Best Global Green Brands 2014

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Think McDonald's Has Problems in the US? Try Owning a Golden Arches in Japan

Posted by Dale Buss on December 20, 2013 01:46 PM

McDonald's woes in the United States are well-documented, but the brand actually has it worse in Japan. The McDonald's 50 percent-owned affiliate in that country plans to close dozens of outlets and slashed its full-year profit forecast by more than half.

Sales fell for five straight months through November in the world's third-largest economy, Bloomberg noted. The company blamed lower "customer numbers," the news service said. Presumably a 25 percent increase in McDonald's burger prices in Japan, which the chain indicated last spring it would implement, had something to do with the poor results as well.

The company also blamed expenses for outlet closures and store renovations aimed at luring more customers, which will be booked this year.Continue reading...

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Darden Hopes Less Becomes More By Jettisoning Red Lobster Brand

Posted by Dale Buss on December 19, 2013 01:45 PM

The restaurant business remains tough, and so it didn't take long for Darden to say "uncle" to an activist investor who believed that the best path for the owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains was to spin them off into a separate company while clustering its faster-growing startup concepts in another.

Darden met Barington Capital Group halfway on Thursday by declaring that it will jettison Red Lobster and take other steps. It'll hold a tax-free spinoff of the seafood brand to shareholders or it might sell Red Lobster in a move aimed at boosting lagging shareholder value and profitability.

"As consumer demand dynamics have changed, Red Lobster's priorities and operating support requirements have come to differ meaningfully from those of Darden's other brands," the company said.Continue reading...

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Cheetos-Dusted Wings? Mtn Dew Cocktail? It's All Possible with PepsiCo, Buffalo Wild Wings Deal

Posted by Dale Buss on December 12, 2013 06:16 PM

It may not be long before Buffalo Wild Wings introduces Cheetos-flavored chicken wings to rival Taco Bell's' Doritos Locos Tacos in harnessing flavors direct from a Frito-Lay bagged-chip brand. Because under the new deal struck by the popular restaurant chain and Frito-Lay parent PepsiCo, just about anything combining restaurant food and beverages and PepsiCo IP may be—and could appear—on the table.

The immediate impact of the deal is that PepsiCo beverages, including Pepsi and Mountain Dew, are to replace Coca-Cola as the beverage supplier to one of the nation's hottest restaurant chains.

But recognizing the continued decline in the relative value of soda sales compared with other faster-growing segments of its portfolio, PepsiCo made it clear that the company believes many other dimensions of its new deal with Buffalo Wild Wings could become valuable as well.Continue reading...

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Applebee's Seconds Chili's by Bringing Tablets to Your Table

Posted by Dale Buss on December 4, 2013 06:27 PM

Applebee's is following Chili's example and introducing tablet computers to each table in its 1,860 US restaurants. Patrons will still order from and be served their main courses by waiters and waitresses, but the tablets are expected to improve things at the margins of the restaurant experience—where profits are most won and lost.

The 7-inch screens will allow customers to order appetizers and desserts, pay their bills, and even play video games. The tablet gambit is aimed largely at Millennials who are expecting restaurants to offer improved technologies, USA Today said.

The goal isn't to replace human staffers but to free them to focus more fully on serving the table, NRN.com said. Applebee's doesn't currently plan any staff reductions because of the tablet installation.Continue reading...

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Burger Mania Pulls in Olive Garden, Boosts Wendy's; Is Pizza Next?

Posted by Dale Buss on December 4, 2013 11:07 AM

The gourmet burger is king in fast-casual restaurants these days, but gourmet pizza may be threatening the throne.

Olive Garden is the latest chain to bow to the rise of gourmet burgers. In a move that doesn't at first glance seem to fit with its Italian menu, the Darden-owned brand has introduced its Italiano Burger nationwide as part of a broader menu overhaul. The burger is topped with crisp prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, arugula, tomatoes marinated in fresh basil, and garlic and Italian spices, according to NRN.com. And it's served with a garlic aioli spread and comes with parmesan-garlic fries.

But it's still a burger. And that's the point: To combat slower sales, Olive Garden is trying lots of new stuff. "The objective is to regain same-restaurant traffic momentum," CEO Clarence Otis said in September when discussing earnings, according to NRN.com.Continue reading...

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Swon Brothers Stoke Twix Bar Rivalry

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 28, 2013 01:13 PM

The Swon Brothers came to national attention after harmonizing together on The Voice earlier this year, but now the country-music-crooning pair from Tennessee are singing separately in support of some sweets. 

Mars Chocolate has brought the twosome on board to help America figure out if it likes the left Twix bar or right Twix bar better. The campaign has been running since this summer and now each Swon has a new jingle supporting his respective Twix.Continue reading...

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Annie's Homegrown Hops Along on Growth Trail, But Greater Competition Looms

Posted by Dale Buss on November 12, 2013 04:37 PM

Annie's Homegrown caught lightning in a box with its line of organic macaroni-and-cheese products several years ago just as American moms were warming up to better-for-you foods for their kids. And while Annie's remains in an expansionary mode, there are new questions about whether it can continue its explosive growth.

For its part, Annie's is bullish, having just announced it expects to expand snack production and distribution as a result of buying a plant in Missouri that already has been the out-contracted source of most of its cookies and crackers for more than a decade. Annie's wants to add product lines and distribution under its Cheddar Bunnies and Bunny Graham snack offerings.

The purchase "is an attractive business opportunity that will help us go after the significant untapped growth and profit potential in our snack business," CEO John Foraker said during a recent conference call with analysts.Continue reading...

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FDA Seeks to Vanquish Trans-Fats by Giving Them 'Non-GRAS' Status

Posted by Dale Buss on November 8, 2013 07:47 PM

Brands have been fleeing artery-clogging trans fats since a FDA labeling requirement for the stuff in 2006, but now the federal agency likely will finish off hold-out trans-fat products with a preliminary ruling this week that the primary source of the fats are no longer "GRAS."

GRAS means "generally recognized as safe," and it is the sine qua non for any ingredient that is going into a regulated food and beverage sold in the United States. The new FDA ruling made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils—the primary diet source of artificial trans fat in processed foods—no longer are GRAS for use in food. As Advertising Age noted, the next step is to find out from food makers how long it would take them to reformulate foods that contain extra trans fats if the ruling is finalized.

Trans fats have some inimitable qualities that help in food taste and texture, manufacturers say, including helping crisp french fries. Holdout brands have ranged from Pillsbury Grand! cinnamon rolls to Marie Callender pies from ConAgra to Diamond Foods' Pop Secret pocorn. So even though General Mills said that more than 90 percent of its US retail products already are retailed as zero grams trans fat, it called the ruling a "major development."Continue reading...

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