Luke’s Lobsters: Rolls From ‘Trap to Table’

The New York Times: “Oil companies have long practiced a vertical integration strategy to track and control the flow of petroleum from the oil field to the gas pump … Now the practice is gaining momentum in the food industry.” Among this new breed of restauranteurs is Luke Holden, co-owner of “19 Luke’s Lobster restaurants, two food trucks and a lobster tail cart in the United States, and five shacks in Japan.”

Luke “holds an ownership stake in a co-op of Maine fishermen, which allows him to track where and how the lobsters are caught, and control the quality, freshness and pricing. He also owns the processing plant, Cape Seafood, that packages and prepares the lobsters for his restaurants.” He comments: “We’re able to trace every pound of seafood we serve back to the harbor where it was sustainably caught and to support fishermen we know and trust.”

“When Mr. Holden agreed to buy all of the co-op’s catches for his restaurants, support its sustainability practices and give the co-op 50 percent of the profits from a Luke’s Lobster restaurant that is attached to the wharf, the fishermen agreed … Mr. Holden is projecting sales of $25 million this year and $42 million in 2018. Plans are in the works to open six new restaurants this year and 40 more by 2020.”

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Cool Beans: America’s New Favorite Snack?

Christian Science Monitor: “Once relegated to the canned food aisle and the far reaches of the salad bar, the bean suddenly is becoming a star. These days, it’s popping up in the most unexpected places: in pasta and chips, and even as a centerpiece of dishes at the world’s best restaurants. And it’s no wonder, considering beans are packed with protein and a plethora of other nutrients, say nutrition experts. They’re also inexpensive and among the most environmentally benign agricultural crops.”

“Last year in the United States, sales of pulses – which are the seeds of legumes that are used as food, including peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas and fava beans – grew by 8 percent. By comparison, sales of meat grew by 3 percent. Global demand is also rising, especially for foods with green or yellow split peas and coral-colored lentils, reports market researcher Mintel.”

“Pepsi has launched a bean chip under its Tostitos brand, as has General Mills, under its Food Should Taste Good brand. The Good Bean chips are now available at many conventional grocers, including Costco. Its sales doubled in 2015 and are expected to do the same this year, says the company. Even 7-Eleven has signed on to carry the chips.”

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Friday’s Re-Design: Millennial Minimalism

The Atlantic: “Strategically de-cluttered, devoid of flair—devoid, indeed, of any decor that might distinguish them from their fellow establishments—chain restaurants are melding, visually, into one tentacular beast. They are, en masse, going normcore.”

“The redesigns are … responding to a culture that is renegotiating its relationship with ‘stuff’ as a concept. More and more young people are renting homes rather than buying them; many of them simply intuit, in a way their parents cannot, the life-changing magic of tidying up. In an age defined by anxieties about the limitations of the planet’s physical resources, minimalism is a moral as much as it is an aesthetic.”

“T.G.I. Friday’s recently rebranded as ‘Fridays’; even its name has been subjected to the whims of minimalism. And its new look, whether manifested in Corpus Christi or Des Moines or Alexandria, evokes Silicon Valley—whose corporate spaces, in general, are defined by their airiness, and their emptiness, and their engineering of ‘serendipitous’ social interactions … You don’t need flair on the walls, after all, when you have a screen on your table.”

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Cuteness & Our Consumerist Culture

The Washington Post: “Cuteness is an especially powerful force in our digital world because it is something that can be consumed in quick, small doses, in a gif or picture. And it has blossomed in our consumerist culture because it is incredibly good at selling things … According to a body of academic research … the science of cuteness begins with babies. Babies have large eyes and heads, button noses, soft, chubby bodies, floppy little limbs and a teetering gate. Those properties are echoed in Pikachu, puppies and even the Volkswagen Beetle.”

“Researchers say that the rise of cuteness is closely tied with industrialization, advertising and the rise of consumerism in the late 1800s and onward. By the 1910s, for example, Kewpie dolls … were used to advertise Jell-O. The Morton Salt Girl appeared in Good Housekeeping in 1911, and the Gerber baby appeared in 1928. The Coppertone Girl, the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Snuggle Bear came after World War II, with the arrival of television.”

“And companies have extended the power of ‘cuteness’ in less predictable ways — selling smaller-sized versions of their products, typically for a higher price per pound. Think of miniature M&Ms, cupcakes, and iPod minis … In a 2011 study, researchers found that consumers saw the fronts of cars as similar to human faces, with the headlights representing the eyes. Cars with big, round headlights elicited more positive responses.”

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Quote of the Day: Dick Johnson

“The facts are that most of the basketball shoes that we sell never see a basketball court. Most of the running shoes that we sell never see the roads or the trail or the track. They just look really good, and they’re part of the sneaker culture that we really support.” – Dick Johnson, CEO of Foot Locker, reporting that second-quarter sales at existing Foot Locker stores rose 4.7%, via The Wall Street Journal.

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Cupping: The Next Big Olympic Sport?

FiveThirtyEight: “For the past two weeks, people at the Olympics have been losing their minds trying to collect yellow and blue plastic souvenir cups that feature the silhouetted athletes of each sport. The cups are sold only with the official Olympics beer — Skol — though many collectors are just dumping out the beer or paying full price (13 reais, or about $4) for an empty cup, several vendors confirmed.”

“But although the cups, which are an advertising product for the beer, have been hugely popular, there is little in the way of official information from the company about the collectibles, which has led to the curious situation of visitors trying to complete a set of some indeterminate number.”

“The confusion comes in part because no official marketing materials were released by Ambev, the South American distributor of Skol, stating the number of cups or how best to collect them. But the mystery has only fueled fascination, making the frenzy around the cups more happy accident than calculated guerrilla marketing.”

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Home Depot: Retail ‘Oasis’ Against Amazon

The Wall Street Journal: “Do-it-yourself chains Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos. appear to have built a retail oasis mostly walled off from the reach of online behemoth Amazon.com … Executives from the home improvement chains cite a litany of favorable housing trends for their good fortunes. New households are being formed and housing turnover remains steady. Millennials are even willing to buy homes … All that spurs trips to large chains to pick out appliances and paint colors, and plan projects around the home.”

“But the e-commerce giant doesn’t have a toehold in large parts of the home improvement space, like lumber, paint and gardening supplies. Home Depot says just 25% of its business—smaller, easy-to-ship items like power drills and small hand tools—faces tough online competition.”

“That doesn’t mean either chain is immune to Amazon. A UBS survey in June found that 11% of consumers planning a home improvement project themselves planned to buy something from Amazon. That is far behind the 36% who said they planned to shop at Home Depot and the 21% at Lowe’s, but up from just 7% a few months back.”

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Grocery Spoils Target’s Profits

The Wall Street Journal: “Target Corp. has a problem in its grocery aisles: Shoppers aren’t visiting often enough to buy the retailer’s fresh meat, fruits and vegetables before they spoil … The issue, in part, is that Target’s supply chain wasn’t built to transport items with a short shelf life … Perishable foods, which usually are the big traffic drivers at most grocery stores, have been a drag on Target’s profits.”

“Shifting more control to a third-party vendor would move Target in the opposite direction of its biggest competitors. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which gets more than half of its U.S. revenue from grocery, has invested in infrastructure to transport fresh foods on its own.”

“Target has made an aggressive push to add organic and gluten-free brands … Target also has spent more than $1 million per store to improve the look and inventory management of 25 locations in Los Angeles. The refurbished grocery area features new lighting and signage that highlights the organic and fresh products. The stores now get more frequent deliveries and carry more localized products. But rolling out those changes to all 1,800 Target stores nationwide would require a massive investment, analysts say.”

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Self-Checkout: A Shoplifter’s Dream?

The New York Times: “Self-service checkout technology may offer convenience and speed, but it also helps turn law-abiding shoppers into petty thieves by giving them ‘ready-made excuses’ to take merchandise without paying, two criminologists say.”

“The scanning technology, which grew in popularity about 10 years ago, relies largely on the honor system. Instead of having a cashier ring up and bag a purchase, the shopper is solely responsible for completing the transaction. That lack of human intervention, however, reduces the perception of risk and could make shoplifting more common, the report said.”

“In a behavior known as ‘neutralizing your guilt,’ shoppers may tell themselves that the store is overpriced, so taking an item without scanning is acceptable; or they might blame faulty technology, problems with product bar codes or claim a lack of technical know-how.”

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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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