A Texas State of Brand

The New York Times: “You can eat waffles shaped like Texas at the Vickery Cafe in Fort Worth and the Texan Diner in Haslet, and you can dive into the Texas-shaped Texas Pool in Plano, as long as you wait 30 minutes after eating the waffles. It wasn’t the pictures of Texas-shaped guitars, tequila bottles, coffee mugs and carving boards that surprised on the Pinterest account called Things Shaped Like Texas. It was the Texas-shaped sinks.”

“The shape of Texas is the Rorschach test deep in the heart of the Texas psyche: the singular, curiously drawn image that somehow encapsulates, with a few right angles and big bends, a state of 27 million people … A few states identify with their shapes, but not many … Maybe Texas is so big that it needed one easy symbol, and a ‘T’ or a cowboy boot or a chicken-fried steak didn’t quite sum it up. Maybe its obsession with its shape is one of many age-old ways that Texas likes to separate itself from the rest of the states.”



Late & Great: Richard Trentlage

The New York Times: “The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song had its beginnings in September 1962, when Richard Trentlage … learned that Oscar Mayer … was sponsoring a contest for a wiener jingle … Inspiration struck when he remembered one of his sons, using a term for someone who is cool, talking about a friend who was a ‘dirt-bike hot dog’ … ‘I wish I could be a dirt-bike hot dog,’ his son said.”

“When the jingle was first heard on a Houston radio station in 1963, listeners, thinking it was a pop tune, requested that it be played repeatedly … The song became part of the fabric of American culture.”

“Mr. Trentlage’s melodies, lyrics and tag lines were practically a hit parade in the advertising world, many of them with the mental stickiness of flypaper; among others, he wrote ‘McDonald’s is your kind of place’; ‘Wow! It sure doesn’t taste like tomato juice,’ for V8; and ‘Buckle up for safety, buckle up!’ (sung to the tune of ‘Buckle Down, Winsocki’) for a National Safety Council seatbelt promotion.” Richard Trentlage died September 21, 2016, at 87.


Lucky Charms Finds ‘Natural’ Flavors Elusive

Business Insider: “General Mills scientists still haven’t figured out how to phase out artificial flavors and colors in Lucky Charms without ruining the iconic cereal.” Mills “already pulled it off with Trix, at least in part. In that case, they used mixtures of radish, carrot, blueberry, tumeric, and annatto seed to create red, yellow, orange, and purple corn puffs. Part of the challenge is that each of those natural colors brings in some flavor too. The team abandoned the green and blue puffs after deciding they couldn’t reach those hues without ruining the taste.”

“Lucky Charms, a cereal that includes with colorful marshmallows, has proven more difficult. First, it’s easier to distort the flavor of a marshmallow than a corn puff … Second, Lucky Charms already have a subtler flavor than bold, fruity Trix. It’s so subtle, consumers struggle to define it.”

“Lucky Charms also supposedly trigger powerful feelings of nostalgia … Steve Witherly, PhD writes in “Why Humans Love Junk Food” that the vanilla aroma of marshmallows is one of the few flavors that the brain doesn’t get bored of. Moreover, it ‘may be imprinted soon after birth’ since vanilla is the main flavor of breast milk and infant formula.”


Grass-Fed Beef: Not a ‘Luxury’ Anymore

The Wall Street Journal: “Grass-fed beef, once a niche luxury, is now sold at ballgames, convention centers and nearly every Wal-Mart in the U.S. Beef labeled as grass-fed connotes much more than cattle that were raised in a pasture, say grocers and restaurateurs. Many consumers perceive grass-fed beef as a healthier, higher-quality alternative to conventional beef and are willing to pay more for it, no matter that labeling—and flavor—can be inconsistent.”

“Not every retailer is onboard. Costco Wholesale Corp., the country’s second largest retailer after Wal-Mart, doesn’t sell grass-fed beef, though it sells organic ground beef in every U.S. store. The definition of grass-fed beef is still too ambiguous, the taste too inconsistent and Costco consumers gravitate most to an ‘organic’ label for now, says Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president of fresh foods.”

“Theo Weening, Whole Foods’ global meat coordinator, expects demand for grass-fed beef to grow well beyond human appetites. ‘When a customer likes grass-fed beef and they have a dog, they want the dog to have grass-fed beef, too,’ he says.”


Kola House: Pepsi Pushes Cola Buzz

The Wall Street Journal: Pepsi’s Kola House, a new bar in NY’s Meatpacking District is mixing kola nuts “into cocktails such as the Curcuma, billed as an ‘enhancing appetizer of African and arabesque aromatics’ with turmeric, lemon and honeydew, and the Kola Love, a ‘dessert elixir and libido enhancer’ with red wine, vanilla and whipped cream. ‘We like to give people a flavor experience they haven’t had before,’ said Kola House flavor chemist Alex Ott, who trained as a biochemist in Germany.”

“Beverage-industry observers say companies like PepsiCo … are making a push into the bar scene, particularly in the all-important New York market, to reconnect with consumers who have lost interest in sugary sodas. Bars are ‘a great place if you want to get soft drinks in front of millennials,’ said Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest, a trade publication.”

“The cola buzz is also being driven by bartenders who see it as a way to jolt cocktails with flavor, reminiscent of the complex, heavily spiced cola drinks of the 19th century. Q Drinks’s Kola soda, for example, incorporates cloves, nutmeg, coriander and citrus, among other ingredients. The flavor is tangy, sweet and savory, said Jordan Silbert, the company’s founder and chief executive, but also familiar.”


Sweet Success: Mushrooms, Chocolate & Sugar

Business Insider: “Inside a lab in Aurora, Colorado, scientists at Mycotechnology have been trying to figure out a way to replace sugar with mushrooms. Certain mushrooms, the logic goes, can take away bitterness and naturally sweeten foods, like coffee and chocolate. The startup has most recently engineered a dark chocolate bar (with 8 grams of sugar and 293 calories) that has had about 66% of its sugar replaced with mushrooms.”

“When the chocolate hits your tongue, according to Mycotechnology, the mushroom extract acts as a bitterness shield. The chocolate’s bitter molecules don’t bind with your taste buds, so you don’t perceive them … To develop the chocolate bar, Mycotechnology worked with chocolatiers from Utah-based artisan manufacturer Amano. It sells at an artisanal price tag, too — a pack of 6 two-ounce bars is available online for $30 … Mycotechnology is now working on eliminating 99% of chocolate’s added sugar using mushrooms.”


Joy Makers: How Driscoll’s Brands Its Berries

The New York Times: “Its strawberries have been bred for a uniform shape … while Driscoll’s raspberries are pinker and shinier, made to meet desires expressed by consumers … Driscoll’s is betting that once consumers know why its berries are distinctive they will demand them by name … Driscoll’s plans to build awareness methodically, by starting with digital outreach. The company’s website, which largely offered recipes, has been changed to explain more about Driscoll’s berries and what makes them different.”

“The public will get an introduction to the people Driscoll’s calls its Joy Makers — agronomists, breeders, sensory analysts, plant pathologists and entomologists who will explain how the company creates its berries. The company’s YouTube channel will feature stories told by consumers about why berries make them happy. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be used to send traffic to the website and YouTube.”

“Labels on the company’s berries have been changed, too, to ‘speak’ more to consumers, using a scriptlike font for the Driscoll’s name with the dot over the ‘i’ colored to match the berries inside the box … Since margins on produce are razor-thin, most companies elect to spend the few dollars they have for marketing to woo buyers for supermarket chains rather than consumers.”


‘Lab-Grown’ or ‘Clean Food’?

Quartz: “For years, food technology companies have referred to their products as ‘cultured’ or ‘lab-grown,’ but as these new businesses start to make a first foray into the public eye, they are also pushing ideas that may make people uncomfortable—such as meat grown in labs. To get over that, there’s a push to coalesce around a new term: ‘clean food’.”

“By opting for this terminology, the industry hopes to better communicate to people the ethos behind their products, rather than the actual processes (which often do occur in a laboratory) used to deliver them to the kitchen table. It’s main selling point: ‘clean’ meat and dairy are efficient products with fewer sustainability and animal-welfare problems than traditional meat and dairy.” The term piggybacks “off the now-ubiquitous use of the term ‘clean energy’.”

“Impossible Foods unveiled its plant-based burger at Momofuku Nishi in New York City in late-July, and Beyond Meat is selling its version of a similar product in a limited number of US supermarkets … These are some of the first players in what some hope will be a ‘clean food’ revolution.”



Quinoa & Kale @ Chick-fil-A

Business Insider: Chick-fil-A is testing a host of new menu items featuring ingredients like quinoa, farro, roasted butternut squash, and chia seeds in hopes of attracting more health-conscious eaters. The chain is testing two grain bowls starting Tuesday: the Harvest Kale & Grain Bowl and the Egg White Grill Grain Bowl.”

“The Harvest Kale bowl features red quinoa, white quinoa, farro, roasted butternut squash, diced apples, and kale topped with goat cheese, feta cheese, tart dried cherries, and roasted nuts. It’s served with a new light balsamic vinaigrette dressing.”

“Chick-fil-A has been getting some complaints after replacing classic menu items like cole slaw and its spicy chicken biscuit with healthier dishes. The company stressed that the new grain bowls would not be replacing any of its traditional menu items, like the original chicken sandwich and waffle fries.”


Luke’s Lobsters: Rolls From ‘Trap to Table’

The New York Times: “Oil companies have long practiced a vertical integration strategy to track and control the flow of petroleum from the oil field to the gas pump … Now the practice is gaining momentum in the food industry.” Among this new breed of restauranteurs is Luke Holden, co-owner of “19 Luke’s Lobster restaurants, two food trucks and a lobster tail cart in the United States, and five shacks in Japan.”

Luke “holds an ownership stake in a co-op of Maine fishermen, which allows him to track where and how the lobsters are caught, and control the quality, freshness and pricing. He also owns the processing plant, Cape Seafood, that packages and prepares the lobsters for his restaurants.” He comments: “We’re able to trace every pound of seafood we serve back to the harbor where it was sustainably caught and to support fishermen we know and trust.”

“When Mr. Holden agreed to buy all of the co-op’s catches for his restaurants, support its sustainability practices and give the co-op 50 percent of the profits from a Luke’s Lobster restaurant that is attached to the wharf, the fishermen agreed … Mr. Holden is projecting sales of $25 million this year and $42 million in 2018. Plans are in the works to open six new restaurants this year and 40 more by 2020.”