On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon plans to open its first grocery store in Los Angeles, possibly by year’s end. The Journal reported that Amazon had signed leases for at least two other grocery locations that could open early next year. Sources told The Journal that the company was looking into locations in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Amazon is also reportedly looking to buy regional grocery chains.
The Journal reported that the new Amazon grocery stores wouldn’t compete directly with Whole Foods stores, and that they would sell a wider selection of products.
Whole Foods, even though owned by Amazon, still doesn’t sell a lot of products that Amazon would sell in a differently oriented mass-oriented grocery chain. Products like Coca-Cola, Kraft American Cheese, personal grooming products that contain all sorts of chemicals, and so on. Amazon.com sells these items, so they have data regarding how popular cases of Cheetos would be.
I was amazed (and pleased) that these kinds of items did not suddenly appear at Whole Foods once Amazon bought them, actually.
Probably good news for the American food consumer1 – the GMA is crumbling.
A succession of high-profile, global companies have terminated their memberships with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—the self-professed “voice of the industry”—rapidly undoing some 110 years of work the trade association had done to amass influence in US politics. In July 2017, as first reported by Politico, the Campbell Soup Company decided to leave GMA by the start of 2018, saying the trade association no longer represented its views. Three months later, the world’s largest food company, Nestlé, announced it was following suit. Then the floodgates opened, with Dean Foods, Mars, Tyson Foods, Unilever, the Hershey Company, Cargill, the Kraft Heinz Company, and DowDuPont all opting to leave, as well.
These high-profile departures will likely cost GMA millions of dollars in lost membership dues; one top lobbyist with a former member company speculates the association may lose about half of its former financial might. In 2016, GMA reported spending nearly $35 million on lobbying initiatives.
Publicly, the companies that left GMA are mostly vague about their reasons for defection. Privately, though, their executives have complained about disagreements with management, arthritic association bylaws, and a seeming unwillingness to budge on issues. As the lobbyist puts it, rather than trying to evolve with consumer demand, GMA leadership chose instead to be pugnacious about issues like GMO transparency and improved food-package ingredient labeling.
New York University nutrition and food studies professor Marion Nestle says a wounded GMA is unequivocally a good thing for everyday people eager for better access to information about the foods they’re eating.
“The positions that GMA took were really, really retrogressive on a range of consumer issues,” Nestle says. “All these companies are trying to position themselves as being consumer-friendly.”
Companies are increasingly under pressure to find growth in a market where more and more consumers are seeking healthier fare, whether they’re buying organic baby food, cereal without artificial colors or meats raised without antibiotics.
As legacy brands lag, food companies have two options: Change to compete or buy up the new brands that are already growing rapidly.
With each episode of discord, both internally and publicly, it becomes harder for GMA to convince its members to pay fees to belong to a trade group that’s rife with division and, at times, fights against issues they either don’t want fought or don’t want to be associated with.
“More than one food industry lobbyist has told me that they spend more time lobbying their industry association than they do Capitol Hill,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
Many in Washington think GMA has been tone deaf as it has, in some cases, kept up lavish spending even as its members are cutting costs and laying off workers to meet their quarterly targets.
“I don’t know a single challenger brand that’s said ‘hey, I need to join GMA,’” said John Foraker, the founder and former CEO of Annie’s.
My favorite quote comes from Jeff Nedelman, who was a VP of communications at GMA during the 1980s and ’90s: “To me, it looks like GMA is the dinosaur just waiting to die.”
Like so many other tech-centric new businesses, online grocery is a major topic, and yet it seems few people actually use the service.
While Wal-Mart and other retailers, including Ahold USA and Meijer Inc., are pouring money into ramping up online sales, the grocers are also buckling down on the basics of the produce department. That’s because high-quality fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods are emerging as a physical store’s best defense against growing competition from Amazon.com Inc.
Many customers decide where to shop based on the quality of the produce, and—for now—most shoppers want to pick their own ripe tomatoes or perfectly green heads of lettuce, say grocers and industry researchers. Shoppers who don’t buy groceries online most often cite the desire to pick their own produce as the reason, according to an online survey from Morgan Stanley earlier this year.
Online food and beverage sales are growing fast, up 20% since 2013, but still make up a tiny 0.16% of the $670 billion food and beverage market, according to Commerce Department figures. Only 4% of consumers said they purchased some produce through online grocers in the past year, a 2015 Nielsen survey found.
Produce also is often part of “fill-in” trips, those moments a shopper dashes to the store for a last-minute ingredient and might not wait for an online order. Produce itself isn’t usually a big moneymaker, but it draws people to stores to buy higher-margin packaged food, apparel, electronics and other items—products customers increasingly are buying online. Even Amazon wants part of the valuable market. It plans to build small stores that sell perishable foods and allow shoppers to order shelf-stable items for same-day delivery, say people familiar with the matter.
Improving Wal-Mart’s fresh food is “a huge priority for us because it’s a big traffic driver,” says Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart U.S. in a March call with investors.
Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve tried ordering from Instacart twice. The first time, everything came as if I had picked it myself, but the second time, the produce was sub-par. All of it. Brown spots on lettuce, bruised avocados, moldy tomatoes, mushy cucumbers, etc. So I’ve never ordered from them again, and probably never will. When it comes to grocery delivery, if it isn’t perfect, forget it. I have less than zero tolerance for mistakes. A few years prior, I had an account with a local company that delivered farmers market produce, but again, after a few bad deliveries, I cancelled my service, and have not ordered from them again. In the winter months, I sometimes use Peapod, but I tend to only buy staples like pasta, paper towels, cat litter, and bottles of wine, and don’t purchase much produce because items that are delivered are often less than ideal.
A fan of Peapod
Time willing, I would much rather go to a farmers market or a local grocery store and carefully pick my own vegetables and fruits.
– “The express lane isn’t faster. The manager backed me up on this one. You attract more people holding fewer total items, but as the data shows above, when you add one person to the line, you’re adding 48 extra seconds to the line length (that’s “tender time” added to “other time”) without even considering the items in her cart. Meanwhile, an extra item only costs you an extra 2.8 seconds. Therefore, you’d rather add 17 more items to the line than one extra person! ” I’d add – when I do the mental calculations as to what checkout line to choose, I also add gender and age into the mix (of cashier and customer both)
– Thomas Parkinson, co-founder with his brother Andrew of online grocer Peapod 20 years ago, recalls checking customers’ 1200- and 2400-baud modems while he delivered groceries in those early days.
“There were moments of sweat rolling down my face as I thought I’d messed up someone’s hard drive,” recalled Thomas, Peapod’s chief technology officer. “One woman asked, ‘What do I use this foot pedal for?’ Turned out, it was the mouse.”
Andrew Parkinson serves as president. The two brothers started Peapod 20 years ago in Evanston with $25,000 they’d raised from friends and family.”
I find I use Peapod more frequently in the winter months
If you have an abundance of juicy tomatoes this season, consider yourself lucky to have escaped late blight. For folks not so lucky, I’m sharing recipes that don’t use a ton as the main ingredient but will let you savor every delicious bite.
“I suppose I should say that all my roots are all in Chicago,” Wallace Shawn told us. “Both sides of my family. My parents were very identified with being from Chicago, really. My childhood memories of visiting the relatives in Chicago are central to my being. And all sorts of things that some people associate with New York, I associate with Chicago, like going to hear jazz. I went with my uncle to hear Erroll Garner in Chicago.” Shawn is usually thought of as the quintessential New Yorker (in fact his father William was the long-time editor of The New Yorker) but his new book is published by Chicago-based Haymarket Press.
It is interesting how remarkably constant the reversal percentage is — 75%. It suggests that the Supreme Court primarily takes cases it wants to reverse, with only a few exceptions. Assuming the Court takes about 70 cases a term, it will only affirm in about 17 of them. So perhaps the new game for commentators should be listing those 17 lucky cases that will get affirmed."
BW Online | April 26, 2004 | Trader Joe's: The Trendy American Cousin – "Welcome to Trader Joe's. About all this 210-store U.S. chain shares with Germany's Aldi Group — besides being owned by a trust created by Aldi co-founder Theo Albrecht — is its rigorous control over costs. But where Aldi carries such basics as toilet paper and canned peas, TJ's, as it's known, stocks eclectic and upscale foodstuffs for the wine-and-cheese set at down-to-earth prices."
Mad Dog Blog – Mark Madsen actually makes a lot of sense:
"If Congress and the government allocate and allow so much time to pursue professional athletes and their statements about their own, or others’ possible steroid use, perhaps we should examine statements of elected officials and the CIA when it relates to interrogation, torture and national security. Surely we must pursue these issues with the same energy and effort with which we pursue the statements of professional athletes on personal steroid use."