Worried Sommelier

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On December 1, 2017, Worried Sommelier commented on Waste in Agricultural Supply Chains: Is Meal-Kit Delivery the Solution? :

My biggest question after reading this is on scale of impact. While I really appreciate when company’s can point to specific reductions in emissions/other improvements from their supply chain or products, I’m not really sure it moves the needle on a global scale. I think it will take international legislation and pollution targets to really drive change. Therefore, I think companies can be most effective causing meaningful change through example.

On this metric, I think Blue Apron has potential. If its business model serves as a spotlight to the level of waste in traditional food supermarkets and normal customer use, then I think that’s excellent. They could serve at a catalyst for real change in the way consumers eat and (not) waste food. However, if the main takeaway industry observers and customers take away is that delivery is the most convenient – then that might send a counterproductive message of using more wasteful packaging etc. I think this level of impact comes down to the company’s marketing and PR messaging as much actual waste reduction performance. Otherwise, the impact of the change will only be as large as the amount of customers that the company actually serves.

On December 1, 2017, Worried Sommelier commented on Never mind the calories, how much CO2 is in your meal? :

Firstly, very accurate observation that the fishing industry has not taken the heat from the public, like the red meat industry. One potential reason I could think of is that consumers are not as aware of retail fish brands as they are for retail meat brands (i.e. boar’s head, other cold cuts brands). Alternatively, if this is because pollution in waters are harder to attribute to individual countries, then a solution involving the UN could be a start. However, I imagine this would come into similar problems of commitment and enforcement as international carbon pledges have in the past. I think it is more likely that the change will come as a result of public pressure on individual companies, like you suggest.

If we assume that companies will be the primary driver of pollution improvement in the fishing industry, my follow up question would be: which steps of the supply chain is causing the most problems? Do these large market leaders work with upstream suppliers and what insight do companies have into the processes of these suppliers? Are large retail fish brands sourcing there fish domestically or internationally? My thinking is that the higher consumer’s awareness is of the fish brand and the closer the sourcing is to the end consumer market, the more likely the supply chain is to have better practices.

My last thought is on the tradeoff between catching fish “in the wild” and fish farming. I think to most consumers, catching fish in the ocean is more appealing, and fits in with the idea of organic food. However, with high environmental costs, you can see a scenario where fish farming is actually better for the environment – something that a lot of younger, more environmentally conscious shoppers are not aware of.

On December 1, 2017, Worried Sommelier commented on Dear Barnes & Noble: Stop Playing Catch-Up! :

I really like your idea of customers listening to excerpts of books as they walk around the store. It’s a rapid way to test out the product before purchase – and I think it could be implemented for all there books (using QR codes perhaps), not just audio books. Perhaps this could be built in to the kiosks you mention (every book in the store could be in that catalogue). I do imagine that this would require additional steps such as getting permission from publishing companies to play their content before purchase.

Barnes and Noble could also consider implementing a subscription model where customers pay a monthly fee and then receive a certain amount of books every month. B&N can collect information on individual customer preferences for books, which they can then use to suggest new books for upcoming months through an app/website login. This delivers multiple points towards an improved customer experience – cost savings if they are frequent/loyal customers, and serving as a trusted recommender of new content (which is a friction that reduces customer purchase). Also, this model could then be extended out where customers could decide that recommended books be delivered to their house instead of coming into the store. Even in this case B&N is serving as a more valuable intermediary than pure internet delivery because it would be based off in store/out of store purchases and supported by subscription model which keeps customers on their platform.

On a high level, I really like the distinction between implementing technology just because people expect you to/you are trying to keep up with industry versus thinking what is really core to your customer promise.

On December 1, 2017, Worried Sommelier commented on Cuba Libre: Airbnb’s Approach to Diplomacy in Cuba :

I agree that a isolationist policy like the one Trump enacted is a huge threat to Airbnb’s business in Cuba, as I imagine that U.S. travelers represented a large majority of Airbnb stays within Cuba. However, there are 2 things to consider that mitigate this in the short term and long term. In the short term, as you alluded to, they could build up supply side capabilities with hosts and other players and cater to European/Canadian/Asian tourists. In the longer term, its important to note that just as Trump reversed Obama’s policy and enacted restrictions, the next president could remove this ban. I think the trends (political support for ended US Cuba embargo) point to a removal of this ban – particularly with a more liberal president, which Airbnb can think about how like that is in next election. Further, there may be brand image benefits to showing commitment to staying in Cuba, showing that Airbnb operates close to their mission and creates real income growth for owners – particularly at a time when governments are making isolationist policies that many regard as shortsighted and damaging.

On November 30, 2017, Worried Sommelier commented on Efficiencies through digitialization of supply chain at Inditex :

Interesting article – I was aware that Inditex was a leader in fast fashion, but hadn’t considered how digitization in their stores and supply chain enabled this.

One immediate question that jumped out to me based on your wording: When the RFID system allows shirt’s ID number to let Zara know that a shirt has been sold – does the system automatically order the shirt, or do you mean that it records the sale instantaneously, amalgamates the data, and then a human can places orders for more stock? If your meaning was that the system automatically orders the shirt, this is fascinating to me. On the positive side, it would better ensure that this particular shirt is in stock in the future. But there are also questions with this – how often are these automatic computer orders responded to and shipped (i.e. is it daily shipments with higher cost, or bundled weekly)? what are the tradeoffs between ordering based off current customer demand versus planning for next season’s styles and demands? It seems to me there are industries where automated replenishment of stock through digitization would work well, and other industries where it would not.

On November 30, 2017, Worried Sommelier commented on That’s all Folks: Warner Bros in China :

The observations you note in this article is definitely a trend, which will only continue to intensify. To that point, if Warner Brothers does not invest in co-production in the Chinese market, someone else will. If they choose to remain involved, through joint venture’s and other mechanisms, they are able to control content and develop a relationship with the Chinese consumer. The potential to capture huge amounts of revenue growth over the next few decades by helping build domestic production studios (in a JV) is a huge opportunity for WB. On the broader concern that the studio is changing their content to placate both Chinese government and the public – I think this happens in every market new products go into. Sure, there are limitations on political and social topics you could discuss, but I imagine that would be a smaller percentage of content than is normally assumed. Further, if WB is truly invested and aligned in the success of potential Chinese JV partners, they could had domestic content subject to local tastes/censorship being the driving force of their revenues from China.