Archive for April, 2016

Holy Ingenious Marketing, Batman!

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Freestanding display in a health food store.

Bake-At-Home Bread? These loaves already appear to be fully baked. And according to the promo they stay fresh for months not days.

Sounds delish.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best! Holy ingenious (albeit disingenuous) marketing, Batman.

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Clean Eating Trend, Good News or Bad?

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Fresh produce and open air markets.

Is the clean eating trend good news for us? I’d say yes! For consumers, and society as a whole, we are all better off eating a more healthful diet. But not everyone is happy.

Sometimes, when I read a food industry trade magazine, I wonder: who are these people and why are they writing such nonsense? In a recent issue of Bake magazine I found a convoluted article, The paradox of choice, which explained their side.

The article began by talking about consumer TV habits. “Not long ago, Nielsen released an eye-opening report on the television watching habits of Americans. Despite the fact that the average number of TV channels received by US households increased dramatically from 128 to 189 within five years (a 48 percent jump), the average number of channels actually watched remained flat at just 17. More channels did not equate to viewing a wider selection.”

Apparently, they believe the number of increased stations should mean people can increase their viewing to match what’s available. Sadly, these folks don’t realize there’s a finite number of hours in each day. People chose from what’s available and if there are new programs, they stop watching older ones.

The article moved on, to the food analogy. “The same can be said about consumer eating habits. While Americans are moving in all sorts of different directions, as people become increasingly more selective about the foods they will and won’t eat, the overall number of food and beverage occasions consumed by the average consumer is flat, according to a new report by The NPD Group.”

Why, yes, of course the number of food and beverage occasions remains flat. Most people are not eating more, they are replacing what they eat with new choices. And with the healthy food trend, people are choosing healthier foods. Good for them! Trends happen, people change, and this trend bodes well for the other trends: eat natural, eat local, support your small businesses. And these small local businesses produce foods with fewer chemicals. Isn’t that a good thing?

Uh, oh, I kept reading. “Another equally menacing fact for food manufacturers and food retailers is consumers’ increasing demand for purity in their foods and beverages. Consumers are avoiding adulterated elements and looking for natural and fresh foods and beverages, as well as avoiding some of the processed foods on which many major food companies base their business.”

“Another equally menacing fact”? That seems to be a shame. But it sure is great for most home-based bakers who don’t usually add chemicals to their homemade baked goods.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Thinking Outside the Dinner Kit, part two

Friday, April 15th, 2016

In the last post we talked about mail order meals. The concept is a combination of take-out and delivery updated for the lifestyle and income of a market segment. As Hello Fresh explains, “We do it all for you; from creating the recipes and planning the meals, to grocery shopping and even delivering all of the pre-measured ingredients right to your door!”

Meals in a box is not a new idea. Many eateries have had it on the menu as boxed lunches. My bakery & café sold these very popular items for business meetings. We also delivered individual boxes during lunch time so workaholics didn’t have to leave the office. Over time, our boxed lunches expanded to include breakfast and dinner take-out.

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For hometown businesses that would like to capture some of this business, the concept can be adapted to your local customers and economy. If your cottage food law regulations allow, this meal delivery idea is truly home-made, local, and super fresh. And less work, since the customer will put together their sandwich from your ingredients. Everyone wins!

Other mealtime options: Some businesses send meal delivery to office buildings. Sourdough Stacy, a small hometown business, made sandwiches on fresh homemade sourdough bread. She piled the sandwiches in a large basket along with cookies and brownies, and made the rounds in a few office buildings. People knew when she would be there; they could order ahead or pick from what she brought that day.

Another meal delivery idea is catering to market segments, such as kids’ lunches for busy parents. In a local Arlington Massachusetts newspaper, Lisa Farrell, owner of Red Apple Lunch said, “There is this whole idea around kids and food and that having healthy food is so important to them. But it’s not easy to get healthy options, especially having parents invested in their careers and family. It’s hard to make it all meet.”

Home-Based Baking at its Best! With thought and creativity, and a good business plan, some of these concepts may work for you.

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Thinking Outside the (Mail Order Dinner Kit) Box

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Next week we’ll talk about adapting this concept to your local area.

Have you seen the current food rage? Meal kits in a box, delivered to your door from far off businesses with names such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Green Blender, and Peach Dish.

Now that we have this mailed-to-your-door convenience, why should anyone bother thinking about a menu, making a shopping list, trudging to the store, fighting the crowds, dragging groceries back home, then prepping a meal – all this before we even eat? And then we have to clean up when we’re finished! Makes no sense, right? Especially when we now have this meal-in-a-box alternative.

Why bother shopping and preparing your meals when there's a new easier way to plan, purchase, and fix dinner?

For those of you who haven’t seen the latest fad in food preparation, here’s an article from the New York Times,   It’s Dinner in a Box. But Are Meal Delivery Kits Cooking?

“Some analysts say meal kits show classic signs of a bubble that may already be leaking air. They [analysts] make comparisons to the rise and fall of the grocery delivery service Webvan in the first wave of the tech boom, or meal assembly storefronts, where cooks pick recipes online and then show up to put together what are essentially fancy casseroles from precut ingredients. Such companies once opened at a rate of 40 a month in the early 2000s but have faded from view.”

Sometimes odd or unusual ideas take hold and turn from fad to long-term trend. It’s definitely too early for us to know. The Times article goes on to talk about past “new” innovations (frozen foods, microwaves, bagged lettuce) that initially appeared as fads but have become solid parts of our culture. With this new business idea, we’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, the meal kit delivery venture has received some good press. But positive press or not, my first concern is with the PR spin from respected, outspoken chefs and authors who are promoting this new business model. They might be more interested in encouraging the trend because of their own business possibilities, than with the long-term impact mail order meals have on our lifestyle and communities.

If you’re interested in this concept, think it through and document ideas in your business plan. Think about the cost for putting together this kind of venture. Who is your target market for buying mail-order meal kits? Think about the competition. It’s not just from businesses already in the game (plus new ones that will appear soon), it’s also the businesses adversely affected – businesses such as take-out shops and local supermarkets that will come up with their own in-store response to easy meals.

For businesses like yours: with a commitment to buying local, supporting other home-town businesses and local farmers; keeping a small footprint; and avoiding too much packaging; there can be ways for you to create a local version of meal delivery.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Next week we’ll talk about some innovative ideas for creating your own meal delivery business.

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