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• BIGresearch has come out with the results of a new survey saying that consumers entered 2009 “with relatively renewed hope for the future of the economy…in January, 24.7% indicated they were confident/very confident in chances for a strong economy, rising from last month’s dismal 20.0% and the highest reading since September ’08 (28.3%). The recession has taken its toll, though…this month’s figure is almost ten points lower than a year ago (33.5%) and less than half of the January ’07 reading (50.5%).”

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Aldi is cranking up its US expansion plans “and seizing on the economic downturn to lure consumers to its spartan stores and cheap groceries. The discount chain will open at least 75 U.S. stores this year, well above its typical pace, including its first Aldi store in New York City. The company is counting on the economic downturn to crash a traditional barrier to the U.S. grocery business: Americans tend to be loyal to big-name brands.”

Newsday reports that Penn Traffic Co. will close seven stores in upstate New York and one in Vermont “as part of its ongoing consolidation.” The units will close on or before February 7; the announcement comes a month after Penn Traffic sold its wholesale business to C&S Wholesale Grocers.

• Campbell Soup Co. has announced that it is lowering the sodium levels in a dozen soups designed for children, which will allow the reformulated products to meet government standards to be labeled as “healthy.”

Including in the reformulation list are Double Noodle and Chicken & Stars. The company said it now has 78 soups at healthy levels of sodium.

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