National News

Single-serve coffeemaker market heats up

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 02:00

Coffee is the single-most popular food item — solid or liquid — that Americans consume at breakfast, according to the NPD Group. And although American coffee consumption has been more or less flat since the 1980s (and has fallen since peaking in the 1940s), one category is booming: single serve.

The dominant player in the domestic market is Green Mountain’s Keurig machines and their K-cup pods — with 72 percent market-share, according to a recent report from Euromonitor. Switzerland-based Nestle and its Nespresso machines have just 3 percent of the U.S. market.

But Nespresso — which is dominant in Europe — is trying to muscle in with a new offering called the VertuoLine. Nespresso's original line of machines — which has seen double-digit growth in recent years in the U.S. — is designed to reproduce a "European" coffee experience, says Nespresso CEO Jean-Marc Duvoisin.

"The objective was to be able to create concentrated strong espresso coffee especially as drunk in Italy, France, Switzerland," Duvoisin says. In other words, a strong short shot of espresso with froth, or crema, on top.

But Duvoisin acknowledges that the market for this style and size of coffee drink is limited in the U.S. So the company's new VertuoLine — with a new coffee-making technology that swirls the hot water through the pod in a centrifuge motion — delivers what the company thinks many more Americans want, says Duvoisin, "the long mug of coffee." 

It's an eight-ounce cup, similar to what rival Keurig machines deliver.

Harry Balzer, who researches American eating and drinking habits at the NPD Group, says Nespresso’s move to a bigger drink is probably wise.

"Look at the sandwiches we have, look at the drinks we have," says Balzer. "We tend to prefer things bigger. Feel like we're getting a good deal, a good value."

But Americans may not feel like they're getting such good value from Nespresso, says Jim Hertel at retail consultancy Willard Bishop. It's not the price of the machines — at around $300 they're in the same price-range ballpark as the competition.

It’s "the price of the pods themselves," says Hertel. He says one can find K-cups for Keurig machines online or at discount groceries for just over $0.30 apiece. Nespresso's pods cost twice that, and they have to be ordered from Nespresso.

"It's going to start off being elite," Hertel says of Nespresso's expanding footprint in the U.S. market, "and then it's going to move its way down. It may never get down to the mid-market."

Right now, Nespresso machines are available in Nespresso's own branded stores — just a handful in upscale markets like Beverly Hills, New York and Miami. The company also has store-within-a-store displays — where customers can sample Nespresso coffee free — in stores like Bloomingdale's and Sur La Table. And the company plans to introduce its new VertuoLine at Target later this year.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

 

SOME RULES OF OFFICE COFFEE ETIQUETTE:

1. If you drink the last cup, make a new pot!
2. Re-read Rule No. 1 — it's that important.
3. Never leave a dirty cup in the single-serve coffeemaker. Empty the used pod, or pod reservoir if it's full.
4. If there are multiple flavors of single-serve coffee in a rack at work, don't pick a co-worker's favorite if it's the last one left.
5. If there are free snacks in the office kitchen, eat the whole cookie — or donut or Danish. It's okay to count calories, but no one wants a pastry you've already torn apart with your grubby fingers.
6. Chip in to the office coffee pool if there is one — no one likes a freeloader (and eventually you'll probably be found out.)

These are the highest paid doctors in Medicare

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 01:26

As of today, we know a whole lot more about how much Medicare pays doctors. The government has released huge amounts of data on which doctors, got paid how much, for what procedures. The data show payments to more than 800,000 doctors and health care organizations. It includes information for thousands of procedures. 

If you want to look up a specific doctor, to find out how much she was paid by Medicare in 2012.  You can look it up.  The Wall Street Journal has created an easy to use interactive search tool here. Researchers are at the very beginning of trying to make sense of all the numbers.  But, we have been able to pull out a few interseting tid-bits.

According to a New York Times analysis:

Much of Medicare spending is concentrated among a small fraction of doctors. About 2 percent of doctors account for about $15 billion in Medicare payments, roughly a quarter of the total.

Medicare paid 344 doctors and health care providers more than $3 million in 2012. At the top of the list is an opthamologist in Florida who was paid nearly $21 million.

So who are these well paid doctors? Where are they?

Here are the top 5 states where those 344 doctors and health care providers do business:

 And here's a breakdown of the $3 million-plus club by the type of medicine they practice.

 Some doctors aren't happy with the data dump.  According to the Wall Street Journal, it's the end of a fight that's been going on since the 1970s. As my colleague, Nancy Marshall-Genzer points out, many physicians groups worry the numbers, out of context, could be misleading: 

"Sixty percent of all Medicare patients actually have three or more medical conditions. Our patients are extremely complex" Dr. Reid Blackwelder,  president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Proponents of the database say it will allow patients to figure out which doctors do a good job of providing good quality care while limiting costs.  And, it should help us all better understand what goes into the $2.8 trillion dollar U.S. health care industry.

If these dolphins could talk

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-09 01:00

Researchers in Florida have developed an interface that aims to translate dolphin sounds into words that humans can understand. As Dr. Denise Herzing, the founder of the Wild Dolphin Project, puts it:

"Think of it like an acoustic keyboard underwater. The system has four artificially designed whistles that we created. We made them specifically because they aren’t in the dolphin’s normal repertoire."

With their ability to mimic sounds, dolphins can learn how to make whistling noises which they have been trained to associate with designated objects in the water. Underwater computer CHAT (Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry) can hear the whistle sounds being made by the dolphins, and then translate them into words that are transmitted into a researcher's ear piece. 

Dr. Herzing is encouraged by an instance in which a dolphin's whistle was translated by CHAT into the word "Sargassum," which is a kind of brown algae. Though, she warns of celebrating success too soon.

"Let’s remember that when a dolphin mimics a whistle, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dolphin understands what the whistle means."

Still, it's an exciting development in dolphin-to-human communication. And no, we're not referring to this kind of communication.

 

In Eastern Ukraine, Normality Rules Except At Ground Zero

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 23:39

Protests in eastern Ukraine are the focal point of the country's crisis with implications that stretch beyond its borders. Yet life in most of Donetsk seems untouched by the turmoil.

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States, Lawmakers Want Feds To Use New Math For FEMA Calculations

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 23:37

As a new tornado season begins, Illinois officials say they need more help from the federal government, and Sens. Kirk and Durbin have reintroduced a bill proposing changes to the disaster formula.

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Time To Root, Root, Root For Final Innings

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 23:35

A baseball odd couple ends their careers this year: Commissioner Bud Selig and Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter.

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An Education Reporter Puts Himself To The (Standardized) Test

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 23:34

New Common Core teaching standards mean new standardized exams. NPR's Cory Turner took one himself and reports on what's changed.

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Lessons Learned For 2015 From This Year's Obamacare Sign-Ups

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 23:32

More funding for in-person guidance could help ease confusion, say consumer groups. Beefing up education about each plan's relative costs would help, as would shifting open enrollment to tax-time.

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Obama Aunt Who Stayed In U.S. Illegally Dies At 61

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 21:47

President Barack Obama's aunt Zeituni Onyango, who was denied asylum in the United States but stayed illegally for years, died Tuesday at age 61.

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Marine Guard Shot To Death By Colleague AT N.C. Base

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 21:41

A Marine posted at the main gate of a North Carolina base shot and killed a colleague inside a guard shack, a spokesman said. The shooting comes less than a week after a fatal rampage at Fort Hood.

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Death Toll From Washington Mudslide Rises To 35

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 16:37

The last person identified was two-year-old Brooke Spillers of Arlington, Washington. President Obama is also scheduled to visit the area later this month.

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Massive Security Flaw Picks The Padlock On Much Of The Internet

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 16:02

A bug has been discovered in one of the Internet's principal encryption programs. The bug enables attackers to evade security and eavesdrop on information supplied to companies online by users.

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Texas Education Agency Considers Adding Class On Mexican-Americans

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 15:27

Mexican-American studies have been controversial in some parts of the country. In Arizona, for example, those studies were banned in 2011.

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GM At Odds With Feds Over Recall-Related Documents

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 14:51

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is fining the automaker for not answers all of its questions about ignition switch problems, but General Motors says it's doing its best to comply.

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This Pie Chart Is Delicious And Statistically Sound

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 14:51

Back 2012, The Salt surveyed readers on their favorite pies during our Pie Week series. Recently, an Australian reader wrote in to let us know she pie-charted our results with mouth-watering real pie.

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You can now search Yelp for emojis

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 14:35

You can now search the online review site Yelp using emojis -- those little cartoon-ish characters you can create with a certain set of keystrokes.     So...you search on a pair of scissors, you get listings for hair salons. A high heel gets you shoe stores. You get the picture(s).   I don't even want to search on a smiley face or a wink. Pretty sure the Internet has taken things one step too far.   We, of course, had to try it:   Some results were just... the usual for Yelp.       Others were pretty literal.       But seriously: Could this be a useful search tool?    

 

You can now search Yelp for emojis

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-08 14:35

You can now search the online review site Yelp using emojis -- those little cartoon-ish characters you can create with a certain set of keystrokes.     So...you search on a pair of scissors, you get listings for hair salons. A high heel gets you shoe stores. You get the picture(s).   I don't even want to search on a smiley face or a wink. Pretty sure the Internet has taken things one step too far.   We, of course, had to try it:   Some results were just... the usual for Yelp.       Others were pretty literal.       But seriously: Could this be a useful search tool?    

 

Weather Channel Will Return To DirectTV

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 14:19

The new agreement comes with a price: the Weather Channel has agreed to cut back its reality programming by half during weekdays.

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21st Century Energy Outlook: Quite Similar To The Last Two Centuries

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 14:06

Anthony Alexander, the chief executive of FirstEnergy Corp., says coal and nuclear energy will continue to play a central role in this country's energy future.

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Putting Student Data To The Test To Identify Struggling Kids

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-08 13:46

Schools collect a trove of student information, like attendance and grades. Now, more schools are mining that data to flag kids at risk of dropping out — often before anyone realizes they need help.

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