Two Buck Chuck: What Makes it So Cheap?

Business Insider: “Trader Joe’s wine is remarkably cheap. A bottle of the grocery store’s most popular wine brand, Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck, made by Bronco Wine) sells for less than $3.” What makes it so inexpensive? #1: “Most of the company’s vineyards are located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the cost of land is much cheaper than the more prestigious Sonoma or Napa Valley … Higher average temperatures in San Joaquin Valley can over-ripen grapes, which is a main contributor to the price difference between the regions.”

#2: “The company ferments wine with oak chips, which are cheaper than barrels.” #3: “The company uses … a mold of cork pieces glued together with a ‘real cork veneer at the bottom’.” #4: “Making wine in huge quantities keeps production costs low … The company uses machines to harvest the grapes, which helps keep labor costs low, but also increases the chances that bad grapes end up in the wine … Critics argue that mass production is also how animal matter can end up in your wine glass. But to be fair, there’s a chance of that happening with most agricultural products.”

#5: “Bronco cuts shipping costs by using lightweight bottles and cheap cartons … The lighter glass reduces the weight of a case of wine by several pounds, meaning Bronco can ship more wine at a time. Bronco also lowered the cost of its shipping cartons by a few pennies by replacing the white paper it was using with a light brown paper.”

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Redbro Chickens: Slow Growth, Better Taste

The New York Times: “Perdue Farms, one of the country’s largest chicken producers, has been raising what are known as slow-growth chickens side by side with the breeds that have made the company so successful. The new birds, a variety known as Redbro, take 25 percent longer, on average, to mature than their conventional cousins, and so are more expensive to raise.”

“Perdue is trying to find just the right slow-growth breed, and it has a strong incentive: A fast-growing cohort of companies that buy vast quantities of poultry, including Whole Foods Market and Panera Bread, are demanding meat from slow-growth chickens, contending that giving birds more time to grow before slaughter will give them a healthier, happier life — and produce better-tasting meat.”

“Consumers would … have to accept some trade-offs: While the new chickens have a fuller flavor, their meat tends to be distributed differently over the body, with more generous thighs and smaller breasts than the chicken most Americans are used to … In marketing slow-growth chickens, Perdue and others will have to make consumers understand why they are paying a higher price … the suggested retail price of a Sonoma Red (from Perdue’s Petaluma Poultry) that weighs four pounds is $16.”

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Fresh Squeeze: Packaged Goods Retreat at Retail

Wall Street Journal: “ShopRite and other grocery-store chains around the country are building new stores that have less space for traditional packaged foods in the center aisles and more for in-store restaurants and fresh meals shoppers can take home … That means less space for traditional packaged-food brands, which are also facing increased competition from store brands and smaller upstarts.”

“The shift in shopper preferences started several years ago, but its impact on big food makers is intensifying now because of added pressure from retailers. That has exacerbated what has been a drumbeat of bad news for packaged-goods companies grappling with American consumers’ sustained move toward natural, organic foods. A long stretch of falling food prices, fueled by excess supplies of staples like meat and dairy, have also lowered costs for consumers at supermarkets, giving them more reason to choose fresh food over boxed meals.”

“Some brands are seeking ways to get their products into the fresh and prepared foods section of the store … (however) retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are pressuring big brands to lower their prices as a way to attract customers. Companies like Hershey and PepsiCo Inc. said they are working with retailers to be creative.” PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi comments: “That’s a conversation we’ve been having with some of the retailers, to say ‘how can we help you rethink the center store so that we can bring growth back … Our hope is that with the rejuvenation of the center store, our categories will grow, too.”

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Little Damage: Almond Charcoal Ice Cream!

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April Lavalle: “Little Damage Ice Cream Shop in Los Angeles, California is flipping the bird at all those ‘unicorn’-inspired sweet treats by creating a frozen confection that will take you to the dark side.Their pitch-black, almond-charcoal flavored soft serve ice cream is taking Instagram by storm, and it will definitely inject a little Halloween into your favorite summer treat.”

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#SecondBreakfast: Multiple Morning Meals

The Wall Street Journal: “Americans in recent years have adopted the practice by eating multiple small meals in the morning … Americans still typically eat around 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., but upticks in eating are also happening before and after the traditional breakfast time … The increasing popularity of multiple breakfasts is boosting sales of convenient breakfast foods.”

“Second breakfasts tend to be smaller and slightly more savory than first breakfasts, says Jeanine Bassett, vice president of global consumer insights at General Mills Inc. … This year the company launched Yoplait Dippers, a line of Greek yogurts packaged with snacks for dipping. Vanilla bean yogurt comes with oat crisps; chipotle ranch yogurt with tortilla chips.”

“The Wonderful Co.’s pistachios are usually eaten in the afternoon, but the company aims to expand into what it sees as the fast-growing morning-eating time … To boost easy workplace eating, this month the company is rolling out its first pistachio snack packs, in 1.5 ounce portions, and a new campaign emphasizing the nut’s high protein and fiber content and low calories.”

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YamChops: Veggie Butchers Let it Bleed

The Wall Street Journal: Michael Abramson, “a 62-year-old vegan, is the proprietor of YamChops, a faux meat market where every patty, link, and fillet is made from edible plants. To entice “veg curious’ meat eaters as well as vegetarians, he takes great pains to make sure his substitutes look as much like the real thing as possible … So his ground beet burger—actually a medley of beets, carrots, turnips, and zucchini bonded with brown rice and mashed potatoes—doesn’t just resemble a beef burger. It oozes a reddish-pink juice, to appeal to those who like it when their burger ‘bleeds a little bit,’ he says.”

“Mr. Abramson is part of a small but growing community of ‘vegetable butchers’ opening shop from Northern California to Sydney to The Hague, hoping to wow discerning diners with substitute lox crafted from carrots and jerky fashioned from wheat gluten … Some staunch vegans and vegetarians say the word butcher should be verboten because it describes the killing of animals. Some traditional butchers and meat lovers meanwhile are rankled by the co-opting of a term they view as theirs. Many are just confused about the point of it all.”

Consultant Michael Whiteman comments: “Why do soldiers in the anti-meat brigade want food that looks like a hot dog and tastes like a hot dog and smells like a hot dog, but isn’t a hot dog? The answer is, of course, they like hot dogs!”

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Yes Plz: Locol Coffee Good & Cheap

The New York Times: “Is it possible for high-quality coffee to be inexpensive? At Locol, the self-described ‘revolutionary fast food’ chain opened last year by the chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, the answer is yes. Locol’s stated mission is to bring wholesome, affordable food to underserved neighborhoods … Obtained and roasted according to the same lofty standards found at … any of the small, innovative companies that have transformed the high end of the industry in the past decade, Locol’s coffee is clean and flavorful.”

“But unlike those shops, where a cup can cost $3 or more, Locol charges just $1 for a 12-ounce coffee, or $1.50 if you want milk and sugar. Rather than offer free condiments and pass on the cost to all customers, those who want milky, sweet coffee pay for their pleasures, while drinkers of black coffee get a break … Locol is rolling out a coffee brand called Yes Plz and plans to eventually open coffee windows and stand-alone shops in addition to supplying its three locations.”

Tony Konecny of Locol comments: “Coffee still thinks that mass appeal is a sign of selling out and inauthenticity, but everybody wears Levi’s. I think contemporary coffee has failed to find the consumers it should be finding.” He adds: “What we know about coffee sourcing, coffee roasting, coffee brewing, coffee service — there’s really no reason why you couldn’t make the coffee at every bodega taste good.”

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A Groovy Solution for Drippy Wine Bottles

Brandeis Now: “Daniel Perlman — wine-lover, inventor and Brandeis University biophysicist — has figured out a solution to this age-old oenophile’s problem. Over the course of three years, he has been studying the flow of liquid across the wine bottle’s lip. By cutting a groove just below the lip, he’s created a drip-free wine bottle.”

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‘Graph Theory’ & Food & Retail Innovation

The Wall Street Journal: “Every creative cook faces the challenge of choosing ingredients that combine deliciously. This is mostly a matter of culinary experience, intuition and imagination, plus a lot of trial and error. But Big Data can help, too … Enter the food scientist and trained chef Michael Nestrud … Dr. Nestrud uses an arcane branch of mathematics called graph theory, the same sort of analysis used to pick out ‘cliques’ of Facebook friends, in which every member of the group is friends with every other member.”

“More recently, he has applied the technique to produce more harmonious combinations of snacks, main courses, side dishes and desserts in U.S. Army field rations, based on soldiers’ pairwise preferences. He also has used it to determine which snack foods should sit next to one another on convenience-store shelves, based on which items consumers tend to think of together In his current job with Ocean Spray … Dr. Nestrud searches through Twitter’s daily archives to find every tweet that mentions certain flavor-related words.”

“By seeing what else people talk about when they talk about cranberries, both during and after the holiday season, he hopes to learn more about the other flavors that consumers associate with cranberries, which may lead to novel flavor combinations for his company’s products. Data miners have an even richer treasure trove available in the form of online recipe archives. Every recipe testifies that someone, at some point, thought a particular combination of ingredients was tasty. Scientists are now using these archives to test a controversial idea about flavor pairing.”

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