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    Published on: November 9, 2016


    by Kate McMahon

    Can an animated, octogenarian mascot dressed in a leafy-green toga convince the millennial generation to shop for vegetables in the freezer case?

    B&G Foods is hoping the Jolly Green Giant and his trademark “ho ho ho” will do just that, currently launching his comeback on social media and large and small screens across the nation.

    The iconic giant has been shelved in recent years, as sales of frozen vegetables have slumped and younger, health-conscious shoppers have filled their grocery baskets with fresh kale and “power greens.”

    The jolly one and his diminutive sidekick Sprout are currently on a cross-country Instagram road trip, and a teaser-style film trailer will be airing at movie theaters promoting his looming return to TV commercials and mainstream media. (You can see a version of it above.)

    B&G purchased Green Giant from General Mills for $765 million last year, and is counting on Jolly Green Giant nostalgia and a new line of products to make the brand relevant again. According to Euromonitor, Green Giant’s vegetable sales in the U.S. have dropped 25% since 2011.

    The new products are clearly designed for millennials and shoppers who are looking to swap vegetables for carbohydrate heavy starches such as pasts and potatoes, without the prep work. Interestingly, the emphasis is on the word “veggie” not "vegetable" in the product name. The frozen offerings include three varieties of Mashed Cauliflower, four varieties of Riced Veggies, five Roasted Veggies and three Veggie Tots aimed for kids.

    Trader Joe’s introduced frozen riced cauliflower last year, and a bagged version in the refrigerated produce aisle this year, and both are big sellers. Wegmans has its own fresh-cut cauliflower rice, and Taylor Farms is promoting its cauliflower pearls as “the better way to mash.” Retailers ranging from Stew Leonard’s to Whole Foods to Stop and Shop sell zucchini and other fresh vegetables cut in spiral-like noodles as a pasta replacement.

    Based on conversations with my daughters and other millennials, there is a perception among younger consumers that frozen vegetables lack the taste and nutritional value of fresh produce and are loaded with sodium and preservatives. I think the challenge for Green Giant is convincing them, and older shoppers as well, to return to the freezer case. The packaging promises no artificial flavors or preservatives, fewer carbs and calories, and a variety of flavors. I think flavor, and price point, will be critical. Lots of sampling will help.

    Is the Jolly Green Giant the right pitchman for the job? The creative team behind his comeback said we will learn where he’s been in recent years, and why he’s the guy to convince America to eat more vegetables. It’s a tall order, and we’ll be watching.

    Comments? As always, send them to me at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .

    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    Yesterday was an important day in American cultural history. (And no, not for the reason that everybody else is saying that yesterday was important.)

    Forty four years ago yesterday, a little premium/pay cable channel debuted. It was called Home Box Office. The programming consisted largely of old movies, sports, and a little bit of original programming, such as a comedy show featuring Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

    According to the TV Worth Watching website (which is really good, by the way, for people interested in such things), the first film to run when HBO began was Sometimes a Great Notion, based on a novel by Ken Kesey and starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda; it was followed by "live transmission of a NHL hockey game from Madison Square Garden between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks."

    From those modest beginnings (and they were modest ... I worked on a TV show in New York in 1973-74, and we shot some of our shows in a tiny studio that gave no hint of how big and influential the channel would get), HBO has simply changed the TV business ... largely by offering differentiated content (the entertainment industry's version of private label) such as "The Sopranos," "Game of Thrones," and "Sex In The City." Content, as it ends up, that consumers were hungry for ... and that paved the way for other entities - from Netflix to Amazon - to produce their own differentiated content.

    (The Washington Post has a great story about this, entitled "America has never had so much TV, and even Hollywood is overwhelmed", that talks about this trend. It is worth reading.)

    The growth of HBO - and the way in which it often has tapped into the public zeitgeist, coming up with programs that go beyond mere entertainment and become cultural phenomena - can serve as a metaphor and lesson for many businesses.

    It all started 44 years ago. And it remains an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Alphabet Inc. - parent company to Google - has pushed out two managers of Project Wing, its drone delivery initiative. The move casts "the program’s future in uncertainty," the story says, and marks just "the latest setback" for a program that has had its share of problems.

    The story says that one of the issues facing Project Wing has been tension between the engineers and the marketing personnel. The marketing folks were pushing for commercial testing of the drones as soon as next year, but the engineers "wanted to delay to ensure the drones were reliable and safe." The engineers also disagreed with "the decision to deliver food to some faculty and students in a test at Virginia Tech in September," which they viewed more as publicity stunt than legitimate test.

    One of the companies that had been talking to Project Wing managers about testing drone deliveries was Starbucks, but the Journal says that those talks "fell apart some time ago."

    An Alphabet spokesman says that the company remains committed to Project Wing. The Journal writes that it remains possible that a test of the Project Wing drones in Ireland remains possible, though there is no timetable.
    KC's View:
    I'm pretty sure I'm with the engineers on this one. Going with a drone project too early, and suffering problems that inevitably will become fodder for public examination, can only hurt the evolution of the drone delivery trend.

    When it comes to unmanned vehicles flying overhead in populated areas, "reliable and safe" sound like pretty good priorities.

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    The Wall Street Journal has a story about new culinary trends, saying that "nutrition science - and customers’ rapidly changing tastes - are forcing the food business to search ever farther afield for new edibles."

    The Journal writes that "everybody knows standards change - fat was bad, for instance, until the big no-nos became carbs and gluten - and each time they do, a rash of new products appear that claim to be packed with good stuff and free of things that cause harm ... But now it’s no longer enough to claim a product is simply free of something that’s frowned upon. Consumers want to know that the bad ingredient hasn’t been replaced with something equally bad or worse. And they want to know the story behind their food—how it was grown or raised, and whether its production and distribution was kind to the environment. The less processed and simpler the ingredients, the better. That has left food and restaurant companies rushing to clean up their labels with ingredients derived from natural sources consumers can understand and pronounce."

    If you want to find out why moringa trees, regenerative grazing, and spirulina may become as common to food conversations as kale, cocoanut water and açaí berry, then click here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    Reuters reports that Walmart "is in talks with several mobile wallet companies to offer more payment options in its Wal-Mart Pay app."

    The story notes that Walmart signed up JPMorgan Chase last week, and that "starting next year, Chase Pay will become the first third-party digital wallet on Wal-Mart's website and app."

    The story notes that "Apple Inc's Apple Pay or Alphabet Inc's Android Pay are the most popular digital wallets, and U.S. retailers have launched many mobile payment apps in the last two years. But acceptance has been slow, largely because most systems require new equipment at stores.

    "Wal-Mart Pay was launched in December 2015 and can be used in all of the retailer's 4,600 U.S. stores."
    KC's View:
    I think Walmart is doing the right thing by expanding the options; I have to wonder at what point there will be too many mobile wallets, and we'll start to see some dropouts. We're probably not close to that point yet, but this seems like it would be an inevitable part of the evolution of this segment.

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    The BBC reports that Marks & Spencer is saying that it plans to close "30 UK clothing and homeware shops and convert dozens more into food stores" and "to close loss-making shops in 10 international markets, including China and France."

    The story says that CEO Steve Rowe's turnaround plans "will also see it open 200 new Simply Food stores as it shifts away from disappointing fashion sales."

    One interesting passage from the BBC story: "Among the sites being closed is its department store on the Champs Elysees in Paris - it will be the second time M&S has closed its flagship branch in France. In 2001 M&S closed all its European stores, before returning to France 10 years later under former boss Marc Bolland.

    "Retail Vision analyst John Ibbotson said: 'M&S's humiliating withdrawal from 10 overseas markets is... a Dunkirk moment for [the] iconic British brand'."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    Seeking Alpha has a story about how Walmart's African subsidiary, Massmart, has shown sub par performance since a majority share in the chain was acquired by Walmart in 2001. The chain has shown disappointing sales growth at the same time as its biggest competitor, Shoprite Holdings, has seen sales increases.

    The story says that "the relatively tough time at Massmart can in part be attributed to the challenging South African retail environment. Africa, excluding South-Africa, represents only a very small portion of Massmart's total revenue and it's essentially a South African retailer whilst its closest competitor Shoprite has far greater exposure to the rest of Africa.

    "Walmart will probably not yet consider selling its African unit but may do so if the results do not improve."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    Marketing Land reports that a new inMarket study indicates that "a minuscule 4 percent of shoppers were using social media in stores," much lower than indicated by a recent study by Euclid Analytics.

    The inMarket study says that 55 percent of consumers use smartphones to do research on products while in the store, which was less than the 83 percent reported in a the Euclid study.

    The inMarket results, the story says, suggests that retailers would be better served by working with third-party suppliers to develop mobile apps, rather than trying to go it alone, because outside companies have the potential of providing greater reach and, therefore, greater influence.

    The story goes on: "There are several explanations for why retailers have struggled to gain adoption for their apps. The simple one is that most retailers’ apps fail to make a compelling case for downloads and continued usage. They fail to offer the convenience and features that consumers want and only the most loyal and frequent shoppers are likely to use them.

    "However, a mobile wallet strategy can provide some of the same capabilities as a branded app (e.g., notifications) but in a more lightweight package that’s more likely to be adopted. Indeed, all retailers should have a mobile wallet strategy, to complement their mobile app and web assets."
    KC's View:
    These samples are never huge, and so I wouldn't necessarily read too much into the differences in the studies' conclusions. Depending on who you talk to, the use of social media can vary wildly ... I can talk to a dozen millennials and find very different usage of social media in any given situation.

    For me, research - including price comparisons - in a store is far more important than chatting on social media. Which is why retailers have to get their stories right ... because shoppers can double-check those stories in real-time, and it will influence their purchase decisions.

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    • The Seattle Times reports that "online jeweler Blue Nile agreed to be acquired by a private investor group for nearly $500 million ... The Seattle company said it will be acquired by funds affiliated with investment firms Bain Capital and Bow Street."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    • Weis Markets announced it "has successfully completed the conversion of 44 supermarket locations resulting from three acquisitions beginning August 1, 2016. Weis Markets recently acquired five Mars Super Market locations in Baltimore County, Md., 38 Food Lion stores throughout Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, and a Nell’s Family Market in East Berlin, Pa. The completion of these individual acquisitions has expanded the company’s footprint into Virginia and Delaware, and has increased its operating stores by 25 percent."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 9, 2016

    Winston-Salem, NC -- ProLogic Retail Services, the largest provider of loyalty marketing solutions to independent grocers, announced the extension of its contract with Lowes Foods, which operates close to100 full-service supermarkets in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

    Through the Fresh Rewards program, ProLogic enables Lowes Foods to segment its shoppers, identifying its top shoppers and understanding their purchase patterns. With this information, ProLogic enables Lowes Foods to run targeted promotions that are specifically tailored to individual shoppers or groups of shoppers. These targeted promotions help Lowes Foods to retain its best shoppers and expand their purchases throughout the store.

    "We are very pleased to extend our longtime partnership with ProLogic," said Tim Lowe, President of Lowes Foods. "ProLogic delivers great value to Lowes Foods with a powerful, flexible loyalty marketing platform that enables us to create and execute intelligent promotions. The Fresh Rewards program is a cornerstone of our relationship with our guests and has proven highly effective in helping us retain our top shoppers and increase their purchases."

    For more information, click here. Or contact Lance Recker at lrecker@prologicretail.com or at 561-454-7646.
    KC's View: