February 12, 2024

Today's Topics

Good morning! Happy Super Sick Monday to all those who (sort of) celebrate: may the ~16 million of you who are off work today rest up as you read this relatively football-free newsletter. Today we're exploring:

  • Record breaking: Plotting Kelvin Kiptum's record marathon time.
  • Chocolate block: Cocoa prices are soaring.
  • Young money: Americans under 40 are getting wealthier.
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The world of athletics is mourning the loss of Kelvin Kiptum, the men’s marathon world record holder, who died in a car accident in his native Kenya yesterday, along with his coach Gervais Hakizimana.

Road runner

Despite having only turned 24 in December, Kiptum had already etched his name into the pages of athletic history books. Raised in a Western Kenyan village, Kiptum was originally a short distance runner, but he gained global recognition last October on the streets of Chicago when — in only his third marathon — he shattered the world record, clocking a total time of 2 hours and 35 seconds for the iconic 26.2 mile distance.

It’s hard to get a sense of how fast that is, but next time you’re in the gym, set the treadmill to 13 mph — if it goes that high (many don’t) — and see if you can manage Kiptum’s pace for any length of time. Remarkably, during the Chicago Marathon, the runner managed a 4:18 mile in his 22nd of the race. That’s equivalent to running just shy of 14 mph, a speed that’s impressive in any standalone race, let alone after already completing 21 miles.

Kiptum's efforts last year earned him the title of 2023 World Athlete of the Year for men's out of stadia events. Like his legendary compatriot and teammate Eliud Kipchoge, Kiptum had set his sights on breaking the 2-hour marathon barrier, with plans to make an attempt at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.

Cocoa puff

If you haven’t got a Valentine’s Day present already, buying a box of chocolates for a loved one might not be a bad investment, as cocoa prices have skyrocketed to record highs.

Last Thursday, cocoa futures closed just shy of $5,900 per metric ton, according to data from YahooFinance, up nearly $1,500 since the start of January, marking a 128% increase in the last 12 months.

The shift comes as hot, dry conditions and changing weather patterns arising from the El Niño phenomenon continue to devastate crop yields in West Africa. Indeed, Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, even halted next-season sales of the commodity at the end of January, as a ~150,000 ton bean shortage and rising freight costs in the Red Sea have left the country close to default on several of its export contracts.

Bean count

Around two-thirds of global cocoa production comes from Ivory Coast and Ghana alone, and a large portion of these cocoa beans go to processing facilities in Europe to make chocolate. As such, the stalling of West African crops has had a huge knock-on effect on the rates of confectionery internationally.

American candy behemoths are also expected to feel the ache. At the end of last week, Hershey issued a warning about its profits for the year ahead due to greater cocoa expenses giving rise to higher prices, off the back of an already not-so-sweet outlook: Hershey also outlined a 2-year restructuring plan to mitigate the company’s 6.6% drop in sales in its most recent quarter.

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Young money

American adults under 40 have become a lot richer over the last 5 years — with recent rises attributed to a wave of pandemic investing that saw the cohort successfully enter into the world of stocks and shares. That’s according to quarterly data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released last week, which revealed that American 18- to 39-year-olds have seen their real (adjusted for inflation) wealth rise 75% since the start of 2019, far outpacing the growth rates of other age groups tracked by the NY Fed.

Generational gains

Older Americans are also making wealth gains; those aged 55 and over saw their riches grow 31% in the same period, while the 40-54 demographic notched the smallest gains at just 12%. Despite younger Americans seeing the fastest growth, the rise is all relative, and makes very little change in the overall make-up of wealth in America: the under-40s still account for less than 7% of the total $133 trillion national financial assets figure reported in Q3 2023. Conversely, those aged 55+ held over $97 trillion (~73%) of that wealth in the most recent quarter.

More Data

• Amazon sale: last week, Jeff Bezos sold off almost 12 million shares in the company he founded, worth over $2 billion.

• We may have had peak TV, as the number of original scripted shows fell 14% last year.

• British Vogue assembled an ensemble cover shoot of 40 famous faces, including Oprah, Serena Williams, and Kate Moss, as editor-in-chief Edward Enninful bids farewell after more than 6 years at the helm.

• OpenAI chief Sam Altman wants to overhaul the semiconductor industry, and thinks he needs $5-7 trillion to do it.

• The Oscars will be handing out a new award in 2026 for the first time since introducing best animated feature 22 years ago, announcing the addition of an award for best casting last Thursday.


• Friend of the pod: crunching the numbers on podcast guests.

• How much screen time did Taylor Swift get at the Super Bowl? Someone with a stopwatch sat down to crunch the data.

Off the charts: Which streaming platform (that we were breaking down revenues for in December) announced last week that it paid out $9 billion to the music industry in 2023? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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