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Learnings from the FMI Show 2010

May 12th, 2010

Since Monday, I’ve been at FMI 2010, the Food Marketing Institute Show in Las Vegas. As with every industry, the economy has impacted grocery shopping, but unlike most other retail segments, we can’t stop eating. We’re just spending less.

In seminars, speakers focused on private label, defined value (not just by price) and demonstrated the importance of making an emotional connection with the consumer. Retailers and manufacturers are recognizing the need to deliver information using technology to reach target audiences with information they want, when they want it and in the way the want it. This includes mobile platforms to deliver recipes, online couponing, and presence on Twitter and Facebook. [more…]

The New American Pantry

February 5th, 2010

Recently, I was looking through old files, trolling for recipe inspiration for a Twitter campaign. It was a revelation.

When you’ve worked in the food business as long as I have, you’re aware of the constant evolution, of course. We try to anticipate where food is heading and to catch the wave for our clients.

But it’s only by looking back over decades that the true magnitude of change becomes evident. Old recipes often called for bouillon cubes instead of chicken or beef broth. A daring cook added a bit of curry powder, garlic powder or a touch of paprika. “Parsley” meant curly parsley, not the flat-leaf Italian kind. Nuts were pretty exclusively for desserts and baked goods. [more…]

Power to the People

October 25th, 2009

No time to blog, tweet or keep up with Facebook. My son and I are launching a new business and we have been traveling to meet people to form alliances, vet our ideas, and do on-the-ground research. Now we’re finalizing executive summaries and business plans, and doing outreach for funding.

Despite our heads down, nose-to-the-grindstone mode, I have come up for air to mourn the loss of Gourmet and the kind of in-depth food knowledge that is now getting dissipated. In this brave new world where everyone who eats is a food expert, it was comforting to know that editors at Gourmet were respected and appreciated for their decades of experience. [more…]

By the Numbers

August 10th, 2009

Some interesting stats culled from various news outlets, in no particular order. Food for thought.

  • 32% - percentage of social network users who use the Internet to pursue their interest in food/cooking — Food Navigator, 7/17/09
  • $57 million - value of savings shoppers could realize from coupons they printed in June from Coupons.com and the Coupons.com publisher network (130% increase over the year-ago period) — Progressive Grocer, 7/21/09
  • 42.1% - supermarkets’ share of food retail dollars in 2008. Supercenters, warehouse clubs and limited assortment stores (such as Aldi and Trader Joe’s) continue to wrest share from supermarkets. — Mediapost, 7/7/09
  • 56% - number of consumers eating dinner at home more often — Progressive Grocer, 5/14/09
  • $81 billion - private label sales in the U.S. (up 10.2% over the past year) — Food Navigator, 6/22/09
  • 52% - percentage of consumers who were “highly loyal” to consumer packaged goods brands in 2007 who became less loyal or shifted brand loyalty the following year — Supermarket News, 6/22/09
  • 59 - number of shopping trips the average American household made to supermarkets in 2008 (13% fewer than in 2001) — Reuters, 6/29/09

INSIGHT: The retail food industry continues to evolve as the economy shocks consumers out of profligate habits. Bad news for some food marketers offers opportunity for others who have a compelling value message.

Walking the Fancy Food Show

July 4th, 2009

The 55th Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New City ended on Tuesday. I spent two days walking the aisles, sampling judiciously and trying to get a handle on upcoming food trends. This is a big show — with more than 24,000 attendees and 2,300 exhibitors from 70 countries.

One day I walked the show with friends from a national magazine who were looking for food gift ideas for their holiday issue. The second day I walked with a friend from a leading foodservice magazine. It’s so much more interesting to traverse the vast halls with a companion and to see the show through another perspective. [more…]

The Changing Food Consumer

June 24th, 2009

Remember when food brands targeted women 25 to 54? Remember when we said nobody’s cooking so we can forget promoting food with recipes? How times have changed.

Recently, I found a darling Father’s Day card crafted by my son David when he was six. It was entitled, “Why I Love Dad,” and through pages of drawings, he counted the ways. In addition to the typical, “he takes me to the park,” David also added that “he buys us food” and “he does the laundry.” I’m sure his teacher wondered what mom was doing while dad did these chores. Sharing household responsibilities was an anomaly in that time. Not today.

Stephanie Azzarone in MediaPost asks, “Are dads the new moms?” We have been seeing this trend in newspapers, magazines and on TV. Sometimes it’s because mom prefers being in the workforce and is good at it, and dad takes the supporting homemaker role by choice. With more men out of work than women, dad may have lost his job and mom has become the breadwinner. [more…]

Cross-Cultural and Other Food Trends

June 8th, 2009

What’s hot in San Francisco? I asked popular chefs who were serving up extraordinarily delectable small plates at the Hawai’i Chamber of Commerce of Northern California’s Five Star Aloha gala Thursday evening. The event honored chef Roy Yamaguchi, one of the founders of the Hawai’i Regional Cuisine movement.

Ty Mahler, executive chef of Roy’s San Francisco said that right now, he’s crazy about abalone from New Zealand, tasty morsels that are ready to cook, no tenderizing needed. As a seasoning, he’s enamored of purple Iranian peppercorns that have a chocolately, leathery taste. Ty’s abalone was incredibly tender and delicious. And he spooned me a sample of the pepper so I could taste in isolation — it was very fragrant, intriguing and complex. [more…]

Today’s Hot New Consumer Trends

May 19th, 2009

Recently, I went to a fabulous trends conference. I had always meant to join the Association of Consumer Trends and attend the annual Consumer Trends Forum. But I belong to so many organizations and attend so many conferences that it was just one too many.

This year, the conference was held in San Francisco so there was no excuse. No hotel, no airfare, just a quick trip to the Kabuki Hotel. I was glad I made the commitment. From the upbeat, high-energy keynote speech, Unlocking Cool and Exploiting Chaos, by Jeremy Gutche of TrendHunter.com; to the thoughtful talk from Slow Food USA’s president Josh Viertel; to the data-rich presentation by Lee Boyland of DYG Inc.; and the insightful look at Gen Y by Kara Nielsen, trendologist for the Center of Culinary Development; there was a lot to mull over and process following the two-day event. [more…]

New Technologies in Food Communications

April 13th, 2009

Recently, I attended the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ conference in Denver. Attendance this year numbered 700, just half the usual expected for this major conference. The economy is taking its toll.

I was especially interested in a session called The Changing Food Section. With competition from blogs and Web sites, some newspaper food editors are going multi-media — producing their own videos, writing blogs and tweeting as a means of branding themselves. Imprinting a personality onto the community in multiple ways helps to make an editor a bit more indispensible to the newspaper. Imagine the uproar if the food editor who visibly and actively supports all community activities — even participating in a pancake eating contest (Flip videoed and linked to the newspaper’s Web site, of course) — is dismissed. Today’s food editors are covering the news and making themselves part of the story, 24/7. Good strategy for holding on to your job. [more…]

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17th, 2009

Now why would someone with a last name like Hu, be in a frenzy over St. Patrick’s Day? I feel I’m honorary Irish, having had the Irish Dairy Board (Kerrygold brand butter and cheese) as my client for the past four years.

I’ve been to Ireland three times on business and love the food, the land and the people. And just to show you how “Irish” I am, we are having Irish stew simmered with a splash of Guinness for dinner tonight and more to accompany the meal, and I’ll whip up a quick soda bread to serve with plenty of Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter to melt over the warm slices. [more…]