business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader John Rand about Walmart’s new requirement that suppliers of fresh, leafy greens must use real-time, end-to-end traceability of products back to the farm using a digital ledger system known as blockchain:

Walmart has taken a position on traceability – good for them. It has been obvious for many years that an unimpeachable tracing system would improve product safety, preserve trust in the food supply, and probably save lives, or at least minimize outbreaks of food contamination.  The recent lettuce outbreaks are nothing new, sadly. We didn’t have blockchain technology in place, but the awareness of the value of a system of some kind goes back a long ways (can you say Mad Cow disease? Remember the Great Peanut Butter disaster just a few years ago?).
What has always disturbed me was the efforts of many manufacturing and supply companies, particularly through strenuous lobbying efforts, to prevent such systems coming into being under a consistent national program. Many companies and trade organizations claimed they didn’t want regulation, and preferred the risk. Remember the debate over Country of Origin labeling? And of course, the real risk was not to their operational profits,  it was to everyone.

It has always been clear to me that retailers, sooner or later, would take lead on this. No matter where it comes from or what the source of the problem  – either because of natural contamination, processing issues, packaging failure, it really doesn’t matter -  it is the retailer who is in the shopper’s sights when someone gets sick or has a negative reaction to a food product, whether grown, raised, or manufactured. The retailer is the most exposed.

Now of course companies will complain that different retailers will mandate different, possibly unique programs and systems, and there will be complaints about the cost of compliance,  with multiple industry players calling for standards. That is, of course, what they would have gotten if they had supported rational national standards in the first place, through the  various agencies such as the FDA and the USDA .

Regarding the new corporate staff cutbacks and reorganization announced by Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, MNB reader Dan Jones wrote:

Howard Schultz left Starbucks (again) because he knew these changes were necessary.  He did not want to finish his career, so he left it to Kevin Johnson.  This is not a radical change, this is needed work that I am sure Schultz recognized, but did not want to execute. Getting smaller and letting people go is not high on the fun index.

Also hard to make that the end point of a business career as you’re considering the launching of a political career.

Responding to Michael Sansolo’s column this week, MNB reader Rich Barle wrote:

Nice article re: the Browns and the Bud Light promo.  Born and raised in Cleveland, it’s been a tough run, but Cleveland is back for SOO many more reasons than the Rock Hall of Fame.

Major investments in downtown over the years has made it a hot place to live and party.  Cleveland State University has expanded exponentially creating massive developments/ housing in that area.  Playhouse Square with the new Chandelier and 4 or 5 theatres is beautiful and popular, the Heinen’s grocery store at 9th & Euclid in an old bank building is breathtaking and a must see, E 4th St entertainment, Public Square renovation, a MASSIVE overhaul of the flats (East & West banks), combining work, live, industrial in a unique way on the river, upgrades to the waterfront are numerous, W.25th St with Great Lakes Brewing, the West Side Market (over 100 yrs old), and too many restaurants to mention, world renowned Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals,  neighborhoods in Tremont, Gordan Square, and this list goes on.

Most importantly, affordable housing throughout the city and good mid-west people with solid values and their feet planted on the ground.

Come and visit, you’ll likely want to stay longer.

KC's View: