Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bait-and-switch at a restaurant near you

Restaurants (and most businesses) are struggling in the current economy, so promotions seem to be running high to get people in the door. But can these promotions actually keep a customer from coming back?

Recently, my husband and I went to a chain restaurant because they were advertising $5 burgers or chicken sandwiches. It seemed like a pretty good deal seeing as the regular price was around $8-10. I ordered a Coke and my husband ordered a beer. When the check came, I was very surprised. The sandwiches were $5 each, but my Coke was $2.80 and the beer was $2. A Coke costing more than a beer? Obviously, I felt ripped off. I've never had a soft drink cost more than 50% of the entree price!

Things like this seem to be happening all too frequently. In a recent casual dining study by Intellaprice (a market analysis company), side dish prices are up 8%, desserts 7%, and bar beverages 2%.

casual dining article

As a customer, are these bait-and-switch tactics leaving a bad taste in your mouth? As a restaurant owner, have you raised your prices on "extras"? How do you keep customers coming back after promotions?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Use IT to Market Effectively

Times are tough. Money is tight and business owners are having to make difficult decisions. Cutting back on marketing can appear to be an easy and quick way to decrease expenses. However, it's during a recession that it becomes ever more important to maintain and grow your business. You want to be in a position to take advantage of recovery when it comes, rather than playing catch up.

I came across this article today on the importance of marketing in recovering from this economic recession. (Ok, I'll admit it, the article was sent to me by my sister since her husband was interviewed for it). In any case, the article contains some excellent tips for using technology to effectively market and grow your business in our current economy. The tips offered are just as important when times are good. And while the examples are not related to agriculture, it's the principle behind them that should be focused on.

As a farmer or ag business owner, do you see ways to use the tips offered to improve the effectiveness of your marketing? We'd like to hear from anyone with examples to share.

"Marketing Important in Recovery"

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can convenience stores extend the shelf life of fresh fruit?

When purchasing a snack at a convenience store, more and more customers are looking for a healthy option. Many convenience stores are starting to sell fruits and veggies, but are facing problems with the very short shelf life. For a store like 7-Eleven (which is estimated to sell 27 million bananas this year), this is a major problem.

7-Eleven has partnered with Fresh Del Monte to create a plastic wrap that slows respiration by keeping most oxygen and moisture out. By wrapping a green banana in this wrap, a banana will stay firm for about 5 days as compared to an unwrapped banana which has a shelf life of only 2 days. 7-Eleven will be testing these wrapped bananas in 27 Dallas-area stores. If the test goes well, the chain expects the wrap to be used in most of its stores by early 2010.

banana wrap article

As an ag entrepreneur, would you use this wrap on your fresh produce? Do you think that this wrap will help you sell more produce and allow you to sell in new venues (like convenience stores, gas stations, rest stops, etc)? As a consumer, would you buy produce wrapped in plastic?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What does 'natural' mean?

The USDA has recently announced that it is working on a definition for the terms 'natural' and 'naturally raised'. Currently, these terms are used voluntarily. As you can imagine, this has led to a lot of confusion and misleading claims. To determine a definition, the USDA is looking to mesh the current definitions of the Food Safety and Inspections Service (FSIS) and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

The FSIS allows meat and poultry products to use a 'natural' label "provided that the product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredients, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and that the product is not more than ‘minimally processed.’” Minimally processed is then further defined to include “traditional processes used to make food edible or to preserve it or to make it safe for human consumption e.g., smoking, roasting, freezing, drying, and fermenting, or those physical processed which do not fundamentally alter the raw product and/or which only separate a whole, intact food into component parts, e.g., grinding meat, separating eggs… and pressing fruits to produce juices...all products claiming to be natural or a natural food should be accompanied by a brief statement which explains what is meant by the term natural…”

The AMS allows products to be labeled as 'naturally raised' if the meat comes from "animals that have been raised entirely without growth promotants, antibiotics [small exception], and have never been fed animal by-products…and aquatic by-products.”

These two statements aren't that helpful because of the room for loop holes. The USDA hasn't yet announced a final definition, but hopefully it is more clear than the statements given by the FSIS and the AMS.

USDA to define natural article

As an ag entrepreneur, do you advertise any of your products as 'natural'? Do you think a clear definition from the USDA will help or hurt you? As a consumer, do you find more value (and trust) in a USDA definition?