Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

As 2011 comes to a close, it's time to reflect on the year. Today's post marks my 52nd blog entry for the year, and my 132nd post since I started writing 10 Items or Less in March 2010.

When I started this blog, my goals were simple: to maintain a personal journal of what I was learning in the food and beverage consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry and to become a part of this dynamic business. Today, I am proud to say that I have achieved both these goals.

By blogging twice a week in 2010 and once a week in 2011, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding the food and beverage CPG industry. I worked hard to understand the challenges, issues, and advancements within the business, and was able to use this experience to better prepare me for entering the field. In October, I accepted an amazing position at a top-notch beverage company, utilizing my public relations background.

So far, the job has been incredible. I am grateful for the fulfilling work I get to do every day, the amazing coworkers that have taught me so much already, and the unbelievable opportunities that await me as I start – what I believe will be – a lifelong career.

That said, the work is indeed challenging; the issues are indeed demanding; and the advancements are indeed extraordinary. The workload leaves little time for me to devote my personal time to updating a blog on a weekly basis.

What does this mean? Well, I'm not quite sure. I love writing my blog, I love reading your comments, and I love continuing my journal to keep track of what I am learning. I promise to share with you what I can, when I can. That might mean that sometimes, my posts are consistently once a week. It may be that posts are once a month. During busy times, I imagine I might have to go several weeks - or months - before I can dedicate my time to a well-researched, well-thought out post. So, please be patient.

I thank you for reading, I thank you for commenting, and I thank you for accompanying me on this journey. May all of your dreams come true in 2012!

Until we meet again...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Favorite Things

Some holiday flavors are available just once a year. So why deny yourself the chance to indulge on delicious seasonal tastes? Once the New Year arrives, you'll have plenty of time to make resolutions to watch your weight! For now, enjoy these Christmas candy facts from the National Candy Association:
  • More than 150 million chocolate Santas will be made for the winter holiday season.
  • The winter holidays represent the biggest boxed chocolate selling season.
  • The winter holidays are the third largest “candy holiday” sales season, behind Halloween and Easter. Valentine’s Day is fourth.
  • Retail sales overall for the winter holiday season account for 20 to 40 percent of annual retail sales.
For now, I'm curious to hear from my readers! Vote for your favorite holiday treat.

*Note: Survey works best in Chrome.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Season of Sweetness

If you've read my blog, you know I have a major sweet tooth! I love to read about new candies and write about the new treats hitting store shelves. Every Christmas, I'm excited to see which new sweets will be available for the holidays, and this year was no exception. Now that Christmas is just weeks away, I've been paying close attention to the new flavors I've seen in stores. Here are just a few:

This year, JELL-O introduced pudding in Gingerbread and Peppermint flavors. End any holiday meal on a high note with these tasty seasonal pudding varieties.

Have you seen this year's Jones Soda Holiday Pack? The 2011 four-pack mix includes Gingerbread, Sugar Plum, Candy Cane, and Pear Tree flavors. The company is known for creating and offering offbeat drinks on a limited basis annually for the holidays.

Candy canes are a Christmas staple, and every year, there are more kinds. New this year are candy canes from WarHeads and Sour Patch, as well as an assortment of branded candy canes from Spangler, in Jelly Belly, Sour Punch, Smarties, and Dum Dum flavors.

Finally, Nabisco has introduced Sweet Cinnamon Wheat Thins this holiday season. A perfect snack this time of year, the cracker has just the right amount of sweet cinnamon goodness to bring Christmas cheer.

Tell me, what holiday flavors do you like? Also, drop me a line and share the new products you've seen this season!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Best of: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas is just weeks away, and while I love holiday programming from How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Christmas Vacation, I enjoy the holiday commercials even more! This week, I'm reviving my post from last year, highlighting the best Christmas commercials the retail and food and beverage industries have to offer.

If you have additional ads you'd like to add to the list, drop me a line with the link so I can check it out! Thanks...and enjoy the holiday season!

While I love all the holiday specials on TV this time of year, I have to admit, there are some Christmas commercials that I wait all year to see. I get very excited to watch these spots and am sometimes happier to see these ads than hear Charlie-in-the Box sing about the Island of Misfit Toys or watch innocent Cindy Loo Who buy into lies from the Grinch. Here are some of my all time favorite holiday commercials:

Eat'n Park is a Pittsburgh area restaurant that's been around since 1949. In 1982, the company wanted to create a holiday card on video to thank the city for their support. The result was an ad that has become a Christmas classic and a holiday staple. This commercial is not just my favorite Christmas commercial, it's my favorite 30-second spot of all time! I hope you like it as much as I do.

Other Christmas commercials from food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies and retailers also do a phenomenal job of adding to the holiday season. Take a look:

Leave a comment and tell me: What are some of your favorite holiday commercials? I hope you get to see them this season! Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not Gone, Not Forgotten

If you're like my household, Thanksgiving is far from over. From turkey and stuffing to gravy and green beans, Thanksgiving's dinner with all its fixings are still leftover in my refrigerator. If you're in need of some creative recipes to get through your remaining feast, food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies have you covered!

Too much turkey? Kraft suggests a tasty Turkey and Broccoli Casserole or Leftover Turkey Soup to get through what's left of your bird.

French's French Fried Onions are a key ingredient to a Thanksgiving favorite – green bean casserole. If you find yourself with leftovers, try some Crunchy Onion Mashed Potatoes or top your double-decker with this recipe for BBQ Turkey Sandwiches.

Campbell's offers ideas, too. Take that leftover turkey and start your morning with a Benedict-Style Turkey Sandwich. Or, end your day with a Quick Turkey Stir-Fry.

Too many potatoes from your Turkey Day? Don't let them go to waste! Use this recipe from Ore-Ida to create a Loaded Baked Potato Soup, or try Country Crock's Garlic Smashed Potato Cakes to use up your spuds. If it's sweet potatoes that are hanging around your fridge, test this Sweet Potato Bread recipe from Bruce's Yams.

Cranberries are a staple at Thanksgiving tables across the country, but when you find yourself with an extra can after the holiday, look to Ocean Spray for unique ways to incorporate the fruit into your next meal. Fruited Rice Pilaf, Red Ribbon Cranberry Coffee Cake, and Cranberry Chutney are just some ways to put the delicious side to good use.

Invite friends over and gobble up these proposed appetizers from Pillsbury. Try Mini Monte Cristos or Basil-Turkey Mini Focaccia Sandwiches for a small bite to eat after a large Thanksgiving meal.

Need more dinner ideas? These tips from Betty Crocker will help you put your turkey and sides to good use!

A week after Thanksgiving, how much of your banquet is still housed in your refrigerator or freezer? Share your inspired Turkey Day recipes and let's make the most of this year's leftovers!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pick Now, Pay Later

The busiest shopping day of the year is upon us! The day after Thanksgiving, known as "Black Friday," kicks off the holiday shopping season with major sales, deals, and steals. This year, stores are opening earlier than ever, with retailers like Best Buy unlocking their doors at midnight to get a jump on holiday transactions. Kohls, Macy's, Sears, and Target are also expected to open at 12 a.m. on Friday.

With holiday sales expected to rise this season to about $450 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, shoppers can count on discounts at stores open morning, noon, and night leading up to Christmas. In addition to extended hours to suit consumers' schedules, retailers are once again offering layaway to allow shoppers to reserve their purchases and make payments leading up to December 25. Here are just some of the holiday offers you can expect to see to make this year's shopping spree a little easier on your wallet:
  • Best Buy introduced layaway this holiday season, whether your purchase is for business, home, or school.
  • Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, has brought back layaway for the first time in five years, and is available for items purchased in the toys, electronics, and fine jewelry departments.
  • Sears will offer free holiday shipping when customers spend at least $99 on its website.
  • Kmart will offer free holiday shipping when customers spend at least $49 on its website.
  • Toys "R" Us is offering loyalty program members 10 percent back on purchases from October 30 to Christmas Eve.
Are you planning to take advantage of the return of layaway, as well as this season's best sales? Tell me how you plan to attack holiday spending this year while staying on budget, and happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leave a Peppermint Stick for Old St. Nick

Halloween is behind us and the holidays are just around the corner. Head into any grocery store, and you'll see the flavors of the season in full force. From peppermint to gingerbread, the quintessential tastes of Thanksgiving and Christmas are here. Check out these new products, around just for the holiday season.

Little Debbie Peppermint Swiss Rolls are the perfect Christmas treat. A twist on the snack cake's traditional chocolate cake roll, this pastry's crème filling adds a cool hint of peppermint.

Kellogg's doesn't let a holiday, season, or celebration go by without introducing a new Pop-Tart variety. This Christmas, the toaster pastry maker rolled out a limited edition Frosted Sugar Cookie selection, in addition to last year's popular Gingerbread treat.

Want to add a taste of the holidays to your hot cocoa or Rice Krispies treat? Try Kraft Jet-Puffed Gingerbread Mallows for a spiced up kick to your traditional holiday favorites.

Add new Country Crock Spreads to your Thanksgiving table. Available in Pumpkin Spice and Honey, the spreads are the perfect pairing for holiday breads, potatoes, baked goods, and more!

Running out of time to bake cookies for Santa? Look no further than Nestlé Toll House pre-made gingerbread cookie dough. Now available in tubes and tubs, you can make a family of gingerbread men, women, and kids in a fraction of the time.

Enjoy all your holiday cookies with a piping hot cup of coffee, and add the essence of the season with Coffee-mate's limited edition products, including Eggnog Latte, Gingerbread Latte, and Peppermint Mocha.

What are your favorite items to savor during the holiday season? Drop me a line and share your preferred Thanksgiving and/or Christmas indulgences!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Luck Be a Lady

If you're seeking fame and fortune, look no further than the retail outlets and food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies offering contests, challenges, and competitions to revitalize its brands, find new talent, and create original advertising campaigns.

All summer long, Hershey's hosted a photo contest encouraging families, friends, and groups of people to post photos of their summer s'mores moments. From cookouts and barbeques to reunions and picnics, the roasted graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow treat is a perfect way to celebrate summer. The "Say S'mores" contest allowed faithful fans to upload their pictures for a chance to win a camera, gift cards, s'more ingredients, tee shirts, and more. The contest ended September 21, but the memories captured on camera last a lifetime!

For those handy with a camera, but prefer filming live-action movies, break out the handheld camcorder and be on the lookout for contests like Frito-Lay's Fan Remix Video Contest. While the contest ended April 1, this fun challenge was no joke. Entrants had the chance to win items including Frito-Lay apparel and party packs.

Dancing not your thing? Tune up your pipes and belt out a song for one of the many jingle contests that have been popping up lately. Earlier this year, Libby's Canned Fruits & Vegetables teamed up with singer-songwriter Jewel for a jingle contest. Consumers were given the chance to re-make the company's iconic tune and win $10,000 in the process. Earlier this summer, Libby crowned Dan Bakst the contest winner for his creative video, which showcased Dan and his two friends popping out of Libby's Fruit and Vegetable cans singing, dancing, and playing a range of instruments.

Folgers had a similar idea when the Smuckers-owned brand launched its "Best Part of Waking Up" jingle contest, giving aspiring musicians an opportunity to add new life to the decades-old melody. In June, the coffee maker declared its winner, awarding the champion $25,000, a music mentoring session, and the chance to appear in a future Folgers Coffee commercial.

When Oreo unveiled its new line of Cakester snacks last year, Nabisco searched high and low for an individual or a group to breathe new life into its tried and true "ice cold milk and an Oreo cookie..." song. The result? A fantastic rendition from an a cappella quartet starring four women from San Diego.

A final jingle contest crept up not too long ago when Welch's Fruit Snacks asked musically minded consumers to submit their original tunes to its Jinglicious Jingle Contest. Through October 31, contestants could upload video of their jingle to the company's Facebook page for a chance to win the contest and earn an iPad and $1,000.

Of course, in the food and beverage CPG industry, what's a contest without eating, cooking, or baking with the ingredients we know and love? Perhaps the most recognized and most anticipated contest comes with the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off. With a $1 million grand prize, the stakes are high for this 60-year-old competition. Or, take on a different kind of baking with the annual Jell-O Mold Competition.

Another contest Americans wait for each year with bated breath comes on Independence Day with Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, held annually at the original Nathan's Famous in Coney Island.

Feeling creative? Enter Baskin-Robbins Next Favorite Flavor Contest for the chance to win a year's worth of ice cream and have your creation sold in stores! And, be on the lookout in January 2012 to vote for the winner of the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest, where five lucky kids will compete for a $25,000 college fund.

Those who are too shy to work on an entry on their own are encouraged to join forces with their local church for Pillsbury's latest contest to launch its line of microwavable Egg Scrambles and Grands! Biscuit Sandwiches. The "Do Something Big" contest encourages churches across the country to pick a meaningful need within their communities, mobilize to implement a solution, and submit videos documenting their efforts. The winning church will receive a concert by Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary and a breakfast sponsored by Pillsbury Egg Scrambles and Grands! Biscuit Sandwiches.

I'm curious; have you ever entered any of these contests, and if so (and perhaps more importantly!), have you ever won? Leave a message and let me know what you've entered in the past and what you earned for your efforts!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

PB...No J

Did you know that November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month? Since last year's tribute to the creamy and crunchy varieties of such brands like Jif and Skippy, much has changed in the PB category.

For starters, peanut butter has been dominating the news for the past few months. This summer's hot and dry weather, combined with farmers planting less peanuts for the upcoming crop, has led to a shortage of the legume. This has pushed peanut butter prices up for both manufacturers and consumers, making peanut butter one of the priciest items at the grocery store and in your pantry.

Despite this news, peanut butter makers have still been hard at work, creating new kinds of peanut butter for PB lovers across the globe. Skippy recently introduced a line of natural products, including Natural Super Chunk, Natural Creamy, and Natural Creamy with Honey. The 100 percent natural spreads contain no artificial colors or flavorings, and need no stirring.

Additionally, Planters, America's leading snack nut brand, added peanut butter to its line-up once again after a 30-year hiatus. The newly unveiled PB also presented a new animated character, Peanut Butter Doug, the dubious and adventurous stunt double of Mr. Peanut.

According to the National Peanut Board, the average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year. With peanut butter consumed in 90 percent of U.S. households, Americans combine to eat more than 1.5 billion pounds of peanuty goodness annually, and spend $800 million on peanut butter alone.

How will you love peanut butter this month? Share your favorite peanut butter recipe, craft, or whip up the most creative peanut butter and jelly sandwich you can imagine, and enjoy celebrating National Peanut Butter Lovers Month!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get Your Scare On

Halloween is so close! It's time to rent your scary movies, finalize your costume, and decide which candy you’ll be handing out to trick-or-treaters.

This year, 70 percent of Americans are expected to partake in Halloween activities, spending $53 on average for candy, decorations, and costumes. Halloween is the biggest non-gift giving holiday in the United States, with analysts forecasting overall product spending at $6.86 billion this season.

With 5 percent of all candy consumed for the year on Halloween and the week after, it's safe to say that a majority of that money will be spent on sweet treats. Again this year, retailers have stocked shelves with M&M's Candy Corn White Chocolate Candy, while new products are also creeping up. Just Born's Peeps line welcomed new seasonal items, including chocolate dipped orange marshmallow chicks and chocolate mousse-flavored marshmallow cats, in addition to offering standard marshmallow pumpkins and ghosts.

But which candy brands are the most popular and provide the most buzz? Recently, NetBase, a provider of social media insight and analysis, released a Halloween-themed Brand Passion Index to determine the emotions, opinions, and behaviors of six candy brands when it comes to chatter on social sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Among candy makers M&M's, Skittles, candy corn, Reese's, Tootsie Rolls, and SweeTarts, M&M's emerged as a leader with 42 percent of overall buzz. Skittles garnered 24 percent of social media buzz, but earned a "passion intensity" level of 89. Rounding out the list: Reese's – 21 percent of total buzz; Tootsie Rolls – 11 percent; and both SweeTarts and candy corn – less than 1 percent. When it came to passion intensity scores, though, SweeTarts scored high with 73; 65 for Tootsie Rolls; 48 for candy corn; and 45 for Reese's.

This Halloween, enjoy your favorite candies, spend what you'd like on treats, costumes, and decorations, and share your thoughts about the sweets you love on your preferred social media sites. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eat, Drink, and be Scary

Only 12 days left to hit the supermarket, department stores, and warehouse retailers to fill up on the Halloween candy your neighborhood trick-or-treaters can't wait to get their hands on!

This year, I'm looking forward to a large number of youths visiting my door in their cute costumes, scary makeup, and creative get-ups to take advantage of this annual sweet tradition.

I'm torn, though, as to what to purchase for the kids on my block, and I'm curious to know what my readers think are the best Halloween candies. Take a moment and make your voice heard!

*Note: Survey works best in Chrome.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Me Want Cookie

No need to wait until Halloween to get your sweet fix; October is National Cookie Month! Whether your cookie of choice is the healthier kind, like Kashi's TLC Cookies, or you prefer to splurge on Grandma's Cookies from Frito-Lay, take these thirty-one days to enjoy chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter cookies…and everything in between! Pumpkin Spiced and Iced Cookies, anyone?

Think you know about cookies? Chew on these cookie facts:
  • Since its introduction in 1902, Animal Crackers have featured 37 different mammals. Today, each box contains 22 crackers in 17 varieties: bears, bison, camels, cougars, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, hippopotami, hyenas, kangaroos, lions, monkeys, rhinoceros, seals, sheep, tigers, and zebras.
  • Nabisco welcomed the Oreo in 1912.
  • The sale of cookies as a way to finance Girl Scout troop activities began as early as 1917. In the 1920s and 1930s, Girl Scouts sold cookies door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.
  • The Toll House chocolate chip cookie was invented in 1933 by Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Today, the chocolate chip cookie is the most popular kind of cookie in the U.S.
  • Cookie sales top $3 billion annually. Each year, Americans consume roughly 2 billion cookies, and will eat about 35,000 cookies in a lifetime.
  • Sesame Street's Cookie Monster wasn't always named Cookie Monster; the Muppet used to be named Sid. Arum num num num!
If you're seeking the best cookie recipes on the Internet, check out Mrs. Fields Secrets – tips and advice from the world's smartest cookie! Want to bake a better cookie? Take Domino Sugar's advice on preparing, baking, cooling, storing, and freezing cookies of all types.

This month, indulge on Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies or go back to your childhood with Keebler Vienna Fingers. No matter how you choose to recognize National Cookie Month, be sure to celebrate in style!

Tell me, what's your favorite cookie? Leave a note, and don't be skimpy on the details!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shana Tova

The High Holidays are upon us! Jews around the world are currently observing the "Days of Awe," the ten days between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

These High Holy Days are a a time of introspection, a time to atone and repent, and a time to make plans for personal improvement in the coming year. The beginning and end of the holidays are marked by what else - food!

To welcome the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples and honey, symbolizing a sweet new year. While Yom Kippur concludes with a fast to focus solely on spiritual well-being, the fast is often broken with a traditional Jewish feast to mark the profound experience. Kugel, chopped liver, and honey cake are just some of the customary recipes enjoyed on these holidays.

In accordance to Jewish religious dietary laws, most Jews respect a kosher lifestyle. Products certified as Kosher Dairy or Kosher Parve are marked with appropriate symbols on packaging. As the nation's largest manufacturer of processed kosher food products, The Manischewitz Company is probably the best known brand name in this category. Macabee Foods is another popular kosher brand.

In recent years, numerous eateries have added kosher supervision to their establishments. Dunkin' Donuts and Subway are just two examples of casual restaurants that have expanded their offerings in Jewish neighborhoods to better serve the community.

Whether you keep kosher or not, it's always fun to try new foods that embrace the Jewish culture, and there's no better time than now to enjoy these customary dishes. Please share your favorite ethnic recipe or the best Jewish meal you've tried. Shana Tova - Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Breaking News

Food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies are always making headlines, and this week has been no exception. Here’s a round-up of the news CPG movers and shakers have made in recent days.

PepsiCo Poised for 49% Gain Imitating Kraft Breakup – Will PepsiCo follow in the footsteps of Kraft Foods and split its beverage and snack businesses? Signs may be pointing to yes, as the shares for the world's largest snack-foods maker and second-biggest soda producer fell 9.7 percent – a decline of almost $11 billion in market value – in the past year.

PepsiCo formalizes snack, drink units' combination – On the other hand, rumors of a split could be just that, as PepsiCo announced last week that its top food and beverage executives in the Americas have joined forces to forge better working ties between the snack and beverage businesses. In addition to forming the council, PepsiCo has created a global snacks group to improve its portfolio of snack food brands.

Coca-Cola Cuts Price on 8-Pack of Mini Cans – In other soda news, Coca-Cola lowered the price on its smaller 7.5-ounce cans, making an 8-pack of the drink less than $3. Currently, consumers can find Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Fanta Orange, and Seagram's in the smaller packaging. No more wasting fizzy beverages, and they're cute to boot!

Can Food Industry, Governments Work Together to Fight Obesity? – Government and CPG companies came together this week in New York at a meeting of the International Food and Beverage Alliance. Representatives from Bimbo, Coca-Cola, Ferrero, General Mills, Kellogg's, Kraft, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever united to discuss ways to further improve the nutrition of foods. So far, thousands of products have been reformulated by companies in the alliance, and progress has already been made in cutting trans fats and salt.

Ralcorp rejects ConAgra Foods buyout offer again – It seems as though Ralcorp Holdings, Inc. and ConAgra Foods won't be getting together anytime soon. Ralcorp, which owns Post Cereals, rejected the latest takeover offer from ConAgra Foods – a $5.17 billion proposition. Ralcorp has rejected several bids from ConAgra since March, including turning down a $94-per-share offer last month.

Kellogg Seeks Agency For Big-Budget Brand Assignment – Turning to public relations news, Kellogg Company is seeking agency aid for its broad communications campaigns for its various brands, which includes a variety of cereals, cookies, and crackers. Fees are undisclosed, but sources claim the work is worth as much as $4 million. After two years of difficulty, the nation's largest cereal maker is looking to regain market share from General Mills.

Arch West, retired Frito-Lay marketing man behind Doritos, dies at 97 – In sadder news, Arch Clark West, inventor of Doritos passed away on September 20. Interestingly, his family plans to sprinkle Doritos at his October 1 graveside service in Dallas.

Are you seeing additional headlines pertaining to the food and beverage CPG industry dominating the news? Let me know what you've seen lately.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Great Pumpkin

Fall officially gets underway on Friday, September 23, but according to grocery stores, autumn is already here! While some farmers are warning of a pumpkin shortage this year, food manufacturers are gearing up with new, limited edition pumpkin items to ring in this cool and colorful season.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger – pumpkin pie spices that scream fall and can be found in your favorite seasonal products this time of year. Just ask Kellogg's! The company recently introduced Frosted Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts, the perfect single serving of one of fall's most popular pastries.

Little Debbie couldn't let the season arrive without its version of a quintessential autumn treat. The snack maker's Pumpkin Muffins are a welcome addition to the company's standard muffin lineup.

Looking for a chilly choice on warm Indian summer nights? Try Edy's Slow Churned pumpkin-flavored ice cream. The taste of fall come alive in this creamy concoction, worthy of a break from raking.

Thanks to both Nestlé's Coffee-mate and International Delight, watch the leaves fall every morning as you enjoy a splash of pumpkin pie creamer in your coffee.

Of course, if you're out and about, stop at one of the many eateries offering the flavor of the season. Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte is always a crowd favorite, with customers waiting all year for the beverage of the season.

Just a few more weeks until we know if Dairy Queen will offer its annual Pumpkin Pie Blizzard.

Jamba Juice, on the other hand, has already announced the comeback of its Pumpkin Smash Smoothie.

What pumpkin-flavored foods do you look forward to this time of year? Drop me a line and tell me all about your favorite seasonal treats!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Breakfast Club

September is National Breakfast Month! With summer a distant memory, kids heading back to school, and the weather getting cooler, breakfast is definitely the most important meal this month. Check out these creative recipes from top food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies to spice up your mornings through September and all year long.

Smoothies and coffee drinks are a good way to start your day. Coffee-mate's Coffee Breakfast Drink has the right mix of coffee, protein, and calcium, while Nesquick packs a flavor punch with its rich French Vanilla Mocha. Looking for something totally different? Try Nabisco's recipe, a Super Newton Smoothie chock-full of Fig Newtons.

For those seeking a more traditional route, these recipes will help you turn off that alarm and get out of bed:
And finally, think outside of the box with these creative twists on traditional breakfast foods:
What foods get you out of bed? Leave a message and tell me how your morning meal gets you moving, and enjoy September - National Breakfast Month!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wonder Women

Forbes' list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women is here, and ranking among influential females like Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are consumer packaged goods leaders making a difference in the industry.

PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi tops the list at number four. Leading the company since 2006, the Yale University graduate directs the largest food and beverage business in the country, with almost $60 billion in annual revenues and approximately 300,000 staff worldwide. Nooyi's work is cut out for her the coming year; Pepsi slipped into third place behind both Coke and Diet Coke in 2010 market share within the soft drink category.

Coming in at number ten, Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft Foods, is now charged with successfully dividing the company into a global snacks business with an estimated $32 billion in revenues, and a North American grocery business with an estimated $16 billion in revenues. The world's second largest food maker employs 127,000 employees in 170 countries.

Earlier this month, Denise Morrison became the twelfth CEO in the Campbell Soup Company's 142-year history, earning her the number 80 spot on Forbes' list. With more than 35 years of CPG experience and eight years at Campbell's, Morrison has what it takes to turn around lagging sales; She plans to put salt back in to 31 previously reduced-sodium soups in the company's portfolio.

Within retail organizations, two women stood out as top leaders in the field: Jin Sook Chang, Co-Founder and Chief Merchandising Officer at Forever 21, and Carol Meyrowitz, CEO of TJX Companies, landed on the list at numbers 39 and 73, respectively.

Who are your choices for top female business executives? Take a look at other awards earned by top CPG and retail companies and leaders and leave your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Sweet It Is

Did you know it's National Baking Week? Sponsored by Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit working to end child hunger in America, National Baking Week is a part of the Great American Bake Sale.

From August 29 to September 4, bakeries, restaurants, and freestanding and supermarket-based delis are encouraged to host bake sales, offer promotions, or donate a percentage of sales from the week to help make sure no child in this country goes hungry. Since 2003, the program has raised more than $6 million.

In honor of National Baking Week, I want to know: Which sweet treat is your pastry of choice?

*Note: Survey works best in Chrome.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gluten-Free Goodness

With celiac disease on the rise in the United States, it's no wonder that food manufacturers have shifted the way they make products to accommodate consumers' diets. Many food and beverage CPG companies have created gluten-free items, and supermarkets and retailers have increased their selection in response to this growing trend. Here are just some of the gluten-free goods lining store shelves today.

Both Kellogg's and General Mills offer popular cereals in gluten-free varieties. The companies now produce Rice Krispies and several flavors of Chex, respectively, in gluten-free forms.

Looking for crackers or other snacks that don't contain the wheat, barley, or rye that set off the ailment? Snyder's-Lance, Incorporated, makes a number of products that conform to the celiac diet, including an assortment of chips, popcorn, and pretzel sticks. Frito-Lay also generates dozens of gluten-free munchies for people who suffer from an intolerance to foods containing gluten.

Baking has been made easier as well, with quite a few companies supplying ingredients for amateur and professional bakers alike. King Arthur Flour provides an array of mixes and flours to make everything from breads and brownies to cakes and cookies. With such products, gluten-free bakeries have been popping up around the country, making it easy for sufferers to enjoy muffins, pies, and pastries.

More substantial meals are effortless, too. Heinz offers convenient options for gluten-restricted diets, such as sauces, condiments, and frozen entrees. Additionally, Thai Kitchen has recipes to change up your lunch or dinner while still meeting the needs of a celiac diet.

Those needing to stick to a gluten-free regime, but want to eat more natural foods are in luck. Start your morning out right with everything from waffles to cereal by Nature's Path. Amy's Kitchen even has a plan for customers looking to lose weight or eat healthy while sticking to a gluten-free regimen. Consumers have even more natural and organic options thanks to Annie's. The company's line of gluten-free goods includes crackers, pastas, and salad dressings.

Retailers across the country, such as Trader Joe's, Giant Eagle, and Supervalu stores, are all working toward catering to customers with gluten sensitivity.

Get answers to your questions about gluten-free living from Kraft, and be sure to check out additional resources from the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Are you following a gluten-free diet? Tell me where you shop and which brands you buy to help maintain your lifestyle.

Thanks, Lori, for your inspiration behind this post!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie

Bigger isn't always better. If you've paid close attention to food and beverage CPG trends during the past few years, you've noticed snacks have gone mini. From 100-calorie packs of cookies and chips to calorie-controlled ice cream cups, food manufacturers are churning out bite-size snacks for consumers to get a taste of their favorite treats without overindulging.

Pillsbury Sweet Moments are some of the newest minis on the market. The European-inspired desserts premiered last summer, launching a new category for the brand – refrigerated desserts. These bite-sized brownies are bursting with smooth caramel or velvety cheesecake, giving sweet-toothed shoppers an opportunity to enjoy a few chocolaty bites without wrecking their diets.

Hostess has been offering smaller portions for quite some time. The company's 100-calorie packs miniaturized cakey childhood favorites, including Chocolate Cupcakes, Strawberry Cupcakes, and Twinkie Bites. In addition, Hostess sells four flavors of Mini Muffins in Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Banana Walnut, and Brownie Bites varieties. These controlled-portion snacks are perfect to pop morning, noon, or night.

When it comes to ice cream, dairy lovers need no longer sit with a spoon and a pint. In recent months, several brands have introduced single-serving cups. Ben & Jerry's, Edy's/Dreyer's, Häagen-Dazs, Skinny Cow, and Starbucks all offer decadently indulgent frozen delights without excess fat and calories.

Even restaurants have jumped on the mini craze. Houlihan's menu includes small plates with items like sliders and frites bars, and mini desserts with items such as reasonably priced ice cream flights. At Orlando-based Seasons 52, mini indulgences featuring high-impact flavors and top quality ingredients boast all of the pleasure and none of the guilt.

At places like Starbucks, you can find the company's new line of petites in the bakery. Cake pops and peanut butter mini cupcakes are just two little pastries on the menu. Walk in Dairy Queen and order any Blizzard, only smaller! Since last summer, the six-ounce Mini Blizzard has provided customers with a taste of their favorite DQ frozen confection.

So, call it what you will – miniature, snack size, or fun size – these smaller portions are helping to satisfy cravings and curb binges, and they're cute to boot! Personally, Mini Nilla Wafers and Mini Fruit-Flavored Marshmallows are choice treats that take me right back to my childhood! What are some of your favorite itty-bitty eats?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do the Right Thing

Corporate social responsibility is a key aspect of today's business model. Organizations work to make a difference in the communities in which they operate to make a positive impact. They strive to earn the trust of consumers and stakeholders by participating as an active corporate citizen. Lately, several examples have surfaced of how food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies are giving back through successful CSR campaigns.

One such company is General Mills. According to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, one in-house volunteer project became so successful, the company turned it into a stand-alone charity called Partners in Food Solutions. The program started in 2009 when a group of the food manufacturer's engineers and food scientists started to package meals and donate them to schools in Malawi. In just three months, the volunteers provided one million meals.

Today, more than 500 employees contribute their time, knowledge, and a passion for helping people to the effort. Recently, Partners in Food Solutions announced partnerships with food and nutrition producers Cargill and DSM to strengthen its goal of helping to feed the people of Africa and developing a strong, sustainable food supply chain throughout the continent.

Over the next five years, Partners in Food Solutions hopes to broaden its network of U.S.-based food companies and expand its effort to other parts of the developing world.

In addition to General Mills, many companies endeavor to use their brand, name, and profits for good. Since 1984, The Coca-Cola Company's philanthropic arm, The Coca-Cola Foundation has partnered with organizations around the world to support initiatives and programs that respond in a meaningful way to community needs and priorities. Recently, the beverage maker announced $2 million in grants to 20 organizations across the country during the second quarter alone that support: education and youth development programs; community; diversity and inclusion; active, healthy living; water stewardship; and community recycling.

Just days earlier, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $1 million to six U.S. colleges and universities to send approximately 160 students to study abroad in China over the next four years. Specifically, the grants support the U.S. State Department's 100,000 Strong Initiative to increase the number and diversify the composition of American students studying in China.

Coca-Cola's biggest competitor, Pepsi, has been giving away millions each month to fund refreshing ideas that change the world, one community at a time. Since the Pepsi Refresh Project started in January 2010, the company has awarded more than $20 million in grants.

In addition to food and beverage CPG companies, retailers are working to better the community as well. Target store grants provide monies to K-12 schools and other non-profit organizations to bring art and cultural experiences to schools, support educations field trips, and provide early childhood reading programs. The company is committed to giving 5 percent of its income – more than $3 million – to communities each week. Moreover, the Target Foundation offers grants to support arts and social services programs and organizations based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where the company's headquarters are located.

Finally, being environmentally friendly, or "green," is another factor of CSR that companies try to achieve to be a good corporate citizen. Just a few weeks ago, Interbrand announced its 2011 list of Best Global Green Brands. The report focused on planet-focused efforts of the world's most valuable brands. The results comprised this comprehensive report of public perception of environmental sustainability performance and a demonstration of that performance of these brands. In regards to food and beverage CPG manufacturers, the results are as follows:
  • France-based yogurt, bottled water, and baby food maker Danone landed highest on the list at number 14. Recognized for its sustainability initiatives, the company also runs programs to solve clean water-related problems in urban areas and reduce packaging.
  • Coca-Cola came in next at number 27. The company has worked to increase the fuel efficiency of the system's fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles used to deliver products around the world, and plans to create sustainable shelving made from cardboard.
  • Pepsi follows closely behind at number 29 for its attempt to reduce packaging, reformulate its plastic bottles, and increase recycling. To do that, the company has introduced "Dream Machine" recycling centers and outlined policies for reducing environmental impact in its "Performance with Purpose" initiative.
  • Campbell's listed at number 35 for identifying and eliminating more than 9.3 million pounds of packaging materials, including steel, plastic, and paper since 2009. The soup maker has also invested in renewable energy, including an agreement to power its Ohio plant from solar energy, and has committed to sourcing 40 percent of its energy from sustainable sources by 2020.
  • Starbucks rounds out the food and beverage CPG list at number 42. The company has pledged to make significant improvements, including: ensuring 100 percent percent of its cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015; to make all new stores green compliant (LEED certified); to preserve ecosystems around their facilities; and to reduce water consumption by 25 percent by 2015.
What are your thoughts? Tell me what food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants you feel are making a strong impact in your community and around the world.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Direct TV

Temperatures are sweltering across the United States. To beat the heat, the only logical thing for me to do is to enjoy the air conditioning of my home with a big bowl of ice cream! Of course, I wouldn’t want to waste my summer being cooped up and unproductive, so I’ve uncovered some amazing and informative documentaries to help pass the time. Here are my recommendations to learn more about the food and beverage consumer packaged goods industry on the small screen. Thanks, CNBC!

CNBC Titans: Milton Hershey

TV doesn't get much sweeter than discovering the history behind The Hershey Company. Chocolate mogul Milton Hershey put Hershey, Pennsylvania, on the map. Today the town boasts The Milton Hersey School, Hersheypark and Chocolate World, and the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Supermarkets Inc: Inside a $500 Billion Money Machine

Ever walk around a grocery store and wonder why items are placed where? Find out what goes on behind the scenes of your local market, as well as how these supermarkets remain competitive in this tough industry. The show also includes insights from Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology – Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, and features stores such as Pittsburgh's Market District. Watch the whole broadcast on Hulu.

Coca-Cola: The Real Story Behind the Real Thing

For the past 125 years, Coca-Cola has built its strong reputation. Today, Coke is the best-known brand around the globe and the world's largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands. This original one-hour documentary reveals never-before-seen labs, secret archives, and high-tech product testing involved in creating and maintaining this American icon. Find the entire presentation online at

If you've seen a show about the food and beverage CPG industry that I need to add to my "must watch" list, leave a message and let me know!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Whom Do You Love?

Are you feeling the love? A recently released list named this year's most liked brands in the country, and food and beverage CPG manufacturers have landed top spots. It's no wonder many of the consumer-friendly products ranked highly; each company has spent years honing its brand, image, and marketing.

The list based its standings on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, with each company earning its position based on thousands of consumer satisfaction surveys administered by ACSI.

Business Insider announced the results last week, and food and beverage companies rated as follows: ketchup maker H.J. Heinz earned the highest spot on the list, landing at number three. The 142-year-old business received a score of 88 out of 100 on the satisfaction index.

Quaker came in next, with a rating of 86. A push toward more whole grains and less sugar surely helped the PepsiCo-owned brand secure the eighth opening on the list.

While also achieving a satisfaction score of 86, Hershey came in at number 12, according to Business Insider. The Hershey Company is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America, and distributes candies including Reese's, Jolly Rancher, and Twizzlers.

Next up, Sara Lee, number 13 on the list with a satisfaction rating of 85. Makers of fresh and frozen baked goods since 1939, the corporation continues to live up to its slogan, "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee!"

With a score of 85, Dr. Pepper Snapple locked in the number 17 spot on the list. In addition to the obvious Dr. Pepper and Snapple, the company also owns well-known beverage brands such as A&W Root Beer, Hawaiian Punch, Sunkist, and 7UP. Last year, company revenues topped $1.33 billion.

The final company on the list, Mars, Incorporated, rounded out the food and beverage CPG manufacturers on the list at number 19, and a score of 85. Over the years, the candy maker has created sweet favorites like Snickers, Twix, and Skittles. In 2010, Mars reported revenues of $30 billion, and in 2008, the company purchased gum producer Wrigley along with Berkshire Hathaway Incorporated.

Luckily, no food and beverage companies landed on this year's most hated list. BNET, the CBS Interactive Network, also published a similar list, with the same ACSI scores, but slightly different rankings.

What do you think of this list? Did the companies, brands, and products you love make the cut? Leave a comment and tell me more!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Out of the Blue

July is National Blueberry Month, and rightfully so! Those plump, vivid berries are ripe this time of year, with grocers keeping store shelves stocked with this summer fruit. Fresh or frozen, blueberries are tasty any time of year, atop pancakes or mixed in to oatmeal.

The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council works to promote the growth and well-being of the entire blueberry industry, and the good folks at the organization are undoubtedly excited to celebrate this month.

Find a variety of blueberry-flavored items in stores, including products like True Blueberry Celestial Seasonings Herbal Tea, Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate Cranberries, Blueberries, and Almond Bar, and Wild Blueberry Quaker Multigrain Fiber Crisps.

Enjoy these additional blueberry recipes to spice up your month!
What are your favorite blueberry recipes? Have a good one for Wild Blueberry Soup or Blueberry Streusel Cake? Post and share!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Scream, You Scream

We're halfway through July, which means we still have two weeks to celebrate National Ice Cream Month! Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984, and for the past 27 years, we've had a full 31 days to formally recognize the frozen treat that keeps us cool all summer.

Since my ice cream post last year, food manufacturers have created new concoctions for consumers to enjoy. Whether you're in the mood for a decadently sweet dessert, a low-fat creamy delight, or something in between, ice cream companies have you covered! Take a look at these new ice cream lines that have hit store shelves so far this year.

In March, Ben and Jerry's launched Late Night Snack, a flavor inspired by a "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" skit. The vanilla ice cream combines a sweet and salty combination with a caramel swirl and crunchy fudge-covered potato chip clusters.

Ben and Jerry's welcomed two more flavors in May, available only at Target. Volun-Tiramisu and Peanut Butter World are intended to promote volunteerism, joining last year's philanthropic ice cream debut of Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder.

This company isn't the only one, however, adding a new twist to their tried and true lineup. Klondike is mixing it up with new taste sensations like Mint Chocolate Chip and Caramel Pretzel. Blue Bunny, Hershey's Ice Cream, and Breyers also keep us guessing with new items unveiled constantly.

For kids and kids at heart, Popsicle brand frozen treats introduced Jolly Rancher ice pops. With long-lasting flavors straight from the hard candy, each pop combines cherry, blue raspberry, green apple, and grape flavors.

Looking for a healthier way to celebrate National Ice Cream Month? Reach for one of new Weight Watchers' new ice cream treats. For those on the diet program, the frozen treats range from one to four points to keep your eating plan on track. Try a Strawberry Smoothie Bar, a GIANT Latte Bar, a Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Bar, or many of the other low-fat varieties the manufacturer offers.

Skinny Cow from Nestlé also provides a lower fat ice cream option. From sandwiches and truffle bars to individual cones and cups in mouth-watering flavors including Strawberry Cheesecake and Caramel Cone, Skinny Cow is another tasty alternative to help ice cream lovers snack smartly.

Of course, you can always visit your nearest Maggie Moo's or Baskin-Robbins or head to your grocer's freezer to enjoy your favorite ice cream flavor this month – and all year! – long.

So tell me, what's your favorite ice cream flavor? Drop me a note and tell me how you're planning to celebrate National Ice Cream Month!