‘Lab-Grown’ or ‘Clean Food’?

Quartz: “For years, food technology companies have referred to their products as ‘cultured’ or ‘lab-grown,’ but as these new businesses start to make a first foray into the public eye, they are also pushing ideas that may make people uncomfortable—such as meat grown in labs. To get over that, there’s a push to coalesce around a new term: ‘clean food’.”

“By opting for this terminology, the industry hopes to better communicate to people the ethos behind their products, rather than the actual processes (which often do occur in a laboratory) used to deliver them to the kitchen table. It’s main selling point: ‘clean’ meat and dairy are efficient products with fewer sustainability and animal-welfare problems than traditional meat and dairy.” The term piggybacks “off the now-ubiquitous use of the term ‘clean energy’.”

“Impossible Foods unveiled its plant-based burger at Momofuku Nishi in New York City in late-July, and Beyond Meat is selling its version of a similar product in a limited number of US supermarkets … These are some of the first players in what some hope will be a ‘clean food’ revolution.”

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Abercrombie & The Demographics of Fashion

Business Insider: “Abercrombie has been trying to save itself for a while now, reinventing its image and as a result becoming totally unrecognizable to the generation of kids who grew up shopping there in the late ’90s and early aughts. The goal was to appeal to older shoppers — 18 to 25 year olds, not teens … In theory, this was a smart idea … this would open the gates to a demographic with more spending money. The move would also help Abercrombie set itself apart from its more teen-friendly sister brand, Hollister … But the brand’s attempt to execute a turnaround is proving to be very difficult.”

Eric Beder of Wunderlich Securities comments: “While the shift to an older customer is a strategy for Abercrombie, we see limited reasons for older customers to shift back to a ‘teen’ brand and, frankly, there are better brands and lifestyles for the 20+ customer to focus on.”

Betty Chen, managing director of Mizuho Securities adds: “In the history of retail, it is very difficult when a brand tries to reposition itself anywhere along the age demographic. You can almost predict failure when you’re going older or younger.”

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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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Outside Baseball: Mets Announcers Go Rogue

The Wall Street Journal: “The Mets broadcast trio—Gary Cohen on play-by-play with Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling as the analysts—is widely acknowledged as one of the best in baseball … But what makes fans so obsessed with them begins with a revolutionary idea that has nothing to do with their sharp baseball commentary. They’re at their best when, during baseball games, they’re not talking about baseball.”

“During their 11 years on air together, the trio has mastered the art of the tangent. Take this short list of some notable midgame conversation topics from a Wall Street Journal sampling of games this season: a primer on impressionist and pointillist art; a history of French exploration beyond the Mississippi; the frustration of the 7-10 split in bowling; Mirkwood forest from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”; getting pickpocketed at Mardi Gras; the Marmaduke and Beetle Bailey comics; and at what age it’s appropriate to take up the javelin.”

Keith Hernandez explains: “We’re going to have sh***y games. And if I’m bored, I know the people out there are bored.” Here’s a sample:

What’s more “Cohen, Darling and Hernandez stand out as one of the handful of crews that avoids biased language or openly rooting for their team.”

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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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Hershey Hugs & Kisses Its Hometown

The Wall Street Journal: “From the roller coasters at Hershey Park to the butterfly conservatory at Hershey Gardens, Hershey, Pa., was literally built on the generosity of its founder, the iconic chocolatier Milton S. Hershey. No wonder, then, that Hershey residents fret the tap might run dry if Hershey Co. is sold or merges with a suitor.”

“Hershey is a holdout from a bygone American era, when some 2,000 towns sprang up to serve one particular coal mine, textile factory or slaughterhouse. Many have faded as factories moved overseas and technological advancements led to job cuts … The same fate hasn’t befallen Hershey, where Kisses-shaped lamps burn bright above the downtown intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues.”

“Hershey’s resilience is due largely to the unusual strength of Hershey Trust … Milton Hershey founded the trust over a century ago, mainly to look after the Milton Hershey School for some 2,000 underprivileged children. It still does that, but today the trust also owns a resort and spa, an amusement park and a real-estate company in town.”

“Brad Reese, the grandson of the creator of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which Hershey bought in 1963, spent his early years in what he calls “this very insular town.” He swam in the pool at the Hershey-built community center, and drank milk from the Hershey-owned dairy. ‘It’s a honey pot,’ said Mr. Reese, ‘the hand that feeds’.”

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Binu Binu: Soap as Body-Soul Exorcism

The New York Times: “For the Toronto native Karen Kim, 36, the memory of her Korean grandmother buffing her body when she was 5 years old left a lasting impression … Something about the purity of a simple “soap and water” beauty routine stuck with Kim. So much so that last spring, she left her job in fashion at La Garçonne in New York City … to try her hand at soap making, reinterpreting the old-fashioned traditions of Korean bath life into a line of modern cleansing goods.”

“Called binu binu (or ‘soap soap’ in Korean), it comprises six restorative bars, all made with a base of boricha, a barley tea that’s prized for its detoxifying powers.”

“Each bar starts with a story, many of which include strong female characters in Korean culture. Her Haenyeo Sea Woman soap, for example, is an homage to the haenyeo deep-sea divers of Jeju Island … Her blend of black Hiwa Kai sea salt, seaweed extract and peppermint oil riffs on the bracing feeling of plunging into the ocean. Others, like her Shaman Black Charcoal soap, conjure up the modern mudang shamans … the essential oils in the charcoal soap — lavender, cedarwood and clary sage — are often used in purification ceremonies and provide a deep cleanse that, she says, is akin to ‘an exorcism’ for the body and soul.”

“Kim cuts the bars by hand, forming monolithic shapes inspired by the severe blocklike aesthetic of Donald Judd. ‘I love the idea of soap being a little sculptural element in your bathroom,’ she notes.”

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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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Longevity Market: Boomer Brands Booming

The New York Times: Some companies “are plugging into a wealthy slice of the over-50 demographic called the longevity market, whose annual economic activity currently amounts to $7.6 trillion … With an estimated 74.9 million baby boomers … the biggest market opportunity for start-ups is older Americans rather than hip millennials … The staggering size of the total longevity economy — bigger even than Japan’s — has been attracting more entrepreneurs, deep-pocketed financiers and places to pitch new ideas in the past few years.”

“New business ideas that cater to boomers are nearly endless … and include chefs, online dating sites and yoga instructors for people with health issues … Even businesses with decidedly mundane products are finding ways to capture the longevity niche. Foot care, for example, is a huge market … One of the founders of the Rockport Company, Bruce R. Katz, reinvented himself in 2013 by starting the Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company to sell comfortable footwear to baby boomer men.”

“In a validation of the brand’s appeal to baby boomers, former President Bill Clinton, who turns 70 this month, was even photographed walking a dog, wearing Samuel Hubbard’s sky blue shoes.”

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