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    Published on: December 12, 2006

    The Orlando Sentinel reports that Loews Hotels has decided to ban artificial trans fats from the food sold in its restaurants, shops and room mini-bars. The move will affect 18 hotels in the United States and Canada.

    According to the story, “Loews will eliminate trans fats from french fries, pastries, dressings, frozen foods and other restaurant items by April 1. All other products containing trans fats, including prepared mixes and minibar items, will be banned after June 1.”

    Loews spokeswoman Emily Goldfischer tells the Sentinel, “We hope that we will set the standard for the industry and that other hotel chains will follow suit…We aren't doing this because of any guest complaints. We are doing it because we think it is the right thing to do.”

    The move comes less than a week after the New York City Health Department voted to mandate that all of the city’s restaurants – ranging from four-star bistros to fast food joints and hot dog stands – virtually eliminate trans fats from the ingredients they use.
    KC's View:
    It’s interesting to watch hotel chains do things like ban smoking from all rooms and facilities, and now begin the process of banning trans fats.

    It’s called momentum. And the anti-trans fat movement has it.

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that Taco Bell found out yesterday “that green onions were not the source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened dozens of customers at its East Coast restaurants. But health officials reported that white onions at one of its New York restaurants were tainted by a different E. coli strain.”

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that it is looking into a wide range of foods served at Taco Bell - tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, white onions and cheese – to see if it can determine the source of the E. coli contamination.

    There have been more than 300 confirmed or suspected cases of E. coli have been reported.
    KC's View:
    This case gets weirder and weirder. But as much as the news continues to look bad for Taco Bell, it isn’t really good for anyone in the food business, because it creates legitimate concerns that go beyond one chain or food product.

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    Michael Resnick, the former CFO at Ahold’s US Foodservice division, was sentenced yesterday to three years probation for his role in the multi-million dollar accounting fraud that roiled the company and resulted in the forced resignations of several senior executives, including then-Ahold CEO Cees van der Hoeven.

    Resnick pleaded guilty last September to one count of conspiracy. In pleading for sentencing leniency, Resnick told the judge, “I approved entries I should not have approved…I said yes when I should have said no.”

    In addition to giving Resnick probation, the judge also tossed out a $20,000 fine, saying that Resnick already was severely in debt.

    It was just a month ago that Mark P. Kaiser, a former marketing executive with US Foodservice, was found guilty yesterday of conspiracy, securities fraud and false filing charges. He is free on bond until sentencing scheduled for February 8.

    Resnick’s sentencing takes place against the background of both the planned sale of US Foodservice by Ahold, as well as new legal troubles for the company – as reported in MNB two weeks ago, it is now being sued for participating in an illegal kickback scheme.

    Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut and an Italian restaurant in Illinois have filed a federal class action lawsuit against US Foodservice, charging that the company demanded kickbacks from suppliers that sold it merchandise, which enabled it to garner a higher price than what had been agreed upon by its sales people and the hospital’s representatives. The lawsuit maintains that the kickback scheme accounted for 16 to 20 percent of US Foodservice’s total sales between 2000 and 2003.

    Ahold has denied any wrongdoing.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    • The Financial Times reports that Walt Disney has set up an office in the UK dedicated solely to taking care of Tesco, the UK’s leading retailer.

    According to the paper, Disney set up a Consumer Products office across the parking lot from Tesco’s non-food headquarters in Welwyn Garden City.

    Bloomberg reports that Tesco has agreed to spend the equivalent of $353 million (US) to raise its stake in China’s Hymall superstore chain from 50 percent to 90 percent. The move by Tesco is calculated to keep pace with those made by retailers such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour to capture part of the fast-growing Chinese economy.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    The New York Times reports this morning that a trial has commenced in Delaware this week “to decide whether Valassis Communications can back out of its deal to purchase Advo, a direct mail marketing company it agreed to buy for $1.3 billion.”

    Valassis sued Advo earlier this year, saying that Advo was guilty of “fraudulent misrepresentations” of its finances during their negotiations; Advo sued, saying that Valassis simply had “buyer’s remorse” and had no good reason for backing out.

    The trial is scheduled to continue through Dec. 22.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    USA Today reports on a theme explored by MNB last week – that kitchenware is all the rage this holiday season, with companies ranging from Macy’s to Crate & Barrel and even Home Depot generating sales with a broad range of innovative and pricey culinary-themed gifts.

    KC's View:
    We repeat what we said last week – that since supermarkets sell food, it makes simple sense to cash in on this trend and sell appropriate and relevant gadgets and appliances that will allow them to connect to consumer needs in new ways and generate fresh sales.

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    The California Grocers Association (CGA) released its first ever Food Industry Charitable Contribution Survey, highlighting the fact that supermarkets contributed nearly $400 million in monetary aid, food donations and volunteer hours in 2004. Just under 60 percent of
    that figure represented monetary contributions.

    The study was funded by the CGA Education Foundation.

    “The results of this study reveal what we’ve always known – the California grocery industry plays a major role in helping needy populations, not only in times of emergency, but every day,” said CGA and CGA Foundation President Peter Larkin. “Finding the right research project and then funding it is something the Foundation has wanted to do for some time.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    • In the UK, the Telegraph reports that the activist group War on Want has accused Tesco and Wal-Mart’s Asda Group, among other retailers, “of selling clothes made in Bangladesh by workers earning as little as five pence an hour” in working conditions described as a “potential death trap.” factories, the group's study found.

    The report says that agreements signed by the retailers guaranteeing laborers a living wage and decent working conditions are “regularly violated”.

    Both retailers have denied the charges.

    CNN reports that Coca-Cola “plans to launch a new version of Diet Coke in 2007 that is fortified with vitamins and minerals,” described as “the first nutrient-enhanced carbonated soda to be offered by a major brand.”

    Coke would neither confirm or deny the report.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    • The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) announced the appointment of Rebecca Philbert, the former corporate vice president responsible for Safeway’s "Lifestyle Store" development project, as its new senior vice president, merchandising.

    • The Grocery Manufacturers/Food Products Association has appointed Sean McBride to be its vice president of communications and Scott Openshaw to be director of communications.

    Prior to joining GMA/FPA, McBride served as a senior communications consultant to several private and not-for-profit organizations, including GMA and Porter Novelli public relations.

    Openshaw most recently served as director of communications for the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development within the Executive Office of Governor Jeb Bush, R-Fla.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    Responding to all our coverage of Wal-Mart’s dismissal of marketing executive Julie Roehm and an ad agency it only hired months ago, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

    Those new Wal-Mart commercials on flat screen TVs are great. Even if Julie didn't work out for them, it was worth having her around just to create those commercials. Seems like Wal-Mart was able to learn a lot from her and I think they will be a better company for hiring her. But her usefulness to them is now completed and she is being tossed aside. That’s why they get paid the big bucks so when they do get tossed out, they don't "have" to get another job like the rest of us.

    I think coming to Wal-Mart from an outside company is going to be a culture shock for anyone. Imagine coming from one of those companies with the big ivory towers and expensive decors? When you travel you get to stay at the Hyatt and order room service. Then go to Wal-Mart and its Motel 6 and McDonalds. It would be like the corporate version of Paris Hilton's "Simple Life."


    And another MNB user wrote:

    Wal-Mart is in a very dangerous place that the Aholds (and numerous other examples) have all been before. The problem with being a publicly traded stock is that a lot of people who don’t know anything about your business are making demands for change and “better results.” When companies that have a proven formula for success change that formula, there is the potential for disaster.

    To be clear, change is not bad, in fact it is often necessary. There are companies like JC Penny that have made major changes that have led to success instead of death. But Wal-Mart is clearly responding to shareholder pressure for more profits instead of a need to better serve their core customer.

    In my very first marketing class at a small private university, I had a professor say these words “You, everyone you know, and everyone your parents know are in the top 10% of the US population in education and affluence. Which means that 90% of the people out there are nothing like you… remove your personal preference from the equation and market to the masses for the greatest chance of success.”

    Wal-Mart has served those masses for decades and should continue to do so. Because the other side of my marketing professor’s statement is that there are some folks out there who will never find Wal-Mart as a credible solution to their shopping needs.

    I am no fan of Wal-Mart, but I have to offer very important words of advice: A well-run, customer-focused business will ultimately deliver results. Manage your business not your stock price. There are millions of employees, manufacturers (and their employees) and other stakeholders that depend on H. Lee Scott Jr. to do so. (Note the use of the word stakeholder instead of shareholder).





    On the subject of the health benefits of red wine, one MNB user wrote:

    It's fabulous that there are so many reasons to enjoy a glass of red wine. French friends of ours related an article theorizing that a significant part of the benefit of red wine comes from the fact that no one slams back a glass of red wine (like a pill, perhaps???!!!) -- you stop, have a seat, maybe talk to family or friends, and stop for a minute to breathe and drink your wine. It is the fact that you are taking a moment to just sit that is part of the benefit...don't know if it's true, but it's not illogical.

    When, oh when, will the Western world realize that health issues aren't meant to be fixed by popping a pill...it takes eating right, and getting some exercise, and sitting down to a glass of wine once in a while. (Before anyone boils over, by the way, I understand that those allergic to sulfites need an alternative...thus tea, and grape juice, and pomegranate juice....still not pills, and still enjoyable things to just sit and relax with for a few minutes.)

    Incidentally, I'm not some wiry-thin health food freak who spends her days exercising...I'm closer to Rubenesque than thin, I don't exercise as much as I know I should, but I do what I can, and try to eat right...and try to actually enjoy what I'm eating -- and my cholesterol and blood pressure reflect my efforts, thanks. My kid gets home-made cake and cookies once in a while...and actually asked me the other day what a Twinkie is.


    MNB user John Nardi wrote:

    I'm not a wine connoisseur, just like to have a glass of red every now and again. I am a native Californian and have lived most of my 50 years within about 20 miles from the Napa Valley. This doesn't qualify me for anything more than proximity to the best wines in the world.

    Growing up, my family made wine (Italian, duh!), yet, being a wine snob is not in my DNA. There were never discussions about varietals, or award winning wines, or French wine. Good years were just that and bad years didn't exist (they were called vinegar starters) and many were drunk anyway. Through all of this, I still enjoy a good glass of red.

    So although I cannot appreciate an apricot essence or a chocolaty finish, I do know when I like a wine and when I don't by relying on my taste buds. (Works better for me than trying to impress people with my knowledge or trying to pretend to enjoy a glass of expensive wine when I don't like it).

    All of this to let you know that my primary wine buying trips are to Trader Joe's. And as a creature of habit, I buy an awful lot of the Black Mountain "Fat Cat" cabernet. A great tasting red for about $5-6. Unbelievable value and a very consistent wine that always gets raves with our guests, even the wine aficionados. Try it and let me know what you think.


    We will. Though we happen to live in a prehistoric state where Trader Joe’s isn’t allowed to sell wine…so we may have to hunt a bit.




    On the subject of a survey suggesting that consumers want stores to conduct cooking classes, one MNB user wrote:

    If I recall this used to be done in what was called Home Economics classes ........ which has been dropped by most school districts ...... budgets, etc. Perhaps a strong local/regional grocery chain or even a grocery association could sponsor this type of class either during school hours or perhaps a 'club" for after hours. I have heard kids watch and talk about the Food Network so it can been informative, interesting and fun. Children influence food purchases with their parents as well as teenagers with direct purchasing. Quite a win for a company and a community!

    Good idea.




    We had a story yesterday about a study suggesting that eating a low-protein diet may protect against certain cancers, while a diet high in protein may increase the risk for malignancies.

    MNB user Angie Dahman responded:

    This article is very one sided. What it fails to mention is that American beef is "beefed up" with hormones and antibiotics, which is what is causing the cancer. By eating all natural or organic beef/chicken eliminates the harmful bi products that are pumped into our animals in order to produce more meat = more money.

    A perfect example would be the Argentinean's where beef is the main staple of their diet. They don't inject with the hormones or antibiotics and as a result don’t have the cancer rates that Americans do as a result of eating a lot of red meat.


    And MNB user Al Kober wrote:

    They continue to beat up the meat industry. Who are these people anyway, telling me what I can eat and what I can't? They are people who are going to die too. What, food are they going to blame when that happens and it will. If they feel a deep desire to share their opinions, leave it at that. As for me I plan to continue to enjoy my protein from animals for many years to come, and then I plan to die too. I am planning to lives long as possible but I also prepared to die, when ever that times comes. I hope they put as much effort into preparing to die as they do in trying to add a few more years to their lives.

    We don’t think they are telling you what you can and can’t eat as much as what you should or shouldn’t eat. Which is different. The choice remains yours, as it should be.




    Finally, responding to our story about the “contrarian” McGinnis Sisters, MNB user Rush S. Dickson III wrote:

    Being contrarian is an approach that captures a fundamental element for success: differentiation.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    Responding to all our coverage of Wal-Mart’s dismissal of marketing executive Julie Roehm and an ad agency it only hired months ago, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

    Those new Wal-Mart commercials on flat screen TVs are great. Even if Julie didn't work out for them, it was worth having her around just to create those commercials. Seems like Wal-Mart was able to learn a lot from her and I think they will be a better company for hiring her. But her usefulness to them is now completed and she is being tossed aside. That’s why they get paid the big bucks so when they do get tossed out, they don't "have" to get another job like the rest of us.

    I think coming to Wal-Mart from an outside company is going to be a culture shock for anyone. Imagine coming from one of those companies with the big ivory towers and expensive decors? When you travel you get to stay at the Hyatt and order room service. Then go to Wal-Mart and its Motel 6 and McDonalds. It would be like the corporate version of Paris Hilton's "Simple Life."


    And another MNB user wrote:

    Wal-Mart is in a very dangerous place that the Aholds (and numerous other examples) have all been before. The problem with being a publicly traded stock is that a lot of people who don’t know anything about your business are making demands for change and “better results.” When companies that have a proven formula for success change that formula, there is the potential for disaster.

    To be clear, change is not bad, in fact it is often necessary. There are companies like JC Penny that have made major changes that have led to success instead of death. But Wal-Mart is clearly responding to shareholder pressure for more profits instead of a need to better serve their core customer.

    In my very first marketing class at a small private university, I had a professor say these words “You, everyone you know, and everyone your parents know are in the top 10% of the US population in education and affluence. Which means that 90% of the people out there are nothing like you… remove your personal preference from the equation and market to the masses for the greatest chance of success.”

    Wal-Mart has served those masses for decades and should continue to do so. Because the other side of my marketing professor’s statement is that there are some folks out there who will never find Wal-Mart as a credible solution to their shopping needs.

    I am no fan of Wal-Mart, but I have to offer very important words of advice: A well-run, customer-focused business will ultimately deliver results. Manage your business not your stock price. There are millions of employees, manufacturers (and their employees) and other stakeholders that depend on H. Lee Scott Jr. to do so. (Note the use of the word stakeholder instead of shareholder).





    On the subject of the health benefits of red wine, one MNB user wrote:

    It's fabulous that there are so many reasons to enjoy a glass of red wine. French friends of ours related an article theorizing that a significant part of the benefit of red wine comes from the fact that no one slams back a glass of red wine (like a pill, perhaps???!!!) -- you stop, have a seat, maybe talk to family or friends, and stop for a minute to breathe and drink your wine. It is the fact that you are taking a moment to just sit that is part of the benefit...don't know if it's true, but it's not illogical.

    When, oh when, will the Western world realize that health issues aren't meant to be fixed by popping a pill...it takes eating right, and getting some exercise, and sitting down to a glass of wine once in a while. (Before anyone boils over, by the way, I understand that those allergic to sulfites need an alternative...thus tea, and grape juice, and pomegranate juice....still not pills, and still enjoyable things to just sit and relax with for a few minutes.)

    Incidentally, I'm not some wiry-thin health food freak who spends her days exercising...I'm closer to Rubenesque than thin, I don't exercise as much as I know I should, but I do what I can, and try to eat right...and try to actually enjoy what I'm eating -- and my cholesterol and blood pressure reflect my efforts, thanks. My kid gets home-made cake and cookies once in a while...and actually asked me the other day what a Twinkie is.


    MNB user John Nardi wrote:

    I'm not a wine connoisseur, just like to have a glass of red every now and again. I am a native Californian and have lived most of my 50 years within about 20 miles from the Napa Valley. This doesn't qualify me for anything more than proximity to the best wines in the world.

    Growing up, my family made wine (Italian, duh!), yet, being a wine snob is not in my DNA. There were never discussions about varietals, or award winning wines, or French wine. Good years were just that and bad years didn't exist (they were called vinegar starters) and many were drunk anyway. Through all of this, I still enjoy a good glass of red.

    So although I cannot appreciate an apricot essence or a chocolaty finish, I do know when I like a wine and when I don't by relying on my taste buds. (Works better for me than trying to impress people with my knowledge or trying to pretend to enjoy a glass of expensive wine when I don't like it).

    All of this to let you know that my primary wine buying trips are to Trader Joe's. And as a creature of habit, I buy an awful lot of the Black Mountain "Fat Cat" cabernet. A great tasting red for about $5-6. Unbelievable value and a very consistent wine that always gets raves with our guests, even the wine aficionados. Try it and let me know what you think.


    We will. Though we happen to live in a prehistoric state where Trader Joe’s isn’t allowed to sell wine…so we may have to hunt a bit.




    On the subject of a survey suggesting that consumers want stores to conduct cooking classes, one MNB user wrote:

    If I recall this used to be done in what was called Home Economics classes ........ which has been dropped by most school districts ...... budgets, etc. Perhaps a strong local/regional grocery chain or even a grocery association could sponsor this type of class either during school hours or perhaps a 'club" for after hours. I have heard kids watch and talk about the Food Network so it can been informative, interesting and fun. Children influence food purchases with their parents as well as teenagers with direct purchasing. Quite a win for a company and a community!

    Good idea.




    We had a story yesterday about a study suggesting that eating a low-protein diet may protect against certain cancers, while a diet high in protein may increase the risk for malignancies.

    MNB user Angie Dahman responded:

    This article is very one sided. What it fails to mention is that American beef is "beefed up" with hormones and antibiotics, which is what is causing the cancer. By eating all natural or organic beef/chicken eliminates the harmful bi products that are pumped into our animals in order to produce more meat = more money.

    A perfect example would be the Argentinean's where beef is the main staple of their diet. They don't inject with the hormones or antibiotics and as a result don’t have the cancer rates that Americans do as a result of eating a lot of red meat.


    And MNB user Al Kober wrote:

    They continue to beat up the meat industry. Who are these people anyway, telling me what I can eat and what I can't? They are people who are going to die too. What, food are they going to blame when that happens and it will. If they feel a deep desire to share their opinions, leave it at that. As for me I plan to continue to enjoy my protein from animals for many years to come, and then I plan to die too. I am planning to lives long as possible but I also prepared to die, when ever that times comes. I hope they put as much effort into preparing to die as they do in trying to add a few more years to their lives.

    We don’t think they are telling you what you can and can’t eat as much as what you should or shouldn’t eat. Which is different. The choice remains yours, as it should be.




    Finally, responding to our story about the “contrarian” McGinnis Sisters, MNB user Rush S. Dickson III wrote:

    Being contrarian is an approach that captures a fundamental element for success: differentiation.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 12, 2006

    In Monday Night Football, the Chicago Bears thumped the St. Louis Rams 42-27.
    KC's View: