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    Published on: May 12, 2008

    USA Today reports this morning that the Bush administration has urged a federal appeals court to stop Creekstone Farms, a Kansas meatpacker, and other companies from testing all of their animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. Creekstone already has won the case in the lower courts, but the Justice Department appealed.

    Less than one percent of all slaughtered cows are testing for BSE under current federal guidelines. Larger meatpackers also have objected to Creekstone's plans, saying that it could create unfair pressure on them to test all their animals for BSE, which could result in higher costs and, ultimately, higher consumer prices.

    The White House opposition to the Creekstone plan is hinged to the notion that broader testing could, according to the USA Today story, "does not guarantee food safety and could result in a false positive that scares consumers."

    KC's View:
    Or could result in true positives or true negatives that would reassure consumers both in the US and in other nations importing US beef.

    It is easy to understand economically why some folks would be against more widespread testing. It might cost some more money…though I’d wager that if you asked consumers, they'd be willing to pay a few more cents per pound for that kind of reassurance.

    But it is impossible to understand this point of view from an ethical and public policy perspective. Wider testing is good because it gives both the industry and consumers more information. More information is good because it allows people to make more informed decisions. Better-informed decisions lower the risk of people getting wick and dying.

    And yet, this logic seems to be anathema to the Bush administration and the meatpackers that are fighting Creekstone.

    Somebody ask McCain, Obama and Clinton what they think about this. Because their responses won't just tell you what they think about mad cow disease. It'll tell you what they think about a lot of issues from a public policy an ethical perspective.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, known for television programs such as "Hell's Kitchen" and for a personality that might generously be described as pugnacious, has told the BBC that he is pushing for legislation in the UK that would require that fruits and vegetables only be locally sourced and only sold when in season.

    According to the BBC story, Ramsay has spoken to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about his proposal. In addition to providing people with better food, he says, "it would cut carbon emissions as less food would be imported and also lead to improved standards of cooking."

    Brown says, "There should be stringent laws, licensing laws, to make sure produce is only used in season and season only. If we don't restrict our movements within this industry of seasonal-produce only, then the whole thing will spiral out of control."

    KC's View:
    I think that the whole "spiral out of control" thing is old news.

    But while Ramsay's idea may seem fanciful – legislation seems a little over the top, and I can't help but think that the British Parliament has better things to do - his essential notion is actually an interesting one.

    It probably is fair to say that the quality of food has suffered because of year-round availability. Let's face it – green grapes and corn on the cob may be available in February, but it isn't nearly as good as when you get it in season. It is a kind of lowest-common-denominator approach to food marketing…the short-term immediate gratification of having these items available all the time takes precedence over actually having food that tastes better.

    It may be impossible to go backwards on this, though the whole idea of eating local is a good move in that direction. But I still think, especially because of the carbon footprint issue, that it makes sense for food retailers to start thinking about how they are going to wean shoppers off their addiction to year-round availability to certain products.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    The Washington Post reports that while negotiators for the US Senate and House of Representatives have negotiated an agreement for a new $300 billion farm bill, President Bush has said he will veto it because it increases subsidies to farmers at a time when farm income is at record highs.

    According to the Post, the bill "is stuffed with plums for key constituencies. Dairy farmers will get as much as $410 million more over 10 years to cover higher feed costs, and negotiators tucked in an annual authorization of $15 million to help 'geographically disadvantaged farmers' in Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa and Puerto Rico. The bill assures growers of basic crops such as wheat, cotton, corn and soybeans $5 billion a year in automatic payments, even if farm and food prices stay at record levels … Advocates of the bill stressed that eligibility will be tightened by prohibiting anyone earning more than $500,000 from off-farm sources to participate in the farm programs. Those earning more than $750,000 from farming would also be ineligible for the automatic payments. Currently, only those with more than $2.5 million in income from all sources are ineligible."

    However, there are elements in the bill that seem more palatable to people on both sides of the aisle, and that run the risk of being lost in a veto and eventual renegotiation of the bill's terms. The Post writes that "lawmakers in both parties pointed to improvements in the nutrition, conservation and research programs that account for the bulk of the bill's costs. Eligibility for the food stamp program will be eased by increasing the income deduction allowed to qualify, and the minimum benefit will be raised."

    KC's View:
    One of the comments made by a lawmaker in the piece is that it is going to be tough to explain to urban residents why farmers are getting both high prices and government subsidies. I'll vouch for that…I'm hardly an expert on the issue of subsidies, but it does seem that the payments are more related to politics than actual need.

    Then again, it is a pretty good bet that the promised veto also has more to do with politics than policy.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    USA Today this morning has a story on the food business that says, essentially, that many restaurants are coping with price hikes by serving smaller meals made with cheaper ingredients, but charging the same amount. Analysts say that the result of this move is often that consumers order more – which is not just bad for them financially, but also nutritionally.
    KC's View:
    Can't help but feel that supermarkets ought to be using these kinds of stories as a marketing platform, telling the consumer that preparing and eating meals at home is less expensive, more nutritious, and gives them more control over what they eat. Perhaps the notion of "control" is an element that needs to stressed – in a world where a lot of people don't feel in control of very much, this is a way to empower them.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    Published reports say that convenience story chain Wawa is expanding a program that allows its shoppers to order food online or by using the text messaging feature of their cellphones; having placed the order and paid online, customers can then pick up their orders without waiting on a physical line.

    The program is being expanded from two stores to eight.

    KC's View:
    Watch as the convenience store business redefines what it – and its customers – mean by convenience. And watch as the c-store biz becomes more competitive with the likes of supermarkets, fast food restaurants and other venues.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    Forbes reports that the downward spiral of the economy seems to be having an impact on yet another element of the food business – the meal-assembly business typified by companies such as Dream Dinners, which offer consumers the ability to come in and assemble a week's worth of meals that can be refrigerated or frozen.

    There are more than 1,200 such locations around the country, and Dream Dinners accounts for about 208 of them. "But with food prices soaring, angry franchisees snapping and its financials sagging, the company--and much of the meal-assembly industry--is feeling like it's on the chopping block," Forbes writes. There seem to be several issues at work here – the company franchised sooner than it should have, over-promised franchisees about what they could expect, and per-unit profitability has proven to be elusive.
    KC's View:
    It is interesting that the meal assembly business seems to have had such a relatively short shelf life. Every once in a while, someone not in the food business who sees one of these things will tell me that they've just seen this remarkable new concept, and how great it is, and how this could be the future of the food business. And I have to chuckle, because they aren’t that new and, quite frankly, it doesn’t seem very likely that they are the future of the food business.

    But there does seem to be something about these things that capture people's imaginations…though not for very long.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    Internet Retailer reports that Fresh Direct, the New York City-based pure play e-grocer, is offering its customers an unlimited delivery pass – six months for $59 and 12 months for $99 – that covers as many deliveries as customers request during the period paid for. The pass is designed to increase the numbers of transactions that shoppers make, because each transaction made using the pass has the effect of lowering the overall delivery fee.
    KC's View:
    This is similar to Amazon's Prime program, which is a wonderful way to amortize delivery fees over the period of a year. The potential downside, of course, is that customers can place smaller orders, which in the case of Fresh Direct could rive up their costs because of the price of gasoline. Fresh Direct will have to hope that it all balances out in the end.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    Interesting column by Neal St. Anthony in Minnesota's Star Tribune suggesting that Wal-Mart, long derided for what is perceived by some as paying too little money and providing too few benefits to employees, "may be evolving into a model corporate citizen."

    The premise of the column is that while Wal-Mart indeed may compensate its employees at a rate slightly below the national average (according to an independent analysis by the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota), the savings available to Wal-Mart's shoppers more than offsets the discrepancy.

    And, according to the column, "Liberal economist Robert Reich, a Clinton Cabinet secretary, says Wal-Mart has played hardball but mostly by the rules in building clout among suppliers, cutting prices and importing -- even as it directed low-wage employees to government-subsidized health plans. If we don't like that, we should change the rules, Reich said."

    And, the piece notes, Wal-Mart has "expanded health insurance coverage, improved employee relations, soared as an environmental/energy-conservation leader and otherwise responded to critics."

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    Safeway has launched a new line of 80 products - including diapers, baby wipes, toiletries, lotions and even infant formula - developed from a mother’s point of view. Called "Mom to Mom," the line was "developed with the input and guidance of real moms based on what they need and want most in products to care for their babies," according to the company.

    "The importance of gentleness and ease-of-use were key take-aways from the research with mothers. For example, mom to mom baby wipes are hypoallergenic and come in a flip-top package with a wide dispenser, making them easy to access with one hand during diaper changing or feeding. Toiletry items such as baby wash and baby lotion are in wide-bottom bottles to avoid tipping and spilling."

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    • The New York Times reports this morning that Guatemalan fried chicken chain Pollo Campero has opened a new location inside a Texas Wal-Mart, the first of an expected 20 locations that the company hopes to have open inside various Wal-Mart stores by the end of next year.

    For Wal-Mart, the move is part of a broader strategy to appeal to the growing Hispanic population in the US, offering "a new opportunity to reach out to its diverse range of shoppers as it customizes some aisles in its mammoth stores to sell culturally attuned products," according to the story in the Times. For the chicken purveyor, the move is part of its US strategy – t currently has 50 stores in the US, and the alliance with Wal-Mart is seen as potentially transformational in terms of its US visibility.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    Scientists at Sweden's Karolinska Institute have discovered that eating like a caveman – consuming lean meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, while avoiding dairy, alcohol and refined sugar – can help people lose weight, lower their blood pressure and reduce the likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack.

    The study group was small – just five men and five women – but the results were consistent and across the board, suggesting that gastronomic evolution may be taking place at a slower pace than previously thought.

    KC's View:
    The long term impact of such a healthy diet, of course, was mitigated back in the old days by the fact that these lean, heart-healthy cavemen ran the risk of being eaten by large, angry animals. But c'est la vie

    The problem, of course, is that when you eat like a caveman you get the sudden urge to draw on the walls and drag your spouse around by the hair. But you look and feel good.

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    In this month's edition of Facts, Figures & The Future, Phil Lempert writes about the food price hikes that are roiling the retail business and causing enormous concern among consumers.

    Lempert writes: "According to recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that during the 2007 calendar year, U.S. food prices increased by a whopping 4.9% - .8% higher than 2007 inflation rates and 2.8% higher than food prices increased in 2006. And most food folks would agree that we ain't seen nothing yet!

    "In the past, agricultural commodity prices tended to be volatile, with an overall decline trend, because they were supply-driven. Technology and productivity improvements in farming increased agricultural yields to meet supply, keeping prices down. Today, higher fuel prices are increasing the cost of transporting commodities, while various weather conditions and trade issues are currently contributing to lower supply. The result is higher prices across the board … With global commodity stocks at historic lows, a growing demand for food, feed and fuel, tight supply, and no plan for increased agricultural productivity, this higher price phenomenon is likely to continue. The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that global cereal prices will rise 10 to 20% by the year 2015."

    Lempert believes that the biggest challenge facing retailers and manufacturers is one of communication: "Just how can we explain these increases to our shoppers? There is little doubt that the headlines will continue and with those will come consumer frustration and anguish - some of which will be retail focused; how we handle these may well determine which retailers grow and prosper...and which find themselves losing market share."

    Other stories in this month's F3 include:

    • A look at how health and wellness consciousness in the US is affecting shopper behavior.

    • An examination of how gluten-free products are growing, providing a sales engine for retailers and suppliers that are investing in the category.

    And, there's much more.

    To get your copy of F3, go to:

    F3 is a joint production of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), ACNielsen, and Phil Lempert.

    (Full disclosure: MNB Content Guy Kevin Coupe is a contributor to F3.)

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    • Published reports say that Canada's Sobeys has opened a new format in downtown Edmonton, an 18,000 square foot "Urban Fresh" store that is dominated by fresh and prepared foods. A second Urban Fresh store reportedly is slated to be opened in the city later this year.

    • The Tampa Tribune reports that Sweetbay Supermarkets has joined the list of food retailers that is offering shoppers a gift card with a10 percent bonus when they bring in their government-issued economic stimulus checks.

    "Families bringing in an $1,800 check receive a $1,980 card," the Tribune writes. "There's also a 5 percent bonus for converting half a check. The store is waiving the normal check-cashing fee. It only is accepting paper checks, so customers who opted for direct deposit can't take advantage of the offer. The gift cards work only at Sweetbay locations." reports that Campbell Soup has decided to spend $23 million to expand a Northern California processing plant, which will result in area consumers actually eating more locally grown and organic produce contained in the company's beverages, soups and sauces.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    • BJ's Wholesale Club said that its April sales increased by 20.4 percent to $744.5 million from $618.5 million in April 2007. Same-store sales were up 17.8 percent.

    For the first quarter of 2008, net sales increased by 12.3 percent to $2.26 billion from $2.01 billion for the first quarter of 2007, with same-store sales that were up 9.6 percent.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 12, 2008

    MNB took note last week of a in the Washington Post that hinted at the kinds of problems that private industry will face in just a few years, saying that US federal agencies could lose as many as 25 percent of their employees by 2012, mostly through retirements by baby boomers – and that this trend could severely compromise the government's ability to deliver basic services.

    And, the Post wrote, in a sentence that could reflect a lot of industries, not just the federal government, that "there are growing concerns that the government may be at a disadvantage in competing for talent, especially among young people, because of its slow and cumbersome hiring practices."

    I commented that as the retirement wave approaches, it isn’t just the federal government that has to be concerned (and I'm pretty sure that there are plenty of people out there who think that a federal government with 25 percent fewer employees is a good thing).

    The same problem is going to affect a lot of businesses, and retailers especially have to worry about how they are going to attract young people since they also are often at a disadvantage in attracting new talent.

    Interestingly, I got an email from a MorningNewsBeat user who is thrilled with the incipient retirement of an entire generation…and it is relevant to this story:

    "I am tired of them standing in my way and taking up space. I am 46 years old, been in the business all my life … I have been stuck behind these boomers all my career.

    "Retire and get out of my way. I am ready to lead. Now that the Boomers are going away, perhaps there is opportunity. Many of these Boomers have looted companies and run them into the ground for their personal gain."

    Pretty cynical. But maybe it points to a larger problem that the industry needs to address.

    This apparent animus prompted an enormous amount of email…

    MNB user Edward F. Ogiba wrote:

    To solve the increasing demand for capable workers, most industries will need to do much more than attract and train young talent, as this source of supply won't meet the projected demand.

    Today's slow economy is temporarily masking a growing shortage of qualified labor that's already become serious in some sectors. Today, industries as diverse as Silicon Valley and farming have a deficit of experienced workers at many levels. Filling senior and middle management needs is becoming a significant concern. HRH's survey showed one in six US companies are already bracing for a major shortfall of higher-level managers and executives in just 2 years. Most signals say these trends will become more prevalent and intensified.

    In contrast, numerous studies report the majority of those approaching retirement or already there want to keep working to remain active and feel productive. One study claims 79% want to, with many also saying they need a paying position. But most boomers are not looking for a full time job and responsibility. Most want a more flexible job than most companies are currently offering.

    As the increasing demand for proven help escalates, it seems evident that more companies will adapt to be more resilient hiring approaches to attract more boomers and take advantage of the increasing supply this talent pool offers.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    As a Gen X’er, I have also been waiting for the Boomers to “get out of the way” as your commenter from Thursday’s edition put it. I always thought that once they were out of the workforce, promotions would be easier to get and job openings would be plentiful as companies looked for experienced workers. However, in today’s economy, I’m wondering whether the retiring Boomers will be replaced at all. I can see a lot of companies salivating at the chance to re-absorb the salary dollars of top level Boomers right into their bottom lines without replacing them. This will lead to no promotions/raises and heavier workloads for those already employed as well as no new job opportunities for us Gen X’ers or the new Gen Y workforce.

    Still another MNB user wrote:

    That 46 year old, who has been standing behind older Boomers all his life is going to be shocked when he learns he also is a Boomer!!! But he does reflect what happened to many younger Boomers, well qualified, but always standing behind better qualified older Boomers creating a log jam of capable individuals. Your 46 year old "Boomer-in-denial" will also be shocked, when the older Boomers retire, and they are replaced by a very qualified, active, passionate, wired...and younger...Gen Xer - who digitizes the "passed over" Boomer's job.

    Well, you just ruined his week…

    MNB user Nate Lasko wrote:

    Well it’s always nice to get a healthy dose of ignorance before 8 am. The older baby boomers have nothing to do with that particular gentleman’s career moves. He is responsible for his own career and financial decisions and if he was at a company that was not promoting or had no room for him to move up the ladder, he should have looked somewhere else or started his own business.

    There are 75 million baby boomers retiring in the next five years. They will on average collect 1000$ per month for Social Security and the ones that were wise enough to invest in 401ks or other retirement vehicles will be cashing out on those. Anyone who knows anything about the markets can see that when there is a mass selling of stocks and bonds, it creates a sell off frenzy. With the Baby Boomers being the largest population group in the history of the US, this will inevitably put major pressure on our already declining economy. With the dollar losing buying power daily and inflation steadily climbing we as a nation are headed towards another recession if not depression in the next 5-10 years.

    How you position yourself in the next few years to take advantage of the extremely low price assets like stocks and real estate will determine which side of the spectrum you end up on. Either the ever growing rich or the disappearing middle class!

    MNB user Mike Jadrich wrote:

    Just a message for the 46 year old individual wanting us Boomers to retire so they can lead: If you are stuck in a rut and frustrated….do something about it. Don’t blame the Boomers for your own career choices. Go out and start your own business. The beauty of living in such a free society is the ability create your own path. Sorry, I can’t feel sorry for you.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I can tell you that with baby boomers retiring - it will sure help companies to be put more dollars into wages (where many young people look first in deciding a career) versus dinosaur pension funds and completely employer sponsored health plans. These archaic ways of spending labor funds are draining companies and making it impossible to compete globally.

    Employers should pay good, competitive wages and contribute to benefits for their employees - just as the employees should have a vested interest in their health care and retirement costs.

    Can you tell I am a generation Xer and have never had a traditional pension plan?

    And finally, MNB user Lorna Nelson wrote:

    A lot of folks our age have no intention of retiring at 65, in spite of the statistics that we keep being fed. I for one, 50+ and recently divorced (with little retirement saving), may not be able to afford to retire in 15 years. As you have mentioned before, Boomers are in better shape physically and mentally than earlier generations, and many of us plan to work well past the magic age of 65. Look at Warren Buffett!

    Kevin, it you are still writing this column at 80, I’ll still be reading it…

    As long as my fingers keep working, I can't imagine what else I'd be doing. Unless I decide to box on the senior circuit.

    On the subject of Wal-Mart apparently losing at least the short-term battle in Chicago, unable to open as many stores there at it hoped and being forced to focus instead on the suburbs, where union opposition is less strident, one MNB user wrote:

    I would think that the great minds at Wal-Mart and the UFCW could figure this one out!

    It seems to me that if Wal-Mart wants to take advantage of the lack of choices for urban residents, instead of playing the victim, they could do the right thing and bring low prices and GOOD jobs for families to Chicago's urban neighborhoods. Wal-Mart could do both and turn a turn a nice profit, but it seems that a nice profit is not enough. They seem to follow a scorched earth plan where they can go into a market and obliterate all competition and all the descent jobs that go with them, thus creating a new customers that can't afford to shop at places that provide good's a social downward spiral! Profits/greed rules!

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I think you missed at least one point here: Wal-Mart could have allowed union workers at their stores. That would have created a win-win – urban stores and wages that provide above poverty living. The Unions were stubborn, but so was Wal-Mart.

    Wal-Mart's perspective, of course, is that it does offer good jobs, good pay and good benefits…but that it doesn’t need the unions to get involved in the process because that would result in it losing its pricing advantages. (The story above that looks at Wal-Mart as a model corporate citizen would seem to support this premise.)

    MNB user Bob Ahlstrom had a thought from a different perspective:

    Is it a fact that there is a lack of food stores in Chicago? I think we heard the same arguments when Cub entered Chicago 25 – 30 years ago!

    And another MNB user wrote:

    As far as Wal-Mart moving into the suburbs, it might be difficult. I grew up in Oak Park, just across the street from the city limits, and those folks are more excited to MAYBE get a Trader Joe’s after that company had to jump through hoops. I think Wal-Mart would have to go further afield…maybe to southwest suburbs.

    We had a piece the other day about Dublin, California, banning big box stores….which struck me as a little silly (though certainly within the community's rights) since apparently there aren't any big box stores looking to locate in Dublin. But this led a number of people to make observations similar to this one:

    An interesting fact you may not be aware of. Safeway Corporate Headquarters is across the freeway from Dublin and can see most of the city from their corporate offices in the neighboring city of Pleasanton. Wonder if that had any effect on this vote?

    Who knows?

    There was another story last week that got a lot of attention – the decision by Baskin Robbins to, for the first time in its history, sell soft-serve ice cream.

    Which prompted a bunch of emails in the same vein:

    Any coincidence this happens right after one of the founders (Irv Robbins) passes away?

    If not, he's rolling over in his grave.

    And speaking of rolling over, MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:

    This strikes a chord due to the fact that my very first job was an ice cream scooper at Baskin Robins. Believe it or not we were taught to shave the ice cream so it would roll into a ball that was actually hollow in the middle. Now at least after nearly six decades looks won’t be deceiving.

    We got a number of emails last week responding to our piece about Jim Donald's separation agreement with Starbucks, which among other things clearly established which companies it sees as the prime competition – McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts – by preventing Donald from going to work for them.

    I noted in my commentary that several Starbucks executive shave bemoaned the departure of the former Starbucks CEO, saying things like, 'I would follow Jim Donald into hell."

    One MNB user isn’t buying:

    Okay, no one is allowed to say anything bad about Jim Donald but you can print that several current execs would “follow him into “hell” – perhaps you would better serve us here by not printing anything since you will get only one side of the story.

    If he was “fired” there was a reason and if other management execs would follow the fired man into hell then there is probably a lot of dissension in the current management team. This will not be a good thing for Starbucks.

    I don't know that I've ever banned people from criticizing Jim Donald (who, I have noted here before) is someone who has become a friend of mine. I think that legitimate discussion of his leadership of the company is perfectly acceptable, and I also think that there well could be some internal strife at Starbucks as the company looks to regain its equilibrium.

    I also think you are right when you say that he was fired for a "reason." The "reason," I believe, is that the board needed to find a scapegoat and do something to juice up the stock price. And a lot of loyalty to him remains.

    The following email from an MNB user seems pretty typical:

    From a guy who worked for and with Jim at Wal-Mart I can say he is honest, loves people and works 24 / 7. I feel safe in saying Jim did what he felt was right for Starbucks while there. I can only wonder why Mr. Schultz never had any issue until the stock dropped ? Seems since taking over he is not doing much better and feels he has no competition. My bet is he will soon regret letting Jim go…

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Jim Donald will still end up as the winner. Integrity, visionary, and willing to get his hands in the dirt make him a person to follow....As for me, I will go where he wants me to go and with commitment.

    Still another MNB user wrote:

    In a day when solid leadership is at a shortage and in high demand, the board/ investors still make the decision based on the numbers. For a company that once proclaimed people as the greatest asset, this is a sad commentary; but not uncommon. It will be interesting to see where Jim lands and who will follow. The last few times in Starbucks, the profile of great service and premium brand has been diminished to less personalized service, display clutter, and unwiped tables. In viewing McDonalds and Dunkin as competitors, it would appear to be a self fulfilling prophecy … the principle of investment that I have been taught is very simple reap what you sow... the harvest at Starbucks may continue to grow sparse.

    And here's an interesting email:

    Your piece on Starbucks and Jim Donald got me thinking -- why not bring him to FMI? He headed the DC Safeway division once, so he knows the area. Plus he certainly knows the industry. Don't know if he's interested, but he's the kind of leader they need.

    The reference here, of course, is to the CEO position at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which is about to be vacant with the retirement of Tim Hammonds.

    Good idea about Jim Donald. Perhaps the search committee, being chaired by former Hy-Vee CEO Ron Pearson, will take note and give him a call. (I have Jim's number if they're interested…) BTW, one of the theories I keep hearing is that Ron Pearson could end up being the Dick Cheney of this story – you'll remember that Cheney chaired the search committee charged with identifying the best candidate to serve as George Bush's running mate in 2000, and ended up picking himself. But this sounds like pure speculation…

    It is probably worth pointing out that while at the FMI Show in Las Vegas last week, I found myself constantly being questioned about the CEO job…and in every case, the question was whether Michael Sansolo - who was senior vice president of education at FMI for more than a dozen years before leaving a year ago and, among other things, now writes a column for MNB - is interested in the job.

    I think he'd be terrific, but I have no idea if he'd take the job or if the search committee even will consider him. And it isn’t something we talk about, because I think it is important to keep his FMI-related work (he is consulting with the association, working on next year's education-only Future Connect event) pretty much separate from what we're doing together.

    So I'll tell you what I told the dozens of people at FMI.

    You'll have to ask Michael. He can be reached via email at .

    KC's View: