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    Published on: August 4, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Seattle Times has a story about a store concept operated by the company that has, on one side, "an area, complete with refrigerator, sink, grinder and brewer, that can be partitioned from the rest and sets this store apart.

    "It’s intended to be a community space and training area," the story says, "where young people aged 16 to 24 who are not working or in school can receive training on skills such as résumé writing and customer service, preparing them for jobs at Starbucks and elsewhere."

    According to the Times, "The coffee company plans to open 15 nationwide by the end of the year in support of community development in low- to medium-income communities. The stores are intended to provide space for job-skills training, and to help with local economic development by working with local, minority and women-owned contractors and suppliers."

    The story makes the point that not everybody is necessarily happy about what Starbucks is doing, seeing its efforts as the beginning of gentrification that could impact the diverse nature of these communities. But Starbucks seems to be focused on being both a good neighbor and a positive influence on the communities, focused on providing opportunities for development among these communities' young people.

    I know there's a lot of discussion about the pros and cons about operating in low-to-medium income communities, but I think Starbucks is to be lauded for this approach. Sure, they're going to sell coffee, but they're also contributing something back.

    It's an Eye-Opener, and worth noting.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    The New York Times has an interesting story about a cultural problem that faced Weight Watchers a couple of years ago, and that continues to bedevil certain kinds of companies.

    Nobody wanted to diet anymore. It wasn't that people didn't want to lose weight, but "diet" was seen as a dirty word. And companies like Weight Watchers, which was all about dieting, were facing all sorts of trouble.

    Here's how the Times frames the issue:

    "If you had been watching closely, you could see that the change had come slowly. ‘Dieting' was now considered tacky. It was anti-feminist. It was arcane. In the new millennium, all bodies should be accepted, and any inclination to change a body was proof of a lack of acceptance of it. 'Weight loss' was a pursuit that had, somehow, landed on the wrong side of political correctness. People wanted nothing to do with it. Except that many of them did: They wanted to be thinner. They wanted to be not quite so fat. Not that there was anything wrong with being fat! They just wanted to call dieting something else entirely."

    You can read the entire Times piece here.

    In some ways, this story reminded me of something that I heard a nutritionist say at the Organic Produce Summit a few weeks ago - that people don't want better nutrition, but they do want better health. What this ultimately meant, I think, is that customers are more interested in results, as opposed to process. That's something that marketers have to be aware of, and that this story nicely illustrates.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    Anchor Brewing, which began making beer in 1896 and makes San Francisco's iconic Anchor Steam beer, has been sold to Japan's Sapporo Holdings. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but published reports put the price at about $85 million.

    The Los Angeles Times writes that "the deal marks the latest California brewery to be acquired by a larger beer maker. It comes amid rising competition among craft breweries — a sector of the beer industry that Anchor has been credited, by some, for helping inspire ... Sapporo is the latest big brewer to purchase a California craft brewery. Earlier this year, Heineken completed its acquisition of Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Co. In 2015, Constellation Brands, the company behind Corona, acquired San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits for $1 billion."

    The company says amid all the competitive pressures in the craft beer business, it felt a larger partner with deep pockets was needed to achieve its long-term goals.
    KC's View:
    My first reaction to this story was chagrin, and a bit of sadness ... but then I read the San Francisco Chronicle coverage, which, I thought, provided a bit of needed context...

    "The story is so familiar these days that it’s become cliche: beloved craft brewery, squeezed by today’s frenetic beer market and unable to expand without extra help, sells to big company," the Chronicle writes. "Equally cliche are the all-too-predictable reactions that inevitably follow, bemoaning that the little guys are selling out to greedy corporate interests intent on destroying craft beer.

    "In San Francisco, the emotional stakes are especially high when it comes to Anchor. Not only is it our brewery — our first, our signature — but it’s America’s original craft beer. It’s an icon of independence, and has seemed, at least we thought, large and established enough to be insulated from the pressures that have forced others to sell."

    But, the paper points out, "this is hardly the first time Anchor has sold. Anchor’s very founding, in 1896 by Ernst F. Baruth and Otto Schinkel Jr., was a buyout of sorts: The father and son-in-law bought an existing brewery on Pacific Street and rechristened it with their own brand. Over the next half-century, that brand saw several owners — Joe Kraus, Joe Allen, Lawrence Steese, all struggling to keep the dismal business afloat. Anchor was on the verge of closure when Fritz Maytag bought it in 1965. You might say Maytag was a harbinger of corporate America himself, heir to his family’s washing-machine dynasty.

    "Even if Maytag was the soul of Anchor’s modern era (and I believe that he was) — well, he’s long gone anyway: He sold the brewery to the Griffin Group, a local investment firm, in 2010. Griffin is no AB InBev, but its partners, Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, are former executives of Skyy Spirits. And Scott Ungermann, who in 2016 succeeded brewmaster Mark Carpenter (with Anchor since 1971), came to Anchor fresh from a nearly 20-year career with Anheuser-Busch."

    Okay. I no longer feel quite so chagrined and sad. But I still like and appreciate the independents ... and you can read a little about that in today's "OffBeat," below.

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    The Los Angeles Times reports that FedEx is taking the opposite tack from United Parcel Service and is planning not to impose any special charges on packages shipped during the 2017 end-of-year holiday season.

    UPS recently said that it would impose peak season fees - between 27 and 97 cents per package - on packages shipped in the two weeks around Thanksgiving and in the week before Christmas.

    The Times writes that this is one way for FedEx "to undercut rival UPS in a fight for a larger share of delivery of the millions of items people buy online."
    KC's View:
    UPS seemed sure that online retailers would be willing to either cover the surcharge or pass it along to consumers, and I suspect that they figured FedEx would follow along. But that's not the way you compete ... I have n o ideas how this all will share out, but I have to wonder if UPS will now eliminate the surcharge.

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    • The Economic Times reports that Amazon has announced the building of its first warehouse in Australia, outside Melbourne, and the naming of Rocco Braeuniger, its director of consumables in Germany, as country manager there.

    The story says that the announcements set up potential "industrial strife in the world's 12th-biggest economy," with local labor unions concerned because Germany is where Amazon employees went on strike late last year over pay and working conditions.

    Tim Kennedy, national secretary of the National Union of Workers, tells the Times that the union "will do everything we can to ensure Amazon workers have the right to collectively bargain and organise in their union so they can continue to protect hard-won rights and conditions in Australia."

    According to the story, "Amazon offered no further comment about Braeuniger's appointment other than to say he had worked various roles at the company since 2006. Germany is Amazon's biggest operation outside the United States."
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    Reuters reports that a federal appeals court has thrown out a proposed sexual discrimination suit that had targeted Walmart.

    The story says that the suit "was one of the regional lawsuits filed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Wal-Mart v. Dukes that derailed a nationwide gender bias case against the retail giant." The appeals court ruled unanimously that the workers "took too long to challenge an order by a federal judge in Miami that threw out the class' claims."
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    The Washington Post has a piece about McDonald's Signature Crafted Recipes sandwich line, which last month added "a few sriracha-slathered offerings (quarter-pound burger, fried chicken breast, grilled chicken breast) topped with tomato, white cheddar, crispy onions and a mix of baby kale and spinach. It is reportedly the first time McDonald’s has ever used kale on a burger, more or less breaking a promise extended in a self-congratulatory, anti-elitist commercial from 2015, which insisted you’d never see kale on a Big Mac."

    The story suggests that the move "reeks of a corporate attempt to capitalize on two of the biggest food trends of the past decade (although far after each has peaked)." The writer also reports that as promising as the concoction sounds, the delivery left a lot to be desired ... in one cases, the sandwich included what appeared to be "a large, veiny leaf of what looked like romaine, "but definitely wasn't kale.
    KC's View:
    The hamburgers often aren't real meat, so it isn't a big surprise that the kale isn't kale.

    Okay, that's a little harsh. I just can't help myself.

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    • The BBC reports that three former Tesco executives - Christopher Bush, who was managing director of Tesco UK, Carl Rogberg, who was UK finance director, and John Scouler, who was UK food commercial director - have pleaded not guilty of "abuse of position" and fraud. The case that goes back to Tesco's 2014 accounting scandal, in which the company was accused of overstating revenue and understating costs.

    The trial of the three men is scheduled for September.

    Reuters reports that "the largest U.S. retail pharmacies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, are wielding more leverage when buying generic drugs, accelerating a decline in prices likely to affect drug companies for some time, industry experts said on Thursday. That pressure is exacerbated by efforts from U.S. health regulators to speed approval of copycat drugs, industry sources said.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    One MNB reader threw one right down the center of the plate yesterday ... but not only did I not swing at it, but I didn't even see it. But a couple of MNB readers did, so I want to circle back so an important point can be made.

    The original reader was letting me know that while I tend to be anti-Chipotle, a lot of people aren't. And part of his email read as follows:

    At the grocery store that I manage, we have quarterly lunches where we let our staff pick the meal. We will put up 3-4 options and employees will vote. Recently, some of our younger staff asked if we could ever have Chipotle. I was hesitant as I knew their food safety issues were well documented and there might be a large number of our staff that would share these concerns. Our store management team discussed this, and while some of us were uncomfortable, we decided to put it as an option. At the next luncheon, the choices were Jimmy John's, Old Chicago pizza, Big Bowl Chinese Express and Chipotle. Chipotle won hands down. It wasn't even close. They catered the meal and it was excellent. The staff loved it and we got more compliments on this than any other meal we have had. Now the staff are asking if we can have it again.

    MNB reader Phil Censky wrote:

    I found the comment illuminating. He’s a manager of a grocery store that holds monthly lunches for its employees and the staff picks the meal. On one hand, I think it’s excellent leadership to engage employees in this way. On the other hand, it’s disappointing the organization doesn’t find a way to turn those lunches into an occasion to highlight or improve upon its own catering chops. Perhaps opening up dialog about what makes Chipotle catering so popular among the staff, and how they can improve its prepared food and deli offerings. I’d be shocked, for example, if Jimmy John’s could hold a candle to a sandwich made by the deli at a Wegman’s. I understand that it may not be feasible at the individual store level, but for the HQ execs, hearing about stores catering in Chipotle should be an eye opener.

    Here's how another MNB reader responded:

    And to think you usually criticize grocery retailers from selling restaurant gift cards.

    Wow.  The deli at that grocery store must be really bad!

    I hope they purchase Gift Cards at their own grocery store to pay for these lunches.  At least they'd make a little profit on those.

    They are absolutely right, I think. If employees would rather go to Chipotle than eat at the store, then they ought to be rethinking the food they're serving.

    I should've written that yesterday. But I'm glad some MNB readers had my back.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 4, 2017

    Last Friday, I made a quick trip from Portland, Oregon - where I am enjoying my annual summer adjunctivity, team-teaching a business marketing class at Portland State University - up to Seattle, for the most important reason imaginable.

    No, Amazon Go hadn't been opened to the public.

    No, Jeff Bezos hadn't offered me an exclusive interview.

    Yes ... the New York Mets were in town, as they are every three years, to play the Seattle Mariners at beautiful Safeco Field. And I have priorities.

    I jumped on the Amtrak to Seattle, and less than four hours later, I checked into my hotel and got ready to kill some time before heading to the ballgame. So I did what I always do when I have time in Seattle (and even when I don't) ... I went to Etta's, one of my favorite places, to see Morgan, my favorite bartender on the planet.

    I've been going to Etta's long enough that I don't even really have to order when I sit in my favorite seat at the far left end of the bar. Morgan sees me, does a quick calculation (time of day, weather, mood), and just pours me whatever wine he thinks is appropriate. Last Friday, it was the 2016 Le Saint André Rosé ... a wonderfully light and refreshing wine from France that was perfect for a day that was a little warm. (Though not as warm as Portland has been this week when it has gotten over 100 degrees.)

    Next up was a light meal; I wanted to leave room to eat at the ballpark, but I was famished. So I had one of my favorite meals ... Etta's makes this amazing sashimi, served with warm scallion pancakes. (You can see a picture at right.) It was delicious, and after I'd cleaned my plate and drained a couple of glasses of wine, I was ready to walk to the ballpark ... it is about a mile and a half away, the weather was good, and I figured I'd work up an appetite.

    I told Morgan I was heading out, and he offered a suggestion. Don't get a hot dog inside the ballpark, he said. Instead, stop at one of the carts outside and order a hot dog served with grilled onions, yellow mustard, dill relish ... and cream cheese.

    Okay, I have to admit that the last ingredient threw me. Cream cheese? Really?

    Morgan reassured me, saying that he once was skeptical, too, but that this was a Seattle tradition. (In fact, the carts call it a "Seattle Dog.")

    Well, I'm a "when in Rome" kind of guy, so I got over my skepticism and when I arrived at the ballpark, limping a bit because of a balky knee, I found a cart and ordered a Seattle Dog. (Picture at right.)

    It was amazing. I never would've dreamed it, but the ingredients actually work together incredibly well. I may have to start making hot dogs at home that way.

    Inside, I settled for a beer that I nursed through a few innings - a Silver City Ridgetop Red Ale, as it happens, that had enough caramel to give it body but was light enough to make it wonderful on a summer night watching a baseball game.

    Life was good. And then the Mets won, 7-5, in what would end up being their only win of the series.

    But the weekend wasn't over.

    The next day, I was back on Amtrak to Portland. And on Sunday, I went to the 30th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival, held in Waterfront Park, on the banks of the Willamette River. In the name of journalistic research - as the Content Guy, I have certain sacred responsibilities - I tried a number of craft beers. (Picture above right.) Like the Knuckle Buster Strong Red, from Terminal Gravity Brewing. (Very tasty.) The Bloody Well Wit, from the Old Market Pub and Brewery. (Light, but good on a summer day.)n Kilted Destroyer IPA, from Two Kilts Brewing. (The name says it all.) And, the beer that ended up being my favorite - the Blood Orange Wheat, from Full Sail Brewing. (I'm not a huge fan of fruity beers, but this one used the blood orange to sharpen the taste without overwhelming the beer, and I loved it.)

    I didn't just eat and drink last weekend. I also finished Michael Connelly's new novel, "The Late Show," and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    Connelly, one of the best novelists working today, is known for the Harry Bosch series of novels, which follow the exploits of a Los Angeles-based police detective with a finely honed sense of justice and a simmering sense of outrage when the system doesn't work for everyone. "The Late Show" is the first in a new series, featuring Renée Ballard, a female detective working the midnight shift in LA;'s Hollywood Division. Ballard has been banished to "the late show" because she rejected and then complained about sexual harassment by a superior officer, but while angry about her treatment, she remains committed to her job and determined not to knuckle under to the pressure.

    "The Late Show" is page-turner of a novel, fast paced and highly detailed as it follows Ballard in her investigation of - and increasing investment in - two disparate cases. One of the things about Connelly is that he brings you deep inside the system, using terms and acronyms that give his work enormous authenticity. "The Late Show" is no exception, and I can't wait to see where Connelly takes this new character.

    One note. One of novelist Robert B. Parker's missteps, I've always thought, was when he wrote a series of novels about a female detective, Sunny Randall. It's not that men can't write about women, but Parker did his with a first person narrative, which is what he used when writing his iconic Spenser novels. But using the third person, Connelly avoids this trap ... and "The Late Show" seems utterly real.

    "The Late Show" is great stuff. Read it.

    Speaking of female protagonists ... I saw Atomic Blonde, a new movie about a Cold War-era female spy for Britain's MI6, that stars Charlize Theron.

    I really wanted to like Atomic Blonde, but was a little disappointed because it seemed to stress style over substance. I guess I was hoping for a film that was a little more Bourne-like, but instead it seemed more concerned with setting up and then executing a series of set pieces - mostly Theron in major hand-to-hand combat, giving as good as she gets - than delving into character and plot. That's too bad, because the movie could've been a lot better.

    The cast, however, is terrific. Theron is the very definition of female empowerment, and she is ably supported by James McEvoy, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones and John Goodman.

    I suspect that Atomic Blonde will work for some audiences, but it didn't quite work for me.

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.


    KC's View: