Monday, February 18, 2008
Thom Forbes, February 18, 2008, 12:15 PM
  • Battle Over Doc's Support Of Restaurant Industry The New York Times

    Dr. David B. Allison, the incoming president of a leading organization of obesity scientists, says that new rules requiring many New York City restaurants to post calorie information could backfire--whether by adding to the forbidden-fruit allure of high-calorie foods or by sending patrons away hungry enough that they will later gorge themselves.

    Most nutritionists support the theory of the city's health commissioner that forcing chain restaurants to list the calories alongside menu items will make patrons think twice about ordering calorie-laden food. The debate might be limited to nutrition experts, except for the fact that Allison was paid to submit an affidavit to a federal court on behalf of the New York State Restaurant Association, which is suing to block the new rules.

    Allison's filing has angered some members of the Obesity Society, setting off an e-mail fury. Some have pointed to his other industry ties, which have included advisory roles for Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Frito-Lay. Allison says he does not take a position for or against menu labeling, but merely presents evidence that the labeling might deter over-eating but might not--and, in fact, might be harmful. Read the whole story...

  • Coupon King Faces Charges Of Bilking Top Marketers The Wall Street Journal

    Chris Balsiger, who ran International Outsourcing Services for years, is facing a 27-count federal indictment that says he schemed to bilk some of the nation's largest coupon-issuers out of at least $250 million. Balsiger and others also face a civil lawsuit by Kraft Foods, PepsiCo and other coupon issuers charging racketeering and fraud.

    By 2001, Balsiger had built IOS into the dominant coupon clearinghouse, with market share of about 70%. It had 6,000 employees and was heading toward $200 million in annual sales, about half from coupon processing, and the other half from other outsourcing services, such as processing checks for banks. "It's a lying, cheating, dirty business," says Balsiger of the industry, but he calls the allegations "bizarre" and says he's innocent of all charges.

    Coupons are still a good marketing tool, industry experts say, attracting consumer attention even if they never actually are used. Despite low redemption rates--about 1%--manufacturers issued 279 billion coupons in 2006, the most in a decade. That means there are a huge number of unused coupons in circulation--representing discounts worth billions of dollars. Read the whole story...

  • Unilever's Clear Shampoo Goes Head-To-Head With P&G Business Week

    Unilever is challenging Proctor & Gamble in a category the latter practically owns--antidandruff shampoo--with a brand called Clear that was created in the developing world. A new, faster Unilever blasted it out to seven new markets in six months last year, racking up sales of $367 million. Analysts figure antidandruff formulas account for half of the annual $40 billion global shampoo market.

    In the Philippines--long considered P&G territory--Head & Shoulders was unchallenged in the antidandruff category until Clear launched in July 2007. Five months later, Unilever's shampoo had overtaken Head & Shoulders to grab 15.6% of the market. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Unilever now aims to bring Clear to markets in Europe and the U.S. That would make it Unilever's first global brand developed and launched in emerging markets. "

    The biggest innovation may be in marketing. Unilever has set up hair-care centers in malls from Beijing to Moscow where shoppers can pop in and get their scalp assessed using an "i-scope"--a small camera with a powerful microscope that's hooked up to a computer. Aiming to keep the brand's image stylish and aspirational, Unilever also has relied on good old-fashioned celebrity endorsements. Read the whole story...