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    Published on: January 9, 2013

    by Kate McMahon

    "Kate's Take" is brought to you by Wholesome Sweeteners, Making The World a Sweeter Place.

    It’s that time for MNB’s culinary crystal ball – a compilation/critique of 2013 Food Trend prognostications from across the internet.

    Canning is suddenly cool again and smoked flavor (even in ice cubes) is hot. “Sexy” vegetables and “heirloom” chicken (who knew?) are in, and popcorn in several guises pops up on many lists. But still the leading trend is continued, fervent consumer demand for more flavor, farm-to-table/locally sourced products and transparency about ingredients.

    “Nothing sells like pure and simple,” says Sharon Olson, executive director of the research firm Culinary Visions, which surveyed more than 3,000 consumers and interviewed dozens of food experts.

    While hard-core foodies debate whether the Asian mustard green komatsuna is the new kale and if cupcakes are truly passé, we’ve perused two dozen lists and offer this roundup of less controversial predictions:

    Small footprint, big impact: The authentic ethnic flavors emanating from street markets and food trucks will continue to influence diners and supermarket shoppers. Think Korean hot sauce, Peruvian ceviche, Middle Eastern spices and Japanese ramen noodles of all shapes and sizes going mainstream.

    Popcorn gets Snack of the Year billing: Look for this fiber-filled snack in breakfast granolas and as a topping for salads, desserts, tacos and ice cream. Butter-and-salt coatings are replaced by white truffle oil, fennel dusting or glazed caramel.

    Not just a side dish: “Vegetables will continue to move to the center of the plate, catering to vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians, foodies and nutrition conscious carnivores alike,” said David Sprinkles of the consumer research firm Packaged Facts. Expect more savory greens, beets, spigarello (a leafy green which tastes like broccoli) and Brussels sprouts in the mix.

    New birds on the block: Move over Perdue and make way for heritage chicken breeds such as the Buckeye, the Java and the Jersey Giant, mostly raised by small-scale family farmers.

    “Free” market principles: With food allergies and health concerns on the rise, consumers want more gluten-free and dairy-free products, natural sweeteners, salt alternatives and soy-based offerings that please the palate. Chefs and bakers say a grain called teff, a key ingredient in traditional Ethiopian flatbread, does just that. In one trend article, Jim Hiller of Michigan-based Hiller Markets told Hour Detroit: “In my stores now, I have more than 5,000 gluten-free items. It has become a way of life for many people.”

    Stock up on mason jars: Canning and pickling are back in style, a natural extension of the locavore movement. And there is newfound attention paid to fermenting, and foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, for both their unusual meld of tastes and probiotic benefits.

    Also on the watch list: Higher-quality wine-in-a-box options; exotic eggs, i.e. duck, goose and quail; coconut water and milk; Greek yogurt-based dressing, dips and even cheesecake; smoked meats and charcuterie, and Prosecco replacing champagne as the new celebratory drink.


    The takeaway for retailers, producers and marketers is this: While cupcakes and kale may come and go, the American public’s demand for healthy foods and ingredient integrity is here to stay.

    Comments? Send me an email at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    This isn't specifically about retailing ... but it is about finding and exploiting differential advantages, which is the name of the game for any smart marketer.

    USA Today has a story this morning about how Netflix is devoting roughly 10 percent of its $2.3 billion content budget to creating its own TV series that are designed to a) give it content that people can't see anywhere else, b) positions the company to compete not just with distribution companies such as Redbox, but also with broadcast and cable networks.

    Among the series are "House of Cards," a political drama starring Kevin Spacey, and "Arrested Development," which is a followup to the 53-episode cult comedy series that went off the air in 2006.

    In addition to providing original content, the Netflix model will make every episode of the new series available at the same time, so people can watch them when they want to - not doling them out one episode a week, like the traditional networks do. This distribution approach turns orthodox methods on their ear, but they also cater to "binge viewing" habits that have been developed by many people when entire seasons of TV series became available on DVD or via On Demand. (I'd love to know how many people have watched all of "Homeland" in a matter of days, just because they could not stop themselves.)

    The goal is simple - to compete more effectively for eyeballs with essentially private brand offerings in an environment where there are myriad distractions.

    It is very smart, and a great model for virtually every marketer - the consuming public is different than it used to be, the competitive environment is more crowded than it used to be, and every effort has to be made to find new ways to compete with new and differentiated products and services.

    It's an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    Marketplace, which is heard on National Public Radio, reports that "a federal District Court judge tentatively ruled yesterday that Walmart can be added as a defendant to a class-action lawsuit brought by temporary warehouse workers. The workers move boxes exclusively for Walmart at a big warehouse in Mira Loma, California, outside Los Angeles.

    "This particular warehouse is operated for Walmart by a big national company called Schneider Logistics. The workers allege massive wage-theft and other serious violations -- like failing to pay proper wages and overtime. The California Labor Department issued over $1 million in fines in late 2011, just before the lawsuit was initially filed. It covers a potential class of approximately 1,800 workers."

    The entire story can be found here.
    KC's View:
    Not being a lawyer, I have no idea what Walmart's legal culpability might be in this case. But I have to admit that I would be amused by any suggestion by Walmart that it has little or no control over policies and procedures at warehouses owned and operated by other companies but that serve as critical links in its supply chain.

    It is my experience and understanding that part of Walmart's formula for success is trying to control all of the various moving parts that make up its operation, and maintaining a hands-on approach to everything. And even if it is not dictating policy, its demand for lower, lower and lower prices and costs ends up forcing its vendors to shape their policies with those demands in mind.

    Walmart's bigger problem is that if it is found guilty in this case, it could open the door to it being named and found culpable in other lawsuits.

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    Target announced that it will now match the prices found on the websites of all its online competitors, including Amazon.com.

    According to DailyFinance.com, "The new policy is similar to the one Target implemented during the 2012 holiday shopping season, but now, it will operate year-round."

    The story goes on: "Under the new policy, customers will get a price-match if they can provide proof of a lower price at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, ToysRUs.com, BabiesRUs.com or BestBuy.com. They can also score a retroactive price-match if they bring in proof of a lower price (and their receipt) within 7 days of their purchase. Target will also price-match its own website, as well as any deals you later find in the following week's weekly ad. And shoppers using Target's REDcard can still get their 5% discount on top of the price match."

    However, Target will not price-match third-party vendors on these sites.
    KC's View:
    his is simple reality. Though I think that Target ought to be more focused on creating a differentiated shopping experience that makes price matching a little less important.

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    The NY Daily News reports that there is a new Facebook application designed to help you figure out who gave you the flu.

    According to the story, the application "trolls through friends’ profiles looking for keywords such as ‘sneezing,’ ‘coughing,’ and ‘vomiting’ as well as check-ins to find the culprit who may have passed on the virus.

    "'Hello. I’m sorry you have the flu,' reads the app. 'Nothing will make you feel better like finding somebody to blame'."

    The story notes that "the app also allows users to send a message to the offending virus-spreader or purchase remedies from the healthcare company that runs the app, Help Remedies."
    KC's View:
    The application may only help afflicted people to feel a little bit better, but it could conceivable get a lot of use - the current flu season is said to be one of the worst to hit the nation in years.

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal, in its "Heard on the Street" column, offers the following analysis of the decision by Sears Holdings chairman Edward S. Lampert to take on the CEO role, in the wake of the resignation of Louis J. D’Ambrosio because of "family health matters."

    Lampert, the column notes, will take on the job while continuing to run his hedge fund, ESL Investments and "although the company says Mr. Lampert has gained retail experience from his chairman's role at Sears, as well as board positions at AutoZone and AutoNation, when it comes to directly running a large public company, he is untried.

    "Meanwhile, years of underinvestment continue to weaken Sears's competitive position. In the U.S., it reported that comparable sales at its Sears stores were up just 0.5% in the nine weeks ended Dec. 29. That was despite the missteps of competitor JC Penney and the boost that housing-market improvement has given to appliance sales. At its Kmart stores, sales fell 3.8%.

    "To right itself, the company will need some leadership. For all his investing prowess, Mr. Lampert has yet to show he is up to the job."
    KC's View:
    Not to make light of the circumstances of his resignation, but it seems at least vaguely possible that the health matters influencing D’Ambrosio's decision are all the headaches and heartaches involved in running Sears.

    I've also said it before and I'll say it again. Fast Eddie may know about hedge funds, but he probably knows a lot less about hedge clippers ... and that's what he needs to know about if Sears and Kmart are to be saved.

    "Investing prowess?" Not in this case.

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    The Seattle Times reports that Amazon is contributing $30,000 in $100 gift cards that are being given to residents who turn in guns to the Seattle Police Department. In addition, the Seattle Police Foundation is buying another $25,000 worth of gift cards to be used in the effort.

    According to the story, the initiative was "announced Tuesday by Mayor Mike McGinn and other city leaders to reduce firearms in the community ... Handguns, rifles and shotguns are worth a $100 gift card. Guns classified as assault weapons are worth $200.

    "Participants need not worry about being accused. Police said they won't take photos or record license plates. No ballistics tests will be conducted on the weapons ... The department will check to see if any of the guns are reported stolen and return those to the owners ... The guns become property of the Seattle Police Department and will be destroyed."

    In a related story, the Tucson Sentinel reports that "more than 200 unwanted guns were turned in to be destroyed in exchange for $50 grocery store gift cards Tuesday. The buyback was aimed at honoring the victims of the Jan. 8, 2010, Safeway shootings.

    "Throughout the morning, a line of gun owners filed through the parking lot of a Midtown police station, as gun enthusiasts demonstrated against the buyback and offered some owners more money for their weapons. 206 guns were collected, said Tucson Police Department spokesman Chris Widmer."

    The gift cards were paid for by some 20 private donors.

    The Tucson effort coincided with - but was not related to - the decision by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded in that January 8 shooting, and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, to launch a political action committee aimed at countering what they see as the outsize lobbying influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its brethren.
    KC's View:
    Retailers are part of the communities that they serve, and playing this sort of role strikes me as entirely appropriate and laudable. Though I'm sure that they'll get some blowback from pro-gun forces, it may be that the paradigm is shifting and that people calling for reasonable and effective gun regulation (which is very different from banning guns) are getting the upper hand in this political and cultural discussion.

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    The San Francisco Chronicle has a story about a Walgreens near Union Square there that is being remodeled...

    "A sushi bar would have been included at Walgreens' remodeled 19,000-square-foot flagship at Union Square, but 'there are so many sushi restaurants in the area' - 32 within walking distance - that the company decided to take a pass here, according to a Walgreens executive.

    "Still, there's going to be plenty of food among the 'specialty items' when the Powell Street store, expanded to a second floor (replacing a Lori's Diner), reopens in the spring. Although the company would not disclose details, a bakery, smoothie and coffee bar, and 'fine wines' have been mentioned previously."

    That Walgreens is one of some 30 stores operated in the Bay Area that are expanding their food offerings.

    Those stores, the Chronicle writes, are part of heightened food store wars taking place in the region: "There's also going to be more fresh food and groceries for sale in the Bay Area in 2013 when Target opens three stores in San Francisco, Alameda and Petaluma; Walmart unveils two more 'neighborhood markets' in Pleasanton and San Jose; and new and repurposed Whole Foods Market and Safeway stores open."

    And the big question - what will happen to the 19 Fresh & Easy Neighborhood markets that are in the Bay Area, now that Tesco has essentially thrown in the towel on its US experiment and is looking for someone to sell the chain to or someone to sell a majority of the chain to, unless it decides to just shut the whole thing down and cut its losses?
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that "the White House extended an invitation to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to participate in a meeting Thursday focused on curbing gun violence, but the retailer declined due to a scheduling conflict, a company spokesman said.

    "The meeting is part of a series of gatherings Vice President Joe Biden is holding this week with a wide range of organizations, including the National Rifle Association and victims’ groups, as he and other administration officials undertake a broad review of gun violence in the wake of the December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. On Thursday, the vice president is scheduled to sit down with gun owners’ groups, including the NRA, as well as advocates for sportsmen and sportswomen.

    "Wal-Mart, which has been in talks with the White House over responsible firearm sales since the Newtown shooting,was asked to join the Thursday meetings. The company is the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition; it doesn’t break out data on its firearm sales."

    The story notes that "in 2008, Wal-Mart joined the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership, a group created by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to urge retailers to adopt stricter gun-sales rules."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    • Michael Gilliland,the 54-year old founder of Wild Oats and Sunflower Farmers Market who was arrested in 2011 after he agreed to pay $100 to have sex with a girl he thought was 17 years old (but who, in fact, was an undercover police officer), yesterday was sentenced to four weeks in jail for "misdemeanor attempted pandering."

    According to the story, "Gilliland, who founded Sunflower in 2002, resigned as chief executive of the chain after his arrest. He was originally charged with felony child prostitution but pleaded guilty to attempted pandering in August. He faced a sentence ranging from probation to 18 months in jail."

    The story goes on to say that "Jean-Jacques Cabou, a lawyer for Gilliland, said the arrest cost his client his job, tarnished his reputation and overshadowed his philanthropic work ... Gilliland, who lives in the upscale Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley, is now launching a Midwest-based chain of food markets."

    • The Associated Press reports that McDonald's is expanding its test of what it calls "Mighty Wings" - sold in three, five or 10 pieces, with prices starting at $3 - from Atlanta to Chicago.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    • Barry Judge, the former chief global marketer at Best Buy, has been hired by daily deals site Living Social to be its chief marketing officer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 9, 2013

    I am out of town on a speaking gig, and time is a little tight. But I promise that Your Views will be back soon.
    KC's View: