What comes to mind when you think of an appetizer? Is it a passed platter of mini deviled eggs, a hefty plate of loaded nachos, or perhaps something more akin to a pre-dinner snack? However defined, appetizers offer operators a check-boosting opportunity for business growth. Appetizers can be less costly to produce and can allow chefs to be more trendy and experimental in offerings. They’re also often the first items shown on a restaurant menu — which means appetizers give operators the perfect opportunity to create a resounding first impression with diners. And if there’s any doubt about how appetizers could affect a company’s bottom line, look at TGI Friday’s, whose “Endless Appetizers” deal was so popular that sales during the time the promotion was offered jumped double digits. In Datassential’s upcoming MenuTrends Keynote report, we take a look at meal starters and provide insight on how you can capitalize on and enhance appetizer offerings. (read more…)

Despite some predictions by food industry market watchers that private label is set to take over, private label share of the packaged-food market has been relatively flat since 2008, and it stopped gaining in other categories in 2011. This leveling off suggests that food brands are able to withstand private label competition. Yet, we’ve found the story is more complex. The first clue is obvious to retailers: there is enormous variation in private label share at the category level. In some categories, such as milk, private label has 60% or more market share. In others, such as RTD coffee, canned ham and toaster pastries, private label has only 1% or 2% share.

The numbers belie reports about how beautifully private label is performing overall and reveal, instead, how the culture of brand shapes consumer receptivity by category. In Hartman Strategy’s report The Future of Private Label Food, our analysis of private label reveals four competitive performance segments in the private label food marketplace that illustrate the role of culture within categories:

  • Private label growth engines tend to come from the fresh-food perimeter, where brands for the most part have not entered (chilled pizza, chilled ready-to-eat meals, prepared salads), and from dinner ingredients like cheese and olive oil.
  • (read more…)

Since the Obama administration entered the White House, first lady Michelle Obama has made it her personal mission to improve the health of America’s children by teaching them the importance of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Her Let’s Move campaign and non-profit group Partnership for a Healthier America have been working towards this goal for five years, and have started to turn the tide on America’s childhood obesity problem and the way food and beverage companies market to the country’s youngest consumers.

“Over the past five years we have truly changed the culture around health and living in this country,” Obama said in a keynote speech last week at the Partnership for a Healthy America Summit. “Food companies are racing like never before to create healthier versions of their products. Even convenience stores are selling fruits and vegetables. Head to the local drive-thru and kids’ meals might include apples and skim milk. (read more…)

Today’s food business landscape is constantly evolving. Packaged goods manufacturers are taking inspiration from high-end culinary trends (and vice versa), and increasingly savvy consumers are demanding food that is healthy, sustainable and craveable. To help the next generation of food entrepreneurs respond to these new challenges, the Culinary Institute of America is expanding its focus with The Food Business School, a new center for executive and graduate education that will prepare students for the next era of food business.

The school’s Spring semester will begin in March, and registration for classes opened on Wednesday. Food industry entrepreneurs, designers, big name chefs and business professors from Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis will make up the school’s faculty. Some CIA graduates will also teach classes at FBS, including Michael Chiarello, Neil Grimmer and Emilie Baltz.

SmartBrief interviewed Dean and Executive Director William Rosenzweig about what makes FBS stand out and the kind of businesses that might be launched there. (read more…)

Supermarkets have always had their share of bargain hunters, coupon clippers and shoppers in search of serious discounts, but digital technology is making it ever-easier for penny pinchers to leave the paper coupons and Sunday circulars behind while still finding the best deals. And, as the technology makes it easier for consumers to seek out the lowest prices, it also provides retailers with new opportunities to curry customer loyalty with price-matching programs that do the work and ensure that shoppers spend their savings in the stores.

U.S. food prices rose 3.4% from December 2013 to December 2014, according to the Consumer Price Index, and prices for food consumed at home jumped 3.7%. Prices are forecast to increase another 2% to 3% this year, and certain crops may see even bigger increases as a result of the ongoing drought in California. In Britain, food inflation has been falling and it’s on track to tumble further this year as oil prices fall and supermarket chains continue to slug it out for market share. (read more…)