business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, in letters about the Bi-Lo bankruptcy, MNB user David Livingston called the retailer “just another sterile Winn Dixie-esque grocer stuck in no-man's land between Wal-Mart/Aldi and Harris Teeter/Publix. Just like Winn Dixie, they've been around for a zillion years, supported all the local sports teams, fell asleep at the wheel, and have driven off a cliff.”

In retrospect, I probably should have called Livingston on what now seems like a gratuitous slam on Winn-Dixie, which is doing a lot better these days than a lot of people – me included –probably expected. But I didn’t…which is why we have an MNB community.

MNB user Glenn E. Harmon wrote:

I certainly don’t expect you to print this, but since you consistently praise Publix and “constructively criticize” Winn-Dixie, I thought you might be interested in this…

I wrote to Winn-Dixie CEO Peter Lynch the other day and complimented him on WD’s improvements. The store by my house is nice. It’s farther than Publix, but I like it better. At the same time, I copied Charles Jenkins and Ed Crenshaw on my e-mail and related how I had always believed that Publix was higher priced, but didn’t realize to what extent that really was. In fact, when I checked, I found that Publix is obscenely high priced, and I see no difference in service. In terms of quality and variety, I like WD’s produce and Deli better than “my Publix”. Any way, the point of my e-mail is this…

When I sent my e-mail, I put a return receipt on it… Peter Lynch wrote back to me within the hour and thanked me for my comments. On the other hand, someone named Barbara Reynolds at Publix (to whom I didn’t even send the e-mail) read my e-mail and ignored it. I haven’t heard anything from Charlie Jenkins or Ed Crenshaw.

At the end of the day, an organization is exemplified by its leadership. Obviously Peter Lynch is listening. Publix doesn’t appear to care.

Point taken.

And Dan Portnoy, Winn-Dixie’s SVP, Chief Merchandising & Marketing Officer, also had a reaction:

David Livingston hasn’t been in a WD for many years-why don’t you suggest he visit one next time before remarking about us. He’d be amazed at the night and day difference between then and now.

Suggestion made. Again, point taken.

I have no idea what David Livingston will do, but I’ll tell you this. Next time I’m in Florida, I’m going to go out of my way to visit at least a couple of Win-Dixie stores. Because I’m listening, and I care.

Responding to our piece about the study saying that daily consumption of red meat will cut one’s life expectancy, MNB user Mike Holman wrote:

I'd be interested in more research into the role that bovine growth hormone, antibiotics and other industry methods of increasing yield have contributed to the health risks. Personally, I don't think that organically or "natural" (hormone and antibiotic-free) meats would have the same effect.

Good point.

As for me, if indeed red meat isn’t the best thing in the world to consume, my assumption has been that if I have mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes, a big Kosher pickle and a cold draft beer, it’d have essential restorative effects…

Regarding yesterday’s recap of the IRI Summit, one MNB user asked what the phrase “channel dislocation,” used by one speaker, meant.

What he meant was fragmentation, as customers move from format to format without a sense of loyalty or commitment…often looking for the best deal in an economic downturn.

Just FYI…

In a comment about the growing enthusiasm for grocery auctions, I said I was worried by the fact that that people are ignoring expired “sell by” dates if the deal is good enough … which is absurd, especially given everything we know about food safety.

Which led one MNB user to write:

What is "absurd" is the generalization that "expired" food products are unsafe. Especially for dry groceries and frozen foods, the expiration or sell by dates are more useful for stock rotation purposes than food safety. Sure, these "old" products may lose a bit of their quality, but their consumption is rarely if ever associated with a health issue. An expiration date on a hard cheese like Cheddar is virtually meaningless from a food safety standpoint. Even some refrigerated products are fine weeks or even months after their sell by date if adequately refrigerated, particularly if unopened. Sour cream and yogurt are examples. Storage conditions make a lot of difference in the extent of quality decline over time. Ice cream kept properly frozen for 5 years (probably not the conditions found in a frost free home freezer) not only would be safe to eat but probably still be of very high quality. I have some "expired" cans of soup, vegetables and fruit in my pantry that I am not about to toss out, as well as a jar of Jif peanut butter "best by Dec. 2008" that I will have no hesitation eating myself or even feeding to my grandchildren. And the multivitamin pill I took at lunch - Use by Jan 2009 - it's probably still at 95%+ potency.

Good for you. And maybe you are correct.

As for me, I believe in expiration dates. I also believe in the hanging curve ball, high fiber, that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and that there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing artificial turf and the designated hitter. But that’s for a different day…

KC's View: