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Live From IDDBA: Honest, Authentic and Fresh


You’d be hard-pressed to attend a trade show or conference these days that doesn’t address how to more effectively market to Millennials, and this week’s Dairy-Deli-Bake was no exception.

The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s annual three-day seminar and expo wound down Tuesday in Atlanta with a focus on that all-important demographic, insights on differentiation from a Harvard professor, and perspectives from a star professional athlete.

Mark Rudy, VP sales for the Hubert Co., and Jeremy Johnson, the IDDBA’s education director, kicked off Tuesday morning’s general session with the first of two “ED Talks,” theirs taking on “Engaging Shoppers Through Merchandising.”

The most effective merchandising is visual, they asserted, because it turns passive lookers into active buyers. Shopper engagement, within the 3- to 4-foot “engagement zone” around store displays, increases chance of purchase.

Engagement strategies within that zone should include the five elements of merchandising: landscaping, color, texture, communication and décor.

Examples of landscaping: vertical towers of cheese to create visual interest, charcuterie stacks, different-shaped sandwiches arranged in a deli case.

Color should leverage that inherent trait in distinctive products, allowing brightly colored items like fresh produce or decorated bakery items speak for themselves.

Textures should help tie products in with their surroundings, with such materials as chunky industrial-looking wood and metal, hammered metals, slate or chipped stone.

Communication should feature information about the food, perhaps written by hand on butcher paper with chalk or markers for a distinctive flair.

Décor can be as simple as a row of greenery to visually separate products, or leveraging fixtures as décor elements.

Next up, Alan Hiebert, IDDBA senior education coordinator, and chef Chris Koch, executive chef of Cooking or Whatever (at the helm of the Show & Sell Center’s Culinary Concierge pavilion during the expo), tackled “Engaging Millennials Through Meals.”

Based on a recent survey of Millennials from various family and financial backgrounds, Hiebert and Koch said Millennial engagement must contain inspiration and knowledge; honesty and authenticity; planning; freshness; and technology.

Millennials are looking to supermarkets for inspiration, and “the voice they want to hear is the chef,” Hiebert said – they want to talk directly with those making their food.

Protein is a top priority for Millennials, which presents an opportunity for engagement through new and different flavors in protein-laden food items.

Regarding honesty, those surveyed said they want to see calories, seasonal labels, preparation description and origin information on menus.

Millennials are less likely than Baby Boomers to plan ahead for their meals, and are less likely to make shopping lists. But they are willing to pay for food that reflects home cooking because they don’t have time to make it themselves. Millennials visit more different retailers than Boomers and like cooking with ready-to-assemble meal components.

Freshness is most important to Millennials, but they have a perception that prepared foods are not as fresh as they could be; even healthy options are less appealing if they’ve been sitting out all day.

Those surveyed are less likely to order prepared foods online. Hiebert and Koch recommended retailers differentiate by providing professional chef services like the Culinary Concierge, offering preordered complete weekly heat-and-eat meals ready to pick up, with additional complementary components available as an opportunity to grow baskets.

Standing out in a crowd

Harvard Business School professor and author Dr. Youngme Moon, in her presentation “Differentiate in a Way that Makes a Difference,” argued that most consumers don’t see the differences among products that company executives see between their brands.

“Most consumers are not connoisseurs,” she asserted. “What you see as different, most consumers see as sameness.”

Real difference has become rare in business, Moon contended: “When categories get crowded, they start to feel the same to most people.”

But she acknowledged that it’s possible to stand out from the crowd by being mindful of what makes brands truly unique.

Brands that are truly different “flip the fundamental,” citing as an example the Scandinavian furniture giant IKEA, one of the most powerful consumer brands in the world. IKEA “says no where competitors say yes,” Moon explained: it offers no style variation, few sales associates, do-it-yourself assembly and products not designed to last a lifetime. But the company says yes where others say no, offering things like onsite daycare for shoppers, in-store cafes and housewares. IKEA has generated differentiation and loyalty by “shunning the gloomy warehouse environment of other warehouse retailers.”

Brands that are different “resist the herd,” or the urge to copy competitors, Moon said; to be different is to be doing something unprecedented.

And brands that are different “have conviction – they stand for something.”

In our industry’s case, food has become so many things, Moon suggested: identity, morality, political, art and entertainment, a spectator sport, aspirational, fashion – many things to different people.

Larger brands are on the defensive, Moon said, in the face of competition from smaller, nimbler brands. “Brands that are different are disruptors,” she said. “The secret ingredient is passion.”

Closing out Tuesday’s general session was a speaker who most definitely stands out in a crowd.

Shaquille O’Neal, an NBA All Star who proudly wears the title “Dr.” with his doctorate in organizational learning and leadership, talked about lessons from his own life in sports and business in “Thinking Big on Leadership.”

In a Q&A led by IDDBA board member John Cheesman of Maplehurst Bakeries, O’Neal fielded prepared questions and some from audience members about his early years, playing in college and the NBA, his philosophies and business ventures.

Despite one’s own prowess, O’Neal declared: “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

On the show floor …

As the expo drew to a close, IDDBA President/CEO Mike Eardley announced the winner of the 20th annual Cake Decorating Challenge: Donna Barley, from the Publix Super Market in Cape Coral, Fla., was crowned champion; runners-up were Katherine Dean from Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton, Ohio, and Stephanie Dillon from the Hy-Vee in Lee’s Summit, Mo.

In a final pass of the show floor, I included these exhibitors among my stops:

Boulder Organic brought some relief to hot and steamy Atlanta with its cool and refreshing gazpacho, the latest in its growing line of organic soups, some of which are also vegan. Cuban black bean is an additional new release, available in 24-ounce retail packages and gallon bags for foodservice.

Donsuemor was on trend for portion control and unique flavors with its Nonnettes in new 3-packs of mini cakes in Meyer Lemon, Vanilla Bean and Peppermint Bark varieties. The 3-packs carry a suggested retail of $1.99 to $2.25; the lemon variety will also be available individually wrapped in tubs of 10 for grocery sales, with a suggested retail of $6.99. At about 80 calories each, they’re a sensible indulgence that will help upscale lunches and coffee bar offerings.

Eckrich has a winner with its America Regional Flavors line, definitely on trend for Millennials looking for authentic, bold tastes. The Serrano Brown Sugar Ham is excellent; Honey Bourbon Ham was also featured.

Lantmannen Unibake is pursuing “mini mania” with its expanding line of mini pastries, offered in five-flavor assortments that in-store bakeries can move from freezer to display in 18 minutes. The newest quintet includes salted caramel, toasted coconut, lemon cheesecake, strawberry shortcake and cherry chocolate, all with a delicate, flaky pastry base. With an anticipated August release, the pastries can be custom iced by the grocer. The company is also launching a gourmet burger campaign, “True Burgers,” featuring gourmet buns under its Euro Bake brand. Tapping food bloggers for their burger know-how, the edgy campaign supports the line that includes brioche, pretzel, mini slider and jalapeno cheddar buns.

Noble Roman launched a unique sauceless maple-flavored pizza topped with bacon and ham. It’s not how you expect pizza to taste, but those with a fondness for salty-sweet mashups just may take to this – it would certainly be an interesting addition to the breakfast daypart for grocery foodservice operations.

Perdue sampled its new Italian-style chicken sausage and pesto parmesan chicken meatballs, two ready-to-heat products sold under its Coleman Natural brand. Also being sampled were zesty Asian Seasoned chicken wings. The company is pushing its “no antibiotics ever” claim for its products, which Perdue’s John Moore said is being embraced by retailers and consumers. Moore said retailers are looking for new, bold flavors in limited-time products to keep their menus fresh and competitive with other foodservice channels.

Prop & Peller Pretzels showcased the versatility of its products, adding a burger bun to its line of pretzel rolls formatted for subs, sliders and other sandwiches. Currently supplying foodservice customers, the company aims to move into retail grocery soon.

Yerecic Label displayed its convenient add-on handle for rotisserie chicken clamshells. The strap helps keep the lid sealed on tightly to prevent leakage and allows shoppers to more easily carry their purchase. Yerecic also showed its resealable tamper-evident label for bakery packaging.

Follow our show coverage on Twitter at @pgrocer, @jimdudlicek and @KatieIndyGrocer.

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