We announced Willard Bishop Consulting Issues Annual Future Of Food Retailing Report, which reviewed the new version of this annual report and provided an opportunity to register for a webinar offered jointly with The Food Institute. The webinar was held and revealed many interesting facts. Perhaps most graphically striking were these two slides:
This slide shows how rapidly the business has been changing. The red line represents traditional retail sales, which includes regular supermarkets, so called “fresh stores” such as Whole Foods, limited assortment stores such as Aldi, Sav-a-Lot and Trader Joe’s, super warehouse stores such as Cub Foods and Smart & Final, and small corner grocery stores.
As late as 1988, these were the food retailing industry, accounting for almost 90% of sales. Despite a very generous definition of “traditional” by 2013, traditional retailing will be equaled by non-traditional food retailers:
Perhaps more important for the perishables industry is to look at the formats Willard Bishop projects are the winners over the next five years:
Many of these “traditional” retailers are fairly untraditional — as selling to Aldi and Smart & Final and even Whole Foods often requires a different approach than selling to conventional supermarkets
One of the most common mistakes in marketing is to let customers choose the supplier. A better strategy is for vendors to identify customers that will grow and try to affiliate with them so as to ride their star.
So Willard Bishop is telling us the growth in sales of food, in excess of inflation, will be in supercenters, in limited assortment (Aldi et al), dollar stores, fresh formats, wholesale clubs, drug stores and super warehouse stores. Which means vendors should have strategies for accessing these formats.
Lots of insights were in this webinar, including generally excellent opportunities for perishables and many opportunities for private label.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Web grocers are growing again
Tesco’s new warehouse is far too large for the store openings it has announced
The most valuable thing a supplier can bring a retailer: intellectual property
Did you know that 40% of U.S. households have a Kroger loyalty card?
You can view or download a copy of the presentation given at the webinar here.
For additional information, you can review previous Pundit articles, including an interview with Willard Bishop Consulting’s Bill Bishop, a separate interview with Information Resources’ Thom Blischok and a joint interview with FreshLook’s Mark Degner and IRI’s June Fenzel.
Many thanks to The Food Institute and Willard Bishop for sharing this important information with the trade.
Our piece, Hannaford Becomes First Organic-Certified Mainstream Retailer, attracted a great deal of attention, and now the Associated Press has caught wind of the story:
Tara Withington, with her two young sons in tow, combs the aisles of Hannaford Bros. Co. supermarket for what she deems healthy enough to feed her family. Besides reading ingredients and studying her fruit for bruises, Withington says she needs a guarantee the organic foods she buys are kept far, far away from the store’s conventional products.
”I need to know it’s natural and I’m not giving them chemicals,” said Withington, 33, of Milton. “I’m trying to keep them healthy, and this reassures me that they are not coming into contact with anything I don’t want them to.”
The article is a little wacky. At one point, it calls The Kroger Co. a “smaller supermarket chain” and says it is “certified” without pointing out that this only applies to a few milk-based products, two types of instant oatmeal and a few almonds, pecans and walnuts SKUs. The article claims a “growing number” of supermarket chains seeking certification without quantification or explanation.
It also reports the obvious with an air of discovery. Here is a shocker:
The move by Hannaford is being watched carefully by other chains considering similar measures, such as Massachusetts-based Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc. and Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., according to spokesmen for both companies.
The article quotes experts who speak of things they know nothing about:
Sam Beattie, a specialist at Iowa State University’s Institute for Food Safety and Security, said the certification is the best way for regular supermarkets to get a leg up in the organic food industry, where sales in the United States went from $6 billion in 2000 to $14 billion in 2005.
“They recognize that the organic foods industry is increasing in leaps and bounds over the last decade,” he said. “In stores like Whole Foods where all of the food is organic, there’s no issue associated with segregation. But regular grocery stores, where maybe a quarter of the food is organic, become suspect.”
We are sure Sam Beattie is a great guy and a world class food safety expert, but he has, obviously, never been in a Whole Foods, as the store is not even close to 100% organic and has signs all over the produce department proclaiming that these items are conventionally grown.
Still, the article raises real questions regarding organic and conventional supermarkets:
Santo Carnabuci, who manages the Hannaford in Quincy, said customers were beginning to demand reassurance as they became more in tune to what organic really means.
“people that are totally into buying organic foods, they understand that it cannot coexist with something that isn’t organic,” he said. “Our responsibility is making sure the products stay organic from point A to point B, when it’s in your hands. If you don’t take all of the steps and keep things separate, it nullifies it.”
If you want to know the state of the world right now, one can learn a lot by reading the quote from the Organic Trade Association:
Barbara Haumann of the Organic Trade Association said the certification is important to the industry because the Department of Agriculture doesn’t have enough personnel to monitor grocery stores throughout the country.
“One of the advantages of a retailer becoming certified is that it shows they are taking that extra step,” Haumann said. “It’s important to know that if you’re eating something organic, water from another food didn’t drip on it in a storage room.”
Actually, it is completely unclear that it is important to know that water from another produce item didn’t drip on some organic produce. There is no evidence that a drip will hurt anyone, affect taste, health or anything else. Remember this produce typically grew in fields for months, getting hit by rain, bird droppings and who knows what else. If the bag is jostled, a tomato might hit the floor of the trunk or a counter top, neither of which are sanitized surfaces.
And the implications of thinking this is important boggle the mind.
Unless one’s kitchen is so managed that nothing but 100% organic food can enter the doorway, wouldn’t it be equally important to maintain separate dishwashers, plates, cups, silverware? It reminds one of nothing so much as maintaining kosher kitchens in which the Jewish prohibition against combining milk and meat requires totally separate sets of dishes, etc.
But since when did organic become a religion? This is not a matter of a faith; we are supposed to have reasons for the things we do.
The Perishables Group did a study on organics in conventional supermarkets, which we reviewed in our piece, ‘Take-Aways’ From United’s Short Course On Organics. Although the study found different motivations for heavy and light users of organics, it did not find any mad fear of a drip on the Romaine.
The truth is that if consumers believe organics “cannot co-exist with something that isn’t organic,” or that “If you don’t take all of the steps and keep things separate, it nullifies it,” as this Hannaford manager states, then it is hard to believe they will shop at a conventional supermarket, it is hard to believe they will even shop at Whole Foods, and it is very doubtful that a once-a-year inspection is going to persuade anyone that a conventional tomato might never have been placed in the organic tomato bin by a consumer.
If one really thinks that organic and conventional “cannot co-exist,” then one can’t shop at regular stores for perishables. Just as no customer that is seriously kosher buys his kosher deli meat at a counter that sells ham — and no certification or promise to use a special slicer will make a difference.
Organic certification is often a good idea for retailers. It is a good idea as a PR move to reassure mainstream consumers that you are doing good stuff for the world, not to think that by getting certified organic, your conventional stores will attract hard-core organic devotees.
And as for Ms. Withington, quoted in the very beginning of the article as explaining that she “… needs a guarantee the organic foods she buys are kept far, far away from the store’s conventional products,”does she not know that organically grown produce is grown with plenty of chemicals and why do we doubt that she has seriously studied the list of permissible chemicals to use in organic growing so she can be so certain her children are not coming in contact with anything she doesn’t want them to?
If I run into her one day, I will ask her opinion on Chilean Nitrate and if she favors the old rule or the new rule on its permissibility in organic agriculture.
It is rather odd that Europe and the U.S., neither of which are significant producers of bananas, should constantly be at loggerheads over the issue of banana import policies in Europe.
If you want a perfect example of how governments often adopt policies that hurt their own people, you can not do much better than to look at the European machinations on bananas.
For various reasons — powerful people holding import licenses and quotas, corrupt politicians benefiting from largess of corrupt overseas producers and domestic importers — the Europeans have for as long as most schoolchildren can remember been trying to set up systems that favor banana imports from favored countries, mostly in Africa and the Caribbean.
Over and over again these regimes have been knocked down by the World Trade Organization as a violation of Europe’s treaty obligations. Each time Europe concocts some new scheme that gets knocked down eventually.
In the meantime, Europeans are either deprived of the bananas they would like to buy or forced to pay an excessively high price due to tariffs. The Latin Americans who would sell the bananas are impoverished even further as their natural markets are closed or constricted.
For Americans, the whole thing is inconceivable. Once in a while, we hear Europeans talking about the need to help former colonies, when the primary effect of the rules is to hurt banana exports from former Spanish colonies.
To us in America, it is as if Spain should withdraw from the European Community in outrage over favoritism to former French and British colonies over Spain’s former colonies.
Now the battle is being joined again. The U.S. interest in the matter is both the prosperity of America’s Latin neighbors and the American companies, notably Chiquita, that would likely sell more bananas in Europe if they were freed from restrictions.
There used to be quotas; now there are just high tariffs applied in a discriminatory manner. Last time it came to countervailing duties against European products. Hopefully we can avoid that this time.
In the past, though Chiquita was on the right side, it never actually pushed for a free market, thinking it benefited by getting a larger share of the quotas in a supply-restricted market.
Still, the solution is simple:
- Anyone who wants to export bananas to Europe should be able to do so without quotas, tariffs or other impediments.
- Europe should take the money saved by buying less expensive bananas and devote those funds to a five-year foreign aid fund to assist growers and regions that can no longer compete to adjust to the new competitive environment.
The whole purpose of the WTO is to say that countries can’t choose favorites. There are exceptions for countries that don’t have normal relations or what we used to call “most-favored-nation” trading status, but, overall, the point of the WTO is that Europe cannot say, in the absence of a free trade agreement, that it favors African producers over South American producers.
It is time to let European consumers buy what they wish. If they wish to buy FairTrade bananas from St. Lucia, more power to them, but if they would rather buy a banana from South or Central America, that is their right as well.
Public health authorities support increased consumption of produce in no small part because they know that proper diet and exercise, when combined, can keep people from getting obese and thus reduce their risk of diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.
Yet, this knowledge is still mostly academic in the sense that most people who struggle with weight encounter enormous difficulties in losing weight and, more specifically, in keeping it off. This is why we know of no diets that “work” in the sense that there is broad statistical confirmation that people who lose weight via a particular diet will keep it off long-term.
Now, there is news as to why this might be so:
Scientists say they have found a link between stress and obesity, which offers hope in treating the 1.6 billion adults who are overweight worldwide.
The brain under stress releases a hormone that activates a gene in fat cells, causing them to grow in size and number, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Medicine. Scientists found stressed mice gained twice as much fat as those fed the same high-calorie diet. The stressed mice didn’t gain weight when the gene was removed or blocked….
It’s a major breakthrough in understanding how energy can be diverted into fat cells,” said Herbert Herzog, neuroscience program director at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, which participated in the research.
The hormone, called neuropeptide Y, works like a key that unlocks so-called Y2 receptors in the body’s fat cells, Herzog said, then pumps energy into them. Blocking the receptors stopped fat cells growing and multiplying, a technique that should work in humans as it does in mice, he said in a June 28 interview.
Herzog said the next step was for drugmakers to develop treatments that block the receptors in humans. Some compounds have been shown to work in laboratories or animals, but none have yet been tested on people, he said.
Researchers stressed the mice either by exposing them to cold or keeping them together with more aggressive mice, Herzog said. Other scientists taking part in the study came from Georgetown University in Washington and the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, Slovakia.
One study does not a definitive finding make, and even a definitive finding is a long way from a cure.
Still it is a good reminder that we ought not to hitch our produce marketing solely to the health aspects of the product.
We don’t know if it will be a fortified chocolate cake that one day apes the nutritional benefits of leeks, or if it will be a discovery that obesity is proximately caused by the release of a stress hormone. It just seems prudent to promote our products for their taste; if they happen to be good for us well, to use a non-More-Matters-approved saying, that should just be icing on the cake.
The hottest job ticket in town is having a food safety degree. PMA announced its desire to hire a Vice President of Produce Science and Safety back in November of 2006 and has found top candidates rather sparse.
Postharvest Technology Research
and Information Center
Now United is losing Jim Gorny, who has held the position of Senior Vice President for Food Safety and Technology to academia — as he has accepted an exceedingly important position as the Executive Director of the Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center at UC Davis.
Senior Vice President
Food Safety and Technology
Fortunately, one of the things United acquired in its merger with IFPA was an expanded food safety team, including David Gombas, who had been the Vice President of Technical Services for IFPA. So United has something it never had on food safety — a top quality bench — and so United was in a position to quickly announce the promotion of David Gombas to Senior Vice President for Food Safety and Technology.
Both Dr. Gorny and Dr. Gombas were awarded, along with WGA’s Hank Giclas, The Perishable Pundit’s Unsung Heroes Award for their exceptional service to the trade.
We are fortunate that Jim Gorney will continue to work with the produce industry in his new position, and we are doubly fortunate that David Gombas was ready to step into the position.
United expects to hire another person for its food safety team, but with research opportunities expanding and corporate demand insatiable it is not going to be an easy hire.
Best of luck to both Jim and David in their new positions.
And to PMA and United in filling their vacancies.
In our piece entitled, Pundit’s Mailbag — China, COOL And International Opportunities, we addressed a letter sent to the Pundit by Professor Thomas Reardon of Michigan State University. The letter, among other things, dealt with the prospects for U.S. growers in China and led us to these thoughts:
“…when Sunkist appointed a new CEO, we greeted his appointment with one overwhelming question: Will Tim Lindgren Go To China? Sunkist, as a co-op and particularly as a federated co-op — meaning that it is really controlled by the packing house owners more than the growers — finally bent and decided to open counter-seasonal operations in the Southern Hemisphere.
China is Northern Hemisphere fruit and thus directly competitive with Sunkist’s California and Arizona growers, and THE QUESTION for the future of Sunkist is if it will build packing houses in China or joint venture there, knowing that it will be directly competitive.
If Sunkist refuses, it will surely see big drops in market share in Asia. Major markets such as Japan and Hong Kong will shrivel.
Yet Chinese production could be the perfect tool for Sunkist to reenter European markets it once held but lost to less expensive citrus from other countries.”
This brought us a letter from a person knowledgeable about Sunkist:
Sunkist is in no position to get into the Chinese (or European) market as suggested in your recent article. Simply put, Sunkist no longer has the horses to do this type of business activity. The recent freeze in January of this year forced Sunkist to slash about 1/3 of its sales, marketing and licensing staff. Inclusive of these cuts was the folding of the Licensing Department into Marketing.
While certainly related, the ability to negotiate the type of business dealing, licensing Sunkist trademark for use by Chinese shippers is not the forte of Marketing. And while much of the executive team that negotiated the various southern hemisphere deals in the past is still at Sunkist, in some type of capacity, the only southern hemisphere deal that has proven to have any legs has been with South African producers.
I think parts of your argument though are off. While Sunkist will surely see loss of market share in Japan from competitive Chinese fruit, I think the China market will offset that to a large degree. Burgeoning Chinese middle-class housewives will clamor for Sunkist Navels, where the brand still has tremendous equity.
The bourgeois will have their day, Mao be damned. It’s been widely known for some time that the reason the Hong Kong market was so big was the shipping of fruit into southern China. But that may only be a temporary stop-gap for a longer term problem. And before China becomes the major force it can become in the Asian citrus business, it needs to vastly improve its infrastructure to get product to market efficiently. Arguably this has happened at much greater speed than was believed 5-10 years ago.
Sunkist is in retrenchment mode. Period. Both Paramount and Bee Sweet Citrus have left the co-op within the past year, taking much needed assessment volume. The company is in the midst of a major re-org, sort of. Much of what they are doing is years in the making. Since 1998 to 2007, the number of Sunkist sales offices has gone from 32 to 16. More are expected (rumored) to go this summer — maybe. All of which should have been done in the wake of the ’98 freeze, or sooner, but weren’t for a myriad of reasons that included a lack of vision level and the lack of will to pull the trigger on tough decisions at both the board and management levels.
That being said, Sunkist has done some things right in recent years, most noticeably its “Texas” programs, which have given Sunkist much needed volume from Texas grapefruit and Mexican limes.
The big issues at Sunkist right now are when its corporate headquarters building will be sold and where HQ will move to. And then what the new org chart will look like. Will Sunkist finally be a proactive marketing organization or will Sunkist continue to be great at taking sales orders pushing volume up the marketing channel, providing a price umbrella for independent citrus shippers?
Once that happens Sunkist will then be in a position to take a long look at what it is and what it wants to be. Does Sunkist want to be a leading “trade brand” making efforts to push product up the retail channel? Or does Sunkist want to be a “consumer brand” focused on delivering value to its end consumers and partners within the various marketing channels?
Once Sunkist starts to answer those questions, it can then look at China and Europe as growth opportunities. But past experience indicates that will not happen anytime soon.
— Delos Walton
(Editor’s note: Delos was an analyst at Sunkist whose work touched on all major departments and involved working with most of the senior staff.)
We thank Delos for the thoughtful, responsive and informative letter. We have few substantive disagreements with anything Delos says, although we think the implications of the letter are evidence of missed opportunities.
It is probably true, at least in the medium term, that as Delos states, “While Sunkist will surely see loss of market share in Japan from competitive Chinese fruit, I think the China market will offset that to a large degree. Burgeoning Chinese middle-class house-wives will clamor for Sunkist Navels, where the brand still has tremendous equity.”However what kind of business placidly accepts a loss of market share just because some other market will get better?
Why shouldn’t Sunkist both gain sales in China and keep its markets in Japan? If the market in Japan will predictably shift to Chinese citrus, why shouldn’t Sunkist sell that Chinese citrus?
Delos gives us an answer in terms of practicality: Sunkist is in no position to get into the Chinese (or European) market as suggested in your recent article. Simply put, Sunkist no longer has the horses to do this type of business activity.
This is somewhat of a chicken-and-the-egg situation. Few companies maintain the idle capacity to do things they have no plans to do. If Sunkist decided this was the route to take, it could staff up a bit, hire consultants, etc.
In fact the reason Rick Eastes’ old operation was set up as an LLC was so that Sunkist could do partnerships and joint ventures. If Sunkist doesn’t have the horsepower, it can use the LLC to partner with someone who does.
As far as the speed with which China will solve its logistical problems, well, as Delos acknowledges: “Arguably this has happened at much greater speed than was believed 5-10 years ago.”All countries, including the U.S., have logistical issues, but if the profit opportunity is there — and it is — it would be a mistake to see this as a long term barrier to entry.
As far as regional sales offices go, in an age of e-mail and video conferencing and, more to the point, centralized corporate procurement, regional sales offices seem of little value. We can see value in a regional merchandising staff out visiting stores and trying to improve merchandising. We can see value in pre-positioning product regionally so Sunkist can provide quicker service to clients. But how does having regional salespeople help Sunkist sell Costco or Wal-Mart? Even if a buyer is local, how often does a busy chain buyer want to see the Sunkist sales rep? The whole system is a relic of an earlier day.
Unfortunately, as Delos says, internally, Sunkist management probably thinks this is true: “The big issues at Sunkist right now are when its corporate headquarters building will be sold and where HQ will move to. And then what the new org chart will look like.
The reality is that companies that obsess over where their headquarters are and how their organizational chart is arranged are in deep trouble.
Yes, selling the headquarters will probably raise a lot of money. But nothing Sunkist needs to do requires any grower money. Sunkist has one of the most valuable brands in the world. Private equity, a public offering, joint ventures… there are multiple ways that funds can be accessed to implement a growth strategy.
Delos, of course, raises many pertinent and important questions:
“Will Sunkist finally be a proactive marketing organization or will Sunkist continue to be great at taking sales orders pushing volume up the marketing channel, providing a price umbrella for independent citrus shippers?
Once that happens Sunkist will then be in a position to take a long look at what it is and what it wants to be. Does Sunkist want to be a leading “trade brand” making efforts to push product up the retail channel? Or does Sunkist want to be a “consumer brand” focused on delivering value to its end consumers and partners within the various marketing channels?”
Yet, we would say that the key question for Sunkist is ownership and, more specifically, governance. When Jeff Garguilo was there, when Paramount was a powerful player, when superstars such as Steve Barnard and Roberta Cook were on its board, Sunkist had as clear a shot as possible to seize many opportunities.
It is clear that lots of folks resented Jeff. He has a great mind and enormous strategic vision, but he is not the type to have a lot of patience to baby sit a co-op. We think he was interested in coming in, doing a “big deal” to let the growers monetize their ownership in the Sunkist brand and making Sunkist a major player free of the parochial interests of both packers and growers.
In the end, Sunkist was stopped because its governance structure created perverse incentives. All co-ops have challenges because the ownership is so focused on helping sell the commodity that it often loses site of the value of the brand.
Sunkist, however, is unusual because of its structure as a federated co-op, placing packers in positions of influence. Even if each grower’s shares would be worth a fortune on Wall Street, very powerful forces on the Board have other interests. By all accounts, for example, Mark Gillette of Gillette Citrus Company in Dinuba, California, is a powerful influence on the board, yet he is a relatively small grower, and his financial benefit from Sunkist leans heavily toward the income he derives from packing fruit.
It is easy to imagine a scenario in which growers might benefit by privatizing the co-op and doing a public offering, thus getting stock the growers could sell on the New York Stock Exchange any day of the week. Yet individual board members might lose out because growers might elect to have their fruit packed elsewhere.
This is also the key issue when we talk about China. A grower who owns shares in the co-op can benefit financially if Sunkist sales of fruit grown in China are successful, but a packer gets nothing out of it.
If this governance problem is not resolved, Sunkist will have great difficulties seizing the available opportunities.
One place we agree fully with Delos: “Once Sunkist starts to answer those questions, it can then look at China and Europe as growth opportunities. But past experience indicates that will not happen anytime soon.”
Sunkist has been losing market share in Europe for, oh, probably a half-century. The company has watched it happen because there is no solution that will help California and Arizona citrus packers. This is what must change.
We have been writing about Sunkist for a long time. Delos mentions the 1998 freeze. Well, we wrote a piece in 1991, right after a freeze calling for dramatic changes at Sunkist. The piece ran in Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, and was entitled, Diversify Sunkist?
But our coverage on Sunkist here at the Pundit started with Sunkist Wake-up Call? — which asked what the message was in the loss of Paramount Citrus as a Sunkist shipper. An interesting piece we named, International Positions Of Two Citrus Companies, suggested that the grower/owners of Sunkist should think about where Seald Sweet would be if it hadn’t gone international in a big way.
We than ran Pundit’s Mailbag — Sunkist Responds to Article with a lengthy letter from Rick A. Eastes, then director of global sourcing for Sunkist Global LLC, explaining Sunkist’s international efforts, and the Pundit responded by praising the effort but also by pointing out that these were the easy, noncompetitive decisions to make. The growers/owners of Sunkist still had to deal with competitive regions in the northern hemisphere such as China.
We extended our congratulations to the newly appointed president and CEO of Sunkist, Timothy J. Lindgren, but asked Will Tim Lindgren Go To China? The question was both literal: Would Tim Lindgren establish an effective strategy for Sunkist with regard to Chinese citrus? And figurative: Would Sunkist’s new President and CEO use his grower-friendly credentials to take the co-op public or otherwise lead it in a direction that had previously been resisted?
Pundit’s Mailbag — In Defense of Sunkist’s New CEO came from a reader who had worked with Tim Lindgren and gave the writer’s take on the situation.
Bee Sweet Departure Adds To Sunkist Woes pointed out how quickly the relationship had soured between Sunkist and Bee Sweet.
Sunkist And Pure Gold pointed out how consumer impressions of the Sunkist label would drop precipitously, which could lead to a weakening of the Sunkist brand.
Pundit’s Mailbag — Sunkist And The Australian Citrus Deal brought a letter from Jeff Gaston of Sunkist discussing Rick Eastes and the development of Sunkist’s southern hemisphere programs.
Pundit’s Mailbag — Univeg, Ready Pac, Sunkist and The Lord Mayor of Dublin dealt with many subjects, including Sunkist’s decision to sell freeze-damaged fruit under another label and its challenge as a vendor of primarily one category grown in one place.
What all this together shows is that the board can only get the quality of management it wants. Tim Lindgren is quite popular internally at Sunkist and with the board. He has not articulated a strategic vision for the company that will lead it to success in this century.
We don’t, however, want to be too hard on Tim. There is no evidence that the board is pushing for such a strategy. That is why, as our correspondent explains, we are not expecting any strategic vision to be articulated anytime soon.
Many thanks to Delos for the thoughtful contribution.