I recently got in the mail one of two documentaries produced on the topic of the Market Basket walkout and customer boycott of a few years ago, this one called Food Fight: Inside the Battle for Market Basket. It was well-crafted, not just a “rah rah” film, and fascinating throughout. At the time, I boycotted from the first day I learned of the situation, even delaying the comfort of Comfort Diner meatloaf for several weeks as the drama played out, and so, as I watched the film, I felt a bit of pride in my 1/2,000,000th role.
On a related note, this week I wanted to restock on Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips after making cookies two weeks ago. I looked – and only looked – at Stop & Shop Tuesday when I happened to be in the baking aisle and drew a sharp breath when I saw US$6.99 for the 10 ounce bag. I wondered if perhaps Ghirardelli had done an across-the-board price hike. Nope. Today at Market Basket: $3.39 for the same bag. I bought four.
I sure am glad Market Basket survived in its proper form.
Regarding this post’s title:
I should mention that this $12.99/lb is not a sale price, it’s their usual price. In the US, the real stuff is most commonly in the $18-20 range, about 50% more than Market Basket’s price, and even more at places like Whole Paycheck Foods, where they squeeze you ’round the middle until $22 of soft cash oozes out. At today’s exchange rates, $12.99/lb is £10.36 per pound (£22.83/kilo) or €10.12 per pound (€22.31/kilo).
This video is not “Food Fight” itself but a panel discussion that includes some excerpts from the documentary:
I’m glad parislights asked for that Comfort Diner meatloaf recipe, because as it turns out, I was craving it. However, I stood firm in my solidarity with the Market Basket folks — notwithstanding all the slobbery anticipatory salivation, for which I apologised — and waited until I could once again get the ingredients at a sane price.
Inside the Heaven on Earth Meatloaf Co., Ltd. factory (click any image to view as a gallery):
The Enhanced Comfort Diner Meatloaf’s sautéed elixir of red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, onion, celery, garlic, oregano, basil, and thyme
The meatloaves shortly after going in the oven, holding their shape nicely after chilling overnight
Brown sugar & butter glazed carrots, better than Grannie’s creamed corn, and mashed potatoes
Out of the oven…
Alton Brown’s spiffy creamed corn recipe is over here. Don’t skimp on the freshly-ground pepper in the creamed corn — there’s a sweet spot of exactly enough that will delight you when you hit it.
That’s about £39.83. On the kitchen island below is what I got for that today. It includes about a dozen pounds — weight, that is — of veg, six pounds of beef and pork, a pound of deli meats, and a one-pound wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano — the real stuff, from Italy and everything, which I ran out of last week. That total would easily be above $90 at other supermarket chains in the area, with one or two likely exceeding a hundred dollars.
Guess what I’m making a double recipe of tomorrow. The clue is in the peppers. (The answer: Comfort Diner Meatloaf.)
The five dozen eggs, the dozen ears of corn, and the four pounds of tomatoes in the background are from two farms in Harvard, Massachusetts. They were $19/£11.45 — no charge for the two dozen smaller pullet eggs that are perfect for use in recipes when you know that a large egg is exactly 2 ounces with the shell. They’re too small for Ann the Egg Lady to sell, so she sometimes throws in a couple dozen when I visit to buy the larger eggs.
I went down every aisle in this Market Basket, #37 (of 71), and nearly everything was already fully stocked — 97% complete, I’d say — and this just sixty hours after the crisis resolution. I stopped to have a gander at the next Market Basket down the road and they were more like 92% stocked, with a noticeable amount of empty shelf space. That second MB is not even a year old, so I’m guessing they’re prioritising the stores that have been around the longest first. In any case, I think my analyst- and media-shaming estimate of under a week will be easily met at all the stores.
The pork case in store #37
Fruit and veg also fully stocked
My full disclosure statement is that two items I wanted were at neither of the two stores: ground veal and fresh basil. I don’t strictly need the veal for the meatloaf and I recently took delivery of a large bag of vibrantly green dried basil from The Spice House in Chicago, so no big deal.
I also drove past the Market Basket still under construction that’s just ten minutes from my house, happy that now it won’t end up a sad derelict and a painful reminder of what could have been. This wasn’t taken whilst moving, by the way; I was at a red traffic light.
Despite what the article posits, I think it will be less than a week before everything is as it was. As to this:
It also may be difficult to get back customers who have left because of distaste for family drama or because they have come to appreciate other stores.
David Livingston, a supermarket industry analyst at DJL Research in Milwaukee, predicted 80 to 90 percent of customers will return. But he cautioned shoppers to prepare for a slightly different atmosphere, with the possibility of lingering tensions and uncertainty about whether a company suddenly saddled with massive debt obligations can keep prices so low.
“I just don’t think Market Basket will ever be quite the same,” Livingston said. “It’s like going through a divorce and getting a second family.”
Mr. Livingston, I presume you’re guessing, as analysts are wont to do, but I think that’s a load of horse potatoes in this case.
This fellow in another Boston Globearticle has a better understanding of the situation:
“This is historic. It was an unprecedented situation, and it defies everything we thought we knew about how businesses are run and who has the power. Many scholars, myself included, are eating crow right now.”
— Daniel Korschun, a fellow at the Center for Corporate Reputation Management at Drexel University
I’m going food shopping after work and I’m sure the place will be more packed with people than I’ve ever seen. I think Market Basket will see unprecedented and perhaps astounding revenue in the months to come.
UPDATE: Arthur T. Demoulas speaking the morning of 28 August:
“There never was a good war or a bad peace.” Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Josiah Quincy, 11 September 1783
Pastry case inhabited by domesticated Giraffa camelopardalis
The company is communicating solely via press releases written in that special Corporate Regional English that says little but does impress some business school graduates*, plus memos, some to managers and some to all employees via their mailboxes – their physical mailboxes, I mean – that vacillate between threatening and quasi-conciliatory. They’re not actually speaking with anybody, whilst employees and customers have so far held five rallies with thousands of people in attendance. The delineation between winners and losers here seems clear.
*I imagine some of them as Father Jack: “Leverage! Calibrate! Drink!”
On Friday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick wrote to the Market Basket board of directors with an offer to help mediate, saying “By any measure, the disruption caused by your recent change in CEO has gotten out of hand, and I am writing to urge you to find a prompt resolution.”
Meanwhile, my freezer slowly empties and I haven’t done a proper grocery run in nearly a month. The latest figures I saw say their revenue is down 92-95% depending on the store.