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    Published on: October 5, 2018

    by Kevin Coupe

    Sometimes, I just get lucky.

    Got a call from the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) a few weeks ago, telling me that they were planning a general session at their upcoming Fresh Summit (in Orlando, October 17-20) that was designed to focus on innovation, disruption, and diversity … but they wanted it to use an example from popular culture. My role, they explained, would be to put lessons from popular culture into a business context, to serve as a kind of translator.

    “I can do that,” I said.

    Then came the kicker: “You’ll be sharing the stage with, and interviewing, Leslie Odom Jr., who won the Tony Award for playing Aaron Burr in the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton.”

    They had me at “Leslie Odom Jr.”

    I have to tell you, I think this is going to be totally cool.

    I’ve had a chance to do some research on Leslie Odom Jr., including a reading of his book, “Failing Up: How To Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning,” and I have to tell you that he’s playing my song. There’s so much in his story, and his role in the creation of “Hamilton,” that I think will make this session resonate for attendees. (Here’s one metaphor from the show: Hamilton is the ultimate entrepreneur/start-up guy, while Burr is actually an institutionalist, waiting to be invited to make a contribution while Hamilton actively seeks out opportunities to take his shot. Can’t wait to chat about that with him, especially because he seems like he’s a lot more like Hamilton than Burr.)

    This session, I believe, will be illuminating, entertaining, plus a ton of fun and an Eye-Opener. (I promise not to sing. Though I’ll want to.) And kudos to PMA for taking an unorthodox approach to its Fresh Summit that I think is going to have a big payoff.

    Like I said. Sometimes I just get lucky.

    I hope you’ll join us …. the session takes place the afternoon of Thursday, October 18.

    Note…Photo credit: Nathan Johnson

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based and Ahold Delhaize-owned Giant Food Stores said yesterday that it has developed a new banner, Giant Heirloom Market, the first of which will be opened before the end of the year in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood in Philadelphia.

    The company says that “ the new store will be about 9,500 square feet and offer an inspiring selection of highquality, fresh, seasonal, and flavorfocused foods and everyday essentials. Featuring a Produce Chef who will prepare veggies and fruit on demand, local artisanal breads, and a vast array of plantbased foods, Giant Heirloom Market will foster exploration and encourage creativity in the kitchen through sampling and demonstration.”

    Nicholas Bertram, Giant’s president, noted that the new format is being launched as the company celebrates its 95th anniversary. “We can’t help thinking about the next chapter in Giant’s story,” he said, adding, “Philadelphia is a natural choice for us to debut our new Giant Heirloom Market format, as we’re able to draw upon our passion for food and our fondness for local purveyors, all while leveraging innovation to bring something special to our new Graduate Hospital neighbors.”

    The company said that while the store, by dint of its small size, will have a limited assortment, it also will have iPads available so that customers can order items not in stock from Peapod either for delivery or pickup.

    Meanwhile, Ahold Delhaize’s Stop & Shop division said that it is testing a revised format in 21 Hartford, Connecticut-area stores that it plans to expand to more than 400 if it is successful.

    The Daily Voice reports that “according to Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan, the new look will ‘reflect a more customer-centric strategy, based on convenience,’ as well as a wider selection of fresh, local food products.

    “Improvements reportedly include an in-store smoker, poke bowl and taqueria stations … Other proposed improvements for Stop & Shop locations in the Northeast include a do-it-yourself olive oil and vinegar blender, a more seamless ‘Scan It!’ experience and online or mobile shopping options.”

    McGowan says that Stop & Shop “recognizes that our customer is changing, and we’re evolving our entire shopping experience to better serve them. They’re focused on getting back to their lives, juggling many responsibilities, and we want to make grocery shopping even easier and faster for them.”

    KC's View:
    This, of course, isn’t the company’s first time around with a small store format. They tested the Everything Fresh store in Philadelphia, and then the bFresh concept in Massachusetts and Connecticut … but neither really caught on in a sustainable way worth growing.

    Unlike bFresh, which was created by a skunkworks set up by Stop & Shop, the Heirloom format comes right out of Giant’s corporate structure. I’m a big fan of the skunkworks model, but in the end, what really matters is that the company has a real commitment to a format that works. We’ll see.

    As for the Stop & Shop makeover, I’m looking forward to seeing it. The old format has gotten stale - I’ve been saying this for some time - and they need to do something to reconnect with shoppers with an enlarged sense of relevance.

    Again, we’ll see.

    In both cases, they have to deliver on the promise.

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    The San Jose Mercury News reports that Amazon plans to open a new Amazon 4 Star bricks-and-mortar store in Berkeley, California, in a space formerly occupied by a Crate & Barrel.

    The first of the breed was opened just days ago in New York’s Soho neighborhood, featuring only products that have been highly rated by shoppers on Amazon’s website, across a broad range of categories. It is believed that this will be the second, though it also is possible that Amazon could open another one someplace else. No date has been publicized for the opening of the Berkeley unit.
    KC's View:
    What will be really interesting will be to see the differences between the two stores, being located in very different communities. The whole point behind the Amazon 4 Star concept is that Amazon can customize the mix to what is ranked highly by customers in specific geographic areas …

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    CNBC has a story about how Target’s enormous opportunity during the upcoming holiday season will be to show how its upgraded supply chain - and the billions of dollars spent on making its delivery options more efficient and effective - compares with the likes of Amazon and Walmart.

    Among its moves: rolling out free two-day shipping, acquiring a transportation company and is adding services like curbside pickup and same-day delivery.

    “These new convenient options,” the story says, “may make the difference in where a shopper goes to stock up on holiday treats and gifts. U.S. shoppers are poised to give retailers another strong holiday, but it may not be as robust as last year, according to some forecasts.”

    Whatever happens, Target says it is ready: “Last holiday season, Target said its stores fulfilled 70 percent of all digital orders. This year, that percentage will be even higher. That's a big reason why the company is hiring 120,000 temporary workers, or 20 percent more people than it did a year ago. About 7,500 of those workers are expected to help pack boxes in warehouses, Target said. Overall, Target said it will double the number of hires fulfilling online orders in stores and distribution centers this year.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    The Washingtonian has a story about how former “Top Chef” contestant Kwame Onwuachi is opening a new restaurant inside the South Capitol Hill Whole Foods Market.

    The menu: cheesesteaks, crispy chicken, and waffle fries.

    According to the story, “He’ll open Philly Wing Fry - a fast-casual restaurant devoted to those dishes” next week as “part of the national Friends of Whole Foods program, which brings local chefs and lifestyle brands in to operate their own shops within the chain … Onwuachi’s eatery is more like a full-blown restaurant with its own space and seating. Customers can order the full menu inside the store’s SoCap Wine Bar & Pub, which will pour 16 wines by the glass and a dozen draft beers (the shop itself will have seasonal teas and lemonades).”
    KC's View:
    Okay, I’m ready to go. Now.

    According to the story, “Onwuachi calls his creative riff on the sandwich a ‘thoughtful cheesesteak.’ He uses Roseda Farms ribeye from Maryland that’s dry-aged for a minimum of 50 days, as well as a local Lyon Bakery bun that’s toasted in the dry-aged beef fat. The sandwich is finished off with melty smoked provolone - sorry, no canned Whiz - house sauce, and two styles of onions (caramelized and pickled) … The rest of the menu draws from the chef’s African and Caribbean background: waffle fries dusted with Ethiopian berbere spice, and tamarind-glazed wings.

    Tell me you’re not hungry. Me, I’m just trying not to drool on my keyboard.

    I do think that more retailers ought to think about hooking up with terrific and innovative chefs, finding ways to use their talents to create excitement and sense of differentiation in their stores.

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    The Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece about the inventions and innovations that “are part of a technological revolution that is poised to shake up the way we eat.”

    Inevitably, this also will change the way food is bought and sold.

    “The food industry has been taking heat from consumers and critics who are demanding healthier ingredients, transparency about where their meals come from and better treatment of animals. There is also a growing awareness of the harmful effect that food production can have on the environment.

    “Now big food companies and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of advances in robotics and data science to meet those challenges—and the trend will likely continue as technology improves, and natural ingredients become easier to cultivate.”

    Billions are being invested in these technologies, and you can read how and why and where here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    • Tops Friendly Markets announced that it has launched Tops Grocery Pick Up at three of its western New York locations. The service is in addition to its delivery service - outsourced to Instacart - offered from more than 125 of its stores.

    The company also announced that it has launched “a new online natural and organics store,," which has “thousands of certified organic, gluten free, and minimally processed products,” both branded and own label.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    • Bristol Farms announced that it will open its fifth Lazy Acres store on October 13, on the border of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, California, and will introduce “an all new, experiential shopping venue devoted to fresh foods, clean ingredients, healthy lifestyle, and community partnership.” It also “will feature unique interactive elements including a live, working beehive; a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art demonstration and instruction kitchen which will host regular classes and special chef appearances; an expansive wellness section featuring the finest products in beauty, nutrition and much more; and, local merchandise from well-known local retailers who share similar lifestyle philosophies.”

    The announcement notes that “Lazy Acres is also currently in the process of becoming a ‘Blue Zones Designated Grocery Store,’ including working closely with Beach Cities Health District to ensure the healthy choice is the easy choice for customers.”

    • Price Rite stores, part of the Wakefern co-op, announced what it is calling “the next step in its go-to market strategy with a pilot program focused on special deep discounts, enhanced fresh offerings and an improved shopping experience at three of its Pennsylvania stores in Bethlehem, Allentown and Secane … The three-store program combines a new store design with quality products and deep discounts, including the all-new Price Rite Marketplace ‘Drop Zone.’ The Drop Zone has been designed as a unique in-store destination, where customers will find extraordinary deals, special surprise buys and must-have products typically priced $3 or less.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Campbell Soup “is in talks to sell its fresh-foods business including Bolthouse Farms to investors led by that brand’s former chief executive … Jeff Dunn, who helped a private-equity firm sell Bolthouse to Campbell six years ago for $1.55 billion, subsequently co-founded and remains an investor in Campbell’s venture-capital fund, Acre Venture Partners. He also had served as president of Campbell’s fresh-food unit.”

    This would be a case of “sell high, buy low.” Campbell bought Bolthouse for $1.55 billion, but probably would sell it for between $500 million and $700 million, the story says.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    Responding to yesterday’s FaceTime piece about Monorail Espresso in Seattle, MNB reader Jeff Gartner wrote:

    We were visiting our middle daughter and her family in Seattle this past May, and went to the Monorail Espresso walkup window downtown on Pike Street. Of course there was a line at midday Sunday, but the conversation with others in line and their perfect iced Americano (it was a warm sunny day) made it worth the wait. Our barista had to be in his 80’s and he was obviously very experienced, probably could make your drink blindfolded.

    Definitely my favorite coffee place in Seattle.

    And from another reader:

    In your FaceTime Commentary this morning 'You Gotta Have Heart,’ one line jumped right off the page ... 

    'Competitive moxie is great, but it is even better when you deliver on the promise’.

    This is so true. It isn't even about the 'moxie' of saying so. It is only 'moxie' when you DO deliver on the promise.

    How many times have we heard over the years: 'Lower Prices', 'Better Value', 'Shorter Lines', 'Our new program will make you loyal', 'Better Service', and yes - a better product. You name the claim.

    Call me a cynic, however, all too often retailers come up with the next line in their competitive strategy, yet fail to perform and execute. 

    Why? My guess is they leave out a couple things key to delivering on it. One is actually having what their claim is, the other is their people being solid believers and exceptional executioners. In other words, they may have the product, but haven't made believers of their people, and haven't invested in them as much as the product to create the exceptional opportunity of not only delivering but making the connection at the time.

    By your experience, Michaela had the goods, believed in it, and executed in delivering it in an extraordinary way. 

    Have it, believe it, and share it ... That's probably why you'll be back. 

    Great experience with a huge lesson in a small story. Thanks for sharing it!

    Regarding Amazon;’s decision to eliminate some bonuses while increasing its US minimum wage to $15/hour - which I said was probably a good idea, since raises have a greater impact on employees’ long-term earnings than bonuses - MNB reader Greg Kerr wrote:

    Completely agree that this will be a good thing.  Even as a salaried wage earner, I would rather have a higher base, as bonuses are NOT GUARANTEED! 

    Higher base factors into, higher bonuses (potentially) and ability to contribute at a higher rate for 401k.  Sadly pundits will jump on this and state they really did nothing but rob Peter to pay Paul.  Looks like a short-term win for Amazon until the pundits rip it to shreds.

    Finally, one MNB reader had a thought regarding our story about a new loyAlty program for marijuana consumers:

    Sounds Doobieus to me.

    Good one.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    In one National League Divisional Series, the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Colorado Rockies 3-2, to take a 1-0 lead in the best of five series.

    In the other NLDS, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves 6-0, also taking a 1-0 game lead in their best-of-five series.

    And, in Thursday Night Football action, the New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 38-24.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 5, 2018

    …will return next week.

    Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    KC's View: