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Perishable Pundit
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The Perishable Pundit Visits South Africa
Dispatch II: London To Cape Town

The stay for a half a day in Heathrow was uneventful as was the flight to Cape Town. There was a similarity to be noted, however. In Heathrow, there was this enormous shopping arcade, yet the most telling message is how homogenous retailing has become.

For the most part, the stores were identical to those we find in shopping malls in the United States. In those cases where the store name was different, the product was the same — same brands, same items. Only Harrods was the holdout, so far having resisted efforts to open in New York or elsewhere.

Equally with the flight. I pulled out the menu to search for something unique — something British (I was on British Airways) or something South African. But there was nothing.

Even when I landed in Cape Town, filled with excitement and anticipation, I have to confess if I didn’t know where I was going, I would have said the terminal fit right in Antwerp or Amsterdam. The first site in the terminal was through a glass to a large room below and, to let me know I had arrived in Africa, I was greeted by signs with names like Hertz, Avis, Budget, and other well known rent-a-car companies.

I am not certain what to make of the homogeneity of modern life. In a sense, it tells us how similar we are and that concepts that appeal to consumers one place are likely to appeal to others.

Grape 'Character' Analysis


Well our Pundit Store Tour gave us the chance to buy some green seedless grapes packed under the Disney Garden label.

As with most things in life, a lot of the success or failure of these initiatives will be in the execution, and the Pundit thought the design of this bag was simply terrific.

First and most crucially, the illustration was of Mickey and Minnie, not some secondary characters, and they were put on a picnic blanket surrounded by grapes for the picnic.

Because these characters lack the direct affiliation with produce that, say, Popeye or Bugs Bunny may have, a crucial question was to what degree the owners of the rights to these characters would allow actual engagement with produce. This is very encouraging.

There is a quick nutrition factoid placed on Mickey’s glove giving the thumbs up sign and indicating that grapes are “High in Vitamin C and only 90 calories”. Nice quick info, although the 90 calories is unclear as to whether this is per serving or for the whole bag.

Also on the front of the bag is a link to Disney’s Health Kid’s web site. The web site is not finished yet, but there is a food pyramid game with Mickey Mouse that my 4-year-old would play for awhile.

The 5-a-Day-the-Color-Way logo closes out the front.

On the back, in addition to the Nutrition Facts panel, there are a couple little jokes for kids: Example: Q: What do you call a purple gorilla? A: A grape Ape.

There are also some fun facts, like: The average person eats about 8 pounds of grapes a year.

Also some serious information: Grapes are high in vitamin C, which helps build strong bones and teeth and heals cuts and scratches.

And there’s a specific and valuable tie in between caloric intake and outgo: One serving of grapes = energy to play frisbee for 50 minutes. You should engage in physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day.

There is another “Check it out” feature with Mickey and the food pyramid and, then, another reminder to go to the Disney Healthy Kids web site, plus a mention of the Imagination Farms website and a separate link to a second Imagination Farms site where you can put in a clue (although I could find no place on the site that requires a clue). There is a place you can enter a code to win, but you don’t seem to win anything without the code. Besides, three separate web addresses on one bag is probably too many.

But it is a very strong effort. The grapes I happened to get, though sweet and tasty, were plucked with difficulty out of a badly battered display, making me think that the Disney name, as well as the grapes, would be better protected with a clamshell.

The Next Generation Of GMO Foods

Opponents of genetically modified food have had a relatively easy job because the benefits to consumers have been very defused and indirect. Farmers will get better yields which will lead to lower prices, etc. This is no big deal to most US consumers who already enjoy cheap food.

But the next generation of GMO products is being engineered to provide specific health benefits for individuals. Now Flavonoid-rich tomatoes are being developed for the boost that could provide better heart health:

“This is the first time that specific fruit has been demonstrated to reduce human C-reactive protein (CRP) and that transgenic over-expression of specific flavonoids results in a further reduction of this important cardiovascular risk marker,” wrote lead author Dietrich Rein from BASF Plant Science Holding GmbH.

As the company went on to explain:

CRP is produced in the liver and is a known marker for inflammation. Increased levels of CRP are a good predictor for the onset of both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

You can see the whole article here.

Consumers, who have so far been resistant to GMO food — partially out of fear but mostly because there is no obvious upside — will change their tune if they learn that the neighbor’s kids are going to be smarter, taller, stronger or healthier because of their consumption of genetically enhanced foods.

In the medium run, it will really help the produce industry as these products roll out. In the long run, the enhanced levels of scientific knowledge that go along with this work will also help the bakery industry as we learn to genetically alter flour and grains to provide the nutritional values people need.

Then consumers could do what they want and eat a seven-layer chocolate mousse cake and get their flavonoids and other things in fully digestible form.

Pundit Mailbag: The Foodservice/Retail Packaging Dichotomy


We tend to underestimate the preferences and needs of both groups because we think first about selling and minimizing risk rather than solving problems. Kudos to Dole, and can I have those products in my store please?

— Meredith Auerbach
Strategic Marketing Projects for Agriculture

Meredith is responding to the piece we ran about Dole’s Fresh Asparagus; you can read the piece here. Meredith has long been one of the more astute observers of the produce trade’s marketing acumen. And she correctly identifies the fact that the trade often sets up a false dichotomy between foodservice packages and retail packages.

In this case, it doesn’t appear that retail buyers are offered the chance to buy foodservice packages. And, incidentally the problem works in reverse as well. Every day foodservice purveyors are splitting cases to satisfy buyers when, perhaps, a smaller retail package might meet their needs.

Certainly the whole business of club packs has proven that there is a significant demand for larger sizes. What Meredith is really asking for is for shippers and retailers to look at things from the perspective of consumers. What are their problems, what solutions exist? So often product development and retail evaluation of product are so driven by issues like whether this will enhance margins or not.

If the industry is to grow and succeed, it must be consumer-driven. But this is often used as a catch-word without meaning. A big Hat Tip to Meredith Auerbach for making practical the meaning of consumer-driven. Thinking about solving the problems that consumers have rather than thinking about solving the producer’s or retailer’s problems.

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