Monthly Archives: April 2012

Something very “Pinteresting” is happening.

In a little over a year, Pinterest has become the #3 social network traffic site behind Facebook and Twitter. While Pinterest is also a social sharing site, its concept clearly differentiates it from the others. “Pinners” setup Pinboards based on their interests and “pin” images they like, seen mostly online, and want to keep as reference. Pinboards run the full gamut of titles or interests, but since the vast majority of Pinterest’s participants are female, the top categories are fashion/beauty, home, and cooking/food.

It is the cooking/food Pinboards that offer an an enormous opportunity for food producers and foodservice operators. “Pinners” post images of products, finished dish photos, and recipes they like. While Pinterest currently does not offer paid advertising opportunities, it has stated the intention to do so at some point in the future. For now, though, companies can set up Pinboards, and many are doing so. In fact, since February of this year, the number of companies promoting their Pinterest activity has grown from 0% to 24%, mostly via email and links from their websites.

Social media as a marketing tool has grown steadily, but the Pinterest concept is unique in the sense that it has created a huge virtual window shopping opportunity. Pinners can “repin” images from other Pinboards, and they have a propensity to purchase items they see on Pinterest. In fact, a recent survey by PriceGrabber indicates that 21% of respondents purchased items they saw on someone else’s Pinboard.

Food marketers and foodservice operators with consumer content rich websites, stand to gain the most by tapping into this phenomenon. “Pin it” links from product pages could likely become commonplace along with the “like” icon. It is the direct link via “pin this” that gives Pinterest an edge in delivering a direct contribution to sales that, so far, other social sites seem to have been unable to do.

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“Should I eat that?” There’s an app for that.

Consumers are becoming consumed with concern over the nutritional values of the foods they eat. Of the US consumers with smartphones, over 40% have downloaded apps that answer the burning question: should I eat that?

Fooducate, MyFoodWatch, Allergy Eats, and Don’t Eat That are among the most popular mobile tools for accessing food product nutrition facts. According to Hemi Weingarten, Fooducate founder and CEO, approximately 500,000 consumers use this app or its corresponding website each week. A survey of 15,000 Fooducate users revealed that at least once, 80% chose a more healthy alternative to the product they were considering buying.

The apps are easy to use. Consumers scan product bar codes while shopping and wait for the algorithm, developed with the assistance of dietitians, to provide the nutrition facts.  Fooducate actually produces a letter grade, B+ or C- and so on, and then provides an explanation of the grade, such as contains HFCS, artificial colors or flavors, or does not contain a significant amount of an ingredient such as whole grains, if that ingredient claim has been made.

These apps are giving consumers the opportunity to weigh marketing claims against product formulations. Food and beverage marketers need to ensure that the marketing claims and key message points they make about their products, particularly on product packaging, can be supported by product formulations.

Consumers choose various food products for many reasons and healthfulness is not always the key determinant.  However, they do seem to prefer products and brands whose marketing claims are an accurate reflection of their formulation.  For consumers, “should I eat that”  has as much to do with simply wanting to be informed as it does about always making the healthiest choices.

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Shouldn’t common food names remain in common use?

The newly formed Consortium for Common Food Names, a global initiative of food producers and organizations, thinks so.  They will work to oppose any attempt to monopolize generic food names that have been commonly used, in some cases for over a century.  The distinction here is geographical indication (GIs) that protect legitimate regional products like Parmigiano Reggiano from commonly understood cheese varietals such as parmesan, which is produced in many regions throughout the world.

The European Commission has been attempting to expand the definition and territory of GIs, recently as part of free trade agreements.  Left unchecked, parmesan, provolone, bologna, salami, and countless other common food names would be restricted.  Producers who label their products with these names, whether as product variety descriptors or brand names, would have to rename and repackage potentially billions of dollars of food products.

The Consortium’s efforts will be focused on working with all interested parties to develop guidelines that provide reasonable protections for GI food products while also protecting the rights of producers and marketers to continue to use common food names.  After all, consumers have been buying bologna for generations and it’s doubtful they’ll understand or embrace a new term for this beloved lunch meat.

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