business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  Fortune is out with its annual Global 500, and for the 10th year in a row Walmart is number one on a list determined by company revenue.

Amazon is number four.

The balance of the list includes #2, Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia) … #3, State Grid (China) … #5, China National Petroleum (China) … #6, Sinopec (China) … #7, ExxonMobil (U.S.) … #8, Apple (U.S.), #9, Shell (Britain) … and at #10, UnitedHealth Group (U.S.).

•  The Takeout reports that Costco "has been phasing in self-serve kiosks in place of human sample reps to distribute the fan-favorite freebies."

The reason likely has something to do with the ongoing labor shortage, but there's also a sense that automation simply is becoming too efficient and effective to ignore, with AI being the ultimate result of this trend.

•  Fast Company points out that "Trader Joe’s is having a pretty bad week when it comes to some of the products it sells. In a span of just three days, the company has had to issue recalls on four of its products. And the recalls are for pretty nasty reasons - three of the affected products contained rocks and one contained insects."

The privater label products affected include Trader Joe's Almond Windmill Cookies, Dark Chocolate  Chunk and Almond Cookies, Fully Cooked Falafel, and the (as it ends up, appropriately named) Unexpected Broccoli Cheddar Soup.

A Trader Joe’s spokesperson says, “We don’t wait for regulatory agencies to tell us what to do. We voluntarily take action quickly and aggressively — investigating potential problems and removing a product from sale if there is any doubt about its safety or quality.”

Good.  Because I think rocks and insects qualify as a safety/quality problem.

Here's the reason that fast and efficient recalls are critical - they have the potential to hurt the customer, but if not handled well, almost always can hurt the retailer.

•  From Axios:

"Purveyors of lab-grown meat — who prefer the term 'cell-cultivated,' to avoid the mad-scientist-with-a-test-tube image — foresee a world where our plates are full of steak but animal slaughter is largely a thing of the past … Investors are pouring money into the sector and its promise of cruelty-free meals that are (maybe) better for the environment, but many unknowns remain.

"For now, meat grown from animal cells is only available in the U.S. in very limited quantities at two high-end restaurants.

"It remains to be seen if the technology to 'grow' meat at scale will prove economical — and if consumers will welcome the results."