Grocery Chain Wegman’s Grows its Own

ImagesThe always-innovative Wegman’s grocery chain is going a step beyond private label and has begun developing its own farm to supply some produce to its stores. The Wegman’s Organic Research farm is the subject of this article from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

The privately-owned Wegman’s chain is known as a grocery industry leader because they really know service – and they really know food.

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Sometimes They Write Themselves

Images1From one of my food e-newsletters this week.

The headline: Wingstop Serves its billionth chicken wing

The quote from the CEO in the article: “We know that both customers and critics have responded well to our product, but a milestone of this magnitude is still a dream come true.”

My reaction: Not for the chick…

Oh, I can’t do it.

It’s just too obvious and easy. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Except I’d never shoot fish in a barrel; that would be cruel. Speaking of fish in unnatural confinement, have you read about the pollution that intensive fish farming causes? And how they get sea lice? And how they have to use antibiotics, just like in other types of factory farming?

Editor’s Note: This joke is just as much at my expense for being a strident humorless self-righteous vegetarian as at the expense of the organization celebrating having dispensed with half a billion chickens (assuming both wings of all chickens were used, and with the machinery in slaughterhouses, you know…)

Oh, there I go again.

Anyhow, this article reminded me – do you remember the Cluckin’ Chicken commercial parody on SNL? The celebratory tone of the article made the bit seem appropos for this post somehow. Ah, Phil Hartman, I still miss you.

Farmstands vs. Big Brands

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An article on the choose local movement from the Ad Age perspective. It mostly focuses on food but touches on other categories as well.

Some nice details on what some major chains, including Supervalu, are already doing to support and promote the local products they carry. It’s a pretty even-handed piece, with the exception of the somewhat charged remark in the last sentence of this paragraph (emphasis mine):

Granted, a few hundred people in a relatively small collection of towns isn’t a massive buying block that could take down a Kroger or K-Mart. In fact, no true statistics on the might of the buying-local phenomenon exist. Yet, taken together, these disparate efforts could signal the beginning of a consumer revolution that in time could become as pernicious as anti-consumerism.

I knew I’d been feeling different lately and I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it. Turns out it’s not just that I’ve been eating too much stone fruit: in addition to my longstanding subversiveness and perspicacity, I’m now pernicious too. And I’m clearly not the only one if Ad Age is writing about it.

Soy News

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A colleague and I were chatting about Dean Foods’ sale of the White Wave meat-alternatives business (but not the cash cow of Silk soymilk, ha ha) to Hain Celestial and she filled me in on a bit of news I had missed – Kroger Foods is adding soymilk production to its Hutchinson, KS dairy facility, making Kroger the first retailer in the nation to have its own private-label soymilk production. The wave of the future? Certainly seems like a natural progression from decades of retailer-owned milk bottling and dairy-processing plants.

A PR Roundup

PR is really important in the food industry. Small organizations that don’t have many resources rely on it to do a great many things for them that they would otherwise have to pay more to do. Large organizations with plenty of money that use it well do so deftly to imperceptibly reinforce their brand image. Really unsubtle PR, the kind that’s often deployed by industry front groups, where you have to wonder who will believe anything the organization says, is my favorite, though.

An Organization That Needs PR

Remember how I was saying that other varieties of citrus in the wrong place could wreak havoc with seedless citrus? Today, the Fresno Bee has a story about a very large citrus-growing company warning property owners and beekeepers that they could be sued if they do not move their bees at least two miles away from certain citrus groves. One of the varieties mentioned in that article is the W. Murcott I enjoyed so much.

I’m wondering how they’ll get the word out to the insect community. I suppose it’ll be good for all of those out-of-work bee process servers.

And speaking of bees (B’s) confidential to my U2 friends – happy B-day.

An Organization That’s All PR

Seemingly reacting to Eric Schlosser’s new book for adolescents, (they can’t be reacting to Fast Food Nation five years later, can they?) a group of 18 ag and food producers have formed the organization Best Food Nation to make a point – that flags, pictured along with a variety of foods in the header, (including bananas, which do not grow in the U.S.) are a healthy part of a balanced diet. No, that can’t be it. It must be that Eric Schlosser is bringing all these industries down single-handedly. No, that can’t be it. It must be that they want to fulfill America’s need for apologist FAQs. (Much more where that came from – click on each of the “Industry Facts” links for a FAQ on that item.)

An Organization That Knows What it’s Doing With PR

Industry experts estimate that it cost Kraft “tens of millions of dollars” to retool the Oreo into a trans-fat free version. The new ones are coming to stores now and the change is not noted on the package, though it is on Triscuits and Wheat Thins. They did the right thing – they understood that being trans-fat free was going to become the price of entry, even in cookies – and when they got there, understanding that it had become that, they didn’t crow about having gotten to that point.

I stopped eating trans fats ten years ago now, when people still thought I was nuts for doing so. What do you mean margarine is bad for you? I heard that a lot. Now, though, even Cheez-Its have had their partially hydrogenated vegetable oil removed. Do I start eating Cheez-Its again? Probably not.

Tweet Cough Tweet

In light of that crazy bird-flu movie on ABC (“Hm,” I hope you thought to yourself. “It’s May…could it be…sweeps week?” Yes. Yes it is.) the Food Marketing Institute, which includes member organizations that represent industries that could be affected in the event of a bird flu epidemic, has taken a moment away from their busy schedule of filling Chicago with people who forget about their plastic badges and wear them everywhere they go and issued this helpful brochure to help us all learn to talk about different types of flu in a reasonable way.

Not that I ever would have, but you couldn’t pay me enough to work at the National Chicken Council these days.

And by blogging law, I am compelled to link to this picture of what will happen when bird flu strikes Florida, as my father captioned it when he sent it to me.

Edit: And here’s the perfect cartoon to go along with the bird flu movie – this one, from where else but (of course) Savage Chickens?