Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making Headlines

So much has happened in the past 12 months! Many food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies made headlines in 2010. Let's take a look back at the top CPG stories of the year.

2009 ended with a huge announcement from Pepsi. The soft drink company ditched its Super Bowl advertising and instead spent $20 million this year on the Pepsi Refresh Project, awarding grants to individuals, communities, and organizations to make a difference across the country. To date, more than 61 million votes have been cast, resulting in 351 projects netting $14.6 million from the company.

Throughout the year, many states battled a soda tax, with politicians in cities nationwide boycotting sugary beverages and demanding a fee from consumers who choose to purchase soft drinks, flavored water, and juice containing high levels of sugar. When voters headed to the polls, their voices were heard; the tax was rejected and many organizations have backed away from the initiative for now.

Only a few short months after unveiling its 100% compostable bag, SunChips announced in October that they would silence their efforts after consumers complained about the loud biodegradable packaging. The company has gone back to the drawing board and plans to reveal a new, quieter, environmentally friendly package in the coming year.

In 2010, snack companies united for a common cause. Knowing that eating healthy has become a top priority for consumers, several food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies banded together and vowed to reduce calories, sodium, trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, and the like from their products.

Food and beverage CPG companies got creative with their promotions this year. Frito-Lay toured the United States with a Mobile Greenhouse designed to bring a rural farm experience to metropolitan areas like New York City, Boston, and Chicago. The tour allowed visitors the opportunity to interact first-hand with plants, meet a Lay's potato farmer, and enjoy interactive stations. Heinz also hit the road this year with a Road Trip to introduce its new Dip and Squeeze packaging.

Other food topics dominating headlines in 2010 include this summer's recall of more than half a billion eggs after a salmonella outbreak, and the great bacon craze churning out everything from soda to popcorn. In addition, Mountain Dew once again completed a successful Dewmocracy campaign, and brands like Pop-Tarts, Wonka, and Disney bested the economy by opening retail stores in New York's Times Square.

What headlines will you remember from 2010? Tell me about the news stories you recall dominating headlines this past year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

While I love all the holiday specials on TV this time of year, I have to admit, there are some Christmas commercials that I wait all year to see. I get very excited to watch these spots and am sometimes happier to see these ads than hear Charlie-in-the Box sing about the Island of Misfit Toys or watch innocent Cindy Loo Who buy into lies from the Grinch. Here are some of my all time favorite holiday commercials:

Eat'n Park is a Pittsburgh area restaurant that's been around since 1949. In 1982, the company wanted to create a holiday card on video to thank the city for their support. The result was an ad that has become a Christmas classic and a holiday staple. This commercial is not just my favorite Christmas commercial, it's my favorite 30-second spot of all time! I hope you like it as much as I do.

Other Christmas commercials from food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies and retailers also do a phenomenal job of adding to the holiday season. Take a look:

Leave a comment and tell me: What are some of your favorite holiday commercials? I hope you get to see them this season! Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Looking into the Crystal Ball

As 2010 comes to a close, it's time to look forward to next year and the food trends that will dominate the headlines. Based on this year's hot topics and current industry conditions, here is what I believe you can expect to see in 2011:
What do you think will happen within the food and beverage CPG industry next year? Deeper focus on better foods in schools? Improved sustainability practices? Manufacturers making a stronger attempt to buy local foods for the products they produce? Look into your crystal ball and leave a message to let me know your predictions for 2011.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Flavors Abound

With Christmas only days away, food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies are getting into the holiday spirit. With special seasonal flavors, Santa-clad packaging, and brightly colored red and green foods, one only has to look at the products lining store shelves to know that the Christmas season is upon us. Here are some of the new items you can expect to see (if you haven't already) at a supermarket near you.

Several weeks ago, Dunkin' Donuts unveiled a line of seasonal coffee flavors. If you're excited about waking up to a bold cup of Pumpkin Spice, Vanilla Nut, or Mocha Mint coffee every morning leading up Christmas, you're in luck! The at-home coffee brand is available in grocery stores for a limited time.

To make your morning even more merry and bright, try Kellogg's Rice Krispies with festive red and green crisped pieces of rice mixed in among the usual cream-colored cereal bits.

PopTarts is also celebrating the holiday season with a familiar flavor. Find limited edition Kellogg's Printed Fun Pop-Tarts Gingerbread toaster pastries at a store near you.

If all you want for Christmas is a sweet treat, look to red and green M&M's in all varieties – plain, peanut, peanut butter, dark chocolate, and almond, in addition to seasonal mint and cherry cordial flavors. Taking full advantage of this winter wonderland, Hershey's offers a range of seasonal taste sensations in flavors like Dark Chocolate Mint Truffle, Milk Chocolate with Cherry Cordial Crème, and Candy Cane. New this year, Peeps has also added Chocolate Covered Mint Flavored Marshmallow Trees to its line-up.

Oreo is celebrating this holly jolly season with Candy Cane Oreos. As a twist to this classic favorite, the chocolate sandwich cookie has added a peppermint crème with crunchy sprinkles to its icing middle. A perfect snack to leave for Santa!

'Tis the season for companies to dress up the packaging on year-round staples. Take the Nestlé Crunch bar, for example. This year, the candy company collaborated with Paul Frank to create holiday-themed designs featuring the characters Julius the Money and Worry Bear. The oversized bars, available exclusively at Target, come in gift envelopes that double as holiday cards.

Those in the mood for a healthy bite to eat this season can get a boost of calcium from Target's line of holiday yogurt. With flavors like sugar cookie, bread pudding, and eggnog, consumers can savor the most recognizable tastes of the season in yogurt form.

For me, I know the season has begun when Starbucks breaks out its red cups. Is there anything better than the Christmas Coffee Blend or a Peppermint Mocha in a red cup to say happy holidays?!

What about you? What new products have you seen this year? If you have a favorite holiday product that you can only find this time of year, please share! Leave a comment and tell me all about the seasonal flavors you love.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lend Me Your Ears

This Friday brings an announcement that has been in the making for some time. While I enjoy writing my blog and appreciate the comments and support from my readers, writing two posts a week takes a great amount of time.

With the holidays approaching and my schedule getting more hectic, I plan to cut down on the number of blog posts from two a week to just one. This decision will give me more time to focus on creative topics, stronger data, and better posts. As of next week and going into 2011, you can expect to see my updates on Wednesdays.

During the week, I like to share information that I find about the retail and food and beverage consumer packaged goods industry on Twitter. I have also compiled two daily online Twitter papers, which you can take a peek at anytime:In addition, notice that I have created a Twitter widget in the sidebar. Come by anytime to see what food and beverage CPG companies and brands are talking about on Twitter.

If you have a topic you'd like me to address or know of a brand or organization I should be following on Twitter, let me know by leaving a message with your feedback! Thanks for reading and your continued support!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pack It Up

Have you ever stopped to think about how important packaging is to a product? The size, color, shape, and material used to hold a product can make the difference between an item flying off store shelves or sitting until it is past its prime. One of the major elements of the marketing mix, packaging is key to attracting a customer's attention; especially when consumers often make a judgment about the contents of the box, bag, or container based on it. Read on to find out how some food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies are creating innovative packages to help their manufactured goods stand out in grocery stores and elsewhere.

Today's consumers are more in touch with where their products originate. In addition to seeking items that are organic, local, and economical, buyers are looking for "green" packaging. In response to this preference, many companies have reduced, reused, and recycled the materials that make their packaging. In particular, many of today's water bottles are made with less plastic. Nestlé Waters' brands like Deer Park and Ice Mountain, as well as PepsiCo's Aquafina, and Coca-Cola's Dasani have all created eco-friendly bottles made with less plastic.

Even though cereal companies were the first to start creating their boxes from recycled paper and cardboard, with Kellogg's using recycled board for most of its products since 1906 and General Mills since the 1930s, the companies have recently done more to reduce their materials and consumer waste. By getting rid of the cardboard backing from Special K Cereal Bars, Kellogg's eliminated 4 million pounds of packaging. Kellogg's removed another three million pounds of plastic packaging through liner reductions in 2006. General Mills reduced its carbon footprint for Hamburger Helper when its packaging team reduced the number of pouches in each carton and its product development team changed the shape of the pasta to pack it more tightly in the box.

Recently, I noticed a pack of eight Quaker Chewy Granola Bars on a Target shelf, not in a box, but held together by a type of stickers or tape. Innovative and less waste! And who can forget this fall's SunChips controversy, when Frito-Lay ditched its compostable bag due to a backlash from consumers over the bag's loud rustling noises.

Packaging can also change to accommodate more product. In the case of Heinz, the 141 year old company decided its small ketchup packets weren't enough for most users, and just last week launched its dual-function Dip & Squeeze ketchup package for the food service industry, giving consumers three times more ketchup per packet.

Companies might also work with their packaging design to update a product's look, or to make it easier for consumers to find a product by adding brighter colors, removing wording to highlight the product better, or inserting text to explain benefits like low fat or whole grain.

If you're interested in learning more about packaging, online articles can help to explain the choices companies make when choosing their packages. You can also visit the Institute of Packing Professionals, the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, or Interpack, the process and packaging international trade fair, for more information.

When at the supermarket, what have you seen on shelves? New packages? Creative packages that solve a problem? Leave a message and tell me more!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Get Shopping!

Today is Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year! Retailers are hoping for a better year than 2009 when the economy was in a deep recession. To help move sales along this year, stores are going above and beyond, offering deeper discounts, opening earlier today, extending holiday hours, and presenting online deals, which started earlier this week.

Leading up to Thanksgiving, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart all announced sales in their stores. From clothes and toys to electronics, CDs and DVDs, these businesses offered bargains to get a jump on holiday sales.

For the past 19 years, Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving Day. This year was no different, and Sears joined in yesterday as well, opening their doors from 7 a.m. to noon.

Those not seeking what they wish for in stores today still have more chances in the coming weeks to find holiday sales. Cyber Monday will have people flocking to their computers to take advantage of exclusive online deals and free shipping.

Time will tell if retailers' plans will get consumers shopping. Last month, a Gallup poll estimated that Americans' plan to spend an average of $715 on gifts this year, down from the $740 recorded in October 2009.

I'm off to shop, but please, drop me a line and tell me what your plans are to get the best holiday deals this season!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thursday is one of the most anticipated days of the year – Thanksgiving! From turkey and football to parades and Black Friday planning, Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to catch up on cooking, relaxing, and taking in the sights and sounds of the holiday.

The day starts off with Macy's 84th Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year, spectators will see floats from many companies, including consumer packaged goods giants Jimmy Dean, Morton Salt, and Ocean Spray, in addition to a Pillsbury Doughboy giant balloon. The event would not be complete without a visit from Santa to kick off the Christmas season!

While the turkey is in the oven, cooks can take comfort from knowing that should any problems arise, the Turkey Talk Line from Butterball is just a phone call away. The toll-free number is 29 years old, and open through December to answer your turkey questions. Want to know which turkey pan to use; what do when your turkey is on fire, or when to put your turkey in the oven so it's ready by the end of the game? Just dial 1-800-BUTTERBALL!

Of course, while the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions take over your TV, you can spread out your newspaper ads and plan your Black Friday shopping spree.

How do you spend your Thanksgiving? Leave a message and share your turkey day traditions!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fun Friday: Thanksgiving Eats

With Thanksgiving just days away, it's time to start thinking about your favorite seasonal foods. What brand can you not live without at your Thanksgiving table? Vote on this Fun Friday!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bookworms Unite

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about what books you can catch up on during the upcoming holiday. While the turkey is in the oven, here are some of my picks to read about advertising and branding, and their impact on today’s products and consumers.

Not long ago, I had the chance to read Buyology – Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom. Lindstrom, an advisor for top executives in numerous Fortune 100 companies including Nestlé and PepsiCo, considers himself a "brand futurist," and has spent years studying branding, advertising, and consumer behavior. For his work, Time Magazine named him one of the "World's 100 Most Influential People" in 2009.

In his 2008 book, Lindstrom revealed the findings of his groundbreaking, three year, $7 million neuromarketing study, which set out to find answers about what influences our decisions when it comes to making a purchase. In his experiment, the author used brain scan technology on more than 2,000 volunteers from around the world to understand why we buy. He studied each subject’s subconscious reaction when presented with various ads, logos, commercials, brands, and products. During the test, Lindstrom explored if sex sells, if subliminal advertising exists, and if our senses are powerful enough to elicit a physical response when we see a product. For a chapter-by-chapter overview of Buyology, visit the book's website.

Another insightful book I recommend is Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. When do fads become more significant and turn in to a trend? In this book, Gladwell discusses how small changes can make a big difference, causing people to think, act, and buy in a new way.

With holiday downtime approaching, here are some books topping my "to read" list:
What books are on your list? Have you read any lately that have stood out and helped you to understand your industry better or practice more efficiently in your job? Leave a message and tell me more!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Popularity Contest

When you visit the grocery store, you're faced with dozens, if not hundreds of options for everyday foods ranging from peanut butter to cereal. While some might think that chips are chips, others know that there is a big difference between Ruffles and Pringles. Read on to find out which brands are the leaders in their respective categories, based on sales.

What brand of cereal do you reach for in the morning? If you're like most Americans, you go for Honey Nut Cheerios, the best selling cereal since 2008. General Mills also holds the second best-selling cereal, Cheerios. Post Honey Bunches of Oats comes in third, followed by Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats, and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.

When it comes to peanut butter, consumers have more choices than just creamy or crunchy. One brand in particular has been selling more peanut butter since 1981. According to CPG data from SymphonyIRI Group, sales of Jif topped $317 million last year, making it the most popular PB brand. With market share at 17.2 percent, Skippy comes in a close second, followed by Peter Pan, Smucker's, and Smart Balance.

Chew on this: sugarless gum is a $1.2 billion business, and according to CPG research company Mintel International Group, Wrigley's Orbit was the best selling gum last year with sales at almost $206 million. Trident, which used to rule the sugarless gum scene, is now sitting at number two with $146 million worth of sales in 2009. Rounding out the top five best selling sugar-free chewing gums are Wrigley's Five, Extra, and Eclipse.

Turning to leaders within the salty snack category, look no further than Frito-Lay. Sales of its Lay's classic potato chips reached almost $1 billion in 2009, said SymphonyIRI Group. Wavy Lay's were the second best selling chip last year, with Ruffles coming in at number three. Procter & Gamble-owned brand Pringles and Hanover, Pennsylvania, based Utz round out the list of top selling salty snacks.

In need of a drink? Most people turn to Smirnoff, which is indeed the world's number one vodka. In fact, with $1 billion in sales last year, vodka sales were higher than that of whiskey, rum, and tequila. According SymphonyIRI Group data, Smirnoff, produced by Diageo, made up more than a fifth of industry vodka sales. Coming in at a distant second, Absolut, sells less than half as much in this category.

As a final tidbit of information, have you ever wondered which item is the most popular at Wal-Mart? Bananas! The world's largest retailer sold more bananas last year than any other single item.

Have you added to this list...without knowing it? Are the brands that you buy the ones that are on the list of best sellers? Leave a message and tell me more!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Women Rule

Fortune Magazine announced its annual ranking of America's leading businesswomen last month, and leaders at several food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies and retail corporations took top honors, landing on the elite 2010 list.

Coming in at number one again this year, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi placed at the top of the list. Nooyi is credited for completing the purchase of the company's two largest bottlers and bringing revenues to more than $60 billion. This marks the fifth time she has come in at the top of the list.

Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO at Kraft Foods, came in second on the list, earning the same spot as 2009. In the past year, the company acquired candy maker Cadbury, giving Kraft $48 billion in revenue.

In regards to retail, Carol Meyrowitz, President and CEO of The TJX Companies entered the list at number 17. Under Meyrowitz's leadership, company profits increased 38 percent, and revenue surpassed $20 billion. Wal-Mart Executive Vice President, Global People Division, Susan Chambers and Rosaline Brewer, President, Wal-Mart South, both made the list as well, coming in at numbers 23 and 48, respectively. Shari Ballard, Best Buy's President for the Americas, helped to round out the list at number 48.

Internationally, Dominique Reiniche, President, Europe Group, for The Coca-Cola Company entered the list at number 22. President of the Asia Pacific Region for PepsiCo, Umran Beba, followed at number 23.

The Fortune report also outlined the highest-paid women in business. Kraft's Rosenfeld made that list as well, coming in at number four, with a total compensation package of $22.1 million, while TJX Companies' Meyrowitz landed at number nine, earning $14.8 million, and PepsiCo CEO Nooyi ending the list at number 10 with total compensation of $14.2 million.

2010 marked a year of change for some women, who due to personal and career moves, exited this year's list. Last year's tenth place businesswoman, Chairman and CEO of Sara Lee, Brenda Barnes, resigned for medical reasons. Claire Babrowski, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Toys "R" Us, and number 36 on last year's list, was terminated by the company.

As an aspiring leader in this field, I am encouraged and inspired by the stories of these CPG and retail executives. Read the entire list of Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and tell me, which of the women on the list do you admire most?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting Social

Many brands use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to keep their loyal customers and fans involved and engaged with its store, product, or service. From information about new items and sales to company news like press releases, corporate social responsibility announcements, and quarterly earnings, brands are turning to online platforms to share data and get to know the people who keep them in business.

When it comes to Facebook, consider the following statistics: The average user has 130 friends and spends an hour a day on the site. In one month, a user leaves an average of 25 comments, becomes a fan of four pages, and joins 13 groups.

Earlier this year, an omnibus study from consulting organization Morpace showed that "[r]etailers who are actively involved in marketing their products and/or services using Facebook may have a distinct advantage over their competitors."

Facebook provides an outlet to announce exclusive deals and offers to already loyal fans, as well as to attract a new base of faithful followers. This summer, Campbell Soup Company used Facebook to introduce its V8 V-Fusion + Tea line, giving away free samples, as well as to advertise a new strawberry version of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. The company is one of many food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies utilizing social media outlets to connect with consumers online.

Facebook isn't all fun and games, though. Companies are always evaluating their social media presence and comparing it to their bottom line. In May, web research company Vitrue valued Skittle's Facebook page at $7.7 million. To determine an online domain's worth, Vitrue's Social Page Evaluator calculates brand connections, the number of interactions on a site, and other factors. It allocates $5 per "like," based on earned media CPM (cost per thousand impressions) value. Today, more than 11,902,000 "like" Skittles on Facebook.

Even though many companies are using such tactics to communicate directly with its target audience on Facebook, people are more engaged with brands on Twitter, a rapidly growing medium. Today, Twitter has 175 million registered users, up from 145 million users in September, adding approximately 30 million users in less than two months, and 70 million new users since April.

A study conducted last year by researchers at Penn State University found that "users employ Twitter to inquire about product information. About 20 percent of the tweets contained product information in the form of asking and providing, thus giving companies a 'rich source' of information concerning issues and questions that customers have regarding their products." Another study showed that Twitter users in the United States were far more likely than general Internet users to post to forums, blog, comment on blogs, and post ratings and reviews, proving that consumers active on Twitter are some of the most influential online.

While Twitter users are tweeting, brands are listening and connecting with consumers. Just last week, Mashable named the five most engaged brands on Twitter. With numerous mobile apps, more than one million Twitter followers, and 15 million-plus people who "like" its Facebook page, Starbucks landed at the top of the list. Coca-Cola, Oreo, Skittles, and Red Bull rounded out the list. Social media statistics company Famecount released a report with similar results in June that included Twitter and YouTube data.

It is important to note that Facebook and Twitter have not taken the place of CPG websites, although consumers have "found Facebook to be the ideal platform for voicing their opinions and connecting with other customers."

No matter what the next generation of social media tools will bring, it is clear that companies and consumers alike value and appreciate the connectivity and interaction that comes along with online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What about you? Leave me a message and tell me about the ways you use Facebook and Twitter to connect with the brands you know and love!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Creamy or Crunchy?

November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month, a chance to spend 30 days honoring the brands like Jif, Peter Pan, Reese's, and Skippy that bring you the creamy, chunky, natural, and organic varieties of peanut butter that you know and love!

According to the National Peanut Board:
  • Peanut butter is the leading use of peanuts in the United States.
  • Peanut butter was the secret behind "Mr. Ed," TV's talking horse.
  • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.
  • Americans spend almost $800 million a year on peanut butter.
  • Americans eat enough peanut butter in a year to make more than 10 billion peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Find more fun facts about peanut butter on the National Peanut Board website, and make sure you take the time to enjoy peanut butter this month! Whether you bake cookies, make your own peanut butter, craft a peanut butter bird feeder, or just eat a PB&J sandwich, appreciate and savor the wonders of peanut butter throughout November!

Are you a peanut butter lover? Leave a message and tell me more about your favorite peanut butter brand and style!

Friday, October 29, 2010


Halloween – what a wonderful time of year! Adults and kids alike have every reason to love this holiday. From dressing up like your favorite superhero (without getting weird looks) to an abundance of candy on store shelves and door-to-door, everyone can get into the Halloween spirit. This year, you might notice some new candy options at your local supermarket or in your treat bag with an update from your favorite sweet companies.

If you're a fan of marshmallow Peeps at Easter, you have another reason to love them at Halloween. This year, the Just Born candy company added new, individually wrapped, milk chocolate covered pumpkins to its line-up.

This time of year, Willy Wonka brings out his "Spooky Nerds." The orange and fruit punch flavored sugar bits are packaged in boxes adorned with devil and ghost dressed Nerds. Cute and delicious!

The Hershey Company also gets into the Halloween mood with limited-time Hershey's Kisses in flavors like Candy Corn and Pumpkin Spice.

If you're more of a salty snack eater, you're in luck! This year, Frito-Lay rolled out Cheetos Mighty Zingers in crazy cheddar and wicked picante flavor.

Last year, Frito-Lay's parent company offered special Pepsi Halloween cans to recognize this scary time of year.

As the highest-grossing holiday of the year for the candy industry, you can bet that new sweets will be added to grocery shelves year after year. What new Halloween treats have you noticed this season?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Play Ball!

Tomorrow night, the World Series will begin. This year, the Texas Rangers take on the San Francisco Giants to battle it out in Major League Baseball's championship series. While baseball is associated with ballpark food like hot dogs, nachos, and Cracker Jacks, the game would not be possible without a home in which the teams can play ball. For that, many baseball franchises can thank food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies for sponsoring the sports fields and stadiums that bring us America's pastime.

It all started in 1926, when Wrigley became the first company to buy naming rights to a baseball stadium. Gum magnate William Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, named his team's stadium Wrigley Field. The trend caught on and continued.

The Colorado Rockies call Coors Field home. Since 1995 Coors Brewing Company in nearby Golden, Colorado, has owned the naming rights to the Denver stadium. The beer company is not alone, however, when it comes to naming baseball venues. Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, owes its name to Miller Brewing Company. Miller's $40 million contract as the title sponsor for the home of the Milwaukee Brewers runs through 2020. Another beer company, Anheuser-Busch, is behind Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play. The ballpark opened on April 4, 2006, and the brewer's naming rights deal, which will last through the 2025 season, helped to offset the stadium's original construction costs.

While beer and baseball go hand in hand, not too many fans would associate the sport with orange juice, but they should! Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been home to the Tampa Bay Rays since 1990. The domed stadium seats 36,973. Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, opened in 2000, and houses the Astros.

Retailers are into the naming act, too. Pet supplier PETCO owns the rights to PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Thanks to Target, the Minnesota Twins have their own venue and no longer have to share space with local college and pro football teams with the opening of Target Field this year in Minneapolis.

Food and beverage CPG companies aren't only involved in naming baseball stadiums. Since 2001, Heinz Field in Pittsburgh has been the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers. Within the football arena, the Coca-Cola Great Hall spans approximately 40,000 square feet and displays a collection of Steelers and Panthers memorabilia. Finally, hockey and basketball fans in Denver unite at the Pepsi Center for sporting events and concerts.

If you've attended a sporting event at one of these ballparks or sports venues, tell me about your experience! What other CPG companies or retailers would you like to see in lights as a stadium sponsor?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sugar Rush

Halloween is just around the corner, and candy is on the minds of children and adults alike. According to the Census Bureau, Americans eat an average of 25 pounds of candy each year. While major and minor manufacturers introduce hundreds of new candies every year, only a handful become successful to fill a void and stay on the market. With so many options available to candy lovers, what are the best selling sweet treats across the country? Take a look at the results, based on sales data from the Symphony IRI Group.
  1. M&M's
  2. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
  3. Hershey's Chocolate Bar
  4. Snickers
  5. Orbit
  6. Trident (The world's first sugar-free gum!)
  7. 5 React
  8. Stride
  9. Kit-Kat
  10. Extra
  11. Eclipse
  12. Twix
  13. Twizzlers
  14. Skittles
  15. Dove Bar
  16. 3 Musketeers
  17. Starburst
  18. Milky Way
  19. Butterfinger
  20. Trident White
  21. Hershey's Kisses
  22. Tic Tacs
  23. Dentyne
  24. Orbit White
  25. Ice Breakers
The rest of the world likes candy as well. Industry experts break up confectionery goods into three segments: chocolate, non-chocolate, and chewing gum. Chocolate is the largest category, making up 55 percent of all candy sold. Gum has a 14 percent stake in the industry, and is the fastest growing candy segment.

Is your favorite candy on this list? Leave a message and tell me more about the sugary goodness you crave at Halloween and all year long!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Worthy of Admiration

Earlier this year, Fortune Magazine named its 2010 list of the World's Most Admired Companies. Lately, I have noticed many of the food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies that made the list have been in the news for unveiling new products, sponsoring new causes, and earning awards for their outstanding treatment of employees. For this, it is worthwhile to point out which companies were a part of the list as we await the 2011 list early next year.

To rank the companies, Fortune surveyed businesspeople, asking them to vote for the companies that they admired most from any industry. Among the food and beverage CPG companies that landed on the overall top 50 list: Coca-Cola at number 10, PepsiCo at number 25, Nestlé at number 34, and General Mills at number 47.

Within the consumer food products industry, the survey recognized the following companies:
  1. Nestlé
  2. PepsiCo
  3. General Mills
  4. Unilever
  5. Kellogg's
  6. Danone
  7. Kraft Foods
  8. H.J. Heinz
  9. Cadbury (On February 2, 2010, Cadbury became part of Kraft Foods.)
  10. ConAgra Foods
  11. Sara Lee
  12. Dean Foods
  13. Seasoning and sauce maker Ajinomoto
The survey acknowledged the following beverage companies as the World's Most Admired:
  1. Coca-Cola
  2. Anheuser-Busch InBev
  3. Brewer SABMiller
  4. Pepsi Bottling Group (Now part of PepsiCo.)
  5. Coca-Cola Enterprises
  6. Diageo
  7. FEMSA, the world's largest Coca-Cola bottler
  8. Heineken
  9. Kirin Brewery
  10. (Tie) Japan's Asahi Breweries and Danish brewing company Carlsberg A/S
Finally, survey results proved these food production manufacturers to be the best of the best:
  1. Archer Daniels Midland
  2. Corn Products International
  3. Agribusiness and food company Bunge
  4. Asia's leading agribusiness group Wilmar International
  5. Chiquita Brands International
  6. Smithfield Foods
  7. Tyson Foods
  8. Seaboard, maker of grain and agriculturally derived products
  9. Sanderson Farms 100 percent natural chicken
  10. Pilgrim's Pride
With innovation in products and manufacturing techniques, as well as exceptional corporate social responsibility practices and the support of employees through excellent benefits, these food and beverage companies deserve the title of one of the "World' Most Admired Companies."

How do you feel about the companies on this list? If you've worked for a business that made the list, leave a message and tell me more! If you feel that an important company was left off the 2010 list, let me know why. With so many industry changes, it will be interesting to see how the 2011 list will transpire.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Sweet

Have you heard about Sweetest Day? Each year, it's celebrated on the third Saturday of October, which would make tomorrow the big day. Sweetest Day was founded in 1922 by Herbert Birch Kingston, a Cleveland, Ohio, candy company employee. Birch wanted to bring happiness to those less fortunate by sending them candy and small gifts to brighten their day. Today, the holiday has evolved to a time where friends and loved ones can show their appreciation, and I want to share some sweet recipes with you to make for the special people in your family, using the CPG products in your kitchen cabinet.

For breakfast, try your hand at Honey Vanilla Crème Stuffed French Toast featuring Coffee-mate, or Southwest Benedict Fritos Pie.

If dinner is your specialty, test one of these appetizing ideas:If you're short on time, perhaps you can prepare a pitcher of Smucker's Heat Wave Punch or a side dish like Apple Coleslaw featuring Nestlé Juicy Juice.

What would Sweetest Day be without dessert? Attempt an after-dinner treat like Big Red Heinz Ketchup Cake, Hershey's Hugs & Kisses Crescents, or Mini No-Bake Twinkie Cheesecakes.

Bon appétit!

Be sweet to your loved ones and whip up one of these recipes this weekend! Please, share your tasty recipes that use common CPG products for unique dishes in the comments section.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

That's Amore

October is National Pizza Month. Can you think of a better way to honor the Italian pie than with a post all about pizza? Let's take a look at how this staple of the American diet has evolved throughout the years and the many different options you can find today in your grocer's freezer.

In the 1960s, business owners Rose and Jim Totino branched out from their local pizza shop in Minneapolis to try their hand at frozen pizza. Their idea was to turn flavorless, hard frozen pizza crusts into flaky, delicious meals people could cook at home. Today, the Totino's line of pizza is owned by General Mills and is best known for its pizza rolls.

Tombstone Pizza came along in 1962. The pizza's odd name comes from its days in "The Tombstone Tap," a bar located across from a graveyard in Medford, Wisconsin. Nestlé USA now distributes the frozen pizza, which is available in 12 flavors and unique options like cheese stuffed and garlic bread crusts.

Along with these brands, Stouffer's dominated the frozen pizza category with its French Bread Pizza varieties for a long time. The market changed greatly, however, in 1995 when Kraft introduced its DiGiorno line of pizzas, designed to rise in your oven and taste more like delivery pizza. (Nestlé acquired Kraft Foods' frozen pizza business earlier this year for $3.7 billion.) The Schwan Food Company followed suit with its line of naturally rising pizza, Freschetta, shortly thereafter.

Today, consumers can find everything from thin to focaccia crust frozen pizzas to pre-made Boboli pizza crusts and refrigerated Pillsbury pizza dough. A number of restaurants now also sell their pies at the grocery store, including the signature deep dish of Uno Chicago Grill and the fresh, sophisticated tastes of California Pizza Kitchen.

Revenues from the frozen pizza industry increased from $3.1 billion in 2000 to $4.4 billion in 2009. This segment is growing faster than the overall food market and is expected to continue climbing as pizza remains the "go to" meal of busy Americans.

What are your thoughts about frozen pizza? Is there a certain brand or taste sensation you prefer? Leave a message and tell me about your favorite pizza from the grocery store.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sports: More Than Beer and Nachos

While football season is just heating up, baseball season is coming to an end. What do athletes do in their spare time when sports wind down or when they decide the time has come to retire? Many sports pros have dabbled in the food and beverage consumer packaged goods industry, manufacturing everything from wine to donuts.

Take, for example, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. After hanging up his skates, "The Great One" started his own winery with wife Janet in 2007, No. 99 Estates Winery. A portion of each wine sold benefits the Wayne Gretzky Foundation, dedicated to providing less fortunate youth with the opportunity to experience the sport of hockey. Hear all about Wayne's foray into vino on Wine Library TV.

Many football players have also taken the path into the wine business, including Drew Bledsoe and Mike Ditka, as have NASCAR drivers Mario Andretti and Jeff Gordon.

After Pro Football Hall of Famer Franco Harris left the game, he settled in Pittsburgh where he started Super Bakery in 1990. Harris' goal was to make junk foods more nutritious, and sold his goods, like donuts and pastries, to schools, hospitals, and airlines. In 2006, the football legend most known for "The Immaculate Reception," renamed his company RSuper Foods. Today, Harris' Super Donut and Super Bun products are sold publicly at Giant Eagle grocery stores in Pennsylvania. In the future, Harris hopes to expand the product line to include muffins, wraps, and other bread and pastry products.

Have you noticed other athletes lending their names to a food or beverage line on store shelves? Drop me a line and tell me more!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Throughout the years, businesses have done a better job of fostering a supportive environment for women. So far this year, two organizations have released lists honoring the companies that are the best for working mothers and the top companies for executive women. Numerous food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies and retailers have landed on these prestigious lists.

Last month, Working Mother announced its 25th annual list of its 100 Best Companies. The companies on the list offered family-friendly benefits and programs that help keep the careers of working moms on track.

This year, Working Mother named General Mills among the top ten companies for working moms. At General Mills, 41 percent of managers, senior managers, and corporate executives are women, and women make up 36 percent of the company's board of directors. According to Working Mother, "Moms head five of the seven U.S. retail divisions of this food manufacturing company, with Yoplait president Becky O'Grady added in 2009."

Kellogg's also landed among manufacturers making this year's list. Working Mother reports that "parents who need to take their kids on a business trip for Kellogg's will have their child-care costs fully reimbursed by the company." What's more, 33 percent of women are among top earners at the cereal and snack giant.

As for consumer products, Diageo North America earned a spot on the list. At the spirits, wine, and beer company, parents can take advantage of an internal resource and referral service to locate childcare, and are able to use up to 15 days of subsidized backup childcare every year. More than 70 percent of the women promoted last year benefited from the company's established flexible work arrangement program.

Finally, Kraft Foods secured a place on the list. According to Working Mother, Kraft rewards high-potential leaders with an executive coach to help employees sharpen their skills and connect with company leaders.

Also last month, the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) released its 2010 list of the Top 50 Companies for Women Executives. General Mills once again took top honors for its hiring, mentoring, developing, and training practices for female employees. In addition, the company offers flex schedules for work-life balance and stretch assignments to give women an opportunity to work in areas they otherwise would not be exposed to in their everyday responsibilities.

Food and beverage CPG companies Diageo North America, Kellogg's, Kraft, and PepsiCo, along with retailers Macy's and Walmart rounded out NAFE's current list.

As per NAFE, list honorees are compiled from a comprehensive application by companies with a minimum of two women on its board of directors. The questionnaire focused on the number of women in senior ranks, including questions about the programs and policies that support the advancement of women.

If you work for one of the companies on these lists, congratulations! Leave me a note to tell me more. If you feel that your company should be added to one (or both) of these lists, write a comment explaining why.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Has Companies Thinking Pink

October kicks off National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection. To aid in this cause, numerous food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies have pledged to sponsor this worthy initiative through donations and limited edition pink products that have a portion of the proceeds benefiting breast cancer awareness foundations.

This year, a new partner is joining the fight against breast cancer, and doing it in a unique and rewarding way. During the month of October, specially marked packages of Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese will be sold in retail stores nationwide to benefit Komen for the Cure. Irish Dairy Board, Inc., makers of Kerrygold, will donate $55,000 to Komen regardless of the amount of cheese sales during the month. Kerrygold has dedicated a web page to their pink program where consumers can find ideas on how to raise funds for Komen, and will be giving away a trip to Ireland, home of Kerrygold Cheese.

Grocery stores throughout the month will be lined with pink products as companies offer a variety of specially packaged items to support breast cancer awareness, including Dove Chocolate Promises of Hope to support Susan G. Komen. Each piece of the dark chocolate candy is individually wrapped with a special inspirational promise written by a breast cancer survivor. In the past, Mars also issued pink M&M's to raise awareness. Since partnering with Komen in 2007, the company has raised more than $4 million for the Foundation.

Other candy makers have also followed suit, creating pink-packaged sweets. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is promoting specially marked pink ribbon packs of Luxe Milk bars with a sweepstakes, awarding $200 gift cards to 400 winners to use toward Cole Haan handbags, apparel, and accessories. Through December 31, consumers can submit the on-pack codes on the company's website to enter the sweepstakes. Ghirardelli will donate $50,000 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, plus $1 for each code, up to an additional donation of $50,000, for a maximum contribution of $100,000.

One of the more recognizable programs throughout the years has been Yoplait's Lids to Save Lives. Now in its twelfth year, the program benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure. For every pink lid consumers send through the end of the year, Yoplait donates 10 cents to the cause, up to $1.6 million, with a guaranteed donation of at least $500,000. Since 1998, the company has raised $25 million. Brand owner General Mills has recognized National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the past four years with its Pink Together campaign, dedicated to spreading hope to those touched by breast cancer and raising greater awareness of the disease. This month, shoppers will be able to find products such as Cheerios, Nature Valley Granola Bars, and Progresso Soup in pink packages on store shelves.

Earlier this year, PepsiCo division Frito-Lay donated $1 million to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. SunChips multigrain snacks, Rold Gold pretzels and the Baked! line of products provided funding for educational materials and research to find cures for breast cancer. As a member of the Susan G. Komen Million Dollar Council Elite, the company has committed to invest a financial contribution of $1 million annually in the fight to end breast cancer.

Even Mike's Hard Lemonade has gotten in on the act, offering Mike's Hard Pink Lemonade to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in memory of a company employee who lost her battle to the disease.

In addition to the CPG companies that have lent their hand to raise awareness, grocery chains are also involved with breast cancer awareness initiatives. The Kroger Company recently announced a partnership with key suppliers to donate $3 million this year. The campaign includes a store-wide sales promotion of popular items, many of which will feature exclusive, specially marked pink packaging. This year, 1,800 items, including Kroger's own products and items from partners like Kellogg's and Kraft will be marked with special pink shelf tags to highlight their participation, and will feature the stories of more than 50 breast cancer survivors.

Grocer Harris Teeter is also devoting the month of October to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All stores will be raising funds for a variety of non-profit organizations that support the fight against breast cancer, including the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Customers can purchase pink ribbon pastry items with five percent of the retail price going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Participating products will display a pink ribbon sticker.

Are you more likely to purchase products that support Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Leave a message and tell me why you are more or less inclined to purchase an item that supports this cause, and be sure to educate yourself and the women in your life about the importance of early detection.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Celebrating the Mighty Cup O' Joe

Caffeine lovers rejoice! September 29 is National Coffee Day. Whether you enjoy your coffee at home or in a coffee shop - with sugar, cream, or nothing at all - throw back an extra cup tomorrow and thank your lucky stars for that satisfying java.

The coffee aisle is one of the most robust sections of any grocery store, with many companies offering more than one variety in this category. For example, Kraft Foods offers several brands of coffee, including Maxwell House and Sanka. The company Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA is best known for its coffee brands Chase & Sanborn, Chock full o'Nuts, and Hills Bros. Coffee. Nestlé's brands include Nescafé and Taster's Choice, while the Folgers and Millstone brands are lines from Procter & Gamble. International Delight and Nestlé's Coffee-mate can also perk up your brew, no matter what the brand.

These days, getting coffee in a shop is easy with cafés like the Coffee Beanery, Panera Bread, and Tully's Coffee on every city street. Of course, with Caribou Coffee, Dunkin' Donuts, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Starbucks, consumers can choose to buy a freshly brewed cup at the corner store or pick up a bag of freshly ground beans at the supermarket.

What's your favorite brand of coffee? Leave me a note and have a happy National Coffee Day!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Have You Hugged Your Vegetarian Today?

Today, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is giving and receiving their share of free hugs. September 24 marks "Hug a Vegetarian Day," designed to show love for vegetarians and vegans and to raise awareness of meat-free diets. In honor of this event, today's post is dedicated to veggie lovers and their friends, with a description of the most popular CPG food and beverage brands.

Amy's Kitchen is the nation's leading natural frozen food brand. This natural and organic company offers 88 frozen meals, including breakfast items, pizzas, pocket sandwiches, pot pies, entrées, snacks, and whole meals, as well as a grocery line of canned soups, beans and chili, and jarred pasta sauces and salsas. Many of the products are gluten free and every line in the company is vegetarian.

If you've seen the cute bunny logo at the store, you've seen Annie's Homegrown. Since 1989, the company has offered consumers natural and organic comfort foods. From cereals to pastas and snack crackers to fruit snacks, Annie's Homegrown products are vegetarian and nutritious. Its sister company, Annie's Naturals produces items like natural salad dressings, organic condiments, and flavored olive oils.

For those looking to add whole grains to their diet, Bob's Red Mill is a good place to turn. The stone milling manufacturer of whole grain flours, cereals, and baking mixes offers more than 400 natural and organic products, as well as a selection of gluten free offerings.

Vegetarians looking for a burger have an option thanks to BOCA Foods. The company's meatless products are a line of soy-based products made with the nutritious goodness of soy that help deliver vital nutrients as well as protein, fiber, and calcium in the form of burgers, veggie patties, breakfast items, entrées, and chick'n patties.

In addition to its brands like Green Giant, General Mills owns a line of organic foods in Cascadian Farm. Since 1972, the grower and manufacturer has produced and distributed over 150 products in eight food categories, including cereals, granola bars, frozen fruit, frozen vegetables, frozen potatoes, fruit spreads, juice concentrates, and relish. The 28-acre Cascadian Farm is located in the foothills of the North Cascades mountain range in western Washington. At the Farm, the company grows crops and protects the local ecosystem using sustainable organic methods.

Seven whole grains on a mission is the motto of Kashi. The blended mix of barley, buckwheat, oats, rice, rye, triticale, and wheat are the base of the company's natural food lines, which include hot cereals, cold cereals, snack bars, and waffles, among other products. The company's offbeat name is a mix of "kashruth," or kosher/pure food, and "Kushi," the last name of the founders of American Macrobiotics. The word, however, has other meanings all over the world, such as porridge in Russian, happy in Chinese, and energy in Japanese.

Morningstar Farms is another company offering creative meatless solutions without sacrificing flavor. Inspiring people to eat well, the company provides breakfast fare, veggie burgers, and meal starters. Dieting consumers seeking cholesterol free, high fiber, kosher, low fat, natural ingredients, or organic soy can turn to the vegetarian food producer, a division of the Kellogg Company.

Making tomato sauce? Muir Glen is for you. The company's organic food is grown by farmers who use farming methods that strive for a balance with nature. All of Muir Glen's tomatoes are field grown and vine ripened under certified organic practices with no synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Products include diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, crushed and ground tomatoes, soups, sauces, salsa, and ketchup.

Consumers in the mood for a healthy snack can opt for the fat-free, high-fiber, low calorie soy and oat bran muffins with no artificial additives or preservatives from Vitalicious. With flavors like apple-berry bran, blueberry bran, cranberry bran, and deep chocolate, VitaMuffins are only 100 calories each and contain 15 essential vitamins and minerals. If you're a fan of the muffin top, the company also offers VitaTops in flavors ranging from apple crumb to fudgy peanut butter chip.

Vegetarians and vegans, what am I missing? Please leave your comments and remarks about the brands in your home that sustain your veggie, organic, and/or natural lifestyle. In return, I am sending you a virtual hug!