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    Published on: January 12, 2011

    by Kate McMahon

    The hottest food trends for 2011 can be summed up in three words: local, vegetable, and pie.

    That’s the consensus after perusing the multitude of online predictions and food blogs declaring what is in and what is out. Cupcakes, for example, are so 2010. Ditto bacon, Four Loko and the KFC Double Down.

    Here’s a taste of the prognostications peppering the internet roundups in these first few weeks of the year:

    • “Cupcakes are Dead. Long Live the Pie!”

    • “Vegetables Are the New Meat”

    • “We have taken a look into the future and seen that it is local.”

    For forward-thinking retailers, marketers and service providers, trend-spotting means little if you don’t find a way to capitalize on it.

    Let’s start with local, which has evolved as a term. The first meaning stems from the locavore movements promoting the use fresh produce and goods from nearby farmers.

    But local is at a new level that transcends geography and is more individual. Think signature, store specialty, a salute to your region’s food history. To quote the Food Channel Top 2011 Food Trends: “The new local is really about the independent spirit that causes entrepreneurial people to develop new food products, open new restaurants, and bring new food ideas to life.”

    I recently had the good fortune to experience “local” on both levels at a new, innovative bistro/gourmet shop in New Canaan, CT, aptly named The Farmer’s Table. For chef Robert Ubaldo, it’s personal. He grows his own produce and herbs and imports meat, poultry and eggs from his brother’s farm in Vermont. The cuisine was outstanding, and the chef’s personal commitment made the meal all the more memorable. When reflecting on the delicious dishes I savored at lunch I realized that both were comprised of – you guessed it -- vegetables.

    From First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” health initiative to the “Meatless Monday” campaign in restaurants and on the internet, veggies are losing their side dish status. Proclaimed Saveur: “Vegetables: They’re back, for the very first time.”
    How to capitalize on this trend? Preparation and presentation. It’s as simple as offering shoppers a taste of sweet potato fries roasted with extra-virgin olive oil and a dash of cumin and paprika, which will have even a finicky eater asking for seconds, a sack of potatoes in the shopping cart and a copy of the recipe.

    Which brings us to pie.

    Not your grandmother’s pie, but rather sweet and savory pies, hot and cold pies, mini pies, deep dish and deep fried pies, and ice cream pies, are all the rage. If you need hard evidence, statistics show pie recipe viewings were up 20% last year and there are reports of “pie happy hours” in New York and Austin, TX.

    Again, whether its an in-store bakery or a display promoting the power of the pie, there are opportunities to make the most of this trend. Failure to do so would be the business equivalent of eating humble pie.

    Comments? Send me an email at .
    KC's View:
    I actually had a chance to share that lunch at The Farmer’s Table with Kate, and while she may have eaten vegetables, I had the pork tacos. I can testify that it may have been the best, most tender pork I’ve ever tasted ... and it came from pigs raised on Robert Ubaldo’s brother’s farm, which certainly cannot be a coincidence.

    And that’s no bull.

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Washington Post reports on a couple of area entrepreneurs who have developed Nexercise, “a smartphone app that rewards exercise with discounts on items such as energy bars, all natural groceries and workout DVDs.”

    According to the story, “Users select a physical activity, such as aerobics, running or badminton, then choose a workout time of 15 minutes or more. The program uses sensors already built into the iPhone and other smartphones to detect motion and other metrics that verify the activity actually takes place.

    “Users accrue points with each workout, and more points equate to better discounts. Nexercise also has a social component that allows users to compete directly with other smartphone owners or trumpet their workouts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

    “The competitive nature of Nexercise is meant to serve as another source of motivation, and those who prefer to keep their exercise habits private can simply tally the points to earn coupons or free gifts and for their own satisfaction.”

    Nexercise currently is in test mode, and won’t be available until later this year, pending approval from Apple.

    But there is a larger lesson here, which is that there is a connection between how people eat and how they behave. That’s not news ... but it is a business opportunity for food retailers and suppliers. To be relevant to their shoppers - especially to a demographic of aging baby boomers increasingly concerned about how they will live lives that have fewer days in front of them than behind them - that may also mean offering health-related and food-centric services that reflect a more holistic approach to intelligent living.

    Go figure. There’s an app for that.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    Dow Jones reports that Supervalu - with a third quarter loss of $202 million, compared to a year-ago Q3 profit of $109 million, and an almost six percent revenue decrease to $8.67 billion - continues to struggle with how to get its prices in line with lower-priced competitors at a time when suppliers are raising their prices.

    “With all of our major vendors announcing their intentions to pass along rising costs, we expect store prices to rise throughout the calendar year," CEO Craig Herkert said during an investors conference call. Herkert said that prices on items could increase anywhere from three percent to 14 percent, depending on the item and category.

    According to the story, “The company will host a vendor summit later this month with its top 400 manufacturers to negotiate more effective partnerships and better pricing. ‘For the company's business transformation to be effective, it's imperative we get the lowest cost of goods going forward,’ Herkert said. ‘Based on company-wide buying power, we can act as one company with our vendors and leverage initiatives’.”

    Among the other comments made by Herkert:

    • "We know the long-term journey is to get all of our prices in line with where our customers expect them. We're doing so granularly. Where we've done so, we see positive movement.”

    • "We know what we have to do, and we have the metrics and tools to get it done. But it won't happen overnight. It's a multi-year journey.”

    • "We are pursuing a hyper-local strategy to restore our relevance and build customer loyalty, especially in the northeast.”

    Herkert also said there are no plans to sell any of the company’s banners.

    "Today's market is a buyer's market, not a seller's," he said. "If there are opportunities to do some things that are beneficial, we'll certainly evaluate them, but we do not feel under pressure that we must divest of any particular assets at this point."
    KC's View:
    If you wanted to hold a convention of people who really believe that Supervalu is not looking to sell companies like Shaw’s if it can get an acceptable price, you’d only need to rent a phone booth. (For those of you who have no idea what a phone booth looks like, please go to Google. It is a quaint and at one time ubiquitous structure from a previous era.)

    One MNB user commented to me in an email that with all the moves being made by Supervalu, it looks less like the company has a strategic plan and more like “it is moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic.”

    Which is true. On the other hand, it is fair to say that the Titanic didn’t have to hit the iceberg. Neither does Supervalu. The problem is, I’m not picking up a lot of confidence in the marketplace about the moves the company has been making.

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    The Charlotte Business Journal reports that Harris Teeter will allow all its shoppers to use electronic coupons this year.

    According to the story, “The company, owned by Charlotte-based Ruddick Corp., piloted its ‘e-VIC’ program last year ... To participate, Harris Teeter customers must first sign up for an online account at Account holders will be able to browse a list of deals and promotions that they can link to their VIC card by clicking ‘Save it’ on the displayed coupons.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    Crain’s New York Business reports that within five years, 7-Eleven plans to have as many as 100 stores operating in Manhattan - 10 times the number that it currently has open there. 7-Eleven “recently opened two outposts in Murray Hill and has signed leases for another two locations elsewhere in the borough,” and is “actively looking for additional opportunities.

    According to the story, 7-Eleven “has a strong balance sheet and good credit, so landlords are more willing to take 7-Eleven on as a tenant. So far, the company has replaced old delis and DVD stores, and even a former Starbucks on Third Avenue.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    • Walmart reportedly plans to goose its Sam’s Club business this week, with a three-day open house at units that ends tomorrow, catering to small businesses. Sam’s also is offering gift cards to companies signing up for memberships, extending its hours, and allowing non-members to shop the stores during the open house.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has a new book coming out, entitled "Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul,” slated to be available on March 29.

    According to the story, the book is said to look at the upheaval that Starbucks has been going through in recent years, Starbucks “including closing hundreds of stores and laying off thousands of workers.” The word “onward,” the Times notes, “is the closing Schultz has used for letters to employees for years, including in his well-publicized 2007 memo to top executives warning about the ‘commoditization of the Starbucks experience’.”
    KC's View:
    I just hope that the book is reasonably objective look at the role that Schultz played in that commoditization; he likes to imply that he was the only guy with his finger in the dike, but I think it is fair to say that even when Schultz was not the CEO, he was the one who saw Starbucks in grandiose terms, not as a coffee company, but as a “lifestyle” company. It is Schultz today who is driving the acrimonious divorce from Kraft, which has been distributing its products to grocery stores, because he now sees Starbucks as being a CPG company. And it almost certainly is Schultz who took the word “coffee” out of the company’s logo.

    Schultz is a remarkable executive, no question. And it is okay when people treat you like the messiah. It is, however, a little dangerous when you start believing that you are the messiah. It’ll be interesting to see whether “Onward” is a serious and honest business book, or Schultz’s version of the New Testament.

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that “food service giant Sodexo Inc. has filed suit against the nation's largest egg trade group and some leading egg farmers, alleging they perpetrated a decade-long scheme to artificially inflate egg prices.

    The civil complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, claims that an egg cartel conspired to limit domestic supply by killing off hens under the guise of treating the remaining animals more humanely by giving them more cage room. The alleged scheme resulted in as much as a 40% increase in U.S. wholesale egg prices in 2008, according to the lawsuit.”

    According to the story, the suit “marks the latest salvo in a massive antitrust battle forming over the price of eggs. Egg producers say federal law allows them to work collaboratively. U.S. grocers, food suppliers and distributors claim that the industry illegally colluded to manipulate the market.”

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Del Monte Foods has said that “it did not receive any alternative buyout bids during its go-shop period, clearing the way for its $4-billion acquisition by a group of investors that includes its former owner ... An investor group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. — which briefly owned Del Monte — Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners agreed to buy the food maker in November for $19 a share. They will also assume $1.3 billion in debt.”

    Reuters reports that US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “told the largest U.S. farm group on Monday that farmers could see less government interference if they find a way for traditional and genetically modified crops to co-exist.”

    According to the story, “farm groups and the biotechnology industry are skeptical of Vilsack's ‘co-existence’ proposal. He launched it last month at the same time the Agriculture Department said planting restrictions might accompany deregulation of biotech alfalfa.

    “Vilsack says the biotech alfalfa, developed by Monsanto Co, is safe. An even-handed compromise among growers would better than repeat litigation over rules for biotech crops, he said. The alfalfa dispute went to the Supreme Court and a U.S. appeals court is hearing a case on biotech sugar seeds.

    “Most U.S. farmers oppose government intrusion on their property.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that “milk alternatives - creamy liquids derived from non-dairy sources - are on the rise, especially in households where people are lactose-intolerant or dairy-allergic. The food industry is quickly ramping up the options, offering milks derived from soybeans, rice, coconut, hazelnuts and even hemp. The sales growth follows decades of slow, steady decline in consumption of cow's milk in the U.S.”

    One result has been that “two brands - Silk Pure Almond, from Dean Foods Co., of Dallas, and Almond Breeze, from Blue Diamond Growers, of Sacramento, Calif. - are waging a Coke-and-Pepsi style market-share battle in the supermarket. Almond milk's appearance in the refrigerated dairy case in 2010 helped fuel 13% growth in milk alternatives, a category where sales were flat the year before, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market research firm.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    • Tesco said this week that it has named Ken Towle, who has been serving as CEO of its China business, to be its new Director of Internet Retailing.

    Laura Wade-Gery, who has been running the online business, has been named Commercial Director for clothing, electronics and merchandise.

    And Tim Ashdown, who has been COO of Tesco’s Homeplus business in South Korea, has been promoted to be CEO of Tesco China.

    • Brookshire Grocery Co. announced that it has promoted Mike Terry, most recently its senior vice president-Super 1 Foods operations, to be its new executive vice president-retail operations.

    • The National Retail Federation (NRF) said that it has hired David French to be its new Senior Vice President for Government Relations.  French formerly worked at the International Franchise Association (IFA) as its chief lobbyist.

    As part of the announcement, NRF said that with the “recent approval of a new strategic plan, NRF began a restructuring process to support a higher level of engagement on legislative and policy issues. In the coming months, NRF will be adding even more resources including the hiring of additional staff for its government relations team as well as creating a new communications and public affairs department to support its lobbying activity.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2011

    Got the following email from MNB user Joe Davis regarding our Eye-Opener about the growth of mobile marketing and the enormous acceptance by consumers:

    Great Eye-Opener with “Upwardly Mobile”.  We’ve been doing some work with a few of our key clients recently that has really surprised some of their executive teams in how connected their shoppers are to the internet, particularly on the go.  I personally use the Amazon PriceCheck app religiously to compare prices as I’m in stores – the savings are real, not to mention how much fun it is.  And yet, you can still see advertising along the lines of “The lowest prices in town”.  Well who gives a flip about that when you have shoppers standing in your store, scanning your items, and ordering them from whatever corner of the globe has the best deal.  Granted, not everyone is a “shopper without boundaries”….yet. 

    Technology is evolving faster than we can hardly comprehend, a Verizon iPhone is impending, the active internet population is surging – Mr. Friedman’s flat world is coming to CPG like a speeding train.  No doubt, as with all technological revolutions, there will be some who get hit, some who try and jump out of the way, and others that jump onboard and have a splendid time.


    I wrote the other day about my feeling that the media is way overplaying the story of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the incredible voice who has been celebrated, hired by a wide range of companies, and, some would say, exploited by TV shows looking to goose their own ratings.

    One MNB user wrote:

    You are right on! I hope some terrible story about this guy doesn’t surface.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    It makes me feel like we are living a new release of Network.

    Me, too.

    From another MNB user:

    Well, I am officially disgusted with the media on the Ted Williams thing.  I am glad he is getting another chance, but this craziness with the three big morning shows fighting to be the first out with Ted's reconnection to his 90 year old mother.  This morning I flipped thru ABC, CBS and NBC and all three appeared to be interviewing Ted and his Mom simultaneously.... Then I noticed, under George Stephanopulous was the banner: LIVE...

    Three ring circus indeed...

    The circus goes on.

    It was reported yesterday that Williams was involved in an altercation with his daughter in a Los Angeles hotel, and detained by police. No arrests were made but the investigation continues.

    I suspect we’ll see shows like “Today” and “Good Morning America” exploit his missteps and mistakes as fast as they exploited his redemption. He’s a human being and he’ll make mistakes - but the TV shows will see him only as fodder for the next six minute segment.

    Yesterday’s notes about the passing of Bullitt director Peter Yates, included my retelling a story about Steve McQueen’s driving expertise, and finishing with a business lesson - if you’re going to go fast, make sure you have the right guy behind the wheel.

    Which led one MNB user to respond with a quote from John Paul Jones:

    ”I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.”

    Good one.

    We’ve been talking a bit here on MNB about last weekend’s Tucson shootings - not because it is specifically relevant to the business issues that we focus on each day, but because it is a national issue that simply seemed too important to ignore. And besides, one of the things that makes MNB different is the idea what we can talk here about anything we feel like talking about.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I was going to send an email of Thanks for your thoughts yesterday and did not.  Since you are receiving some negative blowback for your thoughts about the Tucson tragedy I thought I had better weigh in on the positive side today.

    You are so right.  Terrorism does not have a color, religious belief or political ideology.  Thank you for yesterday’s thought and today’s long quote from Robert Kennedy’s speech.

    My pleasure.

    MNB user Chris O’Brien wrote:

    I agree that Jon Stewart gave perhaps the best reaction to this sad situation that I’ve heard so far. I hesitate to take any part of his monologue out of context, because it is refreshingly non partisan, and does not attempt to blame this tragedy on politics. That said, he did make a worthy statement regarding the need to raise the standards of political discourse when he said, “It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV. Let’s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.”


    And speaking of ramblings...

    MNB user Steven Barry sent us an email that we posted yesterday, suggesting that I was picking only on conservatives and the Tea Party when I lamented the toxic discourse that seems so common today. (I did not, by the way. I actually said that everybody had to take some responsible for not being civil.)

    Well, he’s back for more.

    It’s amazing, when a liberal speaks out, we need to riot in the streets and we advocate any means to protect that speech but now we need to think twice about what we say in terms of our political views.  What a bunch of garbage.  You don’t have to say who you blaming.  We all get it.  When liberal MSNBC commentators (Chris Mathews) talked about sticking an explosive into a conservative talk show hosts head and then watching it explode, you all laughed and thought it was funny.  No damnation what so ever.  Not even a day off of work for that person. Additionally, you did not hear one Conservative person try to limit his free speech.  But the tea party stands up against an administration who is bankrupting our country, destroying the best healthcare system in the ENTIRE world, it’s called hate speech and we’ll need to think twice about what we say(your words) and it has consequences.  I understand Free Speech is only important to a Liberal when they agree with what’s being said.  You ask that Sherriff down there facts about the case and all he had is a bunch of political BS with not a speck of fact based evidence.  I understand he having those opinions as he’s entitled but have some Class and find an appropriate time and place and DO YOUR JOB.  He should be fired.  His primary focus should be finding evidence and directing his subordinates to stay focused on the same in order to get a conviction on the person responsible.  I have some liberal friends that are embarrassed an appalled at the behavior of our public officials during this tragedy. 

    Did you here anyone on the right march out in front of the cameras saying the following? This could have been done but it would have been extremely tasteless and obviously insensitive to the entire situation which is the real crime here.
    “See what happened today when these kids today do these new drugs, having Hallucinations and see what Happens.”
    “See what happens when these kids go around reading these Communist Manifestos……bla bla bla”
    “See what happens to these Liberals (who I will guarantee this kid was) when they don’t get their way.  When people don’t agree with everything Liberal, they go around shooting everyone.”
    I know this in inappropriate but I’m using this as an example of how people are using this horrific act of a deranged man to push there political agenda.  The blood was barely even dry and they should all be ashamed of themselves.

    I debated with myself about whether to run this email. On the one hand, I think people who disagree with me still ought to get a hearing here on MNB ... and I don’t believe in censorship.

    On the other hand, maybe I have a responsibility to not post comments that I view as sheer lunacy ... and symptomatic of the problems that we face as a society.

    But I went with posting the comments, because I believe that light is the best disinfectant, as Louis Brandeis once said.
    KC's View: