retail news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

• The Chicago Tribune reports that "McDonald's has declassified the Big Mac's special sauce" in a YouTube video featuring the chain's executive chef, Dan Coudreaut in which he answers a question about how to make a Big Mac at home - including what is in the special sauce immortalized in the 1974 ad campaign about how the Big Mac consists of "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."

"The answer," the Tribune writes, "comes just 36 seconds into the 2-1/2 minute video.  The chef pulls out a mixing bowl with mayonnaise, relish and yellow mustard. To it he adds a little white wine vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika 'to enhance the color.'  A little whisking and voila -- special sauce." The percentages are not specified, but not hard to estimate - and the video has been viewed some two million times.

"This is taking transparency and openness to a new place," says a company spokesman. "We've got some really engaged customers that have valid questions about ingredients and the way we produce our food."

Next up ... Coca-Cola will unveil the recipe for its flagship drink. Yeah, right...

• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Campbell Soup will try to lure young consumers to the soup aisle with a spicier variety called "Go! Soup," described as "a ready-to-eat meals line coming this month in varieties that include chorizo, pulled chicken with black beans, and golden lentils with Madras curry. To provide fresher ingredients and speed preparation time, the new soup line eschews the traditional cans in favor of plastic pouches in colors such as fuchsia. Campbell is using similar pouches in its skillet sauces, another new line that includes flavors such as creamy chipotle."

• The New York Times reported over the weekend on how supermarket perimeter departments is the sexy heart of the modern food store, offering fresh foods that give savvy retailers a differential advantage over competitors - and therefore more and more retailers are putting a great emphasis on it.

Gee? Y'think?

It is when reading stories like this that I feel old. Because I think I wrote my first story about the supermarket business in late 1984, and I think it is a pretty good bet and that I used the phrase "perishables around the perimeter, packaged grocery in the core," making the point that it is the perimeter of the store that usually defines a store's narrative.

Some things have changed since then. For one thing, I try to avoid the word "perishables," preferring "fresh foods." As one retailer once told me, "Fresh foods taste great and look great. Perishables rot." I thought that was really smart.

Every once in a while, I hear a retailer refer to the perimeter as the "periphery." Note to retailers ... you don't want your fresh foods to be on the periphery. They may be on the perimeter, but in most cases, they serve as the core of your heart and soul.

KC's View: