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    Published on: May 1, 2013

    by Michael Sansolo

    The 2013 Boston Marathon will be forever associated with the tragic finish line bombing, yet it also provided a powerful metaphor for the increasingly challenging world of retail and management at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Future Connect Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.

    Kroger chairman/CEO Dave Dillon kicked off the conference with a solemn nod to the tragedy, leading a moment of silence for the victims, before making a business connection. In order to qualify for the 2013 race, he explained, runners had to post a marathon time of 3 hours and five minutes- a time that was faster than the winning time in the first Boston race back in the late 1800's. What was once good enough to win is today no longer good enough to even enter.

    As Dillon explained, the bar of competition and performance keeps getting raised, whether it’s for the race or success in business. Today’s business leaders need handle challenges, difficulties and competitive pressure beyond what their predecessors ever faced, which is why Dillon sees FMI's Future Connect as such an important program.

    The world of changes impacts even current leaders like Dillon. In a conversation prior to the event, Dillon detailed how Kroger now uses social networking for internal communications, including a weekly blog by the CEO himself. The internal network - called Yodel - was also detailed by Tim Massa, Kroger’s VP of talent acquisition in a special session on social networking.

    Massa and Dillon both talked about the incredible reach and connections formed by these efforts that give the CEO a direct link to Kroger’s 340,000 associates, and how it allows those same associates to talk back.

    Other highlights from Day One of Future Connect:

    • Classical pianist Jade Simmons gave a rousing address combining her musical skills with a call to the assembled to find their special gifts and passions to raise themselves and their companies to new heights.

    • Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, detailed special research on the increasingly global nature of food shopping, cooking and eating trends. Demeritt explained how the global nature of business and the changing demographics of the US are combining to reshape meal and menu choices.

    • FMI President Leslie Sarasin focused heavily on the growing power of consumers in the annual State of the Food Retail Industry presentation. Sarasin said the industry increasingly is finding that shoppers, aimed with ever-smarter technology, are increasingly knowledgeable about products, prices and shopping strategy. The result is that savvy retailers are recognizing that shopper power is now central to success at a level never seen before. Sarasin also detailed how most of the traditional supermarket industry has produced little or no sales gains since 1995, despite a substantial increase in overall square footage. Most of the sales gains, she explained, have gone to emerging formats over that period - principally supercenters and dollar formats.

    Sarasin also peered into the future with predictions by industry leaders that on-line sales will grow to 11% of all supermarket business within a decade (a number she called extremely conservative) with about one-third of those sales coming in fresh products.

    • And, FMI recognized the winners of the store manager of the year competition. Maggie McLaughlin, manager of Roche Bros. in Wellesley, MA, won for companies with fewer than 50 stores; Fernando Noriega, manager of United Supermarkets in Amarillo, TX, won for companies with 50 to 199 stores; Greg Giles, store director of Bi-Lo in Simpsonville, SC, won for companies with more than 200 stores; and Jun Oshima of Saltama, Japan, won the international competition.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    by Kate McMahon

    To every parent who has issued a “no cell phones at the dinner table” edict, take heart.

    We are not alone.

    A new ad for the recently launched Facebook Home mobile platform is set at a family dinner, as a middle-aged “cat crazy” aunt recounts her mundane trip to the supermarket. The hip young woman seated immediately to her right glances down at her mobile phone, smugly smiling as she clicks through friends’ photos. Soon the dining room is overtaken with visions of her pals dancing, rocking out and waging a world-class snowball fight.

    Some would argue the ad is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I still find it rude and a disturbing endorsement of our growing obsession with palm-held social networking in lieu of face-to-face conversation.

    The internet reaction points to what must be a generational divide, as the majority of the 12,000 plus comments posted that I viewed bash the video as “disrespectful,” “disturbing,” “arrogant” and “worst marketing campaign ever.”

    And yet more than 63,000 Facebook users have hit the “like” button.

    Two other videos for the Facebook Home platform follow suit in mobile-phone devotion. In one, an employee turns to Home drown out his boss - Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg - announcing the new product’s launch. In another, an airline passenger is so fixated on his phone he ignores the attendant’s request he turn it off. The Zuckerberg clip was mildly humorous, but the “Dinner” video really touched a negative nerve for me.

    I was at least heartened by the outpouring of support for a tech-free family dinner – such an integral yet seemingly threatened tradition in our lives.

    This post exemplified many others: “Is this what your dinners look like? No humanity in this. Teaching our kids to check out and engage with technology around the dinner table of friends and family is socially deadening, disrespectful, and callous of the importance of human connection and family ties.”

    It’s too simplistic to say this Facebook/Twitter/social media fixation is strictly an addiction of the Gen X or Y generation. I know plenty of adults who are hooked to their phones for sports or business news or even Words with Friends.

    But clearly the only way to communicate with the 18-to-34 demographic is through mobile technology. As the mother of two of them, I can tell you this crowd is not logging into a desktop to shop and communicate. Retailers, marketers and service providers need to think about getting their message/products literally into the palms of this demographic in order to reach their wallet.

    This also poses an interesting question for employers: How do you make certain mobile phone usage doesn’t impact workplace productivity? MNB did an informal, totally unscientific survey of some retailers and got the sense that while a number of them have policies preventing the use and even display of mobile phones while working, they also say - somewhat ruefully - that they know it is often ignored.

    There is some irony in the Facebook Home backlash. Facebook, after all, was created as a way to connect with family and friends, and yet the “Dinner” ad celebrates ignoring those closest to you to voyeuristically experience someone else’s life. Particularly when you consider that average 18-to-24-year-old has 510 “friends” on Facebook, and many “friend lists” are in quadruple digits.

    And I realize it is somewhat ironic that a columnist who often writes about the importance of retailers engaging in social media is critiquing this message, this medium. My response to this particular message is simple:

    Dinner is on the table. Check your phone at the door.

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

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe reports that Budweiser is introducing a new, well, gizmo - the "Buddy Cup, described as a "particularly unique drinking instrument is actually a beer glass, but boy oh boy, what a smart beer glass this has turned out to be! The Buddy Cup from Budweiser is smart enough to connect to Facebook, and this is made possible thanks to a built-in chip."

    A video about the Buddy Cup, which you can see here, shows how it works - when two Buddy Cups are clinked in a toast, that information goes to Facebook, where the fact that they "liked" each other is registered for all to see.

    The only thing that bothers me about this, to be honest, is that I really don't want that much information about what I'm drinking to be on the internet. (And I'd be really impressed if the cup could tell me if the beer has been watered down ... but maybe that's just me being cynical.)
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    Ad Week reports that Wired, the tech magazine that has "branched out into conferences, cultivated fashion and lifestyle advertisers," now has made a deal with Target, which will feature in its stores products curated by the Wired editorial staff ... The promotion will last for 12 weeks, just in time for the dads-and-grads season. If it goes well, there's the potential for it to expand to other shopping seasons."

    According to the story, "Wired will get an undisclosed share of the revenue, but if the history of such deals is a guide, it won't likely reap a lot of money from the sales of products. It is, though, a way for the Condé Nast brand to further test the retail waters, establish itself with a trendy retailer that’s had partnerships with the likes of Neiman Marcus and Missoni, and get exposed to a huge audience of potential new readers."
    KC's View:
    And Target, in making the deal, gets an exclusive promotional approach to products that may be sold elsewhere, but now will be getting the Wired imprimatur.

    I think that's enormously effective, when retailers actually find ways to define certain products as being better, as having a kind of seal of approval. The curation effect is one of the hot trends at the moment, and I believe that when retailers do this, even though they are making deals with the manufacturers, they become an agent for the consumer and not just a sales tool for the manufacturer.

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    Bloomberg Business Week reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing how food and beverage products with added caffeine affect children, a move that has been prompted by a new Wrigley chewing gum, Alert Energy, with caffeine.

    According to the story, the last time the FDA approved added caffeine in a food was for cola - back in the 1950's.

    Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said on the agency's website, "Today, the environment has changed. Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond those foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything FDA envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola."

    And so, Taylor said, the FDA is taking a "fresh look" at the issue and "if necessary, will take appropriate action."

    Mars Inc., which owns Wrigley, said it welcomes the opportunity to work with FDA on the issue.

    In its story on the subject, National Public Radio reports, "Does caffeine pose a risk to children and teenagers, aside from keeping them up past bedtime?

    "The American Academy of Pediatrics says yes. In 2011, the doctors' group said that children and teenagers should never use caffeine, because it interferes with sleep, boosts heart rate, increases anxiety, and can dehydrate.

    "But there's no research on the long-term effects of caffeine on children and teenagers, according to Steven Meredith, a researcher in behavioral pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine."
    KC's View:
    Considering how much caffeine some kids consume, between soft drinks and all the coffee drinks I see them downing at Starbucks, I think it is fair to say that it is about time that some definitive research on the subject gets conducted.

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    • The Huffington Post reports that Walmart is saying that it is expediting that hiring process for US military veterans, pledging to accelerate the timing to 30 days from application to job offer.

    According to the story, Walmart committed earlier this year to hiring 100,000 veterans over the next five years; the company says it already has 100,000 veterans on the company payroll.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    The Center for Food Safety is saying that more than 1.8 million people have "sent comments vehemently opposing the approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The effort was driven by a broad coalition organized over three years ago by the Center for Food Safety and consisting of public interest, consumer, environmental and animal protection groups, along with commercial and recreational fisheries associations and food businesses and retailers."

    In addition, the announcement says, "A variety of other groups also have voiced their opposition to GE salmon, including several indigenous groups. Citing numerous fisheries and economic concerns, over 250 businesses, individuals, public interest groups and fisheries organizations, representing fishermen and -women across the U.S., joined a letter to FDA, including the Alaska Trollers Association, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council."

    It has been reported that AquaBounty Technologies, the company that has developed genetically engineered salmon that grows to full size in half the time of conventional salmon, is predicting that it will get regulatory approval from the FDA before the end of the year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    Bloomberg has a story about how "price-matching has become a key marketing tactic for retailers from Wal-Mart to Target Corp. to Toys “R” Us Inc. as they try to attract shoppers amid an uneven U.S. recovery. "It’s a risky strategy," the story suggests, "because the programs are difficult to manage -- discretion to match or not is often left to store workers -- and shoppers can complain if they don’t get the deal they’re expecting. In February, Toys “R” Us agreed to review its ad strategy after a consumer complained to an industry watchdog that workers didn’t understand how the price-matching policy worked. At Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, according to interviews with workers and shoppers, the Ad Match Guarantee is inconsistently applied from store to store."

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that "Advertisers have rediscovered their appetite for food magazines—and not just because of the food.

    "A handful of food magazines have found success by broadening their traditional focus on recipes to more of a lifestyle approach, capitalizing on popular interest in destination restaurants, celebrity chefs and travel ... The new approach is also paying off with readers: Total paid circulation was up at most of the major food magazines for the second half of 2012 amid a marginal drop for the overall industry."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    ... will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 1, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    As you read this, I'm heading to the Portland, Oregon, airport. I have an early flight to catch, so I can get home in time for dinner.

    That's particularly important today, since it is my 30th wedding anniversary, and it'd be nice to spend at least a few hours with Mrs. Content Guy.

    This is sort of typical, I'm afraid. Mrs. Content Guy would maintain - and I'd probably agree - that one of the reasons we've lasted three decades is that I've only been around for about two of them. I'm not always the easiest guy to live with, and I get itchy when I'm in one place for too long. Even after all these years, I like getting on planes, and traveling to both new and familiar places.

    My wife, truth be told, is a saint. She's believed in me and my dreams, as I wrote in the dedication to "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," long past their expiration dates. And continues to.

    So today, I just want to say thanks to the girl of my dreams. It's been a wonderful 30 years. I'm up for another 30. Even if I'm only around for 20 of them.
    KC's View: