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    Published on: April 29, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Smithfield Foods is saying that while the Mexican government is testing hogs on one of its farms there, no evidence has been found of the swine flu virus there.

    Smithfield has been emphasizing in its communications that it routinely tests its own animals for swine flu and has yet to come up with a positive test.

    Here’s an interest passage from the Journal story:

    “A recently released World Organization for Animal Health briefing said ‘the virus has not been isolated in animals to date. Therefore, it is not justified to name this disease swine influenza.’ The organization noted that the virus ‘includes in its characteristics swine, avian and human virus components.’ Instead, the agency said the disease should be called ‘North-American influenza’.”

    KC's View:
    Good luck with that. Swine flu is going to be called swine flu, no mater what the experts say and what the science suggests.

    Also, for better or for worse, one would have to guess that Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is suddenly going to seem a lot more important…”raised in Mexico” is a phrase that simply isn’t going to seem attractive on pork products.

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    Business Week features a story about, which is described as an entrepreneurial website that essentially serves as a central storefront selling products manufactured by small producers from some 25 states.

    Foodzie is backed by $1 million in venture capital that is betting that the consumer appetite for online food shopping only is going to grow, and that it can tap into increased shopper interest in local products.

    According to the story, “The company is trying to give artisan food producers a bridge from local farmers' markets to crowded virtual grocery-store shelves, where it's hard for newcomers to elbow in. Foodzie handles credit-card processing and tax calculations for producers, and supplies prepaid shipping labels to the makers of such items as grass fed beef, sea salt caramels, and Sumatra coffee. In return, Foodzie takes 20% of sales.”

    KC's View:
    Foodzie is an attractively designed, highly utilitarian website that makes a lot of sense – after all, not only are people more interested in online food shopping and local foods, but they’re also increasing how often they cook.

    And, as will be pointed out elsewhere today on MNB, if the swine flu pandemic really starts to gather steam, not going out of the house to shop for food may start to look like a really attractive option.

    I checked out “rubs” because they happen to be an interest of mine…and found more than two dozen varieties from a number of manufacturers that I thought looked pretty interesting.

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    Bloomberg reports that both CVS Caremark and Walgreen, the nation’s two largest drug chains, are working with suppliers to prepare for a potential rush on their stores by consumers looking for products such as hand sanitizers and surgical masks that are more in demand because of the swine flu pandemic.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    The answer to that question appears to be yes, as the company’s CEO, John Rishton, told shareholders on Tuesday that Ahold is looking for opportunities in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and the United States…though he was not any more specific about the possibilities.
    KC's View:
    Hmmm…wonder what companies might be available and a good fit for Ahold.

    I’ve always thought that it seemed like a better bet that Ahold could sell off some of its US operations, but apparently that’s not what Rishton has in mind.

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard has reached an agreement to acquire Exxon Mobil’s On The Road franchise system, which represents some 450 convenience stores around the country. In addition, Couche-Tard will buy 43 Exxon Mobil corporately owned stores in Arizona.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    The deal is expected to close in late May.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    Second Thoughts from The Content Guy…

    Yesterday, MNB reported that Supervalu-owned Acme Markets has followed the lead of Supervalu’s Albertsons stores and decided to eliminate home delivery of groceries. Instead, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Acme will only offer pickup service at 40 stores in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    KC's View:
    There was something I should have pointed out yesterday that I did not…which was that at this moment in time, it might not make sense to be reducing a commitment to online grocery shopping and home delivery.

    Why? Because of the concerns about a swine flu pandemic that is making so many headlines…which could have a lot of customers clamoring for home delivery options.

    A simple reality is that if the swine flu situation gets worse, customers are going to be looking for ways to avoid going out to do their shopping.

    Retailers need to pay attention to this and deal with it very carefully. They don't want to panic people, but they do want to cater to what could be a growing consumer need.

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story about some of the changes taking place at Anheuser-Busch headquarters in St. Louis since the company was acquired by Belgian brewer InBev:

    Crews “demolished the ornate executive suites at Anheuser-Busch Cos. In their place the workers built a sea of desks, where executives and others now work a few feet apart.

    “It is just one piece of a sweeping makeover of the iconic American brewer by InBev, the Belgian company that bought Anheuser-Busch last fall. In about six months, InBev has turned a family-led company that spared little expense into one that is focused intently on cost-cutting and profit margins, while rethinking the way it sells beer.

    “The new owner has cut jobs, revamped the compensation system and dropped perks that had made Anheuser-Busch workers the envy of others in St. Louis. Managers accustomed to flying first class or on company planes now fly coach. Freebies like tickets to St. Louis Cardinals games are suddenly scarce.

    “Suppliers haven't been spared the knife. The combined company, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, has told barley merchants, ad agencies and other vendors that it wants to take up to 120 days to pay bills. The brewer of Budweiser, a company with a rich history of memorable ads, has tossed out some sports deals that were central to marketing at the old Anheuser-Busch.

    “The changes have been tough for workers to swallow. Some are grappling with heavier workloads, anxious about job security and frustrated with the emphasis on penny-pinching, say people close to the brewer. Former executives say workers feel less appreciated in a no-frills culture with fewer perks.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    Advertising Age reports that General Mills and Kellogg’s have announced initiatives designed to combating hunger in America.

    According to the story, “General Mills, through its Hamburger Helper brand, will give up to 3.5 million meals to various food banks. Kellogg Co. is donating an entire day's cereal production, more than 55 million servings, valued at about $10 million.” The donations are being made to Feeding America, formerly known as America's Second Harvest, which will arrange for their distribution.

    • There are published reports saying that even as Starbucks closes underperforming stores, it is turning to the secondary chain it acquired in 2003 – Seattle’s Best Coffee – as an engine for growth. Seattle’s Best Coffee sells milder coffee at lower prices, at targets a broader consumer demographic than Starbucks, and the company plans to seek franchisees who can open stores and kiosks featuring the brand.

    Since 2003, most Seattle Best Coffee locations have been opened inside Borders bookstores, in an arrangement that mimics the one Starbucks has with Barnes & Noble.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    • The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) announced that Derek Gaskins, most recently the director of marketing for Giant Eagle, has joined the organization as vice president of marketing.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2009

    We got a number of emails yesterday responding to Michael Sansolo’s column, which essentially was a reaction to a letter he received about a previous piece. The letter criticized not his opinion, but the title “Sansolo Speaks” that has been used since he started writing for MNB almost two years ago.

    The MNB user who wrote in said that he found “Sansolo Speaks” to be pretentious, and that it seemed to refer back to the “when E.F. Hutton talks, people listen” ad campaign.

    Michael responded that “Sansolo Speaks” was actually designed to refer back to the “FMI Speaks” presentations that he used to do annually for more than a dozen years when he was with the Food Marketing Institute; he also found the E.F. Hutton reference interesting because that company was absorbed into a larger brokerage in 1988. “It was a stark reminder to me that the cultural references I think of so easily are completely foreign to a staggering number of people who I hope are reading this column,” Michael wrote. “It probably an issue we all have with associates, customers, business partners and certainly our children.”

    MNB user Alison Kenney Paul wrote:

    Wow—you said a mouthful!

    1.) I attended the FMI show for years and did not realize that your ‘Sansolo Speaks’ was an inside joke or reference……just thought you and Kevin liked the alliteration.

    2.) Your E.F. Hutton reference was NOT lost on me because, I, like you and (and probably half of your readers) am OLD! I am constantly making references to things from the 80’s and 90’s to younger co-workers….and getting that blank, ‘what is she talking about?’ stare….

    We are constantly challenged by consumers, customers and colleagues to not only stay relevant but to understand what IS relevant. In my role as a principal at Deloitte and perhaps, even more so as President of the Network of Executive Women (NEW), I look for ways to relate to and understand one of the key diversity dimensions in our culture—generational diversity.

    Great reminder in your column today– I remain “teach-able…” on the topic!

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I like your column, and if the material applies to me, I’ll read it. I read MNB every day. Therefore, I’d classify myself as a fan. However, I have also always felt the “Sansolo Speaks” label a little of a turn off……

    Please just take as constructive…..I’ll keep on reading daily.

    Thanks for your efforts / insights.

    MNB user Philip Bradley wrote:

    I am a big fan of yours, but agree (somewhat), that your critic has a point. Frankly, I didn't even realize that your column title was a take-off on the old Hutton add, which I only remembered when you described it--I simply thought that your title was a catchy, alliterative headline.

    So--how about "Sansolo Surmises"? 🙂 Also alliterative, but a little more humble...

    Seriously, I love your columns. And I agree--it helps, every so often, when someone challenges our assumptions--it keeps us honest and a bit humble, and frankly, humility is a trait we could all use a little more of.

    While Michael didn’t say this yesterday, to be fair I should take the hit on this one – I chose the “Sansolo Speaks” title for his column…because I liked the alliteration and because the reference back to “FMI Speaks” seemed appropriate. It was never meant to be arrogant…and I might consider changing it if someone comes up with an outstanding and compelling alternative. (After all, I’ve changed section titles before….) And I’ll tell you what…the person who comes up with the best new title for Michael’s column will get a special MNB prize package: 1) an MNB t-shirt, 2) a pound of MNB coffee, and 3) a limited edition MNB canvas shopping bag.

    Keep those suggestions coming in. Michael and I get to be the final judges.

    One other thing…whether it be references to obsolete brokerage houses or quotes from old Jimmy Buffett songs or “Star Trek” episodes, I love obscure cultural or historical references and plan to continue using them. They are part of what makes MNB fun … I want to be relevant to the younger generation, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reflecting the times in which I grew up, and that I share with so many of you.

    And like I say, it’s fun.
    KC's View: