Food and Drink

Andrew Hill

Coffee chain to open in Vietnam. Getty Images

Much is being made of Starbucks’ plan to open an outlet in Ho Chi Minh City in February – “taking on Vietnam’s coffee culture”, as the FT headline has it.

In fact, Starbucks is a little behind schedule – it intended to open in Vietnam in 2012 – and, in any case, I wonder if the significance of the move is not in the headline but in the small print, where the Seattle-based group makes its now familiar commitment to “work closely with local farming communities”. Read more

Andrew Hill

As Felix Baumgartner struggled to correct his spin at the start of his 128,100 ft descent to earth on Sunday, I couldn’t help thinking of the consequences of failure for Red Bull, his sponsor.

Mr Baumgartner’s feat was obviously extraordinary and compelling. It was a new frontier for him, and for YouTube (where 8m people watched the dive live), but despite strenuous efforts to identify some great scientific benefit of the stunt, it is a far greater leap for brand-marketers – and I worry where they will go next.

The Austrian’s sponsor is an introverted company with an extrovert energy drink brand and it has blasted out a niche in extreme sports, from Formula One to air races. Plenty of people pointed out on Twitter on Sunday that if Mr Baumgartner died, so would Red Bull’s slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”. Read more

Andrew Hill

I hope activist Bill Ackman knows what he’s getting into by backing the purchase of a 29 per cent stake in Burger King.

Mr Ackman is one of the founders of Justice Holdings, a UK investment vehicle that until Tuesday was, to me at least, as little-known as Burger King is famous. But Justice’s decision to buy a minority stake and take the company on to the New York Stock Exchange reminded me how, a few years ago, a rumour that Warren Buffett had his eye on the chain turned out to be a whopperRead more

Andrew Hill

It is a shock to hear Muhtar Kent, chief executive of that quintessentially American company Coca-Cola, suggest that the US is now less friendly to business than China.

But Mr Kent’s comments – “In the west, we’re forgetting what really worked 20 years ago” – echo what I heard two weeks ago at Harvard when I talked to Michael Porter, perhaps the world’s best-known expert on competitiveness. Read more

Andrew Hill

I can only hope a demerger of Kraft Foods into its snack and US grocery businesses will save consumers from the unholy alliance of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate and Philadelphia cream cheese in a single spread, recently heralded by UK tabloid The Sun.

More worrying, however, is the impact of near-constant corporate reorganisation on the underlying businesses – and particularly on Cadbury. Read more

John Gapper

The 46 per cent first-day pop in Dunkin’ Donuts shares in its initial public offering in New York made the company look like an internet wonder. It has also brought back memories of the disastrous Krispy Kreme IPO in 2000.

Krispy Kreme, for those who do not recall, was a high-flying stock in the early 2000s before accounting difficulties and mismanagement brought the shares crashing down again. At the time, it was hailed as a solid alternative to internet stocks.

This, for example, was Andy Serwer’s conclusion in Fortune in 2003:

Unless the fat police run riot across this land, Krispy Kreme is here to stay. It isn’t some fly-by-night dot-com. There’s 66 years of history here. It’s a product that people not only love but understand. (Quick, what does InfoSpace do?) The world is always filled with unknowns, never more so than right now. With all that’s wrong out there, sometimes it’s easy to lose focus on the big picture. So take a second and ask yourself: Is the American dream still alive? Is Krispy Kreme for real? Don’t bet against it.

 Read more

John Gapper

Back to Irene Rosenfeld, who despite her degree in psychology, appears to have upset an awful lot of people with Kraft’s £11.6bn takeover of Cadbury.

Having made herself unpopular in the UK by acquiring the maker of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and the Curly Wurly, she has alienated Warren Buffett, her biggest shareholder, who regards it as “a bad deal”. Read more

John Gapper

One can hardly fault Irene Rosenfeld of Kraft for her nerve and tactical sense in what looks like a successful effort to take over Cadbury.

Ms Rosenfeld has yet to demonstrate, however, that she knows how to meld disparate corporate cultures and soothe the bitterness caused by a hostile takeover battle. Read more