business news in context, analysis with attitude

There was a great radio ad that I heard the other day for Boar’s Head cold cuts, in which the company directly challenges the fast food sandwich chains (like Subway). The message is simple – while Subway may pile up the meat and cheese, Boar’s Head allows you to spend less money on a higher quality product.

It is a compelling message. And it is good to hear someone actually challenging the fast food chains on what some what would perceive as their strength.

BTW…there was a story in the Boston Globe the other day about how a number of companies are coming up with new options for brown-baggers. According to the story, “research indicates more people than ever are bringing their lunch to school and work, for economic, nutritional, and environmental reasons. What they bring that lunch in now includes reusable sandwich wraps that wipe clean, bowls outfitted with yogurt-holding ice packs, and containers with serious style.”

Retailers ought to focus laser-like on these sorts of products, challenging the supposedly more convenient fast food chains on a variety of levels.

I haven't used this line in a while, but it seems appropriate:

Compete is a verb.

I also like Walmart’s new commercials in which it, very simply, explains why its frozen pizzas and its discount prescription program both save shoppers a lot of money. The ads aren’t anything fancy, but they work well.

Speaking of commercials, have you seen the new Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates ad for Microsoft? You know, the one that is supposed to be the tonal response to the Mac/PC ads that have done so much for Apple?

I love Seinfeld, and I respect Gates…but this commercial is awful. It has moments of being funny, but it really doesn’t make any case for Microsoft products.

There was a report the other day from an organization called Rabobank that, in essence, said that because of inflation and the troubled economy, food retailers need to identify non-traditional differentiation strategies beyond reducing their prices.


I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that this is a refrain that has been sounded constantly on MNB since this community went online almost seven years ago. And not just by me … but by Michael Sansolo, and by hundreds of MNB users who have said much the same thing over the years.

But here’s the thing. Non-traditional differentiation beyond price is almost always a good idea if you are not a purely price-driven retailer. It shouldn't just take a recession or some other kind of economic decline to make you think that way.

Retailers that wait until now and suddenly hold a meeting to discuss possible methods of non-traditional differentiation have waited far too long. Anything they do will almost certainly be tactical and artificial, not strategic and authentic.

And, by the way, we’ve been saying that here on MNB for almost seven years, too.

Check out two cartoons in the September 8 issue of The New Yorker, on pages 42 and 45. They’re just plain funny…and the first one is actually relevant to the food business.

I promised you some wine recommendations when I went off on vacation, and this is one guarantee I’m happy to deliver on. There were four terrific wines that I tried during my time off…

Two excellent whites… the 2006 Scurati Sicilia Bianco from Italy and the 2004 Mosaic Chardonnay. Both were wonderful, and I especially liked the latter, which lived up to all of the superior wines made by the Mosaic vineyard.

My friends at Food Lion sent me a couple of bottles of their award-winning private label wine, the 2007 Surf Point Pinot Grigio from California, and I have to tell you that this is an outstanding summer white – bright and fresh and utterly delightful. Excellent work by Food Lion…my compliments to the vintner.

Finally, I had a really unusual wine from Australia - the 2007 Black Chook blend of Viognier and Shiraz. I’ve never had this particular blend before, and found it beguiling…I can’t wait to have it again.

I know I also promised some movie reviews, but I’m afraid that during my time off I never got to a movie theater. Part of the reason was that the Mets were playing well, and I have to admit to spending more time than I should have watching the Democratic Convention on television. And then the end of the week got complicated when my 14-year-old daughter had to have an emergency appendectomy…she’s fine now (if a little sore), but there’s nothing quite so scary as watching your child being wheeled into the operating room.

This also may be a corny thing to say, but the worst part of the experience was the next few days when she was miserable because of the after-effects…you don't realize how much a child’s smile means to you until you’ve had to go a couple of days without seeing it.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.


KC's View: