Category Archives: Innovation

Attention, manufacturers and distributors: How to sell to restaurateurs

Starting Monday, we will feature excerpts from our interview with Janet Rine, owner of Caffe Moderne.

Our discussion centers on what it takes to earn the trust of an independent owner/operator.

Whether you sell meat, beverages, spices or mixes, you won’t want to miss it.

For now, we leave you for the weekend with a quote from Danny Meyer, the brains behind wildly successful restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Union Square Cafe. From his book, Setting the Table:

“Be the best you can be within a reasonably tight product focus. That will help you to improve yourself and help your customers to know how and when to buy your product.”

The Spoon is now on Facebook

We couldn’t stay away. The Spoon is now live on Facebook. Join the Marketing Spoonful Blog Network by visiting:

http://apps.new.facebook.com/blognetworks/blogpage.php?blogid=13906.

C’mon, be a fan!

Portable + Tasty = Profitable

OK, class, it’s time for equations.

Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Granola Bar + Gatorade G2 = BREAKFAST

Slim Jim + Handi-Snacks Crackers ‘n Cheez + apple = LUNCH

Capri Sun juice pouch + Cheetos snack size bag = AFTERNOON SNACK

There’s no need to get scientific here. If you can make it portable, you’ve just increased your food product’s chances of being relevant to consumers, and thus, purchased by them more often.

We need to make it happen. Especially with food products that are truly commodities. It’s that simple.

There are challenges, though. For example:

  • How do you balance freshness with portability, i.e. how do you make a tasty steak portable?
  • How do you balance “natural” with portability, i.e. how do you cut back on preservatives?

Technology and creativity can help solve these problems. After all, we’ve turned cranberries into a tasty snack called Craisins, made fruit into fun strips and created shelf-stable milk. We should be able to give consumers more protein, fiber and carbohydrate food options for life on the go.

The Localization of Food Brands

Once, long before she had celebrated her Bicentennial, America had a local-regional food system.

The Spoon is not quite 40, but there used to be a dairy that supplied reusable milk bottles full of ice-cold milk just across town from where we lived. There was a meat market. And a bread store. It wasn’t until 1978 that the one-stop supermarket really started to show up in our part of Middle America.

This is important to consider because consumers have started a dull roar of demand for a return to this type of specialization and localization. Why? There are several factors. Their order of importance depends on the individual consumer.

  • Health. This is number one. In surveys, people cite freshness as the top concern about food. According to a survey by Yankelovich, they also equate freshness with health. And when they know their food came from someplace nearby, they feel it is fresher, healthier and safer to eat.
  • Altruism. People believe they are helping out their local economy, but more especially farmers, when they “buy local.” Consumers also tend to believe that “the little guy” has less of a negative impact on the environment, lending additional “greenness” to their purchase.
  • Quality. Aside from food safety concerns, consumers tend to report that locally-produced products taste better, have better texture and perform better in recipes. They are also usually willing to pay more for products that travel lesser distances and are grown using practices that are inefficient.

Whatever their reasons, Desmond Jolly a retired professor from the University of California did important work that shows there are plenty of reasons to believe this emerging trend is not going away. He sees it as more than just a luxury of the coveted wealthy segment of America. Interestingly, one survey showed 55 percent of households buying these foodstuffs earned over $60,000 per year, meaning almost half of such households earned less than $60,000 per year.

Researchers point out that going local may also be a way to negotiate many challenges, from improving pre-natal health of low-income mothers to providing as yet untapped career opportunities for new generations of American workers.

To paraphrase Eastern philosophy, this ox is small right now, but it is growing. We can choose to put a yoke on it now and benefit from its strength, or we can look on in horror as it tramples our crops.

Vacation Odyssey Day Four: Breakfast—The Most Important Snack of the Day

Does it count as a snack if you eat it for breakfast? When does it stop being a snack and become a meal?

A meal should fill one completely. Maybe breakfast is less about filling the tank and more about providing enough fuel for the initial spark that gets the engine going for the day.

If that’s the case, then let’s take a look at some of our favorites, and why they’re our favorite snack and/or brand of snack.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s easy. Pretty much everybody likes it. It’s a fantastic family cereal. Cereal, even with added sugar and corn syrup, is hard to beat for a meal, in-between snack or, as designed, for breakfast.

Odwalla Bar! Nourishing Food Bar. Huzzah! Four words: Eight grams of protein. An energy bar that tastes good and still packs a nutrient-rich punch. We like the chocolate chip peanut bar. This bar is also worthy of applause because it’s a natural product-line extension for the people known for being natural, energizing and body-friendly because their juices were rich, tasty, funky and minimally-processed before it was cool. (Available online from Amazon and many grocery stores.)

Pie or brownies. These unbranded little daisies are great vacation breakfast food that’s easy to eat, pleasing to the palate and full of quick energy, plus carbs. There’s a reason why pie is served at rest stops on long bicycle rides. We’ve already seen “breakfast” and “energy” cookies for on-the-go professionals and sportos. Heck, Snickers has an energy candy bar. So we think some smart food marketer should come up with breakfast brownie or pie that has health and energy benefits but plenty of sweetness!

Courtesy gotmilkbottles.com

gotmilkbottles.com

got milk? It’s still a commodity, so we’re not going to lie and say anyone has done a good job of marketing their own brand (except maybe Borden, Shatto-two brands with whom we work-and a select group with an enduring brand, family focus or locally-grown point of differentiation.) But you gotta have the cold, creamy white stuff to complement the snacks we’ve covered above. As Cosmo Kramer would say, “Delicious. Nutritious. Outrageous!”

The Mother Road yields a mother lode

On the ground in Tulsa less than three hours and already there are exciting food marketing revelations in this town along the Great American Highway. After a tasty and filling early dinner at Pei Wei, it was off to Wild Oats to see the latest products and brands of natural and organic food.

The decidely neighborhoodly feel of Wild Oats was complemented fairly naturally, if you will, by the 365 brand a la Whole Foods. It is amazing how seamlessly even private-label brands can assimilate with other stores following mergers and acquisitions.

We also encountered some really special brands. Some new. Some familiar. They all have something to teach us about a topic we touch on a few posts ago: It’s better to be first than better.

Exhibit A: Pet Food

This brand takes it to an all new level. It says, “It’s not about taste, it’s not about health, it’s not about all-natural ingredients. It’s about wellness, Mr. and Mrs. Cat Owner. A holistic approach to food your cat deserves.”

It’s an “everyday” brand of cat food, but one that promises the all-around, no-compromise lifestyle your cat expects. After all, you expect to be able to “indulge” routinely on a moment’s notice without having to sacrifice health or convenience.

Your feline friend should get the same treatment. Wellness cat food promises just that.

So for being the no-compromise brand of cat food for unpretentious, yet discerning kitties, Wellness wins the Get Your Kicks Award in the pet food category.

Exhibit B: Beverage

The market is flooded with tea of all varieties and brands nowadays, and teas promising medicinal and antioxidant effects are among the most popular.

So what is a brand of tea to do? Obviously “first” has been claimed long ago by Lipton, Nestea, Republic of Tea and HonestTea, among others.

The beauty of innovation is that one can be first by creating a category or sub-category, staking out a unique position and value proposition.

GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha Muli-Green tea has established a convenient bottled, refrigerated tea for the serious imbiber determined to replenish and rejuvenate everything from digestion to immune system to healthy skin and hair.

It’s all thanks to the power of a “handmade Chinese tea that is delicately cultured for 30 days. During this time, essential nutrients form like: Active Enzymes, Viable Probiotics, Amino Acids, Antioxidants and Polyphenols.”

Those attributes appeal to tea and health aficionadoes, along with a price of $3.99 for 16 ounces that separates the serious from the casual. GT’s Kombucha, you win for taking tea to a whole new level.

Exhibit C: Snack Food

This one is proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. For a long time, Terra was the first and only exotic vegetable chip.

Recently, the latest iteration of the health food craze has spawned other vegetable chips, along with regional chip-makers, kettle-cooked chips and other “gourmet” offerings.

This new bag of snacks from Terra is called Stripes and Blues. Just in time for the dog days of summer, it’s a break from the brand’s traditional taro chips and other mainstays. These chips are also seasoned with sea salt, leveraging another popular item. What’s more, they have zero trans fat.

All this to say that the brand is always looking for brand-appropriate product line extensions to stay ahead of intruders into its market space.

Terra Stripes and Blues demonstrate that even if you’re first, you still have to stay fresh. So they’re the King of the Road in snacks.