Chik-fil-A Customers Fly The Cell Phone Coop

Business Insider: “Noticing that diners often seemed more interested in their phones than their dining companions, a Chick-fil-A franchisee in Suwanee, Georgia named Brad Williams decided to take action … Williams and his team developed the Cell Phone Coop: a small box that sits on each table at his restaurant that issues a simple challenge for customers. If diners can enjoy their meals without removing their cell phones from the coop to check for calls or texts, they can let the staff know and receive a small ice cream cone.”

Says Williams: “The challenge has completely taken off. We have families who aren’t successful the first time and come back to try again. We even have people asking to take the boxes home with them!” Chik-fil-A has now “announced that more than 150 restaurants had decided to offer customers the chance to take the Cell Phone Coop challenge.”

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Craft Breweries Turn to Mobile Canning

USA Today: “Mobile canning services, which started becoming popular about three years ago, are turning the smallest of breweries into legitimate players in America’s craft beer craze. They bring equipment to breweries and package beer on site, saving breweries tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. ICan, one of two mobile canning services with a strong presence in Indiana, charges breweries as little as $1,600 for a 100-case run.”

“Mobile canning is growing along with America’s craft beer scene. Last year the USA surpassed 4,000 breweries for the first time since at least the 1870s, according to Brewers Association and U.S. Census Bureau research. New breweries are looking for ways to distribute their products, and mobile canning is providing a key to the marketplace.”

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Pretzel Logic: Airline Snacks Make a Comeback

“After 15 years of near austerity, U.S. airlines are restoring some small perks for passengers crammed into coach,” reports The Washington Post. “Don’t expect ample legroom or free checked bags. But fliers will find improved snacks, a larger selection of free movies and — on a few select routes — the return of free meals.”

“This month, American will start offering Biscoff cookies or pretzels to passengers flying between New York and San Francisco or Los Angeles. By April, those snacks will expand to all other domestic routes. In May, American will bring back full meal service for coach passengers between Dallas and Hawaii.”

“These are token investments in the passenger experience that will not cost airlines a lot of money but are small ways to make passengers a little bit happier,” says Henry Harteveldt, the founder of travel consultancy Atmosphere Research Group. “American and United realized: We don’t let other airlines have an advantage on price, why let them have one on pretzels.”

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Wild Turkey Inks an Older, Prouder Bird

Bottles of Wild Turkey bourbon and rye whiskey now feature an older, prouder bird, reports The Wall Street Journal. The newly redesigned labels cap a $100 million expansion and modernization of the Wild Turkey distillery, following its acquisition by Gruppo Campari.

Campari marketing vice president Melanie Batchelor says the previous turkey looked “a little sad … not proud.” Consumer research also found that the turkey looked too young, which “conflicted with the idea that the bourbon is aged.” The new illustration is “more of a close-up image, with prominent eyes and fluffy feathers.”

“Wild Turkey also wanted to better highlight its master distillers, Jimmy Russell and his son, Eddie,” whose “signatures are now larger and on the fronts of the bottles, rather than the necks … Bottles also include the words ‘Crafted With Conviction’ … They wanted to avoid using ‘handcrafted,’ a phrase Ms. Batchelor feels has become so common in the spirits industry that it sounds generic.

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Lab-to-Table Meat Is Nearly Here

The Wall Street Journal: “Memphis Meats grows meat by isolating cow and pig cells that have the capacity to renew themselves, and providing the cells with oxygen and nutrients such as sugars and minerals. These cells develop inside bioreactor tanks into skeletal muscle that can be harvested in between nine and 21 days … Currently it costs about $18,000 to produce a pound of Memphis Meats’ ground beef, compared with about $4 a pound in U.S. grocery stores, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti: “The meat industry knows their products aren’t sustainable. We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured.”

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Sometimes It’s the Label That’s Artificial

Christian Science Monitor: “According to Consumer Reports, 60 percent of people believe a ‘natural’ label means packaged and processed foods have no genetically modified organisms, no artificial ingredients or colors, no chemicals and no pesticides. Forty-five percent think that ‘natural’ is a verified claim, but there’s no outside regulations as to when food companies can put the term on their products.”

“To add to the confusion, ‘organic’ is a regulated label, while ‘natural’ is not … this invites plenty of loopholes for food manufacturers to claim that what they are selling is ‘natural’ even when some of it may not be.”

“Companies do this because they know consumers are more inclined to reach for products that have natural ingredients over artificially-produced ones. The Consumer Reports survey corroborates this assumption: 73 percent of the study’s respondents currently believe the natural label means a product has no artificial ingredients or colors, and 72 percent believe that ‘natural’ means ingredients were grown without pesticides.”

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Kola House: Pepsi Generates a New Experience

“Known for its beverages, Pepsi is now moving into the restaurant business,” The New York Times reports. “The 5,000-square-foot space — on the same block as Milk Studios in Chelsea … will become Kola House, a restaurant-bar-event space that the company hopes will be both social hub and testing ground for new products.”

Kola House “will not be plastered with the Pepsi logo or filled with Pepsi products. Everything at Kola House will be centered on the kola nut, a bitter fruit that contains caffeine and gives cola beverages their name. Essentially, Pepsi is trying to market its product without marketing its product.”

Pepsi design chief Mauro Porcini: “Consumers will love your brand because your brand enables you to have the experience, but they don’t want to have the brand in their face. It needs to be very subtle, elegant, sophisticated.”

Pepsi marketing chief Seth Kaufman: “We are in a time where we have to transform how we connect with and engage consumers. If brands don’t do that today, they will be irrelevant tomorrow, whatever tomorrow is.”

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Less is More: Soda Pops as a “Cheap Treat”

The Wall Street Journal: “In some ways, the soda industry is returning to its early 20th century roots, when bottles were typically about 6 ounces and pop was a treat saved for a special occasion. It wasn’t until 1976 that 7-Eleven Inc. launched the 32-ounce Big Gulp at its convenience stores.”

“Now, once again, American soda drinkers ‘want to consume less but they still enjoy their favorite brands,’ said Marty Ellen, Dr Pepper’s chief financial officer. Dr Pepper is rolling out 7.5-ounce cans nationally this year, replacing 8-ounce cans it launched as an alternative to 12-ounce cans. Each 7.5-ounce can holds about 95 calories, compared with 150 calories for a 12-ounce can.”

This works out well for soda companies, which have stemmed losses by charging more for less: “At a Publix supermarket in Atlanta recently, a 12-pack of 12-ounce Coke cans was priced at $5.29, or 3.67 cents per ounce. An 8-pack of 7.5-ounce cans was priced at $3.99, or 6.65 cents per ounce.”

Mr. Ellen says the higher cost per-ounce aligns with consumer behavior because soda is still a “cheap treat.”

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