Audi To Offer Stoplight Insight

The Washington Post: “Audi will debut software in select 2017 models that communicates with municipal traffic light systems to predict when lights will go from red to green. Some cities already monitor traffic patterns, and Audi and its supplier, Traffic Technology Services, will harvest that data and use it to tell drivers how long they’ll be sitting there.”

“The software will appear in select 2017 Audi Q7, A4 and A4 all-road models with Audi connect, a data subscription service that comes free on all new Audis. Audi expects to have the system running in at least five major metropolitan cities by the end of the year. Those cities will be announced within the next month, a company spokesman said.”

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Combrr: Like Uber for Beach Eats

The New York Times: “It’s called Combrr, and it will soon allow people to buy items from concession stands from their towels, avoiding lines that lately stretch clear across the (Rockaway Beach) boardwalk.”

“Combrr works a lot like Uber: Customers drop a pin at their location. Vendors can accept or decline an order, and customers can track its progress from the app. There’s a $5 delivery fee, and the entire transaction, including the tip, is done digitally, bypassing the city’s requirement for a permit to sell items on the beach. But in addition to geolocation technology, Combrr relies on customers’ selfies and instructions. A sample note: ‘We’re wearing pink bikinis sitting under a polka-dot umbrella on 99th’.”

“The Rockaway Beach concessions, which appeared in their present artisanal incarnation in 2011, have been credited with turning the beaches into culinary hubs. So far, the seaside food scene has remained charmingly low-tech — operating out of sandy-floored bunkers and brightly painted shanties with surfboard racks … Combrr, which is free, will be available not long before the concessions close, a week after Labor Day.”

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Parity Airlines: Copycats in the Sky

The Wall Street Journal: “The big three U.S. airlines—American, Delta and United—match each other more closely than ever … They’re all intent on not letting one rival gain a cost or product advantage.”

“When United announced it would begin flying lie-flat beds on cross-country routes such as New York-Los Angeles, Delta and American also switched to lie-flat beds in premium cabins. When Delta was first with luxury-car rides across the tarmac for top customers at major hub airports, the other two found luxury cars, too. Fees for good seats? Check. Start charging higher ticket-change fees? All three went up to $200 on domestic trips.”

“Airlines say the similarities just mean they are all coming to the same conclusions about what customers are willing to pay for and what they aren’t.”

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Jet vs. Jetsons: Amazon Bets on Drones

Farhad Manjoo: “If Amazon’s drone program succeeds (and Amazon says it is well on track), it could fundamentally alter the company’s cost structure. A decade from now, drones would reduce the unit cost of each Amazon delivery by about half, analysts at Deutsche Bank projected in a recent research report. If that happens, the economic threat to competitors would be punishing — ‘retail stores would cease to exist,’ Deutsche’s analysts suggested, and we would live in a world more like that of ‘The Jetsons’ than our own.”

“Amazon … has built many different kinds of prototypes for different delivery circumstances … for instance, drones could deliver packages to smart lockers positioned on rooftops … Amazon’s patent filings hint at even more fanciful possibilities — drones could ferry packages between tiny depots housed on light poles, for example.”

“Amazon has filed patents that envision using trucks as mobile shipping warehouses … a drone might fly from the truck to a customer’s house, delivering the item in minutes … according to Amazon, the earliest incarnation of drone deliveries will happen … within five years, somewhere in the world.”

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Adidas ‘Speedfactory’ Customizes Faster

Quartz: “Adidas is bringing some new robotic manufacturing to the US. The German sneaker and apparel company … plans to have a robot-staffed ‘Speedfactory’ up and fully functional in the Atlanta, Georgia, area by the end of 2017. The aim is to bring Adidas products to US customers as quickly as possible, and Adidas says the factory will also allow it ‘unprecedented’ customization opportunities beyond what it currently offers.”

“Adidas, which debuted its first Speedfactory in Germany last year, believes decentralizing production and building factories closer to its major consumer markets will let it react more quickly to demand … Adidas’s goal for its US Speedfactory is to produce 50,000 pairs of sneakers, primarily running footwear, in the back half of 2017, but in the mid-term it aims to manufacture 500,000 pairs of shoes for running and other activities.”

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Simple Products Beget Simple Packages

The Wall Street Journal: “Instead of burying ingredient lists in the fine print on the back of the package, food manufacturers are trumpeting simpler formulas prominently on the label’s front … More people care deeply about what’s in their food and insist on recognizing the ingredients. The litmus test for many consumers is whether those ingredients might appear in their own kitchen cupboards.”

“Simply Tostitos Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips boast only three ingredients: blue corn, organic expeller-pressed sunflower oil and sea salt. This past June, General Mills Inc.’s Larabar snack bar line launched Larabar Bites. The bites—available in flavors such as double chocolate brownie and cherry chocolate chip—resemble truffles and contain few ingredients which are prominently displayed on the front of the package.”

“New ads for Haagen-Dazs ice cream in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles show a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. ‘5 ingredients, one incredible indulgence’ read ads, which also list the recipe of cream, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla … This fall, ConAgra’s Bertolli Frozen Meals is rolling out a new, reformulated line of meals that feature a shorter ingredient list that reads more like a recipe.”

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LTO: Temptation & The Elusive McRib

The Atlantic: “Despite its list of 70-plus ingredients-—or perhaps because of it—few things galvanize the appetite of the American public like the McRib, the boneless pork-based sandwich, which briefly blooms like a spring ephemeral on McDonald’s menus before disappearing each year … In addition to being a cult favorite, the McRib is the best-known iteration of what the world of quick-service food calls limited-time offers, or LTOs.”

“In general their aim is to stoke excitement for a brand and entice customers to make an extra visit without resorting to discounts or cannibalizing their ordinary regimens … LTOs aren’t necessarily meant as a testing ground for full-time menu items; they’re meant to grab attention … Arby’s—historically known best for its roast beef sandwiches—distills its menu items through a decidedly ‘meat-centric’ prism.”

Jim Taylor of Arby’s comments: “We’re in the temptation business with the LTOs, not the education business. If people don’t really know what it is, they are not going to be attracted to it. But by the same token, if what you’re giving them is something they can get anywhere else, they’re not going to pay attention and come into the store specifically for us on an extra visit.”

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Grocery Outlet: The TJX of Supermarkets?

Business Insider: “Grocery Outlet wants to be the TJ Maxx of grocery stores … Grocery Outlet says it sells items at a 40% to 70% discount off regular stores’ prices by offering surplus items, seasonal closeouts, and discontinued items. While some of its items aren’t up to manufacturer standards, none of what it sells is past the sell-by date.”

“Like TJ Maxx, grocery outlet says it relies on a ‘treasure hunt’ experience to hook consumers. Because customers don’t know exactly what products they will find at Grocery Outlet, they keep coming back for the thrill. Still, Grocery Outlet executives tell Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine that they strive to make stores a place where people can do most, if not all, of their food shopping.”

“While Grocery Outlet doesn’t offer amenities like a deli, it tries to excel in customer service. It also sells wine … workers will carry your bags to your car for you … Grocery Outlet is also making a big push into organic, healthy, and specialty food … It plans to open an additional 125 stores in the California and mid-Atlantic region by 2020.”

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