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    Published on: October 24, 2008

    US News and World Report has a piece that trains its focus on the nation’s childhood obesity crisis, and suggests that there are ten things that the food industry does not want consumers to know. They are:

    1. Junk food manufacturers spend billions to market their products to kids.
    2. “The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products.”
    3. “Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations.”
    4. “More processing means more profits, but typically makes the food less healthy.”
    5. “Less-processed foods are generally more satiating than their highly processed counterparts.”
    6. “Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are hardly healthier than the foods they replace. ”
    7. “A health claim on the label doesn't necessarily make a food healthy.”
    8. “Food industry pressure has made nutritional guidelines confusing. ”
    9. “The food industry funds front groups that fight anti-obesity public health initiatives.”
    10. “The food industry works aggressively to discredit its critics.”

    KC's View:
    These ten food industry attitudes were drawn up in part by Marion Nestle, the well-known professor of nutrition at New York University, and some will say that her anti-industry bias is driving the conclusions.

    There are two problems here, it seems to me.

    One is that there almost certainly is an element of truth in some if not all of these observations.

    The other is that this could end up being a growing perception among consumers, which means that shoppers could increasingly think of the food industry as the enemy, or at least as an entity not to be entirely trusted. This is not a position that the mainstream food industry wants to occupy. It is not good for the industry’s image, and in the end it won’t be good for business.

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    MarketWatch reports that Target Corp. trying to regain a little sales magic in a down economy, is going to ramp up its marketing efforts behind a low price message as well as place more of an emphasis on fresh foods.

    According to the story, “As part of its move to lure shoppers more interested in making all purchases at a single location, Target also said it's begun testing carrying perishables and other grocery items at its general-merchandise stores. In addition to being hurt by shoppers' perception that like items cost more at Target than at Wal-Mart and at other competitors' stores, Target also has been hurt by its smaller stock of food and heavier exposure to discretionary products such as apparel and home goods that consumers have cut back on in the face of higher food and fuel costs and struggling credit and financial markets.”

    KC's View:
    I hate it when retailers talk about perishables, because it suggests that they don't understand the power and potential of the segment.

    Perishables rot. It is a negative connotation.

    Rather, they should call them fresh foods.

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    Nice piece in the Wall Street Journal noting how checkout receipts at supermarket front ends are carrying “ads related to the shopper's own buying habits … Targeted ads like these began appearing in some of the nation's major grocery stores about two years ago, but big consumer-product companies like Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods are just starting to buy them in significant numbers, as they and other marketers put more emphasis on reaching the right consumer at the right time.

    “The checkout ads range from messages encouraging shoppers to try a brand that competes with one they just bought, to others urging them to buy a new flavor of a product they buy regularly.” And the Journal notes that the primary driver behind this trend is Catalina Marketing.

    KC's View:
    Two points on this.

    While my antipathy to coupons has come out from time to time in this space, most of my attitude stems from the fact that so many are just tossed out there without any attempt to target appropriate consumers. But that isn’t the case here…and especially in the current economic environment, targeted and appropriate coupons probably will be mores successful rather than less.

    My second point? Someone at Catalina ought to buy the folks in the public relations department lunch, or at least several rounds of drinks after work. Because the 800-word piece in the Journal read pretty much like an advertorial…and somebody ought to get credit for that kind of media placement.

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    In Australia, the Australian Broadcast Corp. has a story saying that food and beverage manufacturers there will “voluntarily introduce a code of conduct, vowing not to advertise products to children unless they promote a healthy diet and lifestyle.” The move to a voluntary program, according to the story, is aimed at staving off the possibility of government mandates that would be more restrictive.

    The guidelines come after a study done by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) argued that there was no connection between junk food advertising and childhood obesity levels…an argument that largely fell on deaf ears among parents, who have been pushing for government regulations.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    • Kraft Foods reportedly has decreased the list price for its Maxwell House and Yuban roast and ground coffees by 10 cents per pound, saying that the move was linked to a lower cost for green coffee.

    The move follows a similar decision by Procter & Gamble, which announced that it was lowering its prices on Folger coffees.

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that McDonald’s CEO James Skinner said this week that the fast feeder’s value menu is in for some changes, though it is not known yet what shape those changes will take place.

    According to the story, “The dollar menu accounts for about 14% of McDonald’s U.S. sales and helps bring bargain-hunting customers into restaurants. But rising food costs, which McDonald’s expects to be up about 7% this year, have squeezed franchisees’ profits and cash flow.

    “McDonald’s has raised prices about 4% on its main menu items this year, but not on the dollar menu. Mr. Alvarez said the dollar menu prices have remained virtually unchanged in the last six years.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    If you’re going to be attending the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in Orlando, Florida, this weekend, plan on stopping by to visit MNB “Content Guy” Kevin Coupe, who will be giving a presentation entitled “Hold On For An Economic Roller Coaster Ride,” Saturday from 9:35 to 10:50 am.

    He may even have some limited edition MNB canvas shopping bags to hand out…so stop by and say hello!

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    In the second game of the best-of-seven World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, winning 4-2 and drawing even in the series at one game apiece.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    Interesting piece in the Washington Post challenging the conventional wisdom that modern technology – computers, cell phones, email, text messaging and the like – has weakened family connections in the US.

    Rather, the Post writes, a study published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggests that, in fact, “families have compensated for the stress and hurry of modern life with cell phone calls, e-mail and text messages and other new forms of communication … In the poll, 60 percent of adults said that the new technologies did not affect the closeness of their family, while 25 percent said cell phones and online communication made their families closer and 11 percent said that the technology had a negative effect.

    I found this particularly interesting since Mrs. Content Guy and I attended a parents meeting at our daughter’s school this week at which a number of parents expressed real reservations about their kids’ use of such technology, with one couple saying they don’t allow their kids to send text messages.

    Now, I think that parents need to establish rules and guidelines that make them comfortable; this is by no means a judgment on people who have parenting methods different from ours. But my experience is very much in line with the Pew Study – I love getting emails and text messages from my kids, and have found that we talk a lot more than I talked to my parents during high school and college.

    I’m also lucky. My kids haven't behaved in any way that has made me think that I cannot or should not trust them. If such a thing were to happen, we might have to rethink the rules.

    But for the moment, I’m happy with the fact that technology has enabled greater connections within our family. If I didn’t get text messages from my kids, I’d miss it. I’d miss them. And I’d be missing out on being part of their lives, and having them be part of mine.

    So much for our contribution to the betterment of western civilization.

    There was a story in the Journal of the American Heart Association saying that the typical western diet – defined as being heavy on fried foods, salty snacks and red meat – is responsible for almost one-third of the world’s heart attacks.

    What’s really sobering about this report is the implication that the western diet has been exported to other parts of the world that for some reason have identified our way of eating as something worth aspiring to.

    The other two typical diets, as stated by the study, are an Oriental diet, which has more tofu and soy, and a Prudent diet, which has more fruits and vegetables.

    Interestingly, people who pursued a Prudent diet lowered their heart attack probability by 30 percent, while people on an Oriental diet seemed to have no impact on heart attack rates as all.

    Which is sort of good news for me, since I like fruits and vegetables and am not nuts about soy and tofu.

    I saw “W.” last weekend, and thought the Oliver Stone movie about President George W. Bush was surprisingly even-handed and sympathetic. (That would not have been my bet going in.) Josh Brolin seems to have climbed inside Bush’s skin for his portrayal – it isn’t an imitation, really, but something deeper and actually sort of affectionate.

    How much of the movie is true? Stone says almost everything, while others would argue it is largely a work of fiction. It almost doesn’t matter, in my mind. “W.” is, after all, just a movie, and an interesting attempt to understand the current, much-maligned occupant of the Oval Office. Some of the performances seem spot on – Richard Dreyfuss is terrific as Dick Cheney, and James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn are highly entertaining as Bush’s parents. Not so great is Thandie Newton, who does a bad impression of Condoleezza Rice, and I can't make up my mind about Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell.

    “W.” probably isn’t the definitive profile of Bush, but it is an entertaining attempt to look at the motivations of a politician who has seem largely uninterested in self-analysis.

    My wine of the week…the 2005 Domaine DES Schistes “Tradition” from France, which is has a little spice to it, perfect with a pizza or fra diavolo pasta dish.

    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday. (Or, maybe we’ll catch up with each other at the PMA Fresh Summit in Orlando…)


    KC's View:

    Published on: October 24, 2008

    • Carrefour, the world’s second largest retailer, said yesterday that its third quarter sales were up seven percent to the equivalent of $31.72 billion, with strong performances from its stores in France, South America and Asia.
    KC's View: