retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The National Grocers Association (NGA) yesterday presented the Thomas K. Zaucha Entrepreneurial Excellence Award to Trygve (Trig) Solberg of T.A. Solberg Company, Inc.

Since 2009, the Thomas K. Zaucha Award, sponsored by Mondelz International and named after NGA’s first President and CEO, has been presented annually to recognize an independent grocer that “demonstrates persistence, vision, and creative entrepreneurship.”

• The Wall Street Journal reports that “the University of Michigan said Friday its consumer-sentiment index was 95.5 this month, up from 91.2 in January. January’s reading had been the weakest since October 2016 … Although consumers were more optimistic now that the longest shutdown on record is over, they continued to feel its lingering effects and worried about the possibility of another shutdown.”

• The Associated Press reports that the “ugly produce” trend may have hit its expiration date.

According to the story, “Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it’s not quite the right size, shape or color. But the two chains and others quietly ended their tests, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing in stores where better looking fruits and vegetables are on display.”

Not everyone has bailed out on ugly produce, though; Kroger and Hy-Vee are still working the category.

• The Associated Press reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has been authorized by members who work for Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop to call a strike “if the contract dispute with the supermarket chain continues. The union is asking members to keep working while negotiations continue … The fight centers on health insurance, pensions and vacation time.”

Fortune reports that Anheuser-Busch InBev is getting into the spirits business, acquiring San Diego-based Cutwater Spirits, which the story says “offers 16 types of spirits, including rum, vodka, whiskey, and gin. It also makes 14 canned cocktails, which are currently distributed to 34 different states. Cutwater will join Anheuser-Busch’s ‘Beyond Beer’ portfolio, which also includes Spiked Seltzer, the non-beer brand Ritas, HiBall, and Babe Rose.”

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Target “is launching new lines of lingerie and sleepwear, becoming the latest retail behemoth to challenge market leader Victoria’s Secret … Target next month will launch three brands to sell women’s bras, underwear and pajamas that it expects will hit more than $1 billion in sales in a year. Some of the sales will come from eliminating Gilligan & O’Malley, its existing brand for undergarments and sleepwear. Target said all the new bras will cost less than $22 and include plus sizes. Inc., which in 2017 launched its own line of lingerie called Mae, sells private-label bras at prices mostly between $10 and $22.”

• The Wall Street Journal reports that the Bud Light advertising campaign differentiating the Anheuser-Busch-made product from its competitors because it doesn’t use corn syrup has thrown into jeopardy a proposed campaign designed to pump up the entire industry.

“High-fructose corn syrup, used as a sweetener, has attracted negative attention for its role in the national obesity epidemic. MillerCoors notes that it uses corn syrup, not high-fructose corn syrup, only in the fermentation process for beer making, as does AB InBev for some other brands. MillerCoors says the corn syrup doesn’t actually make its way into the beer.”

Pete Marino, MillerCoors’s communications chief, tells the Journal that it is a “waste of time and money” to work on a common industry campaign “while the dominant industry leader is spending millions of dollars demonizing beer ingredients.”

MarketWatch reports on a new survey by Nielsen saying that the margarita is far and away the favorite drink throughout the United States … except in Chicago, where they prefer the old-fashioned.

In fact, in Chicago the margarita didn’t even make the top five.

“Just chalk it up to a regional quirk, Nielsen says. And it’s not as if the predilection for the whiskey-based old-fashioned is so out of fashion. It ranked third nationally behind the margarita and martini in Nielsen’s national numbers. Mimosas and Moscow mules rounded out the top 5. And, speaking of regional quirks, the Manhattan is not the most popular cocktail in Manhattan, just No. 3.”
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