Magazine

A Wake-Up Call for Coffee


While Americans still gulp down coffee—consumption is up 9% from 2001 to 2006—supermarket brands like Kraft Foods' (KFT) Maxwell House and Procter & Gamble's (PG) Folgers face cooling demand. Coffee growth is coming from coffee on the go. Sales from restaurants—including Starbucks (SBUX), Dunkin' Donuts, and McDonald's (MCD), which carry premium brews—grew at a compound annual rate of 15.2% from 2001 to 2006, as supermarket sales rose only marginally. Activist investor Nelson Peltz is pressuring Kraft to divest slow-growing Maxwell House. But Kraft vows to stick with the $1 billion-a-year brand. Another worry: Only 37% of 18- to 24-year-olds drink coffee, reports the National Coffee Assn., vs. 60% of those 40 to 59 and 74% of folks over 60.

CEOs are feeling down, and that's not good. The September survey of 180 top CEOs by Chief Executive magazine showed business confidence to be at a four-year low in the corner office. Bosses are particularly pessimistic about employment, with 34% saying they expect a hiring dip in the next 90 days. That's troubling, since the survey's take on hiring typically foreshadows the jobs numbers put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics six months on. In another downbeat study, by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and CFO magazine, CFOs also predicted that employment will stall.

Just two years after opening its D.C. lobbying shop, Google (GOOG) is trying to change the way influence is peddled on the Potomac. On Oct. 3, its chief telecom lawyer churned up the already roiling debate on spectrum auction rules by using the blogosphere instead of back channels to go after potential rival Verizon (VZ). It's what Google calls "transparent" lobbying, and there's more to come. The company will use the auditorium in its not-yet-completed offices to debate its opponents on issues such as Net neutrality. Some D.C. denizens say such highly visible arm-twisting could be effective. But veteran lobbyist Scott Reed, whose clients include Oracle (orcl) and Monster.com (mnst), says in a town where an opponent one day can be an ally the next, Google would do well to use "a little more discretion." $by

By Eamon Javers

For the first time since its founding in 1866, Lynchburg (Tenn.)-based Jack Daniel's will sell more whiskey abroad next year than in the U.S., says parent Brown-Forman (BFB). Like other premium American whiskeys, "Old No. 7" is also doing well at home. But helped by a weaker dollar, relaxed trade barriers, and the spread of cocktail culture to cities like Beijing and Moscow, about 4.4 million cases out of a total of 8.9 million went overseas in the company's last fiscal year. That will grow to 4.8 million cases in 2008, says Jack Daniels global manager Mike Keyes. How do overseas drinkers take their Jack? In Moscow nightclub 16 Tonn (where the local distributor held a birthday party for Jack earlier this month), patrons typically ask for it on the rocks or mixed with Coca-Cola (KO). And in China, they like their whiskey with a splash of green tea.

The latest hit from Japanese toymaker Bandai, the company that created the Tamagotchi digital pet: Mugen Puti Puti, which translates roughly as "pop forever." Bandai teamed up with packing material maker Kawakami Sangyo to produce the gizmo. When pressed, it emits that satisfying sound of squeezing bubble wrap—from actual recordings of the packaging being popped.

About as big as a pat of butter, the rubber-covered square, which contains a tiny speaker, is already a big success in Japan, where it has been on sale since September. Consumers snapped up some 300,000 units in its first nine days in the stores. Bandai says it expects to sell more than 2 million by next March.

The battery-powered device was the brainchild of 27-year-old Bandai toy designer Shimpei Takahashi. Venture partner Kawakami Sangyo, meanwhile, continues to operate its own frivolous packaging product line. The privately owned company sells Post-it note-size sheets of real bubble wrap (available in a gift box) and bubble wrap calendars. No decision yet on whether Mugen Puti Puti will be offered in the U.S.


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