Craft beer has experienced exponential growth in the United States and throughout the world over the past decade as consumers have come to appreciate the variety of styles and phenomenal quality that result from the dedication of smaller, local beer producers.

Although beer figures declined overall in 2013, craft beer continued to experience another year of double-digit growth, including 49 percent growth in the export of American craft beer, according to the Brewers Association. Craft beer may have started the movement, but it is not the only category of artisanal beverages experiencing rapid growth in today’s marketplace. 

First it was gourmet cake pops and cupcakes. Today, fancy macaroons and donuts. Tomorrow, it’s the “cronut” – a hybrid donut/croissant making its rise in New York and L.A. The only constant thing about millennials and their food tastes is that they are always changing. 

Contributing writer Tesla Martinez spoke with Brent Toevs, CEO of Marley Coffee, to get his perspective on taking a food or drink company global. Marley Coffee, founded by Bob Marley’s son, Rohan Marley, is a sustainably grown and ethically farmed gourmet coffee company.

There’s an emerging conversation among supply chain leaders at major food and ingredients companies about the concept of “food miles,” and how the extended supply chain is reaching a point where we could face a situation where the food chain becomes unsustainable in certain parts of the world.

If you’ve ever wondered what world-famous chefs do for spring break, ask Lee Brian Schrager. The mastermind behind the Food Network’s South Beach and New York City Wine and Food Festivals has hosted the likes of Emeril, Anthony Bourdain, Bobby Flay and Martha Stewart at these charity-supporting food and wine events for more than a decade, and the party is just getting started. 

Just how short are we talking?

In late June, the formal announcement of Instagram’s new 15-second video feature immediately met with speculation about whether 15 seconds was too long or too short. Would people fail to engage with a whole 15-second video? Or is six seconds, the established limit for Twitter’s Vine app, too short now by comparison? Which will users prefer? Which will marketers prefer? 

The economic downturn has been tough on many restaurant chains, but even as the economy continues to improve, owners are finding that further steps are needed to enhance profitability and ensure continued success. Keeping struggling locations afloat and turning them into contributing units within a system are key aspects to strong, long-term financial performance. 

In the highly competitive restaurant industry, the “new normal” approach to optimizing occupancy costs combines renegotiating more favorable lease terms with remodeling locations to boost revenue. When done correctly, these strategies can be beneficial for landlord and tenant alike. In fact, a joint approach between the restaurant operator and the property owner minimizes risk and expense for both parties, while increasing return on investment for all involved.

Observe the refrigerated and freezer section of any supermarket or grocery store that still has open cases. What you’ll see is shivering shoppers rushing to the registers, products that appear washed out by bad lighting and scuffed, dirty cases that accumulate dirt and repel buyers. It is a universal phenomenon.

“I shop at two stores, one is close to home and has open cases and the other is 15 minutes away, but they have new closed cases,” says Kristin Manning of Charleston, S.C. “I try to avoid the one closest to home because the store just looks run-down, plus the cold cases are all open, so the store always feels like a meat locker. In fact, we call it ‘the meat locker.’

Gluten-free is becoming the latest trend in food consumption, even among those who can tolerate gluten. One-third of U.S. adults reported by January that they want to cut down or be free of gluten in their diets, according to The NPD Group’s Dieting Monitor. This is the highest percentage making this claim since the NPD Group began asking the question in 2009. 

We know people are still watching television. We know people are consuming food-related media in social networks. And we know they’re especially active in social networks while watching television. This convergence can mean big opportunities for brands if they know where to look.

Before we dive into the opportunities, let’s discuss our target and learn more about what they’re doing.

Recipe Revolution

The Hartman Group’s 2012 report Clicks and Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture provides strategic insight into how social media has transformed the “lifecycle of a meal.” In the past, recipes and meal choices were influenced by Mom’s old recipe box, family traditions and cookbooks, and we consumed our meals together, around the table. Today’s home cooks, whatever their skill levels, seem to be driven into the kitchen by multiple social channels, mobile apps, restaurant reviews that are detailed enough to celebrate specific meals, television programs, bloggers and the recommendations found within their own personal networks.

If you follow industry and consumer trends at all, you know there is renewed interest in wellness. “Wellness” carries a number of definitions, depending on who one asks, but at its core is the desire to live a more healthful life, with various levels of exercise, nutrition and even sustainability as part of the mix.

A less apparent but important trend is one of retailers – food retailers in particular – working to connect more effectively with shoppers. Price has taken on a lower priority, partly due to changing economics, and partly due to the price dominance of Walmart and Amazon. Price-only shoppers know where to go; all others are looking for value but with more than just the over-used and under-delivered “low prices” claim.

A friend of mine lives in a nice neighborhood where a lot of doctors live, and he takes walks. One day, one of the doctor-neighbors stopped him and blurted out, “Y’know, I, well, it’s just that … ” Basically, all the doctors in the neighborhood had noticed that my friend had a condition that to the trained eye meant he should seek treatment.

Most of us didn’t see anything wrong, but the experts did. Do you ever wonder what the self-appointed doctors of social media would say about you?

The 2013 Sweets and Snacks Expo May 21 to 23 at Chicago’s McCormick Place continues to expand its status as a global resource for products, innovations and insights. Companies from 23 countries have secured booths or pavilions on the show’s floor.

More than 570 confectionery, cookie and snack companies are expected to participate in the expo sponsored by the National Confectioners Association (NCA). “NCA recognizes the power of U.S. brands around the world and the expo serves as a destination for global markets to come together,” Larry Graham, president of NCA, said in a statement. “The 2013 expo is the ideal venue to connect with industry professionals from around the world and to discover international products and trends that will set retailers apart from the rest.”

Large deals typically involve international operations, which are where a deal can stumble if the M&A team is not mindful of local jurisdictions.

With the recent acquisition of the Skippy® peanut butter line by Hormel Foods Corp. and the announcement that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital Inc. will acquire H.J. Heinz Co., analysts are predicting the beginning of a wave of mergers for the food and drink industry, particularly staple food companies. Almost all of the mega-deals being announced in the food and drink industry have some international operations, and buyers and sellers should analyze applicable merger control rules and develop a plan for addressing any such issues early in the transaction. Merger control rules, which regulate transactions based on their effect on business competition, vary by jurisdiction and can delay a transaction unless the parties follow all necessary steps to gain regulatory approval in each applicable jurisdiction.

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