Flame retardants in our furniture, clothing, and electronics seem like a positive thing, right? Generally, no one wants their home or their clothes — or their kids’ clothes — to catch fire. Yet the Consumer Product Safety Commission had safety in mind when it voted yesterday to outlaw a new type of flame retardants from use on certain products.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the five-person panel voted in favor of banning a specific type of flame retardant chemical from use in products for babies and toddlers, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and enclosures for electronics.
The halogenated class of flame retardants has been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and neurological problems. These substances are under study by the Environmental Protection Agency, a process that could take years, but some have already been taken off the market after further testing showed that they were harmful and accumulating in our bodies.
“The more evidence accumulates, the stronger we see the case against the use of these chemicals,” Commissioner Robert Adler, who voted to ban the substances, told the Tribune.
It’s rare for the CPSC to ban a substance without Congress asking it to do so, but a 2008 law, the Consumer Safety Improvement Act, gave the Commission the power to act without Congress when a product poses an “unreasonable” risk to the public.
While the safety of people, particularly children, shouldn’t be a political issue, it has become one. Next month, the term of Democratic Commissioner Marietta Robinson will be up, and President Trump will most likely appoint a Republican to the Commission, shifting the panel from three Democrats and two Republicans to the other way around. The current Republican commissioners have already suggested overturning this decision once their new colleague is appointed.
You may have already seen a warning label about halogenated flame retardants if you’ve bought new furniture recently, since it’s required to have a warning label about the substances. However, mattresses don’t have to have a warning, and items for babies and toddlers don’t, either.
If you want to learn more about the use of flame retardants and how they came to be in so many household items, read the Chicago Tribune’s multi-part 2012 investigation of how tobacco lobbyists got flame retardants into our homes as a tactic to shift the blame for house fires from smokers to allegedly flammable furniture.
The battle between Aldi and other grocery chains has been raging for a while now; from the price war with Walmart to earmarking $1.6 billion to upgrade stores to be more Whole Foods-esque. But just how can the relatively small supermarket chain compete with bigger chains and win over customers?
That’s the question The Wall Street Journal set out to answer. By looking at Aldi’s sparse public fillings, executive interviews, and internal documents, The WSJ was able to chip away at the chain’s secretive playbook, uncovering just how it plans to conquer its competition.
The WSJ offers a fairly full look at Aldi’s history and business plan. You should check out the full post, but in the meantime, here are five things we learned.
1. A Different Grocery Store
Aldi has long been known for its low prices and sparse product choices.
This was always the plan, the WSJ reports, noting that brothers and founders Karl and Theo Albrecht knew they wanted to offer something different from traditional grocery stores.
The duo relied on simplicity and streamlined processes to keep overhead costs low, and in turn, the costs for customers low.
For instance, the brothers aimed to keep waste — and costs — low at their stores; from asking employees to turn off lights when the sun was out to reconfiguring bathroom hand dryers to use less energy.
2. Fewer Name Brands = Lower Prices
One way the company has been able to keep its costs down is by offering a small stock of name brand products.
The WSJ reports that by only offering one or two name brands of any select product, Aldi is able to negotiate lower prices with suppliers.
Additionally, limiting their inventory has allowed the company to sell products for less. Things that cost less, often sell faster.
3. Keeping Overhead Low
Unlike chains like Walmart or Safeway, which offer tens or hundreds of thousands of products, Aldi typically offers just a few thousand or less, The WSJ reports.
With fewer products on its shelves, Aldi doesn’t have to operate giant stores. This allows the company to pay less in overhead — rent, energy costs, and other expenses.
Less overhead means there is less of a chance that Aldi is passing on its own costs to customers.
4. All About Quality
By keeping its product selection lower, The WSJ reports that Aldi is able to carefully choose and test each item it offers.
For instance, the company’s headquarters houses a test kitchen where executives and buyers can sample the products sold in stores and compare them to the competition.
Ensuring that the products it carries are of high quality is just another way the chain is able to court and attract customers with a higher level of discretionary spending.
5. Just Good Timing
Aldi’s expansion in the U.S. is also just a matter of good timing, analysts tell The WSJ.
Now more than ever, shoppers are looking for a convenient, quick shopping experience. That’s something Aldi is suited to offer.
With smaller stores and fewer brands to choose from, customers are able to run into an Aldi, walk down the pasta aisle and grab spaghetti, check out, and return to their car in just a few short minutes.
Two years ago, General Mills joined other food companies by declaring it would cut artificial flavors and colors from all of its cereals. But some customers actually like those additives, at least in their Trix. To that end: The company is making the ultimate “throwback Thursday” offering by announcing it will once again offer Trix with artificial colors and flavors.
General Mills announced today that “Classic Trix” — complete with “vibrant colors,” artificial flavors and coloring — will soon return to grocery store shelves.
— General Mills (@GeneralMills) September 21, 2017
The cereal will come in addition to General Mills’ current version that features no artificial flavors or colors, meaning there’s something for everyone when it comes to Trix.
General Mills says that the decision to re-create Classic Trix came as a response to customers’ requests.
“Consumers have differing food preferences, and we heard from many Trix fans that they missed the bright vibrant colors and the nostalgic taste of the classic Trix cereal,” the company said in a statement.
While artificial colors and flavors might be returning to Trix, the company says the fruit shapes that once littered the cereal won’t be back just yet. However, General Mills hopes to make that dream come true soon.
“We are always listening to our consumers and we continually innovate and renovate our products to ensure we’re meeting consumer preferences,” the company said.
General Mills announced back in 2015 that it would work to eliminate artificial flavors and colors from its cereals.
At the time, the company noted that Trix would undergo quite the transformation. Specifically, the cereal lost its green and blue puffs, as it’s tough to make blue food colors with natural ingredients. And without blue, it’s impossible to create green.
“Trix is known for color, so this hit Trix pretty hard,” Kate Gallagher, a General Mills cereal developer, said in 2015.
The natural ingredients the company tried to get those same colors didn’t work out so well, delivering muted colors and a flavor the company didn’t want.
General Mills said at the time that more than 60% of the company’s cereals were already free of artificial colors or flavors, with 90% of its cereals expected to be free of such ingredients by the end of 2016. The rest were expected to be knocked off in 2017.
With the addition of Original Trix that doesn’t look to be the case any longer. The company’s Lucky Charms continues to use artificial ingredients for its marshmallows.