Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Best of the Best

The 2011 list of best places to work is here! Again this year, Fortune Magazine put together its ranking of the best companies for which to work. From robust paychecks to unexpected benefits, this year's winners span a number of industries, including retail businesses, manufacturers, and food and beverage consumer packaged goods companies.

Making the list were five grocers, all recognized for things like outstanding health benefits and wellness programs. Wegmans Food Markets, with stores in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, landed at number 3. Nugget Markets, serving the greater Sacramento, California, area, came in at number 8. At number 18, Connecticut-based Stew Leonard's made the list for the tenth year in a row. Whole Foods Market earned the number 24 spot, while Florida's Publix Super Markets entered the 2011 list at number 67.

Among food manufacturers, both General Mills and The J. M. Smucker Company found their way onto the annual list, securing the number 58 and 93 spots on the list, respectively.

Retailers were also scattered throughout the rankings. Outdoor and sports equipment giant Recreation Equipment, or REI, came in at number 9, and toy factory Build-A-Bear Workshop earned the number 48 spot.

Clothiers were also quite successful in regards to this year's list. Nordstrom landed at number 74; Men's Warehouse came in at number 87; and Aéropostale claimed the number 94 spot.

Finally, casual dining operator Darden Restaurants, which runs the Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands, attained the 97th place on the list, while coffee conglomerate Starbucks rounded out the industry list at number 98.

Congratulations to all of the fine organizations gracing the 2011 Best Places To Work list! If you work for one of these companies, I'd love to hear about what you enjoy about your workplace. Do you think any deserving companies were omitted from the list? Leave a message and tell me more.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Year, New Food

If you've stepped foot in a grocery store so far this year, you'll notice that 2011 has started out with bang! Many new products are lining store shelves. Will they manage to stick around as the year continues or will they be a bust? Only time will tell which of these new items will be a success.

Edy's Slow Churned Shakes and Smoothies are your newest ice cream options. The ads claim that these cold, creamy creations require no blender, no scooping, no cleanup, and no mess! Just add milk and in just 30 seconds, enjoy a cookies n' cream, strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla milkshake, or a strawberry banana, mixed berry, sunrise blend, or tropical fruit smoothie.

In the candy aisle, shoppers will notice all kinds of new sweets. Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Reese's debuted Reese's Minis. These tiny, unwrapped peanut butter cups are the perfect treat for the snacker looking for a just a bite of chocolate to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Be on the lookout for the Hershey's Drops as well. Available in both milk chocolate and cookies 'n' crème flavors, the hard-shelled candy pieces pack Hershey's happiness into a little drop.

Mars has also introduced a new candy bar – Snickers Peanut Butter Squared. The squared, smaller sized confection is composed of peanut butter, nougat, peanuts, and caramel coated in milk chocolate.

If you're not in the mood for chocolate, check out Mentos Rainbow. Each roll contains a mix of grape, strawberry, orange, watermelon, pineapple, raspberry, and apple flavored chewy candies made with real fruit juice.

Breakfast and lunch are covered, too. General Mills started the year with a new Cheerios selection: Cinnamon Burst. The low fat, low calorie cereal is packed with cinnamon zest and contains 20 percent of the daily value of fiber per serving.

For dinner, try Tyson Any'tizers, which now come in two quesadilla varieties – Fajita Chicken with Cilantro Lime Salsa and Taco Seasoned Chicken with Zesty Garden Salsa QuesaDippers. Find both in your grocer's freezer.

Please, leave a message and tell me which of these products you're most excited to taste! Or, let me know what other new items you have seen in your local supermarket.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spot of Tea

Hot tea is a winter necessity, which is why it makes perfect sense that January is Hot Tea Month. Whether you’re enduring winter’s freezing temperatures or warding off a cold, hot tea provides soothing relief.

In 2009, total U.S. tea sales topped $7.3 billion, up from $6.9 billion in 2007. More than 25 countries produce 2,000-plus types of tea. Black, white, red, green, oolong, chai, organic, herbal, loose-leaf, and flavored teas have all grown in popularity, and specialty teas are now a staple on supermarket shelves. So what's latest in the world of hot tea and how are tea manufacturers embracing Hot Tea Month? Let's take a closer look.

Recently, Lipton launched a line of Pyramid Tea Bags in nine different flavors. The unusual packaging allows the tea space to flow freely with real pieces of fruit, herbs, or spices for truly authentic infusion. The company also introduced three new Superfruit green tea flavors. Additionally, as the largest buyer of tea in the world, Lipton has committed to sustainability by agreeing to source all of its products from Rainforest Alliance Certified tea estates by 2015.

In honor of Hot Tea Month, both Bigelow and Twinings are offering loyal fans a chance to win a year's supply of tea. Visit Facebook to enter Bigelow's sweepstakes for the opportunity to win one case of tea per month for a year. For a limited time, new "tea-mail" subscribers to the Twinings newsletter will also be entered to win a year's worth of tea.

If you're looking for additional ways to enjoy tea this month, visit Good Earth Tea and uncover tips to brew a perfect cup. Or, cozy up with a steaming mug of Celestial Seasonings and take a virtual tour of the company's Boulder, Colorado-based factory, the world's most advanced tea production facility. Try your hand at building your own tea concoction with loose-leaf options from Mighty Leaf. Want to feel more Zen? Find out which TAZO Tea is right for you. Finally, round out your collection of Wade miniature figurines from Red Rose.

For more information on the state of the tea industry, look to Tea USA, a collaboration of the Tea Association of the USA, Inc., the Tea Council of the USA, and the Specialty Tea Institute. Also, be sure to stay tuned for news from the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, June 24-26 – the peak of National Iced Tea Month!

How will you celebrate Hot Tea Month? Comment below and enjoy your time indoors this January!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bowl Games Abound

Once the college football season is in the history books, bowl games begin. Throughout December and into January, college football teams compete for championship titles in match-ups across the country. Within the past few years, many companies have bought the rights to sponsor these bowl games, including retailers and food and beverage consumer packaged goods corporations.

One of the first bowl games of the season, the St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef 'O' Brady's, was scrutinized for its low attendance. The December 21 game at Tropicana Field attracted only 20,000 fans, the lowest attendance since its inception three years ago.

As the bowls continued, Florida International met Toledo on December 26 at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Until this year, the pizza giant wasn't the only one to host a bowl game; the Bowl lasted until 2010 when BBVA Compass took over sponsor duties.

With food and football going hand-in-hand, it's no surprise that restaurants support the college playoffs. From the Chick-fil-A Bowl to the Outback Bowl, the games provide a unique advertising opportunity for the eateries, which lend their names to the games steeped in athletic tradition.

Food manufacturers are also involved with post-season college football. Some of the sport's biggest games, the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS National Championship are both sponsored by Frito-Lay under its Tostitos brand.

Kraft Foods has taken the opportunity to promote a bowl game one step further, using the sponsorship to raise awareness of an issue with its Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The only game with a corporate social responsibility angle, the company will donate a meal to a food bank for every ticket sold.

Finally, retailers are certainly not left out of the mix. This year, Champs Sports hosted its own Bowl on December 28 and AutoZone took on the Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve. Starting next season, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, held annually in North Carolina, will be renamed the Belk Bowl thanks to money from the Charlotte-based department store company.

Earlier this year, rumors flew that Reese's would take over FedEx's sponsorship of the Orange Bowl as Hershey made a bid to sponsor the game. Perhaps in the future, as this year's game was brought to fans by Discover.

How do you feel about companies sponsoring college bowl games: a creative use of advertising dollars or an over-the-top waste of money? Leave a message and share your thoughts!