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    Published on: March 28, 2012

    Article text.
    Wholesome Sweeteners is excited to launch a hot new sweetener to drive consumer excitement and improve category margins. Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is perfect for customers looking for a natural, unrefined raw brown sugar. Made from the nectar of the coconut palm tree flower, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is a whole brown sugar with a caramel taste that is perfect for cooking, baking, sauces, oatmeal, and hot & cold beverages.
    Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is a 1-for-1 replacement for conventional brown sugar, but will drive your profits at a much higher rate than commodity sugars. Make trading up easy with Wholesome Sweeteners in your assortment.
    Contact us today to learn more about maximizing your sugar category revenue in your mainline sugar set, or to be first in your market to carry this NEW and innovative Organic Coconut Palm Sugar:  1-800-680-1896 or email
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    by Kate McMahon

    Score one for the Dads.

    While the all-powerful Mommy Bloggers have long dominated the social media scene, America’s fathers flexed their muscles on the internet this month.

    The topic? Diapers. More specifically a Huggies “Dad Test” advertising campaign portraying fathers as inept, bumbling stooges. Dads were insulted by the outdated stereotype, and protested through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and an online petition.

    Leading the charge was Chris Routly, blogging author of TheDaddyDoctrine and full-time, stay-at-home dad of two sons, age 1 and 3. He launched the petition “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies” and had 1,000 signatures in no time.

    One of the ads in question featured a voiceover saying the Huggies are put “to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days."

    To which Routly’s petition responded: “How are dads a test? As a dad, am I simply too dumb to use them properly? Why is a dad on diaper duty an appropriate or meaningful test of the product in any way a mom using them is not?”

    He was joined by John Taylor of The DaddyYoDude blog, who wrote in an open letter: “How can you insult hundreds of thousands of dads, who serve as the primary caregiver, and in some cases THE ONLY caregiver, to their children?” The negative reaction lit up Huggies’ Facebook page and made national headlines.

    Credit Huggies and parent company Kimberly-Clark for a quick response. The marketing team reached out to Routly and others, and immediately yanked a TV ad showing a Dad ignoring his baby (and overflowing diaper) for a game on television.

    “The intention was not to pick fun at dads, but only feature real dads, with their own babies in real life situations putting our Huggies diapers and baby wipes to the test,” said the diaper giant’s spokesman Joey Mooring. “We have learned that our intended message did not come through and we have made changes.”

    New commercials are in the works, and now the Dad on the Facebook page appears proud and confident holding a happy child. Readers are encouraged to nominate “great Dads to put our diapers and wipes to the test.”

    Of course, not all the responses to the original campaign were critical. There were many “get a life” or “relax, have a sense of humor” comments – comparable to the debate over the controversial “Got Milk?/Prevent PMS” campaign or Dr Pepper 10’s “No Women Allowed” Facebook page.

    I reacted the same way to all three campaigns. Not funny, and not smart to alienate one gender when attempting to appeal to another. This is not male vs. female, but rather marketing common sense.

    Two lessons here:

    • Swift response to a social media firestorm not only puts out the blaze, but also wins valuable loyalty from consumers such as Chris Routly and the Dads who responded, and presumably, their spouses.

    Retailers and marketers need to realize that same socio-economic changes that have realigned shopping and parenting responsibilities present new challenges and opportunities. Forget the Mom buys the groceries, Dad buys the tools/car stereotype. Recent surveys have shown that in 39% to 51% of American households, the man was the primary grocery shopper. While diaper industry research shows that mothers still purchase the majority of diapers, both parents are using the product. The bottom line? Male or female, parents are demanding quality products, and they will use their smartphones to comparison shop and share their opinions on Mom and Dad blogs.

    Yes, Dad Blogs. The timing of the diaper debacle was such that the Huggies team rushed to Austin, TX for the first-ever convention of some 200 Dad bloggers, called the Dad 2.0 Summit, to smooth over differences.

    Score one for the Dads.

    Kate McMahon can be reached via email at .
    KC's View:
    I agree with Kate completely on this one. One of the things that really used to annoy me when my kids were little was when I’d be alone with them for whatever reason, and someone would say that I was “babysitting.” No, I’d respond, I’m not. I’m just taking care of my kids.

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    by Michael Sansolo

    The website for my local news radio station reports that AAA and the National Highway Safety Administration have abandoned the time-honored recommendation for where to place your hands on the steering wheel.

    “10 and 2” is no longer the recommended hand position. In its place we’re supposed to hold our hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. And some experts go so far as to suggest we should hold our hands at “8 and 4,” a position that would have cost me driving privileges back in the day when I though driving was a privilege.

    Apparently, this is all being done for good reason and good health. Thanks to airbags, the old position can lead to all kinds of injuries if the bag deploys. MSNBC reported injuries ranging from broken fingers to losing a hand. There are even times a driver has suffered a broken nose as a hand or two flew into their face.

    In fact, the driving gurus also suggest we re-learn how to hold our hands when turning to avoid crossing over the middle of the wheel. And this all makes sense, except for a few things.

    • How is this news? Airbags are hardly new. In fact, when my oldest child started driving nine years ago she knew about this change and, of course, reminded me that I was holding the steering wheel incorrectly.

    • How is this useful? Most young people today don’t even wear watches and tell time mostly on digital devices. So exactly what does 10 o’clock (or any other such number) say to people who have no need to know clock faces? Certainly there must be a more contemporary way to deliver this information. (Positions on a Starbuck’s cup perhaps?)

    • Why does this matter? These days I’m delighted to see other drivers holding onto the steering wheel with a hand at all. Between the eating, reading, texting, shaving and more, driving frequently seems like a distraction to many.

    But the bottom line is the old rule/guideline is gone and we probably are better off for it. Stuff just keeps changing and we have to change with it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    The Conference Board was out yesterday with its monthly assessment of consumer confidence, saying that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 70.2, down from a revised 71.6 in February.

    However, as the Wall Street Journal notes, this was not as bad as the 70 that was anticipated by economists.

    Confidence dropped a bit because of concerns about rising gas prices, the Conference Board said.
    KC's View:
    So, there’s a job posted, and three people apply for it - a mathematician, an accountant and an economist.

    At the interview, the mathematician is asked, “What is two plus two?” “For,” he says. “Exactly?” the interviewer says. “Yes, exactly,” he responds, a little surprised.

    The accountant comes in and is asked the same question. “Four, on average,” he says. “Give or take ten percent.”

    And then the economist is called in and is asked the same question: “What is two plus two?”

    The economist looks around, gets up, locks the door, goes over to the window and pulls the shades, checks to make sure that there is nobody else in the room, and then comes back over and sits next to the interviewer:

    “What do you want it to equal?” he asks.

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    Tyson COO Jim Lochner said yesterday that he expects that the current “Pink Slime” controversy to "put a fair amount of pressure on ground beef consumption," but that demand should recover “quite quickly,” though he also said that there likely would be “a 2% to 3% reduction in the available beef supply.” (Pink Slime, in case you have not been paying attention, is the pejorative terms used to describe filler that has been used in some ground beef, creating an outcry among some nutritionists and consumer advocates about lack of transparency.)

    According to the Associated Press story, Lochner also “framed the issue as a ‘two-week event’.”
    KC's View:
    Methinks that people should be careful about minimizing the importance of the Pink Slime controversy. The PR battle has been lost by the people in the industry who think that the issue has been blown out of proportion and that the nature of the filler has been mischaracterized, but they should pay close attention to the part of the discussion that has to do with transparency. If there is stuff in products that is not being labeled, there always is the possibility of a controversy. Not being transparent will be equated with being dishonest, with having something to hide. And because of the nature of 21st century communications, these controversies can burn like wildfires.

    Just a two-week event? I think not.

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    USA Today writes this morning about how some hotels are getting into the food truck business as a way of extending their brands and generating incremental sales.

    Among the hotels climbing on board: The Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC, the Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City, and the South Beach-based Setai Hotel and SLS Hotel in Miami.

    According to the story, “Many high-end hotels in recent years have enlisted award-winning chefs to turn their restaurants into destinations. So it's only natural that they'd try to capitalize on one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry, analysts say.

    “In a National Restaurant Association survey last summer, 59% of diners said they'd likely visit a food truck if their favorite restaurant offered one. That's a 47% increase from the previous year. Food trucks attract a variety of clientele, from the leisure traveler looking for a cheaper food option to the business traveler on the run.”

    In the case of the Ritz, it will open its food truck outside its popular Westend Bistro. The Setai is putting its food truck out by the beach, and the Auberge Saint-Antoine has one near a local vineyard.
    KC's View:
    Great idea for expanding the brand, especially if you have food worth bringing to new venues. I could easily see retailers like Dorothy Lane Markets and Lunds/Byerly’s operating food trucks in specific locations, allowing them to bring their excellent fresh foods to customers in unusual locales. (Byerly’s already sells its wild rice soup at Target Field, which is sort of along the same lines. I just wish they’d send a food truck in my direction that sells one of its signature sandwiches - smoked turkey, Jarlsberg cheese, a slice or two of bacon, topped with cranberry mayonnaise and served warm on toasted thick cinnamon bread - a sandwich so good I dream about it.)

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    Bloomberg reports that in the UK, Tesco “accounted for 30.2 percent of grocery purchases in the 12 weeks ended March 18, Kantar said today in a statement, an increase from 29.7 percent reported a month ago, though down from 30.6 percent a year earlier ... Wal-Mart Stores’ Asda chain increased its share to a record 17.9 percent from 17.3 percent a year earlier. The market share of J Sainsbury Plc and William Morrison Supermarkets Plc held steady at 16.6 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively.”

    The story says that Aldi “ increased its share of U.K. grocery spending to 2.6 percent from 2.1 percent a year ago. Waitrose, a unit of John Lewis Partnership Plc, boosted its share to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    ...with brief, italicized and occasionally gratuitous commentary...

    • The Orange County Register reports that beginning today, “Kroger-owned Ralphs will reduce prices on more than 13,000 grocery items at 248 Southern California stores, including 48 in Orange County. Prices on everything from eggs to shampoo to produce are being cut as the chain seeks to be a viable player in a region saturated with low-price rivals.

    Addressing the new EDLP strategy, Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said, "We knew if we wanted to be here for the long term, we needed to make changes. This is absolutely the largest investment we've made."

    United Press International reports that a pair of new studies conducted in the US and France suggest that “consumers who see food labeled as organic, locally produced or fair trade often assume the food is low in calories,” and that these claims “ exhibited the same ‘halo’ effect as those of other food claims, such as foods low in fat or cholesterol.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that “Safeway on Tuesday detailed the state of its pension obligations, moving to address concerns raised recently in the investment community about a potential rise in the supermarket operator's labor costs.

    The company said the underfunded liability for its multi-employer pension plans currently stands at roughly $1.88 billion on a pre-tax basis, adding that contribution increases and other actions have all helped to reduce that sum in recent years.

    “Safeway also said it expects to further reduce the underfunded liability through collective bargaining and improved market returns, among other actions. The company noted it believes that multi-employer pension plan contributions remain a ‘manageable issue,’ that are being efficiently handled by all parties involved.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    Yesterday I offered what I referred to as “gentle heresy” with some criticisms of some of the things I recently saw at Wegmans Massachusetts store, which led one longtime MNB reader - and Wegmans executive - to respond:

    Ouch, Kevin, I’m sorry your visit to our Northborough store didn’t measure up to your expectations. You are correct though, that while we love the accolades from our industry, our customers, and our people, we know we can’t rest on our laurels. As you’ve said, our current legacy is based on what we’ve done, our future legacy will be based on we do today and tomorrow, so our focus is to improve how we do that work and to create a great working environment for our people so you can have a great shopping experience as our customer. Thanks for the feedback, and really, thank you for shopping at Wegmans!

    I expected nothing else from the folks at Wegmans.

    MNB user Jim DeLuca wrote:

    It is tough to read how great Wegmans is, so I appreciate your more grounded analysis.   I compete in Wegmans home town and 80% of my customers spend the majority of their food dollars at Wegmans.  My last visit was on a Saturday.  I visited the store they are soon closing because it no longer fits there footprint style.  The East Avenue store has about 44,000 retail sq. ft and their new building will have about 85,000.   That East Av store has the highest sales per sq foot of all their stores, I've been told; and it is easy to believe.  On my visit, I was chagrined/jealous to note that they had at least a dozen sampling stations gathering crowds. The feel of this store reminds me of small shops in NYC, crowded but full of energy.  I am hoping that when they close the cozy store and open the big box, my store will benefit from the people who prefer to skip the BIG.

    My personal experience opinion based upon my shopping at a variety of Wegmans since 2004 is this:  not once until this last visit has anyone other than a cashier ever spoken to me. On this visit, when I noticed that all the prepacked bulk peanuts were expired or expiring on that day, I pointed it out to a stocker who did apologize (sort of; she blamed the product company for sending short dated product which made me  strangely happy that 1, they messed up; and 2, they thought blaming the distributor as opposed to the stocking team would pass as an excuse.  I guess a regular customer and not a grocer may not have noticed) and go thru all of the bags to find one at the back of the shelf with a reasonable use by date. Previously the only help I have received in the aisles has been from a product jobber.

    I try to avoid the sour grapes, but sometimes I just can't...

    From another reader:

    Everything is relative. I never really thought Wegman's in-store cafes were anything special. They were always good "for a supermarket."

    I also wish that people would refrain from using the term "fresh seafood" in supermarkets. As we all know, almost all fish sold by grocers are previously frozen - which is the best thing attainable in most places. Even outdoor seaside markets that give the impression of "fresh" are really selling commercial product now.

    Another MNB user joked (I think):

    OMG... you did not bow down to the all mighty W.

    Watch your back... someone may be coming after you!

    Not even a little bit worried. I think the response I got above will be typical of that most Wegmans folks will have.

    Of course, the email about Supervalu continues to come in...

    One MNB user wrote:

    I very much enjoy reading your content. Concerning “hard decisions” at Supervalu ... We are in the midst of our third (3RD) massive lay-off. This does not include lay-offs at store level (or labor issues due to strikes). We have had 17 (soon to be 18) consecutive quarters of negative “like store” sales. The most recent lay-offs eliminated our Structural Engineering staff, as we are building no new stores. East Coast banners (Shaw’s/Acme/Shoppers} are running 15-18% behind sales averages from the past two/three years. Jewel has lost 6% market share in Chicago in the past two years. Cub in MSP/STP is losing market share to alternative formats such as Trader Joe’s etc. Supply Chain business is down drastically in the past three years due to lost Target transfers (our alternative competitors), lost retailers (Nash/Finch etc.) and a genuine lack of interest on the part of Albertsons management to grow and nurture that business.

    There are no profits, and soon cash flow will lessen as management has sold off many well performing assets such as Risk Planners to pay down debt. Employee moral has reached an all time low, until next week. And the stock price is in the toilet.

    Hard decisions, and positioning itself properly for the future?  A cruise that could not be cancelled?  I managed stores for years and did not need an I-Pad to get out and meet/greet my customers.  After 17 quarters of like store sales should a cruise even be scheduled?  How about an Executive trip to tour stores in Great Britain?  My VP said the job eliminations were being done to "flatten expenses".  Should I believe that?

    Albertsons perished, A & P became a mere shell of its formal self, Winn/Dixie has been absorbed. Companies with poor management always have excuses, but the end result is you cannot “control” yourself to profitability. You have to define what you are and then compete well in that arena, You need to meet your customers needs and continue to “have what it takes” to keep your competitors chasing after you.

    What did Wegman's and Publix eliminate from their employee benefits packages this week?  How about Kroger, Safeway?

    Supervalu has no relevance in the grocery community any more. What is sad is that a Board of Directors which has a deep responsibility to both Share Holders and Employees sits back and allows this mess to happen.

    As the saying goes, “when the war ends, the dead do not get to go back home.”

    And another MNB user wrote:

    As a current Supervalu employee, I feel compelled to respond to the recent writer who asks if there is no loyalty any more. When companies show no loyalty to their employees, employees don’t show any loyalty back. That’s how it works – from the top down. We have seen huge layoffs throughout Supervalu but I have never once heard about anyone at the top taking a pay cut. We do not feel like we’re in this together. We barely get by, but those at the top are paid excessively. When will they take pay cuts and pay freezes so the rest of their workforce can actually afford to go to our own grocery stores? That’s when I’ll feel some loyalty to this company – when we’re in it together!

    Regarding the Pink Slime controversy, one MNB user wrote:

    You mention transparency. How was the labeling of the textured beef not transparent? It is in fact beef. It is treated with ammonia. Ammonia isn’t an ingredient. So how was it not transparent?

    Name a raw food that mentions on the label what it was treated with? Carrots? Apples? Chicken? Cheese?

    Treated with something the USDA and FDA has deemed safe and part of the “contains less than 2%” of the total make up.

    So it posses another question: do we not trust the USDA or FDA?

    Have those agencies become such big government that we have conspiracy theories about them as well as Congress?

    And if you do believe that yes, every single item we consume should have a “treated with” statement with the ingredient statement, then do not attack ONE item. Attack ALL food items and do it properly through the law. Not with a celebrity on a soap box.

    From another MNB user:

    The Beef industry & big super market chains do not want the public to really be informed about what they are buying.

    Case in point.

    Years ago it used to be the law that ads had to contain the grade of beef being sold  USDA Choice, USDA Select  etc.

    Today in our area the only store that labels their beef USDA Choice is Costco. They also have some USDA Prime.

    All the others have Angus Supreme, Ranchers Best, Ranchers Reserve or some other name and they are selling both

    USDA Choice & Select at the same price.  Some use select only , some use choice and the upper end of the select grade.

    The point is if they want the public to really respect them why not be honest ???

    And, from another reader:

    Any in depth, factual, and graphic representation of the Beef, Pork, or Chicken Industry would and should give pause to those who consume these products. Every animal component that can be is rendered. Detailed analyses of the process is a good thing for the consumer.

    These industries have funded their version of education and marketing to lead the public  to think that what they see shrink wrapped, in nuggets, on the grill, or between two buns as necessary, wholesome, and healthy. "Pink Slime" has gotten traction but these industries depend on many  processes that, under modest public scrutiny, would likely reduce consumption.

    Some seemed to think that the closing of three plants by BPI, which is mired in the controversy, is the fault of people like me. One MNB user wrote:

    Talk about shooting the messenger!  No disagreement that a big part of the problem is that many people do not trust government (FDA, USDA etc.) to adequately police the safety of foods. Also, many people have illogical fears unfounded in science about numerous food safety issues.  The use of the rBST "hormone" to boost milk production in cows is the extreme example.  When the public hears hormone, they think of steroids like DES (diethylstilbesterol).  Many hormones are steroids, but rBST is not a steroid.  rBST is identical to the BST naturally produced by the cow for the biological purpose of stimulating milk production.  Both BST and rBST are rapidly destroyed in the stomach when ingested.  Unfortunately some in industry saw a marketing advantage in the anti rBST activist publicity and added claims such as "rBST Free" to their labels.  FDA quite correctly thought that was misleading because it implied a difference in the milk that could not be substantiated.  Irradiation of certain foods would be a safe way to virtually eliminate the e-coli in salads etc. but a large number of consumers would instinctively avoid anything that was labeled "irradiated."

    It is a wonder that consumers still buy microwave ovens.  In the end, perception becomes reality, and consumers have the right to be irrational and have their prejudices no matter how unfounded. For business to ignore that would be swimming against the tide.  But it is a shame to waste that safe and nutritious "pink slime" when people in this world are starving though it would probably be politically incorrect to offer it to them.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    The troubled Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise has been bought by basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and a group of investors for $2.15 billion, almost double the previous high figure paid for a professional sports franchise ($1.1 billion for the Miami Dolphins three years ago).

    The acquisition brings to an end a sad chapter in Dodgers history - it was bought right years ago by Frank McCourt, who is said to have essentially plundered the team’s assets to support a lavish lifestyle, sending the storied franchise into bankruptcy.
    KC's View:
    This just seems like wonderful news all around - they get rid of McCourt, and they bring in a managing partner in Johnson who is a sports legend, a proven businessman, and someone with real marketing acumen.

    Now, if we could just get one of the groups that did not get the Dodgers to show some interest in the NY Mets...

    Published on: March 28, 2012

    Wholesome Sweeteners is excited to launch a hot new sweetener to drive consumer excitement and improve category margins. Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is perfect for customers looking for a natural, unrefined raw brown sugar. Made from the nectar of the coconut palm tree flower, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is a whole brown sugar with a caramel taste that is perfect for cooking, baking, sauces, oatmeal, and hot & cold beverages.

    Organic Coconut Palm Sugar is a 1-for-1 replacement for conventional brown sugar, but will drive your profits at a much higher rate than commodity sugars. Make trading up easy with Wholesome Sweeteners in your assortment.

    Contact us today to learn more about maximizing your sugar category revenue in your mainline sugar set, or to be first in your market to carry this NEW and innovative Organic Coconut Palm Sugar: 1-800-680-1896 or email
    KC's View: