Portals must help allay consumer fears of hacker vandalism

Holy portal site, Batman! These guys sure move quick! Let's see - in the four weeks since AOL announced its takeover of Time Warner in the U.S., the Canadian media and communications scene has been marked by such impressive deals as...

Holy portal site, Batman! These guys sure move quick! Let’s see – in the four weeks since AOL announced its takeover of Time Warner in the U.S., the Canadian media and communications scene has been marked by such impressive deals as GTC Transcontinental Group buying out Telemedia Publishing, BCE teaming up its Sympatico Internet property with Lycos, Rogers Communications snapping up control of Le Groupe Vidéotron, Quebec’s biggest cable service provider, and, most recently, Bell Mobility inking a strategic alliance with Yahoo!, the most popular search engine on the Web. Guaranteed, there’s more to come over the coming weeks and months.

It’s already been said here that the AOL-Time Warner deal would accelerate the pace of change and consolidation in the Canadian media and communications industries, but what we’re witnessing right now borders on the riotous. Eventually, everyone at this big media hoedown – or is it Ecstasy-juiced rave? – is going to have to choose a dance partner or three and attend to the really fun part of the adventure…creating a string of new services that consumers will find compelling enough to pay good money for.

Although the promise of richly interactive entertainment and information programming is the current ‘no-brainer’ being held out to entice consumers into the online realm, virtually all the key players are holding out hope for a massive surge in consumer-driven e-commerce activity in the relatively near future. That is, after all, where everyone seems to think the motherlode of online profits lie, and it’s certainly a prospect that appeals to advertisers seeking to connect with key customer segments.

Unfortunately, as promising as all the signals may have been over the last Christmas shopping period, online e-commerce has hit an unfortunate hurdle in its quest to gain widespread consumer acceptance…namely, hacker vandalism.

Everyone knows consumers were just starting to get over their anxieties about Web-based e-commerce, but with the widely publicized recent news of computer hackers successfully attacking some of the biggest and most popular sites on the Web, the Internet has suffered a serious setback in its growth trajectory.

Despite the launch of international criminal investigations, dire government declarations and heightened consumer fears, the electronic media party is not about to come to an abrupt end. However, one has to hope that the companies at the forefront of the current new media revolution pause to consider the potential risks that lie ahead and take serious steps to allay rapidly mounting consumer fears.

David Bosworth

dbosworth@brunico.com

Meat and plant-based sales are both strong at Maple Leaf

Both priority areas performed well in the company's full-year results, helped by a boost in marketing for new products.
Maples Leaf All Natural 4

Maple Leaf Foods reported higher Q4 and full-year 2020 sales, driven by its sustainable meats and plant-based proteins. 

The CPG co. reported quarterly sales of $1.13 billion, up from $1.02 billion for Q4 2019, as well as net earnings of $25.4 million, compared to $17.5 million for the same period the year prior (an increase of 45.2%).

For full fiscal 2020, the company reported a total increase of 9.2% in sales, driven by what it says is “strong growth in both the meat and plant protein groups.”

“We have repositioned our portfolio towards two high-growth categories now representing 20% of our annual sales generating a compounded growth rate in excess of 25% over the last three years,” says Michael McCain, the company’s president and CEO.

Meat protein group sales  comprised of prepared meats, ready-to-cook and ready-to-serve meals, snack kits, value-added fresh pork and poultry products that are sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels, and agricultural operations  grew 11.3% for the quarter. 

Meanwhile, sales of plant protein products  refrigerated plant protein brands such as Lightlife and Field Roast, premium grain-based protein, and vegan cheese products sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels  was up 5.5% over the same period. 

Sales growth for its meat portfolio was driven by “a favourable mix-shift towards sustainable meats and branded products,” but also growth in exports to Asian markets, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases, according to the company. Strong demand in the retail channel was offset by lower volume in foodservice as a result of COVID-19.

For its plant-based offerings, sales for 2020 were $210.8 million compared to $176.4 million last year, representing a growth of 19.5%, or 18.1% after excluding the impacts of foreign exchange. The segment was driven by expanded distribution of new products, continued volume increases in its existing portfolio, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases.

SG&A expenses totalled $144 million for the plant group alone in 2020, with investments focused on advertising, promotion and marketing to build awareness, as well as supporting brand renovation and new product innovation. SG&A for meat proteins were $346.6 million for the full year, and the company says it expects SG&A levels and marketing investment in 2021 to be largely in line with where they were in 2020.

The company, which in 2019 announced it had gone carbon neutral, says it’s amplifying this commitment while “focusing on eliminating waste in any resources it consumes, including food, energy, water, packaging, and time.”