Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Fishwrap

End-of-the week news, ideas, analysis and opinion

Food and beverage trends 2008: A Natural~Specialty year is on the way
Natural, organic, specialty, gourmet, premium, fresh, healthy, green and sustainable top the list

If the various market and consumer researchers, prognosticators and analysts (including us) are right, 2008 will be a natural~specialty year in terms of the top hot trends in food and beverage marketing and consumption in the U.S. and Western Europe.

For example, a just released report by market research firm Datamonitor predicts the following top ten food and beverage trends for 2008.

>Probiotics, healthy foods
>Natural and organic foods and beverages, especially for kids
>Fresh foods, especially premium quality prepared foods
>High-nutrient Superfruits
>Exotic foods, especially foods from Africa
>Specialty foods that promote sleep and stress relief
>Healthy and natural foods with "crunchy" and "crispy" taste profiles
>Bold, hot and spicy foods
>Increased use of caffeine in beverages and foods
>Green, "eco-friendly" foods, beverages and grocery products

You can read a detailed summary describing these top 10 food and beverage trends for 2008 here, along with examples of numerous food and beverage products in these categories introduced this year that Datamonitor has tracked, and which point to strong growth for next year. You also can read a short piece summarizing Datamonitor's top ten food and beverage trends for 2008 published yesterday in Beverage Daily here.

As the Datamonitor report shows, the top ten food and beverage trends for next year all center around the natural/organic, specialty/premium, healthy/environmental sector. As we suggest here often, these categories (an consumer movements) are related and have strong synergies between them They're also increasingly converging together.

For example, natural and organic foods consumers tend to also be "greener" consumers. They also focus more on healthy eating and are most likely to be early adapters to foods and beverages like probiotics and superfruits, for example. Additionally, there's a growing convergence between specialty and premium foods and natural/organic foods consumers--and marketing. These consumers share a concern for quality. More and more, quality in terms of food and beverage products is meaning all-natural or organic as well, in addition to the elimination of food additives, preservatives and artificial coloring.

This "healthy" convergence is demonstrated by an emphasis on the part of specialty foods manufacturers and retailers (store brands) to introduce more and more new products that have natural or organic attributes as well as being premium quality. By the same token, natural foods manufacturers and retailers are increasingly going premium with their new natural and organic food and beverage products.

In fact, a new study from market researcher Mintel says the top food and beverage trend for 2008 will be "getting the junk out of food and beverage products." In other words it's the elimination of preservatives, additives, artificial flavorings and colorings and other such ingredients in their existing products, as well as not putting them in new products introduced in the majority of cases that will be a key event in the food industry beginning next year. This isn't to say food and beverages with these artificial ingredients are going away anytime soon. Rather, Mintel says there will be a rapid decline in their use beginning in 2008.

This junk-free food and beverage movement has been picking up steam in the U.S. and Western Europe, and dovetails with the natural, organic, green and sustainable consumer movements. The definition of healthy is being expanded we believe to include not only what is in food but how and where it's grown, packaged and tastes. In other words, healthy not only means a healthy person, but a healthy environment as well. It's becoming an external as well as internal definition. You can read about the Mintel 2008 food and beverage trend study in more detail here.

As we mentioned above, taste is a key factor--and premium taste is one of the hottest trends for 2008, according to a new study from Packaged Facts and

A new study from market research firm packaged facts says sales of specialty and gourmet foods are predicted to grow by a whopping 63% over the next five years. This consumer flight to premium quality foods is being driven by a number of factors, according to the researcher. These factors include consumers' becoming more sophisticated via travel and multiculturalism, retailers carrying expanded selections of specialty, gourmet and ethnic foods, and a convergence between specialty, natural and organic foods.

This growing consumer sophistication and the availabilty of a wide variety of specialty, gourmet and ethnic foods, not only in specialty stores and supermarkets, but in natural foods stores, mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart and Target, online, and even in drug stores, is growing the premium foods market to the point that Packaged Facts predicts it will grow to $96 billion annually in five years, compared to the categories current sales of $59 billion. (You can read more about the Packaged Facts' specialty and gourmet food and beverage report here.)

Packaged Facts isn't the only consumer research firm to predict this huge growth in the specialty, gourmet and premium food and beverage categories. (We use all three of these terms because each has certain distinctions. However, from a sales standpoint, they are one category.), a consumer products trend analysis firm and website, is predicting 2008 will be the year for the "premiumization" of nearly everything and anything, including food, grocery and beverage products. By this, the firm means virtually no product category will escape having some sort of premium version.

"Premiumization" is one of the consumer research firm's top 8 trends for 2008, along with what it calls status spheres, snack culture, online oxygen, brand butlers, crowd mining, MIY (make it yourself) and eco-iconic. (you can read more about these seven other trends here.)

In terms of the food and beverage industries, "premiumization" means an increasing trading up by consumers to more premium-quality products. It also means food and beverage manufacturers, marketers and retailers will not only continue their current rapid pace of premium specialty and gourmet foods new product introductions, but will excellerate it even more. also says we'll see niche "premiumization" in the food and beverage sectors. For example, limited addition super-premium food and beverage products like deserts and bottled waters, will be introduced in very upscale packaging and for a limited period of time.

As examples, they sight Evian's new, limited release Palace bottled water. Set to be introduced either at the end of this year or early in 2008, the water will only be available for sale at high-end bars and restaurants. The sleek bottle features a specially designed pouring top and comes with a stainless steel coaster. It will sell for between $15-$20 (USA) per bottle.

Other super-premium bottled waters include Bling H20. Bling water comes in a frosted glass-bottle with a cork that's embellished with crystals. The water is a much a personal accessory as it is a beverage. It's big with the Hollywood crowd, and was featured backstage at the MTV awards and the Emmy's this year.

If the first two bottled waters aren't premium enough for you, there's Tasmanian Rain. This utra-premium water comes from the pristine north coast of the Australian island of Tasmania. According to the bottlers, the water comes from a spot where the World Meteorological Organization records the world's purest air.

Beer also is getting "premiumization" treatment. This summer, Carlsburg launched its Carlsburg 900 in a limited number of bars in Stockholm, Sweden. The brew is made with refined virgin hops, selected crystal malt, and is triple filtered in a special process that ensures a pure, delicate taste, the brewer says. Carlsberg 900 also is priced at the premium end of the price range. A bottle costs about the same as a class of quality champagne. also sights some premium foods as an example of niche categories that are undergoing the "premiumization" process. Chief among these are marshmallows. Dean & Delucca's gourmet Boule' Marshmallows come in such flavors as passion fruit, lemon chiffon, pure vanilla and rose petal. They retail for $28 a bag--and it's not a very big bag. Another gourmet foods maker, Pete's Gourmet, sells premium flavored and dipped marshmallows for $1 each. Dean & Delucca recently reported that in its stores and on its website the pricey gourmet marshmallows are selling out.

Honey's and chocolates are two other categories the consumer research firm says also are getting "premiumized" in a big way. Foods and beverages lead this "premiumization" trend, according to Of course, we see this daily in nearly every food category in the supermarket. Retailers are aiding this trend by creating store brand specialty, gourmet and premium foods and pricing them more reasonably than manufacturer brands, thus expanding the market for these goods into the moderate income sector.

Fresh foods also are getting the "premiumization" treatment. Whether it's in-store fresh prepared foods at grocers like Whole Foods, Wegman's, Safeway Stores and others, or manufacturer-produced fresh and frozen entrees, the trend is towards premium quality. Tesco's entry into the U.S. market with it's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets also is fueling the growth of fresh, prepared foods marketing and sales. The retailer is offering scores of fresh, prepared foods at its Fresh & Easy stores in California and Nevada (13 open so far). The grocer plans to have at least 200 stores open in the next two years, and all will offer extensive selections of premium prepared foods.

As we end 2007 and move into 2008, our analysis tells us the hot button trends and consumer movements will be: natural and organics. The categories will continue their rapid growth. However, we see retail prices on organics coming down at least 5% as retailers like Safeway, Kroger and others continue to expand and grow their store brand organic grocery lines.

Specialty, gourmet and ethnic foods. As the research discussed in this piece demonstrates, category growth will be huge. We also see an increasing number of large, multi-national packaged goods companies getting deeper into specialty foods marketing. Major companies like Kraft, Heinz, General Mills and others will move upscale with line extensions and even new brands.

Ethical consumers and marketing is a growing trend, and it will continue to grow in the years ahead. Consumers increasingly want to know how and where their foods are produced. They also want to know the corporate behavior of the companies that produce their foods. It's a small movement at present, but will grow bigger in the next five years.

Local food sourcing also will continue to grow. However, consumers love imported foods too much to give them up. Therefore, in the main, locavores (those who only eat foods produced within a 100 miles of where they live) will remain a small, minority movement. However, more and more consumers will buy local foods whenever they can, making it an important movement and marketing concept for food marketers, retailers, consumers and small farmers.

Green issues will begin to move into the mainstream in a big way in 2008. More and more consumers will demand sustainability from food producers, marketers and retailers. The industry will respond, led by key players like Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Safeway, Tesco and others on the retail end. On the supply side, companies like Proctor & Gamble, Clorox, Hain-Celestial and others will move further with their green initiatives, setting an example for others in their industry to follow.

Healthy foods, especially foods containing new natural ingredient innovations, will continue to be a major hot button. We are beginning to see healthier foods positioning throughout the supermarket, from the dairy case to the snack aisle. This will intensify, and grocers will get more involved in their customers health issues by putting health and wellness clinics in-store, increasing the quality and quantity of health labeling information, and even demanding their suppliers produce healthier products.

As we said at the beginning of this piece, there's a synergy between these top trends for 2008. That synergy is the growing convergence between the natural and specialty foods industries, and the growing consumer movement towards eating healthier and defining healthy as not only something internal but external (the environment). Within this mix, taste is key. Consumers won't trade off healthy and "green" for quality anymore. In fact, they want premium quality taste along with the natural, organic, healthy and green attributes in their foods---and from their food producers and retailers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weekly Wine Industry Memo

Wine Industry Innovation

Coppola's wines-by-the-glass and mini sparklers: A wine offering 'you can't refuse'

Movie director and producer Francis Ford Coppola, who spends most of his time tending to his Napa Valley winery, specialty foods business (pasta and pasta sauces) and restaurants these days, has introduced an innovative wine-by-the-glass packaging option for some of his Napa Valley, California-produced wines.

Francis Ford Coppola Rosso (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Bianco (Pinot Grigio) wines-by-the-glass.

The ready-to-drink wines are designed to be popped open at events or at home when only a glass of wine is desired, rather than having the bottle go to waste or have to be refrigerated. As we all know, white wine never taste's as good after being opened and refrigerated. And in the case of red wine, the unfinished bottle has to sit out with the cork in it. The result: the wines' usually end up getting pured down the drain after a couple days.

New types of packaging such as Coppola's wines-by-the-glass is aimed at getting non-traditional wine drinkers to try the fermented fruits of the grape. In particular, this target market is focused on young people who tend to choose spirits or craft beers over wine. The idea behind Coppola's glass of wine serving option is that it will appeal to these younger consumers not only because it's different and unique but also because it's convenient. This convenience factor is designed to appeal to traditional wine drinkers as well of course--and get them to buy the wines-by-the-glass to drink at settings where they might not otherwise serve wine.

Coppola hasn't stopped its innovation with the wine-by-the-glass items however. The winery also has introduced "mini sparklers," sparkling wine varieties in a mini-can and in a juice-type box with a straw. The sparklers are named Sofia (after Coppola's daughter) and come in a slightly sweet Pinot Banc blend, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat Canelli. The sparklers are inspired by Italy's light and fruity Prosecco. Coppola also owns a vineyard and winery in Italy but the sparklers are made from California-grown grapes and produced in Napa.

Coppola Winery's mini sparklers; three varieties of sparkling wine in a can and in a mini juice-type container with a straw. We call them sippy cups for grown-ups.

This downsizing, or minis trend, exemplified by Coppola's wines-by-the-glass, mini cans, and juice-type container minis with a straw, are part of a larger trend in the wine industry to package wine in smaller containers and in alternative ways. It seems to be working according to recent AC Nielson research. Sales of single-serve minis (187 milliliters or 6.3 oz) have been increasing significantly more than those of the overall wine market. Minis sales are up 10.3% this year, compared to about 6% for all table wines. Wine industry experts say much of the growth in the sale of the minis is coming from young people, who are being drawn to wine because of the innovative and convenient packaging.

[For an interesting look at how one group of young people (generation Y college students) is embracing wine, read this story from the the Golden Gate Express, the student newspaper at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California. The article, Fine Wine Strikes Generation Y, talks about how San Francisco State University students are exploring wine in large part because of the wine industry's new product development initiatives and packaging innovations, along with the fact that premium quality wines likes Charles Shaw's "two-buck-chuck" are in their price range.]

As a director, Coppola was know to be a bit of a maverick. It served him well in his movie making career, and just might do the same for him in the wine business. To paraphrase Don Corleone in Coppola's Godfather trilogy, "The wines-by-the-glass and mini sparklers might just be an offer younger drinkers just can't refuse."

Screw top wine bottles gaining ground for premium wines

The screw-cap fastener used to be reserved for inexpensive jug wines like Gallo's Carlo Rossi
or its infamous Thunderbird brand wines. However, that's been changing radically over the past five or so years. Premium wineries in California, and even in France, more and more have been using screw-top caps on their best wines of late, and it's a growing trend.

In fact, Tesco, the third largest retailer in the world, recently announced than more than half (55%-65%) of all wine sold in its stores now has screw top fasteners on the bottles. Tesco's supermarkets carry extensive wine selections, including lots of premium wines from all over the world.

Many Napa Valley, California premium wineries like Plump Jack, which was one of the first to do away with corks in favor of screw caps, also are using screw-cap bottles for their finest, and most expensive, wines. In fact, many wine experts argue that today's modern screw-caps are superior to natural cork, especially for red wines, in that they don't allow oxygen to reach the wines as they age and prevent contamination caused by chemicals in some corks which can make red wine taste musty.

Natural cork also is an endangered species. It's harder to obtain and as a result much more expensive. Hence, the reason you also are seeing so many synthetic, plastic-like corks in premium wines today, along with the expanded use of screw tops.

From sports nutrition bars to premium wine: Clif Bar makes a (long) line extension

Gary Erikson and Kit Crawford, the Northern California couple who founded the successful sports nutrition brand Clif Bar (as well as the Luna Bar), have diversified into the wine making business. And, not wanting to let a successful brand name go to waste, they've named their wine brand Clif Bar Wines. The wines are produced at the Clif Bar Family Winery and Farm, owned by the couple, in Northern California's Napa Valley.

On the farm, the couple grows organic fruits and vegetables, raises free-range chickens and turkeys, and produces bio-diesel fuel, which they run all the farm equipment and their own personal vehicles on. The couple is part of the Slow Food movement and supports small, artisan food producers through their businesses.

But, back to the wines. Clif Bar Family Winery sources the grapes for its wines from their Napa Valley neighbors and from grape growers on the nearby north coast. They say they try to buy either organically-grown or sustainable-farmed grapes for all their wines but it isn't always the case, depending on availability, price and other variables. The winery's mission is to produce sustainable, premium quality wines.

There currently are five wine varieties available under the Clif Bar brand. There's the 2006 vintage Climber, a white wine blend; the Climber 2006, a red wine made from North coast-grown grapes; Kit's Killer Cab (named after Crawford), which is a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigon; Gary's Improv (named after Erikson), which is a 2003 vintage Napa Valley Meritage; and lastly there's a 2004 Napa Valley Syrah. It has no special name like the others. Erikson is a mountain climber, which is where the first two wines get the inspiration for their names.

The wines use the same brand name and logo as the company's Clif sports nutrition bars. We aren't sure however if the wines give one the same energy lift that the sports nutrition bars do. We doubt it. In fact, if they did we would be disappointed.

We also aren't sure if the line extension from sports nutrition bars to wines is a good one. Time will tell we suppose. Perhaps Clif Bar wine and sports nutrition bar tastings will take off as the next hot trend for parties? The bars give you energy, and the wine brings you back down again. All fun aside, the wines have received good reviews and are attractively packaged. You can read more about the wines and the Clif Bar Family Winery and Farm here.

Wine Industry Notes:

Fat Bastard Wines names top ten most pretentious figures in the U.S.: Fat Bastard Wines, a wine described by Newsweek magazine as a "Wine for the anti-snob," has built it's reputation in part by mocking the sense of self importance often seen in the wine world--and elsewhere in society. As a result of Fat Bastard's loathing of self-importance, the company created its "Fat Bastard Most Pretentious Poll, a poll of 100 lifestyle section newspaper editors from throughout the U.S.

This year's top ten is a who's who of media whores. Coming in at number one is Donald Trump, followed by Paris Hilton and Fox News host Bill O' Reilly. After the top three, fourth place honors go to Rosie O' Donnell, actor Tom Cruise, Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, British spice girl turned Beverly Hills professional shopper Victoria Beckham, supermodel turned talk show host Tyra Banks, rap star and activist Kanye West, and last but not least, chairwoman of the "I hate underwear" club Britney Spears.

You can read more about these choices, including some choice comments about them, here. Something tells us we won't see any of these ten sipping a glass of Fat Bastard wine anytime soon. But come to think of it, since Fat Bastard is the wine for the unpretentious, we doubt if any of them has even tried it before.

Wine Retailing

Supernatural grocer Whole Foods Market, Inc. has been chosen as the 2007 Best Wine Retailer of the Year by the Wine Enthusiast Magazine. This is the first time a supermarket has received the magazine's prestigious Wine Star Award, which recognizes excellence in the wine industry.

The Wine Enthusiast said, in giving the award to Whole Foods, "Whole Foods Market has worked hard to establish its wine departments as must-visit destinations in a supermarket setting by focusing on providing a high level of customer service and a wide selection of wine varieties, characteristics and prices. Catering to each of its local communities, the wine departments at Whole Foods market stores also focus on locally produced wines."

The judges listed the following innovations by Whole Foods and its Wine Team members, which helped the grocer win the award. These features include: enomatic wine sampling stations in the wine departments which allow customers to try a wide range of wines by the ounce or the glass, wine seminars, food and wine pairings and tastings, and lots of signage and communications, educating shoppers about wines from the basic varieties to higher-end premium wines.

Whole Foods' new Market Bistro, like the one pictured above in its Potrero Hill store in San Francisco, is a combination restaurant and wine bar. The grocer is placing Market Bistros in most of its new stores.

Whole Foods also has been an innovator in selling organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines, including those in innovative "eco-friendly" packaging. The grocer also recently introduced a new in-store food and wine feature which it's putting in most of its new stores. That feature is an elaborate in-store wine bar/bistro called the Market Bistro. The wine bar offers an extensive selection of wines by the glass. Food items in the Market Bistro also are paired with wine selections for customers.

In accepting the award, Geoff Ryan, Whole Foods' national wine buyer, said the supernatural grocer is "working hard to change the face of wine purchasing and merchandising within the supermarket setting to provide high quality, affordable, unique wines." Ryan says the grocer's goal is to make its wine departments a destination for current and new shoppers. Creating the full experience of food and wine by pairing food and wine and creating complete dining experiences is part of that strategy for Whole Foods, according to Ryan.

Wine Enthusiast magazine has grown to be one of the most read and respected wine publications in the U.S. and internationally. It currently has a readership of about 700,000 per issue. The magazine rates and reviews wines in addition to writing about many aspects of the wine industry and the convergences between food and wine. It present its Wine Star award annually.

Wine Retailing Notes:

Big demand by Brits for big-bottled bubbly: Consumer demand for bubbly in big bottles causing holiday shortage in UK. Consumers in the United Kingdom (UK) have acquired such a huge taste for sparkling wines and champagne that retailers there are saying there likely will be a shortage of the bubbly for the holidays. Of particular concern, is premium bubbly in large bottles, which the Brits and others in the UK have learned to love.

According to a recent story in the, famed UK wine merchant Berry Bros, & Rudd says it's considering instituting a waiting list system for customers who want magnums and jeroboams (the real big bottles) of champagne and sparkling wines. In fact, the wine merchant says its seen sales of bubbly double in just the last two weeks alone.

Consumer demand for the larger bottles of champagne and sparkling wine has been increasing so fast in the UK that production hasn't been able to meet it. Industry experts there say the trend caught bottlers by surprise, which is why they're so behind the demand curve with production. Additionally, the more premium and expensive the bubbly, the more in demand it is. Berry Bros. & Rudd says getting hold of the large bottles of the best champagne is getting near impossible as it gets closer to the holidays. Sounds like lots of celebrating is going on--in a big bottle way.

Organic wines at top of trends list: Organic wines, along with craft beers and signature cocktails, top the list of top restaurant beverage trends in the just released National Restaurant Association annual beverage trends survey. The survey of over 1,000 professional chefs found alcoholic beverages are among the hottest culinary trends in restaurants in the U.S. currently. the professional chefs, all members of the American culinary Federation ranked craft beers as the hottest trend, followed by energy drink cocktails, martini's, mojitos, artisan liquors, organic wine and specialty beers in the top 20 culinary trends for 2007-2008.

Organic wines aren't just popular diner drink choices. The chefs said they're using the wines in various innovative culinary ways. For example, the chefs said they are using organic wines (as well as other premium wines) in deglazing, reduction and sauce preparation. They also are using the wines to prepare wine-flavored ice teas. The most popular wine varieties for these interesting drinks are Chardonay, Cabernet and Merlot. Food and wine pairings are a growing trend the chefs say, and with the fast-growing popularity of organic foods, the organic wines are becoming popular for organic food and wine pairing events. Fruit-flavored and rose/blush wines also are hot say the chefs.

The growing popularity of organic wines at restaurants mirrors their growing popularity at retail. This trend also dovetails with the growing "mainstreaming" of organic foods and the sustainable, buy local and "green" food movements. In fact, the survey also identified what the chefs say are the hot food trends in their restaurants. At the top of the list are organic foods, local produce, sustainable seafood, grass-fed beef and free-range meats and poultry of all types.

A&P buys wine merchant as way to upscale wine merchandising: The A&P supermarket chain has decided to pursue an interesting strategy to grow it's wine merchandising capabilities. The supermarket chain has acquired Best Sellers, a New York City wine merchant/retailer famous for its Great Wines for Everyday Merchandising strategy. That strategy focuses on selling wines by flavor rather than origin, and does so at reasonable prices.

Joshua Wesson, Best Seller's co-founder and a wine expert, will join A&P as the grocer's director of beer, wine and spirits. Best Sellers has five retail locations. A&P says it plans to keep all the stores located in its core market, which is all but one which is located in Boston. That store will be sold. The larger strategy however isn't operating the Best Sellers stores as much as it is bringing the wine merchant's merchandising strategy, and Wesson's expertise, into A&P. The grocer will use this new talent to revamp the wine, beer and spirits selections in its stores using the Great Wines for Everyday Merchandising philosophy.

A&P has been revamping its food merchandising, moving from a conventional approach to more of an emphasis on specialty and natural foods, premium quality prepared foods and other upscale offerings. The move into more extensive and premium wine merchandising fits well with the grocer's overall change in merchandising strategy. Just as specialty, premium and natural/organic foods are the fastest growing categories at retail, so to are beverages in these categories. In particular, premium and organic wines, craft and specialty beers, and innovative signature cocktails are hot. The Best Sellers acquisition should give A&P a specialty food and beverage one-two punch in their new merchandising program.

Tesco's wine chief to Aussie wine industry: "Put the personality back into wine:" Dan Jago, who runs wine merchandising for British retailer Tesco, the world's third largest retailer, recently gave a scolding to Australian wine producers at the 13th Annual Wine Industry Conference in Melbourne.

At the conference yesterday, Jago told the winemakers they've been resting on their laurels. "I would really, really ask you to put the personality back into wine," he told them. "For too long you've been saying 'this is good because it's Australian.' You have to tell us why it's different."

Jago went on to expalin what he meant more specifically. "I would also urge you to make your wines lighter and more refreshing," he said. "Wines with 13 or 14 percent alcohol just aren't exciting anymore, and consumers are looking to the 'old world' for more refreshing wines."

Did the Australia winemakers listen? Well, Tesco is the largest overseas buyer of Australian wines, and one of the top retailers if wines in general in the world. The British-based mega-retailer also is considered in the industry to be one of the best at merchandising and selling wines.

Jago did offer some positive words to the Aussie winemakers though. He told the group he sees "considerable opportunities" for Australian wine exports in terms of gaining market share and profitability. He suggested that as an industry in general, and as a retailer (Tesco) in particular "we're running to hot on promotions right now." As such, "You shorten the life of your brands by over-spiking them," he told the winemakers. His solution: "Let's reduce promotional participation" in general. In other words, he let them know Tesco plans to cut back on its promotional activity in the wine category.

Jago urged the winemakers and marketers to embrace change, telling them "If you don't change, others will change faster." That's likely good advice for any industry. However, we can't help wondering if the Aussie's will invite Jago back next year?

Tesco's Fresh & Easy offers its own version of two-buck-chuck: British retailer Tesco's new Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets venture in the U.S., which is sort of an IGA neighborhood grocery store meets Trader Joe's. is taking a wine merchandising page from the Trader and offering its own version of a two dollar bottle of wine.

Fresh & Easy's version is called Big Kahuna, an Australian Shiraz imported for the retailer by Cornerstone, a new U.S. subsidiary of Copestick Murray, a wine company based in Wiltshire, England. Copestick Murray is a major wine supplier to Tesco, and the British-based retailer brought the company along with it to the U.S. to import many of the wines it sells in its Fresh & Easy grocery markets. Thus far 13 Fresh & Easy stores have opened in Southern California and Nevada and more are on the way.

Fresh & Easy also is selling another private label wine which is getting rave reviews, especially for its price-to-quality value. The wine is a Recoleta, an Argentine wine. It's a blend of Malbec, Argentina's primary red wine, and Bonarda. The wine sells for $3.99 bottle. We're told by a couple wine lovers in Southern California that they bought all the bottles in one of the Fresh & Easy stores after buying a bottle a couple days earlier and loving it--and it's price. They call the wine "premium four-buck chuck."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Green Memo: The Ban-The-Bulb Movement

Greenpeace UK calling on Ireland to ban the incandescent light bulb

The international movement to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs is currently in its infancy. However, beginning in 2008, we believe the movement will pick up steam, joining plastic grocery bag bans as a major green campaign in the west.

As our readers know, we've been following closely the growing international movement by municipalities, states and provinces to ban plastic grocery bags. You can read our latest piece on plastic bag bans here.

We believe another ban movement is beginning, and that it will start to pick up steam next year. This movement will be advocating bans on the selling of incandescent light bulbs.

We see this ban taking many forms. First, we think there will be increased pressure put on retailers to stop selling incandescent light bulbs altogether, and to just offer compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which most already sell, for sale in their stores. Second, we believe on the governmental level, ban-the-bulb campaigns will be strongest first at the city or municipality levels, followed by states and provinces. Nationwide bans will come last, with some exceptions of course, such as the one discussed below.

One of the first major movements to ban incandescent light bulbs is beginning in Ireland. Greenpeace UK has launched a major online campaign and petition drive to get Ireland's environment minister, John Gormely, to author legislation to ban the incandescent bulb.

Greenpeace UK chose Ireland to start this campaign because the country uses more energy for lighting than any other country in the European Union (EU). Greenpeace UK wants the Irish government to pass a law which will set tough energy efficiency standards on household lighting.

The Irish government has already began a program to phase out incandescent light bulbs and has proposed an "eco-tax" on them in order to favor the use of CFLs Greenpeace supports the tax but says its not enough. Rather, they want the government to implement a law which insists on mandatory, ever-improving efficiency standards for household lighting. Such standards would make the incandescent bulb a thing of the past, they say.

You can read more about the Greenpeace UK proposal here, as well as see the online petition to the Irish government. Thus far 8,634 people have signed the petition. Greenpeace UK's goal is for 10,000 signatures.

Essentially, the group's plan isn't for the Irish government to pass a law that says outright that incandescent light bulbs can no longer be sold in the country. Rather, by passing its proposed lighting efficiency standards, which technologically incandescent bulbs can't meet, the old-school bulbs would just fade away.

In the UK there's currently a "voluntary" ban on incandescent bulbs in place. Bulbs with less than 30 lumens per watt could gradually disappear from the marketplace under the ban--but it is voluntary. A number of UK retailers have said they plan on completely eliminating the sale of incandescents in their stores. For example, the Woolworth's supermarket chain says it will stop selling incandescents by 2010. Additionally, the Co-op, a food retailer with numerous stores in the UK, has said it also will no longer sell incandescent bulbs after 2010.

Swedish furniture and household accessory retailer Ikea, which has stores in the UK and throughout the world, recently announced it will ban the sale of incandescent bulbs in all its stores worldwide by 2011.

Greenpeace UK is lobbying every major retailer that sells incandescent light bulbs in the UK, and tracking their response to the voluntary ban. Thus far one retailer, Currys, says it will stop selling incandescents by the end of this year.

Another UK retailer, Habitat, has committed to eliminating the bulbs from its shelves by the end of 2009. In Addition to Woolworths and the Co-op, other major retailers who say they will stop selling incandescents by the end of 2010 include, ASDA, Sainsburys and Morrisons. Sainsburys is the UK's number one retailer. ASDA is owned by Wal-Mart.

Tesco, the UK's number two retailer, and Waitrose, the leading upscale grocer in the UK, have committed to banning the incandescent bulbs from their shelves by the end of 2011. You can read a list, and time-line, of UK retailers who've thus far agreed to stop selling incandescents here.

The move to ban incandescent bulbs also is picking up steam elsewhere in the EU, but not yet to the degree it has in the UK and Ireland. The movement also is starting to develop in the U.S. Cities such as San Francisco, which is the first U.S. city to ban plastic grocery bags, and a few others are considering legislation regarding household lighting efficiency standards and possible incandescent bulb bans.

Groups also are beginning to put pressure on major U.S. retailers like Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, to stop selling the bulbs. Earlier this year Wal-Mart came out with its own private label CFL, which it's selling in some cases for as little as 99 cents each.

We expect to see the movement gain major traction in the U.S. next year however as Green Peace and other groups begin to focus more on retailers, like they are in the UK, and as more cities look at local legislation. In the U.S., such environmental legislation generally starts at the local level, then moves to the states and federal government after.

We also expect to see some progressive retailers stop selling the incandescent bulbs on their own. Major U.S. retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's already devote very little shelf space to incandescents relative to the amount of space they now are devoting to CFLs. Further, public utilities systems in the U.S. are offering rebates on the purchase of CFLs by consumers. These rebates bring the price of CFLs down to that of incandescents, and are resulting in huge sales increases in the CFL category.

This is an issue that, like plastic grocery bag bans, is going to grow rapidly internationally. We will be watching it closely and reporting on it regularly for our readers.

Tuesday Talking Points Memo: Eastward-Bound for Fresh & Easy

Tesco is looking beyond the Western U.S., to Chicago and the East Coast, for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets' expansion

"Natural~Specialty Foods' Talking Points Memo expects to see other large retailers look closely at and even get into the "Small Mart" format. We especially believe there's a niche on the East Coast. Thus far all three players-Tesco (Fresh & Easy stores), Wal-Mart (in development) and Whole Foods (Express prototype store soon to open in Boulder, Colorado) are focused on the Western U.S. The East Coast, with its demographics and mix of large cities and suburbs is wide open (for Fresh & Easy-type stores)."

Nearly three months ago we were predicting here that the eastern USA is fertile ground for Tesco, with its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets format, and others to launch what we call a "Small Mart" format revolution. "Small Mart's," a term we coined because of Wal-Mart's ongoing research into developing two small format stores, are small footprint grocery markets like Tesco's Fresh & Easy, which the British retailer has started opening in the Western U.S. Thus far, thirteen Fresh & Easy stores are open in the U.S.--eight in Southern California and five in the Las Vegas, Nevada metropolitan area. Two more Fresh & Easy convenience-style grocery markets open tomorrow in Southern California. The first stores open in Arizona in early December.

Two news stories, one on November 25 in the London Times Online and another last week in the publication Retail Week, are reporting that Tesco is scouting the Eastern U.S., particularly New York and New Jersey and down to Florida, and the Chicago metropolitan area, for locations for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets. Additionally, Retail Week reports Tesco is looking for a sight in the Chicago region for a distribution center.

We've heard these rumors of a Midwest and Eastern U.S. expansion from our sources--who've been very reliable to date--for the past month. However, we haven't reported on it as the time- line we've been hearing is 2009. However, it's highly-probable Tesco has moved it's post-Western U.S. expansion time-line up, as the retailer is on the fast-track in terms of it's Fresh & Easy growth strategy.
For example, as we were one of the first to report, Tesco executives are currently combing Northern and Central California for Fresh & Easy store locations and a distribution center to serve the region. It's possible the grocer could build as many as 50-75 stores in Northern and Central California in the next 24 months.

Southern California was initially the primary target region for stores in the state for 2007 and 2008. Tesco plans to have 50 Fresh & Easy stores open in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona by February, 2008, according to Tim Mason, CEO of Tesco USA.

According to Retail Week, a U.S. source told the publication Tesco was "definitely" considering launching a distribution center and Fresh & Easy stores in and around Chicago. However, the source said it's unlikely Tesco would do so before the end of 2008. This source's information to Retail Week fits our sources' information fairly well in terms of the time-line for Midwest and Eastern U.S. expansion plans.

In Saturday's London Times Online story, which includes an interview with Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, the publication reports industry sources in the UK have told it that Tesco officials are "swarming the East Coast of America to check for potential (Fresh & Easy) locations in New York and Florida." Sir Terry wouldn't confirm this to the Times however.

Tesco's rapid geographical expansion in the U.S. makes sense based on the model the British-based international retailer is using for its Fresh & Easy stores. Both Sir Terry and Tim Mason have said Tesco USA's strategy is one similar to Starbucks, in that they want Fresh & Easy markets literally in every neighborhood in their trading regions. By making the green and white bannered convenience-style grocery markets ubiquitous in the regions it chooses to do business in, Tesco can create a "mass retail" effect similar to what Starbucks has done with its upscale coffee shops. It's also what conventional convenience store operators like 7-Eleven and Circle-K have done in the U.S. for decades.

Rapid U.S. geographical expansion also fits into Tesco's overall corporate strategy in terms of its growth and sales goals. Sir Terry told the Times Tesco's target is to have more than half its sales from outside Britain in the next five to ten years. Currently, less than a third of Tesco's sales come from outside Britain, where it's the second largest food retailer after number one J. Sainsbury.

International expansion has been the hallmark of Sir Terry's decade as the head of Tesco. In addition to the Fresh & Easy venture in the U.S., Tesco has gone into Eastern Europe in a big way. The retailer also is currently working on plans to expand into Russia. Today, Tesco has stores in 12 countries outside the UK. In the ten years since Sir Terry has been in charge, Tesco's sales have doubled, the majority of those sales coming from international operations.

In many ways the U.S. will be the retailer's biggest challenge though. Other British retailers like Marks & Spencer and J. Sainsbury tried stores in the U.S. in the past--but failed. Further, the Fresh & Easy format--stores that average about 10,000 square feet and offer a combination of up-market fresh prepared foods along with basic national brand and private label groceries--is a gamble in a country where Wal-Mart Supercenters, Costco Wholesale Stores, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Safeway Stores, Kroger, Supervalu and so many others divide up the competitive food retailing pie using a variety of strategies--ranging from super upscale and organic foods marketing to deep discount pricing strategies.

Tesco has been extremely successful with its "Express" grocery market format however in the UK and throughout Europe. Fresh & Easy is a variation of that proven format. As such, many believe there's a space in the U.S. food retailing scene for just such an operation--a combination basic grocery market and upscale prepared foods retailer housed in a smaller, more convenient format.

With its sights set beyond the West Coast, to America's heartland and East Coast, Tesco is betting with its corporate wallet that such a food retailing space exists in the U.S. They just might be right?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Marketing Memo: Retail Format Innovation

Stretching the boundaries of convenience store retailing: Japan's Natural Lawson is awesome
Convenience stores are as ubiquitous in Japan as grains of white rice and packages of Ramen noodles. There are about 40,000 conbini, as convenience stores are called in Japan, in the nation, or one for every 3,200 residents.

One of the largest conbini operators in Japan, in addition to market share leader Seven-Eleven Japan, Circle K Sunkus and FamilyMart, is Lawson, which operates 8,400 convenience stores in all 47 of the nation's prefectures.

If the name Lawson sounds American that's because it is. The origin of the Lawson name originates in the U.S. state of Ohio in 1939. A man named J.J Lawson started up a milk business there called Lawson's Milk, and opened a chain of store's in the state to sell his milk. The milk stores evolved into convenience-type stores and in 1959 Consolidated Foods Co. bought out Lawson.

In 1974 Consolidated Foods partnered with Japanese food retailer Daiei to open the first Lawson branded convenience store in Osaka in 1975. Daiei opened many more Lawson stores throughout the 1970's and 1980's. In 1989 Daiei merged another chain, Sun Chain, it operated in Japan with Lawson and created Daiei Convenience stores. In 1996 the combined operation was renamed Lawson, Inc., with all the stores getting the Lawson banner.

The Lawson banner is long gone in the U.S. Its stores all became Dairy Mart convenience stores in the states over a decade ago.

The majority of the 8,400 Lawson cobini (c-stores) in Japan are conventional convenience stores similar to those in the U.S. and Europe. However, Lawson also operates two other c-store formats in Japan. The first is called Lawson Store 100, a 20-store chain which sells various items for 100 yen each. It's similar to a dollar or 99 cents store in the U.S.

Natural Lawson's key target market is women. Many of its stores also have female managers, which isn't traditional in Japan's convenience store industry. Pictured above is Shodo Yuka, manager of one of the retailer's Tokyo stores.

Lawson's other format, and the one of interest in this piece, is called Natural Lawson. It's an upscale, high-end convenience store format positioned to serve Japanese women and the nation's seniors rather than salarymen. Salarymen are working men in Japan. Like their counterpart convenience stores in the U.S. and Europe, which traditionally target men, the majority of Japan's c-stores still do the same.

There currently are about 24 Natural Lawson stores in Japan, with 12 located in Tokyo. The stores' offer a broad selection of foods and other items for shoppers. The focus is on health and wellness, and increasingly on upscale, fresh prepared foods, along with natural and specialty groceries and nonfoods. Specialty foods brands line Natural Lawson's shelves and perishable cases. There's locally-grown produce, including organic, provided by a local Japanese farming collective. Organic groceries, coffee, teas and other foods and beverages are plentiful in the stores. High-end, all natural cosmetics for woman are offered for sale along with other natural health and wellness-oriented items.

Premium, all natural international brands and products like Starbucks share shelf space with locally-produced Japanese brands in Natural Lawson convenience stores.

An area Natural Lawson is moving further into is offering a diverse selection of healthy, upscale-quality fresh prepared foods, breads and related items. For example, the natural c-store retailer sells an all-natural healthier version of the popular bento lunchbox, which is a staple of Japan's working class. Natural Lawson recently entered into an alliance with NaturalBeat, which operates a chain of sandwich and delicatessen stores in Japan. The stores' prepared food items are all homemade, using natural ingredients with no food additives, preservatives or artificial colors. NaturalBeat also has a subsidiary called Wholesome Co. Ltd. which produces all natural healthy fresh breads and other baked goods.

All Natural Lawson convenience stores are now selling NaturalBeat's healthy, upscale-quality prepared foods, including sandwiches, salads, entrees and other grab-and-go items. The stores also are featuring the healthy fresh breads and baked goods produced by Wholesome Co. Ltd. Fresh, prepared foods--especially all natural and upscale--are a rarity in Japan's cobini, so natural Lawson is blazing a new trail in the category for convenience stores in the nation.

In addition to its product selection, Natural Lawson is taking great care in how its stores look, something that wasn't evident when the first stores opened in 2001. Today's stores however reflect the retailer's target market and positioning. Soft colors and natural woods are used inside the stores, appealing to the retailer's prime target shopper--women. There's no neon lighting like in Japan's typical conventional cobini. Instead, soft, recessed lighting is used throughout the stores, complementing the natural woods and pastel colors. Many of the stores have a bar area where shoppers can lounge, and where trained staff members give out health, wellness and beauty tips.

Natural Lawson uses an upscale, attractive font style and natural motif graphic for its logo on the signs outside each store, inviting shoppers to come inside.

The stores' brand--via its design, merchandising and product offerings--says Natural Lawson is the place to shop for premium, natural and healthy merchandise in a convenient format. This is still new to Japanese shoppers who are used to going to a cobini to get coffee, tea, soft drinks, pastries and other basic convenience items. Conventional c-stores in Japan also are popular for offering mobile phones, fax services, ticket sales, photocopies and other similar service-type offerings.

There's a space in Japan's huge convenience store market for something other than traditional cobini retailing, which is what Seven-Eleven Japan, Circle K and in the main Lawson itself does with all but its 24 Natural Lawson and 20 100 yen format stores. This is especially true when it comes to quality fresh prepared food and meals merchandising. It's nearly non-existent in the nation's c-stores. You can get a basic sandwich and other prepared foods like in U.S. convenience stores, but that's about it. ( Basic bento boxes and versions of a few other traditional Japanese foods are available at some conventional stores.)

In fact, Natural Lawson is getting some competition in this yet to be proven merchandising niche of fresh prepared foods from British retailer Tesco. Tesco is opening a Japanese version of its popular and successful Tesco Express stores in the nation that loves convenience stores. Tesco Express stores are a mix of convenience store and small supermarket, typically selling high-quality fresh foods, prepared meals and other offerings found in Tesco supermarkets but offered in convenience store-sized urban settings.

The British retailer, which also is opening similar stores in the U.S. under the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets banner, is opening 25 of these Express stores to start in Japan. The stores will sell basic grocery and other items along with lots of fresh prepared foods, meal solutions and quality grab-and-go items, along with other fresh and specialty grocery items.

Meanwhile, Natural Lawson is in the process of perfecting its merchandising mix, positioning itself not only as a higher-end cobini for fresh, natural and quality foods, but also as a destination for busy urban Japanese women who want quality natural health and beauty items in an attractive and comfortable setting designed with them in mind.

Natural Lawson cobini (convenience stores) even have all natural pet treat and upscale pet toy sections for man's (and women's) best friends.

There's no question Japanese consumers love their cobini. After all there's one convenience store for every 3,200 Japanese. In Tokyo, there's literally a cobini on every corner. And a joke in Japan says the only difference in the more rural areas is that there's a cobini on every other corner. To put it in perspective, the U.S. has about 24 times more land mass than Japan does--but it has only half as many 7-Eleven's.

Natural Lawson is stretching the definition of "convenience store" not only just in the c-store capital of Japan but internationally as well. Just as Tesco is importing its brand of "Express" convenience retailing to places like Eastern Europe, Japan and the USA, it will be interesting to see if retailers in these countries pick up on what Natural Lawson is doing with its 24 stores in Japan and try a similar format at home, in the U.S. or Europe.

To a degree it's happening in the U.S. and Europe already. In addition to Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores, eleven which have thus far opened in California and Nevada, there's Trader Joe's ( a somewhat similar format to Natural Lawson), Wawa, an upscale convenience store operator in the Eastern U.S., which puts a major focus on fresh prepared foods, and a couple others.

Whole Foods Market is in the process of opening its own upscale, all natural convenience-type store in Boulder Colorado. The store, called Whole Foods Express, will be a prototype for the supernatural foods retailer in terms of natural products retailing in a smaller, convenience-oriented format. The store will be about 14,000 square feet. In Japan that's considered a big store, especially in Tokyo. For Whole Foods its radically small, especially since the grocer's average new lifestyle natural supermarkets range from about 55,000 to 80,000 square feet.

In Western Europe, Tesco pioneered (and controls the market share) the upscale, Express convenience format. There are a few other players who've joined the market niche as well, with more considering doing so. Tesco's also taken it's creation to Eastern Europe, especially Poland, where its Express stores are doing extremely well. None though are doing quite what Natural Lawson is doing in Japan with it's combination of quality natural foods, nonfoods and health, wellness and beauty offerings.

If Natural Lawson can bring a new definition to convenience retailing in Japan--or at least add to the current definition--it could create a solid niche for itself among those its targeting--busy women and seniors who many think aren't currently being fully-served by the nation's conventional cobini. Men like natural products offerings too, even if they aren't the primary target market. And in Japan, like elsewhere, men buy lots of gifts for the women in their lives. That's another market Natural Lawson should look at.

Monday Morning Java: Consumer Trends

news, information, ideas and opinions to start the week off with a jolt

Ethicurean consumers: A serious and growing movement

Move over epicureans, vegetarians, vegans, locavors and other food lifestylers, there's a new consumer in town--and a new term to add to the growing lexicon of words and phrases that define today's eaters. Ethicureans are eaters who's food concerns and principles take precedence over taste. They love good food, but for these consumers that food must at least fall into four key categories: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Ethicureans call it SOLE food for short.

Although food choices for ethicureans must fall into these four categories, life isn't so easy. Contradictions abound. For example, is it ethical to eat organically-grown foods that are imported from thousands of miles away? The answer would likely be no. However, what if those organically grown foods are produced by farmers in an undeveloped country who are paid a fair trade wage to grow the organic delights? And what if by exporting these organic foods, these farmers, for the first time ever, are able to live a fairly decent lifestyle? That answer is a bit more difficult for ethicureans to answer, although since the food isn't locally-produced it does violate one of their four SOLE food precepts for ethical eating.

Similarly, what about locally-produced conventional fruits and vegetables. Imagine this produce being produced by a farmer who pays his workers double the minimum wage, provides health insurance for them at no charge and operates a sustainable farm with the exception of using commercial fertilizer, which means the fruits and veggies aren't organic. However, the produce is local, the farmer is super-ethical, and uses otherwise very sustainable agricultural methods with the exception of the commercial fertilizer? You get our point--ethical eating is fraught with contradictions.

Despite this fact, ethicureans are committed to their cause and working through the contradictions. As a guide to eating ethically they suggest eating as close to "raw" foods as one can. In other words, the more processed and refined a food is, the more energy and water is used to produce it--hence making it unethical by various degrees. As such, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed or lightly processed foods are the choice of ethicureans. This doesn't mean they eschew quality or gourmet foods. Rather, it's quit the opposite is many cases. In fact, many are foodies who love quality foods as long as they meet the SOLE food criteria: sustainable, organic, local and ethical.

Writer Michael Pollin--author of the Omnivore's Dilemma--is serving as sort of a non-elected guide to ethicureans in terms of what they "should" eat. Pollin, a popularizer of the term locavore (one who eats local foods), suggests a good rule of thumb for ethicureans is not to eat anything our great-great-great grandmothers wouldn't recognize. This rules out popular convenience foods and many other staples found in the modern supermarket. He praises what he argues is the ethical superiority of small, local organic farms. (A locavore isn't supposed to eat foods produced more than 100 miles from where they live.)

Pollin also believes the industrialization of food production has caused the organic foods movement to lose its soul. Multinational corporations buying smaller independent organic producers, the mass marketing of organic groceries by mega-chains like Wal-Mart, Target and others, and what he says are contradictory organic products like microwavable organic TV dinners, are all contributing factors to this loss of soul by the organics movement, which once was the domain of food cooperatives, farmers' markets and orthodox health foods stores.

Other aspects of the ethicurean lifestyle include eating seasonal foods. Seasonal foods generally travel much shorter distances than non-seasonal ones, thus falling into the local category, as producing these foods requires them to travel fewer food miles. Food miles is a measure of the distance foods travel from where they are produced to where they are consumed. Along the way these foods require numerous energy inputs--fuel, refrigeration and the like--which releases carbon into the atmosphere at each step along the way.

Bottled water is another negative for ethicureans. They argue it violates numerous green principles. First, it's packaged in plastic, which requires the use of fossil fuels to produce. The plastic water bottles also must be recycled--and often end-up being tossed into landfills. Next, most bottled water travels great distances from where it's produced and warehoused to the stores where it's sold. This supply and distribution chain requires excess food miles, they argue, and causes pollution and carbon emissions throughout the journey.

Lastly, much of the bottled water sold is merely filtered tap water. Ethicureans argue this is a waste of municipal water supplies which have been paid for by taxpayers. It's unethical they say for corporations to make money off these public utility systems. Instead they advocate drinking tap water, using reusable water bottles instead of disposable ones, and if needed using a filteration system on home water taps rather than buying bottled water.

Waste reduction also is key for ethicureans. Fresh produce packaged in foam trays or plastic bags is avoided. Rather, these consumers only buy bulk produce, which is generally organic. Along with recycling, they advocate home composting, not only as a way to keep food scraps out of landfills, but also as a way to provide an organic soil amendment for home gardening, which is the ultimate in local food sourcing.

Eating less meat and dairy is a part of the ethicurean lifestyle. A couple facts: About 60 billion animals are slaughtered each year in the world for food. According to the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, global meat and milk consumption will nearly double between now and the year 2050. Ethicureans argue that by simply eating four fewer (than average) servings of dairy a week, consumers can save 26,000 liters of water and cut greenhouse pollution by about 500 kilograms annually. Cutting back on the amount of meat one eats also conserves water and energy, and results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so is part of an ethical consumer lifestyle they say.

Buying and supporting fair trade, free-range, cruelty-free, organic and GMO-free foods are all aspects of the ethicurean lifestyle. Ethicureans look for labels and logos describing these attributes on the food products they buy. These economic and moral concerns are built into the ethical consumer stance ethicureans take--and vote on with their pocketbooks at the grocery store.

Ethical consumers are a small but fast-growing group globally. The movement is strongest obviously in the developed, western world where people have the luxury to make such choices. It's current epicenter is the United Kingdom but it's making strong inroads throughout western Europe, the U.S. and Australia.

Ethicureans are a diverse lot in terms of their backgrounds and eating habits to a certain degree. Not all adhere to the same, identical practices in terms of how they shop and what they eat. However, there is a broad consensus among them on what the key aspects of an ethicurean lifestyle are. These include the four categories described in the beginning of this piece--sustainable, organic, local and ethical (SOLE food)--along with various sub-categories like animal welfare, reduction of meat and dairy use, water conservation, fair trade and others.

Food producers, marketers and retailers should learn more about the ethicurean movement. Although it shares many similarities to established consumer lifestyles such as vegetarianism, veganism, naturalism and others, it's much different in that it comprises a comprehensive core of ethical, moral, humane, economic, social and political variables into a whole. That whole is the ethicurean consumer lifestyle--a growing global social, behavioral and economic consumer movement you will be hearing much more about.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Green Memo: Plastic Bag Bans...and More

New Jersey proposes statewide plastic grocery bag ban: If passed would be first in USA
Following on the heels of recent plastic grocery bag bans in San Francisco and Oakland, California in the USA, and in cities in Europe and Australia, New Jersey might become the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of plastic grocery bags by food retailers. In England, the city of London also could ban the bags as early as November 27, when Parliament debates a plastic shopping bag ban for all retailers in the city. We review the growing international movement to ban plastic grocery bags.

New Jersey would become the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of plastic grocery bags by the state's food retailers under a bill introduced yesterday in the state assembly. If passed, the law would require all retail food stores over 10,000 square feet in the state to phase-out the use of plastic grocery bags in three years.

The bill's primary author, Democratic Assemblyman Herb Conaway, says "plastic bags may be cheap and convenient, but they have costly long-term environmental consequences that just can't be ignored. In proposing the legislation Conway, a medical doctor, said nearly 1 trillion plastic grocery bags are used worldwide each year. "We need to get these bags out of the waste stream because they are polluting our soil and water," he explained in announcing the plastic bag ban bill yesterday.

The bill, if passed, requires New Jersey food retailers with stores larger than 10,000 square feet to reduce their use of plastic grocery bags by 50% by December 31, 2009, and eliminate the use of all plastic bags by the end of December, 2010. The stores also would have to provide in-store recycling bins for plastic bags and offer reusable grocery bags for sale as part of the legislation.

New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman Jack Connors, the plastic bag ban bill's co-sponsor, says plastic bags account for 90% of grocery bags in the U.S. "The (plastic) bags end up as litter, take longer to decompose in the environment than paper bags and harm wildlife," he said in explaining one of his reasons for co-sponsoring the bill with Assemblyman Conaway. The stores would still be able to use paper grocery bags if the bill passes.

San Francisco ban went into effect yesterday
San Francisco is the first city in the U.S. to ban the use of plastic grocery bags in retail food stores. The San Francisco law, which went into effect yesterday, requires all retail food stores that do over $2 million a year in sales to no longer offer plastic bags for shoppers. The stores can offer approved biodegradable "plastic" bags made out of corn starch and similar natural materials. Paper bags also are allowed under the San Francisco law.

Oakland following San Francisco's lead
Following San Francisco's lead, the Oakland City Council recently passed a law banning the use of petroleum-based plastic grocery bags by food retailers with stores doing over $1 million in annual sales. The Oakland law pertains to plastic bags used at store's checkout stands, and not those used to bag fresh produce or meats. The law, which hasn't gone into effect yet, allows for the use of biodegradable bags such as those made from cornstarch, like in San Francisco.

The Oakland plastic bag ban also includes chain drug stores along with the food stores. San Francisco's law also includes chain drug stores but they get a one-year (from November 20, 2007) grace period, and must eliminate the bags beginning in November, 2008.

Numerous other California cities are considering similar bans. These cities include nearby Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Davis, Chico and Santa Monica.

California's statewide plastic grocery bag legislation
In September, the state of California implemented a law that requires food retailers to place plastic grocery bag recycling bins in stores and to offer reusable grocery bags for sale. The California Grocers' Association, the state's supermarket trade association, supported the legislation in part as a way to hopefully prevent outright bans like the San Francisco and Oakland laws, and similar plastic grocery bag ban bills working their way through city councils in other California cities.

New York considering plastic bag legislation similar to California's
The state of New York is currently considering legislation similar to California's which would require all food retailers in the state over a certain size to place plastic grocery bag recycling bins in their stores as well as offer reusable grocery bags for sale. There's talk in New York City however about legislation similar to San Francisco's and New Jersey's which would create an outright ban on the bags despite the pending state legislation. Cities can pass their own laws--including bans--despite state legislation.

London plastic shopping bag ban bill before Parliament next week
last week, the London Assembly, a local governing body consisting of London's 33 local authorities, approved a bill which would ban all plastic grocery bags in the city.

The so called "shopping bag bill" will go to Parliament on November 27 for debate and possible passage into law. The London Assembly can't pass an outright ban bill itself but serves as an advisory body for Parliament.

Polls in London are showing 60% of the city's residents either support an outright plastic shopping bag ban like the bill calls for or support a 15 pence per-bag surcharge, with the money going to recycling programs. The per-bag tax is a possible alternative to an outright ban.

Supporters of the bag tax say doing so would decrease plastic shopping bag usage and provide funds to recycle the bags. Supporters of the ban say that's hogwash. They sight as their evidence next door Ireland, which passed a similar plastic shopping bag tax in 2002. They argue plastic bag use in Ireland hasn't dropped at all since the 2002 tax was implemented because the demand for stronger, heavier bags has resulted in just as much plastic being used in total.

If passed, the London bill would ban the use of free plastic bags at all retail stores, not just food retailers, although grocers are the most prolific users of the bags. The UK's top food retailing chains--Sainsburys, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and others--are against an outright ban but say they're committed to reducing the use of plastic shopping bags in their stores.

All of the UK's leading food retailers sell reusable grocery bags and offer paper bags in addition to plastic. Many also give out reusable bags to shoppers for free and give a discount to the customer for each reusable bag they use on each shopping trip. The retailers say they want to be able to work to get shoppers to change their behavior in terms of using reusable bags rather than throwaway plastic bags. However, they say they still want to be able to offer shoppers the choice of plastic along with paper and various types of reusable grocery bags.

Based on British consumer demand and the examples of cities in France, Germany, Ireland and Australia--and now the USA--which have passed bans, it appears a plastic shopping bag ban is likely to happen in London. If an outright ban like the current bill scheduled to be debated next week in Parliament doesn't pass, it's highly likely we'll see something like a combination bag tax and partial ban enacted into law in London soon.

British PM Brown backs plastic shopping bag elimination
In fact, yesterday British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he's backing the current campaign to eliminate plastic shopping bags--not just in London but in all the country. In a speech laying out his "green" agenda, Brown said he is calling a forum to be attended by British supermarket operators, The British Retail Consortium ( a trade group) and other affiliated groups, to discuss how they can urgently end the use of disposable plastic shopping bags.

U.S. trade group supports recycling laws over plastic bag bans
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., a group called the Progressive Bag Alliance, a Texas-based trade group for plastic bag manufacturers, is working to get states and cities to author plastic grocery bag recycling legislation like California's rather than outright bag bans. The group says they've thus far worked with a number of cities in the U.S., including Austin, Texas, Annapolis, Maryland and Philadelphia to create stricter plastic bag recycling standards and programs instead of banning the use of the plastic grocery bags by food retailers.

Changing consumer behavior the ultimate goal
The goal of all these programs and new laws--whether its an outright plastic bag ban, recycling program, bag tax or other legislation--is to get shoppers to change their behavior. If it became routine for shoppers to take their own reusable bags to the grocery store such legislation wouldn't be needed. However, it's a fact that laws often are needed to change behavior--that's why we have so many of them. Of course, one can view a law as good or bad depending if its your ox that's getting gored or not.

In the case of the plastic bag industry they're feeling gored. On the other hand, the industry might think about speeding up their development and marketing of corn starch-based biodegradable grocery bags. These bags already exist but are offered by just a few suppliers. The conventional plastic grocery bag manufacturer who is the first to convert from selling exclusively or primarily conventional plastic bags to the biodegradable in a big way will be able to have first mover advantage and lead the market. And it's a huge market waiting to be dominated by a large plastic bag manufacturer with the resources to do so.

Paper grocery bag manufacturers at first blush might look like they are in the catbird seat with so many cities and states considering plastic grocery bag bans. After all, that means more sales of paper bags to retailers. And until consumer behavior shifts to using reusable bags as routine that will be the case. However, it just might be a matter of time before paper bag bans come next. Although the bags are recyclable many still end-up being tossed in the garbage and going to landfills rather than to the recycling center. As such, might per-bag recycling taxes and outright bans eventually be enacted for paper as well as plastic?

Food and other retailers can do more
In terms of food retailers, we suggest they offer shoppers more incentives to regularly use reusable grocery bags. Large retailers who can afford it should give a certain number of the inexpensive reusable bags out for free to shoppers each month. They should also, like many already do, give shoppers five cents (or even 10 cents) or so each time the customer uses their own reusable bag rather than a free paper or plastic one provided by the grocer.

An example of retailers who currently could do much more are the large UK supermarket chains who say they're against the London plastic shopping bag ban. It might be wise for them to step-up their efforts at encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags pronto. Why not a free Sainsburys' or Tesco inexpensive canvas grocery bag for each customer order over $10.00 for the next year. The bags can be bought cheaply in volume by the retailers--and they can afford it as a positive cost of doing business.

Creative incentives needed to change consumer behavior
Cities and retailers also need to work together to come up with creative ways to change shopper behavior from the common use of paper or plastic to the less common but growing use of reusable bags. After all, even if conventional plastic grocery bags are banned everywhere, there still remains paper. Although paper bags are recyclable as we mentioned above, they have to be disposed of properly by consumers in order to get recycled rather than tossed into a landfill.

Creating a culture worldwide where people use reusable shopping bags as a daily course is the long-term solution to the problem. In order to do this consumers first have to accept responsibility for their environmental behavior.

Retailers also have to accept more responsibility for the throw away items they sell and offer in their stores. In fact, we're surprised a major supermarket retailer in the U.S. or Europe hasn't stopped using conventional plastic grocery bags on its own as a demonstration of its green principles. We think its coming, by the way. Some already are offering biodegradable plastic bags only, but its few and far between in terms of the larger chains doing so. Most all food retailers in the U.S. and Europe also offer a variety of reusable grocery bags for sale, ranging from 99 cent biodegradable reusable bags to more expensive canvas bags.

If retailers can offer more economic incentives, like free reusable bags and other ideas, we believe shopper behavior will change more rapidly than many can imagine. We aren't saying cities shouldn't ban plastic bags if they want. Rather, looking to the long-term as we mentioned above, its the behavior change that's key--moving shoppers from using any type of throw away bag to reusable bags should be the overall goal. Getting there will require more than just laws--it will require consumers to accept responsibility for their environmental actions. Governments, retailers and other private sector entities can encourage this behavior change with creative, positive actions.

Green Notes

Locavores have officially arrived:
Oxford University Press has named the word locavore as its Word of the Year in the 2007 edition of its New Oxford American Dictionary.

A locavore is a person who buys and eats local foods; those sourced not farther than 100 miles of where they reside. In more common parlance, locavore's are part of the "buy local, eat local" foods movement.

This is the second year in a row in which Oxford University Press has named a "green" or environmental term its word of the year in its authoritative dictionary. Last year's honor went to the term "carbon neutral."
The inclusion in the dictionary of locavore this year, and awarding it word of the year status, should validate the word and locavore lifestyle in the same way naming carbon neutral last year did for that term. With inclusion in the Oxford American Dictionary, locavores have been legitimized and arrived culturally so to speak.

Green themes seemed to be at the top of the dictionary editors choice list this year. Locavore beat out two other green-oriented words or terms, "upcycling" (the mother of all recycling terms) and "colony collapse disorder" (which refers to the symptom affecting worldwide honey bee colonies).

Have a green Thanksgiving: Adopt a turkey rather than eating one
Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA. The centerpieces of the holiday is family and friends---and food. The main course eaten by the majority of Americans on Thanksgiving day is the turkey. The mighty bird, traditionally served with side dishes of bread stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and assorted vegetables, will grace the tables of millions of American families tomorrow.

However, there is a green alternative to cooking and eating a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue, education and advocacy group, is asking Americans to feed a turkey this Thanksgiving rather than eat it. Through its Adopt-a-Turkey program. Farm Sanctuary is offering to let you adopt a Turkey for a one-time fee of $20.00. For your twenty bucks you get a color photograph of your new feathered family member, an adoption certificate, your turkey's biography, and a one year subscription to the non-profit organization's quarterly newsletter.

Farm Sanctuary says it's rescued thousands of turkeys from the meat cleaver over the past 20 years. The group operates shelters in Watkins Glen, NY and Orland, CA, where your adopted turkey will live out the rest of its natural life in a human and pleasant environment, never having to again worry about becoming a Thanksgiving day main course.

It's not too late to adopt a turkey by the way. You can do so anytime during the year, as well as make a donation to the group via its website to help support its other work in animal rescue and education. We're having turkey tomorrow but we still plan on adopting one. After all, if U.S. President George W. Bush can pardon a turkey like he did the other day at the White House, the least we can do is adopt one. By the way, we're referring to the actual turkey President Bush pardoned, not Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby. That pardon was earlier in the year.

Meat The Meatrix:
Speaking of meatless meals, a new animated movie, The Meatrix a takeoff on The Matrix movie trilogy, describes the evils of factory farming in a fun, light hearted way. And just like The Matrix, The Meatrix also is a trilogy.
In the first film in the trilogy, The Meatrix I, Leo The Pig, happy and content in his pen, is greeted by Moophius, a slick-looking, deep-voiced bull dressed in a black trench coat, sharp green necktie and dark sunglasses. "Have you heard about the Meatrix, Moophius asks Leo? Do you want to know what it is?" "The Meatrix, Moophuis explains, is a lie we tell ourselves about where our meat and animal products come from, he tells Leo with a sly look on his face."

The second film in The Meatrix trilogy, The Meatrix II: Revolting, takes on the dairy industry and some of the practices used by some of its players. The third and last film in the trilogy, The Meatrix II 1/2, pays a visit to a meat processing facility, where the narrator says, "We learn how we feed our Fast Food Nation."

You can learn more about The Meatrix trilogy at the films' website. You also can watch a free movie trailer at the website.

Ant- corporate plastic bottled water group says 'think outside the bottle':
The group "Think Outside The Bottle," a coalition comprised of citizens, activists, environmental groups, companies that make tap water filteration systems and reusable water bottles, and others, are asking consumers to take a pledge to give up commercially bottled water in plastic bottles and switch to tap water.

On their website, the group asks consumers to commit to drinking tap water and using reusable water bottles rather than buying commercially bottled water. They argue it's much more ecologically efficient to use tap water at home, and to fill a reusable water bottle with it when going outside the house, rather than buying water commercially bottled in plastic bottles which tends to travel vast distances and end-up needing to be recycled or worse being dumped in a landfill.

The rallying cry to "Think Outside The Bottle" seems to be catching on with many consumers, including numerous celebrities. According to the group, actors martin Sheen and Bill Mckibbon have taken the pledge, and organizations like the Sierra Club, Earth Policy Institute, Union of Concerned Scientists and other groups endorse the pledge. Six U.S. cities also have endorsed the pledge thus far: Salt Lake City, Utah, Boston, and Berkeley, San Leandro and Emeryville in Northern California, as have international municipalities and organizations.

Numerous restaurants in the U.S. also support the program and have taken the pledge to stop selling commercially bottled water in their establishments. Students from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. have taken the pledge as well, giving up buying bottled water and instead filling reusable water bottles with tap water. Faith communities, ranging from Catholic nun orders to Methodist and Presbyterian groups, support the campaign and have taken the pledge as well. You can read a list of pledge endorsers to date here.

As of today, 14,918 consumers have taken the pledge on the group's website to stop buying and drinking commercially bottled water and switch to tap water. The goal is for 25,000 people to take the pledge in what the group calls the first round.

The coalition is focused on the U.S. but has taken the campaign international. And it's not just individuals and non-profit organizations who are supporting the pledge. Companies like Clorox, which makes and markets the Brita Home Tap Water Filteration System and other tap water filter makers, along with companies that produce and sell reusable water bottles, are supporting the coalition as well.

Photo credits: Oxford dictionary courtesy