business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Chicago Tribune reports that "retail beef prices on average have been slowly but steadily declining from historic highs two years ago that were largely the result of a years-long drought in cattle country. The beef industry has rebounded in a big way: This year is expected to be the largest commercial beef production year since 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture." Which is expected to result in a big year for retailers looking to build higher beef sales.

• In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that "Caribou Coffee is cleaning up its act by offering beverages free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners." The company "has established a clean label standard for all beverages served at its U.S. locations, making it the first national coffeehouse to answer consumers distrustful of unrecognizable ingredients with such a wide-ranging guarantee ... Caribou has outlined on its website how it is defining the term. The company lists more than 70 ingredients forbidden in its drinks. High fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and MSG are a few of them."

• The Associated Press reports that Arkansas-based Harp's Food Stores has opened its third 10 Box Cost-Plus store, in Springdale, where it promises "customers savings by selling items at cost and adding 10 percent to the bill at checkout."

The story goes on: "The cost-plus idea is not new in the crowded and competitive grocery industry ... Cost-plus operators try to set themselves apart by selling items at their cost, which 10-Box explains in its stores as the total expense it takes to buy a product, get it from the warehouse or supplier and to the shelf. The store then adds a 10 percent charge at checkout to cover its operating costs."

The AP notes that the concept is designed to help Harp's compete more effectively with retailers that include Aldi, Wal-Mart Supercenter and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.

Advertising Age reports that General Mills has removed the BuzzBee mascot from Honey Nut Cheerios boxes in the US and Canada, replacing with a black white space that is designed "to encourage consumers to plant over 100 million wildflowers this year, in order to ensure a more bee-friendly world. The campaign, #BringBackTheBees, invites families to order and plant free seeds from Vesey's Seeds by visiting the campaign website.

"The brand points out that bees have experienced an unprecedented scale of habitat loss, with more than nine million acres of grass and prairie land converted to crop land since 2008. Approximately 30 percent of all ingredients in General Mills' products rely on pollination."
KC's View: