Consumer Nation


  Monday, 26 Aug 2013 | 2:52 PM ET

Bock! Bock! McDonald's to offer chicken wings

Source: McDonald's

McDonald's plans to launch a chicken menu item, Mighty Wings, next month, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

The fast-food giant said that it will roll out Mighty Wings nationally as a limited-time offer through November, and the bone-in chicken wings will be sold as three, five and 10 pieces, starting at $2.99 with nine different sauces including Chipotle Barbeque, Spicy Buffalo and Tangy Barbeque, according to the website BurgerBusiness.com.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 21 Aug 2013 | 10:20 AM ET

Bulletproof school gear: What safety experts say

Posted By: Tracy Connor
Chief Operating Officer for Amendment II, Rich Brand, shoots a child's backpack with their Rynohide CNT Shield in it on December 21, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Getty Images
Chief Operating Officer for Amendment II, Rich Brand, shoots a child's backpack with their Rynohide CNT Shield in it on December 21, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Looseleaf binders, No. 2 pencils, rulers—and bulletproof whiteboards?

Armored accessories including backpack inserts and clipboards are showing up on back-to-school shopping lists in the wake of campus shootings, from the Sandy Hook massacre to this week's gunfire in Decatur, Ga.

But some security experts say safety-conscious supplies like whiteboards-turned-shields are impractical at best, and a diversion from real life-saving resources at worst.

"It may be well-intended but it's not well thought-out," said Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school safety consultant and father of young kids.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 | 3:29 PM ET

3-D body scanners and virtual shoes: The new retail

Posted By: Courtney Reagan
'Creepy' retail technology
Security cameras are now being used to customize your shopping experience and increase sales. CNBC's Courtney Reagan has the details.

Retail has come a long way from the days of the general store, and many believe the sector is on the verge of another revolution.

Some analysts are suggesting a close correlation between adopting new retail technologies and business success. But not every new technology is a silver bullet, so for every advancement that boosts sales, there are duds.

At the moment, the secret formula appears to be finding technologies that provide value to shoppers with little effort on their part, though retailers also have gotten results with advances that benefit only them.

Customize it, for less

Global athletic retailer Adidas has piloted a virtual footwear wall in some of its stores, enabling shoppers to render different variations of a shoe, get live Twitter feeds about each product and even trivia about the athletes that wear its shoes.

Michelle Tinsley, director of transactional retail in Intel's Retail Solutions Division, said Adidas has seen explosive sales growth from the wall. Consumers are either buying a higher-end shoe than they had planned or more items than they would have without it.

»Read more
  Friday, 16 Aug 2013 | 7:13 AM ET

Can frozen yogurt and ice cream coexist?

Posted By: Kiran Moodley
Getty Images

It is a question that has plagued many great thinkers for a number of years: does the rise of "healthy" frozen yogurts signal the death knell for the indulgent ice cream?

Mintel Research's latest report into the U.K.'s ice cream market said, "While sales of ice cream overall flounder, the frozen yogurt market – with its health halo – is booming, with sales having doubled between 2010 and 2013, albeit from a small base of less than one percent of the total market by value."

However, Kevin Havelock, president of refreshments at Unilever, argues that the "froyo craze" is beneficial for the ice cream market.

"People are coming into ice cream that before, were a little concerned, they're coming in via frozen yogurt," Havelock said. "So for us, for example, Ben & Jerry's - which is very big in frozen yogurt across the U.S. - we saw last year (that) 60 percent of the growth came through Greek yogurt, so it's a really great addition to the market."

(Read more: Trader drops Wall Street, takes up Italian gelato)

Indeed, Mintel's report suggested that ice cream manufacturers in the U.K. should follow the U.S. Ben & Jerry's model: "There is scope for manufacturers to tap into the Greek yogurt trend with frozen Greek yogurts, taking cues from the Ben & Jerry's Greek Frozen Yogurt range in the U.S."

Mintel reports that the ice cream market grew 20 percent between 2007 and 2013 and is now worth £1.1 billion ($1.7 billion). However, this was fueled by inflation and there has been an 11 percent decline in volume sales over the period. The market saw the biggest annual decline in 2012, with volume sales down five percent year on year.

However, while the frozen yogurt market is relatively small compared to the ice cream sector, its popularity is on the rise, especially among a younger demographic.

(Read more: Ben & Jerry's, porn producer settle lawsuit)

»Read more
  Thursday, 15 Aug 2013 | 3:48 PM ET

Budweiser is king of beers in the ER: Study

Posted By: Brian Alexander
Source: Budweiser

Many people who end their Friday or Saturday nights in a hospital emergency room have been drinking alcohol. In fact, public health experts estimate that about one-third of all injury-related ER visits involved alcohol consumption.

But what exactly are people drinking? What types of alcohol and even what brands? Is there a direct link between advertising and marketing and later injury?

Until now, those questions have been unanswerable, frustrating alcohol epidemiology researchers. But if results of a pilot study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health hold up, there may soon be a way to connect the dots.

(Read more: Bad buzz for brewers as light beer sales slip)

When the Hopkins researchers surveyed ER patients who'd been drinking, they found that Budweiser was the No. 1 brand consumed, followed by Steel Reserve Malt Liquor, Colt 45 malt liquor, Bud Ice (another malt liquor), Bud Light and a discount-priced vodka called Barton's.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 13 Aug 2013 | 11:50 AM ET

Sorry retailers, can't blame the weather this time

Posted By: Courtney Reagan
Chilly fall could make hot time for retailers
Tepid summer sales could reverse course if the weather becomes cooler ahead of the back-to-school season, reports CNBC's Courtney Reagan.

Is a cool wind about to blow in favor of retailers?

"Unfavorable weather conditions negatively impacted sales" is a phrase often used by retailers trying to explain away weaker-than-expected sales results. And while it seems like just an excuse to mask other issues, sometimes there is validity to the reasoning.

This summer, a number of retailers and analysts blamed tepid sales and traffic over the early summer weeks on an unusually cooler and wetter late spring and early summer. For some, the weather truly could have been a headwind.

Retailers set their inventories months ahead, so when atypical weather occurs, seasonal merchandise can sit on shelves until prices are slashed. "Good weather" means higher margins for retailers, and happier shareholders.

But weather patterns change, and a cool August may provide retailers with a tailwind heading into fall (though retailers are less likely to give credit where credit is due when the scenario is reversed).

(Read more: Teens are shopping-just not at traditional malls )

"I think cool weather does drive a mindset towards back-to-school, and I think it actually will be beneficial to back-to-school sales, even though back-to-school sales aren't directly weather impacted," said Paul Walsh, vice president of weather analytics for The Weather Channel.

»Read more
  Saturday, 10 Aug 2013 | 3:00 PM ET

Boosting the craft beer biz, a beer geek at a time

Posted By: Tom Rotunno
Drew Curtis, Will Wheaton, and Greg Koch
Source: Stone Brewing Co.
Drew Curtis, Will Wheaton, and Greg Koch

Greg Koch is a self-described "beer geek gone pro."

Koch, the co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co., started as a homebrewer and has never forgotten his roots, even while growing Stone into the 10th-largest craft brewer in the U.S., based on 2012 sales volume.

"Homebrewing has always been a fundamental element of the craft brewing culture," Koch recently told CNBC. "The beautiful thing about homebrewing is that there doesn't have to be a commercial objective. The brewers brew what they want, when they want."

These days a growing number of consumers are catching the homebrewing bug. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) estimates that 1 million Americans brew beer at home at least once a year and with Mississippi passing a law allowing homebrewing last month, it's now legal in all 50 states for the first time since Prohibition.

»Read more
  Saturday, 10 Aug 2013 | 1:00 PM ET

Look what's cooking: Fast food moving upscale

Posted By: Katie Little
Blaze Pizza
Source: Blaze Pizza
Blaze Pizza

Call it the Chipotle effect.

With fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera Bread growing at a sprint while fast-food counterparts expand at more of a slow jog, the latter group is entering the race is trying to shift upscale. At stake is a booming restaurant segment.

Fast-casual restaurant sales rose 13 percent last year, while fast-food sales increased 4.7 percent, according to data from market research firm Technomic. The company expects the former to grow an average of 10 percent through 2017, compared with a rise of 3.5 percent for fast food.

Despite the rush, experts say there's definitely room for fresh ideas.

"Right now, our country is pretty saturated with fast food—you could evolve that entire segment into fast-casual," said Sam Oches, editor at QSR magazine, which covers the quick-service restaurant industry.

(Read more: Secret's out! Hidden menu items)

"There's no ceiling on this," he added. "This is just going to be explosive growth for possibly decades."

»Read more
  Friday, 9 Aug 2013 | 3:23 PM ET

Teens are shopping—just not at traditional malls

Posted By: Courtney Reagan
Emile Wamsteker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Retailers may be holding their collective breath, hoping the shoppers will show uop soon.

This weekend is traditionally a big one for back-to-school shopping, but summer sales haven't inspired confidence that retail's second-most important season will be strong.

American Eagle Outfitters and Aéropostale both warned investors about slower-than-expected sales and lower earnings expectations.

A combination of factors are crimping sales for apparel retailers. High unemployment, elevated gas prices and increased payroll taxes are still pressuring consumers, but there are retailer-specific issues as well.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 7 Aug 2013 | 10:37 AM ET

Food stocks at record highs, can still go up: Pros

Posted By: Courtney Reagan
Foods feast, but beware the bearnado
A number of food stocks have outperformed the S&P this year. Courtney Reagan reports. David Rosenberg, Gluskin Sheff, who's a long-time bear, says the market is fully priced and that the market will struggle a bit over the next few months. And who does Rosenberg think should be the next Fed Chair?

Investors have been feasting on food stocks, but there is still room at the table to chow down.

On Tuesday, shares of Hershey, J.M. Smucker, Tyson Foods, and Hormel hit fresh all-time highs, joining General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods Group, McCormick & Co., and Mondelez International, each of which have seen shares hit all-time highs at some point in 2013.

What's whetting the appetite for stocks in the sector is that the group offers consumers a relatively low-risk, higher-dividend-yielding investment. The group is up about 30 percent in 2013, outpacing the results of the broader S&P 500 index.

Going forward, however, investors will need to shop the sector with care.

S&P equity analyst Tom Graves noted the majority of the food stock gains this year came in the first three months of the year, when investors were particularly hungry for above-average dividend yield.

»Read more

About Consumer Nation

  • From the products to the pitches to the people who buy them, we are a Consumer Nation. This blog focuses on all things consumer, taking the pulse of the attitudes that shape purchasing decisions, and providing insights that will help keep marketers, entrepreneurs and investors up-to-date on where trends are heading.



Most Popular Video

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 | 6:00 PM ET

Fear and loathing. Mad Money host Jim Cramer looks at fears professional money managers face in the current market environment.

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 | 4:00 PM ET

CNBC's Patti Domm sits down with Lindsey Group Chief Market Analyst Peter Boockvar to discuss whether or not inflation could affect the Fed's plans.

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 | 3:00 PM ET

CNBC.com Senior Writer John Jannarone talks about what Coca-Cola really needs to do to sustain revenue growth.