retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports this morning that while there has been general agreement in the food industry that the obesity lawsuits filed against major fast food chains are frivolous, the people and companies taking this approach in doing business may be doing so “at their peril.”

According to the NYT, a recent report from investment bank UBS Warburg said that "It is very possible that tighter advertising restrictions will eventually follow from the gathering pace of concern surrounding the spread of the obesity epidemic. There will probably be more lawsuits and pressure from consumer groups to change practices."

Experts are telling the fast food companies to address their potential image problem now, through more nutritional information, smaller portion sizes and more nutritious food.

The danger, they say, is that food companies could be labeled as “big food,” in the same way that cigarette companies were labeled as “big tobacco.”
KC's View:
True. And the fact that there is a whole different level of culpability for the tobacco companies won’t matter, because this thing will get played out in the court of public opinion. Which is, after all, where sales are made and lost.

While much of the focus to this point has been on the fast food chains, this doesn’t mean that food retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers should breathe easy. It’s only because the litigators haven’t trained their sights on them yet. You don’t think companies like Kraft and Safeway don’t sit out there like big, fat, juicy targets just waiting for a lawsuit?

There is a clearly shifting attitude in the marketplace about personal responsibility vs. corporate culpability. We may decry the change, but it cannot be ignored.