Dividends and The Secret Life of Groceries

If you are a small to medium sized investor, one of the many ways to continue determine what your asset mix should be is to read. The are multiple publications both on line and in print for your work or to earn an income. But if you read other things you may pick up an interesting idea. For example going to the public library is a good thing to do.

Recently picked up a book called The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lorr published by Penguin Random House Books, NY, 2020. Most of us who do not work at the grocery store do not pay attention to what is on the shelf and how it gets there, but people in the grocery stores do. Some of it is interesting, some of it is background information rarely to come to the foreground.

One of the interesting pieces concerns something that almost everyone has in their home – the cardboard box. In the 1850’s, the cardboard box was invented. Life did not change until the1890’s when cardboard boxes were used for gentleman’s hats. Then a shift begins.

If you think about the western movies, in the town was services including a bar, hotel, law office, sheriff’s office and jail, barber shop and a general store. Most things in the general store were sold in bulk, which is why there were people to get whatever you wanted. After the cardboard box was being used for hats, there were many other technological changes including the preservation of food to move from fragile, expensive glass to cheap and hardy tin. Card stock, the thinner version of corrugated is perfected on an industrial stage for cereal and cracker boxes. By the 1900’s, the shift is momentous: packaged food is responsible for 1/5 or 20% of all manufacturing in the US.

The boxes eventually get a name or advertising on the box. Nabisco Brands begins to sell Uneeda Biscuit and it is a blockbuster, soon the company is selling more than 100 million packages of Uneeda Biscuits a year. The bulk items change to packaged items which gives the customer – choice. In 1916, the first grocery store offering self-service is opened, the store is called Piggly Wiggly and expands to become a chain. By 1930 there are more than 2,500 stores across the land. The chain is smaller today, but it still operates. In the 1940’s the grocery store grew in size from 6,000 sq ft to 9,000 sg. ft to 18,000 sg ft in the 1950’s to today’s Walmart and Costco of 200,000 sg ft.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, there are an incredible number of good ideas in the marketplace, but it does not necessarily to translating into national brands unless a number of other things that complement the process happen. The cardboard box is invented but it takes years before the logistics chain uses the cardboard box to its fullest degree. Often time you want to keep an eye on how logistics works for your investments.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.


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