Published on: June 3, 2003We wrote yesterday about our support for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation, and the need for a foolproof traceability system that would maintain consumer confidence in the meat supply.
One Canadian member of the MNB community responded:
Without a system you are setting yourself up for a huge fall.
Press hard on this one - or buy your beef from us or Argentina for a long time.
We already sell you oil and gas as well as water. Have a banking system and a health system that put what you have to shame.
How would you feel about being annexed to us?
Oh, we can only imagine the emails this one is going to prompt…
On the subject of how big meals and little exercise contribute to youth obesity, one MNB user wrote:
I'd like to chime in on the issue of "supersizing" causing kids to eat more than they need, though this isn't necessarily about kids. I have a friend who works for a major soda manufacturer. He was telling me that a way they generate incremental gallons is to work with the retailer to serve larger size drinks (by not offering smaller sizes), with the retailer therefore having a higher cash register ring and higher profits. And, just like loading and slotting and other ills of this industry once you start you can't go back unless you come up with another creative way to make up the drop in volume. So I don't expect anything to change.
We had a story yesterday about how baby formula manufacturers are using additives in their products and holding out the promise that they will help babies be smarter and better.
MNB user Sherry Coughlin responded:
I believe that the baby formulas based on soy products may have greatly harmed our children. The soy interferes with the natural process of building testosterone in young males during the first year of life. The result may be several generations of males who are lacking testosterone.
Females are also affected because women need testosterone to balance their estrogen levels.
So when they want to add more things, I don't believe it will be beneficial to infants. It's purely a marketing ploy to sell more formula. How sad and horrible.
On the subject of McDonald's introduction of a new McVeggie sandwich, MNB user Wanda Allie wrote:
McDonald's is making a smart move with its introduction of the non-meat sandwich and healthier food. To those that disagree, have you checked your cholesterol level or looked at the scale lately?
…But they still don't completely get it. Cooking the vege-burger on the same grill as the regular burgers is just dumb. There are millions and millions of us vegetarians (read: potential customers) that will not order the McVeggie since we don't eat animal ingredients. They obviously did not learn the lesson from the multi-million dollar French Fry lawsuit.
And on another note: Have you ever seen an obese vegetarian? Odds are no!
Vegetarians do not need the wacky Atkins diet to stay healthy and slim!
MNB user Gerardo I. Lopez had some additional thoughts about McDonald's:
What McDonald’s really needs is a return to basics. No doubt their menu options have not kept up with the times, but it is their apparent abandonment of the fundamentals that made them great that is really baffling.
Just yesterday my family (self + wife and 2 boys in prime Mickey D age range) had lunch at one of their restaurants in Farmington Hills, MI. This is an outlet that has won recognition in their system (judging by the awards hanging on the wall). Like so many of our visits in the last few years, this was a sad, sad experience. At 12:25 pm, the kitchen area was well staffed with young people that where very eager to please (“can I help the next person in line?” resonates in my ears still); but little else was positive. The floor was dirty in the kitchen and filthy in the dining room. A mistake was made with our order, which we caught in time when they attempted to charge us $5 too much.
Interestingly, while we ordered and waited for our food, no less than six other customers came up to the counter to complain they had received the wrong items in their bags. Once we had our food, we discovered the chicken nuggets were good, but no sauce was offered. The fries were cold, however. The burgers were lukewarm. Salt? Sorry, none of that. Plenty of pepper, though. The table tops were either littered or ‘sticky’ to the touch.
Memo to new Senior Team: “Guys, I am not expecting gourmet when I go to McDonald’s, but I do expect hot fries and a clean place to eat. And a correct order. Good luck with the veggie burger (and new line of salads), but please clean the joint once or twice, will ya?” In the meanwhile, where’s that Wendy’s I remember around here …….. ?
MNB user Glenn Cantor chimed in:
The irony with all of the recent reporting about childhood obesity is that our industry thrives on the very products that are the problem. We offer our customers large, full aisles of high fat, high sugar foods on which we make huge margins. For example, even though natural and healthy foods occupy large parts of our stores, all supermarkets dedicate much of their real estate to cookies, salty snacks, soft drinks, candy, cold cereal, ice cream, fruit snacks, etc. (Most of these products are delivered DSD, which makes them even more appealing to an efficiency fixated industry.) Another irony is that all of these items are "expandable consumables;" they are normally consumed immediately after purchase, which puts the customer back in the market quickly. They are the kind of products we need to sell to maintain our profits and be able to pay for the perishables.
Additionally, try taking a child to McDonalds and getting them to order a salad instead of a burger and fries. It is no wonder that most of the healthy alternatives offers by fast-food stores are short-lived. They are just not as profitable as the standard fare.
Therein lies the conundrum to the childhood obesity crisis in the United States. Much of the profitability of the supermarket and fast-food industries is reliant on the very products that are at the root of the issue. If we are able to successfully get children to eat healthy foods, the health of our industry might be compromised.
One answer to this "catch-22-like" issue is to promote healthy activities and exercise. Our businesses should look to sponsor local sports leagues and local outdoor activities like 5-K/10-K runs, swimming events, community picnics, etc. We should seek to offer our customers wellness testing and vaccinations for children, in conjunction with local health-care agencies; bring childhood health-care into our stores. If we can tie our community presence into healthy activities, we might be better able to balance justification for selling "unhealthy" foods.
On the general subject of childhood obesity, MNB user Jeff Tydings wrote:
How long do you think it will be before some greedy, money hungry lawyers file a class action suit against Play Station, Sega and Nintendo blaming them for the obesity problem in our country, using this study as “evidence”? I say no later than July 4th. Although I say this tongue in cheek, we have recently seen a lawsuit against McDonalds dealing with this same issue. It is pretty sad watching this society’s trend toward blaming others for their own poor lifestyle choices, and even more sad that there are lawyers out there supporting this trend. Where does the nonsense stop?
The dispute between the US and EU about genetically modified food continues, and one MNB user offered some context:
What we have in the GMO issue in Europe is a convergence of constituencies. The "Green" movement sees this as an issue that resonates with the populace due to the Government mishandling of the various food scares of recent times in Europe, and gives them the opportunity to demonstrate relevance (i.e.. raise money). The EU sees this as a way to protect European farmers from competing with oil seed crops from the US, without having to say it outright. The trade protectionism is what the US Government has been fighting not only in this administration, but in the prior administrations as well.
Although feeding the hungry people in Africa is a worthy objective, the real prize is opening up the European market to not only the GMO grains and raw vegetable oils, but also to the many US made products that contain these ingredients that are in a state of limbo at the present time.
On the subject of the government deciding to allow irradiated beef to be used in school lunch programs, MNB user MacKenzie Malcolm wrote:
I think people should be more worried about what irradiation is supposed to correct in meat products, rather than the radiation itself. I'm just guessing, but giving meat producers the option to irradiate away anything gross or harmful in meat is simply giving them license to be less concerned with the cleanliness of the original product. You only have to read "Fast Food Nation" to know that ground beef from a major processing plant is practically a biohazard.
That's what parents of school kids (and everyone) should be worried about. A little radiation won't hurt ya!
We've had a number of stories recently about Starbucks' ubiquity, which prompted the following email from an MNB user:
I can appreciate the concern people have for Starbucks becoming the coffee behemoth that they are, and I'm sympathetic to the "little guys" to a point, but it's been proven over and over to me that in addition to being ubiquitous, Starbucks simply produces a better product. I like independent coffee houses, but quite often I'm disappointed with the quality of the coffee. Even though some may claim that Starbucks coffee tastes "charred", it's actually made from beans that have been roasted properly and are fresh.
People who don't like this type of coffee probably also prefer American cheese to a nice, smelly Roquefort. In addition, Starbucks uses modern brewing equipment and the coffee is always hot. You can't always say that about the independents, either. You have to give the company credit for introducing quality coffee to American consumers. That not everyone appreciates it really says more about them than it does about Starbucks.
While we like visiting local coffeehouses when we're traveling, you learn to appreciate Starbucks when you are in some godforsaken place, craving a latte, and suddenly you see that familiar logo.
On the need for imagination and innovation, one MNB user wrote:
As a grocer store worker I do go and check out the competition. You have to SEE what they have.
But as a consumer, the atmosphere, variety and the feel, it does tend to make you want to browse and that makes you want to TRY new items, which is a sale for the store.
Being different, offering new products, having more than a sterile shopping experience, will increase sales.
On the subject of Penn Traffic's financial travails, one MNB user wrote:
Penn Traffic filed Chapter 11 before, in 1999. They emerged a mere three months later -- very fast by industry standards. The company said that with its newest bankruptcy, it will attempt to reorganize and emerge as quickly as possible. Might the push for speed be unwise considering that this was the same thought in 1999 and eventually, Penn Traffic found itself back in bankruptcy?
Penn Traffic, like almost every other troubled supermarket operator in the industry these days, has blamed (at least in part) Wal-Mart (okay, well "super center" formats, but we get the idea) for its struggles and resulting Chapter 11 filing. Eagle Food Centers, which filed Chapter 11 recently, also played the Wal-Mart card. Are companies using Wal-Mart's success as too much of an excuse in these times? We know Wal-Mart has a negative effect on smaller folks trying to compete, but, is the effect great enough to become the "go to" excuse for bankrupt companies?
We reported yesterday on a new poll that ranked food retailers and CPG companies as being tops in customer service, which prompted the following email:
My only question is what is service as defined here? If it is variety, selection, clean stores, that's one thing. However, most every visit I make to the supermarket I still hear that customer service especially at the checkout is lacking. The queue keeps getting longer as stores try to get better control over costs.
In response to yesterday's story about Hy-Vee, MNB user Ted File wrote:
When the Dwight Vredenburg family set up this management/entrepreneurial organization structure many years ago, the industry (major chains) was dubious at best. They are unique, have strong interests in the community and I would guess, less turnover than their competition. The current management has followed in the footsteps of the founders with minor tweaking.
Need we say more?
We received two emails yesterday from MNB users who did not appreciate our attempt at humor.
In a brief piece about how Eric Robert Rudolph, the fugitive charged with four bombings in Georgia and Alabama, including the explosion at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics, was arrested early Saturday as he scavenged for food behind a Save-A-Lot grocery store, we joked that the arresting policeman got lucky because he "probably just stopped by to buy doughnuts…"
One MNB user wrote:
Why the wise-guy comment? The officer was doing his job, and doing it well. We need to congratulate these guys, not try to be funny at their expense. Not kind on your part.
And another MNB user wrote:
I don't think you realize how foolish you look when, for the sake of what you think is humor, you make statements such as the correlation between police officers and donuts. Between your take on Kmart's loss prevention initiative last week and your second or third attempt at police & doughnut humor, you've obviously told your readership a great deal about where you stand, and offended a great deal of loss professionals in the supermarket industry.
Our attempts at humor should in no way be construed as being anti-law enforcement or even loss prevention...though we think that there are two different issues here.
Our comments about Kmart last week really were more about how the company continues to ignore issues such as marketing and merchandising and focuses on dollar issues - which, while important, do very little to entice consumers into the store.
Yesterday morning's joke should not be taken too seriously...especially since we joke often about our own predilection for doughnuts. It was meant within that context - while we take more than our fair share of shots at other people and institutions, we try to always mock ourselves first…
But we're sorry if you were offended. That certainly wasn't the intention, and it simply proves what our kids always are saying -- that we're only about half as funny as we think we are.
Finally, we've gotten several emails over the past few days asking for the recipe for Poor Man's Beef Wellington, a dish that we mentioned a couple of times last week.
Well, it isn't ours to print…but we're happy to give you the website address for Emeril Lagasse's wonderful recipe:
Cheers! And we'll see you in the morning…
- KC's View: