* McDonald's Corp. said it has agreed to acquire personalization and decision logic technology company Dynamic Yield Ltd. for an undisclosed amount. The Illinois-based fast-food giant said it plans to use Dynamic Yield's decision technology to "personalize" customer service at its drive-thru points, self-order kiosks and on McDonald's Global Mobile App. Upon the transaction's closure, McDonald's will become Dynamic Yield's sole owner and will continue to invest in the company's core personalization product and teams. Dynamic Yield will remain a stand-alone company.
* Hostess Brands Inc. and Ferrero SA have emerged as front-runners to acquire certain Kellogg Co. cookies and fruit snacks businesses, CNBC reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Sources said both Hostess and Ferrero submitted final offers for Kellogg's Keebler, Famous Amos and fruit snacks business units March 21. They added that a deal, which may value the brands at about $1.5 billion, is more than a week away.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* U.S. pizza chain Domino's Pizza Inc. said it is collaborating with Xevo Inc., an in-vehicle ordering app, to launch the AnyWare pizza ordering platform. Customers can use the pre-loaded app in cars to find stores, save favorite orders, call in from the vehicle's interface and track purchases. Domino's and Xevo expect the platform to be rolled out in Xevo-equipped vehicles in late 2019.
* Australian supermarket chain Coles Group Ltd. said it will use Ocado Group PLC's technology for end-to-end grocery delivery solutions in the country as part of a new exclusive services agreement with the U.K. online grocer. Under the agreement, Ocado will allow Coles to use its Ocado Smart Platform, a proprietary solution for online retailers that combine end-to-end software and technology systems with automated warehouses. The platform features an automated single pick fulfillment technology and a home delivery solution. Coles and Ocado will work together to build two automated customer fulfillment centers, or warehouses, in Melbourne and Sydney, which are expected to each have an estimated annual sales capacity of between A$500 million and A$750 million.
* SoftBank Group Corp.'s Vision Fund is in "advanced talks" to invest $75 million-$100 million in India's Rebel Foods, which owns the food-delivery brand Faasos, Business Standard reported, citing several sources. Goldman Sachs, Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Temasek Holdings Pvt. Ltd. are also expected to be part of the funding round, a source privy to the matter told the news outlet.
* Anheuser-Busch InBev SA's subsidiary AB InBev UK Ltd. said the company changed its name to Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I. The Belgium-based company said it plans to open a new headquarters in London and also unveiled a few initiatives for the U.K. and Ireland, including improving workplace diversity.
* Beverage giant Coca-Cola Co.'s Canadian unit Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd. will invest $20 million in its Brampton bottling plant to upgrade production for the new mini bottle packaging, which is 100% recyclable just like other PET plastic bottles. With this, the bottler will also start retailing Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke and Sprite in 250-milliliter and eight-pack of 300-milliliter bottles, along with introducing over 20 new variants across its portfolio. The investment will create three new jobs to start and provides the potential to introduce other smaller packages in the future.
* The Competition Commission of India approved Indian bottler Varun Beverages Ltd.'s acquisition of PepsiCo Inc.'s franchising rights to distribute the latter's products in the country's south and west regions, The Economic Times reported. Upon completion of the deal, Varun will be PepsiCo's official franchisee across 27 states and seven union territories in India. Varun also agreed to sell and distribute PepsiCo's Tropicana range, Gatorade and Quaker Value-Added Dairy in north and east India, the report added. Varun has manufacturing, sales and distribution rights for PepsiCo's Tropicana Slice and Tropicana Frutz in India's south and west regions.
* Italian coffee business Luigi Lavazza SpA rolled out a new cold brew coffee offering in the U.S. The ¡TIERRA! Colombia blend uses 100%-washed Arabica coffee beans from Colombia, and it will be available in traditional and nitro cold brew formats. The coffee maker said with this move it intends to tap into the growing cold brew market. The company added that the blend is among the first to be certified by the Rainforest Alliance, the international nonprofit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and promote rights and welfare of coffee workers, their families and communities.
* Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. said it expects a $50 million to $60 million negative impact on its pretax operating profit for first quarter 2019 due to "extreme winter weather" in North America. The agricultural products company said the negative impact of snowstorms and rainstorms will be roughly equally distributed between its carbohydrate solutions segment and origination segment. Archer-Daniels will provide further details on the impact of the weather on the full year 2019 during its first-quarter earnings call scheduled for April 30.
* French food and beverage producer Danone said it opened its €240-million infant formula facility in Cuijk, Netherlands. The Nutricia Cuijk plant will produce formula for infants with special medical conditions, like allergies to proteins in cow's milk. The facility will be a sustainable and zero-waste unit powered by 100% renewable electricity and will replace an older, existing plant in Cujik. At full capacity, the new site will employ up to 500 staff, support up to 2,000 jobs and produce over 600 different products. Also, the entire workforce of the older facility will be transferred to the new one.
* The Kraft Heinz Co. is in discussions with Sydney-based Freshfood Services Pty Ltd. regarding the sale of its Australian instant coffee business, The Australian Financial Review reported, citing sources. The business became part of Kraft Heinz when the company acquired Cerebos Pacific Ltd.'s food and instant coffee business from Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. for A$290 million in 2017. The newspaper said Kraft Heinz's management quickly identified the coffee business as an orphan and noncore asset. Meanwhile, Freshfood Services, which manufactures and sells coffee in Australia, is said to be bidding for Kraft Heinz's local instant coffee unit, including the Mocopan Coffee brands, the report said.
* Hormel Foods Corp. appointed the chairman and CEO of Evans Food Group Ltd., Jose Luis Prado, to its board of directors, effective immediately. Prado also sits on the boards of Northern Trust Bank Corp. and Brinkler International.
* Spices and condiments maker McCormick & Co. Inc. said its adjusted EPS for first quarter of fiscal 2019 ended Feb. 28 was $1.12, beating the adjusted EPS of $1 a year-ago and S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus mean estimate of $1.03. The adjusted net income increased 12.3% year over year to $149.6 million from $133.2 million. McCormick also reaffirmed its fiscal 2019 guidance, saying it expects adjusted EPS to be between $5.17 and $5.27 and sales to grow 1% to 3% next fiscal year, driven by new products, brand marketing and expanded distribution.
* The Indonesian government said it will encourage palm oil companies to sue the European Union if the bloc goes ahead with its move to phase out the use of palm oil in biofuels by 2030, Reuters reported, citing Oke Nurwan, director general of international trade at Indonesia's Trade Ministry. The country, which is the largest palm oil producer, also pledged to challenge the EU's Renewable Energy Directive, or RED II, in the World Trade Organization, the report added. Malaysia has also threatened to follow suit by filing a WTO challenge. Reuters added that the EU and European governments have two months to keep or scrap the RED II rule.
* The United States Department of Agriculture will inspect Brazilian beef and pork processing plants between June 10 and June 28, Reuters reported, citing Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture. This is likely to resume fresh exports of beef to the U.S., the report said, citing agriculture minister Tereza Dias. The U.S. halted fresh beef imports from Brazil in June 2017 after discovering issues with the meat in the wake of a scandal alleging that Brazil's meatpackers bribed inspectors for favorable results.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.15% to 28,566.91, while the Nikkei 225 gained 2.15% to 21,428.39.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 climbed 0.24% to 7,194.64, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.68% to 1,030.09.
On the macro front
The housing starts report, the Redbook Index for retail sales, the S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller home price index, the Federal Housing Finance Agency house price index, the consumer confidence report and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's manufacturing index 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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