Business Bites: Looming TikTok ban may affect F&B industry

6 tasty tidbits: The future of TikTok has the potential to affect the food and beverage landscape; Power Leaves Corp. utilizes the coca plant to develop alternative sweeteners; Exberry places sustainability at the forefront for new flavor trends; and more.

7 Min Read
TikTok ban
Rokas Tenys /

At a Glance

  • The potential TikTok ban could have lasting effects on the food and beverage industry.
  • Power Leaves Corp. removes cocaine from coca leaves to create healthier alternative sweeteners for beverages.
  • Exberry by GNT showcases sustainability in natural colors inspired by nature.

By now, everyone has heard about the potential TikTok ban the United States is facing. Gen Zers and Gen Alphas nationwide are up in arms — and maybe some Millennials, too — but that doesn’t stop the future of the social media platform’s existence (in the U.S. at least). More importantly, how the ban could potentially affect the food and beverage industry should be top of mind, especially for U.S. manufacturers. Also in this week’s column, Power Leaves Corp., a manufacturer of decocainized coca leaf extract (yes, you read that right) recently partnered with Canadian-based spirits company Pure Spirits Inc. to supply an alternative sweetener for alcoholic drinks, which could be a game changer. If there was ever a time to toast, it’d be now. Learn more below.

Potential TikTok ban could have lasting effects on F&B industry

On April 23, the U.S. Senate voted by a wide margin, 79-18, in favor of legislation that would ban TikTok in the U.S. if its owner, the Chinese tech firm ByteDance, fails to sell the popular app over the next nine months to a year. The next day, President Biden signed into law the proposed ban, which is included in a foreign aid package that offers financial assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. On April 25, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew responded to the U.S.-prompted ultimatum via a 2-minute video on Toutiao, a Chinese social media service it owns, with a firm position that it “isn’t going anywhere,” is “confident” and “will keep fighting for your [Americans] rights in the courts.” In other words, he has no plans of selling the platform, as required in the new bill to prevent a U.S. ban.

Since the news hit all media outlets, TikTok “stars” and influencers alike have been scrambling to the social media platform to capitalize on what may be some of their last videos. As the platform’s future remains unknown, the more important question we should be asking is how it could potentially affect the food and beverage industry. After all, the majority of global food and beverage trends that companies release at the beginning of the year are largely influenced by social media, specifically TikTok, as well as products that have been produced and released over the last handful of years. Roughly 170 million Americans — half of the U.S. population — utilize the platform, according to The New York Times. To put that into perspective, TikTok’s “food trends” channel currently includes 274.5 million posts, while “beverage trends” has almost 114 million posts. It would be hard not to garner advice and inspiration based on those numbers.

With the looming ban, however, we may even see an influx of users to Meta’s Instagram and Facebook platforms, which have long been overshadowed by TikTok’s appeal. Mark Zuckerberg would certainly be happy (again), but I guess we’ll find out in 2025.

coca leaves

Power Leaves Corp. creates alternative sweeteners for beverages using coca leaves

THC-infused beverages are nothing new, but companies are getting more creative. Power Leaves Corp., a leading manufacturer and international distributor of decocainized coca leaf derivatives, recently partnered with Pure Spirits Inc. to supply coca leaf-derived alternative sweeteners for use in alcoholic beverages. Unlike THC-infused offerings, these beverages are completely void of any psychoactive compounds. The extracts produced by Power Leaves Corp., Coca X and Coca E, are natural flavoring agents created using cocaine-free coca leaves sourced from Colombia. Contrary to belief, coca (Erythroxylum coca) has a range of health benefits and has been utilized for millennia as medicine. More specifically, the coca leaf can serve as an all-natural bitterness masking agent, high source of protein, good source of essential minerals and nutrients, energy enhancer and appetite suppressor, according to Power Leaves Corp. The production of the plant is also eco-friendly and sustainable, per the company, as the same coca plant can be harvested for more than 70 years. By removing the alkaloids from the coca leaf to create Coca X and Coca E, the company said it “creates a healthier bitterness masker/sweetener alternative.”


Exberry highlights new color directions inspired by nature

Sustainability is top of mind for savvy consumers. GNT, a supplier of plant-based Exberry colors, identified a significant trend called “Regeneration Rising” in the food and drink sector, which emphasizes sustainability and a connection to the natural world. This trend is driving companies to focus more on the origins of their raw materials and sustainable production methods. To convey these values visually, GNT identified three new color directions: “Elevated Earth,” involving earthy shades like red-browns and textured purples and teals; “Nature Lab,” featuring a kaleidoscopic spectrum; and “Wholesome Nostalgia,” including dreamlike hues like yellow, peach and pink.

“Consumers of all ages are developing a much stronger interest in sustainability,” Dieuwertje Raaijmakers, marketing communications specialist at GNT, said. “To appeal to these shoppers, food and beverage companies have to showcase their commitment to the planet. Color can play an important role in telling that story, helping brands create appealing products that send out strong visual signals about how they’re produced.”


FDA issues, updates advisory for multistate Salmonella outbreak

A second brand has been added to a recent advisory by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for fresh organic basil linked to an outbreak of Salmonella that has caused 12 cases of illness and one hospitalization. The first brand, Infinite Herbs, was sold at Trader Joe’s and Fruit Center Marketplace stores in the eastern U.S. between Feb. 1 and April 6, while the second, Melissa’s, was available at Dierberg’s in Illinois and Missouri from Feb. 10-20. A full map of affected areas can be found in FDA’s outbreak advisory. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds us, however, that the actual spread of the outbreak may be larger than reported. Both brands of organic basil have been voluntarily recalled, are past their expiration date and are labeled as products of Colombia.

Beverage startup offers ketosis on demand with ketone-powered energy drinks

Anyone who’s tried a keto diet knows that staying in ketosis, the metabolic state in which your body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose, can be difficult to achieve consistently — especially with a world full of delicious, sugary beverages calling your name. KEY, an energy drink startup founded by Karishma Thawani and Tekla Back, is looking to change that with Avela, its branded organic compound that can be converted into a ketone to provide energy. According to AgFunderNews, this compound, produced via microbial fermentation, can generate “on-demand ketosis” within 30 minutes of consumption. Avela was launched by bioengineering firm Genomatica in 2022 and can be included in beverages at functional doses without incurring huge costs or noticeably affecting the flavor profile.


Nestlé reports Q1 sales drop, remains hopeful for “indulgent” products

Consumers must be catching on to all those scandals and controversies because Nestlé just reported a decline in sales for the first quarter of 2024. Sales reportedly decreased by 5.9% versus Q1 2023, falling to $24.2 billion. Although this wasn’t exactly unexpected; Nestlé’s annual sales dropped last year, too, but only by 1.5%.

This news comes immediately after Nestlé fought off a proposal by a small group of shareholders to reduce fat, salt and sugar content in its products. ShareAction, a nongovernmental organization that invests to make positive change, led the charge, which ran headfirst into a brick wall as 88% of other shareholders voted against the proposal. Anyone else picturing a parliamentary assembly of corporate fat cats eagerly munching on cookies and frozen pizza while slamming big, red “no” buttons?

“While the vote we achieved today may be less than we wanted, the direction of travel is clear,” Simon Rawson, deputy chief executive of ShareAction, said in a press release. “Investors and consumers are recognizing the importance of addressing the business risks and public health impacts of an industry that is heavily reliant on the sales of unhealthy food. They have growing expectations not only from Nestlé but from all food manufacturers.”

About the Author(s)

Heather Carter

Associate editor, Food & Beverage Insider

With over a decade of diverse professional experience under her belt, Heather has journeyed from the bustling world of local news reporting to the intricate realms of trade publishing. She has covered a wide array of topics, ranging from architecture and design to the food and beverage industry.

During her illustrious career, Heather also ventured into the realm of public relations, where she gleaned invaluable insights into the art of strategic communication and brand storytelling. Yet, her heart has always been anchored in the vibrant world of F&B, a passion deeply ingrained in her roots as the daughter of a seasoned chef. She has always held a profound appreciation for the role food plays in shaping cultures and connecting people.

With each story she tells, Heather seeks to illuminate the profound impact of food and beverage on people’s lives, celebrating its ability to evoke emotions, foster connections and weave the fabric of our shared human experience.

As Food & Beverage Insider's associate editor, she co-publishes a weekly news column, Business Bites, which showcases the latest industry news, highlighting key business updates, food and beverage innovation, industry events and more. Some of her other articles touch on important topics, such as ultra-processed foods, plant-based foods primed to change the food landscape, international flavors and ingredients, as well as better-for-you CPGs. She also frequently covers top trends at various industry events and has moderated first-of-their-kind education sessions at Informa events.

She can be reached at [email protected].

Scott Miller

Staff writer, Food & Beverage Insider

Scott Miller brings two decades of experience as a writer, editor, and communications specialist to Food & Beverage Insider. He’s done a little of everything, from walking a beat as a freelance journalist to taking the Big Red Pen to massive technical volumes. He even ran a professional brewing industry website for several years, leveling up content delivery during an era when everyone had a blog.

Since starting at Food & Beverage Insider, he’s written pieces on the price of greenwashing (and how to avoid it), debunked studies that served little to no purpose (other than upsetting the public) and explained the benefits of caffeine alternatives, along with various other stories on trends and events.

Scott is particularly interested in how science, technology and industry are converging to answer tomorrow’s big questions about food insecurity, climate change and more.

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