business news in context, analysis with attitude

We wrote last week about being nauseated when we heard Martha Stewart’s voice on a Kmart commercial that was selling products for a holiday associated with generosity of spirit and good will. (We compared it to hiring Willie Sutton to do bank commercials.)

MNB user Westall Parr agreed:

“Desperate people do desperate things.

“Kmart can't keep their eye on the ball - not with the guy holding the bat threatening to hit them with it.

“This was not the time to front with Martha.

“{Hiring Willie Sutton as Santa Claus would have had more positive impact. They could say they were rehabilitating him.”

On the subject of the reconstitution of the Hershey School board, a reaction to the near-sale of Hershey Foods earlier this year, one MNB user wrote:

“Milton Hershey was a genius. His innovations in merchandising and manufacturing created a great brand, popular products and a considerable fortune. The management of Hershey Chocolate company has been far less innovative and adventuresome from within. Reviewing the chocolate company's leading products we find most brands have been bought... Reese's, York Peppermint, Mounds, Jolly Rancher, Cadbury Creme Egg... at least they had the wisdom to buy good products..

“Going outside the confection arena the company has been notably in the purchase of Friendly's Ice Cream.

“But for many years the strategy of buying quality products has worked very well for Hershey... they have grown steadily if not dramatically. With Richard Lenny at the helm we can expect more of the same. Independence suits this company, the products seemingly are not beset by the foibles of product managers.

“The Hershey Foundation has a mission spelled out by Mr. Hershey... the education and development of young children whose lives have been disrupted. This mission is now the Milton Hershey School and through the Hershey Trust Company, the School owns 31.4 percent of Hershey Foods' Common Stock… (and) controls 76.0 percent of the corporation's voting shares.

“For many years the people running the trust have benefited from the corporate strategy, with continual growth in their asset. The trust was not meant to run the business, nor was it meant to save all children. The trustees’ efforts to sell their assets broke faith with the management and the people of the Hershey company. Trustees’ action was an expression of two things, a lack of faith or understanding in the management and its strategy,... and greed, masked in a mission.

“I would like to see Hershey's control in the hands of Hershey if for no other reason than today quality companies like this are rare. They actually live their business, caring for the employee as well as the stockholder. So many of their ilk are gone... Noxzema, Vlasik, Yardley, Nehi... swallowed into corporate anonymity.

“Big is not necessarily better. For the company or the Trust.”

On the subject of country-of-origin labeling, which is opposed by the Food Marketing Institute, MNB user Bob Thomas wrote:

“The FMI is plain wrong and is trying to cloud the issue with scary paperwork requirements that can be modified prior to implementation. They seem to be against labeling even if there were no requirements or liability. I have seen fruits and vegetables being grown and processed overseas and it is not a pretty sight. I will not buy a cantaloupe or a strawberry that is imported.

“In addition there is no way to control chemical use in other countries. Why is Chile so proud of labeling their produce (and able to get a huge chunk of the market) and the FMI says it is a terrible thing to do? Would you eat an orange from Pakistan or Yemen right now? Labeling country of origin can be a positive such as Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, Chilean sea bass, Florida oranges etc.”

However, on the same subject we got an email from MNB user Brad Boles:

“You asked if the consumer wants to know, why not tell them? Good question. If the answer is yes, would you also support food service country of origin labeling? Retailers already do it with produce. Not at McDonalds.... Why should restaurants be exempt from country of origin labeling. I am told food service imports substantially more pounds and products than retail.

“The real question is not if consumers should know but how do you do it. Animals and products change hands during their life and through the supply channel. Who is going to verify its origin? Hopefully not the last guy in the channel.”

All good questions. With no easy answers.

And the floor remains open…
KC's View: