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    Published on: August 1, 2019

    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.

    I recorded this FaceTime while standing in front of a vacant parking lot on the west side of Portland, Oregon … a parking lot that until a few weeks ago was home to the city’s largest encampments of food trucks.

    Now, they’re gone.

    It isn’t the first pod of food trucks to be cleared out. Another was eliminated last year. The most recent one was vacated so that developers could build a hotel - reportedly a 35-story Ritz Carlton Hotel. (The other was cleared out for a Marriott Moxy hotel. Sense a pattern?)

    I have to be honest. Does the world really need another Ritz Carlton?

    The hotel’s owners and investors, of course, would say yes. I get that.

    I also get that not everybody in Portland loves the food trucks. There are those who run traditional food stores and restaurants who would argue, with some validity, that the food trucks were taking business away from entities that spent a lot more money on infrastructure and taxes than the folks who ran their businesses out of what essentially were converted trailers.

    But there is part of me that is sad about this. The food truck culture, to me, is an important part of what makes Portland unique. Not as unique, maybe, as it once was, since food trucks have become ubiquitous in a lot of cities. But there always a sense that this is where it started, and I always thought that they added a sense of culinary experimentation to the culture. In some ways, they pushed things forward … bringing better average food at affordable prices - often way better than average - to street corners and people who might ordinarily not have had access to it.

    That’s a good thing. I wish more traditional food retailers could tap into that culture, not just in Portland, and find ways to give space and time and visibility to food entrepreneurs looking to et a break and try something new, but without the backing and financing to make it happen on their own.

    I’m glad to hear that city officials are trying to find a new home for some of the food trucks. It suggests that they recognize the role they play in helping to define the city.

    On the other hand, Portland is being redefined in ways hard to calculate as it grows and expands and become something different than it has been. The new Ritz Carlton will be a symbol of that change, but it isn’t going to smell as good and it isn’t going to taste as good.

    That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    Talk about a tie-in that has the potential to be out of this world.

    Gizmodo has a story about how there is a real-life version of Chateau Picard, the French vineyard that is featured in “Star Trek: Picard,” the new CBS All Access series that is a follow-up to “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and will premiere early in 2020.

    Chateau Picard apparently has been in business for decades, making wine in Bordeaux, France. (The fictional Chateau Picard is in France's La Barre region. C’est la vie.) But while the “Star Trek” version of the vineyard was seen in just one episode of the fourth season of “The Next Generation” (it is where Jean-Luc, played by the inestimable Patrick Stewart, went to recover from his encounter with the Borg, which resonates with fans and means absolutely nothing to anyone else), the vineyard appears to be playing a somewhat more important role in the new series.

    For the real vineyard - and for CBS - this is what you call an opportunity.

    Together, they are marketing a 2016 Chateau Picard Bordeaux blend that is "85% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot” described as “subtly smoky and spicy.” It retails for around $60.

    (CBS also is marketing, for $50, a 2017 United Federation of Planets wine from Sonoma, California, that is a blend of 87% zinfandel, 12% petite sirah and 1% Syrah. This seems appropriate, since “Star Trek” foresees a planet swathed in peace and less worried about national borders than it is dedicated to scientific and cultural aspiration.)

    And here’s the Eye-Opening news - it is available online, not just in Ten Forward. (Again, a reference intended to fans/geeks/Trekkers…)

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    There was a lovely piece in the New York Times yesterday by Stephen S. Hall in which he writes of his favorite dish, pasta all’amatriciana.

    Hall writes, “Friends in Rome had warned me: no one should eat pasta all’amatriciana nonstop for a week. The sauce — a glutton’s glorious punishment of pork, pecorino and tomatoes — produces one of the most satisfying dishes on the Roman table. But what’s the best way to make it? I planned to eat my way all the way to the source waters, in the mountain village of Amatrice, about two hours north of Rome, to find out.”

    There is, of course, one problem with that quest: in 2016, “a magnitude 6.2 earthquake had struck Amatrice … killing nearly 300 people and causing widespread devastation … So this is the oddest of travel articles: urging a trip to a place that, according to a former mayor, Sergio Pirozzi, mostly doesn’t exist anymore. But it is still worth going. Not just for the food, which is the ultimate farm-to-table version of amatriciana, but for a moving reminder of human resilience in the face of a devastating tragedy.”

    And, another complication: Hall writes, “I have been preparing the dish at home according to the recipe in Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cook Book” (page 105, I don’t even need to look it up), because that version — with onions, butter and pancetta — most closely approximated what I ate in Rome. I had to travel all the way to Amatrice to find out I’ve been doing it wrong for 40 years.”

    It is totally worth reading, because it is about how wonderful food can be inextricably linked to place and time and people … something that people who say they are in the food business sometimes forget.

    You can read the story here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    Fast Company has a piece about Ikea’s ongoing efforts “to better understand people’s relationships with their homes,” which has resulted in “in-depth sociological studies of its consumers.”

    In its most recent study, the story says, Ikea found that “our fundamental notions of home and family are experiencing a transformation. Plenty of demographic research suggests that major changes in where and how we live could be afoot: For instance, people who marry later may spend more years living with roommates. If couples delay having children - or choose to remain child-free - they may choose to live longer in smaller apartments. As people live longer, we might find more multigenerational homes, as parents, children, and grandchildren all cohabit under one roof.”

    Ikea’s research also found something else interesting: “Many of the people in its large study were not particularly satisfied with their domestic life. For one thing, they’re increasingly struggling to feel a sense of home in the places they live; 29% of people surveyed around the world felt more at home in other places than the space where they live every day. A full 35% of people in cities felt this way … Ikea also found that a quarter of people leave their home to find alone time, and 60% of people bring their work home.”

    You can read the story here.
    KC's View:
    Ikea, quote naturally, has a significant interest in how people feel about their home and surroundings - its entire business model is predicated on people feeling good about the places they live and about the furnishings they acquire for those abodes.

    Which means, if people are going to be living with roommates, or marrying and not having children, or living to advanced ages, that different kinds of homes have to be available to them that respect their needs and desires - which are not, the story suggests, always the same thing.

    It also is interested that more than a third of people living in cities feel less connected than one might think to their living conditions; could it be that urbanization, which we talk about here on MNB a lot, isn’t entirely a matter of choice, but rather a matter of circumstance and trend lines beyond the control of many people affected by them?

    The reason I direct you to this story is that all these trends, as much as they affect where people live, also are going to affect how people eat and cook and shop for food. These are shifts that food retailers and manufacturers need to pay attention to, because they will affect the size and shape of stores, the packaging used in those stores, and the kinds of products that people are going to want and need - which, again, isn’t always the same thing. These changes are going to require retailers and suppliers to have a far more granular feel for the marketplace than perhaps they have in the past … because if they don’t invest in actionable knowledge and then act on it, they are likely to be left behind.

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    Roche Bros. announced that today it is opening its fourth Brothers Marketplace store, a small-store format with a more curated selection, in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

    There are existing Brothers Marketplace locations in Medfield, Weston, and Waltham, Massachusetts.

    According to the company, “The 20,000 square-foot market emphasizes local producers and vendors that have been handpicked by store associates, including Duxbury Saltworks sea salt, Atlas Bars from Duxbury, Grumpy’s Pepper Sauce from Kingston, Sweet Sense baked goods from Plymouth, and more. The retailer has also commissioned Powder Point Oysters to raise their exclusive Brothers Marketplace Duxbury Dragon oysters right in Duxbury Bay. First introduced at this year’s Duxbury Oyster Festival and named after the local high school mascot, Duxbury Dragon oysters feature a smaller deep cup and pronounced salinity already popular with local residents.”
    KC's View:
    I continue to be impressed by the Brothers format, which is the kind of place that, if one were opened in my community, I would be thrilled to patronize. It brings what I would think of as an urban sensibility to suburban locales, and the approach seems to have considerable appeal. I like it. A lot.

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    Bloomberg reports that “the U.S. trucker shortage is expected to more than double over the next decade as the industry struggles to replace aging drivers and recruit more women.”

    According to the story, “The driver deficit swelled by more than 10,000 to 60,800 in 2018 from a year earlier, according to a study by the American Trucking Association … The ATA estimates that 160,000 driver positions will go unfilled in a decade.”

    The Bloomberg story says that to lure more drivers, companies are increasing pay, targeting former military personnel, women and young people, and pushing regulators “to lower the age for commercial drivers who can cross state lines by three years to 18.”
    KC's View:
    Fewer drivers, fewer trucks on the road making deliveries to warehouses and stores, which means inevitable shortages with which consumers will have to grapple. This is a problem, and I have no idea how to address it effectively.

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    …with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    Business Insider has a story about Amazon’s Prime Video streaming business, arguing that the company may be having “trouble carving out a strong position in Hollywood, as its broader content strategy remains vague.”

    Here’s how it frames the story:

    “In addition to mismanagement and turnover at Amazon Studios — only now stabilizing under Jennifer Salke's leadership — Amazon's video efforts have likely struggled due to hazy brand identity. Amazon's platform is for all things, albeit mostly for shopping.

    “Prime Video is merely a perk within a broader ecosystem of services, and ultimately peripheral to the key touchstone of Prime membership: free 2- or 1-day shipping. And Amazon's emphasis on breadth has likely diluted Prime Video's unique value, as the SVOD platform might be thought of as just another offering within the e-tailer's broader suite.

    “A major constituency confused about Amazon's identity is Hollywood talent and content producers, which could make it hard for the platform to consistently create high-quality original content. Amazon has said that it doesn't directly compete with Netflix and other pure-play streaming giants, but that has likely confused industry talent who are unsure about what exactly the SVOD does aim to do.”

    I found this story to be interesting, since it points to a problem that I think could end up being a problem for Amazon - it has so many businesses and has to focus on so many angles, it could prove to tough to maintain the integrity of its ecosystem. I do think that Jeff Bezos knows this, and is laser-focused on making sure it doesn’t happen. But it ain’t gonna be easy,

    I will say that I’m largely happy with Amazon Prime Video. It has “Bosch.” “Jack Ryan.” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” “The Boys.” And a bunch of movies that I wouldn’t mind revisiting. This all strikes me as pretty good value-added for my annual Amazon Prime membership fee.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    …with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • HealthFocus International is out with a new global study saying that almost four out of ten respondents said that “eating clean” has become more important over the past year, with 39 percent saying that “eating clean” meant avoiding chemicals, and 34 percent saying they wanted to avoid artificial ingredients. Almost 50 percent of respondents said they were concerned about food safety when making the shift, almost six out of 10 said they were concerned about their long-term health.

    • H-E-B announced that it “has joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill Partnership, strengthening its commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by continuing to invest in cutting-edge, environmentally sustainable refrigeration systems. As part of this voluntary program, H-E-B continues its path to adopt more environmentally friendly refrigeration technologies, strategies and practices that will reduce refrigerant emissions and impact on the environment.”

    • The NY Post reports that mustard brand French’s has collaborated with ice cream company Coolhaus “to create mustard-flavored ice cream. The suspect sweet will be served up starting the week of Aug. 3, which is not coincidentally National Mustard Day.”

    Not to be judgmental, but … Yuck.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    • The Dallas Morning News reports that JC Penney is losing Michael Robbins, its executive vice president, chief stores and supply chain officer. Robbins will be succeeded by Jim DePaul, who will take the title of executive vice president of stores; DePaul most recently was Shopko's chief operations officer over stores, supply chain and e-commerce.

    The story notes that Robbins was hired in 2015 by then-new JC Penney CEO Marvin Ellison. Now that Ellison has been replaced as CEO by Jill Soltau, the story says, it appears that Soltau is putting her own team in place at the troubled retailer; Soltau worked with DePaul when she was was president of Shopko.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    Hal Prince, the renowned Broadway producer/director who over a long career earned 21 Tony Awards, died yesterday. He was 91.
    KC's View:
    The phrase “renowned Broadway producer/director” hardly covers it. So, let’s just list some of the shows with which he was associated…

    “West Side Story.” “Fiddler on the Roof.” “Cabaret.” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” “The Phantom of the Opera.” “Pajama Game.” “Evita.” “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” “Company.” “Candide.” “Fiorello!” “Zorba.” “Damn Yankees.” “Follies.” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

    In other words, basically a history of the Broadway musical theater.

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    In this new Retail Tomorrow podcast, recorded at GMDC’s annual GM conference in Denver, we focus on the ways in which startups are working to disintermediate traditional retailers … how retailers can turn these innovations to their own advantage … why cultural resistance within companies can be the ultimate enemy of progress … and even brainstorm about a business model that could’ve made Toys R Us relevant again.

    You can listen to the Retail Tomorrow podcast here, or on iTunes or GooglePlay.

    The Retail Tomorrow podcast series is a production of GMDC, the Global Market Development Center.

    Our guests:

    • Patrick Fore, CEO and co-founder of Fleat.

    • Sterling Hawkins, co-founder of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART).

    The host: Kevin Coupe, MorningNewsBeat’s “ContentGuy.”

    Pictured, left to right: Patrick Fore, Kevin Coupe, Sterling Hawkins

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    I’ve gotten some emails from Portland, Oregon-area MNB readers wondering if I am going to have one of those casual get-togethers that we've done here the past few years.

    The answer is yes … let's get together Thursday night, August 8, at 5 pm, at Nel Centro, located at 1408 SW 6th Ave, in Portland. I'll plan on being there for a couple of hours, hopefully on the outside patio - and I hope that any MNB readers who'd like to stop by will do so.

    Once again, I’m thrilled that our get-together will be sponsored by Portland State University’s Center for Retail Leadership.

    Put it on your calendar.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2019

    Got the following email from MNB reader Molly Renaud:

    Thank you for the commentary on recycling this week - from the New York Times article regarding bottlers continuing to fight deposit laws to Asda (paving a parking lot with recycled plastic bottles) to the recent announcement that PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are stepping away from the Plastics Industry Association. These times, they are a changin!

    I worked in Community Relations for a grocery retailer and now oversee Retail Services for CLYNK, a technology and materials handling company that offers customized solutions for bottle redemption.  Having spent time in retail and now material handling, I want to point out that there are bottlers and retailers that are pledging and investing to modernize the current bottle deposit system in real ways.  But I agree with your overall sentiment that if manufacturers and retailers started embracing their role in supporting consumer sustainability habits it could be a real game changer.

    Charles Broll of Nestle Waters North America makes this exact point in a great op ed featured in the Hartford Courant on July 21.  In it he outlines 4 key ways to modernize New England’s current deposit system. Nestle has started the process to have 100% of Poland Springs bottles, their largest domestic brand, come from recycled plastic by 2022. 

    On the retailer side, Hannaford Supermarkets made a significant investment in 2006 when it launched with CLYNK in Maine.  In 2016, they took another big step when they brought our bag drop system to upstate New York.  The program has been very successful, with hundreds of thousands of consumers benefiting from the convenience of bag drop thanks in no small part to Hannaford’s participation. In many ways their partnership with CLYNK reflects well on Hannaford’s foresight in the space of recycling and sustainability.

    With partners like Nestle and Hannaford change will keep coming, and with the Coca Cola and Pepsi’s of the world stepping up their game, we may be poised to start making a serious dent in reducing container waste.

    All good news.

    Also got the following email from MNB reader Dena Kowaloff, who for purposes of clarity needs to be identified as Director of Marketing Media & Public Relations at Roche Bros., who wanted to comment on the Boston Globe story we referenced about tainted water being sold in New England supermarkets:

    I wanted to share my view about the bottled water piece you wrote this morning.  Even though we are one of Spring Hill Farm Dairy’s private label customers, we only learned about the advisory from the breaking news reports yesterday.  As soon as we did know, it took only a quick conversation for us to decide to pull all the product covered by the advisory from our shelves.  As you know, we have a great rapport and trust with our customers, and we do everything within our power to honor and continually strengthen that trust.

    I never had any doubt.

    I would argue there is something wrong with a system - and a company - that made it possible for one of its customers to find out about this issue from a newspaper story. This isn’t a failure at Roche Bros. It is, however, a failure on a regulatory side and on the side of the company that makes the water. They may have been within what the law requires, but they let down customers.

    To quote a Latin proverb often cited here, Trust, like the soul, never returns once it goes.
    KC's View: