business news in context, analysis with attitude

In this month’s edition of Facts, Figures & The Future, Phil Lempert addresses what happens when municipalities decide to ban trans fats:

“The controversy over a city or state's right to prohibit certain ingredients or foods, is not an easy debate. There are strong willed proponents on both sides. And it appears that the trans fat ban is also opening the door for other food restrictions.

“Last month's hearing in New York City also included a proposal that would require the restaurants in the city to list calories.

“Now this proposal was not as hyped as the board's recommendation to prohibit trans fat - but much like it, the passage of this proposal by the city would create the nation's strictest system of calorie disclosure in restaurants…

“This and the furor over the proposed trans fat ban will lead the discussions throughout the rest of the nation on the extent to which public policy should be used to revise people's diets. Voting on the proposal will happen in December and if passed would likely take effect July 1st.

“Question is, how long will it take until the foods that are sold in supermarket delis, prepared foods and on our shelves be dealt the same legislation; and how will our shoppers react?”

In another F3 story, Anne-Marie Roerink, director of research for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), writes about the economic performance of the supermarket industry:

“Larger companies outperformed smaller ones with net profits of 1.56 percent versus 1.16 percent. It appears that independents have not been able to maintain the sales and profit increases achieved two years ago. In fact, net profits for the group comprised of the smallest companies (annual sales of less than $25 million) actually dropped compared with last year. In addition, this group reported much lower capital expenditures and increased their short-term and long-term debt.”

And, Roerink writes: “Every year, a small group of retailers outpace the pack with profits at two or even three times as high as the industry as a whole. These profit leaders continue to demonstrate two key factors: they have much lower debt structures and reinvest more of their profits back in the business. These are the exact opposite results than those found among the smaller-size companies. As a result, the profit leaders are increasingly made up by larger companies.”

In yet another story, F3 writes about a new ACNielsen study saying that “eighty-two percent of Americans say they blame themselves for being overweight, rather than passing the buck to fast food chains, food manufacturers and retail food companies. To break this down further, 29 percent of consumers said that the lack of exercise is the biggest contributor to people's being obese or overweight, while 19 percent said too much junk food availability is the cause. Eighteen percent of respondents said that modern life is too convenient or easy, making it harder for people to make the effort to lose weight, while 12 percent said that people don't care about good nutrition.

“Despite the fact that Americans sometimes are characterized as wanting to blame others for their misfortunes or the conditions in which they find themselves, respondents actually illustrated exactly the opposite trend - just one percent of those surveyed said that the lack of legal actions against the food industry was responsible for the national obesity problem, and just two percent said that a lack of educational information was a factor leading to weight gain.”

And, there’s much more.

To get your copy of F3, go to:

F3 is a joint production of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), ACNielsen, and Phil Lempert.

(Full disclosure: MNB Content Guy Kevin Coupe is a contributor to F3.)
KC's View: