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Dairy Industry Needs a Micro-Brew Makeover

January 28th, 2018 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

There are few things more satisfying, food wise, than putting good cream on the top of fruit, or adding sour cream, or whipped cream, or coffee with cream, or tea with milk, or bread with butter, or cold or hot cereal with milk. Cream on top, buttered bread, ice cream, cheese courses, Greek yoghurt, cheese pizza, latte’s and the like are synonyms for a finished product, something that is complete. Macaroni does not get real until the cheese goes in.

What provides this essential component to our diet? The dairy industry. And that dairy industry is suffering greatly. In some places, a gallon of milk, heretofore usually about $3.50 a gallon at full price, is now selling for less than $1.5o in some places. The idea of milk has been tarnished by our food establishment, who encourage low fat or even fake substitutes and so-called “creamers” that are really corn-sugar laced syrups.

Our dairy foods are so important, yet we forget about them and take them for granted. [Read more →]

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Inside Newell, the Smithsonian of American Brands

December 11th, 2017 · 3 Comments

By Garland Pollard

HOBOKEN – Newell Brands, formerly Newell Rubbermaid, owns an astonishing array of classic brands. For those of us who like these classics, they are the owners of American crown jewels.

These include Sunbeam, Shakespeare, Blue Diamond, Oster, Coleman, Sharpie, Rubbermaid, Elmer’s, Rawlings, Elmer’s Glue, Ball jars, X-ACTO knives, Crock-Pots, Dymo label printers, Graco baby products, NUK pinkies, Stearn’s life vests, Calphalon cookware and First Alert fire detectors. It even owns Yankee Candle. Oh and Diamond and Blue Tip matches, Shakespeare fishing rods, Stearn’s life vests and Mr. Coffee.

Like so many companies, it is an amalgam of companies, all now part of New Jersey-based Newell. This fall, the stock took a fall, in a time when the market has had record gain after record gain.

The question is what happened. On, I analyzed the company, which has struggled since then Newell Rubbermaid took over Jarden, which owned some of the struggling leftovers from Chainsaw Al of Sunbeam.

The thesis is that there are too many brands in its portfolio, and it cannot run them all properly, as they are so many, so different, and in such varied states of repair or disrepair.

  • A full story is HERE.

Some of the other brands of Newell we have discussed in past years include:

→ 3 CommentsTags: Sports

San Antonio’s Joske’s Latest in ‘Department Mall’ Trend

November 9th, 2017 · 2 Comments

By Garland Pollard

SAN ANTONIO – The Joske’s Department Store, so long a beloved presence in Texas, yet another example of a revived department store location that is a mall and downtown anchor. This follows a recent trend of refitting large downtown department stores. In the case of Joske’s, the project promotes the name and history of the department store as a lure as part of their Shops at Rivercenter development.

Joske’s is older than much of San Antonio; it opened in 1867 and for over 100 years defined what it was like to be a Texan, including a saddlery department. Like so many department stores, the merchandise began to be like every other department store, and its uniqueness disappeared. In the case of Joske’s, it became part of Allied Stores, which the unlikeable Canadian Robert Campeau took into bankruptcy.

This is the story, over and over of the demise of the local department store. What was a community resource, a notable local landmark and civic accomplishment, ruined and corrupted. There is a theory to this, a path that nearly every department store has taken. Indeed the true department stores that have succeeded are the ones that have had only one location, ergo the success of London’s Harrods and Selfridges. Indeed many standalone department stores were highly entrepreneurial “tall malls” that included numerous local and national leased tenants and unique features. [Read more →]

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Dayton’s Throws Hat Into Brand Name Revival

October 24th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

MINNEAPOLIS – It was always inane and wasteful that Macy’s could not figure out what to do with its downtown store that was the former Dayton’s. Finally, they shuttered it, the property taken over for redevelopment. Thankfully, the store name will be revived as The Dayton’s Project.

Dayton’s, of course loved in Minnesota, is famous outside of Minneapolis as the site of the introduction of the Mary Tyler Moore show, and the famed knit cap. You can see the Dayton’s logo in the TV theme; it is a script version, much more of the 1960s than later iterations.

“It’s a rare find in our business to discover such an historically significant building in a such a prized location. We fully understand its historical and cultural significance to the City of Minneapolis and the generations of Minnesotans who have experienced great memories here,” said Brian Whiting, President of The Telos Group, LLC, in an Oct. 23 press release. “We are honored to be charged with the revival of the Dayton’s building which we believe will once again take its place as the cultural and entertainment heart of Downtown for generations to come.”

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BP Finally Brings Back Amoco

October 11th, 2017 · 1 Comment

By Garland Pollard

CHICAGO – Seven years ago, I proposed on Seeking Alpha that BP, formerly British Persia and British Petroleum and now just BP, bring back the Amoco brand as an option for franchisees. This was during the BP oil spill fiasco, which was, at the time, a big mess.

They just did it. Here’s the quote from BP:

“The reintroduction of the historic Amoco brand is an exciting step forward in BP’s U.S. retail growth strategy, and it clearly demonstrates our commitment to helping our branded marketers grow their businesses,” said Rick Altizer, senior vice president of sales and marketing for BP Fuels North America.

BP consumer research found that the Amoco brand still resonates with many American consumers, and that both it and the BP brand appeal to similar audiences. In light of the findings, the two brands will share a similar marketing strategy, leveraging the strengths of BP’s programs and the familiarity of the Amoco brand.

This is a very smart move, and long overdue. It is a good move that they have done it now, rather than as a defensive move because of the public relations issues with the oil spill, which is long since resolved and in some cases, forgotten.

The move will allow dealers to have differently branded stations close to each other and not seem to be repetitive.

As they implement this move, they ought to do a number of things for the BP brand. These might include re-emphasizing the BP brand in certain areas of the country. For instance, Florida is home to literally hundreds of thousands of British from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries and former colonies that had a positive view of BP. This would work also in the mid-Atlantic and D.C. area, which is highly international. Across the U.S., there are millions of multicultural Commonwealth citizens from Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, South Africa, Canada and dozens of other places, and they all know the BP brand. This would help to differentiate BP from Amoco, and create a new market.

To emphasize this change, they could bring back the old BP shield design as a consumer brand, and embrace the idea of British Petroleum rather than being “beyond petroleum” as some marketing defines the company now. BP stations in Florida might actually connect with things British and Commonwealth, including food and beer. Remember. The first international show proposed by Netflix was about Queen Elizabeth, and it was a hit amongst every demographic and age and country. This does not necessarily mean cutesy giveaway wedding plates with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, thought that might be interesting and highly amusing. This would recall the old gas station practice of giving away promotional glasses to kids.

It might instead mean support for Invictus games, giveaways and partnerships with Land Rover, Mini and Jaguar, and beer promotions with Newcastle, Guinness and the like. It also might mean the promotion of products related to Commonwealth British culture, which includes Arab and Indian brands, and U.K. soccer teams.

The company said it will have parallel marketing thrusts for the BP and Amoco brands. That might be a mistake. There is a slightly different feel to the brands. The Amoco brand was more about high octane fuel, and performance. There was a decidedly muscular feel to the brand, which carried a torch. Perhaps instead of marketing each brand as a convenience store, doing what is basically badge engineering, they might re-establish actual service stations with one of the brands like Amoco, so that the actual fixing of cars is associated with the brand.

Part of the issue with convenience stores owned by gas stations is that gas people, while good at getting energy out of the ground, are not good at marketing food. They are awful at it. Thus, companies like 7-Eleven developed in the ’70s and now Wawa has eclipsed them in customer service. The gas is an afterthought, and the gas companies never properly supervise their franchisees. The bathrooms get dirty, the beer signs clutter up the windows, and the counters get filled with display racks of nasty cheap Swisher Sweet cigarillos. As my daughter says, the stations look “sus” as in suspect, and they do not appeal to a female consumer. This is the situation with many BP stations.

One important item. The Amoco brand never actually fully went away. It appeared on on pumps even after Amoco stations were branded BP. They used the Amoco brand as a product brand, thereby keeping the brand alive. Companies that drop iconic brands like Amoco need to institutionalize this practice, so that when times and business styles change, they can adapt.

→ 1 CommentTags: Energy

A&P’s Jane Parker Brand Returns for Christmas

October 1st, 2017 · 1 Comment

By Garland Pollard

Mid-century ad for Jane Parker fruitcakes. The products were special enough that they demanded their own marketing programs.

ASTORIA, QUEENS – After the bankruptcy of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, yearly customers of the company’s Jane Parker fruitcakes were left bereft of their favorite holiday treat. However, two Long Island food entrepreneurs, brothers Alex and Chris Ronacher, have revived the historic brand, which was nearly as famous as A&P’s house brand, Eight O’Clock Coffee.

The cakes were beloved; they were packed, far more than others, with maximum fruit and nuts, and had almost 65 percent non-cake ingredients, including raisins, nuts, orange peel, cherries and pecans. Due to their position at the end aisles of the nation’s largest grocer, they were also the nation’s best-known brand, and only available at A&P.

The Ronachers, entrepreneurs who run an online candy mail order marketplace, the The Online Candy Shop, had become aware of the brand as they did a vigorous business reselling the cakes each Christmas season, buying them in bulk.

Jane Parker Fruitcake during the A&P era.

“We too were upset when it wasn’t available,” said Alex, who has spent roughly the last year putting back the various aspects of the brand, including manufacturing, packaging, marketing and selling. They purchased the brand from the auctioned pieces of A&P, which had been marketed by Hilco Streambank, a company that not only liquidates buildings but also finds new buyers for brands, websites and other intellectual property. The brand was listed for sale last fall, among other assets of A&P. In total, they expect to accomplish the brand re-launch for less than $100,000, a bargain for such an iconic piece of American food history.

The cakes were so important to the overall image of A&P that they were advertised as specialty products in magazines. They echoed the spice trade and clipper ship image of A&P, which was once the nation’s larger grocer. A&P promised that “you’d delight the family with this special treat.”

“Sugar ‘n spice, ‘n’ everything nice! – that’s what Jane Parker Fruit Cakes are made of! No place is too far to go, no price too high to pay for the rare fruits, nuts, sugars, and spices which make Jane Parker Fruit Cakes such festive favorites…such a welcome addition to the Holiday menu.”

The brothers are running Jane Parker as a standalone business, one they hope to expand to other products in later years. Right now, they are focused on getting what was right about the fruitcakes back, piecing the company back together. The process was much more difficult than they expected, even though they knew what was right about the product, and were well-familiar with it as a retailer.

The Jane Parker brand is larger than just the holiday fruit cakes. Jane Parker was the A&P bakery brand, and it had a giant bakery that was located just across the World’s Fair site in Flushing Meadows, Queens. N.Y. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses had the company turn off the sign during the World’s Fair; it appears in many photos of the fair and the site is now a Home Depot.

“When you want to try to recreate something,” said Alex Ronacher, “it’s detective work to find out the missing pieces.”

Challenges of rebirth

There were dozens of challenges in the restart, beginning with the recipe. They purchased the recipe and all rights. However, when they were sourcing to have it baked, they realized there was a typo in the formula. “It was a switch of a number,” said Alex. “We wanted to make sure we had everything right.”

Where to have the cakes made again was also a challenge. It had been made in Canada, but things changed after the closing. “They didn’t want to bake the fruitcake any more,” said Chris Ronacher. The brothers ended up finding a manufacturer in the U.S., which meant that the product could be advertised as Made in the U.S.A. again.

“They got it exactly right,” said Chris. The company is offering two styles, a classic fruit cake and a dark. The classic fruitcake even comes in a 48 ounce ring in a decorative Christmas tin, with a substantial price of $59.97, which will be shipping beginning this Oct. 11. This puts it in the realm of other specialty holiday cakes sold at places like Nieman-Marcus.

Another challenge was getting the graphics back together. They had to recreate all the packaging, and find new manufacturers for that, as well. “It was very daunting,” said Chris Ronacher, whose family friend graphic artist Ion H assist in recreating the box. Cousin Stephanie Schamban took the photos.

The cake’s last sales were in 2014, so even figuring how much to make for the initial Christmas season was a challenge, as previous runs of the product were for online sales on Amazon, wholesale and at A&P stores. Since the stores were no more, they have had to ratchet back, and will initially just be selling online, and will use the same Amazon channels.

A&P, in its declining years, in 2006 sold off its famed Eight O’Clock coffee brand to India’s Tata for approximately $220 million. Other brands that were well known by A&P, however, were just dropped, and much brand value was lost by the company. That was a great loss; in its heyday, A&P featured its own brands, which were of a high quality and far above many national brands. As the company declined in the 1970s and 80s, its quality suffered, and it dropped house brands as it added many different struggling grocery companies to its lineup.

As part of the deal, the brothers got the Jane Parker web domain back, and have put up a newly designed, stylish website showing the product in handsome photos. After the launch this year, they are looking at expanding to other Jane Parker products.

→ 1 CommentTags: Grocery

A Short History of the Heatilator Fireplace

September 22nd, 2017 · 1 Comment

By Garland Pollard

Early brochure cover of the Heatilator. Note the tubes that circulate heat, hidden behind the fireplace surround.

The inventiveness of the 20th century left us with many viable, yet overlooked, genius brands. One such brand is the Heatilator, a fireplace heating system that gets more efficiency and safety out of the fireplace. Heatilator was created in 1927, and it was a simple idea of making a cast iron wood stove look like a fireplace, and then surrounding the actual fireplace with air pockets, and letting the cool air circulate up from the bottom of the room to be heated by the iron fireplace surround.

My grandparents had a Heatilator in the library of their house, c. 1939-41, Bel Air, in Lancaster County. I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in front of the fireplace, which I am guessing was one of the early models of the Heatilator. Today, you can rent the house as part of Belle Isle State Park; the house is wonderfully maintained by Virginia State Parks and as far as I know, the fireplace is still in use, and I guess if something went wrong they could get help from the company’s limited lifetime warranty. (A side question for any brand manager or CEO: Is it possible that you could offer a limited lifetime warranty for your product? What would that look like? Would not that be something to aspire to?) [Read more →]

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Kaufmann’s Return as Real Estate Play Inspires

July 30th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

PITTSBURGH – Because many downtown department stores have failed under the current model of Macy’s, there is a misunderstanding of what a department store is, and whether a department store is a valid idea. Currently, the idea of a department store is a massive, massive clothing and accessories store, with some other things thrown in.

But that was not the original idea of the department store. In its origin, the store went from a general dry goods store and evolved into a what in my home state of Richmond was a tall mall.

The “tall mall” was the nickname I heard when describing department stores in downtown Richmond. Richmond’s Thalhimers, like so many other department stores with 19th century origins, began as a small independent store and grew in complexity over the decades. Even as the company grew its sales in its core retail division, the owners gradually added many leased departments and properties. Thalhimers in its heyday included a coins and stamps shop, a travel agency and a city utility payment office as part of their credit card operation. That is on top of the usual idiom of having leased counter space of jewelry, cosmetics and some fashion lines. [Read more →]

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Safeway House Brands & Edwards Coffee History

July 12th, 2017 · 2 Comments

By Garland Pollard

PLEASANTON, Calif – House brands seem to be all the rage these days. They go in and out of favor at grocers; these days national brands seem to be the brands that are on the outs. Apparently, part of the acquisition value of Whole Foods for Amazon was their experience with house brands (particularly the 365 brand) and independent startup brands.

Most large retailers are in the business of cultivating house brands, including Dollar Tree, which slaps a new brand on just about everything they sell. Often, it is just a “TM” rather than registered, but nonetheless, it makes too much sense to use house brands. When consumers trust a store, they also trust the brand.

However, some companies have just let their great house brands grow fallow, and that is a missed opportunity, one that Safeway counsel Robert Gordon might investigate.

After decades of retrenchment, Safeway is now on an expansion trip, and they have a few select house brands they are using. Sadly, because the Safeway company’s identity has been changed so much in recent decades, many house brands were lost, though they continue to promote the use of Lucerne. Safeway back in its heyday had dozens of great house brands, most of exceptional quality. These include Bel Air frozen foods, Crown Colony spices, Mrs. Wrights baked goods, Cragmont soda, Town House canned goods, Scotch Buy (bargain stuff) and Edwards Coffee.

I have a personal interest in Safeway; they were omnipresent in Virginia, including a location on the Northern Neck in Kilmarnock, in Richmond, and in Tidewater. Interestingly, in the 1970s, a small town like Kilmarnock had a full line A&P and a Safeway across the street. Today, the Kilmarnock Safeway has gone independent, and is now the Tri-Star.

We wrote about the Safeway private brand universe back in 2009.

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Junk the Food That the Kraft Heinz Trust Dumps

May 22nd, 2017 · 3 Comments

By Garland Pollard

Perhaps this sounds a bit churlish to see cultural downfall in a child’s lunch. And to churlish, you might generously say inconsistent, as the vile concoction of items in a current Lunchables was something that was purchased by me in a fit of hurry and laziness.

After I had purchased the item, and it went into the fridge, I actually looked at it. It was of course a Lunchable, a trademarked youth food item sold by Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ: KHC). It contained nothing that would constitute a healthy lunch, and had many other offenses so obvious as to need to be spelled out. Not because they are not immediately visible to the average person, but because they are so easily seen, and yet obviously disregarded as offensive, as this is a product made by what was once a reputable maker of healthy, wholesome foodstuffs.

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→ 3 CommentsTags: Grocery