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Crowded Ingredient Market Presents Challenges For Your Product

Let’s get to what you really want to know … how do I go to market in an overcrowded space?

The challenge for ingredient marketers is to be heard above the clutter of their competition, shouting about their different products and services. In order to get your particular low-sodium ingredient into the hands of R&D, product development and marketing executives, you must show them how your ingredient will add value to their product.

You should focus on three things:

1) Differentiate your product from all the others. Which means, speak a different language than your competition. If everyone is saying the same thing, you won’t stand out. Show how your ingredient will uniquely provide benefits and value to your customers specific product application. If you aren’t sure your product is any different from the competition, then determine how to say the same thingdifferently.

Differentiation also means developing an identity for the product that is consistently communicated to the market. An identity comes in the form of a trade brand name, logo, and a look and feel.

2) Communicate directly with your customers. The best form of communication may be face-to-face, but this isn’t always feasible. Use other targeted tactics to get in front of them. Develop an e-mail list of key contacts within a customer company. Distribute a customized e-blast to those contacts and track the results. Send those contacts an unsolicited sample of the product with application ideas that meet their needs. Then follow-up with a phone call to gauge their interest.

3) Connect across the entire customer enterprise. Don’t settle for a single contact in purchasing. Engage contacts throughout the company including the marketing department, R&D, product development and food science as well as the C-suite. Easier said than done, right? Unfortunately there isn’t one simple way to obtain that magical list. Consider these avenues for list development:

–  List providers: Many exist out there. Be sure to qualify the list against your key audiences. Also, beware, if you want to e-mail this list you will likely need to distribute the e-mail through the providers’ system because these contacts have not opted-in to your subscriber list.

– Tradeshow exhibitor and attendee lists: Also gather and record all contacts made at the show. Have a system in place so that your staff doesn’t forget to share their contacts with everyone.

– LinkedIn: Probably the biggest missed opportunity. Upload your current prospect list to LinkedIn and start connecting with these people. LinkedIn will then provide recommendations on others you may be interested in. You will be amazed by how targeted these are. Search for a contact or company and gather more information on them. Use contacts you already have to make an introduction to someone new.

In the years to come, food ingredient companies will continue to agressively market products based on important trends. Make sure your products stand out successfully in this already crowded marketplace.

Crowded Low-Sodium Ingredient Market Challenges Marketers

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In the face of increasing pressure from major world-wide health initiatives and looming regulation here in the U.S., food processors in manufacturing and food service have undertaken their own initiatives to reduce the sodium content of their products. Food ingredient marketers have created a wide range of low-sodium and sodium-replacement ingredient products designed to help their customers respond to that challenge. The result is a crowded U.S. marketplace with hundreds of different companies competing for attention.

The 2010 IFT show in Chicago featured over 150 new product announcements for sodium-replacement ingredient products and systems. That trend line is continuing to rise this year with the entry into the U.S. market of several global ingredient companies with new sodium-reduction products like Jungbunzlauer sub4salt, KaliSel potassium chloride and NaturePep from Korea, who gave us the bikini-clad saltshaker.

A common strategy among the ingredient marketers is to brand their low-sodium products with a premium-positioned trade brand name and logo in an effort to differentiate their products from dozens of others with similar properties or chemistry. An example is Cargill’s SaltWise sodium replacement product. Another major player,Danisco, offers a line of application-specific ingredients under its SaltPro brand with products targeted at bakery, cheese and dairy, processed meat and food service applications. Major ingredient suppliers have also added sodium reduction products to their larger portfolios like Wixon Ingredient Company with branded KCLean Salt.

Other new ingredient brands include Smart Salt and Nu-Tek Salt.

Flavor companies have been among the most aggressive ingredient marketers presenting a variety of sodium-reduction solutions built into the flavoring systems they already produce for their customers. Leading flavor companies that have introduced major new low-sodium offerings include Savoury Systems Organic Salt Replacer, Griffith Laboratory’s Custom Culinary and Givaudan’s TasteSoultions Salt.

The trend to lower sodium in processed foods will continue to grow and get even bigger over the next two years. Make sure your low-sodium ingredient products stand out of the crowded ingredient marketplace. Look for our follow-up post on how food ingredient companies can successfully face the challenge of cutting through the clutter in an already-crowded marketplace.

 

RC Fine Foods Launches Smart Sodium 400

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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.

Supermarket Guru Takes Video a Step Further

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Some of you may already be familiar with the self-proclaimed Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert. Phil is a leading food industry analyst, journalist and trend-watcher, and is a spokesperson for ConAgra Foods. Working with various ConAgra brands and its retail partners, Phil helps communicate strategies on saving money, healthier eating and food trend information to America’s shoppers. Each week on SupermarketGuru.com, Phil posts a New Product Review video. In these videos, Phil reviews five new products and rates them based on taste, value, health, ingredients, preparation, appearance, packaging and sustainability—dubbing the product either a hit or a miss. In the videos, Phil uses an interesting mix of footage and supers. As he talks through the products, he displays the actual product, product name, breakdown of the ratings and price. Even more interesting is the New Product Review page layout. To the right of the footage is a transcript of what Phil is saying about each product, including a link to the product’s website. It’s definitely an interesting approach to spicing up traditional video clips—making video an even more effective addition to your website.

 

Dad’s In Charge of the Shopping Cart?

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It may be time to rethink your marketing, because men may now be the big shoppers. In a study Yahoo! conducted, based on the opinion of 2,400 men ages 18 to 64, more than half identified themselves as the primary grocery shoppers in their households. In the same study, six in 10 fathers identified themselves as “the household’s decision maker on packaged goods, health, pet and clothing purchases.” As one would expect, when the men were asked about current advertising for packaged goods, pet supplies and clothing, only 22 to 24 percent felt it spoke to them. Beyond this study, behavioral research of shoppers shows that 35 percent of grocery and mass merchandise shoppers are men. This may not seem like a lot, because it’s not a majority, but that’s a third of a brand’s shoppers. While it may not be time to completely throw in the towel on targeting women shoppers, it may be a time to gender-neutralize some of your advertising efforts. Read more on the topic in this recent Ad Age article.

Stealth Marketing Goes Mainstream for Food Ingredient Companies

Stealth marketing has garnered considerable attention over the past year in food ingredient marketing channels. Stealth marketing is the practice in which food manufacturers and processors change their formulations to achieve some improved nutritional or health-and-wellness attribute but don’t publicize that fact or even mention it in packaging or marketing communications. This has been a key strategy for several years now with manufacturers steadily reducing sodium levels in their products while not telling their American consumers who tend to shun products labeled “low” or “reduced salt.”

Stealth marketing has also been a major strategy for school menus, where kids generally dislike healthy foods, as Food Technology reported in “Stealth Health for Kids.

Newsweek took the subject mainstream in the consumer press with its feature article, “Your favorite prepared foods may be getting healthier. You just don’t know it.” And now ConAgra Mills’ Ultragrain brand has taken the subject mainstream in the food trade press with its recent ad headlined “Stealth nutrition for every menu.”

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Vice President of Marketing, Mike Veal, and his team at ConAgra Mills have done a good job connecting the benefits of its white whole wheat flour to a new line of pasta products for foodservice—where the idea of stealth marketing appeals to operators trying to keep up with the array of health-and-wellness regulations they face.

Expect to see more food ingredient companies target their marketing on providing their customers in foodservice and manufacturing with products and solutions focused on helping them implement stealth marketing reformulations. Sodium reduction regulation will continue to drive customers to seek lower sodium levels, as reported by BNET in its article “Stealth and Other Salt Reduction Strategies.” Sugars and sweeteners will receive increasing attention as well. Beverage companies are already leading the way. PepsiCo’s announcement of a 25% reduction in sugar and calories was reported byBNET as “Pepsi’s Latest Weapon in the Fight Against Calories: Stealth Sweeteners.

It would appear that a leading trend in marketing strategy for food companies is one that they don’t want to tell their consumers about.

 

Foodservice Health Trends—Part 3 of 3

culvers-logoBefore you get sick of hearing about yet another eat-healthy marketing approach, let’s take a look at Culver’s—a food chain known nationwide for its quick-serve comfort foods. A big obstacle Culver’s faces, in regards to the health-trend takeover, is the perception that Culver’s is not a healthy option. In an attempt to shake that stereotype, Culver’s has started a community-based program called Mindful Choices. The program involves community outreach to health care providers, fitness clubs and corporate wellness programs, as well as in-restaurant offers for guests, including full meal examples that fall under 500 calories. Check out the Mindful Choices collateral piece here.

Foodservice Health Trends—Part 2 of 3

fazolisLike the recent Corner Bakery Cafe blog we posted, Fazoli’s is starting the year off by offering calorie-conscious choices to the menu with its new Mini Bakes—four smaller-portioned meals, each with 400 calories or less. Fazoli’s is introducing this line to satisfy the healthy demands of its customers. But, while these meals are only $3.99, in a recent qsrmagazing.com article, Cathy Hull, chief marketing officer for Fazoli’s, is pushing add-ons by saying, “Mini Bakes are satisfying and filling [but you can] add a Fazoli’s side salad with fat-free ranch dressing and a sugar-free drink, and you have a complete, freshly made meal that is less than 500 calories.” The important thing to take from Fazoli’s health-conscious efforts is to never forget about the powers of the upgrade.

Foodservice Health Trends—Part 1 of 3

corner bakeryIt’s no surprise that ringing-in the New Year leads to an overwhelming commitment by society to eat better. For the food industry, this is a prime time to reach your customers. They’re eager, attentive and open to trying new things. 2011 is predicted to be a year focused on delivering flavorful, yet healthful options for consumers. With that in mind, Corner Bakery Cafe has rolled out its new line of “100 Under 600”—a line featuring more than 100 different combinations of signature sandwiches, toasted paninis, hand-tossed salads or homemade soups, all under 600 calories. As first quarter moves on, eating healthy is still fresh in people’s minds, so market to them. As we all know, business is about supply and demand, so give them what they want when they want it. You’re sure to see sales increase because of it.

Full Disclosure on “Paid” Blogger Content

In December of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission updated it’s guidelines on endorsements and testimonials, which affected testimonial advertisements, bloggers and celebrity endorsements. The last time these Guides were updated was in 1980! With the widespread acceptance and use of social media to review products and services, as well as to aid in making informed decisions, this was a necessary change.

“The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

How are manufacturers befriending bloggers? General Mills says it uses roughly 100 social media sites to engage consumers. It also goes where bloggers are by hosting tasting suites at major blogging conferences. It hosts its own events too, like “Baking with Betty,” in which bloggers sample and bake with new lines of products in test kitchens. They are not paid to blog, nor are required to do so, but all expenses are paid to attend the event. General Mills recognizes the value in social media, so much so that it created its own blogosphere of consumers called MyBlogSpark. Here, member bloggers receive product information and samples to review which span food and beverage, health, beauty, electronics, home and automotive care. It appears that any brand and any blogger can participate in this. It is not clear how the bloggers are endorsed.

Consider rethinking the strategy you use to get your products in front of customers and how it could be enhanced through word-of-mouth testimonials and endorsements.

 

National Honey Board’s Baking Site

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At the 2010 International Baking Industry Exposition, the National Honey Board promoted its baking website—BakingWithHoney.com. The site is filled with tips on how honey can be used for a variety of new product ideas, and provides the latest technical information on how honey improves bakery foods’ flavor profiles and processing attributes. Visitors can view recent honey formulations, new products monthly and featured bakeries that incorporate honey into its products. The site even has three spin-off sites for baking with honey—“Snacking with Honey,” “Candy with Honey” and “Dairy with Honey.” With all of these resources in one site, the National Honey Board is continuing to help bakers with formulation assistance, marketing and new product development.

New Website for Solae

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2010 was a big year for Solae—a world-leader in developing soy-based technologies and products—with its launch of a new website. Solae’s new site incorporates a fresh design, a robust search tool, consumer-friendly nutrition information and highlighted features on the homepage. Solae has, and will continue to, integrate additional enhancements, such as a customer resource center, a case study library and videos. Solae has even expanded its global reach by offering multilingual content that is relevant to Solae’s various geographic markets.

Association Marketing at its Finest

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Food ingredient national and regional association and board websites have come a long way. Not too long ago, these websites were not visually appealing, were mostly text based and were certainly not user friendly. As of late, it seems that associations are investing more dollars into marketing and are driving traffic to their sites through print and banner advertising in the major food industry publications, like Food Business News and Food Processing. And rightly so, because these websites house a wealth of helpful information. I can quickly find information by channel (health professional, food industry, grower, etc.), and on health benefits, recipes, distribution, and much more.

Here’s a list of a few great association sites:

www.almondboard.com
www.calraisins.org
www.madewithhoney.com
www.sweetsurprise.com
www.cornnaturally.com
www.nationalpeanutboard.org
www.aeb.org

 

The “Corn Sugar” Debate

no-high-fructose-corn-syrupThe debate on renaming “high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)” to “corn sugar” has continued to grow. In an attempt to clarify the labeling of food products for consumers, and to deter the belief that HFCS is any worse than actual sugar, the Corn Refiners Association has created some marketing pieces that were handed out during the 2010 International Baking Industry Exposition. There were two one-page handouts—one quick and to the point on why HFCS should be called “corn sugar,” and the other detailing how HFCS is used and how difficult it can be to even reach the daily recommended intake. In addition to the handouts, the Corn Refiners Association put together a press release for either a visitor’s own use, or to give to their local third-party publications. All together, the association’s attempts were well thought out, not only in informing people at the show, but also encouraging, as well as preparing, them to spread the word. Learn more about the fight at www.sweetsurprise.com.

TerraCycle Collection Program Reduces Manufacturers’ Waste

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TerraCycle was founded in 2001 with the goal of eliminating waste. The process starts by offering national collect programs (called brigades) to collect non-recyclable or hard to recycle waste and then convert the collected waste into a wide range of products and materials. There are currently about 33 brigades available that range from drink pouches to energy bars to tortilla bags. Most of the brigades are free to participate in because TerraCycle and partnering companies pay the shipping costs when you send your collection back. As an added incentive to collect, for every unit of waste you send to TerraCycle, you will receive at least $0.02 to a charity or school of your choice.

Manufacturers like Kraft Foods are continuing to expand their involvement in the TerraCycle program. Kraft Foods previously offered programs for its Capri Sun, Nabisco and Lunchables products, and has recently added cheese packaging. The cheese packaging the program accepts includes Kraft Naturals, Philadelphia, Philly, Athenos, Kraft Singles, macaroni and cheese, Easy Mac, Cracker Barrel, Polly-O, Breakstone, Velveeta and Knudsen.

This program seems to recognize that manufacturers will have restrictions when it comes to packaging due to food safety, cost, consumer and storage needs, and more. Thankfully, TerraCycle has developed a unique program that allows those manufacturers to reduce their negative environmental impact.

Caravan Ingredients Promotes New nosh’em Product

SKMBTPromotional marketing pieces: we’ve all seen them. Most of us use them. Some of us even make them. A brochure here, a sample there. But not Caravan Ingredients’ new marketing campaign for nosh’em—an on-the-go, nutritious snack with appeal for both kids and adults. When visiting the 2010 IBIE show, we were able to view the snack’s marketing pieces. As opposed to just the traditional one-page handout, nosh’em had an array of promotional pieces. From die-cuts and mini booklets, to stickers and pins, the nosh’em look and tone was carried across each piece, all used in a distinct way to either introduce the new snack or detail its ingredients, nutrition information and more. A very fun and effective use of marketing and, as you can see, grabbed our attention from the get-go. Congratulations to Kerrie Medlicott and the team at Caravan.

What’s the Next Visual Trend in Marketing?

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For years, the visual trend had shifted from showing ingredients to showing ingredients in applications. The goal was to showcase to your customers the value your ingredient can bring to a finished application. We all know that like the current clothing fad, trends come and they go. So what trend will replace the iconic finished application photo? Consider the visuals Dawn Food Products is using on its website: in-store bakery shots of bakers helping customers, kids blowing out candles on a cake at a birthday party, a night shot of a distribution truck traveling through busy traffic, the toasting of an anniversary, and a couple enjoying breakfast. Each one of these shots showcased the application, but added the human element of the end consumer enjoying the product in their everyday lives. Who will dare to be next … to take a step away from more of the same?

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.

 

The World of Food Blogging Continues to Grow

FoodPress-post1Food blogging is continuing to grow in popularity, and entering the game now is WordPress.com. WordPress.com is known for hosting a number of active bloggers, and allowing new bloggers quick and easy access to start posting. Seeing an opportunity for a niche site, WordPress.com has introduced its bloggers to Food Press—an accumulation of food-related posts that are pulled from the WordPress.com site. From featured posts to featured bloggers, Food Press allows food lovers to share recipes, photos and more. Having started just a few months ago, Food Press is already taking off. Click here to read more about its launch.

Culinary Trends For 2010

With the economy in its beginning stages of upturn, 2010 was a bit of a challenge for the food industry—a challenge that certain restaurant operators and food marketers rose to meet. Beyond overall themes, such as back-to-the basics, artisan upgrades and healthful eating, the Culinary Trend Mapping Report—a bi-monthly journal from Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development—has identified 10 top culinary trends in 2010:

  1. Gourmet-On-The-Go—Fine-dining chefs served upgraded street food either in restaurants or from refurbished carts and taco trucks.
  2. “Fine Fast” Sandwich Shops—Gourmet sandwich shops featured high-quality, artisan, and locally sourced ingredients, and house-made condiments and toppings.
  3. Boutique Booze—Local liquor outlets have benefitted from newly flexible blue laws, and the legalization of liquor tastings in stores and at factories.
  4. Condiments, Preserved Foods, Heirloom Produce—Produce from heirloom seeds, home canning, and homemade condiments and preserved products became popular, finding outlets at craft and farmers markets, online and at specialty retail stores.
  5. Parisian Macaroons—Macaroons (a Parisian pastry composed of two ground-almond meringue cookies, bound with butter cream, ganache or jam filling) were found in a number of high-end bakeries and gourmet-food retailers.
  6. Bahn Mi & Bao—Bao (a Taiwanese pork-based sandwich, served on a white flour bun) and banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich featuring grilled meat or pâté served on French bread) appealed to consumers who love sandwiches but are searching for a more exciting flavor.
  7. Butchery—A renewed demand for hand-cut, high-quality meat was introduced in 2010.
  8. Agave Nectar—Agave nectar became the much-talked-about sweetener, easily added to products ranging from beverages to baked goods to sauces to confections, and is used in numerous products already on the market.
  9. Eggs All Day—Eggs were all the hype in 2010, being inexpensive, healthful and adaptable, and were the source of innovation for many chefs and restaurants.
  10. Better Burgers—From adding exotic toppings and the perfect bun to using grass-fed and locally sourced beef, many fine-dining restaurants added dressed-up versions of the burger on their menus, while chain restaurants responded to customer demand for better-quality meat for their burgers.

For more details on these top 10 trends, click here.

Top Food Ingredient Trends to Expect in 2011

Many different people, companies and publications have made their predictions for food and dining trends in 2011, but a lot of their predictions are similar. Across the board, the market for Korean-inspired flavors and dishes, mobile cuisine, and sophisticated sandwiches is expected to gain attention in the food industry. Here’s a roundup of some of the predictions:

According to foodprocessing.com, 2011 will bring forth a focus on natural tastes and flavors, in both the familiar and the exotic. And we’ll see classics becoming more functional, such as pairing classic “comfort” foods with fruits and herbs or spice flavors in health formulations.

FoodChannel.com recently released its Top 10 Foods for 2011: small pies, sausage, nutmeg, moonshine, gourmet ice pops, grits, sweet potatoes, fin fish, Cupuaçu fruit and beans. Also released was FoodChannel.com’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2011, which include canning, food apps, fresh food everyday and chefs in the cafeteria. You can read more details on the trends here.

Mintel—a global consumer, product and market research company—made some predictions based on consumer packaged goods trends for 2011. According to Mintel, we can expect to see a reduction in sodium, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Instead, we will begin to see increased usage of the word “natural,” focusing on what is in a product, as opposed to what is not. Read more here.

A NutritionUnplugged.com article summarized food and dining trends for 2011 according to Baum and Whiteman—a world-renowned food and restaurant consulting company. Some of the top predictions include convenience store cuisine, breakfast during all dayparts, snacks and multiple snacks replacing meals, and group couponing. Some of the specific foods to look out for are Artisan ice pops, meatballs, tacos with global and wacky fillings, and grits—“the hot new grain.” Some additional “buzz-worthy” foods and ingredients are coconut water, cucumbers, lavender and macaroons. Read more of Baum and Whiteman’s 2011 predictions here.

Overall, we can expect to see a year full of new, natural and full flavors from all around the world, with an emphasis on convenience and high-quality.

YouTube Channels—Walmart Holiday Videos

 

More and more businesses are creating personalized YouTube channels—custom-branded YouTube pages that house a collection of company videos. And Walmart is one of many that has taken advantage of its YouTube channel. Walmart introduced Family Baking Videos to encourage families to shop at Walmart. Customers were asked to tape and submit video footage of their families making holiday treats—treats that can then be given as holiday gifts to friends and family for under $5 per receiver. Each video offers recipe details, and features the purchased products. Walmart not only used YouTube to increase sales, but also used a unique tactic to further enhance its family-focused shopping experience. If your company doesn’t already have a YouTube channel, it’s easy to start one.

Domino’s Website is a Virtual Ingredient Farm for Pizza Lovers

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Due to Domino’s Pizza’s recent success in the advertising game—having caught up to the popularity of pizza moguls, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s—it’s worth taking note of the company’s continued marketing efforts. In recent months, Domino’s has launched a website called “Behind the Pizza” to help promote its fresh ingredients—from vegetables to proteins to cheeses. This website takes visitors to virtual farms, all across the U.S., where Domino’s ingredients are actually produced. Visitors can earn points by playing games, viewing pictures or watching a story of how each ingredient gets to the pizza. We’ve written about virtual simulation before; it’s a great way to engage the customer, while also remaining informative. Yet again, another great step Domino’s is taking to advertise and market its pizza as top quality.

 

“Facebook Deals” is Going Places

facebook-deals-300x295It’s no secret Facebook can be a successful way to reach your customers and engage them on a personal level. But Facebook is not finished growing. Recently, the social-media leader came out with an opportunity called Facebook Deals. This service enables marketers to reward Facebook users who use Facebook Places—an application that allows members to alert friends as to where they are—and “check in” at a restaurant or retail location from their mobile phones. The businesses can then offer deals and discounts to thank them for visiting the establishment. According to a recent National Restaurant News article, more than 3 million people are already checking in with Places and about one-third of Facebook’s users use the mobile app. Among some of the businesses to sign up for Facebook Deals are McDonald’s, Chipotle and Starbucks. And you know, if the big guys are taking advantage of the opportunity, then there’s probably something to it.

Post-Recession Restaurant Trends

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Sloan Trends, Inc.—a company focused on determining and forecasting trends in the food, beverage and supplement industry—recently published its findings on post-recession food trends. “What’s on the Menu Post-Recession?” touches on consumers’ changes in eating habits—from healthful options to cost and convenience—and how the restaurant industry has adapted to those changes. Read about hot topics, sales by daypart, menu maneuvers and more, including specific examples of what some restaurants have done. To view the full Sloan Trends article, click here.

DSW Uses Social Media to Improve Customer Service

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One of the great advantages of social media is your ability to speak directly to your customers—to have a direct line to answer their questions, ease their concerns and embrace their praises. If you’ve been on the fence about social media, read this blog post and weigh the value against your own business. See how Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) handled a website malfunction which could have potentially turned away a lot of customers on Cyber Monday.

DSW had an amazing deal for Cyber Monday—25% off the entire purchase, plus free shipping for purchases over $35. Unfortunately, by about 3:00 p.m. the site experienced way more traffic than it could handle. When you tried to go the site, you’d get a landing page that said “Oh no. Too many cyber shoppers. Check back often. One day sale only.” This problem continued on through the day until about 11:00 p.m. I, like most people, was insanely frustrated and turned to Twitter to see what was up.

To my surprise, many others were experiencing the same issue and frustrations. What was interesting to me was DSW’s response. Check out @dswshoelovers to view their page and #dsw to view what others had to say. You’ll want to go to Monday’s tweets to see the chatter when this was all happening. I’m not sure if it’s a normal DSW practice, but they have responded to every person who made a comment about them, whether good or bad. Even me! After an hour of posting, I received a tweet that said “We’re back up in action! Have at it! #dsw.” I found it pretty cool to be so connected and felt like my problem was being handled.

It even appears that Tuesday, in order to rectify the problem and keep their loyal customers, DSW asked those who had issues to e-mail them. I only assume they are going to issue a rebate for the same deal. Here are some of those tweets.

“Shoot us an email to tweepluv@dswinc.com & we’ll see what we can do.”

“We are SHOE sorry our site was giving you trouble! Shoot us an email to tweepluv@dswinc.com so we can make it right!”

“Shoe shopping should not be this frustrating! Shoot us an email to tweepluv@dswinc.com so we can fix it!”

Lastly, DSW was offering the same deal Monday in the retail stores, because the site was down. And … if you couldn’t get into the store, you could have them place the shoes on hold for you to pick up the next day. I know this because I called!

I was very impressed by how DSW handled this issue, which could have potentially turned away a lot of customers. They recognized they had a big problem, they related to customers’ concerns, poked a little fun at themselves and provided solutions. Customer service at its finest.

 

SunChips Noisy Bag Causes Frito-Lay to Hear Customers

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Like the majority of us, you’ve most likely heard, seen or experienced the overwhelming rush of companies attempting to incorporate an eco-friendly something-or-other in their everyday businesses. Some have succeeded; others have not. In a November foodprocessing.com article, Frito-Lay was recognized by DuPont—a science-based products and services company—as a Gold Winner for packaging innovation with its biodegradable SunChips bags. DuPont stated that “Frito-Lay overcame significant technical hurdles to develop packaging that reduces the environmental impact of its SunChips brand.” Sounds like a success story, right? Not exactly. The overall consumer disgust (yes, I think I can freely say disgust in this case) for the loud noise made by even lightly touching the bag created an uproar of unpopularity by the public. So much so that Frito-Lay has taken the biodegradable bag off the shelves until they can solve the “noise” problem. I imagine that’s not an inexpensive fix. Moral of this loud, costly story? If you’re going to embrace new trends, don’t forget to think about your customers’ basic wants and needs, down to the pet peeves. If you don’t, you could wind up like Frito-Lay: hopping on the trend-bandwagon and falling right off the other side.

 

 

Dawn Foods Rethinks Print Advertising

Dawn is utilizing some new print marketing tactics in an effort to stand out. It has an advertorial running in the food publications that looks like an editorial. Typically, these kinds of ads have a small disclaimer that reads “paid for by advertiser,” but this particular ad is not identified as such. The value of such a tactic is that the reader is more likely to read the article, as it appears to be something written by the publication. This particular Dawn 360˚ segment is titled “Bakery Trends Revealed.” My guess is that the content will be switched out fairly regularly to remain fresh.

DawnAd

Dawn is also placing “Bakery Toolkit” pamphlets in food publications. These pamphlets are adhered into the magazine with glue goop. This is another tactic that isn’t often used, but is a great way to distribute content and to stand out from competitors. This particular piece describes how to “maximize your seasonal sales with creative products and marketing strategies.”

Pages from BakeryToolkit

Häagen-Dazs “Likes” Potential Franchisees

While Facebook is traditionally utilized by companies to accumulate “friends” who are fans of their products and/or services, Häagen-Dazs has incorporated the social media site as a part of its franchise recruitment strategy.

HaagenDazs

The ice cream company has created a separate Facebook page—apart from its official Häagen-Dazspage, which currently has more than 560,000 friends—called Ice Cream Boss, which is an interactive game designed to engage and educate potential investors. Each week, Ice Cream Boss gives friends of the page a situation. They are then asked how they would respond to that situation as a franchise owner. The game encourages the transition of interested prospective franchisee to active franchise owner, easing them into this role. It’s definitely a unique tactic to provoke franchisee interest, and a great way for Häagen-Dazs to keep its potential franchisees in one area.

 

Pillsbury Contest Helps Promote Independent Bakeries

SKMBT_C35310113016200General Mills, Inc. caught our eye at the 2010 IBIE Expo while promoting their Pillsbury “Make a Cake Face!” Sweepstakes. Directly in the front of the General Mills booth, stood a full-blown photo booth, ready for the taking. A General Mills employee was on hand to help us accessorize with feather boas and party hats. Very quickly, a line had formed behind us, as tradeshow goers wanted to capture their own “cake face” on film.

Pillsbury describes a cake face as the “look” on a baby’s face after their first taste of birthday cake, the look on a face after you sink your teeth into a bite of your surprise birthday cake, or the look on a face after you feed your new bride that first bite of wedding cake. Of course, it can also be the look of two silly girls, who found a free photo booth at the end of a long tradeshow.

The goal of Pillsbury’s sweepstakes is to drive traffic and consumer loyalty with independent retail bakeries. Bakeries can visit www.facebook.com/makeacakeface and sign up to receive a free promotional kit which includes counter cards, bakery box stickers and additional information to help drive traffic. Bakeries are encouraged to promote the Make A Cake Face Sweepstakes by utilizing the promotional signs in their bakery and placing the stickers on their cake boxes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPillsbury hopes the promotional material will move customers to complete a sweepstakes entry form and upload their own cake face photos on the Facebook page. Customers that upload photos will be eligible for eight monthly drawings of $100 each and one grand prize drawing for $2,500. The bakery chosen by the grand prize winner also wins $2,500.

Follow our lead and upload your own cake face photo to the Sweepstakes’ Facebook page. This contest ends May 31, 2011 and we think Pillsbury’s promotional efforts take the cake!

BakeMark Joins Twitter Conversation

Here is an editorial from Baking Buyer about how BakeMark USA is using Twitter. BakeMark says its customers are online and it wants to get information out quickly to them. It’s interesting to note that BakeMark is not using Twitter to promote its products, but instead, tweets business-building ideas, new recipes and decorating tips, industry information and upcoming trends twice a day. You can follow them at twitter.com/BakeMark.

BakeMark Twitter

Third-Party Recognition Equals Free Advertising

TysonI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the only thing better than advertising is free advertising, and Tyson Food Service knows how to make that happen. Getting your name in the news is a great way to not only promote your company, but to create recognition and credibility. In anOctober qsrmargazine.com article, Tyson was recognized for donating more than 10,000 pounds of chicken to aid in hunger relief, a principle that has long been important to Tyson. Now, not all of us have the resources to give away thousands of dollars worth of product, but you don’t have to start big. Reach out to the community; get involved. But, most importantly, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT. If you’re lucky enough to have the time and resources to generate news, take the time to write a press release and distribute that press release to publications that will not only be interested in publishing the story, but that are read by your customers or prospective customers. In fact, if you need help doing so, I may know some people who could help (insert obvious Anderson Partners plug here). Point is, third-party recognition is a great asset to a well-rounded advertising campaign, and could be something that your current campaign is missing.  

Starbucks Fans Make Ideas Into a Reality

MyStarbucksIdeaFor years, Starbucks has been known for its trend-setting moves in social-media marketing, and that remains to be true. As reported in an October article on qsrmagazine.com, Starbucks has incorporated a “Give a Gift” update to its Starbucks Card Facebook App—an application that Facebook members can use to access and manage their Starbucks accounts. This new app allows Facebook members to load $5-$500 directly onto a friend or family member’s registered Starbucks card, without ever having to leave Facebook. BUT … and this is a good but … an interesting fact about this new feature is that it was actually the 100th idea Starbucks has launched from its community site, My Starbucks Idea—a site Starbucks created to encourage its fans to suggest the next big idea. With 250,000 members and 98,000 ideas generated, Starbucks has definitely created a resource that produces some pretty amazing things. What Starbucks understands about social media is it’s a successful tool, only if you continue to build off of it. Social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so we suggest taking Starbucks’ lead. Don’t just incorporate social media; push it to the limit so you can get the most out of it.

Pierce Chicken Builds Online “Chickenopolis”

chickenopolisPierce Chicken is proof that animation does have a place in the food ingredient industry. Pierce Chicken—a supplier of practically everything chicken—is breaking the food-ingredient stereotype with Chickenopolis—an online e-town built of generic establishments, each representing a food industry category (i.e., schools, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.). By clicking on one of the virtual buildings, you can view a list of Pierce Chicken products that are fitting for that type of business. For example, clicking on the Chickenopolis Watering Hole provides a list of products that complement a bar or tavern’s menu, while clicking on the Chickenopolis hospital provides a list of products that work well in the healthcare cafeteria setting. What’s great about Chickenopolis is that it’s not only engaging, but it successfully conveys the wide range of versatility that Pierce Chicken provides its customers. And, let’s face it, it’s fun, and that’s refreshing to see.

Nick-N-Willy’s Gains Customer Popularity Through Blogging

nnw-logoThe world of blogging is not just for opinionated society members with something to say and no outlet with which to say it. It’s something that numerous companies utilize in order to not only promote sales and new products, but to connect with customers on a more personal level, creating greater customer loyalty. (You’re reading ours right now, and surely loving it, so you can understand how it works.) Nick-N-Willy’s is a nationwide chain of pizza establishments, and just one of the many companies making the most of blogs. Its Slice of Life at Nick-N-Willy’s blog has become a huge hit with its customers. Since November 2009, the pizza joint has written posts about its community involvement, grand openings, franchise opportunities and much more, including posting numerous appetizing pictures of its products. So a suggestion: don’t discard blog postings—they can be very powerful. It may take awhile to build a fan base, but, if you keep putting out the content, you’ll see the numbers increase over time.

Starchology Campaign Extended to Print

 

NationalStarch_Tomato_SauceIn addition to the unique Starchology landing page we reported on recently, National Starch is taking an illustrated approach to its print advertising campaign, with cutesy headlines like “Tomatoes are feeling insecure” and “Sauce is overcoming its separation anxiety.” The key idea to Starchology is to help food and beverage manufacturers understand how innovating with starch can help you overcome a lot of food challenges, such as excelling in texture, health, clarity and value. The approach, from branding this idea to utilizing illustrations and catchy copy, will definitely aid in recognition and awareness.

Dawn Booth Takes the Cake at 2010 IBIE Expo

After a few long hours of walking up and down the aisles of blue carpet at the 2010 IBIE Expo, my shoulders hurting from carrying pounds of free collateral and goodies, I came across the Dawn Food Products booth.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHands down, Dawn wins the award for best booth at IBIE. I may be biased, in that all show long they offered me all the free coffee and doughnuts I could consume.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a quick look around, it was clear that the Dawn booth operated as a well-oiled machine. Dawn was afforded a lot of booth space and did a great job of utilizing it effectively.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
–  Doughnuts constantly came out of the oven in the baking center, and were distributed and housed in clear display cases, similar to those at a retail bakery.
–  The self-serve and fully serviced coffee stand provided fresh coffee, mints and brownie bites.
–  Business was booming, and sales meetings were taking place at the spacious tables in both the conference area and between the supply and logistics displays.
–  Friendly product demonstrations drew visitors in while they relaxed with a sweet treat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll in all, there was steady and busy traffic to the booth, helping to draw others in to see what the buzz was all about.

Del Monte Offers Fresh Produce to Classrooms

tm Del Monte Fresh Produce® has launched its Teacher Monday Cash for Classrooms—a contest for educators to win cash and fresh produce for their classrooms. Teachers have to write an essay explaining what they would do with the winnings, and students, parents and the public vote for their favorites. Every Monday, for five weeks, 10 teachers with the most votes will win $1,000 in cash and produce. To promote the contest, Del Monte has done a great job at fully utilizing social media outlets, including a Facebook page specifically for the contest, the Del Monte Twitter account and uploading a video on Vimeo—a site similar to YouTube, where members can post their videos. Overall, Del Monte has tapped into a majority of the social media available to them and has seen success in having done so.

Print is Alive and Well

PrintAliveWell91_HalfFood Business News (FBN) recently launched a half-page and full-page ad campaign asserting that “Print is Alive and Well.” According to a recent research study conducted by Baxter Research, FBN readers say they read at least three of the last four issues of FBN. Marketers have recently questioned the value of a print ad spend vs. an online marketing campaign. Many have assumed that most readers are now online and not reading printed editions, due to the advances in the publication’s ability to provide complete content online, and the amount of time that the average consumer now spends online.

This research advocates that, at least for FBN readers, print is still a great avenue to reach your customers. So when considering print and online:

  • Ask the publication about its readership in both places.
  • Gain an understanding of the value of each, and how the publication measures effectiveness.
  • Know where, and in what sections, your competitors are advertising.
  • Consider your budget. Print advertising can be more costly than online.

IBIE Offers Twitter Feed. Few Companies Use It.

Recently, I attended the 2010 IBIE Expo in Las Vegas. The very first thing I noticed upon entering the convention hall, were large Twitter kiosks featuring show attendee tweets from the show floor. Attendees were encouraged to tag their tweets with #IBIE2010, which made for a nice collection of quick, IBIE-related news and information.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnderson Partners Food Ingredients kept a constant watch over interesting booths, products to note, samples not to miss and overall happenings during the expo. Although tweeting is an extremely beneficial way to promote a company and its products, I found many key companies absent from this social media platform. Some exhibitors even promoted Twitter feeds on their collateral, but were not active tweeters at the show. This tells me that marketers are aware of Twitter, some have even dipped their toes in the water by creating an account, but very few are actively using the tool.

It’s a fair assumption, that with so few people tweeting, very few people were also following the tweets. I think it’s only a matter of time until the food industry discovers how relevant this tool can be, especially at a trade show. Don’t miss out on free promotional opportunities such as this one. I’d recommend getting involved now, so when the trend does catch on, you are light years ahead of the game.

Tips for B2B Marketing on Social Media

 

Tips for B2B Marketing for Social Media

Understanding the differences between social media platforms can help you share content that reaches your target audience and maximizes your B2B marketing efforts.

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