What we are witnessing with social networks is a “transition of influence”

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Health, wellness and food are set to become even more linked than ever before in 2012 and beyond.

That’s a significant trend that I’m witnessing right now through the various keynotes and consultations that I do with a large range of food / restaurant / consumer product companies, as well as the keynotes I do for major health care groups worldwide. I get to see what food companies are focused on; I get to see what healthcare groups and governments are worried about…..

Jim Carroll helps global organizations interpret how the trends of today will impact them tomorrow. His food and health care clients include H.J. Heinz, Nestle, the World Healthcare Innovation & Technology Summit, and just recently, as the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 World Pharma Innovation Congress in London, England

In a nutshell, here’s what’s happening:

  • the importance of health and wellbeing on a global national, political and healthcare system perspective is accelerating. We’ve got a big global problem, and nations and governments are racing to deal with it.
  • the result is that there is a very significant effort by food companies to speed up their innovation engine with respect to their health and wellness product line – it’s being done to mitigate potential political risk down the road
  • it’s also being done because it makes increasing business sense — as consumers worldwide begin to adjust their lifestyle, including their food intake, revenues of the health/wellness product line soars. One report suggests, the sale of heath and wellness oriented foods is expected to quadruple through the next five years.
  • to help accomplish that, food and consumer product companies are make an increasing number of BIG BETS involving product development, and through even more vigorous M&A activities, that enhance their health and wellness product lines

Making BIG BETS involves establishing big goals. Consider just two examples of “BIG BET thinking”:

  • “Frito-Lay, the biggest U.S. seller of salty snacks, is embarking on an audacious plan. By the end of the year, it intends to make half its snacks sold in the U.S. with only natural ingredients” You Put What in This Chip? 24 March 2011, The Wall Street Journal
  •  Pepsi intends to grow a $10 billion health and wellness portfolio to $30 billion by 2020

Savvy food companies know that globally, they face increasing national financial, political and healthcare risk. Quite simply, the world is getting fat, people are getting sick, and countries are not going to be able to afford the care for those suffering from the resultant lifestyle disease.

Here’s a clip in which I’m speaking to the annual general meeting of the Professional Golfers Association of America — the PGA! — on the depth of the obesity / lifestyle crisis.

Given this reality, and the economic volatility in Europe, the US, Japan and elsewhere as government revenue declines and spending soars, in 2012 and beyond we are going to see far more aggressive efforts by politicians and governments to reign in health care spending, including that related to lifestyle-disease. Nations simply can’t afford what is set to come in terms of spending.

Much of this activity will come to involve far more aggressive efforts concerning preventative health care programs, including wellness and lifestyle management. We can expect governments and politicians to become far more aggressive with food companies when it comes to their food offerings.

There is a big political risk here on a global scale.

The result? Smart food companies are making BIG BETS right now to grow their health and wellness product lines. It makes great sense from a business sense; it’s critical in order to stay one step ahead of government trends in order to mitigate risk.

So how will food companies grow their health and wellness line of business? By accelerating internal innovation into health and wellness product lines, but also through some pretty aggressive M&A activity

  • A report by Deloitte suggests that this will include increased M&A activity involving dairy, juice, health snacks and functional foods.
  • Gerald Abelson, president of Canadian corporate finance group MNC Multinational Consultants recently observed that “health and wellness is definitely where you want to be in the next three to five years” in a discussion about global M&A activity in the food and consumer product sector in 2012 and beyond.

Big Goals – Big Bets.

That’s the focus for 2012 and beyond for most companies in the food and restaurant sector.

Background:

If you check the Health Trends section of this blog, you’ll find a post in which I write about the ongoing and significant challenges that the world faces with the rapid emergence of lifestyle disease and other challenges. Notes one comment in that post (“Trend – Confronting the Global Health Care Crisis”):

It’s the lifestyle disease that provides the biggest challenge in terms of scope: according to the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, “1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50 per cent of adults in the US and Europe fit into this category.”

 with the resultant impact:

  • “The number of adults with diabetes worldwide has more than doubled since 1980 to 347 million, a far larger number than previously thought and one that suggests costs of treating the disease will also balloon.” Global diabetes epidemic balloons to 350 million, Reuters Health E-Line, June 27, 2011

Lest we think that this is a problem only in the Western world, I also note that:

The challenge with lifestyle disease isn’t restricted to the Western world; the statin (cholesterol) drug market in China, India other “BRIC”countries is set to grow at rates of up to 25% compounded per year. In other words, developing nations are soon to see the same lifestyle diseases which are currently sweeping through North America and Europe.

 

It’s been a whirlwind of activity over the last two months, with about 20 major keynotes under my belt.

One of these was a corporate event for a food company with $7 billion in revenue and 24,000 employees ; my talk was on the key food industry trends of today that should be driving innovation from a marketing, product development and branding perspective.

Jim Carroll on stage at the Readers Digest Food and Entertainment Group Summit, in front of several hundred food and consumer product executives, advertising agencies, grocery and retail organizations and publishers of the world's most popular food magazines, speaking to the trends driving the food industry today, .

This is one of many events I do for food and consumer product clients – my global client list includes high profile keynotes or leadership meetings for the Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Division (the publisher of such innovative magazines as Everyday with Rachel Ray), the Produce Marketing Association Annual Fresh Summit, HJ Heinz, Nestle , FMC FoodTechnologies, Burger King, Yum! Brands and many more.

I was the keynote speaker for a meeting of their top 250 marketing executives; my mandate was to focus on how to innovate around the trends that are today impacting the food industry today, with a particular focus on consumer behaviour.

Below are a few of the many trends that I spoke about. I took on an extensive amount of research for this keynote, which is typical of how I approach these events.

In effect, I built my keynote around the theme “….these are the trends that will drive your brands……”, and from that, they could best learn how to change and innovate with their branding and marketing message.

1. Biggest trend: We are witnessing a changing relationship with food

My main observation is that we live in a period of time that sees consumers interacting with food, the purchasing of food, and the consumption of food in new and different ways.

An article, Observer Food Monthly in the Guardian Newspaper, 15 May 2011 caught this sentiment perfectly:

  • “… never before has our culture been so engaged in discussing and experimenting with and agonizing over and fantasizing about and plain enjoying what is on the end of our forks”

Consider what is happening:

  • we have a new form of interaction when purchasing food. Consider the number of iPhone apps by which we can research calorie counts, nutrition facts and other information while in the grocery store.
  • we have new influencers in how we make these in-store food decisions. Think about the Monterrey Aquarium Seafood Watch iPhone app, which will give you background that can help you with your ethical food decisions.
  • a change in how we manage our food intake. iPhone and Web sites apps such as Lose It, which allow us to track our food consumption on a calorie-by-calorie, product by product basis.
  • a change in food packaging: ““…..interactive packaging, intelligent and active packaging, multi-sensory packaging, edible packaging … packaging as mini-billboards…” as noted by the research firm Reportlinker. Paackaging is going from passive to active, and is becoming more than just the vehicle for branding – increasingly, it is defining our relationship with the food.
  • a change in our food relationships. Consider the impact of food traceability based on DNA. “Tonning’s restaurant is among more than 11,000 that Richmond-based food distributor Performance Food Group is supplying with DNA-traceable beef as an added value for customers of its premium Braveheart brand. The company, which has annual revenues of about $11 billion, said it is among the first distributors to use the technology.” Where’s the beef, Iowa Press Citizen, May 2011
  • A more direct involvement with the ethics of food. “Wal-Mart, which sells more than 20 per cent of all US groceries, is developing an eco-labelling program that will give a green rating to all items sold in its 7500 stores worldwide.” Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011
  • and very significant transitional trends. Whole grains are the hottest trend in sliced bread, with whole wheat edging out soft white bread in total sales for the first time……… The whole-grain craze has, after all, raised the bar on what consumers are willing to pay for bread that’s perceived as healthy…..” Grains gain ground; Focus on healthy eating helps wheat surpass white in sliced bread sales 1 August 2010, Chicago Tribune

All in all, these are pretty significant, systemic, long term transformative trends that will have a major impact through the next 5-10 years. Smart food companies will recognize that the very nature of our relationship with food is changing and will innovative around that reality. Massive opportunities for innovative thinking exist here!

2. A need to respond to faster consumer preference/taste change

I’ve long been pointing out that consumer preference is changing faster when it comes to food, and that leads to the rapid emergence of new opportunity, or the rapid decline of existing product lines. A few of my observations:

  • behavioural change and food as fashion! Fresh-cut snack food grew from $6.8 billion in to $10.5 billion in one year. Notes one publication: “Snacks are like a fashion category…..People want a change. it’s going to be short-lived–maybe a quarter, maybe six months, then changed out” Private Label Buyer, May 2010.
  • We spend more of our day with our food – it’s not just breakfast, lunch and dinner anymore. Canadian consumers are snacking more frequently. Snacks were 24% of all “meals” consumed by 2010. Fruit leads in the category, and healthy snacks are driving growth – the top 7 snacks include yogurt and granola bars.
  • Food categories can explode in growth over night. US Greek Yogurt sales grew from $33million in 2007 to $469 million today!

The key point with all of these trends is that it reflects our busy, compressed lives — smart food companies will continue to learn how to innovate within that reality with new products, aligning themselves to health concerns, and other trends.

3. The impact of business model change and social networks on food and taste trends

Business model change with pop-up restaurants drives the more rapid emergence of new exotic tastes and flavors!

Clearly, massive connectivity is coming to influence the growth of new foods, brands, tastes, patterns.

I spoke, for example, how bacon has quickly become so trendy as something used to enhance countless recipes. It can be traced right back to an effective social networking campaign.

  • “If there’s one food trend that illustrates how top-down and grassroots phenomena combine it might be bacon….. in southern California about six years ago, Rocco Loosbrock paired peppered bacon with Syrah wine at a tasting….”swine and wine…..!” The mysteries of food trends: How bacon got its sizzle, Associated Press Newswires, March 2011
Social networks are also lining up with a change in business models in the restaurant sector, which helps to drive faster change in consumer taste trends…..
  • In the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of pop-up restaurants and “Eat St” food – street food!
  • what is happening here is a lower barrier to entry in terms of new restaurant start up cost — more people can get out and start out a restaurant as “street food”, and experiment with new, bold, and exotic tastes and flavors
  • there’s also a very big trend underway that links restaurants and markets together in one location. Go to the restaurant, like the food and want to cook it at home next time? Visit the market in the same building, and buy the exact ingredients for that exact recipe. We call these Resto 2.0’s : for example, Murray’s Market in Ottawa, based on locally farmed food, “….sells cheeses, meats, produce and house-made foodstuffs, providing customers with many of the same raw ingredients they use as their restaurant next door.” Globe & Mail, June 1, 2011
  • all of these trends involve a new breed of restaurateur / entrepreneur;  they’ve learned to link these efforts with very effective social network campaigns. The result is that we now have even faster emergence of new taste trends. Smart food companies will learn how to innovate around the sheer velocity of what is occurring here – ‘faster is the new fast!’

My key point? Innovation is all about time to market … and the brand message needs to match the new speed metric…

4. A new consumer volatility

Back in 2009, I keynote global events for both Burger King and Yum! Brands. One of the major points in both keynotes was the consumer and public health concerns would come to drive more of a focus on a healthier diet; hence, the need for more aggressive innovation around a balanced menu that offered up more healthier choices.

Since then, looking back, it looks like one chain took the message to heart, and the other didn’t. Can you guess which ones?

What’s happened since then? Restaurant chains — and by extension, food companies — are discovering that consumer activity has become very volatile. They might talk of the need to go out and eat healthier, but then go out and continue to buy big, fat juicy cheeseburgers.

But then the news continues to hammer home the cold realities of North American food lifestyles, and the impact of childhood obesity.

  • over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates in North America have tripled
  • 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese
  • 1/3 of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives
  • many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma

Add to that new messages from Michelle Obama, Jamie Kennedy and other influencers around this debate — and all of a sudden, behaviour begins to change faster than people expect. Consider comments in the article Dining chains shape up menus ;Customers place low-cal orders now, 13 April 2011, USA Today

  • :Something odd is afoot in restaurants where Americans have typically gone to gorge: healthier grub. This nutritional U-turn is taking place at some of the unlikeliest of eateries, including Denny’s, IHOP, Friendly’s, Sizzler and even at the nation’s biggest casual dining chain, Applebee’s, where the numbers are eye-popping.
  • “For the first two months of 2011, the top-selling entree at Applebee’s wasn’t a gloppy burger or flashy fajita plate. It was a sirloin and shrimp entree from the chain’s diet menu. This marks the first time that a low-calorie item ever ranked as the chain’s best seller for a single month — let alone two in a row.
  • “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Mike Archer, president of Applebee’s.
  • “When Applebee’s launched the under-550-calorie menu in 2010, it didn’t immediately take off, says Archer. But after some tweaks, it caught fire early this year. It now accounts for up to 8% of sales”

8 percent of sales! For healthy options! The key innovation opportunity is to keep innovating with food and taste trends around trends such as health, local, regional. The consumer is volatile, and will change faster than ever before.

Key marketing and branding innovation points?

  • consumer behaviour is now more unpredictable than ever before!
  • sudden, dramatic shifts driven by sudden external influences or other pressures are the new reality
  • it’s easy to abandon marketing momentum / commitment due to slowness of trend (i.e. healthy lifestyle – consumers say one thing, and do another!)
  • yet success from ability to quickly rejig marketing message based on trend spikes – speed matters!

And  so branding innovation is … sticking to the message behind the key trends, even if the trends unfold at a curious and unpredictable pace….

I spoke about many other trends within the keynote, particularly the impact of mobile marketing and moving into hyper-nice marketing. I’ll cover more of that later.

This is typical of the type of unique research I often do for a keynote. If you are interested in bringing me in to a leadership meeting at your corporate organization, feel free to give me a call!

A few weeks ago, I was the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference held at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

The audience were owners and operators of multiple franchise operations, primarily from the restaurant / food sector, but also from other franchise operations in auto, pet care, home supplies and other retail product lines.

An audience of close to 1,000 listens to Jim Carroll's keynote on fast paced consumer, retail and restaurant industry trends in Las Vegas

My keynote topic was built on the theme “”Where Do We Go From Here? Why Innovators Will Rule in the Post-Recession Economy – And How You Can Join Them!”

 

What did I take a look at? A wide variety of the fast-paced trends impacting the retail / restaurant sector today. I broke my talk down into 3 key trends, what I might call:

  • Consumer velocity
  • Mobile madness
  • Intelligent infrastructure

1. What We Know: Consumer behaviour shifts faster today than ever before

The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second.” That’s a stat I’ve long used to emphasize that the attention span of the typical shopper of today is shorter than ever before — and retailers need to innovate to ensure they can keep the attention of today’s consumer.

It’s not just keeping up with fleeting attention spans — it’s about adapting to the fast pace of how quickly consumer choice changes. Consider what is happening with the rapid emergence of revenue in the late night business segment – it was up 12% in 4th quarter 2010, compared to 2-3% for other parts of the day. That’s why major chains have been focusing on new “happy hour” offerings — and so their success increasingly comes from how quickly they can scale and adapt to fast moving trends.

We’ve seen plenty of fast innovation from various organizations in the sector to respond to quick consumer change. Morton’s capitalized on the new consumer sensitivity towards value when it jumped on the trend that involves the “casualization of fine dining” with its’ $6 mini-cheeseburger.

Other fast trends drive the industry. The Sydney Morning Herald ran a great article in April of 2011, noting that “… the world of cooking and restaurants is becoming more like an arm of show business …..” with the result that “everyone wants to see the chef.” That’s why we are seeing many restaurants from fine-dining to fast casual moving the kitchen to the “front of the house,” or in other cases, a lot of TV display technology that provide for video links from tables to the kitchen. The evolution that is occurring is that the chef is becoming the star, and more and more of the staff are becoming ‘performers.’ Innovators in appropriate sectors would see the opportunities and jump on this trend.

Whatever the case may be, the consumer of today changes quickly, and innovators check their speed and agility in being able to respond to this reality.

2. What We Know: Technology – especially mobile – has become the key influencer of today’s consumer decision making.

Simply put, the velocity of mobile adoption, local search and product promotion is evolving at a pace that is beyond furious.

Consider the growth rates underlying today’s technology. It took two years for Apple to sell two million iPhones. It took 2 months for them to sell 2 million iPads! It took 1 month to sell 1 million iPhone 4’s!

The impact of such trends is an explosive rate of growth of wireless Internet usage. Mobile represented but 0.2% of all Web traffic in 2009. That grew to 8% by 2010, and is expected to hit 16% of all traffic this year.

Some suggest that mobile searches now exceed the number of computer based searches. What is also well known is that most mobile searches are for “local content.” Not only that, but Google has found that when someone gets a smartphone, the number of searches they make increases 50 times!

What is clear is that people are using their mobile devices to find nearby – stores, retailers, restaurants and just about everything else. Combine this with the emergence of new promotion opportunities (through apps and other tools) and you’ve got a revolution in the making in terms of local product promotion. That’s why the success of many retailers / restaurants will come from their success with location-sensitive coupon technology.

Bottom line? Innovation is: rethinking in-store uplift in terms of new methods of interaction!

3. What We Know: We will have far more opportunity for operational innovation through the rapid emergence of new technology, infrastructure and other trends

Consider how quickly near-field payment technology is going to steamroller the retail / restaurant sector. Simply put, over the next few years, the credit cards in our wallet will disappear as our iPhones, Blackberries and Android phones become the credit card infrastructure of the future. This is a HUGE trend — it provides countless opportunities for innovation, disruptive business model change, new competitors, and all kinds of other fun opportunities.

The trend has enormous velocity – we can expect $113 billion in transactions by 2016,  with 3.5 billion transactions – and with this comes new opportunities for loyalty and contact followup. From an innovation perspective, the sector will have to ensure they can ingest the new infrastructure quickly enough, and keep on top of the industry change that it will cause to ensure that challenges are turned into opportunity.

There are all kinds of other areas of fast change that present opportunity. Consider the issue fo ‘green buildings’ and sustainability. The West Australian newspaper recently noted that “with the rapid increase in knowledge, skills and availability of materials, costs have fallen. The industry now understands how to build green and building a 5-star Green Star building is now generally cost neutral.”

Some franchisees are taking this to heart, with aggressive plans involving eco-friendly buildings. Chick-fil-A has a  LEED initiative in building a test model restaurant that has water usage down by 40% through rainwater collection; an electricity reduction of 14% through the use of skylights & energy efficient appliances; 20% of the building content is from recycled material; and 30% more fresh air than regular buildings. While the structure is 15% more expensive to build, they expect a fairly quick payback — and will manage to get a branding image to their customer base that they don’t just talk sustainability – they do it!

From this perspective, innovation is keeping ahead of and planning for hyper-innovation with IT, energy, environmental and other infrastructure trends that impact facilities or the nature of the customer interaction.

 

Innovators get ahead by focusing on bold ideas, and exploring the concept of 'experiential capital' - Jim Carroll

I also emphasized that innovators aren’t afraid to make bold moves. Every franchise and retail organization today is looking for opportunities for cross-promotion, cross-selling and product placement. So consider this observation from the Dallas Morning News in March 2011 in an article titled: Funeral home adds little sip of heaven: Starbucks Coffee.

At McKinney’s Turrentine Jackson Morrow Funeral Home, it’s now possible to pay your respects to the dead or plan your own funeral with a venti Caramel Macchiato in hand

Craziness, or smart niche-marketing? I think it’s innovation!

So what do you do? My message to the folks in Las Vegas was to get involved and explore these fascinating new worlds that surround you!

Many of them might hold themselves back from Facebook advertising, because the concept might simply seem overwhelming for a small to medium sized mulit-unit franchise operation. Yet, today Facebook now accounts for 1 of 3 every online ads. And we are seeing the rapid emergence of new online ‘aggregators’ that are focused on helping small business take advantage of that fact. These organizations — such as Blinq — manage the buying of thousands of individualized ads, based on age, location, interests.

They should simply try the world of mobile promotion. Buffalo Wild Wings gave it a shot for one recent NFL based initiative, and indicated that they tripled the return on their investment.

Think differently in terms of new ways of reaching the consumer. Pizza Pizza, a Canadian chain, recently released a new iPhone App that allows online ordering. Nothing new or special about that – such apps are becoming a dime a dozen, and are quickly becoming de rigueur. What is cool is that the chain has revealed that it is working to link the  app payment system to university meal card plan, in recognition of the fact that many students in the target market might not have credit cards (or “credit worthy” cards.)

Bottom line? One of my key closing messages was that innovators focus on the concept of “experiential capital” -there’s a lot going on, and to figure out, we should just get out and do it! Try new ideas, explore new initiatives, undertake new projects. One of the only ways to get ahead is to work quickly to build up your experience in all the new opportunities that surround you.

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