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    Published on: May 28, 2008

    A new poll suggests that 90 percent of patrons who have used in-store health clinics are either “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with the experience, with 86 percent of users saying that they were satisfied with the cost and 88 percent saying they were happy with the quality of the care.

    The survey was done as part of a Harris Interactive-Wall Street Journal healthcare study.

    The results come just a couple of weeks after the Wall Street Journal published a story suggesting that growth of the in-store medical clinic concept could be leveling off, with CVS Caremark scaling back its expansion plans and various other companies shutting down as many as 69 clinics in 15 states over the past few months. Walgreen, it should be noted, continues to expand its presence in this area, and Wal-Mart reportedly plans to partner with a number of hospital systems to open as many as 400 co-branded clinics by the end of 2010.

    KC's View:
    It should be noted that the poll was done online and was both voluntary and self-selecting, so it seems more likely to attract people satisfied with the experience.

    However, the general satisfaction level doesn’t surprise me, because the whole concept is designed to make basic health care services accessible in a way they were not before. What’s not to like? (Unless, of course, one runs into Nurse Ratched in one of these places…)

    Sure, there will be fits and starts, and there will be doctors who will argue (probably via cellphone while on the 14th green) that it is getting in the way of them taking care of their patients. But the in-store medical clinic concept makes so much sense that, given time, investment and patience, I cannot imagine why it wouldn’t work.

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    Advertising Age reports that a new study by Research Inter-national USA suggests that despite concerns and headlines about America’s burgeoning obesity problem, fast food remains extremely popular…and is unlikely to lose any of its appeal during a recession.

    Among the data compiled by the study: The average American spends $500 a year on fast food, with half of all Americans eating fast food once a week. A whopping 20 percent of Americans eat fast food every other day, and 14 percent of Americans generate almost half of all fast food sales. And, more than two-thirds of all fast food customers get their meals to go.

    Ad Age notes that “contrary to perceptions that fast food is the poor man's choice, frequent users are typically male, below middle age and employed, with high incomes averaging $67,575 -- 15% higher than the sample group's average household income of $58,875.

    “Restaurants that offer new menu options or promotions, but also make efforts to improve the healthfulness of their menu, are attractive to these frequent users, who are more likely to increase consumption because of career pressures or appealing ‘value’ dining options.

    Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun Times this morning reports on a new study saying that while 16 percent of American children between the ages of two and 9 are clinically obese, the good news is that the number didn’t go up between 1996 and 2006.

    That by itself could be considered a victory, since childhood obesity rates are triple what they were in 1980…and experts say that this could be evidence that some of the publicity given to obesity rates actually is having some impact.

    "There's some cause for cautious optimism here," Cynthia Ogden, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, tells the Sun Times. "It's a good thing it's not going up, but we still have a lot of work to do."

    KC's View:
    It would be a mistake to get complacent about obesity rates, especially because tough economic times could prompt a lot of people to indulge in more fast food, in part because they perceive it as being cheap and in pat because they find it to be comforting.

    This ought to be target one for supermarkets and other food stores – enticing those customers to spurn fast food for a better, more nutritious food experience.

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    In an interview with the Times of London, Unilever chairman Michael Treschow says that the biggest challenge facing the manufacturer is coming up with “wow” products that will capture consumers’ imaginations. According to the story, Treschow satisfied with the company’s sales and marketing apparatus, but believes that Unilever has to give it better things to sell.

    “The single most important thing is that we speed up our innovation machine, which means that we bring more highly appreciated products to the consumer so that they say, ‘Wow, this is really something I would like to have',” he tells the Times

    For example, Treschow says, “How can you convince the Asians to use deodorant? There are a couple of billion there not using deodorant. It's not good enough to say, ‘Guys, use a deodorant'. You have to figure out the key that says, 'I want to do that as well'.” Or: “Asians prefer to make their own soup; they don't buy ready soup. How can you make a platter of components to make it easier to make soup?”

    According to the piece, Treschow is also working to be very clear about responsibilities and accountability at Unilever:

    “It is management that gives proposals,” he tells the Times. “If we are not happy with the proposals, we ask for new proposals. It is in your court, you come up with proposals. If we are not happy, we ask for new directions or higher ambitions. We will continue asking until we are happy and then you have to deliver what you said you wanted to do … We can ask why you didn't deliver. That is what we call the assessment ... if we are not happy about either the direction or the result, then we have to find another you,” he says.

    KC's View:
    What interested me most about this piece was the notion that innovation has to be connected to the “why,” not just the ”what.” And that the “why” cannot just be the province of sales and marketing – which, of course, have to make the ultimate argument to shoppers – but also be intimately connected to the promise and premise of the product.

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    The Austin American-Statesman has an interesting piece about HE Butt, which 11 years after opening its first store in Mexico “controls 29 percent of the northeastern Mexico market,:” with “19 stores in Monterrey and another 10 stores in cities like Saltillo, Torreón and San Luis Potosí, as well as border towns like Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. Plans are in the works to open another four stores over the next 10 months: two more in Monterrey as well as the chain's first store in Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, and a first of its kind discount store in Rio Bravo, in the border state of Tamaulipas.”

    According to the story, HEB has been successful in Mexico in part because it provides shoppers with superior customer service, and in part because it engenders “fierce brand loyalty,” especially among residents who used to cross the border into Texas to shop at the retailer’s stores there.

    “H-E-B has designed its stores to fit Monterrey's various economic levels,” the American-Statesman writes. “Although it has five stores that cater to the city's wealthiest residents, including those making more than $90,000 a year, it also has several aimed at lower-middle-class Mexicans making less than $12,000. Its store Mi Tienda in Rio Bravo will be aimed at low-income Mexicans making as little as $2,800 … H-E-B also uses a number of innovations to lure its Mexican shoppers: At ultra-high-end stores, chefs will cook up shoppers' steaks or salmon to order; stores offer classes … on everything from natural childbirth to making barbacoa.

    “And its ‘Super Comboloco’ deals give a variety of free items when shoppers buy designated items. For example, buying fajita meat, rice and soy oil will net shoppers free tortillas, canned corn and mole sauce.”

    While Wal-Mart is still the dominant player in Mexico, it does not have much of a presence in the northeastern part of the country….and HEB has shown no inclination to move south to Mexico City, where Wal-Mart is strongest.

    KC's View:
    Hard to comment on stories like this one because it seems so obvious that a retailer as innovative as HEB could create fierce customer loyalty. I particularly love the strategy of creating different formats for different customers…which is something HEB has done so successfully in the US.

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    Interesting piece in Advertising Age looking at the recent decision by Starbucks to bring back a version of its original logo on its coffee cups – which has generated some controversy because it portrays a topless-two-tailed siren, albeit one with long hair strategically covering her breasts.

    The logo was brought back when Starbucks introduced its new Pike Place blend, which it hopes will reinvigorate a brand that seems to have languished lately.

    According to Ad Age, “The logo redesign handed a publicity cudgel to a fringe Christian organization with just 3,000 members, some of whom took issue with what they saw as sexual connotations. Earlier this month, the group and its media-savvy leader got news outlets predictably lined up to discuss its outrage.”

    KC's View:
    Oy.

    To be honest, I noticed that Starbucks had returned to its old logo, but never noticed any sexual suggestiveness until I got some dopey emails telling me that Starbucks was leading the nation – or at least its coffee drinkers - down the path of moral decay. And even then I had to look at the cup two or three times to figure out what the hell they were talking about.

    (I never even realized that the figure on the cup was a siren. I thought it was a badly drawn mermaid. Guess I wasn't paying attention.)

    I’m fairly sure that the people objecting to the drawing on the cup will end up bring more attention to it than Starbucks ever did. I’m also fairly sure that at least some of these organizations are more interested in getting publicity for their own causes than they are in anything else. (Pardon my cynicism.)

    The real crime here is that Starbucks seems to have gotten rid of “The Way I See It,” the quotes that it printed on its coffee cups for years. I enjoyed reading those quotes, whether or not I agreed with them, because many of them made me think. I don't care what logo they use…I just want them to bring back the quotes.

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has acquired 180 shares of Winn-Dixie and is using its position as a shareholder to ask the company “to report any progress it has made toward adopting animal welfare policies that pertain to the purchase of eggs, pigs, chicken and turkey.”

    The Journal writes, “PETA alleges in the resolution that the poultry that Winn Dixie purchases are conscious during slaughter, the eggs are from suppliers that give hens very little space and that the pigs are kept virtually immobilized. The non-profit also said other grocery stores, including Safeway and Harris Teeter, have updated their purchasing practices to improve animal welfare standards for some animals by using suppliers that utilize controlled-atmosphere killing.

    “Representatives from PETA met with Winn-Dixie officials in February, but the two sides have not been in communication since, prompting PETA's resolution.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    The Wall Street Journal, with some fanfare, reports this morning that “Hydrox, the defunct chocolate-sandwich wafer, is returning for one more rematch with its nemesis, the Oreo.

    “Bowing to more than 1,300 phone inquiries, an online petition with more than 1,000 signatures and Internet chat sites lamenting the demise of the snack, Kellogg Co. has decided to temporarily relaunch Hydrox, the left-for-dead cookie” that was killed off in 2003.

    According to the story, “Kellogg's move is more about marketing, and showing its responsiveness to consumers, than about a permanent product reintroduction: The cookie will be sold nationally starting in August, but only for a limited time,” though if sales warrant, the Hydrox cookie could be brought back permanently.

    In a bow to modern realities, however, the Hydrox cookie won’t be exactly the same as it used to be – it won’t have any trans fats.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    • Some 90 pharmacists working at 35 Waldbaum’s stores in the New York metropolitan area are complaining that contract negotiations with the company have broken down because the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), which owns Waldbaum’s, wants to withdraw from the union’s retirement plan.

    The pharmacists’ most recent contract with Waldbaum’s expired on April 1, though it was extended to April 30. A strike was certified on May 13, though none has yet been scheduled.

    • Kimberly-Clark Corporation announced that its baby and child care and consumer tissue businesses plan to raise prices by between six and eight percent in the US during the third quarter of 2008. The company cites “significant inflationary pressure from higher raw material and energy costs” as the reason for the increases.

    • Jamba Juice’s co-venture with Nestle – a line of ready-to-drink smoothies and fruit juices – reportedly now are available at supermarkets in eight western states as well as in select Jamba Juice locations.

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has announced the availability of its “Sustainability Starter Kit,” which it says provides companies of all sizes with “a detailed roadmap to implement a wide range of sustainability programs benefiting the environment, employee and customer health and society,” focusing on “numerous examples of successful programs at food retailers, wholesalers and companies outside the industry.”

    For more information, go to: www.fmi.org/store/.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 28, 2008

    Got a number of emails yesterday regarding the possibility that Belgian beer manufacturer InBev could launch an acquisition bid for Anheuser-Busch.

    MNB user Ted File wrote:

    How sad it would be to see a huge conglomerate take over a company we in the industry trust, revere, and admire. The contributions that the Busch family alone has made to the city, state, and the world will never be totally recognized as many of those contributions have been anonymous. Look at the people who have spent their working career at A-B and their willingness to roll up their sleeves working at retail. I can attest to the fact that if all CPG companies had the same attitudes and willingness to contribute to the retailer’s success it would be a much better industry.

    MNB user Carl Finfrock wrote:

    If they could sell the Cardinals, what next? The horses?

    Think the unthinkable.

    The Clydesdales, which originated in Scotland, get replaced by the Belgian Draft Horse.

    Horrors!

    (Though at least they’re draft horses…)




    Regarding the impact of high fuel costs, MNB user Keith Domalewski wrote:

    While $5 a gallon gas would certainly cause major pain for Americans, it could end up being ultimately viewed as “cheap” in the long-run. I think the prediction is a bit on the alarmist side, but an energy analyst whoa appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” earlier this month is saying that prices will rise to $12-$15 a gallon in the not-too distant future. If the guy turns out to be correct, then the economies of the world are all in for a crisis not seen since the days of the great depression. Can you imagine the costs involved in transporting people and goods at $15 a gallon gas? Just the thought of a world with $15 a gallon gas should be enough motivation to spur the creation of some sort of energy “Manhattan Project” as it clearly represents a serious threat to national security, not to mention our way of life!

    Agreed.




    Got the following email from MNB user Chris Chinn:

    I recently read your article “Extolling the Virtues of Pasture-Based Farms” on your website. I appreciate your efforts to support agriculture and promote healthy and safe food products produced by American Farmers. I am a fifth-generation family farmer who raises hogs, alfalfa (hay) and wheat with my husband, his parents, and my brother-in-law. Farmers today are faced with the challenge of producing twice as much food as farmers did fifty years ago, and we do this on fewer acres while protecting our environment. However there are many misconceptions being spread about agriculture and the safety of food.

    As a consumer, it is important for me to purchase healthy products for my family. As a farmer I know how hard farmers work to guarantee they produce healthy food from healthy animals. To ensure our food is produced by AMERICAN farmers, farmers have made improvements to their farms using sound science. These improvements help provide healthy and safe food to feed our growing nation while protecting the environment. Many farmers have nutritionists who design their animal’s diet to ensure a healthy product for consumers.

    My family used to raise hogs outside on pastures but now we choose to raise our animals indoors where we can protect our hogs from diseases, being attacked by predators and from the harsh elements of the weather. By housing our hogs indoors, we have protected their environment and prevented them from many diseases hogs raised outdoors are exposed to. Our animals have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. We monitor their daily feed and water intake, as well as their health. Each animal on our farm is recorded in a computer database system which allows us to keep detailed health and feed records on all animals. We care for our animals 7 days a week, 365 days a year. By housing our animals indoors we know immediately if an animal is not feeling well, and we are able to give them the hands on care they deserve. If our hogs were outdoors in open lots, it would be extremely difficult to give our hogs the care they deserve in a timely manner.

    We do not give hormones to our hogs, nor does anyone in the pork industry - it is against the rules and regulations set by FDA (Food and Drug Administration). We only use antibiotics when necessary to improve the life of our animal. Antibiotics are expensive so we can not afford to misuse them, nor can any family farmer. If a hog receives medication, it is recorded on their health history record card and we follow the withdrawal period on all medications before allowing these animals to leave our farm. The withdrawal periods are set by FDA based on sound science and research and all farmers are required to follow them, my family meticulously follows these regulations. We eat the same food you do; we wouldn’t feed our families something that isn’t healthy.

    We know that a healthy animal means healthy, nutritious food. A nutritionist designs the diets for our hogs to ensure they have quality and healthy feed which is made of corn and soybeans and processed in a clean environment at our family feed mill. We work with local family farmers to purchase the corn we feed our hogs, we know the corn is raised by a farmer who cares.

    Farmers care about their animals, which is why they provide housing to protect them. When Asia had the “Avian Influenza” epidemic, American Farmers were not concerned because their animals were housed indoors where they were not exposed to this threat.

    I appreciate your efforts to keep your readers informed about the safety of the food they consume. I encourage you to continue researching this topic by contacting groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation. The American Farm Bureau Federation is an excellent resource for exposing misconceptions about agriculture and they can provide you with the facts. Thanks for supporting American Farmers!





    Responding to yesterday’s story about women’s attitudes toward health and fitness, one MNB user wrote:

    There is a ton of denial going on. If 72% of moms' claim that their kids are not eating junk in front of them then who? Their friend's mom, but she probably makes the same claim? Maybe in front of their father, which may indicate then that mom isn't around a whole lot? Hmmmmmm........

    In addition my mom and sister both are teachers. Their school has had the "healthy" style implemented for 2 full years now, and when I visited the school for a career day I did a walk through the cafeteria. What the kids pulled from their brown bags was absolute junk. I saw lunchables, candy bars, white bread slathered in mayo (maybe it was light mayo), chips, lots and lots of bags of potato chips, just JUNK! These kids
    didn't buy this at school, it came right from home, pack with tender, loving, care of good ole healthy mom. It's about time parents open their eyes and take on some responsibility for their overweight children. Teachers have enough to do.


    Agreed. Schools have a role. But it starts at home.




    On the continuing subject of reusable shopping bags, one MNB user suggested:

    Never really could remember to recycle the bags or use the cloth ones, they stay in the car. However, I finally found something that works for me and might for others. It is from Granite Gear and folds up into its self. Doesn’t take much space and stays in my hand bag. Now I always have a bag with me. So far every store has given a discount even though it isn’t the normal cloth bag. Found this one at REI but I’ve recently seen cheaper ones elsewhere.




    Responding to yesterday’s Sansolo Speaks, MNB user Jack Allen wrote:

    You will not deliver that commencement address to your son’s class; but you should be gratified reflecting on the many class lectures you have delivered to hundreds of college students at universities offering food management programs. I am aware that at some universities you were invited back year after year. I can assure you, your ideas and caring attitude have made a huge and lasting impact. Surely, many students are making their mark in the food industry. This is another opportunity to thank you for the vast support you have provided the Michigan State University program and its students. I have made similar comments to your partner, Kevin Coupe. Each of you deliver great messages--both of you walk your talk.

    We both thank you.
    KC's View: