White Tea Explained By Ernest Barbella

White tea is a fine tea brewed from the unopened buds of special Chinese tea bushes. It is akin to green tea, but less popular because it is costlier and more time consuming to process. White tea has a subtle flavor and delicate aroma that can be easily overpowered by additives, such as flavoring. It is regarded as a top-quality tea that was fit for the former emperor himself. Today, there are two kinds of white tea: high-quality tea, which can be purchased from specialty retailers, and low-quality tea, which is commonly sold.

Real white tea is only grown in Fujian Province on the eastern coast of China. It can only be harvested for a few weeks out of the year while the tea buds are still unopened. Before the buds get plucked, they must be shaded for three weeks. The buds are then moved to a pavilion where they are allowed to dry naturally on a bamboo tray. It takes ten thousand hand-picked buds to manufacture 2.2 pounds of the product. Tea aficionados describe the complex flavor as reminiscent of chestnuts, peaches, or honey.

The most common type of white tea is not actually white tea at all. It is a new style of white tea that is usually sold bottled, often with peach or pear flavoring. This less-costly white tea is brewed from the first leaf bunch of the tea bushes, rather than the first buds. It is baked to remove moisture and then combined with a certain amount of buds to replicate the flavor of white tea. It is less expensive, but lacks the flavor of true white tea.

About the Author:

Ernest Barbella has over 47 years of retail management experience in the distribution of fine foods. He was the youngest vice president in history at the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. Among other holdings, he owns a spice-manufacturing company in Qingdao, China.

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Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea

Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea

By Ernest Barbella

Green tea has been hailed as a “super food” by manufacturers across the globe. Medical experts have confirmed the health benefits of green tea, based on over a decade of medical research. Scientific studies have shown that people who consume three to five cups of green tea per day are less likely to develop cancer and heart disease. In addition, they are more resistant to strokes, diabetes, and dementia.

A high number of special antioxidants called catechins are found concentrated in green tea. Catechins are an organic compound that fights free radicals and slows damage caused to cells by disease. Medical studies have shown that women who drink green tea regularly after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a lower rate of recurrence. Green tea drinkers also have a significantly lower rate of diagnosis with stomach, prostate, pancreatic, and rectal cancer, as well as heart disease. There is even evidence it can be helpful with weight loss.

Drinking green tea is not a cure-all that will magically stop one from developing health problems like high cholesterol or obesity. Doctors recommend a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, in addition to drinking brewed green tea.

About the Author:

Ernest Barbella is a retail management expert with nearly 50 years of experience. He was Vice President of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. He owns several fine food manufacturing facilities in China, including a spice company in Qingdao.

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Ernest Barbella on the New Micro-Marketing Initiative at A&P

Beginning in 2010, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) began remodeling its stores with a renewed commitment to better serving the local communities in which it operates. After hiring a new Chief Executive Officer, Sam Martin, A&P began an initiative that called for the renovation of its stores to better reflect its customer base. By first conducting research into the demographics and buying habits of the local community, A&P is able to stock any given store with items that local customers are more likely to buy, from deli items to health and beauty care products.

Furthermore, in each store, A&P employees reflect the community, in that they speak the language that a majority of their customers do. In predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, employees are often bilingual speakers of English and Spanish. Through this model, A&P is revamping its stores to become more customer-oriented, a unique strategy from which other regional retailers can learn.

About Ernest Barbella:

A food retail executive with more than 30 years of experience, Ernest Barbella became A&P’s Vice President and General Manager of the New York region in the 1970s. Ultimately, Mr. Barbella owned and operated several of his own companies, the most recent of which was a pasta packaging company.

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Ernest Barbella on Qingdao, China

My career in the food industry includes extensive experience with retail and manufacturing companies in the United States and abroad. After holding senior executive roles at grocery companies The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (A&P), Hills Supermarkets, and the Wakefern Food Corporation, I owned and operated five successful supermarkets on Long Island, New York. Although I sold the Long Island stores in 1995, I entered the international market by acquiring a pasta packaging company with a global customer base and founding a spice manufacturing company in the seaside city of Qingdao, China.

As a popular vacation destination, Qingdao draws visitors with its sandy beaches, picturesque architecture, and famous beer. However, Qingdao also possesses a long history as a strategic and commercial port. Located on the east coast of Shandong Province, just across the Yellow Sea from both Japan and Korea, Qingdao spent years under German and Japanese occupation. As a German colony from 1898 to 1914, the fishing village became a center of naval activity and industrial enterprise. Part of the latter included the 1903 establishment of what would eventually become Tsingtao Brewery, the oldest Chinese brewery in operation today.

Since rejoining the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Qingdao has experienced steady economic growth as one of the first Chinese cities open to overseas investment. In addition, Qingdao has developed a national reputation as a model for environmental sustainability; as a center of marine research, the city boasts several pilot programs to improve waste disposal, air quality, and resource protection. Qingdao’s seven national development zones host industries that range from agriculture to information technology, and more than 2,000 international companies have established permanent bases in the city to date. As one of these firms, the spice company I founded produces more than 250 different items for retailers in countries around the world, including Australia, Panama, and the Bahamas.

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A Recipe for Success: From Daitch Shopwell to Food Emporium

By Ernest Barbella

I have been involved in the retail food industry for nearly five decades, operating New York-area supermarkets, a tea company, and most recently a spice manufacturing enterprise and a producer of packaged pastas and skillet dinners. I got my start as assistant store manager in 1964 with Daitch Shopwell Supermarkets, which operated over 100 locations throughout New York. Over the next several years, I earned a promotion to District Manager, taking command of a seven-store group in the Bronx. Although I left the firm decades ago, it has been interesting following the ups-and-downs of this well-recognized New York institution, now known as the Food Emporium.

I worked for Daitch Shopwell at the height of its expansion following the 1955 merger of Daitch’s 34 stores in New York City, Connecticut, and Long Island with Shopwell Foods’ 18 Westchester County supermarkets. As the 1960s ended, the company expanded into Shop-Quik convenience stores, a move that caused a loss of corporate focus and vision. Turning to the Shopwell name exclusively in 1973, the firm similarly tried to expand into Vermont and Massachusetts with seven new stores. Unfortunately, the venture did not work out, and the company registered an $800,000 loss in 1976 when these units were sold. Restructuring resulted in closing of unprofitable Shopwell locations, and the chain ultimately scaled back to 65 total locations. Conducting extensive market research, Shopwell found that its brand name lacked a quality association, with customers primarily frequenting the chain because it was convenient. This was a wake-up call to the Rosengarten family who owned Shopwell, and in 1979, they launched the innovative Food Emporium format.

The rebranding of Food Emporium came after a realization during the consolidation process that the remaining supermarkets were located in the upper-end markets of Westchester County and Manhattan. At the time, no major supermarkets catered to this demographic, leaving the higher-end segment to small grocery stores. Instead of the industry standard 72-percent shelf space for basic food items, new Food Emporium locations allocated just 60-percent shelf space for this use, scouring the country for fresh and premium items to fill remaining shelves. This strategy proved successful and by 1983, some 17 of 55 total Shopwell stores had been rebranded to Food Emporium. The Food Emporium brand is thriving in Manhattan to this day, offering customers premium products that they cannot find at other supermarkets. I still feel some attachment to the Food Emporium, as it is a subsidiary of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which I served for several years as Vice President and General Manager.

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Loyalty Cards and the Smart Supermarket

With recent economic difficulties, many studies have shown that people are changing how they shop. For some, this means traveling to a variety of different stores to acquire the product they need at the best price. Many shoppers today know which stores have which products on sale or at a regularly low price, and they target their shopping accordingly. For supermarket owners, this means knowing who frequents their stores and what those people are looking for.

The rise of loyalty cards and other such programs has proven successful in attracting customers to particular grocery stores. These programs help stores communicate that they have the deals a customer wants, while offering new deals. In addition, loyalty programs help stores track what their customers buy and what deals appeal to them, and stock product accordingly. With more and more competition for consumer dollars, this kind of tracking may ultimately prove not only beneficial, but also necessary.

About the author:

For more than 30 years, Ernest Barbella managed, owned, and operated a number of supermarkets on Long Island, New York. He was also an executive in a large supermarket chain.

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Food Commodity Price Increases and Supermarket Retailing Trends

By Ernest Barbella

I have operational experience in the food retail industry spanning five decades. My industry experience extended to ownership of five Long Island-area supermarkets, successfully sold in 1995. I still follow the food retail sector and am interested to see several industry trends emerge tied to rising agricultural commodity prices.

Since summer 2010, prices of key food ingredients such as dairy, grains, sugar, and coffee have increased dramatically, on basket-average more than 20 percent since 2009. Food company hedged positions have delayed the impact of these price increases, but with these hedges expiring, consumers are finally starting to feel the effects at the retail end. Major players, such as General Mills and Kraft, have already announced substantial price increases on a range of products for the second half of 2011, should commodity prices remain at current levels. These same market forces are exerting pressure on supermarket private labels, with across-the-board price increases expected. Supermarkets are also trying to derive more revenue from private-label brands through high-quality natural and organic products that often offer higher margins.

Another significant food trend involves “channel blurring,” wherein large grocery selections feature at an increasingly diverse grouping of retail outlets. CVS and Walgreens aim to drive traffic to drug stores through increased selection of dairy, meat, and fresh bread products. At the same time, Target continues to expand its Pfresh retail format throughout its full range of stores. The increased competition has actually been limiting price increases of many grocery items that would otherwise reflect base-cost increases.

Another effect of rising commodity prices is in encouraging a new wave of strategic partnerships, as well as mergers and acquisitions, among large food producers. Following a strategy already successfully pursued by corporations including Kraft, Ralcorp, and TreeHouse Foods, companies such as Nestle and PepsiCo are eyeing smaller food companies for takeover. This may also aid in countering rising commodity costs through the distributional, marketing, and production efficiencies derived from consolidation. The downside is that monopolies may eventually emerge on certain products, driving prices higher.

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