Packaging has always been important to a product’s success. Iconic bottles, boxes and other containers have helped elevate certain products to icon status, and many consumers need only a few seconds to scan the shelves to identify their favorite products by sight. With the growing number of products in the grocery channel and consumers’ evolving expectations, having the right package is essential for companies looking to differentiate their product from the competition.

“The right package is often the only thing that can help a new product stand out on shelf. In this day and age of lower spends on new product launches, they rarely have a large number of facings, or ideal placement when they first arrive on shelf. Without these advantages, the package itself has to do all of the work to get shoppers to notice it and convert to purchase,” said Rich Scamehorn, chief researcher at InContext Solutions, which conducts virtual store research for a variety of industries, including consumer packaged goods. (read more…)

Whether your brand is already off and running with mobile ordering, or you’re still figuring out how to make it work, technologies such as NFC, QR codes, Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi, geo-fencing and in-app check-ins are here to stay. And they have the potential to transform both the brand and its operations.

Combined, these technologies and techniques make up a class called “mobile presence technologies,” which can communicate a customer’s proximity to a restaurant location.

This year, we will undoubtedly see brands adopting automatic or user-prompted technologies to signal to communicate wirelessly, from the customer to the kitchen. With technologies such as Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi and geo-fencing, a restaurant’s branded mobile app can trigger an order automatically when the customer crosses a predefined perimeter or physically arrives on-site. Sound a little too sci-fi? It’s not. Just as map and navigation systems can tell customers how to get to your location, the technology can be used to geo-fence, establishing a technological perimeter around your location. (read more…)

Continuing to walk towards Jon and Adam Schlegel’s celebrated Snooze: An A.M. Eatery location at Denver’s Union Station was an act of pure optimism. I’d already called ahead and learned that it would take another hour for a table for two to open up. Still, I kept walking, with an entrepreneur’s confidence that I could find a way around the system — some way to skip the line. I checked in with the maître d’ who explained that, yes, there was a 60-75 minute wait for a table for two. I looked at the stunning surroundings of the recently renovated station and the lovely Colorado last-day-of-summer day outside and an idea sprang into mind. Could I order takeout? Yep, no problem. Here’s a menu. What would I like? A breakfast burrito. OK. It’ll be out in five minutes.

A “rate-determining step” is the step in a process that determines how fast that process can go. (read more…)

“Flat what?” That’s what everyone was asking when Starbucks introduced the flat white to its menu in January. “Starbucks is introducing a new drink to its menu that you’ve probably never heard of,” said ABC News. “Starbucks to serve a coffee Americans know little about,” announced CNN. “The first time I order a flat white, I have no idea what I’ve just asked for,” wrote Fast Company.

To many observers, the flat white seemingly came out of nowhere. But, like most trends (and fads), from kale to sriracha, the flat white wasn’t an overnight sensation — in fact, it has been appearing on international coffeehouse menus for years. At Datassential, we saw it pop up over and over again in International Concepts, our monthly trendspotting report that tracks international chain trends and menus. You’ll find it on the menu at U.K.-based Costa Coffee, the second largest coffeehouse chain in the world (after Starbucks); at South Korean Caffebene, which today has more than 1,800 cafes in a dozen countries (including 120 in the U.S.); even at McDonald’s restaurants in Australia (which is often cited as the home country of the flat white, though this is much disputed). (read more…)

Innovation ain’t easy. For starters, it requires something precious that all consumer product brands must work hard to achieve — trust. And once that trust is finally won, brands naturally tend to stick with the relative safety of the known. Instead of leaping forward with profound innovations — which, after all, could inadvertently alienate those hard-won loyalists — they play it safe and move sideways.

How, then, can CPG brands innovate and meet consumer need even as they leverage their existing levels of consumer trust? Like I said, it ain’t easy. A case in point is the way in which restaurant brands like TGI Fridays, Starbucks, Nathan’s Famous, White Castle and Chi Chis, to name a few, offer iterations of their products in grocery stores. While these brands enjoy distinct advantages, many of these offerings can be found only in the frozen-food aisle, which makes delivering on expected product quality a challenge. (read more…)