Introducing the Meat-O-Mat!

The Wall Street Journal: “Attached to a laboratory-like plant in this upstate community is a neon-lit vending machine dubbed the Meat-O-Mat, where customers can buy locally raised meat whenever they like. If Joshua Applestone has his way, carnivores will flock to it the way that banking customers visit the ATM. His invention is stocked with pork chops, dry-aged burger patties, bratwurst meatballs and his beloved pork roll, a deli meat native to New Jersey. Customers swipe their credit cards, push a button, slide the door open and retrieve their hormone- and antibiotic-free selection.”

“Mr. Applestone and his partners at Applestone Meat Co., the attached plant, are attempting to develop a new, meat-centric business model. For the past two years, they have been exploring ways of making high-quality cuts available at lower prices by slashing labor costs and considering offbeat distribution methods like the Meat-O-Mat. ‘We’re going for a highway-roadside-attraction type of approach,’ said Samantha Gloffke, the company’s general manager and a part owner. ‘The goal is to make sustainability really exciting.'”

Mr. Applestone envisions them stationed at supermarkets, football stadiums and picnic sites, places where you might welcome the convenience of buying something to toss on the grill. ‘Think about it at any music festival,’ he said. ‘Anywhere someone brings a cooler, you no longer have to bring fresh meat. How much is peace of mind worth?'”


Plants or Petroleum: The ‘Natural’ Difference Isn’t Clear

The Wall Street Journal: “Many retailers and consumer products companies classify their products as natural if some of their ingredients were originally sourced from plant-based materials. But the top ingredients in many natural or ‘green’ consumer goods aren’t that different from mainstream products, whose ingredients often come from petroleum-based sources … The main ingredients in Tom’s of Maine Simply White toothpaste, for instance—including sodium fluoride, hydrated silica, sorbitol and sodium lauryl sulfate—are also in some types of Colgate toothpaste. Tom’s of Maine, which says all its ingredients ‘originate from nature,’ is owned by Colgate-Palmolive Co.”

“Whole Foods Markets Inc. last fall started selling a new brand of laundry detergent called Nature’s Power, whose green bottle claims the product is made ‘with plant-derived soaps.’ Its top active ingredient, a commonly used cleaning agent called sodium laureth sulfate, is found in plenty of its mainstream peers, including Arm & Hammer, which like Nature’s Power is made by Church & Dwight Co. Sodium laureth sulfate can be produced from coconut oil, palm oil or petroleum. ‘It is the same chemical compound, regardless of what it’s derived from,’ says Clarence Miller, a professor emeritus of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University in Houston.”

“While the Food and Drug Administration regulates foods and personal-care products and requires detailed ingredient labeling, it isn’t clear who is checking the labels of household products or the contents of bottles … The use of term “organic” is more closely regulated. Makers of household cleaners that label their products organic must have their ingredients certified by an independent body that follows guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”


Why Is Laundry Detergent So Difficult To Measure?

The Washington Post: “The measuring caps on liquid laundry detergent containers are universally difficult to read, because of faint markings that blend in with the plastic cups. Without perfect lighting conditions and sharp vision, this has left many consumers squinting to see where the line is that they should fill to. And the related instructions are often vague … While impossible to pinpoint exactly how much detergent is wasted, experts say a significant portion of the industry’s revenues come from excess use of detergent that consumers didn’t need to use to clean their clothes.”

“Experts say a good measuring cap is doable — all that’s needed is a contrasting color to mark the lines consumers should fill to … Yet laundry detergent companies stick with a design that has its roots in the 1930s, when a patent was issued for a measuring top for containers … For the foreseeable future, consumers struggling to find the perfect detergent dose for their laundry will have to keep making do.”


littleBits: Designing A Gender-Neutral Toy

C-Suite Strategies, a special supplement in The Wall Street Journal, featured an interview with Ayah Bdeir, founder of littleBits Electronics, makers of gender-neutral kits for building electronic toys — “snap-together electronic circuits, motors, lights and motors.”

“We want to help kids and adults understand the world around them further and reinvent it,” Ms. Bdeir, herself an engineer, says. In response to a question about how she creates gender-neutrality, especially in a category that is traditionally male-oriented, she responds:

“We are deliberately gender-neutral in the design of our product, packaging and communications, the colors we pick, the inventors we feature, the inventions we select [for publicity]. We promote creativity in art, in music, in design, not gendered hobbies. We market littleBits as a tool for invention, learning and play, as opposed to marketing it as a toy, which avoids placing it in either the pink or blue aisle.

The traditional association with robotics and vehicles is that they’re boys’ tools. So, we have bright colors that look like candy. There’s an extra effort to make the circuits look beautiful. And it turns out boys are not turned off. Anecdotally, our teachers tell us it’s close to 40% to 50% girls, which is unheard of in electronics.”


Craft Breweries Turn to Mobile Canning

USA Today: “Mobile canning services, which started becoming popular about three years ago, are turning the smallest of breweries into legitimate players in America’s craft beer craze. They bring equipment to breweries and package beer on site, saving breweries tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. ICan, one of two mobile canning services with a strong presence in Indiana, charges breweries as little as $1,600 for a 100-case run.”

“Mobile canning is growing along with America’s craft beer scene. Last year the USA surpassed 4,000 breweries for the first time since at least the 1870s, according to Brewers Association and U.S. Census Bureau research. New breweries are looking for ways to distribute their products, and mobile canning is providing a key to the marketplace.”


Fresh Air: Glade Discloses Ingredients

Huffington Post: SC Johnson is “the first major player in the household chemicals industry to list 100 percent of the ingredients used to create fragrance in one of its lines of scented products, the Glade Fresh Citrus Blossoms collection of wax melts and air fresheners. That includes the chemicals ordinarily glossed over with catch-all phrases like natural ingredients or essential oil.”

“Its goal, in part, is to create a new standard of transparency that would challenge upstart competitors, who sell themselves as greener alternatives, to disclose every single component in their fragrances.”

“It’s important to lay it all out there for the scrutiny of the world what goes into our products if consumers are going to trust us,” says Herbert Fisk Johnson III, the company’s chairman and chief executive. “In the absence of information, people tend to think the worst.”


Wild Turkey Inks an Older, Prouder Bird

Bottles of Wild Turkey bourbon and rye whiskey now feature an older, prouder bird, reports The Wall Street Journal. The newly redesigned labels cap a $100 million expansion and modernization of the Wild Turkey distillery, following its acquisition by Gruppo Campari.

Campari marketing vice president Melanie Batchelor says the previous turkey looked “a little sad … not proud.” Consumer research also found that the turkey looked too young, which “conflicted with the idea that the bourbon is aged.” The new illustration is “more of a close-up image, with prominent eyes and fluffy feathers.”

“Wild Turkey also wanted to better highlight its master distillers, Jimmy Russell and his son, Eddie,” whose “signatures are now larger and on the fronts of the bottles, rather than the necks … Bottles also include the words ‘Crafted With Conviction’ … They wanted to avoid using ‘handcrafted,’ a phrase Ms. Batchelor feels has become so common in the spirits industry that it sounds generic.


Sometimes It’s the Label That’s Artificial

Christian Science Monitor: “According to Consumer Reports, 60 percent of people believe a ‘natural’ label means packaged and processed foods have no genetically modified organisms, no artificial ingredients or colors, no chemicals and no pesticides. Forty-five percent think that ‘natural’ is a verified claim, but there’s no outside regulations as to when food companies can put the term on their products.”

“To add to the confusion, ‘organic’ is a regulated label, while ‘natural’ is not … this invites plenty of loopholes for food manufacturers to claim that what they are selling is ‘natural’ even when some of it may not be.”

“Companies do this because they know consumers are more inclined to reach for products that have natural ingredients over artificially-produced ones. The Consumer Reports survey corroborates this assumption: 73 percent of the study’s respondents currently believe the natural label means a product has no artificial ingredients or colors, and 72 percent believe that ‘natural’ means ingredients were grown without pesticides.”