business news in context, analysis with attitude

The other day we reported that Kroger plans to eliminate its weekly print ad, prompting one MNB reader to write:

Kevin, I went back to the archives to pull this story after perusing my local Schnucks’ ad to make my weekly shopping list yesterday.

There, on the first page, above the fold, was the notice that after 6/12, Schnucks will no longer deliver a print ad with the Monday grocery inserts in our St. Louis Post Dispatch.

I recognize the way of the digital world, but now I can’t even enjoy my morning coffee reading the grocery ads and planning my meals.  I might as well go back to work.. . .

P.S.  This may be the hammer that puts the nail in my printed newspaper subscription, too, since I justified the cost of the print copy because of the Monday ads.

Responding to our story about Albertsons' most recent financial numbers, MNB reader Lisa Malmarowski - who, for purposes of this email, needs to be identified as the director of Brand & Store Development for the Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative - wrote:

I’ve been living under a rock - I didn’t realize that Albertson’s made BILLIONS of dollars in profit. But in my defense I’ve been pretty busy these past few year - you know, keeping our doors open and our employees and shoppers safe. 

There is something wrong with our capitalistic system when food retailers can make this much, and yet people go hungry in our country every single day. People struggle to make ends meet every single day. 

Honestly, it’s disgusting. 

But it makes me proud to work for a small, community owned and operated grocery. And yep, we are sure feeling the pinch that rising costs and inflation are making. 

I know this wasn’t the point of your posting, but I think that people need to wake up and really think about what it would mean for our food supply to have a merger like this happen. It is definitely anti-competitive and will be terrible for consumers and our country. 

And yet, I firmly believe that institutions such as the Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative, and many of its brethren cooperatives around the country who deliver something truly different in the marketplace, will survive.  And even thrive.

Monday's Eye-Opener was about the mass shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, which some described as being "unspeakable," and yet we speak of such things all the time.  (According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 200 mass shootings in the US already this year - there have been 10 just since the Allen shooting.). 

I commented, in part:

Shootings happen at churches and concerts and schools and malls and supermarkets.

I find myself wondering what would happen, in response to this particular case, if the CEOs of major food retailers doing business in Texas - the names include H-E-B, Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Whole Foods, and Costco - went to the governor's office and made a simple statement:  "Whatever we are doing to keep people safe from gun violence isn't working.  Our customers are at risk.  Our employees are at risk.  We have to do more, and just adding more armed guards to our store staffs isn't the answer.  And if you want us to continue investing in Texas, you have to do more than just pray, have to do more than offering 'healing'."

Now, that would be an Eye-Opener.

To be clear, I don't know what the answer is.  I do understand that the culture of guns in Texas is different from how it exists in Connecticut, where I live.

But people are dying.  They'r being shot to death.  And I think maybe it is time for retailers - whose stores and people increasingly seem to be in the cross-hairs - to do something more.

One MNB reader wrote:

In response to the Texas mall shooting, I understand the need to address these shooting incidents that appear epidemic today in our country. There needs to be a willingness on both sides to have a meaningful discussion on access to guns. However,I can't help but feel that it is in part inflamed by the unwillingness of parties, particularly our governing bodies, to seek compromise and actually sit down and listen to what they each have to say and drop the party line. What we see in the streets is a reflection of what we see in our governmental leaders, most particularly congress. Given what I see on a daily basis coming out of Washington I don't see much hope in the near term.

From another reader:

I do like your idea as politicians generally respond to large employers in their states. It does not take a visionary to see that current gun policy endangers our citizens, it does not protect any of us from mass shootings. Removing military weapons from society does not endanger a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. We have restricted machine guns and other personal military weapons such as BARs from public ownership. Assault weapons are meant to kill other humans with efficiency. They have no other use. They need to be removed from society, and removed now. An Albert Einstein quote seems appropriate here, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Hopes, prayers, and willful evading the issue will not fix a thing. Leadership and action is desperately needed. I question if Governor Abbott is up to it.

And from yet another reader:

The gun industry lobby is eager to make it seem impossible and hopeless to create safer US communities, even though this is the only country with this brutal level of gun-related deaths. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the US ( The only thing we hear from the gun lobby and their paid-for politicians is that we need even more guns to make us safer.

Here's what we can actually do: 

Elect politicians who prioritize safer communities over NRA money.

“The [AP-NORC] poll shows bipartisan majorities of Americans support a nationwide background check policy for all gun sales, a law preventing mentally ill people from purchasing guns, allowing courts to temporarily prevent people who are considered a danger to themselves or others from purchasing a gun, making 21 the minimum age to buy a gun nationwide and banning those who have been convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun.”


Create Better laws:

“Texas mass shootings up 62.5% since 

 Carry Bill signed by Governor Abbott”


Take action.

“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.”

Source: Mother Teresa

Reject propaganda:

“Myth: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Fact: If more guns everywhere made us safer, America would be the safest country on earth. Instead, we have a gun homicide rate 26x that of other high-income countries.”

Source: Everytown for Gun Safety

Another MNB reader wrote:

How do you feel about the existence of hate groups such as RWDS?

Before I answer, some context from the Texas Tribune:

The man who killed eight people at a Dallas-area mall wore extremist insignia, posted racist and misogynistic screeds and praised Nazis online. Here’s what you need to know about the shooter and his ties to ongoing right-wing mass violence.

On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that Mauricio Garcia, who was killed by police during Saturday’s attack at Allen Premium Outlets, had neo-Nazi tattoos and beliefs. Garcia also wore a patch during the killing spree that said "RWDS" — an acronym for "right wing death squad" — and while police have yet to announce a motive for the attack, journalists have uncovered a trove of social media posts in which the gunman fantasized about violence and glorified the Third Reich.

I must admit I don't really understand why the perpetrators of mass violence are not classified as domestic terrorists, and treated accordingly.  Can you imagine how people would feel if the people committing these atrocities were identified as Islamic terrorists?

I think that there always are going to be hate groups.  RWDS is just one more in a list that, unfortunately, gets longer every day.  And the idea that the opinions and beliefs of the people who populate them are somehow "American" is truly frightening.

Responding to another story, one MNB reader wrote:

I loved your segment on Mental Health Awareness and wanted to share how Harris Teeter and P&G are partnering throughout the month of May as part of our year-round “Aisles for All” platform:

Together P&G and Harris Teeter are donating $25,000 to Mental Health America.  We are distributing 120,000 informational cards via Harris Teeter’s click/collect on-line shopping service. These cards will also be distributed throughout HT’s corporate office.

We designed shelf tags w/QR code which are placed throughout the store on core, everyday use items.

Later in May, the “Self-Care” information & QR code will also be distributed via e-mail blasts to VIC loyalty members, banner ads on and via several social media posts on Instagram & Pinterest.

As you mentioned in your video, we wanted to provide access to resources whenever/wherever/however people are receptive to receiving the information. Every little bit helps.

Thanks for sharing the story!!!

Yesterday we posted a story about how late last month, Calli Schmid, vice president of grocery at Meijer, sent the following email to "all Meijer grocery suppliers," essentially saying that the cost of doing business with the company would include the supply of free product to the half-dozen new stores being opened by the company this year.

I commented:

There is a strong-arm nature to these emails that is disquieting - I assume that this free product is in addition to all the fees, allowances and promotional money that is being sent from the manufacturer to the retailer.  But that's not enough - the supplier is being told that if you want to continue being a supplier in good standing to Meijer, you have to supply this much free product, at a cost determined by Meijer, and that the deal will continue for the foreseeable future.

And it is all bathed in the aura of "this is a partnership," while the reality is that Meijer is making suppliers an offer they can't refuse.

The retailers' perspective is that this is a way to mitigate the massive investment that it takes to build a new store, and while that has some validity, don't they realize that somebody, someplace has to pay for this product?  It is going to come out in the cost of goods - and, in the end, it will be the consumer who will pay.

If I were a retailer - and it probably is a good thing that I am not - I would make these deals being made by my competition a centerpiece of my advertising and marketing.  I would explain how all these promotional deals work, and why, in the end, all they do is obscure what things really cost.  And I'd promise not to dip my beak in the same way other retailers do, with the goal of actually being a partner with suppliers to deliver the best possible value to my shoppers.

And, by the way - the very fact that this email was forwarded toi me suggests that there is a degree of antipathy, if not outright resentment, in the supplier community about demands like these. Don't you think that suppliers are going to try to stick it to retailers when they get the opportunity?

One MNB reader wrote:

These practices… free store fills, free warehouses fills, etc. have happened many times over the years. These are done under the guise of “shared growth. Clearly national brand manufacturers are inflating their prices to have trade funds to finance these practices. Private label suppliers typically don’t get hit with these “partnership” opportunities. Make no mistake, the consumer ultimately pays for these “partnerships” in the form of higher retail prices.

And from another reader:

This (unfortunately) reinforces my point – Meijer has become a grocer blatantly interested in only their bottom line.  Back in my sales days, I found that if I looked out for the customer (grocery retailers), my success and my employers' success were assured.  I believe it would behoove Meijer to take a similar approach by treating suppliers and customers fairly and respectfully.  Requesting free goods as part of doing business fails that litmus test.

But another MNB reader disagreed:

Tempest in a teapot KC.  When I was at Meijer from 2010-2016 it had been standard practice for years, and there are many good reasons for it. No one is going to get rich, nor go broke. It’s also standard practice in much of the business.

I think you just illustrated the problem.

Responding to yesterday's piece in The Information about why Amazon Go hasn't gone as planned, with even outside retailers reluctant to license the checkout-free technology, one MNB reader wrote:

Many retailers have restrictions or outright bans on third party partners using AWS to host their products or data.  The idea being this is essentially providing revenue and more importantly profit to one of their largest competitors.  Not to mention the inherent distrust that exists between competitors and having so much data visible to Amazon.   Taken a step further to Just Walk Out, why would a retailer want to fund Amazon's development and potential profitability of this tech, especially when the value is questionable to start with?  

IF a retailer were to sign up for this, they would want and NEED it to be effective, thereby making them cooperative (complicit?) in helping Amazon become more profitable by helping them develop and fine tune the tool for a larger retail environment.   I doubt any major retailer wants to do that. 

We had a story the other day about Michelle Obama serving as a co-founder and strategic partner for a new company, PLEZi Nutrition, which has as its stated goal "to create higher standards for how the U.S. makes and markets food and beverages for kids, leading with nutrition, taste, and truth" … PLEZi Nutrition's first product - a kids' drink called PLEZi—has 75% less sugar than average leading 100% fruit juices, no added sugar, plus fiber and nutrients, like potassium, magnesium, and zinc."

I commented:

I'm not sure that, if the goal is to get kids to drink more water, the first product introduced should be a kids' drink, even one with less sugar than most fruit juices.  That said, Michelle Obama has a lot of street cred around this issue, and it will be interesting to see how she parlays that into a functional and effective business model operating in a "responsible and sustainable manner."

One MNB reader responded:

I was the broker of record when Coca Cola Foods launched a line of “better for you“  kids juices licensed with Disney.  And it failed miserably.  Less sugar means less taste . Mothers thought it was a good ideal but the kids did not, and that is what matters.

Fair point.

I got several other emails about this story that, to be honest, I'd rather not post - they took aim at Michelle Obama in a personal way that I found unnecessary.  A common point was that PLEZi Nutrition is a for-profit company, and therefore it - and the former First Lady - have no credibility.

It is true that it is a for-profit company, describing itself as "a public benefit corporation, meaning that the for-profit company was created specifically for the public's benefit and will balance its profit needs with its mission to help improve child nutrition."

You can believe that or not.  You can be a fan of Michelle Obama or not.  You can trust her motives, or impugn them.  Up to you.

But, let's be fair.  Are you equally harsh about other former White House residents and employees who have left government and then moved into for-profit enterprises?  Or is this a purely partisan enterprise?

Just asking.