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On Trend with Our Taste Buds: Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin spice season is well underway, heralded this year by the Aug. 27 arrival (yes, we said August) of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL). If you are worried about missing out, you aren’t too late to snag a bag of pumpkin spice dog treats for your pup or some pumpkin spice hummus to eat with your lunch. These sometimes-baffling pumpkin-flavored items are indicative of the spice’s firm grasp on America’s collective fall conscience. And there’s no denying it has staying power. Nielsen data showed that from August 2017 to August 2018, sales of products with “pumpkin” in the name reached $488.8 million, a five-year high and an increase of 15.5% growth over the previous year. Manufacturers are trying to imbue their offerings with subtle notes of nutmeg and clove, pushing out pumpkin spice versions of every product imaginable. The result is palpable; in the U.S., the spice has become known as the signature taste of fall.

It’s Not Just a Fad, Mom

Despite the hundreds of new pumpkin products released each year, the BBC says this trend shows no signs of waning. In an article from 2015, they spoke with a food historian who pointed to other historical flavor trends, like bubblegum flavor in the 80s or pomegranate in the early 2010s. And while those flavors have fallen into relative obscurity, experts say the pumpkin-spice trend continues unabated. The answer, says Forbes, is simple: scarcity. Consumers know they’ll only be able to get their hands on a Pumpkin Spice Latte for a few short months, driving demand and keeping the trend from overstaying its welcome.

Doing the Hard Work So You Don’t Have To

Here at Anderson Partners (AP), we’re not so sure that everything should be flavored with pumpkin spice. However, in the spirit of being on the very cusp of food ingredient research, we knew what we had to do. We needed to get our hands on some of these pumpkin-flavored items to see which products live up to the hype. (Editor’s note: Despite our best efforts, we were unable to acquire a can of Pumpkin Spice Spam – which is a real thing – because it sold out hours after launching.) To that end, we assembled our crack team of expert taste testers, purchased a variety of seasonally flavored items and asked everyone to submit their feedback via anonymous survey. Our offerings were as follows: Pop-Tarts Frosted Pumpkin Pie, Cheerios Pumpkin Spice, AE Dairy Harvest Pumpkin Egg Nog, Oikos Pumpkin Pie Flavor Not-So-Traditional Greek Yogurt and International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Coffee Creamer.

Winners and Losers

The results were…interesting. Pop-Tarts Frosted Pumpkin Pie was the clear winner, with nearly everyone agreeing it had the best flavor. We received a variety of feedback on this one, but our favorite was from someone who wrote that the taste of these Pop-Tarts was just enough to prevent them from purchasing and eating an entire pumpkin pie by themselves. And we can’t argue with results like those.

While we expected Cheerios Pumpkin Spice would be a popular entry, our team gave this a tepid reception, with 56% stating they either didn’t like it or thought it was “just okay.” Sorry, Cheerios. The AP team is a tough crowd to please. On the dairy side of things, we had three entries: coffee creamer, Greek yogurt and eggnog. According to FoodBusinessNews.net, dairy is a tough category to get right when it comes to flavors, due to the complex relationships between ingredients. Our results? Only 25% of respondents enjoyed the yogurt, 40% liked the eggnog and not one person enjoyed the creamer. Most took issue with the flavors, stating the items tasted “chalky” or left a bad aftertaste. The lesson: Not every product can be a winner, especially if that product is a pumpkin-spice flavored egg beverage.

Have a pumpkin spice product you think we should sample? Leave a comment below and we’ll try to include it in our taste test next year!

Which Food and Beverage Commercials Scored Big During Super Bowl LIII?

Every year leading up to the Super Bowl, our team of food ingredient marketing experts gets just as excited about the high-budget, star-studded commercials as we do about the actual game. And this year was no exception. In fact, several of us thought this year’s commercials were more exciting than what took place on the field. Below, we discuss a few food and beverage commercials and what we thought about them.

Bubly – Bublé

In what may have been the world’s most obvious celebrity endorsement, Michael Bublé showed his sense of humor in a spot promoting the new LaCroix-esque sparkling beverage, Bubly. The commercial scored a touchdown with our team, thanks to its humorous appeal and play on words.

Bud Light – Corn Syrup

The Super Bowl always features several big-budget beer ads. This year, Bud Light went all out to let consumers know its beer is not made with corn syrup, unlike some of its competitors. Ironically, the commercial aired just days after Bud Light became the first major beer company to start listing its ingredients on the label. While the ad’s fighting words created much controversy, we thought the strategy was effective and entertaining.

Pringles – Sad Device

In the Pringles spot, an artificial intelligence voice expressed sadness about never being able to experience the joy of customizing a stack of flavored Pringles. Several of this year’s Super Bowl commercials featured robots or artificial intelligence, but this was one of the funniest.

Burger King – Eat Like Andy

Talk about taking a chance on luck! The 1982 footage of the pop artist unwrapping and eating a Whopper certainly stood out for its simplicity. Whether you loved it, hated it or were just plain confused by it, it certainly piqued our interest during the late stages of the low-scoring game.

Avocados from Mexico – Top Dog

We’re not sure what dog shows — or in this case, human canine shows — have to do with avocados, and that’s where they lost us. In addition to the 30-second game day ad, Avocados from Mexico also released a minute-long cut earlier in the week that featured humans prancing around the show floor like dogs. While the advertisements were somewhat funny, they were ineffective.

Planters – Mr. Peanut is Always There in Crunch Time

Remember the Planters “Mr. Peanut is Always There in Crunch Time” commercial that aired during the Super Bowl? Yeah, neither did most of our team. During the spot, Mr. Peanut raced through the streets in a giant “Peanutmobile” to save Alex Rodriguez from snacking on a kale chip. The advertisement gave a traditional mascot a more exciting makeover, but it was still less than memorable.

Which 2019 Super Bowl food and beverage commercials were your favorites? Comment below to share your thoughts.

Five Creative Trade Show Display Strategies From IFT18

I had the privilege of attending IFT’s Food Expo this year. As a first timer at the show, I was inspired by all the people, sights and activities taking place. It was a great opportunity to experience the many ways that food ingredient companies take advantage of prominent industry events to help tell their stories and engage with customers.

Below, I dive a little deeper into the top five booth features I found to be the most visually appealing and engaging at IFT18.

1. Packing a Powerful Punch

Having a small space doesn’t mean you can’t get the most out of your trade show graphics. While Bulk by CHO’s booth was small, it had about as much punch as a large booth. The backlit wall was easy to read and had a simple, clean message with shelves to display products – proof that smaller spaces can be just as impacting as larger ones!

Bulk by CHO Trade Show Booth at IFT18

2. Bringing Nature Indoors

I noticed that many companies included natural elements and materials in their displays to help promote messages centered around nature, sustainability and social responsibility. The variety of plants at Tastepoint by IFF certainly caught my attention. Additionally, Ardent Mills’ space included a wooden pergola element, which helped promote its new division, The Annex by Ardent Mills. I also saw companies like Silva International and Blue Marble Biomaterials use wood panels and other building materials to create unique booth designs.

3. Marketing Before the Show

Prior to IFT18, Ingredion sent a direct mail piece offering a free backpack to trade show attendees who stopped by its booth, so of course I had to pay the team a visit at the show. The backpack design, which matched the company’s clean and modern booth design, made an impression as I walked the show floor. Several people even stopped me to ask where I got my backpack! Giveaways like this are always great because they incentivize trade show attendees to stop by your booth and help market your brand.

Ingredion Trade Show Booth at IFT18

4. Engaging Through Interactive Components

Offering engaging activities at your booth can help grab attention and break the ice with visitors. For example, the Bunge Loders Croklaan booth included a chocolate bar taste test, which initiated a conversation between me and an employee working at the booth. Meanwhile, Land O’ Lakes Ingredients had a large interactive screen at the entrance of its booth that brought up various snack-centered flavor trends. DSM organized all its samples around different meals of the day, which made the sampling process less intimidating for such a large space. The booth staff also had small screens that reported various health stats based on skin pigmentation. (See photo of our team member, Jennifer Remsberg, trying it out at the event.)

Interactive booth displays at IFT18

5. Incorporating Handcrafted Looks

Many booth structures also incorporated graphics that had a handcrafted quality look and feel to them, making their spaces seem warm and approachable. For example, Kalsec used its space to create a craft brewery that drew visitors into a bar-like setting with on-tap drinks and snacks featuring various product offerings.

Kalsec Trade Show Booth at IFT18

Overall, I was impressed by the amount of eye-catching booths and interactive displays at IFT18. I highly recommend other food ingredient marketers attend the event in order to stay on top of the latest trends.

Which booth designs made an impression on you? Comment below to share your thoughts.

Tips for B2B Marketing on Social Media

 

Tips for B2B Marketing for Social Media

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