AISLE CHATTER

Karen is the director of marketing/digital strategy and the specialty foods editor at Food World and Food Trade News. With many years under her belt in the hospitality, food & beverage, and retail food industries, she transitioned to the media side of the business in 2011. She can be reached at karen@foodtradenews.com.

In this day and age, shoppers are a fickle bunch and loyalty seems to be a thing of the past. Nielsen, the global data analytics company, reported that only nine percent of American customers are brand loyal. That means a whopping 91 percent are ready to switch brands at the drop of a hat! And while price still plays a factor, the demand for superior quality and/or function is high on the list as well, meaning consumers want the best of both worlds. Local has also become an important factor in brand selection, with many consumers swayed by homegrown brands. Additionally, Nielsen found that although TV, radio and print ads still influence customers on what they buy, social media and its offering of interactivity is not only critical for brand awareness but also plays a greater role than traditional media in helping many shoppers make purchasing decisions. So, in this new day and age of disloyalty, how can brands capture these capricious shoppers? Nielsen offers five suggestions: 1. Embrace the addiction to “newism” by keeping the pipelines fresh and relevant. 2. Lean into local by tying your brand into the local community. 3. Influence with advocacy by not only actively engaging with the customer but by incentivizing them to share and recommend your products to others. 4. Find commitment through convenience and quality by providing more bang for the buck. 5. Capture screen surfers and shoppers by investing in your omni channel strategy and by making online purchasing a seamless process. Gone are the days when companies can base their success on brand recognition alone. Customers expect to be wooed as if they are on an episode of “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” and in the end, only those that can check all the boxes will get the final rose.

French’s is one brand not resting on their laurels. In honor of National Mustard Day which falls on August 3, French’s partnered up with the female-founded brand, Coolhaus, to bring a limited edition mustard flavored ice cream to consumers to help them beat the summer heat. The yellow condiment based cold treat will be made available for select New Yorkers and Californians to sample between August 2-4. A French’s Mustard Ice Cream Truck will be giving consumers the chance to try this unique ice cream flavor in NYC before moving on to the Hamptons to close the weekend out in style. Meanwhile, the Coolhaus location in Culver City, CA will have it available during the first two weekends of August. The limited edition release is part of French’s “Not From France” campaign, which celebrates American flavor through “unexpected twists on beloved classics.” In my opinion, it is a great marketing collaboration for the two brands as it not only piques curiosity about the abnormal pairing, but it also gets people in the mainstream talking about the two very different brands. “As lovers of sweet-meets-savory, pure ingredients and unique creations, we are incredibly excited to be collaborating with French’s Mustard in creating this one-of-a-kind product,” said Coolhaus CEO and founder Natasha Case. “It’s been so fun to explore this classic condiment in a whole new way and create an unforgettable thoughtfully-crafted ice cream flavor with an All-American taste.”

Speaking of collabs, Peapod just announced a partnership with Season Four Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard on an expansion of its chef-inspired meal kits. Izard, who was the first female chef to win the show’s top prize, is the co-owner and executive chef of three award-winning Chicago restaurants, Girl and the Goat, Little Goat, and Duck Duck Goat as well as the 2013 James Beard Foundation honoree for Best Chef: Great Lakes. The meal kits, which will serve four people and retail around $6 per serving, utilize her line of globally inspired cooking sauces and spices, “This Little Goat,” to make it easy for shoppers to create tasty and unique restaurant quality meals at home. They are available on Peapod’s website, starting with Yucatán Fish Tacos and Grilled Belize Chicken Sandwich. Two additional meal kits from this line will be available in the fall: Roasted Asian Chicken Thighs and Hong Kong Slow Cooked Short Ribs. All kits feature pre-measured, pre-cut, and pre-washed fresh ingredients. “These innovative collaborations allow Peapod customers to enjoy a wide array of exciting dishes in a convenient, ready-to-cook format,” said Spencer Baird, senior vice president of merchandising, Peapod. “As a Chicago resident who loves Stephanie’s restaurants, it’s particularly exciting to be able to bring some of our favorite local Chicago dishes to all the markets we serve. We love being able to bring something new to the table!”

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Also investing in its online grocery delivery program is Weis Markets, which added 61 additional stores to the coverage area of Weis 2 Go, its online ordering system with pick-up and home delivery. This brings the total where this service is offered up to 150 stores in the retailer’s seven-state market area. “Over the past two years, we have steadily expanded and upgraded our Weis 2 Go online ordering service, which offers a more seamless shopping experience through mobile ordering on the Weis app and online at WeisMarkets.com,” said Kurt Schertle, chief operating officer for Weis Markets. “Weis 2 Go continues to offer same-day pickup on orders as well as the savings and rewards of the in-store shopping experience. A growing number of our customers have embraced this service for its convenience, including home delivery at participating stores in as little as one hour.” Each Weis 2 Go order is handpicked by a trained personal shopper and then carefully stored until pick up, when customers can pay through a secure PayPal system or at the store with curbside checkout. Customers can use their Weis Preferred Shopper cards to save on their orders and earn rewards on gas and private brand products. They can also browse the weekly online circular and add sale items to their carts. Paper and digital coupons are also accepted. The curbside pick-up fee is $4.95, which is waived for a limited time. Shoppers also have the option to have their groceries delivered through the Weis Markets website or app, or through delivery subscription service Shipt.

Kudos to Wegmans, which will be offering adaptive carts at all of its locations. The Firefly GoTo Shop is an adapted shopping cart suitable for younger children who require extra postural and head support. It features an open front for that allows a parent or caregiver to easily place a child in the seat. It also has adjustable head and lateral support and a fully adjustable cushioned five-point harness with a maximum user weight of 77 pounds. Parents of special needs children have enough to worry about, so I think it’s great that the Rochester, NY-based grocer is helping make shopping an easier and less stressful experience for them.

Finally, I want to give a very big shout out to Giant/Martin’s for raising $710,634  during its annual in-store Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals balloon campaign, conducted June 23 through July 6. What makes this amount even more impressive is the fact that it was essentially raised a dollar at a time, with customers donating during checkout. “Our customers and associates have continued to generously support the work of CMN after year in helping to save and improve the lives of children in our local communities,” said John Ponnett, senior vice president of retail operations, Giant/Martin’s. “With every donation, they are helping the CMN Hospital in their local community build new treatment facilities, purchase special equipment needed in the care of young patients and conduct groundbreaking research, helping to make miracles happen for the families who need them most.” The Carlisle, PA-based retailer is one of the top 15 fundraisers in the country for CMN. Customers, associates, and vendor partners have donated more than $45 million over the past 22 years in support of programs and services at local CMN Hospitals including Penn State Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, The Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger, Children’s National Medical Center, University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital.

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Until next month…

Karen can be contacted via email at karen@foodtradenews.com.