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…)

This is a very exciting time for the food and beverage industry; there is such a vibrancy overflowing for all things cooking, shopping and eating. Consumers have a newfound curiosity, a deeper interest and higher levels of engagement with food that we are truly witnessing a broader cultural shift. You might say we are living in a food culture renaissance.

Fundamental shifts in technology, travel and trade have placed food back at the center of everyday life and popular culture. Food is fun and important. Interest in food isn’t a mere millennial trait but a reflection of evolving food culture.

The Hartman Group’s Culture of Food 2015: New Appetites, New Routines new report is a deep dive into the world of food today. We uncovered how consumers are trading out traditional food routines for new ones that reflect the desires and challenges of expanded variety in a complex food landscape. (read more…)

Top news stories this week included quickservice restaurant news involving two big players in the industry: In-N-Out and McDonald’s – as In-N-Out finds a customer loyalty in keeping its menu as it is, McDonald’s is changing things up with a new version of its value menu.

In the CPG world, ConAgra’s spinoff of its Lamb Weston frozen potato products division to form two separate, publicly-traded companies was a departure from the slew of mergers and acquisitions we’ve seen throughout the year and was well-read by SmartBrief subscribers. Other popular news included new and innovative Thanksgiving cooking trends, restaurant delivery expansion with Amazon Prime spreading to more cities, specifically Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles, and grocery delivery technology innovation with Wal-Mart possibly experimenting with drones to eliminate the need for humans — a prospect that has other grocery retailers including Peapod, ShopRite and Wegmans upping their game when it comes to online shopping, delivery and click-and-collect programs. (read more…)

Autumn’s chilly temperatures typically herald a shift from fresh fruit and other warm-weather treats to more indulgent desserts, and the shift continues as the mercury falls and the holidays approach.

Some 49% of Americans who bake for the holidays use classic recipes rather than experimenting with new trends, according to a survey from Fleischmann’s Yeast and Karo Syrup. Ninety seven percent of Americans serve pie during the holidays and 48% serve three or more different kinds, the survey found. Familiar flavors win with consumers as well, with 78% using cinnamon, 67% picking pumpkin, 65% adding apple, 53% spicing things up with nutmeg and 34% including cranberry.

Pumpkin’s popularity has soared in recent years, spurred in large part by popular pumpkin spice coffees at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts signaling the start of the season. Dessert makers are using the traditional favorite to create new sweet treats for the holidays, including Marie Callender’s which launched a Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Pie this holiday season. (read more…)

Environmental issues are what’s hot on restaurant menus — and have been for years, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary trends survey.

This year, the first and third slots on the survey are locally sourced meats and seafood and locally sourced produce, respectively. “Hyper-local sourcing,” environmental sustainability, sustainable seafood, and food waste reduction management all made the top 20.

While those top trends often overlap, myths and misinformation still exist around environmental sustainability and food. That’s because of the complex and often confusing trade-offs that can occur. Here are three eco-myths to explore:

Eco-myth No. 1

Assumption: Local food is always better for the environment.

Fact: Chefs often cite how local or hyper-local food offers fresher flavor, better quality and the excellent potential for telling customers a story on their menus. Customers often believe shrinking the food miles, or distance the food has to travel before it is eaten, will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of their food (i.e., local is better for the environment). (read more…)