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Ardent Mills Mobile Innovation Center: Driving Grain Innovation to Customers

Ardent Mills IFT Booth

As mentioned in our IFT ҅14 Round Up blog post, Ardent Mills unveiled their newly formed company that combines the operations of ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling and introduced their new customer engagement vehicle, the Mobile Innovation Center (MIC).

At 57-feet-long, the MIC is a state-of-the-art culinary center with a multipurpose platform designed to bring on-site culinary creativity, hands-on education and interactive R&D support right to customers’ front doors. A converted NASCAR truck featuring two levels with plenty of storage, the MIC has the flexibility to change out equipment to fit the needs of customers at their locations or at community events that it travels to. The Mobile Innovation Center carries a wide variety of ingredient products, a full suite of culinary and commercial baking equipment and a multipurpose meeting space with audiovisual capabilities to aid in education and ideation when onsite.

Ardent Mills Rig and Trailer BackWith the Mobile Innovation Center, Ardent Mills has a great tool to further engage with customers, helping them turn their next great idea into a reality—right at their doorstep. The Mobile Innovation Center will be driving grain innovation across North America when it goes on the road beginning in the fall of 2014.

Ingredion New Brand Name for Corn Products/National Starch

Ingredion

June was a big month for Corn Products/National Starch with the launch of their new company name, Ingredion.

Our team received an email from the Ingredion marketing team announcing their new name in early June. This email announcement dropped in the midst of Corn Product/National Starch’s campaign to promote their booth presence at IFT. The email did a great job of explaining what the name change would mean for Corn Product/National Starch’s current and potential customers.

The email also provided a link to a short video clip to further showcase what Ingredion would bring to its customers. In a little over two minutes, the video welcomes viewers to a new day by using graphics to show what they can do for their clients and what differentiates them in the industry.

Even though Ingredion states it has brought together the best of Corn Products and National Starch, each brand still has their own website. These two websites are both branded Ingredion and have consistent messaging. Since Ingredion is built on bringing together the best of Corn Products and National Starch, it will be interesting to see how long it takes before the two websites become one.

 

 

ADM Uses Email Marketing to Sell B2B Services

ADM email

ADM, a large agricultural processor, serves as a link between farmers and consumers. The company works to process crops into food ingredients and other products.

Recently, we received an email blast promoting their ADM Investor Services. Targeting the food ingredient industry, ADM promoted their global risk management services.

This email blast informs readers of ADM’s hedging strategies that help producers and users protect themselves from price risk. Offered within the email, is a downloadable white paper that covers the strategy of managing price risk through hedging commodities.

Through the use of email marketing, ADM sells their service while positioning themselves as a big food ingredient player in the market who provides high level services for their customers.

Customizing Ingredients Becomes the Norm – UPDATE

ingredientsOne of the most persistent marketing themes that we heard at food ingredient trade shows this year was some form of “we customize our ingredients to our customers’ needs.” While this is true for most big ingredient companies, it is no longer very unique and the position no longer differentiates an ingredient company from its competition. In fact, when some ingredient companies say “what makes us different is we customize our products”, the statement has little credibility with customers.

Last spring we wrote a blog post where we reviewed a featured article from FoodProcessing.com, headlined “Ingredient Suppliers Specializing in Customer Mixes of Ingredients.” We heard from quite a few different ingredient manufacturers and marketers saying that they make customized application-specific ingredients for their customers. Many used some form of customized ingredients as a banner in their trade show booths and materials. It is clearly something that customers in the industry have come to expect.

The president of a billion dollar ingredient manufacturer talked to us at length about their efforts in providing customization to their customers. For decades, this company has been blending customized product mixes for customer companies. It’s not just the product customizations that matter. Customizing services are just as important. Indeed, the major ingredient manufacturers are devoting significant resources to delivering customer-specific solutions and programs in areas ranging from transportation and delivery, to inventory control and risk management systems, to customized product packaging.

As is always the case, this marketing theme ends up being all about the customer. Thinking outside the box and delivering enterprise-wide customized services, alongside application specific customized ingredients, can deliver the kind of customer value that creates the very best marketing position.

Reprinted below is our original post on the subject. What are your thoughts on ingredient customization?

Originally posted May 4, 2011

Author: Mark Hughes

flourbin1a

A recent FoodProcessing.com feature was headlined “Ingredient Suppliers Specializing in Custom Mixes of Ingredients.” The article described how many ingredient suppliers have begun to focus on creating customized ingredient blends and mixes for specific customer applications. We have seen and heard the same message from the ingredient manufacturers at the major trade shows over the last few months. Nearly every ingredient company we’ve talked to this year has touted the fact that they make customized application-specific ingredients for their customers, as if this made them unique or differentiated them from other ingredient marketers.

In fact, being able to provide customized ingredient products has become the expected norm in food manufacturing channels. Customer companies are demanding more support from their suppliers, and want resources and information that can help their products succeed. Ingredient suppliers are responding with marketing with an increased focus on their capabilities to provide application-specific ingredient products, mixes and blends.

“Custom ingredients” has almost become a generic term in the industry. Many ingredient suppliers have adopted the term into their corporate name, as well as their marketing. An example is Grande Custom Ingredients Group.

Many ingredient companies are focusing their customization message on individual food channels and category-specific applications, like dairy products. MCT Dairies offers formulated dairy and specialty ingredients, customized for manufacturing customers.

Several ingredient companies are using their customization capabilities to get customer R&D, product development and culinary executives engaged in working with their products. Companies are offering assistance and new online tools to help customers formulate custom ingredients for their specific product applications. Tate & Lyle has launched a new site, called “Your Food Systems,” that provides customers with resources to help support customization.

The focus on customization of ingredients will always be an important marketing message for food ingredient companies. Engagement with R&D and marketing departments will continue to be a key to long-term ingredient sales.

ConAgra Mills’ Efforts Raise Awareness on Childhood Hunger

ConAgra Mills has been hard at work, raising money and spreading a message to increase awareness of childhood hunger. Six custom-designed rail cars were created in partnership with General American Transportation Corp. and Feeding America. The rail cars read, “1 in 4 children in America struggles with hunger. Join us and donate at feedingamerica.org.” Each rail car will travel across the United States on more than 25,000 miles of track.

Mills Rail CarAs these rail cars provide advertising to raise awareness and funding, scale-model replicas are also on display in The Great Train Story, an exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

In other fundraising efforts, Mills hosted its second annual summer charity golf tournament. The tournament raised $100,000 for Feeding America and will specifically support the food bank’s BackPack Program, which provides weekend meals to children in need.

Mills hopes that their fundraising events and custom rail cars will urge others in the industry to join their efforts to fight childhood hunger and become involved in solution efforts.

Mills Rail Car

As these rail cars provide advertising to raise awareness and funding, scale-model replicas are also on display in The Great Train Story, an exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

In other fundraising efforts, Mills hosted its second annual summer charity golf tournament. The tournament raised $100,000 for Feeding America and will specifically support the food bank’s BackPack Program, which provides weekend meals to children in need.

Mills hopes that their fundraising events and custom rail cars will urge others in the industry to join their efforts to fight childhood hunger and become involved in solution efforts.

Co-branding: The Food Industry Goes to the Movies

AMC Smart snackWe continue to see major brands partnering with other major brands as a way to gain extra marketing power. And now some of the food industry’s biggest brands are partnering up with AMC Theaters. Chiquita, Dasani, Odwalla Ba and PopCorners will all be part of the new AMC Smart MovieSnacks bag—a comprehensive snack pack that includes Chiquita Fruit Chips, a 20 oz. Dasani water, an Odwalla Bar Chocolate Chip Trail Mix and PopCorners popped corn chips. The Smart MovieSnacks are an attempt by the leading theater and entertainment company to offer its customers a healthier snacking option while viewing movies. These healthier options are now available at all AMC locations in the U.S., and are being sold for $7 each. Read more about the products included in the Smart MovieSnacks bag, in addition to what each company has to say about this new partnership, here.

Customizing Ingredients Becomes the Norm

A recent FoodProcessing.com feature was headlined “Ingredient Suppliers Specializing in Custom Mixes of Ingredients.” The article described how many ingredient suppliers have begun to focus on creating customized ingredient blends and mixes for specific customer applications. We have seen and heard the same message from the ingredient manufacturers at the major trade shows over the last few months. Nearly every ingredient company we’ve talked to this year has touted the fact that they make customized application-specific ingredients for their customers, as if this made them unique or differentiated them from other ingredient marketers.

flourbin1aIn fact, being able to provide customized ingredient products has become the expected norm in food manufacturing channels. Customer companies are demanding more support from their suppliers, and want resources and information that can help their products succeed. Ingredient suppliers are responding with marketing with an increased focus on their capabilities to provide application-specific ingredient products, mixes and blends.

“Custom ingredients” has almost become a generic term in the industry. Many ingredient suppliers have adopted the term into their corporate name, as well as their marketing. An example is Grande Custom Ingredients Group.

Many ingredient companies are focusing their customization message on individual food channels and category-specific applications, like dairy products. MCT Dairies offers formulated dairy and specialty ingredients, customized for manufacturing customers.

Several ingredient companies are using their customization capabilities to get customer R&D, product development and culinary executives engaged in working with their products. Companies are offering assistance and new online tools to help customers formulate custom ingredients for their specific product applications. Tate & Lyle has launched a new site, called “Your Food Systems,” that provides customers with resources to help support customization.

The focus on customization of ingredients will always be an important marketing message for food ingredient companies. Engagement with R&D and marketing departments will continue to be a key to long-term ingredient sales.

10 Most Innovative Food Companies

From making products healthier to incorporating sustainability to implementing advertising and marketing initiatives, more and more food companies are finding ways to get creative with their products. Fast Company recently released its 2011 “50 Most Innovative Companies” issue that highlighted the 10 most innovative food companies. These companies were recognized for thinking outside the conventional box, taking risks and reprogramming consumer perceptions.

The following are the Top 10 Most Innovative Food Companies:

1)  PepsiCo—for recently opening a clinical research center focused on making its products healthier by reducing fat, sugar and sodium by as much as 25 percent over the next 10 years, without compromising taste.

2)  Trader Joes—for its commitment to stocking 4,000 specialty products, compared to the large inventories of typical grocery stores. The smaller inventory allows them to sell twice as much as Whole Foods.

3)  Madécasse—for building a bean-to-bar chocolate company in West Africa (while 70 percent of cocoa comes from West Africa, only one percent of the world’s chocolate is made there) to keep more economic benefit within the island nation.

4)  Cargill—for perfecting process to grow and refine sweet leaf extracts from stevia that is eco-aware and health-friendly.

5)  Foodhub—for creating an online tool to connect local food producers to food buyers big and small. Wholesale food buyers log on to access thousands of small and regional producers, as well as info on varietals sold, minimum orders, insurance, and delivery options.

6)  Current Energy—for creating smart sensors to help fast food restaurants cut their energy use. The sensors can ping restaurant managers with text messages if a walk-in refrigerator is left ajar for too long, or coordinate pizza-oven temperatures based on real-time sales.

7)  Chipotle—for its in-house advertising that included replacing wacky promotions with on-message marketing. The company’s “Boo-rito” giveaways for Halloween were replaced this year by a campaign to promote how truly scary other fast food is, with sales of discounted meals going to support Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

8)  McDonald’s—for investing $2.4 billion in changing consumer perception about the fast food giant. McDonald’s is launching first total makeover campaign since the Carter administration, redoing at least 400 domestic outposts, refurbishing 1,600 restaurants abroad and building another 1,000.

9)  Bolthouse Farms—for its goal to double the $1 billion baby-carrot business by using snack food marketing tactics. The move propelled baby carrots from a flat industry to a hotly marketed snack food, from adrenaline-fueled ads to snazzy grab-and-go bags.

10)  Max Burger—for being the first carbon-footprint fast-food chain. Max Burger prints the carbon emissions of each sandwich on the menu.

To view the entire 2011 “50 Most Innovative Companies,” click here.

RC Fine Foods Launches Smart Sodium 400

hdr_ss400_samples

RC Fine Foods has entered into the already crowded sodium reduction ingredient market with its new line of reduced sodium bases for soups, sauces and gravies. The new bases maintain the desired flavors but significantly reduce the overall levels of sodium. The product varieties include chicken, beef, seafood and vegetable, so the sodium reduction possibilities are practically endless.

As part of the new launch, RC Fine Foods created a brand identity for the new line using the names “Healthy Foundations” and “Smart Sodium 400.” This premium positioning for the brand helps give it a high-quality feel and should help connect with targeted customers in food service. Check out more details about Smart Sodium 400 here.

We congratulate vice president of sales and marketing, Gary Cohen, and his team at RC Fine Foods. They have done a great job of positioning and differentiating their new reduced sodium product line.

Using Third-Party Sites to Help Promote Your Product

GWTG_brown wTMThose of you in milling and baking may be familiar with the Grain Foods Foundation  —a joint venture of members in the milling and baking industries. This foundation started a movement called Go with the grain, dedicated to increasing knowledge of grain-based foods and the dietary benefits. With this movement, the foundation has also created a website. From nutrition information to recommended servings, to health benefits and recipes, the site is packed full of information about grain and its benefits. It also features Endless Sandwich, where visitors can find an “endless variety” of sandwich options, to encourage continued use of sliced bread. What’s great about sites like this is, if you send your customers to this site, it can help you sell your grain-based products … at no additional cost to you for research or Web design. The customer reads the benefits on that site, then comes to your site to purchase. Whichever industry you’re in, there are many sites out there like this one that non-profits or other third parties have created that can help you promote the benefits of your product—free of charge.

 

Sensory Effects New Rebranding

SensoryEffectsSensoryEffects—a supplier of customized, technology-driven food and beverage solutions—has just launched a rebranding campaign, positioning three ingredient companies under one SensoryEffects brand. The three companies—Diehl Food Ingredients, SensoryEffects Flavor Systems, and US Foods—will now run as three business units: Powder Systems, Flavor Systems and Cereal Systems. SensoryEffects is less than five years old and is growing quickly, says Charles Nicolais, president and chief executive officer. He hopes the merging of these three companies will help reinforce its message with customers and, in turn, help SensoryEffects increase its partnership with companies in need of ingredient or flavor systems. You can check out the new business structure at their website—SensoryEffects.com.

P.F. Chang’s New Product Site is Easy on the Ice

PFChangsP.F. Chang’s China Bistro is a popular dining establishment that has recently boarded the ever-growing, now-in-your-grocery-store-freezer train. Having just unveiled its new line of frozen entrees, P.F. Chang’s has designed a new website—PFChangsHomeMenu.com—dedicated to the new products. Although product specific websites are not as uncommon for new product lines, it’s the clean, simple approach of the site that makes it so appealing. First, the customer can view a fashion show lineup of the product packages—a smart move, by the way, as this makes the product more visible to customers when they search for it in the frozen food aisle. They can then click on one of the food products to visit a page where you can view nutritional information and preparation directions. That’s it. Simple as that. It quickly and easily answers a customer’s three basic questions:

1) What flavors are available?
2) What is the nutritional value?
3) What do I have to do to prepare it?

P.F. Chang’s has done a great job at making both its site and its frozen meals as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Burke’s Positive Promotions Program Helps Increase Sales

BurkeBolognaBrochuresBurke—a provider of fully cooked meat products for the foodservice and prepared food industries—offers a wide range of resources on its site. While many of these resources are becoming quite common, such as blogs and recipes (although, both are still GREAT additions to any site), Burke also offers customers a tool to create custom promotional pieces to help increase sales. Using Burke’s Positive Promotions, customers can choose between six templates—whichever best suites their establishments—and input menu items, ingredients, sizes and prices. Running a business definitely doesn’t leave a ton of time for your customers to create promotional pieces, so make it easy for them. Your customers will always appreciate you making things more convenient. Not to mention, it encourages them to experiment and offer new menu items, while potentially increasing sales for your company. Above and beyond, Burke. Nicely done.

National Starch Defines Starchology™

nationalstarchNational Starch Food Innovation (NSFI) has taken two unique approaches to advertising its services. First, it has trademarked the term “Starchology,” deeming it the solution to many things, such as cutting costs by replacing butter and oil in bakery or savory products. Secondly, when viewers click on banner ads promoting Starchology, instead of being directed to the NSFI website, they are first taken to a landing page that describes Starchology in detail. The landing page incorporates a nice balance of information with Flash animation—creating a fun, refreshing take on landing pages. Viewers are then directed to the NSFI website where they can select their industry of choice, find ingredients, talk to experts and more. Definitely a new, interesting approach for getting customers to your site.

Tabasco® Offers Co-Branding to Customers

tabascoThe Tabasco brand Industrial Ingredients website is playfully challenging its customers to “Play With Your Food.” The site’s look and feel puts a fun spin on the simple sites you see every day, which, in effect, is what it’s saying Tabasco ingredients can do for your products. Customers can search through products and formulations, request product samples, and even inquire about co-branding with Tabasco. While the site is very simple, the tone and layout correlates very well with the Tabasco brand. It’s exciting, spicy and definitely puts a spin on the everyday food ingredient site.

IFT Online Tools Generate Buzz for Ingredient Marketers

IFT 2The 2010 IFT show in Chicago presented its widest range of online tools yet, providing attendees with multiple opportunities to connect and communicate. Savvy food ingredient marketers took advantage of the IFT online presence to promote their show offerings, and drive traffic to their booths.

In a previous blog post we reviewed the IFT’s tools that helped attendees prepare a personalized show guide and send e-mail meeting invitations to exhibitors and other participants. Several major food ingredient companies told me that they had received multiple meeting requests from the ChripEvite e-mail tool.

In addition to the preshow planning tools, IFT offered a full suite of social media sites where attendees could post information, comment on presentations and exhibits, and communicate with one another. The integrated social media platform included sites on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and LinkedIn. The LinkedIn discussion group included over 3,700 members who actively posted and discussed their IFT experiences.  A steady stream of Twitter posts and Flickr photos was prominently displayed on a large video screen kiosk just outside the main entrance.

Several food ingredient companies took advantage of IFT’s online platform to actively promote their presence at the show. Companies announced giveaways and demonstrations taking place at their booths. There were also multiple posts with announcements on new products and ingredient applications that provided links to additional content and information. Prominent ingredient marketers using the tools included National Starch, Monsanto, Innova and David Michael & Co.

All of these tools and examples of food ingredient company activity can be accessed through the IFT portal site.

Brand Names for Ingredient Products

Ultragrain-logo-DThe launch of new ingredient products, targeted at food manufacturers and food service channels, increased significantly in the first quarter of 2010, as ingredient producers began to see the economic recovery stimulate more activity in their markets. More and more new ingredient products are using trade brand names as part of their launch in an effort to attract customer attention. A well-defined and communicated brand name helps differentiate an ingredient product and supports a premium price.

Trade brand names function like consumer brand names—providing an identity and offering value-added positioning. One of the best examples of trade branding in recent years was ConAgra Mills’ launch of Ultragrain® whole wheat flour. A niche product originally called Microfine by the manufacturing techs, Ultragrain now has major market share in baking, manufacturing and food service channels, and even has its own branded line of consumer products. You can see a case history on Ultragrain here.

One of the better articles on ingredient brand names was published in Functional Ingredients Magazine. The article “Banking on Brands” by Joysa Winter contains some good tips and tricks on developing ingredient brand names.

Bush is Single and Ready to Mingle

Bush Brothers unveiled a new online campaign directed toward consumers for Bush’s Baked Beans. It’s an online dating site where your protein of choice can find its side dish soul mate—its sidemate. As an already popular side dish, Bush is taking its baked beans to the next level by incorporating the popular food into dozens of side dishes. Visit the site at: www.grilledandlonely.com.

beansThe site is a consumer guide on ways to spruce up your side dish selection. It’s fun and user-friendly. Simply pair your protein of choice with its sidemate, based upon the desired experience you’re “seeking”—spice, snuggling, adventure, sweet, commitment or a fresh start. You’re then directed to four recipes that incorporate Bush’s Baked Beans and fit your desired characteristic.

For the consumers who don’t have a certain protein in mind, “sizzling speed dating” is a fast way to view some compatible couples. Click on the recipe slot machine and a protein is instantly paired with a side dish. You can click over and over until you find a pair you’re interested in tasting.

The site also reaches out to foodservice professionals by inviting them to enter their own recipes for a chance to win a high-grade grill or $5,000. Each recipe can be graded by consumers, allowing them to cast their votes and get a feel on a recipe’s popularity. Recipe grading follows the style of a typical personal ad, with options ranging from “You complete me” to “I’m sure it has a nice personality.”

Bush’s approach to incorporate its baked beans into innovative, taste-forward side dishes, is a successful tactic allowing Bush to expand on its product category, showing consumers the depth of baked beans as a pairing. The only thing we would recommend is to brand the site with the identifiable Bush’s Best logo. Still, it’s an interesting, fun approach on a recipe site that fully engages the consumer and will most likely lead to an increase in sales for Bush’s Baked Beans.

 

Updated Image Helps Build Brand Identity

GPCA familiar, but new, look in the form of an updated corporate identity package was unveiled recently by Grain Processing Corporation (GPC). The image update includes a new logo and a redesigned Web site with a modern, global look and feel.

GPC announced the corporate branding initiative with a press release to the trade and the launch of the new Web site. GPC president, Doyle Tubandt, said, “We’ve grown and changed over the years as a company and it was time for our logo to change, as well.”

GPC screenshotThe new Web site offers a deep range of content, including updated market data and detailed product application information. The site is customer focused with easy navigation and search functions. I particularly liked the “Request Basket” function that lets customers assemble a package of product bulletins, nutritional information, trial formulas and even product samples with a single tool. This is a great B-to-B execution of the typical shopping cart tool that most online retailers use.

A well planned and executed corporate identity package—like this one from GPC—can re-invigorate an established brand, and help build corporate awareness and recognition. Using the new identity consistently across all marketing communications will improve the impact and ultimate value of GPC’s future efforts.

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