business news in context, analysis with attitude

Reaction to Albertsons' decision to develop a discount grocery store concept, as MNB user David Livingston wrote:

When did the light bulb go on in Albertson's head and come up with this discount store idea? Why don't they just keep the stores the have and simply get their prices more in line like everyone else. Instead of being 30% above Wal-Mart, try 15% and just keep the stores as they are. Then turn the lights back on in the stores so they don't look like they are going out of business and put someone behind the deli/seafood/service meat case instead a little bell to ring. Basically, operate your stores the way you did 5-6 years ago.

MNB user Jim Penn added:

What makes sense is to turn around what you already have. Let's face it, Albertsons has no focus as Larry Johnston is more focused on his press clippings.

Now, lets add additional Formats to the already mismanaged jumbled mess.

And, we had lots of reaction to the story about Pepsi launching a mid-calorie cola.

One MNB user wrote:

They already have a low-carb Pepsi. It’s called Diet Pepsi. Half the sugar isn’t low-carb! While I understand that someone would like a Pepsi that is a little better for you (or not quite as bad), the idea that they are going to market this as low-carb is absurd.

This is further proof that the low-carb craze will be just that, a faddish craze. People are going to stuff themselves with “low-carb” Pepsi, “low-carb” chocolate and butter their “low-carb” bagels to make egg sandwiches and say that the plan doesn’t work. Or they will go back to their old habits and say that the plan didn’t work because they gained the weight back. It’s just like= low-fat. If you eat reasonably and low-fat, you lose weight. Eating two boxes of SnackWells per day doesn’t count. In fact, if you eat reasonably (and America on the whole doesn’t know what that means) and exercise, you will be in better shape. Some of us have to sacrifice more than others, but you just can’t have it both ways.

Sad, I tell you. Sad. And I agree with you, a government ad campaign will make no difference.

Another member of the MNB community chimed in:

I thought Pepsi tried the mid-calorie thing once before; why do they think it will be successful the second time around.

MNB user Nick Sabatello wrote:

Regarding the headline of Pepsi to bring out mid-calorie cola...So what's up with Diet Pepsi, doesn't this serve the same purpose of meeting the low carb beverage drinker's needs?? If I'm on a low carb diet, I'm not interested in a better tasting or newer mid-calorie soda with some carbs and some calories. I'm just going to choose the zero calorie, no carb variety that already exists, it's called Diet Pepsi.

Maybe they should consider making a different flavored diet Pepsi, with lime or lemon or vanilla, etc. that serves the purpose of keeping up with the Joneses.

And, on the related, general subject of obesity, one MNB user offered:

Maybe I'm cynical too, or maybe I'm just self-centered, but I really believe in fat tax: it's a free country, everyone can make their own choices (whether you are a seller or buyer of controversial products), but individuals have to pony up for their own choices/consequences. If you want to smoke, have fun! but you have to pay for your own additional health care with higher taxes on your cigarettes. If you want to eat pizza, french fries, etc. have fun! but you should pay for the additional health care.... that way healthy people like myself (and the other minority one third of this population) don't have to be forced to subsidize the health care of the fat & lazy! Make it more expensive to eat foolishly - people will pay more attention to thinning wallets than their thickening waistlines.

MNB user Mark E. O'Toole wrote:

This will become a serious transition time for the Food Service industry and the Grocery Industry as well. It is like a total stock market adjustment period. Consider this please.

1. If reducing obesity becomes the number one priority, the portion sizes will need to be made smaller. Assuming that occurs, then an eight ounce steak at $10.00 per pound will now ring up at $5.00. Thus, the average transaction fee will be reduced by 50%. What will the supermarket industry do then? They have already lost 12% of their shopping trips to other channels of business like dollar stores and MM.

2. The same applies to the Food Service industry and especially restaurants. How are they going to justify smaller portions sizes and charge the same money? I guess the cost of a drink will increase twofold.

3. How do you think they will try and pass along the cost to manufacturers? Will in be in increased slotting, marketing or other newly created fees? What they don't understand or care to understand, there is not that much margin in our products.

4. These type of changes could put out of business many of the small companies that are $150 million and below in annual sales.

The road ahead for all of us in the food industry is going to be challenging and most likely, not a whole lot of fun.

MNB user Carole Coleman chimed in:

Unless the ad campaign defines what a "good diet" is, it is unlikely to succeed. Americans need help understanding how to eat right, after years of an extremely misleading Food Pyramid (come on, 6-11 servings of bread/pasta?) and advertising by products that claim to be healthy but are far from it. I believe that many Americans, even obese ones, eat because we are truly hungry...not for calories but for nutrients. With the abundance of food, we are still a nutrient-starved society. When was the last time many of us ate a dark leafy green, or a truly whole grain? How many of these nutrient-rich foods could most people even identify?

Millions will be spent on telling Americans, one more time, to "eat right," while at the same time we continue to support programs and food companies which provide our people with over-processed, chemicalized, nutrient-poor foods. How about putting the money towards teaching good nutrition in schools?

MNB user Robert McMath wrote:

The news now indicates that McDonald's is selling salads that contain more fat than its own cheeseburgers. And during the recent show in Anaheim, Dr. Sears, a noted authority on the subject, told the assembled press that he had walked the floor and seen product -- particularly new food/energy/snack/meal replacement bars that claimed "no-carb", but that actually had carbs in them, as well as bad fat ingredients.

The "rush to health" is unbelievable, and as a result a great deal of very questionable to awful tasting food items are being thrown against the wall to see if any of them will stick. This is one of the fasted ways to kill any good trend that should emerge from the benefits of common sense in all the hoop and hollering going on right now.

On the subject of reimportation of Canadian drugs, MNB user John Tatum wrote:

What I continue to be astonished by is the willingness of US citizens and the US government to openly suggest allowing the Canadian government to essentially establish price controls for the US market.

A recent study showed 88 out of 100 medications imported from Canadian mail order pharmacies were counterfeit drugs. There is no such action as 're importation'.

On the subject of the ongoing travails of Martha Stewart, MNB user Sandra Caldwell wrote:

Let me just say upfront, that I have never been a follower of Martha Stewart. I think the message she sends to women through her shows is not in sync with reality. A woman must make choices; there is no way a woman can do it all (work, family, house, perfect HGTV house). It is especially harmful that while she proposes this as a down-home woman; the reality is that she is in board meetings, continually striving to exceed her goals in her corporate life. Her fame does not just happen; it is accomplished.

That being said, this case is sad. After reading the trial transcripts, I find it interesting that the prosecution was able to contrive a case around a different color of ink. She may indeed have done what they said. However, she should not go to jail. She is not a threat to society; what good could come of her being placed in a prison? What is this huge fuss about? When I was a consultant at a large, international corporation, I watched as thousands of people lost their entire pensions due to the management decision to freeze any stock trading for all employees for 24 hours. This meant that while the management could get rid of the plummeting stock, the employees were stuck watching their life savings slip away. For instance, a co-worker "across the cube" lost $150,000 in pension - it was horrible. Yet, no one noticed this huge corporation who made a decision to stop their employees from trading stock and affected thousands. Truly, a corporation like that should go to jail to endangering the lives of their employees.

What Martha did was what she has done all of her life -- watch out for herself. She was not born into $$, she has worked very hard (and probably had to play hard) to get it. Because she has a charisma that is not liked is not a reason to send her off to jail. One of the jurors said that they wanted to send a message. But wait, their job is not to send a message or set a trend, it is to decide if the person is guilty or not. Personally, I think her legal defense should have given her much better advice and settled out of court.

We actually agree that Martha shouldn’t go to jail. Let's sentence her to do something really useful to society - maybe redesigning the New York City school lunch program for the next five years, plus working with inner city kids to develop their entrepreneurial skills. It's be a waste to put her in a cell…let’s put her to work.

By the way, MNB user Linda Allen objected to our calling Martha a "domestic diva."

Come on, Kevin: be honest about your "phraseology". Do you refer to Anders Moberg as the "Netherlands Neanderthal", or the U.S. Food Service president by anything but his name? ("Martha Stewart" would have sufficed today instead of "domestic diva".) And where are the cracks about what their cellmates might think of them?

Your commentary is always well-informed, honest, and interestingly written. A cheap shot is a cheap shot, however. I am surprised to see you dig your heels in on this one!

You've discovered our guilty secret. Sometimes we like to indulge in cheap shots and bad jokes…if it amuses us, we go for it.

And we're sort of intrigued by the "Netherlands Neanderthal" possibilities…

One MNB user wrote:

How do you tell the difference between farm-raised (to be avoided, according to your columns) and wild salmon when purchasing in the average U.S. supermarket. The help at most supermarket fish counters can't tell you.

Actually, we eat farmed salmon all the time. (Tonight, we're going to cook it on a low heat with a dollop of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of Tom Douglas Salmon Rub…it tells you everything you need to know about the Content Guy that we're planning dinner even before we've gone for our morning run and had breakfast.) But we don't know what to tell you if the people behind the counter don't know the difference between farmed and wild. (Cost is usually a pretty good indicator.)

Probably you should find another supermarket.

And finally, we got the following email yesterday:

Thought you might appreciate the sign I saw in front of a bicycle shop yesterday. It read "Atkins Friendly Bicycles."

Does that mean if you ride one, you are guaranteed not to fall off, hit your head, and die?

(Was that a cheap shot? Or just a bad joke?)
KC's View: