Published on: February 10, 2021
MNB reader Tom Murphy had a thought about the Price Chopper/Market 32 - Tops Markets merger:
Very interesting merger and one that could allow them to compete more effectively in their respective markets. However, the easy part is over, the deal has been signed…the champagne served…now comes the pain and hard work. Having been involved in numerous grocery M&A’s, divestitures, resizing, etc. I can say that for this deal to work and really generate the necessary results, lots of duplication is going to have to be removed. That means assets like stores & distribution centers, product and service vendor agreements, and corporate services like IT, accounting, real estate, etc. This means pink slips, demotions, transfers, etc…none of which help optics both locally in communities and for other stakeholders.
It is still early days, but there was nothing in the announcement that indicates the plan or scale of this. Historically, grocers have been too slow to make these hard decisions, frequently touting a “merger of equals” for months or years until that really doesn’t generate the cost savings, revenue opportunities and cultural change necessary for sustainability. And in today’s world, speed is even more important. I wish them luck…this should be fun to watch!
Another MNB reader had a more sobering take:
Both companies have struggled for years to maintain market share and customers. PC/M32 hasn’t figured it out and TFM has been limping along since the 90’s.
Here is my take on this merger. When you breed 2 dogs, you don’t get a unicorn!
We ran a link yesterday to a New York Times column byNicholas Kristof that questioned the treatment of Costco's famed rotisserie chickens. MNB reader Bob McGehee responded:
My Grandmother had what would now be called a “Hobby Farm”. A few acres of various fruits and vegetables, a single cow for milk and the occasional calf for meat PLUS a few dozen chickens for the eggs and a good source of protein to add to dumplings. When her health failed her and required a move to a nursing home, it had to be dismantled. When it came time to take to chickens to another location, my wife volunteered to help my mother with that task.
When she returned she was soiled, scratched, sullen, soiled (I know I already said that but she was reeeaaally soiled) but she was NOT sorrowful for the pending fate of those chickens. Her rant to me changed from ‘why didn’t you help your mother’ to ‘why didn’t you tell me how miserable a job that was going to be’? She not only has zero concern for how chickens are treated and brought to market, I think she may even have a little satisfaction knowing their ultimate role in the food chain. Check out any episode of Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” to get a better feel for what is necessary to maintain our ‘civilized’ lives.
IMHO, torture and abuse only comes with taking pleasure in the task not the task itself. Has Mr. Kristof ever eaten chicken? If so, he needs to be reminded of the ‘glass house’ analogy.
Just my opinion, I could be wrong.
My opinion - without passing judgement on how Costco's chickens are treated - is that it is possible to be cruel without taking pleasure in it.
Yesterday we noted that DoorDash is buying Chowbotics, a startup that uses robotics to make salads and bowls.
I commented on the fact that DoorDash is looking for unusual places to deploy the technology:
Am I wrong, or does this deal sound like it positions DoorDash to act as a competitor to its restaurant clients, as opposed to just a service provider? Because that's how it reads to me.
One MNB reader responded:
While I can see why you’d think that DoorDash would be competing against restaurants, but I think it has more to do with it’s entrance into physical stores called DashMart. I can see it going even further and eventually selling in their own branded products to convenience stores they service. Would you like a DashMart salad with your Slurpee order?
Maybe. I am suspicious.
We took note yesterday of a Wall Street Journal report on how "a battle over vanilla is playing out in federal courts across the U.S., with more than 100 proposed class-action cases filed over vanilla flavoring … At issue is one question: Is vanilla really vanilla without vanilla beans?"
The story says that the plaintiffs argue that "food manufacturers are duping consumers by implying products are made with vanilla when they contain at most a trace of the plant."
We live in a world where products described as being vanilla contain no vanilla. Where blueberry frozen waffles contain no actual blueberries. (What the hell are those blue specks, anyway?) Where pancake syrup doesn't have any maple.
Count me as being on the side of the plaintiffs.
If you say a products is a thing, but it has absolutely none of that thing, it seems to me that the statement is a lie.
Consumers don't expect to find the actual ingredient in these products? On the contrary, it is precise the opposite - many are surprised to find out what these products actually are made of.
A lie is a lie is a lie. Saying that consumers don't expect the truth does not change that simple fact.
MNB reader Tom Kroupa wrote:
I agree with the plaintiffs too in this lawsuit about vanilla. Where have they been for the last 25-30 years? The whole natural products industry was forged on consumers wanting to eat healthy foods. They want to know what is in their food more than ever! As the saying goes, "sunshine is the best disinfectant".
All they have to do is label honestly! If there is no actual vanilla bean then they should label it as such: "contains artificial vanilla". If it does contain vanilla beans, then the label would read, "contains % of vanilla beans". If it is organic, then they can label it organic. Problem solved, save money on lawsuits.
MNB reader Chuck Jolley wrote:
The ultimate slap-in-the-face of truth in advertising/labeling? I was in a Target Superstore a few years ago and saw a display for blueberry muffin mix. I love Blueberry muffins. I bought a box. I got home and started to make a batch. I read the instructions: (1) Add your own blueberries.
And from another reader:
I’m with you on this. If you have vanilla flavoring then you need to put vanilla flavored, which can be totally different then real vanilla. I find it interesting the companies listed that are opposing this. Other than McD’s, most of them have always prided themselves on quality. The statement that consumers don’t expect to have vanilla in something that says it’s made with??? Come On Man! That is your go to defense? So then, if something is made an ingredient, I guess we the “ignorant consumer” shouldn’t really expect that in there?
This kind of goes back to what some retailers and manufacturers truly think of their customers. I guess weez just aint that smart to care bout what we ett.
I most certainly expect there to be real vanilla in my vanilla products, unless the label clearly states “vanilla flavoring”. I am quite surprised and annoyed to learn this may not be the case. Also surprised to see Trader Joes mentioned-I thought they were all about natural. Thanks for the heads up.
It is all about the gradual lessening of standards. It is distressing.