Sunday, September 16, 2007

Monday Morning Java

News, Facts, Fun and Vital Information to Start Your Week Off With a Jolt

Whole Foods, Volunteers Clean Up Over the Weekend

Over the weekend (Saturday) 46,000 citizen volunteers scoured the beaches and shorelines of California, picking up trash, debris and other discards in a major effort to keep the state's beaches and inland shorelines clean and healthy, as well as demonstrating their concern for the coastal environment.

The event, California Coastal Cleanup Day is organized by the California Coastal Commission. The corporate sponsor is Whole Foods Markets, Inc. Thirty percent of the clean- up site locations are yet to report-in and the coastal commission says they expect the total number of volunteers to be at least 50,000 and perhaps more.

Volunteers fanned-out across the California coastline, from the Mexican border in the south, to the state's north country near the Oregon border. Volunteers also cleaned along inland waterways and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains including the beach at famed Lake Tahoe and along the shore of the vast Salton Sea in the California desert.

The volunteers achieved an impressive day's work. They picked up 429, 890 pounds of trash, and an additional 69,881 pounds of recyclable materials, for a total of nearly 500,000 pounds of trash, refuse and debris, according to a Sunday tally by the California Coastal Commission. The commission says they expect the total to be closer to 800,000 pounds once they finish tallying the remaining bounty. For the last 22 years the commission says cigarette butts are the number one category of items volunteers pick up during the clean-up event.

Each year the coastal commission says volunteers find numerous unusual items in addition to the basic trash which consists mainly of bottles, cans, styrofoam cups, cigarette butts and other debris. In fact to add an element of fun to the workday event the commission created a "Most Unusual Item" contest.

Here are this years (2007) winners of the "Most Unusual Item" contest from Saturday's coastal cleanup:

Northern California: A volunteer in Monterey County found a safe. The sides of the safe had been blown out, as though by dynamite. The safe was empty.

Southern California: A volunteer in Los Angeles found a bottle full of beetles. Yes, the insect kind.

Inland California: A volunteer in San Joaquin County found a litter of puppies. The puppies have been put up for adoption.

The coastal commission awards each volunteer who finds unusual items a $50.00 gift certificate.

Whole Foods Markets is a new sponsor of the California Coastal Cleanup Day. Eben Schwartz, Coastal Cleanup Day director, says "our efforts this year were helped tremendously by our new partnership with Whole Foods Market. By rooting new and existing sites in each of the Whole Foods Market communities, and publicizing the event in all 40-plus stores throughout the state, they helped engage new volunteers and increased participation significantly."

As part of the grocer's sponsorship, store associates from Whole Foods outlets throughout the state volunteered their time on Saturday to help pick up trash and debris along California's breaches and shorelines.

In addition to Whole Foods, which is the corporate sponsor of the event, numerous other natural and specialty foods companies provided regional support and participation for the event. These companies are Peet's Coffee and Tea, Dr. Bronners, Natures Path, Clover Organics, Zola Acai, Clif Bar, Atkins Ranch, Natracare and See's Candies. Whole Foods also organized a team of vendors who participated in the coastal cleanup event.

The Coastal Commission says their data shows between 60-80% of coastal debris actually come from inland sources in California. The debris travel through storm drains and creeks out to the ocean. The commission is asking California residents (and this applies to all states with coastlines) to make sure they put trash where it belongs--securely in a trashcan, recycling bin, or hazardous waste dump respectively. This simple behavior will not only keep the coastline much cleaner it also will make people feel more responsible.

September 15 through October 7 is a nationwide event called "Coastweeks." The three-week event is a celebration of U.S. coastal resources and takes place throughout the country. You can learn more about the "Coastweeks" celebration here.

Talk about a win-win weekend. Whole Foods Markets, the California Coastal Commission, the other corporate sponsors--and especially the volunteers--are to be commended for spending their Saturday cleaning up the state's coastal beaches and shorelines. This is an example of corporate and citizen cooperation at its best. Our hats are off to all the sponsors and volunteers for a job well done.

Will First Fresh & Easy Store Open in Vegas, Baby?

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo's (NSFM) Las Vegas real estate sources tell us the first Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store is likely to open in Sin City rather than in California, which has been the state most industry observers (including NSFM) have been betting on for the first store opening. Our real estate sources say the Fresh & Easy store is slated for an October, 2007 opening. Thus far Tesco has said the first stores will open in November, 2007.

The sources tell us the store will be in Warm Springs Plaza, a 76,000 square-foot retail center in Las Vegas. The Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is a new store being built from the ground-up and will become the existing center's retail anchor. Toibb Enterprises, the center's developer, has put the shopping center on the market for $20 million dollars. The developer is using the Fresh & Easy anchor store as a key marketing element in selling the center to investment groups.

Woodland Hills, California-based Toibb Enterprises acquired the center ten years ago in a foreclosure deal. The developer says it decided to sell now because the Fresh & Easy store is adding considerable value to the overall center.

NSFM isn't ready to fully sign on to Las Vegas being the city (and Nevada the state) to get the Fresh & Easy grand opening honors just yet, although our sources are good. Rather, we still think it will be a close call between Southern California and Sin City.

Of course we aren't going to bet on it, especially with those professional gamblers in Vegas. We also asked if the Las Vegas store will have in-store slot machines, which many retail stores in the city do. We were told that it doesn't look to be the case at present--but that you never know. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Monday Morning News Briefs

HIgher Cost of Wheat Affecting Manufacturers, Retailers, Consumers

Big increases in wheat prices are driving-up costs for food manufacturers and raising retail prices for wheat-based products in retail food stores globally. For example, in Italy the price of pasta (an Italian staple) is increasing by almost 20% in grocery stores and restaurants. Last week a group of Italians staged a one-day "pasta boycott," urging fellow Italians to abstain from the country's sacred dish for a day to protest the increasing prices. In France shoppers are up in arms over the fact that the prices of their prized baguets (french bread) are increasing considerably do to the higher costs for wheat. Increased manufacturer wheat costs in The U.S. are beginning to show-up in higher retails for items ranging from bread and breakfast cereals to pasta and baked goods. You can read more in this Washington Post (09-15,2007) story here.

Food Imports Backlash Brewing

All the recent news of substandard food, children's toys, tires, toothpaste and other goods imported from China is causing a brewing backlash against imported goods. Most prominent are those products imported from China. The U.S. is China's largest export market followed by Japan and Western Europe. Various new proposals are being discussed regarding better screening of food imports and other good. You can read more about these proposals and the issue in this article (09-11-2007) from the Baltimore Sun here.

New Organic Pavilion Debuts at Food Show

Recognizing the growing popularity of the organic foods category, the 10th annual America's Food & Beverage Show in Miami, Florida will feature a stand-alone organic products pavilion as part of the show. The show is October-29-31 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The event is sponsored by the Miami World Trade Center. The theme of the show is food and beverage products from throughout the America's.

The organizers say it's the largest food and beverage show focused on the America's in the hemisphere. The event's director, Jelena Meisel, says the organization did a survey last year in which nearly 40% of the buyers who attended last year's show wanted more organic and natural foods products. As a result the group added the organic pavilion for this year, she says. At present 20 companies representing 11 countries have already signed up to show in the organics pavilion. You can get more information on the America's Food & Beverage show here. The show is attended by retail buyers from throughout the America's and presents Natural, organic and specialy foods manufacturers an opportunity to get their products into markets they might not currently be in.

Specialty, Craft Beer Segment Continues to Boom

For the first time the specialty or craft beer segment has exceeded more than 5% of the total overall beer category sales. This trend shows how both food and beverage growth is booming in the specialty, natural segments of the industry. Specialty or craft beer sales for the first half of 2007 rose 11% compared to the same period last year. Even more significant the segments total dollar growth increased 14% during this period. You can read more about the specialty or craft beer segment growth within the beer category here.

All-Natural 'Super Juice' MonaVie Impresses Movers & Shakers

A new all-natural beverage called MonaVie is gaining word of mouth praise from some of America's top business and social leaders. The so called "super juice" is an oxidant-rich beverage who's main ingredient is the acai berry (pronounced ah-si-ee). Billionaire media titan and Viacom, Inc. CEO Sumner Redstone says MonaVie "is a miracle drug, and I feel great after drinking it." Redstone (age 84) has been telling friends he thinks it will help him live another 50 years. Redstone can afford to drink lots of the all-natural beverage as it costs $40 bottle. Its currently not sold in retail stores either. Rather, its marketed by a network of thousands of individuals who sell the "super juice" out of their homes.

Redstone has shared MonaVie with numerous friends, including former President Bill Clinton and celebrity chief Wolfgang Puck," both who are reported to sing the juice's praises along with Redstone. Almost every friend I have is on it," says Redstone." He even told Fortune Magazine recently he stopped taking sleeping pills shortly after he began drinking the all-natural juice on a regular basis. The juice is a rich purple color and the acai berry is very high in antioxidant properties. Learn more about MonaVie here. You can learn more about the acai berry and see other products made from it here.

The Death of the Grocery Coupon

Over the last decade nationwide coupon distribution has remained flat in the U.S., according to coupon redemption firm CMS, Inc. In other words we're talking zero growth. Even more interesting, coupon redemption during that same period fell from 4.8 billion coupons 10 years ago to only 2.6 billion today. That's a rather dramatic decline. This isn't very "redeeming" news for the coupon processing industry nor for consumers who love getting the "price off" pieces of paper in their weekly Sunday paper. You can read more about the status of grocery coupon distribution and redemption, including reasons for its possible demise, in this article from the (09-11-2007) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.

Argentina-Based Winery To Market Wines In a Can

The international wine industry has been experimenting with various new types of wine packaging including wine boxes, aseptic cartons, plastic bottles, newly designed screw top fasteners for wine bottles in place of corks and now...cans. Buenos Aires, Argentina-based Iron Wine is introducing varietal wines packaged in a metal can similar to a soda pop can. The company is marketing red (a malbec-cabernet blend) and a white (a chenin blanc) wines in the cans which are recyclable. The 81/2 and 12 ounce cans look just like a soda can and three of them equal the quantity contained in an average bottle of wine.
The company believes the "wines in the can" are especially convenient for picnics, sporting events and other venues where a bottle or box of wine is too bulky to tow around. However, consumers should pour the canned wines into a cup or glass as they can have a slight tin taste to them if consumed right out of the can. The wines are currently available in South America and the winery plans on introducing them into the U.S., Europe and elsewhere this year.

Color Experts Help Increase Sales, Shoppers
Natural and specialty foods manufacturers looking for just the right color choice for their product packages as well as retailers deciding on store color schemes and designs might want to read about some of the findings from the Color Marketing Group, an industry trade association based in Alexandria, Virginia. The group has been studying consumer color preferences for decades and forecasts color trends for all product categories and and retail formats. It's member's include General Motors, consumer packaged goods companies Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly Clark and hundreds of other large, medium and small companies who want to know what the long-term color trends and hottest new color-schemes will be.
Another similar group, The Color Association of the United States, based in New York, also forecasts color trends. They provide forecasts for companies wanting new packaging, actual product colors and other related needs. To find out what these groups believe are the long term color trends as well as what's hot and what's not you can read this article from the Associated Press published today. Whether its a natural or specialty food or beverage product package or a store design consumers react to colors in many ways--and those colors can help to get shoppers to pick up a product or shop in a particular store--or not to.
UNFI CEO to Present at Wednesday Conference
Michael Funk, CEO of mega-natural and organic foods wholesaler United Natural Foods, Inc (UNFI), will make a presentation as part of a natural foods panel discussion on Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at the RBC Capital Markets Consumer Conference in Naples Florida. The panel discussion, "Natural/Organic Foods: Coming Out on Top in a More Competitive Environment," starts at 1:45 ET and will be webcast on the UNFI website. You can listen to the webcast by going to and clicking on the "investor relations" link. The company also will archive the webcast so you have 30 days after September 19 to listen to it.
United Natural Foods is the primary natural and organic grocery and perishable distributor to Whole Foods Market, Inc. (and was to Wild Oats before the merger as well). This will be the first opportunity to hear Funk discuss the wholesaler's Whole Foods business post acquisition. UNFI remains the primary distributor to Whole Foods for the combined Whole Foods/Wild Oats stores.
Study: Extreme Price Shoppers Only Small Segment of Consumers
A new study by researchers at the Yale School of Business and SUNY Buffalo says budget or extreme price shoppers make-up a very small segment of overall consumers. The researchers further say this small, price-conscious shopper segment doesn't have an affect on reducing retailer gross margins significantly or hurting overall profits. You can read a detailed summary of the Yale B-School/SUNY study here. The researchers' findings are good news for upscale natural and specialty-foods-oriented food retailers as well as natural and specialty product manufacturers. For retailers this research reinforces the notion that the majority of consumers want quality, variety, taste and other attributes in a food store. For natural and specialty foods manufacturers and marketers the study's results mean a positive future since the majority of the items in these categories are based on attributes such as healthy, clean, premium taste and the like rather than on price-point.

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