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    Published on: May 21, 2008

    FoodWireTV, a new online webcast designed to help consumers shop, cook and eat smart, debuts this morning on as well as on its own website, The webcast also is scheduled to be seen via sites that include,, iTunes, and, of course,

    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 is a video podcast designed to help shoppers make smarter decisions about how and what to feed themselves and their families, conncting the dots for them in new and visual ways.

    The debut edition of FoodWireTV is sponsored by Kellogg's, and looks specifically at new products recently on display at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and United Fresh shows in Las Vegas.

    Produced by Kevin Coupe, founder and “Content Guy” for, and food industry expert/MNB contributing editor 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.

    KC's View:
    Been waiting a long time for this.

    Here are the links you can use to get to FoodWireTV:

    Or, you can click on the FoodWireTV tile ad over on the right hand side of the page.

    As always, I look forward to your suggestions and comments.

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    The New York Times this morning reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), noting that the regulation would end an exemption that allowed animals to sick or injured to stand or walk "into the food supply if a government veterinarian inspected the animal and deemed it fit for slaughter."

    Downer cows are believed to be at greater risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

    According to USDA Secretary Edward Schafer, the exemption had been used fewer than 1,000 times last year, when some 34 million cattle were slaughtered. However, it became controversial when a videotape became public showing employees at a west coast beef supplier using electric prods to get downer cattle into the slaughterhouse, where they ended up in the food supply. Nobody has been reported to have gotten sick because of the downer cows, but confusion and controversy nevertheless were created, and the videotape resulted in the largest beef recall in the history of the US.

    According to the Times, "The Agriculture Department said eliminating the exemption for downer cows would make inspection procedures more efficient and reduce the incentive for meat companies to send sickly cows to market. The department will seek public comment before completing the rule …The decision was hailed by animal welfare groups and members of Congress who had pushed to eliminate the exemption."

    The Washington Post notes that "in January 2004, then-USDA Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced a ban on meat from all downer cattle. But later that month, the agency created the downer exception in written guidance to its veterinary medical officers. The exception was codified in a final rule in 2007."

    KC's View:
    Consumers – as well as the food industry – should be vigilant, watching the USDA to make sure that yet another loophole isn’t created by some politician or bureaucrat with priorities other than public safety on his or her mind.

    Now that the USDA is doing the right thing with the ban on downer cattle, it ought to take one more step in the right direction and allow meat suppliers to do their own BSE testing – using certified procedures – and saying "BSE-free" on their labels.

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    The Boston Globe this morning carries a long interview with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, in which he talks about the controversy that erupted last year when it was discovered that he had used anonymous postings on the Internet to criticize rival grocer Wild Oats, only to subsequently launch a successful bid to acquire that company.


    • "I wasn't allowed to defend myself. That went against every instinct. I wanted to come out with my truth and talk to every journalist and go on all the talk shows. I thought I was being slandered. But because we were under investigation by the SEC, the company's attorney advised that I say nothing until the investigation was completed. The SEC investigation just ended a few weeks ago, and I will be posting on my blog again my side of the story … I have to address a lot of the falsehoods that the media said. Did I post to drag down Wild Oats stock price? Was Whole Foods trying to buy it cheaper?"

    • "I've been vindicated by the SEC. First amendment rights apply to chief executive officers as well."

    • "I participate in a number of online communities - pretty much anything I'm interested in. The thing I'm most interested in the world is Whole Foods. Plus, a large percentage of posters on a board like that are people that have an ax to grind. Whole Foods is my child. And here was my child being abused by all these vicious people. Almost all of my posts were responses that I made to lies and attacks that people had about Whole Foods. I defended Whole Foods. Somebody had to. That's really how I saw it … I still see it that way. I wasn't ashamed of what I wrote. Things were taken out of context."

    On switching to canvas shopping bags at Whole Foods… "When you look at the statistics on how many plastic grocery bags are disposed of each year, the figures are incredible. They end up in landfills, in oceans. So the movement began, we had a couple of stores do it, then a region or two. The response was so positive that we said this is clearly something the customers want."

    On the possibility that Wegmans could be competing with Whole Foods in Massachusetts… "They're one of the best competitors we face anywhere in the US. They do a really good job on perishables, produce, meats, seafood, prepared foods - that's one of Whole Foods' strengths as well. But competition helps make you better. Competition keeps you from resting on your laurels, getting complacent, taking customers for granted."

    KC's View:
    By the way, last time I checked, Wegmans was considered to be part of the mainstream grocery business. The fact that Mackey considers Wegmans to be a competitor speaks volumes about his argument against the Federal Trade Commission, which says that Whole Foods actually has a monopoly in the much smaller organic/natural foods retail business.

    The FTC has been wrong on this from the beginning.

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    Interesting piece in the Detroit Free Press this morning about pasture-based farms, which specialize in grass-fed animals that have not been injected with drugs or hormones, have not been kept in restricted spaces, and haven't been fattened up with grains they ordinarily would not eat.

    According to the story, "David Conner, research specialist at Michigan State University's Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, said studies show that pasture-based farms have a higher profit per animal, and that the farmers are generally happier, most likely because they don't have as many conflicts with their neighbors over smell and other issues.

    "He said that a study he conducted last year showed that 80% of Michiganders believe pasture-raised meats are healthier, but that most mistakenly believe they are getting them already, probably because of unclear labeling. More than 90% also said that given the opportunity, they'd be very or somewhat likely to purchase pasture-raised milk and beef, and that they would pay an average 41% more per pound.

    "Those who have made the switch say they started because they were trying to be healthier, but kept going because they like the taste."

    And, the story notes, "There is plenty of debate about the health benefits of non-conventionally raised meat. Studies have shown that grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids than feedlot raised meats. Animals raised without hormones, antibiotics or other supplements don't have traces of those chemicals in their systems.

    "But how meaningful that is in terms of health isn't universally agreed upon. Erica Wald, a registered dietician for MFit, the community health promotion division of the University of Michigan Health System, points out that while there are plenty of small studies identifying some advantages, they haven't risen to the national level yet."

    KC's View:
    This may not be precisely the moment in the nation's economic history to see a big increase in the sales of products that cost an average of 41 percent more per pound, but that doesn’t mean it is always going to be this way.

    Besides, such farms are going to well positioned if there are new food safety problems in the mainstream beef industry, such as the ones that forced the major beef recall that created so much concern among consumers. And if their products actually do taste better? Well, that will just be another benefit…

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    Meijer announced yesterday that it will double the discount it offers shoppers on gasoline purchases – from five cents per gallon to 10 cents – from now until Labor Day at all of its 165 gas stations. The discount applies to people who use Meijer consumer credit cards.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    The East Bay Business Times reports that in addition to CVS, Google is partnering with Longs Drug Stores in Google Health, which allows users to "import their prescription information, share it with doctors and streamline dispensing of their prescriptions." The program is designed to seamlessly integrate the work of in-store medical clinics and pharmacies with the treatment offered by doctors, and give consumers the ability to manage their own medical information and histories in a more user-friendly environment.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    • The San Francisco Business Times reports that "Safeway and other large companies that have taken early action to reduce greenhouse emissions are seeking extra credit for it. Safeway and fellow members of a voluntary carbon-trading group say companies that have been out in front in cutting emissions should qualify for more carbon credits under federal cap-and-trade legislation than companies that wait until legislation is adopted."

    • Unified Grocers has announced the introduction of Natural Directions, a new line of natural and organic food products that will be sold in independent grocery stores throughout the western United States. With an initial launch of 120 dry grocery, refrigerated and frozen items, Natural Directions is designed to make healthier, earth friendly food choices more accessible and affordable to consumers.

    • The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) issued a statement yesterday congratulating the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for unanimously passing the Credit and Debit Card Receipt Clarification Act of 2007 (H.R. 4008), also known as the “FACTA fix bill.”

    According to RILA, "The FACTA fix bill provides necessary relief from frivolous class action lawsuits that have been filed across the nation as a result of the amended Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which Congress passed in 2004. The amended FCRA made it illegal for merchants to print more than the last five digits of a credit card number or the expiration date on a customer’s receipt. Hundreds of companies that complied with the law have since been sued under the false premise that consumer credit card data was not adequately protected as required by the amended FCRA. Congress has determined that if card numbers are properly truncated they cannot be stolen from a customer's receipt, regardless of whether the expiration date is also printed."

    Crain's Chicago Business reports that gourmet grocer Fox & Obel plans to open its second store in the location that formerly housed the Carson Pirie Scott & Co. department store. Fox & Obel currently operates a store in the Streeterville section of Chicago.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    • Target Inc. reported that first quarter profit was down eight percent to $602 million, on revenue that was up five percent to $14.8 billion. Q1 same-store sales were off 0.7 percent.

    • Campbell Soup said that its third quarter earnings were $532 million, more than double the $217 million reported during the same period a year ago, an increase that reflects the company’s sale of its Godiva division. Q3 revenues were $1.88 billion, up from $1.75 billion a year ago.

    • United Natural Foods reports that its third quarter sales were up 21 percent to $154.4 million, while net income was down slightly to $13 million from $13.7 million during the same period a year ago.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    In the wake of yesterday's announcement that Sen Edward Kenney (D-Massachusetts) has a malignant brain tumor, the vast majority of the news coverage has seemed to be closer to a premature obituary. Which perhaps is appropriate, since it is unlikely that the nation will see anyone like him again; the combination of family history, political pedigree, enormous appetites (both positive and negative) and genuine goodwill toward him from both sides of the political aisle do seem like something from another era.

    There will be much time to debate Kennedy's long-term impact on government, social policy and the nation's history. Included in that discussion, quite appropriately, will be consideration of the extent to which his personal failings – largely unmentioned in the news coverage yesterday, which also seems appropriate – diluted his impact and potential.

    However, I have to say that I can remember like it was yesterday when Kennedy gave his concession speech at the 1980 Democratic convention, having been bested by incumbent President Jimmy Carter for the nomination. Regardless of how one feels about his politics, one can appreciate when words and intellect and emotion find confluence, which is what happened when Kennedy ended his speech thus:

    "For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

    I got goose bumps then, and get them now.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2008

    MNB had a piece yesterday that started out being about the problems some companies are having with school vending machines that dispense healthy products, and end up being more about parental responsibility in the fight against obesity.

    MNB user Jenny Keehan responded:

    I have a couple of points of disagreement on “your view” about the healthy vending machines in schools:

    First, I’m sure you and I both survived the old days when there was a school cafeteria with exactly one choice as to the meal for the day, and one beverage – whole milk. That’s not to say it was healthy, but we ate what was offered or brought lunch from home, and drank water from fountains. I really don’t have that much sympathy for kids who might have only water and juice to choose from in their school vending machines.

    Second, who’s to decide that a sufficient number of homes have addressed obesity so that we can have a national response? My kids eat relatively healthily and are active in sports, and are of normal weight, and perhaps that’s because we serve healthy meals at home and have an active lifestyle. Do I have to wait for everyone else to get on the bandwagon before we can get junk food out of the schools?

    Trust me, I’m no lover of government intervention, but it strikes me as absurd that schools teach healthy eating/lifestyles in their required health classes but then sell junk food in the machine right outside the classroom door. Schools could probably make pretty lucrative deals with the tobacco companies to get cigarette machines in the schools, too, if they need the money so badly.

    I think you missed my point…which wasn't against healthy foods being served in schools. Far from it. I just think that as parents, we have to walk the walk.

    MNB user Patti Pagels wrote:

    Your comments around how ensuring kids eat well begins at home are spot on. You have managed to hit on nearly every point in this very complex issue. However, I wish parents would realize two of the other great benefits of exposing their children to a diverse, healthy diet. This will be far too long to publish. But, I just had to share:

    1) A child who learns to eat a range of foods—and will try new things—stands a much better chance of making it in this world. As our society becomes more and more diverse, the chances that your child will be invited to an event or to a home where something besides a hamburger and fries are served has to be 100%. The ability to fully share in a meal that exposes your child to a different culture or just a different way of preparing “normal” foods is an invaluable life skill. It helps deepen relationships—from friendships to business associates.

    2) On a more selfish note, children who love to eat all sorts of foods are a lot of fun to be with. With a little patience and training, my daughter, Jacqui, was able to start joining me at virtually any restaurant by the time she was 7 or 8, open to every type of food including sushi. Adults would cringe at the sight of us when we were able to dine at one of the local upscale eateries—certain that she would be noisy and disruptive. More often than not, those same skeptics would come by our table and compliment her on her fine behavior. That just added to the experience, making each future event that much more fun. Now she’s 20 and we continue to go on a variety of eating adventures. Whether we are cooking something at home or trying out a new restaurant in the area, via a road trip or on vacation, my daughter and I spend many hours talking and laughing over food. I am sure this will continue forever. So, start early. Regardless of what paths they may take later in life, dining experiences can become a bridge to keep you close to your kids for life!

    Granted, we have been fortunate to be able to afford restaurants and have access to great food. But, the same principles hold true in more cost-conscious situations. As a single mom for nearly 13 years, we weren’t eating out every day—or even every week. And many times, my budget was definitely tight. Still, at those times, instead of hitting the McDonalds, we’d go to the farmer’s market and create a little picnic from the available fruits and baked goods. Or we’d head to the grocery store where Jacqui may have talked me into Kraft Macaroni and Cheese but I’d talk her into some new vegetable.

    Yes, we did eat some fast food. She had her share of sweets. But, here’s the thing. Last night, when we were having a girl’s night in (my husband is traveling), I asked her what she’d like to snack on while we watched Gilmore Girls on DVD. Her list: grape tomatoes and carrots with ranch dip, Greek salad with chicken . . . and chocolate chip cookies. She ate nearly all the veggies and dip, two helpings of salad and ended up too full for a cookie! That’s what can happen when you provide good direction when kids are young. They will continue to make great choices as they get older.

    By the way, tho’ naturally slim, I am convinced she is in great shape because she enjoys a healthy balance of foods, along with a fairly active lifestyle. At 5’ 7” she wears a size 1 sometimes a 3. If I didn’t love her, I’d hate her.

    Not too long to publish at all. Good lessons.

    MNB user Paul Schlossberg chimed in:

    It's too easy to blame vending operators. Does every serving of candy, snack or cold drink consumed by school-age children come from vending machines? Of course not. Vending dollar sales (at the manufacturer level) might be 10% or less of all-channel sales for many leading product suppliers.

    There are far fewer vending machines in schools. The newspaper article noted that schools and colleges represent a certain percentage of vending sales - the vast majority of the machine placements and dollar sales is at the college level.

    In 2004, while attending the French vending show, many attendees were wearing (campaign) buttons which translated to "Education Not Bans" (of snacks, candy and soft drinks). This was the response of the French vending association to a legislated ban of those "offending" products in vending machines at schools.

    The challenge we face here is multi-faceted.

    LOTS OF PLACES TO EAT: There are more than 250,000 fast food restaurants and more than 140,000 convenience stores. Chain drugstores have become competitors in selling single serve snacks, candy and cold drinks. The fast food chains are featuring new snack-size sandwiches and wraps to capture afternoon snack volume. You'll find cold drink coolers and single serve candy/snack racks at the check out lines in mass merchandisers, home improvement centers, and so many more retail outlets.

    We have a seemingly endless array of outlets where anyone can buy snacks, candy, soft drinks and so many more food and drink products. If vending machines at schools (or even at workplaces don't stock what the shoppers want, they'll simply get what they want from another retail outlet.

    Not too long ago, there was a survey of convenience store operators (through a c-store trade magazine email newsletter site). Of those responding over 60% believed that a school ban of snacks (etc.) would result in increased sales for convenience store operators. Let's face these school-age consumers have money and mobility (their own cars or being chauffeured by a parent).

    VENDING CONSUMERS CONTINUE TO BE SLOW TO REACT TO "BFY" (BETTER FOR YOU) PRODUCTS: Many vending operators are offering healthier selections. The resulting problems are: (1) these products do not sell as well as the market leading products - so total dollar sales decrease; (2) these products are usually more expensive (than the most popular items) - if the selling price goes up, volume drops off (especially so in today's tough economy), or if the price is set at typical levels, the vending operator suffers a loss in margin (penny profit and percentage margin).

    VENDING SELECTIONS ARE LIMITED: There are a limited number of selections in vending compared to other retail outlets. Those consumers looking for BFY products in vending machines might be disappointed in the small number of items available – and possibly the price points too. Other outlets can provide more choices and more favorable price points. That makes it difficult for vending operators to be effective in competing for BFY category sales.

    LIFESTYLES AND EATING PATTERNS ARE CHANGING - SLOWLY: There is no doubt that people in general are living and eating better - healthier selections, smaller portions and even exercising more. Consumption trends are shifting slowly and in an evolutionary way. Don't expect a dramatic and radical revolution in eating patterns. This sort of change will take time.

    From anecdotal evidence (conversations with college foodservice executives), it appears that the college students on campus today are more "educated" in how they eat and what they eat. There is more of a search for variety and ethnic foods in meal patterns and somewhat less all-day snacking compared to prior generations of college students.

    Is it fair to legislate what vending operator can (and cannot) sell? It would not make sense to do that in other competing channels. Why is vending the "bad guy" on the retail scene?

    MNB user Glen Syvertsen wrote:

    What a publicity coup and chance to build brand loyalty among young people if a retailer or any business for that matter were to donate fruit and vegetables (carrots, celery) to schools to give out free to students. Kids tend to be frugal and always looking for something free. I bet they would take advantage of the opportunity to learn good eating habits given the opportunity.

    It is a shame that schools need to rely on income from junk food to fund important programs. That's just not right. I wonder if voters would approve a school levy for the elimination of junk food from public schools?

    And another MNB user wrote:

    The cafeteria where I work consistently receives requests for 'healthy food' options for breakfast and lunch. But, the very same adults that complain there aren't healthy options are the ones that go for the donut or the syrup-laden pancake for breakfast and the cheeseburger and onion rings for lunch. The healthy snacks in our vending machine go past pull date before they are sold. We have removed them because of the money being lost. No wonder there are overweight children when the parents make noise that they want to eat healthy but don't follow through. Kids notice these things...

    And we got the following email about yesterday's "Sansolo Speaks":

    Amen, Michael! I’m glad to see that you’ve raised ECR as an opportunity whose time has come… back! I’ve been involved off and on with several ECR activities here in North America and internationally. It’s embarrassing to see the progress being made outside of North America! I was at the European ECR conference last year in Milan, where “sustainability” was front and center on the agenda. You correctly pointed out that, “ECR was never about technology or supply chain alone”.

    The original focus areas of ECR were: Efficient Assortment, Efficient Promotion, Efficient New Product Introduction and Efficient Replenishment. If you visit the ECR Europe website, you’ll see that there’s been some evolution in the focus areas. They are now: Demand Management (where most of the original topics are addressed), Supply Management, Enablers (e.g. technology) and Integrators (e.g., collaborative ways of working). One focus area that is called out should be near and dear to both Kevin and Michael: “Collaborative Shopper Value Creation”.

    Not only has there been an evolution in the focus areas, but there’s been a lot of progress in areas that were frankly, missing from the original. In my opinion, one of the biggest is in the area of performance metrics. We’ve needed a common set of metrics that retailers and manufacturers can use to measure and evaluate results. I could go on and on… it’s worth taking another look!

    In closing, I’ll offer an opinion as to why ECR seemed to fade away in North America: I think both retailers and manufacturers behaved as if ECR was another opportunity for one party to take advantage of the other, particularly in the area of trade promotion funds. It’s time we move beyond that! It’s about the shopper / consumer! Also, in all of the activities I participated in, the one common element was very little retailer participation. This is not a one-sided opportunity!

    Real opportunity almost never is.
    KC's View: