The 2013 Sweets and Snacks Expo May 21 to 23 at Chicago’s McCormick Place continues to expand its status as a global resource for products, innovations and insights. Companies from 23 countries have secured booths or pavilions on the show’s floor.

More than 570 confectionery, cookie and snack companies are expected to participate in the expo sponsored by the National Confectioners Association (NCA). “NCA recognizes the power of U.S. brands around the world and the expo serves as a destination for global markets to come together,” Larry Graham, president of NCA, said in a statement. “The 2013 expo is the ideal venue to connect with industry professionals from around the world and to discover international products and trends that will set retailers apart from the rest.”

Large deals typically involve international operations, which are where a deal can stumble if the M&A team is not mindful of local jurisdictions.

With the recent acquisition of the Skippy® peanut butter line by Hormel Foods Corp. and the announcement that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital Inc. will acquire H.J. Heinz Co., analysts are predicting the beginning of a wave of mergers for the food and drink industry, particularly staple food companies. Almost all of the mega-deals being announced in the food and drink industry have some international operations, and buyers and sellers should analyze applicable merger control rules and develop a plan for addressing any such issues early in the transaction. Merger control rules, which regulate transactions based on their effect on business competition, vary by jurisdiction and can delay a transaction unless the parties follow all necessary steps to gain regulatory approval in each applicable jurisdiction.

Beginning in 2014, a nondeductible excise tax will be assessed on restaurant industry employers — those with 50 or more full-time and full-time-equivalent employees — who do not offer healthcare coverage to their full-time employees. A requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Affordable Care Act), the tax is significant — amounting to $2,000 per year, per full-time employee. The number of full-time employees is reduced by 30 for purposes of the calculation.

The regulations require coverage to be offered to 95 percent or more of full-time employees, using complex rules that define exactly who is and who is not a full-time employee. A restaurant industry employer who slips below the 95 percent threshold will be assessed the full tax – even if the employer offers coverage to many full-time employees.

The excise tax exposure is significant, as the table illustrates.

Like any retail business, a restaurant or grocer’s image is expressed in more ways than design and graphics. The right blend of music helps reinforce the image you have worked so hard to create.

Customized, curated music is a huge current trend that is helping retailers differentiate themselves from their competitors. Music no longer takes a background role but has become just as important as the actual merchandise itself. That is why it has to reflect the brand perfectly.

Now that the trials and tribulations of the holiday selling season are over but still fresh in your mind, you still have plenty of time to research, vet, test and implement improvements to your retail environment. Many options are available for each type of improvement and its unique architecture and implementation.

Although that may seem daunting, what it really means is that with open, interoperable systems, you have the ability to create the architecture for the improvements that will work in your environment most effectively. Several types of security equipment can be used to determine which areas of your store need improvement. The following top analytics can drive your sales for 2013.

Beware! The article you are about to read is content marketing.

So, you might ask yourself, what exactly is “content marketing,” anyway? Well, it’s about creating content that resonates with your consumer so that she or he elects to share that information with others. The goal is to get your brand positive recognition by attracting and building an audience. You want to deliver information to your consumer that entertains or informs but does not feel like a sales pitch.

Showrooming. RedLaser. Amazon Price Check. Same-day shipping. These terms and names have come seemingly out of nowhere and now top of the list of things that worry retailers. The entry of Walmart into grocery turned the retail food industry upside-down, but now Walmart is feeling the same pain as Amazon continues to make inroads on price with an expanded selection.

Operating a brick-and-mortar retail food store isn’t what it used to be. Shoppers are now armed with price information, deeper knowledge of products and the ability to find out just about anything about a product while standing in front of the shelf – including who might be selling it cheaper.

Groupon’s in trouble.

CNBC named Groupon CEO Andrew Mason “the worst CEO of 2012” and called him “an expensive joke for those who bought in early on the stock.”

I typed into the Google search bar, “Groupon is” to see how it would complete the sentence. “Groupon issues,” “Groupon is dead,” “Groupon is bad,” “Groupon is it safe” and “Groupon is stupid.” That’s what Google offered as suggestions to complete my search.

In today’s climate of business consolidation, increased competition and regulatory changes, the food and beverage industry is facing some of its toughest challenges in years. A recent industry shift toward mergers and acquisitions (M&As) can expedite company growth and dramatically improve competitiveness.

In fact, in a recent industry survey, more than half of the respondents indicated that they anticipate a sale or merger of part or all of their company within five years. Although the food and beverage industry is enjoying modest gains in the face of the economic crisis, companies may find that an M&A is necessary or desirable to increase market penetration, expand developing lines, transform company identity or diversify investments.

The new year brings additional regulations, legislation and litigation for food producers and distributors. The food industry should be aware of and prepared to respond to new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations, a continued push for legislation requiring the labeling of genetically engineered food and an influx of new consumer fraud class actions directed at product labeling.

According to benefits consultant Mercer, almost half of retail and hospitality employers don’t currently offer health coverage to all of their full-time employees. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 28 percent of companies that employ a large number of workers making $24,000 a year or less, such as restaurants, offer health benefits. Yet the 10 largest food chains in the United States do, and Starbucks offers health plans for employees who work 20-plus hours a week.

Supermarkets present something of a paradox in this country. For example, we love to shop, and we love food, but going to the grocery store is more of a chore than a treat for most. And while just about everyone carries a loyalty card, most shoppers don’t really feel much loyalty to a specific store, and tend to shop based on the ease of getting in and out, or what’s on sale. Finally, every store has the “lowest prices,” which no one really believes, including many of those making the claim.

Somewhere in Japan, I imagine, there is a man or woman or group of men and women who greet each rising sun and hope, with full hearts, that today someone will give them good news about their invention.

They invented that QR (quick-response) code, of course, to track auto parts or something.

Not so long ago in the food and beverage industry, mergers and acquisitions were hot. Go-go CEOs caught M&A fever and dashed to the altar – the promises of strategic and operational windfalls simply too alluring to resist. Due diligence of a target company often was merely the unglamorous rehearsal before the ceremony. Then came the crash of 2008 and, in the M&A world, the fire went out.

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