Archive for January, 2008

Price Of Hershey Chocolate Going Up

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Hershey Company which is the nation’s largest candy maker, says it is raising the wholesale price of its chocolate bars for the second time in a year.

The company says it needs to make the move to offset rising energy and commodity costs.

It also says it is more exposed to the rising cost of milk and cocoa than its competitors, which include Mars and Nestle.

The price increase, effective immediately, boosts wholesale prices by about three percent on one-third of its domestic candy line.

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Food markets getting greener, more sensual

While this sounds great and may lead to some sort of sensual food shopping experience I have to ask, is this what customers really want, or is it something they think they want?

Consumers are asking the food industry: “What are all these weird ingredients that I can’t pronounce doing in my salad dressing? And why is the dressing in a nonrecyclable bottle? And why is grocery shopping such a drag?”

Americans concerned for their health, the environment and where their food comes from are changing the way they eat. And a yearning for more sensory stimulation is changing the way they shop. In response, manufacturers are changing the way they do business.

In 2008, more products designed to appeal to socially conscious buyers will make it onto shelves, according to food-trend analysts. Companies are focusing on promoting green initiatives and making their food labels easier to read, using fewer scary-sounding ingredients and emphasizing additive-free and “good-for-you” products. At the same time, the grocery industry is turning its stores into pleasure palaces complete with mood lighting, piped-in smells and tasting bars.

Last year, Safeway reopened on First Street in Livermore, making the transition from supermarket to “lifestyle” store – a concept designed to appeal to a generation weaned on iPods and text messaging who complain that grocery shopping “is so boring.”

“I actually had a young person tell me that,” said Lynn Dornblaser, a trend expert for Mintel, an international marketing research firm. So, she says, the grocery industry is taking its cues from department stores.

Livermore’s Safeway is a good example. Its coffee and tea section, a corner of the store bathed in warm lighting with rich hardwood display shelves and lots of free samples, looks more like a department in London’s Harrods than a grocery store aisle.

The wine section is no different. Fashioned more like an upscale tasting room in a winery, a pourer serves samples from behind a cherrywood bar. Bottles, aglow from special pendant lamps, are stacked in fine cabinetry. There’s a chocolate fountain in the bakery, a nut kiosk at the front of the store, restaurant seating for customers who want to eat their deli selections in house, and a produce section that could double as a Parisian street market with its farm-chic wooden crate displays.

Kara Nielsen, an analyst for the Center for Culinary Development, a San Francisco company that tracks food trends and develops products, said Whole Foods Market has long been a prototype for the multisensory supermarket. But even that posh store is taking it to a new level.

“There’s one in Seattle that has a kitchen where you can have the chef cook your purchased food,” Nielsen said. “Then you can eat it at one of Whole Foods’ tables.”

Chris Boveda, an 18-year-old self-described “former fat kid,” likes his fancy Livermore Safeway just fine. But he says he doesn’t let the bells and whistles lure him off course. The mission, he says, is to eat as healthfully as possible. The high school senior has lost 30 pounds since eighth grade by playing lacrosse and changing his eating habits, and he wants to keep it off. For that reason he does his own shopping – his parents give him $80 a week to spend on food – and prepares his own meals.

Boveda said he sticks to the perimeter of the store where the meat, fruit and vegetables are sold.

“I don’t shop in the center aisles because that’s where the processed food is,” he said, adding that “if it doesn’t come out of the earth, swim, fly or run, it’s no good for you.”

Dornblaser said the food industry wants to get Boveda and others like him back into the middle of the store. They’re working on producing more “junk-free” foods by leaving out additives, preservatives, artificial colors, flavors and unknown ingredients.

Some stores, including the Hannaford Bros. New England supermarket chain, have adopted food rating systems. The Hannaford stores commissioned a panel of nutritionists, including ones from Harvard University, Dartmouth Medical School and UC Davis, to grade its products for nutrition value – zero stars being the worst and three stars being the best. Of the 27,000 items evaluated, 77 percent received no stars, and many were Hannaford’s own brands.

After a year, the grocery company found that sales of many starred foods, such as lean cuts of beef, increased significantly, while zero-starred foods, like whole milk, dropped.

Locally, Raley’s stores are expected to adopt a new labeling system that rates food products on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 going to the most nutritious items. The labels – called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index, or ONQI, score – will show up on about 40,000 products in Raley’s locations in the Bay Area over the summer.

Nielsen said there was a time when busy shoppers trusted a product’s claim of being good for you, and didn’t bother to read the label. Not any longer, she said. Now they’re studying packages as keenly as they would an SAT primer.

As a model, Dornblaser points to Innocent, a British company that makes juices and smoothies. “Their labels are more like recipes,” she said.

An ingredient list for one of the company’s “pure fruit smoothies” reads: 62 crushed cranberries, 12 crushed raspberries, 1/2 crushed banana, 2 1/2 pressed apples and some freshly squeezed orange juice.

Dornblaser said some American companies, including Odwalla and Breyers Ice Cream, have similar philosophies, and she expects that even more manufacturers will adopt the strategy for their own products.

It all fits, she said, with the fact that Americans want to nurture their bodies. That’s why the public seems to have embraced whole grains, creating a mainstream market for lesser-known heritage varieties like amaranth, quinoa, teff, millet and kamut. Expect to see these in breakfast cereals, side dishes and salads, Dornblaser said.

Shoppers can also expect to see products with claims of lower sodium content and foods that boast pharmaceutical benefits, like Promise activ SuperShots, a brand of yogurt that claims to lower cholesterol.

In addition to their own wellness, more consumers are also looking to take care of the Earth.

A survey released this month by the marketing company Information Resources Inc. showed that about half of American consumers polled consider at least one sustainability factor in selecting packaged goods and choosing where to shop. One-third of consumers responding to a 2007 survey by Restaurant and Institutions, a food service industry group, believe that “living a green lifestyle is important.” This is especially true among people ages 40 to 60.

Environmentally minded consumers have already begun an assault on the bottled water industry. “The way consumers see it is that plastic bottles are wasteful,” Dornblaser said. “Some cities are even asking for a special tax for bottled water.”

Dornblaser expects that sales of filtered water pitchers, filters that attach to water faucets and reusable plastic jugs will grow over the next year, and that the bottled-water industry will move toward vitamin and mineral waters, “because consumers are more likely to buy it if it has some added benefit that they can’t duplicate at home.”

She also expects food manufacturers to publicize their environmental initiatives as part of a campaign to sell their products. Nielsen said it has worked for Chipotle, the Mexican fast-food chain that has promised to source its meat and eggs from humane producers using sustainable methods. When the chain began buying its pork from Niman Ranch, the price for carnitas went up $1, turning one of the least expensive dishes on the menu into the most expensive. But diners were willing to pay the price and carnitas sales doubled, according to the company.

Pizza Fusion, an organic, quick-service franchise making its way from Florida to California, claims to be “saving the earth one pizza at a time.” The company makes all its deliveries in hybrid cars, offsets all its power usage with the purchase of renewable wind energy certificates and uses mostly recycled materials, according to its Web site.

That would impress Susan Mueller, a 39-year-old Alameda County high school teacher and mother, who says she’s willing to pay more if she knows what she’s buying is good for the earth and good for her family.

“I try to only buy organic,” she said while making a quick trip to the market for her baby’s first avocado. “I also try to buy locally or at least from the U.S.”

Mueller said if she knows a company is socially conscious, using sustainable practices and is good to its employees, she’ll favor its products over its competitor – a practice known as fair trade that’s catching on in this country.

Fair-trade coffee and chocolate have already found niches in the U.S. marketplace, but Dornblaser said consumers can expect to see more products, including produce, making their way here from businesses in developing countries that encourage their workers to become stakeholders.

Nowhere are these developments stronger than in the Bay Area, Nielsen said. In fact, Restaurants and Institutions found that this was the No. 1 market for organics, followed by Seattle/Tacoma, Wash., and Portland, Ore.

“San Francisco is definitely at the forefront,” she said. “And there’s no question that it’s moving across the country.”

What’s trendy in 2008?

— Fair-trade products

— Foods associated with improving health

— Heritage whole grains

— Products without additives, artificial flavors and colors

— Humanely and sustainably raised eggs and meat

— Socially conscious manufacturers and restaurants

— Multisensory supermarkets

— Easier-to-read labels

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Off the menu… food folks can’t live without

Most of us have seen the commercials by now. When Burger King customers try to order the Whopper, employees at the fast-food chain claim they’ve discontinued the sandwich as hidden cameras capture the scene.

Meanwhile, we viewers have been clued into the restaurant’s little prank, so we sit comfortably on our sofas (maybe even eating a Whopper?) and chuckle as hipster dudes and soccer moms totally lose it. One woman in a minivan even demands to see the manager.

“What a freak,” we might say to ourselves. “It’s just a burger.”

But upon further contemplation, the staff here got to thinking. What if our favorite menu items — or even just a regular part of our dining routine — were suddenly discontinued? Would our eyes widen to the size of onion rings? Would we clap our hands over our mouths in disbelief? Would we, too, demand to see manager?

Susannah Enkema, vice president of qualitative research at the Knoxville-based U30 Group, has studied deprivation for many of the company’s clients — including Burger King. U30 often asks research participants to go without something that plays a regular part in the participant’s routine to help determine the affects of loss and the role the item played in the participant’s life. She once asked fast-food fanatics, for example, to go without it completely for a set period of time.

“It’s a great way to understand things that people take for granted,” Enkema said.

Researchers often use the academic term “figural” when discussing deprivation, Enkema says. “It’s something so big, it’s figural. Sometimes it’s hard to describe it or understand it. What deprivation does from a research perspective is help consumers become really great observers of their own behavior.”

The results of deprivation research are proprietary, but they likely involved cravings, temper tantrums and overall meltdowns.

Given the ramifications, we wondered what readers would think if deprived of their favorite meals. One of the editors here — still reeling over the temporary removal of coconut sushi from Sunset Grill’s menu (it’s back now) — asked us to pose the question: “What item would you most miss if it were taken off the menu?” Reader responses, although varied in terms of choices, seemed to fall into two categories: “Regular” food you can enjoy any time and the specialty items eaten on unique occasions from higher-end establishments.

Readers have favorites
Melanie Giaconia from Nashville said she relishes the green chili mac and cheese from Park Cafe. She’s been ordering it with her husband as a special treat for the past three years on her birthday.

“We each have to have our own order,” she said in an e-mail. “It’s a little embarrassing but not as embarrassing as it would be fighting over the last bite.”

Deborah Hays of Nashville also treats herself to a special dish on exceptional occasions. She loves the beet and heat salad at Zola, but only has the opportunity to eat it once or twice a year.

For others, it’s the habitual dishes that have a place in the regular fabric of their lives that they would most miss. Stasia Bachrach visits Bread & Company with her daughter almost once a week for the chicken salad sandwich on cranberry-walnut bread. The corn pudding at Monell’s Dining & Catering is a favorite for Brittany T. Lorenzi, while Dana Minetos loves the cornbread salad at the Henpeck Market in Franklin.

Patty Wright, also of Nashville, said she would miss the Mexican spaghetti at Demo’s Steak and Spaghetti House. She and her husband have dined at the restaurant nearly every Sunday night since it opened in downtown Nashville in 1992.

“Mr. Demo probably gets tired of hearing from me, but we would love for them to put a Demo’s in (our part of) Nashville,” she said. “That’s our favorite restaurant.”

Lucky for most readers, their favorite dishes have yet to be discontinued. If anything though, perhaps Burger King’s latest marketing ruse will remind us that every bite should be savored, as even our menu items, it seems, face their own little mortalities. Who knows when one minute we’ll be taking a perfectly good sandwich for granted, and the next minute — it’s gone

Read the article here:

More skip lunch lines to order meals on Web

If you could get meal assembly to cater to a more business crowd. The ordering is already in place, it’s the prep that needs to be adjusted to make it ready for lunch.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Fast food is getting faster.

With just a few clicks of the mouse, Jane Cagle can order a small feast for her bosses at Travelocity.

The 60-year-old administrative assistant overcame her skepticism about the accuracy of Web purchases and now uses the Internet to have food delivered from Jason’s Deli or Corner Bakery three or four times a month.

“For a business setting, online ordering is the only way to go,” she said, adding that virtually all of the company’s administrative assistants go online to buy lunches for meetings.

More Americans — not just the young techie types who do all their shopping online — are skipping restaurant lines and ordering to-go meals over the Internet.

Up each year

In 2005, the National Restaurant Association reported that about 11 percent of restaurant consumers ordered online. That expanded to 13 percent last year and is expected to reach 18 percent this year.

“Once the kinks have been worked out and the timing is down, I definitely think it’s one of those conveniences that consumers are going to want and start demanding,” said Sheri Daye Scott, editor of QSR, a magazine that tracks the fast-food restaurant industry.

“I see it going well over 50 percent, especially if the text-message ordering takes off,” Scott said.

Pizza companies, viewed by many as pioneers in online meal ordering, are allowing customers to order up a pie after punching a few buttons on their cellphone.

Pizza Hut, based in Dallas, announced recently its customers can send a text-message order to a central reservations number and wait for a return text message to confirm. Papa John’s did the same thing in November.

Industry experts say customers like using the Internet because they find their orders are often more accurate than when they use the phone.

On the phone, “you tend to get people who don’t really know what they’re doing,” said Tonie Steel, who sets up lunch meetings at the Lockheed Martin Recreation Association. “Then you have to call five times to confirm to make sure they get it right.”

Steel said things have worked well with Jason’s Deli.

“Most of the time, the only errors are my typing errors,” she said.

Although online ordering has mainly taken hold in pizza joints and sit-down restaurants, there are signs it could move next into hotels and airports.

The Omni Mandalay Hotel in Las Colinas, Texas, started a test program late last year that allows guests to order room service over the Internet. And you don’t have to pay for the hotel’s in-room Internet service to order.

The Irving, Texas, company hopes to eventually roll out the service to all of its properties.

Airport restaurant

The Baltimore/Washington International Airport will soon have one of the first airport restaurants that takes online orders.

Silver Diner, with a motif that takes customers back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, is looking to be known for 21st-century service, said Mark Russell, director of new-store development for the 16-store chain.

The company would like to have kiosks throughout the terminal as well as in the pilots’ lounge where customers can place orders. Or business travelers might whip out their cellphones as soon as they land and order meals that can be delivered to their gate.

The company recently signed a franchise agreement with Creative Host Services that has Philadelphia next on the expansion list.

Russell said Creative Host is also “very interested” in Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Although ordering online is pitched as an easy way to get a meal, some think it’s popular for just the opposite reason.

“You’re not rushed,” said Chuck Bush, owner of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, which has three stores in Fort Worth and Denton, Texas. “Your feet are up. I’ve got a little more time to browse.”

As a result, the customer feels more comfortable indulging.

“I may be the not-so-fit-guy who’s embarrassed to order the chips and queso,” Bush said. “It’s kind of discreet.”

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Americans to eat 30 million pounds of snacks on ‘Super Bowl Sunday’

Perhaps you can use this to persuade customers to try something a little “lighter” for the event…

Washington, Jan 27 : Americans will binge on snacks the most on Super Bowl Sunday, for a research by the Calorie Control Council and the Snack Food Association, has found that the US population will consume almost 30 million pounds of snacks on the ‘Super Bowl’ Sunday.

This includes 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 4.3 million pounds of pretzels, 3.8 million pounds of popcorn and 2.5 million pounds of nuts.

It has been estimated that an average armchair quarterback will consume 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat just from snacking, without counting meals.

It has also been revealed that the snacking king, potato chips will alone account for 27 billion calories and 1.8 billion grams of fat.

The council has also recommended pre-planning the Super Bowl event and menu to include no-fat and low-fat chips and dips.

As far as dips are concerned, it is possible to cut the fat without cutting the flavour.

One can go for salsa, which is fat-free, or substitute reduced-fat sour cream and non-fat yogurt. Also fresh herbs and spices such as cilantro, parsley and hot peppers can be used to add great flavour. Fresh vegetables and low-fat dips may also act as healthy appetizers.

In addition, choosing fat-free potato chips for the big game could save up to 300 calories per person. Also, fat-free potato chips could even cut 14 billion calories and 1.8 billion fat grams nationwide, from our snack attacks.

Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with the Council, recommended planning a “pre-Super Bowl Workout” before settling in to watch the game.

“For example, to burn off those 1,200 calories from snacking during the Super Bowl, it would take 3 hours of walking around a football field or 1 hour and 45 minutes of running. Or, if you want to get into the game spirit, it would take 2 hours of playing touch football to burn those calories,” she said.

“You certainly don’t want to have a dietitian at your Super Bowl party calling ‘interference’ when you and your friends start overindulging. But by doing a little game planning in advance, you can avoid becoming one of the millions of fans who eat 50 grams of fat in a very short period of time,” Hubrich advised.

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