With a background in traditional CPG marketing, I used to believe that emerging brands should cast their eyes to the big guys to learn how to market their products or services successfully. Certainly, many global brands are still creating campaigns that are the envy of the industry. But more and more frequently, entrepreneurial brands are setting the gold standard for customer engagement.

In the past, major brands ruled both share of mind and share of shelf. But today, trust in traditional brands is at an all-time low. More than 50% of people say their trust in big business has declined over the past few years, according to a 2014 Harris Interactive and Nielsen study. Customers are demanding greater transparency and authenticity. Iconic brands are losing market share to emerging companies that are doing a much better job of connecting with consumers.

What is their secret? Many entrepreneurial food brands are driven by passion and fueled by a belief in a healthier (and tastier) product. (read more…)

The Japanese have a word, omoiyari, which has no English word equivalent, but it means to anticipate the customer’s needs and meet those needs before the customer has to ask, or even before the customer realizes they have that need. Taking care of the customer is the most important element to consider when building a restaurant brand, but it’s not the only thing to consider.

Over the past 20 years working with high-growth, early-stage restaurant concepts, I’ve narrowed down the three essential ‘take cares’ entrepreneurs need to consider when building a brand, “take care of the customer, take care of the restaurant and take care of each other.” These ‘take cares’ are essential because they encompass what I think are building blocks for developing a successful restaurant brand: customer service, employee culture and community service. Here’s an overview of each take care:

First, take care of the customer. As I mentioned, taking care of the customer is the most important item to focus on from day one. (read more…)

Organic certification in the food industry seals a promise to the public that the food they are purchasing is free of pesticides, insecticides and artificial or synthetic fertilizers. Certification has been built into my company, Davidson’s Organic Teas for the past 15 years. However, keeping a promise of this magnitude doesn’t come without its challenges.

In 2015 the Nevada Department of Agriculture dissolved the organic certification program for the entire state. This presented several issues. It became apparent we would need a new organic certifier to speak to the quality of our teas. Additionally, we had more than 10,000 pre-printed packages with the Nevada organic seal. Sending these off to fill up landfills was neither a viable nor environmental option.

With careful thought and consideration, we came up with solutions to combat these issues and create a fresh new future for the company. Here are just a few takeaways from our experience with adapting to accommodate change when it comes to organic certification:

Don’t get tied up in the challenge

There’s something to be said for optimism. (read more…)

The health and wellness market continues to be an area of dynamic growth, driven by consumers seeking a higher quality of life. A puzzle for diverse stakeholders in the food industry lies in understanding how the wellness market intersects with their business, brand and category. In few places does the market so vividly present itself as an opportunity as it does within America’s food retailing industry.

Where shoppers go to buy their wellness products has changed considerably over the years. In 2000, the supermarket and grocery store channel dominated the market for food and groceries, and it commanded a significant share of the personal care and household products as well. While the grocery channel is still commonly used across all segments of consumers, today we find super-centers/mass discounters, natural food stores, club stores and specialty retailers have all made inroads.

As the following chart from our Health and Wellness 2015 report illustrates, consumers continue to source health and wellness products from a wide array of channels, in particular super-center/discount stores, grocery stores and drug stores. (read more…)

“Learn how to think like an 8-year-old,” Mike Walsh, author of FUTURETAINMENT and CEO of innovation research lab Tomorrow, said at this year’s PMA Fresh Summit in Atlanta on how to engage the next generation of consumers. Why an 8-year-old? Because anyone born after 2007 will have a completely different view of the world, he elaborated, as exposure to technology fundamentally changes us.

“The next generation of consumers, after a childhood of disruptive technology, will think about shopping, cooking, eating and fresh produce in ways very different from the rest of us,” he said. “Convergent technologies and connected lifestyles mean that everything, even food, is now a digital product.”

Technology and data will challenge our relationship to products and brands, and Walsh pointed to Instagram as one tool that has changed people’s perception of food.

“There’s a fine line between technology and anthropology,” Walsh said.

Beyond social media, there are new ways for brands and products to build relationships with consumers, but it’s going to take leaders who are able to reinvent themselves as technology evolves, Walsh said. (read more…)