business news in context, analysis with attitude

We wrote nice things the other day about Kash n’ Karry COO Shelley Broader and the company’s plans to convert to a new, fresh-oriented format that it is calling Sweetbay Supermarkets. However, one MNB user wasn’t convinced:

Isn't it a little ironic that a chain in Florida that has its categories managed and purchased in Maine has taken the position of being unique in its product assortment. I hope it’s more than rhetoric and Madison Avenue Marketing.

The Maine company referred to, of course, is Hannaford Brothers; both Hannaford and Kash n’ Karry – as well as Food Lion – are owned by Belgium’s Delhaize.

However, our understanding of the way that Kash n’ Karry interacts with Hannaford is that actual procurement for the Florida company is done in Maine, but that category management and responsibility for assortment and pricing is done in Tampa. Kash n’ Karry has a VP of Merchandising and director level positions in all major departments. The arrangement’s goal is to allow the folks in Tampa to focus on finding unique products that cater to the local and ethnic scene. Broader once explained to us that it makes a lot more sense to have Hannaford negotiate with the Procter & Gambles and Kraft Foods of the world, and let the buyers and category managers in Florida be responsible for finding the products that will differentiate the company.

Made sense to us.

We also got email responding to our commentary about the fact that Kash n’ Karry is served well by the fact that Broader is a “foodie”:

I agree with your assessment that more retailers should either attend culinary school or at least have a passion for food, new products and the competitive fire to challenge larger more established chains. Not only do we need more retailers to be "foodies" but we also need more food savvy suppliers who instead of selling slotting and ad programs they are out selling new ideas on helping the consumer make easier choices as they roam the aisles of what are at best difficult supermarkets to shop.

The arena today that dictates giving away margin on both the supplier side and the retailer side to be placed into weekly flyers has both parties scrambling for money. If a product misses the feature cycle its' potential for long-term growth is small. Some way, some how the entire industry has to answer the consumer's need for ease of shopping, knowledge on creating delicious, nutritious meals and understanding that there are truly hundreds of products that can make the cooking experience only last thirty minutes or less.

We got the following email in response to a guest column written by The Hartman Group’s Jarrett Paschel, in which he described “low cultural legitimacy” ascribed to low-carb diets.

Disclaimer - I'm not on a low-carb diet, and I don't work for Atkins...

The people the Hartman group quoted about the low-carb craze are simply misinformed. If you read up on these diets, the "no carb" portion is only for the first two weeks, followed by "a few more carbs", and so on, ending in a maintenance plan that certainly includes carbs, simply not the refined variety. Meaning that you can enjoy regular whole wheat pasta and bread, beans, legumes, brown rice, etc, simply not in the portion sizes that restaurants like to offer. The correct portion size is on the back of the box, for crying out loud!

The general idea: Avoid "empty carbs" - white sugar, white pasta, white rice, white bread....and we have all heard that many times before.

The companies that are offering low-carb versions of regular products would do well by simply eliminating added sugar to things like salad dressings and pasta sauces - and "low carb" candy bars and bread, well, that's just stupid.

Also - the Hartman group is VERY wrong about malt beverages. All of those "Seagram's Coolers", 'Jack Daniels" coolers, etc are malt beverages. They are marketed to kids, which is why you'd be ridiculed for bringing them to a party, not because there's no appeal. Zima was just ahead of their time. I'm not making a judgment of these products; I don't drink them - but I want to make sure that the facts are out there.

Regarding a piece the other day about a partnership being struck between Nestle and the American Diabetes Association, one MNB user wrote:

I was only reading the other day about a program Wegmans started up in late 1997 -- "Partnership for Health". It involved Wegmans, a hospital, and a disease management company, and between the 3 they provided intensive nutritional counseling and health monitoring for diabetics in the grocery store itself (does anybody know if this is still running / expanded to other disorders / been successful???), and then saw the commentary on Nestle today.

It is interesting to see how Nestle have approached this. While cynics seem to be pointing out what Nestle have done wrong in this case (and the $100K donation), let's not forget that at least it is a step forward in the right direction. Perhaps the "Carb Select" bar may not be better for us non diabetics -- but at least now we have a choice.

Regarding Martha Stewart and the book she reportedly plans to write about “how to” cope with the legal system when you are being prosecuted, one MNB user observed:

When I have to drive somewhere in the middle of the day I listen to Rush Limbaugh because he is the best entertainment on radio at that time of day. However, one day he said something that really had an impact on me. Martha Stewart's crime was lying to the government - and she is paying dearly for it. Bill Clinton also lied to the government - but he isn't serving any time. My view -the government lies to us, why shouldn't we be allowed to lie to them?

Well, it seems to us that there are a lot of issues to debate here…

First, can we all agree that lying is wrong, no matter how or when you do it? That seems like a good place to start.

That said, some lies get prosecuted, and others don’t. That’s a fact of life. If all lies got prosecuted, we’d have to build bigger jails and the nation would need to have more lawyers…and we’re pretty sure that’s a road we don’t want to follow.

Also, plenty of people lie to the government, at least once a year. It’s called income taxes.

Then again, given his recent legal problems, maybe Limbaugh is feeling particularly simpatico to Stewart these days.

Finally, you need to move someplace where you can listen to “Mike and the Mad Dog.”

Contributing to the whole “Wal-Mart likes Bush, Costco likes Kerry” discussion, one MNB user wrote:

I am a Wal-Mart hating, Costco shopping Republican. Only in America. I was talking to my 5-year-old son last night about the presidential race. He likes John Kerry because of all the press coverage of him on vacation biking, sailing, shooting, etc. He asked me if that was ok, and I told him that was what freedom is all about.

It is sad that we divide this country into two camps. If I were a good Rush Limbaugh republican, I couldn't shop at Costco anymore, based on this study.

Here's the deal...if you promise not to make fun of my Christian values, I promise not to laugh at your Birkenstocks next time I see you at Costco. (How's that for stereotyping?)

Your newsletter is some of the best reading out there today. Keep up the good work. I eagerly await your stuff each and every day.

Well, thanks. (Though we were a little worried about the Birkenstock crack…never having worn or owned a pair, and not even really knowing what they look like…)

We have to admit that this is the first time we’ve gotten two emails in one day in which Rush Limbaugh’s name came up. And it illustrates something that we are a little concerned about – political debate becoming front-and-center on MNB. We prefer to sort of stay away from politics, sex and religion as subjects for discussion - - in all three things, we’ve always been of the “whatever gets you through the night” persuasion - if only because they are topics about which debate can become rancorous and personal, and offense can be taken even when none is meant.

However, politics is about to become a major national issue here in the US with the presidential campaigns going into the home stretch into the fall, and complete avoidance may be impossible. So here’s our ground rule – we’re willing to engage in political reportage and analysis only in so far as it connects to the business, science and art of retailing.

Make sense?

Finally, some kind comments about yesterday’s obituary for Al Lees Jr., who died earlier this week at 75.

MNB user Janice Coon wrote:

Great write up, Kevin...Great man. Well done. Thank you.

MNB user Howard Solganik wrote:

Al was the best. Always a mentor, always looking for the new idea and very proud of his family, his store and the HUGE lobsters he could serve to friends when they visited with him. I’ll miss him.

And, unexpectedly, we got a note from his son, Albert Lees III:

Thank you for your kind words about my father. He was all of that plus more and will be missed by many. I know how much he thoroughly enjoyed his times at the conferences and his friendship with you, and of course, Marv (Imus).

While he was in many respects a dinosaur, remember that crocodiles, as dinosaur throwbacks, have continued to survive.

My best to you and keep up your great work on MorningNewsBeat. I enjoy
it every day.

That means more than you know.

Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Your father was a sterling example of this philosophy, and offers in memory a role model for all of us.
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