retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    by Kate McMahon

    After 15 years, and 15 billion recipes viewed online, the folks at are out with a survey illustrating how the internet and mobile technology have dramatically changed the way Americans shop and cook for their families.

    And no, that 15 billion is not a typo., which bills itself as the world’s No. 1 digital food brand, also claims its 25 million home cooks have uploaded, saved or shared nearly 200 million pieces of content, downloaded 14 million apps and created 1,000 original videos in a community that encompasses 22 countries and 11 languages. Not bad for a site begun in 1997 by five graduate anthropology students in Seattle with a shared love of cookies.

    In honor of its anniversary, returned to the questions posed by a 1997 survey and produced a new report, "The Measuring Cup: What American Families Are Eating 1997-2012 Then and Now." Granted, the 2,500 respondents to a survey sponsored by an online recipe site are biased toward that behavior, but the results are nonetheless worth noting and analyzing.

    Here a some of the highlights:

    Use of recipe websites as the #1 resource for cooking has surged 207% since 1999.

    The mobile phone as a kitchen companion is one of the most significant changes over the past 15 years. More than one-third of the online cooks use smartphones to look up recipes, 23% do so while in a store, some 18% use smartphones to create shopping lists and 16% to redeem digital coupons.

    The top ingredient search term in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia is – chicken. (Cookies and meatloaf hold the second and third spots in the U.S.)

    In 1999, when the average median household income was up 10%, only 3% of home cooks reported cost as the hardest part of getting dinner on the table. Today cost has increased 243%.

    Cooks look for how-to videos to accompany recipes, and see such videos as replacing learning to cook from parents and family members.

    The future is digital – the overwhelming majority of those surveyed see menu planning and shopping going increasingly digital and expect to redeem coupons, order groceries and pay all with their mobile device.

    Not surprisingly in today’s more health conscious era, 58% of home cooks surveyed said they chose recipes where they can use organic and natural ingredients, up 66% since 1999. But there is a disconnect between those responses and the Allrecipes’ Top 15 recipes of All-Time, which were far from low-fat and healthy. Leading off the list were World’s Best Lasagna, Banana Banana Bread, Good Old-Fashioned Pancakes, Easy Sugar Cookies and Awesome Slow Cooker Pot Roast.

    What is the lesson here for retailers, marketers and service providers? What started with a recipe for a Neapolitan cookie capitalized on shared interest and created a “community” of home cooks proud to wear that label and share their recipes. The site also kept up with technology, as evidenced by Dinner Spinner App for iPhone and Android, which was just upgraded to include Grocery Scanner feature. It allows shoppers to scan grocery barcodes directly from a smartphone to find recipes, add items to shopping lists or save items in a scan history, creating a “virtual pantry” to keep track of items at home.

    All in all, a recipe for success.

    Comments? Send me an email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    The New York Times this morning has a story about what this summer's hit song "Call Me Maybe" tells us about how the music business - and the consumers who drive it - have changed.

    "Only a year ago," the story says, "the charts were dominated by stars who had come out of the old machine of radio and major-label promotion: Katy Perry, Rihanna, Adele, Maroon 5. This year’s biggest hits - “Call Me Maybe,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and Fun.’s “We Are Young” - started in left field and were helped along by YouTube and Twitter before coming to the mainstream media."

    While traditional media - especially radio - are important, they tend to be bringing up the rear when it comes to shaping tastes, the story suggests:

    "In March and April, when 'Call Me Maybe' was getting tens of millions of views on YouTube, it still had relatively low radio play — fewer than 5,000 spins a week on Top 40 stations in the United States, according to Nielsen. It hit No. 1 on iTunes on May 27, but took almost a month to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s singles chart, which counts sales as well as airplay and streaming services. By then it had about 20,000 spins a week on multiple radio formats."

    While this story focuses on music, the broader lesson seems clear - that what we all think of as "traditional media" is not where the action is these days when it comes to really influencing how people behave. It isn't exactly a new story, but it bears repeating ... because it is only going to become more so.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times reports that "major food growers and processors" in California have raised $25 million to spend on the fight against a November referendum vote that, if it passes, would require labels on all foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

    The debate seems fairly straight-forward. Proponents believe that GM labeling is necessary because shoppers have a right to know what is in their foods, that there could be long-term health effects from GM ingredients, and that there is a reason that a number of European nations have mandated such labels, even in the US has not. (California would be the first state in the union to mandate GM labeling.) Opponents say that such labels will be costly and do nothing to improve the public health, since US regulators have already said that GM products are the same as non-GM products; they also fear that passage in California could have a domino effect around the country.

    According to the story, "Details of the campaign remain secret, but public reports of campaign finances show that contributions have more than doubled in the last week. Although the No on Proposition 37 campaign's biggest expense thus far has been about half a million dollars for political consultants and media experts, campaign officials said a major advertising campaign is in the works ... Last week, the No on Proposition 37 coalition reported receiving 22 new contributions totaling $13 million in addition to the $12 million it had already collected since the beginning of the year. Supporters of Proposition 37 have reported contributions of about $3 million."

    And, the Times adds, "The roster of financial backers for the opposition campaign reads like a list of bestsellers at the supermarket and a visit to an agricultural supply store."
    KC's View:
    To me, the most depressing part of this story is how big money from major corporations is being used to swing elections.

    Best democracy money can buy, apparently.

    If I lived in California, I think I'd vote for this proposition. Not because I am reflexively anti-science - which I'm not - but because I believe in transparency. I get worried when people tell me that I don't "need" to know something.

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    USA Today reports on a new study from the Generation Y research firm Millennial Branding saying that the just-out-of-college Millennial generation is turning to retail for employment while they wait for jobs to open up in their preferred fields.

    "The most common jobs held by Gen Y are merchandise displayer and sales representative, which they are about five times more likely to hold vs. all workers, shows a PayScale analysis of about 500,000 profiles submitted to the company in the past year by Millennials ages 19-30," the paper writes.

    "Those jobs are also among the lowest paid. Retail sales associate is listed as the fifth-worst-paid job, at an average of $19,300 a year, only better than cashier, barista, hotel clerk and dietary aide, the findings show."
    KC's View:
    It seems to me that a lot of these retailers would be smart to try to figure out how to convert this "port in a storm" to a real home for these Millennials ... by paying them better, by soliciting and valuing their input, and letting them know that retailing can be a rewarding career choice. Retailers that do this right, that take advantage of the moment, could end up with people who could be real game-changers for them.

    BTW...this is one of those moments when I feel old. The fifth lowest paying job identified in this story makes more than 19 grand a year. When I started out as a newspaper reporter in 1978, I was making around seven grand a year. And thought then that if I could just make $12,000 a year - or a thousand dollars a month - I'd be rich beyond the dreams of avarice....

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    Bloomberg reports that Whole Foods is "planning to triple its store count to 1,000 and boost sales by opening locations in underserved areas and smaller markets ... Whole Foods may open stores as small as 15,000 square feet and as big as 75,000 square feet, according to company filings."

    According to the story, Whole Foods is targeting two different kinds of areas for future expansion - urban neighborhoods that it sees as being under-served by the traditional supermarket industry, such as Detroit, Chicago, and Newark, and "smaller markets where populations of about 75,000 are up for consideration."
    KC's View:
    It is a noble experiment. It will be interesting to see how Whole Foods tweaks its mix and prices for some of these markets, but this is a strategy worth pursuing, IMHO.

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times reports on a new Gallup survey saying that "39% of U.S. drinkers prefer beer, while 35% favor wine. Less than a quarter list liquor as their top choice.

    "The majority of men go for beers, as do the biggest portion of drinkers under age 54 and those from the Midwest. But women, East Coast residents and older Americans all lean toward wine."

    Two-thirds of American adults are said to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, up from 64 percent just a year ago. (Been a tough year.) According to the story, "In a typical week, 12% said they had at least eight drinks. On average, respondents had 4.2 drinks in a seven-day period."
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    The Sacramento Bee reports that Raley's and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), locked in a lengthy battle over a new labor contract, will resume negotiations on August 31 - the first time the two sides have talked since June 8.

    The resumption of talks comes as UFCW members rejected a tentative contract agreement with Save Mart that the union said provided concessions needed by the retailer to keep all its stores open. Raley's has been pushing for concessions but has not gotten what it says it needs; over the weekend, it announced it is closing two more stores, for a total of six closed this year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Los Angeles Times story about Steve Cooksey, a North Carolina blogger who has an online advice column and dispenses "life coaching," often about losing weight, for a fee.

    The story said that North Carolina requires a license of people dispensing nutritional advice, and that Cooksey could be in some legal trouble.

    Well, an MNB reader directed our attention to a statement released yesterday by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition (NCBDN), in which it said unequivocally that it is not harassing Cooksey, has not threatened him with legal action, has no intention of challenging his free speech rights, and in fact doesn't even think that his blog violates North Carolina law.

    So Cooksey is free to blog and even charge for his nutrition advice without fear of being shut down by the authorities.
    KC's View:
    Too bad. I hate it when the truth gets in the way of a good story.

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    PC World reports that Walmart is hoping to lure customers into its stores by selling $100 iTunes cards for $80. The cards will be digitally delivered, and are only available to customers willing to provide Walmart with personal information, which Walmart says will be shared with third parties when appropriate.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

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

    • The Washington Post reports that "Americans throw away up to 40 percent of their food every year, cramming landfills with at least $165 billion worth of produce and meats at a time when hundreds of millions of people suffer from chronic hunger globally, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    "The analysis, a compilation of various studies and statistics, found that waste exists from farm to fork even as an ongoing drought threatens to boost food prices. But the resources that the government has devoted to identifying where the inefficiencies exist and how to combat them pale in comparison with efforts underway in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, the report concluded."

    • The Barrington Courier Review reports that the first Heinen's Fine Foods in Illinois is scheduled to open today at the Shops of Flint Creek center in Barrington.

    The 18-store chain, the story notes, "has a reputation for good customer service, quality product offerings, one day dock-to-store seafood, stocking locally grown produce, large selection of chef-prepared foods, and an extensive selection of fine wines, craft beers and artisan cheeses. It was founded in 1929 by a butcher, Joe Heinen. Heinen’s twin grandsons Jeff and Tom Heinen now carry on the family legacy."

    • Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market said that it will open a new store in its hometown today , which will be its first new Arizona unit in five years.

    The company has been expanding lately; it currently operates nearly 150 stores, with four more scheduled to open this year, and 15 new locations are planned for 2013, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, Houston and Denver.

    • Caribou Coffee announced that it is entering into an alliance with Supervalu-owned Jewel-Osco by opening up a location inside a Jewel-Osco store in Barrington, Illinois, to be followed by two more in the "near future" and five more next year.

    According to the story, "through this partnership, Caribou will not only offer its signature, cozy coffeehouse environment and distinct offerings to Chicago consumers who visit Jewel-Osco stores, but the brand will also introduce its premium packaged coffee throughout the Supervalu-owned grocery chain. These offerings include a broad spectrum of roasts and blends that will provide shoppers with more quality options."

    Wait a minute. Jewel-Osco is installing a Caribou Coffee in its Barrington, Illinois, store? The same Barrington, Illinois, that is getting a new Heinen's?

    Coincidence? I think not.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    • SymphonyIRI Group announced that it has named Beverly A. Grant as president of Retail Solutions.

    Grant is a 26-year Procter & Gamble veteran, having worked there in a variety of roles, including as vice president, general manager and chief channel officer, North America grocery channel; and global business director of beauty, market strategy and planning, food, beverage and pet nutrition, SymphonyIRI said. Most recently, she led Procter & Gamble’s $8.5 billion retail grocery business.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    Fast Company had an interesting story the other day about the importance of a company "mantra," which is defined as "a Sanskrit term, meaning 'sacred utterance' or 'sacred thought,' depending on the dictionary. Traditionally concentration aids given by Hindu gurus to devotees, mantras are words or phrases repeated to facilitate transformation. In business, a mantra is akin to a motto, albeit more fundamental to a company's internal purpose than simply a marketing slogan. It's concise, repeatable, and core to a company's existence ... Unlike mission statements, mantras are pivot-proof. They transcend current target markets and quarterly quotas."

    Or, to put it another way: "Make it short, sweet, and swallowable," says author Guy Kawasaki.

    Examples cited in the story:

    "Think different." (Apple)

    "Don't be evil." (Google)

    "Make something you love." (Huge, a digital agency)

    "Style to the people." (Stylecaster, a fashion website)

    A mantra, the story suggests, is necessary because it is "the guiding star, not the operating manual." And every company needs a guiding star.

    This has me thinking. While MNB always has been built around the phrase, "news in context, analysis with attitude," it sounds like the folks at Fast Company would define that as a mission statement. Not a mantra.

    Which makes me think it is time for a contest...

    Come up with an original mantra for MNB, and if you create the winner, you get an MNB goodie box, which includes a t-shirt with that mantra printed on it, an autographed copy of "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," and an MNB canvas shopping bag and an MNB canvas wine bag.

    We already have more than 200 entries, but the contest will remain open at least until Labor Day. One suggestion ... remember that the mantra is for MNB, which is not a retailer. (Some of the suggestions received to this point would be wonderful retail mantras, but are not really about what MNB does.)

    Let the games continue...
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2012

    From MNB reader Jeff McMullen:

    While I don't disagree with Michael Sansolo's comments about the lesson learned be the actions of the British 4x100 relay team, I think a better lesson was learned the next day in the finals when Canada won the bronze medal only to lose it due to a runner touching the line on the turn. When you read the attached story about Jared Connaughton you will surly agree with me that if more company executives "did the right thing" and "stepped up" when they "touched the line" as Jared did we would all be in a better place.

    The story Jeff refers to is about how Jared Connaughton, after his misstep caused Canada to be disqualified from the relays, has been dealing with the situation - owning up to his mistake, apologizing, and looking forward to doing better next time. No whining, no wallowing. And, in the process, he has become a kind of Canadian national hero - not for achievement, but for attitude.

    He's right, it is a good story.

    Got the following email from MNB user John Welsh Jr.:

    Regarding your comments today about both Boston Market and JC Penney:
    Ease off. Give them a break. They are trying to get their train back on the tracks. Snide comments don’t help.

    First of all, snide is what I do. At least some of the time, when it seems appropriate.

    But yesterday, I wasn't being snide about JC Penney. I was expressing a reality check when sent an email by an MNB user who had a fabulous experience there - that it was one customer down, and millions to go. In fact, I am extremely supportive of what JC Penney is trying to do, and I happen to believe that the company will only be successful one customer at a time.

    As for my Boston Market remark - I said I didn't even know the company was still in business - I'll grant you that it was a little snide. But c'mon ... Boston Market is a company that dominated the "meal solutions" conversation at one point in time, and now is almost completely irrelevant. (I'd be more likely to go to McDonald's than to Boston Market!) You don't think a little well-placed sarcasm is appropriate?

    Coupe is the name, snide is my game. Sometimes. (And no, that isn't my entry in the mantra contest...)

    Got the following email from MNB user Steve Sullivan, reacting to yesterday's story about Kings expanding into Connecticut:

    Here I am an IT professional working for a large food chain, headquartered in the Southeast.  I may be one of the few in IT that come from a real retail background.  I’ve worked for a frozen food broker out of Long Island, and Keebler as a sales rep.  Only by accident did I get into IT, working for a bank in NJ that moved to Philadelphia that moved to Charlotte.  Before that, I worked for a frozen food broker out of Long Island, and Keebler as a sales rep.

    But my first job was cashier with Kings Supermarkets, as a high school kid in 1966.  I later moved into the Frozen Food/Dairy department and was even front end manager / acting store manager, closing the store 3 nights a week at one point, at the age of 22.  It was here that I got my love of retail, marketing and merchandising.  I know Kings has gone through a few managements since then, but I always get a little nostalgic when I hear Kings mentioned.  Heck, I met this new girl working at the refreshment stand and married her 3 years later.  We later divorced but remained friends and proud co-parents.  Very sad to say, we lost her this year.

    So if you can, KC, let me give a shout out to anyone out there in MNB land that worked at the Kings-owned Packards Supermarket in Hackensack, NJ.  We were taught right and I appreciate that learning to this day.

    Done. With pleasure.
    In an Eye-Opener yesterday about Augusta National admitting its first two women members, I wrote, in part:

    I was going to say, "Welcome to the 21st century, Augusta National."

    But in fact, the more appropriate comment would be, "Welcome to the 20th century, Augusta National."

    Now, I'm sure this will spur some folks to point out to me that Augusta National is a private club, and is allowed to invite anyone - and not invite anyone - it wants. Which is true. Can't argue with that. And I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable argument for why not allowing blacks into a club until 1990 was not racism, and why not allowing women into a club until 2012 was not a form of sexism.

    If nothing else, however, the move by the club reflects an acknowledgement that the world has changed, and that the doors of the broader "club" are more open than ever.

    I'm taking my 18-year-old daughter to college on Friday, and we've been talking about a lot of issues in recent days because she's doing things like registering to vote, thinking about internships and career ... you know, life stuff.

    And as we talk about these things, it amazes me the kind of women's issues that continue to come up even in 2012.

    Which led one MNB user to write:

    I’m friends with a couple who are mixed race, he’s black, she’s Caucasian.  We were talking about restaurants one day and I recommended one to them.  I was taken aback when he asked if they were accepting of people of color (his words not mine).  I told him I never saw any overt signs of non acceptance, and then asked, is that still a concern in 2010?  He said sometimes it is, that when he or they go into a place sometimes he can feel people’s eyes on him, or them.  So yes, women’s issues, issues of race, they are still out there.  They may not be in the open as they once were, and sometimes I think some things get blown up out of proportion, but I’ve no doubt in some ways racism and sexism still exist.

    We had a story yesterday about the burgeoning mobile payments industry, and a number of people wanted to weigh in on the subject.

    MNB user Rich Barle wrote:

    I realize I’m a dinosaur, but I also believe in fiscal/personal responsibility, which many people do not.  Especially our government (but I digress).  While the technology available today is truly amazing, but IMHO believe this will lead to even more financial issues in the future.  There’s just something about paying in cash, knowing what you have available, and not exceeding that limit that credit cards or a smart phones can’t offer.  It is so much easier to swipe a card than pull out a $10, $20 or $50 to pay for something.  Take away the card and it becomes even less real.  While I do most of my shopping with cards (debit to pay in cash and credit for the points), and pay every possible bill online, I think there is a point where it’s a bridge too far and that many people will have an even more difficult time managing their cash flow, keeping track of all receipts, balancing their check book, etc.  The lack of personal and fiscal responsibility is hurting our country.

    I suggested yesterday that "resistance is futile," which led MNB user Tom De Luca to write:

    You, sir, could never be more correct.

    Not only is the plastic in our wallets becoming thinner so is the case for keychains too. On a recent visit to pick up prescriptions, the younger pharmacy tech asked me if I had an iPhone. I quickly responded "I already have your app on my phone". To which he patiently replied, "have you heard of CardStar?"

    This guy might as well been a brand ambassador for this app. He sold me on the benefits of taking all my frequent shopper cards off of my keychain and storing them in this really convenient app which allows you to flash your phone at the register instead of worrying if you've remembered your key ring.

    The application transcends traditional retailers and allowed me to put my library card and my gym access card onto my phone.

    So yes, resistance is futile - we are being assimilated.

    Cardstar is a great app. I agree.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I’m pretty tech savvy but have opted out of a data plan with my mobile provider. It’s simple economics. I’m not willing to pay the price because I don’t value the service. I may be in the minority, I don’t know, but if people like me are forced to buy data plans because debit and credit cards become ‘obsolete’, that amounts to the equivalent of some pretty hefty swipe fees.

    And, from another reader:

    For what it’s worth, I think it would be stupid of retailers to take away forms of payment that older generations are accustomed to in favor of smart phone apps.  Just because you like it, doesn’t mean everyone will.

    Wait a minute. It doesn't?

    An MNB user yesterday sent me a picture of an Amazon locker, and wrote:

    I read this article yesterday, then low and behold, I ran across this on my way into the office in Manhattan ... It was in the opening of a parking garage....

    It begins...

    And finally, reacting to an obit we ran yesterday...

    This is a sad day... Ms Diller most certainly helped change the face of comedy for women. She was the women's version of Bob Hope. She visited troops, hosted events, and never needed to go "blue" like some other women comedians. She was smart and wrote most of her own material, along with being a very talented musician. She was a true American success...
    KC's View: