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.

The restaurant industry served up record earnings of $632 billion by August of 2012, a 3.5 increase over the same time the previous year, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Unfortunately, this growth was not spread equally among all operators.

The NRA reported that the general state of the economy made it difficult for many restaurants to build and maintain sales volumes, while wholesale food price inflation reached its highest rate – 8 percent – in 30 years.

Brazil is one of the world’s great emerging economic powers. Experts from Brazil and the United States met recently in Sao Paulo to discuss the unique and important role the South American country plays in the global food system and the challenges that come with it. Hosted by the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI), the conference covered many topics that could impact the food industry in the United States.

The modern, Internet-friendly coffeehouse can trace its existence back to the 15th century in the Ottoman Empire. Since their inception six centuries ago, they have evolved and adapted to their host countries’ cultures. But the essence of the coffeehouse as a place to gather with friends, exchange ideas, talk and relax over a good cup of coffee has remained unperturbed, transcending both time and geography.

Celebrating its fifth year, the annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine once again welcomed culinary icons, TV chefs and entertainment personalities to the Big Apple. The sister festival of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, the New York City Festival is the brainchild of Lee Brian Schrager, vice president of corporate communications and national events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America.

The man responsible for T.G.I. Friday’s global growth is Jean Baudrand, vice president of international business development. FAD contributor and food industry consultant Tesla Martinez recently spoke to Baudrand about how his company approaches global markets.

Baudrand’s main bit of advice: “You must do a lot of homework before you can expand your brand internationally!” Here are some of his ideas about how to tackle that homework.


You might not feel it on a Saturday morning when your restaurant is full of unshaven dads with unruly kids and unshowered teens shambling in just before the cutoff to order a pile of health-defying breakfast food. But your customers are smart – incredibly smart, in fact.

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