* Four Coca-Cola Co. bottlers in the U.S. inked a deal with Monster Beverage Corp.-owned Monster Energy Co., giving the bottlers the rights to distribute Monster-branded products across Arizona and in some areas of New Mexico and Colorado. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Swire Pacific Holdings Inc., which does business as Swire Coca-Cola USA, Deming Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Durango Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages LLC, finalized the deal with Monster Energy on March 15.
* J Sainsbury PLC and Asda Stores Ltd. pledged to deliver £1 billion of lower prices annually beginning in the third year of their merger's completion if the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority allows the transaction between the two companies to proceed. The supermarket chains plan to invest £300 million in the combination's first year and an additional £700 million over the next two years in order to reduce the prices of everyday items it sells by about 10%. The companies will also secure lower purchasing prices from suppliers, put Argos stores into Asda outlets, and buy shared goods and services and reduce central costs in order to reduce combined entity's product prices. "We hope that the CMA will properly take account of the evidence we have presented and correct its errors," Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe and Asda CEO Roger Burnley said in a joint statement. The announcement confirms reports that Sainsbury's and Asda will provide more specific price cut commitments to secure approval from the British antitrust watchdog.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* Amazon.com Inc. said it will begin offering its Amazon Day service to the retailer's Business Prime members in the U.S. The move was prompted by customer feedback indicating that Amazon Business members prefer having one scheduled delivery day per week to help them streamline and simplify their ordering prices, said Moz Thomas, director of Business Prime, Amazon Business. The company also rolled out the service to reduce delivery traffic and cut its use of boxes, according to the release.
* Performance Food Group Co. signed a definitive agreement to acquire Eby-Brown Co. LLC, a distributor of pre-packaged candy, snacks, specialty beverages and tobacco products, for an undisclosed sum. This acquisition will allow PFG's Vistar segment to strategically expand in the fast-growing convenience store channel. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2019.
* Australian retail stores operator Woolworths Group Ltd. said it launched a standalone media business — Cartology — to simplify its suppliers' customer engagement initiatives. The company said this move will provide suppliers a streamlined approach to better communicate to customers through its in-store, digital and other media assets. Mike Tyquin will lead the business unit as its managing director, while Rod Evenden has been appointed the general manager for operations. Woolworths also expects to replace its existing media selling model and arrangement with the Cartology, the release noted.
* Ocado Group PLC reported 11.2% growth in its revenue to £404 million, up from £363.4 million a year ago for the 13 weeks to March 3, but the fire in its Andover base had a 1.2% impact on its sales. The online food retailer posted 314,000 orders per week, up 11.3% from 282,000 in the same period last year. The order size, on the contrary, fell 0.2% to £110.24 in the reported period, the release said.
* British online food retailer Ocado is set to establish an office for its Ocado Solutions technology business in North America, according to a company release. From April, the company's office will be based in Tysons, Virginia, ahead of its plan to establish a permanent location in the Washington, D.C., area. The new office will help support delivery of Ocado's technology following its partnership with The Kroger Co. in the U.S. and Sobeys in Canada.
* U.S. coffee giant Starbucks Corp. said it revamped its rewards program by adding more options for its loyalty program members. Starbucks Rewards members will soon be able to redeem their "stars" for a wider range of redemption options, starting April 16. The updated program will also remove the two tiers of Starbucks Rewards — green level and gold level. Previously, only gold level members, who earned 300 points to be in that tier, were able to redeem their stars for one free food or drink item, the release said.
* The Boston Beer Co. Inc. announced it appointed Meghan Joyce to its board of directors, effective March 14. Joyce, who previously served as the regional general manager for Uber US & Canada Cities, will serve as an independent Class A Director.
* U.S. agribusiness and food company Bunge Ltd. halted production at its oilseed crushing factory in the northwestern French port of Brest for the past week, amid strike following a fire in a storage silo, Reuters reported, citing the U.S. agribusiness group. The strike began March 12, Bunge told Reuters in an emailed statement. The company did not detail the reasons for the ongoing strike but the local media reported the walkout was triggered by safety concerns regarding the fire, which also prompted salary demands. The company said it is in the process of removing material from the affected silo and has decided to start maintenance work for the four other silos at the site, the report added.
* New Zealand's Westland Milk Products Investments Ltd entered an agreement to sell the co-operative to Chinese packaged food company Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co. Ltd. for $403 million, FoodBev Media reported. Under the deal, the New Zealand dairy company will be bought by Hongkong Jingang Trade Holding, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Yili. Westland Milk Products said it had carried out a process to explore ownership options after the company was unable to deliver competitive milk pay-out in recent years, the report added.
* Nestlé SA joined France's Veolia Environnement SA to work on waste collection, arrangement and recycling of plastic material, with a particular focus on flexible plastic packaging. The partnership, which will focus on 11 priority countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe, will also explore technologies to develop feasible models of recycling in different countries. These technologies will help Nestlé's environmental commitment and increase the recycled content of its bottled water packaging to 35% and its overall product packaging to 15% by 2025.
* The Wendy's Co. partnered with food delivery startup DoorDash Inc. to roll out two offers for basketball fans starting March 24. Under the first offer, customers can avail the $5 Biggie Bag offer, which includes Bacon Double Stack, 4-piece chicken nuggets, small fries and a small drink, by using the code FREEBIGGIEBAG at checkout. In the second offer, the customers can get it delivered for free through DoorDash, but they need to have a minimum order of $10 to access the offer, the company said.
* PepsiCo Inc. appointed Paula Santilli as CEO of its Latin America business. Santilli, president of PepsiCo Mexico Foods, will succeed Laxman Narasimhan, who was recently named global chief commercial officer of the beverage giant. PepsiCo also appointed Roberto Martinez, chief commercial officer of the Latin America business, as president of PepsiCo Mexico Foods, reporting to Santilli. Both appointments will take effect May 1.
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The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.19% to 29,466.28, while the Nikkei 225 fell 0.08% to 21,566.85.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 climbed 0.42% to 7,329.76, and the Euronext 100 lifted 0.66% to 1,055.98.
On the macro front
The Redbook Index for retail sales and the factory orders report are due out today.
Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.
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