business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

Fox Business reports that Starbucks has committed to spend $20 million to provide “temporary relief to smallholder farmers with whom the company does business,” and who have been suffering through historically low coffee prices.

According to the story, “Starbucks said the fund will go to smallholder farmers in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador to subsidize farmer income during the upcoming harvest season in Central America.”

• The Wall Street Journal reports that McDonald’s “is stripping artificial ingredients from more food to win over customers who, the burger chain believes, don’t want to eat things with names like calcium propionate and sodium benzoate. Those and other ingredients found in the buns, cheese and sauce on some of McDonald’s best-known burgers are gone from its U.S. restaurants, the chain said Wednesday. The Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese and burgers in Happy Meals are now among items free from artificial preservatives, flavors and coloring.”

Artificial ingredients are either being replaced or simply eliminated, which will shorten the shelf life for many McDonald’s menu items. However, not every artificial ingredient is affected: “Pickles remain a challenge. Executives said it could take them two more years to find a pickle with the same sour taste sans artificial preservatives.”

MarketWatch reports on how Weight Watchers has changed its name to “WW,” adding the tagline,”Wellness that works.” The goal is to put a greater emphasis on overall health and move away from an approach that is focused just diet and weight loss; the ideal is to be aspirational rather than scolding.

This is, the story says, “the latest in a wave of changes the 55-year-old company has rolled out recently, including ditching artificial ingredients in the food it sells to customers, embracing the social media star DJ Khaled and filmmaker Kevin Smith as celebrity partners, and enlisting powerhouse Oprah Winfrey as both as a brand ambassador and an investor.”

Maybe this makes sense. But if you look at “WW” quickly, you may see Volkswagen. Or Wonder Woman. OrWestworld. I’m just not sure this is the best branding approach.
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