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    Published on: October 4, 2010

    The New York Times yesterday had a brief piece about singer/songwriter Pete Seeger, who at age 91 is still making music, splitting logs, using a rolling pin on his legs to keep them from swelling up, and organizing volunteers for causes that he views as worthwhile.

    Asked about priorities, here is one of the things he said:

    “It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.”

    A good lesson for all of us. It’s how we learn and grow, as opposed to only listening to the people who agree with us, who tell us what we want to hear, who reinforce previously held positions and opinions. Paying attention to them is easy. But allowing ourselves to be challenged, to recognize that other people’s positions can be valid and even contain a good idea or two.

    If an old lefty like Seeger can do it, anyone can.

    And that’s my Monday Eye-Opener.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    CNN has been producing a series of “Eatocracy” reports looking at how people choose the foods they eat, how foods are made available to them, and the implications of all those choices. There was a piece last week about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consideration of genetically modified salmon as being appropriate for human consumption, and it did a good job of framing the issue. Here are some excerpts:

    “It's a deeply fraught issue for both fans and foes of the technology, but stripping politics and propriety aside, here's what ‘genetically modified’ actually means in the context of fish farming.

    Genetic engineering entails introducing desirable traits of one living being into another, using recombinant DNA , or rDNA technology. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is made up of two strands of nucleotides, twisted around each other in a double helix at the nucleus of a cell. The order of the nucleotides determines hereditary characteristics. More succinctly, it's genes.

    “Before now, genetic engineering has been used widely in agriculture to make crops resistant to pests and herbicides, in the development of microbes to produce pharmaceuticals for human and animal use, and in food to produce microorganisms used in baking, brewing and cheesemaking. While various organizations have been working to develop genetically modified animals, such as the University of Guelph's "Enviropig" - which more easily digests plant phosphorous, thus excreting less of it into the environment - AquAdvantage Salmon would be the first to be approved by the FDA for use as food.

    “The fish's rapid growth will be boosted by the injection of a combination of a growth gene (GH-coding sequences) from the Pacific Chinook salmon and genetic material (the AFP gene) from the ocean pout - a large, eel-like fish - into the fertilized eggs of Atlantic salmon, making the recombined DNA present in cells throughout the body of the fish. The Chinook gene promotes the growth to market size, and the pout gene allows the fish to grow in the winter as well as the summer. AquaBounty Technologies claims the resultant fish are reproductively sterile due to another genetic alteration - triploidy - that eliminates the possibility of interbreeding amongst themselves or with other native breeds, while maintaining protection over intellectual property. The company will only sell female eggs and raise the fish within contained, inland systems. However, despite these assurances, the FDA indicates that up to 5% of the eggs may indeed be fertile, and the company's claims in this regard are ‘potentially misleading’.”
    KC's View:
    That part about engineering the salmon so they can’t reproduce ... haven’t we all seen that movie before?

    Oh, yeah...Jurassic Park. What was the John Hammond line? “Nature will always find a way.”

    I see no point in scientific growth if we are not going to use the tools we discover, and it seems perfectly reasonable to genetically engineer crops and animals if it serves the purpose of creating more food and addressing global issues like hunger. (Let’s not forget that at the same time as the GM debate takes place, scientists also are telling us that the supply of fish in the oceans actually is diminishing.) I cannot quite bring myself to take the Ian Malcolm position, which is to suggest that discovery “is a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.”

    That said, I certainly hope that the scientists doing the engineering and the bureaucrats doing the regulating are proceeding with humility and respect. And, of course, I hope that sanity eventually will reign and that accurate and comprehensive labeling will be mandated as part of the process.

    BTW...Food Safety News reports that Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), chairwoman of the House committee that controls the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture budgets, has introduced the Consumers Right to Know Food Labeling Act, which “would mandate labeling of genetically modified fish” and also require the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) “to mandate that products of cloned animals be labeled, if intended for human consumption.”

    There is simply no rational excuse from a consumer’s point of view for not labeling GM foods as such.

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    The Orlando Sentinel reports that “Publix Super Markets has launched a mobile app.

    “The mobile site, m.publix.com, allows customers to instantly find out the latest deals on their Droid, Blackberry, or iPhone. The site also allows people to locate a Publix store, including driving directions, phone number and store hours.

    “Customers can also sign up for At Season's Peak text messages to their phones or e-mails about produce.”
    KC's View:
    Publix has been lagging in this area, but seems intent on playing catch up. Just recently, the company started testing a new online shopping program, and now it is launching a mobile app.

    It seems to be a recognition that in order to remain relevant in a 21st century competitive marketplace, simply having very good stores is not enough.

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    Wine Spectator reports on the ongoing debate in the US House of Representatives over H.R. 5034, or the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act of 2010, which “would give states stronger powers to restrict and possibly block direct shipping of wine.”

    According to the story, the bill “would give states the opportunity to reverse five years of winery-to-consumer direct shipping legislation dating back to the Supreme Court's landmark Granholm decision, which ruled that state alcohol distribution laws cannot discriminate between in- and out-of-state wineries. H.R. 5034 would put the Constitution's 21st Amendment, which gives states control over alcohol sales, above the Commerce Clause, which forbids restrictions on interstate trade.”

    Lack of time and other, more pressing priorities mean that it is unlikely that the Congress will get to any sort of vote on H.R. 5034 during this session, but it is seen as likely that proponents will try to bring it back in 2011.

    Supporters of the new bill say that they are dissatisfied with the level of alcohol regulation under the current rules, and especially are concerned that minors have greater access to booze because they only need a credit card as opposed to ID.

    Opponents, on the other hand, say that going back to the old regulatory framework would once again give too much power to wholesalers, who until relatively recently were able to control what products were available to retailers and their customers. Direct shipping of wine eliminates that problem, to some degree...and also makes product cheaper to some degree.
    KC's View:
    Any change in the current law is designed to only help wholesalers, and is total nonsense.

    Anyone who thinks that minors can order alcohol over the internet and get it delivered without showing ID aren’t paying attention. My experience - and I order wine from a number of wineries around the country - is that no matter what delivery service brings it to the door, if I am not there to sign for it, they won't leave it. (And I am clearly a little older than 21.) They won’t leave it with my kids, and won’t even leave it at the neighbor’s. Half the time, I end up trekking to the UPS office, where they always check my ID.

    Allowing wine shipping all over the country helps small businesses, consumers, and ultimately helps any retailer that sells wine, because it helps to educate the shopper and expand their palates.

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    Sometimes you can’t win.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that HJ Heinz has been pro-choice about ketchup, offering both its traditional version sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and its Simply Heinz, flavored with sugar. The goal was to cater to both people who liked the traditional version as well as to the growing legion of people in the anti-HFCS camp.

    “The strategy would seem designed to make everyone happy but, rather like being a middle-of-the-road candidate in a polarized election year, it hasn't appeased the populace,” the Post-Gazette writes. In fact, both sides almost seem antagonized. Anti-HFCS forces seem to still want the traditional version phased out, and people who like the classic ketchup recipe seem concerned that Heinz eventually will be forced to phase it out.

    The debate, the Post-Gazette suggests, reflects the larger argument about HFCS and whether it is truly worse for people than traditional sugar - an argument that is creating a lot of noise but does not seem close to any conclusion.
    KC's View:
    It also is possible that in addition to reflecting the HFCS-sugar debate, the antagonism over ketchup also may reflect the larger tendency in society for a lot of people to want everything their way. They like the idea of choice, as long as people choose to follow their values system. (Call it the “illusion of choice.”)

    On the other hand, the numbers suggest that maybe Heinz made the right suggestion, as the Post-Gazette reports:

    “At about the same time that Heinz was introducing its Simply Heinz ketchup earlier this year, Conagra Foods pulled all of the high fructose corn syrup out of its Hunt's ketchup products ‘in direct response to consumer demand.’

    “It's hard to tease out yet whether the changes have had an impact on ketchup sales. In the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8, unit sales of Heinz ketchup rose 2.37 percent, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. By comparison, sales in the second-place private label ketchup category were up 1.46 percent and the main Hunt's ketchup, in third place, rose 3.06 percent.”

    In other words, maybe choice creates sales. Go figure.

    Maybe you can win after all.

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    Internet Retailer reports that Procter & Gamble is using Amazon.com and Facebook to allow consumers to replenish their diaper supplies.

    According to the story, P&G “is selling diapers and wipes as well as products from other P&G brands, such as Tide, Or al B. and Olay, via its Pampers Facebook page. Consumers click a Shop Now tab on the page to complete their orders and check out through Amazon.com.

    “Pampers is using Amazon WebStore, an invitation-only initiative launched in March that enables select sellers to build and operate an e-commerce business that can integrate with Amazon services such as Selling on Amazon and Fulfillment by Amazon. Amazon WebStore provides the shopping cart and checkout capabilities. P&G did not disclose what it pays Amazon for the service.”

    Shipping is free if customers spend more than $25 on their orders.
    KC's View:
    This is competition to traditional retailers that most of them do not even know exists. Few retailers that I meet have ever even tried ordering grocery products on Amazon, much less Facebook.

    How can you compete with something you do not know, do not understand, and have never tried?

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    In Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel reports on cranberry innovation, noting that “Wisconsin is the nation's top producing cranberry state, and growers expect this fall's crop to be the second largest on record, an estimated 430 million pounds.” All those cranberries have to go somewhere, and waiting for Thanksgiving just isn’t a good enough option.

    “With a wide array of cranberry products sold at stores and farmers markets - dried sweetened cranberries, cranberry-laced barbecue sauces, salsas and jams, cranberry sauce and a rainbow of juices - it's easy to imagine a meal incorporating cranberries in every course,” the paper writes, continuing, “For those who favor cranberry juice, Ocean Spray this fall is making a push for a line of caffeine-laced energy drinks in cranberry, cranberry-pomegranate and cranberry-raspberry flavors. The juices are enhanced with natural caffeine from green tea extract and with B vitamins ... Likewise, dried cranberries are now infused with blueberry, cherry and pomegranate juices and are tossed into numerous trail mixes with other dried fruits, nuts and chocolate.”

    And there’s a health component here, too. “Studies have shown that phytonutrients in cranberries promote urinary tract health and that they can aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, certain stomach ulcers and even cancer,” the Journal Sentinel reports.
    KC's View:
    One of my favorite fruits ... even before I knew they were good for my urinary tract.

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    Last week, it was reported that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is charging that Pom Wonderful is “making false and unsubstantiated claims about the power of their pomegranate elixir.” Among the claims the FTC is concerned about are that POM pomegranate juice reduces the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and impotence,

    Well, USA Today reports this morning that POM is about to make a different claim in its first national TV campaign - that its pomegranate juice is an aphrodisiac. The commercials, which feature a purring Malcolm McDowell as the narrator, specifically say that pomegranate juice helps your sex life.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    • The Sunday Telegraph reports that Tesco plans a major UK store opening program over the next six months, with plans to unveil 1.7 million square feet of retail space during the second half of its fiscal year - clearly demonstrating that it believes that a 30 percent market share is not enough.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    • The Houston Business Journal reports that Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) “have ratified compensations packages for Kroger associates in the Houston Meat and Houston Clerks bargaining units. Kroger Texas LP, an affiliate of Cincinnati-based Kroger made the agreement with the Local 455 unit of the UFCW, which represents more than 13,000 Kroger associates working in 107 stores in Texas.”

    • Coca-Cola announced that it has completed its $3.4 billion buyout of Coca-Cola Enterprises, its largest North American bottler, a move that it is making to exert more control over distribution during a time of faster innovation.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    • The Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), a division of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), announced the appointment of Robert L. Garfield as senior vice president, responsible for the management of the SQF Institute, including strategic planning, business development and financial management.

    Garfield joins SQFI from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) where he was senior vice president of public policy and international affairs for the past nine years. He also served as interim president of AFFI from 2008-2009. 
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    If Stephen J. Cannell, who died at age 69 over the weekend after a battle with cancer, has to make any argument to get through the Pearly Gates, all he has to say is this:

    “I co-created ‘The Rockford Files’.”

    That’ll be enough.

    Cannell wrote for series that ranged from “It Takes A Thief” to “Toma,” created series such as “The A-Team,” “The Greatest American Hero” and “Wiseguy,” eventually became a novelist turning out more than a dozen thrillers, and even did a bit of acting, playing himself on “Castle” and even serving as a kind of unofficial mentor to the producers and star Nathan Fillion.

    But without a doubt, the best thing he ever did was create the character of Jim Rockford, brought to life so memorably by James Garner. Rockford was a kind of anomaly in the American private eye genre - he was an ex-con who had been pardoned because he actually was innocent, his father was ashamed of his career choices but loved him anyway, he lived in a beat-up trailer in Malibu, and he hated to get into fights (though he was great in car chases). But most of all, Rockford brought a kind of bemused irony to the genre - soft-boiled rather than hard-boiled, and with a bit of the con man in him. You couldn’t help but love him, and Rockford was a television mainstay for six memorable seasons.

    And Cannell was primarily responsible, producing the series ands writing many of the episodes.

    That’d be enough for me.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    In almost nine years of doing MNB, I’ve rarely gotten a cooler email.

    Last week, I made an approving comment about something Kroger CEO Dave Dillon said about the company’s strategy, and then said (in a rare moment of self-deprecation), “Not that Dave Dillon cares if I approve or not.” Well, yesterday I got an email from MNB user David Dillon that said:

    Just want you to know I actually do care what you think…

    It doesn’t get any better than that.




    On the subject of Blockbuster’s travails, one MNB user wrote:

    It seems like Netflix and Redbox have taken opposite strategies and Blockbuster died in the murky middle. Redbox narrowed their selection down to the several hundred (maybe less?) most popular movies in a tiny footprint. Comparing their $/square foot to a traditional store is a no-brainer. And, it's unlikely that Redbox will ever support the kind of high quality video discovery that Tarantino referred to. Netflix, on the other hand, is all about discovery of less popular movies - what Chris Anderson calls the Long Tail. Because Netflix doesn't need to worry about duplicating inventory in thousands of expensive stores, I can get more (and more interesting) movies from them than I could at any video-rental-store, ever.

    I see Amazon the same way: sure, I'm a little sad about the loss of the small, local book store. In return, though, I get to support the small author.


    And as a small author, I salute you.

    The simple reality, BTW, is that companies like Barnes & Noble and Borders make it almost impossible for small authors without major publishing houses to do business with them. Amazon is a very different story - and its ability to work with small authors is what allowed Michael Sansolo and me to write a book that has gone to its third printing.




    On a related point, one MNB user wrote:

    The other day we were discussing e-readers and one lady mentioned that she was reading an excellent book and wanted to loan it to others but didn't feel she could as she had other daily news feeds on the reader and would miss the news if she lent the reader.

    As I was thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that if e-readers became the rule rather than the exception, the authors would be able to sell more issues as most people would not pass books around.

    To me, this looks like a long term win for the authors.


    From our perspective, this is a good thing.




    MNB user Bill Jensen had some thoughts about the applicability of the e-reader revolution:

    Kevin, it is not only the customer of the future that will be using an e-reading device, it is the customer of today. Classes are now held
    paperless.

    So ... if a customer is offered a store specific pdf to download as she/he entered, with say, weekend specials, or daily specials, I believe they are more likely to read them as they knock off their e-list of groceries and goodies to buy.

    But will the employees be able/willing to demonstrate the fun of interacting with a store's e-reader, or will they provide you with fed-ex style service?


    That, as they say, will be where the rubber meets the road. All these technologies are only as good as the support offered by the retailer that employs them.



    Here’s why I love the MNB community.

    On Friday, MNB took note of a Cincinnati Enquirer report that Kroger has been pulling boxes of Ochocincos - a new cereal featuring Cincinnati Bengal player Chad Ochocinco that was meant to draw attention to the Feed the Children charity - because a toll free phone number given on the box was directing consumers to a phone sex line.

    The problem: the toll free prefix given was 1-800 instead of 1-888.

    My comment:

    Oops.

    Gives whole new meaning to the phrase, “the most important meal of the day.”


    And almost immediately, I got a bunch of emails suggesting other alternative slogans. Among the ones that are printable on a family website:

    • “The Best Part of Waking Up.”
    • “It’s not just for breakfast anymore.”
    • “The best to you each morning.”
    • “They’rrrrrrrre Great!”


    Gotta love it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    I screwed up.

    Early last week, I made a quick reference to Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, promising an more extensive review on Friday.

    And then, to be perfectly honest, I forgot. And then got a bunch of emails from members of the MNB community who remembered and wanted to remind me of my negligence.

    Sorry about that.

    Anyway, here are my thoughts about the sequel to Wall Street...

    If there’s one thing the moviegoer should not expect from an Oliver Stone movie, it is restraint and subtlety. On that score, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps does not disappoint - it is a big, fast moving train of a movie, with one terrific engine. Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gekko, the “greed is good” financier who ended the first movie going to jail for illegal stock trading, and as this movie begins, he’s getting out of jail - with no friends, an old suit, long graying hair and a cell phone the size of a brick. And Douglas is terrific, moving from moments of self-pity to a kind of rebirth as the disarmingly frank and not entirely trustworthy author of a book predicting the financial collapse in the months before the actual disaster struck in October 2008.

    The problem is that in this movie, Gekko is a supporting character, and Douglas is off screen for too long, too often. Instead, the main characters are Shia LaBeouf as a stock trader trying to fund a company involved in alternative energy research; Carey Mulligan as Gekko’s estranged daughter and LaBeouf’s girlfriend; and Josh Brolin as a stockbrokerage CEO who makes Gekko look like Mother Theresa.

    While the story is interesting - and reminds us through news clips of just how close the financial world came to the precipice two years ago - eventually the story runs out of gas because Douglas/Gekko, who is always the most interesting person in the room, just isn’t in it often enough. I enjoyed Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps but came away vaguely dissatisfied. I think Stone probably should have ended the movie about 15 minutes sooner, on a note of ambiguity, instead of reaching for a kind of closure that doesn’t rally work.

    So Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is pretty good, but not great...except as a reminder of what a terrific talent Michael Douglas is and always has been. There are moments here where his age makes him resemble his dad, Kirk Douglas, almost eerily; there are other moments when he’s smoking a cigar when it is hard not to think about the fact that he currently is being treated for throat cancer, in part attributed to his long history as a smoker. Here’s hoping that Douglas has lots more movies left in him.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 4, 2010

    In Week Four of National Football League action...

    San Francisco 14
    Atlanta 16

    Baltimore 17
    Pittsburgh 14

    Denver 26
    Tennessee 20

    Detroit 26
    Green Bay 28

    Indianapolis 28
    Jacksonville 31

    Arizona 10
    San Diego 41

    NY Jets 38
    Buffalo 14

    Carolina 14
    New Orleans 16

    Cincinnati 20
    Cleveland 23

    Seattle 3
    St. Louis 20

    Houston 31
    Oakland 24

    Washington 17
    Philadelphia 12

    Chicago 3
    NY Giants 17



    And, the Major League Baseball Playoff picture has finally come completely into focus...

    In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays are the eastern division champs and will face off against the western division champion Texas Rangers, while the central division champs, the Minnesota Twins, will play the wild card winning New York Yankees.

    In the National League, eastern division champs Philadelphia Phillies will play central division champion Cincinnati Reds, while the western division champion San Francisco Giants will play wild card winning Atlanta Braves (who take manager Bobby Cox to the playoffs one last time before his retirement).
    KC's View:
    I still think it will be the Twins vs. the Phillies in the World Series, though I’ll probably root for the Giants to go the Series. (I can’t root for the Phillies or the Braves...as a Mets fan, I just cannot bring myself to do it. I respect them, and I’m happy for Bobby Cox. But I can’t root for them.