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    Published on: August 4, 2010

    Necessity may be the mother of invention, but sometimes invention gets ahead of itself. In those rare cases patience can reward an incredible idea.

    Get ready to learn about Gorilla Glass because it is a product destined to be part of our lives for years to come. According to a recent Associated Press story carried in the Deseret News of Salt Lake City (and my brother-in-law Larry, who works for the company in question), Gorilla Glass is the future. Explained simply, it’s a super-thin sheet of glass (think paper width) that is incredibly damage resistant.

    Gorilla Glass is so lightweight and strong that it is seen as the future of mobile devices, flat screen televisions and computer displays. In short, we are all going to be touching it soon if not already. The story noted that the product is expected to be worth billions in sales for Corning Glass, the company that developed it.

    But here’s where the story gets great. Gorilla Glass was invented in 1962, before anyone had any idea how to use it. So Corning Glass had to sit on its great idea waiting for the moment that has finally arrived.

    It’s an amazing story of innovation, invention and foresightedness, but it’s also a great tale in patience and not forcing a product into the market before it had any place to go. Granted, other companies might shudder at the thought of sitting on something so incredible and certainly Corning never would have waited had it found anyplace to sell Gorilla Glass.

    Yet it is still a great tale and one that we’ll all be thinking of in years to come as we get additional touch screen technologies and notice that our devices got thinner and more resistant to damage.

    Here’s to the virtue of patience!

    - Michael Sansolo
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that a new University of Washington study suggests that the cost of healthy food is going up faster than the cost of...well, less healthy foods.

    According to the story, “UW researchers said that although all food prices rose between 2004 and 2008, the price of the healthiest food has risen the fastest. They looked at retail price data for 378 food and beverage items at Seattle grocery chains including Safeway, Albertsons, and QFC.

    “Nutrient-dense food costs rose by 30 percent in the four-year span while costs of less healthy food, including sweets, candy, soft drinks and fatty foods, rose by 16 percent during the same time, researchers said.”
    KC's View:
    The implication is that it costs more to be healthy than to be unhealthy...and that being healthy is becoming the exclusive privilege of the upper class.

    Sounds like an entirely credible conspiracy to me.

    However...I’d also be willing to bet that given half an opportunity, these retailers would be able to demonstrate to interested shoppers how to eat healthy without going broke. In fact, they may already be doing so. (If not, perhaps the UW study will serve as a bit of a cattle prod ... because it also sounds like a sale opportunity.)

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    Marketing Daily reports that “simple” is becoming the catchword of the moment, both in terms of ingredients and marketing approach.

    According to the story, “More than half (56%) of food/beverage product categories in the U.S. showed decreases in the average number of ingredients per product between 2008 and 2009, with an average ingredients decrease across categories of 2.4%, according to Mintel International CPG trend insight directors Lynn Dornblaser and David Jago, who detailed the simplicity trend during the recent IFT 2010 annual meeting and food expo.

    “This is a response to consumers increasingly shifting their nutritional health/wellness focus toward ‘natural,’ ‘real’ and additive-free foods -- meaning those offering inherent goodness, freshness, wholesomeness and balanced nutrition, they pointed out. These days, a ‘simple’ message is often perceived more positively than didactic or vague ‘good for you/healthy’ messaging.”’
    KC's View:
    In a lot of ways, I have to wonder if simplicity always would have been preferred by the consuming public, while marketers have simply ignored this fact in their desire to stress complicated benefits and even occasionally obfuscate reality. In other words, marketers often find it is easier to dazzle folks with a complex tap dance than be transparent with simple realities.

    The current trend may be a response to the fact that consumers have eroding confidence in a wide range of institutions...and so simplicity is engaged as a sales tool because marketers believe that it will create the reassurance of transparency and earn back some confidence.

    Of course, if the pendulum seems to swing the other way, look for many marketers to jump off the simplicity horse as fast as they got on it. Because in the end, for a lot of people, this really has nothing to do with accuracy and transparency, and has everything to do with making the sale.

    Published on: August 4, 2010

     The Wall Street Journal reports that “some of the nation's largest vending-machine operators have begun to deploy technologies such as credit-card readers and sales-tracking devices that are standard in supermarkets but only now are showing up in machines that dispense candy bars, potato chips and soda pop.”

    According to the Journal, many in the vending machine industry have resisted this kind of modernization because they couldn’t afford it; “many of the nation's four to six million machines are owned by tiny mom-and-pop operators that couldn't afford investments in new technology.” But the recession was so tough on the industry that big players are doing everything they can to bring their technologies up to date, which could have the effect of dragging the smaller players along with them because they have no choice.
    KC's View:
    Here’s the quote I love from the Journalpiece:

    “It's only natural that, when times get tough, people search for new and better ways to do things and take risks on doing things they might not have done when times were going well,” says John Mitchell Jr., an owner of Treat America Ltd. of Merriam, Kan., which has about 12,000 vending machines in the Midwest.

    No offense to Mr. Mitchell, but that is precisely the kind of attitude that can send a business and even an industry headlong into irrelevance and obsolescence.

    Compare it to the following quote, from Apple’s Steve Jobs:

    “We decided to innovate our way through this downturn, so that we would be further ahead of our competitors when things turn up.”

    He said that during the recession of 2001...and the innovations begun during that time led to things like the iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iPad, etc....

    Now, maybe the vending business doesn’t have the same sort of competitive pressures. After all, when the stores are closed and people need a stale candy bar or a can of soda, what choice do they have?

    But I hate the idea of waiting until time are tough to start thinking about innovation. Companies that behave that way are simply begging to be put out of business...and their own misery.

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    The New York Times reports on a new government study saying that Americans are saving more than ever: “Consumers saved 6.4 percent of their after-tax income in June, and that this savings rate had shot up as high as 8.2 percent in May 2009. Before the recession, the rate had hovered at 1 to 2 percent for many years.”

    The big question is whether “America’s newfound love affair with frugality will continue and whether families’ reluctance to spend will hold back economic growth,” the Times writes.

    The bad news doesn’t just concern economic growth. According to the Times, “Along with high unemployment, high debt levels continue to discourage consumer spending. American households, though borrowing less, still are paying for their free spending ways in the credit bubble of the mid-2000s. Their debt levels are far higher than they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when they had less than a dollar of debt for every dollar in disposable income.”
    KC's View:
    Doesn’t sound like a recipe for big spending to return anytime soon. It all depends on the jobs situation, with even people who are employed being careful because, well, you never know.

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    The Seattle Times reports on a federally funded study concluding that a low-carbohydrate diet is just as effective as a low-fat diet and in fact may be better for the heart. The study also found that while low-carb diets - popularized by the Atkins Diet - allow people to consume more fat, there was no conclusive evidence that they had a greater risk of heart disease.

    There were 307 adults involved in the study, two-thirds of them women.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    • The St. Louis Business Journal reports that Schnucks, spurred on by an increase in demand for gluten-free products over the past year, plans to add a number of SKUs manufactured by Beck’s Gluten Free.

    “Thanks to our new partnership with Beck’s, we are now able to extend our selection of national and private brand products that carry the ‘gluten free’ label to include fresh baked goods and prepared foods,” Larry Maggio, director of marketing services at Schnucks, tells the paper.

    MSNBC reports that “Starbucks Corp.'s Via instant coffee has hit $100 million in sales since its debut 10 months ago,” and now “has a 30 percent market share of the $330 million premium single serve/pod coffee category.”

    • The New York Times reports that after 14 years of planning to build a store in Orange, Connecticut, Stew Leonard’s has finally faced the reality that local opposition is not going to go away...and the company will sell the property and move on to other, more welcoming locations.
    KC's View:
    Which might actually be big news if the New Haven Register and MNB had not reported it back in early June.

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    • Safeway announced that Jonathan Mayes, the Group Vice President of Government Relations and a 16-year company veteran, has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Public Affairs, Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy.

    • Marks and Spencer in the UK announced that it has hired Alan Stewart as its new CFO. Stewart, who used to be the finance director at WHSmith, most recently was CFO at aircraft leasing company AWAS.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    It wasn’t exactly posed as a question, but rather as a bit of obscure trivia dropped into “Your Views” yesterday after a series of emails about the growing popularity of whole wheat and whole grain bread.

    I asked:

    Are there whole grains in Quadro-Triticale?

    Kudos to the MNB users who knew what Quadro-Triticale is ... the grain that is featured in “The Trouble with Tribbles,” an episode of the original “Star Trek.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2010

    Yesterday, we ran an email that was in response to an “Eye-Opener” piece I wrote on Monday, which talked in part about the importance of treating people as individuals. I originally wrote, in part:

    "In all of our organizations, that’s something we need to integrate into our leadership strategies - that each employee is a different person, with different skill levels and different ways of learning. To treat them all the same, to talk to them all the same way, may seem like the most efficient way to do things. But I’m betting in the vast majority of cases, it is far from the least effective."

    MNB user Richard Evans then wrote:

    May be a bit of a stretch but, makes me think of another saying in a similar vein.

    "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

    It was a slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program.

    According to Wikipedia, the phrase summarizes the principles that, under a communist system, every person should contribute to society to the best of his or her ability and consume from society in proportion to his or her needs. In the Marxist view, such an arrangement will be made possible by the abundance of goods and services that a developed communist society will produce; the idea is that there will be enough to satisfy everyone's needs.

    This prompted some additional emails...most of which seemed designed to defend me against the implied charge that I was a Marxist or Communist. Which I appreciate. (I’ve been called a lot worse, believe me.)

    Even Richard Evans wrote back in:

    Didn't mean to imply that you were a Marxist.

    I do, however, question the leanings of your friend in the café.

    You do what every good journalist should do and that is to glean the good points from another's opinion and apply it, in a positive way, to illustrate a point. 

    This was not lost on me.  Good column.

    Thanks...but I have to be honest. I would love to have my kids learn from a guy like Alejandro de la Lozas, who I used as an example in the piece.

    And I just think that “Marxist” or “Communist” are loaded words that we have to be careful about. Otherwise, we end up back in a country in which people get called up in front of committees being questioned about their patriotism and loyalties.

    However, here was my favorite email on the subject, the one that really caught the context and the absurdity, from MNB user Steve Sullivan:

    I think that one writer had you confused with the wrong Marx!

    Right you are.

    And as my favorite Marx once said...

    Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.
    KC's View: