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Friday, February 25, 2011

More Food Service Operators to Use Social Media

Using a landline phone to make restaurant reservations is so 20th Century. These days, consumers expect to engage with restaurants online and through mobile devices. Restaurant operators who don’t build up their online presence and brand loyalty are missing an opportunity to generate higher sales. Even outlets that have not traditionally advertised are finding new business coming from social media efforts.

The new Social Media and Technology in the U.S. Foodservice Industry: Trends and Opportunities for an Emerging Market report by Packaged Facts explains that everything has changed in the food service industry. Don Monturori, publisher of Packaged Facts says, “We believe the restaurant industry is in the midst of being shaped by the convergence of the mobile, yet always connected, consumer; location-based and context-aware technological innovation, and mobile payments, which already demonstrate the potential to redefine how to cultivate restaurant guest loyalty, incentivize dining occasions, and better tailor marketing messages.” As proof of this new trend, consider these facts:
  • Almost 1/3rd (31%) of consumers who frequent restaurants for eat-in or take-out meals use their computers to place orders.
  • About 1/5th (21%) of consumers use mobile phones or other devices to place restaurant orders.
Facebook and Twitter are the leading social media outlets for restaurant operators to conquer. Packaged Facts analysts point out that food service operators should focus on location-based promotions this year as active Facebook users are ‘frequently on the go’. In addition, Twitter can be used to reach “a younger, more urban, multi–cultural audience.” Studies show that Twitter has significant appeal for emerging demographics – Hispanics, African Americans and Asians. And these social media tools aren’t just being used by traditional restaurants. One of this year’s most interesting trends is the growing number of food trucks that serve unique and ethnic fare in urban environments. These lower-cost outlets are turning to Twitter to promote themselves.
As the restaurant industry battles to regain the losses suffered during the recession, most operators will be turning to lower-cost forms of promotions. For many, social media seems to fit the bill.

[Source: Facebook, Twitter and Smartphones Lead Social Media-Fueled Innovation within U.S. Foodservice. 8 Feb. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2011]

More Food Service Operators to Use Social Media -

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Varied Interests Drive Growing Popularity of Local Foods - Amber Waves, December 2010, Feature

Varied Interests Drive Growing Popularity of Local Foods

As demand for local foods grows, so do questions about what constitutes “local” foods, what characterizes local food markets, and how local food markets affect farmers, consumers, and communities.

Steve W. Martinez

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Social Media and Technology in the U.S. Foodservice Industry: Trends and Opportunities for an Emerging Market : Packaged Facts

The convergence of social media, mobile devices and consumer lifestyles is ushering in a new era of restaurant-consumer interaction, opening new doors for restaurant operators to build customer relationships and sales opportunities, according to Packaged Facts’ Social Media and Technology in the U.S. Foodservice Industry: Trends and Opportunities for an Emerging Market.
Tethered by the Internet, restaurant operators are increasingly interacting with restaurant consumers in real-time—at work, at home or in mid stride. This provides significant opportunity to shape consumer food choices not only as they are being made, but also in proximity to a restaurant seeking that consumer’s business.

This Packaged Facts report provides the insight and analysis foodservice market participants need to understand and leverage social media and technology platforms to enhance their bottom lines. The analysis includes the following:

* Social Networking Platforms
* Consumer Review Platforms
* Food Blogs And Food Photography
* Technologic Dining In Action
* Smartphones And Applications
* Online Ordering Platforms
* Anatomy Of The Mobile Restaurant Ordering User
* Anatomy Of The Urban Diner
* Using Social Media To Effect: Restaurant Case Studies


Friday, February 11, 2011

LA Times: Small pet stores see healthy growth of organic food sales

Sales of premium-priced organic and natural pet food are expected to grow three times as fast as pet food sales overall through 2015.

Lance Castro and Guy Miracle
Lance Castro, left, and Guy Miracle, owners of the Modern Dog in Venice, sell several brands of freeze-dried raw food and premium kibble. “It’s done wonders for our business,” Castro says. (Ricardo DeAratanha, Los Angeles Times)
Organic, raw and even gluten-free food choices aren't just for people anymore.

These options are showing up at local pet shops that are looking to distinguish themselves from big-box competitors. After a slowdown in sales of premium-priced food during the recession, independent pet shops said the sector was recovering.

At the Modern Dog, a boutique in a Venice bungalow, co-owner Lance Castro was looking to add two new brands of freeze-dried raw food and premium kibble to the seven he already sells.
"It's done wonders for our business," said Castro, who opened the Abbot Kinney Boulevard store with Guy Miracle five years ago.

The store's popular Sojos dehydrated dog food mix of sweet potatoes, turkey, apples and flax meal, among other ingredients, costs $21.99 for a 2-pound bag, to which water is added to make 10 pounds of food.

Castro said he was looking at sites for a second location where he plans to have a refrigeration unit for fresh and frozen raw-food brands.

Nationwide, annual retail sales of organic and natural pet food are expected to grow three times as fast as pet food sales overall through 2015, according to an industry report to be released this week by the Packaged Facts market research company.

Industry analyst David Lummis, who wrote the report, estimated that natural and organics would grow 12% a year on average, hitting $2.8 billion in 2015. By comparison, he expects an average 4% annual growth rate for the entire pet food market over the same period. Overall pet food sales will reach $22.1 billion in 2015, Lummis said.

"People are treating their dog food like some people are treating their baby food," said Todd Martin, vice president of marketing for Castor & Pollux Pet Works, a Clackamas, Ore., company that makes organic pet food and treats. "They want to know it's safe, and they want to know it's quality."

Still, organic pet food — which costs as much as 30% more than non-organic — remains a tiny part of the overall market.

Many independent shops, which are in the vanguard of the organic food sector, got a boost in business in 2007 when pets died from eating food that contained imported wheat gluten and rice protein contaminated with melamine. The poisonous contaminant even showed up in some brands sold as being natural.

As with food for people, there are no regulations governing the word "natural" on pet food labels. But pet foods marketed as organic must meet the same U.S. Department of Agriculture standards as human food in the category, according to USDA spokesperson Soo Kim.

Annual sales of organic pet food increased tenfold from 2002 to 2009, when sales hit $84 million, according to the Organic Trade Assn.

Now that organics are becoming more popular, some large pet store chains are also carrying them, said Joan Storms, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

But the more exotic raw and organic pet food is still mostly the province of independent shops.

Neal Massa is co-owner of My Pet Naturally in West Los Angeles, where customers can find raw elk meat for $7.49 a pound and raw chicken and lamb for Fido for about $4 a pound.

"My clientele are probably mostly single, more single women than not, and what I am finding is that these are their kids," Massa said, referring to his customers' pets. "So you are going to spend a little bit more money for pet food."

Full Article: Pet food: Independent pet stores see growing sales of organic and natural pet food -

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

From pushcart to grocery cart

From a Hong Kong pushcart, General Mills has built Wanchai Ferry into a significant brand.

Last update: February 7, 2011 - 3:39 PM

The playbook for U.S. foodmakers often calls for exporting a successful U.S. product to points abroad. General Mills, for instance, has had a big hit in China with its classic Bugles corn snacks, albeit in some flavors we might not find here -- like seaweed.
Richard Sennott, Dml - Star Tribune
Both Byerly's and Lunds offer Wanchai Ferry, a General Mills brand that focuses on Chinese food. Wanchai Ferry is a brand that started in China and is big there. General Mills bought it, and decided to launch the brand here, but with different products. Comes in dry kit dinners where you add meat, and frozen entrees for two. The latter was introduced in 2009, and has so far done quite well. These pictures were shot in the St Louis Park Byerly's .

With its Wanchai Ferry brand, the Golden Valley-based packaged food company has called a reverse. The brainchild of a Hong Kong pushcart vendor, Wanchai Ferry evolved into a popular supermarket brand in China.

General Mills brought the brand to the United States, and so far, it's done well. Since the 2009 launch of Wanchai Ferry frozen dinner entrees for two, they've generated more than $50 million in annual sales and quickly grabbed a respectable slice of market share.

Multi-serving dinners are a sweet spot in the frozen meal business, but one that's also attracting a lot of competition. Within a year of Wanchai Ferry's debut, packaged food giant Unilever teamed up with restaurant chain P.F Chang's China Bistro to launch a frozen entree sporting the latter's brand. Its sales appear to have jumped ahead of Wanchai Ferry's.

Wanchai Ferry is rooted in the business of Chong Kin Wo, or Madame Chong. In the 1970s, she started selling dumplings in Hong Kong's busy Wanchai commercial area, and her wares eventually made it into grocery stores under the Wanchai Ferry brand. Pillsbury bought the brand in 1997, and General Mills inherited it with its purchase of Pillsbury in 2001.

General Mills has built the brand into one of its star assets in China. Wanchai Ferry products, including dim sum and wontons, are available in about 100 Chinese cities, carried by such major international food retailers as Wal-Mart and France's Carrefour. Wanchai Ferry sales in China in 2010 were up 20 percent over the previous year.

A new market

With success in China, General Mills sensed an opportunity on its home turf. "Chinese is the most widely eaten restaurant cuisine, but only 45 percent [of consumers] make it at home," said Jon Nudi, president of General Mills snacks division, who helped roll out Wanchai Ferry in this country.

In 2007, General Mills launched Wanchai Ferry dry dinner kits in the United States, which require consumers to add meat and cost about $4.60. In 2009 came the debut of frozen entrees, complete with meat, which can be prepared in about 15 minutes and cost $7 to $8.

While the brand name is the same as in China, the products are different, an attempt to account for American tastes, Nudi said. The frozen dinners come in eight varieties, including Orange Chicken, Shrimp Lo-Mein and Beef & Broccoli. The goal is to deliver "restaurant quality food," Nudi said.

Multi-serve dinners like Wanchai Ferry have been a bright spot in the frozen entree world, despite their relative high cost during a tough economy. They've been the only frozen meal segment posting sales gains since 2008 among food mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart, according to a fall report by market researcher Mintel International.

"Given that its biggest increases were during the peak of the recession, it appears that this segment has done a better job than the others in capturing dollars that might have otherwise been spent dining out," the Mintel report said.

Quick success

Wanchai Ferry's frozen food performance was better than General Mills expected, Nudi said, topping the important first-year sales mark of $50 million.

According to market researcher SymphonyIRI Group, which tracks sales in conventional supermarket channels, Wanchai Ferry carved out about a 3 percent share of both the multi-serve frozen meal business and the dry dinner mix segment by the end of last year.

The dry dinner market is dominated by General Mills' Hamburger Helper. The frozen, multi-serve meal segment is topped by Stouffer's and Bertolli, with market shares respectively of 31 percent and 10 percent, according to IRI. P.F. Chang's had captured 5 percent of the market by the end of December, according to SymphonyIRI.

Restaurant brands have long enjoyed success when transplanted to the frozen food aisles. Stouffer's itself was born from a now-defunct restaurant chain, while the Marie Callender's brand originated from a western restaurant group, according to a recent report by market researcher Packaged Facts.

General Mills got into the restaurant act itself last year by launching multi-serve frozen dinners in a partnership with Romano's Macaroni Grill. That gives General Mills a two-front offensive in the freezer: Macaroni Grill for Italian tastes, Wanchai Ferry for Asian.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

Monday, February 7, 2011

Celiac disease may have little influence on soaring gluten free market

Celiac disease may have little influence on soaring gluten free market: "Packaged Facts says the US market for gluten free products is growing faster than expected – but few consumers buy gluten free foods to address celiac disease or dietary intolerances."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gluten Free Gone Mainstream?


Going “mainstream” for gluten free foods may have a different meaning for everyone.  For restaurants, it may just mean putting together a  gluten free menu (regardless of education), for grocery stores it may mean putting it in the main aisles (and the employees know what you’re talking about if you ask them a question), but for me it’s all of the above and more — including a good basic public awareness on what it really means.

That could be the case if new product survey which looks ahead a few years is accurate. According to a news release for “Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd Edition” by market research publisher Packaged Facts, the gluten-free market is currently a $2.6 billion dollar industry.  It reports it will likely double to about $6 billion by 2015!  $6 billion is similar to the current industries of  Yoga, Halloween, and Potato Chips!  What’s more mainstream than Halloween and potato chips (well maybe not together).  But even if you look at Yoga, I think one might consider that when it started as a fitness regime in the US, it wasn’t considered mainstream and look where it is today!
Could gluten-free food be the next Yoga?
Well, that answer remains to be seen– but the survey showed, “The #1 motivation for buying gluten-free food products is that they are deemed healthier than their conventional counterparts.”  Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts is quoted in the release, “…there is evidence suggested that eliminating gluten from the diet may relieve autism in children and adult rheumatoid arthritis. Add to that the healthy ‘aura’ some consumers have attached to gluten-free products, and you create a demand for these foods and beverages that mainstream food manufacturers and retailers are increasingly happy to satisfy.”
People are buying gluten-free to treat celiac, autism or some other ailment but also as a healthy kick to their diet.  I do think the healthy gluten-free “fad”  has benefited those in the celiac world– not so much with education regarding a correct gluten-free diet, but rather in selection for foods for us.
Gluten Free Section at Cub Foods, Blaine, MN

More evidence of the “mainstreaming trend” (according to the the news release) is  “the notable shift in the retail distribution of gluten-free products from specialty stores to chains. The surge in the sales and number of dedicated gluten-free products carried by the supermarkets and mass merchandisers demonstrates that gluten-free is becoming, as one marketer interviewed by Packaged Facts in the report states, ‘just a regular grocery item.’”  I’ll believe that when I see it.  I don’t think that’s nearly the case yet.  But it the shift is true– my local Cub Foods was a prime example when they expanded their gluten-free section and put it in the mainstream section earlier this month.

Do you think it’s on its way  to being as mainstream as other $6 billion dollar industries:  Halloween, potato chips or Yoga?  Feel free to comment below!  My take?  I think we’ll know it’s mainstream when all schools get behind it as a legitimate healthy diet that people should be able to choose and that it’s worth paying for.  Many schools are coming along, but it is very far from being mainstream.

Let’s keep watching over the next few years!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

High Quality Prepared Food Departments Add Dine-in Cafes to Drive Traffic at Grocery Stores

Prepared food bar at Wegmans.  Photo Courtesy of
Been to a Wegmans lately?  The Market Cafés have pizza, freshly-made sushi, burritos, Thai food, and vegetarian choices for dining in or taking home. And Kroger took out the underused salad bars to make way for prepackaged salads, sandwiches, and carnitas. My own local Harris Teeter offers chef-staffed prepared food stations.  Imagine that, a live person ready to make my perfect California roll.

As a self-proclaimed 'foodie' you would think I'd stick to the trendy new restaurants in downtown D.C. But on today’s shoestring budget that’s not possible.  Instead, I find myself eating what I want at attractive, upscale bistro area of my local grocery store.

The traditional grocery channel made 57% of retail food & beverage dollar sales in 2010, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts. Through their in-store foodservice options, traditional grocery stores stand to further grow in share of U.S. food & beverage sales.

Grocery stores are aiming to make shopping more appealing by providing upscale restaurant-like experiences to customers. In order to attract as many shoppers as possible, stores are providing a wide range of restaurant-style foods and amenities: wood-fired pizzas, made-to-order soups, sandwich and sushi bars, and dining areas. And the eager (read: hungry) shoppers who want to grab a quick meal while grabbing the groceries, take a break for lunch, or get a snack before the drive or walk back home are eating it up.

Packaged Facts analysis expects to see food retailing and foodservice channels continue to converge around fresh prepared foods, working fervently to make consumption more convenient. As a result, the competitive lines between grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, and other channels will continue to blur in a U.S. food & beverage retail market projected by Packaged Facts to reach nearly $700 billion by 2015.

At the end of the day, when the sushi stand has been cleaned and the fresh olive bar has closed, what else will retailers be looking to add? Besides adding to their variety of on-the-go foods, deli and prepared food departments will expand with easily accessible take-out entrances and check-out lanes; curbside pick-up and call-ahead ordering; website and smart phone apps for ordering.

Well, that’s where its heading, but for me its lunch-time and I’m heading over to the Parisian café at my local Whole Foods Market. Or maybe a grilled vegetable sub at Teeters? I could really go for some sushi-…

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gluten-free has gone mainstream – but how long will that last?

Gluten-free has gone mainstream – but how long will that last?

WENCY LEUNG | From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

In less than five years, sales of gluten-free products have nearly tripled, rising in tandem with the increasing number of new gluten-free goods. Beyond crackers, breads and pastas, it’s now possible to buy everything from gourmet gluten-free cookies at independent bakeries to gluten-free pizzas at restaurant chains such as Boston Pizza.

According to the Rockville, Md.-based research firm Packaged Facts, U.S. retail sales of gluten-free products reached $2.6-billion (U.S.) in 2010, up from $935-million in 2006. And in its 2011 Gluten Free Foods and Beverages report, the firm predicts sales will grow to $5.5-billion by 2015. A similar trend is under way in Canada, although precise national figures are not available. 

Full Article>

More Information>

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Future of Food Retailing in the U.S.

The Future of Food Retailing in the U.S.

The Future of Food Retailing in the U.S.

Growing competition, emerging retail formats, price wars, more private labels, SKU rationalization, and experiments with online marketing are trends reshaping the food retailing market.
Packaged Facts' latest market study, The Future of Food Retailing provides insightful macro and micro trend analyses for retailers and CPG marketers who seek merchandise, pricing, and marketing strategies for today's food retailing environment.
This market study answers the following questions:
  • How has the new economic climate changed consumer behavior?
  • Can smartphone apps, such as in-store navigation, drive more business?
  • Will recent mergers and acquisitions impact your bottom line?
  • How are personalized and digital coupons be leveraged to maximize profit?
  • Why is sustainability equal to profitability this year?
  • How are C-stores changing with the times?
  • How is Koger changing how consumer data is mined?
  • Why are food retailers morphing into foodservice and how does that translate to dollars?
Packaged Facts identifies the opportunities and strategies retailers and CPG marketers can use to protect and grow their businesses during 2011 and beyond.
More information:
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