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Food and Beverage

Ben & Jerry’s Goes Rogue on GMOs

ben-and-jerrys

Here’s a very interesting report on some internal conflict within the massive conglomerate we call Unilever: seems that the company and one of its most valued properties disagree on the issue of genetically modified organisms in food.

Matthew Boyle of Bloomberg reports that, while Ben & Jerry’s strongly supports its home state’s new law requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such, Unilever does not. Shocking, we know.

Yet Unilever allows the ice cream kings to be outspoken in their advocacy because, as an analyst tells Bloomberg:

“I don’t think they will ever want the potentially massive negative PR of trying to silence B&J.”

Well, yeah.

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Restaurants With ‘Xtreme’ Menu Items Are Doing Long-Term Damage (To Their Business)


The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released its 2014 Xtreme Eating Awards and topping the list with a 3,540 calorie meal consisting of a “Monster” double burger and milkshake with a bottomless order of fries is Red Robin.

“[I]t’s the ‘single unhealthiest’ meal the group could find on more than 200 chain restaurant menus it reviewed…” says USA Today.

Also on the list three times is The Cheesecake Factory. And there’s Chevys Tex Mex with a combo plate, a seafood platter from Joe’s Crab Shack, ribs from Famous Dave’s and a deep-dish ranch pizza from BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Restaurants appearing on the list that spoke with the newspaper counter that there are low-calorie options on their menu for those that want them. Red Robin’s SVP and CMO, Denny Marie Post, says that colossal meal is a mixture of their menu’s “most indulgent” items.

All of this might be true, but that’s not what’s getting the media attention. These chains are making a name for themselves for having the most fattening and unhealthy dishes. That can have a negative long-term effect.

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Russia Seeks to Ban McDonald’s as Retaliation Against the U.S.

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Another day in downtown Kiev, nyet?

McDonald’s is no stranger to the headlines of PRNewser. In fact, we even dedicated a story tag after the repeat bad news: #McFail. However, bad brand news out of Russia involving the home of the Clown isn’t their fault…this time.

That said, Mr. Gorbachev may want to re-erect that wall, because the Cold War has returned: Russia wants to ban McDonald’s. As in, everywhere in the country.

Can’t we talk a little, Putin? I mean, for the children?

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With Drought Measures Becoming More Strict, Nestle Continues California Water Bottling

arrowheadNestle is kicking up controversy with its continued water bottling operations despite a drought that is so severe, it has prompted water restrictions.

Nestle owns Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, which is sourced from a spring  Millard Canyon, CA. Nestle Pure Life is another one of its brands, both of which are bottled on a Native American reservation in the state.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because of water shortages. On Tuesday, water regulators approved fines of $500 for things like watering lawns and washing cars. The measures were put in place after the governor announced he wanted to reduce water usage by 20 percent and that goal hadn’t been achieved. The drought has been going on for three years. Other measures will be considered if water usage still isn’t reduced.

Reservations are considered sovereign states that don’t have to follow state regulations. But knowing the dire situation that the state is in, should Nestle do something?

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Crumbs Rises From The Ashes to Sell Cupcakes (And Other Stuff) For Another Day

lemonisLast week we were talking about the demise of Crumbs. Today, we’re talking about its resurrection, with some help from Dippin’ Dots.

Word is the cupcake company will be sold to an investor group that will include Marcus Lemonis, CNBC host (right), and Fischer Enterprises, owner of Dippin’ Dots.

Many people said that Crumbs’ biggest problem was the fact that it hitched its wagon exclusively to a food trend that eventually died out. By the sound of the details that have been revealed so far, the company plans to change that. The addition of these new leaders will also solve some of the marketing challenges that the company clearly had.

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Best Practices: What to Do When Activists Come Calling

bpa_free_logoOne of my go-to quick-and-healthy dinners is a can of Amy’s Organic fat-free vegetable soup topped with slices of chicken sausage.

OK, yes: It’s still processed food (and I know I could and should do better!), but some of that guilt is removed thanks to a new sticker Amy’s has been putting on every can that reads: “This soup is canned in a BPA-free liner.”

Good move, right? This little sticker reinforces the notion that buying Amy’s Organic is the healthier choice. It’s also a perfectly proportional response to health concerns raised by groups such as the Breast Cancer Fund over the use of Bisphenol A, or BPA, in can linings. Other companies, such as Campbell Soup Co., have followed suit in removing BPA from their packaging.

As Advertising Age points out, processed-food companies—even seemingly “good” companies, like Amy’s Organic—are on the defensive as never before, and repeatedly under attack from online health advocates and activists.

The rise in attacks comes from, you guessed it, “social networking tools and digital media, [which] have created opportunity for groups of consumer advocates to target individual brands in order to influence company decisions,” notes Sanford C. Bernstein notes in a recent report.

So what’s a company to do? Should companies respond to every single threat? And how?

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Crumbs Didn’t Fold Because It Only Focused on Cupcakes

crumbs bake shopNow that we’ve all wiped away the tears over the loss of the Crumbs Bake Shop, people are wondering what the heck happened. (*Now we’re also wondering if the shop will actually make a comeback.)

The biggest problems were financial. The company kept expanding, which is expensive, and they weren’t selling enough cupcakes to cover the cost. The company also went public in 2011, which can lead to a whole separate set of business issues.

Tied closely to that is the belief that the whole premise of the company was a fad, destined to flame out from a drop in sales. Cupcakes shot to prominence with Sex And The City and a guest appearance by Magnolia Bakery, another cupcake bakery, in the early 2000s. The AP makes the case that other companies like Krispy Kreme and TCBY also grew to great heights based on a food trend then eventually came crashing down along with all of our sugar highs. Things like changing health concerns (people are more calorie-conscious these days), shifting taste buds and increased competition from others who are chasing a fad can hurt business.

We’ll propose that it was less the cupcake fad and more the Crumbs brand that played a role in the company’s demise. People still like cupcakes. Maybe not as much as before, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone turn one down. Part of the problem was that Crumbs wasn’t as fun as a cupcake business should be.

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T.G.I. Fridays Pushes the Boundaries of Reality with ‘Endless Appetizers’

TGI F

These aren’t “endless” unless you’re discussing their shelf life.

The greatest sociological experiment of our time has begun–and it involves lots of appetizers.

One could discuss the marketing/brand identification strategy behind T.G.I. Fridays‘ decision to give all comers as many appetizers as they can stuff into their mouths this summer for the low price of $10. One could ask whether this attempt to woo cheap eaters is really all about the drinks they’ll justify with that two-digit total. One might even ask why Guy Fieri was not somehow involved.

But we just finished a super-long weekend, so this morning we’ll let USA Today (nice placement!) do the analysis for us…

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Dining Goes Digital With a Mash-Up of IBM’s Watson and Bon Appetit

watson bon appetitIBM‘s Watson supercomputer and food magazine Bon Appetit have joined forces to create an app — “Chef Watson with Bon Appetit,” currently in beta — that finds new ways to mix and match foods based on 9,000 Bon Appetit recipes. Essentially, Watson consumed the recipe data and can now manipulate it into new flavors and concoctions.

“To come up with these creatively crafted cuisines, Watson uses Bon Appetit’s insights about ingredient pairings, cooking styles, and dishes and then mixes that with food chemistry, the psychology of people’s likes and dislikes, and regional and ethnic tastes,” reports CNET. “The idea is to help people discover new and flavorful recipes that are fine-tuned to make taste buds happy.”

Something like fennel-spiced baby back pork with a tangy apple-mustard sauce. Good grief. Sounds delish.

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Burger King Has a Gay Pride Whopper and It’s Just Like a Regular Whopper

Burger King, like the rest of us, is celebrating LGBT Pride Week. For this special occasion, one San Francisco BK restaurant has introduced a special Proud Whopper, a sandwich wrapped in a rainbow of bright colors. But when you unwrap it, inside, all you’ll find is a regular old Whopper.

What gives?

Well, the company says that’s kind of the point.

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