business news in context, analysis with attitude

Continued discussion about whether manufacturer should lead or follow. We had an email posted yesterday in which an MNB user said, “Since when is a food manufacturer developing products that consumers demand? The reverse is true. They develop products with the hope that consumers will (with education or exposure) demand them.”

MNB user David Wiles chimed in:

This is so true. The cost to develop a "new" product, test it, create the package, build the TV and print ads, sell in to the accounts (with slotting allowances and other cost) pay to merchandise (Safeway SCOP & Albertson shelf placement charges whish is called a 'fair share') all in the hope to find the next SKU that people may want.

The consumer didn't "demand" these products, yet approximately 80 percent of the products on the shelf today are these products that the manufacture created in hopes to capture some of the consumer dollars. How many cans of soup or cereal are really need to meet the needs of the consumer? How many boxes of soap? Yet manufacturers keep coming out with "newer and better" stuff.

The consumer didn't demand these products.

We got a number of emails about our story about how some, but not all, alcohol manufacturers are pushing to have nutritional information placed on their products’ labels.

MNB user Josiah Mueller wrote:

It's about time the alcohol beverage industry should begin playing by the same rules as the rest of the food industry. If bottled water is required to be labeled with nutritional information, then so should beer, wine, or any other beverage for that matter.

And another MNB user wrote:

It's amazing that alcoholic beverages have eluded the labeling regulations for all other consumable products! I am all for labeling these beverages in the same responsible fashion.

On the subject of Winn-Dixie paying lawyers and consultants millions of dollars to help it get out of bankruptcy, we commented that the money might be better spent on people who work in the stores. We got a number of Winn-Dixie-related emails…

MNB user David Livingston wrote:

I just returned from another post hurricane trip to New Orleans.

Some of Winn Dixie's best (and worst) stores sit idle. Some are being restored while others have just been boarded up permanently. Some of the outlying stores are reporting sales increases of 100% or more while the other nearby competitors are up only 33% to 50%. I've been puzzled by this. Why would these rural Winn Dixie's increase in volume at a higher rate than the other competitors? The only thing I can come up with is the name recognition they had in New Orleans.

Many of the evacuees had never been out of New Orleans in their life and had never heard of the supermarkets in their new surroundings, except for Winn Dixie. I don't expect this to last. A good competitor is not going to let the likes of a Winn Dixie run away with a free pass for too long.

MNB user Kuhrt J. Hahn wrote:

For that amount of $$ THEY should be bagging groceries , working in the Deli or bringing in New Customers, for Winn-Dixie…

We had a story about a study suggesting that Americans eat and use organics at a far lower rate than people in 37 other major countries, prompting MNB user Melanie Keller to write:

Perhaps the bigger issue is availability of organic foods here in the US vs. elsewhere. Living in a smaller city our choices of organic product are limited. We have 1 health food store that is approximately the size of a 53 foot trailer which makes it quite unappealing to shop there.

Organic products are interspersed sparingly in our grocery stores. Not only are they hard to find - selection isn't the greatest. It gets better each year - but until we have a larger available offering - we'll lag behind by default.

Another MNB user wrote:

I don't know how retail food is presented in other cultures, but, in the U.S., for the most part, you have to pick the "nutritional attribute" that is most important to you. In other words, it's next to impossible to find a low-sodium, low-fat, organic product (fresh veggies & fruits aside). It's one of those attributes, that's it. Next time you're in a store, check out the sodium levels in organic canned soup. They are absolutely out-of-sight. Like 900+ mg in one serving, w/a can = 2 servings, for a whopping 1800+ mg in that can. Yet Healthy Choice soups average about 250mg in one serving = about 500mg for the entire can. So, I go w/Healthy Choice soup even though I would pay the price of the organic soups. What's the point of buying organic if that one can of soup puts you over the top for your entire daily intake of sodium?

And MNB user Philip Herr wrote:

I am of the opinion that there are several reasons underlying the US consumers' lack of interest in organic foods:

• Nutritional "fatigue". There are just so many contradictory studies on which foods are good or bad (and constant switching) that I believe consumers are tired and thus tune out.

• There is no evidence (despite the above comment) that organic foods are more nutritious.

• Organic foods tend to look less uniform and attractive. This is changing, but is true is certain categories.

• Additives and supplements are more interesting reflecting the "presence of" rather than "absence of". Ever since the advent of unleaded gas, consumers have been suspicious of paying more for less -- why should the absence of pesticides or fertilizers be worth paying more for?

• And our overall lack of concern with the environment. Why in the land of SUV's and ATV's would we care about protecting farmland? After all, wasn't it the natural style of farming that lead to the dustbowl in the great depression? Once "unnatural farming" was introduced, yields dramatically increased and America became the food basket to the world -- why suddenly distrust that?

MNB also had a story yesterday about a study linking moderate drinking with lower obesity rates. MNB user Swen Neufeldt responded:

Regarding moderate drinking and obesity, it sounds like school performance and breakfast. Parents that care enough to give their children a good balanced breakfast in the morning are probably the ones that also care about their children's school work. Perhaps those that enjoy a glass of wine or two with dinner also are more careful about that they put on the table to complement that beverage. Hmmmmm.

Another MNB user wrote:

The statistician in me cringes when I read articles like this. The phrase "correlated but not causal" screams from the page.

I'd suggest that moderate drinkers have inherently more self-control than heavy drinkers, and are therefore more likely to resist the urge to overeat. Drinking less alcohol doesn't cause these people to be less obese (though fewer calories from alcohol probably plays a part), drinking less alcohol is probably just another manifestation of the same personality trait that leads these people to be less obese.

That being said, I can't postulate an explanation for the obesity/no drinking link. Maybe those people are just stressed beyond belief and eat to relieve it. Prosit!

On the subject of Sears not getting into the discounting/promotion game for the holiday season, MNB user E J Mangas wrote:

Reading about Sears offering little or less generous discounts reminded me of Larry Johnston’s comments about Albertsons protecting their margins some time ago-and now they are for sale.

Gee, what a coincidence!

Finally, we got a number of emails about Tyson’s decision to post on its website free, downloadable booklets offering mealtime prayers of thanks appropriate for a variety of faiths.

One MNB user wrote:

I just wanted to comment for any of your readers out there who might be skeptical on the article regarding Tyson's faith-friendliness -- it's the real deal. I'm a daughter of a Tyson employee, and I've seen this in the works over the past several years. The article in your column doesn't mention that they are doing the same things within the company as well... people may not know that Tyson employs chaplains for its plants. I know from personal experience that they make sure that each employee's religious needs are met, and I really admire the company for successfully being faith-friendly to every faith in a world where the phrase "Merry Christmas" is up for debate. I don't know whether any readers might reply to the contrary regarding my stance, but a sincere effort counts in my book.

Another MNB user had a somewhat different feeling…

Maybe they should post a prayer in the Executive Dining room asking for Divine Assistance in directing their business ethics. Should the prayer be addressed to the Patron Saint of hopeless causes? They should quit preaching and start practicing.
KC's View: