows, finding the 10 percent of other birds it was most likely to be seen with in a given years. Over time, an average sparrow lost about 52 percent of those flockmates upon returning to Santa Cruz, California. The birds tend to be consistent — they resettle within an average of 90 feet of the center of their range the prior year — but when its closest flockmates failed to return, those birds were more likely to move further and drift away more from those nesting grounds.
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