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Survey: Growing concern over food and gas prices

BY DSN STAFF

Chicago — In its most recent consumer sentiment and behavior survey, Technomic, the Chicago-based food industry research firm, found that 84% of consumers believe that grocery prices have risen in the past three months and 62% believe restaurant prices have risen.

Bob Goldin, executive VP of Technomic, believes that the rapid rise in gas prices, now at record highs, has raised consumer sensitivity to price increases in grocery stores and restaurants.

"Consumers are deeply concerned about the price of gas, which they expect to continue to rise,” he said. “As a result, they are very likely to reduce their spending on groceries and restaurant meals and increase their reliance on coupons and deals."

Goldin also notes that consumers have become more aware of total value, of which package/portion size is a key component, and urges food and restaurant companies to be sensitive to the risks of downsizing.

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New California bill seeks to regulate alcohol sales at self-service checkouts

BY Allison Cerra

SAN FRANCISCO — A new bill introduced by a California assemblywoman aims to curb the sale of alcohol to minors by prohibiting sales at self-service checkouts.

Assembly Bill 183, introduced last month by Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, was passed by the assembly committee. Assemblywoman Ma said that self-service checkouts are susceptible to technological failures, allowing minors to purchase alcohol.

“Underage drinking costs California taxpayers an estimated $8.1 billion annually,” Ma said. “AB 183 seeks to prevent alcohol from getting in the wrong hands and protects the public and our youth. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The introduction of this bill is said to affect retailers, particularly Tesco’s U.S. operation Fresh & Easy, which utilizes self-service checkouts and sells alcohol in its stores. According to MF Global analyst Mike Dennis, the chain could be hurt by the legislation.

"The bill (is) nicknamed ‘Tesco Fresh & Easy Law’ because Tesco’s Fresh & Easy has 126 stores [out of its 175 total store count] in California, and is the only grocery chain that offers only self-service checkout and not the full-service options that you would get in Stater Bros. or Safeway," Dennis was quoted as saying.

Last month, the retailer disclosed a $300 million loss during the 2010-2011 financial year ended Feb. 26. Despite this, however, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke said expansion plans for Fresh & Easy will be implemented.

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Rite Aid achieves EnergyStar certification from EPA

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Three Rite Aid stores in New England have received Energy Star certification from the Environmental Protection Agency, the retail pharmacy chain said Monday.

The stores — located in Enfield, Conn.; Merrimack, N.H.; and Cranston, R.I. — have increased their energy efficiency by 25% through overhauls that include upgrades to store lighting, air-conditioning systems and energy management systems. These include low-wattage lighting, sensors that activate fans only when needed and air-conditioning units that use a refrigerant that’s less harmful to the environment.

According to the EPA’s Energy Star performance scale, a score of 50 represents average performance, while a score of 75 — which the Rite Aid stores achieved — indicates top energy performance.

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