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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is Peet's Really Selling Out? Is the Salad Bar Really a Scam?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 6:17 PM

Game the system so the system doesn't game you. - WHOLE FOODS
  • Whole Foods
  • Game the system so the system doesn't game you.
Game the system so the system doesn't game you. - WHOLE FOODS
  • Whole Foods
  • Game the system so the system doesn't game you.

Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

1. The big piece of gossip today, which originated on a blog called dealReporter, is that Peet's is in talks to sell itself to Starbucks. Since I've just received press releases marking Starbucks' 40th anniversary and Peet's 45th, the timing is interesting. Rumors of a contentious relationship between the two companies are based on the fact that, for many years, they had a no-compete agreement in the Bay Area. See, the original founders of Starbucks first modeled their coffee-roasting business on Alfred Peet's shop in Berkeley. One of those founders, Jerry Baldwin, left Starbucks as Howard Schultz was beginning his reign. He bought into Peet's after Peet had retired and sold his business. (If you're interested in learning more about the two companies' histories, check out Taylor Clark's great Starbucked.)

The distinctions between the two companies seems to have faded over the years, especially since their dark-roast style is very different from the coffees roasted by Ritual, Four Barrel, and Ecco. Will Peet's become Starbucks' premium retail brand, as DealReporter suggests? We'll see.

Game the system so the system doesn't game you. - WHOLE FOODS
  • Whole Foods
  • Game the system so the system doesn't game you.

2. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver has a hilarious article in the New York Times

about how to game the Whole Foods salad bar to make sure you're getting

the most out of your money. He compares the per-pound cost of each

ingredient against the flat $7.99/pound cost of the salad bar, and rightly notes that  Avoid romaine lettuce, vegetables, and

thick dressings, he says, and go for the baby greens, sun-dried

tomatoes, and dried fruits. Thing is, I partially disagree with the guy,

and not just because his ideal salad sounds disgusting. You have to also

calculate in labor; for example, beets may cost $1.84 a pound in the produce aisle, but they take

an hour to cook, plus labor time for peeling and slicing. And who wants a

salad smothered in croutons just because they're cheap? Dude clearly eats to live.

3. The food-media trend this year is pointing out that the Irish

don't eat corned beef and cabbage to commemorate St. Patrick's Day.

Since the holiday has been a celebration of Irish American pride since 1762, does that really matter? I like the way that Joy the Baker is marking St. Patrick's: making potato candy. Or just buy an Idaho spud.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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