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    Published on: March 2, 2017

    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 ... here this morning with what I like to think of as a public service message.

    As I record this, I'm giving blood. I am inspired to tell you this by a blog posting my friend Karen Caplan, of Frieda's Specialty Produce, did a few weeks ago, talking about the fact that she'd given blood for the first time and how exhilarating it was to know that she was saving lives.

    I'm also prompted to talk about this by the fact that the American Red Cross is in constant need of blood. They've talked a lot about how blood supplies are at record lows, and they're looking for donors.

    Not surprisingly, the Red Cross has a mobile app which allows you to find out where blood banks are scheduled in your area, make an appointment, and even track how your blood is used. It is like going to Starbucks!

    I, for example, know that this is my 56th time giving blood ... and the Red Cross says that a donation can save up to three lives. I agree with Karen Caplan - knowing that is pretty exhilarating.

    Hence, this public service announcement. If you can, give blood. It'll make you feel good, and it'll do good. There aren't that many things you can say that about.

    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: March 2, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    One of my favorite food retailers in the US is New Seasons. Always has been, even before I started spending my summers teaching in Portland, Oregon, the company's home base. I've always liked the company's approach to design, and the ways it has made healthier food accessible.

    Plus, its fresh food tastes great, because it never has taken a lowest common denominator approach.

    Which is why, a couple of weeks ago, I was interested to see New Seasons' newest store, on Mercer Island, just east of Seattle. It is part of the retailer's expansion strategy, which is taking it north to Washington State and south to Northern California. I found a store that is typical for New Seasons - merchandised with precision so that customers get hungry and inspired when they walk in the front door.

    One of the things I liked best about the store - and illustrated in the pictures below - is the way New Seasons approaches graphics. They're big, bold and informative - delivering on something that I talk about a lot here, which is the need to be more than just a source of product, but also a resource for information.

    Terrific store. And, by the way, vastly superior to the "365 by Whole Foods" store that is in Bellevue, which is just about five miles away. Which all by itself is an Eye-Opener.

    Article Text.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that Walmart, having made a series of acquisitions of e-commerce companies in recent months in an effort to upgrade both its technology and consumer offerings, continues to be in the hunt for additional purchases.

    "We're open and looking at all possible opportunities to enhance customer-value proposition and expand our merchandising expertise and brand relationships," said Marc Lore, the company's e-commerce chief. "So there's a lot of categories that fit that description and we're actively looking."

    Lore, of course, was the founder and CEO of Jet, which Walmart purchased last fall for $3.3 billion.

    The story frames Walmart's strategy this way:

    "Since Lore has been in charge of Wal-Mart's U.S. e-commerce operations, the company has purchased shoe and apparel company for about $70 million and added outdoor online retailer Moosejaw for $51 million ... Collectively, the acquisitions have given the retailer access to new customers with brands that don't typically sell their items in Wal-Mart stores on or It also has helped Wal-Mart inherit e-commerce expertise in specific categories, which the company is taking advantage of by placing the leaders of Hayneedle, ShoeBuy and Moosejaw in charge of their respective areas at Wal-Mart."
    KC's View:
    The question - and I'm not the only one thinking this - is what it is going to take for Walmart to move the needle on e-commerce to the degree that it accounts for a significant share of its revenue. (Profits probably are another story, and will come later.)

    The other question is whether Walmart will be able to make the cultural adjustments necessary to integrate all these companies into its operations without damaging or diluting their DNA. That may be the toughest challenge of all.

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Kroger is on the verge of a broad expansion of its home delivery service, which would build on its ClickList click-and-collect service that currently operates in more than 600 locations around the country.

    Kroger has been skeptical about the delivery business, believing that a click-and-collect model is just as desired by customers and a lot easier to make profitable. However, it has long offered delivery in the Denver market, and recently began testing the use of Uber to make deliveries from Harris Teeter stores in the Washington, DC, market.
    KC's View:
    Just to put Kroger's digital footprint in context ... the retailer as some 2800 stores around the country, and just 600 of them offer ClickList. So it has a ways to go before it even gets close to saturation on that front. If Kroger behaves in typical fashion, it will move carefully into delivery, and when it does so, it will be with a certain confidence that it has broken the code.

    While I am loathe to tell Kroger what to do - they've done just fine over the years without any advice from me - there is a part of me that thinks Kroger ought to be moving a little faster with this stuff. There is some level at which companies have to be careful not to be too careful.

    There was a line that Michael Sansolo quoted in his Tuesday column from a Washington Post piece by Sally Jenkins, about how the UConn women's basketball team consistently succeeds because it doesn't do anything casually. I'm not saying that Kroger is being casual about its e-commerce commitment, but sometimes it is good to get up in the morning like your hair is on fire.

    BTW ... it isn't just Amazon that Kroger has to think about. Walmart's ambitions in this arena also have been abundantly clear based on the degree to which it has opened its checkbook.

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    The Washington Post reports on how the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) recently underwrote a research project that looked at the DNA of chicken sold at a variety of fast food restaurants there, concluding that the chicken sold at Subway "was found to be almost equal parts meat to soy, based on DNA ... The lab analyzed six orders of the chicken strips and seven pieces of the oven roasted chicken. Averaged across all samples, the roasted sandwich meat proved to be only about 50 percent chicken by DNA. The strips were just over 40 percent chicken."

    According to the story, "This was not the first time that the Canadian center, a joint effort between Trent University and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, unmasked adulterated chow. In June, the facility detected horsemeat in ground beef patties sold in Canada." And, the Post notes, "Subway would not be the only food chain to be hit with an impostor meat scandal. Taco Bell, accused of selling beef that was only 35 percent cow, launched a campaign to show its taco fillings were 88 percent beef. In 2013, Swedish furniture seller Ikea recalled frozen meatballs sold by the bag at its European stores, after testing revealed the presence of horsemeat."

    Subway has responded by saying that its chicken is "100% white meat with seasonings,” and that the report is “false and misleading." Subway has demanded a retraction. It has not received one.

    Other chains studied - including McDonald's, Wendy's, and A&W - did much better in the test, scoring near 100 percent.
    KC's View:
    If the research is correct, then this is the kind of story that can do some real damage to a company's image. And sales. And profits.

    I never had a lot of confidence in Subway. Always figured it was both easier and healthier - and a lot tastier - to just buy ingredients at the store and then make myself a sandwich at home.

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    The Wall Street Journal reports that "after losing about 500 million U.S. orders over the past five years over failed attempts to widen its customer base," McDonald's has decided "to embrace its identity as an affordable fast-food chain and stop chasing after people who will rarely eat there."

    Lucy Brady, McDonald’s senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development, described the epiphany this way: “We don’t need to be a different McDonald’s, but a better McDonald’s."

    According to the Journal, McDonald's plan is to "focus on improving the quality of its food to retain existing customers and regain lapsed ones. One of its biggest challenges has been getting its burger offerings to resonate with people who have grown accustomed to better burgers from rivals." Among the things it is testing is "new cooking methods to improve the texture and taste of its classic Big Macs and Quarter Pounders," as well as the use of fresh rather than frozen beef.

    In addition to getting back to menu basics, McDonald's also is looking for ways to be more accessible: "McDonald’s said it is also planning to roll out mobile ordering and payment in 20,000 restaurants in some of its largest markets, including the U.S., by the end of the year. The chain also is testing curbside pickup in the U.S."

    The Journal writes that "critics have long been urging the chain to focus on its core customers, but McDonald’s had added more salads, snack wraps and oatmeal to its menu to attract health-conscious customers. In recent months the chain pulled many of those slow-selling products. It also had experimented with higher-priced burgers that failed."
    KC's View:
    Tastier food. That's the key. Keep the fries the way they are, and figure out how to make burgers that are more like those served at In-N-Out.

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    • The Bradenton Herald reports that "Instacart, an online grocery ordering and delivery service, will begin operating in Bradenton, Sarasota, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Palmetto and Parrish on Thursday. The app-based service also will launch in Jacksonville on Thursday, joining Tampa, Miami and Orlando." The story says that "Instacart representatives will shop at area stores including Publix, Whole Foods Market, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Costco and Petco," and will offer "same-day delivery, often within an hour or two of an online order being placed."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    • The Orlando Sentinel reports that employee-owned, privately held "Publix Supermarkets rang up a company record $2.03 billion in profits in 2016 and $34 billion in sales, though it noted that "record profits were partially because of a 53-week calendar year."

    The retailer also said that same-store sales "increased 1.9 percent in 2016, compared to a 4.2 percent growth rate reported a year ago."

    • The Boston Globe reports that Amazon has opened its first east coast Amazon Books store, in Dedham, Massachusetts - a 5,800 square foot store that offers a book selection based on the best-sellers on Amazon's website as well as proprietary technology such as Kindle ebook readers, Fire TV streaming devices, and Echo speakers.

    The story notes that the store "joins locations in Amazon’s home base of Seattle and in San Diego. Another local store is being planned for Lynnfield’s MarketStreet mall later this year, while locations are being considered in other US cities."

    Dedham is about 20 miles southwest of downtown Boston, while Lynnfield is about 17 miles north of the city.

    • The Associated Press writes that "three types of potatoes genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine are safe for the environment and safe to eat, federal officials have announced.

    "The approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last week gives Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Company permission to plant the potatoes this spring and sell them in the fall. The company said the potatoes contain only potato genes, and that the resistance to late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine, comes from an Argentine variety of potato that naturally produced a defense. The three varieties are the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic. They’ve previously been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    • The Idaho Statesman reports on the passing of Robert Bolinder, the CEO of Albertsons in the mid-1970s under founder and then-Chairman Joe Albertson, who passed away this week at age 85.

    Bob Miller, current chairman and CEO of Albertsons, described Bolinder as "a real gentleman" and the "backbone of the company."

    The Statesman writes that Bolinder began working for Albertsons in 1965, and "became president of the fast-growing company in 1972 and CEO in 1974." He retired from Albertsons in 1984.

    In retirement, the story says, "he launched a grocery-industry consulting firm with his son-in-law, Bob Walker. He also served on corporate boards and presided over the Western Association of Food Chains. Four years after leaving Albertsons, Bolinder became chief financial officer of another grocery chain well-known in Idaho — Smith’s Food and Drug Centers — and helped expand it, taking it public on the New York Stock Exchange. He retired from Smith’s in 1996.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 2, 2017

    ...will return.
    KC's View: