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    Published on: September 21, 2010

    by Michael Sansolo

    If you are in the food industry and you don’t have Sept. 27th circled on your calendar, do it now. Sure, it may not be Christmas, Thanksgiving or Super Bowl Sunday, yet Sept. 27th is the holiday you simply do not want to miss.

    It is the annual celebration of Family Meal Day and the food industry is simply not doing enough about this event. And while six days aren’t enough time to plan, consider this as warning to start planning for next year.

    Family Meal Day is the creation of the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. If you haven’t heard of it before, get to the website and get educated. You don’t have to read much to realize the importance of this day.

    Family Meal Day was created when CASA unearthed the most amazing fact. While conducting studies to determine the causes of risky behaviors among teen-agers, CASA found the closest thing possible to a silver bullet. As CASA’s leader, former Cabinet Secretary Joseph Califano Jr. says, “If I could wave a magic wand to make a dent in our nation's substance abuse problem, I would make sure that every child in America had dinner with his or her parents at least five times a week.”

    CASA’s website calls on families to use the 27th to start or restart the tradition of eating together more often. The more research you do into the group’s work, the more evident it becomes that the meals with the most impact are those eaten at home, around the family table where conversation takes place without the noise or distractions of so many restaurants.

    In other words, Family Meal Day is all about what the retail food industry has long worked to build—more meals eaten at home more days of the week.

    The beauty of this little known holiday is that it leads to so many good outcomes. There is so much consumer concern about economics these days and the cost of meals. Surely, supermarkets have a great story to tell in this area, with so many food choices priced so economically.

    There are so many concerns about healthy eating and the lack of nutrition. Again, study after study shows the incredible edge home cooked meals can have. And while many consumers have limited skills in the kitchen, supermarkets can offer an increasingly wider array of meal options that are easier and quicker to prepare than ever. In short, eating at home is a better choice than ever, but only if you tell someone about it.

    I blush to admit that I’m old enough to remember a time when the world didn’t stop for the Super Bowl. In fact, it wasn’t originally called the Super Bowl. But with clever marketing that almost always outperforms the game itself, the Super Bowl has become a formidable national day of celebration. The same has happened for the NCAA Basketball Final Four. In other words, good marketing and commitment can build an event.

    To a lesser extent, Family Day should be ours. Maybe we need catchy songs or whacky commercials, but we need to build it. More family meals should be our goal each year, each month and even multiple times a week. If you have any doubts on the business benefits, click here to check out the study called “Eating In” from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council on the incredible sales impact of winning back meals. (Full disclosure: I am the research director of the Council and worked on that report.)

    Most importantly, look at your shoppers and consider what’s top of mind for them. They and their families have needs and it our job to serve them in a way that helps all of us succeed. So wish them a Happy Family Meal Day and get on with building the new relationship.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . 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: September 21, 2010

    Sometimes, it takes a bit of digging to find an Eye-Opener.

    And sometimes, they just jump right up and announce themselves.

    Such was the case last night, while I was sitting in a hotel room in Fort Wayne, Indiana, working on MNB, and watching “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    The second segment of the program was a story about the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) protesting against Walmart’s exploitation of non-union workers in Nevada. I’m not going to tell you any more than that, except to say that the video is absolutely worth watching. It is as good in its way as any piece of investigative journalism, and I suspect it may catch you at least a little bit by surprise - it shows how the unexpected story can emanate from the unexpected source.

    The link is here.

    That’s my Tuesday Eye-Opener.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    The New York Times - and pretty much every other media outlet - reports that the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Business Cycle Dating Committee has declared that the recession officially ended in June 2009, though as the Times writes, the US economy “has lost more jobs than it has added since the recovery began.”

    And, the story notes, “The declaration of the recession’s end confirms what many suspected: The 2007-9 recession was not only the longest post-World War II recession, but also the deepest, in terms of both job losses and at least one measure of output declines.”
    KC's View:
    So the recovery ended more than a year ago. Everybody feel better?

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems to be closer to approving the human consumption of genetically modified salmon, and that while it continues to hold hearings into the subject, the FDA has “posted an analysis online that concluded the genetically altered version was as safe to eat as traditional Atlantic salmon, and posed little risk to the environment.”

    While the FDA says there seems to be little discernible difference between traditional and GMO salmon, critics say that the science employed in the approval process has been faulty, and that GM salmon could create severe allergy problems for some people.

    One other note: the Washington Post reports that “Shoppers staring at fillets in the seafood department will find it tough to pick out the conventional fish from the one created with genes from another species.

    “Despite a growing public demand for more information about how food is produced, that won't happen with the salmon because of idiosyncrasies embedded in federal regulations. The FDA says it cannot require a label on the genetically modified food once it determines that the altered fish is not ‘materially’ different from other salmon - something agency scientists have said is true.”
    KC's View:
    This is an enormous mistake, and completely antithetical to the trend of transparency that is increasingly important to the American population. The only way that GM gets to be accepted in the long run is for the public to be educated about it and then be given a real choice. You don’t have a choice if people don’t give you the facts.

    This is a mistake, and not just from the consumer perspective. It is a mistake for the GM business, which will do far better in the long run if it is up front and totally transparent.

    And if the law for some reason does not allow for such transparency, then the law needs to be changed.

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports that an “unlikely coalition” of consumer and trade associations have converged on Washington, DC, to push the US Senate not to delay passage of the long-gestating food safety legislation that was back-burnered by Majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) last week.

    “The coalition lobbying Monday included the Food Marketing Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Snack Food Association and consumer advocates such as the Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest,” the Journal writes.

    The legislation has largely bipartisan support. Reid said last week that it would not be voted on before the November midterm elections because there was not enough time. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has expressed numerous concerns about the efficacy of the legislation, and questioned whether it was too costly for the nation’s taxpayers to afford.
    KC's View:
    US taxpayers cannot afford not to do it. It is simple as that.

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    Salon reports that Walmart is looking to open small-store format units in lower Manhattan and Queens, and is expected to announce its plans at an analysts’ meeting next month.

    • The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Walmart may be looking to open as many as two dozen small format stores in the Northern California Bay Area, in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and on the Peninsula - “primarily grocery stores, with plenty of fresh foods and prepared takeout.”

    The story notes that “at the same time, one of Wal-Mart's chief competitors, Target Corp., is opening smaller, more urban-centric stores, including in San Francisco, while adding more food items to its offerings. Costco is looking to treble its sales of fresh foods in the next 10 years, according to a Costco senior vice president.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    The Boston Globe reports that city officials “are weighing — gingerly — whether to restrict or even prohibit the sale of calorie-laden refreshments on city-owned property. The city has convened influential health, education, and housing leaders to develop a policy that aims to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

    According to the story, “There are precedents: San Francisco’s mayor earlier this year issued an executive order banning sale of sugary drinks, and New York has imposed rules governing the mix of beverages in city vending machines to favor water.

    “In both cases, politicians and health authorities cited the link between soft drinks and the nation’s bulging waistline: From the mid-1970s to 2000, the average American’s daily calorie load attributed to sugary drinks rose from 70 to 190, one study reported. And Harvard researchers found that women who consume more than two of the beverages a day have an almost 40 percent higher risk of heart disease than women who largely forgo them.”

    The Globe notes that Boston officials have imposed such bans before, with initiatives on workplace smoking and trans fats. This time, however, it is possible that a sugary beverage ban might be too far ahead of where most consumers are, and could meet some resistance.
    KC's View:
    I’m simply not sure how effective such a ban would be. People would buy them elsewhere...and it reinforces the notion of the nanny state. On the other hand, there is a public policy component in terms of the impact of such diseases on the nation’s health care system.

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    The Daily Herald reports that Roundy’s plans to open a Mariano’s Fresh Market store in Palatine, Illinois, about 30 miles northwest of Chicago, which it hopes to have open by late 2011.

    According to the story, “In July, Wisconsin-based Roundy's Supermarket Inc. opened the country's first Mariano's at 802 E. Northwest Hwy. in Arlington Heights - less than five miles away from the Palatine site. Stores also are being built in Vernon Hills and on Chicago's South Side, and the company has eyed additional sites for further expansion ... There's been some buzz about the possibility of Mariano's opening in Palatine ever since the council moved up its meeting an hour to attend the Arlington Heights store's grand opening.”

    Mariano’s is named after Roundy’s CEO Robert Mariano, the former chairman of Chicago retailer Dominick’s.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    • The Financial Times reports that Tesco - long a leading player in online commerce in the UK - plans to expand the business model to China, the Czech Republic and Poland once Philip Clarke takes over for Sir Terry Leahy when the latter retires next year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports that “nine months after Washington's city government imposed a five-cent tax on disposable shopping bags at food stores, the small fee has spurred a big change in behavior with little evident griping. Recyclable bags have become a ubiquitous accessory, and stores are reporting a sharp drop in the use of plastic and paper bags.” This despite initial resistance when the tax was imposed.
    KC's View:
    The smart thing about the DC approach was that, unlike in other cities, “it applies to purchases not only at grocery and liquor stores, but at any store—a clothing store, a bookstore, a greeting-card shop—that sells any food or alcohol.”

    Quite frankly, if these taxes or bans are to exist, they ought to be across the board - every retailer handing out bags ought to be working under the same rules, if there are going to be rules at all.

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    • Despite pressure from hostile suitor Alimentation Couche-Tard to delay the event, Casey’s General Stores said yesterday that it annual meeting will take place as scheduled on September 23.

    The company also said that its negotiations with 7-Eleven, which also is looking to acquire the company, are continuing, but that it did not expect to conclude those discussions before the annual meeting.

    • In Texas, the Star Telegram reports that HE Butt plans to open its first store in the Dallas metroplex, in Burleson “after years of planning” how to enter the area.

    "Located less than 15 miles from our store in Cleburne and 30 miles from our store in Waxahachie, the city of Burleson is a natural progression for the growth of our H-E-B stores in North Texas," said Jeff Thomas, a senior vice president who manages the chain's Central Texas region.

    • The Houston Business Journal reports that Kroger “is developing a fuel center that won’t be located in one of its supermarket parking lots — a first in Texas for the grocery chain. However, the gas station in Northwest Houston will not be far away from its customer base. A Kroger signature store is located less than a block away at 1352 W. 43rd St.

    “Rebecca King, a Kroger spokeswoman, says a fuel center would not fit in the store’s parking lot, so the company opted for a nearby property.”

    • The Times-Picayune reports that “the National Marine Fisheries Service has agreed to study whether to list the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which has a major spawning ground in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, as an endangered species.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    I received the following message yesterday, and while the person who wrote it did not want it to be made public, I am doing so because it is an important question that deserves to be addressed publicly:

    I have been a follower of Morning News Beat and a HUGE fan of both you and Michael Sansolo for a long time now. I have told many friends and business associates to sign up because I really enjoy the read every morning. Today I will be unsubscribing, this makes me sad. I have felt for a while it was becoming the Walmart news but today was over the top. I always wish that when a customer left my business they would let me know why, I don't know if you feel the same but here it is anyway. I don't want to say this in a public forum such as MNB's Facebook page or 'Your Views'. I just want to let you know I felt like you were advertising for Walmart this morning and I would be more interested in learning how to battle the 'behemoth' successfully. We all know they are smart and successful. I really am sorry to go but it is much like watching a news station that is swayed a certain political direction.

    First of all, I’m sad to see you go. In an odd way, I’m also complimented that you felt strongly enough about MNB and the issue to write me a private note explaining why.

    But while you meant it to be private, the issue deserves a public response. (Your anonymity, however, is preserved.)

    In pulling together MNB yesterday, I did have the sense that there seemed to be a lot of Walmart news. There was the story about it being accused by unionists and farmers of using its bulk to keep prices down on agricultural products. There was the story about how is testing a new approach that it hopes will expand its big city penetration - allowing people to buy products online and then pick them up free-of-charge at urban FedEx locations. There were four short stories in the “MNB Walmart Watch” section. And the company’s name came up in my comment about the “top 100 global Brands” story.

    It was an unusual confluence of stories, but that’s sort of the way things happen. I figure that my job is to take note of newsworthy events and trends, and try to make sense of them...or at least provoke thought and responses among folks in the MNB community. Every once in a while, I get asked by an ad executive for an editorial calendar, but the simple truth is that I do not have one. I have no idea what will run on MNB tomorrow, much less six months from now, because I am a slave to what happened during the past 24-48 hours.

    So I ran the stories, hoping that it wouldn’t be too much...and figuring that the other stories about Tesco and Aldi (there were two pieces about the latter) would serve as an effective counter-balance.

    Now, I feel bad that for this one MNB reader, at least, this was too much. To be honest, though, I’d have to do it again.

    Those were good stories. The issue of Walmart’s size and influence is one that deserves consideration and reconsideration. (It even came up on “The Daily Show” last night, as noted in today’s Eye-Opener.) The FedEX connection has huge implications, and you cannot compete with it if you don't know about it. (I think it is a great idea and said so, though I’m not sure this qualifies as a “commercial” for Walmart.) And the other pieces - about the company is looking to open small stores in urban areas, and how it is deploying energy-efficient technologies, among others - strike me as need-to-know.

    Anyway, this is my thinking. For some of you, it may be too much information. But in the interest of transparency, when a question like this is raised, I think it is important to explain my thinking about the issue.

    I’m always sorry to lose readers. (Luckily, it doesn’t happen very often. MNB’s circulation list actually increases by between 75 and 100 people almost every week.) But I’ve always figured that my role isn't just to tell folks what they want to hear, but what I think they need to hear. Even when sometimes it is painful.

    Finally, the email makes reference to “a news station that is swayed a certain political direction. One of the things that Michael and I fervently believe is that it is critically important to be exposed even to the stuff you don’t agree with. If you love MSNBC, for example, you ought to spend some time watching Fox News. That’s how we learn - by being willing to listen when folks challenge our assumptions. Sometimes you get surprised.

    I got a couple of other emails about the Walmart stories.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I work for a major grocery chain (in the IT dept.) and although I’d like nothing better than for Walmart to have trouble competing with my company the fact is virtually every company is looking for ways to lower prices to consumers.  As grocery companies push for reduced ‘Total Cost to Serve’ it will force all partners across the Supply Chain to make changes/innovations to deliver their products at a lower cost in an effort to capture the shrinking wallet of the consumer.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    It looks like the unions are trying a new tact in their Walmart bashing campaign. That is to enlist the rock solid family farmer as an ally. I’m sure that the unions assumed that they would be a lot further along in their “ GM-ization “ of Walmart once a more friendly president was elected. But a combination of smart PR by Walmart, a recession driven desire for low prices, and the success of people like Chris Christie of New Jersey showing that unions may have it TOO good , has blunted their success. While Walmart is big, their share is nowhere near price dictating monopoly levels. There are plenty of companies that will buy the farmer’s goods besides Walmart. The unions will have to try another strategy to get at Walmart. But it won’t be easy. Even their natural allies in Chicago have decided that Walmart work is better than unionized unemployment.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 21, 2010

    In Monday Night Football action, the New Orleans Saints defeated the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in a thriller that went down to the last few moments of the game.
    KC's View: