March 12, 2013

 IGA Global Rally Perspective

Social Media: A Big Opportunity for Hometown Retailers

A message to IGA retailers from...
Michael Sansolo
President, Sansolo Solutions
Contributing editor,

The IGA Global Rally in Chicago is just around the corner; look to The Independent View in the coming weeks to learn more about the speakers in the Global Rally lineup. Today, industry insider Michael Sansolo elaborates on his session, which will explore opportunities for marketing to and connecting with shoppers via social media.

In an industry populated by giant chains, IGA retailers find countless ways to thrive. Yet it all begins at the same place: ties to the local community that help an independent understand and serve needs.

Given that history, it's increasingly important for independent operators to get up to speed on the entire arena of social media and networking. Why does the social web matter so much? For one thing, it too is all about community, only now it's a technologically enabled community.

The social web is about discussions of what's important and what's happening. In other words it's a perfect place to local owner-operators to listen to the chatter in their local community and to participate with recipes, merchandising and a host of great ideas.

But you cannot do any of this without a basic understanding of the landscape of the social web and the key steps necessary to build a successful program. That's why I am delighted to lead a session on this incredibly important topic at IGA Rally this April in Chicago.

My presentation is based on the latest report from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America. The council members, including leaders from both large chains and small independents like you, felt confused and somewhat lost in this new world. So they set out to build a highly useful report to help them and other business leaders understand and implement the new technology platforms that—in under a decade—have reshaped communication around the globe.

The entire Council report can be downloaded here for free. In it you will find practical tips for retailers trying to determine how best to engage on Facebook, Twitter or other social sites. And at the Rally in Chicago, we'll talk through the important details, and then have some discussion with IGA retailers who have interesting and relevant experiences to share.

Whether you are an IGA retailer in California or China; South Carolina or Sydney, the social web is ensnaring your community, your shoppers and your associates. Like it or not, it's time to get going. Join us in Chicago and we'll help you start making sense of this new world of communication.


Michael Sansolo


Retail News

Water has replaced soda as the preferred beverage in the U.S., according to The Associated Press. Americans now drink an average of 44 gallons of soda a year, a 17% drop from the peak in 1998. Over the same time, the average amount of water people drink increased 38%, to about 58 gallons a year. Bottled water has led that growth, with consumption nearly doubling to 21 gallons a year. Currently, people drink 21 gallons of bottled water a year. That compares with 37 gallons of other water, which includes tap, sparkling, flavored and enhanced waters such as Coca-Cola's vitaminwater, reported News & Observer. Full Story

Fairway plans to push ahead with its U.S. initial public offering next month, seeking as much as $200 million, according to people familiar with the matter. The 12-store chain owned by Sterling Investment Partners will set a price range for the IPO and begin pitching the sale to investors in the first week of April, reported Full Story

Down to Earth Organic & Natural's five stores in Hawaii will begin requiring GMO labeling on foods that contain them by 2018. The company is gradually eliminating products that may contain GMOs and is avoiding adding any new products that may contain GMO ingredients, reported Pacific Business News. Full Story

Spinx acquired three Pumper's convenience stores located in upstate South Carolina. The c-stores will remain under the Pumper's brand for the next two to three months and each location is issuing and redeeming Spinx Xtras loyalty rewards, reported Convenience Store News. Full Story

North Jersey remains a "'tenants' market" for retail real estate, with close to 2 million-sq.-ft. of vacant space on the main retail highways in Bergen and Passaic Counties, according to the vacancy survey released by retail brokerage firm The Goldstein Group. The Paramus-based brokerage, which surveys vacant properties along 22 retail highways in Northern and Central New Jersey, calculated the January vacancy rate at 7.8%, slightly higher than the July survey's 7.7%, reported The Record. Full Story

Casey's General Stores' same-store sales were up 3.2% in the grocery and other merchandise category in its fiscal third quarter of 2013, with an average margin of 31.7%. In the prepared food and fountain segment, Casey's reported same-store sales were up 11.6% for the quarter, with an average margin of 60.6%. The company also opened 18 newly constructed stores and 21 acquired stores, and also replaced 22 stores through the first nine months of the fiscal year. Full Story

Manufacturer News

Hostess Brands stated it snack-cake business would be sold to private equity firms Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos after no competing bids were received, resulting in the canceling of a proposed auction. Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos in January offered $410 million for the business, which includes Twinkies, Cup Cakes and Suzy Q's. The bid by the private equity firms for the 82-year-old baker was to serve as the minimum offer for the business, which others could have topped in an auction. Mexico's Grupo Bimbo had been seen as a potential candidate but no other bids materialized, reported Reuters. Full Story

SodaStream and Cott Beverages signed a strategic agreement to produce flavors made specifically for the SodaStream carbonation system. Cott Beverages' parent Cott Corporation is reportedly one of the world's largest producers of beverages on behalf of retailers, brand owners and distributors. The initial production will consist of existing SodaStream flavors and will take place at Cott's primary concentrate production facility in Columbus, GA. Full Story

Meanwhile, Jones Soda's turnaround may be gaining traction, with Whole Foods Market agreeing to debut the company's new line of low-calorie natural sodas in Northern California. This is the first time Jones Soda has had a product on Whole Foods' shelves. Beginning in April, Jones Natural Soda will be offered in 25 of Whole Foods' 38 stores in Northern California and in the natural foods section of 50 Albertson's groceries in Southern California, reported Puget Sound Business Journal. Full Story

Harvest Meat Company has acquired certain Randall Farms distribution assets from Randall Foods. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. As part of the deal, Harvest will assume operation of Randall's distribution center in Los Angeles. Following the sale, Randall Foods will continue processing and marketing its value-added processed fresh meat products, including the company's Moist & Tender Chicken, Easy Does It Meal tray packs, marinated meat products and other gourmet lines. Founded in 1989, Harvest Meat Company delivers an array of packaged protein products to more than 4,000 retail and food service customers, including independent grocers, chain supermarkets, foodservice distributors, food manufacturers and club stores. Full Story

Calavo Growers has created FreshRealm, a technology company building a platform for the fresh food business. Calavo will be the majority shareholder with a few key strategic minority partners. Terms were not further disclosed. FreshRealm's technology platform will allow participants such as traditional retailers, large and small enterprises, communities and food banks to plug in to an ecosystem resembling a national fresh food cooperative. FreshRealm will not sell direct to consumers but instead will serve as the engine that connects participants to a network of regional fresh food producers. Full Story

Diamond Foods reported a profit of $10.1 million in its fiscal second-quarter as operating expenses slipped, though nut sales weakened. While the company claimed it closed the book on a 2011 walnut-accounting scandal, issues such as securing enough walnuts for its business and addressing issues at some of its other businesses have emerged. Revenue also fell 16%, to $220.8 million, reported The Wall Street Journal. Full Story (WSJ Subscription Required)

New Product News: Dole introduced the new Peach Mango flavor to its line of Dole Fruit Smoothie Shakers. Full Story

Foodservice News

Restaurant Roundup: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is opening a restaurant in Gainesville, FL. at The Oaks Mall March 25. Full Story... Del Taco is opening a store in Round Rock, TX March 13. This will be in second unit in the Austin area. A location in San Marcos is slated to open this summer. Full Story

Health News

Fresh salsa and guacamole may be more prone to contamination that can cause foodborne illness as the products often contain diced raw produce, are usually made in large batches and are poorly refrigerated, according to a study published in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. From 1973 to 2008, there were a reported 136 outbreaks in which salsa or guacamole was reported as a possible vehicle, resulting in 5,658 illnesses. Full Story

Sleeping just five hours a night over a workweek and having unlimited access to food caused participants to gain weight, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers show that while staying awake longer requires more energy, the amount of food study participants ate more than offset the extra calories burned, reported Science Daily. Full Story

Washington News

A judge March 11 pulled the plug on New York City's plan to ban large sugary drinks from restaurants, movie theaters and other establishments, one day before the new law was to take effect. State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in Manhattan ruled the new regulation was "arbitrary and capricious" and declared it invalid, after the American Beverage Association and other business groups sued the city challenging the ban, reported Reuters. Full Story

The beer industry swung its support behind a bill to allow Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine, provided the measure also allows them to sell strong beer. The Tennessee Malt Beverage Association's president confirmed to The Associated Press that the board decided to drop its long opposition to changing the law. In return, the beer makers want a provision allowing grocery stores to sell high-gravity beer, which has higher alcohol content and is currently only allowed to be sold in liquor stores, reported Full Story

Diners will have to wait a little longer to find calorie counts on most restaurant chain menus, in supermarkets and on vending machines, according to The Associated Press. Writing a new menu labeling law "has gotten extremely thorny," stated the head of FDA, as the agency tries to figure out who should be covered by it. While the restaurant industry has signed on to the idea and helped to write the new regulations, supermarkets, convenience stores and other retailers that sell prepared food say they want to no part of it. Full Story

Federal investigators have unraveled a massive scheme among dozens of insurance agents, claims adjusters, brokers and farmers in eastern North Carolina to steal at least $100 million from the government-backed program that insures crops. Authorities state the ongoing investigation is already the largest such ring uncovered in the country. Forty-one defendants have either pleaded guilty or reached plea agreements after profiting from false insurance claims for losses of tobacco, soybeans, wheat and corn. Often, the crops weren't damaged at all, with farmers using aliases to sell their written-off harvests for cash, reported The Washington Post. Full Story (Free Subscription Required)

La Preferida is voluntarily recalling 4,734 cases of Whole Pinto Beans in 29-oz. size. The manufacturer's preliminary inspection indicates 420 cans may not have been fully processed, which could result in product contamination and illness if consumed, reported Chicago Tribune. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

Global News

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory signed licensing agreements in South Korea and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Under the terms of the agreement for South Korea, the licensee will open five Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory stores within 30 months following the execution of the agreement, and another licensee will open and begin operating four stores in Saudi Arabia within 30 months following the execution of the agreement. Full Story

Dutch food firm Vion is considering buying its subsidiary Welsh Country Foods, which could fold after Asda ended its contract with the firm. Vion plans to close the Wales-based site unless a buyer can be found by April, when a 90-day consultation period with staff comes to an end, reported BBC News. Full story

UK-based Creative Foods, which is part of Brakes, is considering "outsourcing" the products currently produced by its 90 employees in Torquay to a Somerset company. A statement noted the move was considered necessary "in order to remain competitive". "We will be consulting with our colleagues based in Torquay over the coming days," the statement added. If the move goes ahead, the hot and cold desserts currently produced in Torquay will be produced under licence by Ministry of Cake in Taunton, which is part of the Greencore Group, reported BBC News. Full Story

Yum Brands' same-store sales in its China division fell an estimated 20% in the first quarter, lower than the company's projected 25% decline. Yum also reported same-store sales growth was approximately 2% for the China Division in February, including flat same-store sales at KFC and a 13% increase at Pizza Hut casual dining. Sales at Yum's KFC stores open at least 12 months in China declined about 24% for the latest period, while same-store sales for Pizza Hut's casual dining fell about 2% in the quarter, reported The Wall Street Journal. Full Story (WSJ Subscription Required)

Market News

Ethanol made from inedible matter such as crop waste and household trash will match the price of corn-based ethanol by 2016, potentially spurring output of the motor fuel, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Cellulosic ethanol costs about 94 cents a liter to produce, about 40% more than ethanol from corn. That gap will probably close within three years, according to a survey of 11 of the industry's biggest companies, reported Full Story

The historic drought of last year in the St. Louis may be over in some parts of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor's latest update. For the first time in nearly nine months, soil conditions in St. Louis, St. Louis County and the eastern half of St. Charles County are back to normal, which means those areas now join the southeastern third of the state, which has been officially in the drought-free category for weeks, reported St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Full Story

Due to low catches of northern shrimp, hours in the fishery are being expanded, according to The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The Commission also set a season end date of April 12 and, for the trap fishery, decided to remove the daily limit of 500-lbs., according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, reported Bangor Daily News. Full Story

Cold weather in Florida last week damaged portions of this year's green bean crop. Though the frost did not affect all growers equally, it hit enough of the state's green bean supplies that yields will be affected, reported Fresh Plaza. Full Story

The Commerce Department made preliminary determinations in multiple antidumping duty investigations, including: an administrative review of the antidumping duty order on certain preserved mushrooms from China, finding that sales made by Blue Field Food Industrial were below normal value; an administrative review of the antidumping duty order on certain frozen warmwater shrimp from Thailand with respect to 150 companies, determining sales to the U.S. have been made at prices below normal value; an administrative review of the antidumping duty order on certain frozen warmwater shrimp from India. The review covers 195 producers/exporters, finding sales to the U.S. have been made at prices below normal value and are subject to antidumping duties; another administrative review of the antidumping duty order on certain frozen warmwater shrimp from China that found Zhanjiang Regal Integrated Marine Resources did not make sales at prices below normal value; and an administrative review of the antidumping duty order on certain frozen warmwater shrimp from Vietnam that found sales were not made at prices below normal value and determined not to revoke the order in part, with respect to Nha Trang Seafoods.


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