Numlock News: December 22, 2022 • Bears, Sharks, Harks
By Walt Hickey
A dozen large eggs in the American Midwest is now going for around $5 at wholesale, up from $1.60 at the same time last year. That’s owing to a bird flu that is absolutely ripping through the poultry population of the United States, the worst bird flu outbreak ever. So far 57.5 million birds have died as a result of outbreaks, most of which are egg-laying hens. Last week 4.3 million birds died, and the flu is expected to continue for the rest of the winter, meaning that prices will likely remain high. It’s already past the previous worst flu on record, which claimed 50.5 million birds in 2015.
The market for toys for adults is a considerable one, with people aged 18 and over accounting for 14 percent of toy industry sales in the United States. In the year ending September 2022, that’s a $5.7 billion market for toys for adults, and that’s up 19 percent. Toymakers are going for it: American Doll, Lego, Build-A-Bear and plenty of other brands are attempting to diversify their wares for the over-18 market, as there’s nothing quite like a stifled inner child with a significant amount of disposable income to pad out the margins. Build-A-Bear is especially seeing growth, with teens and adults now accounting for 40 percent of total sales, up from 20 percent in 2012.
In Queensland, Australia, lifeguards at Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast are using drones to try to track the dangerous marine life that appears to have the island of Australia surrounded on all sides. The goal is to warn beachgoers and, if needed, intercept the animals before they hurt themselves. A series of trials in 2020 and 2021 involved 3,669 drone flights over seven beaches, which overall spotted 174 sharks, 48 of which were over two meters long. Big sharks getting a little too close for comfort led to four beach evacuations thanks to the surveillance. Should it bear out, drones could replace nets and drumlines that currently protect beaches, but entangle and kill hundreds of sharks annually, as well as entangle dolphins, turtles and whales. The career path of “shark drone pilot” is a fascinating yet distressing development for lifeguards, who are unaccustomed to being merely the second-coolest profession on a given beach. Anyway, the next Baywatch reboot is gonna be controversial, I can tell you that much.
The results are in, and the 2022 men’s World Cup final averaged 25.78 million viewers in the United States, 9 million of whom watched on Telemundo and 16.78 million of whom watched on Fox. That’s the second-most watched soccer event ever, following the incredible 2015 women’s World Cup final which drew 26.7 million viewers, not even counting out-of-home viewing. Interestingly, the Fox telecast did beat out Sunday Night Football, which drew 15.38 million for an NFC East Acela corridor matchup. The once-every-four-years biggest men’s game in the entire sport of soccer being mildly more interesting than one NFL divisional matchup is certainly a statement of the sport’s penetration in the U.S.
The ascent of streaming and playlist- and algorithm-driven listening has meant the share of holiday songs that have a religious component has decreased as part of the overall mix, according to an analysis of the consumption of the top 100 holiday recordings. Through December 8, religious holiday music — think “Little Drummer Boy,” “Joy to the World” and such — had 4.4 percent of the plays of the top 100 holiday songs overall consumption, down from 7.7 percent in 2020 and a peak of 18.2 percent in 2015, and the lowest percentage since 2010. The top religious holiday song so far this year — “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Nat King Cole — is No. 50 on the list. Some of this might be because some of the religious standards have a lot of covers, fracturing the demand for an individual recording, but even radio airplay is following the trend and becoming slightly more secular. That said, radio stations apparently tend to increase the spins of the more religious-themed songs as Christmas approaches, so the final numbers may change.
Over 1.6 million people in the United States are allergic to sesame, a group that recently scored a huge win when sesame was added to the list of ingredients that absolutely must be labelled by food companies, which prior to their inclusion numbered eight ingredients in milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. There’s an issue, though: Because of perverse incentives in the food industry, many food companies are explicitly adding sesame to products that previously did not have it, just because it’s cheaper than to try to keep it separated from equipment that handles sesame. Companies adding sesame where there was none before include Olive Garden in breadsticks, Wendy’s in buns, Chick-fil-A in buns, and United States Bakery in rolls and buns, and possibly more.
It’s A Teardown
The increase in work from home means that some developers of downtown commercial real estate are kicking off transitions of office towers into apartments. This year there were just 11 office-to-apartment conversions in the United States according to CBRE, but that’s expected to hit 34 conversions in 2023. The transitions have perks: They can reduce that pesky vacancy rate, it doesn’t involve constructing a whole new building, but on the other hand the installation of plumbing in the new units often means that they need to be gutted, and that’s not even addressing dealing with the regulatory issues.
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