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    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Consumers often ask if an extra virgin olive oil is “first cold pressed.” They view it as a special benefit.

    There appears to be a fair amount of confusion on this topic. Some very big foreign olive oil producers stamp “First Cold Press” on their labels.

    To be officially certified “extra virgin,” an olive oil must be first cold pressed. If it’s not first cold pressed, it can’t qualify as extra virgin olive oil under International Olive Council or California Olive Oil Council standards.

    All of the oil California Olive Ranch produces is certified extra virgin olive oil. It’s entirely first cold pressed. And fresher than anything else available.

    Try it today: Click here.

    You’ll be glad you did.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    DALLAS - Author and futurist Tamara Erickson, in what many thought was one of the best sessions at the Food Marketing Institute Future Connect conference, offered a view of the coming collision of five generations in the workplace, explaining the unique circumstances that shaped those born in the World War II era, the post-war boom, the Xers, Ys and the post Y generation.

    Her key point was this: While we all have different backgrounds, we have to learn to co-exist. And central to that realization is the notion that people of different times aren’t wrong in their attitudes...just different.

    One key example: While Baby Boomers hear the phrase “we’d like you to move to corporate HQ” as a positive that probably means a promotion, Generation Xers see it entirely differently - as a disruption to their lives that is not welcome. Understanding that difference - and adapting to it within the boundaries of a corporate culture - is key to surviving in the 21st century and beyond.

    In other Future Connect news...

    FMI announced the Grand Prize winners of the 10th Annual Store Manager Awards:
    •    Bob Gillick, store director of a ShopRite Supermarket in Yonkers, NY — Category A, companies with 1-49 stores.
    •    Henry Falcon, manager of the Sweetbay Supermarket in Plant City, FL — Category B, companies with 50-199 stores.
    •    Jeff Barricks, manager of a Safeway store in Corvallis, OR — Category C, companies with 200 or more stores.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Walmart announced yesterday that it has begun selling a number of HBC items online and providing home delivery.

    According to the announcement, the items offered include “a wide assortment of personal care products” such as vitamins and diapers, as well as over-the-counter medications.

    “Customers have long trusted Walmart to provide the best values on health and beauty brands in our stores, and now customers can also access these savings online at Walmart.com with the convenience of home delivery," said Kelly Thompson, Walmart.com's chief merchant, in a prepared statement. "By offering savings on our customers' favorite health and beauty items online and in our stores, we can better help our customers shop the way they want."

    Until now, Walmart has generally restricted its home delivery to items such as electronics and furniture.
    KC's View:
    It will not be long before Walmart expands its home delivery service to groceries. No question in my mind.

    And when that happens, food retailers that have not made the investment in online grocery services of one kind or another will wonder about the intelligence of that decision. of course, the good news is that they won’t have to wonder long. The reality of the situation will become apparent very quickly.

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Nice piece in the Dallas Morning News about how Texas state law has made it illegal to sell deep-fried foods and sugary drinks in schools, replacing them with healthier products that legislators hope will address the region’s childhood obesity problems.

    The story uses as an example Bryan Adams High School in Dallas, where in addition to some old favorites such as hot dogs and chips, there are new offerings such as “fajitas, yogurt parfait, salad, apples, oranges and grapes. The traditional entrees are a little different as well. As of this year, all the breaded foods, including the chips, are baked, not fried. The milk is low-fat, and there are a lot more whole grains in crusts and breading.”

    According to the piece, Ann Cooper, described as a school lunch activist, “is working with Whole Foods and others on a Web site, thelunchbox.org, providing menus and other assistance to school food-service workers and parents in adding more fresh, locally grown foods to school menus.” And the good news is that more and more kids seem to buying lunch at school, which is good because the viability of the program depends on a certain level of volume.
    KC's View:
    One of the great things about the health and wellness session that I moderated on Monday at the FMI Future Connect conference was the way in the panelists described how it is so simple to kick food up a notch and make it healthier and more nutritious, either through the use of certain “super spices” or by including “super foods” in the recipe whenever appropriate.

    This is one of the things that supermarkets ought to be able to bring to this discussion in every community - an ability to both talk about provide better and more nutritious food that tastes good.

    The thing about the Texas program that strikes me is how important it is to educate kids about this, to bring them along slowly, rather than just expecting them to accept whatever we give them. It’s sort of funny - the Morning News interviews two boys at the school, one who likes the new food offerings and one who grouses about them.

    I couldn’t help but feel that the more open-minded kid probably gets beat up a lot.

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Tuesday, October 20, is the day that has been set for unionized grocery employees to return to the bargaining table with Denver retailers Safeway and Kroger-owned King Soopers.

    The talks are the first since the employees rejected what had been called the chains’ last, best offer.

    According to the story in the Denver Business Journal, “The two sides have been in talks since April about new five-year contracts, and negotiations have centered around the issues of wages, health care and pension funding. Safeway workers have voted twice to approve a strike if necessary and both grocery chains have said they have replacement work forces in place if a work stoppage were to occur.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Walmart reportedly will write a check for $11 million to settle a 2001 Iowa lawsuit charging that the company forced employees to skip breaks or work off the clock.
    KC's View:
    It can be fairly pointed out that Walmart seems to be working very hard to deal with issues and cases that have hung over its head ... in essence saying that wherever and whenever it can, it will resolve these cases and move on.

    Now, the real trick is how the company behaves in the future. It is my impression that Walmart is using these cases as a kind of impetus to get better, to improve its culture, to make sure these kinds of things don’t happen again in the future.

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Private equity firm Berkshire Partners announced yesterday that it is investing in west coast-based, 135-unit Grocery Outlet, describing it as “a unique operating model that offers customers tremendous values on brand names they trust in a friendly, high quality shopping
    environment. “

    The announcement suggested that the investment capital could be used to fund expanded growth opportunities for Grocery Outlet, and notes that “Berkshire Partners has a strong track record of investing in value retailers. Prior transactions include National Vision, an operator of value-oriented vision centers, Party City, a retailer of party goods, and Savers, a retailer of secondhand merchandise.”

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
    KC's View:
    This would be the best kind of environment for companies like Grocery Outlet to grow in, especially if the projections that the “new frugality” will have some level of permanence.

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    AdWeek has a story about a new poll suggesting that consumers prefer advertising that does not refer to the recession; only 23 percent of those questioned said that such references make the brand seem more realistic.

    About 27 percent of those polled said advertising references to the recession are manipulative, and another 12 percent said they are depressing. Almost 40 percent said they have no opinion.
    KC's View:
    Interestingly, men viewed such ads in more negative terms than women...which may speak to the fact that men have been hit harder by the recession than women.

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that Scolari’s Food & Drug is outsourcing the distribution operations for all of its 19 stores in Nevada and California to C&S Wholesale Grocers. CEO Joey Scolari says in a prepared statement that the move was critical to the company’s ongoing viability: “We must evolve if we want to remain profitable.”

    The company conceded that some people would lose their jobs in the move, but promised them “generous severance packages” as well as outplacement assistance.
    KC's View:
    Gotta know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.

    It almost certainly isn’t hyperbole to say that moves like this are about survival.

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Interesting story out of Colorado, where something unusual has happened - the state’s minimum wage has been lowered from $7.28 to $7.24, an automatic move mandated by a law tying the minimum wage to inflation. However, the actual minimum wage is only going down to federal minimum of $7.25.

    It is the first decrease in any state’s minimum wage since the concept of a minimum wage was created in 1938.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    The New York Times reports on how the town of Westport, Connecticut, despite some concerns that a ban on plastic shopping bags would put stores there at a competitive disadvantage, seems t have embraced the concept. According to the story, one of the sponsors of the legislation says that “the 10,000 households in Westport now each use at least two fewer plastic bags per week. The total, he calculated, comes to 600,000 fewer plastic bags used since the ban started. Under the new regulation, the town can impose a $150 fine on businesses that distribute plastic bags.”

    Another sponsor of the bill says that “the greatest thing that happened was after the six-month period was over, Stop & Shop, who originally opposed the ban, had people clapping when customers remembered their reusable bags.”
    KC's View:
    When bans happen, retailers have a choice. They can embrace the change and make it work for them, or they can grouse and grumble.

    Seems to me that the first option is the best one...and it sounds like the Stop & Shop there is doing it the right way.

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    TheDay.com has a story noting that McQuade’s Marketplace in Mystic, Connecticut, “has installed the largest solar electric system at a grocery store in Connecticut. The supermarket said 151-kilowatt STC solar photovoltaic system is expected to generate approximately 168,200 kilowatt hours of clean energy a year which is enough to power more than 10 average New England homes. The system output will also prevent the release of more than 8.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the expected 30-year life of the system.”

    • Anheuser-Busch InBev and PepsiCo announced yesterday that they will join forces to buy certain products and services - including technology, hardware, travel, and office supplies - as a way of creating greater buying power that can drive down costs.

    The Boston Globe reports that Starbucks has decided to shut down the Clover premium coffee operations from seven area stores, leaving it open in 26 others there - a move that the company said represents a recalibration of the Clover strategy. The closed operations may be deployed to other area stores in coming months.

    According to the Globe story, “the Clover makes one cup of coffee at time to a customer's specifications. The Clover makes coffee from both traditional Starbucks blends and from blends specially designed for the Clover system. In the opinion of some caffeine buffs, the Clover brewing process can tease out bean subtleties that traditional brewing systems can't match.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    Al Martino, the Italian-American singer who famously played Johnny Fontane in “The Godfather,” died yesterday at age 82.

    Fontane, a singer with a weakened voice who goes to Don Corleone for help in landing a role in a Hollywood movie - a request that results in one of the most shocking scenes in the movie - supposedly is based on how Frank Sinatra got cast in ‘From Here To Eternity.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2009

    One MNB user wrote:

    I strongly agree with you regarding your comment on Monday, that all executives need to get into the stores and do the actual food shopping on a regular basis.  I would also add that they need to try to accomplish this on a budget, like their average customer's do everyday.

    I worked for a company that began requiring their executives to not only do the shopping but do so with a pre-planned budget.  It was amazing the amount of feedback we would receive from them once they began to do the actual shopping - especially on the average consumers budget.  Needless to say, there were often major modifications made to labor/pricing/programs after they began to experience reality!   And it's probably no surprise this company is by far the market leader in their region.

    I'm a long time grocery/CPG employee that has held positions on both sides of the equation in everything from store operations, to buying and selling products.  Too often I've dealt with executives whose only insights are through pre-planned store visits or test environments, and almost never viewed with the reality of the average consumers budget.  I wonder how well these companies will survive in the tough environment going forward?


    And another MNB user wrote:

    Regarding your commentary on food executives doing the weekly shopping, I had a conversation with a customer of mine who had been challenged by his manager to go out with his assistant and shop for a family of five with $30 as their budget for food for a week. He said it was quite an eye opening experiment. I thought it was a brilliant idea and have shared it with quite a few of my accounts.

    Great ideas.




    MNB user Gary Maxworthy thought I missed something the other day:

    The best article in the NY Times Magazine Food Issue was one you did not comment on.

    It tells how California’s” Farm to Family” program will distribute over 85 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables this year to Californians in need at no cost to those receiving. The program supported by California farmers packers and growers distributes fresh produce through California Food Banks. It has changed the face of Food Banking in the State from distributing dented cans and beat up boxes to where many Food Banks now distribute over 50% fresh.


    Thanks for sharing.




    It is interesting how some of the outlier stories on MNB generate so many emails. Take yesterday, when we reported on a lawsuit filed by Carly Simon against Starbucks, charging that the company’s Hear Music division dropped the ball on an album of hers that it produced; Simon is upset because she apparently needed the album to do well in order to retire, and now she has to make another album. (I commented that I couldn’t believe that she wanted to retire at age 64, that if i had the ability to write songs and sing them I;d never quit, and that I admire Bob Dylan, who is out singing at country fairs and likely will have to be dragged off the stage kicking and screaming.)

    MNB user Jenefer Angell wrote:

    Of course a person in a contractual relationship should expect fair treatment and fulfillment of terms, but I couldn’t help feel a little snarky about the angle that her handlers have decided to spin, claiming Carly won’t be able to afford to retire due to poor sales of this one album. I find it a little hard to feel the bleed for Carly Simon, daughter of the founder of the Simon & Schuster publishing empire, living in her house on Martha’s Vineyard, who presumably still gets royalties and residuals for her published songs, scores, and books. Maybe she could rent her house out in July while she’s out on tour.

    Actually, the Times story suggests that like a lot of baby boomers, Carly Simon’s finances have taken a real hit and while far from destitute, she’s not in the kind of shape one would expect.

    MNB user Donna Evans wrote:

    What I don’t get is why Starbucks would start their own music division.  That’s thinking a bit too far out of the box.  I know they play music in their stores, but to illustrate my point, I use pens at work, and you don’t see me competing with Bic or Montblanc.

    There as a time a long while ago - about 24 months when it was hard to think too far out of the box. This was part of Starbucks’ ambition to be a lifestyle company...which looked a lot better in the not too distant past.

    Another MNB user went right to my Dylan reference:

    Not only is he still touring extensively at a wide variety of venues (add minor-league baseball parks to the list as well...and pairing up from time-to-time with the likes of Willie Nelson, John Cougar Mellencamp, and Elvis Costello, to name just a few), he also plays DJ on his Sirius/XM radio show "Theme Time Radio Hour" and is releasing new albums (lately, at a rapid pace...his new studio album "Together Through Life" was released this past spring, and today is the release date of his first...are you ready for this...Christmas album called "Christmas In the Heart").  Moreover ... royalties from sales of “Christmas In The Heart” will be donated in perpetuity to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to over 1.4 million people in need in this country during this year's holiday season.

    On the other hand, another MNB user feels differently:

    Have you been to a Dylan concert in the last few years? His voice is almost inaudible, worse than it ever was and it was never very good.

    My wife and I went to my first ever Dylan show several years ago. I figured it was a chance to see a living legend.

    Instead it turned out to be the worst concert that I have ever seen. We left before it was over and I can’t remember ever doing that. It wasn’t inexpensive and it was a terrible waste of money.

    Yes his talent was legendary, especially his storytelling and lyrics. He wrote some of the best lines of our times. But it’s time he stopped taking people’s money for performing. Or, better yet, he should donate all the profits to charity. Then I might understand the reason for not dragging him off the stage…kicking or screaming (which was basically what he was doing…he wasn’t singing).


    I love Dylan’s voice, and always have. But I have to admit I’ve never been to a Dylan concert ... though I’d like to.

    (I’ve also never been to a Springsteen concert, which I was lamenting to Mrs. Content Guy the other evening, only to have her tell me that she’d actually been offered a pair of ducats to his final concert at Giants Stadium last week and hadn’t even thought to take them. Which just goes to show that there can be surprises even after 26 years of marriage...)
    KC's View: