Ben R

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On December 1, 2017, Ben R commented on Wal-Mart’s Sourcing in the Age of ‘Unfair Trade Deals’ :

Great article on the irony of Walmart’s consumer base versus its supply chain. I don’t believe that Walmart is able to sustainably source a reasonable amount of its inventory and sell it at prices that its current customers will be willing to pay. As we’ve seen in Target’s case, consumers are willing to pay what they perceive as higher prices for higher quality products during booms, but they tend to become primarily price-driven when there is a market crash. This has helped Walmart sustain business through the depression over the last 10 years, but for a majority of their products, it will be unable to source it solely from the US.

Walmart’s first priority will need to be the maintenance of its suppliers and the reduction of tariffs. As the largest retailer in the US, it should be able to use its power to show that sourcing priorities need to be the executives top choice.

On December 1, 2017, Ben R commented on Nespresso: Protecting the World’s Best Coffee :

Sounds like a tough bean to grind… However, to your questions on passing on price increases to consumers, sufficiency of current plans, owning farms, and technological innovations with climate change pressures in the background there is real trouble brewing for Nespresso.

On pricing, it may be difficult to pass on price increases to consumers as there are a multitude of organic or sustainably produced competitor pods already on the market [1]. Nespresso has gone towards a locked-down system with their Vertuo maker, which may be able to act as a testing ground to see if consumers would be able to handle price increases on this system, at least in the near-term.

In terms of technological innovation via genetic engineering, Nespresso may be able to start including genetically-engineered coffee beans in a small portion of their products. Some considerations though are new regulations on labeling around genetic engineering, especially in Europe.


On November 30, 2017, Ben R commented on Saving Winter Wonderland? :

A “wonderful” read on the benefits that artificial snow-making has been able to bring to the unpredictability of weather conditions at skiing locations. I think there are several levels of usage that would be justifiable from a sustainability standpoint such as maintenance of currently existing snowfall to avoid running out of snow during the middle of the season. However, using these machines to create or extend a season on a mountain seems unnecessary. Both of the second instances will likely strain the system and their own reserves the most when the temperatures are not conducive to the water and energy usage being the most efficient.

Additionally, jumping on the 80% returned to the environment seems an odd statistic. Is there a way to either increase this percentage through landscape design or even reclaim the runoff to reuse within the snow creation system? In the standard sustainability motto of reduce, reuse, recycle, letting the water runoff seep away through the ground seems like a potential way to reuse their raw materials.

An interesting read on how Walmart is trying to use its currently existing physical assets in novel ways to compete against the digitization of the retail experience.

I’m skeptical that retail associates will want to sign up to spend more of their time working unless their is a sufficiently large enough compensation incentive provided to them. Additionally, how able will these employees be at delivering packages? Will they need additional training to be able to provide a consistent experience or will the Walmart buyer not care if their package gets delivered next door or down the street by accident, so long as it’s the cheapest option?

Luckily Walmart has an advantage that Amazon doesn’t have in scale yet, distribution centers that also conveniently double as revenue earners for the company. If Walmart is to effectively compete against Amazon or other online competitors, it must shift its thinking to bringing value via technology such as better shelving techniques and delivery systems that use the already organized goods within its stores to provide delivery options.

A great way to think about the supply chains that we all take for granted in our consumer products these days.

I would be interested to see how close Innocent’s production capabilities between Ocean Spray, Minute Maid, Simply Orange, and Odwalla are given Coca Cola also owns those brands. Innocent even appears to be using similar product packaging to Simply Orange for their line of fruit juices. Additionally, given Coca Cola’s scale and expertise at beverage production, I believe a natural hedge such as a European factory would be a better natural hedge against the consumer-side risk of tariffs and import restrictions. Worst case scenario, the pop-up factories could potentially be converted to other juice production facilities in Europe to give Coca Cola the ability to ramp up more “traditional” juices into the European market.

A traditional commodity hedge does not seem to be too far out of Coca Cola’s wheelhouse, but due to fair market valuation of these hedges, Coca Cola has had an uneven past predicting the outcome. It’s own 10-K filing from April 2017 shows that in the past 3 years it lost $8M and $206M in 2014 and 2015 while it gained $79M in 2016 specifically from commodities hedging activities[1]. Hedging can be easy to set up, but it must be a zero-sum game by definition.


On November 29, 2017, Ben R commented on Smartmatic: the role of blockchain in enabling elections :

Interesting to see blockchain logic being used in forms outside of the financial sector and becoming a way to decentralize various validation steps of the VSC. Another consideration to take into account building on Matt’s point of fragmented voter systems is trying to merge the various chains and a potential patchwork of state implementations at a national level.

Another potential cause for concern is the ability to make voting “too transparent” if a singular blockchain was used to verify identity and report vote tally similar to the current Bitcoin implementation versus a Monero implementation of the system which would keep all personally identifiable information secret from those servicing or receiving outputs from the system.