Thursday, August 31, 2017

econlife - Why the Greek Yogurt Invasion Was More Than Yoplait’s War by Elaine Schwartz

People say they don’t really like Greek yogurt. It’s sour and thick while the traditional kind is sweet. But because we think it is a healthier, more authentic alternative, most of us want to like it. And that has been a problem for Yoplait.

Faced with unexpected competition from Chobani and Fage, the Yoplait people decided to create their own Greek yogurt. The names they proposed ranged from Ygefa! (it means health in Greek–they added the punctuation) to Yoganos (made-up but Greek sounding). The final decision was Yoplait Greek.
But it flopped as did all other Yoplait Greek yogurts:

So now they are trying again. Hoping for a healthier, more genuine identity, the plan is to return to Yoplait’s French roots. Their new yogurt is Oui.

Where are we going? To the decline of top food brands.

A Healthy Products History

During the 20th century, as consumers became more affluent, healthier foods became more popular. But the story was very different from today.

One hundred years ago, we wanted factory-made food. With bread for example, home baking took too long and neighborhood bakeries were unsanitary and inconsistent. While people associated local bread with dark and dirty preparation, they imagined glistening equipment in large factories. Considered an innovation in 1928, factory-made sliced bread was said to create a “thrill of pleasure” when housewives saw each perfect slice. Similarly, consumers appreciated the safety, convenience and affordability of foods that were flash frozen, canned and contained preservatives.

Now though, with our quest for healthier foods taking us in the opposite direction, larger firms are losing market share.

Our Bottom Line: Oligopoly

As a large firm that mass produces, has many customers, and few competitors, an oligopoly needs to differentiate its product from everyone else. Traditionally, as we move to the right along the following competitive market structure continuum, the power of the firm accelerates, market entry and exit become more difficult, and price competition is less likely.

But Yoplait tells a somewhat different story. Oligopoly power from old food brands is slipping. Below you can see that the market share of the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies was down from 66% to 63% between 2012 and 2016:

The reason? We could say that old food brands ranging from Kraft Mac and Cheese to NestlĂ©’s Nesquik occupy a shrinking middle. The high end consumer is looking for more health and authenticity. Meanwhile, at the low end, house brands are proliferating. In addition, with the internet and social media, smaller firms can cheaply tell their story to a large audience.

So yes, Oui is about much more than yogurt.

My sources and more: Always interesting, NY Times journalist Charles Duhigg told the Yoplait story. Then, soon after, WSJ wrote about the decline of other big food brands as their follow-up to a previous article. Together the three articles illustrate the entire old food brand picture.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz's work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Release....America & Mr. Smith

How did a Scotsman who never set foot in America influence its founders?

Adam Smith, a Scotsman and the father of modern economics, had many thoughts about how to create a free and prosperous society. His ideas influenced Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Visit the Library of Congress to learn more in our new educational video, America & Mr. Smith.

Click here to choose as your FAV (Free annual video). Click here to purchase.  Click here to stream to your device.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Buddy Benches – Good Intentions, Wrong Lesson? by Susan Gable

girl-1825353_960_720I don’t know if you’ve heard about “buddy benches” but apparently this is a new thing at elementary schools. It’s a well-intentioned idea, as many ideas are, but I fear it’s not giving kids the actual skills they need to be socially adept in the future.

The basic idea is there’s a bench on the side of the playground, and a child who feels lonely or who has no one to play with can sit on the “Buddy Bench” – and the other children will spot them, and eventually someone will invite them to play.

Warm fuzzies all around.

Like I said, good intentions. The best of intentions! But let’s talk about what this method actually teaches children – to sit passively and wait for someone else to come and solve their problem instead of solving it themselves.

There are no buddy benches in the real world, folks. If you are feeling lonely or left out, or you would like to join some group, then you have to approach someone and ask to take part.
That’s being an active problem solver, and that’s how it works in reality. Kids need these social skills.

And what about teaching compassion in the other kids? Again, that’s a good intention. But we need to teach those kids to be proactive, too, and help them learn to recognize the social cues of someone feeling left out without the glaringly obvious buddy bench. 

“See that boy over there, staring longingly at you kids playing tag? That’s a sign that he’d like to play with you, too. It would be a great thing if you go over there and invite him to join you. Or hey, just wave him over. He’ll understand the invitation.”

Good intentions are one thing. Good lessons are better. Let’s give kids the tools they really need to be successful in life.

What do you think? Am I way off-base here and buddy benches are the new best thing ever? Or is there some merit to my thought that kids sitting around, waiting to have their problems solved by someone else probably isn’t the best lesson we want them to learn? Can’t we teach kids how to include their peers another way?

Susan Gable is the Executive Director at She holds a BA in Psychology from Douglas College/Rutgers University and is a certified elementary teacher in 3 states with 10 years of classroom experience. She’s also a multi-published award-winning author, and has presented numerous public speaking events & workshops for writers, readers, teachers and parents. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

What I Did on Summer Vacation Contest

You know how you make your students write an essay about what they did on summer vacation? We won't make you write an essay, but share a picture and tell us a few details about what YOU did on your summer vacation, and you could win a $25 Amazon gift card!
Comment on Facebook or Twitter with your photo to be eligible. Contest ends September 15th. For rules click here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Things to Discuss on the First Day of School by Mike Siekkinen

The first day of school is often a busy, scary and sometimes disorganized event, especially for new students (and teachers). Having a list of items to discuss with your students can help keep you organized and in control. Having a list also ensures that students will get the required information about school rules, times and class conduct. Here is my list for the first day. This can be modified to fit your individual circumstances. Hopefully you find this useful.
  • Gum/snacks/ food
  • Trash (where and when)
  • No clock (I don’t use one in my class)
  • Entering procedures/ exiting procedures
  • Lunch (time and prices)
  • Weekly schedule
  • Text books
  • Upcoming events
  • Cell phones
  • Field trips
  • Buses
  • Agendas and hall passes
  • Required supplies
  • Chromebook use/misuse
  • Fire drill procedures/ intruder drills
  • My desk/ your supplies
  • Classroom temp.
  • Substitute teachers (how to act)
  • Restroom breaks
  • Late work/ due dates
  • Class binders
  • Homework
  • Turning in work (where and how)

Dr. Mike Siekkinen, a retired U.S. Navy submariner, became a teacher as a second career. He teaches history at St Marys Middle School as well as Adult and Career Education at Valdosta State in Georgia.