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    Published on: April 19, 2013

    "How very strange that the cowardice unleashed on us should come on Marathon day, on Patriots’ Day, a day that marks both the unofficial end of our long winter hibernation and the first battle of the American Revolution. And just as we are taught at times like this not to lose touch with our spiritual faith, let us also not lose touch with our civic faith.

    "Massachusetts invented America. And America is not organized the way countries are usually organized. We are not organized around a common language or religion or even culture. We are organized around a handful of civic ideals. And we have defined those ideals, through time and through struggle, as equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play.

    "An attack on a civic ritual like the Marathon, especially on Patriots’ Day, is an attack on those values. And just as we cannot permit darkness and hate to triumph over our spiritual faith, so we must not permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith. That cannot happen. And it will not.

    "So, we will recover and repair. We will grieve our losses and heal. We will rise, and we will endure. We will have accountability, without vengeance. Vigilance, without fear."

    - Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, at yesterday's memorial service for the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks

    "You’ve shown us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion. In the face of those who would visit death upon innocents, we will choose to save and to comfort and to heal. We’ll choose friendship. We’ll choose love .... And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us -- to push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race. We finish the race."

    - President Barack Obama, at yesterday's memorial service for the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Procter & Gamble has informed its suppliers that it "is planning to add weeks to the amount of time it takes to pay its suppliers, a shift that could free up as much as $2 billion in cash for the consumer products giant."

    The Journal notes that "P&G is actually late to this game. It currently pays its bills on average within 45 days, faster than the 60 to 100 days that other consumer products makers and large companies in other industries generally take, according to industry experts. The company is looking to move its payment terms to 75 days and recently started negotiations with suppliers, people familiar with the matter said.

    "To help suppliers deal with the changes, P&G is working with banks that will offer to advance cash to suppliers after 15 days for a fee, some of the people said. The changes are expected to be phased in over three years and ultimately could affect hundreds of companies, the people said."

    The story also says that "P&G could use that cash to fund investments in new factories overseas or to help pay for stock buybacks ... The move highlights how America's biggest companies continue to build on the aggressive cash management practices they adopted in the wake of the credit crisis. What began as a way to preserve cash when markets dried up a few years ago has become a means of freeing up money to fund expansions, buy back stock and support dividend payouts at a time of lackluster sales growth and shrinking profit margins."
    KC's View:
    I have to be honest here. This is an area about which I know very little, though the explanation for why it makes sense for P&G to do so certainly rings true. I'm not sure that suppliers who now will have to borrow money for a fee will agree with the logic, however. And I wonder how P&G would react if its major retail customers decided to delay paying invoices issued by the CPG giant because they wanted to be smarter about managing their money, and told P&G that it's okay, they can just get a low-interest loan to cover the longer payment period.

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Budweiser is introducing a new can this spring - a bow-tie-shaped can that looks like it has been crunched.

    According to the story, "While it may seem like just a gimmick, it wasn’t exactly cheap for the company, and it will have costs for beer drinkers, too. For one thing, the new cans will hold only about 11 ounces, not the 12 ounces to which beer drinkers are accustomed. Also, the company said it actually took years to upgrade its facilities to produce the new cans."
    KC's View:
    One expert says that the move from 12 ounces to 11 ounces may be highly profitable for Budweiser, that "beer, more than most industries, is about massive amounts of scale, so if you can shave down the amount in each can by any significant amounts, that’s actually a big effect overall.”

    I'm not sure that's the right message to be sending to Bud drinkers ... especially at a time when the company already is under fire because of still-unproven charges that it has been watering down its beer to save money.

    There is a common thread emerging that won't necessarily bolster Bud's brand equity.

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying that "human infections from dangerous bacteria linked to food contamination rose last year, with a sharp increase in illnesses from organisms found in shellfish ... The number of infection cases reported in a sample group of states increased 3% in 2012 from the previous year, an agency calculation showed. That included a 25% surge in infections from the Vibrio bacterium, found in raw oysters and undercooked shellfish. Government officials said they couldn't pinpoint a reason for the surge."

    And, the story says, "Human infections from the Campylobacter bacterium, commonly a result of eating undercooked poultry or from cross-contamination of other foods, were virtually flat from 2011, but showed a 14% increase from the 2006-2008 period."

    "About 48 million people get sick from contaminated food every year," the CDC estimates.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    Reuters reports that a New York appeals court has ruled that embattled JC Penney can sell products designed by Martha Stewart Omnimedia and sold under the "JCP Everyday" label - at least until an appeal by Macy's is decided.

    Macy's, which has a contract with the style doyenne, has been suing to stop JCP from selling the products, claiming that it violates its exclusivity agreement. A judge had previously ruled that JCP could sell the products, Macy's appealed and asked for a temporary order that would halt the sales until the appeal is heard. But the court said the unbranded items can be sold for the time being, and that the appeal by Macy's will be expedited.
    KC's View:
    It is incredibly hard to see how JCP gets itself out of the hole its in, especially since the strategic imperative seems to be to turn back the clock, and preferably a clock designed by Martha Stewart.

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    Bristol Farms announced that it will open a new store in Santa Monica in mid-summer 2013, on Wilshire Blvd. there.

    “Our new Santa Monica location will be the perfect addition to the Bristol Farms family of stores.  The store site is a former grocery store location that was closed in late 2012.  The extraordinary neighborhood and surrounding community will be an exceptional fit for a high quality fresh food store like Bristol Farms,” said Kevin Davis, president/CEO of Bristol Farms.

    In November 2010, Supervalu sold the then-14 store Bristol Farms division in Southern California to a partnership made up of Davis, the division’s management team, and Endeavour Capital, an investment firm experienced in grocery and retail businesses.
    KC's View:
    Good to see a company like Bristol Farms growing ... I always thought that being part of the Supervalu business was an utter mismatch, and now it has the freedom to do what it does best, and expand its footprint.

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    • Ahold USA and its Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. have pledged a half-million-dollar donation to the One Fund Boston, which has been established to support victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

    “Words cannot express the tragedy that took place at the Boston Marathon,” Joe Kelley, president of Stop & Shop’s New England division, said in a statement. “We mourn with all of those who were affected. Our thoughts and prayers are with the city of Boston and our local and global communities as the details of this tragic event continue to unfold.”

    Bloomberg reports that "Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc., the gift-card provider owned by grocer Safeway Inc. (SWY), raised $230 million in its initial public offering, pricing the shares above the marketed range.

    "The company sold 10 million shares at $23 each, according to a statement yesterday, after the Pleasanton, California-based company offered them for $20 to $22 each. Blackhawk will start trading today, listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol HAWK."

    • The Associated Press reports that New York State is claiming to be the country's number one yogurt producer, churning out "692 million pounds of yogurt last year to take the top spot. California was No. 2 after producing 587 million pounds.

    "New York yogurt plants have nearly tripled production in the last five years — the same span that saw milk production rise by 1 billion pounds to over 13 billion, making it the nation's fourth largest milk producer."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    ...will return. I must admit that this morning I've been captivated by the coverage of unfolding events in the Boston area. We'll get back to your emails on Monday.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2013

    42 is not a perfect movie, but it is a story that needs to be told, over and over, about Jackie Robinson, one of the most important people of the 20th century.

    That's not hyperbole on my part. I've always felt that way. Jackie Robinson's role as the first black man to play Major League baseball broke down barriers in a way that could not be ignored by the American public, in ways that helped to ignite the civil rights movement in this country. And he did it with a righteousness and basic decency - not to mention an extraordinary, transformational athleticism - that could not be ignored.

    It is a hard story to film, in part because the demands of the times and Branch Rickey, general manager of the Dodgers, included the requirement that Jackie Robinson not show his interior life, that he be stoic in the face of the worst kind of prejudice. That made Robinson hard to criticize, but it also makes him harder to play. He is the ore of the story, but in some ways the events being dramatized are taking place all around him.

    That said, Brian Helgeland (the writer of LA Confidential, The Green Zone and Mystic River, as well as a graduate - may I say with a certain level of pride - of Loyola Marymount University) has done a strong job writing and directing the Robinson story. One of his real strengths is casting - Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, Nicole Baharie as his wife, Rachel Robinson, and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, form a trio that gives the film a real moral and ethical backbone.

    Ford has the showiest role, and he is all bluster and eyebrows as he challenges baseball and societal orthodoxy. He's also terrific ... and I can't remember the last time I said that about Harrison Ford. It's like he's been set free by actually having a character to play, as opposed to an icon or stereotype. Baharie is both beautiful and totally convincing as a woman deeply in love with Jackie and understanding that there is both a toxicity and a nobility to their circumstances. And Boseman manages to communicate through his eyes and posture the inner rage of a man yearning to be treated as an equal by a society that does not see him that way - it is an excellent performance that manages to give us a sense of the man's inner life. (Kudos, also, to Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher and Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman - two managers with vastly different views of Jackie Robinson.)

    Interestingly, I've heard two sound bites in recent days that sounded remarkably similar. One was an interview with Robinson on "Meet The Press" in 1957, and the other was a sermon given by Martin Luther King Jr. ... and in both cases, they made the case forcefully that while some people thought that black people should be patient about gaining full rights, the time for waiting was long past.

    "I think if we go back and check our record the Negro has proven beyond a doubt that we have been more than patient in seeking our rights as American citizens," Robinson said. "Be patient, I was told as a kid. I keep hearing that today. Let's be patient; let's take our time; things will come. It seems to me, the Civil War has been over about 93 years; if that isn't patience, I don't know what is."

    That seething righteousness is implicit to Boseman's performance, and the film as a whole.

    If I have one complaint about the movie, it is that it is, at times, predictable. There are moments when the screenplay seems to be checking off the points that it thinks need to be made. One example - a scene where a father and son attend a ballgame together, and when he hears his dad utter racial epithets about Jackie Robinson, the son does the same. It struck me as being an obvious scene ... but it also had an undeniable power.

    42 is a movie that seems to capture a time and place with great accuracy. (Not so much some of the baseball details, but that's in the name of drama.) It deserves to be seen. It needs to be seen. And today, when I put on the blue Brooklyn Dodgers cap that I've been wearing for years, I'll do having a little better sense of the man who best personified the Dodger franchise.

    There are two movie trailers online that have absolutely ignited my imagination - for Man of Steel, the new Superman reboot, and Star Trek Into Darkness, the latest film in the venerable franchise. Go check them out ... and if you're anything like me, you'll be ready to buy your tickets now.

    Two wines to recommend to you this week...

    • 2011 Griffin Creek Viognier, from Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley, a lovely white wine perfect for sipping as the days get warmer.

    • 2010 NxNW Cabernet Sauvignon, a delicious blend of grapes from a number of regions in the Pacific Northwest (or, as it is known here at MNB Global Headquarters, paradise).

    That's it for this week.

    Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    KC's View: