business news in context, analysis with attitude

On Friday, we posted a story about how the vegetarian diet advocacy group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court in Los Angeles against seven restaurant chains claiming the companies are violating the state's Proposition 65, which “requires businesses to provide a clear and reasonable warning if they expose consumers to carcinogenic chemicals.” The group says that grilled chicken products made by the chains contain a compound called PhIP, which is on the state’s list of carcinogens.

Our comment:

We know this isn’t entirely fair, but whenever we read about the vegetarian agenda preached by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, we always wonder if these physicians might be more useful, say, inoculating and treating poor children in a third world nation, as opposed to filing lawsuits designed to get people to stop eating meat. We only ask this because it seems sometimes that the way things are, the Physicians Committee ends up being most helpful to lawyers and their bank accounts.

So, we got an email a couple of hours later from Mindy Kursban, the General Counsel and Executive Director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which read as follows:

As General Counsel for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, I would like to clarify a couple things in your report of our lawsuit concerning carcinogens in grilled chicken. Our lawsuits are brought by in house counsel and usually, whenever permitted by law, ask for injunctive relief, not damages. There are no lawyers getting rich from our lawsuits, nor does PCRM make any money as a result of these suits. In regard to the importance of these suits, you might be interested to learn that the consumption of animal products is linked to many chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer, and others that are some of the leading causes of death in this country.

Well, we said we weren’t being entirely fair.

But we would point out that we weren’t just suggesting that the Physicians Committee’s lawyers might be getting rich. How about all the lawyers defending the companies and people that it is suing?

And don’t in-house lawyers (including General Counsels/Executive Directors) get paid salaries? (Probably pretty good ones, too.)

But maybe we were being too unfair in doubting PCRM’s motivations in filing such suits. But, just maybe, there have to be better ways to improve the human condition.


We also have continued discussion about the analyst who questioned the efficiency of Whole Foods carrying so many SKUs, and the MNB users who pointed out that this variety is exactly why Whole Foods is successful.

MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:

We already have several successful food retailers that offer a "limited SKU/high turn" assortment for both their customers and investors. They include Aldi, Costco, Sam's, and Trader Joes All of these retailers have developed loyal customer bases because the limited assortment is part of what these shoppers want in their shopping experience. Investors that recognize the value of these formats are free to invest in their future growth if they are not confident in the investment value of retailers with wider assortments.

On the other hand, we have retailers with more extensive assortments which are stocked to match their strategic objectives and targeted consumers. Whole Foods is one such retailer. Simply put, they sell the products that they do because these are the items that they have determined that their targeted shoppers want to buy in their stores. Or, they put specialty products on their shelves because their strategy is to have these item for the customers that may be looking for it, even if it means making the section look full. They are selling perception as well as actual commodities.

Actually, one could argue that is a very successful retailer that offers their customers an extensive assortment of slower moving SKU's. They are successful, and I would bet that they "stock" some SKU's that sell a minimal number of units in a long time period. Amazon is also considered a good investment.

That's what makes our particular corner of the business world so much fun.

And another MNB user wrote:

Just a little vision from a vendor that sells to both small boutique stores as well as the "Big Guys"

Sometimes the lack of SKU's, lack of product, or lack of variety in the Big Guy stores is because they beat up on the vendors so bad.

They want: slotting fees, IT placement fees, free promotional product, alleged coupon discounting, lower prices to enable them to have out of line higher mark-ups, and then on top of everything else credits for "breakage" and "out of date product".

We have to keep out prices so low and put up with all the charge backs if we want to do business with them.

The smaller stores i.e. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc. carry our products because the consumer wants it and work closely with us so everybody makes a "fair" profit (Please remember while "profit" is not a dirty word, "fair profit" is even cleaner.)

KC's View: