Suggestion Book

Norman Weiss, Weavers Way Purchasing Manager

Greetings and thanks for writing. As usual, suggestions and responses may have been edited for brevity, clarity and/or comedy. In addition, no idea, concept, issue, remark, phrase, description of event, word or word string should be taken seriously. This also applies to the previous sentence.

Big food news in July included Congress passing the Roberts-Stabenow “bill to amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes.” In other words, a GMO labeling law. 

One thing I like about our government is when bills are written, they often include definitions of terms about to be used. In this case, we have: “bioengineering, and any similar term, as determined by the Secretary, with respect to a food, refers to a food— ‘‘(A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and ‘‘(B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.” ‘‘(2) FOOD—The term ‘food’ means a food (as defined in section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321)) that is intended for human consumption.” So now we also see that our government just defined GMO food as not “natural,” since it’s produced using a process that cannot be found in nature. Good to have more clarity on what food is.

The bill, passed with bipartisan support, requires disclosure of genetically modified ingredients. However, companies would have a range of options for making that disclosure: They could place text on food packaging, provide a QR (Quick Response) code or direct consumers to a phone number or a website with more information. Critics complain that not everyone has access to QR-code-deciphering cellphones, and it would be better to disclose the presence of GMO ingredients in plain language on the label. The bill also preempts all state legislated labeling requirements around GMO food. Another interesting thing about this bill is that it was supported by a few major organic-food companies and organizations, including UNFI (our main natural foods supplier) and the Organic Trade Association (an organic industry trade group). They view the bill as flawed, since it has gaps — like meat from animals fed GMO feed would not have to be labeled — and the lack of a plain-language requirement, but believe a federal labeling standard is still better than individual state standards, which might be hard for large manufacturers with national distribution to comply with.

Last month I wrote about the role of pricing in a food co-op and a healthy food system. One of the things our food co-op trade group recommends is managing the Co-op’s price image by taking lower markups on items that people are more “price-aware” about, typically things that many people buy on regular basis. (These are known in retail as “high household penetration” and “high purchase frequency” items). Examples are eggs, milk and ground beef. Stores make up for these low-margin items by also selling higher markup items for which shoppers are not as price-aware or don’t care as much about the price — D’Artagnan duck breast, Zsa’s ice cream, Yellow Springs chevre. 

I question what the term “price image” is doing in a consumer co-op’s lexicon to begin with. Why would a co-op want to manipulate its members’ perception of reality instead of simply reflecting the actual reality, i.e., telling the truth about what a product costs to produce and get through checkout? This would be reality-based pricing, with no image-management needed. Maybe it’s because telling the truth wouldn’t succeed in a competitive marketplace, a sad state of affairs that I once thought co-ops existed to help correct.

suggestions and responses:

s: “Could we carry the Cherry Amaretto Coconut Bliss again? Some of us can’t have stimulants (coffee, chocolate) and that leaves only vanilla and coconut for us.”

r: (Kathryn MA) Thanks for sharing your preferences and dietary restrictions. It’s hard for us to know about our members’ varied needs. We won’t bring the Cherry Amaretto back, but I’ll keep this in mind while considering other flavors.

s: “Please start stocking Ben & Jerry’s vegan ‘ice cream’ (made with almond milk) or I will surely die!”

r: (Kathryn MA) Oh no! Acme may be your lifesaver. We won’t be carrying it, but thanks for your suggestion!

s: “Plain Coconut Bliss — we have carried it in the past, was I the only one buying?”

r: (Kathryn MA) Yes, you may have been the only one. It was the slowest-seller among the flavors. Sorry to disappoint!

s: “I want to get the gourmet vegan cheese at Chestnut Hill that is Pepper Jack or another Jack! Thanks. P.S. Also Raw Revolution Bars, I have not seen them lately and I’m passionate for them!”

r: (Shawn MA) Not clear if you want shredded cheese or a particular brand. Daiya makes a vegan pepper jack in shreds. Please talk to me the next time you come in. And I’ll pass the Raw Revolution request on to Kathryn.

s: “You changed Claudio ricotta to pre-prepared containers by Claudio! Unfortunately, I loved your prior smaller servings as I usually was able to consume the ricotta before it turned. Now I find I waste half with the new packaging. Wondering if there could be a self-serve — that would diminish packaging by staff and allow members to get just what they need.”

r: (Shawn MA) If you would like a smaller amount, we can always open a container and pack as much you like. Just ask the Deli staff, we’ll be happy to do it for you. Self-serve may be pretty messy option!

s: “I can’t understand your decision to drop the frozen samosas you were carrying — about $3.49 for four really tasty samosas — in favor of Bhagya’s — $4.25 for two samosas, taste unknown because I don’t wish to pay the high price. The old brand was such a great deal. The new brand just feels like another way in which I’m shopping at a place I can’t really afford.”

r: (Kathryn MA) I’m always sorry to disappoint a member! Part of my job is “category management.” That includes using sales data to bring in better-selling items and discontinue slow-selling items. The frozen samosas were one of the slowest-selling items in the freezer case. We didn’t discontinue the frozen samosas because of the Bhagya’s; we would sell both if both sold well. I hope this clears up our decision-making process, at least. Please contact me if you have questions: or 215-843-2350, ext. 140.

s: “I hope we get back the ginger-flavored Green & Black’s chocolate bars! They’re the best!”

r: (Kathryn MA) We still have them! They may have been temporarily out of stock. Sorry they weren’t available when you came in.

s: I just heard about Melania Trump’s speech copying parts of Michelle Obama’s speech from 2008. Seems like many people think it was wrong and a mistake, but I’m wondering if Weavers Way has an official stance.”

r: (Norman) Traditionally, Weavers Way has stayed out of national politics, but as it turns out, our Mission Statement applies here: “ We work to sustain a healthy planet, promote environmentally sound products and practices, encourage and support local and organic farming, and try to act with environmental consciousness in all our endeavors.” Since acting with environmental consciousness would include behaviors like re-use and recycling, and since Melania re-used Michelle’s words (thus eliminating the waste generated from composing new speeches), we find nothing wrong with Melania recycling Michelle’s words. In fact, we suggest before writing anything, people should see if what they want to write or say has already been said or written, and then just use ditto marks (or say “ditto”), which also saves paper and ink and calories spent powering vocal chords.