Published on: March 24, 2016
MNB the other day took note of a Wall Street Journal
report that a California jury ruled that Coca-Cola did not mislead consumers when it advertised a pomegranate-blueberry juice that contained less than one percent pomegranate juice. The suit had been brought against Coke by Pom Wonderful, which was seeking more than $75 million in damages. The jury in the case decided that Pom had not proved that Coke's labeling was misleading and that, since it had not suffered any economic harm, it did not deserve any money.
I commented, in part:First, it is rich that Pom would accuse anyone of false advertising, since it has been banned by the federal government from making claims about the health benefits of pomegranate juice. (The Journal notes that Pom has claimed that it is effective in fighting "heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction."
That said, with all due respect to my friends at Coke, it won't come as any surprise to MNB readers that I have a problem with a product labeled as pomegranate-blueberry juice containing less than one percent pomegranate juice, even though Coke maintains that the labels were accurate and packaging depicted all five fruits used in the juice.
This isn't all that different from frozen blueberry pancakes that don't actually contain blueberries. And some people in the industry wonder why some folks get exasperated about labeling that they view as being anything but transparent and accurate. I don't care where the bar is set by the law. I think retailers and manufacturers ought to be focused on setting the bar high, with an eye on being honest and accurate in the eyes of consumers.
One MNB user responded:I stopped shopping the juice aisle altogether when I finally realized I was being offered two hundred variations on apple, grape and pear juice mis-represented as all kinds of other fruit juices. Tell me, why does the product title front panel description not have to operate from the same rules as the ingredient clause with listing by content ranking?
Please don’t ever back off your posture on transparency and disclosure. The voice of reason and common sense needs to be heard. The laws of the land are now the laws of the corporate citizens, not those of the people. And now our agencies are corporate chattels and mouth pieces. Misleading is just that. Corporate citizens want their consuming public dumb, stupid and foolishly fooled.
MNB user Martin Carroll wrote:You are right on so many levels here…theater-of-the-absurd type of stuff with Pom suing Coke over this. But then, I really like how you moved from “micro” to “macro” on the subject of the Coca Cola ruling. Moving from the decision on pomegranate-blueberry juice labeling, to the broader notion of how shoppers feel exasperated about proper labeling, to the broader context of industry responsibility in the area of transparency is, in my mind, a concise, appropriate, and insightful train of thought. Trust in this area of the marketplace is essential.
Thanks. I get one right every once in a while.
Regarding the controversy about Starbucks under-filling its lattes, MNB user Chris Wilcox wrote:So – what’s funny about the whole SBUX issue is that over the last month, the flat white I typically order has gotten lighter and lighter… to the point yesterday that there was nearly an inch of foam on top of it and I had to practically hold it at a 90 degree angle to get any coffee out (not to mention the ongoing mental battle about dropping $5 on 16 oz of milk and probably 2 oz of actual coffee). This morning? The cup was full and the foam was nestled against the top of the cup. While I would like to chalk it up to coincidence, I’m a little too savvy (or perhaps jaded?) to be convinced of that.
Responding to our ongoing coverage of the FTC's efforts to derail the Staples acquisition of Office Depot, one MNB user wrote:The attorney for Staples should point out to the FTC the great job they did with the Albertsons Safeway merger. The FTC has a lot of nerve even being in existence after that screw up.
I think the FTC should exist. I also think that the definition of competition has to be adjusted for 2016 realities.
Responding to the story about the growth of Alibaba, MNB user Bryan Silbermann wrote: Having just returned from PMA meetings in China last week, I have a comment on your item about Alibaba’s performance and plans.
A group of PMA’s member and staff leaders visited the Alibaba HQ in Hangzhou last week and were given an extensive view of the capabilities, accomplishments and plans for the company. We even had lunch in one of their lovely restaurants on the sprawling six-building campus that houses the current 30,000 employees (average age: 26). Amazingly, there is another huge construction project underway right across the road to house several more tens of thousands of employees expected to be hired in the coming years to fulfill the plans you quote CEO Daniel Zhang as having. The spin-off effect Alibaba is having in the city is obvious everywhere, with cranes rising above housing complexes and shopping centers.
One should not lose sight of the scope of Alibaba’s vision to become more than just a trading platform for other merchants. It’s Alipay service is soon set to overtake payments made on the platform by Mastercard. Its logistics services are also making huge gains and have surely had an impact on Amazon’s plans in this regard. And the volume of its transactions on Singles Day 11-11-2015 is simply astounding as a snapshot in time of the programming, merchants, logistics and customer service capabilities they’ve assembled to deliver so many products to so many people in so short a time span.
Yesterday, I ran an email from the MNB user that was prompted by the death of Andy Grove, the iconic former CEO of Intel. It ticked some folks off, but I want to rerun it here, just for context:An immigrant. From Hungary, which, according to my Cruise Missile Atlas of the World, is somewhere in Europe, which is near Russia and all those dangerous and terrible Moslems.
We should have had a wall. We should keep such people out. We don’t need any darn immigrants coming into our country, sucking down our resources living on welfare and doing things that ought to be done by real Americans, like totally transforming the world and building untold billions of dollars in value and competitive advantage for the USA for decades.
One MNB user wrote:I find the email that you published regarding Andy Grove being an immigrant to be completely asinine and ignorant. The writer goes out of his way to perpetuate a leftist falsehood that everyone in the GOP, Conservatives, etc .... are anti-immigration. The writer fails to distinguish between Legal Immigration and Illegal Immigration. They fail to distinguish between a stringent screening process and the inherent safety risks and economic drain associated with a full open door policy. The Statue of Liberty reads:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Nowhere in this poem does it say to send us your gang members, drug dealers, terrorists, or common criminals. Nowhere does it indicate that we cannot, or should not, be selective about those we allow in. Nowhere does it indicate that we should not limit immigration during specific times where credible threats are present.
This country was built upon the backs of immigrants and will continue to grow based on an appropriate immigration policy. The reality is that we should all want to promote immigration of those that will assimilate and can add to the greatness of this country (remember The Great American Melting Pot?). To relate this to one of your business lessons, immigration should be viewed as the ultimate synergistic relationship, with the result being American Exceptionalism, which is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. This is where there is a huge difference between the legal immigration of a man like Andy Grove vs a common drug mule crossing the southern border illegally. This is also where the writer of the email you published clearly, and purposely, oversimplifies the situation to promote a demonstrably false political agenda.
From another reader:Yes, Mr. Grove was an Immigrant – who came to the US in 1956-7… Anyone who thinks the world of 2016 has anything in common with 60 years ago needs to put on a different pair of glasses and see what is happening across the world TODAY. I believe bias is wrong, but it is also especially dangerous when yielded by those in denial of reality.
And MNB reader Tom Robbins wrote:Let's keep the political "Crap" out of an otherwise very good daily forum.
To be fair, MNB does veer into the political from time to time, especially when I think that political issues could have an impact on the conduct of business.
And to be clear, I thought long and hard about running that email. I knew it would inflame some passions ... especially in view of the event sin Belgium this week. But ultimately, that is at least one of the reasons I did it.
When I read the original coverage of Grove's death, I also took note of his immigrant history, and so when I got the email I thought he made a legitimate point. I agree that there is a big difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration, just as there are big differences between how different people would deal with illegal immigrants. I do happen to think it is unfortunate when some folks describe illegal immigrants as being thieves or drug dealers or whatever ... a lot of them are anything but. And I think the current political climate actually lends itself to an anti-immigrant tone ... even legal immigrants. Where I think this could have a business impact, for example, is on legal immigrants who may be working in retail stores and who may be targeted by the less tolerant among us.
Here's what I think
I know. The subject of immigration is a highly complex one that deserves far more nuanced conversation and debate than we are getting in this country. Both sides of the political aisle are, for the most part, staking out positions and not budging, because they think that this is how elections are won. They may be right ... in which case, we're all screwed, because that certainly is not how you govern. And winning elections these days seems far more important that actually governing.
If you think this does not have an impact on the conduct of business, I think you are mistaken.