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    Published on: May 13, 2021

    Kroger's announcement of the launch of a new Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, designed to identify new suppliers and then support their efforts to bring differentiated items to its stores, reflects a mandate that every food retailer has to take seriously.

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    The ESG movement - emphasizing the role of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance in companies' business plans, strategies and tactics - continues to pop up in ways both small and large.

    For example, the New York Times has a piece about how banana peels are becoming more popular in a wide variety of recipes - in smoothies, banana bread, kofta, and curries, for example.

    But the use of the peels also is characterized as just one more way to keep something that has a legitimate use from being thrown away … an example of how expanded environmental consciousness can affect personal as well as corporate behavior.  

    To this point, it seems like the use of the peels has been largely limited to personal cooking, but one has to wonder if we'll start to see "banana peels" listed as ingredients on packaged items, and the broader impact that could have.

    That's a small example.

    Such consciousness also can be seen in larger behavior, like when Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop launches "a pilot program for the Flashfood mobile app at four of its Worcester-area stores in Massachusetts" that "gives shoppers access to exclusive deals on items including meat, produce, seafood, dairy, deli and bakery, which are nearing their best-by date. In addition to offering great deals for customers, the app also helps Stop & Shop in its goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030."

    Stop & Shop isn't the only retailer to adopt the Flashfood program - it is following in the footsteps of companies such as Meijer and Tops Friendly Markets.  But all of these efforts, it seems to me, represented Eye-Opener efforts to connect the dots between personal and corporate behaviors that put elements of the ESG movement front and center.

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    Yahoo Finance reports that "Costco could be on pace to have a big month of sales for May as its members along the East Coast hoard gas following the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline due to a ransomware cyberattack.

    "The warehouse giant is one of the country's largest gasoline distributors, often under cutting competing gas stations on price to net a sale from its members (who are the only ones allowed to buy gas at Costco)."

    The story notes that "Costco is selling higher priced petrol due to limited supplies which has the effect of lifting sales and profits. And … Costco members are probably stocking up on food and other merchandise when they go and purchase gas out of fear of running out of petrol within days."

    KC's View:

    The good news is that pipeline operations are ramping up again, and so hopefully the largely psychological reactions to the shutdown will subside, and things will return to some level of normal. That said, there is renewed awareness of supply chain vulnerabilities … a year ago it was toilet paper, and now it is gasoline.

    Just life in the 21st century.

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    Axios reports that "new rankings from the Axios/Harris 100 poll — an annual survey to gauge the reputation of the most visible brands in the country — show that brands with clear partisan identifications are becoming more popular."

    The survey suggests that Patagonia - which has been aggressive in its promotion of environmental causes in ways that have veered into the political - is the top brand in America.

    But it isn't just companies with liberal positions that have benefitted.  Companies like Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby and Goya either moved up on the list or appeared on it for the first time.  (Awareness doesn't always translate into trust, though:  MyPillow has high awareness, but a negative reputation, the survey showed.)

    The story also notes that "this year's reputation rankings reflect a return to normalcy in the business world. While many of the most polarizing companies are doing better than last year, they aren't necessarily the most visible companies.

    "The most visible companies are blue-chip brands that consumers relied on heavily throughout the pandemic, such as Amazon and Walmart, Apple, Facebook, Google, Target, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Nike and McDonald’s."

    KC's View:

    I'm a big Patagonia fan, but I have little trouble with the conclusion that it is the top brand in America.  But maybe I underestimate the degree to which its profile and reputation have been raised in recent years.

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    GeekWire has a story about  what a company like Amazon has to do to deliver on its promise "to shrink its carbon footprint to reach carbon neutrality by 2040, an ambitious target and one that Amazon has convinced more than 100 other companies to join through its Climate Pledge.

    "To fulfill its climate promise, Amazon needs to curb emissions generated in every aspect of its trillion dollar business — including the climate debt created in the production, use and disposal of its Echo Dots, Fire TV devices, Fire tablets, Kindles and other products.

    "Experts in the sustainability industry say it’s a significant, potentially costly initiative. And while other tech companies appear to be a few steps ahead, Amazon is in a good position to make a meaningful difference given its resources and dominance in the technology and retail sectors. The key is making sure these greener practices are widespread and permanent in their adoption, according to those both in and outside of the company."

    You can read the story here.

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been 33,586,136 confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases … 597,785 deaths … and 26,620,229 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 161,134,621 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 3,346,912 resultant fatalities, and 138,959,251 reported recoveries. (Source.)

    •  From Axios this morning:

    "America’s battle against the coronavirus is going great … For the first time in a long time, nobody needs to cherry-pick some misleading data to make it seem like things are going well, and the good news doesn’t need an endless list of caveats, either. It’s just really good news. We’re winning. Be happy … The U.S. averaged fewer than 40,000 new cases per day over the past week.

    "That’s a 21% improvement over the week before, and the first time the daily average has dipped below 40,000 since September — eight months ago.

    "New cases declined last week in 37 states. Not a single state moved in the wrong direction.

    "Deaths from the coronavirus are at their lowest level since last July - about 600 per day, on average, per the AP, and may soon hit their lowest point of the entire pandemic. Nationally, hospitalization rates are also falling significantly.

    "The U.S. is finally winning its battle against COVID-19 thanks almost exclusively to one weapon: the vaccines."

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 58.7 percent of Americans 18 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 45.1 percent now are fully vaccinated.

    •  The Wall Street Journal writes that the CDC "recommended Wednesday that 12- to 15-year-olds receive the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, expanding the nation’s vaccination campaign.

    "The CDC took the step after its vaccination advisory panel voted to recommend the shot at a meeting Wednesday after reviewing clinical trial data and other relevant information. The vote by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, was 14-0, with one voting member recusing."

    •  The Boston Globe reports that Moderna CEO  Stéphane Bancel said the company "is working on three different options for a single-dose booster shot against variants of concern: the current vaccine, a new variant-specific vaccine, and a 50/50 mix of the two.

    "Moderna last week shared early study results that showed its first two options — the current vaccine at half the dosage and a shot of its reworked vaccine — both appeared to raise antibody levels against variants that first emerged in South Africa and Brazil. Bancel said the company is expecting to receive data on the third booster strategy in the coming weeks."

    "'And then we’ll work with the FDA to get the safe and effective variant-specific booster to the American people as fast as we can,' he added."

    •  The New York Times reports that "federal health officials have now confirmed 28 cases, including six in men, of a rare blood clotting disorder in adults who have received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine … The figure is an increase from the 15 confirmed cases, all of which were in women, that were reported at last month’s meeting.

    "Although officials have now identified a handful of cases in men, women — especially those between the ages of 30 and 49 — appear to remain at elevated risk."

    •  Fox News reports that in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has come up with a unique carrot to encourage residents to get vaccinated.

    One million dollars.

    According to the story, "Starting next Wednesday, adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and are at least 18 years old, may enter a lottery that will provide a $1 million prize each Wednesday for five weeks."

    In addition, the story says, "In random drawings, the state will also provide five full four-year scholarships to an Ohio public university - including tuition, room-and-board, and books - to Ohioans under the age of 18 who have been vaccinated."

    Fox News writes that "in announcing the end of the mandates, the governor cited the sharp drop in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and high vaccination rates among people 65 and older. He also said the vaccine is a 'tested and proven weapon' that all Ohioans 12 and older can now avail themselves of."  However, while "more than 4.2 million people in Ohio had completed the vaccination process as of Tuesday, or about 36% of the population," the fact is that "the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, down from figures above 80,000 in April. About 42% of Ohioans have received at least one dose."

    •  McDonald's is putting its back into the promotion of vaccines.

    Media Post reports that "McDonald's says it plans to introduce a Times Square billboard later this month and is also using McCafé cups and McDelivery seal stickers to spread the word. Those lead people to, the U.S. site that provides information on vaccine availability.

    "The move comes at a pivotal moment in the pandemic. The vaccine supply is surpassing demand in many states, and public-health efforts now focus on winning over those who are still vaccine-hesitant."

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "The return to a pre-pandemic normal in the U.S. is gaining speed.

    "The New York City subway hit its highest daily ridership since March 13, 2020, with some 2.2 million riders last Friday. More than 1.7 million people traveled through the nation’s airports on Sunday, the most since the start of the pandemic.

    "The San Francisco Symphony held its first in-person performance in more than a year, and the Kansas City Symphony plans to return later this month to its concert hall. On Monday, some restaurants in the U.S. hit a milestone, according to data from OpenTable. Seated diners at reopened restaurants on the reservation platform’s network reached 100% of 2019 levels."

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    •  Grubhub has announced the launch of announced Grubhub Direct, described as "a platform to help independent restaurants better compete online through commission-free online ordering and access to their customer data."  The company says it is "leveraging its expertise to help independent restaurants develop their own customized ordering websites, empowering them to market directly to their diners, receive their diner data and manage their branded website - all without any marketing fees."

    Part of the goal, GrubHub says, is supporting restaurants "as they rebound from COVID shutdowns into a much larger digital world, by giving them the tools to control their relationships with their diners" - which is being expressed through the waiver of "setup and monthly hosting fees for Grubhub Direct through April 2022."

    •  Bloomberg reports that "PayPal Holdings is eyeing life beyond the checkout button.

    "In the coming months, the firm is planning to debut a bevy of new services, which could include high-yield savings accounts, check-cashing services and stock-investing capabilities. It’s all being done in the hopes of PayPal becoming the world’s next 'super app,' akin to China’s Alipay or WeChat, India’s Paytm or Singapore’s Grab.

    "The stakes are high: If PayPal pulls it off, the company could become a bigger part of U.S. consumers’ lives than Amazon, Google or Facebook."

    The story notes that "PayPal is planning to debut the new services in the third quarter. The company is now processing more than $1 trillion in payments on its platform annually, and is adding as many as 55 million new users this year, on top of the 377 million it already had."

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    •  Save Mart-owned Lucky California announced the opening of its newest store, in Pleasanton, California, describing it as a neighborhood grocery store that "will act as the company’s innovation lab and has been re-invented from the ground up to meet the shopping needs of the community and reflect the exciting multicultural flavors enjoyed by Bay Area residents … Lucky California’s inspiration is the region’s diverse food culture with the focus on seasonally fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  The flagship store will feature the best of California through long-standing ties to local growers, fisher-men and women, cheese makers, vintners and producers."

    •  CNN reports that Chick-fil-A is "limiting the number of sauces it's giving out to customers because of limited stock.

    "The chicken chain said Wednesday that industry-wide supply chain issues, which are affecting essentially every aspect of the economy, has resulted in a 'shortage of select items' that Chick-fil-A serves, including sauces … The chain said it's working to fix the sauce supply problems as quickly as possible."

    •  CNN reports that "Target is launching its own line of plant-based foods as demand continues to grow for meat and dairy alternatives.

    "The new assortment includes more than 30 foods including vegan spreads, almond milk creamer, oat milk, plant-based dips and meat and chicken alternatives. Target describes the new collection as 'on-trend, flavorful, high-quality options at incredible value,' with items priced under $8.

    "Target developed and tested the food in-house and is branded using 'Good & Gather,' which is its flagship food brand that launched two years ago in an attempt to take on its grocery store's private labels. The new food will gradually roll out on its website and in stores through fall."

    •  CNBC reports that "Elliott Investment Management, the owner of Barnes & Noble, said Tuesday it will acquire gift and stationery retailer Paper Source.

    "The acquisition will provide Paper Source with the funding it needs to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

    "Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt will oversee both companies. While the two businesses plan to operate independently, it hinted at possible partnerships in the future."

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    •  United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) announced the promotion of Matt Whitney, the company's Senior Vice President of Sales Strategy and Business Transformation, to the role of Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, effective immediately.

    Published on: May 13, 2021

    Leigh H. Perkins, who bought outdoors clothing-and-equipment company Orvis in 1965 for $400,000, and helped transform it into a company with a thriving e-commerce business, more than 80 stores, and more than $300 million in annual sales, has passed away.  He was 93.

    The Washington Post writes that Perkins was an Orvis customer - at the time it sold largely fishing tackle - and a salesman for a gas welding and cutting equipment company when he bought Orvis and set about transforming it into a company with a much broader portfolio.

    "Alongside three-piece bamboo rods and flies with names like the Royal Coachman and Lefty’s Deceiver, the company began selling products including Fatwood fire kindling, polyester dog beds and canvas-and-leather Battenkill luggage, named for a Vermont river where Mr. Perkins often fished," the Post writes.

    In addition, the story says, "Although he faced some early resistance, he persuaded competitors such as L.L. Bean to share their mailing lists in an effort to reach more customers. 'Eddie Bauer himself threw me out of his store,' he told the New York Times in 2003. 'But within a year, we were all trading lists'."