retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    The Wall Street Journal reports that next March the US government will abandon its “5 A Day” approach to getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and instead will use a new message: “Fruits and Veggies – More Matters.”

    The shift in emphasis is designed to fall into line with revised government recommendations when it comes to fresh produce consumption; the government now acknowledges that “five a day” isn’t always the best recommendation, depending on age, gender and exercise levels; in fact, new studies suggest that most people should eat more than five servings of fresh produce a day for the maximum health benefits.

    As the WSJ notes, “A 40-year-old woman, for instance, should eat 2.5 cups of vegetables and 1.5 cups of fruit daily if she exercises less than 30 minutes a day -- more if she is more active. A 65-year-old man who exercises less than 30 minutes a day should eat 2.5 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit.”

    The recommendations are jointly issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).
    KC's View:
    : Of course, the government also acknowledges that nine out of ten people weren’t paying attention to the old “five a day” recommendation, so it seems unlikely that the new, vaguer approach will have much impact.

    But one can always hope.

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    A new study suggest that despite competing pressures, Americans continue to see the family meal as a top priority – and some of the details run contrary to conventional wisdom about this subject.

    The study, commissioned by SuperTarget and conducted by Harris Interactive, says that “parents of children under 18 typically report eating dinner at home as a family about six times per week, and cooking dinner about five times per week. More than four in five parents (84 percent) go grocery shopping with the family at least once a week, and just over three in four parents (77 percent) cook dinner with their children equally as often.

    "Families are busier than ever, and this research supports that eating dinner as a family is still a valued American tradition," said Dr. Susan Mitchell, a registered dietitian who works for Target. "Involving children in meal preparation and grocery shopping early in life will help establish healthy eating patterns and help kids make better food choices throughout life."
    KC's View:
    Isn’t it pretty to think so? (As Jake Barnes said in Ernest Hemmingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”)

    To be honest, we find this hard to believe. Maybe people understand the importance of the family meal, but we simply don’t believe that this many families are breaking bread and sharing conversation at the dinner table with this kind of frequency. Wishful thinking, perhaps, when chatting with the pollsters.

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    The Japanese government reportedly will formally decide this week to allow the import of US beef, despite the fact that, according to the Associated Press, some Japanese inspectors have found food safety compliance problems in a small percentage of US plants.

    It was just a month ago that the US and Japanese governments announced that the ban on US beef imports to Japan by the end of July, pending the inspection of US meat processing plants by Japanese officials.

    Japan’s borders were first closed to US beef when a case of mad cow was found in the US in December 2003, and then reopened late last year, only to be closed again early this year when beef containing spinal matter – specifically banned by the agreement reopening the border – was found in a Japan-bound shipment.

    Testing levels have been a major sticking point between the two countries. Japan's national policy is for every cow to be tested, but in the US, the government tests about one percent of the cattle population and plans to reduce this level of testing.
    KC's View:
    We think it is a pretty good bet that before the end of the year, a new ban on US beef will be implemented by Japanese officials because of some infraction by the US…and this whole stupid political merry-go-round will continue.

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    IHL Consulting Group has released a new study saying that people who use self-checkout systems in supermarkets are likely to make front-end impulse purchases such as candy and tabloid newspapers 45 percent less frequently than people using traditional, manned checkouts.

    The impact reportedly is greater for women (down 50 percent) versus a drop of 27.9 percent for men.

    "Retailers are being forced to rethink their merchandising at the front end as they deploy self-checkout systems," says IHL President Greg Buzek in a prepared statement. "The impulse displays have not caught up to this new technology. By definition these are impulse items – thus they must engage the senses. Retailers such as Meijer and Kroger have adjusted by offering items such as rotisserie chickens and fresh baked breads to rely more on the sense of smell to drive sales rather than simply visuals when trapped in a staffed lane."

    Other data from the study:

    • In 2005, consumers spent over $110.9 billion on self-checkout transactions at retailers, up 35 percent, year to year.

    • The average number of items in a self-checkout transaction is 6.7, and the average self-checkout transaction is $32.85.

    • Nearly one-fifth (18 percent) of self-checkout users use it "all the time" when it is available but 29 percent use it only when there is a line at the other lanes. This means that if there's no line at a cashiered lane, they will choose to use a cashier rather than self-checkout.

    • Fifty-five percent (55 percent) of respondents indicated that their greatest dislike about self-checkout involves transactions that are halted midstream for employee intervention. According to the consumers in our survey, one in every three self-checkout purchases requires intervention from an employee.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    • Fresh Direct, the New York-based online grocery service that specializes in fresh foods, announced its launch of “FreshDirect One-Click Recipes, allowing customers to choose from top recipes, buy the freshest ingredients, and receive their delivery without ever leaving home.”

    Partnering with Workman Publishing, Fresh Direct offers 400 recipes from 53 well-known cookbooks, and “allows customers to search and sort using criteria such as main ingredient, level of difficulty, theme, number served, type of cuisine, cooking method, and more. When a recipe has been selected, the ingredient list easily becomes a virtual shopping list.”

    In a prepared statement, Steve Michaelson, president of FreshDirect, said: “One-Click Recipes is another way that FreshDirect provides a totally unique shopping experience for customers. No traditional grocer or market can offer this kind of convenience. Our number-one goal is to continually provide our customers with the easiest ways to get a meal on the table through our delicious prepared foods, our convenient delivery service, and now through new One-Click Recipes.”
    KC's View:
    We actually tested this out, and the function is terrific – it is easy to surf and remarkably clear. Smart move by Fresh Direct, which is making its e-grocery service more than just about delivery. It’s about the food…which is usually a good idea.

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    Published reports say that a new study by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) suggests that food products that come from livestock that has eaten biotech crops can be safely consumed by humans.

    ''Meat, milk, and eggs produced by farm animals fed biotechnology-derived crops are as wholesome, safe and nutritious as similar products produced by animals fed conventional crops,'' said John M. Bonner, CAST's executive vice president.

    Critics of the study, however, say that CAST is too closely aligned with the biotech industry and that its study should be taken with a grain of salt. So to speak.
    KC's View:
    We aren’t smart enough to know whether such foods are safe to eat or not.

    But we do know that these products need to be sufficiently labeled and that consumers need to educated in the facts.

    Any other approach will only add to the confusion.

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    CBS News reports that Tesco, the British-based retailer planning a major foray into US retailing, has acquired close to 90 acres of land in Riverside, California, where it plans to build a new distribution center.

    • The New York-based Conference Board said yesterday that its June confidence index rose to 106.5 from a revised 105.4 in June. Analysts had expected a drop to 104.

    • Ahold-owned US Foodservice announced that it has acquired Savage Foods, a St. Louis-based custom meat processor that distributes to independent restaurants, hospitality and lodging customers and other foodservice businesses.

    • Hallmark announced that it will launch a bi-monthly magazine next month that will help them “feel connected and celebrate life,” and that will focus, among other things, on food and nutrition issues. The premiere issue will carry 30 ad pages from the likes of Estée Lauder, Unilever, and Kraft.

    • Time Inc. announced that the September issue of “Teen People” will be the last, but that it will maintain the property’s website as a way of engaging the magazine’s target audience.

    • McDonald's Corp. on Tuesday said it will sell its remaining stake in the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain by the end of October to focus on its traditional hamburger restaurants.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    • Loblaw, the Canadian retailer, reported that its second quarter sales were the equivalent of $6 billion (US), up 4.6 percent from the same period a year ago. Same-store sales were up 1.6 percent. Q2 operating income was $327 million (US), down from $331 million during the same period a year ago.

    • McDonald’s Corp. reported that its second quarter earnings were up 57 percent to $834.1 million, from $530.4 million during the same period a year ago. Q1 sales were up 9.4 percent to $5.57 billion, with same-store sales up 5.5 percent.

    • Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. reported that its second-quarter profit fell 13 percent to $140.6 million, from $162.4 million during the same period last year. Revenue climbed 16 percent to $1.21 billion, from $1.04 billion last year.

    • Amazon.com reported yesterday that its second quarter revenue was $2.14 billion, compared with $1.75 billion during the same period a year ago. Profit figures for Q2, however, plummeted 58 percent to $22 million from $52 million during the same period last year. Amazon's Q2 total operating expenses rose 34 percent to $462 million from $346 million. Technology and content costs rose 58 percent.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    Local news reports say that a man shopping at a Florida Wal-Mart’s garden department was bitten by a snake hidden in the foliage.

    The snake was captured and killed but not identified by officials. The man was treated and released by physicians. Wal-Mart officials said it was an isolated incident.
    KC's View:
    The good news is that it is being turned into a movie starting Samuel L. Jackson…

    Published on: July 26, 2006

    …will return.
    KC's View: