business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Joe Davis, chiming in on the discussion we were shaving last week about comments made by Kroger CEO about digital marketing and e-commerce:

I saw a few of your readers mentioning some limitations and/or caveats about the E-Commerce surge in response to Mr. Dillon’s comments.  I wanted to share with you a leap of faith we recently took that was a step I never thought I would take and was mentioned specifically by one of your readers – we have boldly gone into buying produce online and having it delivered.

We approached this with much skepticism (or at least I did – my wife is much more progressive/evolved than I am).  There is a company called Fresh Harvest that operates in the Atlanta area which offers great, locally-grown produce (mostly) and plenty of flexibility in options, delivery frequency, and price.  I won’t belabor you with all the details, but I was pleasantly surprised by their quality, reliability, and – perhaps most shockingly – affordability relative to our traditional trips to the grocery store or local farmer’s market.

Having our produce delivered, knowing it will be high-quality, and enjoying a controlled bit of variety has been a great pleasure and I’d heartily recommend it to others.  I’m sure there are similar operations out there, but these guys are genuine foodies and the model seems to benefit all parties from farm to table.  I don’t know their economics, but I do wonder about a retailer picking up on this model and giving it a go.

This experience makes me call into question the limitations I perceive of E-Commerce and reiterate a phrase I use more and more of late – all is possible.

I got the following email responding to last week's piece about Sesame Street licensing out its logo and characters for free to the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) in an effort to get more kids to eat fruits and vegetables:

While I applaud the PMA and Sesame Workshop for their efforts here, can we please note that this is definitely NOT a unique effort.  The use of pass-through licensing of very popular characters in the produce department has been explored for more than ten years.   In fact, back in 2003/04 the Product for Better Health Foundation struck a similar arrangement with Sesame Workshop and offered all its members a wide array of customized retail marketing solutions featuring Sesame characters.  PBH also struck deals with Marvel Comics, Disney, United Media (think Charlie Brown and Halloween), and others.  You would NOT be hard pressed to find MANY in the produce industry that have championed a licensed character program (Dole comes to mind quickly).

Certainly it’s noteworthy that PMA is picking up the work that many before them have started and newsworthy that the White House has lent a little sizzle to the effort.  But the good folks at PBH can tell you about the devil and the details.  Retailers need to embrace this opportunity and drive it in the marketplace.   In the early days of PBH’s efforts, Wal-Mart was an early adopter, they ran quarterly programs with great results (sales) but it took a lot of work and coordinated effort between Wal-Mart and their suppliers and PBH was the catalyst.

I wish PMA so much success with this very important effort but I also think we should note that this effort was made possible by many that blazed this trail before them.

I was unsure about how the new PMA effort might differ from previous initiatives, so I reached out to Bryan Silbermann and asked him to elaborate:

Let me just say at this point that I am VERY familiar with what PBH has done because I was one of the two people (the other was Bob Carey) who created and launched PBH – Produce for Better Health Foundation -- in 1991 in partnership with the National Cancer Institute. This is one creation of which I am intensely proud.  And I’m very familiar with the extent of their programs – which PMA helps to fund and has given millions of dollars to over the past two decades.  PBH was housed in the PMA offices for the first several years of its existence too.

But the way in which this Sesame license and use will be rolled out is fundamentally different from approaches that have been taken before, especially when married with the other elements of the rollout that we have in mind.  Can’t say more than that at this stage but stay tuned. And a number of people who have been involved in character licensing for their own companies will be members of the task force developing the Sesame Street campaign.

We'll stay tuned. Promise.
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