Numlock News: November 29, 2022 • Pretzels, Macaques, Volcano
By Walt Hickey
Hey, New York area readers! I’m hosting a show at Caveat in NYC on December 15th. It’s a live play of the TTRPG game I designed for Insider’s “Red, White and Gray” project and it should be a ton of fun. We’ve got some excellent guests lined up; buy tickets here, I would love to see you there! There’s also a livestream option for out of town folks.
Given their lack of powdered cheese dust and audacious flavors, pretzels had long been considered the boring part of the snack business, but no longer; the category is really popping right now. Pretzel sales were up 16.2 percent to $1.7 billion in the 52 weeks ending August 7. Snyder’s of Hanover remains the leader in the category, with $566 million in sales over that period, up 8.1 percent, but newcomers to the snack business are the ones to watch. Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels, which was bought by Hershey for $1.2 billion last year, has seen sales jump 60 percent over the period to $274 million.
About 1,000 factories in Sialkot, Pakistan, make 30 million soccer balls a year, something like 40 percent of the global supply of soccer balls. The manufacturing niche began during the era of British colonialism and has since become a major part of the area’s economy, with the largest company in town producing the soccer balls for Adidas and thus the official World Cup ball since 1982. About 20 balls see service in each of the 64 matches of the tournament.
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like
A new survey asked Americans when it was too early to roll our holiday advertising, finding that the most commonly cited ideal moment was mid-November, when 50 percent of respondents say it’s “just right” to roll out holiday marketing campaigns, 20 percent say it’s too late, and 23 percent say it’s too early. Early November is seen as cusp — 46 percent say it’s too early, 39 percent just right, 8 percent too late — while mid-October is right out, with 66 percent saying it’s too early and 23 percent saying just right. This research also reveals a fascinating figure, the 4 percent of respondents who think Mid-October is either somewhat or way too late to roll out a holiday marketing campaign, a market contingent that I like to call your standard Jack Skellington demo.
According to an industry group, American factories produced over 400 billion square feet of cardboard in 2020, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. That growth has continued unabated: Manufacturers broke records again in 2021, and each quarter has been better than the last. The paper market is dominated by five colossal companies that have around 70 percent of the corrugate industry in the U.S. One estimate puts the size of the global market for corrugated cardboard packaging at $205 billion by 2025. To supply those boxes, thousands of tons of trees are fed into the maw of paper plants that run 24/7, much of them in the American South where softwood trees are abundant. The good news is that it’s readily recycled: Of 69 million tons of waste recycled annually, 65 percent of that is fiber-based. Generally 90 to 91 percent of cardboard is recycled annually, vastly better than the half of aluminum cans, the 31 percent of glass and the 5 percent of plastic that actually gets recycled.
Last week the U.S. Department of Justice indicted several people in an alleged international monkey smuggling ring, charging two Cambodian wildlife officials and several Hong Kong intermediaries with illegally exporting hundreds if not thousands of macaques to the United States. The animals were labeled as captive-bred but were in fact poached from the wild in Cambodia, the government said. Cynomolgus macaques, or “cynos,” are the most-imported monkey species into the United States, with 30,000 entering the country last year, predominantly for pharmaceutical and biotechnology research at companies. China was once the largest supplier, but exports crashed during the pandemic and trade war, so Cambodia plugs the gaps with 29,000 cynos exported in 2020. This case has to do with “laundered” cynos, which numbered 1,500 from 2018 to 2020 and then possibly hundreds more in 2021.
Mauna Loa on Hawaii has finally erupted, the culmination of months of elevated tectonic activity at the largest active volcano on Earth. The eruption began 11:30 p.m. local time on Sunday and has largely been contained in the summit. The last eruption happened way back in 1984 and lasted for three weeks, but an eruption has long been due; over the past 3,000 years, Mauna Loa has erupted about once every six years, and this was the longest quiet period on record.
Used car prices are down 16 percent from their peak in January, and JPMorgan forecasted that prices in used cars could drop 20 percent next year. That’s largely disconnected from the pricing in the new car market, which has risen and would be projected to drop at the absolute most just 5 percent next year. Car costs are important when it comes to the overall U.S. inflation basket, accounting for 11 percent of the core CPI, but because it’s a mixed bag between the used and new market it’s not really clear if there’s a consistent signal being sent to policymakers about the health of that part of the economy.
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