Numlock News: December 1, 2020 • Hot Sauce, Dry Ice, Named Storms
By Walt Hickey
McCormick & Co. has purchased Cholula Hot Sauce for $800 million from its private equity ownership. Cholula has about $96 million in yearly sales, and its acquisition means more condiments for the company best known as a spice maker, which also owns Frank’s RedHot as well as French’s mustard. McCormick has been a big winner during the shift of food preparation to the home, with sales up 8 percent last quarter despite deep drops in its restaurant business. Hot sauce in general is poised to be a winning investment: the U.S. market for hot sauce was $1.1 billion in 2010, and in 2022 hot sauce sales are projected to hit $1.65 billion, a 50 percent increase over the period.
Dry ice is in serious demand as the logistical component of Operation Warp Speed kicks into gear, with vaccines requiring seriously cold temperatures over the course of transit to remain viable. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be in a freezer that goes to -70 degrees Celsius, but the way it’ll move between the freezers in the distribution center and the ones in the hospitals or medical centers will be in special shipping cases the size of a carry-on suitcase that can hold up to 5,000 doses each, with room for 50 pounds of dry ice to keep everything frozen en route. If their destinations lack the freezers, they’ll need another 50 pounds of dry ice every five days to keep chilled, up to fifteen days — each recharge taking no more than three minutes. Given that Pfizer estimated 25 million vaccine doses by the end of the year, that’s a tremendous amount of dry ice. Even in an insulated bin, 1,500 pounds of dry ice sublimates to 1,300 pounds over the course of two days, so those who receive containers of the Pfizer vaccine will need to be very tactical about the frozen choreography of keeping that stuff cold.
The Baltimore County school district halted classes Monday and Tuesday for 115,000 students following a ransomware attack that hit the school district last Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday. Elementary school teachers went into school Monday to have their devices checked for malware after hackers obtained control of school systems and shut down the network. The attack — which appears severe according to security researchers, though officials have not been forthcoming with details yet — could have compromised things like transcripts or payroll information, in addition to the attempted extortion to allow the school district to access their resources again.
Yesterday saw the traditional conclusion of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, a record-setting season fueled by a La Niña weather pattern and record temperatures in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf. There were 30 named storms, 12 of which saw landfalls in the continental United States, setting new records for both occurrences. The 30 named storms posed a concern as they ran out of names fairly early in the season, eventually resorting to the Greek alphabet and making it all the way to Hurricane Iota. This presents an issue, in and of itself, as typically highly destructive storms names — such as Eta and Iota — would see their names retired, but the Greek alphabet will remain the consistent backfill and the World Meteorological Organization has decided not to retire them.
The European Union will impose stricter requirements for batteries, aiming to ensure that the batteries used in electric vehicles and other industrial applications on the continent are the most efficient. Already, in the second quarter of 2020 electric vehicles made up 9.4 percent of European passenger car sales, higher than the 4.6 percent in China, 0.5 percent in Japan, and 1.6 percent in North America, and the European battery market is projected to reach 250 billion euros by 2025. The requirements, which will be rolled out in a month, aim to push manufacturers toward using clean energy in production, increasing efficiency, improving their durability and ensuring the raw material is sourced responsibly.
Netflix has once again blown apart the Hollywood playbook, this time doing something unthinkable to the powers that be in both the technology and the movie industry: actually doing their accounting honestly. Next year, Netflix will declare its United Kingdom revenues — projected to be £1.3 billion — to British tax authorities, rather than continuing to route its profits through The Netherlands where the tax situation is a little more convenient. In 2018, Netflix made £700 million from U.K. subscribers, but declared just 48 million Euros in revenue, describing it as a services fee from the Netherlands headquarters. Finally, the Crown will be able to wet their beak from The Crown.
Radioactive water is accumulating at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant as workers have pumped water into the destroyed buildings to keep the site cool for the past ten years. After coming into contact with the reactors, the water has to be stored, and while operator Tokyo Electric Power Company has built tanks for this exact purpose, there are over one million tonnes of water in those tanks as of this year. By 2022, they believe they’ll run out of room for new tanks. There are potentially 62 radioactive elements in that wastewater, and as of 2018, some particularly gnarly isotopes were still exceeding safe levels, even after cleaning. The Japanese government will eventually have to decide what to do with this waste, which could include slowly dumping it into the ocean. That’s banned by the London Protocol, and the United Nations International Maritime Organization will likely have some very strong feelings about any such plan.
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