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Got a terrific email from MNB user Bob Reynolds:

I know you are tired of Fresh & Easy stuff. However, maybe this is a bit of a different twist.

I was in four LA F&E's last week, I had been in some of the same stores in February.

Some perspectives I have not read from others:

• Out-of-stocks are a very visible problem. And, the out-of-stocks appear to be concentrated in promotional items.
• Because the SKU count is small in these stores, out-of-stocks stick out like a sore thumb. Little or no opportunity for a consumer to do a brand switch.
• Same items were out-of-stock in more than one store, suggesting a distribution problem.
• While I have no objective data, it appeared that there were more national brand items in the store last week than in February. The product selection is still dominated by F&E brand products
• Perishables and ready-to-eat, ready-to-cook products are bland and uninteresting. They don't say "buy me." Color is badly needed in this bland environment.
• Many perishable, code-dated products were at or near code dates. Products dated the Wednesday I was in the stores, were marked 1/2 off.
• All self-checkouts -- One employee at front end to assist customers -- This system eliminates many non-tech-savvy potential customers.
• While I did not do an objective price survey, my impression was "no bargains here."
• All four stores faced nearby competition from conventional name brand supermarkets. So much for the "under-served neighborhood" concept.
• I saw little reason for a consumer to shop F&E rather than its familiar near-by competitors.
• Stores were lightly shopped on the Wednesday, midday that I visited.

I also visited the Safeway/Vons "The Market" small format store in Long Beach. Store has been open about a month.

This store is right at the beach, 100 yards from the Belmont pier. Looks like a miniaturized version of Safeway's Lifestyle store format with all major perimeter departments. Lots of grab-and-go stuff. Large wine and liquor dept. Good looking deli and bakery. Service meat. Limited selection of dry groceries. Attractive but small produce selection. Good selection of refrigerated non-alcoholic beverages.

Looked like a great beach store but was lightly shopped at Wednesday, 11 AM.

I liked this store a lot. Bought my lunch there.

Thanks for the report. And FYI….I never get tired of this stuff.

MNB user John Hall had some thoughts about Coke’s new two-liter bottles:

Although not specified in the article that I read, I wonder if this new packaging uses less plastic. This would be a triple win for Coke, most importantly it is better for the environment, it should lower raw materials cost and thus increased profit and should increased sales. Since it wasn’t mentioned that less plastic was used, only the donation of recycling contains to the test market, I like most others will assume that it does not use less plastic and thus ignores the current trend towards less raw materials and increased environmental stewardship. If they do use less plastic they are missing a great image advantage.

MNB had a story yesterday about how Tyson Foods is suing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), charging that the government’s decision to stop it from claiming that its chickens are raised without the use of antibiotics was arbitrary and capricious. Tyson was using antibiotics on its eggs before the chickens were hatched and then claiming that the chickens were raised without antibiotics…which the government first said was okay, and later ruled was inaccurate and misleading. The question is what “raised” means – does it include the time before the chicken is hatched?

MNB user Michael Freese wrote:

So if I eat the egg it has antibiotics but not if I eat the chicken? This sounds like "When does conception actually occur"?”

Not a debate we probably should get into here…

MNB user Jerome R. Schindler wrote:

Reminds me of something I often tell clients when reviewing their advertising - "Literal Truth is No Defense". I believe most consumers would feel betrayed if they bought Tyson chicken because it claimed to be "raised without antibiotics" and then discovered that antibiotics had been injected into the eggs a few days prior to hatching. I think Tyson is wasting its shareholders' money by suing USDA over this issue.

Another MNB user wrote:

First off the USDA needs to more clearly define what "raised without antibiotics" really means, for the sake of both the vendor and the consumer. As a consumer when I see raised without antibiotics, I'm believing this to mean that this egg came from a chicken that had not been exposed to antibiotics. I don't want to be exposed to antibiotics that are unnecessary, there fore I would buy this product. It seems misleading to me that Tyson has interrupted this phrase to mean between hatching and slaughter, where as a consumer I read this as meaning NO ANTIBIOTICS. There seems to be a serious disconnect, and the consumer will once again suffer. Go figure.

MNB user Steve Young-Burns wrote:

It is a great day when the world's largest chicken and egg producers are squabbling over whose "antibiotic free" claim is misleading. I gain new faith in the competitive marketplace when Perdue and Sanderson sue Tyson for "false and misleading" claims about Tyson's in-ovo antibiotic use. Will this suit result in more transparent industry practices where "no antibiotics" means no antibiotics, ever, or will it result in years of back and forthing with each company tries desperately to gain a dubious toehold in their ongoing battle to mislead consumers about their hens' living conditions? Let's hope for transparency, after all, the eggs are going to taste better if living conditions are better, and the eggs are going to be worth more. Everyone's a winner!

Had a story the other day about how packaging is changing, with one note about how some bars and restaurants are changing from 16-ounce glasses to 14-ounce glasses for their beer “pints”…which prompted one MNB user to write:

Glad you pointed the issue of profit pours and the whole general idea of companies shrinking their packaging, and either not bringing down the price or actually raising the price.

Good example happened to me five months ago at Chipotle. Now I love Chipotle, and always appreciated their concept of fast food being served to a higher standard than other chains with nothing but fresh foods in their meals.

However, 5 months ago I had gone there for lunch and ordered tacos, to which in every previous trip, I received 4 hard shell tacos. However, upon this particular order, I received only 3 tacos, and paid the exact same price as before. I asked if this was a mistake, but was told this was the new policy to combat cost of goods, etc.

To your point, nothing was disclosed to the customer, I actually had to ask because I thought there was a mistake. The real mistake on their end was actually on a larger scale by failing to communicate to the customer. Needless to say, I felt cheated. In fact, I haven't been back since.

Good lesson.

Responding to the nice things I wrote yesterday about golf – a subject I know nothing about, MNB user Pat McCarthy wrote:

In its purest form, golf is about honor and integrity. It is also about dealing with the bumps and bounces of the ball, much like dealing with whatever you are dealt in life. No do-overs. Make the best of the situation! Great game for anyone!

No do-overs? Then what’s a Mulligan, anyway?

Finally, MNB user John Montzingo wrote:

I know how you love your Mets but wow - what an amazing display of ineptitude in their handling of Willie Randolph’s firing. How does Omar Minaya much less Fred & Jeff Wilpon look at themselves in the mirror after firing Willie in the middle of the night via press release?

Oh, those Mets are Amazin’ – just in a very sad way.

The way the whole NY Mets managerial situation was handled was both gutless and classless, and it made it embarrassing to be a Mets fan. It was, however, a great lesson in how not to manage an organization.

KC's View: