Cocktail fans turn to hot toddies, tipplers sip warm brown whiskies and wine drinkers often put away the rosé in favor of something deep and red to keep the winter chill at bay. It may be meyer lemon season and time for light aperitifs on the west coast, but in colder climates cocktail fans seek out beverages to warm them up inside and out.

“They’re going for a lot of the same things that they’ve been going for for a while, a lot of bourbon and whiskey, but they’re getting a lot more creative this winter,” said Adrian Watson, owner of mobile bartending service VIP Mixologists.

Aged rums are growing in popularity as people get more adventurous, he said, and hot eggnogs, ciders and exotic liqueurs in flavors like pomegranate are pleasing more palates. One new specialty for VIP, which serves cocktails made with fresh, organic ingredients, is a hot cider made with fresh apples, cinnamon and aged rum, and another is a chai tea spiked with bourbon and cinnamon. (read more…)

Social media is now entwined into the everyday activities of consumers. It is a comfortable environment for consumers where they are not afraid to be candid about their opinions. If a diner has a fantastic, good, mediocre, or bad experience at a restaurant — the chances are high that they are going to share their experience on social for everyone to see.

The uncontrolled environment of social media is often construed as a double-edged sword for businesses. But if restaurants can make sense of this unstructured social data, it can be used to better understand their customers and ultimately cater the dining experience to what their diners want and expect.

So which restaurants are performing the best by social consumer sentiment on food and service? Foodable has been releasing the Top 25 Restaurants monthly by city for over a year now. These rankings are determined by the organic social data pulled from 17 different social media platforms by the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), a comprehensive database proprietary to Foodable’s sister agency, DigitalCoCo. (read more…)

New report recommends using entrepreneurial markers to launch

Food marketers often fixate on whether certain consumer behaviors represent long-term trends or passing fads: This is with good reason, since understanding when to invest in signals from the marketplace can spell the difference between success and expensive failure. The fixation on distinguishing between trend or fad derives from what in our experience are two major causes: a) the packaged food industry’s very high failure rate in product innovation (which has created a deep, unconscious concern with over-investing in any short-term play) and b) the slow-speed-to-market averages in CPG new product development, which make the risk of arriving at the shelf just as a fad is fading into obscurity (or into a niche opportunity) terrifying for managers.

Because of their failure rate with new products and slow-to-market processes, food companies fear jumping aboard short-term phenomena (“fads”) too late — ironically, making them overly cautious and typically causing them to miss major opportunities. (read more…)

The state of women’s leadership is always changing, including in the food retail and consumer packaged goods industry, and while there has been a lot of advancement made in this category, there is still work to be done. Joan Toth is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, the largest learning and leadership community serving the retail and consumer goods and services sector that represents nearly 9,000 members, 750 companies, 100 corporate partners and 20 regions in the United States and Canada. SmartBrief talked with Toth about what women’s leadership looks like in the retail and consumer goods industry today, where it is heading and how NEW is playing a role.

Can you start off by talking a little bit about the state of women’s leadership in the retail and consumer goods industry?

There’s a widespread perception that women are advancing, but the numbers tell a different story. (read more…)

To hear Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President, Research & Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association, speak is to be optimistic about the future of the restaurant industry. I recently had the pleasure of hearing Riehle speak at the Restaurant Innovation Summit in Atlanta. He showed the attendees charts that presented American eating habits and the greater and greater shift toward “food away from home” rather than “food at home” — in other words, getting food from restaurants rather than getting food at grocery stores.

In fact, for the first time, the restaurant industry and grocery industry in the U.S. are nearly neck and neck, each with about $700B in annual sales (each approximately 14% of the $5T retail industry). In years past, the grocery industry far outpaced the restaurant industry. But restaurants have been making strong progress and have pulled even. If one extends the trendline into the future, it is clear that restaurants will become the majority recipient of what Riehle refers to as “the food dollar.”

This shouldn’t be terribly surprising to us. (read more…)