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    Published on: August 6, 2010

    Here’s the word of the week.


    I saw the word this week for the first time in an online blog by Media Post, which defined it this way:

    “Consumers are actually looking for brand interaction -- a dialogue, if you will. The interaction must be based on authenticity, integrity -- and for many brands, it's got to have that element of ‘cool.’ And when it comes down to it, not only is your audience equipped for interaction (i.e., faster Internet connections, smarter mobile devices & a host of social networks at their disposal), they're demanding interaction.

    “So regardless of whether the term ‘utilitainment’ makes you cringe, the concept behind this marketing jargon gem is genius, really. Here's why:

    “The world of branded entertainment, utilitainment is exactly what you think it means: utility + entertainment. It's a word used to describe content that offers audiences entertainment value and a multidimensional consumer experience that is, above all, useful to them.”

    I’ll buy that.

    Sure, the word “utilitainment” is a little annoying. But it actually plays into an attitude long held here on MNB. (So maybe I’m just annoyed by the word because I didn’t think of it.)

    In an information-driven world where transparency is of critical importance, it is vital for businesses to be both relevant and engaging ... especially because the next generation of consumers are likely to demand that as a bare minimum.

    And so, whether you like the word or not, “utilitainment” ought to be a factor in how we design stores, create products and provide information.

    That’s my Friday morning Eye-Opener.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    The Washington Post that the US Senate passed via unanimous consent the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, described as “a bill that provides an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years to federal child nutrition programs including school lunch. If signed into law, it will be the first time that the federal government has increased funding for the programs in 30 years ... The bill allocates $1.2 billion to increase the number of children receiving food, an effort to meet President Obama's pledge to end childhood hunger by 2015. The remaining $3.2 billion would be used to improve the quality of school meals. This includes an extra 6 cents per meal per student for schools that meet new, stricter nutrition standards and funding for schools to establish school gardens and to source local foods.
    The bill also would mandate that the Department of Agriculture develop nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, not just what is served in the lunch line.”

    “The Senate bill changes the school food landscape in ways that are all positive,” Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), tells the Post. “Put simply, it will get junk food out of, and put more healthy food into, America’s schools.”

    It is considered something of an accomplishment that the bill was voted on in the Senate, considering the busy legislative calendar that the upper house has been pursuing. In addition, the Post notes that it is unusual for such a bill to be passed via unanimous consent - which does not require a voice vote - and to have unanimous support, especially in the current political environment.

    The House of Representatives has not yet scheduled a vote on its version of the bill, but no vote is expected until after the August recess.
    KC's View:
    Some will say this is over-the-top government meddling. But I think it is entirely appropriate, and that if we are going to use taxpayer money to subsidize school meals, we ought to be buying kids healthy food, not slop. This isn't wasteful spending. It is an investment in our future.

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    The Associated Press reports that the meat from the offspring of a cow cloned in the United States apparently entered the UK food chain when it was sold and, presumably, eaten. The meat from the second offspring of a cloned cow was slaughtered and prepared for the food chain last month, but was stopped by UK officials.

    In addition, the AP writes, “A third cow — also an offspring of the same cloned U.S. cow — is believed to be part of a dairy herd. The agency said it was still investigating whether milk from the cow, known as Dundee Paradise, was sold.”

    And, the AP reports, “A New York Times report last week quoted an unidentified British dairy farmer as saying he was using milk from a cow bred from a clone as part of his daily production, triggering a media frenzy and the FSA probe.

    “British consumers are wary of tainted beef and dairy products because of a mad cow disease epidemic in the 1990s. The FSA was careful to stress this week that products from cloned animals and their offspring pose no known food safety concerns. But the agency said it is investigating the cloned milk and meat because the products did not get proper authorization.

    “Farmers in Britain can legally buy embryos from cloned animals overseas, but they need to apply for authorization at a European level before they can sell food products from clones.”
    KC's View:
    In the end, this is less about cloning than it is about transparency. Let me make the choice about whether I am willing to eat so-called cloned food. But just make sure that I actually have the choice...and that means providing consistent and informative labeling.

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Coinstar-owned Redbox “will install its DVD-rental machines in CVS drugstores nationwide. Oak Brook-based Redbox said Thursday it will put its kiosks in 700 CVS locations by the end of the year and add several thousand more sites next year.”

    Redbox currently has 24,000 rental kiosks in operation, including in Walgreen, CVS’s biggest rival.

    In other Redbox news, Crain’s writes, “Last week Redbox, which rents standard DVDs for $1 a night, said it would begin offering Blu-Ray discs for $1.50. The company estimates that Blu-Ray discs could account for about 10% of the 630 movies available in a typical kiosk.
    KC's View:
    That sound you hear is yet another nail being driven into Blockbuster’s coffin.

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    Business Week reports that Tops Markets has agreed to sell seven supermarkets in New York and Pennsylvania to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerns about an unfair competitive advantage that might have been gained when Tops acquired 79 former Penn Traffic units earlier this year. Tops has promised to keep the units open while it looks to find a buyer for the stores.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    Drugstore chain Walgreen said yesterday that it has launched a new web page - http://www.walgreens/responsibility - designed to provide information about the company’s “commitment to community, diversity, supplier diversity, disability inclusion and the environment ... Users will find new articles, personal stories, videos and interactive features about the company’s benefits to the communities it serves.

    “The new site showcases video clips about the company’s health and wellness programs. It also features new eco-friendly initiatives including efforts to reduce plastic bag usage, a cell phone and printer cartridge recycling program now at all store locations and a behind-the-scenes look at Walgreens participation in Earth Hour 2010 at New York’s Times Square.

    “Additional programs featured include the AARP/Walgreens Wellness Tour, expanded food centers in urban areas designated as food deserts, a pilot program in Dallas aimed at hiring people with disabilities in stores, and the Community Corner program that helps customers easily identify and purchase products produced by diverse companies.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    One of my favorite reads is The Onion the satirical publication that mocks pretty much everybody and everything. Well, this week they took aim at the private brand trend...and so I thought I would share it with you:

    WOONSOCKET, RI—In an effort to provide a budget-conscious equivalent to People magazine, CVS drugstores nationwide began selling the store-brand CVS Celebrity Magazine on Wednesday. "We think our publication is comparable in quality to the big name-brand magazines, but with an obvious cost-savings advantage," said night pharmacist and editor-in-chief Marvin Kuppering, showing reporters a grainy photo of Angelina Jolie's elbow that will appear in next week's Beach Bodies section. Whether you want to read about Michael Chiklis' trip to Nevada to visit his aunt, or see who won our annual 'Handsomest Fellow in the World' award, CVS Celebrity Magazine has it all." Kuppering went on to hint at an upcoming exclusive lid-blower concerning Tom Arnold and the Los Angeles Parking Violations Bureau.”
    KC's View:
    Don’t know about you, but I found this to be laugh-out-loud funny.

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    Yesterday, MNB wrote:

    “The Los Angeles Times reports that a group of chefs and restaurants has sued a number of retailers charging them with selling olive oil misleadingly labeled as ‘extra virgin olive oil.’

    “According to the story, ‘The group filed a complaint in Orange County Superior Court this week claiming that several retailers and olive oil producers, including such varied outlets as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Bristol Farms, have misled Californians for years about the actual quality of the olive oil on sale ... Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction preventing the questionable oil from being distributed and may also request hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution for ‘fraudulently obtained profits’.

    “The Times writes that ‘the slew of defendants also includes Gelson's Markets, Kmart, Target Corp. and others, who are accused of charging a high premium for impostor oil. The suit doesn't name several retailers such as Trader Joe's and Costco because, attorney Daniel Callahan said, their olive oil products aren't adulterated.”

    We got the following email from Kevin Davis, CEO of Bristol Farms:

    Bristol Farms does not have and never has had a private label olive oil. These claims are in essence asking every retailer to have a chemistry and biological testing facility to verify ingredients in every product that they sell, imported or domestic. Come on.

    Where is the responsibility of the manufacturers for the accuracy of their labels and ingredients?

    I agree. This is a manufacturer issue, not a retailer problem (except when a retailer has a private label.) But the unfortunate reality is that retailers are going to be held responsible by shoppers...and now will have to be even more aggressive about holding their suppliers’ feet to the fire. If that means getting rid of questionable brands and explaining the reasons to shoppers, then so be it. Think of it as tough love.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Unfortunately the consumer is being taken with the willing or closed eyed corporations; this is not the first time olive oil has been in the news.

    Prudent vendors would send along verification of products that are questionable. You are totally correct when you mentioned consumer confidence being shaken.

    Most people that I talk to don’t trust corporations to do the rite thing. For example the Ford dealer that charges $900 for repairs and did not fix the problem that they diagnosed. Or the cable company that sends an advertisement for a deal of $99 until you get the bill that added all the extra charges and taxes, you know the list that of charges you can’t understand. Yes consumers are the target of scam artist and con men but today we call them corporations….too big to fail.

    And another MNB user chimed in:

    There is a tactical reason including retailers as defendants in this Class Action.  Most retailers generally require that their vendors sign a very broad indemnification agreement making the vendor responsible for such legal claims and all damages therefrom,  assume the defense of such claims, and reimburse the retailer for any of their costs related to the claim.  This puts a lot of pressure on the vendors to quickly settle these lawsuits.  I predict the usual outcome in this Class Action - the lawyers on all sides, especially the plaintiff's lawyers, will collect huge fees, the defendants will promise to go and sin no more, and "consumers" will get the pits (pun intended).  Such is the U.S. legal system. 

    Gosh, I feel so much better now.

    On another subject, the one that Robert B. Parker said was the “most important thing that doesn’t matter”...

    I noted yesterday that Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hit his 600th home run, becoming just the seventh major league baseball player to reach that level of production.

    And I commented:

    It is amazing what you can do when your career gets a steroid-induced boost.

    He cheated. The record ought to have an asterisk...because it is tainted beyond credibility. And I’m not even sure A-Rod gets into the Hall of Fame, certainly not on the first ballot.

    One MNB user responded:

    Congrats to A-Rod for hitting his 425th Home Run. I saw an article that said he hit about 175 when he admitted he was on Steroids..... Whether he makes the Hall of Fame or not is for anyone to debate.... Sorry but Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth are still the Home Run Kings...

    MNB user Geoff Harper wrote:

    I’m with you.  Cheaters should not get into the Hall of Fame.  The 600-homer milestone is a joke.  Too bad that a talented player resorted to that.

    Yet another MNB user wrote:

    Couldn't agree more.  The thought of someone using performance enhancing drugs getting in the Hall of Fame and keeping such a great athlete and gung-ho guy like Pete Rose out is disgusting and just plain wrong.

    Can’t agree with you about Rose, I’m afraid. He’s a liar who broke baseball’s most important rule - no gambling on games. It is unfortunate, but he cannot get Hall of Fame recognition, IMHO.

    And finally, MNB user Joe Ciccarelli wrote:

    You are correct about Alex Rodriguez and his use of steroids. I just wonder if he were a NY Met, would you have published the same KC View?

    Absolutely. In fact, I might have been tougher, because I would have felt betrayed.

    NTW...I am not saying that players who sin against the church of baseball ought not be forgiven. Far from it. I don’t even particularly have a problem if Pete Rose were allowed to manage a team at some point. But canonize them by putting them into the Hall of Fame? 

    I think not.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 6, 2010

    You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned my upcoming trip to Northern California, and asked for recommendations about wineries worth visiting in Napa and Sonoma. Well, I got a ton of emailed recommendations...and obviously I could not go to all of them in the few hours that I had there.

    However, one MNB user wrote and asked if I would post a list of all the wineries recommended by readers...which sounded like an outstanding idea. So here it is, in alphabetical order. The wineries that got more than one endorsement are marked with an “x”.

    Artesa (X)
    Cakebread Cellars
    Chateau Montelena (X)
    Clos Pegase (X)
    Darioush (X)
    Del Dotto (X)
    Domaine Carneros
    Fischer Vineyards
    Francis Coppola Winery (Sonoma)
    Frank Family
    Gargiulo Vineyards
    Mitsuko’s Vineyard
    Newton Vineyards
    Pine Ridge
    Robert Mondavi
    Rubicon Vineyards
    Sattui Winery (X)
    Schramsberg (X)
    Sequioa Grove
    Sherwin Family Vineyards
    Silver Oak (X)
    Stag’s Leap
    Sterling (X)

    The great thing about this list is that I can keep it on my iPhone for future visits ... and you can do the same. It is a wonderful resource, and I thank all the contributors.

    As I said, I could not possibly hit all of the suggested wineries - especially because I was doing all the driving and had to maintain some level of responsible behavior in front of by daughter - so I decided to hit three that I’d never visited before.

    The first was the beautiful marble and glass Darioush winery in Napa, which was founded by food retailer Darioush Khaledi. It is a fabulous location, offering a wonderful tasting experience for both the expert and the casual visitor. Since I count myself in the latter group, I can only say that I tasted both a Viognier and a Cabernet Franc, and loved them both - and was waited on by a charming young man from Louisiana who was knowledgeable and made the experience entirely accessible.

    Our next stop was Chateau Montelena, which is the winery that was featured in Bottle Shock, one of my favorite movies of recent years. Unfortunately, we got there at 4:05 pm...and the winery closed at 4. (Who the hell closes anything at 4 pm?)

    So we decided to drive north and make the loop into Geyeserville, in Sonoma, where I wanted to see the new Francis Coppola Winery and Rustic restaurant that just opened there. I was not disappointed - the wines were terrific (especially the 2007 Reserve Syrah, and the 2006 Archimedes Cabernet Sauvignon, which Elizabeth, who helped us through the tastings, told me would be even better if saved for 10 years...which means that I’ll be pulling it out for my 65th birthday.

    And I have to tell you, the restaurant was lovely. Only opened a couple of days earlier, it features both inside and outside daughter and I sat on the patio, overlooking the vineyards and enjoyed a delicious meal - she had a hamburger (naturally, since that’s about all she eats these days, but she said it was one of the best burgers she’d ever eaten), and I had grilled salmon, which was melt-in-your-mouth good.

    Coppola’s Sonoma location - which also features a museum with artifacts from a number of his movies, including the desk from The Godfather and an actual Tucker automobile - is definitely worth the trip.

    Another note about my travels...

    After all the discussion of several weeks ago here on the site, I desperately wanted to go to House of Nanking in San Francisco for dinner, but both times we went by there the line was so long that we could not get in without a significant wait (and I was traveling with my 16-year-old daughter, for whom waiting was not a preferred option).  So at the very least, based on the lines, the information I got during my last trip was at best misguided...   Next time I am in San Francisco, it'll be by myself, and I will go out of my way to go to House of Nanking...even if I have to wait on line.

    I like to think that this means that I remain capable of personal growth.

    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    (Quick tip - we’re launching a big new contest here on MNB next don’t miss out!)

    Fins Up!
    KC's View: