retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note yesterday of a New York Times story reporting that there seems to be a cultural shift toward what is being called “positive eating,” which is defined as “shunning deprivation diets and instead focusing on adding seasonal vegetables, nuts, berries and other healthful foods to their plates.”

My comment: There’s no way that this trend will be fast-moving. There simply isn’t the same kind of marketing muscle and money behind it as propels diet books and diet foods into the national consciousness.

But it seems to me that “positive eating” is the kind of message that retailers, in particular, ought to be adopting and marketing. It’d be good for their customers and it’d be good for their bottom lines. They’d sell more interesting products, they’d be serving as a resource for shoppers, and they’d be creating more lasting relationships with the consumers who walk in the front door.

One MNB user responded:

Your comments to a slow movement to healthy eating article; this one sentence caught my eye. “There simply isn’t the same kind of marketing muscle and money behind it as propels diet books and diet foods into the national consciousness.” You are absolutely correct…the marketing muscle is still behind processed food with value added additives. However, do not underestimate the power of the Internet to propel the healthy eating movements to national awareness, e.g., newsletters from nutritionist such as Dr. Mercola and Dr. Weils, NGOs advocating against toxic foods, blogs and the value of viral marketing.

MNB user Richard Lewis wrote:

Success depends on the way it's done. A good example, noted on the CIES Store Visit programme in London last year, is the reappearance of nuts as snack food. One very well-known retailer had simply moved its range of nuts, seeds and raisins out from the back aisles and into the entrance, with new signage saying something along the lines of "healthy snacks". It had a gaggle of 20something customers around it. A smart move that improves stock turn, makes customers feel better about themselves (forging a strong brand connection) and best of all costs nothing.

We also had a story the other day about a study suggesting that elementary school bans on soft drinks are of limited effectiveness, and I commented that this isn’t too surprising since in a lot of households parents talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

MNB user Brian Steffy wrote:

In response to the ban of soft drinks at schools, it doesn’t surprise me that the results were limited and overall not that successful. You are right about the role of parents setting examples and not having soft drinks in the house if they don’t want them consumed. What many people fail to realize is that it is a multifaceted problem that is not going to be solved by banning soft drinks as they are a small piece of the problem.

The whole issue involves lifestyle changes, including more exercise, better diets and a commitment to change. Soft drinks alone will not change the shape our youth are in.

Maybe we should consider banning video games so kids get up and go outside to play !! What do you think the chances are of something that revolutionary happening?

Good luck with that.

MNB user Bradley DuLong wrote:

It amazes me how all these schools have banned soft drinks so that kids will not have obesity issues BUT nothing is said when a major soft drink company is sponsoring each and every kids play area in the Dallas Fort Worth Airport…wouldn’t you think targeting such an even younger kid would have more potential damage? These play areas and the advertising for the play areas are very well branded with this soft drink maker.

There is an ongoing debate here on the site about the disposable bag vs. reusable bag issue, and it got a little more pointed this week with the announcement that one US plastic bag company was closing down a factory and putting 160 people out of work because of the shift to canvas bags.

One MNB user wrote:

I am supposed to feel good and pat myself on the back because I helping to save the planet by using a canvas bag produced in China? Last time I looked China was one of the worst polluters of the environment in the entire world?

Am I missing something or did we just move the jobs and the pollution across the bay?

Another MNB user wrote:

The plastic bag manufacturer is a classic example of what has happened on a much larger scale with many businesses including the automotive industry. Business owners who fail to anticipate or ignore the obvious trends in their industries and not react and innovate will simply perish. Clearly the now ominous news from Wall Street is also a reflection of this same status quo mindset. Inherent in successful risk management is the ability to identify changing trends and to rapidly adapt to them.

Having been one of the laid off victim of the last big recession in the early 80's, I have a lot of compassion for the 160 employees, not to mention the hundreds of thousands, who will face the daunting task of getting on with their lives.

This whole experience has a multitude of lessons attached to it. If we, as a nation, pay attention, this dark period of our history will make us stronger.

And still another MNB user wrote:

I think you’re right in questioning whether the plastic bag manufacturer should have been looking ahead to see what was coming next. While Fuji is making film in Carolina and Toyota and Honda are making cars all over the US, Kodak and the Big Three are reeling and wondering, “What happened?” I’m thinking it’s not the fault of cheap labor and unfair trade agreements, but a lack of vision and awareness of how the market was and is changing. If companies can’t figure out how to make their products with higher quality and less cost and always responding to the needs of their customers, bailouts won’t help. And in the long run they won’t solve the deeper problems in our economy.

It’s going to get a bit more Darwinian for all companies as the times get tougher, but if in the end the companies that are left are the ones with the healthiest cultures, the most connected to their customers and their employees, and the ones who constantly seek to improve what they do everyday, it could be a brave new world for all of us. Who knows, it may even look like an intelligent design…

I’ll stand by my comment of the other day – that while my heart goes out to the 160 people losing their jobs, the company for which they worked bears the responsibility for the closing of the plant, not those of us who use canvas bags. That company should have been able to see the change taking place, and adapted to it. In this environment, you don't get rewarded for being negligent about how a changing world affects your business.

The concerns about Chinese bag manufacturers certainly is a legitimate one. So I checked with the folks at Eco-Bags, and they told me that their bags, at least, are manufactured in India. Eco-Bags has a 12-year relationship
with a manufacturer there that runs a fair wage & labor facility, and the company has a 20 year commitment to fair wage & labor standards.

I should note here that Eco-Bags is about to become an MNB sponsor…and that it also is coming out with a special, limited edition MNB canvas bag…which is very, very cool.

KC's View: