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: April 23, 2008

    Content Guy’s Note: As you’ll see in about three paragraphs, I have a vested interest in the following story…and I think that this announcement uniquely dovetails with the long term approach and goals here on MNB. So read on…

    SEATTLE - Consumers looking for new and better information about how to shop, cook and eat smarter will have a fresh and invaluable source starting in May, as a new video program, FoodWireTV, debuts on and on numerous other online venues.

    Featuring a wide variety of editorial approaches – including reviews of the best new and existing products, interviews with thought leaders in the food business, and entertaining travelogue-style visits with people and places bringing food to consumers in unique and provocative ways – FoodWireTV will be a video podcast designed to help shoppers make smarter decisions about how and what to feed themselves and their families.

    Produced by Kevin Coupe, founder and “Content Guy” for the popular food industry website, and food industry expert Michael Sansolo, FoodWireTV will have a unique point of view because it will be aware of the business trends shaping food consumption but always mindful of consumer needs and desires.

    “We think FoodWireTV is an ideal way to start talking to shoppers about food in a fundamentally different way – being serious about the subject, while always looking to be entertaining and even irreverent in our approach,” said Coupe. “Ultimately, we want to have fun…and we want people to have more fun shopping, cooking and eating. Consumers have a basic desire to be better and smarter about food. That can mean eating healthier, but it also can mean being indulgent, depending on the occasion. And we want to talk about both of those, and everything in between.”

    “There is a lot of research out there showing that when families have dinner together, they tend to have children with fewer alcohol and drug problems, and who getter better grades and are better adjusted,” Sansolo added. “If we can move the needle on this just a little bit it will be a major cultural contribution, and is a perfect venue to do so since it has so much appeal to young people.”

    FoodWireTV will be a sponsored program, and a major CPG company already has signed on to sponsor the first program. Negotiations are underway with a number of major and smaller food manufacturers and service providers to advertise on subsequent editions of the new venture.

    Coupe said, “Hopefully one of the central advantages of sponsoring FoodWireTV will be its presence on, which is a place where consumers are in a shopping state-of-mind and open to suggestions and recommendations about how to better accomplish their food shopping goals.”
    KC's View:
    Needless to say, we’re thrilled about this new venture…because we think it is a perfect marriage between form and content. And I’m excited that one of the places offering access to FoodWireTV will be MNB ... though I have to concede that my audience is just a little smaller than Amazon’s.

    There will be a lot more to tell you about FoodWireTV as we move forward, but let me plant two thoughts…

    First, we’ll be doing some videotaping at the upcoming FMI Show in Las Vegas for the program, and will be focusing on new products that are coming into the marketplace. So, if you have a new food product and are exhibiting at the FMI Show, shoot me an email and let me know what the product is and where you will be on the exhibit floor. We’ll consider you for inclusion on our debut show.

    Second, if you’re interested in getting your product in front of a sizable audience that is interested in shopping, cooking and eating, and would like information about sponsorship options, you can send me an email as well.

    You can contact me at 203-662-0100, or via email: .

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    Reuters reports this morning that Whole Foods and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will find themselves in a federal appeals court today to argue whether the retailer should have been allowed to acquire rival organic supermarket chain Wild Oats.

    The FTC will argue that the US District Court in the case did not act properly in failing to prevent the $565 million purchase from taking place, though it is unclear whether the courts would be able to ubnravel a deal that closed last August and which already has resulted in the integration of the two companies' stores and operations.

    The original FTC argument in the case was that the combination of the nation's two largest organic/natural supermarket chains was against antitrust law because it would have a negative impact on competition. Whole Foods countered that the two chains were actually relatively small players in a much larger category – all supermarkets – and that the organic/natural segment should not be considered to be separate and distinct.

    While the courts so far have sided with the Whole Foods position, the FTC seems unwilling to let go, and also is purusing what are called "administrative proceedings" against the acquisition.

    KC's View:
    On what planet is the Whole Foods-Wild Oats deal considered in violation of antitrust law, and yet the government seems to show very little concern about the fact that Rupert Murdoch could end up owning, just in the New York metropolitan area, the New York Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsday, and the local Fox television affiliate?

    I don't get it.

    Beyond the fact that I think that Whole Foods' argument is correct – and have said so from the beginning – as a taxpayer I am offended that these FTC guys are like rapiud dogs with a hunk of raw meat...they just can't let go, and they're spending tax dollars to try to win a game that ended months ago.

    Memo to the FTC: Pay more attention to Murdoch. There may be a real antitrust case there.

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    Hannaford Bros. yesterday offered an update on the investigation into the security breach that potentially compromised the account numbers and expiration dates on as many as 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers used at its stores between Dec. 7 and March 10, and that was caused by a new and highly sophisticated scheme that secretly installed software on every one of Hannaford’s stores.

    According to a statement released by the company, "Hannaford continues to work to ensure we have effective network security capabilities in place to provide our customers with a secure shopping environment. Hannaford has taken a number of steps to enhance its network security since the intrusion, including partnering with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, IBM, Cisco and Microsoft, to apply military- and industrial-strength network security to a retail environment."

    These steps include:

    • Installation of a 24/7-managed security monitoring and detection service from IBM to
    provide real-time alerts about any intrusive traffic.

    • Encryption of customer card information from the store register, which then remains encrypted while it is in Hannaford's network.

    In addition, the company said, it "is committed to achieving an even higher level of information security to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of its customer, associate and vendor information and will employ additional network security resources in the coming months. To meet this objective, Hannaford will apply a sustainable management process to identify threats to data security in advance and direct the implementation of appropriate policies and controls to counter these threats. Some of these measures include:

    • Implementing Triple DES PIN encryption, the highest possible level of PIN encryption available;

    • Installing Host and Network Intrusion Prevention Systems to proactively prevent malware from being installed on our systems;

    • Introducing the most up-to-date firewalls and intrusion detection at the store-level and
    corporate headquarters to strengthen the segmentation of payment information;

    • Launching an ISO 27001 Information Security Management System, which is considered to be a true gold standard approach to holistic information security.

    KC's View:
    This stuff is so far above my pay grade that it isn't even funny...I probably should know what the hell " Triple DES PIN encryption" means, but I don't, and I;m not even going to try to fake it.

    But it sure sound simpressive. I particularly like the part about "military- and industrial-strength network would make me feel better about shopping at a Hannaford store.

    Here's what would appear to be the good news. Hannaford CEO Ron Hodge tells the Boston Globe that customers haven't stopped shopping at Hannaford, and that "sales have remained within our expectations over the past five or six weeks … We are very encouraged by that."

    If you have the trust of your customers, you can survive even nightmares like these.

    The bad news? "The latest threat wasn't anticipated," Hannaford CIO Bill Homa tells the Boston Globe. "The bad guys are one step ahead." And Homa suggested that other retailers probably are vulnerable to similar attacks.

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    CNN reports that the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) last year spent $1.58 million to lobby the federal government, "for legislation that would require merchants, credit card companies and banks to negotiate fair, uniform and transparent debit- and credit-card "interchange" fees, which are fees of about 2 percent that are charged on every credit card transaction.

    "The Food Marketing Institute," according to the story, "also lobbied on legislation that would establish a federal food safety administration to protect the food supply, proposals to create a safety certification program for food imported into the U.S. and 'ountry-of-origin' labeling requirements.

    "In addition, the group lobbied on food stamps provisions in the agriculture bill now before Congress, pet food safety measures and legislation that would make organized retail crimes a federal felony, among other things."

    CNN notes that a 1995 law requires lobbyists to disclose activities and expenses that could influence either the legislative or executive branches of the US government.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    HealthDay News reports that a new study suggests that cancer survivors tend to have the same obesity rates as the general population – even though there is evidence that an improved lifestyle – including a healthy diet and increased exercise – can prevent a recurrence of the disease.

    In fact, the study determined that less than 25 percent of cancer survivors are physically active on a regular basis, and more than 18 percent of them are obese.

    The study was conducted by the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and only was of Canadians – though the suggestion is that

    "We thought this might be a time when people would be particularly motivated to exercise and control weight. But, a cancer diagnosis and treatment didn't seem to stimulate behavior change," the study's lead author, Professor Kerry Courneya, tells HealthDay News.

    KC's View:
    This strikes me as extraordinary.

    Now, there are a couple of possibilities. One is that a lot of people are idiots, and even the power of a cancer diagnosis isn;t enough to wake them up about personal responsibility for one's own health.

    Another possibility is that somehow the medical profession isn't turning the diagnosis into a teaching moment, isn't using the opportunity to make sure that the patients get a sense of how they can affect their own destinies.

    I suppose that there is also the possibility that this study is unique to the Canadian mindset ... though I have trouble understanding how. (Perhaps some Canadians will enlighten me...)

    It seems to me that these study results highlight fundamental flaws in the human animal, at least in the 21st century – an inability to take responsibility for one's own actions, a lack of appreciation for the value of a long and productive life, and a kind of selfishness that certainly doesn;t take into account the repercussions of an early death on family and friends.

    I think that society has a responsibilty to take care of its people; I am enough of a child of the sixties to believe that old like about how a nation is measured by how it takes care of its old and its young, its sick and its poor. But my mother used to tell me, "God helps those who help themselves"...thereby ingraining me a sense of autonomy that later proved to be something of an annoyance.

    It is hard to have sympathy for people who refuse to look out for themselves.

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    The Washington Post reports this morning that "more than 100 million people are being driven deeper into poverty by a 'silent tsunami' of sharply rising food prices, which have sparked riots around the world and threaten UN-backed feeding programs for 20 million children, the top U.N. food official said Tuesday."

    The reality, according to the World Food Program (WFP), is that there are millions of people today who would be classified as being hungry who would not have been so classified just six months ago.

    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a UK news conference on the issue that "hunger is a moral challenge to each one of us as global citizens, but it is also a threat to the political and economic stability of poor nations around the world … with one child dying every five seconds from hunger-related causes, the time to act is now."

    Brown said that with 25,000 people a day dying of hunger-related conditions, the British government was pledging $60 million (US) in emergency aid to help the WFP feed the poor in Africa and Asia.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    According to a new study released yesterday by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), a variety of technologies are being used by retailers on an increasing basis as a way of cutting costs, serving customers and improving sales and profits.


    • "The technology study found that 48.8 percent of retailers have a frequent shopper program and 90.0 percent of their customers participate in it ... Among supermarkets in the survey, 84.2 percent claim a greater number of weekly store visits from program participants and 76.5 percent cited higher gross margins for shoppers holding frequent shopper cards."

    • "Technology helps the supplier-retailer relationship and prevents waste, address inventory problems and avoid additional costs. It also makes communications more effective, decreases the rate of errors and makes it possible to track product preferences. In fact, 85.7 percent of companies use electronic data interchange (EDI), up from 67.0 percent in 2005. EDI is most frequently used for purchase order remittance advice, invoices and advanced shipping notices."

    • "Scan-based trading (SBT) is used by 50.0 percent of retailers, up from 26.0 percent in 2005. SBT is the process in which the supplier maintains its inventory within a retailer’s warehouse or store until the product is scanned at the checkout. Data synchronization, which ensures suppliers and retailers are sharing accurate and consistent product information, is used by 25.0 percent of respondents."

    • "The Internet is used by 93.0 percent of companies at the store level. It is used for a number of in-store applications such as labor scheduling, time and attendance and loss prevention and safety applications as well. Seven in 10 retailers said they also use an intranet as an employee communications tool to post human resource policies and job vacancies and 48.7 percent said they use it to provide training for their employees."

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    • The Rocky Mountain News reports that the Colorado Legislature will consider a bill that would prevent Wal-Mart and other companies from "deducting real-estate expenses they're paying to themselves." According to the story, the tactic, revealed by the Wall Street Journal in February 2007, involves Wal-Mart giving its stores and land to a real estate investment trust, which it then pays rent to. REITs pay no corporate taxes if they pay out most of their income to shareholders. Another Wal-Mart subsidiary owns the REIT and gets the income. The rent is then deducted on state income taxes as a business expense."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    • The New York Times this morning reports that Tyson Foods has been ordered by a federal judge to stop advertising that its chickens are "raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans."

    According to the story, " Two competitors, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms, had objected to the ads by Tyson and said Tyson had injected its eggs with antibiotics and used antibiotic molecules in its feed."

    Tyson plans to appeal the ruling, saying that while the charges are technically true, the phrasing of its advertising is accurate and truthful since "raised without" means after birth … not while the chicken is still in the egg.

    • The Wichita Eagle reports that Kroger chairman/CEO David Dillon was honored yesterday by the Kansas Society of Washington, D.C., as Kansan of the Year for his and the company's support of communities in the state.

    • Published reports say that Ahold will sell its 73 percent stake in Netherlands chain Schuitema to British private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for the equivalent of $293 million (US), plus real estate and 58 Schuitema stores that will become part of its Albert Heijn chain.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    • McDonald's Corp. reported that its first quarter profit was up 24 percent to $946.1 million, from $762.4 million during the same period a year ago. Revenue climbed 6 percent to $5.6 billion, and US same-store sales were up 2.9 percent.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    • The Nielsen Company announced that James Russo has been appointed vice president of marketing for the food and beverage industry sector. In this newly-created role, Russo will lead the company’s efforts to support its food and beverage clients by leveraging and customizing Nielsen’s broad array of insights and analytics to enhance its growth strategies. Russo, who spent seven years with Nielsen, Russo rejoins the company from TNS Retail Forward, where he served as vice president of
    Business Development.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 23, 2008

    Responding to yesterday's "Sansolo Speaks" about the demographic issues that will affect hiring and retention of employees, MNB user Denis Zegar wrote:

    Your article is insightful, but I fear it will fall on deaf ears.

    Today's "best & brightest" see working for large companies as intellectually and personally stifling. They have little interest in sitting behind a desk 8 hours a day. They are more interested in creating and building than maintaining the status quo. They are nonconformists in a staid, slow as you go industry. Many executives have made fun of Google & Microsoft's work environment, but they saw very early what it takes to hire the best and brightest. Today's kids are NOT motivated by money alone. Quality of life and job enjoyment are more important. Don't misinterpret this to mean they are lazy. They are not. If they are going to work hard it might as well be for themselves and not companies that want them to conform to archaic ways of thinking and working. The companies that bend a little will eventually reap the benefits of this generation.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    It appears to me the industries and companies within those industries that prioritize the "quality of life" issues for their employees ....... (in particular current and future managers not necessarily executives) ...... will win the battle for talent. As a recruiter I see, as one of the top reasons for a talented individual to leave a company, is because of "quality of life" issues. Retail is very hard on family life. Family pressures added to the pressure of taking care of your customers, employees, store conditions, vendors, emergencies and bosses can be overwhelming and frequently the career is set aside for the family.

    Companies should be creative in their approach. Think "out of the box" and not be locked into traditions of "face time" for store management. It would be an interesting challenge to see how many of your readers know of companies that have developed such programs or schedules that have increased store management morale and/or reduced management turnover.

    MNB user Jessica Duffy wrote:

    The problem with perception is not just a lack of “coolness”, but also a lack of money. Jobs in the grocery industry are low-paid. Period. If I got out of school with a business degree, an entry-level management position in grocery would not be my first choice. Plus, add on discombobulated hours, a lot of manual labor, etc, what’s to love?

    There was a story on MNB yesterday about how Starbucks customers seem to be clamoring for a loyalty card that would give them a free coffee for every 10 cups that they buy. Which led one MNB user to observe:

    I find it interesting that people are so programmed to loyalty cards and “deals” that they would want a free coffee on their 10th visit rather than coffee at 10% less for every visit. If I were that loyal to overpaying for a cup of coffee I would want 10% off every consecutive day I went to Starbucks.

    There also was a piece yesterday that referenced a story speculating that the infrastructure of the Internet needed investment, or it could soon become overloaded and unable to support all the data contained on it. Which led one MNB user to send me the following email:

    Take down porn and Spam...problem solved.

    No fun at all. But he's right.

    KC's View: