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!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top Brands of 2010

Last week, brand consultancy firm Interbrand announced their annual ranking of 2010 best global brands. Several beverage companies made the list, as well as a number of food manufacturers.

For the eleventh year in a row, Coca-Cola topped the list. According to Interbrand, "Coca-Cola gets almost everything right. Its brand promise of fun, freedom, spirit, and refreshment resonates the world over and it excels at keeping the brand fresh and always evolving – all this, while also maintaining the nostalgia that reinforces customers' deep connection to the brand." The company also lauded Coke's involvement in social media.

Pepsi came in at number 23, remaining unchanged in the poll since last year. Interbrand recognized Pepsi's corporate citizenship programs, including an initiative to pull soft drinks from schools and its Pepsi Refresh Project.

Switzerland-based beverage company NESCAFÉ, makers of coffee, cappuccino, and latte drinks, landed at number 27, dropping two places since last year, while Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser entered the list at number 30, unchanged since 2009. Interbrand cited the beer's ability to continue advertising with its hallmark Clydesdales, making them more relevant for audiences today.

At number 35, the first food manufacturer to make the list is cereal giant Kellogg's, slipping one spot since last year. The consumer packaged goods company has pushed the nutritional elements of its cereals and snacks, while using Facebook to connect with consumers. Rising two spots since 2009, Heinz landed on the list at number 46. According to Interbrand, the company "went through a massive rebranding process, but only made a small change to its packaging and image, which demonstrates the consistency that Heinz values for its brand and its products."

Rounding out the list:
To compile the list, Interbrand said it looked at the ongoing investment and management of the brand as a business asset. The company's method took into account all of the many ways in which a brand touches and benefits its organization, from attracting and retaining talent to delivering on customer expectation.

The three key aspects that contributed to the assessment were the financial performance of the branded products or services, the role of brand in the purchase decision process, and the strength of the brand.

Are your surprised by the 2010 list? Are there any companies that you expected to see that are not in the this year's rankings? Leave a message and tell me what you think.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Holiday Food Traditions

Starting tonight at sundown, Jews around the world will observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, with prayer and fasting. At the end of the holiday, it is tradition to break the fast with a family meal.

Have you ever noticed how important food can be to a holiday? Often times, it manages to take center stage and overshadow the day at hand; however, what is a holiday if you can’t enjoy it with family and food?

Whether you have to have a certain food for your birthday dinner or a specific brand of ham or turkey for your Easter, Thanksgiving (Butterball!), or Christmas holiday, it's food that makes or breaks your celebration.

Today, I'd love to hear about what foods and brands have to be on your table for important holidays, festivities, and gatherings. Tell me about your family traditions and the foods they involve by leaving a comment below.

Photo courtesy Melissa Goodman/The Gifted Photographer

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Companies Doing Well by Doing Good

No matter what you call it – business ethics, corporate citizenship, corporate social performance, responsible business, social accountability, or sustainable responsible business – corporate social responsibility is an important aspect of any business model. Corporations that self-regulate their activities and work to have a positive impact on their local community, the environment, consumers, employees, and stakeholders have gone above and beyond in recent years to ensure their work is making a difference.

Earlier this year, General Mills released its 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. Among the company's accomplishments:
  • Improving nearly 50 percent in the nutrition profile of its products since 2005
  • Contributing almost $91 million in philanthropic giving
  • Introducing innovative ways to trim waste and reduce the company's environmental footprint
For their work, General Mills has received many honors, including one of the "100 Greenest Companies in America" by Newsweek Magazine and was named one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies" by the Ethisphere Institute.

Last month, PepsiCo released its 2009 Corporate Citizenship Report. The company believes in its "Performance with Purpose" motto, delivering sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and the planet and strives to bring that purpose to every aspect of its business. In 2009, PepsiCo was able to:
Also in August, Dannon announced that it had cut its overall carbon footprint by 10 percent in 2009, just one of the company's many achievements announced in its Corporate Social Responsibility Report. For this work, the food and beverage company was recognized as one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's top green power partners for using the most renewable electricity.

Looking ahead, Coca-Cola Enterprises is planning a "Journey to 2020" when the set of targets and goals the company released last year are met. The company inched closer to those goals, as outlined in their most recent Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report. Coca-Cola Enterprises has made strides in areas such as energy conservation and climate change, water stewardship, sustainable packaging and recycling, product portfolio/active lifestyle, diverse and inclusive culture, and stakeholder engagement.

Food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies have embraced CSR. Concern about overall positive impact on society is no longer trendy; it's the right thing to do.

What companies do you think have the best CSR campaigns? What companies do you think could be doing more? Leave a message to share your thoughts on this important topic.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I ♥ NY

New York. It was crooner Frank Sinatra who melodically told the world that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Recently, it seems as though food manufacturers have taken this advice to heart, opening stores in New York City, and proving that they can be successful in the Big Apple and elsewhere.

Last month, Kellogg's opened what could be referred to as a shrine to Pop-Tarts in none other than New York's Times Square. Pop-Tarts World allows visitors to taste desserts like "sushi," a pastry with three varieties of Pop-Tarts minced and wrapped in a fruit roll-up, enjoy a laser light show that simulates the look of frosting, and create a personalized mixed pack of the breakfast treat. Kellogg's anticipates that the store, open seven days a week, will boost the Pop-Tarts brand with its advertising and visibility in the popular location.

With its launch, Pop-Tarts World joined food CPG companies already established in Times Square. In 2006, Mars expanded their M&M's World franchise with a New York store, adding to existing locations on the Las Vegas Strip and in Orlando. At M&M's World, visitors can gawk at the world's largest display of plain and peanut M&M's in 22 different colors and purchase one (or more!) of the more than 4,000 one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs designed solely for the outlet.

Those visiting New York's Times Square will have no shortage of sugar. Hershey's Times Square is a 16-story candy spectacular located at 48th and Broadway that celebrates all things Hershey's. For its opening in October 2002, the store constructed a 215-foot tall, 60-foot wide outdoor façade, complete with 34 dimensional props, four steam machines, more than 4,000 chasing lights, 30 programmable lights, 56 neon letters, 14 front-lit signs, and every modern major signage technique used – making it the largest permanent fixture ever built in Times Square.

Have you visited these stores? Please, share your thoughts, pictures, and stories in the comment section! You can also tell me what other food companies you think need to have a devoted shop in the Big Apple.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mascots Greet the Morning

September is National Breakfast Month. As students start a new school year, it's important to remember that breakfast is the month important meal of the day. Morning fuel starts your day out right and keeps you full and focused…until lunch anyway!

Throughout the years, cereal companies have produced advertising campaigns and cartoon characters to keep their products top of mind for adults and children alike, which brings me to today's post: Which cereal mascot is your favorite?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Golden Anniversary

Today marks my 50th blog post, and I want to thank all of you for reading! Your enthusiasm and support have made this process really quite fun. I enjoy reading your comments, both published here on the blog and sent to me personally, that have provided me with direction and encouragement to keep posting. So, thank you!

I'm not the only one, though, celebrating a milestone. Have you noticed how many companies and products are commemorating 2010 with an anniversary?

For starters, 2010 marks the 125th anniversary of Dr. Pepper. The bold soft drink combines 23 flavors to create its distinct taste. This summer, to honor its quasquicentennial, Dr. Pepper introduced a classic version, temporarily swapping out high fructose corn syrup for real sugar.

In 1925, Hostess got its start in Indianapolis when Continental Baking Company purchased a bakery called Taggart that was selling a popular new bread called Wonder. According to the company's website, Continental needed a line of cakes to sell alongside its bread and created Hostess cake. Eighty-five years later, adults and kids alike are still enjoying Hostess Cup Cakes and Twinkies, which Jimmy Dewar invented in 1930.

This year, too, Ocean Spray turns 80. When three cranberry growers decided to expand the cranberry market, they created such foodstuffs as cranberry sauce and cranberry juice cocktails. Today, Ocean Spray is the leader in canned and bottled juice drinks in the United States.

Friendly's Ice Cream is also celebrating this year as it turns 75 years old. The restaurant chain was founded in 1935 by brothers Curtis and S. Prestley Blake, who were only 18 and 20 years old, respectively, at the time. Their first shop in Springfield, Massachusetts, served only double-dip cones for a whopping five cents. Presently, the company boasts 505 restaurants in 16 states and manufactures its ice cream to supermarkets in 12 states.

This year, Dairy Queen commemorates two occasions; Not only was the company founded 70 years ago in 1940, but it also created the hugely successful frosty Blizzard treat 25 years ago in 1985.

Dunkin' Donuts also turns the big 6-0 this year. The first store opened in 1950 in Quincy, Massachusetts. Today, the company is the world's largest chain of coffee, donut, and bagel shops with more than 6,000 locations spanning the globe.

Congratulations to these companies and products, and thanks again for reading 10 Items or Less! If you know of companies or products that are observing birthdays or anniversaries in 2010, share it with me in the comments section.