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  Wednesday, 26 Jun 2013 | 9:33 AM ET

Paula Deen: I Would Not Have Fired Me

Posted By: Vidya Rao

In an emotional interview, her first since she admitted having used racial epithets, Paula Deen tearfully told TODAY's Matt Lauer on Wednesday that she is not a racist, that as a businesswoman, she does not think her firing from Food Network was the right decision, and that she was unsure whether the N-word was offensive to black people.

When asked by Lauer whether she was a racist, Deen replied simply: "No." Then she added, "I believe that … every one of God's creatures is created equal. I believe that everyone should be treated equal, that's the way I was raised and that's the way I live my life."

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  Monday, 24 Jun 2013 | 4:18 PM ET

Heat's On: Inside Paula Deen's Vast Food Empire

Posted By: Courtney Reagan
Cooking show host Paula Deen.
Getty Images
Cooking show host Paula Deen.

While the saying goes, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," that's easier said than done for a woman who has built a food empire out of a humble, Southern home kitchen.

Fallout for the celebrity chef Paula Deen continued Monday, as Smithfield Foods announced it has ended its partnership with Deen after it was revealed she used racist language.

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  Saturday, 22 Jun 2013 | 3:46 PM ET

Beer and Baseball: Two San Francisco Anchors

Posted By: Tom Rotunno
Anchor Plaza at AT&T Park
Source: Anchor Steam Brewery
Anchor Plaza at AT&T Park

Anchor Brewing and the San Francisco Giants are once again teaming up.

Anchor, one of the oldest breweries in the United States, is releasing a limited edition 12-pack featuring the San Francisco Giants colors and logos. Printed on the inside of the box is the Giants schedule. The packaging is designed to allow fans to cut along the sides of the box to create signs for cheering on the team during games.

Beer and baseball have always gone well together, but in San Francisco the connection runs a little deeper.

The partnership between Anchor Brewing and San Francisco's hometown team began 110 years ago, when the San Francisco Seals played their first game in the Pacific Coast League.

"We actually still have baseball cards from that era with some of the players who played for the Seals, that were branded Anchor Brewing company," said Keith Greggor, Anchor Brewing's CEO. "So it's wonderful to have that connection."

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  Monday, 24 Jun 2013 | 10:36 AM ET

Sweet Comeback: Twinkies Return to Shelves in July

Hostess Twinkies
Getty Images
Hostess Twinkies

Hostess is betting on a sweet comeback for Twinkies when they return to shelves next month.

The company that went bankrupt after an acrimonious fight with its unionized workers last year is back up and running under new owners and a leaner structure. It said it plans to have Twinkies and other snack cakes back on shelves starting July 15.

Based on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its demise, Hostess is expecting a blockbuster return next month for Twinkies and other sugary treats, such as CupCakes and Donettes. The company said the cakes will taste the same but that the boxes will now bare the tagline "The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever."


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  Wednesday, 19 Jun 2013 | 2:17 PM ET

Zimmer, You Might Not Like the Way This Looks

Posted By: Courtney Reagan

Men's Wearhouse founder George Zimmer doesn't like this way this looks.

The annual shareholder meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed because Zimmer, who served as the company's executive chairman, has been terminated.

You may not realize it right away, but if you have a TV, you know Zimmer. He's the "guarantee" guy. You know the line, "You're going to like the way you look, I guarantee it."

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  Tuesday, 18 Jun 2013 | 3:01 PM ET

Move Over Peanut Butter! Hummus Is Spreading

Posted By: Jane Wells

It's springtime, and while other farmers debate whether to plant corn or soybeans, Frank Wolf has been debating how much of his farm in Washington to commit to chickpeas.

Chickpeas?

"We started out with about 1 percent of our acreage in production," said Wolf. "It's now approximately 25 percent of our production."

Why? Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus, a Mediterranean staple which is starting to compete with salsa, onion dip and guacamole as the best way to garnish a chip. But hummus could soon give peanut butter, ketchup and even mustard something to worry about, too.

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  Wednesday, 12 Jun 2013 | 6:46 PM ET

Investors—And Consumers—Still Focused on High End

Posted By: Courtney Reagan

While the economic data show that a recovery is indeed in place, it doesn't seem as if the message has gotten through to the retailers serving lower- and middle-income consumers.

That may be why some of those gathered at the Piper Jaffray Consumer Conference Wednesday and Thursday at the New York Palace Hotel said they were focused on the high-end market.

Steve Moore, a partner at the private equity firm Brentwood Associates, said his interest lies primarily in companies that cater to higher-income consumers because that group is benefiting most from the surging stock market, recovering housing market and improving employment picture.

The companies that establish emotional brand connections with consumers are poised for the best long-term growth, he said.

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  Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013 | 4:25 PM ET

Lululemon CEO's Exit Risks an Apple-Like Scenario

Posted By: Katie Little
Getty Images

The sudden resignation of Lululemon Athletica's CEO, the face of the yoga apparel company for many years, had analysts scratching their heads on Tuesday and the news prompted a wave of price-target cuts and downgrades of the company's stock.

One analyst even wondered whether the unexpected exit would chip away at the former Wall Street darling's reputation in similar fashion to the pullback of Apple's stock in recent months.

"I think you've seen what happened with Apple following the passing of Steve Jobs," said Sam Poser, an analyst at Sterne Agee. "And I think the iPhone is no less good, but people's respect for that brand might have changed a little bit. And I think that's the risk here with Lulu at this time until we hear who the new management is."

Since Jobs' death in October 2011, Apple's been dogged by Wall Street investors, who question whether the tech giant's innovation has begun to fizzle and wonder whether it can maintain its same high-growth rate.

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  Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013 | 6:21 AM ET

Banks Are Faulted for Taking Role in Web Fraud

Posted By: Jessica Silver-Greenberg
Image Source | Getty Images

The pitch arrived, as so many do, with a friendly cold call.

Bruno Koch, 83, told the telemarketer on the line that, yes, of course he would like to update his health insurance card. Then Mr. Koch, of Newport News, Va., slipped up: he divulged his bank account information.

What happened next is all too familiar. Money was withdrawn from Mr. Koch's account for something that he now says he never authorized. The new health insurance card never arrived.

What is less familiar—and what federal authorities say occurs with alarming frequency—is that a reputable bank played a crucial role in parting Mr. Koch from his money. The bank was the 140-year-old Zions Bank of Salt Lake City. Despite spotting suspicious activity, Zions served as a gateway between dubious Internet merchants and their marks—and made money for itself in the process, according to newly unsealed court documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The Times reviewed hundreds of filings in connection with civil lawsuits brought by federal authorities and a consumer law firm against Zions and another regional bank that has drawn even more scrutiny, First Bank of Delaware. Last November, First Delaware reached a $15 million settlement with the Justice Department after the bank was accused of allowing merchants to illegally debit accounts more than two million times and siphon more than $100 million.

The documents, as well as interviews with state and federal officials, paint a troubling picture. They outline how banks profit handsomely by collecting fees while ignoring warnings of potential fraud and, in some instances, enabling dubious merchants to prey on consumers.

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  Sunday, 9 Jun 2013 | 5:07 PM ET

Customer Clout: Retail Acting on Shopper Reviews

Posted By: Stephanie Landsman
Zero Creatives | Cultura | Getty Images

The next time you're about to write a customer review, think about how far your words could go. From the retailer's website… to Facebook… to a blog… to maybe even the c-suite.

Customer reviews are carrying more clout than ever before—and a growing number of retailers are tracking every word that's said about them in cyberspace.

"Many companies now have dedicated employees who do nothing but troll the Internet for corporate references, monitor chat rooms and online forums where there could be a discussion of the brand," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports Senior Editor. Companies will even follow what's said on marketplaces like Amazon about their products, he said. It can be imperative to intercept a potentially negative discussion and rectify a problem before it goes viral.

"They have to take these things seriously. There are more avenues for consumers to go negative on a company and be heard by a variety of people," said Marks. "Things tend to snowball."

He adds that the effects can be instantaneous—especially when you add the ease of smartphones into the equation. Bad service at a store? A customer could quickly vent about it on Twitter. The next thing you know a few friends re-tweet it and it spreads like wildfire.

Best Buy is an example of a big box retailer putting a larger emphasis on its customer reviews. The company, which is in the midst of a turnaround effort, said it shares feedback with vendors and has taken a range of actions based on the reviews. In fact, it rewards some customers with special points to use towards future purchases for completing reviews.

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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.

 

  • Christina Cheddar Berk is editor of CNBC.com's Consumer Nation and chief trend spotter.

  • Courtney Reagan is CNBC's Retail Reporter.

  • Tom is a Senior Editor and Assignment Desk Manager for CNBC TV. He also writes about the business of beer for CNBC.com.

  • Staff Writer

  • Stephanie Landsman is one of the producers of "Fast Money."

  • Coordinating Producer, Squawk on the Street & Squawk Alley

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