Numlock News: January 27, 2022 • Weekday Weddings, Optimism, Coffee
By Walt Hickey
Japan is in a state of national shock, as Yaokin Corp has announced it will for the first time since 1979 increase the price of the Umaibo corn puff snack from its long-time 10 yen price. The price will increase by 2 yen to 12 yen, approximately a $0.02 increase. The move comes due to higher costs in Japan which, after decades of deflation, is also feeling the global sting of supply chain difficulties. Umaibo is basically a cylindrical cheese puff, and about 700 million are sold annually. The low sticker price means it’s a staple for kids and people who at one point in their life were kids. While “shrinkflation” is an option for many snacks that target price-conscious customers — keeping the price the same but discreetly reducing the amount of product — Umaibo already pulled that in 2007.
In a typical year there are about 2.2 million weddings in the United States, a figure that this year is expected to rise to 2.6 million. There are still just 53 Saturdays this year, so as a result it’s harder to get a desired date than typical, which is one reason that the percentage of weekday weddings is projected to rise by about 2 points. According to The Knot, 10 percent of weddings will be held on Monday through Thursday in 2022. The clear choice is Thursday: swap vows on Thursday, then do a wedding weekend thing. It’s unconventional, but not like “have a wedding on a Tuesday night” unconventional, and extraordinary times do call for extraordinary solutions.
A new survey finds that Americans have high hopes for 2022, and while they may have dissatisfactions about the state of how things are, fully 61 percent expect 2022 to be better than 2021. That’s compared to 67 percent who expected 2021 to be better than 2020 — a low bar to beat there — and 55 percent who, at the dawn of 2020, thought that year would be better than 2019, which yeah, can’t exactly say the wisdom of the crowds nailed that one. In fact, the amount of optimism people have going into this year is one of the highest on Pew’s record: Besides 2021, 67 percent thought 2010 was going to be better than 2009, and 64 percent thought 1999 was going to be better than 1998. The 2010 expectations were likely related to the coming recovery from the worst of the global recession in 2009, but the high hopes for 1999 were presumably all piled on to the forthcoming release of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, and yeah, perhaps that was a bit unfounded in retrospect.
Asia produces 29 percent of the world’s coffee beans, but even including Oceania the continent only consumes 22 percent of the world’s beans. In many parts of Asia, coffee farming and business is historically rooted in the colonial past, particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia, though urbanization and changing lifestyles have seen local coffee consumption on the rise. Asia’s coffee consumption is up 1.5 percent over the past five years, more than the 1.2 percent growth in the U.S. and the 0.5 percent growth seen in Europe. Coffee consumption per capita is especially high in South Korea and Japan, though on the whole very low in mainland China. The exception is in the largest cities in China, which drink coffee at similar rates to the West and Japan and Korea.
Mattel, home of Barbie, has won back the rights to produce toys based on Disney characters, a license that went to archrival Hasbro in 2016. Losing the business blew a $440 million hole in their balance sheet, and prompted Mattel to embark on a painful cost-cutting process and revamped strategy to pursue partnerships with Hollywood and win back the princess line. Prior to the split, Mattel had worked with Disney since the 1950s, and the split came at a time when the flagship Barbie brand was in difficult straits. While away at Hasbro, the Disney princess line has underperformed the Mouse’s hopes, and is estimated to bring in around $300 million in a non-movie year. That said, Mattel owns most of its doll manufacturing — Barbie, remember — while Hasbro doesn’t, so the profit margin could be better.
Enset is a staple food in Ethiopia, similar to a banana, and is currently cultivated in a small range in the country. The fruit itself is inedible, but the stems and roots can be used to make porridge and bread, and about 20 million in Ethiopia rely on it for food. That said, it may be time for enset’s global debut; a new study combined agricultural surveys and models to project the future range of enset over the next 40 years, finding that it one day could feed over 100 million people across the continent and increase food security. Enset has a lot of handy properties that make it especially ideal: You can plant it whenever, harvest whenever, and it’s perennial.
China’s green energy ambitions will likely rely on a great deal of nuclear energy, with the country planning 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, which would be more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35 years. It’ll cost around $440 billion, but means China would surpass the United States as the largest generator of nuclear energy. Generation is already up 400 percent since 2011, and it passed second-place France. There are 46 reactors planned for or under construction in China right now compared to merely two in the United States, and if the country is going to replace its 2,990 coal generators by 2060, cracking atoms is certainly a clear and proven path to doing so.
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