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Devices jolt battery sales

BY Doug Desjardins

Sales of rechargeable batteries posted double-digit gains last year, and to keep pace with that surge, suppliers are creating more powerful and sophisticated chargers and batteries that are due out soon or in stores already.

Delkin recently unveiled its Dual Universal Battery Charger, a two-sided unit with separate charging plates for different-sized batteries. The unit is designed for such high-drain devices as digital cameras and for people who use more than one camera. “Different camera models seldom use the same battery, and that forces photographers to carry an array of chargers,” said Delkin battery product manager Anna Lopez.

Tekkon debuted its myPower Go charger that comes with 10 adapters and can charge a wide array of cell phones from Samsung to Sanyo. It joins the Energizer Energi to Go Portable Power for iPod that debuted last November, which is powered by two lithium AA batteries and provides 46 hours of music playback on an iPod Nano.

For families with multiple portable devices, supplier Lenmar unveiled a prototype called the Power Puck at the Photo Marketing Association show. The black, puck-shaped unit can charge up to six devices at a time and is due to arrive in stores in late 2008.

Lenmar’s Mach 1 Lightning charger can charge two AA batteries in as little as eight minutes and up to four AA or AAA batteries in 15 minutes.

While standard battery sales have been relatively flat, sales of rechargeable batteries have been rising fast. The NPD Group estimated rechargeable-battery sales increased 14 percent in 2007 to 15.5 million units and generated $170.7 million in revenue.

And that demand is producing new batteries that last longer and are less expensive. The price erosion was apparent last year when total rechargeable battery revenues increased just 5 percent despite a 14 percent jump in unit sales.

JOBO Enterprises has developed a battery line designed for such high-drain devices as digital cameras and camcorders. Its Energy Premium line comes with color-coded packaging that makes it easy for consumers to find the right replacement battery for their camera or camcorder. The batteries can be charged up to 500 times and include microchips to prevent them from overheating.

Energizer, which reported a 22 percent increase in sales of rechargeable batteries last quarter, is targeting the same market with its line of AA NiMH batteries that last four times longer than typical AA batteries, and they can be charged hundreds of times and hold their charge for up to six months.

And Sony is preparing to release its line of “low self-discharge” batteries that hold a charge longer than existing batteries. Its Cycle Energy Blue Rechargeable Batteries are pre-charged and can be recharged up to 1,000 times.

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Sturken to celebrate his fifth year at Spartan by ringing NASDAQ bell

BY Michael Johnsen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Spartan Stores’ chairman and chief executive officer Craig Sturken is slated to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on March 3 in celebration of his fifth anniversary leading Spartan, the company announced Thursday.

 “It is an honor to ring the opening NASDAQ bell in celebration of our fifth successful year since transforming into a consumer-centric organization and refocusing our business on our core distribution and retail operations,” Sturken stated. “We have been in the grocery business for more than 90 years and this is our eighth year as a public company, which is marked by our ability to develop and execute successful business strategies in a highly competitive market.”

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Unilever to reorganize company structure

BY Antoinette Alexander

LONDON Unilever, whose brands include Axe, Sunsilk and Dove, has announced that it is restructuring the company and combining its home and personal care segment and food segment into a single category structure.

Ralph Kugler, president of home and personal care, will step down in May at the Annual General Meetings after 29 years of service. The roles of president of home and personal care and president of foods will be merged under the leadership of Vindi Banga, currently president of foods.

To reflect the company’s focus on growth in developing markets, Central and Eastern Europe will be managed within an enlarged region comprised of Asia, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. Western Europe will become a standalone region.

In other moves, Kees van der Graaf will retire in May from the Unilever board and from his role as president of Europe after a 32-year career with Unilever.

Harish Manwani, currently president of Asia/Africa, will lead the new expanded region. Doug Baillie will serve as president of Western Europe, having previously served as chief executive officer of Hindustan Unilever.

“These measures build naturally on the changes of recent years and give us an organizational structure even better placed to advance our growth agenda. At the same time, I want to express my deep appreciation to Kees and Ralph for the significant contribution they have made over long and distinguished years,” stated Patrick Cescau, group chief executive.

In addition, James Lawrence, currently chief financial officer, will be proposed in May for election as an executive director of Unilever. This change will mean that the Unilever board will be comprised of two executive directors and 11 non-executives.

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