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Period: February 15, 2017 to March 1, 2017
Comment & Opinion or Companies, Organizations or Consumers or Controversies & Disputes or Deals, M&A, JVs, Licensing or Earnings Release or Finance, Economics, Tax or Innovation & New Ideas or Legal, Legislation, Regulation, Policy or Market News or Marketing & Advertising or Other or People & Personalities or Press Release or Products & Brands or Research, Studies, Advice or Supply Chain or Trends

Restaurants React To Demand For Gluten-Free Menus

The demand for gluten-free foods continues to rise in the restaurant sector and, in fact, is spreading to segments like quick-service sandwich and other fast casual eateries. Demand is driven by the increase in the number of people diagnosed with gluten-related disorders. It is expected that gluten-free menu items among U.S. restaurants will double over the next three years to $24 billion, up from $1 billion in 2006 and $11.6 billion in 2015. Also of note: the gluten-free trend has spawned some interesting innovation, for example, the growth of rice and potato flour producers. Smart Flour Foods has used food history to find and produce food sources for gluten-free doughs sing ancient grains, such as teff. 

"Why Gluten-Free isn't a Dying Trend", Fast Casual, January 13, 2017

A Closer Look At Major Food Retailer, Restaurant Chain Clean Label Policies

A consumer watchdog organization has analyzed the clean label initiatives of four big restaurant chains and nine supermarket chains finding that all have committed to excluding additives, such as synthetic food dyes and artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Except Whole Foods, the supermarket chains have limited their commitments to one or more lines of their house-brand products, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Other findings: none of the clean label lists limit sodium or added sugars; all exclude many artificial ingredients that CSPI considers safe; and restaurant policies do not include “riskiest” beverage ingredients such as added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and synthetic food colors. One interesting CSPI observation: “clean label products are not necessarily healthful.” 

"Clean Labels: Public Relations or Public Health?", Report, Center for Science in the Public Interest, February 01, 2017

Amazon's Fourth Quarter Profit Up, But Sales Disappoint

Amazon's decision to focus on revenue growth and investments rather than on heavy promotions led to a 55% jump in profits for the fourth quarter. But sales hit only the midpoint of the company target, with revenue up by $43.7 billion, a less-than-expected 22% increase from the previous quarter. CFO Brian Olsavsky says the company continues to focus and made great progress on "things we can directly control", referring to price, selection and customer experience. While many retailers turned to heavy promotions during the holidays, Olsavsky said promotions weren't a major factor in fourth-quarter revenue. Amazon continue to dominate online sales, commanding an estimated 42% of total holiday online spending growth in 2016, with Apple Inc. in poor second at 5%.

"Amazon’s Profit Jumps, but Sales Growth Disappoints", The Wall Street Journal, February 02, 2017

Salmon-Stuffed Croissant Is A Social Media Hit

A California restaurant has taken the croissant a step or two farther along the hybrid pastry evolutionary road with a concoction featuring smoked salmon, baked seaweed (nori), pickled ginger and wasabi. Aron Caddl, owner of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse of Los Angeles and San Francisco acknowledges that the pastry is “weird” but also “insanely delicious,” and an Instagram sensation. The California Croissant, which costs $5, is topped with a dry Japanese seasoning (furikake) and is served with a side of soy sauce. It will only be on the menu for a short time because, as Caddel admits, the chefs get bored. 

"There's Something Fishy About this Pastry! California Bakery Sells SUSHI Croissants Filled with Salmon and Wasabi, which its Owner Describes as 'F***ing Weird' but 'Insanely Delicious'", Daily Mail Online, February 03, 2017

Amazon Says List Of Users Of Payments Service Grew By 10 Million

Online retailer Amazon said more than 33 million customers have used its Amazon Payments electronic payment platform as of February 2017. Launched in 2013, the service had a cumulative total of 23 million customers in 2016. Known as Pay with Amazon, the service lets customers use their Amazon accounts to pay for purchases made on other online stores.

"Amazon Adds 10M Users to its Payments Service, Escalating PayPal Rivalry", GeekWire, February 07, 2017

Effective Social Media Involvement Of Super Bowl 51 Fans Stretched Ad Dollars

Interactive ad strategy – use of live-streams, paid social advertising, and giveaways – were the hallmarks of successful social media and mobile campaigns for several Super Bowl 51 advertisers. Especially effective was PepsiCo’s Lady Gaga halftime show strategy for its Pepsi Zero soft drink, but Budweiser, casual dining chain Buffalo Wild Wings, and Snickers were also able to stretch their airtime ad dollars using social media. Pepsi sponsored a number of giveaways during the game in which football fans who were social media users could interact with Pepsi sites up to halftime. They were then given a chance to win merchandise by re-posting Pepsi’s tweets.  

"How Pepsi was One of Few to Leverage Mobile for Super Bowl LI", Mobile Marketer, February 07, 2017

Smartphones Will Be The Pillar Of U.K. E-Commerce By 2020

Smartphones are rapidly becoming the technological engine powering e-commerce in the U.K., according to a report from OC&C Strategy Consultants, Google and PayPal. Within three years, mobile purchases will account for two-thirds of e-commerce sales – £43 billion – up from £13.5 billion in 2016. Another £14 billion of online retail will involve a smartphone in product research and price comparison, meaning that 80 percent of all U.K. e-commerce by 2020 will be handled over a smartphone. But despite these forecasts, U.K. retailers lag behind U.S. and Asian competitors in terms of mobile readiness, the report notes. 

"Smartphone Shopping to Account for Two Thirds of UK E-Commerce by 2020, says Google, PayPal Study", Internet Retailing, February 10, 2017

Aldi Continues To Beat Back Resistance By Big U.K. Grocery Chains

The U.K.’s big supermarket chains are resisting the successful invasion by German discount grocers Aldi and Lidl. Tesco Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons have all implemented strategies that sacrifice profit to fund price cuts, improve service, and retain market share. All say the price gap with the discounters has narrowed. But an Aldi exec says its own data show that “if anything, the price differential between Aldi and the big four is growing at the moment.” And Aldi is still growing sales .Industry data show Aldi has overtaken the Co-operative to become Britain's fifth largest chain with a market share of 6.2 percent. It has grown total sales by 12.4 percent, thanks in part to an aggressive store building program.  

"Aldi still thriving in U.K., despite rivals' claims, says CEO", Reuters, February 10, 2017

Tesco Moves To Make Sure Promo Prices Are Updated

UK retailer Tesco is making sure that prices on stores’ on-shelf promotions are up to date. Tesco took the step following a story by an undercover reporter broadcast by the BBC Inside Out TV program. According to the reporter, promotional offers at two-thirds of Tesco stores visited had prices were out of date and not honored at the checkout. Also, some stores failed to remove old labels on the shelves even after reporters told them of the discrepancies.

"Tesco Orders Promotion Checks after Damning BBC Probe", The Grocer, February 13, 2017

Walmart Ends All Contracts With South Korean Shipping Companies

Walmart has terminated all contracts with South Korea-based shipping companies following the Korean government’s move to allow Hanjin Shipping go bankrupt. One of Hanjin Shipping’s biggest consignors for over 20 years, Walmart is reportedly the most adversely affected by the debt-ridden shipping company’s filing for court receivership. Hanjin Shipping had handled about 10 percent of Walmart’s total freight volume, or as many as 30,000 containers, every year.

"Walmart cuts contracts with Korean shippers after Hanjin fiasco", Korea Times, February 14, 2017

Metro Plans To Have Over 2,000 Stores In Russia By 2020

Retailer Metro said it plans to open more than 2,000 stores in Russia by 2020, according to Metro Cash&Carry Russia chief executive Jere Calmes. At present, the Germany-based retailer’s Russian operations are centered in the Moscow and St Petersburg regions.

"Germany's Metro plans to add 2,000 franchise stores in Russia by 2020", Reuters, February 15, 2017

Lidl Eyes Opening First US Stores In Summer 2017

German discount retailer Lidl plans to open its first 20 stores in the US in summer 2017. Earlier than what the company previously announced, the store openings are expected to ramp up to reach 100 stores within a year. US retailers are expectedly enhancing their ability to compete with the discounter, with Kroger, for example, expanding its Ruler Foods discount business, while organic food retailer Whole Foods launched its 365 lower-priced concept in 2016.

"German discounter Lidl to open first U.S. stores this summer", Reuters, February 15, 2017

Kroger Recognized For Inclusive Corporate Buying Practices

A company that provides an online platform for entrepreneurial B2B networking and education has ranked the Kroger Co. eighth on its top 50 list of corporate buyers who offer multicultural products and services. Omnikal, once known as Diversity Business, says Kroger was chosen by two million minority- and women-owned business owners. Omnikal.com is a division of Computer Consulting Associates, Inc.

"Kroger Named a Top 10 American Company for Inclusion", News release, Kroger , February 16, 2017

Carrefour Sues Lidl For Alleged Unfair Business Practices

Carrefour has filed a lawsuit with the Commercial Court of Evry against discount retailer Lidl for alleged unfair commercial practices. According to a report by Challenges, the French retailer is seeking damages for Lidl’s failure to comply with rules regarding promotion of products. Promotion rules require promoted products to remain in all stores for at least 15 weeks.

"Carrefour Takes Legal Action Against Lidl France", European Supermarket Magazine, February 17, 2017

Walmart Posts Sales Growth In 4Q And FY 2017

Walmart reported total revenue grew 1.0 percent to $130.9 billion in the fourth quarter of FY 2017, compared with the same period in the previous year. Excluding currency impact, total revenue grew 3.0 percent to $133.6 billion during the period, the company said. Same-store sales for Walmart U.S. increased 1.8 percent, pushed up by 1.4 percent increase in traffic, while Neighborhood Market comp sales rose about 5.3 percent. Also, Walmart U.S. posted strong growth, with sales and GMV rising 29.0 percent and 36.1 percent, respectively. Walmart International reported net sales dropped 5.1 percent to $31.0 billion; however, without currency impact, net sales grew 3.0 percent to $33.7 billion. For fiscal year 2017, total revenue rose 0.8 percent to $485.9 billion; without currency impact, however, total revenue grew 3.1 percent to $496.9 billion.

"Walmart U.S. Q4 comps grew 1.8% and Walmart U.S. eCommerce GMV grew 36.1%", Walmart, February 21, 2017

Walmart Posts Robust Quarterly Sales, But Big Drop In Profit

Walmart’s same-store sales were impressive during the winter holidays, but the company’s e-commerce battle with Amazon is hurting profit. Same-store sales rose 1.8 percent in the quarter that ended January 31, 2017, the tenth consecutive quarterly rise. But profit fell 18 percent as the company pursues its strategic goal of becoming “more of a digital enterprise,” as CEO Doug McMillion put it. Online sales, which included full quarter sales performance from Jet.com, acquired last September, rose 16 percent. E-commerce sales rose 21 percent in the previous quarter. Other downward pressures on profit include plans to raise store workers’ wages and lower prices.

"Walmart Posts Strong Holiday Sales, But E-Commerce Battle With Amazon Pinches Profit", The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2017

Report Provides Data For Marketers Targeting Baby Boomers

A market research firm that analyzed the Baby Boomer generation (“boomers,” age 50 and older) and their financial profiles found that age alone doesn’t determine their preferences and behaviors, because age is mostly an attitude. Marketers need to know that what’s most important is an understanding of financial situation, including income and net worth. “A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing doesn’t work,” according to the report, which identifies distinct financial segments. For example: high income/high net worth boomers are more likely to spend in the retail and online channels; boomers are more likely to buy from direct mail and catalogs; they use Facebook as much as other generations; they use their own computers; and they use email, e-readers, tablets, smartphones and even smart TVs as well as cable and satellite.

"Age is an attitude: marketing to the boomers+ population ", Report, Epsilon , February 23, 2017

The Body Shop Launches Almond Milk & Honey Line Of Body Care Products In Malaysia

Beauty retailer The Body Shop launched the Almond Milk & Honey range of body-care products in Malaysia. Featuring Community Trade-certified almond oil from Spain's Alicante region and honey from Ethiopia's Sheka rainforest, the products include Soothing & Caring Shower Cream, Cleansing Bar, and Gently Exfoliating Cream Body Scrub. TBS highlights simple body care steps: shower, scrub, and moisturize.

"The Body Shop introduces new Almond Milk & Honey body care range", Elle, February 24, 2017

Walmart Aims To Close Pricing Gap With Aldi, Other Discount Retailers

Walmart is seeking to narrow a pricing gap with discount retailer Aldi, as well as with other U.S.-based retailers, such as Kroger.  According to reports, Walmart launched a price-comparison test in at least 1,200 of its store locations in the country. Also, the retailer is requiring its packaged goods suppliers to lower their product costs.

"Exclusive: Wal-Mart launches new front in U.S. price war, targets Aldi in grocery aisle", Reuters, February 27, 2017

Tesco Adjusts Customer Service Structure In Its C-Stores To Better Compete

British supermarket chain Tesco is expanding the number of customer service personnel in its Express convenience stores to “improve the shopping experience” for customers. The company is creating what it calls shift leaders, at the same time eliminating deputy manager positions. The new structure, successfully tested in several Express stores, is part of a broader program launched two years ago to make sure the company is poised to compete in the rapidly changing retail sector. About 3,300 shift leader positions are being created in the 1,700+ Express stores.

"Tesco announces changes to improve the shopping trip in Express stores", News release, Tesco, February 27, 2017

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