Business

Martha Stewart Kitchen offers posh frozen food

January 18, 2021

The Martha Stewart brand already reaches about 100 million consumers across all media and merchandising platforms each month, and its branded products can be found in more than 70 million households. But Martha already has thought of a way to reach even more Americans, Refrigerated and Frozen Foods reports.

Martha Stewart Kitchen (MSK) has launched a new retail brand of frozen and prepared food products. The initial, limited offering from the currently comprises of 24 appetizers, side dishes, and desserts, that are being offered at grocery outlets throughout the Northeast and Midwest.

Initial offerings include a variety of classics like Tomato Tartlets; Uncured Bacon, Onion & Cheese Tart; Pigs in a Blanket; Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese; Martha’s Mother’s Mashed Potatoes with Cream Cheese; Apple Crisp; Carrot Cake, Double Chocolate Brownie;  and Peach and Apple Hand Pies.

The full line of product offerings, which are set to launch nationally in Spring 2021, include additional appetizers and desserts, as well as entrées, side dishes and seasonal vegetables. Spices, seasonings and rubs, as well as baking mixes and pantry ingredients are also being developed.

“We are thrilled to bring to the marketplace a unique mix of ready-to-bake goods, all developed with Martha’s signature taste and touch,” said Carolyn D’Angelo Marquee Brands Home Division President. “We look forward to continuing to present a variety of products that offer both ease and exceptional quality.”

Marquee Brands and Mediacast Holdings, in partnership with MMI Market Solutions, are offering the range of Martha Stewart Kitchen food products available for immediate distribution. Grocery outlets that are currently offering the initial selection of Martha Stewart Kitchen products include: Hannaford, Jewel Osco, and Meijer.

Research contact: @RandFF

Delta won’t allow DC-bound passengers to check guns ahead of Biden’s inauguration

January 15, 2021

Delta Air Lines won’t allow travelers flying to the airports serving the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to check their firearms on flights ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC on Thursday, January 14.

The policy, which starts this weekend and runs through next week, follows the January 6 deadly pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; as well as a spate of politically motivated disturbances on flights and at airports, reports NBC News. Law enforcement officers who are authorized to carry firearms will be exempt.

“We’re all on high alert based on the events over the last couple of weeks in Washington,” Bastian said in an interview on CNBC’s early morning show, “Squawk Box.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it will take a zero tolerance policy for travelers who are unruly or interfere with flight crew duties, fining them up to $35,000.

Airlines, airports, and hotels are ramping up security ahead of the inauguration. Several airports said they will add more police, while airlines are increasing staffing and booking overnighting crews at airport hotels. American Airlines said late Wednesday it will suspend alcohol sales for D.C. flights.

In addition to the firearms restrictions, Delta has put 880 people on its no-fly list for not complying with its mask requirements and has banned others from flying with the airline for harassing other passengers or unruly behavior related to the U.S. election results, a spokesman told Reuters.

Last week, supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump heckled Utah Senator Mitt Romney on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Washington. D.C.

Research contact: @NBCNews

You can use Yelp to report businesses that aren’t enforcing social distancing and mask use

January 13, 2021

Businesses that do not enforce social distancing or that do not require their employees to wear masks now can be reported in a new Yelp update that launched on Tuesday, January 12, Business Insider divulged this week.

Yelp users can specify what type of pandemic precautions a business is—or is not—taking by answering survey questions on the business’ page or through the edit button on a company’s COVID-19 updates section.

What’s more, businesses on Yelp will either receive a green check mark or orange question mark to indicate whether they are following COVID-19 guidelines.

Multiple customers must report a business within 28 days for it to appear on the company’s page.

Yelp said that every decision the company has made to date to prioritize COVID-19 information on its site has only increased consumer interest.

“This new update further highlights how businesses have adapted to keep their customers safe, and aims to instill confidence in consumers to continue supporting local businesses,” Yelp’s Head of Consumer Product, Akhil Ramesh, said in the announcement.

Businesses with multiple locations only will receive feedback based on each individual location—and will not be rated overall. Yelp also plans to send users notifications when a company updates its COVID-19 information.

The review aggregation site has actively updated coronavirus data on the app since the pandemic started. In June, Yelp launched its coronavirus safety section where companies were able to update their pages with their own COVID-19 information.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Trump supporters flee to MeWe, Gab, and Rumble after Parler goes offline

January 13, 2021

Now that the account of @realDonaldTrump has been banned from Twitter—and both Apple and Google have dropped Parler from their app stores—supporters are flocking to the social media sites MeWe, Gab, and Rumble, Fortune reports.

Gab, a service that claims to champion free speech, said it added 600,000 new users over the weekend. Meanwhile, MeWe, a similar service, said it has added 400,000 users every day since Saturday and now has more than 14 million members.

The gains follow Sunday’s shut down of conservative social network Parler, which went offline after Amazon web hosting service dumped Parler as a customer because of violent posts and threats in wake of the Capitol riot. Shortly beforehand, both Apple and Google had banned Parler from their app stores.

Adding to the increased interest in alternative social media sites are bans by Twitter and Facebook on President Trump and other high-profile conservative personalities..

On Monday, Fortune notes, Facebook went to the additional step of removing content containing the phrase “stop the steal” in hopes of preventing future violence. The phrase is a popular rallying call of Trump supporters who falsely believe there was widespread fraud in the presidential election.

“It’s almost like the perfect storm,” MeWe CEO Mark Weinstein told the news outlet, adding, “The melting pot of people coming to MeWe are coming from all directions.”

Weinstein hammered home the point that his goal is to be “more vigilant” in moderating content on his service, and that he does not want to be an “anything goes” app—a thinly veiled swipe at Parler’s lax approach.

He said that MeWe has just shy of 100 content moderators who review posts on its service, and that they actually adhere to “strict” terms of service that includes the possibility that they’ll alert authorities about any concerning posts. But on Monday, several QAnon and “patriot” private groups could be found, one of which called Patriots Unleashed asked users if they were “armed and ready” before allowing them to join.

Weinstein acknowledged that some of MeWe’s user growth has been due to Parler shutting down. But he added that the app was growing prior to the election and riots. As a result, he said MeWe’s users have a wide array of political views, and are not just Trumpists.

“Those other guys, they’re opinion chambers,” he said about Parler and Gab. “We’re a social network.”

The rise of alternative social media services began late last year after Facebook and Twitter began labeling and removing more posts on their services for election misinformation. Conservatives considered the crackdown to be evidence of bias against them and President Trump.

For example, Rumble, a little-known YouTube rival, suddenly soared in popularity. Over the weekend, users downloaded its app 162,000 times— a nearly 10-fold gain from last weekend, Fortune says.

But Mark Shmulik, analyst at investment bank AB Bernstein, said he doesn’t expect the latest rise in popularity of MeWe and Gab to be long-lasting. “It’s a fad,” he said. “There will be a little niche, but it won’t disrupt what we’re seeing on Twitter.”

Shmulik said Twitter and Facebook, though growing slower, are far larger and also attract a more diverse set of users with a diverse set of thoughts. That’s what makes big social media companies more engaging than the upstarts, he added, which he described as the “equivalent to Trump rallies.”

“You can continue that, but at some point you have to reach the masses,” Shmulik said.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Ben & Jerry’s unleashes frozen doggie desserts

January 12, 2021

For the first time in 43-year history, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s—one of the most popular ice cream brands for humans—is unveiling two new flavors designed exclusively for canines.

According to a company release, “Doggie Desserts by Ben & Jerry’s are tasty frozen treats that are paws-itively perfect for your pet, specifically formulated for dogs with a sunflower butter base. The frozen fun of peanut butter & pretzel swirls in “Pontch’s Mix” or the cool creaminess of pumpkin and mini cookies in “Rosie’s Batch” is just what a good dog needs after a raucous puppy playdate or a long walk with their human.

“We know our fans love their dogs and treat them like family,” said Lindsay Bumps, a Ben & Jerry’s global marketing specialist who also happens to be a certified veterinary technician. “We created this product line so pups can enjoy something even better than belly rubs. Doggie Desserts are the sweetest treat they’ll ever put their paws on.”

“Pontch’s Mix” and “Rosie’s Batch” were named after two real dogs in the Ben & Jerry’s office—an affectionate Frenchie and a rescue mutt of mixed heritage. As a dog-friendly workplace, the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters often has up to 40 pups curled up under desks, keeping employees company. They’re all part of the K9 to 5-er crew that adds a little joy to the office atmosphere.

In addition to the two new Doggie Desserts, Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with like-minded suppliers to offer must-have pet accessories like a six-foot custom tie dye leash made from recycled water bottles and a plush cone toy stuffed with recycled fill. Limited quantities are available at www.store.benjerry.com.

Doggie Desserts will be sold individually in 4-oz mini cups or in 4-count multipacks, with a suggested retail price of $2.99 and $4.99. They will be found in supermarkets, mass retailers, and select pet stores nationwide.

Research contact: @benandjerrys

Dominion brings $1.3 billion defamation suit against ex-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell

January 11, 2021

Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems—which serves 28 U.S. states nationwide—has brought a $1.3 billion defamation suit against the conservative lawyer Sidney Powel, alleging that her false and outlandish claims about fraud in the 2020 election “caused unprecedented harm,” CNBC reports.

The suit is the first in an expected flurry of high-priced litigation against prominent conspiracy theorists and right-wing media organizations that have spread baseless falsehoods about President Donald Trump’s defeat in last November’s election.

It comes as the nation continues to reckon with the aftermath of Wednesday’s deadly insurrection by a mob of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The supplier of voting machines brought the suit in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The company warned last month that it would bring defamation suits against those trumpeting conspiracy theories about its voting machines, including Fox News and major media personalities.

Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment  from CNBC. The attorney, a former member of Trump’s legal team, has falsely claimed among other things that Dominion was somehow created by the deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to rig the 2020 contest. Chavez died in 2013.

“As a result of the defamatory falsehoods peddled by Powell—in concert with likeminded allies and media outlets who were determined to promote a false preconceived narrative—Dominion’s founder, Dominion’s employees, Georgia’s governor, and Georgia’s secretary of state have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered enormous harm,” Dominion attorney Thomas Clare said in the 124-page lawsuit.

The suit says the company issued Powell a letter formally warning her to stop lying about the company, and cited a tweet that she posted shortly afterward refusing to do so.

“Powell doubled down, tweeting to her 1.2 million Twitter followers that she heard that ‘#Dominion’ had written to her and that, although she had not even seen Dominion’s letter yet, she was ‘retracting nothing’ because ‘[w]e have #evidence’ and ‘They are #fraud masters!’,” the company said.

Dominion asked the court to award it at least $651,735,000 in compensatory damages and the same amount in punitive damages, in addition to paying for the expenses it incurred filing the litigation. The suit lists Defending the Republic, a company Powell has used for fundraising purposes, as a defendant alongside Powell.

Powell, L. Lin Wood and Brannon Castleberry are the directors of Defending the Republic.

Powell and Wood, another conspiracy theorist lawyer, held a joint “Stop the Steal” rally in Georgia in December in which they spread conspiracy theories about the election. Wood frequently tweeted conspiracy theories about Chief Justice John Roberts and the election until he was banned from the platform this week.

Powell, a former federal prosecutor, and Wood, had filed lawsuits in district courts in Georgia and Michigan seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election. All of the lawsuits have been dismissed.

“Powell and Wood filed their election lawsuits—which never had a chance of reversing the results of the election—with the obvious and cynical purpose of creating court documents they could post on their fundraising websites and tout as ‘evidence’ during their media campaign,” the Dominion lawsuit says.

It also accuses the attorneys of seeking “to raise funds and their public profiles, and to ingratiate themselves to Donald Trump for additional benefits and opportunities that they expected to receive as a result of their association with him.”

Wood did not immediately return a request for comment from CNBC.

Other lawsuits are expected shortly.

Research contact: @CNBC

A new service seeks to streamline your streaming

January 8, 2021

As the streaming landscape keeps getting more crowded, a new entrant is looking to help declutter it, The Wall Street Journal reports

Struum—a Los Angeles-based streaming service co-founded by former Discovery and Walt Disney  executives—won’t offer its own slate of original programming when it launches this spring. Instead, it will aim to give customers à-la-carte access to all content from hundreds of niche streaming services, offering users a way to stream individual shows and movies from various platforms without having to subscribe to each plan separately.

Co-founder Paul Pastor told the Journal that Struum would give more visibility to lesser-known services—which he said have “fantastic content” but have trouble “being part of someone’s daily habit,” because there is only so much money households will spend on streaming services every month.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for major streaming services, including Netflix., Disney’s Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, whose subscriber base soared last year in the midst of growing demand for content from shut-in customers. Some 95% of U.S. households subscribe to at least one of these three services, according to Parks Associates, a research firm.

Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, whose Tornante is Struum’s main financial backer, told The Wall Street Journal that the decision to invest was a no-brainer.

“When I heard about this idea of an aggregation platform that would pick up smaller streaming services that don’t have brand awareness particularly like Netflix does have, I thought this was a great idea,” he said.

Struum declined to name any of the services whose content would be available on its platform at launch, but said it has already struck deals with nearly three dozen services—accounting for more than 20,000 TV series, movies, and shorts.

Subscribers will get monthly credits that can be used toward watching shows and movies, the company said. Its co-founders—who also include Lauren DeVillier, formerly of Discovery, and Eugene Liew and Thomas Wadsworth, formerly of Disney—said there would be multiple packages to choose from. A likely one, they said, would cost subscribers $9.99 a month for 100 credits, which should allow them to watch about one program a day.

The co-founders said Struum would sort out the economics—for example, how many credits should a hit show or movie be worth compared with more run-of-the-mill programming—on a case-by-case basis with each streaming partner, depending on demand. The company will share subscription revenue with the streaming services.

Research contact: @WSJ

Google workers form union amid ongoing feuds with execs

January 7, 2021

More than 200 Google employees have come together to form a union amid increasing disagreements with company executives, CNBC reports.

Among the issues: Workers have protested several management decisions at Google’s parent company Alphabet—including the handling of sexual misconduct by former executives, the removal of an AI researcher, and a former Google partnership with the Pentagon.

News of the new Alphabet Workers Union was announced on Monday, January 4, in a New York Times op-ed by two employees, Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, who serve on the board of the Alphabet Workers Union as executive chair and vice chair, respectively.

Koul and Shaw said they have signed cards with the union, Communications Workers of America, which represents workers from companies including AT&T and Verizon. They said 226 employees have joined the union.

The new union is part of CWA’s CODE-CWA (Coalition to Organize Digital Employees) project, and the workers will be members of CWA Local 1400.The union will be open to all Alphabet workers, they said, including temp workers, vendors, and contractors. Alphabet has several subsidiaries including Google, YouTube, and the self-driving car company Waymo. Alphabet has more than 130,000 employees worldwide.

“For far too long, thousands of us at Google—and other subsidiaries of Alphabet, Google’s parent company — have had our workplace concerns dismissed by executives,” the two said in the op-ed. “Our bosses have collaborated with repressive governments around the world. They have developed artificial intelligence technology for use by the Department of Defense and profited from ads by a hate group. They have failed to make the changes necessary to meaningfully address our retention issues with people of color.”

Tensions have risen between employees and executives in recent years. In 2018, Google employees wrote a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai asking him to end a partnership between Google and the Pentagon. Later that year, employees around the world staged a walk-out to protest the company’s handling of executives accused of sexual misconduct, including a $90 million exit package for former Android lead Andy Rubin.

Protests also were organized in in 2019 to support two employees who were being investigated for retaliation claims. Most recently, employees created a petition to support departed AI researcher Timnnit Gebru, who said she was fired over a research paper dispute, CNBC notes..

In a statement to CNBC, Kara Silverstein, Alphabet’s director of people operations, said the company supports workers’ labor rights, but she didn’t directly address any of the group’s complaints.

“We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees,” Silverstein said in the statement.

In the op-ed, Koul and Shaw alleged that Alphabet punishes internal critics on topics important to the public, like the antitrust lawsuits against the company. They also said Google executives consolidate their power at the cost of minority groups like Black, trans, queer and disabled workers.

Our union will work to ensure that workers know what they’re working on, and can do their work at a fair wage, without fear of abuse, retaliation or discrimination,” Shaw and Koul wrote.

Research contact: @CNBC

More than 170 top U.S. business leaders urge Congress to certify Biden’s Electoral College win

January 6, 2021

More than 170 American business leaders signed a letter on January 4 urging Congress to certify the result of the presidential election without delay, Business Insider reports.

Signatories included Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO David Solomon; Microsoft President Brad Smith;  BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink; Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla; James Zelter, a co-president of Apollo Global Management; and Lyft CEO Logan Green.

Congress is scheduled to certify the result on Wednesday, January 6—thereby confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. President Donald Trump has so far refused to acknowledge that he lost the election.

The Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit organization and major business advocacy group, published the letter on Monday. “This presidential election has been decided and it is time for the country to move forward,” the letter said. “President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have won the Electoral College and the courts have rejected challenges to the electoral process.”

According to Business Insider, the leaders added that “attempts to thwart or delay this process run counter to the essential tenets of our democracy.”

Biden and Harris deserve respect and bipartisan support as America faces “the worst health and economic crises in modern history,” they said.

The letter said that Congress should certify the electoral vote and that “there should be no further delay in the orderly transfer of power.”

But at least 140 Republican House members are planning to vote against certification, two representatives told CNN last week.

Trump and other Republicans have tried to overturn the result of the election, pushing false claims of voter fraud.

Over the weekend, Trump pleaded with Georgia’s secretary of state in an hourlong phone call to “find” additional votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.

Biden won the 2020 presidential election with 306 electoral votes, flipping five states that voted for Trump in 2016.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Amazon Music buys Wondery as podcasting competition heats up

January 5, 2021

Amazon Music, a divison of Amazon, has announced that it intends to acquire Wondery, the company behind podcasts such as Dirty John, Dr. Death, and The Shrink Next Door,” as the race to grab parts of the audio market continues.

According to a report by The New York Times, the deal, announced on Wednesday, December 30, represents the latest bet that media companies are placing on audio —podcasts in particular —as they search for new ways to distinguish themselves in an increasingly crowded streaming video market.

The deal values Wondery, which launched n 2016 and is headquartered in West Hollywood, at roughly $300 million, a person briefed on the matter said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal terms were not disclosed.

Podcasts have been exploding in popularity, with nearly one-third of Americans saying at the beginning of 2019 that they listened to at least one monthly. They offer media companies a fast-growing medium and an opportunity to build out their offerings without having to go through powerful interests, like publishers and labels, when licensing music, and studios when licensing films, the Times notes.

Efforts to turn podcasting into its own celebrity universe have attracted the likes of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry..

Indeed, company founder Herman Lopez told The New York Times last year that he had “set out to create a company that could build on bringing to podcasting the skill set of television and movies, both in storytelling and production, as well as marketing.”

Lopez will step down as chief executive when the deal with Amazon closes, and Jen Sargent, Wondery’s chief operating officer, will take over management, according to an Amazon spokesperson.

Amazon would not “predict” when the Wondery deal was expected to close, the Amazon spokesperson said, noting it is subject to “customary closing conditions.”

Research contact: @nytimes