retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a number of emails responding to yesterday’s story about accusations that sugar may be toxic. Here’s one:

I don't think this requires further discussion. It doesn't take fancy credentials or expensive studies to recognize the flaws of the argument. All you have to do is ask a simple question. If sugar is truly toxic, as this article claims, and sugar consumption is truly on the rise, why do life expectancies continue to rise? I find articles like this, and the similar article you ran Friday (Were they the same article?) very concerning. It was stated that heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers are classified as lifestyle diseases and they have surpassed communicable diseases as the leading contributor to death.

What I find most concerning about this is the classification of lifestyle for what are known to be, in large part, hereditary diseases (heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers), while separating out the ones that are truly, for the most part, lifestyle diseases (communicable diseases). Maybe I'm overly skeptical, but I sense the forming of seriously flawed political and economic arguments.

I strongly believe in everything in moderation. I also strongly believe that I am the best qualified to make decisions for me and my family. The more government and politically motivated business leaders try to influence my decisions, the more I will resist…with my vote and my wallet.

But MNB user Chuck Burns had a different take:

I believe Robert Lustig's condemnation of sugar and high fructose corn syrup is correct. If you look at the rising incidence of "diseases of modern civilization" in this country you will see that the increase parallels the increase of sugar consumption from about five pounds a year in the mid1800's to 150-175 pounds a year today.

If we couple that with abandoning the consumption of natural animal fats that the human animal  has consumed for eons and replacing them with industrial vegetable seed oils (such as soy and corn) you have a potent assault on the human animal. I feel that anyone who consumes more than very small amounts of sugars and vegetable oils has no right to expect to be healthy.

For a trifecta let me throw wheat in the mix. It is my opinion that the diseases of modern civilization (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer's to name a few) are not diseases per se but symptoms of malnutrition. By throwing out the USDA food pyramid and concentrating on eating real ancestral foods with actual nutrients in them we could cut our health care costs in half. Of course we would also cut the profits of the food processing industry by a huge amount too.

Don't believe me? Try a three month period where you eliminate sugars, vegetable oils (coconut and olive oil are ok) and wheat and make your own decision. The proof is in the pudding.

Listen, I get both positions ... though I disagree that the issue is not worth discussing.

I have no doubt that if I took sugar completely out of my diet, I’d feel better. I’m not sure I’m willing to do that.

But that doesn’t necessarily make sugar toxic. But I want more discussion, not less.

Got the following email from an MNB user:

I'm beginning to wonder if you are heavily invested in Amazon?  If so, you may want to disclose that at some point.  I agree that Amazon has been a very successful model of how a new business idea could come about, but unlike you (and apparently many others), I still prefer to go shopping for bigger ticket items and make comparisons in a store.  I don't mind the human contact and I look forward to Black Friday shopping with my wife every year (did you just get goosebumps?).

Occasionally I will make my big ticket purchases through Amazon if I can get free shipping, in order to avoid the sales tax.  I have also used Amazon for hard to find items.  Anyway, I don't think a day goes by when you don't mention Amazon in some form or another and now you've even resorted to calling it an 'unhappy ending' when Amazon did not get a book deal they bid on and you are even providing links to their website.  The only reason I read electronic books is because they are easier on airplanes.  Otherwise, I go to Barnes and Noble because you can browse the assortment so much easier and something about relaxing with a tablet just doesn't seem the same for me.  Yes, I am too old to be classified in the younger, information-age, generation, but I have a smart phone and use so many apps that I do find myself getting anxious if I can't find it.  I've even used a shopping app for many months that allows me to scan barcodes for items to add to my shopping list (this is an area that retailers should be scrambling to get their private label UPC's in the database), so I don't think you can call me tech-adverse.

As I said, I think Amazon is a great success story and as you've said many times, retailers need to be developing their online presence now.  However, I think there are many more opportunities for retailers to set themselves apart in their physical stores and marketing, and this will have even more immediate impacts on their customer loyalty and bottom line.

First of all, I don’t have any ownership of Amazon stock. I wish I did ... though I wish I’d bought it 10 years ago.

This is sort of the same argument that sometimes is made that I reference Walmart too often.

My response is the same. I’ll stop mentioning Amazon when they stop making news, or stop doing things that influence how people shop and other retailers come to market.

I don’t think Amazon is for everyone. But I do think it can be argued that there has been no other company that has had as much impact on the shopping experience during the past decade. I also think that you are right that one of the ways that retailers compete with Amazon is to create a more compelling in-store shopping experience ... and combine it with a strategic approach to e-commerce.

MNB user John R. Hurguy wrote:

One of the things that makes your site so interesting to me is that I never know what I am going to be exposed to for the first time…!

I was unfamiliar with the phrase you referenced today, “McGuffin,” so I did some quick research.  Wow…the topic was very interesting which exposed me to something I know nothing about.  …MNB is unlike any other site…and as you constantly hear from the community, “keep up the great work!”

Thanks. This is the mind of email that makes my day.

BTW....the “McGuffin” was the term coined by Alfred Hitchcock to describe the item in any of his films that sets the plot rolling and provokes action by both the protagonists and antagonists, but that ultimately is unimportant in terms of its actual existence. (Think of the money stolen at the beginning of Psycho, or the uranium in Notorious.)
KC's View: