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    Published on: March 19, 2014

    by Kate McMahon

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

    Today’s topic is food porn.

    Five years ago I never thought I’d pair the words food and porn to open an MNB column, but the proliferation of food porn across social media has changed all that, particularly now that there is a push to make it healthy. Yes, we’re talking Brussels sprouts and beets being photographed and tweeted as sinfully appealing as Dense Rich Hot Fudge Oreo Cheesecake, a recent post on Food Porn Daily.

    The Food Porn Index, a witty, interactive website designed to promote fruits and vegetables in Americans’ online food conversations, was launched last month and featured at last week’s Partnership for a Healthier America summit in Washington, D.C.

    The bottom line: You Are What You Tweet.

    The index has created an algorithm to track hashtags such as #carrots or #bacon of 12 healthy and 12 not-so-healthy foods on Twitter, Instagram and other social media, updating every 15 minutes and comparing the healthy vs. the junk food mentions.

    Created by Bolthouse Farms, one of the largest producers of baby carrots and premium juice beverages in the U.S., the site shows the junk food dozen clearly in the lead 70.5% to 29.5%.

    Since its Feb. 20 inception, the index has registered some 42,000 unique site visits. And for those keeping score, as of yesterday condiments led the unhealthy list with 28 million-plus mentions, while the overall term vegetable was tops in fruits and veggies category. The least mentioned? The lowly beet.

    Bolthouse was motivated by a Harris Poll QuickQuery showing 55% of Americans said they ‘talk’ about food through social media channels. In addition, more than half of those agree that seeing images of fruits and vegetables on their social feeds motivates them to eat healthier. In comparison, 33% said images of junk food tend to make them give in to cravings.

    These first figure confirms what I have observed anecdotally with the Millennial Generation – whether cooking at home or dining out, they love to snap and post photos of a decadent dessert or an In-N-Out double double with cheese.

    All the more reason retailers and restaurants need to be aware of, and capitalize, on this growing trend. A group of esteemed French chefs, however, take exception to this notion, and have started a movement to ban smartphones from their restaurants. Their reasoning: amateur photographs don’t do the dishes justice, ruin the element of surprise in presentation, and the photo snapping annoys other customers.

    But other restaurant owners find food porn to be great, free publicity – with more of a focus on the positive rather than negative comments on sites such as Yelp. For retailers, the food porn trend presents opportunity to showcase and promote locally grown produce, in-store prepared meals, baked goods, innovative presentations of just about anything that photographs well. You don’t even need a sophisticated social media department, but just good eye, a smartphone, and Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms.

    Trying to stop people from taking pictures with their smartphones may be akin to trying to hold back the tide. Good luck. Better to embrace the trend and turn it into opportunity.

    Unlike other kinds of porn, food porn can be about making connections, not isolating yourself. A food porn pic is a great conversation starter.

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

    Published on: March 19, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    So, there's a ton of speculation out there - and on this site - about Amazon's future plans. A lot of it centers on the possibility that in 20, 30, or even 40 major US markets, Amazon could decide to start delivering products in its own vans, getting away from the outsourcing of deliveries to the likes of FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service. Such a move could give Amazon far greater control of the entire process, and would fit right in with its Amazon Fresh strategy and the expansion of its distribution center network … or at least, that's how the argument goes.

    It ends up that Amazon already is doing this. In China.

    Internet Retailer has an interesting analysis of Amazon's China business, suggesting that it could be the model for what it plans to do in the US.

    In China, the story says, Amazon has 15 fulfillment centers and employs its own drivers, who make deliveries via vans, bicycles, motorcycles and even scooters.

    No drones. At least, not yet.

    “Once we entered the China market, we noticed that the logistics service was immature and far away from what we’ve expected,” says Fang Quan, vice president in charge of the marketplace platform for Amazon China. “That  led us to establish a delivery team of our own. Inside Amazon, Amazon China is the first to take delivery in-house, and we hope that in the near future it could be extended to other countries.”

    Maybe even the US.

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

    Published on: March 19, 2014

    CNBC reports that in the wake of Amazon's announcement last week that it will raise its Prime membership annual fee from $79 to $99, a Brand Keys survey found an immediate backlash - "according to the company's survey, which measures brand engagement and customer loyalty, Amazon's rating fell from 93 percent to 83 percent following the price hike."

    The story goes on to say that "Amazon has been ranked as the number one online retailer since Brand Keys began measuring the category 16 years ago. But among the Prime audience, it is now ranked third, behind Ebay and"
    KC's View:
    I have to be honest here. I think this is a load of crap.

    I find it very difficult to believe that if you talked to a majority of Amazon users, they'd rate Overstock as being a better brand. I think it all depends on who you talk to and when.

    That said, I concede that I have a pro-Amazon bias here. I could be wrong on this. But I think in the long run, the $20 increase for Prime membership will be seen as a minor blip.

    Published on: March 19, 2014

    USA Today reports that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is saying that "food prices rose 0.4% in February, the most since September 2011 … Beef and veal shoppers were socked with some of the biggest increases, as prices jumped 4% from January."

    The story says that this was an exception from the broader picture, which showed that falling energy costs offset the food price increases.

    According to the paper, "Droughts, unusually cold winter weather, rising exports and a virus outbreak in the hog population are among the causes of food inflation, which is expected to accelerate in 2014. The Agriculture Department expects grocery store prices to increase as much as 3.5% in 2014, up from 0.9% last year."

    Beef, pork, poultry, milk and fresh produce all are expected to be affected by the price increases.
    KC's View:
    When I read stories like this, it makes me think that the chasm being created between the haves and the have-nots, and the issue of wage disparity, is only going to be exacerbated by the fact that a large number of people are going to have trouble feeding their families, and a small group of folks will hardly notice. The implications will be cultural, societal and economic. And I don't think it is going to be pretty.

    Published on: March 19, 2014

    The New York Times writes that a new report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that there is "no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacks and other cardiac events."

    The new findings, the Times writes, "are part of a growing body of research that has challenged the accepted wisdom that saturated fat is inherently bad for you and will continue the debate about what foods are best to eat."

    The story, while pointing out that health officials have long "urged the public to avoid saturated fat as much as possible, saying it should be replaced with the unsaturated fats in foods like nuts, fish, seeds and vegetable oils," says that the new research "did not find that people who ate higher levels of saturated fat had more heart disease than those who ate less. Nor did it find less disease in those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including monounsaturated fat like olive oil or polyunsaturated fat like corn oil."
    KC's View:
    I can't help but think when reading what all the scientists have to say in this story is how hard it is for us consumers to know what to do, when the people who are supposed to understand this stuff keep confusing us and seem to be confused themselves.


    Published on: March 19, 2014

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the Washington Post is looking to establish a more national digital presence by "testing a partnership through which it will make its Web content available free to subscribers of a half-dozen metro newspapers around the country."

    The Post says it will only make the content available to newspapers with an adequate subscription model, meaning that they only make a certain amount of content accessible free of charge. Among the newspapers that qualify and will participate in the test are the Dallas Morning News, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Toledo Blade, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    Intriguingly, the Journal reports that "newspapers aren't the only potential partners. A spokeswoman said the partnership could be extended to other outlets, such as music services, which have a subscription model."

    The moves are part of a broader effort to upgrade the Post digital presence since its purchase by Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million last year.
    KC's View:
    This is an intriguing move, especially because while Bezos is not seen as being an activist owner, it is hard to imagine that these kinds of ideas are not being passed by him.

    When I look at the plan, I wonder if the long game is to break down the barriers between various newspapers and create some sort of national digital news service that would use the Post as its hub. I've long thought that the nation's major papers, like the , the Times and the Post, would dominate the landscape through digital versions, with highly localized papers also able to survive, while those in between would find it difficult to rationalize their existence.

    Could this be the beginning of a grand plan? Hard to know … but I wouldn't bet against it.

    Published on: March 19, 2014

    • In Toronto, the Globe and Mail reports that Sobeys Inc. has announced a "controversial initiative to retroactively cut vendors’ prices by 1 per cent. The company also is accepting no supplier increases in 2014, with some exceptions. The moves are aimed at helping the retailer generate some of the savings it promised from its $5.8-billion acquisition of rival Safeway Canada … Sobeys has pledged to slash $200-million in annual costs within three years of the takeover, which closed on Nov. 4 – half of that within the first 12 months."

    • New York-based Mrs. Green's Natural Markets, which operates 18 stores in the US and Canada, said this week that it plans to open 20 new locations this year, in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

    The company says that this is the beginning of a broader plan to have 100 stores "over the next few years."

    • The New York Times reports that Bill Yosses, the White House pastry chef since 2007, is leaving his job there, in part to be able to spend more time with his husband in New York, and in part because he has been inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama to create a foundation designed to promote healthier foods in schools.

    “Food knowledge should be part of a complete curriculum,” he tells the Times. “We used to learn about food as a part of everyday growing up, but I think we’ve lost that. I think it has a place in schools.”

    Yosses credit the Obamas' insistence on healthier foods on the White House menu for prompting his new career direction, saying it also has had a lasting impact on his own eating habits, not to mention the items he makes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 19, 2014

    Responding to this week's story about state attorneys general calling on major retailers with pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products, one MNB reader wrote:

    Didn’t want to get into the tobacco dispute but want to point out that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    As a Pharmacist who practiced for 10 years prior to moving up through management and into the corporate leadership, I acknowledge and empathize with customers and their need to “deal” with the trials and tribulations of life.  Everyone has to pick their poison to cope with the issues of life, some smoke, some over-eat, some drink, some cope by avoiding life and being lazy, some over-work and some over-exercise etc.  Those that don’t find their venue to cope become hateful, nasty, unbearable people.  I disagree with the bandwagon that CVS and all health providers should eliminate tobacco.  Nicotine plays a vital role in the mental health of many; in many cases unknowingly self-treating their depression, anxiety, mania, or schizophrenia.  Nicotine is a potent drug that calms and has many positive physiological and mental effects.  Just ask anyone who has ever tried to stop smoking.

    Now, I don’t believe that anyone has the right to intrude their smoke upon the lungs of others, anymore than I should have to pay for diabetes medication for a Medicaid obese person, prison for a drunk driver, or cover someone who injured themselves biking/jogging over the weekend, but I also don’t believe I should criticize others for their coping choice as long as it is legal.  After spending a decade helping patients, the last thing I would want to do is deny them their treatment and have a world full of individuals lacking their necessary mental treatment.  It would be equivalent to living the Walking Dead. If you think this is bold, research Nicotine on the web.  As for the politicians, Self-interest and most likely funding from self-interest groups is driving their desire to “help people”.  We all know how they cope.

    From another reader:

    In total, I’m not surprised that some states are taking it upon themselves to send letters to retailers they believe should not sell tobacco demanding that they stop! After all it is 1920 eh, 2014. We’re a progressive empathetic society, we now have socialized medicine named after our national leader. Who could question that it is completely within the government's right to regulate what should or should not be available for consumption, especially if said substance is deemed by our overseers to be dangerous or unhealthy. We believe so much in national oversight of health care that the federal government can fine a US citizen into submission if they choose not to purchase a healthcare plan deemed suitable and sufficient by said government. What business does the individual have in determining what they should or should not ingest, we have the government to take care of that. Jeez…what’s the problem?

    One thing that puzzled me though was that Mississippi was on this list of enlightened states looking to save folks from the dangers of unhealthy lifestyle habits…makes me wonder…what will happen when they go after fat back and pig’s lips? (I can say that, I live in Alabama!)

    From MNB reader LuRene Dille:

    I’m not a smoker, but can’t help wondering if the next thing they will want is to take bakeries out of the stores that have a pharmacy…or maybe the candy, pop and chips.  Why don’t they focus on the millions of people who are homeless or starving in this country?

    Regarding yesterday's rant about the irrelevance of phone books, MNB reader David White wrote:

    Just the other day I opened my front door to find this year's edition of the local yellow pages.  As I have done for the past several years, I picked it up and walked straight to the recycle bin.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  In my view, that book has been irrelevant for quite some time.

    In fact, 7 or 8 years ago I was at a family gathering at my mother-in-law's home when we decided we wanted to order a pizza.  As she went off in search of the yellow pages, I went to the computer and pulled up the website for the local pizza place.  I had our dinner ordered and paid for before she even found the phone number.  And to think that now I can do all that from my phone.

    The times are changing, and quite quickly!

    From another reader:

    With the push to go green, it amazes me that fat, never to be used phone books continue to arrive unsolicited on our doorsteps and driveways.

    And another:

    I wonder if the small business owner, driving past my house as I pick the phone books up off the driveway and deposit the plastic wrapper in my garbage container and the phone books into my recycle bin, slaps his forehead as he thinks about the money he just spent on advertising in the phone books???

    We had a story the other day about 15-year-old Albert Gifford, who recently wrote to Tesco to complain that its own-label orange juice cartons described the juice as being made with the "most tastiest" fruit.

    Which, no matter how good the juice is, happens to be a lousy use of English.

    So he wrote to company management, but apparently did not get a reply until his complaints got an airing in the media. At which point, Tesco wrote back to him to say that it apologized for the lapse and would change the wording on future cartons.

    I commented:

    I think this is great - and I wish that more businesses would be called on their misuse of the English language. (I say this as someone who welcomes emails from people who point out my misspellings, and try to correct them as fast as I can.)

    For example, I hate the sign in many stores that says "10 items or less." It ought to be, "10 items or fewer."

    Can we start fixing things like this? Now?

    One MNB user wrote:

    Way to go, Gifford!

    What drives me bonkers is the intentional misspelling of things that are marketed to, or meant for, children. I spent several years living in Phoenix, Arizona, and I lost track of how many daycares and preschools I saw with names like “Katie’s Kid Kare”. In a year or two, they’ll have points taken off their spelling test for using “kare” instead of “care” – and be thoroughly confused!  Especially, as your article points out, since they are bombarded by these careless infractions of spelling and grammar at every turn in their lives.

    Adam Hobbs wrote:

    Love this story – especially the wherewithal of a 15 yr. old to make it his crusade.

    Funny thing is, given all your stated opinions on the general misuse of words and de-proliferation of proper grammar, your wife has likely been at the forefront of this trend in or society more so than you – the middle school and high school teachers I know have been telling me for the past few years that our e-messaging/text-culture of our youth has effectively set us back a generation in this specific area.  To hear that kids are legitimately using text-type abbreviations and vernacular in formal school writing assignments says a lot… and I don’t expect us to be able to stem that to any large degree.

    So, in about 20 years we could definitely find ourselves walking around using ttyl and g2g, idk & np in everyday contexts…. And those are just acronyms, what about “love/luv” and so on?  It’s one of the biggest reasons I can’t stand Twitter.

    Let's face it. We're watching the decline of western civilization.

    Another reader chimed in:

    Regarding grammar; I am not an English major, but  one of the phrases that bugs me is when newscasters say, “Up next, but first…”.   How does that happen?!  Oy.

    MNB reader Bryan Silbermann wrote:

    Loved your Tesco story this morning.  While on the subject of butchering our language here are two pet peeves related to pronunciation:

    Realtor: How difficult is it to say "real" and "tor"?  Well, it seems like the majority of the American population, including friends of mine who used to work for the National Association of Realtors, insist on saying "reel" + "a" + "tor".  Is this phonetic dyslexia 🙂 ?

    Isuzu:  How difficult is it to see that the the two consonants in this name are "s" followed by "z"?  Yet almost everyone says "E" + "zoo" + "sue".

    And from another:

    The Express Lane sign at the Kroger store nearby says "About 15 items".  Apparently an attempt to minimize confrontations when a "guest" with more than the limit is using that lane.

    They didn't implement my suggestion to apply a $1 per item surcharge for items over 15.  That won't happen until they get a former airline executive as CEO.

    Finally, reacting to yesterday's story about beer manufacturers getting into water conservation because of concerns that water shortages could turn into beer shortages, and my reaction that it is time to start hoarding, one MNB reader wrote:

    Another Yikes!!! While it takes approximately 100 liters of water for each bottle of beer, it also takes approximately 250 liters of water for each bottle of wine.  So the teachable moment is…hoard wine instead and drink beer fresh!

    I can get with this program…
    KC's View: