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CEO Daily: Thursday, May 21

May 21, 2015, 10:56 AM UTC

Big food is in the midst of a big upheaval.


We’ve written a lot about disruptions caused by technology. But food companies in the U.S. are facing equally jarring disruption because of rapidly changing consumer tastes. Americans are turning away from “big food” – a shift that has cost the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies to lose a whopping $18 billion in market share in the last six years alone, according to Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow.


And what are they turning too? “Natural” food, organic food, less processed food. In some cases they are following trends and fads that have little or no known health or environmental benefit. More than 16% of new foods that debuted in the last four years were marked “gluten-free,” even though only 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease. There’s a growing groundswell for GMO labeling, despite the lack of evidence that genetically modified foods are harmful. Local food is all the rage, even though small farmers are less regulated and local food distribution is often less efficient and often more energy-intensive.


“We’ve never seen the consumer as confused as they are today,” Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi said in a recent conference call. Fortune’s Beth Kowitt does an excellent job cutting through that confusion in the cover story for our June magazine, which will be available online later today.


Enjoy the day, and watch what you eat.




Alan Murray

Top News

 Shopify sets IPO price

A Canadian e-commerce software company has given itself a valuation of $1.27 billion after pricing its upcoming IPO shares at $17 per share. Shopify has been losing an increasing amount of money for the last three years, and losses are likely to continue. Shares will begin trading on Thursday in both New York and Toronto.  Fortune

 High-flying Hong Kong stocks stumble

Shares of two firms owned by a Chinese billionaire slumped by as much as nearly two-thirds in Hong Kong on Thursday, in the second day of steep share price declines of previously high-flying stocks in the Asian financial hub. The losses led to billions of dollars lost to the values of Goldin Financial Holdings and Goldin Properties Holdings, declines that followed an inexplicable tumble for Hanergy Thin Film Power Group on Wednesday. The share slides cast doubts about Hong Kong's reputation as a global financial hub.  Reuters

 BP settles oil spill claims with peers

BP has settled with oilfield services provider Halliburton and contract driller Transocean over cross claims related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP, which has already recorded billions of pre-tax charges related to the spill, still faces a potential fine of up to $13.7 billion under the U.S. Clean Water Act. But it is notable for the British oil giant to have finally settled all matters relating to the accident with its two partners.  Reuters

 TheLadders nears a sale

TheLadders, a job site started in 2003, has hired an investment advisor after receiving interest in a sale in the ballpark of $75 million. Bidders include executive search firms Korn Ferry and Heidrick & Struggles though LinkedIn, a natural buyer for career-related startups, passed on the deal. TheLadders has eight million members, many of which pay $25 per month or $99 per year to access its marketplace of job listings.  Fortune

 Data breach stings CareFirst members

As many as 1.1 million Washington D.C. BlueCross BlueShield members may have had their information accessed in a cyber-breach that occurred almost a year ago. The attack came to light when CareFirst hired a cyber-forensics unit to review its security after seeing cyber attacks on other health insurers.  USA Today

Around the Water Cooler

Banishing the boss backfires

Zappos, which earlier this month said 14% of its employees would leave the online retailer, is facing some challenges after adopting a management philosophy called "Holacracy." Since the end of April, Zappos has zero managers to oversee employees, who are largely supposed to decide for themselves how to get their work done. Flat organizations like the one Zappos is trying have produced mixed value.  WSJ (subscription required)

 A startup looks at "loyalty" lending

ZipCap, a startup in San Diego, has a new lending model it calls "loyalty capital." The idea is to offer small retailers access to low-interest loans financed by investors with a vested interest in supporting a local economy. Merchants start by recruiting loyal customers that pledge to spend a certain amount of money over a fixed period of time. ZipCap then allows business to borrow against a portion of those pledges. New York Times (subscription required)

 Can you sue your boss over late-night emails?

About 44% of Internet users regularly performed some job tasks outside of the workplace last year (doesn't this figure seem a tad low?) And while most told Pew Research that digital technology helped them do their jobs better, some say it increased the amount of time they worked. That is leading to several lawsuits that have alleged companies expect employees to work unpaid and off hours. WSJ (subscription required)

Celebs' relatives cash in on the family name

Some families see a line of members enter the same field of business (politics: the Kennedys, the Bushes; acting: the Barrymores, Redgraves). But in other case, a relative of a famous person is cashing in on the family name by selling a recipe in the grocery aisle or by venturing into the fashion world. Family members of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Madonna and Bon Jovi have all made interesting business moves, in some cases with fairly significant support from the celebrity.  Fortune

Fortune's 5 things to know today

China slows and HP earnings — 5 things to know today. Today's story can be found here.