Producer Confidence, Stained Canadians, Etc.

When the U.S. economy was sliding into recession, a gap opened between consumers and business leaders: The former remained upbeat for quite a while, even as the latter slammed their corporate wallets shut. Will the reverse be true now that the economy is regaining momentum? Consumer-confidence numbers spent much of the first quarter of 2004 going to hell in a handbasket. At the same time, executives have been getting more optimistic. The Conference Board’s measure of CEO confidence “surged” in the first quarter, reaching its “highest reading in 20 years.” Will this rub off on jittery consumers? It will if the CEOs increase the pace of hiring. On that score, The Conference Board finds half the CEOs saying they expect employment to rise in their own industries, “up significantly from less than 16 percent a year ago.”

Of all the addictions to which people are prone, the salt habit may be one of the toughest to kick. For one thing, it lurks in all sorts of foods that people don’t necessarily think of as salty. Consumers also seek out the stuff, knowing full well they’re ingesting more of it than the health experts recommend. In a new Mintel study, nine of 10 Americans said they eat salty snacks. More than one-fourth of salty-snack eaters said they sometimes use those foods “as a meal replacement or between meals.” The number of salty-snack product launches was relatively stable during the past couple years, but “2004 appears to be poised for significant growth.” The upturn is forecast to reflect “the impact of low-carb chip alternatives, plus new flavors and product styles.” With carbs having replaced fat as the dietary villain du jour, the category has seen fewer introductions of low-fat products.

A contrarian view of America’s supposed low-carb mania emerges from a report by The NPD Group. Sure, many people imagine they’re being vigilant about carbohydrates. And other studies have shown declines in sales of some starchy items. Still, “Virtually none of the 11,000 people studied were cutting carbs to the degree that low-carb diets recommend. In fact, among people who say they are on low-carb diets, only one out of four is actually significantly cutting carbs.”

Poor Philadelphia. Not only do people from elsewhere think Philadelphians aren’t good-looking. Philadelphians think the same. In an online poll by Travel + Leisure magazine and AOL’s Travel Channel, respondents were asked to gauge 25 U.S. cities in various categories. As seen by visitors, Nashville, Tenn., was friendliest and Los Angeles the least friendly. Minneapolis/St. Paul was No. 1 in cleanliness; New Orleans ranked last by that measure. Honolulu was rated the best for romance, with Washington, D.C., at the bottom of those standings. Then there’s Philadelphia. Visitors ranked it last for stylishness (New York was No. 1) and good-looking people (San Diego was tops). And it came in 24th in the people-watching category (just ahead of Houston, while Las Vegas was No. 1). Moreover, when Philadelphians were asked to judge their own city, they also ranked it 25th for good looks, as well as 21st for stylishness. Is the City of Brotherly Love at least friendly? Visitors rated it 20th in that category, while locals ranked it 21st. At least Philadelphians are modest.

If the fish-shaped crackers in this Boy Scouts ad bring back memories for you, it probably means you’ve spent too much time in bars. All the more reason, though, to enjoy seeing them in the wholesome context of an ad that counsels boys to “Develop something other than your gaming thumbs.” Another ad in the series suggests the reader “Try roasting marshmallows instead of becoming one.” Trone of High Point, N.C., created the ads for the area’s Boy Scout organization.

Our Canadian-stained-shirt factoid of the month comes from an Ipsos-Reid poll in which Canada’s men were asked why their shirts get stained. Sixty percent of them manfully blamed their own clumsiness; 17 percent cited their commute as the culprit. Six percent pointed a sticky finger at “my child,” and an equal number put the onus on “turbulence.” Meanwhile, the clumsiness of Canadian men helps to explain why a separate Ipsos survey found Canadian women spend an average of 5.6 hours per week doing laundry.