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Foodie Marketing

Future Foodies of America

Future Foodies of America

A few weeks ago I went to visit two of my friends from college who are now married with a young daughter.  I’ve known them both for many years and one of our shared passions has always been food and cooking. Obviously since having a kid, many things in their life have changed and their apartment has been taken over by baby-phanalia. But, looking around their living room with its mini chrome “play kitchen” (including play fruit and vegetables and pots/pans) and an entire bookshelf dedicated to baby food cookbooks, I could see that their love of food has stayed the same.

The baby food industry has been steadily profitable because, well, people will always have babies. But it’s an industry that’s seen tremendous innovation and growth because of parents’ demands for increased convenience and desire for healthy ingredients. Several years ago Beech-Nut Nutrition, producer of packaged baby food, led a market research study that found that homemade purees (baby food made in people’s own kitchens) accounted for one third of total baby food consumed. Their explanation, according to this NYTimes article, was that baby food available for purchase in grocery stores wasn’t fulfilling parents’ needs so they were taking to making their own. And a recent market analyst by Technavio found that “...there is growing anxiety about the safety of the products consumers use, more so the food they consume. A preference for organic baby products stems from a concern for health and general well-being.” In response to these findings, Beech-Nut revamped their entire line of products to include organic purees and exotic ingredients such as pomegranate and quinoa. As a result of the shift towards organic, wholesome baby products, several new organic-based baby food lines also popped up in the market including Sprout, Ella’s Kitchen, and Plum Organics.

Packaging has also been a huge innovation in the baby food market. Pouches were introduced in the 2000s and have been the biggest driver in increased sales. Quality-wise, the food isn't really that different from the traditional jars but parents love them for the convenience factor. Think about how much easier it is to throw a little plastic pouch in your bag versus a glass jar. And no spoon is needed!

But updated packaging plus organic ingredients equals more expensive so some parents still prefer to create their own at home. And as more and more parents are making their own baby food, several companies have capitalized on this trend by inventing all-in-one baby food machines. Machines like Baby Bullet and Baby Brezza are marketed specifically to new parents and promise to steam/cook and puree ingredients in a minimal amount of time.

I’ve also noticed a really strong preference among my friends who are parents to raise “adventurous eaters.” As a result, parents are trying to introduce exotic flavors to their children when they’re very young. If you look the hundreds of baby food cookbooks, many try to go beyond the standard carrot and apple purees by incorporating unusual fruits or vegetables and several spices. My personal favorite I’ve seen is Little Foodie: Baby Food Recipes for Babies and Toddlers with Taste, which includes recipes for items such as pumpkin and thyme puree and apple, mint, and ricotta puree.

With increasing concerns about farming and produce and our general obsession with food, it’s no surprise that the global baby food market is forecasted to surpass $82 billion by 2022 and see tremendous growth in new products and packaging. I’m constantly shocked by the amount of stuff marketed to new parents and babies but with this predicted revenue growth, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see companies come up with new ways to appeal to new parents’ tastes. Perhaps soon you’ll visit your local grocery store and see an entire line of celebrity-chef inspired purees? Or maybe even a Blue Apron delivery service dedicated to cooking your own baby food?

- Cassie

 

To phone, or not to phone, that is the mealtime question...

To phone, or not to phone, that is the mealtime question...

A week or so ago a friend of mine sent me a video of Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker, discussing “The Millennial Question” (worth the time to watch). While Mr. Sinek brings up more than a handful of insightful, interesting, as well as disturbing points during the interview, I wanted to focus on one that directly impacts the culinary marketing business- mealtime. 

During the interview, Mr. Sinek talks about how living in a social media focused world impacts our ability to create deep, and meaningful relationships. He points out that dopamine is actually released into the body when we receive a text or a like during social media interactions; the same dopamine levels as when an alcoholic drinks or a gambler gambles.  This sudden chemical release is the root cause of physical addiction, which is why as a culture we are becoming more and more dependent on cellphones and social media.

How does this relate to the culinary world one might ask? Well, here is a question for you- If you go out to dinner, have a coffee with someone, or share some time at a table with family or friends, is your phone on the table? Do you take your phone out to look at texts or emails during a meal, instead of just being in the moment and actually enjoying your company? More than likely, if you are being honest with yourself, you answered yes (I know I did, but i'm working on changing my habits). Cellphones are changing mealtimes from a social experience to a social media one, which to Mr. Sinek’s point has a negative effect on relationships.

This has not gone without notice in the restaurant world, a few establishments have actually taken it upon themselves to try and shift behaviors, by offering guests incentives to put their phones away and focus on reconnecting with the people they are with. Most recently, Chick-fil-A created a Family Challenge, offering families free dessert if they put their phones in a cell phone “coop” for their entire meal.  Kudo’s to Chick-Fil-A for taking a proactive stance on this issue and actually coming up with a great incentive to keep people off their phones during mealtime.

So the question is, if we know we are a culture addicted to technology, what do we do and how does this change the way we, as marketers, look at mealtime?  How can brands play a role in helping to bring people and families back together over the dinner table? Will there be new apps/technology that help to do this (yes, I know that’s somewhat counter intuitive)? Or will we see more restaurants using incentives as a tactic?

Whatever the solution may be, mealtime is where relationships are built, memories are formed and lessons are learned, so please make the effort to put the phone down and enjoy the company you are with!

- Lonny Sweet, CEO

Would you like an appetizer with that new car??

Would you like an appetizer with that new car??

Remember the days (like last year) when the only thing to eat or drink while shopping for a new car was vending machine chips and coffee that tastes more like motor oil than an organic roast.  Well, that may be changing…welcome to the new foodie world order. 

In recent months we have seen a Lexus Restaurant, The Cadillac House and BMW Restaurant, all taking advantage of the passionate food connected consumer to open up new lines to customers, by creating unique hospitality venues and restaurants.  And it’s not just the auto companies.  Retailers like Urban Outfitters recently partnered with multiple chefs to create restaurants inside their stores, Macy’s opened the new Chef Street at their Herald Square location (they also have a great food court in Chicago) and of course IKEA is famous not only for their hand-blistering do-it-yourself furniture, but their Swedish meatballs and cinnamon buns.

So what’s with combination of food & retail?  Well, we think it just kind of makes sense.  One thing we all have in common is the need to eat.  Some of us put more emphasis on the quality of the food or the experience of the meal, but retailers are creatively using the tools of culinary marketing to find ways to drive traffic, create buzz, elevate their customers experience and ultimately sell more goods.   

The indicators points towards more and more brands using culinary marketing as a powerful tool in the shed when building out their strategic marketing plans.  We live in a new world where it is hard to break through and even harder to connect emotionally with consumers, and because of that, food is an amazing tool to help tell a different story and connect on a deeper level with consumers.   

That’s the new foodie world order, and we love it!

- Lonny Sweet

Millennials and Food Trends

Millennials and Food Trends

I always roll my eyes at the word "foodie", mostly because I think the obsession with all things culinary has become so common in our culture that it seems pointless to make it an isolated category. But this great read in the Washington Post really displays the impact food trends have had on "foodies" and millennials. It's not surprising that millennials are the biggest food-obsessed population group (they spend almost $96 billion on food according to this article). But it's particularly interesting to see how food trends break down in terms of gender, location, and race. Brands can certainly benefit from this information as they could a type of food trend to focus in on a specific group of millennials:

Men drinking craft beer, women eating quinoa, and other millennial foodie trends, ranked - The Washington Post, by: Rachel Premack

Culinary Virtual Reality??

Thought this was an interesting article yesterday in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/technology/tripping-down-a-virtual-rabbit-hole.html?ref=business&_r=0), about Virtual Reality and its future as part of the media and entertainment mix.  I recently received a pair of VR goggles (thanks Samsung) and have tried several of the apps, all with amazement and apprehension at the same time. The full immersion capabilities are ridiculous and, depending on the quality of the video, it really does feel like you are inside the experience.  The applications this could have, from E-Learning, visiting colleges, building kitchens/restaurants, seeing venues, going to concerts and everything in between, makes it hard to argue this won’t forever change our world at some point.  That said, the introverted nature of VR has tremendous risk for our next generations and if we aren’t careful, the art of conversation, shaking a hand and looking someone in the eye, will be lost forever.   

From a food & drink perspective, this gets a bit more complicated.  As the article highlights, when you have VR goggles on, you lose the ability to use your hands and obviously can’t eat virtual food, which is an essential part of the food & drink experience.  VR will  be an incredible tool for meeting planners to see venues, consumers to be immersed into certain food based TV shows (imagine Anthony Bourdain travel show in VR!), transparency in the food process (see where your food was grown/made) and some education content, but I will be very curious to see how the technology evolves to a place where people can use their hands while being immersed in the content as well (despite articles below).  Until then, keep your hands safe from cuts, the houses intact (don’t burn them down) and keep the VR goggles off when in the kitchen.

Here are a few more good articles to check out.

http://www.snapmunk.com/vr-can-revolutionize-food-industry/

http://www.fastcompany.com/3024198/reverse-engineered/this-new-tech-brings-virtual-reality-to-taste-buds - this is crazy!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/29/464885833/we-sampled-the-gastronomic-frontier-of-virtual-reality