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    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The most comprehensive range of enhancements in Chunky Soup’s four-decade history is supported by aggressive promotional efforts by Campbell Soup that include:

    • The “This Is Why” television campaign that takes a more emotional approach than previous ads, showing real dads working hard before coming home to their kids and enjoying a satisfying, nutritious bowl of Chunky soup to reinforce how the brand fits in to their lifestyle.

    • For the first time, Campbell is running print advertising in women’s magazines for Chunky soup and it also is reaching women via female oriented television and radio programming.

    All supporting the enhancement of an iconic brand that has more soups that deliver a full serving of vegetables; more soups that have 100 percent lean meat; and many that provide a good source of protein – all while continuing to deliver the same great taste and hearty satisfaction that people love.

    Want to know more about how to use Campbell’s Chunky Soups to drive sales to your store? Click here
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    by Kate McMahon

    Content Guy’s Note: Kate’s BlogBeat is a new ingredient in the MorningNewsBeat stew – a regular look at what people are talking about on the Internet, and how it impacts the conduct of business by retailers and manufacturers.

    Note to self: Never research a column on food blogs on an empty stomach. You will wind up famished. Not to mention dizzied by the sheer multitude of food postings out there in the blogosphere.

    The success of the hit summer movie “Julie & Julia” has elevated the status of food blogs to an all-time high. And it made a celebrity of Julie Powell, a neophyte blogger who began writing “Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen” and hit culinary paydirt with a book and a movie.

    But for serious foodies, blogs have been the bread-and-butter of their social networking for the past five years. And a review of the burgeoning field and the most successful blogs is a revealing look at the shopping, cooking, and dining habits of regular folks and gourmands across the world.

    And if you are a retailer, manufacturer, marketer or service provider catering to people who shop, cook and dine, you can glean valuable insights from this facet of social networking. It can tell you what people are thinking and doing now…and if you read the tea leaves correctly, it can help you figure out where they are going so you can be there to greet them and provide for their needs and whims.

    Food blogs range from simple one-person recipe-and-tales-of-life postings to major food communities. (And while some Internet statisticians place blogs and commercially produced sites such as foodnetwork.com in the same category, I do not.)

    Just how big are food blogs? You’d be amazed. Here are a few statistics:

    • One of the leading food blog “communities,” foodbuzz.com, lists 9,903 blogs, 1,478,984 recipe posts, and 31,927 “foodie profiles.” The number of monthly unique visitors to the site more than tripled from 2 million in July 2008 to over seven million this past July.

    • Started in 2006, Food Blog Search is a custom-built search engine from Google to find recipes from more 2,000 hand-selected participating blogs.

    • Chow.com and chowhound.com celebrates great food, restaurants, wine and spirits and cookware and boasts blogs galore.

    • Seriouseats.com, an award-winning food community, is a compendium of blogs, commentary and slick video with local flavor and international appeal, which counts 1.5 million “serious eaters” in its camp.

    But numbers are a small part of the story. Food blogs range from generic (101cookbooks.com) to esoteric (cardamomaddict.blogspot.com). There are blogs on every imaginable international cuisine, organic, vegan and gluten-free foods, blogs with tips on counting calories, saving money, using leftovers, preparing dinners for one or banquets for 50.

    Some of the authors are amateurs who happen to love food, drink and entertaining, while others are professionals. The bloggers include teenagers, couples, and more than a few guys in the kitchen.

    What they all share is a passion for food, and a commitment to sharing that passion with like-minded enthusiasts. The most successful blogs have a distinct voice and a real connection with their followers.

    Sounds like a recipe for success in any business.

    It also reaffirms that social networking is the new “back fence” and the conversations and recipe swaps that took place in the produce aisle or at the office water cooler are occurring on-line and around the world.

    So next week’s column will highlight some of the most successful blogs and food communities, including some great suggestions from the MNB readership. Stay tuned.

    You can reach Kate McMahon via email at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, says that the recession is “very likely over,” and that “at this point we are very likely in a recovery.

    However, he also said that “it is still going to feel like a very weak economy for some time as many people still find their job security and their employment status is not what they wish it was.”

    The comments came as the US Commerce Department reported retail sales were up 2.7 percent in August; they fell 0.2 percent during July. The Journal writes that “to be sure, consumers -- and the economy at large -- are coming back from very low levels. Credit conditions remain tight, and the economy will likely grow only moderately in 2010, Mr. Bernanke said, leading to little improvement in the job market and crimping consumer spending.”
    KC's View:
    What worries me is the notion that while a lot of companies laid off people out of necessity, there have been companies that did so because the recession provided them with an excuse – they could have saved more jobs, but fund that this was a good time to trim the fat.

    Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, normally we give credit to companies that anticipate the future rather than simply being reactive. But in this case, such an attitude could mean that the economy will take a lot longer to rebound. And as a number of people have said to me, they won’t believe that the recession really is over until all the people who lost their jobs because of it are able to get new ones.

    This could take time…

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a new $65 million dollar initiative called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” that the paper says is designed to “support local and regional food systems, strengthening agriculture and thus triggering economic opportunities on a community level.”

    In addition, USDA announced that it will promote the initiative through the creation of a farmers’ market in Washington, DC, that will be located right outside the White House. “It’s a real symbol to the rest of the country that we care and are aware of what’s going on,’’ says Ann Wright, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
    KC's View:
    Sure, there will be naysayers who will argue that there is no inherent advantage in local agriculture…but the current administration clearly does not accept that notion.

    I have to say that at the very least, this seems consistent with the White House’s broader approach to health and wellness. If you really want to have an impact on health care in this country, a good place to start is with how people eat. I’m not sure they needed to put a farmers’ market in Lafayette Park, but I guess it proves something when you put your money where your mouth is.

    One final point. There are retailers out there that prominently post signs in their stores that identify the farms and farmers that are their source of product – I was in a wonderful PCC Natural Market in Seattle this week that did so, and that also pointed out the company’s broader support for the PCC Farmland Trust, which it says “secures, preserves and stewards threatened farmland in the Northwest, to ensure that generations of local farmers productively farm it using sustainable, organic growing methods. The Trust takes its mission one step further than most land trusts by working to place farmers on the property, actively producing food for the local community.”

    I am impressed. (As I was, by the way, by everything I saw and learned about PCC’s operations.)

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Walmart is launching “in-store Family Night Centers, which are designed to give customers a one-stop shop for at-home activities including board games, movies and snacks,” and that it hopes will provide affordable entertainment for families as they spend more time at home during the recession.”
    KC's View:
    This is so smart. Walmart isn’t just selling games and snacks. It is selling at-home entertainment experiences. It is supporting a specific consumer need. And, by making this experience-driven, it is actually selling across a number of categories.

    Just another example of how Walmart has adopted a contextual approach to marketing, and continues to raise the bar.

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The St. Louis Business Journal reports that Schnucks has included a cooking school in its newest store, a 74,000 square foot unit opened yesterday in Des Peres, Missouri.

    The cooking school is the chain’s first.

    Scott Schnuck, the company’s chairman/CEO, tells the paper that the store also includes “a Kaldi’s coffee shop with WiFi connections, a new cheese room and wine display, a walk-in beer cave cooler, an aged beef cooler, a Schnucks demonstration station, two restaurant counter seating areas and a table-top kitchen housewares department.”
    KC's View:
    To me, there is always something nice about a cooking school in a supermarket…it demonstrates that the company understands that a love for food and its unique role in our lives is a differential advantage to be exploited. Good for Schnucks.

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    FoodNavigator.com reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said that double-digit sales growth by organic food for more than a decade means that organic customers have become “increasingly mainstream.”

    According to a report by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, “Organic products have shifted from being a lifestyle choice for a small share of consumers to being consumed at least occasionally by a majority of Americans,” who are wiling to spend more on organic food than they do for conventional products.

    “Consumers prefer organically produced food because of their concerns regarding health, the environment, and animal welfare, and are willing to pay the price premiums established in the marketplace,” USDA said in the report.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The Denver Business Journal reports that employees at Safeway and King Soopers will begin voting on the companies’ latest – and, they say, last - contract proposals this Saturday, with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) saying that they could go on strike as soon as October 6 if the proposals are rejected.

    According to the story, the contract proposals “would decrease from two years to one year the amount of time that part-time workers would have to wait to get family members insured and would add a new preventive care component to the health plan. But there is no guarantee written into the deal that premiums would not increase and benefits would not decrease, union officials argued.

    “Possibly the biggest point of difference is a change in pension plans that would allow workers to retire no earlier than age 55 instead of letting them leave when their age and years of service combine to reach 80.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The Times of London reports that William Morrison Supermarkets in the UK has come up with a new small-store format that it hopes will enable it to “attract younger, better-off customers in different parts of the country.”

    CEO Marc Bolland tells the Times that most of the stores will be “squeezed” into former Somerfield and Co-op locations, and that while the units will be convenience-sized, they will have enough SKUs to allow consumers to accomplish a full shopping trip within its walls.
    KC's View:
    More and more, I think, it is going to be imperative for retailers – especially food retailers – to be willing to try new formats and approaches to the business and to go into unorthodox locations that will surprise and hopefully delight the shopper. They won’t all work, but worth the risk in the long run because it will create new opportunities.

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Tesco’s market share in the most recent quarter dropped from 31.1 percent during the same period a year ago to 30.9 percent, while Walmart-owned Asda Group’s market share went from 17 percent to 17.4 percent during the same period. Sainsbury’s market share also grew during the period, to 15.8 percent from 15.6 percent, and William Morrison Supermarkets’ share grew from 10.8 percent to 11.3 percent.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    Dow Jones reports that Walmart “is expanding its prescription mail delivery program nationwide” after a Michigan pilot program proved successful. The program “offers customers a 90-day supply of 300 generic drugs for $10 … no mailing charge is added to the prescription cost and no memberships or enrollment fees are required. In addition to the 300 generic drugs available for $10, the service offers free mail delivery of more than 3,000 other brand and generic prescriptions at other prices.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Blockbuster plans to close as many as 960 stores by the end of next year – double the number it originally planned to close as part of an overall retrenchment.

    And, the company said, it might convert as many as 250 to 300 stores to outlets that sell used DVDs.
    KC's View:
    Stung by Netflix, smacked around by Redbox, and looking at a long-term future where movie downloads will likely replace DVD rentals and purchases, Blockbuster had little choice.

    Just another example of how retail formats that seemed robust and permanent just a few years ago end up irrelevant when the companies don't recognize that the times, they are a’changin’…

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    • The Washington Post reports on a new study by the Rand Corp. saying that in-store medical clinics “provide care for routine illnesses that is as good as, and costs less than, similar care offered in doctors' offices, hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers.”

    • The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Coca-Cola chairman/CEO Muhtar Kent has gone on record with his opinion about the possibility that the federal government could assess a tax on sugared soft drinks: ““I think it’s outrageous. I think it’s outrageous because I have never seen it work where a government tells people what to eat and what to drink.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    • Kroger Co. said that its second quarter net income dropped eight percent to $254.4 million, from $277 million during the same period a year ago. Q2 sales declined two percent to $17.7 billion, on same-store sales that were up 2.6 percent excluding fuel.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    • Safeway announced that it has hired Joseph Ennen, formerly the group vice president for innovation at PepsiCo, to be its new senior vice president of consumer brands.

    • CVS Caremark has named Mike Bloom, the company’s senior vice president of merchandising, to be senior vice president of merchandising and supply chain.

    In addition, the drug store chain said that Scott Baker, who has been running CVS’s integration of the Longs Drug stores, has been named senior vice president of internal operations and real estate.

    CVS also said that Hanley Wheeler, senior vice president of the Central Division, will now add the Eastern Division to his responsibilities, while Dennis Palmer, senior vice president in the Western Division, adds Hawaii to his portfolio.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2009

    Good email from an MNB user about the connection between food and health:

    This premise – that our food affects our health - is exactly what the natural products industry was founded and built upon.

    We don’t have “health care” in this country. We have sick care. Education and prevention should be the cornerstones of our health care system. Naturopathic physicians practice and promote this, as do chiropractors. Yet the insurance industry doesn’t cover these in any significant way, nor promote the education they present. And taxing sugary drinks is NOT a good solution! We have to educate on why choosing a healthier option is in the best interest of the consumer, and taxing it is NOT going to solve the cause!

    It appears our approach has been to deal with symptoms, not causes, at so many levels. I think this is what John Mackey was trying to communicate, and I agree with him. I am not an employee of Whole Foods, and actually don’t shop there regularly, since I have other great stores closer. But I am in agreement with what he said, and what I understand his bigger picture vision to be.





    And, on another subject, one MNB user wrote:

    With regard to banning drugstores from selling tobacco in San Francisco, I think your readers are astute enough to recognize a slippery slope set up when they see one. If we are to accept the notion that anything which is deemed detrimental to your health should not be sold in a drug store, then the shelves of Walgreens, CVS, etc. are going to become mighty bare. Last time I checked, these stores flogged salty snacks, sugary sodas, candy and prepared/processed foods loaded with all kinds of nasties. Do the powers that be get to tell the stores to stop? It's not that far of a next step!

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    From a strictly legal point of view, governing authorities have the right to place health, safety and welfare restrictions when regulating licensed activities. Prohibiting the sale of products that kill you seems to be a reasonable restriction to a license to dispense medicine. The challenge regarding the application of the regulation seems to be a strong one. As written, it’s like requiring a standalone liquor store to deny anyone under 21 while a grocery store selling liquor needs to only restrict those under 18.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    You are right about a lot of key comparisons. What about grocery stores with pharmacies, what about other products that are deemed unhealthy or what about banning cigarette sales all together? If 100% of people who smoke become addicted and die, then I guess one would have a more credible claim, but that is not the case. Even though I am not a smoker and think it is a weird and stupid habit, it is someone’s CHOICE to be weird and stupid. I do not think the government, city or legal system should be acting as the parental decision-maker.

    I say this because one day someone will think the Diet Coke that I like to drink is no longer healthy and should not be sold in the store that I shop…and what about cigars, liquor and beer? What about every processed food with fructose and hydrogenated oil?

    How about letting the BUSINESS decide on the image of their store and what items they want to carry to enhance that image. Otherwise, everyone else needs to stay out of it and let consumers influence the item mix with their wallets.





    Regarding a controversy in China involving Walmart, one MNB user wrote:

    The item about Wal-Mart's "nightmare scenario" where a gang of unruly security people -- Wal-Mart employees or not, still to be determined -- apparently beat a female customer to death outside a Wal-Mart store in China brought to mind last November's Black Friday item from Valley Stream, NY when a gang of unruly customers trampled a store employee to death. In both situations, Wal-Mart itself is singled out as ultimately responsible for the terribly unfortunate outcome; however, the circumstances almost cannot seem to be more different.

    Should Wal-Mart (or any retailer, generally speaking) be criminally (and/or civilly) responsible for the unforgivable acts of its employees while on duty? Should it be similarly responsible for such acts if the perpetrators in question were merely contracted to Wal-Mart? Fair questions, to be sure.

    Should Wal-Mart (or again, any retailer) be criminally (and/or civilly) responsible for the unforgivable acts of its customers while seeking to patronize the store? Arguable, I suppose.

    But at some sociological level, I can't help but feel that the fact that Wal-Mart (or whatever retailer du jour might find themselves in this sort of paired situation) will ultimately be made to take the fall in both cases, and what does that say about us as a civilization? We hear a lot about "taking personal responsibility over one's own actions", a lot if it rather shrill, holier-than-thou, guilty till proven innocent sort of opinion. Yet here, where is the righteous indignation over the acts of Wal-Mart's Black Friday customers? Why have they seemingly been given such a total free pass, after such inexcusable behavior? Can it be that we as a society, when push comes to shove, really walk the walk about personal accountability only when it relates to someone else who we don't care about (or more to the point, don't care for)? But, heaven forbid, never to ourselves? Or to those we choose to side with, however closely or distantly they may be associated with us?

    Situational ethics can be a terrible thing; easy to apply, maybe even easier to abuse for one's own political convenience. Something in the juxtapositioning of the above two Wal-Mart news items is out of whack from a personal accountability standpoint; yet, I don't hear anyone talking about it. That scares me.


    I don't think we gave the customers a pass here on MNB. I think I may have described them as animals.

    Bu that doesn’t change the fact that to some extent, retailers do encourage such behavior at certain times of the year. There is more than enough culpability to go around.
    KC's View: