Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trust Me

Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine released its 2010 list of America's Most Trusted Companies. Several food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies made the cut, finding themselves in good company among standout businesses like Disney, Google, and Microsoft.

Kraft Foods stood highest on the list, coming in at number two. The Northfield, Illinois, company is the country's largest food manufacturer. Last year, Kraft rebranded, unveiling a new corporate logo to better position itself against private label manufactured goods.

Food manufacturer Kellogg's debuted on the list at number three. Headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan, Kellogg's is the world's largest cereal maker, earning $8 billion in 2009. With healthy brands like All-Bran, Smart Start, and Special K, the cereal maker has made a name for itself at the breakfast table.

Purchase, New York, based company PepsiCo also made the list. PepsiCo is probably best known for its Pepsi brand soft drinks, but is also responsible for the Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Quaker Oats, and Tropicana brands. Thanks to the Pepsi Refresh project, the company moved up to number five on the list from number 16 in 2009.

At number six, consumer goods company Sara Lee is best known for its breads and deli meats and cheeses. The company, headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois, also produces sweet treats and owns the Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, and Ball Park brands.

Dean Foods rounded out the list at number ten. The food manufacturing organization based in Dallas, Texas, distributes products including Silk Soymilk, International Delight Coffee Creamer, and Swiss Premium Iced Tea.

Are there any companies that you think were left out and deserve to be on the list? Leave a message with your thoughts!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Honest Tea Honesty

Honest Tea is known for its healthy, organic beverages. Through its mission, the company strives to grow with the same honesty it uses to craft its products. Recently, the CPG company put consumers to the test in its "Honest City Social Experiment."

During the past few months, the company set up unmanned pop-up stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Stocked with Honest Tea, the freestanding displays tested the honesty of residents. A collection box embedded in the impromptu store encouraged passers-by to purchase an Honest Tea beverage for $1 on the honor system. Hidden cameras recorded the actions of locals in each city and captured the results – did people drop a dollar in the box or walk away with a free bottle?

Here are the results: the most honest Honest Tea drinkers came from Boston, with 93.3 percent of individuals paying for their drink. Washington, D.C., came in next at 93 percent, followed by San Francisco at 91 percent. New York City and Atlanta tied at 89 percent. Chicago and Los Angeles did not fare as well in the study, coming in at 78 and 75 percent of people contributing a dollar for their beverage, respectively.

The test not only reinforces the brand's mission, but also speaks volumes about the ethics of Americans in major U.S. markets. I think the experiment was a buzz-worthy, relevant, and clever way to promote the company and its brand. What about you? And are you surprised by these results? Leave a message with your thoughts!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shopping for Education

For many students around the U.S., this week marks the start of the 2010-2011 school year. Many parents are doing their part to help improve their kids' schools just by going to the grocery store. For years, food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies have participated in programs that allow moms and dads to give back to education in the community.

One such initiative, Box Tops for Education, has been helping schools earn the extra cash they need for books and supplies for the past 13 years. To date, more than 90,000 schools across the nation educating students from kindergarten through eighth grade have earned $320 million through the program. Here's how it works: parents and teachers clip Box Tops coupons from hundreds of participating products found in grocery stores and hand them in to their local school. Schools earn $0.10 for each Box Top redeemed to fund much-needed supplies and equipment.

Companies partnered on the project include General Mills brands like Betty Crocker, Green Giant, Hamburger Helper, Pillsbury, and Yoplait among others, as well as Land O' Lakes, Nestlé USA, and Welch's.

Recently, the refreshing fruit-flavored beverage Sunny D also announced a program to help schools in the community. With every 20 Sunny D labels, pre-kindergarten through seventh grade classrooms in the U.S. earn 20 free books through the Sunny D Book Spree. In addition, the five schools that submit the most proof of purchase stamps will each receive $2,000 worth of books; the next five top submitting schools will each receive $1,000 worth of books. In 2009, the Sunny D Book Spree gave away 84,000 free books.

Finally, the Labels for Education project has been awarding free educational equipment to schools in exchange for proofs of purchase from the Campbell family of brands for more than 37 years. According to the organization's website, more than 60,000 schools and organizations are registered with the program, benefiting more than 42 million students and providing more than $110 million in merchandise to schools around the country.

The next time you're shopping for groceries, be mindful of the stickers, logos, and tags on items supporting these promotions that benefit schools in your community. Be sure, too, to visit the websites of the organizations to learn how you can donate your labels to these worthwhile causes.

Make your voice heard! If you participate in these types of programs for your child's school, leave me a message and tell me about your experience.

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Food Finds

To find new foods, you can look high and low, or you can just know where to go to get the scoop on the latest goods to hit supermarket shelves.

If you like to snack, check out the Featured New Products section from the Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery Magazine. Be the first to know when Pretzel Crisps and Get Movin' Crackers are coming to a store near you.

When in the grocery store, if you find yourself most often in the frozen foods area, visit the New Products part of the Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Retailer Magazine. Here, learn about new items like Yoplait Splitz from General Mills, a yogurt that tastes like a sundae whether eaten at a medium chill or frozen.

You can also visit the Refrigerated & Frozen Foods newsletter to see what's "On the Cold Front." Be in the know on frozen products ranging from Hungry Man Pub Favorites to a new selection of Banquet frozen meals.

For those who prefer finding out about the products on the cutting edge (think gluten free, made with whole grains, organic, etc.), go to Product News on the Progressive Grocer website. Perdue whole grain chicken breast nuggets, Nestlé Cherry Raisinets, and frozen organic baby food from Jack's Harvest are just a sampling of some of the new goods you'll know about before being able to place them in your cart.

Looking for something new to drink? Take a look at the New Products page on the Beverage Industry Magazine website. Whether you're interested in Fruvi from True Wine Imports or Earth Balance Soymilk, this is the place to find new ways to wet your whistle.

Finally, if you have a sweet tooth, Candy Industry Magazine's New Product Marketplace is for you. Find out how much you can expect to pay for sweet snacks like TWIX Triple Chocolate candy bars and salty treats such as Kettle Brand Fully Loaded Baked Potato chips.

Thumb through these website page suggestions, and let me know which new product you're most interested in seeing on store shelves!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

School Lunches Get a Makeover

Believe it or not, school is just around the corner! As the summer comes to an end, kids around the country are buying their supplies and preparing to head back to the classroom. Students aren't the only ones, though, getting ready for hard work. All summer long, lunch ladies and cafeteria workers have been learning how to prepare healthy, nutritious meals and will put their knowledge to the test when school starts.

In June, hundreds of chefs from across the nation gathered on the South Lawn of the White House in support of the "Chefs Move to Schools" program, part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity. The program is intended to leverage the momentum of Let's Move! to focus on the positive impact chefs can have on schools in their communities.

"Chefs Move to Schools" is led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and pairs chefs with participating schools in their communities to create healthy meals that meet the schools' dietary guidelines and budgets, and to teach young people about nutrition and making balanced, healthy choices.

Supporters of the movement include companies like ConAgra Foods, The Campbell Soup Company, and Delaware North Companies.

To find if your school district is participating in the program, visit the crusade's website.

As class gets underway, drop me a line and let me know if the schools in your community are active in this initiative.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Get On Board

Have you ever wondered why certain foods have "boards"? Well, wonder no more! Food boards exist for three primary reasons: to promote a product, to share safety information about a product, or to protect the interests of the growers or farmers who produce a product. Here are just a few of the many active boards representing foods across the country and working with food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies throughout the nation.

The American Egg Board links U.S. egg producers to consumers and works hard to communicate the nutritional and economic value of eggs. If you're an egg lover, take a pledge vowing to eat an “incredible edible egg” everyday.

The National Dairy Council works on behalf of American dairy farmers and provides science-based nutrition information about milk and milk products. Since dairy is an important part of any diet, the NDC encourages everyone to get their three servings of low- or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt daily.

The National Peanut Board is a farmer-funded national research, promotion, and education program. Growers across the nation come together to contribute to the research and promotion of American peanuts. If you're allergic to peanuts, know that the National Peanut Board wants to educate everyone about peanut and food allergies through their research and education initiatives.

When it comes to fruit, the National Mango Board's got you covered. This national promotion and research organization wants you to experience the exotic flavor of mangos, the world's most popular fruit. Because mangos are grown in tropical areas throughout the world, consumers can enjoy them year-round. If you're unsure how to pick, store, or slice a mango, their website provides excellent tips.

Staying with fruit, the National Watermelon Promotion Board operates with a single objective: to increase consumer demand for watermelon through promotion, research, and educational programs. The Orlando-based non-profit organization was founded in 1989 by watermelon growers and shippers, and since then, has developed marketing programs to boost watermelon sales in supermarkets throughout the U.S. and Canada. They even have their own mascot – J. Slice!

Moving on to vegetables, the United States Potato Board is the nation's potato marketing organization. The Board is positioned as the catalyst for positive change and strives to implement programs that will increase demand for potatoes and runs the Potatoes Goodness Unearthed promotion.

In addition to these organizations, other boards have been the brains behind memorable slogans, jingles, and campaigns. The National Pork Board notified us that pork is the other white meat. The Cattlemen's Beef Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association joined forces to create the "beef...it's what's for dinner" crusade. Together, the Milk Processor Education Program and the California Milk Processor Board created the "Got Milk" and milk mustache movements.

Certainly, this is not a comprehensive list of food boards. If you know of others, please leave links and messages to tell me more!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Refresh Everything

In December 2009, PepsiCo made a rather controversial decision when it decided to skip Super Bowl advertising to focus on cause marketing. Since the start of 2010, the company has "refreshed everything," launching the Pepsi Refresh Project, giving away millions of dollars in grants to build individuals and communities.

Here's how it works:

  • People, businesses, and non-profit organizations submit ideas that they believe will have a positive impact on their communities. Anyone can submit an idea, and the company accepts up to 1,000 applications each month.
  • Consumers are asked to vote for causes they like. They can vote for up to 10 ideas every day.
  • At the end of the month, the chosen applicants to receive grants are announced. Applicants not chosen are encouraged to apply again, and the whole process starts over again.
Each month, the Pepsi Refresh Project awards numerous grants of different sizes. Up to 10 individual awardees are selected every month to receive $5,000 to unleash their inspired ideas. Another group of up to 10 individuals and small groups receive $25,000 to implement their initiatives within the community. $50,000 is awarded to up to 10 companies and organizations that can make a difference with their proposal. Finally, up to two organizations are granted $250,000 to dedicate a large amount of time and resources to their plan.

For the month of August, the Pepsi Refresh Project committed an additional $1.3 million to its $20 million campaign to "do good" for the Gulf and fund ideas that will support the communities hit hardest by the BP oil spill.

PepsiCo has teamed with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and The Today Show to spread the word and subsidize ideas that make the world a better place.

So far, grant recipients include The American Legion of Indianapolis, Indiana, who are using their $250,000 grant to provide comfort items for U.S. military troops recovering from wounds; The Economic Empowerment Initiative of Atlanta, Georgia, which received a $50,000 grant to provide financial literacy seminars for high school and college students; and Because We Are Sisters of Richmond, Virginia, that will use their $5,000 grant to support seven families in need as they prepare for the arrival of a baby, among others in the past months. Check out these videos featuring inspirational grant recipients:

Along with partners GOOD, DoSomething.org, City Year, and GlobalGiving, the Pepsi Refresh Project is making a difference in communities across the country.

Every Pepsi refreshes the world. Drink your Pepsi and vote for your favorite project at www.refresheverything.com!

Do you love this campaign as much as I do? Leave me a message with your thoughts (good or bad!) and definitely let me know if your community has been "refreshed" by this innovative campaign.

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's Your Day, Food

Did you know that today is National Root Beer Float Day? While A&W Root Beer and Edy's Grand Ice Cream might jump at the chance to honor the marriage of root beer and ice cream, it seems like every day honors some provision within the food chain.

The year kicks off with National Spaghetti Day, January 4 (not to be confused with National Pasta Day on October 17). January is also National Soup Month, which Campbell's Soup warmly welcomes in the cold winter season.

In February, Del Monte is just one CPG company that is pleased to ring in National Canned Food Month, celebrating "the nutrition, convenience, and great taste that canned food provides for today's busy consumers."

March holidays include National Cereal Day on the 7th, which is loosely tied to the anniversary of the invention of Kellogg's corn flakes. Frito-Lay can ring in National Chip and Dip Day on the 23rd.

Moving into spring, April brings National Soft Pretzel Month, Chinese Almond Cookie Day on April 9, and Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on April 12, sure to bring smiles to the employees at Kraft.

In May, you'll find National Egg Month, which according to the American Egg Board, is when egg sales are the slowest. June brings National Iced Tea Month and National Onion Ring Day on June 22.

Summer foods reign supreme in July with National Baked Bean Month (can you say Bush's?), National Hot Dog Day the third Wednesday of the month, and National Ice Cream Day, July 19. The first Saturday in August is always National Mustard Day and ends with National Trail Mix Day on August 31.

As fall approaches, September lends itself to National Potato Month, National Guacamole Day on the 16th, and National Coffee Day, September 29. October marks National Caramel Month, National School Lunch Week (the second week of the month), and National Candy Corn Day, October 30.

As the year comes to an end, November brings about National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day on the 19th (drink up that Mountain Dew!), and National Cake Day, November 26. It's only fitting that December has been deemed National Egg Nog and National Fruit Cake Month. Did you know that Christmas Day is National Pumpkin Pie Day, and December 26 is National Candy Cane Day? To ring in the New Year, it's also appropriate that December 31 has been named National Champagne Day.

For a complete list of wacky and wild U.S. celebrations revolving around food every day, week, and month of the year, check out this website.

Do you pay attention to these food holidays? I would love to hear stories about public relations promotions or events that take place on these days. Please, share your articles in the comment section!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DIY Chocolate

Put on your hairnet and prepare your sweet tooth! Earlier this month, The Hershey Company opened a new, interactive experience at Hershey's Chocolate World that gives guests the opportunity to concoct their own chocolaty confection.

The Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction opened June 12 and puts visitors in the role of chocolate maker, designer, and overall innovator.

When patrons enter the attraction, they immediately get ready to play the part of chocolate maker by donning factory aprons and hairnets. From there, they move to an interactive kiosk where they choose up to three personalized ingredients from the list of graham cracker crumbs, crisped rice, blueberry fruit gels, chocolate cookie bits, vanilla chips, and rainbow sprinkles for their custom-made milk chocolate bar. They also design packaging tailored to their individualized taste. At the end of the 30-minute experience, visitors leave with their delicious souvenir.

For only $14.95 per person, each guest not only receives the candy bar he or she invented, but also experiences the confection creation process from start to finish by witnessing authentic equipment in operation at a genuine chocolate factory first-hand.

If you can't make it to Hershey, Pennsylvania, anytime soon, you can always visit the attraction virtually on the Chocolate World website.

Have you created your own Hershey's candy bar? Share your stories and photos in the comment section below. If not, tell me what you would add to your dream creation!