Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

Are you addicted to, err, cookies?

October 4, 2017

Sounds like a “dog ate homework” excuse, but you may eat too many cookies – not because you’re a fundamentally bad person – but, because you’re addicted to them andmay want to enroll in Cookies Anonymous.

In some ground-breaking research to be present at a Society for Neuroscience conference next month,  a Connecticut College study concluded that Oreos are just as addictive as drugs.

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Here’s the skinny on the research findings …

(more…)

Memo to Michelin: Shove your stars …

October 3, 2017

3-star chef wants out of the rankings

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According to the NY Times

Sébastien Bras, one of France’s most celebrated chefs, has stunned the French culinary world with an unlikely plea: Take my three Michelin stars away.

Mr. Bras is fed up with the pressure of maintaining those stars. He says he is seeking nothing less than culinary “liberation” and “a new meaning to my life.”

While the stars confer cachet and financial security, Mr. Bras’s audacious move is also reflective of a new generation of chefs, some of whom are eager to escape from the punishing strain of unpredictable rankings and malicious food critics.

“Three stars mean that everything must be perfect, at any time, in every plate. One must be passionate, a genius, but mostly a workaholic, because you have to be working in your restaurant from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, nonstop.”

There’s also an economic angle …

(more…)

Red Dye #40 makes a triumphant return.

September 28, 2017

To put it mildly, the dogs stopped eating the dog food.

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As reported in the WSJ

In early 2015 General Mills reformulated iconic Trix cereal to make it all-natural – replacing Red Dye #40, Blue Dye #1 and Yellow Dye #6 with radishes, purple carrots and turmeric.

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Besides producing a bland color, the juices and extracts gave the cereal a different taste.

Natural-ingredient haters flooded the company with calls, emails and social-media posts:

“I genuinely feel bad that my kids will never got to experience the old Trix cereal.”

“My kids think the color of the new Trix cereal quite depressing.”

“It’s basically a salad now.”

“My childhood fading away with the colors of Trix cereal.”

“Americans’ love affair with processed foods is enduring, however, despite a decade of finger-wagging from nutritionists, influential celebrities and trendy grocery chains.”

So, General Mills has decided to reintroduce Classic Trix, artificial flavorings and all, and will start selling it on supermarket shelves alongside the more wholesome version in October.

Here’s what other brands are doing …

(more…)

Tainted donkey meat … say, what?

February 17, 2016

Believe it or not, this topic came up in a chat with students … so, I decided to reprise it. 

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Business Week ran an article titled “Keeping the Mystery Out of China’s Meat”

Can’t explain why I decided to read it.

 

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But, I did … and here’s what caught my eye.

(more…)

Taco Bell: “Don’t say our beef isn’t beef …”

November 17, 2015

A couple of weeks ago we posted a Business Week report titled “Keeping the Mystery Out of China’s Meat”

The essence of the article was that some Chinese retailers were selling donkey meat that was diluted with fox meat. If you don’t understand why that’s a show-stopper, see Tainted donkey meat … say, what?

Fearing that I might inadvertently get stuck with some bad donkey meat, I’ve been alert to mystery meat stories.

Right on cue, here comes Taco Bell.

 

C’mon, admit it … when you bite into a TB taco don’t you wonder if you’re really eating beef?

(more…)

Here’s some good news for Chuck E. Cheese …

October 29, 2015

Let’s make this pizza week …

Chuck E. Cheese has been struggling of late.

Same store sales have been declining over the past couple of years.

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What’s ailing the Chuckster … and what will get him healthy again?

(more…)

Oh no, last week it was Oreos, today it’s pizza …

October 28, 2015

Yesterday we posted about a study concluding that Oreos are addicting.

Not to be out-done , a study by University of Michigan researchers — published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine — concludes that pizza is at the top of the most addictive food list.

cheese pizza

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So, scientifically speaking, what is it that makes pizza so addictive?

(more…)

Are you addicted to, err, cookies?

October 22, 2015

Sounds like a “dog ate homework” excuse, but you may eat too many cookies – not because you’re a fundamentally bad person – but, because you’re addicted to them andmay want to enroll in Cookies Anonymous.

In some ground-breaking research to be present at a Society for Neuroscience conference next month,  a Connecticut College study concluded that Oreos are just as addictive as drugs.

image

=======

Here’s the skinny on the research findings …

(more…)

What has 8 legs and 6 wings?

June 2, 2015

Answer: Definitely not a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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When I heard a news blurb talking about KFC genetically raising chickens with 8 legs and 6 wings, I bought in.

I figured: smart move.

Kids devour drumsticks and wings are still one of the hottest bar foods around.

My thought: good operations move … improve the “yield” from each chicken.

Turns out that my read wasn’t the story at all …

(more…)

Uh-oh: Hold the mac & cheese …

March 19, 2015

You probably heard that Kraft is recalling it’s Mac & Cheese.

When I heard the headline, I assumed that it was because somebody finally figured out what the orange stuff was.

Not so, apparently some metal shavings got mixed with the goop …  not exactly the way to add iron to the foodstuff.

The recall gave me a flashback to a post from last year … very much on topic … so I dug it up for a replay.

At the time, consumer groups were a bit concerned about the Mac & Cheese ingredients.

Uh-oh: Consumer mavens dissing Kraft’s dayglow mac & cheese …

Talk about a timely news item.

In class Tuesday, we were talking about food taste & quality.

My teaching point: when the food buyer isn’t the food eater, the buyer may be less sensitive to taste & quality.

My example: millions of mothers serve their little kiddies  mac & cheese that glows in the dark.

A veiled reference to Kraft’s legendary mac & cheese … and, that odd color of orange that happens when those mysterious dry ingredients are stirred into the pasta.

Well, apparently the neon dish also caught the eye of a couple food crusaders who have embarked on a campaign against two of the dyes that Kraft uses to create its trademark color.

image

Here’s their rip and Kraft’s response …

(more…)

Memo to $15 /hour burger flippers: Meet Alpha, your competition.

September 16, 2014

Fast food workers around the country have been protesting for a $15 minimum wage.

A couple of days ago we warned about the possibility of McDonald’s replacing $1 menu with a buck-and –a-half menu … ouch!. The core story line: economists modeled the impact of raising the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 and concluded that, all else equal, fast food prices would have to go up by about 40% to cover the increased labor costs.

Ooch.  Continues a historic trend … As time rolls on, a buck buys you less and less at Mickey D’s

McD for a buck - 1955 today
Source

Since that post, a couple things happened.

First, McDonalds reported a 3.7% decline in global same-store sales.

That ranks as the company’s worst global same-store sales results in more than a decade.

Profit margins are shrinking and the company is trying to upmix customers to higher margin menu items.

Not exactly the time to be asking for a 66% raise, right?

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Adding to the discourse, a couple of loyal readers fed me some red meat: the realistic possibility that, very soon, low skilled burger flippers will be eased out by burger-making robots.

Here’s the scoop …

(more…)

McDonald’s replacing $1 menu with a buck-and –a-half menu … ouch!

September 9, 2014

Relax, we’re just speculating … it’ll only happen if the fast-food workers get the $15 per hour that they were clamoring for last week

Economists at the Heritage Foundation have observed that fast-food joints operate on very slim profit margins (about 3% on average) so they’d have no choice but to bump up prices. to stay even.

 

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The Heritage economists estimate that a $15 minimum wage for hamburger flippers would force restaurants to raise average menu prices about 40% in order to hold the current level of profitability.

Here’s the essence of their analysis …

(more…)

Taco Bell: “Don’t say our beef isn’t beef …”

May 2, 2014

A couple of weeks ago we posted a Business Week report titled “Keeping the Mystery Out of China’s Meat”

The essence of the article was that some Chinese retailers were selling donkey meat that was diluted with fox meat. If you don’t understand why that’s a show-stopper, see Tainted donkey meat … say, what?

Fearing that I might inadvertently get stuck with some bad donkey meat, I’ve been alert to mystery meat stories.

Right on cue, here comes Taco Bell.

 

C’mon, admit it … when you bite into a TB taco don’t you wonder if you’re really eating beef?

(more…)

Tainted donkey meat … say, what?

April 1, 2014

Recent issue of Business Week ran an article titled “Keeping the Mystery Out of China’s Meat”

Can’t explain why I decided to read it.

 

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But, I did … and here’s what caught my eye.

(more…)

Bulk: Are calories time-dependent?

August 9, 2013

I think that practically everybody agrees that weight is a function of calorie intake …. offset by exercise and “normal” metabolic burn-off.

But, at our house at least, there has been an ongoing debate about whether calories consumed early in the day are more likely to be burned off than calories consumed later in the day.

You know, the “eat a big breakfast” thing … complemented with “late night calories turn to fat when you sleep”.

 

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I skip breakfast most days, so I notice more articles saying “total calories are all that matter”

Technical note: It’s a known cognitive bias that people are selectively attentive to information that supports their existing points-of-view

Somehow, my eye caught an article with evidence to the contrary …

(more…)

Frozen Twinkies: “No impact on quality or taste” … say, what?

July 10, 2013

It’s been a while since we’ve posted on Twinkies near-death experience.

You probably remember that Hostess Brands – Twinkies parents – filed for bankruptcy after one of its unions balked at a new contract … concluding that no wages were better than low wages.

The company’s brands and assets were bought by Metropoulos & Co and Apollo Management Group.

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The new owners are consolidating operations, ditching the high wage unions and … deep-freezing Twinkies.

(more…)

What’s the difference between Krispy Kreme doughnuts and gourmet cupcakes?

April 23, 2013

We’re not talking baked goods quality, we’re talking quality of the earnings baked into stock market valuations.

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And, the answer may surprise you.

(more…)

Uno’s 9-grain pizza crust … bet you can’t name the 9 grains!

April 9, 2013

Having spent 3 tours of duty in Chicago, I’m a deep dish pizza aficionado … and loyal to Uno’s — the best!

Well, last trip in, the server directed our attention to a new twist on the menu:

Nearly 70 years after inventing deep dish pizza, last year Uno’s introduced a new deep dish crust in honor of National Pizza Month.

Uno’s invented deep dish pizza in 1943 and this is another industry first: the nine-grain deep dish crust – which likely cannot be found anywhere else in the world..

Being a curious kinda guy, I asked the server to name the 9-grains.

She named 2 and took off to get the manager.

He named 2 more, but we were still 5 short.

We were talking about the incident at a fam get together this weekend.

The real-time iPhone-Google searches came up short.

But, a friend (and loyal Homa Files reader) dogged for the facts.

Best she could find: Some dude named Bob throws 10 grains in his whole grain hot cereal.

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Now, all we have to figure out is which grain didn’t make Uno’s cut.

Anybody know?

Thanks to MET for feeding the lead.

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma          >> Latest Posts

Pizza ! Pizza! … Little Caesar’s "biggest product introduction in the company’s 54-year history."

April 5, 2013

Once again, coincidence strikes.

This week in class we’re doing a a case about a company trying to launch an innovative refrigerated pizza.

Guess this is innovative pizza week.

Leading the charge: Little Caesars

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According to the Huffington Post, Little Caesars — “more known for value than taste” — is launching a big new “higher end” product called the DEEP! DEEP! Dish pizza.

The new pizza is “Detroit-style” — a thick, square-panned pie that’s crispy on the edges, but has a soft, chewy middle.

No kidding, the company is calling it “the biggest product introduction in the company’s 54-year history.”

Hmmm.

I can remember sucking down Uno’s deep dish in Chicago 40 years ago … and, I was a late-adopter.

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I guess that some innovations diffuse through the market at a slower rate than others …

P.S. “Detroit-style pizza” … you gotta be kidding me.

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma           >> Latest Posts

Uh-oh: Consumer mavens dissing Kraft’s dayglow mac & cheese …

April 4, 2013

Talk about a timely news item.

In class Tuesday, we were talking about food taste & quality.

My teaching point: when the food buyer isn’t the food eater, the buyer may be less sensitive to taste & quality.

My example: millions of mothers serve their little kiddies  mac & cheese that glows in the dark.

A veiled reference to Kraft’s legendary mac & cheese … and, that odd color of orange that happens when those mysterious dry ingredients are stirred into the pasta.

Well, apparently the neon dish also caught the eye of a couple food crusaders who have embarked on a campaign against two of the dyes that Kraft uses to create its trademark color.

image

Here’s their rip and Kraft’s response …

(more…)

Gotcha: How long is a Subway footlong?

January 22, 2013

Forget Nenghazi … here’s a scandal for you.

According to the UK Telegraph

An Australian teenager measured his Subway “foot-long” sub and find it was an inch short.

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The picture-is-worth-a-thousand words is buzzing the internet.

Subway’s  corporate responses (two of them) are classics …

(more…)

World View: Americans eat Chinese food, and the Chinese eat ..

January 15, 2013

You guessed it, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Yum has been one of the most successful foreign companies in China.

Yum has more than 4,000 KFC outlets and more than 700 Pizza Huts.

Yum gets about 50% of its revenue from China.

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Nice to see the Chinese adopting a wholesome American diet …

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

How to goose Mickey D’s sales …

November 19, 2012

For the first time in awhile, McDonald’s reported a drop in same store sales … and fired the U.S. President.

Now, industry mavens are proffering advice for turning things around …

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Reported in USA Today, here are some of the ideas:

  • Push new products, new meal occasions and acta bit less fast-food-ish and a bit more like Panera or Chipotle.
  • Fix dinner … dinner is where McDonald’s struggles most … make dinner far more inviting with a dish that isn’t just another sandwich … such as a more upscale chopped steak platter … add baked potatoes at dinner
  • Serve breakfast all day … “bring back customers who come for McMuffins, but not burgers.”
  • More monthly specials … limited-time-only products, such as McRibs, are huge …have a new one every month to keep folks returning.
  • Sell sausage …  put a $1 bratwurst — not a hot dog — on the menu
  • Stop price creep … food got too expensive at McDonald’s ..  “reinvigorate” the $1 price point “to reconnect with price-conscious consumers.”
  • Consider home delivery …  Burger King is testing home delivery, and McDonald’s should, too.
  • Lure Millennials. Much like the Republican party, McDonald’s must appeal more to women, minorities and Millennials.

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Ken’s Take
:

1) Geez, don’t panic guys … there is a tough economy out there

2) Stay true to your core … remember when Taco Bell tried to go upscale and started to lose its base – young males looking for cheap food.

3) It’s all about the dollar menu – the McDouble for $1 is a powerful magnet !

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Whew! … Twinkies’ secret recipe revealed.

November 17, 2012

Before the reveal, a question …

Hostess was brought down by bakers in the the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union.

Where will Twinkie bakers find work when hostess closes?

Will restaurants rush to pick-up Twinkie bakers as as pastry chefs?

I’ll take the under on that bet.

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Bake ’em at home

When Hostess Brands announced that it was shutting down, loyalists lamented the loss of their beloved Twinkies.

Not to worry.

Below is a recipe for homemade Twinkies … the cake and the filling.

The secret sauce?

Crisco … lots of Crisco.

Bon Appetit!

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Golden “Twinkie” Cake:

2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray molds/pan with non-stick spray.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Next, beat in the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute in between each addition. Reduce the mixer speed and add flour mixture alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and mix until the batter just comes together. Over mixing with make your cake chewy. Makes 12 cakes.

Spray your Twinkie canoes and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until the cakes are just a light golden color and a tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool.

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Cream Filling

¼ cup shortening (Crisco brand)
¼ cup margarine
1 cup sifted powdered or 10x sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

Beat together the shortening and margarine until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in a little at a time and beat on high until peaks form. Add vanilla and beat for one minute. Place in prepared icing tubes for piping into cakes.

To fill the cakes, insert the icing tip – preferably a large star tip – into three points along the flat-side of the cake, about 1/8 of an inch deep. Squeeze lightly until you see the filling begin to ooze out.

Source

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Twinkies are dead … long live Twinkies.

November 16, 2012

Hot off the WSJ wires …

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Hostess Brands, the maker of iconic treats such as Twinkies and traditional pantry staple Wonder Bread, is shuttering its plants and liquidating its 82-year-old business.

A victim of changing consumer tastes, high commodity costs and, most importantly, strained labor relations, Hostess ultimately was brought to its knees by a national strike orchestrated by its second-largest union …  the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union.

The company will “promptly” lay off most of its 18,500 employees and focus on “selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

Hostess’s remaining inventory — loaves of bread and plastic packages of cream-filled desserts — probably will be sold in bulk to a discounter or big-box store.

The company will attempt to sell its plants and its brands – think Twinkies, Ding-Dongs.

The names have decades of “deliciously retro” brand equity, and there is “pretty significant demand” for the products.

A fresh owner of the intellectual property, which includes everything from names to recipes to graphics, could revitalize the Hostess brands  with new flavors, limited-edition Twinkies, co-branded products, and  international reach.

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Holy HamBurglar: Mickey D. sales drop … not lovin’ it?

November 8, 2012

McDonald’s is reporting that global sales at restaurants open at least a year fell 1.8 percent for the month.

The last time the figure dropped was in 2003.

The figure is a key metric because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations.

The fast-food chain says the figure fell 2.2 percent in both the U.S. and Europe.

In  Asia, the Middle East and Africa, sales dropped 2.4 percent.

McDonald’s sales slowed recently as the company faces intensifying competition and a weak economy
Source

– – – – –

Note that the company didn’t blame the U.S. drop on Michelle Obama’s war on fast food … and didn’t blame the drop in Mis East sales on a video

Picture this: “Food paparazzi”

August 28, 2012

Punch line: A hot dining out trend … the intersection of the foodie culture and social media … call ’em food paparazzi.

* * * * *

Excerpted from brandchannel.com’s “To Cell or Not – While Dining Out”

Interested in wooing business in a challenging economy, and accommodating a younger, wired clientele, many restaurants now cater to diners who have morphed into “food paparazzi.”

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photo courtesy of JNH

Flickr, the photo-sharing website, has seen the number of pictures tagged as “food” jump from about half a million in 2008 to more than 6 million today… In the group “I Ate This” on Flickr’s site, nearly 20,000 people have uploaded more than 307,000 images of their latest meals.

Of course, this doesn’t begin to count the myriad pictures of food posted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Yelp and foodie niche social networks like Foodspotting.

Camera manufacturers are joining the trend. Nikon, Olympus and Sony sell cameras that offer “cuisine” or “food” settings, which adjust to enhance colors and textures on close-ups.

Sounds harmless enough, but the craze has detractors.

Some maitre d’s regularly face diners demanding to be moved away from camera flashes and the sound of firing shutters.

Some waiters are put off when voice recorders are used to  capture their recitation of each course.

Some chefs have had enough.

Perry’s Deli in Chicago, has gone so far as posting a sign for consumers of their signature overstuffed sandwiches:

“Attention! The use of cellular phones at Perry’s is strictly prohibited. If you are that important that you must use your phone, you should be eating in a much more upscale restaurant.”

Edit by BJP

>> Latest Posts

Check your coat? … How about your cell phone?

August 27, 2012

Punch line:  An LA restaurant is offering diners a 5% discount to check their technology at the door and actually talk to each other while dining instead.

* * * * *

Excerpted from brandchannel.com’s “To Cell or Not – While Dining Out”

food

The escalating battle over digital displays in public has reached new heights…or lows…depending on your position on personal freedom versus a modicum of civility.

Between texting, tweeting and Instagram-ing restaurant meal photos, “distracted dining” is the latest scourge on the most basic of manners, the art of face-to-face conversation.

Eva Restaurant … in Los Angeles is offering diners a five percent discount on their bill to check their tech at the door.

“For us, it’s really not about people disrupting other guests. Eva is home, and we want to create that environment of home, and we want people to connect again,” said owner/chef Gold.

About half the customers … take the discount. “I think … they like the idea of actually talking to each other again,” adds Gold.

Edit by BJP

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Trick question: how much does a $5 footlong sub cost?

August 21, 2012

At the Georgetown student center’s food court, it’s now $5.25.

Ouch.

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I don’t know if it’s the end of a promotional era or just DC area inflation, but I was sticker shocked when I saw the sign saying the price on my cold cut trio had been jacked up by a quarter.

Trade reports say Subway’s trademarked $5 footlong pricing was a resounding “value pricing” success … driving volume … but, apparently, not enough profits.

Somehow, a $5.25 footlong doesn’t have the same promotional ring, does it?

Oh well.

>> Latest Posts

Cupcakes are so yesterday … now, it’s gourmet donuts.

July 25, 2012

Watch your back Georgetown Cupcakes …

According to Crain’s Business, In NYC, doughnuts are the new cupcakes.

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Homa Family Favorite

We’re talking gourmet doughnuts.

More sophisticated concoctions than the garden-variety glazed or cruller.

They come in a variety of shapes and exotic flavors, such as pistachio-encrusted with lemon curd or square peanut butter filled with banana cream.

And, oh yeah, they sell for up to $3.25 each.

Ouch.

Donut shops aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the surge in popularity.

As a to-go item, doughnuts are also helpful in generating walk-in breakfast traffic for restaurants.

The cost of making a doughnut is relatively low compared with other sweets — and profits are high.

The core ingredients — mostly flour, water, sugar and salt — are relatively cheap, and production doesn’t require a lot of heavy-duty equipment or skilled labor, leading to profits of 15% to 30% per doughnut.

* * * * *
Hmmm … 2 gourmet donuts or a dozen from Dunkin’?

A no brainer …

Thanks to MES for feeding the lead

>> Latest Posts

Great moments in innovation: hot, fresh pizza … in 3 minutes … from a vending machine.

June 20, 2012

Now you’re talking ….

According to the LA Times, Let’s Pizza is a pizza vending machine that promises to deliver a piping hot pizza pie made from scratch in less than three minutes.

The machine makes pizzas to order, including kneading and rolling out the dough.

There are more than 200 toppings from which to choose.

The pizza is “delivered” in an insulated take-away box.

The machine takes cash and credit cards.

A 10-inch pizza will sell for about $5.95.

“Let’s Pizza is a huge success in Europe, especially in Italy.

You have to see it to believe it

   click to watch the pizza machine work

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>> Latest Posts

Do monkeys eat Pringles?

April 24, 2012

Excerpted from the NY Times When a Sugar High Isn’t Enough

Dr. John Kellogg — founder of the world’s largest cereal company had a simple  credo:  “Eat what the monkey eats …  simple food and not too much of it.”

Do monkeys eat Pringles?

Hope so because Kellogg is buying Pringles from Procter & Gamble in a $2.7 billion deal expected to close this summer.

Why?

For openers, Kellogg’s legacy brands (Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies) are under pressure from private labels and other breakfast convenience foods.

Note: Kellogg cranks out about 200 million pounds of private-label cereal a year.  

The real growth for Kellogg, as well as for packaged-food rivals like PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay division, is foreign markets and snacks.  That’s where Pringles comes in.

Kellogg’s CEO says that selling cereal and selling snacks are two entirely different skills.

What the company is buying with Pringles is not just a line of products that is already huge internationally, but a group of Procter & Gamble merchandisers with “the snack mind-set.” 

“When you’re talking about snacks … it’s about someone who came into the store to buy something else and hit a display and thinks, ‘Hey, I’d love to have a can of Pringles.’

With snacks, it’s much more intercepting the consumer in-store as opposed to getting on their shopping list.

It’s in-store merchandising.

It’s retail entertainment.

Whereas cereal is much more about the 30-second feel-good ad.” 

* * * * *
Nutrition note: According to  Robert H. Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco:

”People who consume sugar are more likely to overeat because “there are signals to the brain that tell you when you’ve had enough; sugar blocks them.

Eating calories from sugar will therefore lead you to consume more calories.”

 Thanks to DM for feeding the lead

>> Latest Posts

Uno’s intros 9-grain pizza crust … bet you can’t name the 9 grains!

April 10, 2012

Having spent 3 tours of duty in Chicago, I’m a deep dish pizza aficionado … and loyal to Uno’s — the best!

Well, last trip in, the server directed our attention to a new twist on the menu:

Nearly 70 years after inventing deep dish pizza, Uno’s introduced a new deep dish crust in honor of National Pizza Month.

Uno’s invented deep dish pizza in 1943 and this is another industry first: the nine-grain deep dish crust – which likely cannot be found anywhere else in the world..

Being a curious kinda guy, I asked the server to name the 9-grains.

She named 2 and took off to get the manager.

He named 2 more, but we were still 5 short.

We were talking about the incident at a fam get together this weekend.

The real-time iPhone-Google searches came up short.

But, a friend (and loyal Homa Files reader) dogged for the facts.

Best she could find: Some dude named Bob throws 10 grains in his whole grain hot cereal.

image

Now, all we have to figure out is which grain didn’t make Uno’s cut.

Anybody know?

Thanks to MET for feeding the lead.

>> Latest Posts

Taking the mystery out of “mystery meat” …

December 22, 2011

TakeAway: McDonald’s is giving consumers transparency into their agricultural suppliers to boost the image and quality of their food.

* * * * *

Excerpt from AdAge: “McDonald’s to Launch Campaign Focused on Growers”

On Jan. 2, McDonald’s will launch a campaign featuring four of its U.S. beef and produce suppliers.

“We thought putting a face on the quality of the food story would be a unique way to approach this,” said U.S. CMO.

“We acknowledge that there are questions about where our food comes from. I believe we’ve got an opportunity to accentuate that part of our story.”

The campaign will include TV, print and digital, as well as additional paid and earned media.

“Consumers want transparency — disclosures of everything from menus to labor and local-sourcing practices,” Technomic said.

“A small but growing number are serious about nutrition, labeling, sustainability and community involvement, and they are using such knowledge to make purchasing decisions.”

Edited by ARK

>> Latest Posts

Knock, knock … here’s your Big Mac.

December 14, 2011

TakeAway: Fast food franchises are replacing drive-thru with delivery in Asia, Middle East, & African markets. Comin’ to America?

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Excerpt from WSJ: “Asia Delivers for McDonald’s”

Delivery is becoming an important part of McDonalds and KFC where cities are too crowded and real estate costs too high to build drive-throughs.

KFC offers delivery in more than half its 3,500 restaurants in China, and estimates delivery in more than 2,000 new KFC restaurants in China over the next decade.

McDonalds says delivery sales have been posting double-digit growth every year in every country where it’s offered. In Egypt, where McDonald’s first started offering delivery in 1994, more than 30% of total sales come from delivery.

Still, it’s not a model either company plans to export to Western markets. McDonald’s derives about two-thirds of its sales in the U.S. from drive -through customers.

In some countries, such as China, customers pay a flat fee for delivery. In others, people pay a fee equal to 15% to 20% of their order price.

Edited by ARK

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Kicking over the Cracker Barrel

November 18, 2011

Cracker Barrel is one my favorite stops along a travel route.

Now, it’s in the sights of a takeover guy whose formula is slashing costs.

Isn’t anything sacred any more?

A Buffett Devotee Riles His Targets .

He likes restaurants and insurers, runs a company called “BH” and writes long, self-effacing annual letters to shareholders.

Sardar Biglari,— the self-described Warren Buffett wannabe – runs the Steak ‘n Shake restaurant chain alongside stock investments and other holdings.

Today, entryways to Steak ‘n Shake restaurants, which he turned around in part by slashing costs and closing unprofitable locations, display large photos of a grinning Mr. Biglari.

Now, he has  set his sights on Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.

“We blame the board for mediocrity,” he said in a Sept. 12 letter to Cracker Barrel shareholders. “I intend to raise expectations.”

Cracker Barrel, a down-home restaurant and gift store whose results have turned south with the slow economy, initially tried to accommodate Mr. Biglari’s requests.

But as his demands grew more intrusive, relations soured. The company recently adopted a poison-pill antitakeover provision, and Mr. Biglari launched a proxy fight to get himself elected to the board.

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How to keep the flab off …

October 18, 2011

Most folks have dieted at one time or another to shed a few pounds.

Inevitably, the pounds creep back.

But, according to a place called the National Weight Control Registry, regaining lost weight isn’t inevitable:

Some people are able to lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off at least a decade.

Here’s how they do it:

  • Track their food intake.
  • Count calorie or fat grams or use a commercial weight-loss program to track food intake.
  • Follow a low-calorie, low-fat diet … about 1,800 calories a day with less than 30% of calories from fat.
  • Eat breakfast regularly.
  • Limit the amount they eat out … dining out an average of three times a week and eating fast food less than once a week.
  • Eat similar foods regularly with no binging on holidays and special occasions.
  • Walk about an hour a day or burn the same calories with other activities.
  • Watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week.
  • Weigh themselves at least once a week.

OK,  I’ll start by having breakfast … the rest can come later.

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Wendy’s: new burger or New Coke? … at least they kept the iceberg lettuce.

September 22, 2011

TakeAway: Wendy’s remakes its hamburger, after 42 years, to boost sales and grow share in the fast food wars … New burger or New Coke? … The market will ultimately decide.

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Excerpted from USAToday.com, “Wendy’s remakes its burgers; here’s how it did that

Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy, named after late Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, is Wendy’s new burger — with extra cheese, a thicker beef patty, a buttered bun, and no mustard, among other changes …

“Our food was already good. We wanted it to be better. Isn’t that what long-term brands do? They reinvent themselves.”

Wendy’s started Project Gold Hamburger two and a half years ago to boost lackluster sales and fight growing competition from McDonald’s and expanding fast-casual chains, such as Five Guys …

But the biggest issue was that Wendy’s, which hadn’t changed its burger since the chain began in 1969, let its food offerings get stale over the years while its competitors continued to update their menus …

We have a lot of catching up to do in some areas. But after we launch this hamburger there will be folks who need to catch up to us.”

Wendy’s polled more than 10,000 people about their likes and dislikes in hamburgers. It found that people like the food at Wendy’s but thought the brand hadn’t kept up with the times.

So, executives were shipped off to eat at burger joints around the country and measured each sandwich on characteristics like fatty flavor, salty flavor and whether the bun fell apart.

Then, it was time for Wendy’s researchers to consider the chain’s own burger, ingredient by ingredient. Each time they made a change, they asked for feedback, visiting research firms around the country to watch through two-way mirrors as people tried each variation.

Many suggestions sounded good but didn’t ring true with tasters.

  • They tried green-leaf lettuce, but people preferred to keep iceberg for its crunchiness.
  • They thought about making the tomato slices thicker but decided they didn’t want to ask franchisees to buy new slicing equipment.
  • They even tested a round burger, a trial that was practically anathema to a company that’s made its name on square burgers.

Wendy’s ultimately did not go with the round shape, but changed the patty to a “natural square,” with wavy edges, because tasters said the straight edges looked processed.

Tasters said they wanted a thicker burger, so Wendy’s started packing the meat more loosely, trained grill cooks to press down on the patties two times instead of eight, and printed “Handle Like Eggs” on the boxes that the hamburger patties were shipped in so they wouldn’t get smashed.

Wendy’s researchers knew that customers wanted warmer and crunchier buns, so they decided that buttering them and then putting them through a toaster was the way to go.

In the end, Wendy’s researchers changed everything but the ketchup. They switched to whole-fat mayonnaise, nixed the mustard, and cut down on the pickles and onions, all to emphasize the flavor of the beef.

They also started storing the cheese at higher temperatures so it would melt better, … a change that required federal approval.

Wendy’s faces the reality that some customers may not like the new burger  — or its likely price increase of 10 or 20 cents, because of the higher-quality ingredients.

Edit by KJM

Feds’ spotlight shifts from tanning salons to Chipotle …

August 18, 2011

According to the WSJ

After an immigration audit of its payrolls, burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill lost 450 of its roughly 1,200 employees in Minnesota.

Now it’s dealing with the aftermath— rising turnover – as workers concerned about their documents might have decided to seek employment elsewhere — and grumbling customers because of slower service from new employees.

When you went in there before … the quality was great,” says  a longtime Chipotle fan in Minneapolis.

“Now it takes forever. People are slopping stuff together.”

Other areas being targeted by audits include Virginia and Washington, D.C.

“It is very troubling for us to lose so many great employees,” said a company spokesman.

Ken’s Take: “Slopping stuff together”?  Isn’t a burrito – by definition – stuff that’s slopped together?

Lighten up, dude …

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Five Guys winning formula: “Shut up, sit down, and eat.”

August 16, 2011

Business Week went “Behind Five Guys’ Beloved Burgers” … here’s some of what they found:

Five Guys’ that sells 2 million burgers a week and was named Zagat’s “best fast food burger” for 2010.

By the end of this year, Five Guys expects to have almost 1,000 stores open around the country, over $1 billion in sales and around 25,000 employees working in Five Guys stores.

Five Guys serves up made-to-order burgers with beef that’s never frozen and absurdly large servings of hand-cut fries.

  • Five Guys’ regular cheeseburger, comes with two patties and 840 gluttonous calories
  • Five Guys’ uses a special roll that’s sweeter and eggier than a typical bun.
  • French fries must be shaken fifteen times, no more, no less.
  • Onion and bacon go below hamburger patties, pickles and tomatoes go above.
  • They don’t serve milk because kids don’t actually like milk, and kids like Five Guys because it’s a treat.

The fresh, generous meals allow them to charge more than fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King.

Five Guys stores seem to say, in the most loving way possible, “Shut up, sit down, and eat.”

A quirky aspect of their management style: frequent yelling during meetings. “It’s weird how it works … but You end up at the answer.”

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Ken’s Take: Nothing like a stop at Five Guys before a Hoyas’ basketball game.  I knew I loved the place, now I know why  …

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Chocolate surges. strawberry slips …

July 20, 2011

I often use the expression: “Vanilla, chocolate & strawberry do the lion’s share of business” … implying that (a) Pareto is alive and well, and (b) variety often builds in complexity without building (much) sales.

Well, I’m going to start saying “vanilla and chocolate” … “vanilla, chocolate & buter pecan” just doesn’t sound right.

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Based on a Rasmussen survey of Adults’ flavor preferences in ice cream, the favorite flavors are:

  • 23% vanilla
  • 23% chocolate
  • 9% butter pecan
  • 8% strawberry
  • 8% cookies and cream
  • 6% chocolate chip
  • 4% coffee flavored
  • 17% all other flavors

Other findings:

  • Vanilla is at the top of the men’s list; chocolate is at the top of the women’s list
  • White adults prefer chocolate to vanilla 24% to 19%;  black adults prefer vanilla by a 43% to 14% margin.
  • Most ice cream eaters (78%) usually buy it at the store and eat it at home rather than go to an ice cream parlor; 17% would prefer going to an ice cream parlor for their treat.

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What to order in a restaurant …

June 17, 2011

According to Business Week:

Tyler Cowen is  America’s Hottest Economist.

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Cowen’s menu searching advice:

Order the strangest thing on the menu.

Chances are the chef put the most work into it.

And, Cowen says the best ethnic food is prepared at strip malls.

Caveat diner.

Ronald sighs relief as spotlight shifts to Girl Scout cookies …

May 25, 2011

Punch line: Orangutans and Thin Mints don’t mix

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Girl Scouts have been selling cookies since 1917.

Last year, troops sold 198 million boxes of cookies. 

That’s  $714 million worth of cookies, most of which goes to the nonprofit councils under which troops are organized.

But now the “franchise” is under pressure.

Scouts and leaders have criticized their nonprofit organization … and some do not want to sell cookies next year.

Why?

Until 2006, the cookies contained partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but the scouts switched to palm oil so the cookies would be free of trans fat.

Today, all 16 varieties of GS cookies contain palm oil.

Some rain forests have been cleared for palm oil plantations.

Some endangered orangutans live in rain forests.

There’s the rub.

The Girl Scouts organization says its bakers have told them there isn’t a good alternative to palm oil that would ensure the same taste, texture and shelf life.

The choice: save orangutans or save Thin Mints, Trefoils and Samoas?

Source: WSJ

Oil CEOs sigh relief … spotlight shifts to Ronald McDonald

May 19, 2011

Headline in the WSJ:  McDonald’s Under Pressure to Fire Ronald

More than 550 health professionals and organizations have signed a letter to McDonald’s. asking the maker of Happy Meals to stop marketing junk food to kids and fire Ronald McDonald.

The campaign is organized by the nonprofit watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, which has also targeted tobacco companies and beverage makers like Coca-Cola  and PepsiCo  for the environmental impact of plastic bottles.

The letter from the health providers urges McDonald’s to cease marketing food high in salt, fat, sugar and calories to kids, from the use of Ronald McDonald to Happy Meal toys.

Some of the comments to the WSJ article:

  • Unemployment among clowns will increase by one
  • Toucan Sam & Captain Crunch better watch their backs
  • Col. Sanders is probably rolling over in his grave. 
  • Wonder if there would be such a ruckus if the clown possessed union representation ?
  • Clowns are increasingly creepy
  • I urge more health care professionals to shut the h#ll up and wash their hands more!
  • The “Eat Healthy” Obama White House Super Bowl Party menu: Bratwurst, Kielbasa, Cheeseburgers, Deep Dish Pizza, Buffalo Wings, Twice Baked Potatoes, Potato Chips, Ice Cream
  • Michael Moore will make a movie “How to eat healthy foods” and will earn another $ 100.000.000 slamming the greedy capitalists.

Add your comments … best one wins a free Happy Meal.

Thanks to SMH for feeding the lead.

Pizza, pizza … recent trends.

April 21, 2011

A new Rasmussen Reports national survey reports …

  • 18% of American Adults say they eat pizza at least once a week
  • 3% eat pizza more than once a week
  • 17% rarely or never eat pizza 
  • Adults ages 30 to 49 eat pizza more regularly than those in other age groups
  • 26% of Americans age 50 and older say they rarely or never touch the stuff.

Among those who eat pizza …

  • 58% have a favorable opinion of Pizza Hut … 18%  Very Favorable
  • 54% have a favorable opinion of opinion Papa John’s … 20% Very Favorable
  • 48% have a favorable opinion of Domino’s … 8% Very Favorable opinion.

The last time they ate pizza, the respondents …

  • 25% made the pizza at home
  • 23% picked it up to eat at home
  • 16% ate it at a restaurant
  • 15% had it delivered.

Getting hungry?  I am …

Panera builds loyalty .. and, oh yeah, keeps prices high.

March 21, 2011

TakeAway: Panera Bread investors are hoping the company’s new loyalty program and additional menu items will lead the way for continued sales and traffic growth.  The loyalty program, MyPanera cards, is a way for the company to build deeper relationships with people who are already engaged with the brand.

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Excerpted from WSJ, “Panera Bread Sees Loyalty, Innovation Bringing in the Dough” By Annie Gasparro, February 11, 2011

On the heels of launching its customer-loyalty program, Panera is bringing in steak as new protein for its sandwiches, which, bolstered by extra marketing, are expected to help continue the trend of increasing sales, especially in the dinner and catering businesses.

The move to add steak to the menu comes at a time when beef prices are at all-time highs and rising, putting additional commodity pressure on Panera. But the company remains confident.

Panera’s loyalty program, MyPanera cards, is expected to be a key driver in future traffic growth, as it allows the company to track what its customers are buying, when they buy it and how much they spend. The free program was launched in the fourth quarter and presents members with “soft rewards,” like complimentary items, that match their buying habits.

This kind of insight can be used to make marketing substantially more effective, analysts point out. By giving a free bakery item to a customer who normally buys just coffee, Panera could create a higher-check customer long-term. In the same way, it could bring breakfast frequenters, for instance, in more regularly for lunch or dinner as well.

Panera isn’t afraid of raising prices coming out of the recession. The bakery chain says its overall commodity costs, about 80% of which are locked in for the year, will be up about 3% this year, causing the company to raise prices 2%.  Panera’s bottom line improved through much of the recession, having increased every quarter in nearly three years largely due to customer loyalty. While competitors discounted to lure customers during a slump in dining demand, Panera’s aversion to price cuts succeeded among its base of mostly upper-middle-class customers and revenue growth never reversed.

Edit by AMW

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Gimme a burger & some fries … hold the nutritional info

February 4, 2011

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds:

  • Adults ages 30 to 39 and those who earn $60,000 to $75,000 per year are more likely to eat fast food than those in any other age and income demographic. 
  • 42% of American adults say they eat at fast food restaurants at least once a week
  • 12% eat there two or three times every week
  • 51% of Americans say eating at fast food restaurants is unhealthy, 

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  • Among those who eat fast food:
  • 48% say they do so because it’s convenient
  • 25% say it’s because the food is less expensive
  • 16% say they eat fast food because they like it
  • 50% consider nutritional content before ordering

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Rasmussen Reports, Those Who Eat Fast Food, January 20, 2011

Pass the sea salt … now, there’s a gamechanger is the French Fries War.

November 30, 2010

TakeAway:  Wendy’s announced a national marketing plan for its new recipe for French fries, the biggest overhaul of its fries in 41 years. 

Wendy’s CMO admitted fries “are something we hadn’t been a leader in, in the past.” 

The $25 million campaign aims to educate consumers about Wendy’s new fries that it hopes will compete mightily against McDonald’s.

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Excerpted from NYTimes, “Wendy’s Rethinks Fries in Nod to More Natural Foods” By Tanzina Vega, November 21, 2010

For the last year, the company has been examining its product line for opportunities to promote food made with more natural ingredients. Wendy’s “new natural-cut fries with sea salt” use Russet Burbank potatoes and are thinner and crisper than the current fries and will be unpeeled.

The idea is to provide an alternative to McDonald’s, which has long been the leader in French fry sales. The Wendy’s campaign includes two television spots that will run on cable and network stations such as TBS, VH1 and Bravo and during shows such as “Conan” and “Lopez Tonight.” The campaign includes two radio commercials that will air nationally, as well as billboards around the country to entice people to select Wendy’s when they get hungry.

The digital campaign includes the use of the Wendy’s Web site, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page and digital banner ads. The company’s YouTube channel will feature an ad for the fries and the background of the Wendy’s Twitter account page will also feature art for the fries and a “Fry for All” app that lets users select a box of fries that they can post on their Facebook page so they can “share” fries with their friends. The idea of sharing is central to the campaign. “When something is really good, you don’t necessarily want to share it so easily,” said the chief executive and CEO of Wendy’s agency of record.

Edit by AMW

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Full Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/22/business/media/22wendys.html?ref=media

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If you want kids to eat carrots, make 'em think it's junk food … huh?

September 3, 2010

TakeAway: Sometimes to beat the competition, you have to be more like the competition. 

To better compete with the $18 billion dollar salty snack food industry, a cooperative of baby carrot growers is launching a $25 million dollar advertising campaign, coupled with new packaging to mimic Doritos and other salty snacks. 

While effective promotions can create an illusion that a product delivers desired benefits, if the product cannot deliver those benefits consumers are likely to reject the product eventually. 

Kids choose salty snacks from vending machines because they like the taste. 

However, recent studies have shown that kids believe foods packaged with cartoon characters taste better than the same foods with boring packaging

It should be interesting to see if kids start to believe that these newly packaged carrots taste better than regular carrots.  Regardless though, given the choice most kids would probably still choose salty snacks over baby carrots.

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Excerpted from brandchannel, “Baby Carrots: The Original Orange Doodle,” by Sheila Shayon, August 31, 2010

 

As America’s nutritionally-challenged youth head back to school, an initiative … is taking on the junk food industry with a killer snack food alternative – carrots. Baby carrots actually. In this corner – the $18 billion dollar salty snack food industry; and in this corner – the $1 billion dollar baby carrot world …

Spending some $25 million dollars … baby carrots will be packaged like Doritos, with three design choices (check them … at the campaign’s website, babycarrots.com); sold in school vending machines (already being tested in Syracuse and Cincinnati); kid-skewing slogans (“Eat ’em like junk food,” “The original orange doodles”); a mobile app featuring a crunch-powered game, now available for free download on iTunes; seasonal tie-ins such as Halloween ‘scarrots;’ a Facebook page; and TV spots that aim to portray baby carrots as hip and sexy …

… “It’s not an anti-junk-food campaign. It takes a page out of junk food’s playbook and applies it to baby carrots,” comments Jeff Dunn, Bolthouse Farms CEO and former president of Coca-Cola North America …

Can branding baby carrots as junk food really woo kids away from salty, unhealthy, high caloric snacks?

As Fast Company blogger Ariel Schwartz writes, good luck tricking kids into thinking carrots are Cheetos or Doritos, while The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson points out that kids’ marketers have ingrained some tough-to-beat traits: “according to a recent study, most children say food packaged with cartoon characters tastes better than the same food in a boring wrapper. Seventy percent of what we taste is smell. For kids, half of what they taste is sight. Image matters, and it’s smart and overdue for veggie and fruit producers to advertise creatively.”

All the more reason why carrot growers are paying good money in the hopes that that kids can be won over

Edit by DMG

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Full Article
http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2010/08/31/Baby-Carrots-The-Original-Orange-Doodle.aspx#continue

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If they want it their way, “sauce ‘em” …

August 27, 2010

Takeaway:  Restaurants are increasingly using various sauces and dips to provide customers with the ability to construct their own flavor profiles built around existing menu items. 

This modular approach creates customized options without a large incremental increase in cost or delivery time. 

Particularly for Generation Y – the “customize-me” generation – sauces and dips are a point of entry, whereas older consumers simply see them as increments. 

However, to ensure new flavors don’t fizzle out, research and testing are crucial to avoid excess product on hand.

One constant?  Chicken is the most popular core product for sauces and dips at quick-service and fast-casual restaurants.

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Excerpted from QSRMagazine.com, “One Sauce Doesn’t Fit All” By Barney Wolf, August 2010

Using ketchup to dip or slather french fries is a long-established American tradition. The pairing has not only provided consumers with a distinct flavor, but it has given diners the ability to choose how much of the condiment to use, based on their own tastes.

Mass customization allows customers to be involved in making decisions regarding the design of an end product, often by using technology or flexible manufacturing processes.

One early example was Burger King, whose “Have It Your Way” campaign was used to differentiate itself from McDonald’s, the biggest mass burger operator at the time. 

In the late 1970s, McDonald’s was looking for ways to provide consumers with wider choices as a change of pace. He came up with the idea of fried chicken nuggets with dipping sauce.  Mickey D tried more than 100 sauce ideas until barbecue, sweet and sour, and hot mustard sauces were selected. The product, Chicken McNuggets, and its dips in prepackaged cups, went into tests in 1979 and were added to the national menu in 1983.

Sauces have played a valuable role in cuisine for centuries.

In the classical brigade-style kitchen, modernized by noted French chef Auguste Escoffier, the saucier is third in rank behind only the chef de cuisine and sous chef. 

Modern sauces have their roots in the classics,  Even mayonnaise, which we call a dressing, is classically considered a sauce. Mustard goes back to Roman times, and American ketchup was once dubbed a “table sauce.”

The growing interest in international and ethnic cuisine—thanks to media, immigration, and the ease of international travel—combined with bold, ethnic cooking by creative chefs bring many more sauces and dips to the attention of consumers.

Edit by AMW

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Full Article:
http://www.qsrmagazine.com/articles/features/144/sauce-4.phtml

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