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    Published on: September 28, 2022

    I have some thoughts to share about innovation culture, prompted by the just-completed California Grocers Association (CGA) Strategic Conference, where I had the opportunity to talk about the subject ... and, more importantly, listen to a fascinating take on the subject.

    Published on: September 28, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    Content Guy's Note:  Michael Sansolo's "Sansolo Speaks" column now will appear every other Wednesday, alternating with "The Innovation Conversation."

    Go figure.  The secret to staying relevant may come from knowing whether you’ve got “Moves Like Jagger” … or at least can mimic them really well.

    We’re all forced to constantly update our approach to customers, challenges and the world at large, simply because things are always changing and relevance is a moving target. What was the state of the art or the best practice in any business field needs to keep evolving or die and, sadly, the competitive battlefield is littered with the remains of companies that missed the moment and fell by the wayside. And for that reason, we need to think this week about Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

    Given the longevity of the British rock legends, there are no doubt countless lessons in Jagger, Richard and company on their own, but this week it’s interesting to report how their music is transporting to new audiences and forms of music.

    My son and daughter-in-law are both classical musicians and despite what you might assume, both are endless busy gigging in concerts, teaching students and more. But recent gigs for both got me thinking about the evolving music scene and all that might teach us about relevance.

    A few weeks back, my daughter-in-law played a concert of Rolling Stones hits with the Fort Wayne (IN) symphony. She explained the entire repertoire to me and for once I understood what she was saying. (I have tried, but honestly, I don’t get Mahler, Hayden and so many others from the classical world.)

    What got both of us so excited was the inclusion of “You can’t always get what you want” in the program. Now I simply love the song, but she had a different reason. Renee, my daughter-in-law, is a French horn player and unbeknownst to me that famous song includes a French horn solo right in the beginning (after the boys’ choir opening.) And Renee was playing it.

    I didn’t hear it live but she reported how the audience went nuts after the solo, a reaction she has never had at a concert before.

    Not to be outdone, my son, a trombone player, is soon performing a symphony of Led Zeppelin hits with the Milwaukee Symphony. Unsurprisingly that concert will include “Stairway to Heaven.”

    The point of this is to get you thinking about evolution and relevance. There’s a very high likelihood that you have never attended a classical orchestral concert largely because you really don’t want to sit through Hayden, Mahler, Strauss or Chopin. In fact, most of the attendees at classical concerts always make me feel very young by comparison.

    It seems that the world of classical music is recognizing that the long-dead masters don’t bring the crowds anymore, even if their music is brilliant. A concert of hits by the Stones, Zeppelin, the Beatles or Beach Boys can be eye-opening to boomers who might appreciate this new take on long-adored music and suddenly they might start rethinking orchestral events.

    I have to believe that’s also the reason there are concerts featuring the music of video games as orchestras reach out to an even younger generation. (I’m sure a concert of Taylor Swift hits may be coming soon.) 

    No doubt there are traditionalists who dislike the inclusion of rock music into their orchestral settings, but if these programs bring new attendees, attention, ticket sales and popularity, it could be an entry point for an entirely new generation of classical music fans. And that same type of evolution is something you need to constantly ponder as you consider emerging food trends, new ethnic dishes and marketing through avenues like Tik Tok instead of Sunday circulars.

    Just remember, you really cannot always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.  

    Maybe even new business.

    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: September 28, 2022

    ZDNet has a piece about Amazon's broad "device strategy," as the company has "grown into a giant of the tech world with a vast portfolio of devices, from e-readers to video doorbells and everything in between … Amazon's strategy is to create products for every single aspect of your life, to facilitate everyday tasks. By creating products to fill even more niches, it cements consumers into its product ecosystem."

    "Our research shows that most consumers prefer to buy smart home devices from a single vendor or brand, rather than mixing and matching from multiple brands," Adam Wright, research manager at tech analyst IDC, tells ZDNet.  "Part of this is driven by brand loyalty and trust – consumers that have a positive experience with a brand that provides smart home devices and services are more likely to trust that brand and seek out additional products and services from that brand rather than risk using a different brand that is unfamiliar."

    This is a timely observation since today, Amazon is scheduled "to add a new wave of devices to its portfolio, as it's holding a virtual event during which a number of new and updated devices are expected to be unveiled."

    KC's View:

    One of the most interesting parts of the story is the list of devices developed and sold by Amazon:

    Fire Tablets

    Fire Kids Tablets

    Fire TVs

    Fire TV sticks

    Kindle E-readers

    Echo speakers

    Echo smart displays

    Echo Auto

    Echo Buds

    Echo Frames

    Echo Link (a device that allows you to connect streaming music to your stereo system)

    Echo Glow (multicolor smart lamp) 

    Amazon Smart Plug

    Amazon Halo Band (health and wellness band) 

    Amazon Smart Thermostat

    Amazon Astro (Household robot)  

    Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor 

    Amazon Eero (Wi-Fi system) 

    Amazon smart soap dispenser

    Ring doorbell, lighting and security systems

    Blink doorbell and security systems

    And that doesn't count what the story calls the "hundreds of thousands of non-Amazon devices that also connect to Alexa" that have been created by third-party manufacturers and developers.

    And, this list doesn't even consider the expanded portfolio of services that Amazon offers, from retailing to movies to NFL football games.

    I've been making this point for years - that while most of its competitors simply have as their goal to ability to sell more stuff to people, Amazon's goal is to grow by becoming inextricably, ubiquitously intertwined with every aspect of our lives.  But even I'm a little taken aback by the extent of its infiltration.

    Published on: September 28, 2022

    Vertical Farm Daily reports that Bristol Farms, the Los Angeles-based specialty grocer, will begin carrying produce grown in vertical farms by Plenty Unlimited.

    According to the story, "Bristol Farms is offering its guests Plenty's pesticide-free leafy greens, including Baby Arugula, Baby Kale, Crispy Lettuce, and Mizuna Mix, a unique blend of baby bok choy and Japanese mustard greens. Plenty of greens will be available at all Bristol Farms locations throughout Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Santa Barbara County, including the new, 34,000-square-foot Bristol Farms Newfound Market in Irvine Spectrum Center. Shoppers can find Plenty greens in the packaged greens area of each store's produce department starting today."

    The move comes as Plenty is about to open a new vertical farm facility in Compton, California, which will supplement the produce grown in its original South San Francisco facility.

    KC's View:

    I've seen the South San Francisco facility, and it is impressive.  And the idea that Compton - an urban community with a high poverty rate - now will host a similar vertical farm, which will hire local folks to work there, is a terrific move.  Compton, after all, is a community that started out as farmland … and in its own unique and even revolutionary way, Plenty is helping return at least part of it to those roots.

    Good for Bristol Farms for being part of this continuum, which, among other things, will bring high-quality produce to its shoppers.

    Published on: September 28, 2022

    The Des Moines Register reports that U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose has ruled that  "Iowa's efforts to bar animal rights activists from gaining access to commercial livestock operations" is unconstitutional, saying that the state government does not have the right to stop activists from speaking out - and making public video recordings - about what they feel is animal abuse at livestock facilities.

    This is the fourth time that various iterations of this law have been struck down to at least some degree.

    Here's how the Register frames the issue:

    "The decision Monday is the latest strand in a tangle of legislation and litigation over the issue of agricultural trespass laws. Since 2012, Iowa has passed four of the statutes, which opponents refer to as 'ag-gag' laws. They target various conduct by animal rights activists who have published video and images from inside large livestock facilities, sometimes infiltrating them by signing on as employees without revealing their true intent.

    "Animal rights groups filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the first, second and fourth laws. The first law was initially blocked by a federal judge, but was partially revived on appeal. The second law also was blocked, and an appeal is currently pending. Monday's ruling concerns the fourth law, which was adopted in 2021.

    "The law in question applies to any person who, while trespassing, 'knowingly places or uses a camera or electronic surveillance device that transmits or records images or data while the device is on the trespassed property.'  A first offense is an aggravated misdemeanor, while subsequent offenses are felonies."

    While the judge said that "a private landowner has some rights to block others' First Amendment activity on their property, the government does not have the same authority."

    KC's View:

    I'm a "sunlight is the best disinfectant" kind of guy, so I think this is a good ruling.  Governments shouldn't be in the business of gagging some of its citizens because it gets more tax money - and probably more political donations - from other citizens.

    Published on: September 28, 2022

    From Recode, a story about how, "in 2019, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos predicted that within a decade, robotic systems will be advanced enough to grasp items with the dexterity of a human hand. Three years later, Amazon looks to be making progress toward that goal.

    "A recent video published on the company’s science blog features a new 'pinch-grasping' robot system that could one day do a lot of the work that humans in Amazon warehouses do today. Or, potentially, help workers do their jobs more easily."

    Here's the video:

    KC's View:

    Impressive … especially because Amazon is dealing with dual issues in its warehouses - the probability that it will run out of available workers at some point (by 2024, according to one internal study), and the certainty that it will continue to face calls for unionization in its facilities.

    Recode poses the question this way:

    How long it will take for Amazon to create a single robot that can handle the vast majority of products is up for debate, but it’s a question of “when,” not “if.” And when the “when” becomes “now,” we’ll have an answer to one of the great unknowns of this era of automation: Will a new generation of warehouse robots that can grasp goods almost as well as human hands make work better or easier for the people doing these jobs? Or will the technological evolution eliminate the need for these workers and their jobs?

    Until the robots decide that they need to organize - probably led by either R2-D2 or a Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 - these new robotic systems probably are Amazon's best bet.

    Published on: September 28, 2022

    From Bloomberg:

    "Just a few years ago, with a blockbuster initial public offering from Beyond Meat Inc. and the unveiling of an Impossible Whopper at Burger King locations nationwide, plant-based meats were ascendant.

    "Now, after once enjoying double-digit growth, sales in the plant-based meat category are not just flat but declining, according to data from Information Resources Inc."

    There may be a few things going on.

    There's saturation of the market.  There are high prices.  And, there seems to be a "decline in the belief that plant-based meat is healthier and more environmentally sustainable than meat from animals. (While the environmental credentials of plant-based products compared to their meatier counterparts are well established, the health claims are not.)"

    And finally, the folks at Deloitte Consulting suspect that "the addressable market may be more limited than previously thought with a growing cultural resistance to its 'woke' status — even among those seeking to reduce red meat consumption. Case in point: When Cracker Barrel announced plans to add Impossible Foods’ sausage to its menu over the summer, it faced an onslaught of criticism on social media."

    KC's View:

    I don't even know how to respond to this story.  Except to say:


    Published on: September 28, 2022

    •  Walmart yesterday announced that it is partnering with Kindbody, described as "a leading family-building benefits provider for employers," to be its "fertility provider for its new Center of Excellence (COE) for family-building benefits. Associates will have access to Kindbody’s network of facilities across the U.S., including a new state-of-the-art clinic and in vitro fertilization (IVF) lab in Rogers, Arkansas that will provide comprehensive virtual, at-home and in-clinic care. The new facility is expected to open later this year."

    According to Walmart, "Through this new Center of Excellence, Walmart associates and their dependents who are enrolled in a self-insured Walmart medical plan will be able to receive fertility care from Kindbody’s highly-trained team, inclusive of board-certified reproductive endocrinologists and senior embryologists, at one of Kindbody’s Signature Clinics nationwide. Services include fertility assessments and education, fertility preservation, genetic testing, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI)."

    Published on: September 28, 2022

    On the subject of a new Walmart+ offering which provides pickup services for products that customers want to return, one MNB reader wrote:

    Not very green! Do not see how it is economical.

    Maybe not.

    I have no idea how closely the metrics have been examined, but if there are trucks out there making deliveries for Walmart+, is it significantly worse for the environment if they also have to stop to pick up returns?  After all, those customers would have to get in the car to bring the items back to the store, anyway…

    Regarding Amazon's second Prime Day promotion this year, scheduled to take place next month, one MNB reader wrote:

    Amazon is probably hoping that the timing of this 2nd Prime Day will align well with all of the new members that signed up so that they could watch Thursday Night Football. Especially if they anticipate a large number of people to cancel their membership as their free 30 day trial ends. Sounds smart to me.

    Excellent point.

    And, on another subject, MNB readerSteven Ritchey wrote:

    If I were Instacart / Rosie and wanted to make inroads into the independent supermarket industry, I'd go to the companies that supply them, and offer my services through them.  It would be more stable than seeking out all the myriad independents there are.  Independent grocers frequently go under, they go bankrupt, they get sold, in other words, a lot of them don't make it.

    I'll be honest here, I don't really know how their business model works, if perchance the retailer has to make pay a fee to start using their service.  If that is the case, let's say, Read Supermarket in Reisel, TX may not want or be able to pay what it would cost to sign up a single store.  But, if their supplier, which used to be Grocers Supply in Houston, TX were to sign up, with the economies of scale they can bring to bear, maybe it would be less expensive for a small operator for Reads to use them.

    I don't know exactly how it would work, but I do believe I would go after the suppliers that these independents buy their products from.