retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    by Kate McMahon

    For produce industry veteran Maggie Bezart Hall, the Pink Ribbon Produce campaign is personal. Very personal.

    And when the 56-year-old breast cancer survivor addresses the topic this Saturday at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit Convention and Expo in Anaheim, she has a challenge for both growers and retailers.

    “We have to do more to get the message out about the importance of nutrition -- a diet high in fruits and vegetables -- in preventing cancer,” she told MNB in a phone interview.

    The Pink Ribbon Produce campaign began in 2006, with the goal of increasing breast cancer prevention and awareness by promoting healthy eating habits to reduce the risk of disease.

    During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the effort uses in-store and social media components to direct consumers to participating “pink ribbon” partners at in the produce section of three retailers – Harris Teeter, Meijer and Price Chopper.

    “It’s about path to purchase, and motivating consumers to make smart decisions on what they are buying and eating,” said Debbie Augustine, whose Roseville, CA advertising agency AugustineIdeas created and implements to the campaign.

    To keep shoppers engaged in the ever-changing social media landscape, the campaign now features the “Fresh Plate Challenge” on Instagram. It encourages participants to create and post a photo of a plate with 50% fruits and vegetables, and using at least one partner product, for a chance to win a $250 retailer gift card and a donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation in their name.

    “People like to share, and it’s a win-win for retailers and their supplying partners,” said Augustine, noting PRP has also raised more than $400,000 for the breast cancer prevention and research.

    The list of partners varies between Harris Teeter, Meijer and Price Chopper, but there is certainly enough variety to create a colorful, healthy fresh plate for the photo challenge. The producers and the three chains will be recognized at PMA this weekend, and that is when Maggie Bezart Hall will make her pitch.

    “There isn’t anyone who hasn’t been touched by breast cancer,” said Maggie, who underwent five surgeries and intense chemotherapy after she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in May 2012. Now a survivor, she said: “I believe in paying it forward. I want to educate others.

    “It’s easy to change the way you think and eat once you have cancer. You have to. The key is to prevent it.”

    With 35 years in the produce industry and in her current role as Vice President of Trade & Promotion for Avocados From Mexico, she speaks with both nutritional/scientific knowledge and a passion to help others.

    She believes both the produce “supply side and selling side” have a responsibility to promote health and education – in a way that transcends the bottom line. There will be many messages delivered at PMA this weekend, but I think Maggie’s may be the most important one.


    Comments? As always, send them to me at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    GeekWire reports that Amazon plans to open up what is described as a "pop-up holiday store" in San Francisco, possibly as early as next week.

    The goal of the store will be to showcase proprietary Amazon products - its new line of Kindles, Fire TV, and the Fire phone among them.

    The story goes on: "It’s unclear whether the pop-up store signals a bigger commitment by Amazon for physical retail beyond what it did last year.
    Amazon has already tested physical retail in a number of different ways. It has experimented with automated vending machines for its Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets; installed lockers in other retailers’ store around the world and has set-up kiosks in malls to push the Amazon Fire Phone.

    "While Amazon gets a lot of credit for dominating e-commerce sales, the store openings show that it can’t ignore that a vast majority of retail revenues today still occur in the offline world. The struggle between the two is often depicted as a war between online and offline, and if that’s true, then Amazon’s move into stores is the highest compliment the e-commerce giant can pay to physical retail."

    And, GeekWire reports: "The exact location within the mall is unknown, but the mall anchors a busy downtown San Francisco corridor, and is frequented by nearly 16.5 million customers a year, according to Westfield. The 1.5 million square foot mall is an iconic piece of architecture, with a steel and glass dome and spiral escalators. The mall is home to nearly 200 shops, including Bloomingdales, Burberry, Tiffany & Co. Not to be overlooked is the nearest Apple Store, which is not even a block away."

    It is just a week ago that reports emerged that Amazon was planning to open a store in New York City that would serve as a showcase, pick-up depot and mini warehouse for deliveries. This new pop-up unit would just be a showcase … at least for now.
    KC's View:
    I continue to believe that this only makes sense for Amazon if its creates physical stores that are a) uniquely Amazon, and b) are designed to showcase its technology products in a selective and discriminating way. I just think that the company has top be very careful about locking itself into situations that force it to deal with old-world, legacy-driven retail concerns.

    But when these stores open, I'll certainly want to check them out … and I'll hope that they are Eye-Openers.

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    The Associated Press reports that Whole Foods plans to start ranking its fruits and vegetables as good, better and best - based on how responsibly the products are grown.

    According to the story, the program "will prohibit the use of several common pesticides. The rankings will also take into account factors such as water and energy usage."

    The story notes that the program will begin this week in about 400 Whole Foods stores in the US and Canada, and "signals how Whole Foods is trying to draw a sharper distinction between itself and its competitors, in part by making shoppers feel more empowered about their purchasing decisions. The grocery chain … already has ranking systems for meat and seafood, which takes into account animal welfare and sustainability standards, respectively."
    KC's View:
    This is all about Whole Foods finding ways to differentiate itself from the competing retailers that want to take a piece of its organic and healthy food business. The problem is that the competitors think that they can do battle with Whole Foods most effectively with lower prices, and Whole Foods - while it is trying to lower prices where it can - thinks that the best way to compete is to be more pure, more informational, and stricter about adhering to its core values.

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    The Denver Post reports that Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced its support of Colorado's Proposition 105, which "would require some foods sold in Colorado to carry labels if they contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

    "The measure would not apply to restaurant food. However, Denver-based Chipotle last year began disclosing GMO ingredients on its online menu. In-store menus are not labeled."

    "Fundamentally, we believe that people have a right to know what's in the food they eat," Chipotle chairman and co-CEO Steve Ells said in a statement. "Consumers want this information, and we are already giving it to them. But well-funded opposition groups continue to fight labeling efforts, with opponents putting their own profits ahead of consumer preferences."

    According to the story, "Opponents through the end of September had raised $9.7 million in campaign funds, nearly 30 times more than proponents' $334,297." However, Chipotle's support does not include writing checks to make up for any of that shortfall - the company said that "corporate policy prohibits political funding."
    KC's View:
    The sense I get, just from reading various articles, is that expectations are that the Colorado GMO labeling ballot initiative will fail, and the similar Oregon referendum will pass. The problem for GMO labeling proponents is that the opposition is always going to be better funded, and the battle is always going to be uphill.

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    Reuters reports that Walmart, using its digital entertainment service Vudu to allow shoppers to access digital copies of movies that they buy either in Walmart stories or on the company's website.

    The service, dubbed InstaWatch, currently includes about 800 movies available at Walmart stores and 1,100 on walmart.com.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    The Huffington Post reports that at the Jimmy John's sandwich chain, the company compels workers to sign an employment agreement that includes a noncompete clause.

    That's all workers, including minimum age sandwich makers and delivery drivers, and not just people in management.

    According to the story, "By signing the covenant, the worker agrees not to work at one of the sandwich chain's competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John's. But the company's definition of a "competitor" goes far beyond the Subways and Potbellys of the world. It encompasses any business that's near a Jimmy John's location and that derives a mere 10 percent of its revenue from sandwiches."

    Jimmy John's management isn't commenting on the clause. However, HuffPo reports that "the noncompete agreement is now part of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed this summer against Jimmy John's and one of its franchisees. As HuffPost reported in August, Jimmy John's workers recently brought two lawsuits accusing the company of engaging in wage theft by forcing employees to work off the clock … Last month, the workers filing one of those suits amended their initial federal complaint to argue that the noncompete agreement is overly broad and 'oppressive' to employees."
    KC's View:
    Really? Because while I don't know the legality of the clause, it seems to me that putting these kinds of restrictions on some pore schmo who is working for minimum wage making sandwiches is a little silly. And even mean.

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece the other day about the tangible and intangible value of big data.

    "What groceries you buy, what Facebook posts you 'like' and how you use GPS in your car: Companies are building their entire businesses around the collection and sale of such data," the Journal writes. "The problem is that no one really knows what all that information is worth. Data isn’t a physical asset like a factory or cash, and there aren’t any official guidelines for assessing its value … As more companies traffic in information and use big-data analytic tools to find ways to generate revenue, the lack of standards for valuing data leaves a widening gap in our understanding of the modern business world."

    One example cited in the piece: Kroger.

    "Supermarket operator Kroger Co. records what customers buy at its more than 2,600 stores and also tracks the purchasing history of its roughly 55 million loyalty-card members," the Journal writes. "It sifts this data for trends and then, through a joint venture, sells the information to the vendors who stock its shelves with goods ranging from cereals to sodas.

    "Consumer-products makers like Procter & Gamble Co. and Nestlé SA are willing to pay for those insights because it allows them to tailor their products and marketing to consumer preferences."

    Some estimate that "Kroger rakes in $100 million a year from data sales. But Kroger executives are mum on the subject. Kroger does say that it follows generally accepted accounting principles, which prohibit companies from treating data as an asset or counting money spent collecting and analyzing the data as investments instead of costs."

    You can reads the entire story here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    Reuters reports that Tesco has suspended another three employees - so far unnamed - as it conducts an internal investigation, and cooperates with a governmental probe, of an accounting scandal that had it overstating its profit projections.

    The company already has suspended five other execs, including UK managing director Chris Bush.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    Reuters reports that Costco plans to "open an online store in China using Alibaba Group's fast-growing Tmall online marketplace," and that "the online store would provide customers in mainland China with both branded products, which would initially include food."

    Costco will not have a physical presence in China for the time being. The story notes that "Costco's Asian presence, as of May, included 19 shops in Japan and 10 each in Taiwan and Korea through majority-owned subsidiaries, while its online presence was restricted to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico."


    eMarketer reports that a new survey conducted for Capgemini said that "Among digital shoppers worldwide, 72% said the traditional store experience was important when making a purchase—the highest percentage out of locations and channels studied. The internet landed second, at 67%."

    The story continues: "Results indicated that there was indeed demand for a more digital store experience among today’s tech-savvy shoppers. The majority of respondents said that in-store technology, such as kiosks, was important when buying an item. Despite mobile’s rise and rumors of showrooming, smartphone websites and apps trailed behind in-store tech and even email as important channels for purchases."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    • Kroger has hired Alex Tosolini, senior vice president of global e-commerce at Procter & Gamble, to be its senior vice president of new business development, a new position at the retailer.


    • Schnuck Markets has hired Andrew Nadin as its new chief marketing officer. Nadin most recently was CEO of APN Consultancy, a brand marketing firm, in the UK.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 15, 2014

    In the American League Championship Series, the Kansas City Royals - still on a remarkable unbeaten streak in the postseason - defeated the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 to take a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.

    And in the National League Championship Series, the San Francisco Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 in 10 innings, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
    KC's View: