retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    The Boston Globe reports on a combination that marks both the return of a culinary favorite and the latest gastronomic rage: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

    “Once relegated to kitchen tables, school cafeterias, lunch counters, and diners, this satisfying combo is making a comeback in popular culture and high-end restaurants, and is poised to become the new mac and cheese,” the Globe writes. “Slices of processed cheese and ordinary white bread have been replaced by farmstead favorites and chewy or rich loaves. The top lunchtime seller at Woodward in the Ames Hotel consists of thick brioche, comté and Gruyere cheeses, tomato soup ... San Francisco residents Tiffany Lam and Alex Rando operate a weekly street cart they call Toasty Melts, which offers seven variations and notifies customers of their whereabouts via Twitter (the most popular is ABC — apple, bacon, and cheddar). Instead of soup, Lam makes tomato sauce, which patrons use for dipping. Ohio is home to both Tom + Chee (a booth in Cincinnati’s Fountain Square) and Melt Bar & Grilled in Cleveland, where a tattoo of the restaurant’s grilled cheese logo earns patrons a 25 percent discount for life. Portland, Ore., has the Grilled Cheese Grill, a food stand where patrons dine at picnic tables or in a school bus. In Los Angeles, you can find the Grilled Cheese Truck, where hot weather calls for tomato soup shooters instead of soup in mugs.”

    The Globe notes that “All are playing to an audience primed to enjoy the duo. Americans consume an estimated 2 billion grilled cheese sandwiches every year, often with a serving of tomato soup. In its most iconic form, it is simply two slices of white bread, one slice of American cheese, a pat of butter, and a can of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup thinned with milk or water.”

    And there’s even a social media component to this: “Today, Facebook lists more than six pages for grilled cheese and/or tomato soup, some with over 300,000 fans.”
    KC's View:
    Now, be honest. When you read the phrase “thick brioche, comté and Gruyere cheeses, tomato soup,” doesn’t it make you a little bit hungry? (The phrase “two slices of white bread, one slice of American cheese, a pat of butter, and a can of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup thinned with milk or water” doesn’t have quite the same effect, I’m afraid - it brings back good memories, but they are in my mind, not my stomach.)

    The point is this. Supermarkets ought to be figuring out how to take advantage of this reborn classic. Don’t just leave it to the hotels and restaurants...but offer consumers a way to raise their game, while at the same time not catering to the lowest common denominator.

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    Walmart-owned Asda Group in the UK has announced that it is firing what it calls “the final shot” in the British supermarket wars, pledging that the “Asda Price Guarantee” insures that “it cannot, and will not, be beaten on price.” According to the announcement, “The launch of the Asda Price Guarantee heralds the official end of the grocery price war between all the major supermarkets, and covers over 13,000 branded and own brand products, and items on promotion.”

    Andy Bond, CEO of Asda, says,"From today, Asda cannot, and will not, be beaten on price. Our grocery guarantee puts an end to the phony price wars that most shoppers are sick of.  Plain and simple, our Price Guarantee is our cast-iron promise that your basket of shopping will always be cheapest at Asda. And for the millions of shoppers who go elsewhere, my challenge is this - come to Asda this weekend and see for yourselves how much you'd save.”

    The company says that “if shoppers can purchase a basket of eight or more comparable products cheaper elsewhere, the retailer will give them the difference, plus a penny more for good measure.”
    KC's View:
    Asda may say that this is the “final shot,” but I’m guessing that Tesco may have something to say about that.

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart “is exploring opening a number of small outposts to penetrate the nation's cities and fight the spread of no-frills grocery chains, which are luring away some of its core customers.,” and that CEO Mike Duke says in the company’s annual report that Walmart’s growth will be fueled by “innovative new formats.”

    The paper notes that Walmart has tried a variety of small formats in the past, including its Neighborhood Market and Marketside chains. But Neighborhood Market has always been plagued by questions about ROI (especially compared to the Supercenter format), and Marketside’s early returns and reviews were disappointing enough to keep it to just four stores at this point. But Walmart cannot afford to be complacent, since the growth of limited assortment, sharp-discount chains such as Aldi and Save-A-Lot creates new pressures on the world’s biggest retailer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    Nutritional guidance program Guiding Stars announced yesterday a partnership with University of North Dakota (UND) in Grand Forks, ND, launching in all of the school’s dining facilities and campus convenience stores beginning this fall.

    The program - which uses a proprietary algorithm to evaluate products and then label qualifying items with one, two and three stars based on whether they are good, better, best - was created by Delhaize-owned Hannaford Brothers and now is being licensed to other entities.

    “We are excited to partner with UND and provide a tool that helps community members make healthier food choices,” says John Eldredge, director of brand and business development at Guiding Stars Licensing Company. “Students and staff are often interested in eating more nutritious foods, but don’t have the time to read and understand complex nutrition facts information.  Guiding Stars is a simple program that helps diners to quickly identify more nutritious foods.”
    KC's View:
    Students are often interested in eating more nutritious foods? Gee, how times have changed since I was in college, when we were a lot more interested in getting...beer.

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a series of tax increases on products such as soda, bottled water, major-brand beer, candy and cigarette, the proceeds of which will be used to avoid cuts in education, health care and human services. The new taxes are expected to generate $780 million, and help close a $2.8 billion budget deficit.

    According to the Associate Press story, “The tax package is generally broken into two pieces: A tobacco tax that adds $1 to the price of a pack of cigarettes and a larger bill that rounds up all the other tax hikes. The tax on soda bottlers would add 2 cents to every 12-ounce container, but exempt bottlers under $10 million in volume. The higher beer tax adds 50 cents per gallon — a 28 cent-increase on a six-pack. Microbrews would be exempt, aimed at helping Washington state companies.”

    Some of the taxes will be phased in over a period of months, while some will be temporary and phased out in June 2013.
    KC's View:
    I don’t live in Washington State (yet), so it is hard for me to judge whether these taxes are a good idea or not.

    But I do know one thing. There is no concept in life so fraudulent as “temporary taxes.”

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that “U.S. meat prices may rise to records this summer after farmers reduced hog and cattle herds to the smallest sizes in decades, the result of surging feed costs linked to demands for more ethanol.

    “Wholesale pork jumped as much as 25 percent this month to 90.68 cents a pound last week, the highest since August 2008, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data show. Beef climbed 22 percent this year to $1.6896 a pound on April 23, the most expensive since July 2008. Chicken's gain in March was the most in 20 months.”

    Some analysts believe that this means that retail prices may hit a high in the next three months, but that sales could actually go down because Americans - still bruised and battered from the recession - choose to buy cheaper cuts or switch to other, less expensive foods.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    The Los Angeles Times reports that “Anchor Brewing Co., the San Francisco beer company that helped spark the modern microbrewery movement, has been sold to two Bay Area entrepreneurs in the artisan beers and spirits business.

    “Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, of the investment and consulting company the Griffin Group, announced their purchase Tuesday. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.”
    KC's View:
    A couple of weeks ago when I noted the 20th anniversary of the launch of Samuel Adams and the Boston Beer Co., I got a couple of emails suggesting that Anchor was the real pioneer in the craft brewing business and that I was giving them short shrift.

    That was certainly not my intention. I love Anchor Beer. And I hope under the new ownership, it lives long and prospers.

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    • The Wall Street Journal reports on a new study saying that “people who eat more chocolate are more likely to be depressed than people who eat less chocolate.” However - and this is where the scientific precision is mind-blowing - the researchers say that they aren’t sure whether this means that chocolate makes them depressed, or if depressed people eat more chocolate because it makes them feel better.

    • The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Procter & Gamble may consolidate logistics functions from 40 locations around the country, bringing them together in one Cincinnati-area facility. According to the story, “P&G is studying its product supply chain in North America with the goal of streamlining the work from 40 sites, said P&G spokesman Paul Fox. The work involves getting P&G products from the factories to distributors to retailers. The study should be completed in early May.”

    • The USC Marshall School of Business Food Industry Management (FIM) Program announced that it will honor Jim Lee, President and Chief Operating Officer of Stater Bros. Markets, as its Food Industry Executive of the Year. Lee will receive the honor at the school’s graduation ceremonies later today.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    Price Chopper Supermarkets/Golub Corporation has announced a series of promotions:

    • Angelo Cannistraci, Vice President of Grocery Merchandising, has been promoted to the position of Vice President, Merchandising reporting directly to Russell Zwanka, Vice President of Sales, Merchandising and Marketing. In his new position, Angelo will oversee fresh merchandising, grocery, general merchandise, HBC and pricing for the 125 store chain.

    • Jack Serota, Vice President of General Merchandise, has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Grocery Merchandising reporting directly to Angelo Cannistraci.

    • Ed McManus has been promoted to the position of Regional Vice President reporting directly to Mike Davidson, Vice President of Operations.

    • Tom Bird, Vice President of Transportation, has been named Vice President of Supply Chain Integration reporting directly to Mark Chandler, Vice President of Supply Chain.

    • John Medulla has been promoted to Zone Director reporting directly to Jody Plonski, Area #1 Regional Vice President.

    • Terry Jerauld has been promoted to the position of Zone Director reporting directly to Ed McManus, Area #3 Regional Vice President.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2010

    ...will return.
    KC's View: