business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about vandalism that plagued a number of Starbucks stores in San Francisco, apparently perpetrated by a group that is concerned both by the company's ubiquity and the demise of local coffee shops. This piece generated a number of emails…

MNB user Terri Nowakowski wrote:

I think we all saw Fight Club. I'll admit the forged letter was a slight twist, but other than that, the act was very Project Mayhem-esque. I guess creativity is suffering among socially responsible rebels.

Another MNB user wrote:

That BLF "Bean Liberation Front" plays hard ball!

And yet another MNB user chimed in:

I am surprised you had no comment on the Starbucks story.... I am ashamed to say I went to high school with the general manager of a Starbucks location in CT, I will not disclose which one... and when I sent her this story yesterday she didn't get it. She actually thought the group that was responsible was complaining about the quality of the beans they use.

Okay, so some Starbucks managers are a couple of ounces short of a venti latte…

We didn't comment on the story yesterday, quite frankly, because we couldn’t think of anything to say. (Doesn't happen often, so go figure…)

On the one hand, we wouldn’t want to say anything that would suggest that we sympathize with the vandals…but we sort of understand where they are coming from. They are protesting a kind of national homogenization…and we agree with those concerns, if not their methods.

Yesterday, MNB reported that a Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Report From the 2003 Supermarket Pharmacy Survey says that as American consumers sought more health products and information from their local food retailers, supermarket pharmacies continued to experience the fastest retail pharmacy growth rate in 2002.

MNB user Bill Duncan responded:

I'm not an expert and I know that the folks at FMI know a whole lot more about this than I do, but it seems to me that their report on Supermarket Pharmacy sales is a bit optimistic and that their members might be better served by relating the current flat or declining sales results to the big picture in Pharmacy Sales. To my inexperienced eye, something is going to have to give in this business. Maybe it's already happening to Supermarkets.

The Major Drug companies CVS and Walgreens continue to add hundreds of stores each year often on opposing street corners. Unlike the supermarket pharmacy sales, their sales continue to grow on a same store comparison basis, with the majority of each store's sales being Pharmacy. Wal-Mart continues it's huge expansion as do Target, Costco, and Sam's Each of these stores picks up huge pharmacy volume. Add to that the booming e-commerce sales skimming off the top sales of many of the leading drugs.

Prescription Drug demand is growing rapidly, but a limit is going to be reached at some point and maybe it is time for Supermarkets to step up the marketing of their Pharmacies. After all, every loyal supermarket shopper that is not using their favorite store's pharmacy is actually buying from someone else. And probably those purchases from another company include purchase of additional items that the Supermarket could sell. It seems to me that the pharmacy add-on sale might be an easier one that attracting the basic customer in the first place.

We had a couple of obesity-related stories yesterday, one related to McDonald's Australia bringing out a new menu and nutrition labeling, and another about Frito-Lay working with Dr. Kenneth Cooper on creating a new label for "smart snacks." We noted that you could just feel the momentum shifting on these issues, and MNB user Carlene A. Thissen responded:

You are absolutely right about the momentum shifting toward healthier foods. This could change the competitive landscape among CPGs of all kinds as they introduce more healthful line extensions; and success could come down to how fast these manufacturers move. Those who hesitate in that land grab could lose. The retailers must be salivating at the thought of all those slotting fees!

And another MNB user agreed:

And all because some horrible lawyer brought an "unneccessary" suit. Sometimes you have to do something bold that will get attention. Unfortunately, it seems that in order to get the attention of most big companies, you have to go after what matters to them most - money.

MNB user George Morrow emailed us a story from the California Daily Bulletin, noting that the story quoted Stater Bros. CEO Jack Brown on why the company made the Consumer Reports top 10 list of food retailers:

Brown said:

    "We had no knowledge that there had even been a survey and were pleasantly surprised that we are first in Southern California and ninth in America. It's all due to the Stater Bros. family of employees, who have worked hard to serve the customers who responded to this survey and rated us this high…"

    Brown said stores, locations and prices are important, "but it's our people -- it always comes back to the employees. Our people are the best-groomed, neatest-looking and hardest- working people in the supermarket industry, and that is how we've been able to survive the attempts to take our customers by the larger chains. We don't forget we do it one customer at a time at one checkstand."

    "The communities we serve sense we are a part of the community. We're homegrown and our roots are here. We don't just do business here, we are part of the community."

Works for us…

We had a story earlier this week about a new breakfast item brought out by Quaker, and quoted some statistics used by USAToday. In response, we got the following email from Quaker's Susan Schreiber Wolfe:

Please note, the USA Today article contained an error regarding the fat content for the Squares. There is only 1 gram of saturated fat in this product. There are 4 grams of fat in Quaker Oatmeal Breakfast Squares which constitutes just 6 percent of the daily value for fat. There are 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat in each square, this means almost half of the fat is monounsaturated - the type of dietary fat recommended for heart health. We'd love to get this correction made as soon as possible on your Web site.


We had a piece yesterday detailing how Indian lawmakers in New Delhi have called for a ban on the sale of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, saying that the soft drinks contain dangerous levels of pesticide residue. Both companies have denied the allegations. The charges are based on a report that said that the levels of pesticides in PepsiCo brands tested 36 times higher than European Union standards, wile the Coke brands are 30 times higher,

While the report conceded that Indian brands also have high pesticide levels because agricultural pesticides are in the country's ground water, it focused on Coke and Pepsi because they account for more than 75 percent of the bottled soft drinks consumed in India - and because their US versions contain no pesticides.

One MNB user responded:

Let me see if I got this straight. Coke and Pepsi, and apparently any beverages using the local water contain pesticides? So the problem in the local water right?

So let's run the two U.S. companies out...surely that will solve the problem.

Does anyone know the Hindu word for DUH?????

We reported recently on the burgeoning Oklahoma wine industry…and got this email yesterday from MNB user Brian Richardson:

Just wanted you to know that I actually enjoyed a nice 2003 (har har) Tidal School cabernet straight from the vineyards of Stroud, Oklahoma last night. I figured I had a moral obligation to try these new Oklahoma wines,
considering I am a local.

It had a nice corn mash overtone with a little cedar aftertaste (cedar kegs don't warp when left outside behind the chicken house). Just kidding.

It was actually very good. I was quite surprised, and I can't wait to try others. I would definitely buy this one again.

It still doesn't beat moonshine.

We also had a story this week about a new restaurant concept, Seasons 52, which specializes in entrees that are less than 500 calories. One MNB user thought this was a great idea:

Pickup joint for models? What's the address????

Hey…we're supposed to be doing the jokes here…
KC's View: