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    Published on: November 5, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    "Fresh Talk" is sponsored by Invatron: Proven Technology.  Innovative Thinking.  Intelligent Solutions for Fresh.

    Content Guy's Note: "Fresh Talk" is an MNB feature that alternates on Wednesdays with "Kate's Take."  It will examine all aspects of "fresh," in both the broadest and most focused meaning of that term (depending on the whims of the columnist). "Fresh Talk" is sponsored by Invatron...which you can learn more about here…but which has no input into the subjects covered or responsibility for the attitudes taken.

    The Wall Street Journal had a story the other day on how a "growing array of food producers moving to limit the routine use of antibiotics in livestock production."

    In part, this is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "responding to concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, asked drug and meat companies late last year to end the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock to speed growth … The FDA views its approach of seeking voluntary changes as the most effective way to reduce antibiotic use in animals, arguing that a ban could tie it up in lengthy legal proceedings."

    But the thing that strikes me as most important is the fact that both the government and these suppliers seem to be responding to consumer demand: "Consumer Reports, in a 2012 survey, found 72% of people were extremely or very concerned about widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed. This year, research firm Midan Marketing surveyed grocery shoppers and found 88% aware of antibiotic use in animals and 60% concerned about it." And public health experts say that this trend is a positive one - more sustainable than if the government had simply mandated such a change.

    The problem, according to the story, is this: "More than two million Americans a year develop bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics, which kill at least 23,000 annually, according to a report last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public-health leaders call this a crisis for global health, and pin part of the blame on the meat industry’s widespread use of the drugs … The concern is that herds or flocks raised in close confinement and dosed repeatedly with antibiotics create millions of living petri dishes in which harmful bacteria have a chance to mutate to evade the drugs. The bacteria then could be passed to humans if meat wasn’t cooked fully or if traces of manure used to fertilize crops remained on produce."

    Among the companies that have made the move are Perdue and Tyson. In addition, the Journal writes, "Retailers where people now can buy meat raised without antibiotics include Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. Fast-food chain Chick-fil-A Inc. says it is phasing out all chicken raised with antibiotics over five years. Antibiotic-free beef, pork and chicken account for only around 5% of meat sold in the U.S., by industry estimates, but its share is growing quickly. Sales of such chicken at U.S. retailers rose 34% by value last year, according to market-research firm IRI."

    In other words, the tide is shifting when it comes to something that was pretty much accepted practice in the fresh foods arena not so many years ago. Consumer attitudes are changing, retailer preferences are changing, and institutionalized supplier behavior is changing. And these shifts are changing the shape and makeup of fresh meat sections all over the country.

    Attention should be paid.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    There is a terrific piece in Fast Company about the generational "disjoints" that could affect the workplace, noting that "next year, people born between 1981 and 1996 are poised to become the new workforce majority and will eventually remake the workplace in their own image."

    A survey of "more than a thousand working millennials and 200 older hiring managers" revealed, among other things that while "three-quarters of the gen X hiring managers assumed that millennials were primarily motivated by money … when millennials answered the question about their top priority themselves, only 44% agreed. Meanwhile, gen X hiring managers underestimated how much millennials prized being part of a good team and working on exciting projects."

    Fast Company goes on to say that "the report lists several reasons why millennials should be hopeful. Hiring managers value their technological adeptness and quick adaptability. But it remains to be seen whether traditional companies can evolve quickly enough to attract and hold onto young talent."

    But here's the deal.

    They really don't have any choice.

    It doesn't matter if some see millennials as "narcissistic" and "navel-gazers," and other see them as more entrepreneurial and creative. It is up to leaders and managers to find ways to tap into those instincts and desires - however they are characterized - and make them work for a bigger, broader purpose.

    Because, as I say, they really don't have any choice.

    The whole story can be read here … and you should read it. Because it is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    Reuters reports that Colorado voters rejected a state referendum calling for required labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and that it appears that Oregon voters have done the same, though in the latter case the vote remains too close to call.

    According to the story, "The Colorado labeling measure captured only about 32 percent voter approval, versus 68 percent opposed, according to preliminary results. Opponents raised more than $16 million on efforts to kill the measure, compared with $895,000 raised by those pushing for passage, according to the secretary of state's office and campaign finance filings.

    "In Oregon, where labeling opponents put together more than $20 million for campaigning, compared with $8 million raised by supporters, the initiative was failing by 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent, according to preliminary results."

    The story notes that Maine and Connecticut already have GMO labeling laws, though their implementation depends on enough other states passing similar laws that they don't end up out on a limb by themselves. Vermont has passed a labeling law with no such caveats, and it takes effect in 2016, unless legal challenges are successful.
    KC's View:
    I am not at all surprised by the Colorado vote, though I am a bit surprised by what happened in Oregon. On the other hand, I am cynical enough to believe that we have the best politics that money can buy, so it isn't exactly a shock when the best-funded side wins.

    Here's what KGW News is reporting:

    The top five donors on the Yes on 92 side were Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Center for Food Safety, Mercola Health, Tom Hormel and OSPIRG.

    For the No on 92 side, the top five donors were Dupont, Monsanto, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Kraft.

    Doesn't even seem like a fair fight.

    I continue to believe - perhaps quixotically - that over the long run, the transparency-in-all-things movement will prevail, and manufacturers will come to their senses and realize that providing information is the best way to engender trust. I just hope they don't learn the hard way.

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    Bloomberg reports that while CVS has made headlines by getting out of the tobacco business, its competitors, Walgreen and Rite Aid, have no such intentions.

    The story says that Rite Aid cannot afford to get out of the tobacco business - it needs the cash flow. Walgreen is in a different position, but says that it believes that it is better to offer smoking cessation programs that allow people to quit on their own timetable rather than depriving them of a place where they can satisfy their cravings.

    The nation's two biggest grocers, Walmart and Kroger, say they plan to continue to sell legal products in their stores.

    CVS, on the other hand, seems to have seen no financial impact from its anti-tobacco decision. According to Reuters, it has shown that "it’s possible to get out of the tobacco business and still grow. The pharmacy company reported third-quarter revenue today that grew 9.7 percent to $35 billion, led by a 16 percent gain in its pharmacy services unit that more than made up for the loss of cigarette sales."
    KC's View:
    I'm glad that CVS isn't feeling any ill effects from its decision, which always has struck me as a matter of branding consistency, differentiation, and priorities. It certainly is the right of any retailer to sell legal products, but the ones that want to make a commitment to health and wellness more than just lip service may want to think twice about what they sell and what they don't.

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    Amazon yesterday announced to its Prime customers that they now will have access to unlimited online photo storage as part of their $99 annual subscription.

    According to the Seattle Times, Prime members "can now store every digital image they have in any size on Amazon Cloud Drive for no additional cost. Prime Photos is the latest benefit of Prime, which also includes a Netflix-like video-streaming service and a lending library of more than 500,000 books for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader."

    While Amazon has never disclosed how many Prime members there are, outside estimates suggest the number could be between 40 million and 50 million, with some analysts speculating that they spend more than twice as much on Amazon as non-Prime customers. "Amazon continues to add benefits for a simple reason: Prime subscribers spend more money … than non-Prime customers. They often want to maximize the $99 membership fee by using the service frequently. The more benefits Amazon can add to Prime, the more revenue Prime membership is likely to generate."

    "Adding unlimited photo storage, a service Amazon is launching Tuesday, gives customers yet another reason to spring for the membership fee and then rationalize that expense by increasing their shopping on the site," the Times story says.
    KC's View:
    Three things that strike me as interesting about this.

    One is that this likely is just one of a series of added benefits that Amazon is likely to add to Prime, especially as it seems to more and more be in the business of chasing sales and profits. Locking customers as much as possible into the Amazon ecosystem may be the most assured way of doing that.

    Another is that photo storage is seen as a way of heightening people's Prime commitment in a tangible way. While someone might consider getting rid of Prime if all it offers is inexpensive two-day shipping, they're less likely to end the connection if all their videos and photos are stored on Prime.

    And finally, I'm intrigued by the fact that while Amazon normally doesn't say much, one of its people is quoted in the story as saying that the Prime price increase, from $79 to $99 a year, has turned into a non-event, with little impact of the trajectory of Prime's growth.

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    • Portland, Oregon-based New Seasons Market said yesterday that it is adopting a new system that will allow for a more personalized and measured online and in-store experience.

    The Index system, created by Jonathan Wall and Marc Freed-Finnegan (the founders of Google Wallet), "integrates directly with NSM’s existing PIN pads, improving NSM’s security and helping to tailor the checkout experience for each customer … Index enables New Seasons Market to dynamically update PIN pad content through a simple web interface that enhances and personalizes the checkout experience. For instance, it will enable customers to optionally receive emailed receipts instead of paper copies. Index provides an opt-in on the PIN pad for those shoppers."

    The announcement also notes that New Seasons "will launch its custom mobile app for iPhone and Android, powered by Index in early 2015 that will leverage iBeacon / bluetooth technology to welcome customers with personalized experiences that include customized product recommendations designed to inspire in-store discovery."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    Kantar Retail is out with its annual PoweRanking survey, which "benchmarks how U.S. retailers and manufacturers view each other across the most important areas of their commercial relationships."

    In the survey, manufacturers said that Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco all remain in the top four positions, but also moved Amazon up from its #8 ranking in 2013 to the #5 ranking for this year.

    Rounding out the top-ten retailer list are Publix (moving down one position from#5 to #6), HEB, Wegmans (moving down from #6 to #8), Walgreen (moving up a notch from #10 to #9) and Safeway (which dropped from #9 to #10).

    On the manufacturer side, retailers continued to rank Procter & Gamble as #1, followed by General Mills (up from #3 last year), PepsiCo (up from #5 last year), Unilever (down from #2 last year), Kraft Foods (down from #4), Coca-Cola (up from #8), Nestle (down from #6), Kellogg (down from #7), Mars (up from #12), and Kimberly Clark, which remained in the 10th slot.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    • Kroger said yesterday that UFCW-represented employees working for the company in West Virginia have ratified a new labor agreement that Joe Fey, president of the company's Mid-Atlantic division, said "provides wage increases, affordable health care and investment in our associates' pension fund to support their retirement."

    • Target Corp.said yesterday that it plans to close 11 stores early next year, based on an evaluation of each one's financial performance and prospects. The stores are located in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Texas.

    USA Today reports this morning that Coca-Cola plans a national rollout of Coca-Cola Life, described as "a 60-calorie, 8 ounce cola with no artificial sweeteners." The story notes that outside analysts say that "Coca-Cola Life has been an enormous hit in its very limited distribution," with a high majority of users saying they like the taste and would buy it again.

    The story notes that "store managers confirmed what consumers said. The research firm contacted store managers at 22 of The Fresh Market locations that initially sold Coca-Cola Life. Some 50% of the store managers said they had completely sold out at least once. One Florida location said it was selling 50 cases per week. And several store managers said customers were calling the store, asking managers to put some aside for them."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 5, 2014

    …will return.
    KC's View: