Friday, May 28, 2010

Here Comes Summer

Monday is Memorial Day, which means summer is just around the corner. For me, summer means picnics, cookouts, barbecues, and bonfires, and all the yummy goodness that goes along with such outings. Certain foods scream summer, and here are the ones I'm looking forward to once again this season.

A favorite hot weather treat that takes me back to childhood is the Firecracker. The red, white, and blue popsicles help to alleviate the heat and humidity of June, July, and August days.

There is nothing like a steak fresh from the grill. My husband spices up sirloin with McCormick's Garlic Pepper Seasoning Grinder, which adds just the right amount of seasoning on a hot summer's night.

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the wonders of salt and pepper potato chips at a company picnic. I was instantly hooked and now associate the chips with a cool summer breeze.

No summer is complete without s'mores. The roasted marshmallow, melted chocolate, graham cracker combo is the perfect end to an evening around the campfire.

What are your favorite foods to eat in the summer? Take a moment out of your long weekend to tell me about your summer snack preferences!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Company Accolades Continue

The June issue of DiversityInc magazine hit newsstands last week. The edition highlights the Top 50 Companies for Diversity and includes several food and beverage CPG companies and retailers, including The Coca-Cola Company at number 17, General Mills at number 29, Kraft Foods at number 35, and Target Corporation at number 40.

This year, 449 companies participated, up 12 percent from 2009. Thirty companies moved up on the list from last year, 19 moved down, and three companies are newcomers. To earn a spot on the list, corporations submitted a survey consisting of 200 questions that evaluated four areas: CEO Commitment, Human Capital, Corporate and Organizational Communications, and Supplier Diversity.

The survey results also determine the specialty lists:The list is now in its tenth year. DiversityInc continues to refine the survey each year to reflect best practices in diversity management.

Do you work for one of the food and beverage CPG companies or retailers on the list? I would love to hear more about your company's commitment to diversity.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ingredients Take a Vacation

This week, I noticed a theme as I was out and about running errands. As I walked the aisles of the grocery store and visited a fast food joint, I spotted signs here, there, and everywhere informing me of food shortages. While there is no need to panic...yet, I was completely unaware of the lack of some products in today's marketplace.

In the baking aisle of my local supermarket, an entire section sat empty. To my surprise, I learned that canned pumpkin is in short supply. Those seeking pureed pumpkin need to look elsewhere; last year's rain and cold temperatures depleted the crop and a busy Thanksgiving season took what was left of the product already on store shelves. Libby's, a Nestlé USA brand and one of the largest pumpkin canners, offers a complete explanation on their website, along with recipes for tasty alternatives until August when the 2010 harvest begins.

Desserts aren't the only course in jeopardy. Mornings have been a lot tougher in households across the country as consumers lament the shortage of Eggo waffles. Last year's heavy rains in Atlanta flooded a Kellogg-owned bakery, temporarily shutting down production. To make matters worse, equipment at Kellogg's largest waffle plant in Rossville, Tennessee, is undergoing substantial renovations. The company anticipates replenishing its stock by mid-year. Be the first to know when Eggos will be back in your grocer's freezer by signing up for e-mail updates from Kellogg's.

After leaving the supermarket, I stopped by Wendy's to grab a quick bite. There, I was greeted with a sign stating that tomatoes are only available by request. Customers with a penchant for the fruit need to ask for a slice. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is again to blame for this shortage. A January freeze in Florida killed more than 80 percent of the state's tomatoes and drove up prices for the remaining crops, but never fear! The spring harvest was unaffected and tomato production and distribution is expected to continue without a hitch during the coming weeks.

Have these shortages impacted your life? I'd also like to hear about other product scarcities you've observed. Leave a message and tell me what you know!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Companies with a Conscience

In April, the Ethisphere Institute released its list of the World's Most Ethical Companies. According to the organization, "the designation recognizes companies that go beyond making statements about doing business ethically and translate those words into action." Companies awarded the designation lead the way in the ethical practices and compliance programs.

Although the Ethisphere Institute does not create the registry with a specific number of slots in mind, the 2010 list encompasses 100 companies in a variety of industries. This year, 26 companies are new to the list, while 24 companies from last year's list are absent in the current edition, mainly from increased competition.

To make the list, companies submitted applications throughout the year for consideration by a methodology committee comprised of attorneys, professors, government officials, and organization leaders. Semi-finalists received an in-depth survey regarding ethics, compliance, governance, and corporate social responsibility. Upon data verification, the Ethisphere Institute assigned each company scores in seven categories:
  • Corporate citizenship and responsibility
  • Corporate governance
  • Innovation that contributes to public well being
  • Industry leadership
  • Executive leadership and tone from the top
  • Legal, regulatory, and reputation track record
  • Internal systems and ethics/compliance program
Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, and PepsiCo were among the food and beverage companies on the list. Food stores Trader Joe's, Wegmans, and Whole Foods Market also made the list, as well as specialty retailers Best Buy, Gap, IKEA, and Target. Starbucks was the only restaurant/café to earn a spot the list.

To learn more about the report, download the 2010 Ethisphere Media Responsibility PDF.

What about you? Are you more inclined to purchase goods and services from businesses that are recognized for their ethical or corporate social responsibility practices? Leave a message and tell me about your shopping preferences.

Friday, May 14, 2010

10 Questions or Less with Rob Borella

In my first blog post, I mentioned that I am a student trying to learn all that I can about the food and beverage CPG and retail industries. I believe that there is no better way to learn than posing questions to experienced professionals.

This week, meet Rob Borella, Senior Director, Marketing and Corporate Communications, at Giant Eagle. With stores throughout Western Pennsylvania, Central and Northern Ohio, Northern West Virginia, and Western Maryland, Giant Eagle has been serving communities the freshest foods at everyday low prices since 1918.

1. What is your background? As Senior Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications for Giant Eagle, I lead the company's corporate and customer communications, sponsorship, and community relations efforts.

I am the primary spokesman for the company and am responsible for all external and internal communications, our customer call center, sports marketing, and other community sponsorship relationships in our four-state footprint. Additionally, I manage the in-store sampling program offered to millions of our customers each week.

Prior to joining Giant Eagle and entering retailing in 2002, I led the marketing communications and investor relations functions at multiple Washington-area technology companies including Online Resources (Nasdaq: ORCC), Etensity, and InteliData. Previous to my experience in the technology sector, I was a lead spokesman for Amtrak's Washington headquarters, in addition to beginning my career in communications at the world headquarters of Sunoco oil company.

2. What drew you to this line of work? As a teenager, my passion was for two things: cooking and being on-stage. I suppose I wasn't quite talented enough to become the next celebrity chef on the Food Network, so the job of doing corporate and customer communications for a leading supermarket retailer was the perfect combination for me! I am lucky enough to interact with some of the best culinary folks in the world – some of whom work for Giant Eagle – as well as a long list of food celebrities who have made appearances at our stores including Martha Stewart, Guy Fieri, Paula Deen, Curtis Stone, and many more.

3. What do you love about your job? I love the energy and excitement of a fast-paced retail environment. On any given day, we can simultaneously be faced with the opportunities of launching a new store or a chain wide loyalty program, be a part of a national product recall, and have several other local and crisis communications issues to which to respond. The results of our efforts are measured every day, nearly instantaneously, with press stories and customer feedback online and via our call center.

4. How could a student or new professional gain relevant experience? Find an organization that is in the news frequently and apply for an internship program or similar opportunity. I started my career at the headquarters of Sunoco and Amtrak – two companies in the national news spotlight on a daily basis. My crisis communications experiences at Amtrak set the stage for the rest of my career. After dealing with transportation industry issues that often involved fatalities, there is very little (if anything) that can rattle you as a spokesperson. It was a tough job, but incredible experience to deal with any media crisis situation thereafter. It really puts into perspective the press issues you may face thereafter in your career.

5. How has your work in this field changed over the years? Many technologies have changed the way corporate and customer communications take place, making it immediate and multi-faceted – in print, via broadcast, online, and so on. Even after decades of technological change, the basic tenants of corporate communications still hold true: be open and honest; accurate and fair; timely; and open to course corrections based on feedback. No matter what future technologies will bring, the fundamentals remain.

6. Please tell me one place where readers can go to learn more about the field. There is a cool online "e-marketer" e-mail I get every day.

7. What is your favorite new food or beverage product? I took a tour of the McCormick headquarters last fall and have been very impressed with the company's passion for food and consumer marketing efforts. My wife loves the great recipes and background materials they provide, along with their annual "flavor forecast" that identifies upcoming trends. My favorite new product from McCormick are these "Recipe Inspirations," single-dish blister pack spices with a quick recipe on the back. It's an ingenious way to allow consumers to try a new dish and a new spice, all in one easy package.

Rob, thank you so much for your time! You have such a cool job and lots of great experience. Thanks for sharing your background, tips, and advice!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reflections on Change

Last week, the Twin Cities Chapter of the Network of Executive Women held their Spring Networking event. As a member, I had the opportunity to lunch and learn with talented women from area companies including SUPERVALU, Target, The Schwan Food Company, Land O' Lakes, and Procter and Gamble, among others.

The luncheon featured guest speaker Dr. Verna C. Price, president and principal consultant at J. Cameron & Associates.

To begin, Dr. Price posed an important question to the audience: Is your life what you want it to be? The inspiring program, "Change Your Life in 30 Days," emphasized the message that no one has more power than you do to effect change. While Dr. Price emphasized that change is beneficial and should be embraced, she noted that people never change unless they are challenged. She ended the program by offering ten strategies to create change:
  1. Know that you can change.
  2. Embrace change.
  3. Embrace your personal power.
  4. Analyze the pros and cons of your life.
  5. Confront your fear.
  6. Accept the challenge.
  7. Assess the people in your life.
  8. Write your change thought.
  9. Decide on three action steps.
  10. Find someone who will hold you accountable.
So, what are you waiting for? Go forward and use these tips to create a better life for yourself! If you have additional tips or suggestions, leave a message.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fun Friday: What's Your Flavor?

When I went grocery shopping earlier this week, I noticed a new flavor of Oreos on the store shelf - Oreo Dairy Queen Blizzard Creme. Nabisco introduced the limited edition cookie to commemorate the 25th birthday of the Dairy Queen Blizzard.

The delicious treat has come a long way since my childhood when an Oreo was just an Oreo - a vanilla creme filling sandwiched in between two chocolate wafers. Now, however, Oreos come in dozens of varieties and fun colors for different seasons and holidays. Personally, I am a fan of the Double Stuf Peanut Butter variety, and I want to know: What is your favorite kind of Oreo?

Milk anyone?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Extra Effort Awards

The work of a CEO cannot be easy. As the face of the company, the CEO's job is demanding. They must answer to employees, stakeholders, and consumers, and envision the strategic direction of the organization years in advance. In the food and beverage CPG field, several CEOs were recently recognized for their innovative contributions to the industry.

MarketWatch – 2009 CEO of the Year: Tim and Richard Smucker, The J.M. Smucker Company

Courtesy: The J.M. Smucker Company

In December, MarketWatch named brothers Tim and Richard Smucker the 2009 CEO of the Year. The brothers consider themselves co-CEOs of the more than 110-year-old family company based in Orrville, Ohio, and are now the fifth generation of Smuckers to run the company.

Under the duo's leadership, the J.M. Smucker Company acquired coffee giant Folgers at a price tag of $3.7 billion. The purchase added 1,500 employees to the company payroll, and more than half engaged in a three-day "Managing for Growth" seminar where staffers learned about the company's history, mission, and ethics. Analysts also credited the brothers for sales growth and rising stocks. For these reasons, Smucker's found itself once again on the 2010 Fortune "100 Best Companies to Work For", landing at number 47.

Global Supply Chain Leaders Group – 2009 CEO of the Year: Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo

Courtesy: PepsiCo

Last year was also a big year for Indra K. Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. In 2009, the Global Supply Chain Leaders Group named Nooyi CEO of the Year for developing and maintaining sustainable, responsible business practices within the company's global operations.

According to the organization, "The CEO of the Year Award recognizes industry leaders who have made extraordinary contributions in the areas of responsible corporate citizenship, the combat against global warming, involvement in social causes, and creating jobs in America in a globalized economy." Specifically, Nooyi, who assumed PepsiCo's top position in 2006, has worked to make the organization more environmentally friendly and offer snacks that are more nutritious.

Earlier this year, Penn State University announced that they would be honoring Nooyi with a doctorate of humane letters at an upcoming graduation ceremony.

Forbes – America's Favorite Boss: Ken Powell, General Mills

Courtesy: General Mills

Most recently, the Web site Glassdoor named Kendall J. Powell, General Mills CEO, America's favorite boss. To earn the title, 100 percent of voluntary reviews posted by employees approved of the way the CEO handles the job of leading the company. Powell joined the company in 1979 and stepped into the leadership position in September 2007. To read the entire list of "America’s Favorite Bosses," visit

Which CEOs do you admire? Leave a message and tell me, and I'll keep you posted as this year's award season approaches.