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    Published on: June 23, 2016

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    As you read or watch this, I am making my way west to Portland, Oregon, where I'll be engaging in my annual "adjunctivity" at Portland State University's Center for Retail Leadership, team-teaching a class with Tom Gillpatrick. As longtime MNB readers know, this annual sojourn touches my heart and soul in all sorts of ways, and as I was driving along, I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and talk about it.

    Because as I drive, top down on the Mustang and enjoying the blue skies, it occurs to me that this week has been all about education.

    The week started with a drive to Chicago, where I spent some time at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Connect conference, which, as always, was educational in all sorts of ways. (More on that in "Reporting In," below.)

    And now, I'm heading across the northern part of the country ... purely because I wanted to drive through North Dakota - one of two states that I've never been to. I just wanted to see it, as part of my ongoing education. (Now, the only state I haven't been to is Alaska - if there are any retailers or associations up there who are looking for a speaker, let me know. I can be had. Especially during the summer.)

    And then, the week will end in Portland ...where I'll spend a lot of time with people a lot younger than me, with entirely different attitudes and experiences, and who, I've found over the years, tend to be motivated and hard-working and looking for a challenge and willing to be challenging. And here's the thing - I always think that I probably end up learning as much from them as they do from me.

    That's important. Because no matter how much experience we have, how many places we've been, and how many people we've met, there's always room to learn a little bit more, to experience something a little bit different, to taste a different food or wine, and to get beyond the epistemic closure that sometimes can restrict our views and attitudes.

    That's what I'm doing this week ... and now, I'm going to get back on the road. What I'm really hoping to see is a sign advertising pie ... because there's nothing like eating pie to enliven a cross country trip. If I'm lucky, it'll be a flavor I've never had before.

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    CHICAGO - Yesterday, I used this space to muse a bit about the turbulence that I believe faces much of the food industry, in the form of competition and technology and changing consumer trends and tastes. My thoughts were prompted largely by comments made Tuesday by Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL who know runs an investment group that specializes in launching and nurturing innovative start-up companies.

    Yesterday, I actually found some optimism, delivered with flourish and joy.

    It was at an FMI general session in which two celebrity chefs - Mario Batali and Robert Irvine - in which they talked about something that I've found often is not focused on enough in supermarkets.


    And what came across in the session - moderated by FMI CEO Leslie Sarasin - was the degree to which these guys absolutely love food. Not necessarily the fancy stuff, of course. Batali waxed rhapsodic at one point about the the pleasures of linguini with clams, soft scrambled eggs, or pork chops with a sprinkle of pickled cherry peppers ("that you can pick up in any supermarket," he pointed out) that are cooked under the broiler. "Simpler and more realizable" is best, he said, suggesting that the only obstacles to that kind of cooking "is thinking you can't do it."

    Batali also said at one point to the assembled grocers and suppliers, "Show me five steps to make something in eight minutes, and I'll be your customer for life."

    Irvine talked a bit more about the fitness lifestyle, but emphasized that good food can be very much a part of this. 'Food changes people's lives," he said. "It changes their mental state and physical being, and you are part of that." And, he emphasized, "Food is not handcuffs."

    The good news about the session was that it likely made everybody a little bit hungry. But if there was bad news for FMI, it was that it seemed that there was less food sampling on the exhibit floor than ever ... which may suggest that the organization (which once had an entire show built around 'Meal Solutions") is at some sort of creative crossroads.

    This is not to say that there was no food at the McCormick Place convention center. In fact, the United Fresh exhibit floor across the hall seemed very much busier, with lots of sampling and energy. And more than a few people observed to me that the Italian Pavilion on the FMI floor was pretty busy, largely because there was more food (and wine) there.

    The thing is, more and more food stores are finding that they have to be more focused on food - fresh, delicious, even challenging food, and not the lowest-common-denominator products that used to dominate their aisles - because it can be for them an enormous differential advantage against competition that is coming at them from all directions. And they have to find ways to bring the "flourish and joy" about which Batali talked to their own food offerings.

    They have to do it right, or it won't be worth doing.

    Meanwhile, FMI already is reacting to the general perception that the show this year is under-attended and lacks the energy of past years. The association will address the issue in a press conference scheduled for later today at which Sarasin will talk about plans for 2017: “We recognize that today’s grocers must be nimble to meet the growing demand for products, global cuisines, new shopping and customer communication channels and more; therefore, our event will progressively address these changes," she said in a statement preceding the press conference. " We are taking steps to change the event to increasingly reflect the food retail industry’s customized approach to food retailing operations and the shopping experience, which is why we’re committing to boldness and agility.”

    • In other news, FMI announced the winners of the 2016 Store Manager Awards - Alberto Ayala of Northgate Gonzalez Market, Los Angeles, California (in the 1-49 stores category); Piotr Soja, of Big Y Foods, Inc., Northampton, Massachusetts (in the 50-199 stores category); Josh Birmingham, of The Kroger Co. Columbus Division, Holland, Ohio (in the 200+ stores category); Ted Pigeon, of Overwaitea Food Group, Victoria, BC, Canada (in the international division); and Jon Wieser, of Festival Foods, Green Bay, Wisconsin, who got the 2016 Store Manager People's Pick Award.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    Most of us can probably remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the stunned feelings we had in the immediate aftermath.

    But what were you doing the next day or the day after? Imagine if it involved caring for more than 6,000 displaced people.

    That is the incredible story of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland, immediately after the skies over the United States were shut to all air travel. A large number of planes were already in the air on trans-Atlantic flights and Canada was stuck with finding places for them to land.

    Thirty-eight large jets set down in Gander, depositing those 6,000-plus people in an area ill equipped to handle that influx. Yet the people of Gander and the surrounding towns did just that and did it with care and kindness in a way that will melt your heart nearly 15 years later.

    I only stumbled into the story serendipitously when a friend loaned my wife a sweet little book, “The Day the World Came to Town,” by Jim DeFede. The book is 14 years old, but the story is wonderful and will get every American to look north of the border with appreciation.

    But one small element will stand out with the food industry. In the midst of all their disorientation, it was incredible to read how many of the displaced found comfort in finding familiar brands, especially Walmart, in Gander. In addition to the neighborly comfort given by the locals, the friendly reminder of home reminds us in turn of the community role stores and brands play for our shoppers.

    A sweet reminder. And, I must admit, an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    Whole Foods announced that it will open its third "365" store in Bellevue Square, in Bellevue, Washington, on September 14.

    The first "365" store opened in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles just a few weeks ago; the second is slated to open in Lake Oswego, Oregon, in mid-July.

    The Seattle Times writes that the store, which is described as being less expensive than traditional Whole Foods stores, with less foodservice and a higher quotient of hipness, has chosen Wild Ginger Kitchen "as the local partner to operate a fast-casual dining area inside the new store."

    Whole Foods reportedly would like to open as many as 17 "365" stores over the coming 18 months.

    Meanwhile, Bloomberg Businessweek has an excellent piece about the original "365" store in Los Angeles, looking at it through the eyes of a millennial, whose "bona fides include doing improv at Upright Citizens Brigade and having car insurance paid by his mother."

    The issue for "365" may be that while it is hip and cool and great place to hang, it may not be a place that sells a ton of groceries over the long term.

    You can read it here.
    KC's View:
    "Hip" is not a business strategy. It is just a tactic. And it is interesting to me how pretty much every story about "365" talks about how Whole Foods sees it as a competitive response to its own image problems, as well as a response to Trader Joe's. To be successful, it seems to me, "365" has to have something wholly original to say ... and not just be a response to something else.

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that new US census figures say that "white Americans no longer account for the majority in hundreds of counties across the U.S., a trend transforming America’s social and political landscape as Latinos, Asians and blacks outpace white population growth."

    The story goes on: "In 370 counties across 36 states and the District of Columbia, non-Hispanic whites accounted for less than half the population as of July 2015. That includes 31 additional counties since 2010, such as those encompassing Fort Worth and Austin in Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and parts of suburban Atlanta and Sacramento, Calif.

    "Of the nation’s 3,142 counties, the so-called minority majority ones—12% of the total—represent an outsize chunk of the U.S. population since they are home to almost one-third of Americans." And, "while three-quarters of Americans age 55 and older are white, just 56% of those 18 to 34 are white, and only slightly more than half of minors are white."
    KC's View:
    Obviously, these are numbers with cultural, political and economic implications ... and at the very least, retailers in a lot of places are going to have to start redefining who their customers are. And they'll have to stay ahead of the wave, lest they be washed away by it.

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    • The Boston Globe reports that AmazonFresh has officially launched in Beantown, costing $200 a year on top of a required $99 Amazon Prime membership fee.

    According to the story, "Amazon said Cambridge butcher Savenor’s Market, Hardwick livestock farm Chestnut Farm, Boston fish supplier Red’s Best, and merchants at Dorchester’s nonprofit incubator, CommonWealth Kitchen, will all be providing products for the service’s Local Market, which is delivered as part of customers’ AmazonFresh orders."

    The story goes on: "Fruit, vegetables, meat, pet food — even highly perishable seafood — qualify for same- and next-day delivery. Amazon said all grocery orders made by 10 a.m. through AmazonFresh can be delivered by dinner time; orders made by 10 p.m. can be delivered by breakfast."

    And, notably, "an Amazon spokeswoman said the service is available in most Boston neighborhoods, including: Allston, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Brighton, Charlestown, City Point, Dorchester, Forest Hills, Jamaica Plain, Orient Heights, and South Boston. The service will also be available in all three of Roxbury’s zip codes. Amazon came under intense criticism earlier this year for originally excluding the predominantly black neighborhood from its other same-day delivery services."

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that "the Federal Aviation Administration said it would fine Inc. $130,000 for allegedly mishandling shipments of dangerous chemicals, marking three fines in less than two weeks the agency has penalized the retailer for violating rules related to shipping hazardous materials by air."

    The story makes the point that "the fines come at a time when Amazon is becoming more closely involved in the logistics of shipping its products, and the FAA is stepping up enforcement of air cargo safety violations."

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    Walmart announced this morning that it is expanding Walmart Pay, its method of paying for purchases via smartphone, to its stores in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.

    Walmart describes the technology this way: "Built with the goal of improving how customers check out and dramatically expanding mobile payment access, Walmart Pay is like no other mobile payments solution available today. With this launch, Walmart becomes the only retailer to offer its own payment solution that works with any iOS or Android device*, at any checkout lane, and with any major credit, debit, pre-paid or Walmart gift card – all through the Walmart mobile app."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    • Aldi has announced the launching of a line of meat products that will have no antibiotics, added hormones or steroids, or animal byproducts. According to Food Business News, "The Never Any! collection includes chicken breasts, hickory bacon, whole chicken, chicken breast tenderloins and Italian or spinach feta chicken sausage. Additionally, the discount grocery chain is testing Never Any! breakfast chicken sausage and chipotle or tomato basil chicken sausage in select locations."

    • The Tampa Bay Business Journal writes that the rebranding of three Albertsons stores in central Florida as Safeways "is particularly notable for the industry. The new stores ... launched with online shopping and one-hour delivery service, via refrigerated trucks 'with multiple temperature zones, so frozen items stay frozen and vegetables are crispy fresh when delivered'."

    The story notes that Safeway is taking an entirely different approach than Publix does. Safeway's "fleet gives the company far more control over grocery quality than if items were delivered by a third-party service," while Publix is outsourcing its deliveries to Shipt, "though Shipt has no formal agreement with the grocer."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    • The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) announced that its Key Award, the group’s highest individual honor presented to association CEOs, will be awarded to Bryan Silbermann, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). According to ASAE, the Key Award recognizes Silbermann’s “exceptional qualities of leadership in his...association and displays a deep commitment to voluntary membership organizations.”
    KC's View:
    Great guy. Great association executive. Well-deserved.

    Published on: June 23, 2016

    Very different reactions to Kate McMahon's column yesterday about "Cory James Connell. Mercedez Marisol Flores. Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo.

    "They were just three young people who worked hard all week in their retail jobs and went to a dance club on a Saturday night to have fun.

    "Tragically, they chose the Pulse nightclub in Orlando the same night gunman Omar Mateen opened fire with a military assault rifle and a Glock pistol, killing 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. It was declared a hate crime and an act of terrorism."

    Kate's column looked at these young people's lives, and expressed appreciation for their employers, who she felt stepped up in appropriate ways after the massacre.

    MNB reader Jesse Sowell wrote:

    Kate's Take today clobbered me emotionally (not an easy thing to do.) I have a lot of opinions about the Pulse murders, and have expressed them widely and passionately over the last few days. But all I have to say today is "thank you" for reminding us all of the impact this tragedy has had on individuals and communities.

    MNB reader Christine Neary wrote:

    Thank you so much, Kate, for this beautiful, touching piece.

    And MNB user Dave Ahrens wrote:

    Nice article. It’s been tough here in Orlando – especially waking up last Sunday morning to the constant news reports, each one more devastating than the last.

    It is somewhat comforting to know that the rest of the US is experiencing this with us. Each of the 49 young people have typical stories. I drove by a hair salon last night that had  a large memorial out front – the two owners/managers both lost their lives that evening. The young man that we often dropped our UPS packages off to was also killed. All of the out pouring of love locally and nationwide helps some - but the uneasy fear and the anger still lingers.

    Hopefully our leaders can come up with some “common sense” legislation that may help make it less easy for a crazed radical to commit something like this again.

    My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the lost and the survivors.

    Not everyone, however, loved the column.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Why do people have to make this tragedy about the guns and that the club was a gay night club.  The Muslim Extremist was looking to kill Americans. He cased Disney World but choose a soft target.  He could have chosen to use jet plane, box cutter, pressure cooker, a knife, a Car, a bomb, fire, poison instead of firearms.  Evil will use any means to hurt innocent and good people. Unfortunately, this monster was an ISIS sympathizer a Muslim Extremist that hated America Values and western culture.  The FBI could have stopped the criminal. The gun shop owner called the FBI twice and they did nothing. The monster was interviewed twice by the FBI  but they did nothing. This administration is more worried about political points and correctness rather than actually protecting Americans.  Gun Crimes are mainly committed by those who have them illegally. We don’t blame cars when a drunk driver kills someone with it. The gun laws work  but the government needs to enforce them. The government demonstrates on many levels their inability to follow the law and properly govern. Fast and Furious is a perfect example of government in action where the Administration sold gun to Mexican Drug Cartels which ended up killing a border agent.   The Government will sell firearms to foreign countries that are in some case a national security threat but restrict selling them to Americans that have a right to own them. God Help  Our Country.  God Bless the people, families and friends of those who lost their lives in Orlando.

    And from another reader:

    Most of Kate's post was a very good piece about honoring the victims, and noting how some food retailers have gone out of their way in their contributions.  Well done!

    A few of red flags...

    No mention was made about the killer's allegiance to Islamic terrorism, however, Kate reported that guns were used, but stated incorrectly that the rifle was a military assault rifle, which typically means it was fully automatic, BUT his rifle was a semi automatic, as was his Glock. 

    Although I'm assuming she felt she was just reporting the facts, it's clear to many of us that she's faithfully restating the president's talking points to deflect the cause away from Islamic inspired terrorism, and blame it primarily on guns and poor gun laws.

    If one of the people in the club was legally armed and well trained with a concealed pistol, and if they had enough courage and skill, perhaps less carnage would have resulted.

    And from another reader:

    1.   It was NOT a military assault rifle.

    2.   They were NOT killed BY the rifle AND the mad man, JUST by the Mad Man.

    Do you have an agenda?  Or are you just one of the sheeple that go along with the MSM no matter the lies?

    I usually enjoy your writings, and your main point was great, AND valid, but for me, these 2 points spoiled it.

    And from another:

    Great article except for your last line mentioning assault weapons. You do realize that there is nothing called an assault weapon except for actual army assault rifle. If I use your definition, I have an assault knife, and assault pencil, an assault baseball bat and an assault fist. These poor people were killed by a terrorist who’s weapon of choice was a gun. You need to read up on guns and other weapons as all you do is regurgitate that same crap the press whips up the uneducated crowds with, lingo and a false narrative.

    I am going to go out of my way not to turn this into a long conversation about guns. Not that I don't have strong opinions, and not that I'm unwilling to express them. It is just that this could be all-consuming, and I want to make sure that doesn't happen. After all, I have to have room to shill for Amazon...

    But I do want to make one point, which is that I don't think it is entirely fair to suggest that people who may disagree with you on the gun issue are simply and mindlessly parroting President Obama and the mainstream media and have not given the matter any thought. Any more than it would be fair for people who disagree with you to suggest that you are simply and mindlessly parroting the National Rifle Association (NRA).

    Maybe, just maybe, if people actually gave people who disagree with them some credit for thinking and understood why they feel the way they do, we could actually find some way to compromise around this issue that would create dialogue rather than vitriol.

    Just a thought.
    KC's View: