business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reader Thomas Parkinson had a thought about our story headlined, "Summer 2021 Could Be Best Of Times For US Teen Workers."

One thing I really liked about the Dutch minimum wage is that it increases as you get older. Basically the grocery stores (and all businesses) were able to hire high school students at a lower wage.  The minimum wage increases as you get older until 21 where you get the full wage.  Another way for the US to look at it.

Here's a link to the Dutch system

I love that idea.

I commented on the story this way:

I worked my way through high school and college to pay the tuition (admittedly, a long time ago, when such a thing was possible), and it was in those retail stores that I got an enormous education that prepared me for life as an adult.  (And, in their own way, for life as the Content Guy;  I never dreamed I'd spend decades of my life writing about this stuff and reconsidering lessons learned so long ago.)

Prompting MNB reader Mike Moon to write:

I fully understand your comment about how your work during high school prepared you for life as an adult. 

When we owned our supermarket, my wife and I established a $500 annual scholarship for a local graduating senior. The qualifications? They had to plan to attend a 2 year or 4 year school, have successfully held a job while in high school (somewhere, it didn't have to be my employee), and they had to have a letter of recommendation from their employer. We always felt that the lessons learned on the job were as important as those learned in the classroom.

The other day we took note of a Financial Times report on an internal Nestlé presentation conceding that "more than 60 per cent of its mainstream food and drinks products do not meet a 'recognised definition of health' and that 'some of our categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much we renovate'."

MNB reader Tony Moore responded:

Would love to know what the percent is for the top 10 food companies globally. 

I’m guessing not too far off from the number Nestlé is reporting. 

This could be the challenge of the decade for these huge organizations that have a heavy focus on processed foods and beverages  Which, based on my personal experience working for several of these companies, is the mainstay of their portfolios. Not sure what the answer is here. 

From another reader:

At least Nestle is admitting what we all know about package products.  If you walk the aisles of any grocery store, the majority of the items they are selling on their shelf have ingredients that are not healthy.  Many of the items on which food retailers make the most profit are unhealthy- salty snacks, soft drinks, seasonal candy, etc.  As a result, we have an epidemic of obesity related illnesses.  Yet, people in this country have the freedom to choose what they want to eat.  Retailers offer the solution, because they choose what they want to sell to their customers and how they want to educate people about what they are eating.

And another:

I don’t think that Nestle will dramatically change what they produce unless one thing happens, the consumer doesn’t buy it.  There are plenty of choices out there for healthier eating.  So if you want to eat healthier, then don’t buy the unhealthy foods.  I fell our family eats well and maintains a healthy diet.  However there still is nothing like a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich every now and then. Over 500 calories thank you very much.

Regarding another subject we've been discussing here on MNB, Steven Ritchey


JIT or Just In Time was born of a need to limit inventory in production plants.  It works very well in situations where production and material needs can be plan in advance, so the need for parts and other manufacturing materials can be planned in advance.  Assembly plants, particularly automotive assembly plants had deliveries planned down to the quarter hour, ideally so that just as the last unit was installed on a new car, the next shipment arrived and was placed at the assembly lines disposal.  JIT puts immense pressure on the suppliers as in a manufacturing facility, it frequently requires multi deliveries daily to the assembler.  You can see where this creates all kids of issues to be solved in receiving so many deliveries, daily, moving the goods to where they are needed in the plant, etc.

I don't know how feasible this would be in a retail setting, particularly in a supermarket retail setting where economies of scale demand buying so that you get your suppliers best price.

In a manufacturing concern, it doesn't matter how empty your supply shelves look, provided the stock arrives in time to keep the line operating, the consumer never sees that.

However, in a retail environment, particularly a supermarket, if a store looks empty, like it's controlling it's inventory and keep only what it sells, it looks like it's going out of business, not the message you want to give your customers who still shop in person, and at least in lots of the stores I call on, lot's of customers still are shopping in person.

So, it may work, but, it will have to be a program designed specifically for the retailer and maybe even for specific retailers and only for certain items.  

I know JIT will appeal to bean counters who are eyeing efficiency.  But, when it comes to efficiency or effectiveness, I'll take effectiveness.  I know, I'm paraphrasing what you have already written.  Keep in mind, this is an old retailer person talking, with several decades of experience in the old ways of doing business.

Sometimes there is a reason those old ways have lasted so long.

And, regarding price hikes in the meat business, MNB reader Dan Jones wrote:

In March and April of last year – as restaurants were forced to shut down – there was a glut of proteins available to grocery stores and prices were artificially low.  Here we are a year later and restaurants are able to fully open – and so the demand on proteins is high as foodservice pipelines are refilled.  Inflation is real and protein prices will be higher, but we are probably over-stating the true inflation number due to the chaos of the 2020 comps. 

Responding to the piece about the soon-to-come increase in postage costs, one MNB reader wrote:

I find it interesting that the USPS wants to raise rates.  This coming at a time that they are falling further behind in the via for mail delivery.  UPS, FedEx, Google are all thanking USPS for there direction.  How many Christmas cards will you send out this year???

And, regarding the latest case of an extortion attempt by foreign criminals, this one of JBS, the world's largest meat supplier, MNB reader Dale Tillotson wrote:

I feel that it is safe to say as ransomware continues to increase and it gets paid off by the victims, all consumers then become victims as the price is passed along the chain, that seems quite obvious to me. We need all be concerned.