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    Published on: June 2, 2005

    Did you happen to read yesterday’s Wall Street Journal piece about how Procter & Gamble and its CEO, A.G. Lafley are paying greater attention to what women want?

    Some salient points from the article:

    • Lafley is “changing the way the company thinks about the women who buy its products,” the WSJ writes. “P&G has always aimed its marketing at women. But it used to develop consumer goods in its labs and market them based on the product's best technical feature. Its market research tended to be about the pros and cons of specific products.

      These days, employees spend hours with women, watching them do laundry, clean the floor, apply makeup and diaper their children. They look for nuisances that a new product might solve. Then, they return to the labs determined to address the feature women care about most.

    • ”Roughly 80% of the people who buy P&G products in the U.S. are women. That's why Mr. Lafley routinely stops women in stores to ask them about their purchases.”

    • The WSJ writes that “during Mr. Lafley's tenure, the number of women in the roughly 275 slots at the top of P&G has increased by a third, to just over 50 women. Women constitute about 37% of P&G's 110,000 work force. By design, that number has been inching up about a percentage point every year for the past several years; 44% of those hired each year by P&G are women. ‘You have to be careful with gender generalizations, but we talk about women's intuition for good reason,’ Mr. Lafley says.”

    KC's View:
    The question here is obvious.

    Are other retailers and manufacturers as dedicated to getting into the trenches, as opposed to listening to consultants or reading market research studies?

    Just asking.

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    Wild Oats has opened the first of five planned boutiques inside Ahold-owned Super Stop & Shop units – a 1,100 square foot section inside a newly remodeled supermarket in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

    The company says that “the new Wild Oats boutique is a state-of-the art holistic health center where customers can find a full line of the highest quality nutritional vitamins and supplements, homeopathic remedies, luxurious natural and organic body care products, as well as a wealth of detailed information about health and wellness. Staffed with knowledgeable Wild Oats holistic health associates, and complete with information kiosks and educational health brochures, the Wild Oats boutique serves as a resource to meet customers' natural health needs.”
    KC's View:
    We think we’re seeing Wild Oats’ future here – becoming a service and product provider to other companies as much as a retailer on its own.

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has released a study suggesting that federally mandated, standardized nutrition labels may actually hurt the competitive balance among food manufacturers because it gives big companies an advantage over smaller ones.

    "The outcomes we observed would not necessarily be expected when standardized information, like a label, is infused into the marketplace," said Duke University marketing professor Christine Moorman. "We expected that label information would allow firms to compete more honestly for consumers' purchases, but instead we find an unintended loss of small firms in food categories."

    The study says that “leading food companies benefited disproportionately from the legislation, perhaps because their greater financial resources, brand awareness, customer knowledge and distribution power enabled them to anticipate and respond quicker and more effectively to the new information-disclosure requirements. Given these advantages, larger food firms showed a significantly lower tendency to exit various food categories than smaller food makers. For the same reasons, the category giants also displayed a significantly greater tendency to increase their distribution levels at the expense of their smaller, less-endowed rivals.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    • Responding to a series of press conferences being held across the country criticizing its labor policies, the company’s executive vice president of benefits administration, M. Susan Chambers, released the following statement:

      "Some of our critics are open-minded people who are genuinely concerned about issues and want to make the world a better place. We listen and learn and try to work with them toward common goals. Today's events are nothing more than a publicity stunt by ‘Wake-Up Wal-Mart,’ which is funded entirely by the UFCW, and are designed to further their own narrow self-interests.

      "The health care issue is much broader than Wal-Mart. Our nation – including large and small employers – faces a health care crisis. Maliciously targeting one company doesn't address this issue. It doesn't provide one person with insurance or take one person off the list of America's uninsured. It doesn't offer solutions.

      “Here are some facts about our health care plan:

      • "Wal-Mart associates are entitled to go to the best medical facilities in the world and get the highest quality care."

      • "Wal-Mart offers eight different options within the Associates Medical Plan to meet the medical and financial needs of our associates. Premiums start at less than $40 per month for single coverage and less than $155 per month for family coverage. In some states, we also offer HMO's to associates as yet another health insurance option."

      • "Both full and part-time associates are eligible for coverage."

      • "Many plans stop paying after the medical bills go higher than a million dollars. Wal-Mart's plan has no lifetime cap on most expenses, protecting our associates from financial ruin."

      • "Wal-Mart is currently looking into additional options that provide associates a wider range of offerings, including Health Savings Accounts beginning next year."

      Now, in regards to the myths about Wal-Mart and public assistance health care:

      • "We estimate Wal-Mart has taken 160,000 people off the list of America's uninsured."

      • "In December, The Segmentation Company conducted a survey of our associates The study showed that 7 percent of hourly store associates were on Medicaid three months before joining Wal-Mart, but that number dropped to 5 percent once they join. After two years of employment, it drops to 3 percent."

      "We will be the first to acknowledge that healthcare is a tough issue, for us and for the country. Wal-Mart will continue to work with state legislators and the Congress to develop sensible, workable solutions to address America's health care challenges."

    • Wal-Mart also is the target of documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald, according to a story in the New York Times. Greenwald, who also produced and directed “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," reportedly is preparing a $1.6 million documentary that will, the Times reports, depict what “a growing number of critics perceive to be Wal-Mart's sins against society: unfair competition and erosion of the fabric of communities; exploitation of its American workers, and of the government welfare programs many rely on to supplement their wages and benefits; union busting; reliance on suppliers with sweatshops overseas; and environmental negligence - among others.”

      Greenwald tells the Times that he is meeting resistance in his efforts – not just from Wal-Mart and a number of its employees, which is to be expected, but also from some film industry types who don’t want to run the risk of alienating a retailer that sells so many DVDs.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    Published reports say that the Texas state legislature has passed a law saying that citizens cannot sue food industry companies on the grounds that products sold by retailers or manufacturers caused them to be overweight or obese. The bill now goes to the governor.

    No such lawsuits have yet been filed in Texas.

    Eighteen states have already banned these types of lawsuits, and legislation is pending in 27 other states.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    The Business Journal of Milwaukee reports that Roundy’s board of directors has voted to change the company’s name to Roundy’s Supermarkets, which it says better reflects the company’s evolution from being a wholesaler to being a retailer with 132 units under a number of different banners.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    Richard Braddock, the former Citicorp executive who went to run, now has been named chairman of, the NYC-based “pure play” online food retailer.

    Braddock is investing several million dollars in FreshDirect, and is charged with expanding its presence in the city, improving its product mix and finding new markets for the company’s operations. He has been on the company’s board for more than a year.
    KC's View:
    If memory serves, Braddock also was at Priceline when it made its ill-advised move into the grocery business – an initiative that we thought was dumb when it started and dumb when it ended.

    Hopefully, he’ll have better luck at FreshDirect.

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    • USA Today reports that “kids get a whopping one-third of their calories from pizza, snacks and desserts,” citing a new study that suggests that what used to be “fun foods” have become dietary staples.

      The study, by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, concludes that if kids are going to eat so many of these kinds of foods, then it is incumbent on parents and industry to make these foods as nutritious as possible.

    • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic research Service says that retail beef prices are at an all-time high, now averaging $4.25 a pound.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 2, 2005

    We had a story yesterday about an elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta, where the administration is considering a ban on milk sales because there are two children attending the school who are severely allergic to milk. There are a total of 400 students going to the school. These students would be allowed to bring milk to school, but would be unable to buy it in the cafeteria.

    There are several problems with this possibility. One is that some people think the school is overreacting. The other is that once they ban milk, they may have to ban other dairy products, such as cheese.

    We got a number of emails responding to this story.

    MNB user Mary Burns wrote:

    The stage has already been set for the banning of products in schools; there are schools where peanut butter is banned because a child has an allergy to peanuts. Now I know that an allergy to nuts can be deadly; but where do we stop?

    My son was allergic to milk but I certainly never did more than ask his teachers to not insist that he drink the milk that was provided with the school lunch. Once they understood that he had an allergy there was no problem. My sons’ allergy was not lactose intolerance but a genuine allergy to milk. This type of allergy typically manifests itself in eczema, excessive mucous and congestion – unpleasant but not life threatening. The irony in my story is that I discovered his allergy while breastfeeding; I was drinking milk (which I normally drank very little of) to boost my own nutritional intake and causing an allergic reaction in my baby. I cannot imagine requesting that the school not serve milk or that milk drinking children be segregated from my child.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I had to read the incredulous story about the school in Canada banning milk sales three times before I believed it! These people are insane!

    It reminds me of a time two years ago when my daughter brought a note home from school stating that she was not permitted to bring anything in her lunch that contained peanuts, as there was another student in her class that was severely allergic to them. Try telling a 9 year-old that she cannot have a PB&J in her lunch bag! The school's reasoning was that the student with the allergies may try to "sneak" the food from another student. My response to them, as well as the Canadian school, is this:

    It is neither my responsibility, nor the school's, to monitor the allergy concerns of other students. It is the responsibility of THEIR PARENTS! Unfortunately, once again in this era of political correctness, the needs of the few are outweighing the needs of the many. How very sad.....

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Political correctness often throws the baby out with the bath water. I had a child with a lot of allergies. I had to teach him to avoid the trouble causing foods. He learned what he had to avoid. Even a five year old is capable of saying "I cannot drink milk". The school staff could quickly learn the two students that cannot drink the milk and make sure that none is sold to those children. Without the children being educated by the parent, what would prevent some milk brought from home by another child from being consumed by the children allergic to it? Kids trade food all the time at school.

    Our society has gone way to far with diversity acceptance. Does this also mean that all desks and scissors in the school need to have a left handed orientation lest a lefty child accidentally pick up a righty pair of scissors or be seated in a right handed desk? What this foolishness does is cause the majority to suffer for the acceptance of a very small minority. I have an allergy to coffee that is pretty severe. The aroma is bothersome to me, as well. I do not request the entire office to stop drinking coffee so I do not ever smell it. I did, however, request that I not ever be assigned a seat near the coffee machine. STOP THE INSANITY. Let the parents teach these children the danger of dairy consumption and let the food staff and teachers be made aware of these children's needs and what to do in case of accidental ingestion, and let it end there.

    Yet another MNB user wrote:

    I have a twelve-year-old daughter who has a life-threatening allergy to a natural red dye. Since the FDA classifies this dye as a "natural" additive -- manufacturers are not required to list it individually on their ingredient labels. When she started kindergarten she could recite for her teachers what brands of products she could not eat/drink (based on previous reactions). She also knew what combinations of colors had red in them and knew to avoid items of those colors. If there was ever any doubt about what was to be served, I would send a "safe" drink or snack for her consumption.

    Her teachers have repeatedly thanked me over the years for teaching her to be so vigilant in monitoring this situation. It is not the responsibility of the school to remove milk from the cafeteria -- it is the responsibility of the parents to teach their child what products they can and cannot consume. They should also send appropriate products to lunch for their child. If they pull milk now, pretty soon they will be expected to remove all dairy products. That is not fair to the majority of the students on that campus.

    But one other MNB user had a different perspective:

    My son's elementary school in Michigan banned peanut butter sandwiches because one little girl was severely allergic to peanuts. We quietly complained but easily adjusted and were very glad we had when we learned that she died during the summer from an allergic reaction. Let the kids drink their milk at home.
    KC's View: