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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Tsumiki: The Japanese Lego

Wired: “Unlike Lego bricks, which are plastic, Tsumiki pieces are made of Japanese cedar (and manufactured using wood certified by the Forest Stewardship). And unlike the brick-shaped Lego blocks, each Tsumiki block is shaped like an inverted “V.” Triangular notches in the legs let the Tsumiki blocks wedge together, making them versatile like Lego bricks, albeit not as sturdy; some of the assembly models shown in Kuma’s Tsumiki brochure look about as solid as a house of cards.”

“Kuma’s Tsumiki are triangular, for the strength that this shape provides. All told, these popsicle stick-like blocks are much more in line with the principles of contemporary Japanese architecture than their predecessors: They’re natural in material, spatially economical, and relentlessly simple. Perfect for inspiring Japan’s next generation of architects.”

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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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Working on the (Supply) Chain Gang

“For many companies, competing both online and at the mall can mean trading fat profit margins for more customers—at least for now,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Fashion retailer DSW Inc. has given shoppers the option of placing online orders for out-of-stock items without leaving its stores. And, the chain is both fulfilling online orders and accepting returns at its growing number of locations.”

“The company is betting those efforts will pay off by increasing customer loyalty even though they aren’t adding to profits in the near term, said Roger Rawlins, who oversaw DSW’s omnichannel strategy before recently becoming CEO. He said customers who buy DSW products through multiple channels spend two or three times as much as those who shop exclusively in its stores or online only.”

“The strategy ‘ultimately allows you to grab additional market share, and then as we learn through using all these capabilities, we hopefully should be tweaking to be able to generate incremental profitability,’ Mr. Rawlins said.”

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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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Memoire: A Typeface That Changes Like a Memory

Wired: “A new typeface called Memoire is designed to reflect the ever-shifting shapes memories take as we replay them in our minds. Designers Ryan Bugden and Michelle Wainer created the custom typeface for La Petite Mort, a biannual magazine produced by New York creative agency Sub Rosa. The font, used as the headline typeface for each of the magazine’s 16 stories, evolves from page to page. ‘The core idea was that it would change over time—similar to how every time you revisit a memory, it in fact changes based on the current context you’re in,’ Wainer says.

“It’s hard to see the changes at first. The sharpness of the serifs softens almost imperceptibly with every use. On the first page, edges are knife-like; by the last, they are almost friendly in their roundness.”

“Memoire was designed for print, though it lives beautifully as a digital file, where you can see the transformation in hyper speed. Reading it in print is more of an exercise in perception, and in many ways, the typeface is a metaphor for memory layered upon yet another metaphor: By its very nature, the print page blurs and fades, each time it’s touched.”

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Shipping Is Never Fast (or Cheap) Enough

The Wall Street Journal: “More than nine of 10 shoppers said they considered ‘same day,’ ‘next day’ and ‘two day’ delivery to be ‘fast,’ according to consulting firm Deloitte’s 2015 holiday survey of some 4,000 shoppers. At three to four days, only 63% called it ‘fast,’ and just 18% of shoppers considered five to seven days ‘fast’.”

“And customers for the most part are no longer willing to pay extra for expedited delivery. Shoppers on average said they would pay at most just $5.10 for same-day service, in the Deloitte survey. A quarter of shoppers said they wouldn’t expect to pay anything at all.”

However, absorbing the shipping may be worth it to some online retailers because it can reduce the return rate: “When you go to a store, you have that wonderful delight of carrying the bag down the street,” says David Maddocks, chief marketing officer of Cole Haan. “Online, after you click, you have to wait. And during that time you can fall out of love.”

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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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