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How Do You Create Great Peanut Butter?

How Do You Create Great Peanut Butter?

What’s this product??? 

It’s rich and delicious. It’s the best I’ve tasted and trust me, I’ve tried much peanut butter in my day. Special roasting process brings out the highest flavor. And the best peanuts – Valencia! It’s not emulsified and only two ingredients – Valencia peanuts and sea salt. It goes with bread, crackers, pita bread and apples, bananas and much more. And a very good value, especially if you love peanut butter as it’s less than 14 cents per ounce. 

What is it? 

Well of course, it’s the Kirkland (Costco brand) Signature peanut butter. The label states these peanuts are grown in the American Southwest and known for their “natural sweetness and flavor.” One may argue this brand doesn’t need to add sugar as a flavor enhancer as they are using peanuts with natural sweetness and highest flavor.
According to the article, Working for Peanuts in the Costco Connection, the Costco buying team experimented with the roasting process until they landed on a dark roast that, like coffee, brings out a stronger peanut flavor, both more robust and sweeter. 
You can find two 40 ounce jars for around $10.99. Some might think “sticker shock,” having to spend nearly $6 for a jar of peanut butter but let’s look deeper into the Kirkland peanut butter world. 
First, Kirkland Signature uses Valencia peanuts, and of the four varieties of peanuts (Virginia, Spanish and Runner), Valencia peanuts are the hardest to grow. When it comes to harvesting the peanut, because the stems are sometimes weak, it can be quite challenging to gather the pods. Even though the Valencia peanuts have the shortest growing season, the yield is smaller than other varieties. Lastly, some peanut butter connoisseurs may not realize it takes at least 1800 peanuts to make one Kirkland Signature jar. 
Even though Kirkland peanut butter requires stirring with the oil at the top, you don’t necessarily have to stir all the peanut butter in the jar after opening. Yes, initially you can stir the top half of the jar but “stir as you go” applies here which means every so often, you may need to “stir as you go” and one will continue to find delicious, creamy and smooth peanut butter all the way to the end.
I used to transfer peanut butter from a knife to my bread until I recently found a spoon is the way to go and if you’re dealing with a deep jar, a long spoon may have to suffice. Unfortunately, because this peanut butter is incredibly delicious, I suspect more consumption is done each time I partake in this delectable endeavor. 
As I mentioned earlier, Kirkland Signature peanut butter keeps it simple with only one ingredient besides the Valencia peanuts. Other peanut butter, such as Skippy and Jif contains hydrogenated vegetable oils (to prevent separation) and sugar (to add taste). It’s nice to have that option at Costco to choose a peanut butter that not only tastes superior to the traditional peanut butter brands and doesn’t include sugar and incorporate chemical processing. Consumer centric in their approach? 
One more piece of advice for consumers. If you choose not to try or sample this peanut butter, realize first this peanut butter is made from the best peanuts. If you want to compare it to other brand-name peanut butters, check out their label and tell me what peanuts the brand-name producers use. Chances are, it will not say Valencia peanuts as part of the ingredient list for products such as Jif or Skippy so is it possible they are using the same high quality ingredients? Trust me when I say that peanut butter manufacturers would not be shy about advertising they used the best peanuts if they indeed did. If they don’t, would it not be a significant challenge for product developers to compete with the outstanding flavor of Kirkland peanut butter without additional flavor enhancers? If you want an incredible peanut butter experience, give this product a try. But be forewarned, there may be no turning back.
Before consumers automatically discount this

Work, Life & Critical Thoughts 2013-10-27 19:35:00

Work, Life & Critical Thoughts 2013-10-27 19:35:00

IMG_7894_newWould you Recommend the Oatmeal, Mac? 

On a Sunday morning in July and not familiar with breakfast restaurants in Hudson, Wisconsin, and the surrounding areas, I drove along the beautiful St. Croix valley to find somewhere that served breakfast. The only restaurant that appeared to come through in the clutch was McDonald’s – I don’t typically eat breakfast at Mickey D’s but thought, “why not?”

Trying to start my day healthy, I ordered coffee and oatmeal.  As I had surveyed the menu, I saw oatmeal priced at $1.99 so I thought I’d give this relatively new item (to me) a try.

While I’m enjoying my oatmeal and allowing my coffee to cool to a manageable temperature, I notice the paper that typically covers the brown serving trays. It says this is printed on 100% recycled paper, great, I thought. For some of their packaging, they are using 100% recycled paper. Then I thought about this restaurant and McDonald’s corporation located in Oak Brook, if you’re trying to be eco-conscious, why not have recycling containers in restaurants? Would it be bad for business to help coax some customers to recycle most of their trash after a meal? Is it presumptuous to think McDonald’s only signed up for the part-time eco-conscious platform? 

Anyway, back to the oatmeal. The $1.99 variety did not eliminate my hunger pangs – even after waiting 20 minutes to allow my stomach to send that signal to my brain. Less than 2 greenbacks is quite reasonable for a container of oatmeal until you realize we’re dealing with oats…I’m not a huge eater but I needed a second container of oatmeal to feel slightly satiated.

The first container of oatmeal was good except it was too sweet for my tastes so before ordering a second one, I asked the friendly cashier if they are allowed to serve it plain – allowing customers to add items to suit their taste but this was not allowed. Their oatmeal came prepackaged so no deviation could be done for those oatmeal lovers who like their oatmeal a certain way. 

So McDonald’s advertises this oatmeal is made with 100% whole grain (whole, sliced oats) but there are no ingredients listed on the side of the container but I do see the Monopoly game advertised on the side. I’m reminded that when I purchase a similar product in a grocery store, I’d see the ingredient list with nutritional information.

If my online research is correct, there are 290 calories per serving. If you need two servings to feel full, that’s close to 600 calories. Mind you, you’re dealing with oatmeal. There are almost as many grams of fat as protein (4g versus 5g), but plenty of carbohydrates (58g). If you’re lucky, you can eliminate 30 calories by opting out of the brown sugar although my restaurant didn’t provide that option. I won’t get into any other details about the oatmeal besides including there are a number of preservatives contained in the light cream and cranberry raisin blend.

My perfect McDonald’s breakfast would include at least two things, the ability to flavor the oatmeal to my personal tastes and include a larger size perhaps at $2.99 so only one container of oatmeal may suffice. Perhaps, if I could add a third, it would include free coffee refills.

One other thing, why a tax on oatmeal in Wisconsin? Oatmeal of all things! Isn’t that a basic necessity regardless of where it’s eaten?

The Sharks are Alright

The Sharks are Alright

Shark Tank

Our entire family watches this show; we love to learn about new products or service from those passion self-starters and entrepreneurs. With a family of four, and sometimes five, to get all family members to watch and enjoy this program is remarkable. I could count on one hand the number of shows or movies the entire family could agree on – that makes the Shark Tank a valuable commodity in our TV viewing world.

Mind you, all family members are not shy about expressing their opinion during the show. This includes if the presenter did a good job presenting their wares. We are intrigued by the interaction between those pitching their products to the sharks. It’s fun interaction trying to predict if those budding entrepreneurs will cut a deal with one or more of the sharks. During commercials, it may be discussed what we would do if we had a desirable and high demand product or service. If a product or service doesn’t pass the “shark test,” we may discuss why? Was the issue the messenger or message? Could a different presenter have gotten different results or was it just a bad business deal that had little chance of surviving the sharks.

It’s educational. You hear what each of the sharks are looking for before they invest in the proposed business. A well thought out business and marketing plan is essential – it can’t just be a good sales pitch. Most of the sharks like to see consistent sales for at least a two or three-year period where sales are increasing at an attractive rate. In terms of your businesses’ valuation, you have to show these astute business people actual sales to justify your asking price. Otherwise, you’ll be eaten by a number of the sharks. As Kevin O’Leary constantly reminds his viewers and presenters, he’s not altruistic – only interested in sound business deals that will help maximize his investment. Sharks often aggressively circle around a business opportunity if the presenter has acquired patents – there are times they may “bite” on the offer with a patent or patent pending even if your sales are not exploding like Fourth of July fireworks.

All sharks have their unique approach in reviewing the prospective offers. Mark joined in season 2 and always reminds presenters that he’s terribly important and extremely busy so any deal he commits to has to resonate with him. Daymon John doesn’t often make many deals and typically the pitch has to align to his clothing or decorating sphere. Kevin sits in the middle of the five and is brash, arrogant and opinionated and rarely cuts deals. After watching him for years, I believe he relishes his role. He borders on being verbally abusive. I have seen both Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner in season 3, both of whom are not shy about taking a chance and making a deal. Typically, these two women may not always agree with the product or service being presented but they try to put a positive spin on it. Robert Herjavec is less abrasive than Kevin and not afraid to cut a deal and is typically “firm” in his offer and often uses the interaction as a teaching exercise even if he can’t promise you any money.

As mentioned earlier, it is absolutely essential for all business prospectors to be well prepared for the Shark Tank. In fact, it might be useful to over prepare. Preparing for Shark Tank might be comparable to a job interview. You have to prepare and be ready for unusual and challenging questions. It might behoove prospective presenters to role play to help prepare for this stressful and challenging venue. If this involves challenging and difficult questions, that may ultimately help you prepare so you can “hold your own” within the shark tank and make a deal.

I think there are two areas of questions for which to prepare. The first is personal. Some questions may include, are you paying yourself enough? Do you have room to grow? Are you entrepreneurial material? How much do you really love this work? Will your family support you in this endeavor? How badly do you want to succeed with your idea?

The second area of questions may be more strategic or financial? Have you done due diligence to ensure all your business sales are correct and easy to recall? Do you maintain good financial records? Will any of the sharks, especially Kevin, question your valuation? Will your business model pass the “sniff test?” If you’re offering a 30% stake in the company for $250,000 and they counter at 50% and $250,000 will you consider it? Will you walk? It may be beneficial to have the worst case scenario that you would accept and if you don’t get that amount, be prepared to walk. Just remember, the harder you prepare, the easier it will be dealing with the sharks and if you prepare very little, it may not be long before you’re eaten by the sharks.

Our family may record Shark Tank over a series of weeks and when we get the chance, the entire family may sit down for an evening and watch a number of these episodes. Because not every episode will provide a “meeting of the minds” between a shark and prospect, so we may have to watch a number of episodes to increase the chances of seeing some entrepreneurs extreme joy and happiness on national television. 

By watching the show and discussing the interactions, some of our family members may feel somewhat equipped to deal with the sharks if one was ever presented to them. However, what’s easy in one’s family room could be an entirely different story when confronted with mean or angry sharks during the bright lights of television.

What’s the Responsibility of the Local Press when it comes to Handling Arrest Information?

What’s the Responsibility of the Local Press when it comes to Handling Arrest Information?

About half the time that I open up to see the goings on in our community of Libertyville, I see the front page displaying the Police Blotter from the last day or two. Not once every 7 days or so but 3 times a week or so. Of course, the section includes a caption reminding readers that an arrest does not constitute a finding of guilt – only a court of law can make that decision. 

After seeing this trend continue week after week, I wonder if that is how readers answered their surveys on key subjects they want covered through hyper-local journalism.  

When I read the, it doesn’t take me long to locate a section called Mugs in the News. Even a reader without any imagination knows what that represents. It’s interesting that Mugs in the News is considerably easier to locate online as opposed to the printed news. Is that a coincidence? Is this revenue driven? In fact, I used to read the print version of this famous Chicago newspaper years ago and rarely noticed pictures of individuals who were arrested pre-adjudication.

To avoid any guilt or blame on the hands of Chicago’s largest newspaper, a caption above those arrest pictures reads these booking photos are provided by law enforcement officials. In other words, the news corporation doesn’t take the pics, they just publicize them.

The same caption from says that an arrest doesn’t imply guilt and criminal charges are merely accusations and yet the Tribune does not appear to hesitate when publishing their photos. They go on to say that a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty and convicted – hopefully lady luck is on your side – even if your case is fairly adjudicated and you are found innocent doesn’t always align in the court of online readers or public opinion.  

There are other local papers such as the Chicago Sun Times, Daily Herald and Libertyville Review who provide the same service to readers but again, the right way to handle those who haven’t experienced the American Legal system. Whether it’s someone’s name or photo, these individuals have not been convicted of a crime. They may not ultimately be innocent but that’s why we have a court of law. Why not wait until they have their day in court for a judge or jury to decide their guilt or innocence? 

I’m not condoning the idea of coddling criminals, if someone commits a crime and is found guilty of that crime or a lesser offense, they need to be held responsible for their actions. Having said that, publishing the names of individuals who were arrested for violating traffic laws or arrested for committing a felony or misdemeanors should allow the criminal justice system adjudicate their case before their names or photos are made public. If any of these individuals are found guilty of a DUI or a burglary, then and only then should this information be produced for public consumption.  

Many online and print media are so quick to publish someone’s name who just was arrested – in many places, it’s called an Arrest Report, Police Beat or Police Blotter. I have my own misgivings about this model, however, I won’t focus on that. The media, especially the online media is so quick to publish their names for those who were busted by the police although some readers who ask a lot of questions would like to know what is done through the criminal justice system? Do they plea bargain? Go to trial by judge or jury to hear the case? If they can’t afford an attorney, will the public defender have any time or resources to support them in any way? Or, if the case is dropped due to lack of evidence or less chance that there’s a conviction for this case, what then? When this adjudication happens, will their name appear in the newspaper? If their name is cleared, will Mr. Newspaper publish the results? If not, why not? Why won’t the online and print media do the right thing and provide closure on what happens to those who were originally arrested and found their name besmirched without a trail and due process?