Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Picture the economy: L.A.

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A picture is worth a thousand words — and some Californians have a lot to say about the worst financial crisis in decades.

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greenspan5The economic meltdown was the focus of Crossman Wilkins’ (above) master’s thesis at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

“I’ve been working with this interest in my own place in the economy,” said Wilkins, 23. (At right is a detail of from the posters shown above, which feature notables like former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and current Chairman Ben Bernanke.)

The self-professed news junkie once made a poster from a year’s worth of receipts and said his latest work reflects the recession’s influence on the news flow.

Did you power down for Earth Hour?

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The Las Vegas strip (below) and other global icons went dark on Saturday for Earth Hour.

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McDonald’s powered down in Chicago. Twitter was alight with Earth Hour tweets.

It’s 4:15 – do you know what your dinner is?

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If you’re broke and in a hurry, Supervalu — the owner of grocery chains like Lucky, Albertsons,  Shop ‘n Save and Shaw’s – has your number and it’s 4:15.

mealdestination_highres2The third-largest U.S. supermarket operator is setting up stations in its produce, meat and deli departments that feature the fixings for fast, easy, home-cooked meals that can feed a family of four for less than $15.

Shuttering Starbucks

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starbuckscorona1Reuters checked out some of the stores that Starbucks is closing in California’s Inland Empire – an area well known for being a leader in home foreclosures.

Some of the coffee shop closures made sense, some didn’t and some had us wondering just what Starbucks was thinking.

Frappuccino freeze redux

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starbucksicecream1Starbucks is back in the ice cream case with new partner Unilever, the parent of brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers.

Starbucks, which built its business selling $3 and $4 coffee drinks, is fighting to reignite growth in a tough recession and working to convince consumers that its products are a value and not a expensive indulgence.

Food shortage + financial crisis = bleak outlook

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The global economic meltdown has the World Bank on high alert.
 
As the financial crisis deepens, the World Bank is issuing even bleaker warnings about rising poverty and hunger in the developing world.  Initially, it estimated that 46 million people in developing countries could be pushed into poverty.  Now, that level is up another 7 million.

FOOD-WORLDBANK/“We estimate that about 130 million people were pushed into poverty from the food crisis and if you add the financial crisis on top of that we are estimating that about 53 million more people could be pushed into poverty as a result of the financial crisis,” World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit
 
NEPAL/Children and women are being hardest hit, she said.  The World Bank estimated that the current financial downturn may add between 200,000 and 400,000 additional infant deaths per year on average in the 2009 to 2015 period.  That means a total of 1.4 million to 2.8 million more infant deaths, if the financial strain continues. 
 
“The one big piece we need to look at in this financial crisis and its translation into the food crisis is that we’re talking about human beings,” said Okonjo-Iweala.  “Remember that 923 million people are malnourished the world over.  When you talk about the financial crisis becoming an unemployment crisis in the developed world, in the developing world for many poor people it’s not an issue of unemployment, it’s an issue of life and death.”
 
(Reuters photos of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Jan. 2009/Girls waiting for drinking water in Kathmandu, March 2009)

Food safety worries? Join the club

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peanutcorpAre you worried about the rash of high-profile and often deadly tainted-food scandals involving everything from peanut butter and chili peppers to spinach and baby formula?

You are not alone.

“When I heard peanut products were being contaminated earlier this year, I immediately thought of my 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, who has peanut butter sandwiches for lunch probably three times a week,” U.S. President Barack Obama said recently, referring to a salmonella outbreak that has made 683 people in 46 states sick, killed as many as nine and forced the recall of more than 3,000 products. 

from Summit Notebook:

How much for the bag of magic (soy)beans?

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The weakening of the U.S. dollar and other currencies has led farmers around the world to value their crops more highly than they do money, said Dan Basse, president of agricultural research firm AgResource Co

"In Argentina, for example, farmers down there are more anxious to hold onto soybeans than pesos. When they need currency they're willing to take a bag of beans and trade it for whatever they need during that particular day or week.

from Summit Notebook:

Not for all the tea in China

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Sara Lee Chief Executive Brenda Barnes is looking to expand the reach of the food maker.    But one thing she isn't looking to do is sell tea in China.

Geographic expansion is a key strategy for the company through its coffee, tea and household products brands, she said at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. However, business in Western Europe has suffered over the past eight months from recession. 

Let them eat steak

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meatTired of paying high prices for everything from soup to cereal? See your butcher.

While food makers like Kellogg and Campbell Soup have yet to take back price hikes on boxes of cereal and cans of soup spurred by last year’s spike in commodity costs, beef companies have to move their premium, perishable product in a environment where restaurants aren’t buying and consumers are pinching pennies. 

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