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    Published on: September 23, 2013

    Did you know that Stevia is becoming the preferred zero calorie sweetener of conventional shoppers as Sucralose (-13.5%), Saccharin (-10.7%), and Aspartame (-10.9%) continue to decline in sales? Stevia is up 8.9% in the conventional channel and if the sales trend of the past 3 years continues, Stevia sweeteners are projected to sell $100M in 2013. That’s 15% growth over 2012’s sales.

    Wholesome Sweeteners is the #1 Organic Stevia Brand in both conventional and natural channels. What’s even better is Organic Stevia had been driving double and triple digit growth for the past 3 years while non-organic stevia’s growth is slowing.

    Is Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Stevia in your sweetener aisle? Call or email us to add it to your planograms today. 1-800-680-1896 or email

    Source: SPINS, Latest 24 weeks ending 07-06-2013

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    So here's something I didn't know. (It is part of a long list, actually. This is just something new that I didn't know.)

    The Daily Texan reports that there are more breakfast Taco establishments in Austin, Texas, - 370 of them, to be precise - than there are Starbucks in Manhattan.

    The local interest in breakfast tacos is enough that two self-described "taco journalists" named Armando Rayo and Jarod Neece have moved from a blog to a printed book that offers both the cultural history behind breakfast tacos to recipes. Last weekend, they appeared at one of HEB's Central Market Cooking Schools for the first ever Austin Breakfast Taco Demonstration.

    "The selective list of 'Austin’s Best Breakfast Tacos' is the most intriguing part of the book," the story says. "Twenty-four eateries are profiled, each one offers up at least one recipe for taco enthusiasts. Even Juan Meza from Juan In A Million spills the beans about Austin’s most famous taco, the Don Juan. Familiar names like Tamale House, Tacodeli and Torchy’s Tacos are also inside."

    But the lesson here goes beyond breakfast tacos. The breakfast taco craze in Austin shows what can happen when you pay attention to the culture, and how, these days, a little attention in a blog that grow into something more significant.

    Attention must be paid.

    As for me, I've heard of breakfast burritos, but never a breakfast taco. This has been an Eye-Opener. I'm already looking forward to finding an excuse to go down to Austin...
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2013 has a strongly worded piece about Best Buy, which seems to be getting some good press lately suggesting that new CEO Hubert July has turned the place around.

    The story notes that while it is true that Best Buy's costs have been trimmed and its stock price has tripled, these may be short-term, even illusory indicators. "Cutting costs alone isn’t a strategy for a company to thrive," writes Matthew Yglesias. "Has Joly actually made the store any good? Is it a place you could recommend that people go to shop? Are the buys the best?" Yglesias writes that he did some shopping and comparing, and concludes that Best Buy "doesn’t have the best prices, it doesn’t have the best selection, and it doesn’t succeed on the level of customer service."

    It is, to be clear, a scathing critique ... but worth reading here, I think, because it poses interesting and provocative questions about the role of the store ... from the customer point of view.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    The Cincinnati Enquirer has a piece about W. Rodney McMullen, the current president/COO of Kroger who will become CEO next January with the retirement of David Dillon.

    Among the points he makes:

    On the Harris Teeter acquisition... “One of the keys of a successful integration is figuring out the best of both companies – that’s why we got so excited about merging with them.” (He notes that the successful acquisition of Fred Meyer by Kroger gave it experience with large format stores, which has led to its successful chain of Kroger Marketplace units.)

    On some Kroger divisions getting rid of double coupons... “That’s something every market decides (there are 18 supermarket divisions) for themselves – it’s not a decision for corporate. We have a lot of smart people across the organization.”

    On David Dillon... "He’s taught me a lot about working with people, the supermarket business and being involved in the community. He’s very unassuming – he doesn’t talk about himself. He’ll talk about his grandchildren."
    KC's View:
    The thing that seems so clear when one listens to people like Dillon and McMullen is their basic decency - the fact that they respect and value the contributions of other people, and that they recognize that despite their titles they are just part of a team, and that there is an element of servant leadership in how they conduct themselves. And, they keep their eyes on the ball, not allowing themselves to get distracted by minutiae in involved in self-aggrandizing dramas.

    That's hugely important, because within an organization, it's infectious.

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    Time has a piece that looks at showrooming - which is what happens when consumers go to a bricks-and-mortar store, check out products, then use their smartphones to go online to see if they can get a better price, using those phones to make the purchase if the price is better.

    The conclusion: while showrooming used to be perceived as a threat to traditional retail, "more recently, retailers and analysts have said that we have moved on to the next step in the evolution of showrooming and 'omnichannel' or 'multichannel' shopping. By now, everyone must know that showrooming exists. But rather than being considered mainly as a major threat to one’s business model, showrooming is now more often viewed as an opportunity."

    It is an opportunity, the story suggests, because many bricks-and-mortar retailers are embracing the idea that they need to be more than just that, that they need to make their wares available in a variety of venues, physical and virtual: "Offering in-store wi-fi allows shoppers to browse prices and products elsewhere, and so long as the retailer being showroomed has competitive prices - and perhaps even halfway decent customer service - it has the edge on closing the deal on the spot.

    "A showrooming study from Parago indicates that it’s wise for retailers to price items within $5 of what Amazon charges; 63% of surveyed consumers said that if an item cost $50 in a store but $45 at Amazon, they’d buy from Amazon (assuming the store didn’t offer price matching)."

    Casey Carl, president of multichannel merchandising at Target, put it this way in a recent blog posting: “Pundits and the media have cast showrooming at various times as either a scourge to brick-and-mortar retailers or as a death knell—another proverbial nail in the coffin. However, less publicized is the fact that showrooming is also the greatest opportunity for retailers.”
    KC's View:
    Two points here, if I may.

    First of all, I think it is a little disingenuous to accuse the media of creating all the tsouris about showrooming. We may have spotlighted it, and maybe even thrown a little gasoline on the fire, but concerns about it certainly was not a media invention. (There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among bricks-and-mortar retailers when Amazon had the temerity to create an app designed to let consumers engage in showrooming.)

    Also, speaking as just a small media cog, I'd like to point out that from the time the word was first coined, I've been saying here on MNB that retailers needed to stop whining and start competing - that it was imperative to give consumers a reason to look up from their smartphones when in a store, that in fact, for a smart and competitive retailer, showrooming could be an opportunity.

    It was only going to be a death knell for retailers that were close to going on life support.

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    • Ever hear of Warren Greeno?

    He's a truck driver. A Walmart truck driver.

    But more than that, he's a Walmart truck driver who recently passed the four million mile mark without an accident. He's apparently the first Walmart truck driver to achieve that. It took him 31 years and four months to do it.

    And so, Walmart leadership flew Greeno to company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, for the regular Saturday corporate management meeting, where he was scheduled to presented with a custom-made red tractor emblazoned with his name and his safety record.

    "There was a half-dozen times there when the Lord was riding with me," Greeno is reported to have said before the ceremony. "I was just waiting for the thump and the crash but it never happened."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    Crain's Chicago Business reports that a lawsuit has been filed against Bill Bolton. head of the investment group that bought the now-bankrupt Chicago gourmet grocer Fox & Obel. The charge: that Bolton used investment money intended for the grocer as a "private piggy bank."

    According to the story, "The investors, who say they gave Mr. Bolton $375,000 to put into Fox & Obel, allege that he diverted $200,000 to himself in late 2010 or early 2011 while failing to pay or slowly paying vendors, employees and rent. They further allege that financial statements indicate he has not repaid it to date." All this at a time when Fox & Obel was $600,000 in debt.

    Crain's writes that "Mr. Bolton says in court documents that the payment was a mistake by his administrative assistant, who directed the wire transfer of an investment intended for Vulpes LLC, the company he created to acquire and operate Fox & Obel, into another account. He says the accountant fixed the error by recording it as a loan on his accrued management fees and says he paid the loan back in full by January 2012.

    "Now, according to documents, Mr. Bolton admits the $200,000 was funneled to Zapatista Holdings LLC, his chain of three Mexican restaurants in the South Loop, north suburban Northbrook and west suburban Naperville. According to the documents, the $200,000 was used by Zapatista for operating expenses including rent, taxes, construction expenses, furniture and kitchen equipment."

    Meanwhile, Crain's reports, Bolton has lost another job he had - chairman of packaging company Bemis Co. No reason has been given for that move, though the Bemis job dopes factor into the lawsuit, since the investors charge that taking the post there distracted Bolton from his Fox & Obel responsibilities.
    KC's View:
    When talking about Kroger's leadership, above, I used words like "decency" and "servant leadership."

    One gets the feeling that these are not words likely to be used anytime soon when writing about this story.

    Published on: September 23, 2013 has a story about Deliv, a startup company that reportedly will use more than $6 million in investment money "to hire new staff and roll out (same-day delivery) services to hundreds of retailers located in shopping malls across America."

    According to the story, "Deliv founder and CEO Daphne Carmelli told TechCrunch the funding would be used to execute on the recent partnership with shopping mall manager General Growth Properties, where the firm also manually coordinates deliveries for in-store customers ... The service is currently available in four GGP malls and is expected to be available nationwide by the holidays. Carmelli said retailers are the key to demand and scale."

    TechCrunch says that there is a lot of investment money going into the same-day delivery space, aiming to seamlessly connect the customer and retailer, and looking to exert control over what is referred to as "the last mile."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    Bloomberg reports this morning that more than 200 factories in Bangladesh have suspended production after some 10,000 employees went on strike to demand a raise - they'd like to make a monthly minimum of $104, as opposed to the less than half they make now.

    According to the story, "Relatively low production costs in Bangladesh, which last raised the minimum wage in 2010, have spawned a $19 billion manufacturing industry that supplies global retailers with cheap clothes." And Bangladesh factories have been under pressure because of substandard conditions that have proven to be lethal in some cases.

    • The Austin American-Statesman reports that TraderJoe's has opened its first store in in Austin, Texas, and that "the specialty grocer’s arrival comes at a time when its competitors have been spending millions to remodel existing stores and add new ones, potentially laying the groundwork for a food fight the likes of which Central Texans have never seen before." One store has been opened, with two more scheduled to open next year.

    CNN reports that while Target is planning to hire 70,000 temporary employees for the upcoming end-of-year holiday shopping season, that is 18,000 fewer than it hired a year ago. The company says that it "planned to offer more holiday hours to full-time staff members -- 'as much as five to 10 percent more for the busiest periods around Black Friday and the week before Christmas'."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    Joy Covey, the former CFO at who helped take the company public in 1997 at an IPO price of $18 (it currently trade for $316), died last week when the bicycle she was riding collided with a van. She was 50.
    KC's View:
    I never met Joy Covey, but in reading the coverage of her passing, I was struck by how much she did not fit the standard business mold. She apparently had an IQ of 173, but a restless nature that led her to quit high school and leave home at age 15. According to the San Jose Mercury News, "She passed the high school equivalency exam, then bagged groceries in Fresno for a while, graduated from Cal State-Fresno in 21/2 years, and scored second highest in the country on the exam to become a certified public accountant. A brief stint at the accounting firm Arthur Young led her to Harvard, where she earned an MBA and a law degree. She was the only member of her Harvard cohort to arrive with bragging rights over bagging both groceries and high school."

    Covey became CFO at Amazon at age 33, but quit the company in 2000 to go skiing, to have a family, and later became a trustee at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

    In short, it sounds like she was an unconventional person who had an unconventional and remarkable life, albeit one far too short.

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 23, 2013

    It was Week Three of National Football League action...

    Houston 9
    Baltimore 30

    Cleveland 31
    Minnesota 27

    NY Giants 0
    Carolina 38

    Green Bay 30
    Cincinnati 34

    St. Louis 7
    Dallas 31

    Detroit 27
    Washington 20

    Tampa Bay 3
    New England 23

    Arizona 7
    New Orleans 31

    San Diego 17
    Tennessee 20

    Atlanta 23
    Miami 27

    Buffalo 20
    NY Jets 27

    Indianapolis 27
    San Francisco 7

    Jacksonville 17
    Seattle 45

    Chicago 40
    Pittsburgh 23

    In Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox have clinched the American League East division championship, while the Oakland A's have clinched the American League West. And, the Atlanta Braves have clinched the National League East.
    KC's View: