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!