Posts by Ross Tucker

  • How 'Big Grocery' is starting to bite consumers

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    Despite filling your shopping cart with dozens of brands every week, your grocery-store experience is being controlled by an increasingly small handful of big companies. That lack of diversity, says a new report from advocacy group Food & Water Watch, is preventing competition and keeping prices higher. In “Grocery Goliaths: How Food Monopolies Impact Consumers,” Food & Water Watch makes a call for more oversight of mergers between grocery store chains and between food companies. It also seeks greater regulation of food marketing. Here are some of the highlights, showing how a few companies are capitalizing on consumer habits and their ability to scoop up smaller competition. We’re all shopping at the same place Americans spent approximately $603 billion on groceries in 2012. More than half of those sales filled the tills of just four retailers: Walmart (WMT), Kroger (KR), Target (TGT) and Safeway (SWY). You can’t control your impulse buying Americans may be spending a lot of time and money at grocery stores, but they aren’t sticking to a list when it comes to what they’re shopping for. A study from Point of Purchase Advertising International found that 55% of the things consumers buy during their grocery trip are made on impulse. Food & Water Watch likens the experience of grocery shopping to that of a casino, noting the “bright lights, Muzak, colorful displays and endless ways to spend your money before you can reach the exit.” Attacking your senses boosts sales The Food & Water Watch report delves into the ways grocery stores appeal to your senses in an effort to help you keep making those impulse buys. Something as simple as the choice of music matters. “Supermarkets know that music with slower tempos tends to decrease the flow of store traffic and increase sales volumes. Louder and faster music encourages customers to shop more quickly and purchase less,” according to the report. Shopping for wine? Well, if they’re playing classical music in that area you’re more likely to buy the more expensive wines. You know, because just hearing classical music makes you more of a Mr. Fancy Pants. That smell of fresh-baked bread coming from the bakery? Probably fake, says the report. “The bakery department pumps aromas of freshly baked bread to get consumers’ stomachs involved in the shopping decisions, even though most in-store bakeries use prepared foods and frozen dough.” Companies specialize in creating these scents. Like the bakery, it should come as no surprise that, even though no one is washing their linens in the vicinity, the aisle of laundry products has a heavy smell of fresh laundry hanging over it. Brand choice is an illusion You may see dozens of different brands when you walk down the cereal or drinks aisle, but the reality is most categories are ruled by a couple corporate giants. Food & Water Watch examined 100 grocery categories, finding that 63.3% of sales were controlled by the biggest food companies. Kellogg (K), General Mills (GIS), Post (POST) and Pepsico (PEP) sell almost 50 different types of cereal and own nearly 80% of all cereal sales. Mondelez International’s (MDLZ) Philadelphia brand accounts for almost 61% of cream cheese sales. In everything from sports drinks to baby formula and granola bars, Food & Water Watch found that generally only two to four companies control the bulk of market share.

  • Kiss Your Bananas Buh-Bye

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    That bunch of bananas on your kitchen counter -- the ones that are a staple of your baby's diet and the linchpin of your breakfast -- could be wiped out within the next couple years.

    According to science journal Nature, the Cavendish banana variety, which accounts for nearly all of the world's global export trade, is under serious attack from a fungus that is making its way around the globe. The fungus recently turned up at banana plantations in Mozambique and Jordan, triggering fears that its next stop will be Latin America, the world's largest banana exporter. According to Nature, the fungus had been thought to be confined to Asia until it turned up in Mozambique in October.

    "For those who buy their bananas in supermarkets, the Cavendish may well be the only variety they know," said Nature.

  • Twitter Owes You Money. Here's How to Find Out How Much

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    Twitter (TWTR) finished its first day as a publicly traded company on Thursday with a closing price of $44.90, down from an opening trade of $45.10 but up a cool 73% from its IPO price of $26. The offering made Twitter's founders and leaders rich. Very rich. Now, if you're one of the company's 230 million users, you helped out, right? So what's your share of the riches?

    And the hype surrounding Twitter's initial public offering is already beginning to wear off on day two of trading. The stock is trading down approximatley 3% on Friday.

  • Obamacare Bungle Buries Brooklyn Cupcake Shop

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    Another day, another glitch in the already bungled rollout of Obamacare. This time, the victim is Brooklyn Cupcake.

    Sisters Carmen Rodriguez and Gina Madera offer Puerto Rican and Italian-inspired flavors, and their shop was rated as one of the best of New York in the Daily News . Recently, their phone lines have been buzzing. Unfortunately, people aren't asking about their latest pastry offerings. Instead, they only want to know about one thing — Obamacare.

    Related: Obamacare Unlikely to Create a Nation of Part-Timers

    According to the New York Post, Brooklyn Cupcake was one of hundreds of businesses the state health department mistakenly listed as providing help with enrolling in the new health care plans.

    "I don't want to be listed, because they are calling my telephone off the hook," Rodriguez told the Post , adding that she has received almost 150 calls.

  • Katy Perry Takes Fire for Pumping Pepsi

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    It's turning into a rough week for beverage giants Coca-Cola (KO) and Pepsi (PEP), and it's only Monday. Katy Perry is coming under fire from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which will be running a full-page ad in Variety on Tuesday taking the pop singer to task for her role as a Pepsi spokesperson. "It's a sad story that some of the best-known celebrities in the country are encouraging their young audiences to drink beverages that are bad for their health," Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science, told USA Today. "Being popular among children brings with it an enormous responsibility. Don't exploit that popularity by marketing a product that causes disease in your fans," reads the ad. The same group took aim at Beyonce in December 2012 after she inked a $50 million deal to pump Pepsi. "Your image is one of success, health, talent, fitness, and glamor. But by lending your name and image to PepsiCo, you are associating those positive attributes with a product that is quite literally sickening Americans," wrote the Center for Science in the Public Interest in an open letter. Coca-Cola (KO) has also found itself the target of yet another anti-obesity campaign.

  • Heidi Klum Misses the Cut on Stroller Design

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    Heidi Klum has been successful in a variety of pursuits -- supermodel, designer, spokesperson, television host -- but she appears to have missed the cut when it comes to stroller design.

    Consumer Reports on Thursday issued a "don't buy" rating on Klum's Truly Scrumptious Travel System, sold exclusively at Babies "R" Us stores for $220. The problem, says CR, rests in the stroller's buckle.

    "When we applied force where the harness attaches to the buckle itself, the buckle's right side released 10 out of 15 times on three separate samples," reads the report.

    The stroller fared even poorer when subjected to an impact test that simulates a stroller hitting a curb. "This time, the buckle's right side released one out of five times on each of two samples, and five out of five time on a third sample."

    "Of the more than 100 strollers in Consumer Reports' Ratings, the Truly Scrumptious Travel System is the only one with this problem."


  • McDonald’s: Hey Kid, Want a Toy With That Happy Meal? Here's a Book

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    McDonald's is bumping out toys in its iconic happy meals in favor of books -- at least for a limited time.

    According to a report in AdAge, America's favorite burger chain will offer four "original children's books carrying a nutritional message" in Happy Meals for two weeks in November. Some 20 millions books are expected to be distributed during the period.

    Now, don't go thinking the Hamburglar or Ronald himself have gone out, taken up CrossFit and embraced a paleo diet. AdAge reports that the books will feature newer characters. "The Goat Who Ate Everything" chronicles the struggles of a goat, who, well, you know, eats too much and learns to eat better. Related: The Absolute Genius of McDonald's Veggie Gambit

    It appears McDonald's is looking to make a regular thing of the publishing business, with plans to offer e-books next year.

  • How CVS Birthed the ‘Receipts Are Too Damn Long’ Party

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    The latest sign of society's downfall is finally getting the attention it deserves. Like Occupy Wall Street before it, the embers of change are first being stoked across social media. The problem? To paraphrase the great Jimmy McMillan, the Receipts Are Too Damn Long.

    That’s right, epically-long receipts are the latest example of corporate waste, and the chief offender appears to be CVS (CVS). The drug store chain’s penchant for giving customers about 4 feet and 10 inches of extra paper with their purchases has taken on a life of its own as an Internet meme, spawning its own parody account on Twitter (@CVS_Receipt, launched Jun 29) and spurring legions of not-quite-fans to find new and unusual uses for the receipts.

    I am unnecessarily long.

    Even CVS's Facebook Page is peppered with customers complaining about the miles of receipts they find themselves leaving the store with.

  • 5 Top Stocks of the Week

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    Editors Note: The list of top stocks is derived from the quote pages that received the most views on Yahoo! Finance by examining data for the current week. It is not, however, a list of the most searched-for tickers or company names on our site.

    1. Apple (AAPL)

    The rumor mill was churning at a blistering pace well before Tim Cook had a chance to walk in the doors at Apple HQ on Monday. Unfortunately for him, none of the rumors were good.

    First there was chatter that Verizon Wireless’ iPhone sales were falling short of expectations. Then there were reports that the iWatch, or alleged iWatch, was running into engineering problems and delays that could push its introduction to the end of 2014.

    Apple has gained 0.9% over the last five full trading days, closing at $431.76 a share on Thursday. Shares remain down 21.4% for the year-to-date.

    Sales of PCs continue to dwindle, putting the pinch on Intel.

  • Apple’s Goodwill Fades, Yet It Holds Fast Among Top Stocks

    Ross Tucker at The Exchange 3 yrs ago

    Editors Note: The list of top stocks is derived from the quote pages that received the most views on Yahoo! Finance by examining data for the current week. It is not, however, a list of the most searched-for tickers or company names on our site.

    1. Apple (AAPL)

    Tim Cook’s streak of good press from his appearance at the All Things D conference and his testimony before Congress on corporate taxes lasted about two weeks. This week, it was back to another onslaught of bad news.

    Days later, a report issued on Thursday claimed that Apple’s iPhone sales in China have been falling precipitously. An analyst cited by Investor's Business Daily said iPhone sales had fallen as much as 70% quarter-to-quarter as Chinese wireless carriers reduced subsidies. And as Apple has lost, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has gained, says the report.

    Apple shares have fallen steadily throughout the week, down 2.5% over the last five full trading days. Shares are down more than 20% for the year-to-date.