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    Published on: September 16, 2015

    by Kate McMahon

    There’s no doubt that family meals provide much more than sustenance. Research repeatedly shows that children who regularly share meals with their family achieve higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and weight, and less risky behavior.

    As any parent will tell you, the challenge is getting everyone to the table at the same time, and providing healthy food. When my daughters were younger and my husband’s job took him to another city every week, our Sunday dinners were sacrosanct. We would start jointly planning the menu mid-week, and always had candles on the kitchen table. It was my favorite night of the week. However, attempts to replicate that relaxed meal other evenings were less successful.

    Or, to quote the Food Marketing Institute Foundation’s Cathy Polley: "Juggling the demands of modern life—school, sports, jobs and long commutes—can sabotage the best laid plans for family meals.”

    So FMI and some 75 retail and manufacturing partners are promoting September as National Family Meals Month, encouraging households to add one more breakfast, lunch of dinner together each week – a move long advocated here at MNB.

    FMI also recently recognized retailers that have been ahead of the curve on this, giving Gold Plate Awards to Price Chopper for the Family Mealtimes Matter program launched in 2008, Acme Fresh Market of Ohio for its family meals campaign, Ahold USA for its Savory: Fast, Fresh and Easy meal platform and Ben’s Beginners, the parent-child cooking program from Uncle Ben’s Brand rice.

    This month FMI is providing the toolkit and #RaiseYourMitt hashtag, and we are following how retailers are activating and promoting #FamilyMealsMonth on social media.

    Among the more innovative is the Hy-Vee Dinner Crasher video on Facebook, Twitter and its area YouTube channel. The clip shows Papillion, Nebraska, store chef Keith Walsh surprising a local family of four in their home, creating a dinner of watermelon salad, pasta with smoked chicken, corn, zucchini, mushrooms and parmesan, and a waffle with peach ice cream, brandied peaches, caramel and whipped cream. (Hy-Vee calls its Diner Crashing was fun way to show customer appreciation, and Keith chose this family based on the kids’ obvious culinary interest during family shopping trips.)

    Indiana-based Martin’s Super Markets has a two-pronged approach, holding family cooking classes at area stores and encouraging customers to post a photo and description of their “Family Meal Masterpiece” to win a weekly $100 gift card.

    Acme Fresh Market wants Facebook fans to share a photo or a few words about a memorable family meal moment to be entered to win one week of family meals delivered to their doorstep by its catering team. Weis Market’s clientele is being asked to upload a photo of a favorite meal and family for a chance to win one of four $100 gift cards this month.

    I think the success of these promotions hinges on consumer engagement – in store, on social media and in the kitchen. There has to be a connection. If a retailer makes it easy for the parent on dinner duty to turn a Facebook or Instagram recipe for chicken pot pie into a family meal using a store prepared rotisserie chicken, frozen vegetables and puff pastry, bingo, that is a connection. It will bring that mom or dad back to the social media platform, and more importantly, back to the store.

    The Hy-Vee campaign works because the chain’s social media sites and Pinterest deliver content – family meal suggestions, recipes, and how to-videos.

    We’re always interested to learn what retailers, marketers and manufacturers are doing to promote healthy family meals – in the store and on social media – so please share your examples by emailing me at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    Michael Sansolo wrote a column this week about how losing can be more important than winning. After all, we often learn more from our losses than we do from our wins.

    This isn't always a popular sentiment. Not in sports, not in politics, and not in business.

    It was interesting, however, to read the Associated Press interview with Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, who recently lost in the semifinals of the US Open, which dashed her hopes of winning the Grand Slam of tournaments (the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) in a single calendar year, an accomplishment that would have put her if rarefied company.

    Williams had been expected to win the US Open, and it was an enormous upset when she was beaten by Roberta Vinci, who went on to lose in the finals.

    In the interview, Williams said, ""We should be happy for each other, you know what I mean? We gotta build up each other. We can't be angry."

    She went on: "I mean, I won four Grand Slam (tournaments) in a row, and got to the semis in another one, and I've done that twice. I mean how many people have done that? So, yeah, it wasn't a loss for me, it was a win and a learning experience. And I tried hard. Unfortunately the girl I played just outplayed me that day, you know ... She probably deserved it. And I am happy for her."

    How about that? Losing her shot at the Grand Slam was a learning experience ... which suggests that we should not count her out. Serena Williams will be back ... competitive, tough, and just a little bit smarter than in the past.

    That's an mature and Eye-Opening attitude. And I thought that in view of Michael's column earlier this week, it deserved to be noted.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    The Seattle Times reports this morning that Haggen "pans to surrender most of the territory it acquired in its ambitious bid to become a West Coast grocery powerhouse, judging by financial projections it made in bankruptcy court that paint the Bellingham grocer shrinking to one third of its current size by early November."

    Indeed, some sources tell MNB that the plan is to sell virtually every one of the stores that made up its Pacific Southwest division, that were acquired when Albertsons bought Safeway and had to divest stores.

    According to the Times story, "In a court filing, Haggen chief financial officer Blake Barnett said that the 17 grocery stores that were run by Haggen before its acquisition were profitable, to the tune of $25 million in annual earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and depreciation. Those locations, combined with 'some' of the newly-acquired stores, will 'ultimately form a set of successful core stores' that the company will restructure itself around, Barnett said."

    The story also notes that "Haggen’s creditors committed $215 million to get the company through the bankruptcy. As of Sept. 11, the company was estimated to have $272,000 in the bank, not counting proceeds from the credit facility provided by the lenders after the bankruptcy filing." As a result of its cash flow problems, Haggen was said to be dealing with a severe cutback in shipments by manufacturers, which was creating significant out-of-stock issues, which was hurting sales even more.

    Haggen has sued Albertsons for more than $1 billion, accusing the company of systematically sabotaging its efforts to operate the stores effectively.
    KC's View:
    Lots of people are going to lose their jobs, I'd guess, because it is hard to believe that supermarkets will end up being put into all these Haggen locations. I'd also guess that in some cases where supermarket companies do acquire locations, they may go dark for a while since non-union retailers will have to satisfy California law before reopening them.

    It is just a mess. Frankly, the Haggen name now is tainted ... and it is hard to imagine that the brand has any sort of long-term future ... unless they're somehow able to accomplish some sort of miracle. And miracles are in short supply.

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    The Bergen Record reports that the judge overseeing the bankruptcy of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&) "has approved up to $3.9 million in retention pay for non-union management and corporate employees, with the provision that close to $1.1 million be added to the severance fund for union and non-union workers not included in the retention bonus plan."

    A&P had been seeking $5 million in retention funds; the story says that "the $3.9 million in retention pay will be divided among 468 employees, provided they stay until the store sales are completed. A&P had argued that it was 'triaging' management and corporate employees and that it had lost 80 such employees since filing for bankruptcy."

    It is unclear, the story says, exactly how many unionized employees will qualify for the $1.1 million in funds, or how it will be dispersed.

    A&P filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this summer, and plans to close or sell all of its 296 stores and get out of the supermarket business.
    KC's View:
    It really only works out to about eight grand apiece if the $3.9 million is divided equally (which it won't be). But I still find the whole premise to be offensive ... the guys at the top, who steered the ship into the iceberg, get taken care of, while the folks in the engine room don't even get a lifejacket.

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    Fortune reports that Walgreen has struck a deal with on-demand delivery service Postmates to provide 24/7 delivery of "a fairly comprehensive catalog of Walgreen’s products." The service will be available in every market where Walgreen operates, the story says, and in the beginning will carry a flat $4.99 delivery fee.

    "Though it’s mostly known for delivering meals from restaurants, Postmates has been making a huge push over the past year to ink high-profile deals with retailers in other industries, and Walgreens is only the latest," Fortune writes. "Others include Chipotle, the Apple Store, 7-Eleven, and Starbucks ... This latest partnership is also part of Postmates grand plan to make its logistics more efficient - and better pricing for customers."
    KC's View:
    If you ignore my broader concerns about outsourcing delivery functions, this story continues a trend that seems to be picking up significant momentum in recent weeks, as more and more retailers seek relevance through delivery services that will bring their products to their shoppers, as opposed to vice-versa.

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart "is expanding its grocery-pickup services to several dozen locations, as it tests shoppers’ desire to get their groceries without leaving their cars. The world’s largest retailer by revenue will next week add five additional grocery pickup locations to the parking lots of existing smaller format grocery store-style Neighborhood Markets in Northwest Arkansas. The company already operates one stand-alone pickup location in the area, home to Wal-Mart’s headquarters."

    The story goes on to say that "the new locations are part of a bigger expansion of the service, said a spokesman for the company. In recent weeks, the retailer has added dozens of grocery-pickup locations to parking lots of Supercenter and Neighborhood Markets around Phoenix, Denver and Huntsville, Ala. ... Wal-Mart’s growing investment in grocery-pickup locations comes at a time when grocers and other retailers are scrambling to find a way to make grocery delivery or pickup popular and profitable. The logistics of handling fresh, frozen and room-temperature food and delivering to a wide swath of homes for a reasonable price is tricky."

    City Wire writes that "Wal-Mart did not disclose how fast it may continue to roll out the grocery pickup noting there are still issues to resolve before the service is ready for a nationwide rollout. Wal-Mart executives told the media in June that it aimed to be No. 1 in the pickup format, and grocery was going to lead the way."
    KC's View:
    I still think that at some point, Walmart ought to announce that within 90 days, the vast majority of its US stores will have click-and-collect options with facilities built in their parking lots that will allow for ease of pickup. It'd be an enormous statement of intent that would grab the attention of every Amazon customer.

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    Interesting piece in Fortune about how Target "is going all out to become a leader in digital business. The company "is spending $1 billion this year on strengthening its e-commerce capacity, just began piloting a grocery delivery service in Minneapolis with Instacart. It is testing ship-from-store at 150 Target locations to speed up delivery of online orders with more locations to come shortly. And it has deployed beacons at 50 stores to help it personalize offers made to customers while they are in shopping."

    The story notes that "Target’s digital sales rose about 30% in the second quarter of 2015, but CEO Brian Cornell has made it clear he wants to see more growth, a big challenge given all the investments rivals like Walmart and are making."

    The broad strokes of Target's investments and strategic approach can be found here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    Reuters reports that Albertsons plans to move ahead "with plans for an initial public offering in late September or early October that could value it as much as $24 billion," a decision that "underscores its confidence that it can fetch a high valuation for Albertsons" despite recent volatility in the stock market.

    "As Albertsons markets itself to investors, it will tout still unrealized synergies from the Safeway merger and potential acquisition opportunities," the story says, and it will do so despite the $1 billion lawsuit filed against it by Haggen, which acquired 146 stores that had to be divested when Albertsons acquired Safeway.
    KC's View:
    One of the things said to be pushing Cerberus - Albertsons' majority owner - to do this is the strong stock market performance of Kroger, which it hopes to replicate. But I'm not sure that's the best way to be looking at it ... Albertsons is big, but it isn't Kroger.

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    Time reports that Whole Foods, hoping to combat its "whole paycheck" image, currently is running a special deal - a cup of brewed coffee for 25 cents.

    The story notes that the promotion, which runs through the end of the month, is designed not just to provide a highly visible example of a low price, but may also "appease shoppers who feel the supermarket is just too expensive, especially in light of the recent scandal in which the chain was caught overcharging customers."

    Variety reports that the documentary tracking the recent Market Basket controversy - during which a family ownership squabble led to a consumer boycott of the stores and a rising up by employees to support the ownership group that they thought was interested in investing in the stores, not taking money out of the company - will premiere at the Boston Film Festival this weekend.

    We The People: The Market Basket Effect, narrated by Michael Chiklis, debuts on September 20.

    Ted Leonsis, the internet and sports executive who is a producer of the film, describes it as celebrating "the incredible resolve of an amazing group of people who had the will and desire to affect change. It truly captures the current national discourse and recounts one of the most relevant stories ever told in America.”

    • The BBC reports that Anheuser-Busch InBev has approached SAB Miller about a possible merger/acquisition, which, if accomplished, would put brands like Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona, Peroni and Grolsch all under one corporate umbrella.

    No specific proposals have been floated yet, the story says.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    Fred DeLuca, the founder of the Subway sandwich shop chain who grew it from a single store in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to one of the world's best-known fast food franchises, has passed away. He was 67.

    The cause of death was not announced, but DeLuca, who remained Subway's CEO, was known to be receiving treatment for leukemia.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 16, 2015

    ...will return.
    KC's View: