Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walmart Adds Additional Marketside Fresh Food Items to Not Long After Our February Reports

Walmart has now added its Marketside private brand fresh soups, which we reported on in February [Walmart Introducing New Ready-To-Heat Prepared Entrees, Fresh Soups Under its Marketside Brand], to its Web site. There are eight varieties in the ready-to-heat soup line.

In addition, Walmart just-recently added its eight-item Marketside refrigerated take-and-bake pizza line (pictured at the top) to the site.

The pizzas were the very first item Walmart rolled out in its Marketside ready-to-heat and ready-to-eat, prepared foods line. It introduced the pizzas in selected stores in fall 2009. The refrigerated pizzas take about 17-19 minutes to bake at in a conventional oven.

Walmart has recently given the Marketside pizza package a makeover, giving it a new look, and bringing its graphic design in line with all of the other Marketside private brand prepared foods products introduced to date.

You can view the pizzas, soups and other items at the site.

The reason the soup line have now been added to is because Walmart has rolled the items out to many more of its Supercenters and Neighborhood Market supermarkets than was the case when we reported on the new Marketside store brand prepared foods items in February.

The pizzas were only recently added to because of the packaging makeover mentioned above.

Next up for brand Marketside is a line of artisian breads and baked goods. Walmart is currently preparing to start introducing some of the items in selected stores soon, we've learned.

Additional varieties of Marketside fresh, prepared entrees and other ready-to-heat and ready-to-eat food items are also in the works, as we've previously elaborated on in a number of the posts linked below.

Walmart's Marketside: Recent Biography

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tesco Set to Open 11 New Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores in April

Beginning in early 2008 (click here to read), Fresh & Easy Buzz began suggesting that Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market needed to start individualizing and localizing its stores, including the architectural design elements, based on the unique characteristics of the various and different communities where it locates its markets, rather than follow the cookie-cutter design approach it was doing. We stressed doing so is important in order to, among other things, create a sense of place for a food retailer and for store shoppers in a given community and neighborhood, particularly if the grocer uses "neighborhood" in its store name, like Fresh & Easy does.

In early 2009 Fresh & Easy started doing this with some of its new stores, such as its store at 603 South Lake Avenue in Pasadena, California (pictured at top), which opened on July 15, 2009, and its store in downtown Fresno, California (pictured below, note the localized mural), which we first wrote about here in July 2008, and which opened in January 2010. We like the individualized and localized design elements of both of the stores. (Double click on the photos if you want to view them in larger size.)

In this piece [Tesco's Fresh & Easy Set to Hit 150-Plus Store-Count Mark on April 7] yesterday we highlighted the fact that with the opening of four new Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores next week, on Wednesday, April 7, Tesco would be achieving the milestone 150-plus store-count mark. (A total of 152 Fresh & Easy markets open on April 7.)

We also discussed in the piece how since January of this year Tesco's Fresh & Easy has been aggressively opening many of the numerous stores it's had completed but sitting unopened for some time in Southern and Central California, Southern Nevada and Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona.

Today, the fresh foods and grocery chain said it will open seven more stores in April, in addition to the four already set to open on April 7, for a total of 11 new stores opening in April 2010.

The seven new stores, their opening dates and locations are:

Opening on April 14, 2010

>Calle Tampico & Desert Club
78-130 Calle Tampico
La Quinta, (Southern) California

>Highway 46 & Griffith
1304 Highway 46
Wasco, California (Central Valley near Bakersfield)

>Hayden & Thomas
7901 East Thomas Road
Scottsdale, Arizona

>40th Street & Camelback Road
3933 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, Arizona

Opening on April 21, 2010

>H & Planz
1801 Planz Road
Bakersfield, California

>Brimhall & Jewetta
11200 Brimhall Road
Bakersfield, California

>Camelback Road & 83rd Avenue
8365 West Camelback Road
Phoenix, Arizona

The locations of the Four Fresh & Easy stores opening on April 7 are here.

Critical Mass in Bakersfield Market

The major news here, in addition to the big 11 store opening itself, is that Tesco is opening three new Fresh & Easy stores in the Bakersfield, California market, in California's southern Central Valley, in April.

The grocer currently has just four out of a currently confirmed nine Fresh & Easy stores in the market opened to date. The three new stores in the market will bring that to seven out of nine confirmed stores open by the end of April.

Below are the nine Bakersfield market region store locations confirmed to date by Tesco's Fresh & Easy. The four currently opened stores are in green. The three stores opening in April are in red. The two stores in regular black font remain to be opened.

>Panama Lane and Stine Road
>Olive Drive and Jewetta Avenue
>California Ave. & Stockdale Hwy, Bakersfield
>Buena Vista Rd. & White Lane, Bakersfield
>Coffee Rd. & Hageman Rd., Bakersfield
>H St. & Planz Rd., Bakersfield
>Brimhall Rd & Jewetta Ave, Bakersfield
>Cecil Ave. & High St., Delano
>Hwy 46 & Griffith Ave., Wasco

The first two Fresh & Easy opened in the Bakersfield market in December 2008, as we reported in this December 3, 2008 piece: Tesco Opens its First Two California Fresh & Easy Stores Outside of Southern California in the Central Valley City of Bakersfield Today.

Tesco didn't open its third Bakersfield region Fresh & Easy market until late February 2009.[February 11, 2009: Tesco to Open Third Bakersfield, California Fresh & Easy Store On February 25.]

The fourth store in the market, in Delano, opened on August 19, 2009.

Opening the additional three stores in April will give Fresh & Easy some added critical mass, which in addition to having more stores in general, can payoff for a grocer in terms of getting more bang for its marketing and promotional dollars spent in a regional market like Bakersfield, where to date it only has just the four stores open.

Opening big

With 11 new stores opening, April will be the most aggressive new store opening month for Fresh & Easy this year. In fact, it's close to a record number of new store openings in a single month for the grocer since it started opening the fresh foods and grocery markets in November 2007.

In February 2010 Tesco opened nine new Fresh & Easy markets - far from a slacker new store opening month in itself.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy by the (store-count) numbers

By the numbers: As of today there are 148 Fresh & Easy stores. On April 7, when four new stores open, Tesco will hit its 150 store milestone-plus two, for 152 stores. At the end of April, Fresh & Easy's store count will stand at 159 stores in California (Southern and Central), Southern Nevada and Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona.

Closing (success) bigger

The 159 stores at the end of April will be about 41 stores short of where Tesco originally planned to be by the end of 2009. However, opening 159 stores in about 29 months (the first Fresh & Easy stores opened in November 2007) is still a rather impressive logistical achievement for any grocer, despite their original strategic plan.

Of course, opening the stores is only half the battle. And like the veteran salesmen advises his young sales reps: 'It's good to open big - but you've got to close even bigger.'

[Photo credit: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Set to Hit 150-Plus Store-Count Mark on April 7

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market will break the 150 store-count mark next week, on Wednesday, April 7, when it opens four new stores, all in Southern California, where the grocer has its corporate headquarters.

The four new Southern California stores opening on April 7 are:

>Downey & Firestone
8320 Firestone Boulevard
Downey, California

>Euclid & Philadelphia
2275 South Euclid Avenue
Ontario, California

>Francisquito & Puente
1640 Puente Avenue
Baldwin Park, California

>Olive & Verdugo
1615 West Verdugo Avenue
Burbank, California

When the four stores open next Wednesday, Tesco will have 152 Fresh & Easy stores open and operating in Southern and Central California, Southern Nevada and Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. As of today, there are 148 Fresh & Easy markets open.

Fewer stores than originally planned

As we've reported on and written about extensively, Tesco originally planned to have at least 150 of its Fresh & Easy small-format, combination fresh food and grocery stores opened in its three current market regions by mid-2009. It's original plan was to have as many as 200 Fresh & Easy stores opened by the end of 2009, including a number of units in Northern California.

However, in March 2008 [Tesco's Fresh & Easy 'Taking a Pause' From New Store Openings: A Full Review In the Works] Tesco took a multi-month "pause" in the opening of any new Fresh & Easy stores.

The grocer then embarked on a major re-merchandising program at its then existing stores, including adding new interior design elements and numerous new manufacturers' branded products and items to the stores.

Tesco then resumed opening new Fresh & Easy stores later in 2008 and into early 2009, but at a much slower pace than it had been doing since November 2007, when it started opening the first stores.

Tesco also postponed its Northern California launch indefinitely in 2009.

But once again, in mid-2009, Tesco put the brakes on new Fresh & Easy store openings, sighting the economic recession as its official reason for doing so. [Related reading - November 20, 2008: Analysis & Commentary: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and Tesco's Lowered Expectations] It continued to open new stores but at a much slower pace than it had been doing.

To illustrate the significant difference between the Fresh & Easy new store opening pace from November 2007 -to- November 2008 vs. November 2008 to the present, on November 11, 2008 we published this piece [Southern California Market Report: Tesco Hits A Numerical Milestone Tomorrow Morning As Store Number 100 Opens its Doors in Fullerton, California] about the opening of the 100th Fresh & Easy store.

The first batch of Fresh & Easy stores opened in November-December 2007 (The first store, in Hemet, California, opened as a test in late October 2007). So just one year later (November 11, 2008), Tesco had already opened 100 Fresh & Easy stores. In contrast, between November 2008 and the present, the grocer has opened just 48 stores.

Opening 48 new stores from November 2008 to March 2010 is still a significant number. But the point is that its far fewer than Tesco had originally planned to open to date, along with the fact our research shows a clear change in the grocer's store opening pace, based on the story linked above.

The result of these two new store opening halts is that Tesco has ended up with numerous new Fresh & Easy stores in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona sitting completed and empty but not yet opened, in addition to the numerous store sites in Northern California that have been sitting in various states of completion for over two years now.

Off to a big start in 2010

But beginning in January of this year, Tesco started opening some of these completed Fresh & Easy stores in Southern and Central California, Southern Nevada and Arizona. For example, nine new Fresh & Easy stores were opened in February 2010. Three new Fresh & Easy markets have been opened this month.

More completed stores to open

So this brings us to April 7, 2010, when four new Fresh & Easy stores will all open on the same day in Southern California, bringing the grocer's total store count to 152, with about 95 of those stores located in Southern California.

There remain numerous completed and near-completed Fresh & Easy units in Southern and Central California, Southern Nevada and Arizona.

New Store location outreach

Fresh & Easy also has been searching for additional new store sites in a fairly aggressive manner since February of this year. The grocer also is using its Web site, along with its Facebook page and Twitter feed, to ask consumers where they would like to see a future Fresh & Easy store.

This is a strategy that can cut both ways: It brings consumers into the new store site selection process (interaction), which has some merits. But since most consumers don't use the same criteria as a grocer does (or should use) to select store locations, it generally provides poor data. And, since most of the suggestions made aren't likely going to result in new stores being located where requested, the potential exists to anger many consumers who might end up feeling their ideas were ignored.

Our take is that Tesco's Fresh & Easy is doing this for two reasons: (1) It wants to see if there's a demand for any of its stores in a major way in certain locations where none currently exist; and (2) it wants to use the outreach process as a form of publicity for its brand and stores. There's nothing wrong with doing either. And both could work for the grocer. They could also backfire, as we suggested above.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of Fresh & Easy stores in various stages of completion, and in the development pipeline, to keep the grocer busy enough for the rest of 2010 getting what already exists open for business.

[Photo credit: The photo at top of the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store located in the Conejo Gateway Shopping Center in Newberry Park, California is courtesy of Scott Harrison of]

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Can-Do 'Canstruction' Project in Arizona: Building Giant Structures of Art Out of Food Cans to Fight Hunger

The 2009 'Best Meal' top-winner in Arizona's 'Canstruction' project to fight hunger was 'CAN You Dig It?' (the canned goods'-constructed bulldozer pictured above) by the Form Design/Kendle Design Collaborative/Ryan Companies designer-builder group. More about it here. Do you "Dig it?"

Arizona Market Region

Since 2007, the Society for Marketing Professional Services Arizona, the Arizona chapter of the national Society of Professional Marketing Services, has held its "Canstruction" to fight hunger canned food design-build competition in Metropolitan Phoenix.

The project combines the competitive spirit of a design-build competition with a unique way to help feed the hungry.

Competing "Canstruction" teams, led by architects, engineers and contractors, showcase their talents by designing and building giant structures made entirely out of canned foods, according to the Arizona organization.

The canned goods structures aren't mere "structures," by the way. Rather, they're works of real canned foods art.

All of the canned goods and materials used in the competition are provided by the designer-builder groups and competition sponsors. Additionally, some of the canned foods are donated by the food companies that make them. The Society for Marketing Professional Services Arizona runs the competition on an all-volunteer basis.

After the event is judged, all of the canned food items used to build the structures are donated to Arizona's St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, which is considered to be the first food bank in the world.

The 2010 "Phoenix Canstruction Competition" started on February 19, when all of the "build teams" started constructing their canned goods structures beginning at 9 pm. Yes, it's was an all-nighter. The teams have just 12 hours to build their structures, meaning the build must be completed by nine the following morning.

Beginning the very next day, February 20, and running until February 27, all of the canned food-constructed structures were on display at the Fiesta Mall in Mesa, Arizona, which is a suburb of Phoenix. The structure-building takes place at the mall.

The winners of the canned goods design-build contest were judged on February 24.

Three days later on February 27, the impressive structures built completely out of canned goods were torn down, with all of the canned foods donated to St. Mary's Food Bank. (Read more and view a video here.) The canned food from the structures amounts to the largest-single donation for the Arizona food bank for the year.

This year Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which has 31 of its 148 small-format Fresh & Easy fresh food and grocery stores in Metropolitan Phoenix Arizona, was one of the three lead-sponsors of the local "Canstruction" competition to fight hunger. All of the sponsors are listed here.

The competition presents awards to the design/build teams in a variety of categories.

For example, this year's winner in the "Best Meal" category is the SmithGroup/DPR/JJRFloor design team's "Giving is Winning" masterpiece (pictured above), which took as its inspiration the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Below is how the team describes its creation:

"In honor of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (February 12-28), the SmithGroup/DPR/JJRFloor design team has created a nutritious structure of the official 2010 Winter Olympics logo: Ilanaaq the Inunnguaq, backed by a wall of the symbolic Olympic rings. Based on the stone landmarks or cairns (called Inukshuk) that were built by native peoples of the Arctic region, Ilanaaq is an actual stone structure that is located on Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. Ilanaaq is the Inuktitut word for “friend” and our team has created him and the Olympic wall out of tuna, soup, ravioli, green peas, olives, chili, and more. Comprised of over 5900 cans that will feed many thanks to our generous sponsors, Giving really is Winning for 2010 the SmithGroup/DPR/JJRFloor design team."

Another winner is the "Freedom from Hunger" canned goods structure (pictured above) built by the Arrington Watkins / Dibble Engineering / Paragaon Structural Engineers / LSW Engineering / CADsoft Consulting / Gilbane Building Company design/build team. The team describes its structure this way:

"Similar to the historic 'tearing down' of the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Germany, our can structure symbolizes breaking down the 'wall of hunger' that separates those who are hungry from the food they so desperately need."

You can view pictures of all the winning 2010 canned foods structures, in the various categories, here, along with photos of some of the 2009 competition's winners.

The Society for Marketing Professional Services Arizona, the group which runs the competition each year, was founded in 1983 and currently has more than 200 marketing professionals from the architecture, engineering and construction industry in Arizona, as members.

The Arizona "Canstruction" competition is one of many held throughout the world.

The the Society for Design Administration, (SDA) a design and building industry professional organization, created, runs and sponsors "Canstruction," which it calls "the most unique food charity in the world." Competitions are held throughout North America and in other parts of the world like Australia. Local SDA chapters, like Arizona's Society for Professional Marketing Services, run the competitions locally.

Local businesses, such as Tesco's Fresh & Easy in Arizona, sign on as local sponsors to the various "Canstruction" competitions in the numerous cities where they're held each February.

Local residents are also encouraged to bring canned and packaged food items when they come and view the structures on display, such as was the recent case at the Fiesta Mall in Mesa, Arizona. The community members' food donations are given to local food banks, along with all the canned goods from the deconstructed structures, once the event is over.

The very first "Canstruction" design-build competitions took place in 1992-1993 in Denver, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; and New York, operated by the SDA chapters in those respective cities.

Each year since then, more local SDA chapters, like the Phoenix association, have initiated "Canstruction" competitions to support local food banks and help those in need in their communities.

According to the SDA, since 1992-1993, ten million pounds of food from the annual competitions has been donated to aid in the fight against hunger.

From where we sit, "Canstruction" is about as big of a locally-based, community-minded, business-supported and volunteer-run "CAN-DO," "win-win" as you "CAN" get. We congratulate all those involved in the competitions - in Arizona, throughout the U.S., and all over the world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fresh & Easy Kicks Off Three Week 'From Grapes to Gold Medals' Wine Promotion Tomorrow

Tesco's Fresh & Easy is launching a big wine promotion in its 147 stores in California, Nevada and Arizona starting tomorrow, March 24. The promotion runs through April 13, 2010.

The theme of the promotion is: "From Grapes to Gold Medals," (see the shelf-talker above)which is in reference to the fact a number of the wines featured in the promotion, including Fresh & Easy's proprietary wines, have won gold, silver or bronze medals at a number of wine judging competitions.

The wines in the Fresh & Easy promotion are sale priced, like the $1.99 bottle Saludas Tempranillo from Spain, pictured at left and described above. Additionally, shoppers get a 10% discount if they buy three or more bottles in a single purchase.

A couple of the other wines to be offered in the promotion tomorrow are: Ogio Prosecco, an effervescent wine from Italy ($6.99 on sale, regularly $8.99) and Small Wonders Chardonnay, from California's Russian River region ($9.99 on sale, regularly $13.99).

Fresh & Easy will be touting the March 24 -to- April 13 wine promotion in all of its stores, as well as in its new advertising circular, which comes out tomorrow.

Today, Fresh & Easy sent out an e-mail to the members of its "Friends of Fresh & Easy" frequent-shopper group offering the members a sneak peak a day in advance of the promotion.

We first wrote over two years ago that the wine category would be and is a major focus for Tesco with Fresh & Easy. This multi-week promotion is another example of the emphasis and focus the grocer it trying to put on its wine selection, particularly its proprietary wines.

[Readers: Click here for a selection of past stories from Fresh & Easy Buzz on Fresh & Easy's wine program, wine category merchandsing, and related topics and issues.]

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fresh & Easy Looking Into Accepting Mobile, Digital Manufacturers' Cents-Off Coupons; But the Jury is Still Out

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is looking at potentially adopting a program which would allow its stores to accept digital, paperless manufacturer's cents-off coupons, using either its own mobile phone-enabled application, or more likely by partnering with one of the existing mobile, digital couponing companies, such as Cellfire, Shortcuts or another, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned.

As we've written about extensively, Fresh & Easy doesn't accept manufacturers' coupons - either the traditional paper or the newer mobile, digital versions - at its 147 fresh food and grocery stores in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Instead, Fresh & Easy regularly distributes its own store coupons - both via its Web site and in direct-mail flyers - in versions like $5-off purchases of $20, $6-off $30 or more and $10-off $50 or more. The store coupons are paper, either already in that form, or downloaded from the web by consumers and then printed out.

The key differences between manufacturers' cents-off coupons and store coupons like those Fresh & Easy uses are: (1) the manufacturers' coupons are for (discounts on) single items or products, while the Fresh & Easy coupons are a certain dollar amount "off" of total purchases; and (2) grocers get reimbursed by the manufacturers' for the face value of the coupons they issue that are redeemed by the retailers (plus a small handling charge), while the discount on the Fresh & Easy store coupons comes out of the grocery chain's own profit margins.

Based on the information we have, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has not yet decided to go forward with a mobile, digital couponing program, but is looking into the possibility of doing so for its stores.

The easiest way for Fresh & Easy to get into the mobile, digital couponing game, something many of its competitors such as Kroger Co. and Safeway Stores, Inc. already are doing, would be to partner with a third-party company like Cellfire or one of the others.

Such companies already have the technology available to enable grocers like Fresh & Easy to adopt a program without much upfront development cost.

These companies also have relationships with the packaged goods manufacturers and marketers that issue the coupons. The total system is in place in a package for retailers.

For example, Kroger Co. which operates the Ralphs and Food-4-Less chains in Southern California; Fry's in Arizona; and Smith's Food & Drug in Nevada, partners with Cellfire for its mobile couponing system. Cellfire's system offers both traditional coupons that can be obtained via the internet and then printed out, and digital coupons available on cell and smart phones.

And Safeway operates the Vons chain in Southern California, Central California and Southern Nevada; and under its Safeway banner in Arizona.

A major key to a mobile, digital couponing system like Cellfire is that a retailer has a loyalty card program, something Kroger Co. does have but Tesco's Fresh & Easy doesn't at present. However, some third-party mobile, digital couponing systems will work for a retailer even if it doesn't have a loyalty card program.

The way this works is that a shopper merely shows the checkout clerk the various digital coupons he or she has on their mobile phone during the checkout process. The clerk then deducts the digital coupon discounts from the customer's order on the store's POS system, just as they do with a paper coupon.

This presents a problem however for Fresh & Easy, since it's stores have self-service checkout only. As such, store clerks would have to assist shoppers whenever they have digital coupons on their mobile phones to be deducted from their respective grocery purchase orders. This could be so frequent it might turn self-service checkout into full-service, which is something Fresh & Easy's senior management doesn't want to do.

Therefore, since Fresh & Easy doesn't currently have a loyalty card program, it would have to use this second alternative (the human checkout clerk) in order to be able to use the existing third-party mobile, digital couponing systems, based on the current technology available.

Barring bringing on a loyalty card program, or having store clerks assist each customer who has mobile coupons on their mobile device to be deducted, Tesco's Fresh & Easy either would have to create its own mobile, digital coupon application, or in partnership with an existing third-party mobile couponing company, figure out a way to get around these two limiting factors.

Fresh & Easy's CEO, Tim Mason, was in the past the IT marketing manager for Tesco in the United Kingdom. It was under Mason in 1996 that Tesco launched its first online grocery Web site, which was developed by Nick Lansley, a programmer and analyst in the company's IT department at the time.

Today, Lansley is Tesco's resident IT guru. He would be the go-to-guy we would look at to solve the mobile, digital couponing dilemma for Fresh & Easy described above.

One of Lansley's major focuses for Tesco in the United Kingdom currently is developing various smart phone applications involving Tesco's Clubcard loyalty card program, for example.

One of the key reasons Fresh & Easy is looking into a mobile, digital couponing program is because its received numerous complaints about not accepting paper manufacturers' cents off coupons over the last two-plus years its been in business.

Additionally, since the grocer started actively asking its followers on Twitter and Facebook for feedback, suggestions and ideas starting in about mid-2009 - which Fresh & Easy responds to well on the social media sites -one of those frequent suggestions from shoppers has been that it accept manufacturers' cents off coupons. And as more and more grocers adopt mobile, digital coupons in Fresh & Easy's market regions, more shoppers have also been suggesting that it to accept the paperless coupons.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy doesn't want to accept paper of any kind. In addition to not taking paper manufacturers' coupons, the stores accept no paper personal or payroll checks or WIC Vouchers, the check-like government vouchers given to poor mothers. They do accept their own paper Fresh & Easy store coupons however.

The grocer believes the labor savings from not accepting paper checks, WIC Vouchers or manufacturers' coupons in its stores outweighs the benefits of taking them, even though virtually all of its major competitors do take all of the above.

A mobile couponing system that accepts digital manufacturers' coupons would, if it can be technologically adopted given Fresh & Easy's limitations as we described above, allow the grocer to at least capture some of the business from coupon shoppers it's not getting in its stores that it's giving away to competitors, virtually all of which welcome and accept paper manufacturers' cents-off coupons and increasingly are adopting their own mobile, digital couponing systems. And, there's a substantial amount of business from frequent coupon clipper-users out there.

We've said in numerous pieces in Fresh & Easy Buzz over the last two-plus years that Tesco's Fresh & Easy is making a huge mistake by not accepting manufacturers' cents-off coupons of all types - traditional paper, paper coupons clipped out by consumers via internet sites, and mobile, digital coupons.

It's been, and remains, our analysis that Tesco's Fresh & Easy is missing the boat by not accepting all forms of these manufacturer-issued coupons in its stores, particularly in light of the fact that consumer use of the coupons, including traditional paper ones, has soared over the last two years, and is expected to increase again in 2010.

We believe one sign that Fresh & Easy has decided not to go forward with a mobile system that would allow it to take digital manufacturers' coupons is if the grocer comes out with a digital version of its current paper store coupons, which are distributed regularly via the web, and in paper format by direct mail, and sometimes in the stores.

It's our analysis that if Fresh & Easy does this anytime soon, it will mean, at least for the foreseeable future, it has no plans for a mobile couponing program which would allow the grocery chain to accept digital versions of manufacturers' cents-off coupons in its stores.

[Readers: Click here and here (plus, see the links there) to read a selection of past posts from Fresh & Easy Buzz about the manufacturers' coupon phenomenon, mobile coupons, digital coupons and related issues and topics.]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A New Fresh & Easy Store Opens in Las Vegas Tomorrow on St. Patrick's Day; Will Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy's Proud Irish Eyes Be Smiling?

The two most-classic and most-popular versions of the Irish ballad, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," is the version by the Irish tenor John McCormack, and the rendition of the song by Irish-American singer (and tenor) Bing Crosby. You can listen to "When Irish eyes are Smiling" by John McCormack here and to Bing Crosby's version of the Irish ballad here. Both versions are three minutes long.

Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy (pictured above) is a proud Irishman.

Leahy is so proud of his Irish heritage in fact he recently joined 299 other prominant people of Irish ancestery throughout the world in becoming a charter member of the new Global Irish Forum, a global organization designed to deepen Ireland's engagement with Irish communities worldwide and to spread the message that Ireland is open for business, and remains an attractive place for international investment, business people and tourists alike

Joining the CEO of Tesco as one of the 300 founding-members of the Global Irish Forum, which was hatched at the Global Irish Economic Forum in September 2009 and officially chartered this month under the leadership of Micheal Martin, Ireland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, include such prominant members of the Irish despora in the Unired States as:

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of the late former U.S. Attorney General, Senator and Presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy; Craig Barrett, the former CEO of Intel; Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairman of the America-Ireland Fund; Dennis Swanson, president of Fox Television; John Hennessy, president of Stanford University; Jack DeGioia, president of Georgetown University; Norah O’Donnell, chief Washington correspondent for NBC's cable news channel MSNBC; and former US ambassador to Ireland and retired U.S. House of represenatives' majority leader Tom Foley.

Other participants in the Global Irish Network from throughout the world include: Rock star and humanitarian Bob Geldof; Riverdance dance troupe founders Moya Doherty and John McColgan; professional golfer Padraig Harrington; novelist Colum McCann; Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways; Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Airlines; and Peter Sutherland of the investment bank Goldman Sachs.
And speaking of the Irish - and Sir Terry Leahy - tomorrow, Wednesday, March 17, is St. Patrick's Day, the day when we're all Irish.

Tomorrow, St. Patrick's Day, is also when Tesco will open its 147th Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market fresh foods and grocery store. The new store opening tomorrow is at 5639 Centennial Center Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nevada - a city where the saying "The Luck O the Irish" couldn't be more relevant, or needed at the gaming tables and slot machines. It will be Fresh & Easy's 27th store in Nevada.

In light of Tesco CEO Terry Leahy's proud Irish Heritage, one can only expect his "Irish Eyes will be Smiling," knowing there's a Fresh & Easy store opening on St. Patrick's Day, that day in Las Vegas and throughout the U.S. when regardless of our heritage we're all Irish.

In fact, St. Patrick's Day, Fresh & Easy and Las Vegas have many things in common. For instance:

>Fresh & Easy's brand and store color is green. Green is the official color of Ireland (the Emerald Isle) and St. Patricks Day;

>Green, as in the color of money - cold, hard cash - also happens to be the lifeblood of Las Vegas and its mega-gaming industry;

>"The Luck O the Irish" is a saying you'll hear repeated often tomorrow on St. Patrick's Day, as well as throughout the year. Luck also is key in Las Vegas - and luck is certainly key for Tesco with its Fresh & Easy chain;

>And of course, St. Patrick's Day is a holiday centered on food and drink. Vegas is nothing if not a food and drink town. And, well, Tesco's Fresh & Easy is all about (selling) food and drink.

We expect Tesco's Fresh & Easy to go all out tomorrow with its St. Patrick's Day store grand opening in Las Vegas. After all, anything less might fail to bring that smile to Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy's proud Irish eyes.

In case the Fresh & Easy team hasn't thought much about this - the synergy and importance of St. Patrick's Day, Las Vegas, Sir Terry, and the new store opening there tomorrow - we offer six things we suggest they could do for the store grand opening tomorrow. It's still not too late:

1. We would make sure the store is decorated for St. Patrick's Day. Plenty of green shamrocks, Leprechauns, green balloons, streamers and the like. Have shamrock and Leprechaun stickers and balloons to give out to the kids for free.

2. We would make special name tags for all the participants in tomorrow's grand opening, as well as for all of the new Las Vegas store's employees.

The name tags would have an O before each person's last name, which is a St. Patrick's day tradition. Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason would be "Tim O' Mason" tomorrow, for example, and so on for everyone participating, and for all of the store's employees. These could be made out of paper right at the store. A green shamrock sticker included on the name tag of course.

3. We would serve free samples of corned beef and cabbage (both sold at Fresh & Easy) to shoppers attending the grand opening tomorrow. This is a must tie-in.

4. We would trade on the "Luck O the Irish" saying by giving out lottery tickets to every customer who buys $10 or more worth of groceries at the store's grand opening tomorrow, say between 10 am and noon. It's Vegas baby, after all. (And how about giving a $25 store gift card to any person attending the grand opening tomorrow who can prove their name is Patrick...or Patricia.

5. We would have an accordion player and a fiddler at the grand opening tomorrow, playing Irish tunes outside the store. It's Vegas, so both shouldn't be very hard to find.

6. We would build displays, with St. Paddy's Day point-of-purchase signs, all over the store, focusing on cross-merchandising, of the top St. Patrick's Day food and beverage items.

To start, think packaged fresh corned beef, fresh cabbage and potatoes cross-merchandised in both the meat and produce departments; even in a refrigerated case outside of both departments for impulse sales. Don't forget the onions and leeks either. Or the seasoning mixes tied-in with both displays.

Additionally, we would feature/display fresh sausages and beef stew meat in the meat and produce departments. Cross-merchandising is an incremental sales builder - always.

And let's not forget a big display of Guinness Beer, and one or two other Irish beer brands such as Harp, where not one shopper can miss it. And a coffee display, with Irish Coffee fixings and recipes.

Do include a big display of Irish soda bread and scones in the bakery (potato rolls would also be nice). Plus, St. Patrick's Day cookies and cupcakes displayed both in the bakery and elsewhere in the store is a must.

Throughout the store we would display packaged scone mixes, canned Heinz Baked Beans, preserves/jams (Robertson's would be nice, including Lemon Curd) and dozens of other key Irish and St. Patrick's Day-themed grocery items (Lucky Charms cereal even works great), all tied-in with St. Patrick's Day point-of-purchase materials and signs. The added sales potential is huge.

These are just six simple ideas. There are many more.

Of course, we would do a version of this at all 146 (147 tomorrow) Fresh & Easy stores in California, Nevada and Arizona for St. Patrick's Day.

And that, we bet, would really make Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy's Irish Eyes Smile.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. And remember - we're all Irish tomorrow.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Follow Up: Will Tesco's Fresh & Easy Appeal Judge's-NRLB Ruling it Violated U.S. Labor Relations Act?

On March 4, 2010, we broke the news that Federal Administrative Law Judge Gregory Z. Meyerson ruled that Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market violated a section of the U.S. Labor Relations Act involving a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the grocery chain by a former Las Vegas Fresh & Easy store employee and the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.

See our March 4, 2010 story: Aministrative Law Judge Finds Tesco's Fresh & Easy Violated Labor Relations Act in Ex-Store Employee, UFCW Union Complaint.

The judge ruled that Fresh & Easy violated one section named in the complaint.

He found Fresh & Easy to be in violation of interfering with store employees legal right and ability to organize or join an organized labor organization, in this particular case the UFCW union.
In his ruling, Judge Meyerson ordered Fresh & Easy to stop using certain specific means to prevent employees from distributing UFCW union literature at the stores and to stop visiting store workers at home and questioning them about their communications and meetings with union representatives

Following the publication of our March 4 story, on March 8 the supermarket industry trade publication Supermarket News published this news item in which it said Tesco's Fresh & Easy (evidently a spokesperson) told the publication it plans to appeal the judge's ruling, which as we noted in our March 4 report is something the grocery chain has the right to do under law.

As of Friday, March 12, Tesco's Fresh & Easy hadn't filed an appeal, according to information we obtained from the National Labor Relations Board. The grocery chain still has ample time to appeal though if it decides to do so.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Walmart Adds Two More SKUs to its Marketside Ready-To-Heat Fresh, Prepared Entree Line

Fresh, Prepared Foods Merchandising

Walmart Stores, Inc. has added two additional SKUs to its Marketside ready-to-heat, fresh prepared entree line, which Fresh & Easy Buzz was the first publication to report on that we're aware of.

The two additional fresh, prepared entree SKUs, sold in 3 pound family-style size packages, are: Lasagna With Meat Sauce (pictured at the top) and Chicken Enchiladas (pictured below). (We recall a similar Chicken Enchiladas entree - but not in the same packaging or same quality product - packed under the Sam's Club store brand, in the past.)
That makes four SKUs in the Marketside fresh, prepared entree line we've been able to document thus far: Mac N' Cheese With Bacon, Rigatoni With Italian Sausage; and now the Chicken Enchilada and Lasagna With Meat Sauce varieties.

Walmart has posted pictures of the two entree varieties on its Web site. The two Marketside entree items we reported on in February (Mac N' Cheese With Bacon and Rigatoni With Italian sausage) weren't up on the site at the time. They are now, along with the Chicken Enchilada and Lasagna With Meat Sauce SKUs.

The Web site also has some (but not all of the SKUs in the line) of the Marketside bagged and packaged fresh produce items we reported on in the February piece [Walmart Launching New Value-Added Pre-Packaged Fresh Produce Line Under its Marketside Fresh Foods Brand] pictured as well. All of the SKUs are listed in our story.

Further, the Marketside fresh soup line we reported on in this February 28, 2010 piece [Walmart Introducing New Ready-To-Heat Prepared Entrees, Fresh Soups Under its Marketside Brand] and the Marketside fresh salsa line we reported on in this March 2, 2010 post [Walmart Launching New 'Marketside Fresh Garden Salsa' Line Under its Fast-Growing Fresh Foods Store Brand] aren't depicted on, perhaps because they're too new

There's also a "Bakery" tab on In case you're wondering when you see it, the tab is for a new line of Marketside fresh breads and baked goods the retailer will be introducing soon. Currently if you click the tab it says "Coming Soon." More to come on that "soon" in Fresh & Easy Buzz.

Fresh & Easy Buzz has been out front in reporting and writing about Walmart Stores, Inc.'s development of its new Marketside fresh foods store brand.

For example, see the posts linked below:

>January 9, 2010: Walmart's 'marketside': What's 'In-Store' for 2010?

>December 21, 2009: December 21, 2009 piece - Wither Walmart's Small-Format 'marketside' Stores and Format?

>Click here and here for a selection of additional 'marketside' past posts.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Three New Fresh & Easy Stores Opening This Month; First Opening March 10 in Palm Springs, California

Tesco is preparing to open the first of the three new Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores it has slated for grand openings in March.

Below are the three Fresh & Easy fresh food and grocery markets set to open this month:

Sunrise & Tahquitz: Palm Springs, California

On Wednesday, March 10, a new Fresh & Easy store will open in Palm Springs, California, which is located in Riverside County in Southern California's desert region. The new store is at 102 South Sunrise Way in Palm Springs.

Tesco's 850,000 square-foot Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market distribution center is also located in Riverside County.

The Sunrise & Tahquitz location will be the first Fresh & Easy store in Palm Springs (there's a Fresh & Easy market in Palm Desert, which is right next door), a city that was once the second home capital for many of Hollywood's biggest stars, and still remains a major second-home residence and tourist destination for the famous, infamous and not so famous - along with being a major retirement community.

Over the last decade Palm Springs has grown its permanent resident population considerably. The town's population is currently about 50,000, according to 2009 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

However, that number is a bit deceiving because thousands of people have vacation homes in the city, where they spend a considerable amount of time. For example, right now is the "high season" in Palm Springs (January -to- early April), a time in which these temporary residents spend as much time as they can because of the generally warm and sunny weather.

Additionally, thousands more visit the city on a regular basis, including numerous groups that hold their conventions and other gatherings regularly in Palm Springs.

As a result, the population base from which grocers and other businesses have to draw from in Palm Springs is much greater than its 50,000 permanent residents.

Over two years ago, in February 2008, Fresh & Easy Buzz suggested to Tesco's Fresh & Easy in this piece [February 14, 2008: Is Tesco's Fresh & Easy Playing the Fiddle While Palm Springs' 'Burns' for A Trader Joe's?] that it should locate a store in Palm Springs, something that wasn't on the grocer's new store radar screen at that time. Also see - [March 26, 2008: Mid-Week Tesco Fresh & Easy Roundup. Scroll down to the heading: "Note to Fresh & Easy."]

In the summer of 2008 Tesco's Fresh & Easy acquired the Palm Springs location for the store that's opening on Wednesday, March 10.

The store was set to open much sooner than it is. However, it was one of the many new Fresh & Easy stores the grocer postponed opening last year.

Ann & Centennial Center: Las Vegas, Nevada

A week later, on March 17, Tesco will open a new Fresh & Easy store in Las Vegas, Nevada, at 5639 Centennial Center Boulevard.

The Ann & Centennial store will be the first new Fresh & Easy market the grocer has opened this year in Southern Nevada.

All of Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores in Nevada are located in the Metropolitan Las Vegas region of Southern Nevada.

Calimesa & Myrtlewood: Calimesa, California

On March 24, Fresh & Easy will open a new store - and its third new unit for the month - in Calimesa, California, which, like Palm Springs, is in Riverside County in Southern California's Inland Empire region.

The Calimesa Fresh & Easy market, which will be the first unit in the city, is at 1126 Calimesa Boulevard.

Calimesa, which is right next door to the city of Yucaipa, is a young city, having been incorporated only in 1990.

It's also a small town population-wise, with only about 8,000 residents, according to 2009 census bureau data. However, there are thousands more residents who live in next-door Yucaipa and the surrounding area.

First quarter 2010 new store opening sprint

Tesco opened nine Fresh & Easy stores last month, and five new units in January. With the three new Fresh & Easy markets set to open this month, that will being the total number of new store openings for the first quarter - January -through- March - of 2010 to 17 stores. [Related story: Wednesday, January 27, 2010: February New Store Opening 'Big Bang' For Tesco's Fresh & Easy; Nine New Stores So Far.]

There are currently 145 Fresh & Easy fresh food and grocery stores in California (Southern California and the Bakersfield and Fresno regions in the Central Valley); Southern Nevada; and Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. At the end of this month the total store count will be 148.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Administrative Law Judge Finds Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Violated Labor Relations Act in Ex-Store Employee, UFCW Union Complaint

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has been found by a Federal Administrative Law Judge to be in violation of a section of the U.S. National Labor Relations Act, regarding an unfair labor practices complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) against the El Segundo, California-based food and grocery chain last year by Deana Kenton, a former employee at Fresh & Easy store number 1247 on East Lake Mead Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).

Former store employee Kenton, who was fired by Fresh & Easy, and the UFCW union charged in their unfair labor practices complaint last year that Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market violated Sections 8(a)(1), (3), and (4) of the National Labor Relations Act.

These sections of the act pertain in general to allowing employees the free ability, within mandated guidelines, to involve themselves in the organization of labor unions at the workplace. Administrative Law Judge Gregory Z. Meyerson heard the case in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 17-18, 2009.

The complaint charged that Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act by "promulgating and maintaining an unlawful no-distribution policy, by interrogating its employees about their union activities and sympathies, by creating an impression among its employees that their union activities were under surveillance, and by soliciting employee complaints and grievances and promising to improve terms and conditions of employment if the employees refrained from union organizational activities."

Additionally, Ms. Kenton's and the UFCW union's complaint alleged that Fresh & Easy "violated Section 8(a)(3) of the Act by discharging its employees Tamara Williams (Williams) and Deana Kenton (Kenton) because of their support for the Union, and also violated Section 8(a)(4) of the Act by discharging Kenton because she cooperated with the Board in the investigation of unfair labor practices charges filed against the Respondent."

Tesco's Fresh & Easy denied they committed any unfair labor relations practices and fought the case at the two day hearing in November.

Judge Meyerson's decision on Deana Kenton's and the UFCW's unfair labor practices complaint against Tesco's Fresh & Easy has only been released by the NRLB recently. The first release date for the full decision was February 5, 2010, and a second notice was just released on March 3, 2010.

In his decision Judge Meyerson found that Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market had violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, which basically prohibits employers from interfering with the rights of employees to organize, form, join, or assist a labor organization or union and to bargain collectively. [The complete language of the Act is here.]

The judge, however, recommended in his ruling that the other unfair labor act charges against Fresh & Easy contained in the complaint be dismissed.

Below (in italics) is Judge Meyerson's "order of action" for Tesco's Fresh & Easy to take having been found to have committed the labor relations act violation:


The Respondent, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Inc., its officers, agents, successors, and assigns, shall

1. Cease and desist from:(a) Promulgating and maintaining in its employee handbook and on its company intranet site an unlawfully broad no-distribution rule prohibiting the distribution of literature on its premises for any purpose;

(b) Interrogating its employees about their union activities and sympathies;

(c) Creating an impression among its employees that their union activities were under surveillance; and

(d) In any like and related manner interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed to them by Section 7 of the Act.2. Take the following affirmative action necessary to effectuate the policies of the Act:(a) Within 14 days after service by the Region, post at each of its Las Vegas, Nevada, area stores copies of the attached notice marked “Appendix.”27 Copies of the notice, on forms provided by the Regional Director for Region 28, after being signed by the Respondent’s authorized representative, shall be posted by the Respondent and maintained for 60 consecutive days in conspicuous places including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted. Reasonable steps shall be taken by the Respondent to ensure that the notices are not altered, defaced, or covered by any other material. In the event that, during the pendency of these proceedings, the Respondent has gone out of business or closed any of the stores involved in these proceedings, the Respondent shall duplicate and mail, at its own expense, a copy of the notice to all current employees and former employees employed by the Respondent at any time since April 1, 2009; and

(b) Within 21 days after service by the Region, file with the Regional Director a sworn certification of a responsible official on a form provided by the Region attesting to the steps that the Respondent has taken to comply.

If this Order is enforced by a judgment of a United States court of appeals, the words in the notice reading “Posted by Order of the National Labor Relations Board” shall read “Posted Pursuant to a Judgment of the United States Court.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint is dismissed insofar as it alleges violations of the Act not specifically found.

Dated at Washington, D.C. on February 9, 2010.

Gregory Z. Meyerson

Administrative Law Judge

[You can view the actual written notice Fresh & Easy is required to post in all of its Metropolitan Las Vegas, Nevada region stores at page 3o in the document linked here.]

Decisions by Administrative Law Judges are not binding legal precedent. And such decisions can be appealed to formal legal courts if one or both parties involved choose to do so, unless they've agreed in advance to not do so.

Judge Meyerson's complete decision, along with the full narrative history (which is an interesting read) of the unfair labor practices complaint filed last year by former Fresh & Easy Las Vegas store employee Deana Kenton and the United Food & Commercial Workers union, is available at this link.

We suggest you review the document in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the case from the perspectives of both sides.

Fresh & Easy Buzz has reported on, written about, and offer extensive analysis on the UFCW union's campaign to organize Tesco Fresh & Easy store workers and Fresh & Easy's response. You can read a selection of those posts here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mr. [Tesco] Three Percent Warren Buffett Still Has That 'Oracle' About Him

Apparently Warren Buffett, also known as 'The Oracle of Omaha,' still has influence with the global investor class, despite the more than a few investment stumbles he's made over the last couple years. He mentions some of those stumbles in his just-out Berkshire Hathaway Inc. letter to shareholders here.

Speaking of his nickname, we've given Mr. Buffett a second one befitting his new 3% Tesco ownership stake: "Mr. [Tesco] Three Percent."

On Monday we wrote about 'The Oracle of Omaha' upping his investment in United Kingdom-based Tesco, the parent company of Fresh & Easy USA, to a 3% overall ownership stake in the global food, grocery and general merchandise retailer.

Buffett disclosed his increased investment in Tesco in his annual Berkshire Hathaway Inc. letter to shareholders, as we discussed in our story. [March 1, 2010: Warren Buffett, 'The Oracle of Omaha,' Wants you to shop at Tesco...But He Doesn't Mind if You Shop at Walmart]

Buffett - who trades off every couple years with his pal Bill Gates as either the richest or the second-richest person in the world in Forbes annual list - is now the sixth-biggest Tesco shareholder, according to our research.

On Monday (and through Tuesday) when the media reported Buffett's now 3% stake in Tesco, the retailer's stock soared by about 3.5%, its highest gain since May 2009.

Tesco's stock dropped a bit at the end of business today, which could be expected after the Monday and Tuesday run up.

Stock analysts on Wall Street and in London are attributing the significant gain in Tesco stock on Monday (the first day of trading after Buffett's Saturday disclosure) and Tuesday virtually 100% to Buffett's increased ownership stake.

It appears Warren Buffett still has that 'Oracle' about him when it comes to the reaction of and his influence on the global investment class when it comes to his stock picks and investment moves.

[Illustration credit: The ink-on-paper illustration of Warren Buffett at the top, titled 'The Oracle of Omaha," is by artist Andrew Mitchell. You can learn more about his work at his site here.]

Reader Resource:

[Fresh & Easy Buzz Library: Click here for a selection of related, past stories about Warren Buffett]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Walmart Launching New 'Marketside Fresh Garden Salsa' Line Under its Fast-Growing Fresh Foods Store Brand

Fresh, Prepared Foods Merchandising

In addition to the new Marketside fresh, ready-to-heat soup, prepared entree and value-added, pre-packaged fresh produce lines we reported on and wrote about in these to pieces on February 28 [Walmart Introducing New Ready-To-Heat Prepared Entrees, Fresh Soups Under its Marketside Brand and Walmart Launching New Value-Added Pre-Packaged Fresh Produce Line Under its Marketside Fresh Foods Brand], Walmart Stores, Inc. is spicing things up by launching a new line of Marketside store brand fresh salsa in seven varieties.

The product is called Marketside Fresh Garden Salsa.

The seven SKU's in the new line are: Mild, Medium and Hot; Chipotle Garlic; Sweet Onion; Mango Peach; and Black Bean & Corn

The salsa comes in 18 oz plastic tubs, as you can see in the photograph at the top. The hot variety is pictured above.

The packaging for the fresh salsa is the same as that of the 10 oz Marketside Mild Pico De Gallo Salsa item in our February 28 report.

Walmart is in the process of rolling out the new Marketside fresh salsa line to selected Supercenters and Neighborhood Market supermarkets in the U.S. We've been told the line also could be sold in Walmart's discount format stores.

The 18 oz Marketside Fresh Garden Salsa line - like its cousin the 10 oz Pico De Gallo, which in the full line comes in medium and hot varieties in addition to the mild - is targeted to be merchandised in the refrigerated sections in the produce departments in Walmart stores. We suspect it might find its way to the self-serve refrigerated deli sections in some stores as well.

The unit price point for the new Marketside 18 oz Fresh Garden Salsa is about $2.99, depending on the region where a store is in the U.S.

Walmart has posted the new Marketside value-added, packaged fresh produce line (plus the Pico De Gallo Salsa) and the Marketside family-sized entrees from our February 28 story on its fairly recently revamped Web site.

However, as of today, the new Marketside Garden Fresh Salsa line - or the ready-to-heat soup line we reported on also on February 28 - isn't included or depicted on the site.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Warren Buffett, 'The Oracle of Omaha,' Wants you to shop at Tesco...But He Doesn't Mind if You Shop at Walmart

Billionare investor and founder, chairman and CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. corporate holding company, Warren Buffett, wants you to shop at Tesco stores in the United Kingdom and throughout the world, and at Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores in California, Nevada and Arizona.

But ever the equal opportunity - and financially cautious - investor, Warren Buffett doesn't mind if you also shop at Walmart. In fact, he wants you to. You'll see why that is below.

On Saturday (February 27), Mr. Buffett - nicknamed 'The Oracle of Omaha' because of his legendary investment talents and near-lifelong residence in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was born and raised and lives today - disclosed in his annual letter to shareholders that Berkshire had increased its common stock share holdings in United Kingdom-headquartered Tesco plc during its 2009 fiscal year.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway now holds 234,247,373 shares of Tesco common stock, valued at $1, 367 billion, at the end of 2009.

Buffett's current stake in Tesco, parent company of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA, amounts to a 3% ownership stake in the global retailing company, up from a 2.8%-2.9% ownership stake in the same period in 2008. Berkshire held 227 million shares of Tesco plc common stock in its fiscal year 2008.

Based on our research, that makes Buffett's Berkshire the six-biggest investor in Tesco.

Going from a 2.8%-2.9% ownership stake to 3% might not sound like much. But keep in mind that at this level such fractions represent real money.

Tesco is currently ranked as the fourth-largest retailer - including of food and groceries - in the world. [January 10, 2010: Tesco Drops From Third to Fourth Place in Important Global Retailing Ranking Despite Having Higher Sales Growth Than Rival.]

Walmart Stores, Inc. is number one, followed by France-based Carrefour and Germany's Metro Group.

Warren Buffett doesn't mind if you shop at Walmart

Speaking of Walmart, Buffett also disclosed in his shareholder letter on Saturday that he continues to hold a major stake (one that has grown from last year) in the world's leading retailer, Walmart Stores, Inc. In fact, that dollar value is even greater that his Tesco holdings.

Buffett owns 39,037,142 shares of Walmart Stores, Inc. common stock, which was valued at $2, 087 billion at the end of Berkshire's 2009 fiscal year. The holdings represent a 1% ownership stake in Walmart for the "Oracle of Omaha' and his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

Warren Buffett's grocery shopping list for you

Berkshire-Hathaway also has major stakes in a number of companies that supply Tesco, Walmart and other retailers throughout the world with branded food, grocery, beverage and non-food packaged goods products.

For example, Buffett's Berkshire holds 200,000,000 shares of Coca-Cola Company stock. The holdings are valued (at the end of 2009) at a whopping $11, 400 billion, giving Buffett an 8.6% ownership stake in Coke. It just so happens his favorite beverage is a Diet Coke.

Berkshire-Hathaway also owns 130,272,500 shares of common stock in food giant Kraft Foods, Inc., which recently acquired the iconic British confections company Cadbury.

Buffett's holdings in Kraft Foods, which is the second-biggest global food company after number one Nestle, are valued (2009 end) at $3,541 billion, giving Berkshire an 8.8% ownership stake in Kraft.

Buffett fought Kraft's initial takeover bid of Cadbury last month, saying it was too high. Kraft worked with him and he eventually agreed on its final bid for the British confectionary giant.

Kraft Foods' huge brand portfolio includes: Kraft, Nabisco, Oscar Mayer, Maxwell House and many others.

Additionally, Buffett is a major investor in consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble, maker and marketer of such leading consumer packaged goods brands as Tide, Crest, Charmin, Gillette, Pringles and numerous others. Out of its about 90 brands, P&G has 22 that do over a billion dollars in annual sales.

Berkshire holds 83,128,411 shares of Proctor & Gamble common stock, valued at $5,040 billion. This represents a 2.9% ownership stake in P&G for Buffett.

Lastly, in the food/grocery/consumer packaged goods sector, Buffett's Berkshire holds 28,530,467 shares of consumer packaged goods, health care and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.

Among J&J's packaged goods brands are Johnson's (baby powder and other health and beauty care category items), Listerine, Tylenol, Band-Aid, Visine, Splenda and others.

The value of Berkshire's holdings in Johnson & Johnson is $1, 838 billion, which is a 1% ownership stake in the company.

Warren Buffett: Chairman of the Board(s)

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway - which he runs with his "senior" partner Charlie Munger (Buffett is in his late 70's, Munger is in his mid-80's, hence "senior" partner) - is far more than an investment firm.

In fact, Berkshire is primarily a corporate holding company, which owns 53 companies, ranging from A - Acme Brick Company and Applied Underwriters - to F - Fruit of the Loom and Forest River - and G - GEICO Insurance - and on to S - See's Candy - and W - Wesco Financial Corporation - along with 46 other companies in between. [You can view a complete list of the Berkshire-Hataway-owned companies here]

All of the 53 companies owned by Buffett's Berkshire have their own CEOs and senior management, and are run as independent companies by the respective managment teams.

Buffett is the original champion of decentralization. He coordinates with each of the 53 CEOs, acting as a chairman of the board for each of the holding companies.

And since Buffett likes investing in food and grocery retailers - Walmart and Tesco - and food, grocery and consumer packaged companies - Coke, Kraft, P&G and Johnson & Johnson, plus a few others in a smaller way - it should come as no surprise that his Berkshire Hathaway owns a number of companies in the food/grocery/consumer packaged goods sector.

These companies include: grocery, mass-merchandise and convenience store wholesale distributor McLane Company, which Buffett bought from Walmart a number of years ago; popular confections-maker, marketer and retailer See's Candies; the casual dining chain International Dairy Queen, Inc.; and gourmet products' retailer The Pampered Chef.

McLane Company is the largest of the Berkshire-owned companies in the sector, with annual sales of $31.2 billion in 2009.

McLane was also the top-performing company in Buffett's 53-company portfolio for 2009, a year in which many of Berkshire's companies were racked by the recession. McLane inked pre-tax record earnings of $344 million on sales of $31.2 billion (distribution is a penny per-dollar business) for the fiscal year.

McLane's CEO is Grady Rosier. Here's what Buffett says about Rosier in the annual shareholders letter that went out on Saturday: "McLane employs a vast array of physical assets – practically all of which it owns – including 3,242 trailers, 2,309 tractors and 55 distribution centers with 15.2 million square feet of space. McLane’s prime asset, however, is Grady."

That's vintage Buffett. Chairman of the board and motivator-in-chief, all done with a smiling and humble - yet stern - hand.

McLane's largest customer is Walmart Stores, Inc., although the company's major distribution focus is on convenience stores.

A little dot-connecting: Walmart sold McLane to Buffett a number of years ago. (Walmart bought it from founder Drayton McLane.) Buffett owns 1% of Walmart. Buffett's Berkshire owns McLane Company. Walmart is McLane's largest customer.

McLane Company doesn't distribute any product to Tesco's Fresh & Easy USA by the way, even though its a major distributor in the Western U.S. states where the 145 Fresh & Easy stores are located. But for you conspiracy theorists, its more about relationships that it is about interlocking directorates. And the Buffett-Walmart relationship goes back a long way - and remains a strong one.

Based on his increased stake in Tesco, Buffett obviously sees strong long-term prospects for the global retailer. Buffett is a long-term, value investor.

But what does 'The Oracle of Omaha' think about Tesco's U.S. food and grocery retailing venture, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market? We're working on that. Hopefully, we'll have some word on that question from Mr. Buffett in short course. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Warren Buffett wants you to shop at Tesco stortes throughout the world - and its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores in the U.S.

But he doesn't mind if you shop at Walmart and at Walmart's various chains and thousands of stores throughout the world, such as its Asda chain in the United Kingdom, which is Britain's number two food and grocery retailer after Tesco.

'The Oracle of Omaha' will also be happy if, in the U.S., you fill-in your Walmart and Tesco Fresh & Easy shopping by visiting any of the thousands of convenience stores supplied by Berkshire-owned wholesaler-distributor McLane Company.

And while shopping at a Tesco-owned or Walmart-owned store anywhere in the world, the Warren Buffett would also love it if you would buy a 12-pack or two of Diet Coke, or any of the hundreds of other beverages Coca-Cola sells under its 100 brands; a few boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and packages of Nabisco Oreo cookies (Kraft Foods); a big bottle of Tide Laundry Detergent and a 12 roll-pack of Charmin Bath Tissue (Proctor & Gamble); and then top off your shopping trip by buying a big bottle of Listerine (Johnson & Johnson).

If you do, we're pretty sure Warren Buffett thanks you.

[Illustration credit: The ink-on-paper illustration of Warren Buffett at the top, titled 'The Oracle of Omaha," is by artist Andrew Mitchell. You can learn more about his work at his site here.]

Reader Resources:

[If you've never read one of Warren Buffett's (and partner Charlie Munger's) annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letters, you're missing out. They're far different than the typical annual or year-end financial communications most corporations have with shareholders. You can read Berkshire's 2009 letter here.]

[Fresh & Easy Buzz Library: Click here for a selection of related, past stories about Warren Buffett]