3 Steps to Get People Talking about Your Brand

This blog is the second in a series by Danette Amstein excerpted from a Brand Building presentation she delivered at NAMI’s Meat Industry Management Conference in April, 2016.

Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, it’s hard to miss the ubiquitous Starbucks on nearly every corner, or at least every few blocks.  Even small communities have a local Starbucks; they’re everywhere, right? Heck, now you can get your favorite Mocha Frappuccino at Target or the grocery store.  And the thing about Starbucks is, you always know what you’re getting.  Walk into any Starbucks from Seattle to Schenectady, and you can count on a consistent product.

Red umbrellaOnce upon a time, making a consistent, quality product was enough to be successful.  But in the 1950’s, consumer packaged goods companies like Procter and Gamble and General Foods realized that they needed to differentiate their products from “the other guy’s.”   Branding, or giving a product an identity that distinguishes it from nearly-indistinguishable competitors, was born.

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Brand Building: Finding the Sweet Spot

IMG_9030 - DA at NAMI

Danette takes a selfie with attendees of her Brand Building presentation at NAMI’s Meat Industry Management Conference, April 5, 2016

Anyone who sells anything for a living has heard the old adage, “The customer is always right.”  This little nugget is more relevant than ever in today’s customer-centric economy.  Now that consumers have only to click a button to get products from kayaks to kazoos delivered to their door within hours, businesses that don’t focus on the buyer’s needs can’t survive or thrive.

Keeping your attention on the target consumer is critical, but it’s only part of the equation when it comes to another key factor in business success:  branding.   We all consume hundreds of brands every day:  Did you grab a coffee at Starbucks this morning?  Are you reading this blog on an Apple iSomething?  Will you drive home in a VW or a BMW?  In today’s uber-branded world, the challenge to brand effectively is daunting.  How do you tell your product’s story so that it stands out from others?

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AMC 2016 Top 10

Midan_team_AMC_2016

As a team, Midan’s focus at AMC 2016 was to listen and learn.  We took pages and pages of notes, capturing stats, quotes and key findings.  Back at the office, we sifted through all the content and created our own long list of the most important takeaways.  Here’s what we think were the top 10.  If you were there, let us know if you agree.  If you didn’t attend, but have questions, please reach out – we love to share what we learned!

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Wait– I have a coupon for that!

I have a confession to make:  I have become an Extreme Couponer. All the signs are there: I’ve developed a pattern for watching my most lucrative stores for bargains and super deals. I know and use terms like Catalina, MFG, MQs, blinkies, peelies and stacking. And I have no less than five jars of spaghetti sauce in my cabinets. (The big ones — and I paid only $4 for all of them!)

In fact, I have now successfully navigated three ‘super doubles’ couponing events at my local grocery stores!  ‘Super doubles’ is when a grocery store doubles coupons, in some cases doubling manufacturer coupons worth up to $2.00. So while I’m by no means an expert in extreme couponing, I AM highly enthusiastic about the impact it has already had on my family’s grocery budget. There are three of us in my little family unit and while our budget has increased some since I landed my dream job as an Administrative Assistant at Midan Marketing, it is certainly not unlimited.  Shoppers like me who save by couponing for common household needs and side items will have extra cash to purchase more roasts, ribs and steaks than before!

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Dinner at the Door: A Review of Online Meal Delivery Services

I have discovered something: I actually like to cook!  I just don’t like to plan meals and I despise standing in front of the frig with the door open, trying to figure out what I am going to feed my hungry clan. Because I work full-time and am a busy mom and wife, my time for meal planning and shopping is limited. A typical week for me includes three to four soccer practices plus church functions and chauffeuring kids to their activities – all after work!

Like many moms, I find great satisfaction in sitting down and eating as a family. I work hard to protect mealtime and try to make dinner at least four nights a week. I was curious as to how an online meal delivery service could help make this happen.

Online meal delivery services are not a new concept, but the niche certainly has been reinvigorated in the last 18 months. Here at Midan we knew we needed to learn more. So, as Shonda started researching online grocery services, I decided to investigate the meal services counterpart. I ordered from both Blue Apron and Home Chef for a couple of weeks each, to “test drive” the concept.

 

Thoughts on Blue Apron

Everything you need for dinner in one Blue Apron box

Everything you need for dinner in one Blue Apron box

Blue Apron is a three-year-old start-up now delivering five million meals a month. The menu is set each week. You cannot select for specific dietary restrictions, which could easily be a detriment for some. The first week I ordered four meals for four people. The meals cost $8.74/person, which includes shipping. The ingredients arrived plenty cold but in LOTS of packaging. My first impression was that all this packaging can’t be good for anyone but the recycling center. (Complaints from customers have led Blue Apron to put a recycling program in place where they retrieve and reuse the packaging.)

The recipes sounded good. Some of our favorites included Fennel- and Thyme-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and White Balsamic Pepperonata and Flat Iron Steak and Fines Herbs Butter with Garlic, Potato and Red Pepper Hash.  The pictures and instructions provided were easy enough to follow, although there were no one-dish-wonders like I often gravitate to in my stable of easy, quick meals. There was a lot of clean up; we always had several cutting boards and pots and pans to be washed. Every meal we received was tasty but my teenage son did declare that most of the meals were too “frou frou” for him. With the higher cost of beef, very little beef was sent, which certainly wasn’t to our liking either!

My biggest complaint:  Blue Apron said the meal would average 40 minutes from start to finish. That was never the case; there was usually 40 minutes of prep time before the cooking began, which lead to a few late night dinners.

 

 Thoughts on Home Chef

Home Chef launched in Chicago in 2013. This summer they reported they were shipping 70,000 meals per month. Home Chef does allow you to select for different dietary preferences, which is a plus. To accommodate family preferences, we tried the low-carb, gluten-free selections. Each week before the cut-off time, I was able to go in and confirm I wanted what they had selected for my family or change to another offering. The appetizing photography often caused me to swap one item for another.

Home Chef ingredients conveniently packaged together

Home Chef ingredients conveniently packaged together

Home Chef seemed to use fewer ingredients and ingredients were already prepped (e.g., the garlic was peeled and ready to be minced). The prep timing was more accurate, and Home Chef includes nutrition facts, which gets a gold star from me. The cost per meal is $9.95 and I usually had enough leftovers for one or two lunches. And, there was way more beef!  We had flat iron and sirloin steaks, which were delicious!  The pork chops and pork tenderloin were also excellent. 

 

Overall thoughts

Do I like this type of program?  Yes! Although I entered this as a “research project,” I was surprised by how much I liked it.
Did I continue after the test? Yes, but with only two meals a week, as that seems to be the right amount for our family and allowed me to get the kids’ favs back on the menu.
Are they more expensive than homemade meals? Yes, but this is offset by me not having to spend a good chunk of my weekends meal planning, checking inventory and shopping. Having some leftovers to take to the office for lunches also helps me justify the cost.
What was the quality of the meat and produce? I’ve got to admit, I was skeptical about how the meat and produce would look when it arrived, but I was pleasantly surprised. All of the produce was outstanding and in the eight weeks I tested, I only had one case-ready leaker: fish!  Each vacuum-sealed package of beef, pork and chicken I received was excellent. All the beef was Select grade, which I understood given the price point they have to hit. The Blue Apron pork and chicken was branded; the beef and pork I received from Home Chef was not.
Can you skip shipments?  Yes, both companies have a great app that allows you to see what is coming and skip that week’s shipment if you want/need to.

 

The biggest benefits

The biggest benefit was the convenience of knowing what we were having and that I had all of the ingredients on hand!  This is a HUGE plus for a busy mom!  While it was my job to have salt, pepper and olive oil on hand (easy enough), everything else – even spices – is included and pre-measured, which means there was no waste.

Easy-to-follow recipes from Home Chef

Easy-to-follow recipes from Home Chef

One benefit I had not anticipated was that the instructions were so good (step-by-step with photos and often a video), that I left my 14-year-old son and his buddy in charge of starting dinner while I ran to pick up my daughter. Most evenings my husband and I prepare the meal together, which gives us time to catch up and is one of the main reasons I have discovered I love to cook. Quality time with the fam, cooking and eating…the benefit of the warm fuzzies has made this experiment well worth the effort!

Retailers, I don’t think it will be too long before you will need to embrace this concept in some way to keep your VIP customers coming into your stores. I like the idea of picking up pre-measured, all-ingredients-included meals for a set price when I need a quick dinner solution. Along with providing the ultimate convenience, an in-store option like this would also eliminate shipping costs and require less packaging.

Packers and processors, if you are not in discussions with companies who play in this space, what are you waiting for?  Forging relationships now could help you grow later. Along with options like online meal delivery service, talk to your current brick-and-mortar customers about how they plan to deliver fresh meals to customers who want to spend less time shopping and more time cooking. Be a part of the solution for these customers now so you can be a part of their success later.

 

Have you tried an online meal delivery service?  I would love to hear about your experience! Leave a comment here or email me d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.

 

Groceries delivered to my door?
Sign me up!

I’ll admit it. The thought of trading in the grocery store checkout line for an online cart to buy my weekly groceries puts a little spring in my step. I appreciate that I am heavily involved in the meat industry and have a deep love for brick and mortar stores, but the promise of groceries delivered to my front door intrigued me enough to try it out.

Online grocery is one of the great comeback stories. After the first online grocery delivery company Homegrocer.com failed during the dot-com bust of the 2000s, smart business people perfected the formula and they have returned stronger, more diverse and with better IPOs than ever before. Online grocers like AmazonFresh.com, FreshDirect.com and DoortoDoorOrganics.com are skipping brick and mortar stores for a strong online presence with regionally-based distribution warehouses and privately-owned delivery trucks. In 2014 IBIS World reported that online grocery sales had grown at a 14.1% annual rate over the past five years. In addition, profit estimates were $927 million, which is 8.5% of total revenue. For comparison, brick and mortar stores are at an average of 1.3% total revenue (FMI). Online grocery is only growing, with 54% of online grocery shoppers increasing their spending over the past year (Watson, 2015).

What does this mean for the meat industry?

For the right grocery shopper, online grocery can be a life saver. While it truly has the potential to replace or at least fill in the gaps of a regular grocery shopping trip (and that even goes for fresh meat sales), there is a price for convenience. From my estimates, an online shopper will pay more, but in the long run it’s an opportunity cost comparison. If the time saved by shopping online versus going to a brick and mortar store is greater, shoppers will increasingly make the switch. For meat suppliers, that means playing the game and working to create fruitful relationships with online grocery businesses. However, when trying to forge the sale, it will be important to have a good grasp of an online grocery’s unique buying, selling and distribution business model.

In order for brick and mortar grocery stores to compete, Meat Directors or Meat Managers need to constantly be giving consumers a reason to physically come into a store. That means emphasizing convenience, value and product freshness, along with unique advertising campaigns to peak and maintain a customer’s interest. Some retailers have been successful with a hybrid model that allows customers to order online and pick up bagged and ready to go groceries at the store’s front door. While this does require a bit of infrastructure and systems in place on behalf of the retailer to succeed, it also may require meat suppliers to produce specialty cuts or packaging for the retailer.

Who’s the customer?

I am the epitome of an online grocery consumer target. About five years ago — otherwise known as B.C. (before child) — I was a busy professional single whose clean refrigerator held nothing more than a half-gallon of skim milk and a few premium steaks in the freezer. Now I am a busy professional mom who can barely squeeze two gallons of whole milk, several frozen ground beef chubs and an entire pork loin into my over-stuffed refrigerator.

In either case, trips to the grocery store have always been a burden. Since I was often in grocery stores for professional reasons at the start of my career, I could find a thousand alternate things to do than hit the local grocer for personal items, and now it’s often comical to watch my 2-year-old’s grubby fingers pull random items off the shelves. Voila! Enter my reason for trying online grocery with front- door delivery.

Because I have a self-diagnosed obsession with online reviews, I have compared and contrasted three major online groceries in that format. Since only a few online grocers deliver to my region in Kansas City, I roped some friends into receiving packages on my behalf with the promise of free steak. Each is a potential online grocery customer as well: a busy professional single and a busy professional mom.

Let’s dig in!

The Basics
amazonfresh-logo-190915_150px

AmazonFresh.com4stars

Locations served:
New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Southern California, Northern California and Seattle

Who got the delivery:
My high- powered single friend in San Diego

Fresh-Direct_150pxFreshDirect.com

3stars

Locations served:
New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia and areas of Delaware and Connecticut

Who got the delivery:
My cousin, the busy professional and mom of two

door-to-door_150pxDoortoDoorOrganics.com

3stars

Locations served:
parts of Colorado, Kansas City, Chicago, Michigan and parts of the NE

Who got the delivery:
Me, the meat industry professional and mom

Ease in Online Ordering
5stars

I’ll be honest. I love shopping on Amazon.com! I read all the customer reviews, I religiously use the sorting capabilities and I even get excited over the “frequently bought together” suggestions. So when I had the opportunity to buy groceries in the same way, I was excited! Aside from forcing an available delivery zip code in order to browse items, AmazonFresh.com’s online ordering lived up to the hype and more!

3stars

FreshDirect’s online ordering was antiquated at best. Their online ordering mirrors that of an actual brick and mortar store with categorizations, cross merchandising and a large number of offerings, but their system does not have nearly the bells and whistles as other websites. The scheduling system was a bit confusing, and their check-out process seemed to take forever. Overall, they are due for an upgrade.

5stars

DoortoDoor organics online ordering was designed with the consumer in mind. Their website is truly beautiful, and their advance categorizations and enticing photography elevate the overall feel. They also have quick reference icons communicating various brand attributes along with a one click Shop By Recipe® function! Whoever designed their website knew how to appeal to consumers.

Pricing and Offering
2stars

AmazonFresh.com relies on suppliers to set actual product pricing, and for the offered regional and specialty brands, the pricing seemed in line with what they would normally cost at a brick and mortar store. The prohibitive costs are the incremental ones. There is a $299 annual signup fee for a PrimeFresh membership and a minimum $50 subtotal just to get the first delivery.

4stars

Pricing for FreshDirect is slightly more than what would be found in a brick and mortar store, but still not out of reach. They do not have a minimum order requirement but instead charge a flat fee of $7.99 for deliveries. There is an optional DeliveryPassSM subscription which is a maximum of $119/year with a minimum order of $30. I’m intrigued!

3stars

Because DoortoDoorOrganics is a hybrid subscription meal planner and online grocery, to get a delivery you must be subscribed to a “Produce Box,” which start at $25.99. Once you’re subscribed, you can shop the store, but be forewarned – all items are either organic or natural, and inherently pricey.

 

Delivery and Packaging
5stars

Among many things AmazonFresh does right, their delivery and packaging is on point! They make marketing magic with branded green delivery trucks, matching cooler bags and branded freezer packs. Refrigerated items even have special quick teardown Styrofoam sides that help protect deliveries from the hot sun. The beef items themselves were delivered frozen in wax paper wrapping, which made the steaks have a “local butcher” feel. This was definitely a nice selling point.

1star

On the plus side, FreshDirect delivery was perfectly timed; however, their packaging was less than desirable. The steaks were in traditional overwrap packaging, but then just thrown into a large cardboard box with no protection or way to keep the product cool, especially in the summer. The promise of convenience dissipates if a customer has to be home to receive his/her groceries.

3stars

First off, delivery was on time as promised; however, the packaging was way over done. There was literally enough padding and freezer packs to safely ship a delicate icicle to the Sahara and have it arrive safely. It is important to note that there was communication printed on the packing asking recipients to set everything out during normal delivery days so it could be returned and reused. Trouble is, not all customers will do that, which leaves their “better for the earth” vibe an empty promise.

 

What’s the final word?

In the long run I do not believe online grocery will replace the brick and mortar store completely, but it certainly has the potential to steal share from the U.S. grocery market as a whole.

What are your thoughts about online grocery? Tell us in the comments below.

 


 

IBIS World. (2014, December). Online Grocery Sales in the US: Market Research Report. Retrieved July 24, 2015, from IBIS World: http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/online-grocery-sales.html

FMI. (n.d.). Supermarket Facts. Retrieved July 23, 2015, from Research Resources: http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts

Watson, E. (2015, July 7). Online grocery shippers are upping their spending online, but remain wary of buying fresh produce, says new survey. Retrieved July 23, 2015, from FoodNavigator-USA.com: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Online-grocery-shoppers-are-upping-their-spending-online-survey

 

Resolve to Own Protein in 2016

It’s easy to guess what the top New Year’s resolutions are every January:  lose weight, get in shape, eat better, right?  (Raise your hand if you’ve picked one of these.)

The start of a new year,shutterstock_334226393 when people enthusiastically resolve to focus on their health and wellness, is a great time to be in the fresh meat industry. In order to capitalize on all the ways that meat can help the health-conscious achieve their goals, it’s important to understand two key factors challenging today’s meat consumption.

Fad Diets are Trending Down

Although the new year is the perfect time to promote lean meat to help build muscle and lose fat, interest in high-protein diets like the Paleolithic Diet appears to be fading. According to Google Trends, online searches for “Paleolithic Diet,” “Primal Diet” and other high-protein diets have been dropping significantly since 2013, reaching an all-time low in 2015. Plant-based diets, however, appear to be on the rise.

So, all those folks who were flocking to the meat case for their high-protein fix aren’t so much these days. But while high-protein diets might be losing their appeal, balanced diets are always in style. So while you might not get as many Caveman dieters, you can still lure lots of folks who are trying to eat well and maintain a healthy weight. Lean beef and pork deliver the high-quality protein every body needs all year long. We in the meat industry need to make sure consumers understand this.

Alternate Protein Sources aren’t Slowing Down

While Americans might be fickle about their fad diets, their love affair with protein seems to be going strong. Unfortunately for the meat industry, people are often choosing their protein in the dairy case instead of the meat case. The current Greek yogurt craze is just one example. Many consumers have shifted away from meat in the past year. According to our Protein and the Plate research:

  • 70% of consumers said they substitute non-meat protein for fresh meat once a week
  • 20% of meat eaters said they are replacing fresh meat more often than they did a year ago

While consumers have an increased awareness of the importance of protein, they aren’t always turning to one of the best sources on the planet to get it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the meat industry needs to OWN protein!  We are missing out if we don’t shout it from the rooftops and plaster it on the package and all marketing materials.

Fresh Meat:  The Perfect Diet Food

Let’s face it:  those gung-ho consumers with their New Year’s resolutions might not make it to the gym as often as they like (myself included), but there’s little doubt they’ll get to the grocery store. Be ready with products and messaging that help them start the new year on the right foot, with the right protein:  fresh meat.

The time is now to communicate how fresh meat is the ideal protein source for a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure your websites and social media posts are talking about it and start planning now to get this important messaging in store and on packages.

Check out these “Protein Builds” videos from Maple Leaf Foods that effectively relay the importance of protein in a healthy diet.

Leave a comment or email me directly at d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.  I love to hear from you!

2015 Recap: Pay attention to these 3 things

When the calendar hits December 1, it’s time to start checking to see if we made the “nice” list or not! (I have confirmed my status…how about you!?!)  As 2015 comes to a close, we also pause to reflect on the significant events that have shaped our industry this year, and consider how they might impact 2016.   As I look back across the major headlines from the past year, three main themes seem to form:

  1. Prices/Supply – Oh, what a roller coaster ride 2015 has been! Beef prices found new ceilings, pork prices leveled out before taking a nose dive the last few weeks. Was any topic more talked about in the media and meat company board rooms across the country this past year?  The good news is that 2016 is bringing greener pastures, literally, thanks to much-needed rain, so more cows are being retained.  Pork producers are also breathing a sigh of relief that the PEDv outbreak is behind them.  The conditions are ripe for increases in supply with less volatile pricing, and that is something we can all be thankful for!
  1. Niches – We live in a world where specialization is becoming the norm, not the exception, and this trend has resulted in niche meat brands and products that cater to specific lifestyle and dietary needs. For some consumers, antibiotic-free is a trigger; for others, it’s animal welfare. We stopped selling one-size-fits-all meat a while ago, and in 2015 we saw further fragmentation. It will serve us well to figure out which niches are feasible to cater to and then build the brands and products to meet those needs.
  1. Health/Wellness – 2015 brought its share of headlines that tied meat with health, like whether lean meat would still be part of the Dietary Guidelines or the IARC’s report that processed meat causes cancer. But when we’re talking about meat and health, let’s not forget protein. “Protein” is a word we have to continue fighting to own. Meat is the ultimate source of protein, and if you are not calling that out in your consumer messaging, it is time to get on the bandwagon.

As we wrap up 201shutterstock_328379666 (1)5, I encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking of the ramifications of these themes.  In order for us to succeed in 2016, we have to keep our pulse on what consumers are doing and what is influencing their behaviors.  What do you think?  Do you agree with my assessment or did I miss something?  What do you think the main headlines will be in 2016?  I always appreciate your comments.

Cheers to 2016!

Trade Publications – Are they being read?

At Midan Marketing, we like to get a full view of the fresh meat industry – from producers to consumers and everyone in between. When we’re not studying consumers who purchase and consume fresh meat products, we’re talking to retailers and packer/processors about everything from best processing and merchandising practices to technology and innovation.

Recently, we surveyed retailers and packer/processors to better understand their media consumption habits. We asked them about what they’re reading, how frequently they are reading and how they prefer to get their news. We’ve been conducting this survey every other year since 2009, and for the first time, saw some shifts in how the industry is receiving the news. Below are some of the key findings from the survey.

1. Too many magazines, too little time.iphone_in hand_v1
You’re not alone if you can’t find the time to get through your stack of industry reading; our survey indicates that 53% of your counterparts aren’t either.

2. Newsflash: print is old news.
It’s no surprise that the trend is moving strongly to online (online had the highest readership at more than 80%) and away from print (print’s highest readership was less than 30%). So, if you want to get the most bang for your advertising dollars, you should consider focusing more heavily on online.

3. Ads are getting noticed.
Retail advertising and trade articles are sparking an interest or leading to an inquiry or purchasing decision for 76% of respondents (73% in 2013).

4. Don’t be a meathead; get on the social media bandwagon!
While the industry continues to use Facebook (43%) and Twitter (28%) to promote their companies and brands, use of these sites is declining compared to previous years. The proliferation of newer social media outlets, including Instagram, may be diluting their use. If you want to catch up to today’s tech-savvy consumers, you need to adapt to new social platforms faster.

What do you think? Do these findings align with your media consumption habits? I’d love to hear your thoughts. To learn more about Midan’s public relations and creative communications capabilities, contact me at c.ahn@midanmarketing.com. Thanks for reading!

photo-credit