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We had a story yesterday about a Coca-Cola employee who allegedly was fired for drinking Diet Pepsi. (He also was a union organizer, which raises other issues.) The union is taking legal action, Coke is denying the charges, and it'll get messier before it gets less so.

Regardless of whether the charges are true, the subject caught the imagination of a number of MNB users.

One MNB user (who asked not to be identified because Pepsi is a client) wrote:

Based on my own experience I tend to think that the individual involved was fired for being caught with the Diet Pepsi. The fact that he was a union steward probably had nothing to do with it. I have seen how intense loyalty can be in the Soft Drink community.
A former employee of mine had worked for the local Coke bottler before coming to work for me. To him, being able to openly drink Pepsi again was a fringe benefit of the position. He was very concerned that he would get caught and fired.
When I was small, my father worked for Coke USA, their fountain sales division, for eight years. I was once grounded for getting caught with a Mountain Dew.

Today I am a pretty loyal Diet Coke drinker. My father, however, today drinks Diet Pepsi. I still give him a hard time about the grounding.

Sometimes this world becomes so silly you really have to laugh at our behavior.

In our commentary yesterday, we wrote that "as a matter of policy, we don’t understand why anyone being paid by a certain company would drink another company's product. It just doesn't make sense."

Not everyone agreed.

One MNB user wrote:

Your comment that it makes no sense for a person being paid by a certain company to drink another company's product is puzzling. Based on that logic an employee of any restaurant chain would be prohibited from eating at any other establishment no matter how sick they become from eating the same food for years. Should an employee of a grocery chain be fired if they were caught shopping in a competitor's store that offered lower prices and merchandise not available at the company store? Should an employee of a clothing manufacturer be reprimanded for wearing another brand? If a low paid employee of a high priced automobile manufacturer or dealership can't afford to purchase the products they sell should they be forced to ride a bicycle rather than park another brand on the company lot? What happened to personal freedoms and the right to choose? The beverage companies are the only companies I have ever heard of that routinely fire their employees if they don't use their products exclusively. I suppose Phillip Morris should make all of their employees take up smoking to maintain a strong bottom line.

Another MNB user was equally outraged at our point of view:

You have to be kidding right? What does it really matter to a company if of it’s employees enjoy a competitive brand? You are way out there on a limb. Sounds a lot like left wing capitalism to me. Is the company ego so frail that it cannot accept that someone might enjoy a different brand? Maybe the company should find out what it is that this employee likes about the competitive product and work on overcoming that issue.

Since when is the moral contract between an employee and employer hinged on using the company's products. As a manager, I witnessed extreme prejudice of a secretary that brought in a competitive company’s name on something that she was bringing into the office to consume for her lunch. The upper management noted in a meeting that she illustrated an un-loyal attitude toward the company. I spoke up in her defense and asked the question, what does it matter to us if she prefers another brand. Her ability to do her job was not increased or decreased by her choice of food. If companies want total loyalty, then start acting on behalf of their employees in a way that illustrates their total care for the life style of their work force… Right, I didn’t think they would want to go that far. It is pure ego that drives their concern. Typical of large company mentality. They have gone too far on this one.

Clearly the upper management of the company, in my opinion was both insensitive to the diversity of their employee and also very immature as leaders. True leadership would see the bigger picture and not the small issue of personal taste. It shocks me at times to hear management's position on issues such as this. Employers pay for the working time of their employees, and should have no issues of what people prefer to consume (food) as part of their employment.

My suggestion to any company so small thinking is to retool their leadership and start looking at the greater good of their employees (their best assets) and spend less time flexing their management power. It is such small time thinking.


Let's all take a deep breath.

First of all, we don’t know what Coke did or didn’t do.

Second, our commentary didn't suggest that people should be fired for consuming a competitive product, nor that companies should even look askance at them. Basically, we were just saying that if we worked for Coke, we'd think it is our best interest to consume Coke products…and if we worked for Pepsi, we'd drink Pepsi.

(Mrs. Content Guy got a good laugh out of the implication that we have a "big company mentality." She wishes.)

Now, that doesn't mean that if we worked for McDonald's we'd never eat anywhere else, or that if we worked for Gap we'd only wear khakis with the Gap label. That's just silly, and is a little different than choosing from a line of soft drinks. And suggesting that our logic means that people who work at Philip Morris should be forced to smoke…well, you haven't been paying attention to our many rants against the tobacco companies. (Don't get us started…)

We believe in the exercise of free choice. But guess what? If we worked for Marriott, we'd do our level best not to stay in a competitive hotel. And if we worked for Albertsons, we'd certainly do the bulk of our grocery shopping there.

Why is this such a bizarre notion?

Onto other subjects…

Regarding yesterday's story about a reported drop in Canadian confidence about their beef supply, MNB user Al Kober wrote:

As usual, these surveys only tell what they said to specifically asked questions. Lets just watch the numbers and see if what they say is really what they are doing.

We share your cynicism.

Regarding the licensing of the Special K name for a line of women's clothing, we asked yesterday if women actually going to want the name of the cereal they eat on the clothing they wear?

One MNB user (a woman) wrote:

Only if it's free!

Another MNB user wrote:

Cereal Names, Sport Star Names, Designer names, Trademarks, Whatever. Look at the wardrobes in your family, I'll bet there are a fair number of pieces with some logo or other licensed mark on them. We're all walking billboards. It doesn't really seem to matter what the product or association is, just whether the design is appealing.

We suppose so. Though with the exception of our Tommy Bahama shirts, New Balance shoes and socks, MorningNewsBeat t-shirts, and LLBean jeans and shorts, we try and stay away from recognizable labels…


And MNB user Jim Swoboda had another idea:

I cannot wait for the Rice Krispies line of clothing. I have always thought that I could use some "snap, crackle and pop"!

Not being familiar with your sartorial choices, we'll take your word for it.

We had a story yesterday about how Procter & Gamble is changing the way it approaches the development of advertising that will appeal to the nation's African-American community, combining the efforts of these specialized campaigns and ad agencies with the broader mass-market pitches. In addition, P&G will start sponsoring campaigns aimed at black consumers for about a dozen big brands like Bounty, Charmin, Folgers, Pampers and Pringles, which did not have separate campaigns before, which will mean an increase in spending on such ads.

We thought this was a good idea, but apparently some MNB users thought we were off our game yesterday. MNB user Ken Carlson wrote:

How is this a good thing? Was it a good thing when cigarette companies and alcohol producers focused on black communities? I understand alcohol and cigarettes are not the same as overpriced junk food and household goods, but is it really a step forward?

Actually, we yearn for the day when ad campaigns won’t be black or white or Hispanic…but we do think it is a step forward when major companies recognize that the fabric of the American populace is changing colors, and makes changes that focus on more people.

And comparing cigarettes to Pringles seems a little extreme…though there probably are some anti-obesity activists who would disagree.

Regarding Fleming's deciding to close three divisions and accept bids for the remainder of the company, one MNB user wrote:

Is this a sign of the times? Or just poor management and execution. Are there lessons to be learned for all of us as we seek to improve shareholder value? Sure hope so.

The converse of the Dizzy Dean quote above is that if you have bad lucky and lousy talent, there's almost no way to survive. Which may be the best you can say about some people in Fleming management.

Yesterday's story about a recall of various chicken products because of glass in the items prompted the following email:

Somehow this is totally baffling to me...where does glass even get CLOSE to packaging chicken?

Just because our last name is Coupe doesn't mean we have the answer to all chicken questions.

We had a piece yesterday about Dale Riley taking over Roundy's new Rainbow Stores in Minnesota, prompting MNB user Ted File to write:

Excellent decision. We all know what Dale accomplished with Byerly's and certainly wish him the best as he undertakes a real challenge with the Rainbow stores.

Agreed. We've written before that Dale is one of the real good guys in food retailing, and we wish him luck…

In response to last week's story about how a new study by the International Council for Science (ICSU) says that while genetically modified foods are safe to eat, there are greater concerns about the long-term impact they will have on the environment., one MNB user wrote:

Perhaps the larger issues of the impact of GM on agriculture and agribusiness as a whole are where we might want to enlighten readers and the population as a whole. GM product will NOT prevent starvation. The issues of hunger and starvation are far more complex than simply modifying a crop to an environment. Secondly, I would talk to soybean farmers in South America about how they feel about GM product these days? The fact is that the GM dream of financial freedom and guaranteed yields and pricing for farmers is sadly not true. And for farmers who outright choose not to grow GM crops, they have the pleasure of being sued for having GM product growing in their field which they did not plant.

In response to yesterday's piece about mini-watermelons in supermarkets, a product we described as being "new and Interesting" and therefore a customer generator, MNB user Julia Hidy wrote:

I would think that "interesting and new" may only have short-term gain for most retailers and their consumers. Not wanting to drag, balance or carry a behemoth melon at the same time I'm dragging 30 -50 lbs. of other groceries home is more important to me. And wanting to consume the freshest watermelon possible and buy fresh melon(s), when needed - either for a small family or single person -makes mini melons a sensible choice.

How many of us have thrown out excess produce? I wouldn't mind if more supermarkets would give us a choice of small vs. elephant-sized cabbages, normal vs. on steroids cauliflowers, or fresh bags of potatoes that I don't need a SUV or station wagon for cartage. Well-priced produce doesn't do me any good if I have to trash half of it. And retailers that address these issues get my repeat grocery business. Vive la petit difference.


And finally, our favorite email of the week so far was in response to yesterday's story about the Wrigley company developing a new gum with the same chemical that is used in Viagra.

Watch for an increase in choking deaths due to this new gum. Most people can't walk and chew gum at the same time, how are they going to have sex and chew gum simultaneously?

And no, that email wasn't written by Mrs. Content Guy!

As you read this, we're probably landing in Barcelona (if all has gone well). We'll be providing coverage of the annual CIES World Food Business Summit (and no doubt indulging in some tapas along the way…we'll keep you informed).

"Hasta manana!"
KC's View: