When the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) started FMI Connect, its overarching goal was to provide a forum where industry leaders could come together to collaborate and enhance their businesses. The institute always held an annual show until a few years ago when it changed to every other year, but then re-annualized it last year based on member demand.

“Several years ago we did some research among various parts of the industry and we learned there is a general consensus that at one point during the year, the food and consumer product industry needs to come together to learn together, meet together, talk about what’s going on in the business and enhance their business together,” President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin tells Food & Drink International. FMI Connect is a unique, four-day gathering in Chicago for all things food retail that attracts more than 400 retailer companies. The trade show offers more than 40 education sessions and hands-on learning experiences, as well as space equivalent to five football fields for more than 700 exhibitors to display new products, services and innovations. 

Creating a sustainable business strategy is not just a good thing to do for the planet and its residents – it also makes excellent business sense. Building and implementing a strategic plan can grow your company, increase ROI and hike near- and long-term profitability. 

It is so key, in fact, that 44 percent of respondents to Grant Thornton LLP’s State of Sustainability in the Food and Beverage Industry Survey rated sustainability as being extremely important or important in their company’s business strategy.

Your social media manager has a few things to say about how you should be thinking about social when it comes to your business.

Today, there is a shared impression that digital media is making us more open and communicative with one another. We can text endlessly, reach out any time of day through email, post pictures of our exploits and share our experiences with friends halfway around the world. 

Dining out is all about the food and the experience. From the producer, distributor and retailer to the restaurant – how the food is stored, prepared and presented can be a sensory experience that makes you want to come back again and again.

However, unwanted or unpleasant odors can deter from that experience and lead to a false and negative impression of a dining establishment or food market.

Consumer packaged goods manufacturers are having a tough time these days keeping up with changing consumer tastes and demands. Beyond the still present impact of the Great Recession and the related drop in overall spending, certain food categories are struggling to maintain sales, with some seeing year-over-year declines of 3 percent to 5 percent or more.

Four food categories that were once on the top of the growth charts have seen ongoing sales declines over the past five to 10 years, and although they continue to be strong performers in overall sales, the trend is not positive. These four categories are carbonated soft drinks, frozen packaged food, pasta and ready-to-eat cereal. 

No matter the reason – summertime, fantasy football, the holidays, March Madness – alcoholic products take center stage as marketers face the challenge of reaching consumers of all ages across events. But with such a large and diverse drinking audience, how can marketers tailor their campaigns to different drinking demos? 

In a category as broad as the “male drinker,” it is important to uncover even the subtlest of insights and characteristics in order to truly resonate with a variety of audiences. In our experience with clients of all types in the alcholic beverages industry, we have uncovered a few key consumer insights to guide marketers in their quest for authentic connections. 

Of the pizza chains near our house, my wife and I have a clear favorite – it’s relatively big (or seems like it is), its operations seem dependable, its product is consistent, it has a professional-looking logo and graphics package. Basically, the place offers a nice pie and a decent process getting it. In fact, we prefer this pizza to other chains’, and on some nights, we prefer it to the local guys’ pizzas, too. I like supporting local businesses, but sometimes you just want pizza from a well-run franchised operation. Ya know?

All of which leads me to wonder: Why wouldn’t this be the dominant chain? Their product is arguably better, and they rarely fumble an order. 

This message will disappear in 3, 2, 1…

Snapchat, the social messaging app that has taken American teens by storm, has a strong base of 26 million users, the rapt attention of a young core audience, and is facilitating billions of shares per day. Yet, Snapchat is still a largely untapped territory for brands. 

Here are eight things you need to know to get caught up and determine if Snapchat is the right place for your brand’s messaging:

While more than a few food and beverage brands are beginning to exploit the emerging creative opportunities in the online space, many more are still inexperienced with the true potential of digital marketing. For industry decision-makers, understanding how to realize that potential and leverage the advantages of this approach — including best practices for creating digital marketing strategies that better target their ideal demographics — is essential.

Because the digital media landscape occupies such a vast and diverse expanse of virtual real estate, it is a medium that allows for a great deal of highly customized and highly effective targeting in marketing and advertising campaigns. 

A food or beverage product is recalled every day in some part of the United States and around the world. Sometimes the reason for the product recall is because of salmonella or E. coli, which are very serious, and other times it is for undeclared ingredients or something that is not necessarily life-threatening.

Whatever the reason for it, a recall is serious business for a company and it must be prepared to properly handle the situation. 

Tellem Grody PR Inc., based in Los Angeles, developed the “10 Commandments of Recall Crisis Management” to minimize damage to a brand. Of course, the Food and Drug Administration has its own rules that must be followed by companies as well, but those are to protect the public more than the brand. 

“For real? Is this happening?” Those are the questions that ran through my mind as I watched Jon Bon Jovi grab the guitar hanging on the Blue Parrot’s wall and sing “Wanted: Dead or Alive” to the 50 people eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas.

This surreal experience is what people secretly hope for when patronizing celebrity boîtes; I can hit a hot-spot, eat amazing food, and maybe, just maybe, chill with Justin Timberlake or Michael Jordan or Mark Wahlberg. 

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.

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