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    Published on: September 20, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    I was glad to see a piece in Fast Company about how social media site Instagram is trying in some cases to reduce the influence of so-called influencers … starting with making the decision to "restrict users under the age of 18 from seeing posts that promote select weight-loss products and cosmetic surgery procedures," as well as banning "some types of ads that promote unrealistic 'get thin quick' products entirely."

    According to the story, "Posts do not need to be from the product’s account to be eligible for the ban. Any influencer who, for example, shows a sachet of 'weight loss' tea in a post and urges their followers to buy it would find that post will not be shown to under-18’s."

    Emma Collins, Instagram’s public policy manager, tells Fast Company, "We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone that uses it, and this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media."

    Any of us with kids - especially daughters - know that this kind of stuff on social media can be enormously destructive; they don't know enough of have the confidence to realize that a lot of the people putting this crap online are being compensated to do so, that their roles as influencers have nothing to do with any level of expertise. So it is up to adults to help, to be accountable and culpable.

    Let's be clear. This is a baby step in a long march to make social media more responsible. But baby steps at least are a beginning, and an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    A number of companies are making moves and weighing in on climate issues ahead of a series of worldwide protests and strikes keyed to the subject and what many perceive as governments' insufficient actions in this area.

    • Amazon yesterday announced that it is committing that it will meet the Paris Climate Accord's goals by 2040, 10 years earlier than the Accord's goal of 2050.

    The move comes in spite of the fact that the Trump administration has pulled the US out of the Paris Accords.

    In making the commitment, Amazon is signing onto what is called the Climate Pledge, which requires signatories to "measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis … Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies …
    Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040."

    In a statement, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, "We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue—we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference. If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon—which delivers more than 10 billion items a year—can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can."

    As part of its commitment, Amazon "announced the order of 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, the largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles, with vans starting to deliver packages to customers in 2021. Amazon plans to have 10,000 of the new electric vehicles on the road as early as 2022 and all 100,000 vehicles on the road by 2030 – saving 4 million metric tons of carbon per year by 2030."

    In its analysis, the Seattle Times writes that "the reductions described by Bezos will be an enormous challenge for a company whose main businesses are energy intensive – Amazon has fleets of trucks and jets, as well as a global network of data centers — and steadily growing. Amazon said its 2018 greenhouse gas emissions totaled 44.4 million metric tons in 2018, the first time it has disclosed its carbon footprint."

    USA Today reports that a number of retailers, including Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's plan to close for at least part of the day today in recognition of the Global Climate Strike. The businesses say that they want to "encourage their employees and customers to participate in the strike."

    According to the story, "The protests are timed to begin a week of activism at the United Nations, including a Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and a U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday. A second strike is planned for Sept. 27."

    In a statement, Ben & Jerry's said, "We’re going to disrupt our 'business as usual' on Sept 20 to demonstrate our solidarity with global climate strikers. We believe we all must change the way we live, and the way we do business."

    And Patagonia has dedicated its entire home page to the issue and the protestors.
    KC's View:
    It falls to companies and citizens to lead the charge on these issues, I'm afraid, since some governments seem to believe it is not their responsibility to take leadership on this critical issue. I'm sure there will be naysayers about these moves from all sorts of folks citing all sorts of reasons, but I believe that it is important to do whatever we can to stave off what could be global disaster.

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    Ahold Delhaize USA yesterday announced that "each of its local brands - Food Lion, Giant Food, GIANT/MARTIN’S, Hannaford, Peapod and Stop & Shop, and its U.S. services company, Retail Business Services, which develops private brand products for each of the local brands - have implemented a new sustainable chemistry commitment. Under the new commitment, Ahold Delhaize USA companies will restrict certain chemicals from products and packaging, work with suppliers to ensure products meet high standards for ingredients, beyond what’s required by law today, and collaborate with suppliers to address the root causes of contaminants.

    Brittni Furrow, VP of Sustainable Retailing and Healthy Living for Ahold Delhaize USA, said in a prepared statement that “consumers indicate they want more transparent products for their families, made with ingredients they can feel good about. We’re pleased to launch this new commitment, which will bring more sustainable options, free from unwanted ingredients, to neighborhood grocery stores.”
    KC's View:
    As someone who lives in a Stop & Shop-served market, I'll be interested to see how this commitment is communicated to people who walk in the store and who receive information via email. I think this sort of initiative deserves to be explained clearly, and customers deserve to know when the stores they patronize establish these kinds of priorities, and when/how they walk the talk.

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    It was about a dozen years ago that documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock turned the food industry on its ear, generating a lot of attention and controversy with Super Size Me, in which he existed only on McDonald's food for a month, suffering all sorts of physical and even emotional distress in the process. By turning himself essentially into a fast food victim, Spurlock was looking to show the kind of damage that fast food was doing to people who ate too much of it.

    Now, he's back for more, with a sequel that actually take a different approach - rather than being a victim, Spurlock decided to see what would happen if he were part of the problem.

    Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken starts with Spurlock's fascination with the chicken business, and he decides to learn as much as he can about what basically is the most consumed food on the planet. That means actually becoming a chicken farmer, which allows him to learn about how chickens are bred to grow so fast and big … and then becoming the owner of a fast food chicken restaurant, where he grapples with the notion of transparency - "big chicken" companies, he argues, are in the business of exploiting both their farmers and their chickens, but most consumers have no idea about what they are eating and how it got to them.

    Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken actually was supposed to be released two years ago, but was pulled from distribution when Spurlock confessed to past sexual misconduct. Oddly enough, with all the attention focused on the chicken sandwich wars these days, the movie is even more relevant today … though it is hard to know whether Spurlock's past behavior will stop a lot of people from streaming it.

    I saw it on iTunes, and to be honest, I watched it not remembering the stories about Spurlock's past. There's no way to sugarcoat any of those misdeeds, and they certainly color the way I think about him and the movie. But that said, it is an entertaining piece of work, making a lot of provocative points.

    To be honest, Super Size Me had an impact on my consumption behavior - it was around the time of its release that I started dramatically cutting back on fast food. Now, the sequel has me thinking about the chicken I eat.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Walgreen is working with FedEx and Google-owned Wing to begin piloting a drone delivery program in Christiansburg, Virginia, next month.

    According to the story, "The companies aim to go beyond the small-scale delivery demonstrations that have occurred so far in the U.S., typically in controlled environments conducted over short ranges … The demonstration project is being conducted near the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and is associated with the Mid-Atlantic Partnership, one of the groups selected by the U.S. government as testing entities for drone commerce. While demand grows for the use of drones to deliver goods and perform many industrial functions, the Federal Aviation Administration is still in the process of developing regulations to govern them."

    The Times writes that "The announcement is a sign of the rapid maturation of the drone industry, as multiple titans of industry race to find their place in what could become a transforming technology. At the same time, the U.S. government hasn’t created a regulatory structure or formal safety standards for small, low-flying drone operations, so such demonstrations continue to be conducted using waivers to existing rules."
    KC's View:
    "Rapid maturation" is right. Wasn't that long ago that drone deliveries seemed far out in the future, and now it appears to be almost here.

    It reminds me of what is called Dornbusch's Law (named after economist Rudy Dornbusch): "Crises take longer to arrive than you can possibly imagine, but when they do come, they happen faster than you can possibly imagine."

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    MNB the other day had a story about how Casper, not satisfied with helping to disrupt the traditional mattress industry, had designs on becoming the "Nike of sleep," investing in the marketing of all sorts of sleep-related products.

    Now, apparently, that includes CBD.

    CNBC reports that Casper has "launched a new line of melatonin and CBD-infused gummies in partnership with Plus Products, a San Mateo, California-based company that makes THC edibles in California.

    "Getting into the CBD market may seem like a gimmick timed to the first frenzy in the cannabis capitalism market, but Casper has been looking at the CBD market for years under the direction of its co-founder and chief strategy officer, Neil Parikh, who comes from a medical background and is a CBD user himself."

    According to the story, "CBD gummies are the latest in a series of sleep-improvement products that the retailer, which ranked No. 8 on the 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, has introduced since its 2014 launch, when consumers first latched on to the idea of purchasing a mattress without ever stepping into a store."
    KC's View:
    Next up, CBD-scented sheets and pillowcases. I mean, why not?

    Published on: September 20, 2019

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

    • Walmart CEO Doug McMillon swill become chairman of the Business Roundtable, a CEO group made up of executives from virtually every major US corporation, starting a two-year term on January 1, 2020. He succeeds Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

    The Business Roundtable got a lot of attention recently when a large majority of its members signed on to a document arguing that shareholder returns cannot and should not be the only metric for a company’s success, and that businesses have broader societal, cultural, environmental and political responsibilities that must come into play. In other words, values can and should mean as much as value.

    McMillon signed that letter, and now he runs the group. Be fascinating to see how it plays out in practice … and in Bentonville.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 20, 2019

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

    • The Wall Street Journal has a story about how brokerage/marketing service company Acosta - owned by private equity firm Carlyle Group - has hired a law firm "to advise on talks to restructure some $2.7 billion in debt as the struggling marketing-services company faces a looming interest payment." The company is said to have "notified its lenders and bondholders they should sign nondisclosure agreements to enter into formal restructuring negotiations in advance of an expected credit default."

    In a statement, Acosta said that its "objective is to strengthen Acosta for the future and ensure we remain the most competitive sales and marketing agency in the industry for our clients, customers and employees. There will be no disruption to our business as we continue to work with our lenders."

    The story makes the point that Acosta has been hit on two fronts. Business has been hurt by major companies, such as Kraft Heinz and Clorox, that has stopped using its services, as well as by the move by consumers toward fresh foods and away from the packaged food categories that have made up the bulk of its volume. What is hard for me to understand - and I'm happy to be educated on this - is what fundamental changes will Acosta (and other brokerage/marketing services companies) make to address these changes in the marketplace. There may be "no disruption to our business" in the short term, but are we seeing major surgery here, or just a band-aid? And what does Acosta really need

    • The Wall Street Journal writes that a new deal finalized between the US Commerce Department and Mexican tomato growers will require the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) "to inspect round and Roma tomatoes and bulk grape tomatoes," with inspectors normally arriving and completing their work "within 24 hours."

    The problem importers say, is that "any delays in transporting their product - which normally moves from Mexican greenhouses to stores across the U.S. in seven days - would bring risks of spoilage, higher costs or a requirement to pick the tomatoes earlier."

    The Journal writes that "the deal is part of a long-running trade battle that pits mainly Florida-based tomato growers against producers of Mexican tomatoes. The Florida Tomato Exchange in 2018 requested that the Commerce Department terminate a prior agreement that had previously resolved longstanding accusations of dumping tomatoes at unfairly low prices in the U.S.

    "Retailers are worried the inspections in the new deal will lead to bottlenecks at the border."

    Just another example, it sounds like, of how trade wars may not be in businesses' and consumers' best interests.

    • The Press-Enterprise reports that "Pharmacists at Southern California’s major supermarkets and workers at 172 Stater Bros. stores have reached separate agreements on new union contracts.

    "The tentative contract for pharmacists at Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs was announced Tuesday, Sept. 17 on the website of United Food and Commercial Workers’ Local 1167, which represents Inland Empire workers. The contract with Stater Bros. employees was posted Wednesday.

    "Both contracts must be ratified by the union’s rank and file. Stater Bros. workers will vote Sept. 30."

    • The Houston Business Journal reports that H-E-B has gotten the permits necessary to "clear the way for the construction of a 99,831-square-foot, hi-pile warehouse addition and/or remodel" at its Houston distribution center. "The permit lists the estimated cost of the construction at $12.5 million."

    According to the story, "the construction at the distribution center at 4625 Windfern Road comes as H-E-B nears completion of a 64,000-square-foot snack manufacturing plant about a half mile away. Located in northwest Houston at 10000 1/2 Genard Road, the snack plant will be H-E-B’s second such facility in Texas. The existing one in San Antonio manufactures potato, corn and tortilla chips 24 hours a day in a 40,000-square-foot space."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    Got a number of emails from readers about my piece about Zupan's in Portland, Oregon.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Great POV on Zupan’s this morning, it was the first I’d heard of them. Little wonder between them and New Seasons that Sprouts hopped over Portland and went north to Seattle.

    And from another:

    I could not agree more!!! I have family that lives in Portland and I come home to St. Louis bragging to all my co-workers about all the great things I saw… A trip to Portland must include a stop there.
    DLM and Westborn I agree are right by their side…

    And another:
    Zupan’s is a fun and great shopping experience. When my wife and I visit Portland we have Zupan’s on our list of places to visit. This place is one of the best examples of a Grocery retailer doing thing to differentiate themselves.  It is an immersive sensory food shopping experience. The employee service is the icing on the cake. We love this place. It is number 1 on top ten Grocery retailers in the USA.

    And still another:

    Kevin, not a newsworthy event except to many Portlanders is the demise of an old time locally owned four store chain, Bale’s Markets. Relevant today because of your glowing Zupan’s report.

    The irony might be that at one time Bale’s was on a par with Zupan’s, perhaps even above. Zupan’s acted on a changing consumer, Bale’s didn’t. I’m not sure they even tried. The results are in.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    In Thursday Night Football, the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Tennessee Titans 20-7.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    This special podcast, recorded in front of a live audience at the recent Retail Tomorrow Immersion conference in Boston, goes inside the evolving world of LL Bean, the iconic catalog business that has engineered a dramatic and highly successful shift into omnichannel retailing through transformational leadership and a willingness to disrupt from within.

    Our special guest is CEO Stephen Smith, the first outsider to ever run the company, who offered a unique perspective on how a legacy retailer - founded in 1912 - has been transformed into a model of 21st century marketing savvy.

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

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

    This edition of the Retail Tomorrow podcast is brought to you by the Global Market Development Center (GMDC), connecting people & companies to opportunities for growth.

    Pictured, left to right: Kevin Coupe, Stephen Smith

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 20, 2019

    Ad Astra, the new Brad Pitt movie directed and co-written by James Gray, is a film of spectacular beauty that recalls not just Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also Peter Hyams' lesser but still respectable sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, with a lot of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now mixed in to great effect. In mentioning these films, though, I don't mean to suggest that Ad Astra is in any way derivative; rather, it uses the same cinematic alphabet to tell an original and compelling story.

    The film takes place in the future - no year is mentioned, but while much of the technology seems recognizable, it also isa time when humanity has colonized the Moon and, to a lesser extent, Mars. But this is no idealized "Star Trek" future - there is greed and ambition and subterfuge.

    Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut of considerable experience who is asked to help hunt down his astronaut father (played with a Kurtz-like haunted quality by Tommy Lee Jones), who vanished during a deep space mission years before, and who the powers-that-be now believe may be responsible for a series of antimatter power surges that could destroy the Earth.

    The details of the mission are almost beside the point; it is what filmmakers call a McGuffin. What matters is that in searching for his father, Pitt's McBride has to come to terms with how he's lived his life - the things that make him a great astronaut may not make him a great man - and his relationship with a father who is more like him than he'd like to admit. Pitt manages to communicate much with his eyes - it is an extraordinary acting achievement, and reminds us, in concert with his performance earlier this year in Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood, how he's one of our best modern film actors.

    Ad Astra manages to mix together some amazing action sequences with moments of great beauty and contemplation. While there are times, to be honest, that it walks right up to the border of being ponderous, it never crosses over, and manages to be one of the best movies of the year so far.

    I have an amazing wine to recommend this week - the 2015 Cristom Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir, which is rich and deep and utterly wonderful. I had it with more meat than I think I've ever had in one sitting at a Portland restaurant called Ox, consuming tripe and tongue and chorizo sausage and all sorts of other stuff that has never tasted so good before. And, as always, the wine helped make the meal.

    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend.

    Back Monday.

    KC's View: