business news in context, analysis with attitude

We love getting emails like the following one, from MNB user Dan Jones:

We had a wonderful meal last night at home – my wife made a pizza with Gouda cheese, red onion, chicken, and fresh basil (from our garden). I asked her where she found the recipe.

“When I was buying pizza crust at Trader Joe’s, the cashier said he had a great recipe for pizza. He described the pizza then took the time to write the ingredients down on the receipt for me. I kept the receipt, bought the Gouda I needed from Trader Joe’s my next trip, and tried it out.”

I asked if anything like this had ever happened to her at a mainstream grocery store.

“No. Never.”

Speaks volumes. About Trader Joe’s. And others.

We got the following email from an MNB user about yesterday’s piece regarding the growing popularity of take food from restaurants of all stripes:

As "empty nesters", we rarely get take out food from a regular sit down restaurant. If we are going to pay those prices (only Chinese restaurants seem to offer carryout discounts) we are going to enjoy the experience and the freedom from kitchen clean up along with it. I don't think I have ever purchased ready to eat take out food from a supermarket deli. Seeing all that prepared food in the display case, and not many people buying it, I wonder how many hours (or how many days) it has been sitting there. In my view a Supermarket might enjoy some success if they developed a very good in-house "restaurant" with a menu and foods prepared to order, a dedicated phone line, and payment at the "restaurant" so you don't have to stand in line at the checkout. It would have to be good enough to get positive reviews from the local food critics. Pricing would have to be lower than stand alone restaurants but that should be possible as the overhead would be less. They would also have to recognize that some foods, such as a good steak, just do not make for a good carryout experience, so don't have those on the menu.

Sounds like that ancient, now almost-forgotten myth called “meal solutions,” also known in some circles as “home meal replacement.”

And, contributing to the ongoing debate about effectiveness vs. efficiency, one MNB user wrote:

As a recently "separated" colleague who was forced to "seek other opportunities" because my "position was eliminated" (all three phrases in parenthesis are "efficiency" buzzwords, used by senior management to justify their goal, to themselves, of cutting costs) due to the acquisition of my consumer healthcare division by a larger consumer healthcare company, I am a first-hand witness to the imbalance between efficiency and effectiveness. A former CEO of ours used the terms "doing the right things" as compared with "doing things right." Part of what he meant was that although we can easy run the day-to-day business efficiently, it is more difficult and ultimately more rewarding to run the business effectively. Unfortunately, that CEO was replaced because he failed to "unlock" shareholder value and increase the capital value of the business. He fell into his own trap of not doing the right thing (and he was paid handsomely for his failures).

The reason that achieving efficiencies at the expense of building long-term value is bad business is that addressing efficiencies only serves to satisfy one stakeholder group- the investor. Efficiencies generally don't benefit the customer, the employee, or the community. On the other hand, effectively operating a business increases both the short-term value to investors AND the long-term value to all four groups of stakeholders. Achieving efficiencies is done out of greed; achieving effectiveness is ensures viability as well as continued attractiveness for investors. It is tougher and takes longer. Successful, competitive, desirable business enterprises instinctively understand this, while history is not kind to businesses that continually use B.S. buzzwords to justify ill-fated efficiencies. They are clearly doing the wrong thing. Unfortunately, we keep rewarding these leaders for their errors because investors are, understandably, greedy.

I hope they sleep well at night.

We had a piece yesterday about how grocery lists offer a unique look at the American psyche, which prompted MNB user David Wiles to write:

I wonder how many discarded grocery lists are found in the nation’s supermarket and how close they match what they actually purchased. How much was "Impulse Buying". If the market hopes to make it, they better have pushed the impulse buys. I don't believe they can make it on only the "grocery list".

Good point.

We wrote the other day that we expect Supervalu to be more sophisticated and attentive about its Albertsons and Lucky stores than Albertsons’ previous regime, which prompted one MNB user to write:

They can’t help to be “More” Attentive and Sophisticated.. Larry Johnston’s GONE… It’s the grocery business, not the light bulb business.

Still bitter after all these months.

One MNB user had a thought about the ongoing debate about whether the government ought to allow certain non-organic ingredients into so-called organic products:

The additional additives or substances allowed under the organic banner may be limited to vitamins and minerals. Salt for most people requires iodine or iodized salt. Milk needs Vitamin D. Milk must be pasteurized to make it wholesome and good for more than a day.

I think the conflict comes in when chemicals or "non-natural" additives are added. I saw no mention as to what might be allowed.

As most of your grocers will remember, we have 100% fruit juice, fruit drink, and fruit beverage...which means from 100% juice to having a piece of fruit somewhere close to the processing and filling equipment. There are already at least two levels of organic and maybe this means a third tier; similar to how meat is graded from prime down to standard.

The key is listing the ingredients and let the consumer decide, but a full and authentic listing of ingredients is required and might be incorporated into the existing nutritional labeling already required.

And another MNB user, obviously having consumed too much caffeine, wrote:

Not many people know this, but the issue of "true" organic vs. the "38 item watered-down" organic, can be solved very easily.... just take Organique.

Just take one Organique pill twice a day and you'll be getting 98% of your recommended daily allowance of organic foods. This is just too simple...if you're only eating 20-30% organically grown foods now, you can more than double your organic intake with this powerful Organique supplement.

Here's how it works... by taking one Organique pill twice a day, your system will tend to crave ONLY organic foods, thereby forcing you to decrease your intake of NON- organic products. We call this the "Organactic Effect". Thanks to this Miraculous Medical Breakthru, now everyone can achieve their FULL Organic potential.

For more information, or to become an Organique distributor, just call 1(800) NEW-PILL…

This is hardly the dumbest idea we’ve ever heard. It’ll be on QVC before you know it.
KC's View: