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    Published on: February 25, 2022

    KC thinks that dedicating one day annually to recognize supermarket employees, as happened earlier this week, is a nice thing to do.  Except that it doesn't really address the issue - that many front line employees who have been told they were essential don't feel that way and their jobs are increasingly tension-filled, with current events making them even more so.  Real leaders, he suggests, don't dodge this cultural reality, but rather need to create cultures of caring.

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    Walmart's GoLocal delivery service, which was announced last summer as designed to service other retailers around the country using traditional vehicles as well as autonomous cars and drones, said yesterday that it is teaming up with Cognetry Labs to "provide an integrated white label, turnkey ecommerce plus delivery solution to mid-sized and independent grocery retailers."

    Cognetry Labs describes its platform as offering a "full spectrum of ecommerce and fulfillment" services with an "end-to-end AI driven cloud-native solution."

    The move seems positioned to provide a counterpoint to Amazon's approach to delivery.

    According to the announcement, "Accessing Walmart GoLocal’s network of delivery capabilities allows Cognetry Labs retail clients to grow their own brand and build customer relationships while benefitting from the robust capacity and experience of the world’s largest retailer … Clients can access nationwide, high-capacity coverage to deliver products quickly and efficiently. Walmart GoLocal’s built-in agility allows retailers to expand both coverage and capacity on demand."

    Existing GoLocal clients include Home Depot and Chico’s.  Walmart says that the goal is "to bring affordable access to products and services to customers while also empowering businesses to grow using our capabilities and coverage."

    KC's View:

    The difference between Amazon's and Walmart's delivery ambitions seems to be that Amazon has been doing everything it can to establish its brand as a competitive with FedEx and UPS while not, to this point, contracting with outside retailers;  Walmart GoLocal, on the other hand, keeps emphasizing the "white label" nature of its offering to outside retailers, which says to me that it wants to add a revenue stream without taking advantage of the branding opportunity.  Walmart also seems positioned to undercut traditional delivery services on price, at least in the beginning.

    Not surprising that they have differing priorities.  While I have long thought that we'll eventually see those ubiquitous gray Amazon vans delivering products for other retailers, it also may be that their exclusivity is delivering, in addition to items bought from Amazon, a message about the company's reliability, omnipresence, and even, in many cases, omniscience.

    I've always said that in the end, Amazon wants to be inextricably intertwined in every part of people's lives, while Walmart's goal is to sell more stuff;  Amazon sees itself as a lifestyle brand, while Walmart, to its very core, is a retailer.

    The GoLocal offering is a recognition that this competition is going to play out on a number of stages, and that advantages are to be gained in every place where new revenue streams can be generated.  Retailers that compete with both these companies, however, need to think long and hard about whether they want to swim in these streams.

    That said, this is a time when uncommon partnerships may be necessary for smaller companies (and most companies are smaller than Walmart and Amazon) to survive.  One note here: on Sunday, at the National Grocers Association (NGA) show, there will be a Retail Tomorrow block of sessions on Sunday afternoon that will focus on this precise and timely topic.  Tom Furphy and I, both together and separately, will be participating in several of them, and I hope to see you there.

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    Ahold Delhaize-owned, Pennsylvania-based The GIANT Company said yesterday that it is eliminating its order minimums and pickup fees for GIANT Direct and Martin's Direct customers who use the company's click-and-collect offering.

    “With today’s customers having more choices than ever before, it’s critical that we continue taking steps to differentiate our online shopping experience,” said Matt Simon, vice president of brand experience, The GIANT Company. “Not only do these enhancements accelerate our omnichannel strategy, but they also provide our GIANT Direct and MARTIN’S Direct customers with greater convenience and value, uniquely positioning The GIANT Company as the online grocer of choice.”

    The announcement says that "the enhancements announced today are the latest investments made by the company in support of its growing e-commerce business. Last November, The GIANT Company opened its new, state-of-the-art GIANT Direct E-commerce Fulfillment Center in Philadelphia to serve more customers in Philadelphia – and for the first time in its 98-year history – in southern New Jersey … The GIANT Company has more than 175 pickup locations and customers across 90% of the company’s footprint have access to online grocery ordering and delivery services."

    KC's View:

    With all due respect, it always amazes me that companies like GIANT make moves like these in order to differentiate themselves, and then partner with Instacart to offer me-too delivery services.

    I simply do not understand why the desire for differentiation seems to stop once the product goes beyond the store's parking lot.  It is a mindset, I fear, that will prove to be short-sighted in the long run.

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    CNBC reports that Walmart yesterday kicked off an event designed to give "customers a new reason to sign up and stick with the subscription service Walmart+: exclusive deals on items from air fryers to exercise bikes … Walmart’s sales event will last for three weeks, with a rotating mix of items that are up to 40% off. On Thursday, the company’s website highlighted deals on items such as car seats and tires, with exclusive access to buy hot products like the Sony PlayStation 5 video game console."

    Walmart, CNBC suggests, is "riffing off of a strategy used by Amazon Prime - but on a smaller scale. Amazon has thrown its exclusive sales event, Prime Day, since 2015, and it has become a popular sales holiday."  Walmart's event "is part of the retailer’s strategy to expand the program and turn customers into more frequent shoppers and bigger spenders. Walmart+ is also seen by the company as a lever it can pull to boost its e-commerce business and better compete with Amazon as it builds on recent growth during the pandemic."

    That said, CNBC suggests that it may not be a lever that is working as well as Walmart would like.  Some context from the piece:

    "The big-box retailer launched Walmart+ in September 2020. The program costs $98 a year, or $12.95 on a monthly basis, and includes perks like fuel and prescription discounts, free delivery of grocery orders of $35 or more, and free shipping for online purchases.

    "Since the program’s debut, however, Walmart has shared few details about the program’s performance — including its subscriber count.

    "Market researcher Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates a subscriber count of 11.5 million as of Jan. 31, based on its quarterly consumer surveys and industry research. That’s a fraction of the size of Amazon Prime, which debuted in 2005 and counts an estimated 172 million members in the U.S., according to CIRP.

    "About one in four shoppers are Walmart+ members, according to CIRP’s estimates."

    There are some positive signs, the story says:  "In the holiday quarter, for example, the average Walmart+ member spent $79 per visit to the website, according to CIRP. They also reported shopping an average of 29 times per year on the retailer’s website.

    "The average customer spent about $62 per visit in the three-month period and reported online shopping an average of 18 times per year, CIRP found."

    KC's View:

    Okay, a few things here…

    The story points out that Walmart+ was launched a year and a half ago, while Amazon Prime was launched 17 years ago.  One can argue that Walmart should've gotten into the Walmart+ business a lot sooner, and maybe got distracted by other business opportunities, both online and in-store, when a Prime-like program should've been a much higher priority.

    But I'm not sure that 25 percent penetration for Walmart+ among the company's online shoppers is a negative sign.  I suspect that we're going to see a lot more promotion for the program which will drive up adoption.  It may never get to Prime-like numbers, but it is important to remember that Prime's appeal goes beyond retail … and I'm not sure that Walmart has those kinds of aspirations.

    If I were Walmart … and it isn't like Doug McMillon needs my advice … I'd be trying to figure out ways to bring a Walmart+ presence into my physical stores.  Maybe a special section that serves as a showroom for items that have to be bought online;  I'd have staff onsite to enroll customers in Walmart+, maybe giving them a discount on membership, and then allowing them to acquire the items being show-roomed on the spot and then delivered to their homes.

    Maybe Walmart could use shelf-talkers in the aisles and in various sections to spotlight special Walmart+ deals, which can be accessed via the app even in-store.

    If I were Walmart, I'd also attach a Subscribe & Save-style program to the Walmart+ portfolio, with additional deals available through that system.

    There may be some cultural reluctance at Walmart to treat some customers better than others, but I think that this is something they need to get over and, in fact, will get over.  Walmart+ can be a way for the retailer to prove its loyalty to its best shoppers, and it should exploit this opportunity at every turn.

    And, by the way, if I were competing with Walmart (and Amazon), I'd also be looking for every opportunity to draw closer to my shoppers.  The mechanisms might be different, but the end goal has to be the same.

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    A story from EcoWatch talks about how "Kroger is partnering with TerraCycle’s circular reuse program Loop to test a reusable packaging strategy in 25 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores in the Portland metro area. Customers will be able to purchase more than 20 products in special reusable containers that they can then return to be used again."

    According to the story, "The packaged items will be located in branded displays at participating stores.

    "Customers can purchase their preferred items, paying a deposit fee for the container.

    "Once customers use the products, they can return the container to a drop-box at a participating store and redeem the deposit fee.

    "The container will then be collected, cleaned and reused.

    "Participating brands include Arbor Teas, Cascade, Clorox, Gerber, Nature’s Heart, Nature’s Path, Pantene, Seventh Generation, Stubb’s and Kroger’s Simple Truth brand.

    "Customers will be able to purchase items like barbecue sauce, wet wipes, granola and shampoo and conditioner, according to GreenBiz. Deposit fees could cost as much as around $10 depending on the product."

    EcoWatch notes that "Loop launched in 2019 with an online store that allowed shoppers to purchase items in reusable containers and then send them back. However, the goal was always to move into brick-and-mortar retailers in order to make its reusable packaging model as widespread as possible. As this goal begins to be achieved, the online store has shuttered.

    "The pivot to real space began internationally, as Loop partnered with Carrefour in Paris in December 2020, according to the press release. It launched similar partnerships with AEON in Japan and Tesco in the UK the next year … Kroger is its first U.S. retail partner."

    KC's View:

    My first reaction to this story is how much I miss Portland.  Not that this story is all about me, but there it is.

    MNB first reported in 2019 about Loop's plans and goals, and that it had entered into a deal with Kroger that now appears to have come to fruition.

    I said then:

    I’m sure that there will be plenty of bumps along the way, just because there will be consumer resistance and infrastructural challenges to making this work in any sort of broad way that appeals to a mass constituency. I know there have been some small-scale tests along these lines, and I would hope that the commitment of a company like Kroger will move things along in a positive direction.

    I have no reason to adjust that opinion, though I would hope that in 2022 there would be even greater urgency about moves in this direction.  It is not like the planet's environmental condition has improved dramatically over the past three years.  Most of the surveys I've read over the past couple of years suggest that environmental protection and global climate change are rising as public priorities, and programs like the one being piloted by Loop and Kroger in Portland may gain even greater popular approbation than in the recent past.

    Did I mention how much I miss Portland?

    Published on: February 25, 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 United States, there now have been 80,446,580 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 969,602 deaths and 52,662,670 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 432,433,094 total cases, with 5,950 resultant deaths and 361,754,093 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 76.3 percent of the US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 64.8 percent is fully vaccinated … and 43.5 percent has received a vaccine booster shot.

    •  From the New York Times this morning:

    "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to loosen its guidelines for when and where Americans should wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, allowing most people to go without them in public indoor spaces, according to two federal officials familiar with the matter."

    The new policy could be announced as early as today.

    The Times goes on:

    "Under the current guidelines, the agency recommends that anyone living in areas with substantial or high transmission of the coronavirus, as defined by case counts, should wear masks in public indoor spaces like gyms, movie theaters and full-capacity houses of worship. That means that people living in 95 percent of the counties in the United States should continue wearing masks indoors. The country is recording an average of about 76,000 new cases per day, a roughly 66 percent drop from two weeks ago.

    "The forthcoming recommendations are expected to hinge on newly defined metrics to determine whether people in a particular geographical area are at high risk from the virus. They will place less emphasis on case counts and give more weight to hospitalizations as a key measure of risk, according to a federal official who is familiar with the plans but was not authorized to speak about them.

    "The guidelines are likely to factor in the capacity of hospitals in a local area as an important indicator of the level of risk. With hospitalizations declining across the nation, that may allow the great majority of Americans to drop their masks. About 60,000 people are hospitalized with Covid nationwide, but those numbers have dropped by about 44 percent in the past two weeks."

    I am cautiously optimistic.

    Last October, I gave a speech to an industry group in which I talked about moving beyond the pandemic, though at the time I said that I was worried about spiking the ball too early.  I'm not that smart, and I am about as far from being a scientist or public health expert as you can find;  it just seemed logical, having lived through the pandemic, to be cautious.  About five weeks later, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron. We all know how that went.

    I keep remembering what Dr. Fauci said early in the pandemic - that to consider Covid-19 really under control, it was important to get the case numbers under 20,000 a day.  (Though that was before there were vaccines and therapeutics.  He might put the number considerably higher now.). And some 3,000 US souls were lost to the coronavirus in just the last 24 hours (the vast majority of those deaths, to be clear, were preventable);  I report these numbers every day because I think it is important never to take our eye off the ball, much less spike it too early.

    And so I remain cautiously optimistic.  I have a half-dozen speaking gigs in just the next three weeks - four of them at NGA in Las Vegas - and I am looking forward to them.  I'm going to be careful in terms of masking up, but I'm vaccinated and boosted and am not overly worried.  In the words of the great Robert B. Parker, "I'm healthy as a horse.  And half as smart."

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    •  From the Puget Sound Business Journal:

    " Inc. hasn't made public any ambitious plans for the metaverse like its tech peers, but the company is signaling it's exploring the space.

    "The Seattle-based tech giant published a job listing at the end of January for a senior product manager on its Lumberyard team who will 'own the delivery of cloud-based metaverse services.'  Lumberyard is the gaming engine developed by Amazon Web Services' game tech division.

    "Amazon declined to comment on its metaverse plans. The job listing said it will be based in Seattle."

    •  From Reuters:

    "A group of Inc workers seeking to form a union in New York filed a charge with U.S. labor regulators on Thursday after a high-profile organizer and a pair of employees were arrested outside a company warehouse, according to documents obtained by Reuters.

    "Amazon organizer Christian Smalls told Reuters on Wednesday he was arrested when he delivered warehouse workers food as part of the union campaign he is leading.

    "His quest to make Amazon's JFK8 Staten Island warehouse a unionized facility will come to a head when workers vote starting March 25."

    •  From Digital Commerce 360:

    "Following a year of seismic shifts in online shopping, surges in digital revenue tapered off in 2021 as store sales rebounded. But because ecommerce and offline spending grew at roughly the same rate, online penetration held steady with 2020 at 19%. Compared with 2019, online sales increased 50.5%. Amazon also accounted for more than 40% of all U.S. ecommerce in 2021, Digital Commerce 360 estimates.

    "After the giant ecommerce surge brought on by the start of the pandemic, online sales growth slowed significantly for 2021 as many vaccinated and weary consumers returned to stores. Digital spending during the holiday-centric Q4 increased 9.2% year over year, bringing the total jump in ecommerce for 2021 to 14.2%, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures."

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits fell to a 52-year low after another decline in jobless aid applications last week.

    "Jobless claims fell by 17,000, from 249,000 to 232,000 for the week ending Feb. 19, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

    "The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell by 7,250 to 236,250. It was the third straight week of declines after rising for five straight weeks as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spread, disrupting business in many parts of the United States."

    •  From Fast Company:

    "The newest alternative-milk brand doesn’t call itself plant-based, but 'cow-free.'  The brand, Betterland, is the first milk to come to market, which uses Perfect Day’s animal-free dairy protein - whey that’s identical to the protein in cow’s milk but made with the use of fungi in bioreactors, not animals.

    "Replicating the protein makes Betterland’s beverage perform differently from almond milk or soy milk. If you’re making a latte, for example, the new 'milk' is designed to froth exactly like standard milk, forming bubbles in the same way. 'When you pour it into your coffee, you can drink a whole cup of coffee and you still have the peak [of foam] at the bottom,' says Lizanne Falsetto, founder and CEO of Betterland Foods. In the same scenario, some plant-based milks go flat. Similarly, if someone uses the new milk to bake or cook with, it will act like traditional milk when whipped or heated."

    The story says that "the new milk uses coconut oil, sunflower oil, and a supplement called MCT oil, among other ingredients. It has 8 grams of protein - far more than some plant-based milks - less fat than whole milk, and a third of the sugar. It also avoids some of the other challenges of conventional milk, from cholesterol to hormones and antibiotics. It’s lactose free, but because it contains real dairy proteins, anyone with a whey allergy shouldn’t consume it."

    Being someone who survives on Lactaid, I would totally like to try this product - based on the Fast Company piece, it strikes me that they have a really compelling story.

    By the way, my new favorite product in this vein is Chobani's new Oat Yogurt, which has no dairy.  I love the vanilla version … I throw a couple of spoonfuls into a bowl with some cereal, and it is a great breakfast or snack.

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    Reacting to our story yesterday about Amazon-owned Whole Foods opening a new store in Washington, DC, that has Amazon G-style checkout-free technology, one MNB reader wrote:

    Many grocers think myopically about all of the systems, personnel, services, products, technology and processes in their stores when they consider a directional change, e.g., checkout-free.  As you mentioned in your analysis, "at a certain point, it will get to the point that installing a checkout-free system won't be all that more expensive (if at all) than installing a bank of traditional checkouts plus some self-checkout lanes.”

    While that is important, there are other values to be considered in the overall store operating model.  For instance, think about the two main sources of shrink: 1) employee theft and 2) shoplifting.  In a checkout-free environment, both of these problems are dramatically reduced if not completely eliminated…it either doesn’t allow the shoplifter in or it charges them on the way out! (Last year, according to Supermarket News, “Supermarket retailers surrendered an average of 1.78% of their total sales"…to shrink.  That will pay for some cameras!

    How about the impact on front-end labor costs…hiring, retraining, etc.?  Or how about product ordering labor and order accuracy…near zero labor and 100% accuracy…how does that impact product code-dating, recalls, and in-stock position.  And there are many other benefits.

    I once asked an Amazon contact how often they missed scanning something and how they could afford that?  To which she laughed, indicated that scan accuracy was well over 99% and that all these other cost benefits and efficiency items made it a moot point.  She also said that customer satisfaction in the Amazon GO store generally was double that of a normal grocery store.

    Once again, seeing the big picture and thinking customer-first is the long-game being played by Amazon.  Competitors better get after it!

    We had a piece yesterday about the "delivery disconnect" - restaurant customers love it, restaurants know they may need it to be relevant but hate all the extra tsuris it can bring.

    I commented:

    In so many ways, these stories make the case for ghost kitchens and maybe even the creation of partnerships between local restaurants to handle local deliveries in a way that brings the service in-house.

    Seems to me that it is critical - especially now, at a time when the offering of delivery services seems inescapable - for businesses to figure out ways to reinvent the economics and logistics connected to the segment.  During the pandemic, because of the need for speed, companies tried to retrofit these services into existing infrastructure.

    Now, I think, it is important to do a little zero-based budgeting, figuring out how one would reinvent the model from scratch.  It may require greater investment, but that could be the cost of survival.

    MNB reader Bob Lewis wrote:

    I agree with your assessment on delivery but think there is another component you did not touch on - food quality. Often it seems restaurants consider how to package the food so it doesn't spill during transport. However, they don't consider how well the food will hold up during delivery. I have had too many delivery episodes when I receive a soggy mess instead of a quality meal. I think this is an area that restaurants are missing the boat.

    Yesterday we reported on a new IRI study, conducted with SeeHer, which describes itself as "the largest global movement for accurate representation of women and girls in advertising and media," concluding that advertising campaigns that "more accurately portray women and girls" translate into "more meaningful growth for marketers."  According to the study, "Ads with GEM (Gender Equality Measure) scores above the baseline overall delivered 60% improved sales performance on average across gender, language, race and ethnicity."

    I commented, in part:

    It is good to see that more accurate portrayals of women in advertising can pay off for marketers, since, let's face it, the bottom line for these folks usually is the bottom line.

    But it is important to keep in mind the moral and ethical imperative behind accurate portrayals.  Idealized, often unreasonable and objectified portrayals of women in the media - not just in ads, but in movies and on television shows, on football sidelines, and certainly throughout social media - put terrible pressure on all women, but especially girls, to live up to some image in ways that can create depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

    I'm glad to see that the sales lifts have been quantified even among men, but I do think we have a long way to go.

    I then told a story about a fellow I was talking to who bemoaned the fact that he couldn't refer to women in office settings as "the girls" or "the gals," and, while he acknowledged that we'd never go back to the good old days, he sort of implied that he did think that those, in fact, were the good old days.

    I surmised, correctly, that he only has sons, and wrote:

    I have a daughter - she's 27 - and one of the things I am proudest of as a father is that she has grown up to be an independent, strong-minded, empathetic, sometimes challenging person (in the best possible way) with an incredible work ethic.  I take no credit for this - my biggest contributions probably were staying the hell out of her way when that was the best approach, and trying to being there for her when appropriate.  She teaches me about life - and the world in which she lives - all the time.  For which I am enormously grateful.

    One MNB reader responded:

    Thank you for this. For including the article, but also for your commentary. I too am sometimes shocked at archaic thinking of people my own (our) age. Have they not lived in the same world as us, and seen how things have progressed for the better? Maybe having daughters helped. That was very nice of you to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I think what you said about your own daughter was very sweet, and often how I feel about my own daughter.

    And I think it’s even more exciting that this information about diverse portrayal of women came out when the US Women’s soccer team won their lawsuit. Win win!

    Good point.

    We had a story the other day about how Warby Parker, which has been a leader in the direct-to-consumer movement, selling eyeglasses online and then in stores by positioning them as fashion-for-less, has its eye on a second act: selling services such as eye exams and prescriptions.

    I wrote, in part:

    This just struck me as interesting in view of my oft-stated contention here that retailers need to be a resource for shoppers, not just a source of product.

    I'm a big Warby Parker fan, though I would be unlikely to go to them for an eye exam;  I'm old fashioned enough to prefer an ophthalmologist to an optometrist.  But there is an opportunity for Warby Parker to expand its TAM (total addressable market) with this move.

    MNB reader Rich Heiland responded:

    Bias admitted up front...

    For the past 20 years I have consulted with private practice ODs, assisting them on the business side. It has been - pardon me - eye opening.

    Today ODs are as highly trained as ophthalmologists with the exception of being able to do surgery, and that is changing in some states. So, none of your reads should have any hesitancy about going to a private practice OD.

    The difference between private practice ODs (and ophthalmologists) and the big boxes and Warby Parkers is not the skill of the doctor. It is the difference in equipment and technology. One of the most important stops you make during your eye exam is in the pre-test area. That is where all the work is done that the doc then relies on. It is almost impossible for the big boxes and low-enders to make good on the price promise with a drop in the amount of technology, which is costly. 

    So, OD or MD? Not much difference. The difference between both those and the low-end? Big.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Commenting on a story about The Container Store rebranding itself, and a passage noting that ther company's new CEO has found "joy" in the way the store offers people the ability to organize, I mentioned that my office these days is a lot neater than it used to, and wrote:

    I thought the messy old office was sort of charming and idiosyncratic, but over time, Mrs. Content Guy persuaded me that I just looked like a slob.  Not sure I would go so far as to say that greater organization has brought me joy, but maybe some small level of satisfaction.  (And a little marital peace.)

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    “Marital peace” and “satisfaction” are distinctly tied together as I see it….

    Fair point.  Though I've also found over the past 39 years that a robust travel schedule is good for the marriage, too.

    Yesterday we took note of a Wall Street Journal story saying:

    "Among discerning drinkers, craft beer’s hot new thing is a cold, crisp lager that couldn’t be further from long-popular IPAs. The beer that Budweiser and Miller made famous in the U.S. has gone artisanal.

    "The bestselling beers tend to be mass-produced lagers, the kinds long associated with ballgames and barbecues. They’re also the brews that picky drinkers often regard as watery and low on flavor, beer experts say. But lagers are now important for more brewers and for a wider range of customers, says Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, which counts more than 5,300 craft breweries as members."

    I commented:

    While I love red ales and amber beers, slightly lighter lagers have become more of a favorite in recent years precisely because they don't fill me up quite as much.  Maybe it is an illusion, but as it gets harder and harder to stay in shape because of age, physics and gravity, a great lager offers the pleasures of craft beer without weighing me down.

    Though, I must admit, I subscribe to the Robert B. Parker school of beer appreciation:  "Then worst beer I ever had was wonderful," he once said.

    One MNB reader chimed in:

    As a long time craft beer enthusiast and cicerone, I enjoy just about any style of beer if its well made.  Lagers have long been a hard sell for craft breweries in the advent of bolder IPA’s, tart sours, and sweet pastry stouts.  But they have long had their place among the purists who just love a well made, refreshing beer.  I do not see a renaissance for the style as much as the article implies.  Rather, craft breweries will expand to include more lagers for a growing segment.  May not be as exciting as a dry hopped IPA; but just as small brewers jumped on adding their own hard seltzers to production they will add lagers if there is demand to for them.

    Published on: February 25, 2022

    …will return next week.  (I've had precious little time to watch anything other than the news the past few days.)

    In the meantime, have a great weekend.  I'll see you Monday, when I'll be in Las Vegas for the National Grocers Association show.  If you are there, come say hi.