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    Published on: January 18, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    Last week, dunnhumby released some interesting results of a survey of shopper opinions of the best supermarkets and, to be honest, there were some surprising results.  We wrote about it here on MNB, but I thought it was worth coming back to.

    Surveys such as this always strike me as having some inherent flaws as shoppers obviously are limited in how they can rank different stores. While pretty much everyone can shop with Amazon or Walmart, it’s fairly unlikely that a Publix shopper in south Florida has much personal experience with, say, Winco in Portland, Oregon, not to mention an independent operator such as Dorothy Lane in Ohio. Yet the rankings do manage provide some insights.

    After all, it’s hard to argue with HEB or Wegmans being in the top five, but others getting high rankings might raise some questions. Market Basket in the Boston area has a long history in the community, but is it really better than a state-of-the-art Wegmans? Or how could Aldi, with its limited assortment and almost negligible service, rank so highly?

    The answer to both questions, I would argue, is clear and solidly met expectations.  Shoppers might not visit the range of stores industry insiders do or they may not understand what they are missing, but they know what they want and need and they know when stores deliver on those promises.

    To me, the clear message from rankings like those done by dunnhumby is pretty simple: companies that have an unambiguous value proposition in a market do best. So sure, Aldi is no temple of service and wide selection, but its promise is simple and incredibly well fulfilled.

    In complicated times such as we have today, the insights raised by a study like this should merit discussion and consideration internally. Basically, companies (and even individual stores) need to clearly articulate their positioning and then work like crazy to ensure that promise is met each and every time. 

    Years ago, I wrote here on MNB about a strange experience at McDonald’s in which my order was somehow waylaid, causing me to wait nearly 10 minutes. By the time I got that order, my dissatisfaction level was through the roof; not because the food was any different than any other McDonald’s experience, but basically because the fast food giant had failed to deliver on their basic promise: being fast!

    In truth, we have specific expectations for nearly every business we all use. My expectations of an expensive, and highly rated, local restaurant are far different from a roadside stop at McDonald’s. I expect speed and consistency at one and a wonderful meal and experience at the other.  And what I’m willing to pay in time and money at each is quite different.

    Supermarkets face the same challenge. If your store’s promise is great service and a wonderful experience, that’s a promise that every staffer and every department need to keep and, by the way, it must be delivered every time. It might not be fair, but you are likely held to a way higher standard than a nearby Aldi, where the promise is really low prices. The same shopper who will complain if you don’t have a specific product in your store, might happily accept the notion of limited variety elsewhere.

    Remember, no one said life or business is fair.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    We've often spoken here of how important it is to eliminate friction from the shopping experience.  It isn't a new idea - Glen Terbeek was talking about this decades ago in his book,  "Agentry Agenda: Selling Food in a Frictionless Marketplace."  Now, it is more important than ever…and Axios has a piece about how both startups and existing companies are starting to use tech to eliminate long lines.  KC has some thoughts about that…

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    by Kevin Coupe

    First it was turntables.  Then it was Polaroid instant cameras.  

    Now, the New York Times reports, it is SLR cameras.

    "The single-lens reflex camera has been around for decades, but its popularity was eclipsed by smartphones in the 21st century," the Times writes.  "Now, the 35 mm film SLR cameras are making a comeback. Although they’re widely out of circulation as new products, secondhand SLR cameras are being sold and snatched up rapidly on sites like eBay and Etsy.

    "Sales of vintage film cameras have steadily increased since 2015, and the coronavirus pandemic sustained the boom in popularity, according to Dawn Block, eBay’s vice president of hard goods and collectibles. A cohort of new and lapsed hobbyists with time on their hands doubled down on film photography and camera collecting, she said.Canon, Pentax, Nikon and Leica sales have all skyrocketed over the past two years, with sales increases between 42 and 79 percent."

    The Times goes on:  "The trends team at Etsy has also observed an increased interest in SLR cameras. In the last year alone, Etsy saw a 76 percent increase in searches for SLR cameras on its site, compared with the previous year, Dayna Isom Johnson, a trend expert at Etsy, said.

    "Gen Z and millennials are largely fueling this increased interest. 'Analog devices have become a novelty, particularly amongst younger shoppers who have grown up in a fully digital era,' Ms. Johnson said. She compared the renewed interest in film cameras to the resurgence of vinyl records. Both revived trends evoke feelings of nostalgia and remind shoppers of 'simpler times in decades past,' she added."

    Hard to take a selfie with an SLR … though this story did remind me of the line from Skyfall:  "Sometimes the old ways are best."

    I have to wonder if young people's interest in things like turntables and traditional cameras reflects an opportunity to really get them engaged in cooking to a greater extent.  Trends like these don't usually take place in a vacuum … and there may be the potential here for a retro approach that could resonate in a very modern way.

    Could be an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    Two examples of how Kroger is dealing with market realities of the moment…

    First, customers have received an email informing them that the company is reducing its delivery fees to $1 on all orders of $35 or more;  while the message doesn't mention "Covid" or "Omicron," the timing coincides with the current pandemic surge taking place around the country.

    At the same time, Kroger-owned Harris Teeter informed customers enrolled in its e-VIC program - which provides them with personalized weekly specials and digital coupons - that because of supply chain issues, the company would not be offering any coupons last week.

    KC's View:

    I especially like the Harris Teeter email, because it indicates a level of transparency that customers ultimately will find appealing.  Everybody knows that we are in unusual times, and I think communicating how larger realities affect operations is a good idea, far better than offering specials that aren't really special and that could, in the end, undermine a value proposition.

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    Two stories today about companies opening checkout-free stores …

    •  NACS Daily reports that Denver-based c-store chain Choice Market and St. Louis-based Health Hospitality Partners (HHP) are partnering to open an autonomous market - using "artificial intelligence and cameras to check out customers without the need for a cashier" - on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

    The store, called Mini-Mart, "was specifically designed for non-traditional retail spaces such as hospitals, airports and campuses and is driven by the expertise of both partners in food, tech and hospitality, the companies said. HHP and Choice have plans to expand the concept nationwide."

    “We couldn’t be more excited to announce this partnership with HHP and CU Anschutz,” Mike Fogarty, founder and CEO of Choice, tells NACS Daily. “At Choice, we firmly believe that food is medicine, and this innovative format will provide doctors, nurses, students, patients and families with 24/7 access to high-quality and nutritious options. This is truly a game-changer in the health care hospitality sector.”

    •  Grocery Gazette reports that "Aldi has joined the likes of Amazon Fresh and Tesco GetGo by opening its first checkout-free store in London today.

    "Based in Greenwich, the first ever Aldi Shop&Go concept store … allows customers to complete their shop without scanning a single product, or even having to go through a checkout.

    "Aldi Shop&Go will allow shoppers to simply collect their items and leave. Carefully positioned cameras will detect which products customers have picked up, and once a customer leaves the store they will automatically be charged for their shopping via their selected payment method and a receipt will appear in the app."

    KC's View:

    I think we're going to see a lot of these announcements in coming months as a wide variety of retailers, working with technology purveyors such as Standard Cognition, Trigo and Zippin, look to figure out the operational and economic issues that these innovations create, while simultaneously calculating the impact on labor and the appeal to customers.

    I continue to believe that at some point, checkout-eliminating technologies will be as important as scanning.

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    MLive reports that Meijer is offering home delivery for the next two weeks from all its stores for all orders of $35 or more.

    According to the company, "The service is being offered for free to help customers endure the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic."

    KC's View:

    Smart move.  Don't know if Meijer got there before Kroger, but I do like that they're being specific about how it is a response to the pandemic surge.

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    The Wall Street Journal this morning has a story about how "more than 80% of American workers say the pandemic has given them more clarity about their personal and professional goals, according to a recent survey by human-resources-services company Randstad NV. They also have higher expectations for their employers, with 77% saying they want more job flexibility … Particularly in hard-hit sectors such as retail and hospitality, where labor shortages have forced businesses to close or shorten hours, employers are boosting wages and offering new perks, such as healthcare and education benefits, in a bid to attract workers. Average hourly wages in December jumped 4.7% over the previous year, well above the roughly 3% pre-pandemic wage-growth rate. Other industries experiencing high demand for their products and services, such as technology and professional services, including consulting firms, are also upping the ante."

    The story notes that "the U.S. clocked 4.5 million worker resignations in November, the highest quit rate on record. As the economy continues to bounce back, workers are feeling empowered to seek new opportunities, knowing that they are more in demand than ever."

    KC's View:

    This may be overly simplistic, but I cannot help but wonder if this swing of the pendulum could've been mitigated in some cases if employers had done a better job of treating employees like assets rather than costs.  

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    From CNBC:

    "Walmart appears to be venturing into the metaverse with plans to create its own cryptocurrency and collection of nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.

    "The big-box retailer filed several new trademarks late last month that indicate its intent to make and sell virtual goods, including electronics, home decorations, toys, sporting goods and personal care products. In a separate filing, the company said it would offer users a virtual currency, as well as NFTs."

    Walmart said in a statement that it is “continuously exploring how emerging technologies may shape future shopping experiences … We are testing new ideas all the time.  Some ideas become products or services that make it to customers. And some we test, iterate, and learn from."

    A trademark attorney, Josh Gerben, tells CNBC that "there’s a lot of language in these, which shows that there’s a lot of planning going on behind the scenes about how they’re going to address cryptocurrency, how they’re going to address the metaverse and the virtual world that appears to be coming or that’s already here.”

    KC's View:

    I'll be interested to see how this all plays out, especially because it appears that a kind of momentum in this direction - retailers figuring out how to create a digital ecosystem -  has been created by Facebook's embrace of the metaverse, as highlighted by its renaming of the company as "Meta."  (The story makes the point that many retailers, stung by a slow response to e-commerce, don't want to make the same mistake twice.)

    I'll also look forward to having it all explained to me in simple terms, since I can't really tell the metaverse from the multiverse.  (Actually, I think I understand the multiverse better…)

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    The Wall Street Journal has a piece about some food stores' private label items and how they "are casting off their bland reputation and transforming themselves from dull to desirable. At Foxtrot, a fast-growing chain of trendy convenience stores, the house bourbon is handpicked by bartenders from the Violet Hour, a Chicago craft-cocktail bar, and its potato chips come in flavors like spicy dill pickle and Himalayan salt and vinegar. Online grocer Thrive Market specializes in well-priced staples like coffee and coconut milk with ethical and eco-friendly pedigrees.

    "Meanwhile, Whole Foods Market rebranded its standard 365 line with a more appealing, whimsical look, and Target, a pioneer of innovative private-label brands, has doubled down on fashionable foodstuffs with Good & Gather, a line that includes both basics and not-seen-elsewhere items like Peach Bellini Fruit Spread and Brownie Batter Dessert Hummus."

    The Journal explains (to people unfamiliar to the history and traditional role of private label) that this segment always has held appeal to grocers because of their higher margins;  in addition, because of the plethora of retail competitors, stronger own label offerings give retailers the ability to differentiate themselves.

    At least in part, store brands' evolution also can be "chalked up to the pandemic, which unraveled established shopping patterns. In the spring of 2020, Americans were faced with a sea of empty shelves; many tried store brands out of necessity. According to a September 2020 study from management consultant firm McKinsey & Company, nearly one in five shoppers said they bought more private-label products during the Covid-19 crisis than they had before. And 40% of those who switched to new brands said they were likely to continue buying them after the pandemic waned."

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    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 US, we've now had 67,631,191 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 874,321 deaths and 43,165,667 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 331,803,152 cases, with 5,565,745 resultant fatalities and 269,280,850 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 74.9 percent of the total US population and 79.6 percent of the population age five and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, with 62.9 percent of the total population and 66.9 percent of the five-and-older group being fully vaccinated.  The CDC also says that 38.1 percent of the total US population has received a vaccine booster dose.

    •  HealthCareInsider is out with the results of a new survey saying that "30% think the pandemic will never end and COVID-19 will remain 'endemic' … 39% of Americans think life will return to normal in the coming year, down from 61% in 2020 … 61% think a COVID-19 vaccine will help end the pandemic, up from 51% in 2020 … 21% don’t think the vaccine will help end the pandemic … 64% report increasing their health precautions because of the Omicron variant … 37% say they limit travel when a new variant like Omicron is present … 34% limit live entertainment like concerts or sporting events … (and) 13% say they’ll be comfortable returning to normal activity once they’ve been vaccinated, down from 25% in 2020."

    •  Axios reports that "new data suggests that people with the Omicron variant frequently stay infectious for longer than five days, raising concerns about the CDC's updated isolation guidelines … The CDC on Dec. 27 cut isolation guidance for people recovering from COVID from 10 to five days, as long as they continue to wear a mask around others."

    According to the story, "Experts say the issue could be resolved by using rapid tests to determine whether it is safe to exit isolation. But the CDC hasn't recommended a negative test as a condition to end isolation."

    Axios notes that "the data adds to growing anecdotal evidence - in the form of positive antigen tests past the recommended isolation period - that there's no guarantee that someone isn't infectious after five days."  However, "there's at least one hugely practical argument for allowing people to leave isolation (with a mask) after five days: So many Americans are infected right now that it threatens basic societal functions for them all to stay home longer."

    •  The New York Times puts the confusion in context:

    "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was long revered for its methodical and meticulous scientific approach. Agencies in other nations modeled themselves after the world’s most highly regarded public health authority, even adopting the name.

    "At the outset of the pandemic, the C.D.C. moved at its accustomed pace. But this time, with a novel virus moving so quickly, the country paid a price: Testing and surveillance lagged as the agency tried to implement dated approaches with creaky infrastructure. Officials were late to recommend masking, in part because federal scientists took too long to recognize that the virus was airborne.

    Now the contagious Omicron variant is pushing the C.D.C. into uncharted territory. Because decisions must be made at a breakneck pace, the agency has issued recommendations based on what once would have been considered insufficient evidence, amid growing public concern about how these guidelines affect the economy and education.

    "The agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, has sometimes skipped much of the traditional scientific review process, most recently in shortening the isolation period for infected Americans."

    •  Another piece from the Times that focuses on some of the confusion facing businesses:

    "Companies looking for an official rule book on pandemic precautions will be disappointed. The Biden administration’s nationwide coronavirus vaccine mandate has been overturned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing criticism for its shifting guidance on isolation times. And just as cases surge to record levels, tests are scarce — and may not always be effective.

    "As the federal government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus hit their limits — as the administration itself admits — employers are largely on their own.

    "Business leaders must decide whether and how to use tools such as their own vaccine mandates, masking, distancing, and testing at their offices and other work sites. And more fundamentally, they must decide what kind of company they want to run: one that manages cases or one that manages risk.

    "Managing cases, with a goal of avoiding all infections at the workplace, has been the approach of many companies thus far. This zero-Covid strategy treats the pandemic as an acute, emergency situation that requires upending business as usual. That might mean telling employees to work remotely indefinitely, with strict rules for those who come into the office.

    "But some experts believe that the Omicron surge could peak this month. That could allow for a relatively safe return to workplaces as soon as February, given the bolstered immunity of the millions who have been vaccinated and recovered from infections. (It may not work out that way, of course: An alternative pandemic path is 'it gets worse,' said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and a former White House adviser, 'which would be a disaster.')"

    •  From the Wall Street JournalI:

    "One year into her tenure as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that she hasn’t been clear enough with the American public.

    "She says the pandemic threw curveballs that she should have anticipated. She thinks she should have made it clearer to the public that new rules and guidelines were subject to change if the nature of the fight against Covid-19 shifted again.  'I think what I have not conveyed is the uncertainty in a lot of these situations,' Dr. Walensky said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

    "The CDC director has come under fire from public-health experts for the way she has communicated pandemic guidelines from mask wearing to isolation requirements. Some Biden administration officials said the CDC’s explanations of new and amended guidelines can sometimes be hard to grasp.

    "Dr. Walensky said she is committed to communicating CDC policy more clearly. She is being coached by a media consultant and plans to hold more media briefings in the coming months separate from her appearances with the White House Covid-19 Response Team. Some public-health experts have said such briefings would help highlight the CDC’s role as a scientific voice, independent of politics."

    •  The Verge reports that Apple "now requires store and corporate employees to get a COVID-19 booster shot … Once an employee is eligible to get a booster shot, they will have four weeks to comply, otherwise, they will need to take frequent tests to enter a retail store, partner store, or Apple office starting on February 15th. Apple will require unvaccinated employees — or those who haven’t yet submitted proof of vaccination — to provide negative COVID-19 rapid antigen tests before entering the workplace beginning on January 24th, although it’s unclear whether this applies to both corporate and retail employees."

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    •  Online grocer Farmstead announced that it has opened its waiting list for the Chicago metro area, making the Windy City the fifth market the company will serve;  it originated in the San Francisco Bay area, and also serves Miami, Fla. and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, NC.

    The company said it will limit the waiting list to 1,000  customers, who will be able to order there "in early 2022."

    Farmstead says that it differentiates itself "by leveraging proprietary AI technology and a dark store model—delivery-centric warehouses that generally serve a 50-mile radius—to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. As a result, Farmstead offers prices comparable to or lower than most supermarkets, but with free delivery to doorstep. The company is growing quickly, with plans to expand nationwide to a primarily suburban, mid-market audience."

    The company says that it offers "local and national brands, no-fee delivery, convenience and fair prices. Customers can choose a same-day delivery slot (a 2 or 3-hr guaranteed delivery window) for one-off, every day ordering, or sign up for a free once-a-week delivery. All Farmstead deliveries are batched together with other orders in the same neighborhood."

    •  The New York Post reports that Amazon scam emails have "skyrocketed by 500 percent" during the past year, as the online retailer serves as "a prime target for fraudsters and internet con’s trying to take advantage of unsuspecting customers."

    According to the story, "as Amazon’s security improves, so does the sophistication of the scammers … The latest scheme involves an official-looking email from ‘Amazon’ being sent out to customers of fake receipts or shipping confirmations for an order that you never placed.

    "Users may then click on the dodgy link to find out more about their supposed order – making you believe you have to update your account details.

    "A similar trick notifies users there is a ‘problem’ with your Amazon account or payment method – again tricking victims into resubmitting their personal information to try and fix the issue."

    •  The Associated Press reports that "Amazon’s British website has backed away from plans to stop accepting Visa credit cards issued in the United Kingdom, saying … that the move has been put on hold while talks between the two sides continue.

    "The online retailer said the change would not be implemented as planned on Wednesday. Amazon had announced the move in November, blaming 'the high fees Visa charges for processing credit card transactions'."

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart "is shuffling top executives as the retail behemoth works to keep its pandemic growth streak alive and move faster to build its online business.

    "Chief Merchandising Officer Scott McCall is retiring, and Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside is leaving the company, according to an internal memo sent Friday."

    According to the memo, Charles Redfield will become the retailer’s chief merchandising officer immediately … He has spent 34 years with Walmart, most recently as head of the company’s U.S. food business."

    The company said that it "is looking for a replacement for Ms. Whiteside, who will leave the company in March, the memo said. She joined in 2018 as the retailer’s first chief customer officer, tasked with better coordinating the online and offline businesses with customers in mind. During her time in the role, Walmart launched Walmart +, a membership service intended to rival Inc.’s Prime."

    •  The Information reports that the Administration for Market Regulation of Chengdu, China, "has launched an investigation into food safety issues at a local outlet of Walmart’s Sam’s Club retail chain."

    The story notes that "Walmart has come under more pressure from China’s regulators in recent weeks. Earlier this month, China’s state media reported that the police in Shenzhen have warned Walmart about its alleged violation of the country’s cybersecurity law. The cybersecurity warning came just days after Walmart faced criticism from Chinese social media users who claimed that the U.S. retailer’s Chinese app had removed products sourced from the politically sensitive northwestern region of Xinjiang."

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The New York Times reports that "the National Labor Relations Board on Friday ordered union elections at three Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area, where two other Starbucks stores voted to unionize late last year.

    "The victories for the union created the only two unionized Starbucks locations out of roughly 9,000 company-owned stores in the country. The union lost at a third store in the Buffalo area but has formally objected to the outcome there.

    "Ballots in the coming round of Starbucks elections will be mailed to workers on Jan. 31 and will be due back on Feb. 22. The labor board will tally the votes the next day.

    "Since workers at three locations in the Buffalo area first sought union elections in late August, employees of at least 15 other Starbucks stores have filed petitions for elections, most of them since the labor board announced a union victory in Buffalo on Dec. 9."

    •  Variety reports that Netflix is raising "the monthly price of most of its subscription plans in the U.S. and Canada, as the streamer looks to generate more revenue from a slower-growing base customers.

    "The price increases, announced Friday, will see Netflix’s Standard plan — its most popular tier, which provides two simultaneous HD streams — go up by $1.50, to $15.49 per month.

    "In addition, Netflix’s Premium plan (with four streams and offering 4K Ultra HD content) is going up by $2, from $17.99 to $19.99 per month, for U.S. customers. The Basic plan (with a single non-HD stream) is going up $1, to $9.99 monthly."

    I don't know about you, but Netflix still strikes me as a bargain.

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    •  Seattle-based PCC Community Markets announced that the company's CFO, Krishnan (Krish) Srinivasan, has been named PCC's new president-CEO.

    The company noted that "prior to his work at PCC, Krish was CFO at Remitly and the VP of Finance at Lyft, building world class finance teams and scalable operating processes at both companies. Earlier in his career, Krish held leadership positions at Amazon and Microsoft, where his work focused on a range of strategic endeavors including managing investor relations, developing external partnerships, and overseeing country-level finance operations in Japan and India."

    •  Kroger-owned Home Chef announced that the company's president, Erik Jensen, has been promoted to the role of CEO.  He succeeds Pat Vihtelic, the company's founder, who will continue to serve on the company's advisory board throughout 2022.

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    Got what I thought was a very perceptive email from MNB reader Clay Hoerauf about the Supreme Court's decision not to allow - for the moment, anyway - the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to establish vaccinate-or-test mandates for businesses with 100 or more employees:

    Stop me if I’m wrong but Isn’t OSHA about HEALTH and SAFETY?  How can a disease that has killed a million + people not be a threat to Occupational Health or Safety?

    Think about this, A simple rule that most of us are familiar with is the annoying beeping alarm that every forklift in the USA makes when backing up. That is an OSHA rule.  Is there a way to find out how many Americans have been killed by a forklift in reverse? My guess is, it’s way short of a million.

    I checked online, and it appears that fewer than 100 people are killed in forklift accidents each year, and that there are fewer, on average, than 10,000 non-fatal forklift accidents in any given year.

    So you certainly are right about the numbers.  

    Maybe the government should've mentioned this in its oral arguments and briefs?

    Last week we reported that Wakefern Food Corp.has announced a deal with Trigo, an Israel-based computer vision company, "to pilot an autonomous supermarket making use of Trigo's AI-based frictionless checkout technology."

    Which prompted MNB reader Jack Northrup to ask a question:

    What happens to the customer without devices to download the app?

    Fair question.

    I did a little checking, and the Pew Research Center said last year that "the share of Americans that own a smartphone is now 85%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011."

    The percentages actually go up for people between the ages of 18 and 49, for people with some college education or a college degree, people with higher average income, and people in urban and suburban communities - which is to say, a large percentage of whom are Wakefern's members'  - who operate in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island - customers.

    So the odds are pretty good that most of Wakefern's customers will have a device.

    Which is not to say that Wakefern should ignore the shrinking percentage of the population that does not own a smartphone.  It shouldn't.

    But … if all you do is cater to the lowest common denominator, and not the highest common denominator, innovation and progress become impossible.  

    There will be ways to cater to the people without devices.  But I think it is critical for Wakefern and its owner-retailers to innovate in a way that focuses on aspiration.

    It was, in fact, the Greek philosopher Epicurus (ironic, since we call people who delight in good food and drink epicureans), who said, "I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know."

    And finally, this email from an MNB reader:

    Loved the interview with Ace Atkins, and especially the Martini question! After years of experimentation I have to share what I believe is the perfect combination (especially when reading or watching a great noir). It combines the James Bond-style Vesper with early vermouth-forward versions of the drink.

    You being the curious type, I encourage you to try it:

    2 parts gin (London dry) … 1 part vodka … 1 part vermouth … 2 dashes orange bitters.

    Stir over ½ shaker of ice for about 30 seconds. Pour into your favorite chilled (Kevin) coupe glass. Garnish with olive.


    Thanks.  To be perfectly honest, I've never made a martini at home … I occasionally consume them, but this is a gap in my education.

    May be a good time to change that.

    (You can see Friday's Ace Atkins interview here.)

    Published on: January 18, 2022

    It was Wild Card weekend in the National Football League..

    Las Vegas Raiders 19, Cincinnati Bengals 26

    New England Patriots 17, Buffalo Bills 47

    Philadelphia Eagles 15, Tampa Bay Buccaneers  31

    San Francisco 49ers 23, Dallas Cowboys 17

    Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Kansas City Chiefs 42

    Arizona Cardinals 11, Los Angeles Rams 34