Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.

Feb. 11 2015 2:19 PM

Coke and Pepsi Still Struggling to Get Americans to Drink Coke and Pepsi

Pity the company whose most iconic and cherished product also becomes one of its least popular. That's the reality for Coca Cola and PepsiCo, whose customers have grown disillusioned with the sodas they once loved so much. On Tuesday, Coke said its profit in the fourth quarter of 2014 tumbled 55 percent from the previous year on lackluster demand for sugary and diet soft drinks. And on Wednesday morning, Pepsi reported a 24 percent decline in year-over-year earnings for the same period.

That Pepsi’s profit numbers were not so dismal as Coke’s is likely because Pepsi has been bolstered by its Frito-Lay snack division. Over the previous quarter, sales of Frito-Lay products increased 3 percent in North America while carbonated soft drink volume there fell 2 percent. “Frito-Lay, obviously, we did see good performance in the quarter,” Hugh Johnston, PepsiCo’s chief financial officer, said on the company’s earnings call. “We expect continued momentum out of Frito-Lay.” At Coke, volume of sparkling beverages grew only 1 percent in the more recent quarter and for the full year, compared with4 percent full-year growth in still beverages (driven by demand for sports drinks, ready-made tea, and bottled water).

That we aren’t drinking Coke and Pepsi at the rates we used to isn’t surprising. People are more worried about sugar content and obesity. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed major changes to nutrition labels. This time last year, an industry analyst told the New York Times that carbonated beverages were “in precipitous decline.” In November, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the country to pass a soda tax.

In many ways, the challenges faced by Coke and Pepsi are not unlike those confronting Campbell Soup Co. Late last month, Campbell’s announced a major reorganization that essentially shifted its focus away from soup. Campbell’s winning products these days are its fresher, healthier options. Its sodium-filled soups are struggling to keep up. In other words, for Campbell’s to stay Campbell’s, it’s learning that it might have to move away from the core products that once really made it Campbell’s. If trends in soft drinks continue the way they’re going, that’s something Coke and Pepsi will have to grapple with, as well.

Video Advertisement

Feb. 10 2015 5:40 PM

Uber Competitor Sees the Future, and It Involves Your Chinese Takeout

Let’s play startup Mad Libs for a second: “By integrating [noun] with [noun] and our large network of [plural noun], we’ve created the [adjective], most [adjective], seamless and scalable [adjective] delivery solution for e-commerce companies.” If you filled in “delivery,” “ridesharing,” “drivers,” “fastest,” “affordable,” and “same-day,” then congratulations! You have just come up with the “People + Packages” plan that Uber competitor Sidecar is declaring the “future of same-day delivery.”

Sidecar, a San Francisco–based carpooling company, said Tuesday that it is combining rides for people with rides for stuff in a push to grow its budding same-day-delivery service nationwide. The idea is that Sidecar will work with e-commerce companies—for example, Eat24, an online food-ordering service similar to Seamless and GrubHub—to facilitate its ultra-fast deliveries. Or, in other words, the next thing you “share” a ride with could be someone’s Chinese dinner.

That on-demand ride companies are turning their attention from moving people to moving things isn’t exactly new news. Over the past year, Uber has begun testing a litany of logistical services, including UberRush, Uber Corner Store, and UberFresh. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, has said that Uber’s true value proposition lies in its ability to execute near-instantaneous deliveries. “If we can get you a car in five minutes,” he told Kara Swisher in December, “we can get you anything in five minutes.” In recent months, big companies like Amazon and Google have also stepped up their investments in same-day and even one-hour delivery options.

Unlike Uber’s services, which are fairly obviously Uber-branded, customers getting their deliveries through Sidecar won’t necessarily know that’s who’s responsible. “Our view is that the delivery consumer relationship belongs to our partners, and not to us,” says Sunil Paul, Sidecar’s chief executive. And at least for now, Sidecar passengers shouldn’t expect to have deliveries interrupt their trips. “The way we're doing it today is the passenger is never inconvenienced,” Paul says. “It goes back to people are the most delicate packages there are.” Presumably it will be up to Sidecar’s algorithm to make things happen in the right order.

Sidecar says that delivery already accounts for 10 percent of the rides it conducts in San Francisco and could make up half its business by the end of 2015. By tossing together people and packages, Sidecar claims it has also been able to streamline the delivery process—keeping it fast and relatively affordable—while providing more work and potential earnings for drivers. Since Eat24 partnered with Sidecar, the company adds, Eat24’s delivery times have been cut almost in half. (In related news, Yelp said Tuesday that it had acquired Eat24 for $134 million. A spokesman for Yelp declined to comment on any potential relationship between Sidecar and Yelp.)

By the end of the year, Sidecar plans to make delivery available in all of its current cities (many in California, as well as Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, North Carolina) and to roll out in some new ones. Paul declined to reveal what Sidecar charges for delivery, but said that its rates are about one-third to one-fifth of traditional same-day delivery fees, which he added range from $20 to $35 per delivery. Make of that what you will. And if you use Sidecar, prepare yourself for the scent of takeout accompanying commutes.

Feb. 10 2015 1:26 PM

Why Do So Many Millennials Live With Their Parents? Two Theories: Marriage and Debt.

Last year, even as the job market picked up speed, the fraction of 25-to-34-year-old Americans living with their parents stayed stuck at record highs nearing 15 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Seems odd, right? After all, millennials have been moving home in historic droves mostly because of the weak economy, haven’t they?

Maybe not. In the past several months, a handful of studies have suggested that the reasons grown children are returning to the nest in greater numbers than ever may have less to do with the rise and fall of the unemployment rate, and more to do with lasting changes to young adult life, such as the growth of student debt and delayed marriage.

To put it another way, when it comes to twenty- and thirtysomethings living with Mom and Dad, it’s possible we’re looking at something close to a new normal.

In September, a working paper by Federal Reserve board economists Lisa Dettling and Joanne Hsu found that rising student debt levels could explain about 30 percent of the increased rate at which young adults, ages 18 to 31, began moving in with their parents between 2005 and 2013. Local unemployment rates had a far smaller effect. And once falling housing prices were taken into account, the authors concluded that economic conditions should have actually decreased the number of boomerang kids (after all, even if jobs are hard to come by, cheaper real estate makes it easier to live solo). But debt was driving adults back into their childhood bedrooms.

Those findings were largely echoed in a November staff report by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Home prices and rising unemployment rates “may have increased parental coresidence,” the authors wrote, but “student debt could play an even larger role in keeping young people at home, possibly explaining as much as 50% of the increase since 2003.” In general, they found that in states where college graduates finished school with more debt on average, young adults were more likely to live with their folks.

The Federal Reserve studies share at least one minor shortcoming. Both rely on credit report data, which identifies individuals based on their address, but doesn’t explicitly reveal whether people who live together are actually related to one another. To make up for this, the papers work from the assumption that young adults live with their parents if they share a home with a significantly older adult. It’s possible, therefore, that a 26-year-old renting a couple’s basement in Washington, D.C., while working on Capitol Hill would be incorrectly treated as a boomerang kid in their analysis. So would a 23-year-old who, thanks to whatever odd quirk of Craigslist fate, shares an apartment with a 45-year-old roommate. But in both studies, the authors argue that census data suggest those situations are fairly rare.

Still, there are some obvious reasons to be skeptical about both Federal Reserve studies. First, it seems possible that looking at home prices may have underestimated the role of real estate, since median rents actually rose through part of the recession. Beyond that, living-at-home rates grew faster during the recession for young adults who never attended college than those who did. Presumably, most of them didn’t have any education debt, and something else was at play.

On the other hand, neither study suggests that student loans, or economic factors, explain the entire migration of millennials back home. So what else might play a role? One answer could be marriage. An analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau's Jonathan Vespa and Laryssa Mykyta found that the growing proportion of never-wedded 25-to-34-year-olds could entirely explain why more of those young adults moved in with their parents during the Great Recession than in past downturns.* The unemployment rate, in contrast, didn’t seem to make a difference (which makes sense when you consider that relatively fewer young adults boomeranged during the 1980s double-dip recession, even though joblessness peaked higher).

“The relatively earlier ages at marriage during the 1970s and 1980s acted as a brake on living with parents during that period,” they wrote, “whereas later ages at marriage in the 2000s accelerated the share of young adults living with parents.”

Like the Federal Reserve studies, Vespa and Mykyta’s paper needs a few caveats. To start, it doesn't factor student loans into its analysis, which seems like an obvious blind spot. Second, it compares recessions to other recessions; implicitly, it still suggests that the percentage of young adults living at home will eventually fall a bit when as unemployment continues to fall.

But the decline of young marriage is an appealingly straightforward explanation for some of the trends we've seen in the past several years. It’s easier for a couple to pay rent on an apartment than someone who's single. When they run into financial trouble, spouses can rely on each other for support (and, you know, not many of us want to move in with our in-laws). But beyond that, marriage rates have declined most among Americans who never went to college, that same group among whom living with parents is commonest and has grown fastest.

So, what are the takeaways? In the end, all three of these analyses are still very preliminary. But let’s say they’re directionally correct, and debt and postponed marriage are really the dominant forces driving young adults home rather than unemployment. One conclusion might be that young adults are simply more susceptible to a bad economy, or plain old career trouble, than they used to be. It’s not high unemployment, per se, that’s a problem so much as the fact that we’re less prepared to deal with it, thanks to the fall of marriage and the rise of debt. And what about when the job market finally gets back to full health? We should probably still expect more young people to live at home than in the past. Student loans aren’t disappearing any time soon. Americans aren’t getting hitched any earlier. Parents might want to think about keeping that extra bed around, just in case.

*Correction, Feb. 10, 2015: This post originally misspelled the first name of Laryssa Mykyta.

Feb. 9 2015 7:02 PM

Startups With Shorter Names Are More Likely to Succeed, Study Finds

Writing a recipe for startup success is like trying to bottle lightning. Estimates, after all, put the startup failure rate as high as 90 percent; there’s a reason “fail fast, fail often” is a Silicon Valley mantra. Several years ago, a study of venture-backed firms by researchers at Harvard University found that entrepreneurs who have succeeded once are more likely than first-timers to succeed in the future, but that still just scratched the surface of what works for company founders and why.

Last week, a new study published in Science, “Where Is Silicon Valley?,” attempted to come a little closer to identifying what separates the startups that make it from the ones that don’t. The researchers’ findings: Startups that are more likely to succeed have short names, are not named after their founders, and are located in regions associated with “high quality” ventures. In particular, the authors write that eponymous firms are more than 70 percent less likely to succeed than others while firms with short names (defined in their paper as three or fewer words) are 50 percent more likely to succeed than those with long names. Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Palo Alto are the top-rated cities for so-called entrepreneurial quality. Successful firms were considered ones that achieved an initial public offering or an acquisition within six years of being founded.

To conduct their study, the authors looked at data on for-profit business registrations in California between 2001 and 2011, as well as data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Thomson Reuters. After rating the firms for their entrepreneurial quality, the researchers estimated the average quality of firms in each California city and ZIP code. The records they used in the process were important because they let the authors look at companies right from their founding—before venture capital had been invested or anything else. So when Menlo Park and Mountain View and Palo Alto emerged as the best cities for entrepreneurial quality, it wasn’t necessarily because the companies in that area had more funding off the bat that allowed them to set up shop there.

screen_shot_20150209_at_5.09.02_pm_1

From "Where Is Silicon Valley?"

“What we’ve been able to do here is move one step back and sort of get the raw material at inception rather than the impact of venture capital,” Scott Stern, one of the study’s authors and a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me. “We’re trying to measure things that companies do naturally when they have the ambition and potential to grow.”

That startups with shorter names tend to perform better is consistent with other research on naming. In 2013, a report from career site TheLadders found that shorter first names were correlated with higher annual salaries. With companies, particularly in tech, there has been a tendency to form names by misspelling common words, dropping vowels, or appendly “ly” (think: Flickr, Feedly, Pinterest, and so on). While the study in Science only examined name length in terms of number of words, Stern says the principles of eliminating letters are probably the same. “Firms are looking for names that are easy to remember, that will come up in a search,” he says. “If you have a smaller number of letters and you’re missing a vowel, you will have that distinctive search pattern.”

Of course, all this isn’t to say that startups will succeed just because they launch in the best-ranked areas for entrepreneurship and come up with short names. Rather, it’s that ambitious startups with ambitious founders tend to do the things that the ultimately successful companies do. “Our indicators are the digital trail of ambitious, high-potential entrepreneurs,” Stern says. “Simply having those digital trail markers is not enough—what needs to be true is the founders need to have ambition and potential so that those choices make sense in their overall business plan.”

That said, anyone narrowing down a list of possible monikers for their new venture might want to pre-emptively strike any long or eponymous name ideas from their list. It can’t hurt.

Feb. 9 2015 10:57 AM

Watch John Oliver Eulogize RadioShack, a “True American Icon”

Last week, consumer electronics icon RadioShack filed for bankruptcy. It was 94.

On Sunday, John Oliver paid tribute to the retailer on HBO's Last Week Tonight, chastising America for the “glib, jokey tone” that had long been used to discuss the electronics chain's impending demise. “This is a dying 94-year-old business!” Oliver said. “At this point, it’s like you’re sitting across from your grandfather at Thanksgiving dinner saying, ‘You know, I don’t really see the point of Grandpa Fred in 2015.’ ” Poor RadioShack.

Since RadioShack didn’t get a proper send-off, or the chance to say a proper goodbye to its consumers, Oliver made a farewell message for them to use. From RadioShack, and Last Week Tonight, to you. Enjoy.

Feb. 6 2015 6:04 PM

Japan’s Government Has a Great New Idea: Force Workers to Take Vacation

Japan’s government is contemplating a radical solution to the country’s crippling lack of work-life balance: mandatory vacation. This week, the Japan Times reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration was considering a law that would require workers to take at least five paid days off each year. Employees are already guaranteed 10 days off in Japan, and on average are offered much more. They just don’t take it. A labor ministry survey found workers “typically use less than half their annual leave,” according to the Times. That’s especially remarkable, considering that the Japanese are required to use vacation time for sick days.

Japan has long struggled with a deeply workaholic corporate culture. Companies expect employees to pull long stretches of overtime, often without pay, as a show of dedication. Often, this translates to little more than unproductive face time—workers sit around in their offices ticking off the minutes until they can acceptably leave. But the personal strain of the long hours can be enormous. As many English-language outlets have noted, the country actually has a word for working oneself into the grave—karoshi. The courts have recognized it as a legitimate cause of action in wrongful death suits. And though it was often associated with heart attacks and strokes, the psychological strain of excessive work is now blamed for thousands of suicides in Japan per year.

Still, the government has had trouble convincing its exhausted and frazzled salary men and women to take it easy. In the 1980s, for instance, it reduced the standard work week to 40 hours from 48 and increased overtime pay. However, the law was full of loopholes that exempted many white-collar employees. And while international data, such as figures from the OECD, have shown average Japanese work hours declining, the shift may be largely due to a staggering increase in part-time employment, especially among the young. Full-timers are still pulling egregious hours.

Over time, that’s evolved into an economic, as well as social, problem, because it has kept females out of the workforce. The punishing work hours that companies expect make it impossible for women to balance children and a career, so new mothers quit their jobs at remarkably high rates (alternatively, they often choose not to have children at all, which has helped kill the country’s birth rate). When they return, most are stuck in low-paying part-time work that doesn’t necessarily utilize their talents.

Following decades of stagnation, the Abe administration is hoping to revive Japanese growth in part by pushing more women into the working world. As the New York Times put it, the prime minister is basically hoping that “supermom” can swoop in and save the economy. But to do that, he’ll have to make office culture more hospitable. Making vacation mandatory would force companies to stop treating time off as a sign of personal weakness while giving women flexibility to handle family issues. Perhaps just as importantly, it might help men shoulder a bit more of the household burden, as well. Japan might be waiting for supermom. But it could probably use help from superdad, too.

Feb. 6 2015 3:08 PM

RadioShack Finally Files for Bankruptcy, and No One Is Surprised

On Thursday evening, RadioShack finally reached its years-in-the-making end when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and said it plans to sell up to 2,400 stores to Sprint. The news should come as no surprise: RadioShack had lost money for 11 straight quarters and, frankly, struggled to stay viable since e-commerce caught on and Apple rolled out the iPhone. RadioShack employees have told dismal tales of stores that stayed open for 12 hours without seeing a single customer, or that did weekly revenue of a couple dollars after someone came in for a watch battery.

When I stopped in at a RadioShack in Manhattan this morning, there was one other customer in the store (who left shortly after I arrived) and three employees. One of them, after I mentioned that I was a reporter, told me that they had only been informed of the bankruptcy that morning and hadn’t really been given any instructions on what to do about it. Another scribbled down the number of a hotline they’d been told to call with questions. “This is the RadioShack Corporation restructuring line,” a message droned when I tried it. “On Feb. 5, 2015, the company and several of its subsidiaries filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code. RadioShack is open for business and serving customers.”

If RadioShack’s demise was inevitable, it was also mourned. News of the bankruptcy filing prompted an outpouring of memories from one-time RadioShack customers and tech geeks. Motherboard and the Wall Street Journal were among the outlets that crowdsourced eulogies for the embattled chain. “In the ’70s I saved my allowance and bought a crystal radio set at RadioShack so I could listen to the police calls in San Diego,” one reader wrote to the Journal. “RadioShack was the one-stop-shop for everything I needed—PCBs, every type of wire you could imagine, a soldering gun, etc.,” another recalled.

That people’s fondest memories of RadioShack overwhelmingly involve buying parts to fix and tinker with various electronic devices illustrates perfectly why RadioShack is now filing for bankruptcy protection. During RadioShack’s heyday in the 1980s, consumer electronics were still things you could fix with the right parts and some free time. Today? Good luck. Home-built radios might figure prominently in All the Light We Cannot See, but they’re far from a typical purchase. More complicated gadgets have also become harder to fidget with. Since 2008, Apple in particular has marketed high-end devices that are practically impossible to repair yourself. The last time I bought something in a RadioShack was a few years ago, when I needed a new battery for my flip phone and couldn’t find it on Amazon.

According to RadioShack’s announcement, up to 1,750 of the stores it sells to Sprint will be reconfigured as stores-within-stores. The rest of RadioShack’s company-owned stores will close and be expected to clear out their remaining inventory; the company is in talks to sell its remaining assets. RadioShack says it will post a full list “in the near future” of all the stores that will be shut down. Until then, it might be worth checking if there are any electronic odds and ends you want to get on clearance.

Feb. 6 2015 9:31 AM

It’s Raining Jobs!

Get exuberant, people. The United States added 257,000 jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beating economists' predictions and continuing the momentum of the past several months that has everybody feeling fairly sunny about the economy. Better yet: The unemployment rate edged up slightly to 5.7 percent, as more Americans returned to the labor force in order to look for work. It's just one month, but hiring may have been strong enough for long enough to convince people who had given up on finding a job to give it a new shot. Economist Justin Wolfers—Twitter's jobs-day guru—can only marvel:

About those wages: Hourly earnings, not adjusted for inflation, were up just 2.2 percent year over year, which ordinarily would be fairly forgettable growth. But since the U.S. has seen some deflation in recent months due to declining gas prices, those raises are much more valuable. 

Finally, the BLS released its annual benchmark revisions, which re-estimate the previous year's jobs data based on refined survey data about the number and types of businesses running in the U.S. Long story short: We added a few more jobs than previously thought in 2014. Here's what the monthly trend looked like:  

jan_jobs_1

Jordan Weissmann

Meanwhile, as Bloomberg notes, the U.S. has added an average of 336,000 jobs over the past three months, the best gain for that length of time since 1997. In part, that's because November's total was revised up to a monumental 423,000 new jobs. Here's the rolling three-month average graphed. Just look at that little orange line take off:

jan_jobs_2

Jordan Weissmann

So can this good news last? It's always hard to say. But it certainly feels like we're reaching a nice, self-reinforcing cycle of employment growth. Employers are hiring. People are feeling good about their finances and spending. And employers are hiring more. Keep it up, America.

Feb. 5 2015 6:30 PM

How Obama Sneakily Spent $24 Billion Helping Students Pay Back Their Loans

Politco’s Michael Grunwald had a nifty scoop today, which ran under the slightly excessive headline, “The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget.” (One imagines dazed think-tank employees covered in bruises and shrapnel wounds.) Thanks to some recent executive actions by President Obama aimed at helping undergrads manage their education debt, the federal student lending program is going to earn nearly $22 billion less than previously projected. That’s a pretty big number. Grunwald points out that it would increase the deficit by 5 percent this year. And the figures were hidden away in an obscure appendix spreadsheet that most sane people, including reporters, would probably gloss over while wondering what karmic sin they had committed in a past life to merit such boredom.  

So, it’s an interesting find. But should anybody be upset?

That depends. President Obama is essentially helping lots of student borrowers switch into more lenient repayment plans, and as a result, the government will make less money on its old loans. If you focus on the deficit and the deficit alone, then yeah, this story looks kind of bad. But if you focus on the fact that the White House found a way to provide billions in student loan relief without asking permission from Congress then, well, it’s kind of impressive.

This is largely a story about the weird world of federal budget math. When the government wants to figure out how much money it’s making off of student lending, it doesn’t just add up the money flowing in and out of the Treasury annually. Instead, it looks at all of the new loans that the Department of Education has made in a given year, and essentially tries to project how much they’ll return (or lose) over the lifetime of the debt. So when you read an article that says something like, “The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers,” it really means that Washington’s budgeteers have looked deep into their crystal spreadsheets and concluded that all of this year’s new loans will earn about $51 billion.

There are very good, rational reasons why the process works this way. But it obviously involves a lot of guesswork about the future. That’s why, each year at budget time, the White House has to re-estimate the cost of federal student loans (as well as its various other credit programs). Usually, those tweaks are fairly small. But this time, they were worth about $22 billion. As far as the White House knows, it’s the largest re-estimate since 1992, when today’s budget rules for credit programs kicked in.

For that, we can thank President Obama’s recent efforts to expand the Department of Education's Pay as You Earn program, which caps student loan payments at 10 percent of disposable income and forgives the debt after 20 years. The plan, which Obama signed into law in 2010, was more generous than the old income-based repayment option. But borrowers with older debt weren’t eligible, and in general, the program was poorly publicized, which left it bizarrely underused. In recent years, Obama has tried to fix those issues using the power of his pen. In 2013, he told the Department of Education to contact troubled borrowers to make sure they understood all of their payment options. Then last June, the president signed an executive action expanding eligibility for Pay as You Earn to about 5 million more people.  

If you’re worried about the epidemic of student loan defaults in this country, these are all pretty positive developments. Borrowers are switching to payment plans that help them handle their debt and write off their loans after a reasonable period of time. But those forgiving terms are also less lucrative for the government than standard payment options. The White House Office of Management and Budget told me that it thinks Obama's executive action expanding eligibility for Pay as You Earn will cost the feds about $9 billion, while the administration's outreach efforts will cost another $15 billion as more people opt into the program. The grand total: $24 billion. The final re-estimate comes out to just under $22 billion, however, thanks to some changed assumptions about the economy and interest rates.

Grunwald calls this “a big quasi-bailout”—which is fair in a way. Obama has theoretically handed a big chunk of change back to student borrowers without asking permission from Congress (neat trick, huh?). You can call that a bailout if you want. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s really much to get worked up about. These dollars are being subtracted from the value of every single outstanding federal student loan at once. In other words, it’s basically a one-time charge; it’s not like we’ll be spending an additional $22 billion every year from now on. Thanks to Obama’s actions, student lending will probably be a little less profitable in the future.1 But some might argue that’s a good thing.  

Footnote1: Conservatives tend to argue that student loan profits are a complete illusion created by bad accounting standards. There is not enough room in this piece to rehash that entire argument.

Feb. 5 2015 5:22 PM

Grilled Cheese Food-Truck Company Is Valued at $107 Million, Has Website in Comic Sans

Sometimes you come across tidbits of news that are just too good to be true, and then you look into them a little bit and they get better. Welcome to Grilled Cheese Truck Inc., or as Barry Ritholtz terms it in his Thursday column for Bloomberg View, “Grilled Cheese and $100 Million of Irrational Exuberance.”

Grilled Cheese Truck is a gourmet grilled cheese company with outposts in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura/Santa Barbara, and Phoenix. Its offerings include mac and cheese, French onion soup, various sandwich melts, and, of course, all types of grilled cheese. Last week, the Grilled Cheese Truck started trading on the OTCQX exchange under the ticker “GRLD,” and at last count its roughly $6 share price gave it a market capitalization of about $107 million. For a little context, that's about two-fifths of what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid for the Washington Post.

Ritholtz has a good summary of the rest of the company’s financials:

... according to the company’s financial statements, it has about $1 million of assets and almost $3 million in liabilities. In the third quarter of 2014, it had sales of almost $1 million, on which it had a net loss of more than  $900,000.  The story is much the same for the first nine months of the year: $2.6 million in sales and a loss of $4.4 million.
But forget the losses for a moment, and make the generous assumption that it will have sales of $4 million this year. This means its shares trade for more than 25 times sales, a very rich valuation.

Going back to the initial point, though, about already delicious stories getting just a bit more delicious: Not only is the company valued at more than $100 million, but its website (and even its investor relations page!) is written in Comic Sans—the cheesiest of all fonts.

READ MORE STORIES