Immersing in local culture through food

There is a good chance that this post will either inspire you to find the best local representation of Southeast Asian food, or possibly just leave you really hungry. I recently spent time in Southeast Asia, traveling around Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. I have had the “travel bug” since college and ventured to a number of incredible places around the globe. It’s in my DNA to appreciate a region through the people, the natural setting, and the food. And wow, the food in SE Asia. Green Curry, Bun Cha, Kao Soi, Kebabs, Spring Rolls, Papaya Salads, Pho, Cocount Rice, Morning Glory. This was my first personal international trip since joining the “food world,” and I was amazed at the different lens that I viewed my experience through with having spent time in this incredible industry.

WHAT STOOD OUT

This entire blog could be dedicated to the different flavors and dishes that I experienced throughout the different regions, but more compelling are the themes that emerged through that time — and in recent weeks of post-trip reflection.

“Regional”
Perhaps this is something I should have expected going into the trip. But one of the things that surprised me right out of the gate was just how different regional food and beverage specialties were within a relatively short distance. This first dawned on me when traveling from Hanoi to Hoi An in Vietnam. A night train ride away and suddenly, Bun Cha (an incredible Hanoian lunch noodle dish) was no longer available at every corner — and not for the going rate of $1.75. I hadn’t been prepared to have experienced “my last bowl of Bun Cha” in Vietnam! While I was immediately blown away by the local Ban Xeo (a Hoi An crispy pancake), it made me realize how much I needed to savor each flavor experience, since in many cases it wouldn’t be offered even a few hours away. While there were some commonalities, it was eye-opening to see how much the dishes, eating habits and international influences varied by both regions and countries.

Bun Cha, an Hanoian lunch noodle dish as featured on "Parts Unknown"
For those of you familiar with Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown”, Bun Cha was the meal he shared with Barack Obama in his Hanoi episode.

Bun Cha, an Hanoian lunch noodle dish

“Fresh”
At each new location, the food market was always a highlight. Wandering through the narrow aisles of various sections (produce, meat, seafood, spices, etc.) provided an instant glimpse of the local ingredient influences. A wonderful opportunity to connect with locals, the market was always a significant center that the city revolved around throughout the day. It truly captured the meaning of “fresh”. Each stall (mostly run by local women) was set up before dawn with new product for the day. Without refridgeration on-site and a very low “shelf life”, it made its way into the hands of restaurant owners, street food vendors and local residents throughout the day. In many cases, these markets are visited by locals not weekly or daily — but twice a day or more! Each meal prep included a stop at the market to gather ingredients and is often reliant on what is available and fresh. No matter the daypart, convenience was served up in the format of “meal kits”. A handful of vendors at each market I visited could be found bundling common ingredients in a ready-to-prepare kit that required just a step or two to make the local cuisine at home. I took advantage of this in a number of instances and loved encountering such a familiar “trend” with a different customer experience across the globe.

A noodle soup with fresh herb meal kit found in Laos.
A noodle soup with fresh herb meal kit found in Laos.
Local produce market in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Local protein market in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Local markets with produce and protein in Hoi An, Vietnam.

WHAT TO TAKE AWAY

One of the best things about traveling far away from familiar settings is a reminder of how both big and small the world is — and food is a perfect reflection of that. The diversity of customs and ingredients within a single region is mind-blowing. It’s exciting to think about how many of these global flavors are making their way to US menus, and the opportunities to expand are never-ending. Simultaneously, the familiarity of food trends halfway across the globe is a reminder that this industry is truly unique, in that it is one of shared human experience.


Complexity, Loyalty and Collaboration – all top of mind in 2019

We are entering the season of conferences and tradeshows, with a number of industry events right around the corner. Recently, we attended IFMA’s Chain Operator’s Exchange in New Orleans where we walked away with a few interesting nuggets that span beyond the content that was shared in the presentations and roundtables.

Complexity

If there were a word cloud built that captured the dialogue and content of all the events I’ve attended in the last year, “complexity” would be one of the largest. Complexity in reference to the quickly changing landscape, food safety, labor issues, the consumer journey, access challenges, supply chain transparency; the list goes on. In my opinion, the opportunity lies in the communication and a continued appetite to understand and evolve. One of the ways JT Mega is addressing the challenge is by staying — and ramping up — our involvement in the industry; but just as importantly, sharing the experiences among our own team. While it can be difficult to carve out time when schedules are only getting tighter, the post-JTM15 (our agency share-outs that last 15 minutes) conversations are a reminder of how much is happening right “within” our four walls that can support better navigating complexity. 

If you’re interested in a JTM share-out with your team, let us know! We have a number of events coming up that may be of interest.

Loyalty

In addition to a complex landscape, it’s common understanding that consumers have more options and are becoming more selective when it comes to food choices. This increases the importance of measuring, understanding, and influencing guest loyalty for the sake of repeat purchase and growth. Datassential provided insights on some recent findings around what drives loyalty with restaurants.1 Relatively few chains achieved a net promoter score (NPS) of greater than 59%, but the bigger learning was in uncovering which qualities had the greatest correlation with true loyalty. It isn’t affordability or new LTOs – rather, attributes more ingrained in the culture of a restaurant. If you really want to impact loyalty, Unique Experience, Craveable Items, and Great Staff are the drivers. 1 These aren’t quick triggers by any means, but are in line with what we are seeing in the industry as a whole — brands have to offer more than the product; embodying a culture and experience that align with consumers personally matters more.

Collaboration

Over my short 2+ years in this industry, I have been continually reminded and pleasantly surprised by the “in-it-together” mentality that is inherent in the food and beverage world. It seems that the conscious focus on collaboration — how to do things better, together — is openly a priority. Continuing to raise the bar in this industry is a collective goal and it makes it an exciting time to be part of it.

Final Note

This “season” of events is off to a solid start and it will be interesting to see what emerges in both themes and trends for 2019. We look forward to sharing what stands out to us and would love to hear what you think is a little different about this year. (Or…to hear what you’d like to hear more about…).

1 “Keys to Brand Affinity.” Datassential. IFMA COEX. February 2019.

The Rise of the Lifestyle Diet

As we dive head-first into 2019, many people have set goals to eat healthy or lose weight and have begun a variety of diets. More than ever before, fast food and quick-serve/fast-casual chains have seen the value in offering on-the-go options for their keto customers, Whole30-doers and paleo patrons.

Chipotle.com advertising lifestyling bowls for Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and double protein diets.

With 80% of New Year’s resolutions failing by February1, the Chipotle-style restaurants of the world are here to help.

A quick Google search for “best diets of 2019” returns various guides for Whole30, Mediterranean, DASH, paleo, vegan, Nordic, keto, Weight Watchers, Pegan (paleo-vegan), anti-inflammatory…the list goes on. As the general population grows more concerned with their overall health and wellness — and largely having a greater understanding that what works for one person may not for another — they find there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to adding a “diet” to your menu.

What we think:

As diets become lifestyles, chains that already incorporate customization on their menus have an easier time accommodating specific dietary desires. That being said, this opens a whole new door to mass-acceptance of healthier, nutrient-rich demand when dining out in quick-serve situations. You used to only find this type of dietary accommodation around LA or New York, maybe San Fran or Seattle, but never before has this level of dietary acceptance been made across the nation.

As dietary standards rise, restaurants — and therefore manufacturers — have no choice but to adapt alongside their customers.

A few chains incorporating specialized diets on their menus2:

  • Chipotle (keto, paleo, Whole30, double-protein)
  • Roti Modern Mediterranean (Gluten-Free Rice Plate, Keto Salad, Vegan Pita)
  • Chick-fil-A (paleo, keto or Whole30-friendly options: grilled nuggets and superfood salad, spicy southwest salad, grilled market salad)
  • In-N-Out Burger (protein-style paleo burger)
  • Taco Bell (keto options, highly customizable menu)

What’s next:

We pose the question: are many of these diets even a fad? They’ve been around for some time now, only growing in popularity. The differences in today’s “fad diets” and those of the 90s are whole foods, higher fat, and focus on origin of food, rather than low-fat shakes and non-fat cheese.

Used-to-be “alternative lifestyles” are now mainstream and restaurants are finally recognizing them as such. McDonald’s UK now offers vegan and vegetarian Happy Meal options3, and McDonald’s Sweden recently launched their first vegan Happy Meal4 — the McFalafel. Add those to the list of restaurants already offering options like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, and we will see vegan options on more menus in 20195.

Keep an eye out for greater transparency in food origin, lower sweetness levels6, and values at the center of purchasing decisions for these large chains. Dining options that have previously limited their stake in these issues are getting pressure from consumers to adapt, and, as a result, these chains will likely turn to manufacturers to help accommodate these requests.

[1] “80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February — here’s how to keep yours.” Business Insider. January 2017.
[2] “8 Fast Food Joints With Surprisingly Great Paleo and Whole30 Meals.” Thrillist. January 2019.
[3] “McDonald’s UK Launches Its First Vegan Happy Meal.” VegNews. January 2019.
[4] “McDonald’s Just Launched Its First Vegan Happy Meal In Sweden.” Delish. January 2019.
[5] “The year of the vegan.” The Economist. January 2019.
[6] “10 Macro Trends Impacting Food And Beverage Innovation In 2019.” Forbes. January 2019.

Small Risk, Sweet Reward

Today’s consumers are pulled in many directions and often need that little something to get them through the day. There’s a reason Starbucks offers happy hour prices on their most indulgent drinks, and why Panera offers a baked good to add to your lunch for 99¢. Whether we recognize it or not, many of us have grown used to the idea of small (often unplanned) indulgences on a daily basis.

What are we talking about?

“Small indulgences: Stressed-out consumers want to indulge in affordable luxuries and seek ways to reward themselves” ­—Faith Popcorn, BrainReserve

This idea of small indulgences is by no means new. Faith Popcorn, of strategic marketing consultancy BrainReserve, identified “small indulgences” as an emerging megatrend back in 1991, and it’s hung around and evolved ever since. As people focus on health and wellness on an increasing scale, small indulgences — particularly as they relate to food — become more appealing, as they help balance indulgence and control. Starting around 2015, this trend started to plow its way into the food space1 with the rise of things like of mini-appetizers on Pinterest and cup-sized desserts for weddings. “By offering bite-sized takes on cakes and other saliva-inducing foods, brands are letting consumers have their cake, and eat it too — without guilt,”2 says digital firm Trend Hunter.

What we think:

This trend isn’t going away any time soon. There’s a lack of guilt when the indulgence is small and, quite frankly, we all feel we’ve earned that one small treat after a long day of work or adhering to a new diet. And if you ask us, there’s something incredibly satisfying about a mini-splurge. You feel special about the impulse purchase of that $5 cookie because it is hand-crafted and made that morning from a local baker.

How we see it manifesting in society:

There’s already been an increase of artisan-crafted snacks and sweets at farmer’s markets, boutiques, and all over Instagram. Large food manufacturers will continue to develop smaller, artisan-like brands that can deliver on the quality (and lower price) that consumers seek. This trend already stretches far beyond food to things like Self-Care Sunday, chair massages, pet toys or just a half-hour to yourself. We believe we’ll continue to see this become the norm in many areas of life.

[1] “Tiny Foods Are Taking Over the Internet.” InStyle. July 2016.
[2] “Small Indulgence: Miniature treats and sweets help consumers control consumption.” Trend Hunter.

Global Insights to Share

On our recent trip to Paris for SIAL 2018, the largest international food and beverage innovation show, we had the chance to sit in on a few very compelling seminars. A global study of consumers’ behaviors, attitudes and expectations regarding their food were the focus of “Food 360”, a breakout led by Kantar TNS and conducted exclusively for SIAL.1

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Led by Kantar TNS, one of the world’s largest research agencies with experts in over 80 countries, the 2018 multi-country market report represents a wide range of geographies: the UK and the USA, Russia, China, Middle Eastern countries, Southeast Asian countries and a range of countries in the EU.1

With the intention of understanding what most motivates consumers around the globe when it comes to food choices, three key factors emerged: Taste, Truth, and Meaning.1 Right off the bat, those sound “right on”, don’t they? Interestingly enough, how those words translate varies by region. This illustrates how important it is to really dig in to understand the ever-changing nuances in what matters to consumers and how they define those when it comes to food products.

HOW DOES IT TRANSLATE?

Taste: As defined by the quality of food products – flavor does matter! In fact, it is #1 across the globe when it comes to consumers’ expectations and behavior. But taste encompasses more than just flavor – it spans a broader definition that implies a holistic experience with taste. In this study, different regions prioritized the below factors when defining “taste”:

  • Varying Meals and Flavors
  • Balanced Diet
  • Good Quality Foods

Truth: Transparency. This is clearly articulated in different ways based on the region and the variation may be based on consumer and food supply sophistication. Regardless, it’s clear that consumers want more sightline into the food products they choose. When it comes to “truth”, different regions prioritized these factors:

  • Origin (including Ingredients List!)
  • Farming / Breeding Conditions
  • Food Safety

Terra Creta Olive Oil (42 varieties identified)
Terra Creta Olive Oil (42 varieties identified)

Meaning: Food choices that align with personal values is becoming more important. As with personal values, the range of what encompasses values broadens at the global scale. The topics / issues remain in the same realm but the actions to support (or negate) them requires a closer finger on the pulse of the people and culture. As defined by different geographies, the factors that align with “meaning” are:

  • Biodegradable / Less Packaging
  • Farmers + Breeders Compensation
  • Animal Well-Being

WHAT WE THINK

The intuitiveness and familiarity of the results shared do not diminish their importance. In fact, it further supports the significance that food choices play in a consumers’ life and that these choices are becoming not only more integrated but also more personal. While Taste, Truth and Meaning are rather familiar based on trends in this industry, they are not simple “factors” and should encourage us all to stay curious about how consumers think and feel about choices when it comes to food products.

WHAT’S NEXT

Spending a day in the life of a farmer sheds light on the incredibly complex and dynamic business we know as agriculture. The next generation has new, steep challenges ahead that will lean on innovative thinking and a purpose-driven approach.

[1] “Food 360: 2018.” Kantar TNS. Kantar TNS: SIAL, Paris. October 2018.

See What We Saw at SIAL

SIAL 2018 is a 5-day food innovation exhibition that took place last week in Paris, France. The largest international food and beverage innovation show, there were over 7,200 exhibitors from 119 countries around the world. And in a space that spanned the equivalent of more than 100 supermarkets end to end, there were more than 400,000 products shared across the 300,000 stakeholders from the industry.

SIAL 2018 is a 5-day food innovation exhibition that took place last week in Paris, France.

WHY WE WERE THERE

Aside from the sheer scale itself, this show is not to be missed when it comes to understanding food trends at a global scale. We’ve attended a number of North American-based shows like Expo West and Fancy Foods, and we’ve seen that innovation in food and beverage is occurring across nearly every category—rapidly. SIAL provided a unique EU and global viewpoint. It showcased trends that align with what is happening in different markets around the world – a combination of innovation and representation of high-demand consumer products in familiar categories.

SIAL had specific tracks dedicated to sharing these trends in an organized fashion – innovation, culinary, and country/region representation—in an atmosphere that was inspiring and interactive. A “Future Lab” captured what may be the biggest influencers on the industry by the year 2030. And by gathering producers, distributors, brands (both large and small), restaurateurs and ingredient providers, this was truly a show that brought the global food industry together for a productive week.

WHAT’S NEXT

We came back with a lot to share – including what we saw on the show floor, the seminars we attended hosted by leading research firms, trends and innovations, and the many conversations with industry stakeholders around the world. Over the upcoming issues of Thought for Food, we will be sharing our thoughts and experiences with you.

 

Photo credit: SIAL Paris

Start-Ups: Getting Local

With an $18 billion shift since 2011 from big food companies to small food entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry, consumers continue to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to diversifying the products in their shopping cart and in their home.[1] Minneapolis – home to us and many of our clients – has a rich history in the food industry. That makes our backyard a hot spot for emerging trends, continued innovation, new brands, and an ecosystem that continues gaining strength.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Minnesota is home to 74,500 farms and the food and beverage industry employs more than 49,000 people, while contributing $4.9 billion to the state’s economy each year. We have more than 700 food companies, and many of them are Fortune 500 companies supported with incredible talent and experience.[2]

Grow North is “a central hub for resources, a mobilizing connector and ecosystem navigator” and an example of a ground-up network that has been established to drive intentional connection between entrepreneurs and organizations, in an effort to support growth in our food and beverage community. Just around the corner, the first ever Food Ag Ideas Week will take place in St. Paul and Minneapolis, a week-long platform centered around topics like sustainable agriculture, food innovation and tech, and food and society.

Minnesota isn’t the first to bring together a broad industry representation to discuss progressive topics in this space. Other innovative food hubs – Colorado, Austin, and more – also see the importance of coming together (big and small, across the industry) as a reflection of the greater social and economic role that food and beverage play in the community.

WHAT WE THINK

It’s energizing and more important than ever to keep our finger on the pulse in our local community. There is so much happening in our own backyard that it can be challenging to determine what events and activities to prioritize. So our team has committed to spending more time out in the community where the action is happening, with both big and small companies. What we’ve found so far is that there is no shortage of passion on all fronts and a united desire to support success.

WHAT’S NEXT

If the trend continues, there will be more fragmentation and even bigger demand, creating a structure that leverages knowledge-sharing and drives innovation among food and agricultural leaders. Tactically, what’s next for us is to head out to some of the many upcoming roundtables, panels and discussions.

We hope to see you at FAI! There are still spots available: Register Here

 

[1] “Millenials are driving an $18 billion food revolution.” Marinova, Polina. Fortune. October 2015.
[2] “Food & Beverage Products Made in Minnesota.” Boehm, Jessica Walker. Livability. October 2016.

Crickets: They’re What’s for Dinner

“One hundred thousand crickets…in your basement?” With this excerpt from a recent conversation, Eric Palen, a local entrepeneur who is in the business of farming insects as food, raised a lot of questions and even more eyebrows about this growing trend. After the “gross factor” fades, the facts emerge. It turns out we’ve found a new source of protein that’s compelling for… well, a number of surprisingly good reasons.

Nearly 2,000 insect species are already a part of diets across the globe and they’re making their way to North America in a variety of forms. In fact, the global edible insect market is forecasted to grow to $153.9M in North America by 2023 and over $1 billion worldwide.1

GOOD GOD, WHY?

As the world population grows along with a demand on global resources, alternative protein sources are a heightened concern. Insects take less of a toll on these resources while still delivering a compelling nutrition profile.

Insect farming, on average, requires significantly less land, water and feed than other species – especially with the recent adoption of modern agricultural practices like vertical farming in place. To produce 1 kg of beef, 38x more land, 23x more water and 12x more feed are required compared to insects. This results in approximately 1800x the greenhouse gas emissions.

In conversation with Palen, post-growth production of cricket protein is pretty straightforward. To harvest the crickets, he freezes them before washing, boiling and roasting them. From there, they can be consumed in “whole cricket” form or alternatively, ground down into a powder for use in smoothies, chocolate, protein bars or breads.

On the nutrition front, crickets (whether in “whole” or “powder” form) contain comparable levels of protein to beef and higher levels of iron. They are considered a complete protein source – containing all of the essential amino acids, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and are high in both calcium and vitamin B12.2 It is easy to see why this food source would be explored further as we begin to think creatively about how to effectively feed a growing world population.

WHAT WE THINK

Environmental and nutritional considerations alone don’t make me want to top a Cobb salad with roasted crickets. That being said, we can’t overlook the logic in why and how insects might be a part of the North American food pyramid moving forward. Already commonplace in many large markets around the world, it may just take some time – and experience – to find out how they fit.

As cricket powder and flour makes its way into mainstream through more familiar formats, like bars and breads, there will be a more approachable delivery to educate consumers on the social, environmental and nutritional benefits of insects as protein. It will be an important link in the food chain to keep an eye on as it brings up real issues of “food and footprint” – and how we responsibly balance impact with real consumer demand.

WHAT’S NEXT

Not unlike most new product launches, crickets and other insects will likely gain adoption through innovators and early adopters. Eating an insect is, admittedly, a highly Instagrammable moment, and we see that venues and restaurants have an opportunity to lead from two primary places: experience and culture. Outside of the “wow-factor”, many insect dishes are traditional to various regions and offer chefs a new product to experiment with in menu development. When it comes to edible insects, powder may increase in quantity more rapidly, but whole form will drive awareness with visual impact. 

Just some Thought for Food™

[1] “Insects as Food.” Warren, Haley. de Sousa, Agnieska. Rekoaa, Roni. Bloomberg. July 2018.
[2] “Little Herds: Feeding the Future with Insects”. Articles and Iconographic(s) provided by Little Herds.

Talkin’ ‘bout our (next) generation.

I’ve been to a number of conferences over the past year and inevitably, the agenda includes at least one breakout about “Millennials”. There’s always an audible groan as attendees agree that they have “heard enough about this generation of experience-seeking, non-committal, entitled kids!”. (I should mention here that I am considered a Millennial myself…) Anyway, it’s time for Gen-Z.

A Gen-Z panel at this year’s IFMA COEX opened up about their preferences and their opinions on what steers their decisions when it comes to food. And they have a lot of them. From what I observed, this panel was articulate about the macro social issues that influence the way they think about what—and how—they eat. Simultaneously, they were practical about how their current stage of development impacts how that plays out in “real life”.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Now the single largest single population segment1, Gen-Z makes up 26% of the total media audience and with key differences in values and preferences, they pose an interesting challenge for brands. Encompassing those born between 1997 and 2015, this generation has serious spending power: Some through personal wealth and others through “pester power”.

As this generation approaches adulthood, early studies are homing in on what shapes their values and how that is being played out with purchases – whether of products or experiences. A few key things to consider when it comes to the food industry in particular:

Digital from DOB. This is the first generation that has truly grown up with cell phones—their parents are connected, and they access them at a much younger age. The panelists all voiced their use of their smartphone as a way to discover (Instagram), vet (Yelp), obtain (online ordering) and ultimately capture their unique experience. It’s worth noting that their time is spent on mobile devices rather than a PC—in fact, this generation spends an average of 8 minutes a day online via PC as compared to the 1+ hour of older generations1.

Socializing. What may seem in contrast to the above point, Gen-Z values “hanging out and socializing” as a top priority along with ordering shareable items when it comes to their preferred dining experience2. You may have heard rumblings of this generation noting higher levels of loneliness, with less human-to-human, authentic interactions. So it’s not surprising that Gen-Z seeks interaction with family and friends when it comes to dining. Keep this in mind as your brand thinks about how to facilitate relationship-building experiences and environments for Gen-Z.

WHAT WE THINK

This generation is different—brands and experiences in the food space are going to have to understand their expectations in a more holistic way.

We know that Gen-Z is outpacing Millennials in their occasions per week at top chains in the US3, and it’s up to us to keep a two-way conversation going with this group to truly understand them. As a more independent and entrepreneurial generation, it’s going to be more critical than ever to understand both what the data says about what matters to them and what resonates with them as individuals. Face-value of where, when and how they are dining are likely to line up with values that occasionally surprise us based on past generations.

WHAT’S NEXT

The largest qualitative and quantitative study to date was completed by KANTAR in 2017 and explored this generation’s attitudes and behaviors4. When it comes to media recommendations, “innovative formats” are cited as a way to win with this generation. In terms of creative recommendations, “expect a challenge”, “be interactive” and “push the aesthetic” are the headliners—which captures the pace and outside-the-box thinking that is going to be required to really understand and resonate with Gen-Z.

Full of nuances like the simple examples above, Gen-Z is discerning and likely going to be a challenge as marketers attempt to understand this ever-changing consumer.

[1] “Move over millennials, Gen-Z now the largest single population segment.” Sterling, Greg. Marketing Land. 17 June 2017.
[2] “The Gen-Z Selfie.” Technomic, courtesy of SmartSupport. June 2016.
[3] “Shifting Market Dynamics.” 2018 COEX, courtesy of Foodable Labs.
[4] “How to market effectively to Centennials.” Inskip, Mark. WARC Best Practices. July 2016.

Trend Alert: Adaptogens

While some take their coffee with extra cream or even a dash of cinnamon, Four Sigmatic is proposing a unique alternative: mushrooms. The blend promises increased productivity, focus and mental creativity due to naturally occurring compounds found in mushroom varietals like Lion’s Mane and Chaga.

Blending coffee with mushrooms promises increased productivity, focus and mental creativity.

So in late April, those of us attending the Hartman Group’s 2018 Food Culture Forecast sat inside a hotel ballroom and sipped the fungi-infused beverage as we listened to presenter Davey McHenry talk about a growing consumer awareness of, and demand for, products that address brain health and functioning.

In fact, mental health is the second most-mentioned health priority by American consumers (#1: weight control). Which makes it a unique and highly attractive area of innovation exploration.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Despite advancements in technology and the ability to multi-task from anywhere, adults today are busier and more stressed out than ever before. Consider the following:

A graphic showing the increase in time spent working, commuting, and caring for children for the average American family.

Source: “The New Convenience.” A.C.T. Food Culture Forecast 2018. The Hartman Group. April 2018.

And that’s led to a sizable increase in the number of consumers who say it’s taking a toll on their mental health:

  • 55% of all households are treating or preventing anxiety and stress
  • 61% of Millennials say they’re treating or preventing anxiety and stress
  • 31% of teens say they feel overwhelmed1

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re seeing an increase in products like foods, beverages and supplements that utilize adaptogens (substances that help manage stress) and nootropics (substances that increase cognitive functioning).

WHAT WE THINK

New innovations that provide mental health benefits are ripe for growth, but require approachable and educational messaging to entice consumer trial.

Many of the adaptogens and nootropics used today are completely unfamiliar–and even unpronounceable– to the vast majority of consumers. Food marketers will need to utilize branding, naming and messaging to clearly communicate sought-after mental health benefits. Manufacturers will also need to provide basic education on ingredients and their origins in marketing communications to make products approachable to the mass market.

WHAT’S NEXT

Take a cue from the following brands on how to successfully market food and beverage products that promise enhanced cognitive functioning:

Brain Alchemy Latte by Project Juice

A new offering by the San Francisco-based restaurant and juice company, Project Juice, this company also uses a clever yet descriptive name for its new adaptogen coffee drinks like “Matcha Energy” and “Golden Immunity”

  • The website describes it as a “therapeutic and deeply nourishing formula for the brain.” It also utilizes the packaging to educate the consumer on the definition of adaptogens. Key ingredients of their Brain Alchemy latte include:
    • Lion’s mane (mushroom) and guta kola (Chinese herb); both credited with increasing cognitive functioning

Project Juice utilizes the packaging of their beverages to educate the consumer on the definition of adaptogens.

Brain Dust by Moon Juice

A super-food powder blend created by the company Moon Juice. The name ‘Brain Dust” is described on its website as Edible Intelligence™, which efficiently and succinctly communicates its key benefit to the audience.

  • The product description, “an adaptogenic blend of super-herbs and super-mushrooms that help combat the effects of stress” gives the consumer a high-level understanding of the key cognitive benefit. Key ingredients include:
    • Rhodiola root extract, which is credited with increasing resistance to stress, and ashwagandha leaf extract, which is said to treat anxiety and stress

‘Brain Dust” is described as Edible Intelligence™, which efficiently and succinctly communicates its key benefit to the audience.

Tulsi Clarity Herbal Tonic by Goldthread

One of a variety of herbal tonics from Santa Monica-based Goldthread Herbs, I like how the company has named its concoctions by what mental state consumers can achieve upon consumption.

  • The description–Sweet and fragrant, with just a touch of spice, tulsi…has rejuvenating effects upon the body, mind and spirit”–also provides both education and approachability to the consumer. Key ingredients of Tulsi Clarity include:
    • Tulsi, an herb credited with reducing stress and increasing energy, and lavender extract which promotes calmness

Goldthread Herbs has named its concoctions by what mental state consumers can achieve upon consumption.

Just some Thought for Food™

 

1 “The New Convenience.” A.C.T. Food Culture Forecast 2018. The Hartman Group. April 2018.

Questions, comments or want to learn more? Let's connect! weshouldtalk@jtmega.com

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