Grocery Disrupt: Amazon’s Latest Venture Good Become a Store Near You; Tyson’s New Add-Venture; Trump’s Taxing Tariff Tweets

Move over, humans…

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Just when you to start to wonder what else Amazon could possibly do to disrupt and reinvent the retail shopping experience, along comes Amazon Go, an actual brick-and-mortar-store brought to you by the e-commerce giant. Talk about irony. The concept, which is still being tested by Amazon employees, allows shoppers to literally grab food and walk out. No lines. No cashiers. Customers just take their cellphones and tap them on a turnstile to get logged into the store’s network, which in turn connects to the Amazon Prime app, already conveniently installed on their phones. Customers pick items off the shelf and put them into their cart while, with the aid of sensors and artificial intelligence, the same items are also placed in virtual shopping cart. If a shopper decides that they don’t want an item, they simply place it back on the shelf and the item also disappears from the virtual cart. Like magic. Should you crave something a bit more immediate, the store also offers up fresh food, prepared on site. Once customers are done, they simply walk out while the app does all the work, which basically involves adding everything up and then charging respective Amazon accounts. The company has been on the hunt to gain a big presence in the food retail industry, an industry which still fiscally eludes it, and also happens to be one of the biggest retail industries. Ever.  Its fresh food delivery is nice and all, but Amazon’s set its sights on competing with the big grocery players like Wal-Mart, Krogers and Target. The food retailer index took a 1% dive on Amazon’s news while shares of Amazon went up. But established grocers can breathe a very brief sigh of relief easy as Amazon still has a few months before it opens up the store to the public. And humans, fear not. One tech investor said that people are still a very big, necessary component of the retail experience and to scrap the notion that jobs will be lost to machines. Phew.

Speaking of food…

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What to do when you’re a $20 billion company whose prime business is chicken, beef and pork, and you keep losing money to the alternative-meat and fresh-food industry? Why, you set up a venture capital firm, of course. And that’s just what Tyson Foods did in an attempt to compete with a burgeoning industry that is literally eating into its business model. Apparently, plant-based protein and food sustainability is where it’s at these days and if you can’t beat ’em then join ’em by investing in their start-ups. Hence we have Tyson New Ventures LLC, a $150 million venture capital firm that Tyson launched to tap into a market that favors more plant-based and fresh food. The venture capital firm will look to companies that are working on making food-related “breakthroughs” and new innovative technology and business models that relate to food. Tyson already announced its first investment a few months ago, when it bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meats, a company that makes meat-like products. Tyson has got nothing to lose either, considering its last earnings report was nothing short of dismal, and the news that its long-time CEO Donnie Smith was stepping down did nothing to instill confidence in investors. Tyson isn’t the only firm to try out this venture capital idea. Other companies like Campbells Soup, Coca Cola, General Mills and Kellogg’s have all established similar firms with pretty much the same objective: to continue to be a prominent player in a shifting market and industry landscape.  So far this year venture firms have already thrown $420 million into various food and agricultural companies. In 2015 that number approached $650 million.

A day without Trump?

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Over the weekend, President-elect Donald Trump mentioned, in a series of tweets of course, that he wants to get back at U.S. companies who dare shift jobs and production overseas. His preferred revenge tactic would be in the form of a 35% tariff and, strangely enough, his fellow Republicans don’t seem to be on board. The top House Republican, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, does not support Trump’s tariff idea and thinks that the best, most effective way to create and keep jobs in the U.S. is via major tax reform. There seem to be a whole bunch of issues at play with Trump’s (overly) ambitious tax-revenge plans, including the fact that such a move goes against the whole spirit of free trade and has the potential to spark trade wars. And nobody likes wars, whether they involve armed conflict or goods and services. Tax specialists and other assorted experts have also said that it’s fairly debatable as to whether or not Trump’s tactics are even legal.  Republicans are, however, partial to over-hauling the corporate tax code in an effort to keep U.S. companies from fleeing to more tax-hospitable countries. They’d like to cut that pesky corporate tax rate to 20% or less which would allow the U.S. to be more competitive globally. House Republicans are also in favor of imposing corporate taxes to all imported goods and services and scrapping them for exports. But leave it to the critics to argue that changes like that might be seen as violations of the World Trade Organization.  In any case,  it remains to be seen how exactly Trump will get his way, if he does. That’s because tariffs aren’t typically applied to specific companies but rather entire classes of goods. Besides, the president doesn’t get to make those kinds of decisions anyway. That’s for Congress to decide and Congress doesn’t seem, shall we say, receptive, to Trump’s tariff talk.

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Electrolux Sucking Up GE Appliance; Soupy Sales; So Long, Boneless Chicken Sandwich Innovator

Suck it up…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

AB Electrolux, the parent company of US brands Electrolux and Frigidaire, did a little shopping today when it picked up GE Appliance for the bargain basement price of $3.3 billion. It is the biggest purchase Electrolux ever made. The two companies combined are expected to pull in $23 billion in total sales which is a ridiculous amount of ovens and dishwashers, if you ask me. It’s also expected to save the company a whopping $300 million. What it won’t likely save are a number of jobs that tend to get lost following a business decision such as this.

Not so tasty earnings…

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently is soup is not good food, after all. That is, if you ask Millenials whose never-ending quest for tasty adventures and lack of loyalty seem to have allegedly affected Campbell Soup Co.’s less than flattering earnings. Campbell’s, which also owns Pepperidge Farm and V8 (should have had one) came out with fourth quarter earnings and while sales did rise 7%, to $1.85 billion, analysts were expecting $1.87 billion. Is it really all the fault of those Millenials? Hmmm. However, accroding to Campbell’s president and CEO Denise Morrison, the food industry is experiencing profound “change and challenge.” To me that sounds like code for it’s all the Millenials’ fault. But you could also ask more traditional comapnies like Pepsi and McDonald’s who have been losing ground to brands like Chipotle and whatever trendy drink those pesky Millenials favor this week. However, on the bright side, Campbell’s bright side, that is, shares are up almost 3% and its coming out with more than 200 new foods. So clearly there are still quite a few people left who think soup is indeed a good food.

RIP…

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We bid farewell to yet another revolutionary. This time it’s to Truett Cathy, 93, the founder of Chick-fil-A. Better known these days for its opposition to gay marriage than for its boneless chicken sandwich and classic southern cuisine food that catapulted it to fame. The first Chick-fil-A graced the world back in 1967, in Atlanta and has since grown to more than 1,800 locations. Born into poverty, Cathy built up the chain to more than 1,800 eateries in 39 states, landing himself on the Forbes’ list of billionaires. The chain, also famous for the fact that it is closed on Sundays, posted more than $5 billion in sales in 2013.

The Urge to Merge, Targeting a Parachute and Cottage Cheese Sighs

Watch it where?

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Watching television on an actual…television? Ugh. That is like so last year. Well maybe not just yet but AT&T (T) and DirecTV (DTV) are banking on it. They are on a mission to deliver content to all of your devices and not jut that relic of a 96″ HD monitor you’ve been paying off  for the better part of the year. So much so that AT&T just picked up the satellite programming provider from the telecommunications giant for a staggering $48.5 billion. That’s $3.5 billion more than what Comcast (CMCSA) is shelling out for Time Warner Cable (TWC). The merger between AT&T and DirectTV puts their customer base at 26 million while Comcast/Time Warner Cable have slightly more at 30 million subscribers. However, all these companies do face regulatory issues from the FCC and the Department of Justice. But mergers like these are allegedly good for the consumer. Cheaper bundles are headed our way. Though to be fair I’m skeptical after spending my morning live chatting with one of the telecom giants just to switch my cable carrier.

They’re paying you what?!

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Target shareholders felt its recently ousted CEO, Gregg Steinhafel was getting a bit too much of payday. Especially considering he was at the helm of the company as its holiday shopping season hacking fiasco unfolded before his eyes. Steinhafel’s 2013 paycheck was slashed by 37%. Instead of making the $20.6 million he earned in 2012, he now only received $12.9 million. I know you feel for him. Steinhafel has to pay back $5.4 million in retirement benefits also. I know. I know. Your heart goes out to the guy. But not to worry. He can just wipe away his tears with all those $100 bills he’s going to have courtesy of his $54 million golden parachute.

Not so comforting food…

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While Campbell’s Soup (CPB) is good food, its earnings were definitely not. Despite marching out some new products this year, it just wasn’t enough to beat Wall Street’s expectations. The company behind Prego and the snack that smiles back, Goldfish, was not smiling back it its third quarter which saw its revenue pretty much flatline. Analysts pegged their earnings at $2 billion instead of the disappointing $1.97 billion it posted. It was hardly a dent into the $1.96 billion it pulled in last year at this time. On the dairy front, Kraft Foods (KRFT) must have been feeling a bit lactose intolerant today thanks to a cottage cheese recall. 1.2 million cases of the stuff was taken off the shelves. Some of their ingredients were not stored well and this may or may not result in stuff that would gross you out. But not as much as it’s going to gross out Kraft’s revenue.