Retail Ready

Retail Ready

               In a world where the Unicorn Frappuccino has already hit the shelves, food and beverage manufacturers have to start thinking even more outside the box to stand out. Recently, these manufacturers are turning away from food items and towards promotional items to appeal to consumers and keep their brands relevant. Companies from McDonald’s and KFC to Hidden Valley and Coca-Cola are all creating items that have little to do with the typical eats they are known for.

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               In September, Taco Bell, announced that they were teaming up with retailer Forever 21 to create a fashion line that includes hoodies, graphic tees, bodysuits, and more. These “fashionable” clothing items range in price from $12.90 to $29.90 and are geared towards the millennials and Gen Z generations. Taco Bell’s clothing line hit Forever 21 stores across the country on October 11, 2017. Another fast food brand getting involved in the fashion scene is Pizza Hut. Their brand created “Pizza Hut Yoga Pants” whose patterns feature triangles that look a lot like pizza slices. These retail at $49.99.

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               Clothing is not the only way brands are tapping into the retail space. Whataburger, a Texas-based burger chain, recently came out with “whatapeiceofjewelry,” a silver charm branded with the multi-W-ed logo of the chain itself. This charm goes for $60.00 a piece, which is not even the most expensive of the food brand jewelry. The Cheetos brand launched a $20,000 orange sapphire and black and white diamond earrings and ring set that was actually sold! Now that’s some series snack dedication.

               Other companies tie their unique items more closely to their signature products. Hidden Valley, for example, created the ranch fountain. The ranch fountain is the savory relative to the sweet chocolate fountain and has already sold out at $89.00 per piece. They also created Hidden Valley bottle coozies for those who are concerned about keeping their dressing as cold as possible at the dinner table.

               Fun products like these often get criticized or made fun of but the cynics are heavily outweighed by the fans. As the CEO of consulting firm BrandTwist said, “Brands are really fighting for mindshare, and they don’t want to just be seen as a very functional brand that helps you satiate your hunger. They want to be a part of your lifestyle too.” As long as companies like Taco Bell and Hidden Valley don’t spread themselves too thin or weaken their core product, creating lifestyle components for their brand seem to be working quite well.  

Getting in the Spirit

Getting in the Spirit

               October is my favorite month for one reason, Halloween. A holiday where everyone dresses up in crazy costumes and get as much candy as possible, what could be better? Nothing. Halloween is not only an awesome holiday for consumers, but it is also a great holiday for advertisers and marketers. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

               Last year, Fanta came up with a Halloween campaign that worked so well they are resurfacing it again this year. Coca-Cola, the company behind Fanta, had the idea to use on-package promotions with QR codes that lead to exclusive Snapchat lenses and filters. This campaign, which is clearly targeted towards millennials, works as a great incentive for customers to purchase Fanta over other similar products. Fanta is not only using QR codes to draw in customers, but they also gave their products a facelift. Similar to last year’s campaign Fanta has teamed up with illustrator Noma Bar to bring to life popular monsters on their cans. Alongside QR codes and funky designs, Fanta invested in a Halloween campaign that culminates in a host of activities all centered on a ghoulish virtual reality experience that is set in a crashing elevator. Virtual Reality is always a draw for consumers and this horror themed experience is bound to get people talking during the holiday season.

               Another beverage company taking advantage of the Halloween spirit is Strongbow Cider. Strongbow decided to work in conjunction with pubs and bars and release point-of-sale kits that include decorations, beer mats, and more to get people excited about their product. This campaign is extremely important for Strongbow because many consumers consider it a summertime drink. Working with bars and pubs to get their product noticed is not only great for business but will also help them make strong relations with local companies.

               Lastly let’s look at Burger King. In their new Halloween campaign Burger King makes fun of their competitor McDonald’s. This all started with the premier of IT, the terrifying Stephen King remake that has taken the world by storm. Burger King capitalized on the fact that the main character in this movie is a creepy clown, like Ronald McDonald, and is incentivizing their customers to choose BK over McDonald’s by offering free Whoppers to the first 500 people who use the hashtag #ScaryClownNight and come into any of their locations across the country dressed in a clown Halloween costumes. BK has been on fire with some really outside the box ad campaigns and to be honest, the funniest and most successful have been at McDonald’s expense.

               Year after year Halloween has proven to be a great holiday for advertisers and marketers to capitalize on. Whether through VR or hashtag campaigns, everyone loves a good scare! In conclusion, if you are a brand trying to spice up your advertising why not take advantage of the Halloween spirit. As I like to say, if you got it, haunt it!

Know your Nutrition

Know your Nutrition

            Do you care about what’s in your food? Most people do. Roughly a year ago, then First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the Nutrition Facts Label’s first big makeover in 20 years. Some of these changes include: including grams of “added sugars” as well as the percentage of recommended daily limit that the amount comprises, making the serving size more closely reflect the actual amount that people typically eat, updating the daily recommended limits for things like sodium, fiber, and vitamins, and more.

            Although all these new nutrition labels sound great, will food manufacturers ever step up their game and change? Originally the FDA gave all food manufacturers a 2 year deadline, saying by 2018 everyone should have their labels updated. Now, as we rapidly approach 2018, the deadline for the new labels has been moved back indefinitely. Creating an extension with no deadline has upset a lot of people, CSPI actually issued a statement saying “with its delay of menu labeling, the FDA will end up denying consumers critical information they need to make healthy food choices in a timely manner,” and many consumers feel they are being cheated because they were promised important information that they now may never get.

               Although most food manufacturers have not updated their nutrition facts, the few large companies that have, have not gone unnoticed. Hersey’s is one of these manufacturers. As a whole Hershey’s has been quite diligent about getting the new labels on as many of its products as possible. According to Gina Shroy, the senior manager on Hershey’s product team, Hershey’s Kisses were the first candy to hit shelves with the updated label. Hershey’s wants to be as transparent as possible with their products to make it easy for customers to know more about the foods they are about to eat. Not only has this mentality gotten Hershey's good publicity, but it is also in the best interest for all of our health; which is why I strongly feel that all food manufacturers should be on board with updating their nutrition labels as well.

 

Salmon for Sale

Salmon for Sale

GM, or genetically modified foods have been controversial for as long as they have been around. Although many GM crops have been proven safe, many people still don’t feel comfortable consuming food altered by chemicals that they don’t know anything about. The fact that most people are unsure about the health and safety of GM products didn’t stop AquaBounty Technologies from selling the first ever genetically modified animal to Canadian retailers, restaurants, and food service operators. This genetically modified animal is salmon. These fish can reportedly grow twice as fast as conventionally farmed salmon, reaching adult size in 18 months as compared to 30 months. AquaBounty was actually approved in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 but within weeks was ban on the import and sale of GM fish until labeling guidelines were established; which is why the public reaction to AquaBounty selling to stores in Canada has not gone over well. This bad reaction has actually led some Canadian retailers to publicly distance themselves from the product. It will be interesting to see if AquaBounty can come back from their rocky start and use their moment in the spotlight to set the tone for other genetically modified food down the line. As of now, it is not looking good for the future of AquaBounty and genetically modified salmon, people are too scared of the unknown, especially when it comes to what they are eating. What are your thoughts on genetically modified salmon, would you try one?

Hurricane Helpers

Hurricane Helpers

With all the craziness going on in the world I thought it would be a nice change of pace to write about chefs and what they are doing to give back, specifically in regards to hurricane relief.

               When hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico it destroyed everything in its path, the destruction is so bad that some areas of the island have even been described as “apocalyptic.” This is not the first natural disaster to hit our country this year, but it very well may have been the most devastating, which is why Chef Jose Andres is so keen on lending a helping hand. After hearing that 3.4 million residents of the island are without power and relying on temporary generators (for a possible four to six months), Chef Andres immediately stepped in to help. Arriving in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Monday (10/2) Andres has been furiously working to get meals out to the struggling natives day and night. His overall goal is to feed 100,000 people by the end of the week and with the help of his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, they have already has served over 30,000 meals (as of 10/4). Chef Jose Andres is a chef that is known for his political activity and nonprofit work so it is not a surprise that he has jumped right in to support hurricane relief.

               Although hurricane Harvey hit Houston almost two months ago, chefs around the city are still doing their part to restore the damage that was done. In fact, according to Food & Wine, “The Houston restaurant community was one of the first to mobilize after hurricane Harvey pounded the city. They fed emergency responders and people in shelters and began laying the groundwork to support more than 300,000 people.”  Chris Shepherd, and his non-profit Southern Smoke, is organizing a benefit dinner that will take place Sunday, October 22. This benefit dinner will include an all-star lineup of chefs including Chef Justin Yu, Ryan Pera, Ashely Christensen, John Besh, Mike Lata and more. Being that Chef Shepherd is from Houston it has been extremely important to him to “take care of his own.” Two other Houston natives that have been keen to help out are Chef Bryan Caswell and his wife Jennifer Caswell of restaurant Reef. These two jumped at the opportunity to help by serving a “stunning amount of food to flood victims and relief workers” immediately after the storm hit.   

               Lending a helping hand doesn’t necessarily mean being “on-site” of the natural disaster. Chef’s Scott Conant and Nina Compton hosted a dinner in New York on September 27th and donated all proceeds to the Red Cross. Also, one of our very own, Chef Marc Forgione, is hosting a dinner in TriBeCa to benefit The Anguilla Foundation on Sunday, October 15. This fundraiser will allow guests to enjoy an awesome BBQ while simultaneously giving back (link below).

               Chefs are constantly giving back to their communities by cooking and feeding people daily, which is why seeing them go above and beyond to help those affected by the recent events is even more amazing! I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you to anyone who has committed even the smallest bit of time and energy to help those affected by these recent disasters. 

Link to Marc Forgione fundraiser: https://www.youcaring.com/theanguillafoundation-958753

Tasty Travels

Tasty Travels

               There is no debate that food can tell the story of a person’s (or peoples) culture, and history; which is why when it comes to travel, culinary tourism has grown to become so mainstream. In fact, a recent report by the University of Florida estimates that 39 million U.S. travelers choose a destination based on the availability of food related activities, and another 35 million seek out culinary activities after a destination is decided on. This sudden obsession with food and travel is driving destinations and hotels to introduce services that cater to the market. For example, cities like Philadelphia and Houston are upping their restaurant scenes partially in hopes to expand tourism.

               When it comes to food tourism authenticity is key. In the past, many travelers opted for 5 star hotels and restaurants that presented them with options like gourmet wine and cheese pairings, but now people are much more interested in local food experiences that actually represent the country or city they are visiting. This new way of thinking about food can not only be cheaper for tourists but it has also helped local restaurants and markets stay in business. Authenticity is not the only piece of the puzzle. Culinary travelers also seek to explore tradition, artistry, and heritage surrounding the food they are eating so it is a great advantage for chefs, farmers, and other artisans to offer tourists a behind the scene look at their operations.

               Everyone has to eat so this increased interest in culinary tourism is not going away any time soon. Food tourism is interesting because not only does it shape the way we as tourists travel but it also affects and shapes the way cities think about food. As I mentioned earlier, lesser known food destinations are finally discovering that food can help attract more visitors so seeing a place like Charleston turn into a foodie city is not surprising. I don’t know about you, but food is always the highlight of my vacations so I am more than thrilled to see others getting excited about culinary tourism too!

Tailgate Takeover

Tailgate Takeover

               The month of September means a few things: heading back to school, the start of fall, and most importantly the start of football season. These days football is not only about what team you root for (go Giants!), but it also revolves around the pregame festivities, otherwise known as tailgating. Of course food has always been a main staple at tailgating events, but these days industry observers say consumers are getting more creative and experimental with their game day menus. Using people’s tailgates as a way for brands to market themselves is becoming increasingly popular, and increasingly helpful. Here are a few examples of food brands who use tailgating and the football season to their advantage.

               NatureSweet, a tomato company based in San Antonio, created a variety of recipes involving their product that are perfect for tailgate snacking. Some of these recipes include “sunbursts guacamole” and “sunburst and hummus on pita.” NatureSweet also gave shoppers a chance to win free groceries with its Snack with Sweetness Sweepstakes. This sweepstakes encouraged tailgaters to snap photos of themselves using NatureSweet tomatoes on game day and upload it to social media with the hashtag #snacksweet. Incentivizing customers to promote your brand through hashtags and social media is a great, and free marketing tool that NatureSweet was smart to take advantage of.

               Another company that tapped into the tailgating madness is the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). “Potato dishes are a fan favorite during tailgate season, from the traditional Idaho Potato Skins and bacon blitz Idaho potato skewer to miso Idaho potato stuffed mushrooms, there are a million ways to incorporate potatoes into a successful tailgate party” says Jamie Bowen, the marketing manager at Idaho Potato Commission. This popularity is why they decided to take advantage of the football season. To get in the tailgate spirit, IPC provided a recipe section on their website, idahopotato.com, featuring all their favorite recipes throughout the years. Also, IPC provided an easy way to share recipes through its Potato Lover’s retail contest. The contest encourages retailers to come up with creative Idaho potato displays during tailgates in order to win free swag throughout the season.

               Lighthouse, a salad dressing company, is another company using tailgates to their advantage; but rather than creating a contest or hashtag like we saw above, Lighthouse decided to take a practical route and offer their dressing in easily prepared containers. Realizing they would score big with consumers by offering products that are simply prepared, Lighthouse decided to rethink their packaging. According to Acosta, “tailgaters get warmed up for the big game by menu planning and basing their food selection on factors like personal preference/taste; the amount of effort to prepare the food; and the amount of time to prepare the food.” All in all, tailgaters want ease which is why Lighthouse saw an increase in sales with their pre-prepared veggies and dip.

               Tailgating will always be a huge part of the football season, and although you can’t count on the players to be consistent week after week, you can count on fans to be consistent with this tradition. People set up as early as 8 am on game days to get drunk, hang with friends, and most importantly eat. Whether incentivizing consumers to use hashtags on social media, or adjusting products to please customers, brands can’t go wrong using tailgates to their advantage.  

Finally Fall

Finally Fall

              Personally, fall is my favorite time of year. It is also the time of year that represents the beginning of end-of-the-year holiday marketing, an extremely important time for brands. This is a time for brands to rethink their strategies and target their audience through the changing season and upcoming holidays. Here are a few examples of creative fall marketing campaigns and why they work.

               Over the past few years, Hershey has come up with Halloween themed marketing campaigns for one of their most popular products, Kit-Kat. Of course this seems like a no-brainer for a candy company, but recently they have taken an edgier approach to marketing this delicious product. In 2016, their Halloween campaign drew people in by emphasizing awkward situations to create comedy. This approach is great because it keeps the viewers entertained and thinking about the product throughout the entire ad. In addition, they have created campaign geared towards Generation Z and Millennials – with Halloween commercials starring Chance the Rapper. The idea to use Chance, a widely popular musician, came to Hershey when they recently learned that much younger generations were the majority of consumers buying the 81-year-old product. Hershey found a way to target a specific audience and use the upcoming season to sell their product and so far it has been a hit.

               Dunkin Donuts is another food brand that is focused on the fall season. For some, fall means cider and changing of the leaves, but Dunkin Donuts knows for their customers fall means pumpkin spice. That’s why this year they based their campaign on releasing their pumpkin coffee earlier than ever. The company has already seen a significant benefit from this, according to CNBC , the company has reported better-than-expected earnings for seven-straight quarters and introducing these limited time products slightly early this season has given them even more of a boost.

               Krispy Kreme, another doughnut brand, has also tapped into the fall spirit but through a different approach. To boost brand awareness and hopefully gain more customers, Krispy Kreme decided to capitalize on daylight savings by coming up with their “Lose An Hour, Gain A Doughnut!” idea. This promotion attempts to thrust the doughnut brand to the front of consumers’ minds while simultaneously easing the effect of losing an hour of the day. Single day promotions might not be the most lucrative of campaigns, but in this case it put people in a good mood and reminded them that Krispy Kreme actually cares about their customers. In fact, these single-day promotions have become a mainstay of Krispy Kreme’s marketing and branding strategy because they are easy to execute and have brought only positive attention to the brand.

               With the start of fall upon us, consumers are looking to be engaged in the season. For brands, it is important to cater to autumn trends that resonate with their audiences whether that is through specific generational targeting, the release of certain fall-themed products, or campaigns that focus on a certain seasonal changes, like daylight savings. So, if brands want to keep consumers happy, they should breathe in the crisp air, and concentrate on the upcoming season. 

Back to School Branding

Back to School Branding

               With Labor Day behind us and pumpkin spice flavored everything hitting the shelves, it’s time to start thinking about fall and the start of school. Back to school shopping season is the second biggest retail event after the holiday season, and with sales results showing online shopping is more important than ever, brand marketers and retailers have to embrace new emerging strategies to ensure they engage students and parents in stores as well as on digital channels.

               In the 21st century, technology is everything. The internet provides an efficient, if not the most efficient, way to reach millions of consumers with one click or hashtag. Sbarro Pizza, for example, is doing a back to school promotional contest for free iPads. This contest allows customers to participate in physical Sbarro’s Pizza stores, and on facebook, twitter, or Instagram by adding #sbarroscholar to their posts. This approach is not only a great way for the company to get customers excited about their product, but it is also a great way for Sbarro to build their online presence. Another aspect of back to school marketing that brands are becoming more aware of is how they vary their voice based on different social media channels. While kids are obviously the main target when it comes to back to school shopping, parents are also key players so it is equally important for brands to market to social channels adults use as well. For example, Pinterest is a platform visited mostly by an older age group so the content should be geared towards adults, while on a platform like snapchat it is more beneficial to be kid-friendly. McDonald’s is a great example of how a brand can shift advertising based on age seen as they run kid-friendly content during Saturday morning cartoons and save the adult content for the evening news. One last approach that is great for back to school marketing is letting the consumers own the experience. Kids love to be creative right? So why not let them create their own campaigns. In 2016, Target used this approach, letting kids write, direct, produce, and star in the companies back to school commercials. Not only did this method help Target produce creative and unique content, but it received a ton of buzz on social media and in the news as well.

               Back to school shopping only happens once a year, but when it does brands should take advantage of the market. Whether it is reaching out to consumers of all ages, letting the customer get creative, or simply creating a brand hashtag, marketers need to use social media to get an edge on their competitors during this back to school season.

A Helping Hand

A Helping Hand

              Over the weekend Hurricane Harvey started making its way through Texas and has just begun to slow down. This devastating storm has already killed at least five people and injured many more, making it the worst hurricane/tropical storm Texas has seen in ages. Since this natural disaster struck, people all over the United States are coming together to make donations and raise awareness for the people of Houston. In fact, individuals are not the only ones getting involved, certain brands are also taking action and coming up with ways to support the victims of this terrible storm. Here is a look at what some of those brands have come up with.

              Chobani, America’s leading Greek Yogurt brand, announced that they will be supporting Texas and its residents by packing up trucks with Chobani products and distributing it to those in need. Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO and founder of Chobani, tweeted “thinking of our friends & communities across Texas. Team Chobani is loading up trucks now. Time for all of us to do our part… #harvey.”  PepsiCO, which includes brands like Pepsi and Gatorade, is taking a different route and pledging to donate $1 million to the American Red Cross. Chairman and CEO, Indra K. Nooyi, stated that PepsiCo is very focused on helping people in need during this difficult time.  

              Non-food and drink brands are stepping up as well. United Airlines is encouraging customers to donate to the Harvey relief by offering bonus miles. More specifically, any of the United airline rewards members that donate at least $50 to the Red Cross will get up to 250 bonus miles, and those who donate more can get up to 1,000 bonus miles. Verizon is another brand that has jumped at the opportunity to help out. Recently the wireless brand announced that they will offer customers in certain areas of Texas with data relief between August 26 and September 8. Meaning that any customers (in the covered areas) who go over their data limit will get the entire amount credited back to their account. Lastly, Walmart sent 795 truckloads of supplies to Texas, per a tweet from the brands action account, “Update: We’ve shipped 795 emergency truckloads of supplies, mainly water to S. TX & 1700 truckloads are due to arrive in the next week!”

         Harvey has hit Houston much worse than anyone expected, it has completely destroyed parts of the city and we do not even know the full extent of the damage yet. Although this has been a quite the tragedy, it is reassuring to see brands take action and try to help in as many ways as possible.

Total Eclipse of the Market

Total Eclipse of the Market

               On Monday, millions of Americans stopped what they were doing to go outside and check out the first total solar eclipse since June 1918. This once in a lifetime phenomenon not only had the average citizen excited, but it also acted as a great marketing tool for multiple brands and companies. From original recipes to moon jokes, let’ take a look at the most creative eclipse campaigns.

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               The first campaign that really caught my eye was Corona. Corona teamed up with Cramer-Krasselt, a creative marketing firm, to put out the perfect eclipse package, “The Corona toast kit.” This toast kit came equipped with eclipse glasses, an eclipse countdown clock, and of course a few coronas. Not only was this a cute and fun way to get people excited about Corona and their product, but the box also doubled as a pinhole viewer which made it even more appealing to consumers. They also put up a stop motion video on their Facebook page to explain how to actually create the pinhole viewer, creating more buzz and keeping customers happy. Krispy Kreme, one of America’s favorite donut brands, offered its famous glazed donut in a chocolate shell to mimic the eclipse. This was a cute and fun way to get guests excited about the solar eclipse and get a donut that tasted delicious! Spirit brand Jose Cuervo came up with fun cocktail recipes that they called “Total Especial Eclipse” and “Dark Side of the Sun.” Both cocktails consisted of interesting ingredients that played off of the solar eclipse, for example the Total Especial Eclipse recipe calls for charcoal lemonade to make it darker in color, like the moon eclipsing the sun. Lastly, Cracker Barrel, a chain known for its biscuits, started posting cheeky social posts that were very simple but still effective. For example, one of their posts was of a biscuit blocking out the sun, which they called a “Bisclipse,” providing consumers a quick laugh with their meal.

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               All of these companies found clever ways to market their products while tying in the solar eclipse. Capitalizing on events like the eclipse is an extremely smart way for brands to make themselves known and hopefully gain some more traction and revenue. Consumers all over America were extremely excited about the eclipse so it made perfect sense for marketers to take advantage of it and come up with creative ways to tie in the once in a lifetime phenomenon. Whether it was through giveaways, social posts, or recipes customers couldn’t look away from these brands just like they couldn’t look away from the solar eclipse.

 

The (augmented) Reality of Marketing

The (augmented) Reality of Marketing

               Augmented reality (AR) is a topic I have previously touched on; my first post was about the explosion of Pokémon Go about a year ago. Unfortunately this post will not focus on the wildly popular game, but on augmented reality in the culinary space as a whole. In recent years, food and beverage manufactures have started to realize the potential that augmented reality holds for advertisers and marketers in the culinary space. As the marketing director of Zappar said in an interview with FoodNavigator, “the key to success will lie in finding creative ways to integrate AR into a broader brand strategy across multiple platforms and locations, rather than slapping another logo on an already-crowded food label because you can.”

               AR has long held potential for brands, with technology and more specifically mobile phones being such a big part of our day to day life, a well-developed augmented reality app can really draw in and help engage youth and adult consumers through games, as well as useful or interesting information about a company’s product. For example, in the summer of 2014 Kraft teamed up with Walmart Super-centers across the nation to create a profitable augmented reality marketing campaign. This AR promotion allowed customers to simply download an AR app and use that app to track their Kraft brand purchases at Walmart Super-centers only. Kraft’s investment in AR technology payed off. Not only did it help them differentiate themselves from their major competitors during peak sales season, but partnering with a huge retailer like Walmart also helped spike their sales. Other companies that have launched augmented reality apps or campaigns include Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

               AR is not only being used to draw in consumers, but it is also being used by sales staff to show how their products can fit into possible retail spaces. Coca-Cola (also mentioned above) armed one of their sales teams in Germany with an AR app that simulated and demonstrated how future coolers, installments, and Coca-Cola displays would look in specific stores; which ultimately lead to a cleaner layout and design for the brand.

               Overall, AR has great potential to become a front runner in the field of food and beverage marketing. It is a relatively new and exciting tool that engages customers in a way they find valuable, different, and exciting. There are already tons of AR games and apps out there so now the key for brands is to make sure they are producing interesting enough material that keeps consumers downloading these AR apps and coming back for more.