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    Published on: June 3, 2013

    Almost 50 years to the day from the evening when President John F. Kennedy gave a speech from the White House Oval Office in which he brought the issue of civil rights to the forefront of the American consciousness, calling it a "moral issue ... as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution," there is ugly evidence that at least some people in this country have not gotten the message.

    And go figure - it is a cereal commercial that has exposed the strains of racism that still exist in a few shadowy corners of this country.

    Last week, General Mills unveiled a new commercial for Cheerios on both network television and on the internet - it showed a child asking her mother if it is true that Cheerios are good for the heart, and the mother says yes. Cut to sometime later, when the child's father wakes up from a nap with what appears to be an entire box of Cheerios poured on top of his chest. (You can see the entire commercial - which is a lot cuter than this description - by clicking on the graphic at left.)

    What made the commercial noteworthy to some was the fact that the mother in the ad is white, the father is black.

    On sites like YouTube and Facebook, the ad brought out the worst in some people, as more than 700 comments that could generously be described as racist were posted. The good news - well over 6,000 positive comments were posted. But the ugliness of some of the comments led the company to remove them from its various feeds.

    Officially, the General Mills position seems to be that it is surprised by the negative position, and that it is just trying to accurately portray in its ads the people to whom it is trying to communicate. And that includes interracial couples, the percentage of which has been growing steadily in the US.

    Now, I'm willing to take General Mills at its word, but I find it a little hard to believe that when it worked with its ad agency - in this case, Saatchi & Saatchi - to cast and produce the commercial, nobody raised the question of whether the racial makeup of the couple would be an issue.

    But I absolutely believe that the company wanted to market to America as it really is, as opposed to an America that no longer exists but that some people - intolerant bigots with a perverse belief in their own superiority - yearn for. And so, General Mills made a statement. Not the first company to use an interracial couple in a commercial, but obviously a noteworthy one.

    Good for General Mills. This weekend, I made sure I bought a box of Cheerios. I like them anyway, but this time, I wasn't just buying breakfast. I was making a statement. Even if just to myself.

    Sometimes we congratulate ourselves on how far the nation has come since 1963. But sometimes, we find out that we haven't come as far as thought. Or hoped. There remains a lot of intolerance out there. Sometimes it involves race, sometimes gender, sometimes sexual orientation ... but it remains intolerance. There is no way to rationalize any kind of bigotry.

    I'm glad that General Mills, in its own way, helped to shine a spotlight on it.

    It was an Eye-Opener. You can't make things better if your eyes are closed.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    CNBC reports on the new 2013 Colloquy Loyalty Census, which says that "loyalty program memberships are up 27 percent from 2010, to a total 2.65 billion last year ... That works out to an average 21.9 memberships per household, up from 18.4. But consumers aren't quite as loyal — they're active in just 44 percent of those programs, a drop of 4.3 percent from 2010. Participation in some kinds of programs is also down, with 1 percent fewer grocery program members and a 21 percent drop in fuel and convenience store memberships."

    The Census also suggests that because some store programs are perceived as being too complicated or obtuse, consumers tend to gravitate toward programs created by banks and credit cards: "Financial services loyalty program participation rose 28 percent, to 548.4 million memberships in 2012, according to Colloquy."
    KC's View:
    If some loyalty marketing programs are unsuccessful, it is because they have very little to do with real loyalty ... they are just glorified discount or coupon programs. There are some companies that do it right - that use data to market smartly and appropriately to their best shoppers, strengthening connections in fundamental ways rather than encouraging cherry picking.

    This takes dedication, patience and real commitment on the pat of the retailer. Rarely is there a short term payoff. But in the end, I think, it always is better to speak to people's aspirational natures, not the lowest common denominator.

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    The Boston Globe reports on how a new Whole Foods in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, will offer an unusual feature - a 17,000 square foot rooftop garden that will produce "tomatoes, carrots, kale, chard, marjoram, basil, tarragon, and more," for a yield of around 10,000 pounds of fresh produce a year.

    According to the story, "Whole Foods and its contractors say the commercial roof garden is an experiment that, if it succeeds, could encourage other grocers to do the same, boosting efforts to expand rooftop gardening. Such gardens not only insulate buildings, lowering heating and cooling costs, but also decrease storm-water runoff, which can overwhelm sewer systems and carry pollutants into waterways.

    "A green roof, however, is not cheap. It can cost up to 60 percent more than a traditional roof, according to the Sustainable Cities Institute, a program of the National League of Cities."
    KC's View:
    This is pretty interesting. I'm not sure the extent to which a project like this may be adapted by other retailers, simply because of the cost ... but it certainly has the potential to turn a store into a destination shop. After all, many stores have opened up their back rooms so that customers can actually see the bread being baked, the meat being cut, the milk being processed; the story doesn't say whether Whole Foods plans to allow customers up on the roof to see what is going on, but it should.

    Part of being hyper-local, which is Whole Foods' stated intention, is allowing people to feel connected to what is going on up on the roof. I hope the company takes advantage of the opportunity.

    I think, by the way, that this is generally a good policy, right in line with the calls for transparency often issued in this space. Show people what's going on, explain to them what the value and values are, be completely open about company priorities and initiatives. It simply makes sense. And it is good business.

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    USA Today has a story about how "America's sweet tooth is finally being tamed — at least, a bit."

    Here's how the paper frames the story:

    "In a nation obsessed with weight loss and healthier eating habits, children are eating far fewer sugary sweets than they did 15 years ago, according to data crunched exclusively for USA TODAY by the research specialist NPD Group. The numbers are eye-popping and the change — which is already impacting the country's biggest makers and sellers of all things sweet — appears irreversible because the decline is only accelerating.

    "The typical child ate or drank the 20 most common sugary sweets an average 126 times fewer last year than in 1998, reports NPD. That includes 62 fewer occasions of having carbonated soft drinks and 22 fewer times eating pre-sweetened cereals."

    The story goes on:

    "Trailing behind our own kids — but also seriously reducing sweets consumption — adults indulged in an average 49 fewer sweet occasions last year vs. 15 years ago. Across almost every category of pre-sweetened foods — except yogurt and fruit snacks — children, in particular, are consuming fewer sweets.

    "Among the hardest-hit categories: carbonated soft drinks, pre-sweetened cereals and fruit drinks and juices — all seeing double-digit declines in annual servings by the nation's youngsters, reports the NPD study."
    KC's View:
    No less an expert than Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, a highly vocal critic of the US food industry and someone who generally has seemed relentlessly pessimistic about the American diet, seems to be impressed. "It's a big deal," she says. "We know rates of obesity have leveled off for most groups, and everybody is waiting to see if this holds or not."

    My instinct is usually to be cynical. But maybe there's really something happening here.

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    The Arizona Republic reports that Pro's Ranch Markets has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which will allow it to reorganize and restructure its debt while remaining open for business.

    According to the story, the seven-store, Hispanic-oriented retailer "lists a number of reasons why the company had to file for bankruptcy. Those reasons include a decline in the U.S. economy, especially in the Southwest; loss of construction and blue-collar jobs; and an 'adverse, negative and chilling effect of the perception of the State of Arizona towards immigrants and Hispanics including the passage of SB 1070.” A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down much of SB 1070, which made it a state crime to be in the country illegally'."

    The story says that Pro's Ranch Markets has estimated assets of between $1 million and $10 million, and debts of between $10 million and $50 million.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    The Chicago Tribune reports on how tech entrepreneurs are having an impact on the food business in the Windy City:

    "Chicago's downtown office workers are seeing a larger buffet of options for lunch, thanks to a growing number of entrepreneurial ventures that are harnessing technology to feed hungry cubicle dwellers who are bored with brown bags or sandwich shops. The city's burgeoning lunch scene includes food trucks, which use social media to reach diners in real time and mobile payment technology to swipe credit cards, as well as startups that market their software-powered services to companies as a way to boost employee happiness and productivity.

    "The wider lunch variety in Chicago comes amid increased activity in the broader food technology sector. According to data tracker CB Insights, venture capitalists and private equity investors funneled $348.5 million into food-oriented Web and mobile applications in 2012, with the number of deals rising 37 percent from the previous year."
    KC's View:
    What I think this tells us is that there could be enormous changes coming down the pike for the food distribution business, as people with ideas and money and a willingness to try new things see opportunity in changing how and what people shop and eat.

    It is only just beginning.

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    The Washington Post had a long and fascinating story over the weekend about the military commissary system in the US, which provides on both domestic and foreign bases giant, government-run supermarkets with "bright, wide aisles ... stocked with seemingly every brand of every food product available in America — Heinz ketchup, Oscar Mayer bacon, Lay’s chips — all sold at close to wholesale prices."

    Which sounds pretty good ... except that some military advisors have suggested that the domestic commissary system be shut down, that such a move could save taxpayers as much as $1 billion a year. They argue that for-profit retailers could match the prices offered by the commissaries to military personnel (Walmart already has agreed), and that the vast majority of bases have major shopping centers near them.

    But there is considerable resistance to such a plan, and the Post story makes clear how while the commissaries may be an unusual way of doing business, the fight about their existence is very much Washington business as usual.

    Fascinating reading .... and you can read the entire piece here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 3, 2013

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

    • The Washington Post reports that Americans seem willing "to gobble up caffeine in all kinds of foods ... Energy-boosting foods racked up more than $1.6 billion in domestic retail sales last year, up nearly 50 percent from five years ago, according to the market research firm Euromonitor International."

    But while manufacturers are rushing to "cash in" on what they see as frenetic consumer lives and a growing caffeine addiction, the enthusiasm also has meant government attention: "The Food and Drug Administration threw a wet blanket on the caffeine-laced food craze recently when it asked foodmakers to take a timeout . Concerned about the potential health effects on children, as well as Americans’ cumulative caffeine intake, officials said they want to investigate whether new rules are needed to govern caffeine in foods ... What the FDA might do to revamp its oversight of caffeinated foods remains unclear, and it probably will take months or even years before it settles on any new rules. More detailed labeling requirements for caffeine in foods seem likely, and the agency eventually could decree that some products should not contain caffeine."

    • The Associated Press reports that Starbucks has issued a dictum that affects all its US units, where the lease permits - no smoking within 25 of its stores.

    The company says that the intent is simply to extend the no smoking policy inside its stores to outside seating areas, though the rule will also affect stores without such outdoor seating.

    I think this is great. Nothing worse than wanting to enjoy a cup of coffee at an outdoor Starbucks seating area and finding it littered with the smelly detritus of poor, tobacco-addicted souls.

    • The Detroit Free Press reports that while a new Whole Foods scheduled to open this week in Detroit may be getting all the press attention, Meijer is opening a new 190,000 square foot supercenter there in July, its first inside the city limits. And, "the popular suburban grocery Papa Joe’s will open a full-service market next year in the first-floor space in the First National Building."

    Bloomberg reports that Seven & I Holdings, which has more than 8,000 7-Eleven stores in North America, says that it plans to more than double its store count there, to as many as 20,000 or 30,000 c-stores.

    According to the story, "Seven & I, the world’s biggest convenience store operator by number of outlets, has been buying small chain stores in the U.S. as it tries to strengthen the competitiveness of the local unit. Strength in consumer spending and business investment is helping the U.S. economy overcome government cutbacks, underlining forecasts for a growth pickup later in the year."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    • Safeway announced that it has hired Barry Libenson to be its new senior vice president/chief information officer, succeeding David Ching, who retired earlier this year after 19 years with the company.

    Libenson most recently has been senior vice president and CIO at Land O' Lakes, Inc.

    Advertising Age reports that PepsiCo has named Kristin Patrick to be its senior VP-global CMO, "for the Pepsi trademark ... responsible for brand management and architecture across the Pepsi trademark globally."

    Patrick, the story says, "has spent time at Walt Disney, Gap, Calvin Klein, Revlon and NBC Universal ... She served as senior VP-strategy at William Morris Endeavor, where she was behind Polaroid’s partnership with Lady Gaga, and, most recently, was CMO for Playboy Enterprises."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    • Jean Stapleton, who entered the nation's consciousness as Archie Bunker's "dingbat" wife Edith in the groundbreaking 1970s TV series "All In The Family," has passed away. She was 90. Beyond "All In The Family," Stapleton had a long and distinguished career on the stage and screen and was highly respected as an accomplished and versatile actress, which gave her both the talent and the technique to move from comedy to tragedy on the show, portraying Edith at various times as grappling with menopause, rape and breast cancer.
    KC's View:
    Unlike a lot of TV icons, Stapleton was able to both create an indelible character and transcend it, crafting for herself a diverse career after she left the series, doing movies, theater and TV, never wanting for work. (I vividly remember her small role in You've Got Mail, in which she seemed completely believable as a woman who had once had an affair with Francisco Franco.

    And yet, we'll always remember her as Edith, who sometimes seemed clueless but somehow provided the moral center for the series, making the bigoted Archie tolerable because she loved him.

    Klute, a Jane Fonda-Donald Sutherland thriller, came out at the same time as "All In The Family," and Stapleton had a small role in the movie. When she came on, I remember, the audience erupted in laughter at a totally inappropriate moment, simply because from the moment she appeared on TV as Edith, she was indelible.

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    I got a number of emails here about my Forbes blog/column regarding Sam Martin the CEO of A&P, and how he is trying to change the culture of the company.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Thought your article was very good.  Sam Martin has a lot of great ideas and I wish him well.  I think the best thing Sam can do is take that horse (A&P) outside and shoot it.

    From another reader:

    Great column.  Makes me want to root for Sam Martin and A&P.  I know culture change is incredibly tough to accomplish and doesn’t happen overnight, so I’ll not put too fine a point on the fact that my local A&P doesn’t seem to have bought in yet.  Mr. Martin mentioned how he visited 50 A&P stores before taking the job, and only one employee greeted him.  This has always been my biggest complaint about my local store.  It’s not that the employees are rude, it’s just that they are totally indifferent.  They speak only when spoken to, and then only a word or two.

    I was impressed with your objectivity in your column.  I remember a lot of comments you have made over the years that made it clear you were no big fan of A&P.  One comment that has stuck with me you made after it was announced that A&P was acquiring Pathmark back in 2007; you “could imagine no worse news than coming to work in the morning and finding out that A&P is about to acquire your company”.  One of your best lines ever.

    Yet, in spite of your frustration with A&P’s continuous announcements over the years that they were fundamentally changing their business model, your assessment of Mr. Martin was nothing but professional and objective.
    As you made clear, Martin has one of the most difficult missions in all of retailing.  After reading your piece I can’t help but hope he succeeds.

    I feel the same way. I'm not sure I'd put money on his chances, but I'm rooting for him.

    As far as the stores, I agree with you. I've taken my father to a couple of different A&P stores over the past few weeks - in Greenwich and Riverside, Connecticut - and I've found the folks working there to be generally indifferent. Not mean, not rude ... but not going out of their way to be friendly, either.

    That shows how tough Martin's job is.

    From still another reader:

    I do not know if A&P will survive and re-invent themselves, but Sam Martin is a winner!

    Also my impression.  The thing is, sometimes winners play for the Yankees, and sometimes for the Mets.  This time around, he may be playing for the Mets.

    MNB user Dean Balsamo was less impressed:

    From all reports Sam Martin is a dedicated person and well respected. And your piece does a good job of bringing that out, it’s written well. But content wise it reads like the same kind of article that’s already been recycled a half dozen times ... The impression I get from reading these articles and having personal experience in working with A & P in trying to get an upgraded magazine program into their Food Emporium stores last year ... is that any turn around for A & P is doomed. Can you say “Fresh & Easy"?

    While there might be some great people there who want to do something good there is too much legacy baggage to shift through and not enough time and money to ever turn this company around. The decision to sell the Food Emporium strikes me as a questionable  idea - given the locations of the stores in Manhattan and the demographics and population density they seem like the only stores worth saving in the company as the other brands they have  in the Tri-State area need so much work to upgrade their offerings, merchandising, store format design and relevance in general coupled with the fact some of the people we came in contact with seemed to have a hard time conceptualizing let alone actually initializing changes given  their layers of management and reluctance on the part of anyone  to actually sign off on anything-that it appears they just have too much to overcome.

    This is the real story about A & P, in my opinion.  Mention this latest turn around and other grocers are skeptical about the prospects. The powers that be have holed up in Montvale for too long instead of getting out  and actually visiting their own stores with their eyes wide open-and those of their competitors –to be in a position to know what they have to do and actually do it.  It  seems their whole modus operandi at this point is survival –not exactly a position of strength to work from and in the end a  long, drawn out descent into irrelevance is what appears to be on the horizon.

    And from another reader:

    Great article. Sam Martin did his homework prior to taking the job. However, maybe you should have written more about what A&P once was, how they were terribly mismanaged and what their likely outcome will be…dead. I hope Sam pulls off a surprise win.

    The Forbes pieces are designed to be short columns for a broader audience than reads MNB, and to be more focused in terms of subject. A treatise on A&P history simply wasn't what I wanted to do ... though I understand why some might have found it interesting.

    I'm including links to the columns on MNB simply because I hope that some folks will find them interesting.

    We had a story the other day about hotels using social media to gather intelligence about consumer attitudes. One MNB user followed up on it with this email:

    I spend a lot of time at on the road annually and my hotel needs are simple. Price is extremely important.  Tasty contemporary decor, wonderful gardening, impressive art and large screen LED TV's are enjoyable, but not worth paying exorbitant rack rates.   I always negotiate reduced rates to keep clients' expenses low.

    A room must be clean, quiet, have a comfortable bed, and have shower and bathroom fixtures that work well.  I require a well-planned workspace; with a reasonably sized desk, a comfortable chair, convenient power outlets and a strong WiFi connection.

    I don't care about hotel breakfasts; I eat meals at places that specialize in food. Having hot coffee available 24/7 in the lobby is a huge plus.  Most hotel employees are friendly, but it's wonderful when they remember special requests, like leaving extra (regular) coffee packets in the room.  I start early and work at night editing notes, photos and completing data entry, so having good coffee is important.

    A hotel must have a safe and convenient location, near my work, with easy accessibility to airports and restaurants.  The nicest hotel amenities cannot make up for feeling on edge in a sketchy neighborhood.  Early in my career, I stayed (first night only) at a hotel with razor wire topping a wall around the parking lot.  Never again… I know where to avoid in metro areas by now.

    I fill out hotel questionnaires; especially if a hotel or an employee has done an outstanding job, or to explain why I left early, if a hotel hasn't done well.  I'm sometimes curious about who does their market research, due to some of the inane questions asked.  if a question is particularly amusing, I'll attempt to provide an equally amusing reply in the comments section.  Providing for my needs should not be rocket science.  Some chains don't get that and they won't get repeat business.

    I said that I thought it was important to be transparent about complaints, because that allows you to be transparent about addressing them. Which led one MNB user to write:

    I think your assessment is dead on.  I recently was reading reviews from a site that only contained glowing reviews and it was beyond obvious that they were culling.  However, the challenge for all product and service providers is that you have to be extremely disgruntled or overwhelmingly surprised to choose to take the time to review.  Ultimately, these two groups may comprise a very small percentage of people who are plain and simply satisfied.
    If I were providing a recommendation to the hotel, it would be to provide comments (just like the “Your Views” concept of a popular site….) either offering corrective actions taken or some tongue in cheek comments for the complaints that are beyond correctable!

    On another subject, I got the following email from MNB user Frieda Rapoport Caplan:

    Around mid-February, you ran comments entitled: "For product launches, Kraft needed greater investment, more focus".  I printed this off because of the experiences Frieda's Inc. has had over the years in introducing  new and exotic produce items to the nations' retailers and chefs..  Sometime, we have found that it is more a factor of timing than the investment and promotion of the idea itself.

    To illustrate ... it took  fully 18 years for our introduction of the kiwifruit to take off. Spaghetti squash took 11 years. The habanero chile was literally an overnight success (thanks to food editors across the nation).

    But what reminded me of your February article was the fact that the first produce item Frieda's introduced 50 years ago ... the sunchoke (originally known as the Jerusalem artichoke) ... just this year made the list of the 10 hottest items that chefs are featuring in menus around the country.

    Go figure!

    The thing is, with any product introduction you need a combination of science and art and no small amount of luck to be successful .. and you have to be willing to invest and be patient.

    I'm reminded of what the great pitcher Lefty Gomez once said: "I'd rather be lucky than good."

    BTW ... I have to tell you that it is a thrill to find out that people like Frieda Caplan, who started Frieda's Specialty Produce more than 50 years ago, is an MNB reader. I just think that it is the coolest thing...

    Last week, we had a story about nine-year-old Hannah Robertson, who lectured McDonald's CEO Don Thompson about the company's nutritional profile at the company's annual shareholder's meeting.

    I commented:

    Longtime MNB readers know that I am no fan of McDonald's. But I'm also not a fan of parents using nine year old children as a way of spotlighting their own political views or goals. Sure, McDonald's tries to use every method at its disposal to sell fast food. So as a parent, use every tool at your disposal to teach your own kid to make good choices. Let Hannah be a kid. Not a poster child for your own issues.

    But maybe that's just me.

    One MNB user disagreed:

    I could not disagree more.  I think nutrition advocacy SHOULD use Hannah, in fact use an army of Hannah’s, use Spongebob, Ironman, Derek Jeter, the First Lady, etc. to bring attention to the issues of childhood obesity and poor nutrition that plague this country.  Fast feeders and nutrition-less food manufacturers have used children in advertising, have use pop icons, have used clowns, etc. to peddle their wares, I think you fight fire with fire.  You said a parent should “use every tool at your disposal to teach your own kid to make good choices”, well I think parents need a few more tool in their toolbox.  But maybe that’s just me.

    But another reader wrote:

    Spot on…let children have their childhood…give them time to play, evolve socially…at their pace…too many parents think they have the most brilliant child ever and force the child into the parent’s spotlight and by doing so do not let the child seek his or her own spotlight on their terms when they are ready.

    MNB user Andy Casey chimed in:

    Kevin, I could not agree more with you.  Parents need to grow up and be parents; kids are not born knowing what foods are good for you and which not and parenting is about teaching kids to make good decisions.  If parents can’t handle a nine year olds demand to eat at McDonalds, God help you (and us) when they get to be teenagers.

    On the subject of Monsanto, GMO food, and the "rogue" field of genetically altered wheat found to be growing in Oregon, one MNB user wrote:

    While the health environmental concerns are also important, the real issue is this monster corporation completely controlling our food supply by creating a product that has to be purchased every year – only from them.  Over the entire course of human history, agriculture has progressed by the saving of seeds from year to year. This has allowed natural improvement of the seed over time for each place and climate and disease pressure that the plant may face. It has also ensured that people had some control over the production of their own sustenance. We simply cannot sell our soul to Monsanto and let them control all the food of the future…

    From another reader:

    I happened across a documentary a few weeks ago called “David versus Monsanto”, which I must admit was my first exposure to who Monsanto is. It was appalling to see their ruthless tactics in enforcing patents on their seeds and controlling farmers’ activities.  It was a real eye-opener for me.  The GMO wheat discovery here in Oregon is big news because wheat exports are a sizable part of the agriculture economy, and about 75% of the wheat crops across the region are exported to GMO-wary Asia and Europe.  So far Monsanto is saying that GMO testing is sophisticated and can produce false-positives, and won’t comment until they receive samples for their own testing.  And we’re supposed to trust their testing results more?  Unlikely.

    And another:

    Note the prohibited GMO wheat was uncovered by a wheat farmer with the integrity to notify USDA through an Oregon State University researcher.  It probably would have gone undetected otherwise. Kudos to him/her.
    Ironic that it was only last weekend when several Oregon cities were sites of anti GMO/Monsanto demonstrations.

    And another:

    What some may have over looked is the GMO seeds have been so cross pollinated with “regular” seeds, either by accident or by plan that it’s not only hard to tell, but has been done for so long that trying to stop it now makes little sense as the world food supply is so low that doing this only makes matters worse. This discussion should have been years ago, but like oil and other issues big money won and now we ALL get to deal with this…

    On the subject of a Chinese company's takeover of Smithfield Foods, one MNB user wrote:

    Right on, right on, right on. I think you hit the nail on the head in wondering how long current business practices will stay intact at Smithfield once the acquisition is in place. I’ve worked for three different companies that were acquired and in the beginning the talk is all the same from the acquisition company or investment group……….We’ll keep current business practices; you know, it’s because of the people and the business practices that we bought the company in the first place! That’s what is said publicly anyway. Especially when the acquired company is viable and successful.

    The reality with most acquisitions is about broadening distribution through entering new markets and identifying synergies that work to  enrich profitable revenue and return on investment. Synergies that usually start with questions like why do we need two marketing departments, what about buying; can’t we increase our buying power through pooling our processes? Do we really need two accounting departments? And so it goes.

    Smithfield is a formidable brand in the meat business and is the go-to brand name for many consumers….especially in some areas of the Southeast where meat department sale can easily reach 30% of a stores total sales and space distribution dedicated to pork outweighs beef. One has to wonder how those core consumers will react to this transaction, of if they will even hear about it. If I were a competitor of Smithfield, attaching China to Smithfield would be a high priority.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    You have to wonder if the North America leadership will be arrested and executed for failure like they have down in the past in main land China.

    I asked last week which is more or less trustworthy when it comes to the food system - Monsanto or the Chinese?

    MNB user Elizabeth Archerd answered:

    The Chinese bought Smithfield in order to get a quality product that meets US standards. They want to export the pork back to China due to serious quality problems in China.

    So in this case, I'd say trust the Chinese food company MORE than Monsanto, for sure.

    Had a piece the other day about tax issues, which prompted MNB user Gail Nickel-Kailing to write:

    Your comment: "...maybe I need to move MNB global headquarters out of Connecticut and to a no-state-income-tax state like Washington" might not be such a good idea. If you do  a little more research you'll find that we've traded an income tax for multiple taxes, fees and licenses (for both businesses and property) that by far offset income taxes. That's why Bill Gates, Sr., has been so vocal on rationalizing Washington's tax system and instituting a progressive income tax.

    I'd by far rather pay a reasonable income tax than the various surcharges on my car tabs that are/were supposed to pay for things like research on a monorail system that never got built or to bolster a failing public transit system. Or to deal with the mess of business taxes that include a "head tax" for employees and a city business tax called the Square Footage Business Tax that I have never actually figured out... Or state, county, and city B&O (business and operations) taxes... Or as a consumer pay 9%+ sales tax...

    Unfortunately our taxes and fees are generally levied for specific uses and we don't have much of a "general fund" that states with income taxes have. That makes it difficult to move funds from one use to another...

    Fair enough. But on the upside, you get to live in the best part of the country...

    And, we had a piece about how "Margaritaville" is the most lucrative song ever written, in part because in one word it manages to communicate volumes about brand equity.

    Which prompted MNB user Scott Johnson to write:

    If for no other reason than the mention of Margaritaville makes me smile.  How many brands can do that???

    And MNB user Jim DeLuca wrote:

    Waay back in the late '60s or early '70s (who can remember...)   I went to see Jimmy at a small club in Atlanta.  I was concerned that he would not play because there could not have been more than 20 people in the audience.   Jimmy came out and played a full set with gusto; what a pro.  All the way back then.

    While I am not a fan of the Margaritaville lifestyle, I can easily understand how Mr Buffett has created such a successful enterprise.

    Agreed. For the record, though, I am an enormous fan of the Margaritaville lifestyle.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 3, 2013

    On Friday, we reported here with great glee that the New York Mets had defeated the New York Yankees in four straight games, victories that provided Michael Sansolo and me (diehard Mets fans) with what we fully expected to be an illusory feeling of optimism.

    We were right. Because having defeated the Yankees, the Mets then went to Florida to face off against the Miami Marlins, the worst team in the major leagues - and promptly lost three games in a row.

    Here's the deal with the Marlins. Fifty-seven games into the season, they have won just 16 games ... and six of those wins have come against the Mets.
    KC's View:
    I did get one email on Friday questioning the limited baseball coverage done here on MNB:

    Grown men, watching other grown men play a little boys' game… and then breathlessly reporting on it and predicting wonders to come.

    Do you trade baseball cards as well?

    Of course not. My mom threw out my cards one summer while I was at camp.

    But I sense a certain cynicism on your p[art about baseball. Which you certainly are entitled to.

    But I would simply recall the words of Robert B. Parker, who once said that "Baseball is the most important thing that doesn't matter."