Sunday, August 19, 2007

Monday Morning Java

News, facts, fun and vital information to start your week off with a jolt
Chocolate for what ails you...We usually like to start "Monday Morning Java" off with a piece about coffee. However, this morning we are going to begin with the next best thing, to get your Monday morning motor running--chocolate.
This isn't any run of the mill chocolate story though. Rather, it's an example of niche marketing at its finest. A Windsor Ontario, Canada company, Jamieson Laboratories, has announced the development of a chocolate bar that the company, which specializes in naturopathic health products, says can alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The company's anti-PMS product line, called PMS Support, is a line of 15 soy crisp chocolate bars "infused with natural botanicals" which the company claims will help relieve the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. Jameison Laboratories says the PMS Support chocolate bar line will begin hitting store shelves in Canada later this week.

The PMS-Support chocolate bars are about the size of a Snicker's mini-bar and similar candy bars which are handed out at Halloween time. Jameison sells the bars in what they call a "Support Package," which contains 15 of these small sized bars individually wrapped. Each bar has 70 calories per serving, and the company says they should retail for about $19.99 per 15-bar "Support Package."

Jameison Labs is targeting natural and health foods stores, drug stores, supermarkets, and mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart, to sell the bars. The company says Wal-Mart in Canada, Shoppers Drugmart (a Canadian chain), and Phararmaplus (another Canadian drug chain), will be selling the bars shortly. Jameison plans to market the PMS-Support chocolate bar line in the U.S. and in other countries as well.

Jameison Labs is Canada's largest manufacturer and distributor of natural health care products, vitamins and nutritional supplement and related products. It exports to customers in 50 countries including the U.S., China, Japan, Korea and Singapore.

FTC Appeals Whole Foods/Wild Oats deal...Late Friday afternoon (Aug.17, 2007) The Federal Trade Commission appealed the ruling by U.S. District judge Paul Friedman that had given Whole Foods Market, Inc. the green light to go forward with their buyout/merger of Wild Oats Markets, Inc. (See Friday's piece here on NSFM.) In their appeal the FTC claims the deal will stifle competition and lead to higher prices in the premium natural and organic market. More information on the FTC appeal is available here in this AP story from Friday evening.

More natural~specialty foods convergence...As the convergence between the natural and specialty foods industries grows stronger we are seeing many retail grocery chains recognizing not only the potential of retail formats focusing on natural and specialty foods merchandising, but also realizing the success of creating multi-banner/ multi- format companies, that include natural and specialty foods prominantly. National grocery company Supervalue is the largest example of this with their multi-banner/multi- format chains Albertsons, Shaws and Star Markets (conventional and some upscale); Save-A-Lot (discount, limited assortment), Bristol Farms (upscale specialty, gourmet and natural), Sunflower market (natural and specialty foods), and a number of other banners and formats.
This practice of building a multi-banner/multi-format grocery retailing company is not limited to large national retailers like Supervalue. In fact it was smaller, regional operators who originally pioneered this concept. And there are many who are doing it today.
One of those smaller, regional grocery chains is Basha's, an Arizona-based family-owned chain which operates 161 stores under multiple banners and focusing on different formats. Basha's operates 83 conventional supermarkets under the Basha's banner. The retailer also operates 63 Food City stores, which are focused on Hispanic consumers and feature a complete selection of Hispanic-oriented products throughout the store, from grocery and produce to meat and dairy and beyond. The focus in these stores is on Ethnic/Hispanic marketing and merchandising.
In addition to these two banners/formats Basha's also operates 11 upscale stores under the A.J's Fine Foods name. These stores have upscale design elements and feature a full selection of specialty, ethnic, gourmet and natural foods and products across all retail categories. A.J's was Arizona's premier independent specialty and natural foods retailer for many years. Basha's purchased the small, multi-store independent some years ago and has grown it--and has plans to grow it larger.
Basha's also operates three upscale liquor stores called Sportsman's Wine and Spirits. In addition to offering the basic brands of wine, beer and spirits, these stores merchandise a large selection of upscale domestic and imported wines, specialty spirits from all over the world and an extensive offering of imported beers and domestic micro-brewed beers. They also carry upscale liquor accessories, specialty and gourmet foods and have a small restaurant located in the store.
Basha's recently debuted a new banner/format in May of this year called Ike's Farmer's Market, which is located in a Tucson, Arizona suburb. They currently have one store--with plans to open more. Ike's is a combination "old-style" farmers market, natural foods and specialty foods store. It has the look of a farmer's market and devotes a large portion of the store floor to the fresh produce department.
Supermarket News recently did a feature story on Basha's which you can read below. The story goes into much detail about the chain's philosophy, merchandising methods, position in the Arizona market, and other interesting concepts and ideas.
Basha's is a regional powerhouse retailer that seems to get the multi-format/multi-banner concept, the natural~specialty foods convergence, ethnic foods marketing, and how they can build a company by focusing on these concepts while creating synergies between them, in building an integrated grocery retailing company.

Whole Foods/Wild Oats deal moving fast...Earlier this morning "Morning Java" reported on the FTC's late Friday appeal filing to a federal court to stay a federal judge's ruling giving a green light to the Whole Foods/Wild Oats buyout/merger. Earlier today the U.S Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. circuit temporarily put the deal on hold but didn't rule in favor of the FTC appeal brief. Rather the court said it needs more time in order to hear further arguments on why the deal should not go through. The court's three-judge panel made it clear this decision doesn't mean they have ruled on the appeal, saying in a statement, this decision "to put the deal on hold should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of the case. More information is available here:

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