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    Published on: February 18, 2015

    by Kate McMahon

    If bacon could borrow a line from Mark Twain, it would be thus:

    “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

    The restaurant guide Zagat recently declared that a survey of 10,700 diners in 17 major American cities deemed they were so “over” bacon and kale.

    The story popped up on my newsfeed as I also read about New Hampshire’s first scratch-n-sniff bacon scented lottery ticket, some 15,000 fans attending the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines last month and a bacon-flavored hot sauce in the spotlight at the Winter Fancy Foods show in San Francisco.

    I would concur that kale has lost its “power green” mojo and is on the wane. But bacon? Over, or still sizzling?

    Judging by industry stats and bacon’s presence on social media, I would have to go with the Mark Twain line.

    Bacon sales in the U.S. have increased steadily over the past four years, and in 2013 reached nearly $4 billion. The USDA expects hog prices in 2015 to be 18% lower than last year, which translates into good news for consumers.

    But you get a truer sense of bacon’s staying power on social media. Sample Facebook responses to the Zagat survey were:

    “Never over bacon. Never.” and “No, we are soooooooo over Zagat!”

    A Google-plus search of bacon forecasts that interest in the salted meat will continue to increase. When the hip men’s digital site thrillist.com listed the Y2K food trends that are still relevant 15 years later, bacon was pronounced king – along with craft beers, food labeling, Budweiser ads and Danny Meyer. A brandwatch.com survey of Twitter mentions found bacon conquered kale across the U.S. – particularly in Republican-leaning red states (no surprise there).

    And one of buzzfeed.com’s hot Valentine’s Day lists was, you guessed it, “10 Valentine’s Day Gifts to Make for the Bacon Lover in Your Life.” The list included some wacky-bordering-on-yucky bacon items, such as bacon and beer cupcakes and chocolate dipped bacon “roses.” But the gourmet bacon salt caught my eye – particularly since one of the bacon lovers in my family had recently parked a bacon sea salt trio in our Amazon.com shopping cart.

    Which leads to the key takeaway on food trends – it’s all about expanding and extrapolating the ingredient. Packaged bacon itself is now available in multiple slice choices, cures, cuts and sodium levels. New bacon-laced products range from the classic Ritz Bacon crackers to the aforementioned Bacon Hot Sauce, co-mingling two “hot” flavors. Or the gluten-free, dairy-free bacon chocolate cookie recipe just posted on bacontoday.com. Clearly, it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

    The same applies to Greek yogurt, which has overtaken the yogurt case and can now been found in salad dressings, dips, energy bars and even coating pretzels. And sriracha, a once-exotic hot sauce that is now a Heinz ketchup flavor and Subway sandwich special.

    And as for lottery tickets? New Hampshire’s is the first bacon scented scratch-and-sniff lottery ticket. Colorado tried other scents, which were not a success. Virginia has a $2 bacon lover’s ticket, but with no scent. A New Hampshire official said sales of the $1 ticket with a $1,000 prize have far exceeded expectations, noting "Everybody likes bacon, and people who don't like bacon are almost afraid to admit it."

    And if you’re feeling guilty about enjoying a perfectly-cooked piece of bacon, just heed this advice from Mark Twain:

    “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”


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

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    A couple of interesting Apple-related stories that have hit the news...

    First, The New Yorker has a profile of Jony Ive, head designer at the company, in which he says that he is working with the company's new retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, on a redesign of its iconic Apple Store fleet ... though the company has not said when it will take place, nor what the parameters of the redesign will be.

    Speaking as a devoted Apple consumer and devotee of its stores, it is hard for me to imagine how the experience can get any better ... though there is a suggestion that the company will reorganize the stores around the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch line.

    And speaking of the Apple Watch ...

    In addition, the Wall Street Journal reports that "Apple has asked its suppliers in Asia to make a combined five to six million units of its three Apple Watch models during the first quarter ahead of the product’s release in April, according to people familiar with the matter.

    "Half of the first-quarter production order is earmarked for the entry-level Apple Watch Sport model, while the mid-tier Apple Watch is expected to account for one-third of output, one of these people said."

    According to the story, "The orders are similar to early sales of Apple’s last major all-new product. Apple sold 7.5 million iPads in the six months after it arrived in April 2010 ... Apple Watch is the company’s first all-new product since the iPad." The story also notes that Apple's orders suggest that the company expects it to be far more successful than other wearable computer products.

    The low-end Apple Watch Sport will have a starting price of $349.

    I'm not entirely confident that this is a good idea, but I'm willing to keep an open mind.

    But I'll tell you one thing. Apple's confidence is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    The Seattle Times reports that "Starbucks is launching a coffee club that will ship small bags of rare coffee roasted at the facility directly to customers ... The service is not cheap: a three-month subscription that will yield a monthly 8.8-ounce bag of whole bean coffee is $72. Shipping included."

    According to the story, Starbucks is looking to make maximum use of its new Roastery in Seattle's Capitol Hill district, as well as its high-end reserve brand. "Starbucks says its Reserve Roastery subscription works as follows: On the second Sunday of each month, the Capitol Hill roastery will roast a new batch of 'new, exceptional' coffee, which it will ship the next day. It’s expected to arrive within five to eight business days."
    KC's View:
    The Christian Science Monitor, by the way, notes that "in the past few years, independent coffee roasters have cultivated cult-like followings of coffee drinkers who are interested in upscale brews and where and how their coffee is grown and roasted. Starbucks is trying to appeal to this market." And, it writes, Starbucks "plans to open 100 specialty Starbucks stores that serve only Reserve coffee."

    It is intriguing to watch Starbucks, which certainly is seeing some competitive pressure on one end from the likes of McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, look to establish even great coffee credibility on the high end. I suspect that Starbucks hopes that not only will this result in incremental sales, but that some of the credibility it generates will bleed over into the broader business model as well.

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    Published reports are saying that Amazon has expanded its Prime Now service - offering same-day shipping, often within one hour of ordering - from Brooklyn, New York, to Manhattan.

    HNGN reports that " The shipping deal only applies to these certain products, such as books, towels, shampoo and batteries. Customers will be able to order products via Amazon.com, as well as through a specialized app.

    "Amazon has plans to expand Amazon Prime Now  to other large cities in the near future, but they'll probably finish expanding it to all of NYC. Amazon did not mention which neighborhood they'll be expanding to next."
    KC's View:
    I absolutely believe that this is all going to roll out faster than anyone expects, as Amazon can see the writing on the wall as Walmart continues to test its click-and-collect service in a growing number of markets. It is all about speed-to-market and capturing market share as quickly as possible, before anyone else makes an incursion.

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    In Minnesota, the Star Tribune has a story about what Target is doing to try to rebound from its Canada debacle...

    "Project managers at the Minneapolis-based retailer are constantly experimenting with store displays, merchandising and the gadgetry of shopping," the story says. "They often test ideas around the Twin Cities, with its Quarry store in northeast Minneapolis a particular favorite.

    "After seeing positive results, Target has already been adding mannequins to make clothes pop out, taking iPads and smartphones out from behind the glass so customers can play with them, and installing more attractive backlit shelves in the beauty section. Now they are testing a new layout of the home department that looks more like a furniture store and re-imagining the first thing a customer sees when walking in the front entrance, an area now filled with bins of $1 items.

    "If an idea works, Target rolls it out to other stores. If it bombs, it quietly goes away."

    For a breakdown of Target's recent experiments, click here.
    KC's View:
    Seems to me that in order to get its mojo back, Target has to encourage an internal culture that is risk-embracing, that thrives on speed and innovation, and that it not afraid to fail in the pursuit of a better idea. No room for timidity ... there is so much competition and so much disruption in the retail space at this moment that Target has to avoid paralysis at any cost.

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    • The Houston Chronicle reports that software company Lithium has compiled a ranking of retailers that are most effective at using social media - especially Twitter - to communicate with local shoppers, concluding that Whole Foods ranks first, Kroger ranks second, and HEB ranks third.

    The story also makes the point that shoppers no longer have to "wait for the Sunday circulars to figure out the best food deals in Houston."
    KC's View:
    Which sort of plays into my long-term assessment, which has been that the whole circular business will be out of business before too long ... there simply is no good reason for using such an un-targeted approach to marketing in 2015.

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    PerishableNews reports that "Whole Foods Market has teamed up with longtime supplier partner American Homestead Natural Pork to launch the first large-scale Non-GMO Project Verified™ fresh pork program at Whole Foods Market stores in Oregon and Washington.

    "The new program, which includes a full lineup of fresh pork cuts in store meat cases, will offer a variety of choices for shoppers who are looking to avoid meat from animals fed genetically modified organisms (GMOs). All offerings also meet Whole Foods Market’s strict animal welfare standards."

    This program, the story says, "marks a significant point in Whole Foods Market’s progress toward providing GMO transparency for the products it sells, and is a step forward in meeting the needs of shoppers who are increasingly requesting organic and non-GMO alternatives."
    KC's View:
    Can I get an "Amen"?

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    "Customer satisfaction with retail is down for the first time in four years," according to a report released today by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which goes on to say that "all brick-and-mortar retail categories show weakening or flat customer satisfaction for the final quarter of 2014. Only Internet retail is up from a year ago."

    Highlights from the report:

    • "Customer satisfaction with department and discount stores stays flat with an ACSI score of 77, while the gap between the best- and worst-ranked companies continues to grow. At the top, Nordstrom gains 4 percent to 86, while Wal-Mart drops 4 percent to 68 to the bottom of the category. With its lowest level of customer satisfaction since 2007, Wal-Mart is now well behind Target (+4% to 80), Meijer (78), and Sears (-5% to 73)."

    • "Supermarket customer satisfaction is down 2.6 percent to an ACSI score of 76. Rising food prices played a major role – increasing 3.4 percent last year whereas the Consumer Price Index went up just 0.8 percent.

    "Among the large supermarket chains, there is a shake-up at the top with Trader Joe’s and Wegmans both entering the ACSI at 85, tied for the lead. They supplant perennial number one Publix, which drops 5 percent to tie ACSI newcomer H-E-B at 82. While customer satisfaction with Publix is still very strong, this is the first year that the chain is not on top among supermarkets.

    "Whole Foods, Target’s grocery division, and ALDI all come in at 81. Other chains above industry average are BI-LO (includes Winn-Dixie) at 79, Kroger (78), ShopRite (77) and Delhaize America (Food Lion, Hannaford) at 77. SUPERVALU (75), Safeway (75) and Albertsons (74) follow closely behind. Next are Ahold USA (Stop & Shop, Giant) and Giant Eagle (both 72). Wal-Mart’s grocery division dips to an industry-low score of 71, trailing in the battle for satisfied customers alongside its discount store general merchandise business."

    • "Customer satisfaction with specialty retailers is down 1.3 percent to an ACSI score of 79. Costco leads the category with a score of 84, beating BJ’s Wholesale Club (81), Sam’s Club (80), and Big Lots (77). In its first year of ACSI coverage, L Brands (Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works) comes in second with an ACSI score of 83."

    • "Delivery problems caused by bad weather left many online shoppers disappointed last year, but both retailers and shippers were better prepared this time. Customer satisfaction with internet retailers rebounds 5.1 percent to an ACSI score of 82, with smaller companies and the online business of brick- and-mortar retailers responsible for much of the improvement (+8% to 81). A majority of the pure-play Internet companies actually decline. Nevertheless, Amazon remains on top (-2% to 86), easily outdistancing Newegg (-2% to 81) and Netflix (+3% to 81). This marks the third straight year of improvement for Netflix. Meanwhile, Overstock (-3%) eBay (-1%) fall below industry average to 77 and 79, respectively. "
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    • The Houston Business Journal reports that Trader Joe's is about to open its fourth store in the Houston market, which makes it one of a number of food retailers trying to grab market share there.

    According to the story, "Grocery chains are expected to add 32 new stores in the Houston area this year alone, totaling about 3.7 million square feet of new retail space. Grocers like San Antonio-based H-E-B Grocery Co., Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. and Austin-based Whole Foods Market Inc. are expected to open stores this year.

    "H-E-B broke ground on its new Texas City store and opened another store near the Galleria area, the latter of which featured a restaurant inside the store."
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    • The Financial Times reports that Tesco has hired a new chairman - John Allan, the former chairman of Dixons and co-deputy chairman of Dixons Carphone. Allan will replace Richard Broadbent, who, in the wake of a number of embarrassing financial disclosures about the company, had said he would step down as soon as new management was in place and a successor was identified.

    Allan will begin his new role on March 1.

    FT writes that he "will inherit one of the toughest retail jobs in the UK. Tesco is facing multiple ­investigations in the wake of the profit overstatement, including from the­ ­Serious Fraud Office, Financial ­Reporting Council and Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, who polices how big supermarkets deal with their suppliers."
    KC's View:
    The only thing that worries me about this appointment is that one British executive search expert says that he has "a good record" and "is a pleasant and decent man." Which sort of reminds me of what my old seventh grade teacher, Mr. Kann, once told my dad about me in a parent-teacher conference - he said I was a good kid, which made my dad explode: "I know he's a good kid! What I want to know is why he can't do math and science!"

    Published on: February 18, 2015

    ...will return.
    KC's View: