Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy to #HAPPO

If you're an active member of Twitter, you might see the "HAPPO" hash tag today and wonder what that means.

In February, public relations pros and Twitter enthusiasts Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon founded "Help a PR Pro Out" (HAPPO) Day. The duo initiated the online Twitter event and enlisted champions from across the country to connect PR job seekers with employers looking for top talent.

Today, the event continues, this time with a focus on the graduating class of 2010. Up and coming public relations specialists are answering the question, "Why should I hire you?" and doing their best to tweet their way into jobs in the real world. I wish these students luck and encourage any and all of them to leave a comment with a link to their blog, online portfolio, or other social media profile.

For those of us who have already graduated, but are in transition, be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about openings in the public relations field.

If you are specifically interested in a career in consumer packaged goods, here are a few good sites that may aid in your search:
Have a resource to add to the list? Leave a message and let me know. Good luck and happy job hunting!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Read All About It

Public relations practitioners are always reading. From newspapers and specialty publications to white papers and annual reports, PR pros constantly have some sort of document in their hand or open on the computer screen. Reading is a great way to understand industry trends, keep up with beat journalists, and stay on top of current events.

As I became more interested with the food and beverage consumer packaged goods and retail industries, I knew that the best way to learn and stay informed of developments was to read. With a little research, I found an abundance of resources. Today, I get my industry news from a myriad of outlets, mostly online, and my e-mail inbox is full each morning. Below, you can find my comprehensive reading list, sorted by industry.

Candy and Snacks
Food Processing and Engineering
Food Retailing and WholesalingFrozen FoodsIngredients and Specialty FoodsMeat and Deli
Related Industries
Know of other e-publications that industry pros shouldn't miss? Leave a comment and add the link to your favorite online periodical.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Today, Trendy Tomorrow

Earlier this week, Symphony IRI Group, a company which tracks retail information and analyzes consumer and shopper trends, presented a Webinar detailing the 2009 New Product Pacesetters, the most successful new food and beverage brands based on the product's first year of sales. While 2010 is still far from finished, I'm already thinking about what the 2010 Product Pacesetters list will bring. Here are some new creations that I've seen lining supermarket shelves.

Chocolate Cheerios: Cheerios in chocolate form! A Facebook fan page (not sponsored by the cereal's maker General Mills) welcomes almost 2,200 supporters, as enthusiasts declare they cannot live without this tasty new breakfast food.

Coconut M&Ms: These colorful chocolate candies with a hint of coconut are now available at drug stores across the country and have me dreaming of tropical beaches. If you're interested in trying them, you need to hurry, as the Mars candy company is offering them for a limited time only.

Hershey's Pieces: I imagine everyone is familiar with peanut butter Reese's Pieces, but Hershey's took the Pieces idea one step further and introduced crunchy shelled Almond Joy Pieces, Hershey's Special Dark Pieces, and York Pieces.

McCormick Recipe Inspirations: These packets include the six spices you need to create a delicious meal – no measuring spoons necessary! Choose from apple and sage pork chops, garlic lime fajitas, quesadilla casserole, rosemary roasted chicken with potatoes, shrimp and pasta primavera, or Spanish chicken skillet. Each package contains just the right amount of herbs and spices, a recipe card, and lists all the ingredients you need to make a fresh, flavorful dish.

Mountain DEWmocracy: Again this year, Mountain Dew is offering three unique flavor choices and giving consumers an opportunity to vote for their favorite taste sensation. The options for 2010 include Mountain Dew Typhoon, a tropical strawberry-pineapple concoction, Mountain Dew Distortion, which boasts a bold lime zest, and Mountain Dew White Out with a smooth citrus tang. Try all three and cast your ballot online before voting ends June 14.

Pop-Tarts Popsters: These pouches of baked, crispy bites are only 100-calories and come in chocolate blitz and strawberry blast flavors. Another limited edition snack, though, you'll have to act fast; these snacks have only a matter of days left on the market.

Special K Fruit Crisps: Available in both strawberry and blueberry, each 100-calorie pack contains two bars drizzled in vanilla icing. With only two grams of fat, these crisps seem like a nutritious snack or quick breakfast treat.

Of course, these are just a few of the many food concepts that have hit the market so far in 2010. What new products have you seen? Leave me a message and tell me about your favorite new food or beverage item.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Going Green

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day. Retail stores and food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies have adjusted throughout the years, doing their part to save the planet.

Take for example, Target. Just last week, the company announced that to kick off its month-long Earth Day celebration, all 1,740 stores will install community recycling stations where customers can salvage aluminum, glass and plastic beverage containers, plastic bags, MP3 players, cell phones, and ink cartridges. In 2007, the retailer introduced biodegradable plastic gift cards, and has worked vigorously during the past several years to ensure that stores and the products they sell are environmentally friendly. Measures include energy efficient LED lighting and an offering of organic and all-natural foods and products made from recycled materials and non-toxic chemicals.

Earlier this month, General Mills revealed its plans to replace its natural-gas boilers with a biomass steam boiler at its milling plant in Fridley, Minn., which manufactures oat flour for cereals including Cheerios and Lucky Charms. When the boiler goes into operation early next year, it will burn leftover oat hulls and reduce the plant's carbon footprint by 21 percent.

Other companies have also gone to great lengths to become more conscious of the world around us. SunChips, a product distributed by Frito-Lay, recently introduced compostable packaging designed to fully break down in just 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost bin or pile.

Many companies have ventured into ecologically responsible practices because they understand that it is the right thing to do. Additionally, though, they have strengthened their brands and saved money in the process while increasing profits and bolstering consumer loyalty.

Research shows that consumers consider sustainability when deciding where to shop and which products to purchase. Studies also prove that patrons are willing to pay more for goods that come from a socially responsible company.

This is especially good news for the retailers and food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies ranked among the top "100 Best Corporate Citizens" for 2010 by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. Among those on the list: General Mills (3), Coca-Cola (8), Campbell Soup Company (12), PepsiCo (13), and Wal-Mart (21). You can view the entire list as a PDF on the organization's Web site.

Industry publications like Supermarket News and Packaging World predicted that green efforts and sustainable packaging would be among the top trends in 2009 and 2010, and were indeed correct. As the industry learns more about the "green shopper," expect to see more initiatives regarding environmentally friendly practices.

What about you? Do you buy green products? Are you more likely to buy products from companies that are eco-friendly? Become part of the conversation by leaving me a message.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Glorious Food Galleries

In my travels around the United States, I've been able to visit some pretty remarkable exhibit halls, museums, and establishments, all honoring – food!

Earlier this year, I took a trip to Orrville, Ohio, home of Smucker's, to visit the J.M. Smucker Company Store and Café. The first thing I did upon entering was treat myself to an authentic peanut butter and jelly sandwich prepared on thick, homemade wheat bread. Delicious! The café also offered a plethora of ice cream sundaes showcasing Smucker's many toppings: Magic Shell, hot fudge, strawberry, butterscotch, walnuts in syrup, and sugar free varieties, not to mention an assortment of Folgers coffees and Pillsbury baked goods.

Once I was full, I made my way into the store, pausing to take a picture with the ever so cute Pillsbury Doughboy. Lining the store walls, shoppers can find everything from unique Dickinson's fruit spread flavors to hard-to-find Hungry Jack instant potato mixes and pancake and syrup themed gift baskets to Crisco tee shirts. In the back of the store, visitors can discover the history of the family-owned company, as well as behold the store's most amazing showpiece – a chandelier made completely out of jelly jars.

Smucker's, though, is not the only product-centered shrine to which I have journeyed. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to venture to the "Sweetest Place on Earth" and check out Hershey's Chocolate World. For me, the attraction usually starts with a ride on the chocolate tour, where guests can learn how cocoa beans are transformed into your favorite Hershey's treats. The ride ends with a tasty free sample. Usually, my getaway includes lunch at Chocolate World's food court and a Reese's Pieces cookie or KitKat cupcake. Before I leave, I always stop by the marketplace to find souvenirs in the form of Hershey's Kisses earrings or a bag of freshly made Jolly Ranchers to take on the road.

Finally, while visiting Atlanta years ago, friends and I enjoyed spending the day at the World of Coca-Cola. In addition to trying dozens of different soda taste sensations popular around the globe, I was entertained by the pop culture gallery, and stunned by the size of the massive store where I could purchase Coke paraphernalia. Since visiting in 1998, the World of Coca-Cola opened a new location at Pemberton Place in downtown Atlanta on May 24, 2007. The 60,000 square foot complex boasts a fully functioning bottling line, a multi-sensory 4-D movie, and more than 1,200 never before seen artifacts from around the globe.

Recently, I learned about two fun institutions presenting tributes to food products. The first is the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minn. The free museum features 16,500 square feet of artifacts and history dedicated to the Hormel Foods product. The interactive museum highlights vintage ads and offers tourists a chance to answer trivia, can SPAM, and buy collectible memorabilia. The other is the Kool-Aid exhibit at the Hastings Museum in Hastings, Neb., the birthplace of the soft drink. Every summer, the museum hosts "Kool Aid Days" with old-fashioned games and activities for kids and an appearance by Kool-Aid man for children of all ages. Both locales are on my list of places to visit.

What wacky and wild food museums have you visited? Leave a message and share your links, photos, and stories.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Who is the "Supermarket Guru?"

Do you know Phil Lempert? Perhaps you're not aware of his name, but you might recognize his face from television or his product reports in your local newspaper. Phil Lempert is known as the "Supermarket Guru," and for more than 25 years, has been providing his expertise through new product ratings and food marketing and retail analysis.

As food and beverage companies introduce new products, Lempert completes a taste-test and weighs in based on eight criteria:

  1. Taste – As the most important feature of any food, the product should have an appealing flavor. (30 points)
  2. Value – Is the product worth the price? (20 points)
  3. Health – Is the product nutritionally balanced? (15 points)
  4. Ingredients – What items are used to produce the food? How natural is the product? (15 points)
  5. Preparation – Are the directions clearly defined and easy to understand? Products that do not have any preparation are awarded the full value of these points in their total score. (5 points)
  6. Appearance – Does the final product look enticing and appear as represented in its photo and description? (5 points)
  7. Packaging – Are the wrappings and cover appropriate for the product? Does the package include advantages like resealability, added freshness, or better storage? (5 points)
  8. Sustainability – Is the packaging environmentally friendly? (5 Points)
Lempert often shares his findings on The Today Show, where he serves as the food editor and correspondent, reporting on consumer trends and food safety in addition to providing money-saving tips and introducing new products. He also visits the ladies of The View every month, and has appeared on Oprah, 20/20, CNN, Discovery Health, and MSNBC. Lempert is a published author and writes for Gourmet Retailer magazine and the "Consumer Insight" column monthly for Progressive Grocer magazine.

When you see a new product on the shelf and you're uncertain as to whether or not to splurge, use the Supermarket Guru to make an educated decision. Hopefully, the product you put in your cart earned a high score on Phil Lempert's scale.

To learn more, log on to where you can register to receive Phil's daily Food and Health Newsflash, watch the weekly "New Products Hits and Misses" and check out the latest edition of "The Lempert Report." You can also follow Phil on Twitter.

For an added bonus, visit Phil's Supermarket. According to the Web site, Lempert founded this first supermarket to exist in the virtual world of Second Life in 2007. The site features interactive product demonstrations, consumer focus groups, specialized recipes, expert chefs, and detailed product information to allow consumers and businesses to understand shopping and marketing options better.

Are you a fan of Phil? If this is the first time you're hearing about him, explore his work and leave me a message telling me what you think!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Get Associated

As an active member of the Public Relations Society of America, I have learned a tremendous amount about my profession. I have also met some fantastic people and created an amazing network. As I learned more and more about food and beverage consumer packaged goods, I knew I needed to turn to an industry association for food and beverage CPG to educate myself and meet like-minded individuals involved in the field. Here are the professional organizations I have turned to in an effort to increase my understanding of the industry:

American Beverage Association
The American Beverage Association (ABA) has a rich history, having been founded in 1919 as the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages, and renamed the National Soft Drink Association in 1966. As mentioned on the institute's Web site, the ABA represents hundreds of beverage producers, distributors, franchise companies, and support industries. The bottled drink products the group supports consists of hundreds of brands, flavors, and packages, including regular and diet soft drinks, bottled water and water beverages, 100 percent juice and juice drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and ready-to-drink teas. The association is the voice of the non-alcoholic beverage business and has a thorough, comprehensive Web site that includes a blog and a list of U.S. beverage companies and their brands.

Food Marketing Institute
The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) serves 1,500 member companies representing food retailers and wholesalers in the United States and around the world. FMI describes itself as developing and promoting policies, programs, and forums to support members and their customers in the areas of government relations; food safety and defense; public and consumer information; research and education; and industry cooperation. The group has taken a stance on many industry issues and offers research, educational resources, and other services. Click here to learn more about FMI and its mission.

Grocery Manufacturers Association
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is the association of food, beverage, and consumer products companies. GMA is involved in public policy and scientific, technical, regulatory, and food defense support. Strategically, the association focuses on consumer confidence, serving as a liaison between food industry leaders, policymakers, and the public; customer and channel collaboration; global commerce and international policy; health and wellness; and sustainability.

National Confectioners Association
The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has represented the candy, chocolate, and gum industries since 1884. NCA fosters industry growth by advancing and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry and its consumers. If you're looking for fun facts about candy or candy related recipes, the NCA has you covered. You can also read the organization's latest issue of Candy & Snack TODAY.

Network of Professional Women Consumer Products/Retail
According to its Web site, the Network of Executive Women (NEW) strives to attract, retain, and advance women in the retail and consumer products industry through education, leadership, and business development. Founded in 2001, NEW now boasts more than 2,000 members representing 300 companies in the fast-growing consumer products and retail industry, including grocery, chain drug, mass retail, wholesalers, manufacturers, associations, and trade media. The organization hosts national leadership conferences, educational workshops, and regional networking events in more than 15 cities across the country.

Snack Food Association
The Snack Food Association (SFA) identifies itself as is the international trade association of the snack food industry representing snack manufacturers and suppliers, representing more than 400 companies worldwide. Member companies are comprised of manufacturers of potato chips, tortilla chips, cereal snacks, pretzels, popcorn, cheese snacks, snack crackers, meat snacks, pork rinds, snack nuts, party mix, corn snacks, pellet snacks, fruit snacks, snack bars, granola, snack cakes, cookies, and various other snacks. SFA also produces the publication Snack World.

In addition, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently rolled its food and beverage section into the travel and tourism section. PRSA members who hold sector membership receive privileges such as industry newsletters, podcasts, online discussion forums, and more.

Are you a member of one of these associations? Do you recommend a group that is not on this list? I'm still learning, so I'd like to know. Leave me a message.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Most shoppers at the grocery store don't think twice about picking up a two-liter of soda and placing it in their cart. Soon, though, they might want to reconsider that purchase if some politicians have it their way.

Recently, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl spoke out in support of a tax that would add a two cent per ounce tax to sweetened drinks, including soda pop, energy drinks, and iced tea. The charge would tack on an additional 40 cents for a 20-ounce sugary beverage and a whopping $1.35 for a two-liter, generating approximately $25 million a year in revenue for the city. The mayor hopes to follow the lead of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who proposed the idea to city council last month.

The two Pennsylvania leaders are not the first, however, to suggest such a levy in an attempt to boost coffers and curb obesity. In fact, Arkansas, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia already collect taxes on sweet beverages ranging from chocolate milk and flavored waters to soda pop and energy drinks. California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and New York are among other states also considering the tax. In many places, the soda tax is greater than that of alcohol or tobacco.

A study released last month by Rasmussen Reports revealed that 56 percent of those surveyed object to taxes on sodas and snacks, with 12 percent undecided. In addition, research published last week announced that the tax does not reduce the risk of obesity.

Personally, I'm a diet soda gal, but I've been known to throw back a regular pop now and again. I believe in moderation and the concept of calories in versus calories out when it comes to weight loss. If those drinks were taxed, though, I think I could give them up to protect my wallet.

What about you? Do you live in an area that taxes soda? Have you changed your buying habits? If you don't live in such an area, what would you do if the tax passed? I want to know what you think, so please comment. In the meantime, read what the American Beverage Association and an industry expert have to say about this issue.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Look Back at 2009...and into 2010

What do you remember about 2009? President Obama's inauguration? Michael Jackson's funeral? Swine flu? For those involved in food and beverage consumer packaged goods, last year was one to remember. As the recession took hold of Americans, consumers chose to purchase more food and beverage products to make and eat at home. The industry remained stable in an adverse economy. (See "Consumer packaged goods companies show resilience in recession" for additional perspective.)

Snack products also continued to thrive in 2009, according to Sally Lyons Wyatt, senior vice president at SymphonyIRI Group, who presented the "Snack Food State of the Industry" report at the Snack Food Association's annual convention earlier this month. In particular, healthy snacks increased by 3 percent in from 2008 to 2009, and rose 8 percent since 2005, as a majority of consumers choose snacks for nutritional benefits and attempt to save on medical bills by staying healthy.

Last week, SymphonyIRI Group announced its fifteenth annual "New Product Pacesetters" results for 2009. This report provides an analysis of new food and beverage brands and determines the top 10 performers based on the product's first year of sales. The top 10 include:
  1. Campbell's Select Harvest – $202 million in sales
  2. Bud Light Lime – $133 million in sales
  3. Arnold Select Sandwich Thins – $87 million in sales
  4. Similac Advance Early Shield – $87 million in sales
  5. Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers – $85 million in sales
  6. Dreyer's Edy's Fun Flavors – $72 million in sales
  7. Gatorade Tiger/Focus – $65 million in sales
  8. Miller Genuine Draft Light – $53 million in sales
  9. Mountain Dew Dewmocracy – $52 million in sales
  10. Bush's Best Grillin' Beans – $45 million in sales
Numerous companies within the food consumer products, food production, and beverage categories also registered on the 2009 Fortune 500 list:

Archer Daniels Midland – #27
PepsiCo – #52
Kraft Foods – #53
Coca-Cola – #73
Tyson Foods – #89
Coca-Cola Enterprises – #116
Smithfield Foods – #183
ConAgra Foods – #188
Pepsi Bottling – #189
General Mills – #193
Sara Lee – #199
Kellogg – #210
Dean Foods – #216
Land O'Lakes – #224
H.J. Heinz – #267
Pilgrim's Pride – #304
Campbell Soup – #309
Dole Food – #329
Hormel Foods – #373
Dr Pepper Snapple Group – #427
Hershey – #463
PepsiAmericas – #478
Molson Coors Brewing – #487

So far, 2010 is off to a great start for many companies. In its February 8 issue, Fortune magazine recognized J. M. Smucker as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work for in 2010," landing at number 47. General Mills also made the cut, coming in at number 90, up nine spots from 2009.

A few weeks later, Fortune announced its list of the "World's Most Admired Companies." Within the food and beverage CPG industry, Coca-Cola topped the list at number 10. PepsiCo landed at number 25, with Nestlé close behind at number 34. General Mills rounded out the list at number 47.

Let's keep the conversation going! What other hot topics dominated food and beverage CPG in '09? Where do you think the industry is headed in 2010? Leave me a message and tell me more.