business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to our story about the newest Fresh & Easy opening across the parking lot from a Trader Joe’s, one MNB user wrote:

Here in Southern California when there is a Trader Joe's in range I have a real sense F&E is struggling. TJ's just has the field nailed down and F&E looks like a weak second player. Lots of F&E fresh merchandise on markdown the last time I went in. Not many customers either. It is not that F&E is bad it is just that TJ is so good.

MNB user David Livingston had a thought about Tesco’s plans for opening Fresh & Easy stores in under-served inner city neighborhoods:

It’s as if they are intentionally making fools of themselves. Fresh & Easy has now opened about 62 stores operating at Winn Dixie-esqe levels of sales per sq. ft. Now they want to take a failed concept and open where most chain stores have failed. Seems like we would expect better judgment from a smart company like Tesco.

Maybe you’re right.

But I try to always leave open the possibility that the folks at Tesco and Fresh & Easy are smarter than me and are seeing opportunities that I could be missing.

MNB had a story before we went off on vacation about how the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have gone to court to challenge labeling rules imposed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

According to a statement released by OTA, they are “challenging as unconstitutional an ‘emergency’ rule seeking to prevent labeling that tells a consumer whether the cows were treated with rBST, the synthetic growth hormone manufactured and sold by Monsanto under the brand Posilac. The lawsuit represents a determined effort not only to protect the consumer’s rights to receive truthful information about how organic milk and dairy products are produced, but also to protect the rights of organic dairy farmers and processors to communicate truthfully with consumers.”

MNB user Bill Bodine – who, it should be noted for context, is director of external relations at the Illinois Farm Bureau – wrote:

I am struggling with how the Ohio regulations detract from organic production. The regulations do not prohibit dairy companies from including labels stating that the milk was from cows not treated with rbST, whether it is organic milk or conventional milk. As the article states, if the claims regarding rbST are made, the Ohio regulations require a disclaimer in the same location that states the FDA has shown that there is no difference between the milk from cows treated with rbST and cows not treated with rbST.

It appears that the lawsuits seem to be challenging the portion of the regulation requiring the disclaimer and designating its location and size. The disclaimer is there to provide information to the consumer. Some in the industry must only want half the story told to consumers.

MNB user Jessica Duffy looked to put the issue in context:

To clarify: “Conventional” milk can be produced by cows treated with production hormones and/or antibiotics; “All Natural” milk comes from cows that receive conventional feed, but no hormones or antibiotics; and “Organic” milk comes from cows that receive no hormones or antibiotics, and which eat only organic feed.

Which seems like the info that ought to be presented to consumers. Doesn’t it?

I made a little joke before going off on holiday about the price of gas meaning that it might be a good time to get into the hay business – because horses are going to start looking good when we hit six and seven dollars per gallon.

To which one MNB user responded:

We know you don't even pretend to know anything about agriculture, but hay prices started climbing long before gas prices. Another key ingredient to feeding horses is corn, and we all know about the ramifications of that. In a morbid way, it was kind of a relief when our last horse "rode off into the sunset" earlier this year.

Once again, my timing leaves something to be desired. Though, on balance, I feel worse for your horse.

MNB user David Zahn saw only opportunity here:

For years I have used the example with clients of companies that refuse to embrace innovation, recognize market shifts and changing industry nuances as being "in the buggy whip" business. How incredible is it now that GM may be going bankrupt and there may just yet be a place for buggy whip manufacturers to carve out some market share!

At least metaphorically.

KC's View: