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    Published on: March 11, 2010

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    Hi. I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    The Consumer Goods Forum - or, as we like to refer to it around here, the organization formerly known as CIES - is out with its Top of Mind survey, in which more than 300 decision makers and thought leaders are polled about the issues that they feel are most important in the coming year.

    I’m always fascinated when this poll comes out by how retailer and manufacturer concerns often diverge...though this year it should come as no surprise that “the economy and consumer demand” is ranked as the top issue by both sides of the food chain.

    For retailers, number two is “the retail brand offer,” which has to do with price, assortment and format; number three is “corporate responsibility,” which includes sustainability and governance issues; number four is “competition”; number five is “food safety”; number six, “health and nutrition”; number seven finds “consumer marketing” and “retailer-supplier relations” tied; and number nine is “technology and supply chain” issues.

    For manufacturers, “retailer-supplier relations” gets the number two position, which suggests that it is a lot bigger worry for suppliers than for retailers. (This has some significance for the Consumer Goods Forum, which, unlike the retail-driven CIES, supposedly represents both sides of the fence. I’ve already heard complaints from some members about how manufacturers are looking to dominate the organization, and other complaints about how big retailers are trying to dominate small retailers, which violates the egalitarianism on which CIES used to pride itself. But these are all sort of “inside baseball” issues...)

    However, the rest of the big manufacturer issues are pretty much in synch with what retailers are thinking about. Number three for manufacturers is “the competitive landscape”; number four is “corporate responsibility”; “food safety” comes in at number five; number six is “health and nutrition”; number seven is “the retail brand offer” (which is a lot less important to suppliers than to retailers, which certainly makes sense...even if I think that manufacturers ought to be just as concerned about it as their retail customers); And tied at number eight are “internationalization” and “consumer marketing.”

    Part of the fun of a survey like this is figuring out how you would vote had you been one of the people polled. I’m not an actual retailer, so my ballot would be a little skewed...and I’d love to know what MNB readers think. Let’s make it easy...If we all assume that of all these issues, the economy is number one...then which of these would be the second most important issue for you?

    And maybe, just maybe, you are focused on an issue that CGF did not even mention.

    I’d think the number two issue - and only number two by a hair - would be the “competitive landscape,” if only because all these other issues seem like a subset of that. By having strong retailer-supplier relations, a focus on food safety, by having a strong sense of corporate responsibility - these are all ways in which we create a differential advantage that makes us competitive.

    But you may feel differently about it. I’m curious.

    For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    USA Today reports that Target will begin implementing a new system this week that will allow consumers to access social coupons via their mobile phones.

    According to the story, “Shoppers interested in Target's program must ‘opt in’ by registering at the company's online or mobile websites, or by texting the word ‘COUPONS’ to 827438 ... Once registered, shoppers receive a text message on their phones with a link to a mobile Web page with various offers, which can all be accessed through a single bar code. Target says the program works with any phone that has a browser and data plan ...The coupon is redeemed when the bar code on the phone is scanned at checkout. Offers are good only once and expire on the dates listed.”

    USA Today writes that “new coupons will be issued on a monthly basis as older ones expire, although the number and frequency may evolve as the program expands. The coupons cannot be used on”
    KC's View:
    Good idea. All of these sorts of concepts need to be tested and then tested again. Because one of them is going to be an enormous hit.

    One MNB user had a take on this:

    The interesting tidbit was that they were using this technology to inform customers about product information, in order "to replace the employees who often aren’t as knowledgeable about products as are their product listings and reviews on".

    Perhaps other retailers could take that another step, by adding value to their employees, training them in the use of the smart technology to engage the consumer at the brick and mortar locations. Their employees could become more knowledgeable, and feel connected to the goals of their store, and drive a competitive edge. If their employees tend to be younger, they may already have the smart phones that the stores want to use as a lure. What better consumer than your own employee?

    Excellent point.

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    USA Today reports this morning that Panera Bread has decided to post calorie information for all its offerings on its company-owned restaurant menu boards - regardless of whether the local community requires it.

    "It puts everything out in the open, obviously," said Scott Davis, the company's chief concept officer. "So when you look at making a choice between a soup with 100 calories and a sandwich with 300 or 400 calories, it puts it pretty clearly what's in your best interest."

    The company concedes that in some ways, this move is designed to head off the possibility of broader mandates; however, it also says that the decision has been well-received by consumers in stores where the change already has taken place.

    Yum Brands also has committed to posting calorie counts in its fast food restaurant chains, but not until next year...even though it made the commitment in 2008. Panera expects to have the new menu boards in place by the end of the month.
    KC's View:
    This is very smart, in part because it embraces the kind of transparency that I believe that most customers want. It also has been long argued here that companies are better served by doing these kinds of things before governments require them. Calorie count posting clearly is a trend that is gaining traction...and companies should just do it.

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    • Tesco’s US-based Fresh & Easy division announced yesterday that it has opened its first Palm Springs store in Southern California.
    KC's View:
    It was just a couple of weeks ago that Fresh & Easy opened its first store in South Los Angeles, which is at the other end of the economic spectrum from Palm Springs.

    I’m not there, so I do not know the answer to this question. But if I were there, I would drive from the South LA store to the Palm Springs store to see how they are different and similar. Critics of Fresh & Easy have been saying that there are too few differences from market to market, reflecting a certain tone-deafness.

    I do not know this to be the case now. But there certainly seems to be one way to find out.

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    Trade magazine publisher Stagnito Media reportedly has acquired print publications Progressive Grocer, Convenience Store News, and several guidebooks from the retail food group of Nielsen Business Media.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    In a prepared statement, Harry Stagnito, president/CEO of the company, said: “We’re excited about re-entering the food industry with the acquisition of such highly recognized and respected food media brands and related products. Our goal is to introduce a new business model to the food market to take advantage of the trend towards targeted and measurable integrated media.”
    KC's View:
    I have to be a little careful here, because these magazines are at least nominally my competition and I want to be generous of spirit. (I also used to work for the guys who owned Progressive Grocer about four or five owners ago...running the editorial side of the video division that produced the Retail Insights videos. Those were the guys who dumped the video division and showed no interest in the then-nascent internet because they thought run-of-press magazine advertising was the future. I think they all may be unemployed now. Which is at least a kind of justice.)

    For their sake, I hope that the Stagnito folks are serious about integrated media. Because my sense of this transaction is that Nielsen folks wanted to get out of the dinosaur business, which is how a lot of people view print publications.

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    Business Week reports that Trader Joe’s is considering a move into the Portland, Oregon, market. It is looking to acquire an old Wild Oats store that Whole Foods is looking to sell as part of its antitrust settlement with the federal government related to its purchase of the Wild Oats chain.
    KC's View:
    Not familiar with the Wild Oats store in question...but it sounds like this might be a bigger store than Trader Joe’s usually operates.

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    The Birmingham Business Journal reports that Citigroup has settled a lawsuit that originally was filed in 2004 and was connected with the 1995 leveraged recapitalization of Bruno’s by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).

    According to the story, plaintiffs were looking for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages related to what they said were violations of Alabama law in the way Bruno’s securities were underwritten.

    Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    Gaelo de la Fuente, the former Hannaford Bros. and Food Lion executive who has been serving as Supervalu’s group vice president for retail operations support, has been named president of Supervalu-owned Farm Fresh in Virginia.

    He succeeds Ron Dennis, who announced his retirement last week.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    The Financial Post reports that Alimentation Couche-Tard believes that the recession will result in a shakeout in the US convenience store business, and believes that there will be opportunities to expand its portfolio here.

    According to the story, “Roughly 60% of convenience stores in the United States are run by single, independent operators that are not part of a chain. While those operators held out during good times, refusing to sell or setting high prices for their shops, some are under pressure now amid the continued economic uncertainty and weighing whether to get out, Couche Tard executives said.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    The Los Angeles Times writes this morning about how soup, which helped to get the nation through the Great Depression because it was considered an economical and nourishing meal, hasn’t experienced much growth during the Great Recession.

    “As a retail category, soup has been a laggard,” the Times reports. “For the 12 weeks that ended Jan. 23, soup sales fell 6.7% and slid 3.3% for the 52-week period, Citigroup said, again citing Nielsen data.

    “This isn't just hurting Campbell. General Mills Inc., which makes Progresso, and ConAgra Foods Inc., home to Healthy Choice, is also under pressure.”

    The reason? Experts say there are two. One is that soup companies and retailers haven’t done enough price promotion in the category at a time when shoppers are looking for value and seeking sales. And two, there are more alternatives out there then there were in the past, meaning that simple and economical meals are more available to shoppers.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that is designed to return the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund to solvency. The fund ran into problems when over the past few years the state has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from it in order to close its budget gap. That led to the fund running try, which prevented companies doing recycling from getting reimbursed for the cans and bottles that were being redeemed.

    The California Grocers Association (CGA) had supported the legislation, and CGA President Ronald Fong called the Governor's signing "a positive first step on the road to a permanent solution." CGA is seeking a long-term legislative fix that will restore and improve the landmark program.

    • The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal reports that Supervalu has sold its Payson Store Fixtures division to DGS Retail Inc. in Boston. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 11, 2010

    MNB had a story yesterday about how a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that an 18 percent tax on pizza and sodas could result in a a shift in eating habits that would reduce the average American’s weight by five pounds per year, which would go a long way toward having an impact on the nation’s obesity rates, which cost the nation $147 million a year in health-related expenses.

    In my commentary, I suggested that these people are seriously nuts. A tax on pizza? Oy!

    MNB user Stacy McCoy agreed:

    You can have my pizza when you pry it from my cold, dead hands… do not touch my pizza!!!!

    I do not possibly see how this will come to pass, however, if it does, I will not stop eating pizza; I will start buying all of the ingredients separately and making it myself…

    A bonus for my local grocery store, and probably cheaper for me!

    MNB user Brian Anderson wrote:

    How did they decide that an 18% tax was just the right amount to reduce obesity?!?  If: 18% x (Pizza + Soda) = 5 lbs., then can we solve for X in: 10% x (Pizza + Soda) = X lbs.  or any other %’age?!?  Hmmm…

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Here is a new idea for the Academics, the Bureaucrats, and the Politicians: every time they come out and talk about wanting to take money from those of us with "real" jobs and capabilities to make our own decisions they should pay a tax on every word used…oh lets say $1.00 per word.  By my calculations from your sampling of the report they would owe us $49.

    Think of it, they would think harder about their ideas, they would use less paper/air because they wouldn't pontificate so much, and there would be less gas in air resulting in less global warming.

    It may be unfair to suggest that these folks don’t have real jobs. But I get your meaning.

    Another MNB user offered:

    I attended a seminar at Expo West last year where they were promoting this insanity – taxing sugary drinks and foods that were “less nutritious”.  The premise was, we’re all paying for the results when people get ill from eating fast foods and junk food….it’s true, we are paying – but taxing the foods is not the solution!  Education is the only way……

    MNB user Tom DeMarco wrote:

    I think our government is looking for any reason to “TAX” anyone and everything that they can to generate revenue for their shortcomings and mess ups.  When is our government going to realize that the people of this country are tired of being taxed?

    To be fair, this was an academic study. No politicians involved.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Pizza, of all the fast foods, is amongst the more nutritious of all the usual offerings. If you tax anything, tax  burgers over 1000 calories...  A Fat tax.  Got Fat? Gonna cost you.  Yeah, I know, you don' t applaud any food taxation, but somehow money talks to everyone, whereas doctors, scientists, nutritionists, just don't reach and have an impact the way money and your wallet does.

    Maybe we just ought to tax all pants over a certain size.

    That’s what MNB user David Hannaman was getting at:

    Maybe THEY should tax the length of our belts.  If your belt size is larger than a 36” THEY could tax you 18% on your weekly food cost.  I say this year we re-elect no one.

    MNB user Mark A. Boyer wrote:

    Taxing pizza, candy, sodas or any other food to “reduce obesity” is nothing more than a disingenuous way to generate tax revenue. Will video games and TV be next?

    Obesity is primarily a result of lifestyle choices, including too little exercise and poor diets.

    Years ago a physician told me, “There are no bad foods, only bad diets.”

    We also had a story yesterday about how a NYC restaurant is making appetizers with an unusual ingredient - cheese made from the chef’s wife’s breast milk. Some people are grossed out by this and others are intrigued.

    My comment: If I have my druthers, if I’m going to be tasting breast milk, I’d prefer that there be an actual nipple involved...

    It was a little joke. One that not everyone found funny.

    MNB user Ryan Cunningham wrote:

    IMO…That’s disgusting…
    …and you owe your readers an apology for your comment. That’s crossing a SERIOUS line. I’m not one for being P.C., but I think your comment was even more disgusting than the story.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Oh Kevin, …. Eeew…. Eeew.  Eeew.  Eeew.

    MNB user Mark Parker wrote:

    I think that you comment about wanting a nipple attached to you trying some breast milk was a little crude.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Wow.  I cannot believe you said that if you were going to be tasting breast milk, you would prefer that there be an actual nipple involved.  That comment was entirely unexpected and took me completely off guard.  I would have rather you kept that one to yourself.
    I predict you are going to get  A LOT of comments on this one...

    MNB user Dena Soulakis wrote:

    I suspect that you are going to get a lot of flak for that comment….:)

    MNB user Chris Daugert wrote:

    Hang on to your hat Kevin.  I would bet a severe storm is now brewing.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    OK, you just upped the “ick” factor of this story by your remarks – I just choked on my morning coffee!!  Didn’t need that last vision...

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    I predict you are going to get railed for the breast milk comment, either by readers, or Mrs. Content Guy and daughter….or all 3.  Should be interesting next few days!

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Tasting another woman’s breast milk via the natural nipple???

    Let us know what Mrs. Content Guy has to say about that…..

    For the record, my 15-year-old daughter was totally grossed out by the story and thought my comment was inappropriate - especially for her father. (Then again, this site isn’t written for 15-year-old girls. Though there probably are people who would suggest that the humor often is that of a 15-year-old boy. I’m okay with that.)

    Mrs. Content Guy, on the other hand, thought the comment was funny and had no problem with it. “Then again,” she said, “I’ve known you a long time. I’m used to you.”

    MNB user Michael Freese wrote:

    Man.....are you going to get grief.....but, a man after my own heart.

    MNB user Jason Tuffli wrote:

    I love your response, but I bet that’s going to generate some email!!!

    MNB user Randy Aszman wrote:

    I cannot freakin’ believe you said that. I laughed my (expletive deleted) off. And I agree. But I cannot believe you freakin’ said that.
    Wow. Cutting edge of journalism there.

    Just a little joke.

    Another MNB user observed:

    He might consider giving his wife shots of the Artificial growth Hormone rBST to increase her milk production.

    And, from yet another MNB user:

    It seems absurd that people who happily drink milk from a cow are disgusted by the idea of drinking milk from their own species.

    MNB user John Hurguy wrote:

    One of your best, if not the best, one-liners!  Can’t wait to read a recap of the comments you receive…

    And another MNB user wrote:

    I can only imagine how many responses you're going to get from the "I’d prefer that there be an actual nipple involved..." comment.   Reminds me of the outraged letters following SI Swimsuit issue, (which were more entertaining than the actual swimsuit issue), but which seem to have gotten less strident in the past few years (maybe because you see more skin on network TV these days). But like SI, I hope you do publish a few.

    At least a few.

    You got it.

    MNB user John Quinn wrote:

    Kevin, I fell out of my seat laughing at your response! Loved it!

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I’m with you on the preference that there be a nipple involved.  You know the ol’ saying…Without nipples, breasts would be pointless!

    Can’t wait to read other feedback on your comments!

    Not to mention the feedback on your comment...

    MNB user Suzanne M. Shriner wrote:

    Kevin, that made me laugh out loud. Thanks very much – I sure needed that!

    MNB user Lisa Bosshard wrote:

    OK - Laugh out Loud Funny!!!   Now, there are probably things you should think and not say, but WOW - thanks for the chuckle!  As a famous comedian said, "I don't care who you are, that's funny"....!

    MNB user Mike Jadrich wrote:

    To coin the phrase from Larry the Cable Guy, “Now that there’s funny, I don’t care what you say”.  I can’t wait to read the comments about your analysis.  You are writing what I am thinking and have a lot bigger (noun deleted) than me.  Keep up the good work!  Don’t lose that sense of humor!

    MNB user Peter A Marotta wrote:

    Your comment on the special “Mommy” cheese make me spit out my coffee this morning.. you are quite the lad.

    MNB user Gary Harris wrote:

    Thank God I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee or I’d still be squeegeeing off my monitor.

    And another MNB user offered a comment that will only be understandable to people under a certain age:

    Dude, you didn’t just say that!?!?! ROF, LMAO!!!

    And finally, another MNB user wrote:

    Really Kevin?  You just couldn’t control yourself, could you?  Your credibility gets nicked a bit with comments like that.  And must every edition of MorningNewsBeat have a reference to your book?   I know, I know, shameless pandering – I get it.   But  man it makes me cranky.  We both need to knock it off.

    Actually, today was the day I was going to not mention the book. But since you brought it up...

    MNB user Chris Schultz wrote:

    While driving to work today I was listening to the Tony Kornheiser radio podcast.  When I heard Mr. Tony plug Kevin Coupe (and “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies”), I nearly ran off the road.  Stars (loosely defined) from my professional world and my personal world were colliding in my car.

    Then it dawned on me that you and Mr. Tony are very similar.  You both get paid to give your opinions, live or hail from New England, are apparently left of center, sport something akin to a beard, and are slightly orange.  Hmmmmm....

    If you are out on your bike tonight, Mr. Coupe, do wear white!

    Great email that will only be completely understood by Mr. Tony aficionados. Which means that Michael Sansolo and I get it.

    (Y’know, if Mr. Tony had made the nipple joke, he probably would have been suspended...)
    KC's View: