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    Published on: March 14, 2005

    Convenience store chain 7-Eleven has announced that it has hired a team of chefs that will serve as “part of a fresh food product development team determined to make consumers believers in the quality, flavor and value of the expanded line-up of 7-Eleven fresh food items,” according to a statement released by the company.

    According to the company, “the 7-Eleven team follows food trends in restaurants, not just fast-food, but also sit-down casual, to develop new sandwich flavors and ingredients exclusive to 7-Eleven.” Executive Chef Phil Butler says that “bold is beautiful in flavor combinations today,” and that the team has developed an exclusive line of sandwich spreads that includes tomato basil, roasted pepper, tomato feta, olive pesto, Southwest mayonnaise and jalapeno hollandaise.

    "Our emphasis has been on creating foods with bold flavors and unusual recipes," Butler said. "If we have a sandwich with fire-roasted chili peppers, you can taste the peppers' distinctive flavor. If we have a sandwich with grilled chicken, you can taste that the chicken has been grilled."

    The chefs come on board as 7-Eleven releases a new line of “wrap” sandwiches that received positive results during market tests.
    KC's View:
    Obviously 7-Eleven has to deliver on this promise and really offer sandwiches that are as bold as advertised.

    But we have to admit to being intrigued by the approach. To many food retailers – supermarkets and c-stores alike – cater to the broadest/lowest common denominator when they create new products and flavors, believing that “bold” items have a far greater chance of alienating certain shoppers. To these stores, “mass marketing” is the same as “vanilla marketing,” and as a result their foods become boring and indistinct. The key is to have a variety of offerings – some bold, some less so, some bursting with flavor and spice, and some designed for less adventurous palates.

    Good for 7-Eleven for seeming to take a chance.

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    The Texas Daily Sentinel reports that state lawmakers there are debating whether to levy “a 3 percent snack tax, along with an expanded sales tax, and $1 increase on a pack of cigarettes, as they continue looking for ways to pay for property tax relief promised in a new school funding system.

    “The snack tax would also be levied on cakes, pies, pastries, tortes, chips and nuts not bought in restaurants.”

    The paper notes that food manufacturers have come out in force against the proposed tax, saying that it is discriminatory against consumers and extremely difficult for retailers to collect – arguing that states that have imposed such a tax eventually have repealed it.
    KC's View:
    Wouldn’t it just be easier to just increase the sales tax by one cent on everything, and just allocate that penny to educational programs?

    When you think about it, taxes like this one don’t make sense. If the goal is to reduce consumption of junk food, then this tax is counter-productive, because it discourages the purchase of such food…which reduces educational funding.

    Strikes us that a junk food tax is being considered because it is politically expedient – snack foods and sodas are politically incorrect these days, so it is a good place to find extra money for education.

    Then again, maybe we’re just cynical.

    If there’s a problem with educational funding, just deal with it. Whatever happened to Texans being straight shooters?

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the Washington State teachers union has told its membership that it cannot purchase supplies from Wal-Mart and expect to be reimbursed out of the Washington Education Association's Children's Fund, a charity that gives up to $100 per year per student for kids in need of financial assistance.

    While exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis – depending on whether there are no other options available to teachers to do their shopping - association President Charles Hasse said the policy decision was because of Wal-Mart's "exploitative labor practices (that) have added to public assistance burdens in our state and across the nation." He also said that the union membership has supported the move by a 20-1 margin.

    Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman told the P-I that the company pays its Washington employees at a rate higher than the national average, provides health insurance to 86 percent of its hourly employees, and is so supportive of education that it “spent $40 million last fiscal year on educational initiatives, including scholarships, teacher awards and a national literacy hot line that connects callers with resources in their communities.”

    Washington State seems to becoming one of the places where resistance cells intent on fighting Wal-Mart seem to be cropping up. For example, the Washington State legislature has been considering a proposal that would require employers with more than 50 employees to either provide a certain level of health insurance or pay an equivalent amount into the state’s basic health plan, which would then cover the workers. The legislation is called The Health Care Responsibility Act, but it is better known around the state as the “Wal-Mart bill,” and was introduced because of reports that some large companies in the state – including Wal-Mart - have hundreds of employees getting state assistance for health care.

    Accusations against Wal-Mart also were part of the announcement earlier this month that Brown & Cole, the Bellingham, Washington-based supermarket chain, would sell off eight of its 31 stores, or almost 25 percent of the company, because of an inability to compete effectively with an expanding Wal-Mart presence. "This is in large part due to two things," company president Craig W. Cole said in a prepared statement, "health care costs and the deliberate saturation of the market by Wal-Mart."
    KC's View:
    One of the interesting points made by local analysts has been that while on the one hand the teachers union decries the fact that its membership is underpaid, it also appears to want them not to patronize stores where they likely would spend less money.

    But let’s put that bit of hypocrisy aside for a moment.

    We suspect that what we may be seeing is the beginning of a broader anti-Wal-Mart movement that will be engineered by organize labor. It simply makes sense, at least from the union perspective – if you have trouble organizing an entity like Wal-Mart, simply call on all of your members to stop patronizing its stores.

    The problem, of course, is that we suspect there are a lot of union members who only shop at Wal-Mart, either because it is the only store available to them or because it is the place where they feel they get the greatest value. While organized labor may want to target Wal-Mart in this way, the long-term result could be more injurious to the unions than it is to the Bentonville Behemoth.

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    Safeway Inc. announced that Peter A. Magowan, managing general partner and president of the San Francisco Giants and former chairman, president and CEO of Safeway, is retiring from the company's board of directors, effective at the end of March.

    "As a former CEO of Safeway, I have been ineligible to participate on the committees of the Board of Directors, where increasingly much of the substantive work is done," Mr. Magowan said. "I'm leaving the Board to further strengthen its independence. I have enjoyed my work with Safeway, and I wish the company, its employees and stockholders a bright and prosperous future."

    Magowan became chairman and chief executive officer in 1980, and resigned as CEO in 1993 to devote full time to his position with the San Francisco Giants.
    KC's View:
    Forget about Safeway. Let’s talk about baseball…

    Magowan should be proud of the work he has done with the Giants, building a gorgeous new stadium in downtown San Francisco that is a terrific place to watch a ballgame, and re-energizing the sport in the Bay Area.

    But he, like a lot of baseball owners, will have a lot of questions to answer regarding the tolerance shown for players using steroids, professing ignorance while cashing checks that resulted from home runs hit under the influence. In a lot of ways, Magowan may have more questions to answer than most because he employs the poster boy for steroid usage, Barry Bonds, who even now says that he doesn’t even know what cheating is. And worse, the Giants don’t even seem to take the accusations seriously, which further taints a game with a reputation in tatters.

    Published on: March 14, 2005 has a report on an interview with Carrefour CEO Jose Luis Duran, in which he says that while the company has “the means to become a growth stock once again by leveraging our various formats,” he does not “want to put pressure on the staff. We're not going to make promises that we can't keep."

    Duran says that "Carrefour should be among the top three in all of its markets. If not, there will be consequences.”

    It was just last week that the company announced that it was selling its eight-store Japanese operation to Aeon, which will also have the exclusive marketing rights there for Carrefour’s private label lines.

    At the same time, Carrefour is selling its 29-store Mexican operation (plus two more stores scheduled to open later this year) to local hypermarket retailer Chedraui.
    KC's View:
    Yep. Those would be consequences.

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    A new survey from the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) suggests that people are buying more nutritious foods than ever, with 73 percent of those surveyed saying they looked for healthier foods these days when they go shopping.

    Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they are looking for foods that are made with whole, unrefined grains; 65 percent said they looked for reduced and low-fat products; 59 percent looked for vitamin fortified products; 54 percent sought reduced and low-calorie items; and 49 percent wanted sugar-free foods. In a turnaround for those bygone low-carb days of yore, only 42 percent of those surveyed looked for low-carb items.

    GMA’s survey also found that 64 percent of consumers are trying to reduce their caloric intake and 52 percent say they are exercising more often.
    KC's View:
    Of course, there is always the possibility that these consumers could be lying.

    Or, an argument could be made that these survey results only serve to support GMA’s contention that snack taxes and similar nutrition-oriented regulatory moves simply aren’t necessary because consumers are taking care of business themselves.

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    • Ten auto repair shop employees at a Wal-Mart store in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, have been granted union certification by the province's labor relations board. They join 200 of the store’s employees were granted union certification on January 18.

      Negotiations with Wal-Mart on a collective bargaining agreement are scheduled to start this week, according to reports in the local media.

      The certification and negotiations happen in the shadow of the move by Wal-Mart to close its store in Saguenay, Quebec, after union certification was granted to employees there. The company said that the store’s performance was borderline without a union contract, and that it would become unprofitable if the company gave in to union demands.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    The Denver Post reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) committee representing Albertsons employees in the Denver market has decided not to allow a vote on the retailer’s latest contract offer by the union’s general membership.

    The union says that the offer by Albertsons is “vastly different” from those made by Safeway and Kroger in the same market, calling for a reduction in vacation and sick leave as well as decreased weekend pay.

    The Safeway offer is scheduled to be voted on by union membership later this month. The Kroger/King Soopers offer was approved last weekend.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    Can marketers get so carried away by the science of research that they lose touch with the emotional connection that great marketing can create between a product and a consumer?

    Phil Lempert thinks so. In this months Facts, Figures & The Future he notes that “in late February it was reported that experiments being done at Caltech could change the path of advertising and marketing.

    Twenty-one volunteers were strapped into Caltech's $2.5 million functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI) and shown images of products and celebrities to determine which ones were ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’ by scanning the brain to determine which parts and cells of the brain are stimulated by which images.

    In this study, ‘cool images’ include Apple's iPod, Uma Thurman and Al Pacino; while some of the ‘uncool images’ included Barbara Streisand, Justin Timberlake and Patrick Swayze (who was identified as very uncool).”

    Lempert writes, “As science and technology become more sophisticated, there is little doubt that these kind of tools will replace the insight and intuitiveness that made advertising great. Just the way the Macintosh computer eliminated much of the need for professionally trained typesetters and graphic designers, these brain scans can direct which colors, names and even shapes will be the most effective to get shoppers to buy.

    “David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach would not be proud.”

    In other F3 stories this month:

    • FMI’s Michael Sansolo writes that “perhaps the biggest single issue impacting the retail environment for the past decade is the on-going shift of shopper dollars and trips to value or price driven retailers. In case anyone was curious, that issue remains bigger than ever,” and notes that “retailers must adapt a comprehensive plan of attack that clearly demonstrates to shoppers the reason switching doesn't make sense.”

    • Lempert offers an intriguing interview with author and entrepreneurial guru Seth Godin, who offers an analysis of the supermarket shopping experience, the plethora of products available on shelves, and why boring isn’t a great thing to be in 2005.

    • F3 also reports on a new study saying that “nutrition labels - compared with taste, habit and price - factor very low in how adolescents determine their food choices.”

    And, there’s much more.

    F3 is a co-venture of the Food Marketing Institute, ACNielsen, and Phil Lempert.

    To get your free copy, go to: >
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    • General Mills has signed a deal that will make its Wheaties cereal the “official breakfast cereal” of Major League Baseball. The deal will have Wheaties boxes featuring baseball players on a regular basis, as well as creating television ads tied to the baseball season.

    KC's View:
    We can see the commercial now…

    Fade In…

    Barry Bonds sitting at his breakfast table, pouring himself a bowl of Wheaties. He then opens a jar and then sprinkles some powdered substance over the flakes…then turns to the camera and winks: “Breakfast of champions,” he says with a grin.

    Fade Out.

    Depending on this season goes, on how investigations into steroid use turn out and what players are identified and punished, this may end up being the wrong season to have launched an alliance with baseball.

    The joke in New York is that the Mets have always been less reliant on steroid-pumped players than other teams. Which explains why they haven’t won anything since 2000.

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    • Arden Group, parent company of Gelson’s Markets in Southern California, reported that its fourth quarter sales were $122.2 million, down from $185.1 million during the same quarter a year ago. Fiscal year sales were $502.9 million, up from $486.4 million during the 2003 fiscal year.

      Fourth quarter net income was $3.9 million, compared to $7.5 million during the same period a year ago; annual net income was $22.7 million, down from $16.6 million a year ago.

      Fourth quarter same-store sales were down 34 percent, while annualized same-store sales were up 3.4 percent.

      The company said that the wide swings in revenue and profits “reflect the pervasive impact of last year’s Southern California labor dispute.

    • Canada-based c-store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard reported third quarter consolidated sales for the third quarter that were the equivalent of $2.42 billion (US), up from $1.46 billion (US) during the same period a year ago. Net income climbed to $38.1 million (US) from $7.2 million (US) during the same period a year ago.

      The increase is largely because of Couche-Tard almost quadrupling the size of its U.S. operations when it bought 1,663 Circle K stores and gasoline stations from ConocoPhillips for $830 million in December 2003.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2005

    We got the following email from an MNB user who happens to work for Wal-Mart:

    A new book by Don Soderquist, retired Vice Chairman and COO of Wal-Mart, was put on display in the break room of my store Friday, on sale for $9.82 versus a price on the book of $14.99. The title is The Wal-Mart Way, published by Nelson Books.

    What we were shown was a Special Wal-Mart Associate Edition paperback of some 200+ pages. Inside and on the back cover were many words of praise from such as Paul Harvey, Frederick W. Smith(FedEx), Stanley C. Gault (Goodyear), Jack Welch (GE), John E. Pepper Jr. (P&G), the last three now retired. Also Anne Beiler, Founder and CEO of Auntie Anne's, Inc., Steven S. Reinemund, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, and Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author.

    I haven't had a chance to read the entire book yet but did read one appendix: Perspective on External Criticism of Wal-Mart. It's only one page long but the last sentence says a lot; at least, to me.

    "Ironically, those who attack Wal-Mart will ultimately play a key role in making it a better company, and even a more successful retailer."

    I believe that in the sense that he wrote it, Wal-Mart will listen, learn, and improve their ways of conducting their business which I'm sure their rivals and enemies don't wish to happen.

    We think you’re right. Doesn’t make all the critics wrong, but it does mean that Wal-Mart has taken to its corporate heart the old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    As for Wal-Mart’s goal of owning 35 percent of all the grocery sales in the US, another member of the MNB community wrote:

    Their goal is very achievable, just look at their entry into the West Coast markets. They are being widely accepted. Their parking lots are full and their prices are low.

    We wrote last week that while we think that Wal-Mart’s growth certainly can be attributed to the fact that it has more stores and the perception of the lowest prices, we also believe that its growth can be attributed to not enough stores providing consumers with compelling alternatives.

    One member of the MNB community disagreed:

    I do not completely buy into your theory that being asleep at the wheel will be the only factor leading to the demise of a competitive run against the big W! When traditional grocers pay twice what Wal-Mart pays someone to put a can on a shelf, they are going to lose out on the unexciting spends like detergent and green beans. Unfortunately, our economy seems to be producing people who do not have much choice but to shop at Wal-Mart. From that perspective alone, Wal-Mart is NOT to blame; they are doing whatever it takes to maximize profits for their shareholders. Where Wal-Mart IS to blame is when they deny the allegations brought towards their monopolistic activities; and the hypocrisy of the just plain folks, down home All-American symbol they claim to portray. They are as cunning, greedy and ruthless as anybody else who has ever been in American business and we as consumers must recognize this. Collectively, consumers are the factor that can slow their explosive advancement….and that is where the other merchants best be ready!

    Interesting email on a related subject by MNB user Mike Stern:

    I really enjoy your website. It is one of the few that I make a serious attempt to read each day. I am not in the retail biz, but I enjoy trying to be a good consumer. Best quality for the best price sold in a good atmosphere, etc. Maybe it’s the Virgo in me. I am lucky to live in Portland OR. We have a lot of fine grocery stores: Whole Foods, Zupan's (very cool local chain), New Seasons (started by the man who started Nature's , later acquired by Wild Oats). Let's not forget our favorite, Trader Joe's. Great products and great people.

    I have heard/read for a long time about Wal-Mart's pricing policies. Price low as a new player, then raise when the rest are dead. Here's my question: To your knowledge has anyone proved this? I guess I always believed this stuff about Wal-Mart, but maybe because I heard it repeated a lot. I know that some commonly held beliefs turn out to be false.

    We think that in most cases it is too early, and Wal-Mart is too young a company, to have proof positive about this fear.

    MNB user Maria Becker knows how she feels:

    I, for one, have had it with Wal-Mart. I've made a conscientious decision to cease shopping there anymore. I admire the prices they offer and abhor the effect they are having on competition. I've drawn my line in the sand, and hope others do, too.

    Conscientious decision? Or conscious decision?

    Maybe both. Hmmmm…

    We had a line the other day from Dominicks’ president Bruce Everette, who described the improved bakery offerings in the chain’s new format store as being “so good, it'll make your tongue flap around in your mouth and beat your brains out.”

    To which one MNB user responded:

    Now that’s a creative use of words! Let's not forget that Marsh is coming to Naperville, and has had the fresh concept in practice for over 10 years.

    Point taken. Okay, the phraseology wasn’t exactly Shakespeare or Noel Coward. But it was a food industry executive expressing enthusiasm about a line of food products and not the bottom line. So let’s cut him some slack, okay?

    We wrote last week about the fact that it will be tough to get the Japanese to drop their ban on US beef until the US opens its borders to Canadian beef.

    Which gave MNB user David E. Burbank a good idea:

    It seems like one easy answer here has been overlooked. The Canadian beef industry should institute a testing and traceback program, and go calling on the Japanese to market direct, bypassing US processors.

    Reporting last week about McDonald’s considering a plan that would have call centers throughout the US taking orders at their drive-through windows, and then forwarding the orders to the local Mickey D’s, we noted that this only makes sense if the problem is the order taker and not the order-compiler. This prompted one MNB user to write:

    Order taking is not a difficult thing if the person taking the orders is fluent in English. If English is a second language for the order taker, add to that the scratchiness of the speaker system and it becomes a test on one's ability to control the temper. Food preparation, however does not demand a command of the English language. That said, this is an English-speaking nation. My minor in college was in another language and I would not even think of applying for a job that demanded accurate communication on my part in that language with others who speak it as their first language, like order taking. If people want to work with the public in a language other than their first language, they need to find jobs in areas where accuracy of understanding and communication is not key. From that vantage point they can continue to work on their mastery of the English language. What are employers thinking when they place someone like this in that kind of position?

    My ancestors immigrated to this country to better themselves. That is an admirable thing. However, my generation no longer speaks that language at home. This is as it should be. That is not to say I do not revere my German heritage. BUT I live in America, where we do business in English.

    As a part of my job, I often speak on the phone with people who do not even answer the phone in America in English. Rudeness on their part can be a part of the issue at hand as well. When all is said and done, I do not always get the necessary information because the person on the other end of the line, living in America, does not understand that I am asking for their address and verification of telephone and fax numbers and names of contact people. One cannot help but wonder how long this will be a viable business.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    I started my career at McDonald's when I was 16. I received structured training and, upon completion, earned a counterperson card and grillperson card saying I was qualified to hold these positions. And while I did wear a polyester uniform and paper hat, I was proud of my work. My kids laugh to think I actually liked working at McDonald's. Even though I rarely eat there anymore, I can't go into one without mentally rating it on cleanliness, customer service and food quality. I believe our expectations have dropped so significantly that, as a group, Americans aren't outraged by poor service. I encourage all to say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," then boycott EVERY SINGLE PLACE that provides poor service. Customers do pay the bills. Let's vote with our wallets.

    On the subject of banning junk food from schools, MNB user Paul Schlossberg wrote:

    Didn't we once have a ban called prohibition? That did not work!

    The USDA requires that all school districts must have a wellness policy in place by July 2006. There is an emerging set and wide diversity of local school board actions and new municipal and state regulations. Almost daily there are new developments in the news across the country. There is some consistency to these efforts...but some leave much to be desired. Your point about a national set of standards is worthy of discussion...but not a ban. Here are five points to consider:

    1. This is about alternatives. The fast food chains are adding salads, fruit cups and other alternatives. They are not discontinuing fries and shakes.

    2. This is about education. Schools should be adding nutrition education about balanced diets...not banning foods.

    3. This is about physical activity. Schools should have "gym" a mandatory class.

    4. School foodservice directors are under tremendous pressure. Childhood obesity is a legitimate issue and a serious challenge for them to solve alone. Their budgets are severely strained and the financial losses from banned ice cream, beverages and snacks make it worse. Recruiting and maintaining foodservice staff is an increasingly difficult problem as the most experienced school foodservice directors and line employees reach retirement age.

    5. What is happening is "snacks and soft drinks in the parking lot." Student entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the bans. Others are bringing their own (banned) snacks and beverages from home or stopping off to buy what they want while en route to school. On open campuses, an increasing number of students are leaving to buy lunch (as they define it individually) elsewhere.

    A prohibition on snacks, ice cream and beverages in schools will not work. It will not correct the underlying problems of lack of physical activity and lack of nutrition education. What's next, bans at colleges or in workplace?

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Your article this morning about Oklahoma's "...bill banning junk food..." seemed to pass over the need for some specificity in the bill's language. Does the bill really define the banned products as "soft drinks and low nutritional snack items"? This seems to leave a big enough hole in the bill's enactment for any manufacturer to drive a delivery van through. What will the answer be to a vitamin-enhanced chocolate bar? What is the definition of a "soft drink" for this bill (e.g. a carbonated regular sugar soft drink with x% juice added might tip the legal scale)?

    What constitutes a "special occasion" where the banned products are allowed to be merchandised? Christmas? Hanukkah? Kwanza? Easter? Groundhog's Day? This is simply nearsighted at best.

    As for this type of ban going federal...I doubt it.

    Regarding the study suggesting that certain sports drinks are bad for your teeth, MNB user Frank Rich wrote:

    I read the article about this study and find one problem. The study used enamel from teeth and soaked them in the sports drinks for 14 days straight - and then assumed this equated to 13 years of normal consumption. Did they take into account that most people (hopefully) brush their teeth, drink other beverages, eat food, etc. between their consumption of the sports drinks?

    Responding to an email from last week, MNB user Laura-Lynn Freck wrote:

    I raised my eyebrows in surprise when I read another user’s view that Whole Foods could be compared to Wal-Mart and that other grocery retailers should beware of Whole Foods. Whole Foods and Wal-Mart could not be any more different both in their respective corporate identities and in their corporate philosophies. Whole Foods is certainly not a low-price leader and instead gains market share through innovation and by offering a unique set of products. They seek to educate consumers on healthier eating habits and they strive towards environmental responsibility. The differentiation between the two retailers is very evident in their stated corporate philosophies:

    Whole Foods-“Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet.”

    Wal-Mart-“Always Low Prices, Always.”

    Furthermore, while Wal-Mart consistently receives negative press for paying low wages, not offering adequate health care, breaking child labor laws, and more, Whole Foods pays their employees very well, offers extensive benefits, and empowers employees to be true decision makers across all positions. This is a prime reason why they keep moving up on many “Best Companies to Work For” lists, while Wal-Mart has sadly dropped off of most of these same lists.

    I think if Wal-Mart truly lived by the creed that Sam Walton dictated, there may be more similarity between these companies. Sadly, however, greed has taken the place of Mr. Walton’s good vision and it is a disservice to Whole Foods to compare them to the current Wal-Mart. More retailers and companies in general should strive towards the excellence and distinction that Whole Foods has attained.

    We wrote last week about the dilemma faced by Dunkin’ Donuts, which has blue collar roots but is moving slowly but surely upscale, and MNB user Chris Frisbee responded:

    You know, although we bump into a lot of truck drivers when we stop at the Dunkin Donuts on our way from NYC to Cape Cod, we love the coffee and the donut holes. (We get the holes because we are convinced we are not eating as many calories!) Anyway, Starbucks can't fill the niche of Dunkin Donuts!

    Another MNB user was less impressed:

    Dunkin Donuts should take a close look at how Tim Horton's operates their coffee shops.

    Dunkin Donuts needs a reality check. They have the best coffee, but their menu is very weak. The hospital lunchroom atmosphere doesn't help much either. Lower the franchise fee and I would buy a franchise as long as they worked with me to "build outside the current Dunkin Donuts box" pun intended!

    We suggested that some retailers might be able to use the lack of food available on airplanes as an opportunity to serve their customers, which prompted one MNB user to write:

    Great comments about the airline food. In addition to food retailers having an opportunity, it would seem to me to be a big opportunity for a healthy fast food airport stand that features grab and go food. Travelers could simply grab a healthy meal to carry on the plane.

    MNB user Mark McSwain observed:

    The best airline food I have had in quite a while came from Potbelly's Sandwich Works on my way through Midway Airport in Chicago. They made my sandwich to order wrapped it and packaged it in a brown bag for travel. Potbelly's has found a great market and I hope they spread to more airports.

    Regarding the possibility that A&P might sell its Canadian operations, MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

    A&P always says there is no truth to sale rumors. About 3 years ago A&P took out a full page ad in the Milwaukee Journal claiming that no more stores would close and they were committed to staying open. All the rumors of selling out were false. The following month they began closing stores one by one and then finally sold off the rest to Roundy’s and a few other operators.

    All companies deny sale rumors to keep employees from overreacting. It’s very rare that a company will announce they have a division for sale. Ahold did it with Bruno's. I think it was the right thing to do. It gives employees a chance to prepare and start a new job search while they still have a job.

    Regarding mandated gym classes in school, MNB user Denise Remark-Lundell wrote:

    I have never been what I'd describe as "athletic". Throughout my school years I HATED playing games like volleyball, kickball, softball, etc.; I wasn't good at these games & I was small & easily "out-played" by the bigger girls.

    But, I LOVED exercising! My favorite gym days were when we did what we now call aerobics. To that end, I see no problem with 30 minutes of daily exercise in schools. Daily activity is important. Kids don't seem to play outside these days as much as we did when we were young but they still require physical activities. There may even be a study somewhere advancing the idea that students are more attentive when they exercise in school.

    One a related matter, one MNB user chimed in:

    In response to "Some suggest listing weight and body mass index on report cards as a wake up call.” that would be a shame. Yes, many children (and Parents) need a wake up call, however there are many children out there who have real health problems that are causing their weight issues. I have a niece who being 1 out of 6 children was the only one in the family who was obese, it was due to a thyroid problem. School is to teach our children academically not to judge them on their health.

    MNB user Janet Miller wrote:

    It seems so obvious that everything at school is part of the lesson kids learn, doesn't it? Then why don't the school boards get this? It isn't just the classes and books and subjects, it is the atmosphere and the attitudes. So, food, what is so hard about serving kids healthy food choices? What South Beach extols is really all about balancing your diet with the right stuff, not empty calories and fats. Come to think of it, that's what a lot of diet plans are about so maybe the mindset should be right eating not dieting and then it is a natural for schools to adopt. I wonder if it is all about budgets and the reality that it is cheaper to serve junk foods. In these days of failing school levies there is more emphasis on the bottom line than the total learning environment.

    Next they can address the "encouraged physical education" problem and bring real balance to developing bodies and minds.

    Last week, we described much of cafeteria food as being “slop masquerading as crap.” MNB user Gary R. Sarner took offense:

    We supply many schools in MI. with dry refrigerated and frozen food. You were more than a bit harsh and probably not well enough informed to make the statement: “Let’s face it. Most schools serve slop that is masquerading as crap. Nothing more.”

    While what you say may be true in some cases, it is the minority and not the rule as you suggest. You have done a disservice to the hard working (mostly) women who get little reward and not enough respect for the job they do feeding our children.

    Sorry. But as a parent, we’re appalled by what is served in our school cafeteria.

    A response to Heineken’s plans to unveil a light beer from one MNB user:

    I think this is a good move by them. I see their loyal customers enjoying Heineken Light because it seems like their customers are health conscious just as much as Budweiser drinkers that switched to Bud Light. Sam Adams Light has gone well and I have been known to purchase it from time to time. The question is, can they make it have the same consistency that Heineken has? I believe so.

    MNB reported the other day South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds has signed into law legislation creating the South Dakota Certified Beef Program, which will allow consumers to find out where in the state the beef that they buy came from, tracking the animal from birth to the feedlot and eventually to the meatpacking plant.

    To which MNB user Dan Raftery responded:

    This program can't miss. The governor is named Rounds. And I heard that Sir Loin, the Canadian parliamentary noble, is so delighted that he sent his personal emissary, Chuck Shanks to meat with Rounds.

    Not sure if you’d call these jokes medium rare or well done.

    We report, you decide.
    KC's View: