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: October 15, 2008

    USA Today has a story this morning saying that a two-year study conducted by an organization called the Environmental Working Group has concluded that a number of leading brands of bottled waters contain “a variety of contaminants, including cancer-linked chemicals three times higher than California's health standard.”

    The paper reports, “Researchers tested one batch for each of 10 brands. Eight of those did not have troubling levels of contaminants. But two brands did, so more tests were done and those revealed chlorine byproducts above California's standard. The researchers identified those two brands as Sam's Choice sold by Wal-Mart and Acadia of Giant Food supermarkets.

    The organization reportedly plans to sue Walmart under the California state law that allows such a suit to be filed. The Arcadia brand is not sold in California, so no suit is currently planned in this case.

    “The other eight, which researchers didn't identify, carried legal levels of many contaminants. Some of those chemicals, like arsenic and the solvent toluene, have been tied to health risks. Some of the contaminants apparently came from pollutants often found in tap water, and others probably leached from plastic bottles, the researchers said.”

    According to the story, “all the brands met federal health standards for drinking water. And most of the detected contaminants are common in tap water, too. Lab tests detected 38 chemicals in 10 brands, with an average of eight contaminants found in each kind of bottled water. Tests showed coliform bacteria, caffeine, the pain reliever acetaminophen, fertilizer, solvents, plastic-making chemicals and the radioactive element strontium.”

    KC's View:
    Don't know about you, but the first thing this story did was make me question federal standards for tap water…because on the face of it, that sounds like an awful lot of crap coming through the pipes.

    While manufacturers might not agree with me on this one, I also think that it hardly serves any purpose at all to say that eight bottled water brands contain contaminants – even if at legal and non-troubling levels – and then not identify them. It sort of tars the entire bottled water business with a broad brush without being specific about the brands involved.

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    The New York Times this morning has an interesting profile of Bill Niman, who founded the pioneering Niman Ranch back in the seventies, but who left the business in 2007 “with a modest severance check and a small amount of stock” after a series of arguments with the company’s management team.

    While he can’t use his own last name in business anymore, Niman has created a new company, BN Ranch, which he runs with his wife, Nicolette Hahn Niman - an environmental lawyer who also is an animal rights activist and, amazingly, a vegetarian.

    “Now they are raising what they hope will be the best-tasting animals around,” the Times reports. “They have a handful of premier cattle that fatten only on pasture and a flock of traditional turkey breeds they personally chauffeured from Kansas to Bolinas last spring. Mr. Niman also has an organic pig project going in Iowa.”

    But Niman’s big bet is on goats. “That’s in part because he has more of them around, and because he sees a wide-open market for pristine, pasture-raised goat meat … Chefs on both coasts are fast discovering his goat meat, although it is still available only in limited amounts,” the Times writes.

    Apparently, a goat is not just a goat. “The breed of goat is important … Mr. Niman raises some stout, muscular Boer goats. But he is particularly fond of meat from lighter framed Spanish goats, which sometimes mix with the Boer … For about half the year, Mr. Niman lets the goats roam his California ranch. In the summer and fall, when the California grass is brown, they move to Oregon. He also works with ranchers raising two other herds to his specifications in California and Oregon.

    “Goats and cattle work particularly well together in a pasture. Goats don’t like clover or rye grass, which the cattle love, but they make fast work of scotch broom, poison oak and other plants that can take over good grassland.

    “’Nature is so perfect,’ Mr. Niman said.”

    KC's View:
    Not sure we are going to suddenly see a run on goat meat, or that mainstream supermarkets will start opening goat departments. But at some level the industry should be paying attention, if only because it survives and thrives on the new and the innovative. Trends like these need to marinate for a while…

    As for me, I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten goat. But I’m going to be on the lookout for it now, because it sounds so interesting.

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    Fox 4 News in Dallas reports that the City Council there “is considering banning plastic shopping bags within the city limits in an effort to reduce pollution. Shoppers would have to buy reusable cloth or vinyl shopping bags instead.

    “The proposal that went before council members on Monday would eliminate the common thin plastic bags within three to five years in order to clean up city landfills. Plastic bags take an estimated 1,000 years to disintegrate.”

    One of the rationales behind the legislation, according to the story, is the contention that free plastic and paper bags aren’t actually free, but instead add costs to the food distribution system that add up to between $10 and $15 in higher prices at checkout.

    KC's View:
    Sure, there are some of you who believe I have completely gone off the deep end on canvas bags … but apparently I have a lot of company, and some of these folks are from Texas.

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    The Tuscaloosa News reports that Bruno’s and Food World will close 22 of the 40 in-store pharmacies that it operates in Alabama and on the Florida Panhandle.

    According to the story, “A spokesperson for Bruno’s says they’re closing the pharmacies due to their consistently low performance over the past several years, and the lack of prospects for turning them around.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    The California Grocers Association (CGA) announced that it has joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger “to unveil an historical agreement that makes the private sector key partners in the state’s disaster response system with the intent to expedite relief efforts and maximize critical resources.

    “We have the world’s best firefighters, police and first responders, but we all know government cannot do it all,” Schwarznegger said in a prepared statement. “Making these kinds of public-private partnerships is exactly what California needs. I am so pleased that these private sector partners will be on call 24-7 for the people of California next time an emergency strikes.”

    The governor announced that agreements have been reached with four private sector partners, including the CGA, Business Executives for National Security, the California Utilities Emergency Association and Wal-Mart Stores.

    The agreements will allow government agencies to access emergency management professionals in the private sector at all times. In addition the private sector partners will have access to the State Operations Center during an emergency or natural disaster to staff a “Business Operations Center” now being established.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    A new UK market study by the Taylor Nelson Sofres World Panel says that Tesco’s share of the UK’s grocery business is down to 31.4 percent in the last quarter, from 31.8 percent during the same period last year.

    Walmart’s Asda Group’s market share for the period was up to 17.1 percent from 16.8 percent a year ago.

    Sainsbury’s share dropped to 15.7 percent from 15.8 percent a year ago.

    William Morrison’s Supermarkets share of the market went up to 11.2 percent fro 10.9 percent.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    • Target has opened 45 new stores this week, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, including “two new prototype stores in Minnesota and the company’s first two stores in Alaska. One of the new Minnesota stores is a new Super Target prototype that includes a full-service supermarket, and is described as being close to the size and configuration of a Walmart Supercenter.

    One of the Alaska stores is in Wasilla, the Alaska town where GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin got her political start.

    The Journal notes that “following this round of store openings, Minneapolis-based Target will have 1,685 stores in 48 states. The only states that don’t yet have Target stores are Hawaii and Vermont, although the first Hawaii location is scheduled to open next spring.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    • Price Chopper Supermarkets/Golub Corporation announced today that Mike Davidson has been appointed to the position of Regional Vice President, Operations reporting directly to David Golub, Vice President, Operations. Davidson comes to Price Chopper from Marsh Supermarkets where he held the position of Vice President, Operations. He was also Vice President of Operations and Merchandising for Topps Markets, LLC.

    Price Chopper also announced that Irfan Badibanga has been named to the new position of Zone Director, reporting directly to Al Provancher, Regional Vice President, Operations. Badibanga comes to Price Chopper from HEB where he was Director of Store Operations. Previous to that, he was a District Manager for Winn Dixie.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    • The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) reported a second quarter loss of $17.37 million yesterday, which compares favorably with a loss of $91.32 million during the year-ago period. Q2 sales rose to $2.18 billion, from $1.27 billion a year ago, with same store sales up 2.8 percent. The same-store sales figures exclude those of Pathmark, which A&P acquired during the past year, and which rose 2.9 percent during the quarter.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    On the continuing subject of canvas shopping bags, one MNB user wrote:

    You have gone off the deep end on this plastic bag thing. Going after plastic grocery bags alone will not accomplish a lot. How about plastic wrap? Plastic food storage bags? Styrofoam packaging of all types?

    Why the obsession with one thing? Seems to me this is what most enviros do and it undermines their cause. They are so focused on one thing they miss the big picture and people dismiss them as myopic.

    Isn't plastic the problem not just the grocery bags?

    And living near the coast I can tell you I see a lot of things "coming down the river" and into the sea not just plastic grocery bags. And some of the worst stuff that comes down is not even visible!

    So if you are worried about damage to the ocean let's deal with all the stuff damaging the ocean; if it is landfills let's deal with all the stuff that has a long "life" in the landfill.

    I think you do what you can do. I can do something about plastic and paper shopping bags, and so I both act on the impulse and use my soapbox.

    After all, a man’s no better than his dreams.

    MNB user Kevin Herglotz also had some thoughts:

    I agree that we need to educate consumers about their choices regarding paper, plastic or canvas/reusable. I believe there is a much larger issue to address. Yes, we could change the world one bag at a time but the political solutions to this issue (i.e. bans on plastic) do not work. In San Francisco the board of supervisors banned plastic bags at large grocery stores and chain drug stores only. There are roughly 10,000 businesses located in San Francisco – about 75 stores total are impacted by the so called ban. That means roughly 9925 other businesses – gas stations, clothing retailers, large pet stores, office supply stores, small mom & pops, etc. So the ban is really not a ban – plastic bags are still flying around San Francisco.

    What is also amazing is that the use of paper bags has gone up dramatically which also is not a good environmental solution. Going from one bad behavior to another isn’t the right policy solution. Just think of the extra transportation costs for carting the paper bags to all these stores. What seems to have worked is charging a realistic fee for both paper and plastic. That would drive consumers to change their behavior and move people to more sustainable solutions. Some of the fee could also be used to help forge new alternatives to plastic bags so you don’t put an entire sector out of business.

    Remember, we created the plastic bag industry years ago when there was a huge uproar in using too many paper bags and how harmful that was to the environment. What we also need are more coherent curbside recycling programs. Most areas around the country do not allow you to recycle plastic bags curbside. As we have seen with paper and bottles when you make it convenient for consumers they act. Kind of makes sense – convenience is the model that drives the retail model.

    Regarding the budget dinner ideas being offered by Food Lion, MNB user Anne Maas offered the following observations:

    I love to see food retailers provide assistance to their customers that can benefit them both financially and nutritionally. I was very curious about Food Lion's $10 meal for 4 program. I have had people suggest that I do something similar on my radio show. I went to Food Lion's website to check out the details and have a few bits of feedback.

    To begin with, I did not see the actual recipes on their website. Now granted, I'd like to think people won't need one for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but I would guess that there are a few people out there that might not know exactly how to prepare the Skillet Dinner for 4. I don't know if they post the recipes/instructions at their store locations.

    Many of the ingredients in their recipes are packaged foods that require little prep work, however there are a number of prepared products that require additional ingredients - the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix requires eggs and milk; the Pillsbury Brownie Classics mix requires oil; and the Kraft Pasta Salad requires additional ingredients. It doesn't state that on their website, but hopefully that is made clear at the store level.

    And as someone who has a passion for smart, healthy eating, I was anxious to look at these meal options from a nutritional standpoint. It appears that they have tried to develop meal ideas that cover multiple food groups, which is important, but it would be nice to see them develop more nutrient dense meals. In looking at just one meal – the Chicken & Biscuit Dinner for 4 (which actually is under $5, according to their site) I was disappointed by the lack of nutritional value and high amounts of fat and sodium. A single serving of the Banquet Chicken and Biscuit and the Kraft Pasta Salad combined contains 42 grams of fat, 7.6 grams saturated fat and 1506 milligrams of sodium. A 2,000 calorie diet recommends an intake of less than 65g of fat and less than 2400mg of sodium in a day. This single serving provides a high percentage of both.

    I know that packaged meals often times are a less expensive option however I am confident that a healthy meal with fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats and whole grains can be prepared for the same price. And now I have apparently thrown that challenge at myself and will begin to address it on my weekly radio show - "Everyday Eating with the Nutritionette" - Saturdays, 10am EST on Boston's WBNW 1120am (it can also be heard on-line at Thanks for letting me shamelessly promote my radio show…

    No problem. Invite me on as a guest and I’ll shamelessly promote it some more.

    An finally, regarding my comment yesterday about rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays if they end up in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, MNB user Jim Durkin wrote:

    Glad to see your jumping on the Rays bandwagon, after the Mets, Brewers, and Dodgers, the Phillies will be more than happy to knock the wheels off the Tampa bandwagon. Go Phillies, thanks for the updates.

    I do seem to be the kiss of death, don't I?

    Wait ‘till next year.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    In the American League Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Rays beat up on the defending champion Boston Red Sox 13-4 last night. The win gives the Rays a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series, putting the insurgent young team within one game of going to the World Series.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2008

    If you’re going to be attending Natural Products Expo East in Boston this week, we hope you will try to stop by the New Products session that will be moderated by Michael Sansolo and Kevin Coupe on Thursday between 3-4:30 pm. The session will include a look at the broad themes and influences affecting new product development, and a panel discussion with retailers and manufacturers that will examine what shoppers want and need.

    As an added incentive…Kevin Coupe will be at the EcoBags booth on the Expo East exhibit floor from 4-5 pm on Thursday…and the first 50 people to stop by to say hello will get one of the new MorningNewsBeat limited edition canvas shopping bags.

    See you in Boston! (Red Sox hats are optional…)

    KC's View: