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Retail Business Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

<<12345678910>> Total issues:161

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October 01, 2016, to October 15, 2016

Chipotle Reassures Customers About Safe Food Handling In New Marketing Campaign

The Chipotle fast-casual restaurant chain has launched a marketing campaign to reassure customers that the E. coli outbreaks that made dozens of people sick in last year will never happen again. To do that it has implemented the recommendations of a former chief medical officer at the USDA and FDA, and redesigned and implemented a thorough food safety program in all 3,862 restaurants. Chipotle’s number one priority now is to serve fresh food – safely – so new safety protocols are applied at every level. All ingredients, for example, are tested for pathogens by suppliers, then tracked from farm to warehouse to restaurant. Several pathogen-killing procedures are followed in the restaurants. And all restaurant managers are trained and certified in proper food handling.

Report Says Europe Making Progress Toward Food Waste Reduction

A coalition of executives from European governments, businesses, international organizations, and others has issued a report citing progress in reducing food waste but calling for greater efforts to cut it in half globally by 2030. That is the goal of the coalition, known as New Champions 123, which says food loss and waste worldwide are responsible for $940 billion in economic losses and eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Eighty-eight million tons of food are wasted each year in the European Union, an amount that could feed 200 million people. Among the Europe-based participants in Champions are executives of Tesco, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Nestlé, Sodexo Group, and Unilever.

Supervalu Sees Shares Take Off Following Reports Of Onex's Plan To Buy Save-A-Lot Business

Shares of retailer Supervalu Inc. gained 9.6 percent in market value following reports that private equity firm Onex Corp. may purchase the company's Save-A-Lot chain of discount stores. According to Reuters, Supervalu is expected to make a decision in the next two weeks.

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September 15, 2016, to October 01, 2016

Kroger Now Selling Cheaper Cage-Free Eggs

Kroger announced it will expand its cage-free egg offerings to include lower-priced own-label varieties in response to rising demand for eggs from humanely-raised chickens. A year ago only nine percent of eggs sold in grocery stores were from cage-free chickens. But that percentage is rising steadily as Kroger and dozens of other producers and retailers commit to cage-free eggs. Kroger has been selling cage-free eggs under its premium Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic store brands. The new more affordable cage-free eggs will sell for about $2.49 a dozen, a dollar more than standard eggs.

Target Tries To Pump New Life Into Its Sagging Grocery Operations

In an effort to jump start sluggish food sales, retailer Target is focusing on strengthening the grocery staff. The chain is building dedicated 10- to 60-person grocery teams – they will no longer work in other store departments – who are being trained in handling backroom inventory and interacting with customers. The changes have already been implemented in 450 stores and will be expanded to another 150 next month. The company is also hiring regional grocery directors who will each oversee 60 stores and report directly to headquarters. The new setup is a step in the right direction, according to analysts, but is unlikely to convince consumers that Target is the place to go grocery shopping.

Whole Foods’ Expansion Plan Is Heading In The Wrong Direction

Whole Foods Market’s aggressive expansion plan has led to the building of stores in neighborhoods and malls that don’t quite fit with the grocer’s upscale product line and image, or its market demographic. The company is steadily losing the natural-and-organic crowd to lower-priced competitors like Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Kroger. So it seems like a mistake to put new stores next to Dress Barns, Kmarts and Shoe Carnivals. Wall Street analysts say the grocer should be building stores where wealthy shoppers can afford expensive cuts of meat and exotic facial oils. With the grocer’s stock already down by 50 percent since 2013 and same-store sales slipping, expansion into lower-income neighborhoods “will trip them up” further, a Motley Fool analyst says.

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September 01, 2016, to September 15, 2016

Starbucks Battles Hunger – And Food Waste – With FoodShare Program

The Starbucks restaurant chain, which announced an anti-waste initiative in March, says it has donated 300,000 meals to local food banks across the U.S. The FoodShare initiative was launched to fight food waste and hunger with the help of the Food Donation Connection and Feeding America. FDC workers pick up Starbucks' surplus food using refrigerated vans, and redistribute it to food pantries. In its first year five million ready-made meals will be distributed to charities and expects that number to increase to 50 million meals within five years. The company will expand the program from the current 1,150 Starbucks locations to all 7,600 by 2019.

Jersey Shore Bakery Scores A Hit With Scrapple Pie

Grocery shoppers in the meat or deli department often notice – and mostly turn their noses up at – every day the refrigerated blocks of specially-prepared pork offal known as scrapple. An East Coast, Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast tradition, scrapple has become the best-selling pie flavor at Wards Pastry Shop in Ocean City, N.J. Owner Walter Hohman was looking for something new that might appeal to the Philadelphia crowd that heads to the Jersey Shore every summer. A friend suggested scrapple, and a pie sensation was created, despite some initial skepticism. The scrapple is prebaked, stuffed into a pie crust, topped with buttery streusel and baked. Hohman says his bakery sells more scrapple pie, at $4.50 each, than apple.

Food Halls Find A Welcoming Home In Chicago

Chicago, Ill., already a great city for dining out, is fast becoming acquainted with the food hall trend. Similar to fast-food food courts in shopping malls, food halls offer a high-traffic venue for artisanal and specialty cuisine purveyors, lively food stalls and upscale restaurants. The phenomenon reflects the influence of the Millennial generation that seeks casual but high-quality dining experiences. Everyone seems to benefit from food halls. Customers create their own dining and drinking events in a food market atmosphere, combining menu items from different vendors. Participating restaurants can strut their stuff before a broader audience while sharing overhead expenses with competitors.

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August 15, 2016, to September 01, 2016

Grocery Chain Turns Food Waste Into Electricity

A New England grocery chain has begun collecting inedible food waste from its stores and processing it into biogas that fuels an electricity generator. The Stop & Shop chain collects and processes 95 tons of waste a day at the plant that opened in April, turning the waste into energy using an anaerobic digestion technology, while keeping it out of landfills. The facility generates 1.14 megawatts of electricity a day, roughly 40 percent of the energy required by the next-door distribution center. The company plans to open more processing facilities in Connecticut.

Smart System Helps Singapore Hotel Reduce Restaurant Food Waste

A Singapore hotel has installed a system in its kitchen that helps it forecast more accurately how much to cook, ensuring that it is not overproducing and wasting food. The Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa’s system, developed by U.K.-based Winnow Solutions, uses a smart meter integrated with a kitchen's waste bin. A scale, an LCD panel and wireless connectivity automatically weighs discarded food and displays the dollar value. The hotel’s general manager says Sofitel SIngapore has reduced its food waste by two to four percent since the smart system was installed. The country’s National Environment Agency estimates that 790,000 tons of food were thrown away in 2014.

White Castle Launches Pretzelized Version Of Its Chicken Rings

White Castle has been selling white meat chicken rings for a long time, but has now added a twist to the popular menu item. The fast-food chain is selling Pretzel Chicken Rings, basically the chicken rings with a “crunchy pretzel coating.” The company is selling a sack of 20 Original Chicken Rings or Pretzel Chicken Rings for $4.99. A social media-based promotional contest rewards participants using Twitter or Instagram with prizes for sharing pictures of their “Unofficial Games” and using specific hashtags to tell White Castle why they play.

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August 01, 2016, to August 15, 2016

Wal-Mart Works More Closely With China's WeChat Mobile Social Network

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expanding its partnership with mobile social network WeChat in China as part of its efforts to attract more consumers into its stores. In July 2016, Wal-Mart started allowing shoppers to check out in more than 100 stores across the country using WeChat Pay mobile payment. Also, the retailer runs a loyalty program aimed at the followers of its WeChat account. Using its WeChat account, Wal-Mart launched a digital gift card feature, enabling local consumers to send virtual gift cards.

Diminishing Shelf Space Drives CPG Companies To Try Online Innovation

Manufacturers of food, drink, beauty, and personal care products are losing store shelf space thanks to the rise of own-brand discount supermarket chains like Aldi and Lidl, and smaller stores that sell independent brands. To meet the challenge, manufacturers – Reckitt Benckiser, Nestlé, Diageo, Unilever, etc. – are increasingly focusing on e-commerce, selling through e-tail websites. But they are also experimenting with delivery-on-demand and subscription-based models. It’s a rising trend: online shoppers globally spent $87 billion on CPG items last year, nine percent of the total online spend. Twenty-five percent of people in 60 countries in 2015 ordered grocery products online for home delivery. Fifty-five percent said they would do so in the future.

USPTO Rejects Whole Foods’ Trademark Request

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected an application by Whole Foods Market to brand itself the “World’s Healthiest Grocery Store.” The rejection letter noted that the slogan can’t be trademarked because it is merely descriptive of the company’s services. Besides, the company has stores in only three countries: the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., making it difficult to support a “world” claim. The company has six months to respond to the letter. Meantime, Whole Foods posted disappointing 3rd quarter financials, including a 2.6 percent drop in same-store sales.

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July 15, 2016, to August 01, 2016

Walmart Hopes Its New Date Labeling Scheme Will Help Reduce Wasted Food

Walmart is changing the date labeling scheme on its food products to avoid consumer confusion over safe-to-eat dates. That confusion has led Americans to toss $29 billion worth of edible food into the trash every year. Walmart’s fix is to require suppliers of its own label Great Value products to use the same standardized date – “best if used by” – for non-perishable foods. The change began last year, and the company says 70 percent of its private label suppliers have already complied. The rest have until next month to comply. The Food Marketing Institute says most date labels aren’t meant to indicate safety, only when manufacturers believe products will go beyond peak quality.

Can Dunkin’ Donuts Succeed In San Francisco, Home Of Beloved Mom-And-Pop Shops?

Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts tried expanding to California 30 years ago but failed – the last stores closed more than 10 years ago, trounced by a “reversed Walmart effect.” In the San Francisco Bay area especially, there’s an abundance of cherished mom-and-pop doughnut shops that have given fits to national chains like Dunkin’ and Krispy Kreme. But, with much ballyhoo, and some instant success, Dunkin’ is back in the Golden State, and once again faces competition from those entrenched family-run businesses like Stan's Donut Shop. San Franciscans – who love to eat out and discover unique eateries – are loyal to the mom-and-pop shops because their products are high quality and affordable, and they offer a good “old school” business culture.

Food Delivery Robots Take To The Streets In European Cities

A robot food delivery start-up announced it is testing its business strategy and technology with the help of several European food and parcel delivery companies, including Pronto, Hermes, and Just Eat, as well as grocery retailer Metro Group. Starship Technologies, created by two Skype co-founders, will launch dozens of delivery robots in London, Düsseldorf, Bern and another German city to start. It will then move to several other European and American cities. It already operates delivery robots in Tallinn, Estonia, its headquarters location.

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July 01, 2016, to July 15, 2016

Japanese Baker Creates Bread With Whimsical Designs, Including Cartoon Characters

A Tokyo-based baker is producing bread with patterns of flowers, cartoon characters and exotic prints. The loaves baked by Konel Bread use natural colors and flavors, including spinach, cocoa and beetroot. The bakery uses ropes of dough layered together to make the quirky designs, some with animal, insect and fruit patterns.

Walmart Promises That All Suppliers Of U.S.-Made Goods Will Get A Shot On Its Website

Walmart execs recently met with 800 suppliers to hear pitches on potential Walmart.com products that are made exclusively in the U.S. The company said a third of the companies at the U.S. Manufacturing Summit were minority- or women-owned. A Walmart merchandising executive promised that all of the products – except those that can’t be shipped because they contain hazardous materials – would be automatically approved for sale on Walmart.com. The Summit is part of the company’s initiative, launched in 2013, to spend $250 billion on American-made goods for its stores, Sam’s Club, and website.

India’s Flipkart Experiments Again With In-House Brand Marketing

India’s online retail marketplace Flipkart will be licensing its house brands in jewelry, mobile, and fashion accessories to approved sellers, according to reports. Suppliers must be capable of fulfilling the company’s quality manufacturing benchmarks and product specifications. This is the company’s second try at boosting its high-margin private-label business. Three years ago it launched in-house brands Digiflip in consumer electronics, Citron in home appliances and Flippd in apparels. The brands failed to gain a toehold in their markets; the company has stopped selling Digiflip tablets.

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June 15, 2016, to July 01, 2016

NRDC Urges The Colonel To Stop Using Antibiotics In Chicken Production

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is urging KFC to stop using antibiotics in its chicken production. Seventy percent of the antibiotics used to treat human bacterial illnesses are given to mostly healthy pigs, chickens, cattle, and other livestock. That practice “promotes the growth of drug-resistant superbugs,” posing a serious threat to public health. Other big fast food chains – McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Subway and Taco Bell – are committed to eliminating antibiotics from poultry production. But KFC, with more chicken-based restaurants than any other chain and sales second only to Chick-fil-A, “has yet to get on board.”

Discounted “Wonky” Veggies Win Over British Grocery Shoppers

British supermarkets, including Tesco and Asda, are reporting greater acceptance of so-called “wonky” (ugly or misshapen) fruits and vegetables, thanks to significant discounting. Tesco launched an initiative called Perfectly Imperfect in March with misshapen potatoes and parsnips, extended it to apples and strawberries in May, and hopes to broaden the range to 15 to 20 produce lines.  A Tesco executive called the program a huge success, with sales having grown tenfold. Sales of Perfectly Imperfect strawberries account for 10-15 percent of total category sales. Besides increasing sales, the initiative has also led to increased crop utilization and reduced food waste. Tesco is now taking 95 percent of strawberries from its suppliers, up from 85 percent. Apple utilization is at 97 percent.

Pizza Hut To Remove Chemical Preservatives From Menu Items

Responding to concerns voiced by consumers regarding artificial ingredients in their foods, Pizza Hut says it will eliminate even more questionable additives from its menu items. The company a year ago removed artificial flavors and colors from its pizzas. Now it says it will remove the antioxidants BHA and BHT (and other preservatives) from its meats and cheeses, as well as antibiotics from chicken, by next March. Though removal of GMO ingredients from foods has garnered more headlines (thanks largely to a Vermont law taking effect next month), other companies, including Kellogg and General Mills, have announced plans to remove BHA and BHT from their products.

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June 01, 2016, to June 15, 2016

Aldi’s Cage-Free Egg Decision Proves Controversial In Australia

Despite criticism from egg producers in Australia, German retail grocery chain Aldi will spend the next ten years transitioning to cage-free eggs. Consumer pressure pushed the company to take the complicated, expensive and hopefully sustainable step. But egg producers ironically call the move a “slap in the face” to consumers who may not want to spend premium prices for cage-free eggs. Aldi’s decision will “hurt Australian egg farmers and can’t be justified on the basis of either science or consumer behavior.” One egg industry representative said Australian research shows that hen stress levels are similar across cage, barn and free range farming environments. Animal husbandry practices “have the greatest influence on hen welfare.”

Wal-Mart Seeks Bigger Share Of China's Online Retail Market

Wal-Mart is seeking to expand its e-commerce operations in China, as part of the company’s efforts to increase its share of the local online retail market. Yihaodian, which Wal-Mart acquired in July 2015, operates 250 e-commerce hubs in 200 cities across China. Online sales in the country reached $307 billion in 2013, hit $589.2 billion in 2015, and is forecast to grow beyond $1 trillion by 2019. In contrast, online spending in the US was $334 billion in 2015 and is forecast to reach $480 billion by 2019, according to Forrester. In China, 46 percent of shoppers are already buying groceries online for home delivery, compared with the global rate of 25 percent, according to Nielsen. Wal-Mart accounts for 1.6 percent of the local online market, which places it at number 6, behind Alibaba, which has 46.9 percent of the market and JD.com with 20.1 percent. According to analysts, Wal-Mart, which aims to be among the top 3 online retailers in the market, will find it hard to grab market share from the local online retail giants.

General Mills Recalls Flour Products After Reports Of Bacterial Illnesses

General Mills posted a notice on its website that it is recalling certain flour brands that may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, though no consumers have reported any illnesses to the company.  Gold Medal, Wondra, and Signature Kitchens were mentioned in the notice. Customers of Safeway, Albertsons, Jewel, Shaws, Vons, United, Randalls and Acme were warned not to use the affected brands, which have best buy dates of August 23, 2016, to June 14, 2017. Federal and state officials are investigating 38 E. coli 0121 illness cases found in 20 states. About half said they had used flour or handled dough before getting sick.

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May 15, 2016, to June 01, 2016

N.J. Bakery Transforms The Italian Rainbow Cookie Into A Doughnut

Yet another variation on the basic, simple product proves that doughnuts are endlessly malleable and mashable. A New Jersey bakery has taken a cue from the time-honored Italian rainbow cookie to create the rainbow cookie doughnut. The concoction is essentially three layers of marzipan and jelly doughnuts – green, white, and red – drizzled with a chocolate coating. The owner of the Glaze Doughnuts bakery, which sells 138 doughnut varieties, has also invented Nutella s'mores doughnuts and prosciutto and cantaloupe doughnuts.

Aldi Australia Increases Advertising Spend While Bigger Rivals Are Cutting Back

Discount retailer Aldi increased its advertising spend to $34.7 million for the 12-month period ending April 2016, compared with $28.9 million in the 2015 calendar year. According to data from the Nielsen AQX report, $30 million of Aldi’s total advertising spend went to television, while digital received $1.37 million. Woolworths spent $74 million on advertising during the period, down from $87.9 million the market leader spent in 2015. Supermarket chain Coles spent $48 million, compared with $53 million in the previous year.

Walgreens Seeks To Expand Beauty Business By Emphasizing Drugstore Heritage

Walgreens plans to launch its improved beauty business at 2,000 of its retail locations across the US. According to Walgreens group VP for beauty and personal care Lauren Brindley, the company will leverage its pharmacy heritage to position its more than 26,000 beauty advisers as credible source for nonbiased beauty advice. Also, the company wants to expand the range of beauty products its stores are selling, based from Walgreens Boots Alliance’s experience in the UK.
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