TIME Food & Drink

You Only Have 5 Days to Try Starbucks’ Birthday Cake Frappuccino

The first Frappuccinos debuted in 1995

It’s a scientific fact—at least when it comes to dessert—that the only thing better than chocolate is birthday cake.

Luckily, Starbucks seems to be on top of this important life-truth.

The coffee chain is celebrating the 20th birthday of its signature frozen drink with a new Birthday Cake Frappuccino. The limited-edition drink will only be available in stores for five days, from March 26-30.

So how do you make a birthday-cake-flavored Frap? (No, not with Funfetti.) Starbucks’ vanilla bean and hazelnut flavors are blended together and then topped with a raspberry-infused (read: pink!) whipped cream.

The first Frappuccinos debuted in 1995 and were available only in coffee and mocha flavors. Now, the company boasts a history of fancy Fraps: a blue Seattle Seahawks flavor for the 2015 Super Bowl; a bright green Franken Frappuccino for Halloween; and a frozen version of its newest holiday flavor, the tastes-like-a-cup-of-Christmas-carols Chestnut Praline.

Fingers crossed for a happy-hour-appropriate, boozy birthday cake flavor when the Frappuccino turns 21 next year.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME

The Market Mirage

What stock prices do--and don't--tell us about the actual value of a company

One of the hardest-dying ideas in economics is that stock price accurately reflects the fundamental value of a given firm. It’s easy to understand why this misunderstanding persists: price equals value is a simple idea in a complex world. But the truth is that the value of firms in the market and their value within the real economy are, as often as not, disconnected. In fact, the Street regularly punishes firms hardest when they are making the decisions that most enhance their real economic value, causing their stock price to sink.

There are thousands of examples I could cite, but here’s a particularly striking one: the price of Apple stock fell roughly 25% the year it introduced the iPod. The technology that would kick-start the greatest corporate turnaround in the history of capitalism initially disappointed, selling only 400,000 units in its debut year, and the company’s stock reflected that. Thankfully, Steve Jobs didn’t give a fig. He stuck with the idea, and today nine Apple iDevices are sold somewhere in the world every second.

This story illustrates the truth: Stock prices are usually short-term distractions, while true value is built up over time. According to McKinsey, 70% to 90% of a company’s value is related to its likely cash flow three or more years from the present. That makes sense–making money from new inventions takes time. Yet Wall Street analysts, whose opinions help set stock prices, typically base their assessments of a firm on one-year cash-flow projections. What’s more, like all individuals, they have their biases; during boom periods, they tend to believe that corporate earnings will be higher than during bear markets, regardless of the underlying corporate story.

CEOs, who are paid mostly in stock and live in fear of being punished by the markets, race to hit the numbers rather than simply making the best decisions for their businesses long term. One National Bureau of Economic Research study found that 80% of executives would forgo innovation-generating spending if it meant missing their quarterly earnings figures. It’s a system that, as behavior economist and Nobel laureate Robert Shiller puts it, has emerged from “convenience rather than logic.”

That’s not to say that stock prices don’t give valuable insight into what’s driving corporate America. A recent report from the Office of Financial Research (OFR), a government body that monitors financial stability, dug into why U.S. stocks have tripled over the past six years. While the gains in the market have indeed been driven by rising corporate earnings, that fact obscures a more troubling truth beneath–sales growth is trailing well behind earnings growth. Companies have higher profit margins (and thus higher stock prices) not because the economy is booming and they are selling more stuff but because they have cut costs, kept salaries flat and not invested in new factories or research and development.

Share prices have also been driven up by low interest rates that have allowed companies to borrow money on the cheap and use it for short-term gain. Corporate debt (not including debt held by banks) has risen from $5.7 trillion in 2006 to $7.4 trillion today. Much of that money has been used for stock buybacks, dividend increases and mergers and acquisitions. The OFR believes that “although this financial engineering has contributed to higher stock prices in the short run, it detracts from opportunities to invest capital to support longer-term organic growth.” As William Lazonick, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell who does research on the topic, puts it, “We’ve moved from a world in which companies retain and reinvest their earnings to one in which they downsize and distribute them.”

Nobody–not Economists, not CEOs and not policymakers–thinks that’s good for real economic growth. Yet the markets stay up because of the dysfunctional feedback loops. Eventually, of course, interest rates will rise, money won’t be cheap anymore, and markets will go back down. None of it will reflect the reality on the ground, for companies or consumers, any more than it did during the boom times. For individual investors, there’s no clever strategy to get around any of this–you simply buy an index fund and hold it as long as you can before moving into T-bills or cash.

But there’s a deeper conversation to be had about how we might fix our system to bridge this gap between markets and reality. There are plenty of ideas out there, from a sliding capital gains tax based on how long you hold a stock to big limits on buybacks and corporate options pay. Any or all of these might help stock prices reflect what they should–the real value of a corporation.

TIME Social Media

Facebook Is Playing a Brilliant Long Game for Your Attention

Facebook Messenger Platform F8
Bloomberg via Getty Images Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, Calif., on March 25, 2015.

Remember Facebook Deals? How about Beacon, the ad-sharing feature that collapsed in a privacy scandal? Did you ever use Facebook Gifts while it was around? And when was the last time you fired up the Flipboard-like Paper app, if you ever downloaded it at all?

Facebook’s track record in releasing new apps or features is spotty at best, with a trail of outright failures running through the company’s history. This week, as the company announces new initiatives at its F8 developers conference, you have to wonder which ones will end up falling by the wayside.

And yet, taking the long view, you also have to wonder whether any new crop of failures will matter at all. Because when Facebook conceives new ideas and turns them into apps or platforms, the company is taking the long view. Facebook isn’t trying to bat 1.000, or even have a .407 season. Even with its collective failures, Facebook remains beloved by investors, who have pushed its stock up 232% over the past two years.

From that perspective, it’s more important to see what Facebook is trying to accomplish with its newly announced offerings, rather than looking too closely at the announcements themselves. With that in mind, here’s a quick summary of what Facebook has announced so far at F8:

Messenger Platform, which features a compose window loaded with third-party apps (40 for now), and a new customer-support communication with businesses.

Parse. The mobile platform Facebook bought a couple of years ago will let developers build apps for the Internet of things, including wearable devices and smart appliances.

Embedded videos. In a clear threat to Google, videos uploaded to Facebook’s site can be embedded YouTube-like, on other sites.

LiveRail. Facebook is launching a mobile ad exchange that lets publishers sell display and video ads using Facebook data alongside cookies.

Spherical videos. Shot with 24 coordinated cameras, the immersive, 360-degree videos bring an element of virtual reality to the news feed.

These are only the latest announcements. On Tuesday, Facebook unveiled On This Day, a feature showing users archived posts as their anniversaries roll by. On Monday, Instagram announced Layout, a new app that combines multiple photos into a single image. Over the weekend, word leaked out that Facebook was talking with media companies about hosting content inside its platform. And last week, Messenger added the ability for friends to send payments to each other.

Tech keynotes have become like Christmas stockings, a grab bag of new goodies that, handled right, fill gadget lovers and developers with either glee or disappointment. Facebook’s stocking this week wasn’t as squeal-inducing as some of Apple’s have been. But again, that’s not the goal. The goal is to keep innovating, to keep iterating, until something gels with user behavior, gaining enough traction to become a part of their daily lives.

In fact, many of Facebook’s newer initiatives are largely do-overs of its past misfires. Beacon was re-engineered in Facebook Connect, which also shared user information on third-party sites–and AppLinks, a feature mentioned in the F8 Keynote, takes that integration a step further with deep linking. Facebook Places, launched in 2011 to kill off Foursquare and shuttered a year later, was reborn this year as Place Tips, aiming once again squarely at Foursquare.

In the weekly tech news cycle, these little revelations seem ephemeral, even trivial. Take a few steps back and look at the longer-term perspective and something more significant emerges: Facebook is mutating, virus-like, to adapt to how we interact with each other online. In conference calls with investors, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly warn they won’t monetize products until they resonate with a large base of users. That was the case with Facebook’s original Web site, and it’s still the case with Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook’s own Messenger app is a clear example. After launching as a “Gmail killer” in 2010, the original Messages feature became a staple of the site and, eventually, a distinct app. When the company later bought WhatsApp, some worried Facebook would spoil it by turning it into an all-in-one messaging platform like WeChat or Line. Instead, WhatsApp remains largely unchanged, while Facebook is amping up Messenger from app to platform, with an ecosystem of third-party apps on top.

Of all the F8 announcements, Messenger is the most interesting. By letting users download apps directly inside conversations, Facebook is making it easy to distribute apps virally–a huge draw for developers considering Facebook’s platform. If this plan succeeds, Facebook would be hard to rival in the messaging space.

But Facebook didn’t stop there. Messenger is also becoming a line of communications with companies. Deals and Gifts were attempts to anchor ecommerce inside Facebook that largely fell short of Facebook dream of getting consumers to interact as closely with brands as they do their friends. If Messaging–which chronicles transactions from purchase to delivery inside a single thread, aiming to make ecommerce as personal as in-store buying–doesn’t achieve that original goal, it’s a big step toward it.

Not all of Facebook’s new efforts are very far along. In opening Parse up to the Internet of things, Facebook cited examples like push notifications when garage doors open or close, or reminders that a plant needs to be watered. These feel like applications that make people dread push notifications or wired homes in general. But Facebook is working with chipmakers to build Parse support inside processors, so there’s clearly a long-term game being played here as well.

Some of these new features may fall by the wayside, prompting snickers by observers. But the real question–as is usually the case in Silicon Valley–is how will Facebook respond? If you don’t love the new Messenger or embedded videos, Facebook is all right with that. It doesn’t need you to love them. It just needs them to be just useful enough among your friends that you start using it yourself.

And when it does, Facebook will have wormed its way that much more tightly into your daily life. Because at Facebook, it’s never been about being loved. It’s aways been about being used.

TIME

Many Young Adults Need Parents’ Help to Buy a Home

Mortgage Bankers Association To Release Weekly Mortgage Market Index June 12
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg /Getty Images

At least they’re out of the basement

Three out of four young adults who recently bought their first home needed their parents’ help to afford the down payment, closing costs or other expenses, a new survey finds.

Interest in homeownership is picking up, especially among first-time buyers, and mortgage lender loanDepot LLC commissioned a survey to find out how today’s millennials — 97% of whom will take out a mortgage to buy their homes — plan to pay for their investment.

It seems the “bank of mom and dad” is a fallback most count on, with 75% of young adults who recently bought a home saying their parents helped them out. Another survey, this one from BMO Harris Bank, finds that about a quarter of first-time homebuyers expect to get money from their parents or other relatives.

Among parents of future would-be homebuyers, 17% of respondents to the loanDepot survey say they expect to have to chip in, up four percentage points from five years ago — a gap that suggests a number of today’s wanna-be homeowners expecting financial assistance probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

There are some indications that, even as young adults expect more assistance from their parents, the older generation has a dwindling amount of resources they can use to help. Over the past five years, just under three-quarters of parents who helped their kids buy homes used their savings, but that number is expected to fall to about two-thirds in the future, according to the survey. Instead, more parents will refinance their own homes, take out personal loans and borrow against their 401(k)s — potentially risking their own financial security.

And parents are digging deeper into their pockets to help out in other ways, too: Almost a third say they’ll pay some of their kids’ other expenses to help the younger generation save money, and 18% plan to help their kids pay down their student loans. Of the parents who are contributing to their kids’ investments, half say they’ll help their kids make the down payment, 20% say they’ll help with closing costs and 20% say they’ll actually co-sign the loan.

This might be reasonable in markets where high down payments are the norm, but experts warn that parental assistance sometimes can mask the fact that the home just isn’t affordable for the aspiring homebuyers. “One of our clients helped the child buy into the same neighborhood they lived in. The parents were excited, but it turned out to be a huge burden for the kids,” Brett Gookin, principal at wealth management firm Aspiriant, told SFGate.com last year. (San Francisco has the second-highest average down payment in the country, just behind New York City.)

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Amazing Facts About Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup

150325_EM_MacaroniKetchup
Alamy—Alamy

The merger of Kraft Foods and Heinz combines hundreds of well-known brands into one monster Big Food conglomerate—none more notable than the iconic products Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup.

When you heard about the new merger of Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Co., chances are you thought about each brand’s best-known product—Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Heinz Ketchup, respectively. Well, here are a handful of things you might not know about these two ubiquitous items, which have been mainstays in American pantries and supermarket shelves for decades.

Heinz sells more single-serve ketchup packets annually than there are people on earth. The Heinz Company’s trivia page reveals that it sells 11 billion single-serve ketchup packs per year. “That’s 2 packets for every person on earth,” the site explains. The company also sells 650 million bottles of Heinz Ketchup annually in 140 countries, and uses two million tons of processed tomatoes per year, more than any other business in the world. (It uses tomatoes not only for ketchup, but in tomato sauces and other products.) Oh, and the famous “57 Varieties” on ketchup bottles? It means nothing. Henry Heinz thought it was a lucky number, so he used it in advertising and put it on the company’s products, which now number into the thousands.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has always been dirt cheap. Kraft began selling boxes of macaroni and cheese in 1937, during the heart of the Great Depression, and the main sales pitch was that you could feed a family of four for 19¢. Consumers bought eight million boxes in the first year, and 50 million boxes were sold during World War II, when meat and dairy were in short supply, and when one food ration stamp was valid for two boxes of mac ‘n cheese. At Ranked, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is currently listed at #3 among voters weighing in on “The Crap You Eat in College, Ranked” (after pizza and Ramen noodles), in which this is the criteria: “Must be cheap, fast and easy. Bonus points for gross.” It’s also been described as “One of America’s Favorite Drunk Foods.”

The fastest recorded time for eating each is about the same. The unofficial record for downing a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (once it’s cooked and mixed, of course), is 33.8 seconds, while the Guinness world record for drinking a full bottle of ketchup is only slightly quicker, at 32.37 seconds.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is sold in at least 50 varieties. The company’s current product list shows at least 50 macaroni and cheese varieties sold in stores, including 18 different flavors that come in the classic blue box format, including SpongeBob and Star Wars shapes, Garlic & Herb Alfredo, Three Cheese Jalapeno, and Cheddar Explosion. That’s just in the U.S., mind you. Different products are sold in other countries, or at least they’re sold under different names, as in Canada where macaroni and cheese is marketed as Kraft Dinner. Speaking of which …

Canadians love both iconic products—especially together. Among the thoughts that the beloved Canadian band Barenaked Ladies had when creating a certain crowd-favorite song about striking it rich:

If I had a million dollars
We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner
But we would eat Kraft Dinner
Of course we would, we’d just eat more

And what goes with Kraft Dinner? That’s right: ketchup. In the song, the band jokes that if and when they have big bucks they’ll “buy really expensive ketchups… That’s right, all the fanciest Dijon ketchups.” But everyone knows the ketchup of choice up north, and all over the world for that matter, is Heinz.

The classic (Canadian) comedy troupe “Kids in the Hall” also played up the curious food combo in the sketch below, in which a pair of poor street performers are rewarded for their dedication to macaroni and cheese and ketchup with several years’ supply of both:

One exasperated Canadian writer even declared Kraft Dinner “our de facto national dish” a few years back because it is so popular in the country. Finally, today, in light of the Big Food merger, the Canadian press was compelled to point out that many people “like Heinz ketchup with their Kraft Dinner.” So the deal especially has some natural synergy to it north of the border.

TIME Vietnam

Scaffolding Collapse Claims 14 Lives at a Vietnamese Port

Vietnam Scaffolding Collapse
Cong Tuong—AP Rescuers work through the rubble trying to find survivors after scaffolding collapsed in an economic zone in Ha Tinh province in central Vietnam on March 25, 2015

The workers were reportedly employed by a sub-contractor of Samsung

At least 14 workers were killed and 30 wounded in Vietnam Wednesday night when scaffolding collapsed at a seaport project in the Vung Ang economic zone of Ha Tinh province.

Provincial People’s Committee Deputy Chairman Dang Quoc Khanh announced on national television that many of the injured had been hospitalized. Authorities were working to uncover two bodies still buried within the debris, Reuters reports.

Phan Tran De, deputy chief of the zone’s managing authority, told local media that thousands of workers were on the construction site and casualty numbers may rise.

The seaport was being built on the grounds of a complex owned by the Formosa Group, a Taiwanese company. The government-owned Thanh Nien newspaper reported that the hurt workers, all of whom were Vietnamese, were sub-contracted from a branch of South Korea’s Samsung Group.

Vung Ang hit the headlines last year when riots erupted targeting Chinese workers.

MONEY Advertising

At Last, You Can Buy Wallpaper and Sheets with Big Macs on Them

Big Mac sheet set
courtesy of BigMacShop.se While visions of hamburgers dance in your head...

Call it fast (food) fashion. McDonald's just launched a home goods and apparel collection featuring oversized Big Macs on sheets, thermal underwear, wallpaper—even pet clothing.

Perhaps even stranger than the existence of the new Big Mac Shop collection is the fact that sales are currently limited to one country: Sweden.

The collection was introduced on Tuesday at a “McWalk” fashion show in Stockholm. The range of products includes Big Mac bedding, Big Mac thermal underwear, and Big Mac wallpaper, priced at the equivalent of about $47, $58, and $54, respectively. All items feature the same picture-perfect image of a Big Mac that you only see in ads—never in the restaurant when you buy one—repeated hypnotically over and over.

Yes, this has all the makings of an April Fools gag. But it’s not April 1 yet. And based on the reporting of AdAge and AdWeek, among others, these are indeed actual products that are actually for sale, in Sweden at least. (Alas, we tried to make a purchase on the site but were shot down with the message that delivery was not available to the U.S.)

AdWeek clarified that while the Big Mac collection wasn’t a joke, it was “part of a global day of McDonald’s hijinks” called imlovinit24 that took place earlier this week. The campaign called for 24 marketing stunts in 24 cities around the world, including a huge Big Mac jigsaw puzzle in Madrid and a tollbooth in Manila that dispensed free McDonald’s food to drivers. Profits from Big Mac Shop sales will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

At last check, bedding, thermals, and wallpaper from the collection were still available to interested Swedes, but it appears as if the collection’s rubber boots, raincoats, and dog clothing are already sold out.

TIME Food & Drink

5 Amazing Kraft/Heinz Food Mashups That Need to Happen Right Now

Kraft macaroni and cheese products on the shelf at a grocery store in Washington
Jonathan Ernst—Reuters Kraft macaroni and cheese products are seen on the shelf at a grocery store in Washington, May 3, 2012.

Including one you've probably tried before

Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Co announced a merger on Wednesday that would make it the fifth largest food and beverage company in the world. After executives stop high-fiving over projected revenues of roughly $28 billion, we have a few ideas for how the new company can make the most of this blissful new union. Here are five product mashups we hope the newly formed Kraft Heinz Co. creates with its infinite supply of condiments and snack foods.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese Bagel Bites
BYOL — Bring Your Own Lox

(Kraft:Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Heinz: Bagel Bites)

Kraft Macaroni and Ketchup
This treat caters your inner 8-year-old.

(Kraft: Macaroni & Cheese, Heinz: Ketchup)

Oscar Mayer Wiener and Heinz Baked Beans Lunchables
Perfect for any camping trip.

(Kraft: Oscar Mayer Wieners, Lunchables; Heinz: Baked Beans)

Claussen Pickle Relish
This would be the perfect new addition to Heinz relish.

(Kraft: Claussen Pickles, Heinz: Sweet Relish)

Heinz 57 Flavors of JELL-O
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it?

(Kraft: JELL-O, Heinz: 57 Sauce)

TIME Money

Soon You’ll Be Able to Pay Bills Right Inside Gmail

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Gmail users could pay electric or telephone bills from their inbox

Google has already been experimenting with turning Gmail into a commerce platform. Now, the company may be poised to take the next step down that path by letting users pay their bills using the email service.

Re/code has viewed documents describing a new service dubbed “Pony Express” that would allow users to link up their electricity, phone and other utility bills to their Gmail account. Users would be able to pay the bills within Gmail using a credit card or a bank account withdrawal. The bills would be bundled together in a special Pony Express folder within Gmail or Google’s new email app Inbox, according to the documents.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Launching a bill-paying service would give Google more access to users’ personal and financial information. It would also keep users more tightly tethered to Google’s services. However, many utilities already offer online payment systems, so it’s not clear whether people would adopt a Google version of online billing en masse.

TIME Companies

These Are the Largest Employers in Your State

The nation's largest retailer Wal-Mart easily tops the list by employing the most people in 20 states

It is essential for a state’s economy to have a diverse array of companies. Still, the impact each of the companies has on a state’s economy varies considerably.

In each state, there is one company that employs the most people. As a state’s largest employer, the company may have a disproportionately large impact on its economy as well as on the surrounding region. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from a range of sources in order to identify the largest employers in each state.

There is a large variation in the number of workers that the largest employers in each state employ. In Maine, the largest employer — Hannaford Bros. — employs only 8,000 workers. By contrast, in Texas, the largest employer — Wal-Mart — employs more than 156,000 workers.

Click here to see the largest employer in each state.

Wal-Mart is the only company to claim the top employer spot in more than one state. In fact, the nation’s largest retailer employed the most people in 20 states.

Educational and medical institutions also frequently top a state’s list of employers. The most common largest employer across the 50 states, after Wal-Mart, was the state’s university system. Educational services dominated statewide employment in 13 of the states. The largest employer in 11 states was health care and social assistance institutions.

The largest employer in each state also tended to serve and employ people from the surrounding region, if not across the nation. The total headcount for these large employers often far exceeded the statewide headcount.

To determine the largest employer in each state, 24/7 Wall St. looked at employment figures for nonprofits and private and publicly held companies based on company press releases, government data, business journals, and local media reports. We excluded military bases and other federal and state government employers, with the exception of state universities, which were included.

These are the largest employers in each state.

  • 46. Virginia

    Nearly 40,000 Virginia residents were employed by Wal-Mart at the end of last year, more than any other company in the state. State lawmakers turned down six proposals to raise Virginia’s minimum wage in the most recent legislative session. Wal-Mart, however, announced it would raise wages for 500,000 of its workers, a move that will likely impact a number of employees in Virginia.

  • 47. Washington

    Aeronautics defense company Boeing is Washington’s top employer with 80,241 employees in the state. Boeing has become known primarily for its commercial jets, but it is also one of the world’s largest arms producers. Microsoft, the state’s next largest employer, had a total statewide headcount of roughly half that of Boeing’s.

    ALSO READ: America’s Most Happy (and Miserable) States

  • 48. West Virginia

    West Virginia’s 44 Wal-Mart locations employed 10,855 state residents at the end of 2014, more than any other employer in the state. According to West Virginia’s MetroNews, Wal-Mart has been the state’s largest private employer since 1998.

  • 49. Wisconsin

    University of Wisconsin System is the largest employer in Wisconsin with more than 39,000 employees. Across all of its schools, the system serves roughly 180,000 students each year.

  • 50. Wyoming

    More than 4,000 Wyoming residents worked at a Wal-Mart at the end of last year. While this was a relatively low headcount compared to other states, no other company employed more people in the nation’s least populous state. The average wage of Wyoming Wal-Mart workers was $13.36 an hour as of November 2014.

    For the original list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

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