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    Published on: April 29, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Los Angeles Times reports that “for the first time, more smart phones were sold than any other type of mobile phone last quarter, according to the NPD Group research firm.

    “Sales of smart phones rose 8% during the first three months of 2011when compared with the same period in 2010, the NPD Group said. Smart phones accounted for 54% of total cellphone sales for the period.”

    By their very definition, more smart phones means the potential of more smart shoppers who know more about product availability, price, ingredients, nutrition, environmental impact, sustainability competition and packaging.

    Which means that manufacturers and retailers need to be smarter and more transparent about how and what they communicate to shoppers, who also are talking to each other with greater frequency and may in fact know more than marketers about the products they are buying - or not buying.

    And that’s an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    The New York Times this morning reports that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is proposing “sweeping new guidelines” that seem designed to “push the food industry to overhaul how it advertises cereal, soda pop, snacks, restaurant meals and other foods to children.

    “Citing an epidemic of childhood obesity, regulators are taking aim at a range of tactics used to market foods high in sugar, fat or salt to children, including the use of cartoon characters like Toucan Sam, the brightly colored Froot Loops pitchman, who appears in television commercials and online games as well as on cereal boxes.

    “Regulators are asking food makers and restaurant companies to make a choice: make your products healthier or stop advertising them to youngsters.”

    The story notes that the guidelines - which are meant to be voluntary, but are expected to create considerable pressure on manufacturers - cover television, print, online, movie and television product placements, fast food and virtually every marketing alternative available to suppliers.

    The Wall Street Journal writes that “by one estimate, the new standards would affect advertisements on 1,700 television programs.”

    The Times notes that “Kellogg, the company that makes Froot Loops, said in a statement that it would review the proposal and that it was committed to improving ‘the nutrition credentials’ of its products’.”

    The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) responded to the proposals by announcing the results of a new study, suggesting that “the average number of food and beverage advertisements that children 2 to 11 viewed on children’s programming fell by 50 percent between 2004 and 2010.”

    The study says, specifically, that advertisements for cookies fell by 99%, advertisements for soft drinks fell by 96% and advertisements for fruit and vegetables juices increased by 199%, advertisements for gum and mints fell by nearly 100% and advertisements for candy fell by 68%, advertisements for snack bars fell by nearly 100% and advertisements for all snacks fell by 71%.
    KC's View:
    This has the potential of creating an “us vs. them” environment, which isn’t good for anyone. I just hope that the facts - and not hysterics, on both sides - carry the day .... because it remains a fact that childhood obesity is a major problem in this country.

    I’m glad these are voluntary guidelines. It won’t matter what governments or manufacturers do if parents don’t show a little common sense about what they let their kids eat, and ultimately it is up to us to show a little backbone and say “no” once in a while.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    The Associated Press reports on a new study from LifeGoesStrong.com saying that while “nearly half of those born between 1946 and 1964 now work for a younger boss, and most report that they are older than most colleagues,” it also is reported that “61 percent of the baby boomers surveyed said their age is not an issue at work, while 25 percent called it an asset.” And, “only 14 percent classified getting older as a workplace liability.”

    The story goes on: “Most of those who have reached age 50 noted that co-workers seek their counsel more now than when they were younger. And a third said their employer treats them with greater respect.”
    KC's View:
    It would be my guess that the people being treated with respect are acting in a way that has earned it, as opposed to just expecting it because they are either losing the pigment in the hair or losing their hair altogether.

    Speaking as someone smack in the middle of that demographic group, I think that the critically important factor for baby boomers hoping that their age won’t be a liability is the constant ability to reinvent ourselves, to stay as current as possible, and to respect the fact that people younger than us have a lot to bring to the table, and have different needs and priorities than we do. Not better, not lesser, just different.

    The nice thing about this study is that it suggests something that I’ve always believed - that we create, for the most part, our own liabilities. And are responsible for creating an environment in which success is possible.

    Of course, as I write this, I must concede that the only entity that I share a workplace with happens to be a six-year-old yellow Lab named Buffett, who gives me all the respect and deference in the world as long as I give her cookies.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that “three years after China was rocked by a massive tainted-milk scandal, the country has again been hit by a wave of food scares in recent weeks.

    “The list includes diseased pigs used for bacon; noodles made of corn, ink and paraffin; rice contaminated with heavy metals, sausages made of rotten meat and fertilizer; and pork described as "Tron blue" because it glowed in the dark from bacteria.

    “That so many new scandals have emerged even after the central government implemented a sweeping food-safety law in 2009 speaks to the depth of the regulation's ineffectiveness, experts say.”

    The problem, experts say, is that food inflation is forcing manufacturers and producers to cut corners on food safety, and the government response has been too tentative to have much impact.
    KC's View:
    Which is yet another reason why Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) seems to make so much sense ... if done right.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    The Boston Herald reports that Mayor Thomas Menino there has criticized Walmart’s announced decision to once again sell shotguns in some of its stores.

    “It’s too bad that the same corporation that does TV commercials about social consciousness is trying to increase the number of guns on our streets,” Menino said. “I don’t think it’s a wise business move on Walmart’s part.”

    Walmart said earlier this week that it would bring guns back to some stores as part of its return to “heritage” categories that had been de-emphasized or eliminated in recent years, but are being brought back because of seven consecutive quarters of stagnant same-store sales in the US.

    Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo noted that Walmart will not sell guns in the Boston market, and added, “We are proud of our participation in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (campaign) and remain committed to the safe and responsible sale of firearms in areas of the country where they are sold.”
    KC's View:
    I suspect this is going to be a point of contention and the subject of much debate in coming months.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    Bloomberg reports that the bankruptcy judge overseeing the finances of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) has approved the awarding of as much as $3.7 million in bonuses that could be paid to six senior executives based on company performance.

    The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) opposed the bonuses; the judge’s approval could complicate upcoming negotiations between management and labor, as A&P looks for concessions as executives look for a way out of the chain’s financial troubles.
    KC's View:
    I have to be consistent here. I was critical of bonuses being paid to senior execs at Borders, and I feel the same way about the A&P bonuses.

    I have no problem with senior execs being rewarded for exceptional leadership, especially if they are able to save the company. But this sends an awful message, especially if they are looking for concessions.

    Of course, A&P could make this look a lot better if they find a way to make sure that employees have some skin in the game, and also will see rewards if they can help the company survive.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    Reuters reports that “PepsiCo Inc is introducing a ‘social vending’ machine that lets users buy each other drinks remotely ... Pepsi's new system lets users give their friends a beverage gift by entering the recipient's name, mobile phone number and a personalized text message or video. The gift is delivered with a system code and instructions to redeem it at any similar machine.”

    The story notes that the new vending machine is proof that Pepsi’s “decades-old rivalry with Coca-Cola Co is going ever-more high tech.” Coke has been getting great reviews for its Freestyle vending machine, which allows users to access a digital touchscreen and customize drinks from a possible 100 flavor combinations.
    KC's View:
    Can’t wait to try the Pepsi machine, because I’m an enormous fan of the Coke Freestyle machine. In fact, I might even choose a place to eat based on the availability of that vending option.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    In the UK, the Telegraph reports that over the past quarter, Tesco saw its market share drop from 30.5 percent to 30.4 percent, Walmart-owned Asda Group experienced slippage from 17.6 percent to 17.4 percent, and Sainsbury’s market share went from 16.4 percent to 16.3 percent.

    Meanwhile, the story says, Aldi saw its market share go from 3 percent to 3.3 percent, Lidl’s share went from 2.3 percent to 2.6 percent, and Waitrose’s share went from 4.1 percent to 4.3 percent.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    The BBC reports that “Tesco has cut back its offer to refund double the difference on products bought for less in Asda, blaming ‘savvy’ shoppers. The supermarket giant said that it would now only refund the difference in price - rather than double the difference.”

    According to the story, Tesco claims that a “cottage industry of savvy and determined people" had been taking advantage of the refund promotion and making money by exploiting it.
    KC's View:
    The BBC story suggests that some shoppers had the temerity to look for the products on special at Asda, and then go to Tesco to get double the difference in price.

    This teaches us that marketers better be smarter about the promotions they create, because consumers are in a better position than ever to exploit every weakness and take advantage of every opportunity.

    I do find it amusing that there seems to be a suggestion that this is a kind of moral flaw on the part of certain shoppers. Amusing, because I’d have to guess that Tesco does its best to be “savvy and determined” in how it does business.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that Supervalu-owned Acme Markets plans to lay off 900 employees “to align its work force with sales volume.”

    In a statement, Acme President Dan Sanders said, “Unfortunately, we have more associates than we need to serve our current level of sales, and we must take immediate action to change our business.” However, the company also said that the move “does not change Acme’s overall commitment to the Delaware Valley.”

    It is reported that the cuts will primarily affect part-time employees with the least seniority.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    Wine Spectator reports that a new study published in Movement Disorders suggests that “a lifetime of drinking red wine significantly reduces the risk of essential tremor, the official name for a pattern of involuntary, continuous movements that intensify with age.”

    According to the story, “four or five glasses of red wine per day, for 30 years or so, provides the most benefit. In fact, when the scientists compared nearly 100 married couples, where one spouse is healthy and the other suffers from essential tremor, those who drank four or five glasses of red wine daily had an 86 percent lower risk of developing tremors. At three glasses per day it stood at a 65 percent lower risk.

    “The text suggests that the antioxidants in red wine provide a long-term protective effect, but admits the results are by no means definitive.”
    KC's View:
    Definitive enough for me.

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    • The Columbus Dispatch reports that “Kroger is turning higher gas prices into an opportunity to gain customers, announcing today that it is expanding its gas-discount program. Starting Sunday, Kroger customers in central Ohio will be able to save up to $1 per gallon of gas by scanning their loyalty cards at participating Shell Oil stations. That's in addition to Kroger and Kroger-owned Turkey Hill gas stations, as before. The maximum savings per gallon is twice the amount previously offered to Kroger customers.”

    • Winn-Dixie Stores announced the sale of its Deep South beverage manufacturing facility in Fitzgerald, Ga., to Polar Beverages of Worcester, Mass., effective April 29, 2011. This transaction marks the completion of its program to sell all non-core manufacturing operations.

    According to the announcement, “Polar will continue operation of this facility, and Winn-Dixie has negotiated a five-year agreement with Polar Beverages as the exclusive supplier of its market-leading Chek brand carbonated soft drinks.”

    • Weis Markets Vice Chairman Jonathan H. Weis said yesterday that his company would increase its 2011 Capital Expenditure budget by 7 percent to $110 million.

    “We’ve significantly increased the pace and tempo of our growth,” said Mr. Weis. “Over the past two years, we’ve averaged 15 major projects-- triple what we were doing a couple of years ago – and our cap ex budget has increased by nearly 35% during this period. We continue to reinvest in our stores, information technology systems and human capital at an unprecedented rate.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    My father-in-law, Steven Sheinhouse, passed away yesterday morning after a long illness. He was 86.

    Steve Sheinhouse was a man of energetic passions, many of them focused on New York City, a place where he lived for most of his life and that he believed, with much justification, is the center of the universe. Its museums, theaters and restaurants were certainly the center of his universe, and whenever I think of him, which will be often, it will of Steve’s boundless enthusiasm, often expressed through his purposeful stride as he walked through Manhattan like he owned the place.

    To be honest, we didn’t always get along. When first we met, during my courtship of his daughter, Steve didn’t really think I was good enough; then again, what father does think that any man is good enough for his daughter? (He also came from a finance background and was a person of polished and effortless sophistication. I was a poor newspaper writer, I owned one brown corduroy suit, and there was nothing sophisticated about me.) But time and love are both great healers, and I will miss our long conversations, the shared iced coffees from a nearby Starbucks, and his enthusiasm and delight about my late-in-life experiences as an entrepreneur and book author.

    I hope he enjoyed me half as much as I enjoyed him.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2011

    Thank goodness for “Morning Joe.”

    All week, so much media attention has been focused on today’s Royal Wedding in London, with almost everybody taking the nuptials - and surrounding hoopla - way too seriously. The “Today Show,” which is almost unbearable to watch, had stories about jelly molds and such that seemed designed to give Jon Stewart something to mock.

    But on “Morning Joe,” they used their weeklong visit to London as an opportunity to compare the politics and cultures of the US and UK, to talk about the two nation’s economies, and actually focus on legitimate news stories, all the while including some wedding news and poking gentle fun at the proceedings.

    Joe Scarborough actually said at one point that at a time of economic austerity and budget cuts in the UK, it hardly seemed like the right time to be celebrating excess. And truer words may not have been spoken in the mainstream media this week.

    All reasons that “Morning Joe” - with its willingness to spend extended period of times engaged in interesting and often serious conversations - continues to be the best morning show on television.




    So I know this really isn’t funny, but I have to admit it made me laugh.

    There was a story the other day saying that the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease have been found in the famed grotto of the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

    And all I could think to myself is that this could hardly be the worst bacteria floating around in what I gather is a gigantic hot tub. And that Legionnaires' disease probably isn’t the worst thing you could catch there.




    Got a request for my recipe for Lamb and Artichoke Stew...and so here it is. (Adapted, to be fair, from a similar recipe in my aging copy of The Frugal Gourmet.)

    Ingredients:
    1/2 stick of butter
    2-3 pounds of boneless lamb, cubed
    3 large yellow onions
    Emeril’s Essence
    3 cloves of garlic
    6 ounces of tomato paste
    1 cup dry white wine
    3 cans of artichoke hearts, drained.

    In a large pot, melt the butter.
    Saute the lamb until browned. Remove from the pot.
    Chop and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add Emeril’s Essence to taste.
    Add the meat back into the pot.
    Add the tomato paste and white wine.
    Stir. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes, or until lamb is tender.
    Add artichokes.
    Cover. Simmer for another 90 minutes.

    Serve over rice pilaf or egg noodles. Enjoy.




    There was a column in Forbes the other day that caught me eye, and with which I agree - that “an ever-growing, almost pervasive anti-male sentiment” has taken hold in society. The writer, Leslie Knight, suggests that feminism has, to some degree, evolved into a kind of institutionalized “misandry” maintaining that men are incapable of compassion, wisdom and appropriate behavior.

    The best thing about this story is that I’ve learned a new word - “misandry.” I knew what “misanthropy” was, but “misandry” - defined as the hatred of men and boys - is anew one for me.

    The column goes beyond the fact that men have fared worse during the recession than women; it suggests that men, unfairly, are being portrayed poorly in the popular media, in shows like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”

    “We've had 40 years of male bashing,” Knight writes. “Why has it continued? Maybe it is time to stop. The feminist movement was about ending sexism and stereotypes. It was not about creating a new form of sexism.”

    This is a fair observation. We guys may in some ways be clueless, but I don’t think we’re dolts, and generally not mean-spirited. And certainly not deserving of contempt or hatred.

    But thanks for the nod.




    That said, I loved this joke passed along to me by Mrs. Content Guy. (Language advisory. This joke uses a word not often used on MNB.)

    The American Psychological Society is out with a new study. Ten percent of women think their asses are too big. Five percent of women think their asses are too small. And the other eighty-five percent say they don;t care - their asses are just fine, they love him, and are glad they married him.

    On the other hand, there are those guys who give the rest of us a bad name.

    Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post writes this morning about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is facing a trial for bad behavior that only Charlie Sheen would find to be acceptable. Berlusconi, however, seems not to have lost his sense of humor, and is quoted as recently saying:

    “According to a survey, when asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30 percent of women said ‘yes’ while the other 70 percent replied ‘What, again?’”

    Oy.




    Last weekend, I caught up with a movie on DVD that I’d missed when it was in theaters - Fair Game, which is a terrific thriller about the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative during the Bush administration. Well-directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and nicely acted by Naomi Watts (as Plame) and Sean Penn (as her husband, Joseph Wilson), Fair Game has a political point of view but never loses its narrative power; some won’t like it because of the politics, but Fair Game is first and foremost a really good story, well told.

    I also had a chance to revisit Good Night, And Good Luck, the excellent George Clooney-directed movie about Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin). My daughter is doing a paper about the McCarthy era, and I’ve been showing her movies about that time period, trying to explain the feelings of fear and paranoia that pervaded the culture and politics of the time. For her, it is hard to imagine that one person could stand up and make completely unsubstantiated charges about other people and alleged foreign conspiracies and gain the attention of the nation and the media. Though on reflection, maybe the hardest thing for her to imagine is that at the time, television was black-and-white.

    The next movie we’ll watch: The Front.




    My wine of the week: the 2009 Dornier Cocoa Hill Chenin Blanc 2009, which is bright and crisp and perfect as the weather gets a little warmer.

    BTW...this happens to be one of the April selections from the MNB Wine of the Month Club. For more information, about this new MNB offering CLICK HERE.




    That’s it for this week. have a good weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Slainte!
    KC's View: