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    Published on: October 7, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    In Ecuador, the Associated Press reports, there's a new dessert that has captured people's imaginations.

    Guinea pig ice cream.

    Made … yes … with actual guinea pigs.

    It is being sold at an ice cream stall "next to a highway linking the Ecuadorian capital of Quito to the city of Sangolqui … The stall owner is María del Carmen Pilapaña, whose offbeat offering inspires disbelief and laughter among first-time customers.

    "Pilapaña’s operation is small. It consists of two tables in an open area lined with dentists’ clinics and other businesses. Even so, demand is growing. Every week, the entrepreneur prepares 150 servings ($1 for a cone) of guinea pig ice cream. She also makes 40 servings of ice cream flavored with beetles, also traditionally eaten as a salty snack, and a smaller amount of mushroom ice cream."

    It is not entirely an outlier in terms of local cuisine: "The rodents are a traditional hot dish in some Latin American countries, including Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. In Ecuador, people typically cook guinea pigs with salt and serve them with potatoes and peanut sauce."

    “The guinea pig is a very important ancient food in Andean indigenous societies, especially for its high protein content,” says Carolina Páez, director of the anthropology school of the Catholic University in Quito, “so there is no reason to be amazed that Ecuadorians eat guinea pigs, even in ice cream.”

    One customer assessed it this way: "I was suspicious, but it was tasty."

    This is what I call an Eye-Opener.

    (And the good news is that if any fur gets through, it can serve as bonus floss.)
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    The New York Times has a story this morning about how major US retailers are among the companies that are making major investments in environmental and renewable energy projects that they believe will have a significant impact on their bottom lines.

    The Times writes that "at a time when the federal government is increasingly stepping away from addressing issues like sustainability and climate change, corporate America is stepping up. Retail giants from Target to Walmart to Amazon; and tech titans from Apple to Google to Facebook, are taking action to respond because it’s good for business and good for corporate image. For many consumers, addressing core issues like climate change and sustainability go hand-in-hand with attracting their business."

    The story notes that "going green has never looked so good — or cost so little. Solar power is almost 90 percent cheaper than it was 10 years ago and wind power is about 70 percent cheaper," which explains why "companies in the United States purchased three times as much power generated from solar and wind energy in 2018 than they did the year before."

    One example cited in the story: "Target is so serious about being viewed as a friend of the planet that by November, the company said, it will have erected rooftop solar panels on 500 of its stores in the United States. That’s more than one-quarter of its total 1,855 stores, and Target expects to reach that goal one year earlier than projected.

    "By the end of 2019, Target will have achieved 25 percent of its mission to attain 100 percent renewable electricity in its stores — and this just months after announcing the pledge. In its relentless bid to out-green archrival Walmart, Target also has ranked No. 1 in on-site solar capacity for three years in a row in the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Means Business report, a survey of corporate solar users."

    Walmart "is right on Target’s tail," the story says, having "set a long-term goal of using 100 percent renewable energy … By 2025, Walmart aims to power 50 percent of its operations with renewable energy through on-site installations and purchases from external power providers … Walmart has renewable energy projects all over the world from South Africa to China to India. In India, rooftop solar power is in 90 percent of its buildings. And in China, Walmart recently placed a rooftop solar project at a Sam’s Club store in Jiangxi Province. Worldwide, Walmart has 136 projects under development that will generate another two billion kilowatts of renewable energy."
    KC's View:
    It is important to recognize that there are at least dual motivations at work for these companies. It is good for their bottom lines, which obviously is important, but iut also recognizes that for companies to retain credibility with younger generations of shoppers, it is important to be positioned correctly in terms of things like sustainability (and other social/cultural/business issues).

    Kudos to businesses - especially retailers, the most customer-facing businesses of all - for realizing and acting on this. I'm not sure that it says anything positive about a federal government that, as the Times says, seems to be disengaging from such issues … it probably suggests that at least some companies want to be more relevant to its consumers than lawmakers are to their citizens and voters.

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that Walmart is selling online fashion retailer ModCloth, which it acquired in 2017, to Go Global Retail, described as "a brand investment company founded in 2016."

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Walmart bought ModCloth as part of a broader move to diversify its e-commerce portfolio; around the same time, it also acquired Jet, Moosejaw, Shoebuy and Hayneedle.

    The story says that "a Walmart spokesman said Friday that when the company acquired ModCloth, "our primary focus was to build assortment through proprietary, digitally native brands." Since then, the spokesman said, "our approach has evolved and our current focus is on building direct-to-consumer brands that we can leverage in an [omnichannel] way."
    KC's View:
    When Walmart bought Jet and put Marc Lore in charge of all its US e-commerce operations, ModCloth seemed to be part of a broader strategy that would position it better against Amazon. But now, as that strategy ate into Walmart's bottom line, the impulse seems to be to get back to fundamentals. Which is creating a lot of conversation out there about how long Marc Lore will be in the Walmart picture once his contract ends.

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    It was just a week ago that a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and picked up practically everywhere - including on MNB - suggested that concerns about the consumption of red meat and processed meat may be much ado about nothing, and that the health advantages of avoiding red meat were negligible.

    The report - said by the New York Times to be based "on three years of work by a group of 14 researchers in seven countries" who claimed to have "no conflicts of interest" and to have done the work "without outside funding" - got immediate pushback from public health researchers, who warned that the conclusions "harm the credibility of nutrition science and erode public trust in scientific research."

    Well, now the Times is reporting that the report's lead author "has past research ties to the meat and food industry."

    Bradley C. Johnston, an epidemiologist at Dalhousie University in Canada, "indicated on a disclosure form that he did not have any conflicts of interest to report during the past three years," the Times writes. "But as recently as December 2016 he was the senior author on a similar study that tried to discredit international health guidelines advising people to eat less sugar. That study, which also appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was paid for by the International Life Sciences Institute, or ILSI, an industry trade group largely supported by agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical companies and whose members have included McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cargill, one of the largest beef processors in North America. The industry group, founded by a top Coca-Cola executive four decades ago, has long been accused by the World Health Organization and others of trying to undermine public health recommendations to advance the interests of its corporate members."

    In an interview, the Times reports, "Dr. Johnston said his past relationship with ILSI had no influence on the current research on meat recommendations. He said he did not report his past relationship with ILSI because the disclosure form asked only about potential conflicts within the past three years. Although the ILSI-funded study publication falls within the three-year window, he said the money from ILSI arrived in 2015, and he was not required to report it for the meat study disclosure."
    KC's View:
    Even if one can ignore the fact that Johnston seems to be falling back on technicalities to defend his lack of disclosure, the idea that he was out there trying to discredit "international health guidelines advising people to eat less sugar" suggests that his next gig will be selling snake oil. Assuming, of course, he can find some snakes to write him a check.

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    Digital Trends writes about Apple has filed a patent application that suggests it is "investigating how to integrate health monitoring technology into clothing" by weaving a stretchable band into fabric, which "could also contain sensors to monitor the body’s vital signs."

    The story suggests that this could be "the next stage on from what’s possible with the Apple Watch. Expect heart rate sensing and an electrocardiogram feature, in addition to blood pressure, blood sugar levels, blood oxygen levels, respiration rates, and additional fitness-orientated measurements including activity and step count … The band’s stretchable material is key to making it work properly, as it will need to be in almost constant contact with the skin to accurately take the important measurements."

    Digital Trends notes that this is all speculation - that we don't know for sure at this point exactly what Apple is planning, or how far along in the development process it is.

    But here's what we do know: "Since the introduction of the Apple Watch, Apple has realized the potential in health monitoring technology, and has gone on to introduce important new features to the Watch — including an ECG, fall detection, and more. Apple has also invested in research with the medical community to help people monitor, manage, and diagnose health and fitness conditions. A smartwatch enables many of these features, but its size and location on the body limits the amount it will eventually be able to do. Smart clothing is the logical next step."
    KC's View:
    Just got back from the GMDC Selfcare Summit, at which fascinating conversations about initiatives like these were front and center … pointing to ways in which retailers can and should be part of the healthcare/selfcare continuum.

    I was excited to be part of it, having moderated two sessions that we recorded as Retail Tomorrow podcasts that will drop here over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned … I think you'll be as fascinated as I was.

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that PayPal "is withdrawing from the group of companies Facebook Inc. assembled to launch a global cryptocurrency-based payments network, dealing a blow to the social-media giant’s ambitions to transform financial services." The story notes that while PayPal is withdrawing from the Libra Association, which is backing the libra cryptocurrency, it "remains supportive of libra’s mission and will continue to discuss how to work together in the future."

    The story says that "like PayPal, libra was envisioned to be a way to send money between two people as well as a way to pay for goods and services online. Unlike PayPal, libra will run not on existing payments infrastructure but on a yet-to-be-developed blockchain network backed by a pool of real assets and currencies."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    • Albertsons has announced that its instore pharmacies "are swapping white for brown as they transition from traditional white prescription bags to a new recycled brown bag at 1,700+ locations across the United States. The switch to the more sustainable bag is expected to save more than 5,000 trees annually. Made with 100% recycled content, the new bags include 60% post-consumer recycled content, making Albertsons Companies the first major pharmacy chain to offer this type of bag. The fiber in the new bags is certified to meet the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards for recycled content and is Rainforest Alliance Certified." reports that Ahold Delhaize-owned Hannaford Supermarkets has proposed the building of one of its stores in Fayetteville, New York, about seven miles east of Syracuse …which would be the furthest west that the 190-store Hannaford has ventured to this point.

    According to the story, "The chain is looking to move further into New York - and has likely been waiting for an opportunity to move into a market dominated by Wegmans, said Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a consumer industry business consulting firm. So a foray into the Syracuse market makes sense, he said … Flickinger said he believes the chain can effectively compete against Wegmans - even though the closest Wegmans would be only three miles away in DeWitt.

    "Hannaford’s store would be smaller - 53,000-square-feet compared to the 152,000-square-foot Wegmans in DeWitt."

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of fashion executives - "led by Sam Ben-Avraham, who founded the hip New York retail store Atrium in the 1990s as well as the streetwear brand Kith and also operates fashion trade shows" - is preparing to submit a $220 million bid to acquire bankrupt Barneys New York.

    The story notes that "Barneys filed for bankruptcy protection in August after the landlord of its Madison Avenue store nearly doubled the rent to $27.9 million. As part of its filing, it said it planned to shut most of its 13 department stores and nine warehouse stores, but would continue to operate seven locations, including on Madison Avenue."

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Sears "has agreed to set aside $3 million to compensate the beneficiaries of retired employees who died after the bankrupt retailer canceled their life insurance benefits in March … Sears, which filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last October, ended the roughly 29,000 retired employees’ life insurance benefits shortly after selling most of its remaining assets to Transform Holdco, an entity controlled by Sears’ former CEO and largest shareholder, Edward Lampert, and his hedge fund."

    However, "Attorneys representing retirees argued Sears gave up the right to end the benefits in a 2001 settlement deal after the company made cuts to life insurance coverage."

    The bankruptcy court that has been overseeing Sears' operations still must approve the agreement.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    • Publix Super Markets announced that Kris Jonczyk, regional director of the company's Atlanta division, has been named VP of the division, effective immediately. He succeeds Joe DiBenedetto, who is retiring after more than four decades with Publix.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    Content Guy’s Note: Stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.

    • The New York Times this morning reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is moving "to cut spending on food stamps … proposing changes that would slice $4.5 billion from the program over five years, trimming monthly benefits by as much as $75 for one in five struggling families on nutrition assistance."

    According to the story, "The latest plan would cut benefits for 19 percent of households on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, while increasing benefits for 16 percent. Almost 8,000 households would lose benefits entirely. Those cuts would be concentrated in cold northern states that would be most affected by a change in the way heating costs are calculated.

    "The number of families losing benefits is a tiny percentage of the nearly 40 million people who receive benefits, and even $4.5 billion over five years is a trim for a program that cost $68 billion in 2018 alone."

    This move, the Times writes, "is the third time the Trump administration has moved to cut food stamps."

    The Times goes on: "The food stamp program kept over three million people out of poverty in 2018.

    "The program has become a perennial target for congressional Republicans, eager to cut some government spending and leery of the growth of a program that they see as fostering dependence on the government. In Congress, past efforts to make cuts to the program have been beaten back by a coalition of urban liberal lawmakers, eager to protect constituent benefits, and rural-state senators, protective of a program that reliably buys crops grown by their farmers.

    "But the Trump administration, unable to win changes in Congress, is cutting through executive action."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    Since last we spoke, in Major League Baseball's Divisional Series…

    In the National League, the Atlanta Braves beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 and 3-1, and now have a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.

    The Washington Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2, and then the Dodgers turned around and beat the Nationals 10-4, with the Dodgers now holding a 2-1 game advantage in their best-of-five series.

    In the American League, the New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 10-4 and 8-2, to take a 2-0 game lead in the best-of-five series.

    And, the Houston Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 and 3-1, also taking a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five series.

    In Week Five of National Football League action…

    NY Jets 6
    Philadelphia 31

    Jacksonville 27
    Carolina 34

    Minnesota 28
    NY Giants 10

    Atlanta 32
    Houston 53

    Tampa Bay 24
    New Orleans 31

    Buffalo 14
    Tennessee 7

    Arizona 26
    Cincinnati 23

    New England 33
    Washington 7

    Baltimore 26
    Pittsburgh 23

    Chicago 21
    Oakland 24

    Denver 20
    LA Chargers 13

    Green Bay 34
    Dallas 24

    Indianapolis 19
    Kansas City 13
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 7, 2019

    The Retail Tomorrow podcast goes to GroceryShop 2019 in Las Vegas for an in-depth discussion of not just the strategies and tactics preoccupying many of the attendees, but the motivations behind the decisions they are making with regard to brand identity and technology.

    There were some three thousand attendees at GroceryShop this year, from about a thousand companies and 30 countries, all looking for a competitive edge found in innovative technologies, disruptive business models and provocative insights. Sifting through the presentations and exhibits for Retail Tomorrow, looking for nuggets of wisdom that have the potential to animate and differentiate a retailer, are:

    • Lisa Sedlar, CEO, Green Zebra Grocery.
    • Scott Moses, Managing Director at PJ Solomon.
    • Bob Perry, Director of Business Development, NBC Universal
    • Tom Furphy, CEO/Managing Director, Consumer Equity Partners.

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

    You can listen to the podcast here, as well as on iTunes and 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, below: Lisa Sedlar, Scott Moses, Tom Furphy, Bob Perry

    KC's View: