Tag Archives: natural

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are Bags of Chips

…and the other candidates are furniture.

There is a marketing lesson here; allow me to explain.

Everyone and their mothers and the horses they all rode up on have already weighed in on what’s driving the surprising dominance of Trump and Sanders in the polls to date.

Donald ChipsBernie Chips

The Armchair MBA looks at this as a lesson for marketers:

There is a clear difference between an impulse purchase and a considered purchase, demanding different approaches.  Depends on whether your goal is short-term or long-term (or maybe both).

  • Impulse purchases (like chips):
    – immediate consumption, no long-term commitment, low-risk, who cares
  • Considered purchases (like furniture):
    – longer-term implications, significant commitment, meaningful risk

As chips and as candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders present the most powerful, clearly articulated and differentiated propositions that are intriguing to a segment of the population.

With virtually no risk in trying a chip (or answering a poll), the chips (and candidates) that stand out as different are more likely to get early trial and short-term success.
Other chips (candidates) have less extreme claims, are consequently less differentiated, and thus any one is less likely to gain a majority of trial (poll votes).

Candidate Chips

After trial (polling), however, things could change.

Trump chips, while very spicy, might present an unexpected burning sensation after ingestion.
And Sanders chips, while appealing conceptually, might not be particularly palatable or affordable.

In both cases, these chips will still likely retain loyal users, but would likely represent a smaller niche
– as candidates, the same might also be true

Chips that may be designed for more long-term market success will necessarily be positioned to garner a broader share of the population and have staying power. While less overtly exciting, they may have a more balanced combination of ingredients and claims.

As election time nears, candidates become viewed less like chips and more like furniture: a longer-term commitment that demands (at least hopefully for most people) more thoughtful consideration, doing research, shopping, weighing benefits vs. cost and risks.

NET: For short-term impact (trial), claims must be clear and differentiated.

For longer-term success, both claims and performance must be carefully crafted to meet the needs of a meaningful portion of the population.

Barbie-Glam-Dining-Room-Furniture-Set

Hopefully our voting public exhibits at least the same care in choosing their candidates as they do in picking furniture.

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Cruising IFT 2013 – my Top 10 Trends (Special Double Issue!)

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Don’t let the unsexy ‘Institute of Food Technologists’ name throw you; IFT’s members are basically the source of the Nile for foods and beverages.  IFT’s national Expo was just held in Chicago, where I walked the many miles of the McCormick Place floor so you didn’t have to.  It was where you could see ingredient innovations that will show up without warning in tomorrow’s new foods and beverages.

IFT2013 Main Hall

IFT 2013 – McCormick Place Floor

So for your edification, I hereby present my Top 10 Observations.

1) Chia.  No, not Chia Pets (although it’s the same plant) or even Chia LaBoeuf. An ancient grain, chia seeds promise high levels of Omega-3, ALA, fiber, calcium and minerals.  One marketer, Salba, targets their ‘super chia seeds’ at ‘smarty-pants’ consumers.  And you will need to think about it a little: like wheat germ, chia seeds aren’t generally eaten alone; they are typically sprinkled on or mixed in with other foods.

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

2) Matcha. This finely ground, premium green tea powder has been used ceremonially for millennia in Japan, and is offered in top restaurants worldwide.  For culinary purposes, matcha’s high amino acid content delivers a umami taste profile that can enable lower salt content.  Matcha can also be used as a colorant, due to its distinct green hue. The matcha makers were pushing all manner of green foods made with matcha, not all of which were ready for prime time.  High in antioxidants, you will likely have your first matcha moment at some point soon.  Arigatou gozaimasu.

Matcha 1

Ceremonial Matcha Tea

Matcha 3

Matcha Green Tea Jelly

Matcha scones

Matcha Scones

3) Saskatoon Berries.  So I’m at the Canada pavilion (they’re so nice there) and there’s a display showing Saskatoon berries (aka Prairie Berries) positioned as the next super fruit, with higher antioxidants than all your previous favorites (acaí, goji, etc.).  I try them — and they’re good!  Blueberry-sized but more fleshy, with just a hint of tartness.  Already well-liked for the obligatory preserves, pies and such, you may well be seeing Saskatoon berries showing up in more foods and beverages.  Trivia:  the province Saskatoon was named for the berry, not the other way around.  Who knew, indeed.

Saskatoon berries

Saskatoon Berries

SaskatoonFestival2Saskatoon pie

4) The word ‘pulse’. OK, I don’t live in Legume World, so maybe you’re familiar with the word; it’s always been just beans, peas and lentils to me.  But a lot more grain processors have started using the word pulse; my guess is you’ll be hearing it a lot more in the future.  Probably because it sounds a lot more sophisticated than talking about lima beans. (‘I’m in the pulse business, yeah baby!’)

Pulse grains

Pulse Grains

5) Bamboo Fiber.  This ingredient has long been used for textiles; I just hadn’t seen it in food.  Providing fiber’s benefits of texture, as well as bulking properties that accelerate one’s, ahem, transit time, it is used in juices, baked goods, pasta, sauces, among other applications, and is non-caloric.  And it’s label-friendly, too, being able to be called ‘vegetable fiber’.  I just don’t know the cost for all these benefits – – maybe we’ll sort that out next time around.

Bamboo

you know what this is

6) Natural food dyes.  Not surprisingly, the EU clean label trend has finally waded ashore from the Atlantic and is starting to make greater inroads in US food formulation.  Consumers increasingly want to see natural colors on the label (and of course, we know that everyone who claims to read labels always does).  So instead of CSPI whipping boys Yellow 5 or Red 40, get ready for more paprika, lycopene, annatto, turmeric and of course, cochineal extract.  But if you find out that the color comes from crushed insects, or algae, or your Velveeta doesn’t have its characteristic hi-glo orange-yellow hue anymore, don’t come crying to me.

Natural food coloring - Tribune

Natural food colorings (from Sensient Technologies)

7) Safety testing.  Ever since Roman praegustators, there has been a need for food testing.  And as the stakes have risen recently (see: melamine), based on my observation, so has the number of companies offering testing services to meet SQF and BRC standards (some great tech-speak that can score you some major points in the IFT cocktail hour – – but perhaps not in too many other places).
Tests for pathogens, listeria, salmonella, E. Coli, as well as fraudulent ingredients, can be done using HPLC, genetic molecular testing, straightforward micro testing, mass spectrometry, colony counting and zone sizing, and numerous other approaches that I don’t understand, using chemicals, software, and machinery.  As a consumer, it’s good to know that there is such a focus on safety.  As an IFT show-goer, it was disappointing – the food safety guys don’t tend to give out free food or tchotchkes.

IFT2013 testing

This software helps detect ingredients that shouldn’t be there, in this case tartaric acid. It can also see if that gluten-free claim is really true, or if there actually was any Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine.

8) Sodium reduction.  The holy trinity of ingredients to avoid are fat, calories and sodium.  The consequences of over-consuming the first two are visible.  Sodium reduction helps with non-visible dangers like hypertension (dangers that Americans typically are excellent at ignoring), and as a result there has been less urgency.  But it seems that this is changing.  There were quite a few sodium reduction products offered promising great taste, using approaches as disparate as different crystal shape, blended granules, microspheres, starch and baking solutions, and more.  You heard it here first, the age of real sodium reduction has arrived.

IFT Salt

9 in 10 Americans over age 2 eat too much sodium

9) Alternatives to traditional ingredients.  What do you do for news when the main building blocks of food (like wheat flour) are not only mature, but facing new challenges (like GMO-free, gluten-free, etc.)?  You introduce new ways to get there.  Hence flours from sweet potatoes, soy, sesame, flax, coconut, rice, spelt, almond, buckwheat, spirulina and more.  Each has its own taste profile, nutritional benefits, and processing limitations.  You won’t see this stuff in your Twinkies, but it’s coming elsewhere, and it will be great to have more taste, texture and nutritional options.

IFT Sesame Flour

Sesame Flour

10) Maple Water.  Still trying to wrap your head around coconut water?  Well, clear out some mindspace for maple water.  It’s so new, it wasn’t even in the show – – I heard about it from a friendly Canadian.  It seems the Quebec maple producers have launched this product as a thirst quencher, ingredient, and in any case, an all-around transparent strategy to extend revenues from the maple crop.  It is supposed to have a distinctive flavor, slightly sweet.  Coconut water from the south, now maple water from the north, it seems the US has its flavored water NAFTA obligations covered.

IFT_maple-water

(actually, it’s not yet clear exactly what they want us to do with this stuff)

—————-

Bonus points for using this ingredient in YOUR product.

IFT2013 pop-rocks

Open to suggestion.

That’s it – see you at next year’s show!

Natural Products Expo West – My Top 10 Observations

Natural Products Expo West, just completed in Anaheim, bills itself as the largest natural and organic trade show in the world.  At 1 million+ square feet, almost 2500 exhibitors and 63,000 attendees, it is certainly large by any measure.  Having just finished walking most of those 1 million square feet, while my feet are temporarily elevated I have assembled an (unscientific) list of 10 noteworthy observations from the show (in no particular order).

NaturalProductsExpoWest

1) Gluten-Free – – sure, it’s been a reliable presence for years, but it now seems that every other product at the show carried a gluten-free claim.  For the most part, the products were delicious.  Clearly this trend is maturing nicely and is here to stay.

2) Kale!   Yes, kale.  In all of its green, seaweed-tasting glory, manifested in all manner of baked goods, chips, and more.  Let’s check back in about 3 years to see how this trend hangs in there.

3) Bars, bars, bars and more bars.  Energy, fruit equivalence, satiety, muscle-enhancing, alertness, virility – – you name it, there’s a bar for it.  Conservatively more than 100 entries.  The good news: most of them actually taste very good.  The bad news:  there’s not enough shelf space in the world for all of them to survive.

4) Jerky – long a pariah at natural foods (aka aspiring vegan) shows, the snacks-with-parents segment was alive and well at Expo West 2013.  Beef, turkey, chicken, bison, and many other animals as well as faux-meat soy product, this was a year where the trucker target was well-served.  A regular Von Dutch treat, if you will.

5) the non-GMO conversation – Whole Foods changed the conversation at Expo West.  By announcing its commitment to labelling all products that contain genetically modified organisms by 2018, WF elevated this topic from a subject you might bring up to show off your Euro-knowledge, to a regular (functional) water cooler staple.  Everyone was talking about it; this announcement could be the tipping point in establishing non-GMO as a mainstream desired consumer benefit.

6) fewer ‘free from’ claims – with the obvious exception of non-GMO, there didn’t seem to be as many ‘free from’ or ‘less’ (fat, calories, sugar, etc) claims.  Instead, it was all about what was in the foods – – whether protein, antioxidants, minerals, or any of a lot of other things.

7) Chips – apparently, at this show if a food was left unattended, someone came along and zapped it with the chip gun.  How many things can you make into a chip?  In addition to the now-mainstream PopChips, there were also falafel chips, pineapple coconut chips, chia chips, cookie chips, spinach chips, lentil chips, and yes, Virginia, there are kale chips too — lots of them.

8) High-end chocolates – – right up there in abundance with chips and nutrition bars, it seemed that every time you turned around, some smiling young person was shoving a piece of $7/bar chocolate in your face (which of course, you were too polite to refuse).  The venerable gourmet segment pioneered by the likes of Lindt, now goes for $2-3/oz (and more) after being reinvented about 10 years ago with the unique entries from companies like Vosges (e.g. bacon, chile inclusions) and competitors have been piling in ever since.  Mostly excellent products; again the sad part is that not all will survive.

9) Raw foods – this is an increasingly common theme for many new natural/organic products (and companies); it’s about foods that are the ultimate in closeness to nature – – unprocessed and uncooked.  In a variety of different products – -and candidly there were a few I’m not sure I’d ingest before a 4 hour flight.  The concept was really brought to life for me when a spokesperson for a nut and seed bar (with raw chia seeds!) explained that if he unwrapped his bar and planted it, it would grow.  And all those childhood fears of orange trees growing in my stomach suddenly came rushing back.

10) Naturally enhanced – – I’m talking about the incredible variety of beverages (and just maybe also about some of the attendees).  In a continuing crusade to provide the world with healthier and perhaps more politically correct alternatives to sugar/HFCS-sweetened drinks, Expo West really came through.  Coconut or oatmeal (or chia) based, probiotic, macrobiotic, kombucha, it goes on and on and on – and this doesn’t even include the supplements.  Yowza.

The only downside to the show was the sheer number, depth and quality of displays.  Would have loved another few days – well, there’s always next year.