Interesting Words Said by Interesting Man.

Posted on Friday 30 October 2009

Tuesday I attended an event where Peter Shankman–social media & internet guru (although he hates that word)–spoke about how to successfully utilize social networking for your business. In short, he’s a very smart web guy. The seminar was fresh and inspiring. The audience included reporters and bloggers, as well as many PR and marketing people. He spoke about new media in a way that was not a regurgitation of something I had heard elsewhere. It was an original, not to mention pretty hilarious, perspective from a guy who’s been a part of it since before it had a name.

Peter Shankman: 4 Rules to Social Media Success

1. Transparency. Be transparent. Admit to your wrongdoings. Fix a problem you caused before it becomes more of a problem. People are 4 to 1 more likely to do business with a company that screwed up and admitted it, than a company who screwed up and got caught.

2. Relevancy. What’s the best way to find out how your audience (your entire audience, everyone in your target) would like to receive information from you?

Ask them.

3. Brevity. Learn how to write. Today, the average attention span is 2.7 seconds-roughly the time it takes to read a text message. That’s all the time you have to reach your audience.

4. Top of Mind. Stay at the front of people’s minds. Take the time to keep in touch. Reach out to your network. Regularly.

Some other interesting takeaways:

. Social media IS customer service; this is the direction we are moving in. If you really want to interact with your customers and fix problems before they become big problems, be one level above mediocre. Respond.

. Raving Fans. As a society, we expect to be treated like crap. Treat your customers one level above crap; treat them well and they’ll become raving fans, and will do your PR for you.

. When something good happens we (as a society) love to be finders. When something bad happens, we (as a society) are never truly miserable until those around us are miserable too. It’s not so much word of mouth, as it is just something we do- it’s the direction we are moving in.

. Say something worth re-tweeting; the loneliest person on Twitter is the person who only talks about himself.

Some useful websites he shared, which we are now sharing. This is a great free service for busy people. This is a cool web tool for monitoring social media. This is another resource for monitoring things people are saying online.

Thanks for the wise words Mr. Shankman. Looking forward to whatever it is you do next.

Jessy @ 1:02 pm
Filed under: Marketing
Food Inc. Gave Me Anxiety.

Posted on Tuesday 20 October 2009

Documentaries are supposed to make you think. Give you insight in to something you either aren’t in tune to (yet) or something you feel strongly about and are seeking more connection with. Food and I have a very serious relationship, so for me, going to see Food, Inc. meant the latter.

Food Inc. opens our eyes to the realities of the American food system, and answers many of the questions we fail to ask ourselves. Where does our food come from? Who is growing or raising it? How is it readied for the grocery stores? And finally, who is in control of all of these facets of the grand operation? But then again, how were we supposed to know that we should be asking these questions in the first place? Eating comes naturally, we’ve been doing it all our lives.

If you have yet to see it, you should. It’s interesting. It’s educational and eye opening, but not in the extreme Michael Moore documentary fashion, more in the good journalism fact seeking fashion. However, if you are a believer in “ignorance is bliss,” and you’d rather not question the three (and many times more) most vital parts of our day, you may want to sit this one out. (Fear not, there is very little graphic imagery, simply real accounts from real people who know the insides of the system that most of us are unaware of).

Without spoiling the goods, the whole point of this post is the result that Food Inc. had on me personally. And that is, dilemma and confusion.

Now, when I walk in to my local grocery, I’m faced with choices. And not, white or wheat? I mean, if I buy these particular burger patties I am supporting inhumane slaughter practices and hormone-pumping factory farms. But if I buy these other free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free burger patties, I won’t be able to afford the ketchup that goes on top. What are the consequences of buying or not buying organic? It isn’t simply money. It is morals, values. It is beliefs. And having worked for an organic mushroom farmer, and being a huge animal advocate (though not necessarily vegetarian), mine are now somewhat at conflict after learning some of the things I did from this movie.

Knowing exactly what I am actually putting in to my body, knowing if a food has been genetically modified in to something that defies the definition of actual food, knowing if it’s traveled long, far and wide (from where exactly is a mystery) to get to the refrigerated walls of my local grocery…knowing these things has become more important to me. However, dating a chef and smelling the sweet aroma of searing foi gras overtaking my kitchen and wanting to very badly indulge makes me feel guilty. I love food. I love trying new things. I am a huge fan of culinary greatness, in all its glory. But I also don’t like the idea of what happens to certain things before they reach my dinner plate. So where do we draw the line?

I do my part. I recycle, turn off the lights, try to never use plastic water bottles and use my handy reusable bags almost always (or at least when I remember to bring them with when I venture out). So do I offend my chef boyfriend after he sweats away all day in the kitchen by deciding I can’t eat his meaty masterpiece because it didn’t come from a well-treated, happy cow? If turkey is on sale at the store, do I buy the more expensive organic because it’s the “right thing to do?”  Or, do I listen to the words of my late Yertle (grandma) who survived the depression, who taught us the value of stretching every dollar on something we all now typically take for granted: food.

You tell me.

Jessy @ 5:24 pm
Filed under: Food
Gourmet Gourmands.

Posted on Tuesday 29 September 2009

It’s safe to say I’m still pleasantly stuffed from the epicurean adventure that was Chicago Gourmet this past weekend. Writing for a food-marketing agency, not to mention never one to turn down foodstuffs, I went in to the soiree with the confidence I would feel right at home.

But the behemoth bright white tents, the freshly cut grass, the celebrity chefs, the scantily clad alcohol promo ladies- all with the wavering aroma of many a food awaiting my taste buds…I must admit it was a little overwhelming. Intimidating even. Not only was there row after row of tents awaiting our ready forks and glasses, but the event also miraculously swapped food exhibitors in and out of said rows throughout the duration of the day. Meaning, by the time you made one lap around the taste course, it was time to start all over again, with an array of new offerings. My first thought was “how are we going to try all of these things in one day?” And my second thought was “will I be able to physically persevere without falling victim to food coma?”

It really was a treat to be sampling dishes from many of the best restaurants our city has to offer, from the very chefs behind those menus. Looking at it from both a consumer and marketer’s mind, a lot of curiosity arose. You can’t ignore the effort and money that goes in to creating an event like this; I wondered, is it necessary for a food company to participate in an event like Chicago Gourmet?

For a restaurant, it’s probably not a bad idea. Although it’s going to put a small dent in your budget, it’s a great opportunity to get in front of someone and do something brilliant. There were a lot of memorable morsels, but some definitely made an impact while others fell to the wayside. It’s a chance to show what your restaurant and brand can serve up that will grab the attention of an entire city’s eating elite. Since being memorable keeps people talking and coming back, I vote yes, worth the investment in an event such as this.

If you are a food manufacturing company, might we suggest partnering with another company or a restaurant for optimal participation? For example, one of our clients donated the buns to a restaurant here in town that was sampling sliders for the day. Without making the financial commitment of renting a tent, staffing a team or putting in the hours of time, they were still able get their name and product on people’s lips, and in their hands.

If you consider yourself a food lover, buy the ticket. Eat and enjoy yourself. It’s a rare occurrence you’ll get to sample various delightful things from a collection of great restaurants (or wineries, or spirits companies, or other food companies) all in one place. Take the time to ask questions-no matter what the takeaway, you’ll learn something new. Chances are that thing you learn will taste really nice also.

Jessy @ 10:20 am
Filed under: Food andFood Marketing andMarketing
Look at This, We’re in a Video

Posted on Thursday 20 August 2009

Find out more about the people behind the Savor team, our marketing philosophy and our love of all things food in this video from Beyond the Pedway.

Jessy @ 1:54 pm
Filed under: About Us
Starting A Food Business In Chicago

Posted on Thursday 20 August 2009

This morning, while pulling together the contact info of several commercial kitchens for a new food startup, I came across an article on Crain’s site discussing the heavy regulations Chicago enforces on food companies. If you’re interested in starting a food business, I suggest you take a look at the article. You might be surprised to find out that Chicago requires you to use commercial kitchens. Foods made in home kitchens are not legally allowed. This includes both manufacturing a product for sale in stores or online as well as preparing food for catering jobs.

Trying to find a commercial kitchen in Chicago? We’ve had good experiences (and know people who cook out of) the following kitchens:

Now We’re Cookin (located across from Savor’s offices)

Kitchen Chicago:

Want more information? Kitchen Chicago, Now We’re Cookin’ and the benefits of commercial kitchens are all discussed in this recent Time Out Chicago article, which features testimonials from renters.  

Have you had an experience with a different commercial kitchen? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Let us know, and we’ll add them to our list.

Ivy @ 11:31 am
Filed under: Food andFood Marketing
General Mills Goes Niche

Posted on Monday 27 July 2009

This past month there have been a number of articles about General Mills’ new gluten-free product line. Their Betty Crocker brand is rolling out gluten-free mixes for cookies, brownies and cakes. But, beyond just this brand extension, this news has huge implications for the willingness of big companies to go after small niches and how companies will market to these niches?

In this case, General Mills has decided to develop a product for the 1% of the U.S. population that suffers from Celiac disease (OK, to be fair their research shows about 12% of U.S. households want to eliminate or reduce their gluten intake). For a large corporation like General Mills the target market for these new products would traditionally not bring in the revenue to make it worthwhile. Just ask Ann Simonds, General Mills’ President of Baking Products. She was recently quoted by as saying, “It used to be, as a marketer in the food industry, you needed a $50 million idea to make the business model work. Today, you can meet an unmet need that will be a $5 million business.”

So what has changed? The mass communication outlets. In the past, General Mills’ needed a huge budget for traditional media (TV, Radio, Print, etc), and to support that budget, they needed huge expected sales. Now, using social media, web sites, etc, General Mills can target smaller niches and skip the traditional methods and huge budgets that used to be necessary to promote their product.

So what can the rest of us learn from this (i.e. those of us smaller than General Mills)?

1. Well for one, don’t count the big guy out just because you’re in a niche market. Yes, historically big companies jump into niche markets then later back out, not having made the revenue to make it worthwhile. This may still be the case. But are you willing to sit back and find out? Learn from them and do it better. They may have the deep pockets but smaller organizations have the agility to respond to market needs much faster than our larger colleagues. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Marketing is changing. The old rules don’t always apply. Look at your current marketing methods and ask: “Is my current marketing leading to conversations with my customers?” “Am I broadcasting to my customers or talking to them?” Start thinking of ways that you can engage in conversations with you customers. This can include social media but more importantly research. Finding out what your customers need and want is the first step to the providing products and marketing messages that hit home.

3. Target marketing. The beauty of the new forms of marketing is that it allows us to target customers like never before. Have multiple target customers? Use new marketing tools to talk directly to these separate and distinct targets. You can develop micro-sites, blogs, social media campaigns and pay-per-click ad programs to communicate directly with your specific customers.

In the end, this news can either be a glass half full or a glass half empty proposition. Half full: I can now use the same tools as this big guys and cut into their market share. Half empty: The big guys can invade my market space using new marketing tools. Either way, realize they’re coming, and you’re not safe. So, don’t just use these tools better than the big guys. Do them first. It will be a lot harder for other companies to invade if you’re already soundly entrenched.

Ivy @ 4:59 pm
Filed under: Food Marketing andMarketing
Go West! – Random Thoughts About The National Products Expo West

Posted on Saturday 14 March 2009

The National Products Expo West held March 6-8 at the Anaheim Convention Center is an interesting amalgam of categories (foods, supplements, cosmetics), products and companies (from small “trying to get their break” companies to international corporations). I heard several people talk about how in the olden days (the nineties perhaps?) the show was less “big business” and more a feel-good event with companies that were selling healthful, natural products. But now, with “natural” being a big consumer buzz word in any industry, the show has grown into a diverse free-for-all-with big and small companies alike fighting to gain a share in the market and on the shelves of the attending retailers.

Here’s some rambling thoughts on the show from a food perspective:

Natural Products? No Kidding.
Hemp, chia and grass were several of the very, very natural products I saw and tried at the show. Hemp showed up in Hemp Milk. Chia in various granolas and as a topping on yogurt. And, grass? Amazing Grass was promoting its SuperFood energy bar.

Know How To Intro A New Product/Concept
As mentioned above, chia was a food ingredient being touted by several companies. “What is it?” I asked the booth rep of one such company. “You know what a chia pet is?” he asked. Well, yeah, I thought. But, I’ve never wanted to eat a chia pet. The guy manning Dylan’s Chia Granola booth had a much better explanation. It’s a seed that’s high in Omega 3 and tasty in granola. Now, that made way more sense. Dylan’s seems to understand that they’ll need to separate themselves from the famous Cha-Cha-Cha Chia pet.

Best Use of Social Media
Linda at the Tanka Bar booth was tweeting (you know, as in twitter) people’s comments after they sampled the company’s dried buffalo and cranberry bars–even the negative reviews. Why the bad ones too? Because it enhanced the believability of the positive comments, she told me. And, heck, the posts got me over to the booth to try the product.

Sample That Inspired The Longest Line
Applegate Farms’ Beef Hot Dogs. I’ve seen this phenomenon at other shows too with different vendors. What is it about free hot dogs? The line was three booths long. Makes you feel sorry for the booths being blocked.

Make Room For Stevia
The trend with the best chance of really hitting it big was Stevia.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Probably it’s already hit it big what with Coke & Cargill making Truvia and Pepsi & Merisant, the maker of Equal, producing PureVia. While at the show you could find many products touting their use of the brand, and even some independent growers selling direct, it’s only a matter of time before it ends up in actual Coke and Pepsi products and Stevia expands beyond Natural Products Expo West to grocery and convenience store trade shows.

The Functional Foods Viewpoint
Two functional food companies told me that the category is about to really take off. Their reasoning was based on the economy. Less money and healthcare meant that people were turning to functional foods as a way to stay healthy. Is this a good idea? I don’t know. Nonetheless, a current study predicts a 7% compound annual growth rate for the category through 2012, so there’s no denying the companies were on to something.

My Breaking Point
Some 20 aisles in on Sunday, I started to get a little loopy. The low point came when I walked up to someone at the Amy’s booth and said, “I like your chicken sausage. Are you sampling any?” The woman looked at me funny, “We only produce vegetarian products.” Yeah, um, oops. Turns out I was thinking of Sausages By Amylu (not at the show). So, that was kind of close.

Faux Foods
There were so many foods trying to be something they weren’t. Rice-based meat alternatives. Meatless Chicken Parmigiana. Vegan cheeses and ice creams. Plus, and this is just a rough estimate, a million gluten-free items. It’s amazing the creativity that’s gone in to these “alternatives” and how diverse they’ve gotten. But, is there really a market for all of these? No. How can there be? That’s why these companies will have to fight tooth and nail to capture the minds of those people who are the target and thus, enough market share to stay alive. But, then again, that’s the case with any brand and product, isn’t it?

Seth @ 4:14 pm
Filed under: Food andFood Marketing andMarketing
How Love Changed My Life: 5 Ways In Which My Wife Altered My Food Habits

Posted on Wednesday 18 February 2009

In (belated) honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a rundown of how my wife, a lifelong foodie (verging on food snob), opened my eyes to a life beyond prepackaged foodstuffs.To give you an idea of the before picture, my idea of cooking dinner was cutting up peppers and adding to whatever pasta sauce was on sale that week. 

1. Medium Rare and Rare
My dad’s a meat and potatoes guy. A medium meat and potatoes guy. And though I always understood that steak was something special, for a long time I wasn’t that into it.  Enter my wife, who taught me the  joys of reddish pink steaks, seared on the outsides, juicy in the middle. Turns out, my problem was not knowing that meat came in more vibrant colors. Choosing medium rare at a restaurant with my parents is probably one of the most dramatic ways I’ve rebelled since leaving the nest (either food is really important or I’m really boring). Though there was an additional concern. What if I had no opinion of my own? Maybe I was just mimicking the people around me. Or worse, being controlled. This turned out to not be the case. Though my wife and I share a love of medium rare meat, my love was a little bloodier and rarer than hers. I was my own man.

2. Guacamole
This was something we discovered together. For our first New Year’s Eve, we went to a fancy Mexican restaurant and ordered guacamole, a made-table-side specialty. Neither of us were big guacamole fans before that, but after we watched the woman grind it in a molcajete, we realized how incredibly easy it was to make. A taste made us realize how delicious it was. Now, we make it all the time (or at least as much as we make anything–we switch around a lot) and no large get-together (particularly sporting-oriented) is without it.  

3. Moderation over Reduced Fat
I thought sacrifice was the key. So, I’d eat reduced-fat cream cheese and the like. My wife declared this disgusting. Why deny yourself the great pleasure of fattening foods? Just don’t go crazy. She was right, of course. 

4. Truffles 
My friggin’ lord. These edible fruiting bodies of the subterranean ascomycete fungi of the genus tuber are some of the best things in the world. I tried them for the first time when I took my wife out for her birthday. Now, I order them whenever I can.  

5. You Know, Cooking Stuff
My wife taught me that they have these huge stores where you can buy food. And, then there are these books (or, now, sites) that have these directions on how to prepare that food into meals. It was like she rehabilitated me and sent me back into the kitchen. It’s amazing. No longer do I order out or follow the directions on the back of the box. I can actually cook, bake, and grill food for myself. Who knew? Now, if you’ll excuse me, my wife is pulling chocolate soufflés out of the oven.

Seth @ 9:51 pm
Filed under: Food
What A Treat: Thoughts On The 2009 San Francisco Fancy Food Show

Posted on Saturday 7 February 2009

Most Heavenly Experience
Walking past the Valor booth, a rep handed Ivy, my business partner (and wife), a cup of warm sipping chocolate. She drank it as we walked down the aisle and then stated out loud, and not directly to me, more to the sky, “This is DIVINE.”

Most Intriguing Derivation of an Established Product
As far as I know, Izze was the first “soda” made from sparkling water and fruit juice (or at least, if not the first to the market, at least the first in my mind—see Rule #3 of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing). Over the last few years, there have been a number of Izze imitations—some by reputable soda brands—but they’ve been just that, imitations. At this year’s show, someone finally took this concept in a new direction. Vignette Wine Country Soda is sweetened with “the juice of California varietal wine grapes.” Flavors include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It seemed to be well-received by the crowd surrounding the booth. The sodas themselves are non-alcoholic. But, don’t worry. The marketing materials at the booth included recipes for making alcoholic drinks. Ironic.

Best “Why Didn’t Anyone Else Think Of That” Idea
Single serve gelato cups by Ciao Bella Gelato. Makes perfect sense. Why open a whole container when you just want a little for yourself? The benefit is obvious to the consumer. From Cia Bella’s perspective, it encourages consumptions. (Of course, from the environment’s perspective, more packaging=bad.)

Best Product That Appealed To Me But May Not Appeal To Everyone
Falafel Chips. Yep. The deliciousness of falafel in chip form. I enjoyed it. But, then I love falafel.

Best Use Of Caramel And Corn
Lehi Valley’s Golden Caramel Corn Nuggets. A light sweet corn puff. My daughter, a Pirate’s Booty fan, would probably love this.

Treat That Tasted As Good As It Looked
Clairesquares. I had seen these on the company’s website before I attended the show. They looked beautiful on the site and when I had the chance to try them, they did not disappoint. Chocolate. Caramel. Shortbread. I could go for one right now. 

Food Trend NASFT Believes Is The Next Big Thing
Japanese food. I glean this from the seminar: “Japanese Foods: Get in Front of Two Upcoming Trends in U.S. Food Consumption.” I didn’t attend the seminar, but to me it either seems that Japanese food has either arrived and become established (teriyaki, sushi) or not yet arrived (you know, if you’re looking beyond teriyaki and sushi). 

Food Trend I Believe Is The Next Big Thing
Indian food. There were several new companies joining the regular attendees and it really felt like these booths were all very crowded. They could barely keep the samosas on their sampling plates. It will be interesting to see if people begin to consider some Indian foods as staples in their kitchen in the same way people always have on hand Asian ingredients such as teriyaki, soy sauce and miso.


I don’t like to point out the bad at events like these… but there were two things that demand mention (though I won’t name names)…

Worst Selling Feature
“It tastes more like real human milk.” Um. No more please.

Most Unforgivable Sales/Marketing Mistake: Not Knowing Your Target
There’s a difference between knowing whom you’re targeting and knowing your target. Here are two examples from the show:

In the first, a company had developed a product that was targeted to people suffering from a certain condition. Familiar with the condition, I began asking a number of pointed questions, but it soon became obvious that the rep could not keep up. I began to tune out his non-answers. It’s the same thing his target audience will do if he doesn’t get more up to speed on their needs.

In the second, I talked to a woman who had a functional food product. She wanted to target it to women because no one was really targeting this product-type to women. Looking at the dark package with bold black electrified lettering, I asked “How is this targeted to women?” “See,” she pointed to the neon glow of color behind the letters. “It’s pink.” 

Seth @ 5:18 pm
Filed under: Food
How Coolio Botox’s His Bird

Posted on Monday 22 December 2008

Ummm. Wow. Uh. Yeah. This is just insane. Rapper Coolio has his own cooking show online:

Click here to see Coolio cooking his game day turkey.

Careful. The language is not safe for work. And the way he “molests” the turkey he’s prepping, well, that’s just not safe for my psyche. Is this for real? You tell me because I can’t tell. I mean, I think if I followed the instructions, I could make a turkey. But, I’d feel really dirty doing it.

Seth @ 10:30 pm
Filed under: Food