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Walmart’s Stellar Online Sales Quarter Also Saw A Rise In Store Traffic

After several years, and billions of dollars in investment, Walmart is finally reporting an upbeat online sales picture. Second-quarter (ending July 31) online sales leapt 11.8 percent, after nine quarters of sluggishness. The encouraging sales report, observers say, was due to a mix of factors, including the roll-out of its Walmart Pay mobile app, expansion of free grocery pickup for online orders, and the launch of an Amazon Prime-like subscription service. But perhaps most encouraging was the fact that Walmart succeeded in boosting store traffic –  up 1.2 percent – while increasing online buying. The results prove the company’s strategic axiom: digital sales and store sales must be symbiotic.

"Here's How Walmart Is Reigniting Its E-Commerce Growth", Fortune, August 18, 2016

Walmart Reaps Benefits Of Investment In Ecommerce, Store Environment, And Employees

Though some other big retailers – e.g., Target and Macy’s – are slogging their way through a period of sluggish store spending, Walmart is sailing along on prosperous seas. After investing billions of dollars into making its U.S. stores more efficient and pleasant, raising employee wages, and streamlining ecommerce operations, the company reports not only increased online sales but higher store traffic (assisted in part by lower gas prices). Walmart’s online sales rose faster than the previous quarter – the first time this has happened in nine quarters. For the quarter ended July 31, Walmart profits were up 8.6 percent, and revenue crept up by 0.5 percent to $120.85 billion.

"Wal-Mart Store Overhauls Help Boost Sales", The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2016

Euromonitor Acts To Save Orangutan Habitat In Indonesia Through Reforestation

Euromonitor announced it is sponsoring reforestation in Indonesia, where forest fires and palm oil plantations have taken their toll on the habitat of native orangutans. The animals were recently added to the critically endangered list because, under current conditions, they are likely to become extinct in the wild. Euromonitor’s replanting program has already begun, with the first 10 hectares of land reforested with a total of 11,221 seedlings purchased from the Mantangia Village Nursery between December 2015 and April 2016.  The company expects to replant 1,000 hectares during its Carbon Balance Program.

"Deforestration, Palm Oil, the Orangutan, and Euromonitor’s Carbon Balance Programme", Blog entry, Euromonitor International, August 16, 2016

Company Sees Market Potential For Nutritious Waste Product Of Rice Milling

A company founded in 1998 to make use of a “waste” byproduct of white rice milling is refocusing its product strategy from animal feed to human food, thanks to its application of a proprietary technology that prevents the product from going rancid. RiceBran Technologies says the nutritious protein-rich brown, outer layer of rice has numerous applications, from functional beverages to protein bars, snacks, pasta, crackers, a filler in blended meat products, and breading and batters. The main reason rice bran has been wasted is that the lipase enzyme spoils the product quickly unless it is stabilized. RiceBran’s stabilizing technology uses enzymes to preserve the nutrition. The company says the market potential of rice bran as human... More

"How One Company Used an Enzyme to Turn Food Waste Into a Superfood", Epoch Times, August 16, 2016

Australian Online Produce Firm Expands With More Items, Free Delivery

An Australian online retailer that once specialized in fresh produce has launched what it calls The General Store, an expanded grocery store with free delivery service that requires no minimum purchase. Aussie Farmers Direct, which began 11 years ago as a source of fresh produce, now offers 170 Australian-sourced fruit and vegetables, dairy, bread, deli items, meat, chicken, seafood, pasta and fresh gourmet meals. The new delivery program puts the company in direct competition with big online grocery marketers like Coles and Woolworths, providing an alternative for shoppers and for food producers looking for a new sales channel.

"Aussie Farmers Direct Takes on Coles and Woolies with Online Grocer The General Store", Smart Company, August 16, 2016

Snack Maker Associates Brand With Kindness In New Mobile Marketing Ploy

Kind Snacks is trying a new mobile marketing strategy that links "kindness" with a snack bar reward. The strategy allows Kind to reach more mobile users while putting the brand in a positive light. Consumers show their appreciation for family and friends by sending an ecard via Facebook, Twitter or email. The family member then enters an email address – or Twitter username or Facebook name – to claim a free Kind granola snack bar. Recipients can claim their reward within seconds and then participate themselves in the “pass it on” campaign. The gimmick is just one of a number of ways CPG marketers are boosting mobile engagement while getting the word out on their products.

"Kind Snacks Unpacks Brand Awareness Via Mobile-Driven Product Giveaway", Mobile Marketer, August 15, 2016

Big Food Companies Study The Success Of Food Delivery Start-ups

The success of start-ups in home food kit delivery like Plated and Blue Apron has caught the attention of some big companies that seem a little surprised there is such strong consumer interest in convenience. The big question for ConAgra is not whether to get involved in home delivery of food kits, but how: Partner? Acquire? Analytics chief Bob Nolan says the company needs to “develop a solution for the next ten years” that will be a radical departure from what it’s done for 50 years. Unilever, however, has experience working with partners in ecommerce and is exploring how such deals would work in food delivery. Shopper insights director and busy mother of three Allison Scott admits that “Plated has changed my life.” She is... More

"ConAgra, Unilever Mull Delivering Meals to the Home", CPG Matters, August 15, 2016

Supermarkets Turn To “Experiential Retailing” To Grow Market Share

Though 25 percent of U.S. grocery shoppers say they are spending more at supermarkets, Mintel data show otherwise. Consumers are actually more likely to shop for groceries at other channels, like mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs and drug stores. Nearly two in five consumers shop secondarily at Walmart, the highest retailer “also shopped” for groceries. Total U.S. multi-outlet sales of groceries will rise 2.5 percent this year to $652 billion, but supermarket sales will grow only 1.9 percent to $317.8 billion. The result? To compete, grocers are turning to innovation and experiential retailing to hold onto or grow market share. For example, ShopRite in Morristown, N.J., offers an in-store restaurant, juice bar, oyster bar and a... More

"US Grocery Stores Struggle To Keep Up", Blog entry, Mintel, August 15, 2016

New Innovation Center Helps Walmart Fine-Tune New Product Launches

It’s important for Walmart to get its grocery offerings just right, because grocery accounts for 56 percent of sales. To accomplish that, the company has opened a 12,000 ft2 culinary and innovation center in Arkansas outfitted with 10 kitchens, including replicas of in-store bakery and deli kitchens, as well as stoves, ovens and microwaves like those found in customer homes. A sensory lab provides staff with food and beverage feedback from customers and employees on topics like texture, saltiness, and sweetness. The company shares findings with suppliers, saving money and shortening product launch times.

"A Look At Wal-Mart's Food Lab, Aimed At Developing New Items", Associated Press, August 12, 2016

Spending Trends Make Some Retail Sectors Skittish

Retail sales in the U.S. were sluggish in July, especially among clothing and electronic goods vendors, where shopping is shifting from brick-and-mortar stores to the Internet. It’s not because American consumers aren’t spending. After all, unemployment is down, income is up, and energy prices remain low. U.S. households have increased spending every quarter since the end of 2009. But there has been a shift in where Americans spend, toward entertainment, travel and healthcare -- and online. The experts don’t seem alarmed. One economist said the news signals “a pause in a good pace of spending”, while a global forecaster expects a 2.6 percent gain in gross domestic product this quarter over a year earlier. Still some sectors have... More

"Where We Spend Is Upending Traditional Retail", The Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2016

Well-Intentioned Government-Funded School Meals Programs Are Making Kids Fat

Low-income students in the Northeast, South, and rural U.S. who participate in federally-subsidized school breakfast and lunch programs are at the greatest risk of becoming overweight, a study has found. The researchers noted that the meal programs are well-intentioned, but are actually contributing to the obesity epidemic among schoolchildren. According to the study, nutrition standards of the subsidized meals programs need to be raised, but in a way that makes the food acceptable and appetizing to children. The study was based on data collected from 21,260 students whose dietary habits were monitored from kindergarten to eighth grade.

"The Influence of School Nutrition Programs on the Weight of Low-Income Children: A Treatment Effect Analysis", Health Economics, August 11, 2016

S’mores Officially Join Girl Scout Cookie Family

The Girl Scouts of America is adding a commemorative cookie to its iconic lineup beginning in 2017. Traditional S’mores are a campfire mash-up of gooey marshmallow and melted chocolate slathered between graham crackers. The new S’mores Girl Scout cookie will be a crunchy graham cracker sandwich cookie with a chocolate and marshmallow filling. They will debut on January 6, the start of the cookie sales season, at $5 a box. Although S’mores are an old camping tradition, the Girl Scouts have tried to keep up with the times in their cookie offerings. Recent additions include whole grain Rah-Rah Raisins, gluten-free Toffee-tastic and peanut butter-oatmeal Trios, vegan Thanks-A-Lot chocolate shortbread, and whole wheat Cranberry Citrus... More

"Girl Scouts to Debut S’mores Next Year", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 10, 2016

Millennial Moms Want Food/Beverage Transparency, And Are Increasingly Getting Just That

CPG food and beverage brands are increasingly aware that health-conscious Millennial consumers are concerned about the ingredients in the products they buy, and where they came from. Even companies like healthy beverage producer AquaBall, which introduced a novelty round-shaped package several years ago, concluded that the ingredients list was more important than package shape. To remove preservatives, it had to switch to a process that precluded the round shape. It ended up with oval. A large number of CPG firms are cleaning up their nutrition panels by reducing the overall number of ingredients, and particularly preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and even strange-sounding but natural substances. “Transparency is the... More

"Clean Labels Become CPG Imperative in Era of Healthier Food", Brandchannel, August 10, 2016

Cargill Turkeys Will Be Antibiotics-Free By 2017

Food and agricultural production giant Cargill announced it has ended the use of the antibiotic gentamicin – used to prevent disease in animals and humans – in its turkey business. The company’s two largest turkey brands, Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms, will be affected; antibiotics-free birds will be available in stores in 2017. However, birds will continue to receive antibiotics for control and treatment of disease. The company also announced it is expanding its antibiotics-free turkey products through the creation of a new Honest Turkey product line, whose birds have never been treated with antibiotics. Cargill says it is committed to reducing use of shared-class – i.e., for human and animal use – antibiotics in food... More

"Cargill Turkey Slices Antibiotic Use, Creates Honest Turkey Antibiotic-Free Product Line", News release, Cargill, August 09, 2016

Pretzel Bakery Chain Recognized For Stellar Growth

Trade magazine Nation’s Restaurant News has recognized bakery chain Wetzel’s Pretzels with its “Next 20” designation: restaurant chains best positioned to enter the universe of the publication’s Top 200 in U.S. system-wide sales. The Next 20 recognizes growth, taking into account estimated sales per unit, the previous two fiscal year's sales and other metrics. Figures are compiled using corporate documents as well as information from the publication's news coverage, industry analysts and more. Wetzel's has experienced eight consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth, continued non-traditional unit growth (stadiums, transit stations, etc.) and national footprint expansion to 300 locations in 28 states.

"Wetzel's Pretzels Honored by Nation's Restaurant News as One of the "Next 20"", Market Wired, August 09, 2016

New Whole Foods Store Features Advanced Eco-Friendly Refrigeration

A new advanced grocery refrigeration system installed by Whole Foods in California eliminates all direct greenhouse gas emissions. Unveiled in a new store in Santa Clara, the system prevents the release of the 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide normally generated by a typical supermarket. The Hydrocarbon/CO2 Cascade System cuts the environmental impact of refrigerants to zero by using propane, a natural refrigerant, to condense carbon dioxide, the eco-friendliest refrigerant available. At the same time, a heat-reclaim technology uses the heat generated by the system to preheat water for the store’s later use.

"Whole Foods Installs Country’s Greenest Refrigeration System", Progressive Grocer, August 08, 2016

Beloved San Francisco Bakery Flourishes With Time-Tested Recipes

A 105-year-old San Francisco bakery continues to flourish because it still produces pastries that locals love so much. Schubert’s bakery was founded by a German immigrant in 1905, sold to Hilmar and Annie Maier in the 1960s, then sold again to the Wenzel brothers, both accomplished pastry chefs and employees. Over the years the goal has been to preserve the status quo by keeping the menu intact and doing whatever was necessary to make customers happy. That included dusting off a discontinued cake recipe requested by a customer at Christmas. The cake – striated vanilla and chocolate sponge between layers of chocolate and raspberry whipped cream – has since become “a menu mainstay.”

"SF is Still Sweet on 105-Year-Old Schubert’s Bakery", San Francisco Chronicle, August 08, 2016

Trend Toward Sugar Substitutes Takes Hold In N.Z.’s Soft Drink Industry

Last year, two of New Zealand’s big soft drink manufacturers began offering their flagship colas with the sweetener stevia substituting for sugar. Coca-Cola Amatil (NZ) launched Coca-Cola Life; Frucor Beverages followed with Pepsi Next. Both brands contain fewer calories and could have a major impact on cola carbonates generally, and strong growth expected in low-calorie cola carbonates. Euromonitor expects that low-calorie colas will account for almost 50 percent of total cola sales within four years. Energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices are also expected join the no-sugar bandwagon. With that in mind, Euromonitor sees increased efforts to find other sugar substitutes besides stevia.

"Commitment from New Zealand Manufacturers to Reduce Sugar Content in Soft Drinks", Blog post, Euromonitor International, August 07, 2016

Debut Of Cheesecake Snack Bars In Canada Features Cake-Walking Mascots

General Mills introduced Fiber 1 Cheesecake Bars in Canada in July during the country’s National Cheesecake Day with a promotion featuring six mascots dressed as the bars “speed cake-walking” around downtown Toronto distributing free samples. The company said the cake-walk was “a memorable way to connect with” Millennials, its core audience. The 150 calorie snack bars – a “healthier-for-you” alternative to potato chips, etc. – are available in chocolate and key lime flavors. The company’s marketing plan will stick with the athletic theme during the Summer Olympics season, and will be supported by television spots, online video, and the distribution of one million samples.

"General Mills Wants You To Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too", Canadian Grocer, August 07, 2016

Wendy’s Creates Timeline For Making Its Chicken Antibiotics-Free

Fast-food chain Wendy’s, like McDonald’s, has caught on to the fact that drug-resistant pathogens are a growing health problem linked to the widespread use of antibiotics in beef, pork, and poultry. Or at least they’ve caught on to the fact that their customers are aware of it. Wendy’s hasn’t acted as quickly as McDonald’s, which recently announced its chicken is 100 percent antibiotics free. The company says it’s establishing a timeline for eliminating drugs from its poultry supply chain, after the Natural Resources Defense Council awarded Wendy’s and a dozen other fast-food chains a grade of “F” because they lacked a timeline or firm policy for ridding their birds of antibiotics.

"Wendy’s Quietly Getting Rid Of Antibiotics In Chicken", Consumerist, August 05, 2016

Florida Bakery Group Features A Grilled Cheese Doughnut

A chain of three bakeries on Florida’s east coast is offering an unusual hybrid treat: the grilled cheese doughnut. The $3.00 delicacy comprises a choice of white American Swiss, cheddar or other cheese grilled on a fresh doughnut. The Viero Love Bugs Bakery manager calls the Donut Grilled Cheese “the perfect combination of sweet and savory.” The bakeries also offer a full array of traditional doughnuts, bagels, muffins, cupcakes, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and even a version of the famous “cronut” croissant/doughnut hybrid.

"Have Your Grilled Cheese on a Doughnut at Love Bugs", Florida Today, August 03, 2016

Millennials Ask: Is It Local? Is It Healthy? The Food Industry Responds

Eighteen- to 35-year-olds – Millennials – are now the biggest demographic in the U.S., and their food preferences have changed the industry. For several years now consumers – especially Millennials – have increasingly chosen locally- or regionally-produced foods, giving a big sales boost to those brands. The Winn-Dixie grocery chain, for example, no longer sells Mike’s Pies under the Winn-Dixie label. The result: sales of Mike’s Pies are up 57 percent. "Millennials are asking: Is this healthy, is this local?" said a representative of the Food Marketing Institute. Grocery chains have responded by highlighting locally-produced and so-called natural foods, prospering in the process.

"Millennials Drive Grocers Like Publix and Winn-Dixie to Feature Food Produced Around Tampa Bay", Tampa Bay Times, August 02, 2016

PowerBar Unveils Clean-Label Protein Products

Energy snack company PowerBar has launched a line of “clean” protein bars and drinks. They contain no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors, but deliver 2,000 mg. of sugar plus a stevia-based no-calorie sweetener and “high quality” whey protein. The 70-calorie clean whey protein drink is made with 15 g. of whey protein and seven other ingredients, but no sugar. A company representative said the new clean whey product line “is just another step in our journey to become more transparent.”

"PowerBar Launches Clean Whey Product Line", News release, PowerBar, August 01, 2016

McDonald’s Menu Gets Cleaner And Cleaner

Facing stiff competition from restaurant chains whose foods are less likely to contain questionable ingredients, McDonald’s announced a handful of menu updates intended to appeal to picky eaters. The company removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, pork sausage patties, omelet-style eggs, and scrambled eggs. It introduced buns without high fructose corn syrup that will eventually replace the buns used in Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers, etc. And, lastly, it has completed a transition to antibiotics-free chicken, 12 months ahead of schedule. A company spokesman said “it’s time for all fast and casual restaurants to address the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance” by working with suppliers who provide... More

"McDonald’s Removing Preservatives From Some Items; Nuggets Now 100% Antibiotics-Free", Consumerist, August 01, 2016

Micro-Bakery Sells Fresh-Baked Baguettes From Vending Machine

A San Francisco entrepreneur has launched a business based on a vending machine that dispenses freshly-baked French baguettes 24 hours a day in a market hall near the Lower Haight district. Le Bread Xpress prepares partially baked loaves that are loaded every day into the machine. Founder Benoit Herve says there’s only the one dispenser now, but he has definite plans to expand to other locations as soon as possible.

"Baguette Vending Machine Bakes Up French-Style Bread At Anytime", CNet, July 31, 2016

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.

"The Ring Is The Thing! White Castle® Introduces Pretzel Chicken Rings", News release, White Castle, July 29, 2016

Clean Label Baking Company Inks Deal With Southern Calif. Grocery Chain

A Los Angeles-based start-up baking company announced a deal with California grocery chain Gelson’s to stock its line of USDA-certified organic, non-GMO baking kits and mixes. Foodstirs, co-founded by three women, including actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, uses cane sugar, Equal Exchange fair trade cocoa and chocolate chips, organic pastry flour, organic unbleached wheat flour, and dye-free sprinkles. The baking kits and mixes feature cake pops, cupcakes, sugar cookies, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and vanilla cake. Baking kits ($17.99) contain 12 to 20 servings, while the baking mixes ($5.99) serve 12 to 16.

"Foodstirs Launches First All Organic, GMO free Line of Baking Kits & Mixes into Retail", News release, Foodstirs, July 27, 2016

Papa John’s Completes Transition To Antibiotics-Free Chicken

Pizza delivery chain Papa John’s announced it has taken only eight months to complete its transition to antibiotics-free, vegetarian-fed chicken in its menu items. The company features grilled chicken pizza toppings as well as chicken poppers (boneless, skinless chicken breast chunks similar to McDonald’s McNuggets). In recent years Papa John’s has removed other objectionable ingedients from its foods: preservatives BHA and BHT; flavor enhancer MSG; cellulose and partially hydrogenated oils; artificial flavors and synthetic colors; and high-fructose corn syrup. The company has also committed to serving only meat from cage-free chickens by the end of the year.

"Papa John's Announces Completion Of Transition To Antibiotic-Free Grilled Chicken Pizza Toppings And Poppers", News release, Papa John's, July 20, 2016

Take-And-Bake Pizza Chain To Serve Only Antibiotics-Free Chicken

National pizza-kit restaurant chain Papa Murphy’s announced it is beginning a transition to antibiotics-free, vegetarian-fed chicken in all of its 1,500 locations. The chain is also committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from its food by 2017. It is working to eliminate palm oil and high-fructose corn syrup from menu items by this fall. It has already eliminated monosodium glutamate from its offerings. Papa Murphy’s is the largest take-and-bake pizza brand in the U.S., and also offers salads, sides and desserts.

"Papa Murphy's Is The First National Pizza Brand to Serve Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics", News release, Papa Murphy's, July 18, 2016

Hilary’s Adds Line Of Allergy-Friendly, Organic Dressings