retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal offers an example of what happens when a business narrative goes out of control, and leaves consumers with more questions rather than fewer.

“Increasingly, retailers are weighing in with guidelines to indicate which fish are harvested according to seafood-sustainability standards,” the Journal writes. But “now it's more complicated than ever, with new government recommendations encouraging more fish consumption, and a wide and expanding array of guidelines for what is healthiest and most environmentally friendly. For the growing number of consumers who want to enjoy the taste and health benefits of fish without feeling like they are speeding the decline of ocean life, straightforward advice may seem to be in short supply.”

Part of the problem is that there is no national standard, and the government doesn’t always agree with standards established by groups like Seafood Watch and the Blue Ocean Institute.

The Journal writes, “No effort to create a single, national guide to sustainable seafood has yet emerged. Companies including Safeway Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. are putting in place new guidelines to simplify fish buying for consumers, and to promote their ‘green’ credentials. Wal-Mart Inc. and Kroger Co. have both said they are working to stock more environmentally friendly seafood, and SuperValu says it is developing a sustainable-seafood strategy.

“Safeway is implementing standards developed with the nonprofit group FishWise. The second biggest traditional U.S. supermarket chain by sales after Kroger is aiming to have nothing but sustainable seafood on its shelves by 2015.”
KC's View:
I think this is both an excellent point and a great object lesson. And it brings me back to what Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future likes to say, that we live in a “VUCA” world, one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

It ought to be the job of the food business to make the world less so ... and the seafood category amply demonstrates that sometimes things get worse even when people are trying to make it better.