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    Published on: May 13, 2010

    by Michael Sansolo

    Notes & commentary from the FMI 2010 Show...

    LAS VEGAS - While many question the merit of conventions and trade shows today, I disagree. The problem is that the lessons a show may offer in large doses come in such different ways these day that I think we have to alter our expectations to find the gems.

    About a decade ago, I saw an example on this when I was helping run the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Marketechnics technology show. Asked by someone to name the breakthrough technology at that event one year, it occurred to me that I never found it on the stage or exhibit hall. Rather, it was in the luggage holding area where seemingly every suitcase was a wheelie. Overnight, those handy cases became ubiquitous, the sign of a winning technology.

    It happened again this week at FMI’s show here, and once again from an unusual place.

    Now, this may be a lesson you learned ahead of me for the simple reason that at most meetings I attend, I am a speaker. That means I don’t tend to sit in the middle of the audience and I don’t really see what’s happening. Not so this time at FMI. For a number of sessions I sat in the midst of the crowd and got a blast of the new reality.

    At every speech more than half the audience sat in rapt attention with their heads slightly bowed. And, of course, in their hands they held a mobile device of some kind and their eyes were glued to e-mail. Suddenly I got better understanding of my new job on stage.

    Simply put, in today’s world we get distracted really, really quickly. If a speaker doesn’t grip us, we start handling e-mail. If I (as a speaker) start wasting your time, you simply tune me out. In other words, I have a challenge to take on to raise my game to a new level.

    Of course, I’m not the first to learn this. Kevin Coupe frequently talks about the music industry today in a way that I think is correct. When I used to buy albums or CDs I knew that I would dislike at least one-third of the songs, usually the dreaded end of side 2. Even the best Beatles album came with a cut from Ringo that we bought only because it was part of the album.

    Today, thanks to iTunes, the world is different. Today we buy just the songs we want and we build our own play lists. Sorry, Ringo.

    So a band needs to create a series of excellent songs knowing the shopper has the power to choose or pass. A public speaker needs to connect more than ever because the audience has the power to listen or respond to the e-mail from the office.

    And in the aisles of a supermarket, a shopping mall, a new car lot…you name it recognize the consumer has the power to check in or check out. Plus that is just the start. As well as being distracted they can easily pick up an endless stream of information on whatever they are buying, whether it’s a pack of gum or a house. Information is widely shared and communicated right into your palm and decisions are as informed as you want them to be.

    And that means the level of our game has to rise with this challenge. We all need to become more scintillating than ever. We need to capture and enthrall our shopper, plus we need to provide the key information on price, health, recipes…etc. they desire before it comes streaming into their hands. In more ways than ever we need to provide the value they seek.

    Frankly, as a public speaker, I understand this is a challenge I must take on unless I want to see only the tops of heads in my next presentation.

    It’s the new reality for all of us.

    Other FMI notes...

    • In our session about the most recent study about “Eating In” done by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council, Calvin Mayne talked about the need to make meals and food special so that shoppers have new reasons to cook and get excited about meals.  His great example was a special ham sold for $100 a pound at Dorothy Lane.  While that's out of range for nearly all shoppers, he explained how DLM shows shoppers how to take a single slice combined with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce to create an unforgettable eggs Benedict that costs $2 per serving.

    The panel discussed the challenges at every meal, plus action steps retailers can take to make meals more attractive and more competitive in the future.  That included all three traditional meals plus major snacking options.  The study was done by NPD.

    Also, I opened the floor to questions by e-mail, a new wrinkle in the presentation, which brought in more than 40 questions during the session.  Another new use of technology.

    (Full disclosure: I am shortly taking over for Bill Bishop as research director of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council.)

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced the Grand Prize winners of the 11th Annual Store Manager Awards:

    - Dave McCleery, store director at Russ’s Market in Lincoln, NE — Category A, companies with 1-49 stores.

    - Sharon Boyett, store director of the Brookshire Grocery Co. in Monroe, LA — Category B, companies with 50-199 stores.

    - Molly Stiles, manager of The Kroger Company in Farragut, TN — Category C, companies with 200 or more stores.
     
    “FMI salutes these extraordinary store managers for the leadership they show their associates, the contributions they make in their communities and the creative ways they use to increase sales,” said FMI president/CEO Leslie Sarasin.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    Reuters reports that Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) has offered an amendment to the financial reform bill be considered by the Senate that would regulate the interchange fees charged to retailers by credit card companies, a move that was instantly decried by financial services companies as having potentially “devastating consequences” and celebrated by retailing associations as being long overdue.

    The New York Times writes that “the bill would direct the Federal Reserve to ensure that debit card fees be ‘reasonable and proportional’ to the costs incurred in processing the transaction. (The bill would exclude small banks and credit unions with assets of less than $1 billion, or 91 percent of U.S. banks.) The amendment would also let merchants set a minimum or maximum transaction amount for payment by card and allow business to offer discounts to customers who use a particular card and to those who pay with cash or check.”

    The American Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association, Independent Community Bankers of America and National Association of Federal Credit Unions sent a letter to every US senator saying that amendment would "deliver devastating consequences to community banks and credit unions, the very financial institutions most committed to building communities and serving local consumers," noting that they "would likely force small financial institutions to stop issuing [debit and credit card products] altogether."

    Major trade associations such as the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), NACS, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) are supporting the amendment.
    KC's View:
    I wonder how many people who are anti-government regulation on obesity-related issues (see “Your Views”) below would maintain that view when it comes to regulating interchange fees? Just curious.

    The banks need to be reined in. Sooner rather than later.

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    Whole Foods Market announced the promotions of Walter Robb to the role of co-CEO and A.C. Gallo as sole president and COO.

    Robb and Gallo have shared the roles of president and chief operating officer since October 2004.

    Founder John Mackey will remain co-CEO, sharing the job with Robb. He told the Wall Street Journal that he planned to work for “another decade or so,” and that "there's plenty of work for both of us to do—I don't think we'll be getting in each other's way.”

    "Walter and A.C. are brilliant retailers, and their contributions to Whole Foods Market's success have been immeasurable.  Due in large part to their operational leadership, we successfully managed through 2009, the most difficult year in our company's 30-year history," Mackey said in a prepared statement.  "In proposing these changes to our Board of Directors, my goal was to establish the structure necessary to solidify our executive leadership team for what is hopefully many years to come.  While our company has achieved much over our 30-year history, we believe the best is yet to come for Whole Foods Market and want to work together to see our collective vision realized."

    The announcement came as Whole Foods celebrated second quarter profits of $67.4 million, compared with $27.3 million during the same period a year ago. Q2 revenue was up 13 percent to $2.1 billion, on same-store sales that were up 7.7 percent.
    KC's View:
    What a difference a year makes. It wasn’t that long ago that Whole Foods seemed to be in decline because of recessionary pressures, and Mackey’s business judgement was being questioned.

    Today, not so much.

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    Canadian retailer Sobeys Inc. announced that it has opened eight FreshCo discount stores in Ontario, saying that the units “redefine discount food retailing.”

    "FreshCo is simply discount done right," said Bill McEwan, President and CEO of Sobeys Inc. "Featuring low, low prices without all the usual deep discount store trade-offs, FreshCo offers customers a larger selection of quality products in a refreshingly different, modern and clean environment that is not typical of discount grocery stores ... The launch of FreshCo underscores Sobeys' strategy of being focused on food, driven by fresh, and having the right format, with the right offering, in the right markets. While FreshCo is only eight stores in two markets today, we plan to rapidly expand the FreshCo brand and banner through store conversions and new locations in the coming months and years."

    According to CTV, FreshCo is designed to “give Sobeys an important weapon in the increasingly crowded battle for the culturally diverse grocery shopper. That segment is being hotly contested as retailers attempt to take advantage of a massive change in Canadian demographics. By 2031, one in three Canadians will belong to a visible minority – and one in four will be foreign-born, according to Statistics Canada.”

    In addition, CTV writes, “FreshCo significantly scales back labour costs by offering self-serve meat, seafood, deli and bakery sections, and bag-your-own-groceries at the checkout ... The chain also trims costs by placing products on the shelf in open boxes. That reduces restocking time to just three minutes per box rather than the 35 minutes that would be required to hand-stock individual items. Dairy coolers are replenished from a back door, eliminating the need for employees to lug merchandise into the store to stock shelves. Sobeys’ investment in more efficient inventory management allows it to reduce the size of its storage rooms by up to 10 per cent as products move more quickly to the shelves, he said, and its advanced systems help it better track local shopping preferences.”
    KC's View:
    I look forward to seeing this store. I wonder how much it is like WinCo...which, from all reports that I get, is absolutely kicking butt in pretty much every market it serves.

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    • Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment, stepping up efforts to help end hunger in America. The new five-year initiative, "Fighting Hunger Together," includes four key components:

    - Donating more than 1.1 billion pounds of food from Walmart stores, distribution centers and Sam's Club locations, valued at $1.75 billion;

    - Grants totaling $250 million to support hunger relief organizations at the national, state and local levels;

    - Mobilizing Walmart associates and customers ... For example, Walmart's logistics team will lend their expertise to help food banks become more efficient in their operations.

    - Collaboration with government, food manufacturers and other corporations that are fighting hunger to increase impact and reach a greater number of families in need.

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Walmart is preparing to ramp up its commitment to the electronics category, expanding its selection of Blu-ray players, high definition and thin-screen televisions, and smart phones. The moves seem designed to help Walmart better compete with the likes of Best Buy.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    Greenville, South Carolina-based Bi-Lo announced yesterday that it has successfully completed its financial restructuring and emerged from protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

    "Today is a great day for BI-LO, our Teammates and our loyal customers," said Michael Byars, President and Chief Executive Officer of BI-LO. "With our financial restructuring now behind us, we are emerging from Chapter 11 with a strengthened balance sheet and enhanced financial flexibility that positions BI-LO for continued success in the markets in which we operate. Our lean capital structure and more focused footprint will enable us to continue putting our customers first and exceeding their expectations every time they visit our stores.”
    KC's View:
    Bi-Lo doesn’t need me to tell them this, but what’s important now is not what happened yesterday. It is what happens tomorrow - and how Bi-Lo creates a compelling and differentiated shopping experience.

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    CVS Caremark has reportedly earned a three-year, $800 million contract from the city of Chicago to manage prescription drug benefits for the city’s public school system, plus several other government agencies including the city’s Transit Authority.

    Crain’s Chicago Business writes that “the decision came as CVS Caremark faces a whistleblower lawsuit that accuses the firm of bilking tens of millions of dollars from the state of Illinois from 2002 to 2005, when it managed the state’s pharmacy benefits. The company has denied the allegations.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    FloridaToday.com reports that a number of Florida supermarkets - including Winn-Dixie, Walmart and Target - have formed a new alliance with the Second Harvest Food Bank that allows the charity ... to accept perishable food that is past the ‘sell by’ date from supermarkets. That means better selection and more frozen meat at the weekly food giveaway ... The new influx of food comes during a critical time as the school year comes to an end and food pantries struggle to keep food on their shelves. During the summer, families lose the support of school breakfast and lunch programs.”

    "We've been blessed at how God has provided for our ministry," Cal Burch, director of the program, tells FloridaToday.com. "I know a lot of these people would go hungry without this. Many of them are just making it. It's a lifeline for people who need the help."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Walgreen has changed its mind, and will not carry the at-home personal DNA testing kits that just yesterday it said would be gracing its shelves. The reason: the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent the manufacturer, San Diego-based Pathway Genomics, a letter asking for information about the kit.
    "In light of the FDA contacting Pathway Genomics about its genetic test kit and anticipated ongoing discussions between the two parties, we've elected not to move forward with offering the Pathway product to our customers until we have further clarity on this matter," Jim Cohn, a Walgreens spokesman, told the Tribune.

    The FDA’s position is that Pathway Genomics has not applied for any approvals of the kit, and wants to know the basis for the company’s belief that federal approvals were not required. Pathway Genomics’ position is that it has done everything by the book. And Walgreen’s position is that it is going to wait and see.
    KC's View:
    Okay, my headline was a little tough.

    Maybe “prudent” is a better word here than “timid.”

    But I still think this kind of testing - and marketing to specific genetic predispositions - is the wave of the future. And not something to be afraid of.

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    The New York Times reports that celebrity chef/magazine publisher/talk show host Rachael Ray went to Washington, DC, this week to lobby the US Congress for greater funding of school lunch programs around the country.

    “How could you go to any state in the union and say you are not for an extra couple of cents to eradicate hunger, to make our kids healthier, stronger, better focused?” she told the Times. “It doesn’t make any sense that you would even have to have a long conversation about that, to me.” To get her way, she said, “I am using my big Sicilian mouth.”

    Ray was there to help Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-New York), who has been working to obtain more school lunch funding at a time when money is tight in the federal budget.

    Gillibrand and Ray also are pushing for a federal ban on trans fats in the nation’s school lunches, believing that such a move would at least help address the childhood obesity crisis.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    • Employees of Mott’s LLC, a subsidiary of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, plan to hold a rally and hand out leaflets at the Goldman Sachs Consumer Products Symposium in New York City to draw attention to the fact that they have been working without a contract for a month.

    Three hundred workers at the Mott’s plant in Williamson, New York, have voted to authorize a strike, though they have not yet walked out. The union says that the manufacturers is engaging in unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain.

    Larry Young, president/CEO of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, is scheduled to address the symposium.

    • The Baltimore Business Journal reports that Ahold-owned Giant of Landover is teaming up with Shell “on a promotion aimed at helping customers save at the pump. Beginning May 14, Giant customers in the Baltimore area can use their Giant rewards card at the grocer to collect points which can be redeemed at more than 100 Shell stations in the Baltimore region.

    “For every 100 Giant Gas Rewards points earned, customers can save 10 cents per gallon when filling up at Shell, for up to 35 gallons per purchase. Points can also be redeemed at Giant gas stations.”

    • Tops Friendly Markets announced that it will assume operation of the Jubilee Foods store located in the town of Cheektowaga, NY. The announcement was made after Tops entered into an agreement to lease the location. Jubilee Foods had elected not to renew their lease upon its expiration and previously announced plans to close the store, effective later this month.

    “We pride ourselves on being a neighborhood grocer and are always looking for ways to best serve our customers in the western New York community,” said Frank Curci, Tops’ president and CEO. “This store is in an ideal location, has great potential, and we believe we can offer customers a better shopping experience while also helping to execute our company’s overall growth strategy.”

    Bloomberg reports that SABMiller has “patented an easy-to- open beer can that converts into a drinking cup when the top has been removed, part of an effort by the world’s second-largest brewer to reduce waste and violence at sporting events ... The fully recyclable can will help cut back on potential ‘missiles’ that belligerent spectators sometimes throw during events because it can be used to get refills once opened ... It will also decrease the use of glass and plastic at stadiums where beer is poured into glasses.”

    • Sara Lee Corp. said yesterday that it will sell off its 51 percent stake in an Indian joint venture that manufactures insecticides for the equivalent of $233 million, saying this is part of its ongoing effort to sell off pieces of its portfolio that are not part of its core food and beverage business.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    • The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that CVS Caremark chairman/president/CEO Thomas Ryan plans to retire in about a year. The likely successor - Larry Merlo, who has been running the company’s retail operations and has now been named president/COO of the company.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 13, 2010

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Wall Street Journal story about how the Obama administration has released a 120-page report “calling on food makers to curb marketing of unhealthy foods to children” as “part of a broad assault against childhood obesity.” If voluntary efforts do not work, the report said, federal regulators should consider stronger rules in this area.

    Ironically, the report was being issued at the same time as David Mackay, president/CEO of Kellogg Co., said that if the food industry is to be effective in helping fight the childhood obesity issue, there needs be be “a level playing field,” and everybody needs to get on board. If only 70 percent of companies work to improve the nutritional content of their products, it will prompt government intervention, he said.

    My response to this:

    There is no question that childhood obesity is a problem that needs to be attacked, but I can tell you just from the emails I receive that there are a lot of people with no appetite for government telling companies what to sell and how to sell it, who prefer for the market to make these determinations.

    I don’t agree with them. I feel strongly that companies need to do the right thing on their own. But if there are foods and products out there that are harmful to children in both the short-term and long-term, and if it is perceived that companies are exploiting children in some way, I’m not sure it is outside the mission of government to step in and protect them. I’d like to think that parents would do it on their own...but the number of obese parents out there suggests that not all adults know best on this issue. The human costs - and the health care costs - are just too great to ignore.


    To say that I got smacked around by many MNB readers for this POV would be, well, something of an understatement. Let me share with you just a few of the emails...

    MNB user Tom Robbins wrote:

    We (people my age) didn't need to government to tell us what to eat when growing up. We aren't obese! Parents need to parent and take responsibility for their children. Get the government out of our lives.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    My oh my... you have decided to support government intervention .... did you hear!!!.......  next week the government is going to announce that all wine now should have no alcohol in it. ... and if the wineries do not take out the alcohol the new government regulations will not allow wine to be sold in supermarkets because too many adults shop there.... and temptations would be too great!  I’d like to think that parents would do it on their own...but the number of alcoholic parents out there suggests that not all adults know best on this issue. The human costs - and the health care costs - are just too great to ignore.

    Do I detect some oblique sarcasm?

    MNB user Bill Welch wrote:

    Rarely do you say something or at lease imply something that is so diametrically opposed to my core values.  Please see Personal Freedom, Individual Responsibility and Free Trade.

    Despite your CYA double speak I am sure it is outside the mission of government to restrict the sale of food based on its relative nutritional value ... If sugar coated cereals are not good for children then how can one say that California or French wines with virtually no nutritional value can be good for adults?  Has a 7 year old on a sugar high ever caused a drunk driving accident?   Once you begin, where do you stop?
     
    Are you starting to see the light?


    The “if they can do it to cereal they can do it to wine” argument seems to be one that at least some folks think will have the most influence on me.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I must tell you I am shocked that you or a majority of US citizens would agree with government telling companies what to sell and how to sell it. If for no other reason that the doors that would open simply by passing (another) law/regulation that will undoubtedly have loopholes included for the benefit of manufacturer’s that are big enough to have lobbyists fighting for them or pockets deep enough to ensure the new law/regulation won’t significantly impact their business…. And before you cast this aside as the paranoid ramblings of some Left Wing radical….consider how WalMart has gotten around monopoly regulations, why it took the government so long to look at Microsoft...

    Your comment regarding the number of obese parents suggests not all adults know best on this issue is incredibly narrow minded and rings with extreme stereotyping…following that logic…have you ever noticed obese people also have obese pets? Maybe we should look at the ingredients in pet food and consider the cost of the more healthy, less likely to cause obesity in pets, pet food and understand that it isn’t affordable for all pet owners so government should step in…, how about parents with anorexia ….should we consider they may have malnourished children eating only low calorie, low fat, high fiber foods – and what would the government regulate here? Maybe we should look at children of parents who dress badly, have bad hair, can’t keep a job, can’t read…?

    You might be surprised to know that from where I sit, it’s actually the opposite. I instruct children’s martial arts, fit class as well as for adults. We have several significantly overweight parents whose children are not overweight…in fact very much the opposite…I work with one mom who is actually trying very hard to lose weight by eating right and exercising so that her 6 year old son’s friends won’t make fun or stare at her. What’s more, she is very careful about what her son eats and also brings him to class 3 times a week to make sure he gets exercise beyond playing and gym class at school. I have another mom who is very particular about the foods her child eats because while she is not obese nor is her husband, it runs on his side of the family along with diabetes so she is starting her 7 year old down the right path now. Another parent has her overweight daughter in class, while the mom and dad are not obese they have made poor food choices for their child or simply allowed her to over eat and under exercise. These are just a few examples…our school has over 100 students at this facility and we have schools all over the US. Traveling to Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas to participate in national tournaments, I look around and see families very much like the ones at our school so I don’t believe this is an anomaly.

    While I believe manufacturer’s have an obligation to provide accurate nutritional information and ingredients, I believe it’s our right to choose, as parents, what is appropriate for our children. It’s not any different than a toy company generating (through advertising, supply vs demand tactics, etc) the “must have toy” of the season that parents find hard to get and will pay almost anything to have wrapped and given to their child….(I paid $75 for 3  Zhu Zhu pets that would have cost $7-9 each prior to the holiday season) only to find out it breaks easy, is not really an ‘attention keeper’ to children under or over a certain age, isn’t really much without the “accessory kit”, has had to cut the child’s hair to remove it from moving parts, put a band aid on the finger of the child who had to see what made it work, etc. Some parents will move mountains to get it while others will make other decisions. TV, Video games, movies…all the same…I choose none of these on school nights, 1 hour of video games per day on the weekend and TV/movie rated PG or less and only after dinner on Friday and Saturday. I am not the norm and my children are not perfect. Okay so maybe these toys and electronics don’t have long term health effects…but who knows? Has there been a study of the “Barney Generation”?


    Still another MNB user wrote:

    Insane.

    Look at this elitist attitude that permeates this discussion –“I know better than the ignorant unwashed (obese) masses”.  This is just insane socialistic principles slithering in under the guise of “health care”.

    The basic foundation of this country working – and surviving as a democracy – is individual responsibility, individual initiative and individual potential.  We grew to be a superpower in 200 short years.  The founders called it “an experiment”.  It’s up to us to educate ourselves and respect the foundation and the constitution.  Remember, it is “life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness” – there are not GUARANTEES of happiness.  Just the possibility.  This includes health care.  Owning a home.  These are not rights.  These are earned. By individual initiative and effort.

    C’mon! – obesity is simply caused in most cases, by the one who picks up the fork.  Sure, there are habits picked up by association with family and friends.  But no one is forcing anyone to buy the Twinkies and the KFC Double Downs.  We can go off on tangents talking about genetics and inherent tendencies, and body types.  But for the majority, obesity is simply making wrong choices, one forkful at a time, that accumulates.
     
    Solution:  EAT LESS, MOVE MORE.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    Wrong again!!!!! The government has no right to step in on any issue when it comes to food. If I want to feed my boys sugar 24/7 that is my right. Once again Obama and big brother trying to turn America into a socialist state. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!

    MNB user Scott A. Rickhoff wrote:

    Advertising is still free speech in USA.  Congress really needs to focus on their out of control spending.  (Can’t wait until November...)

    As I said, this is just a smattering of the emails. But you get the point.

    Now, to be fair, there were folks who did not think that I was an insane socialist/elitist on this issue.

    Four of them, to be precise.

    MNB user Marge Anzalone wrote:

    Agree with all your points but would also question how are the schools helping our kids learn what is the right food to eat.  Parent tell them to eat healthy and when they go to lunch their choices are limited since most of the food is unhealthy.  That is where the government can help which is to create jobs which will teach in schools what is good and bad to eat, focus on exercise and setting the example in their lunchrooms.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I agree with you that Government has a place at the health table, but I think the Government is disingenuous when they only focus on food companies and have no long term solution to the problem of  tobacco.  While obesity is a terrible problem the cost of tobacco related illness is the greatest single category impacting national health.

    While we are teaching children how to live a healthy life, let’s reinstate Physical Education programs as part of that  complete curriculum.  Let’s develop a complete solution and not pick and choose.

    I believe government has a role to play, and should partner with food companies to develop new and better methods of producing foods that are healthy.  But I also think that they should develop and present a comprehensive plan  that delivers a healthy life style to all economic levels, one that inspires all of us to live healthier.


    Another MNB user chimed in:

    I am with you on this issue. There are still a lot of American’s who believe a manufacturer who tells them that their food is good for children. Unfortunately there are a lot of uneducated parents, teenage single parents etc who do not have the education nor probably will ever have it. Their children are helpless in this situation.  I would site the recent fiasco with cereal whose number one ingredient was sugar being called a Smart Choice because it had fiber.

    And still another MNB user wrote:

    To your point about the abundance of emails from folks who object to government involvement on food safety and regulation of food matters, consider your sources.  Your audience is hardly a representation of consumers but instead is highly skewed to food manufacturers, food industry geeks and the retailing community. Duh.   Did you seriously expect different?  Food Plant street, not Main Street.

    Okay. Can we all take a deep breath, please?

    Let me be as clear as I can be on this...though my version of clarity will likely not satisfy some people.

    I am genuinely conflicted on this issue. I am not trying to cover my posterior, nor satisfy everybody, when I state my opinion. (If I were, I clearly have not succeeded.) I am trying to come to a reasonable conclusion as to the best approach to this issue, and I’m not there yet.

    I feel strongly, and have said here many, many times, that I believe the first line of defense against childhood obesity should be parents. If we as parents do not behave responsibly, then all the regulation and volunteer efforts in the world will not matter.

    I believe that it makes much more sense for companies to deal with these issues on a volunteer basis, and that market-based solutions are always preferable to government intervention.

    That said...I do not believe that all regulation is bad. For example, I have absolutely no problem with all the tobacco regulations that have been put in place by state and federal governments. This country is a better place because people cannot smoke on airplanes or in restaurants, and because tobacco advertising has been curtailed. Does this infringe on smokers’ rights? Sure. But their behavior used to infringe on my rights, and my right not to inhale second-hand smoke outweighs their right to kill me. (They want to kill themselves, that’s their problem.)

    That said, I have also criticized proposals suggesting that people not be allowed to smoke in their own cars if there are children present. That strikes me as being way over the line...even though it seems clear that they are behaving irresponsibly toward their children.

    What I’m trying to figure out is what the food corollary is here. I’m not sure it is apples and oranges, but I’m also not sure it is apples and apples. (Apples and Twinkies, maybe?)

    At the very least, it seems to me that packaging needs to be clearly marked so that if some moron wants to feed his kid sugar 100 percent of the time 24/7, at least he knows that he or she is doing so.

    Do I think that companies ought not exploit kids’ weaknesses for their own gain? Sure. Do I wish that more executives did not forget that they are parents when they go to the office? Sure. Do I think that government ought to regulate these guys so that we no longer have a free market? Not so sure.

    Let’s not forget - it was the CEO at Kellogg who said that everybody needs to get on board with an industry-wide approach to dealing with childhood obesity. I’m guessing he’s not a socialist.

    I will say this. You can criticize me and my motives all you want. I’m fair game, and it is my picture and name up at the top of this blog. You want to call me a socialist and an elitist, go right ahead. Take your best shot.

    But I believe in my heart that all I am trying to do is figure out as thoughtfully and responsibly as I can what the best and most nuanced solutions are to serious problems in a free society. The one thing I am sure of is that this is not as black-and-white as some would believe.
    KC's View: