Tag Archives: Food & Beverage

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5 surprising ways drinking coffee can boost your work performance

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Coffee — you love it, you need it — you may be drinking a cup right now as you read this. You know caffeine makes you feel more alert and revved up to work — but there are surprising ways coffee can actually boost your performance on essential tasks if you consume it strategically.

Try these science-based tips and tricks to be at your best with the help of that cup of joe.

Smell your coffee before you sip it.

Researchers from Stevens Institute of Technology report that the scent of coffee can powerfully boost your ability to ace analytical tasks, such as tackling math. Inhale that scent before you next work on those project budgets.

Drink hot brew coffee instead of cold brew.

A study from Thomas Jefferson University found that hot brew contains higher levels of antioxidants, which are key for boosting your brain power.

How can boosting your antioxidant intake specifically help your job performance? Antioxidants are thought to improve memory skills, so drinking a cup of hot brew before you need to remember the details of a project prior to an important team progress meeting.

Use coffee smartly to keep your stamina high.

According to research from the University of Georgia, a cup of coffee before physical activity can improve your endurance and stamina. Drink a cup right before heading out on strenuous business travel, before a physically demanding task, or right before giving a presentation when you need to harness all the energy you can.

Since the study measured this effect in athletes, you can also consume coffee before taking a power walk to refresh yourself at lunchtime.

Front-load your consumption.

Try not to drink coffee after noon if possible. Not only will timing your cups early maximize your energy at the start of your day when you really need to power yourself, but avoiding caffeine late will help you sleep better.

If you really need an afternoon boost, drink up no later than 2 p.m.

Know when not to overdo it.

When you feel yourself getting stressed rather than energized by that extra cup, put it down — we all have our limits when it comes to caffeine consumption. Listen to your body, and also note whether too much coffee is making you feel stressed — your feelings clearly dictate your limit.

What’s more, a study from the University of South Australia found that six or more coffees per day can increase your risk of heart disease by 22%. Moderation is key — to both staying healthy and ensuring your best performance!

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Online grocery delivery in the works for food stamp recipients

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Last month, the USDA announced the launch of a two-year online purchasing pilot for food stamp recipients. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants will now be able to buy groceries online in New York state.

The pilot will be monitored to see whether non-SNAP and SNAP recipients are receiving the same shopping options. In this phase, SNAP participants may use their benefits to purchase eligible food items, but not pay for service or delivery charges.

Initial retail partners include Amazon, ShopRite, and Walmart. The first two will serve the New York City area, while Walmart will be catering to upstate New York locations.

Eventually, the program plans to expand to other states: Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington. If successful, the program will expand to other regions. Additional retailers include Dash’s Market, Hy-Vee, FreshDirect, Safeway, and Wright’s Market.

SNAP participants, or food stamp recipients as they are more commonly known, often have trouble getting fresh and healthy food from brick-and-mortar stores. 20% of SNAP participants fall under the categories of disabled or elderly, and they deserve a better system to access fresh food.

Many SNAP participants live in “food swamps,” places that offer more accessible fast food options than fresh produce. Now they will have healthier options available to them, along with access to high-quality protein and dairy.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about 13% of New York state’s total population, or more than 2.5 million people, participated in SNAP last year. Nationally, the program helped close to 40 million Americans with more than $65 billion in government funding.

Retail giants like Amazon now have a great shot at breaking into this market, which is more or less dominated by brick-and-mortar stores.

Amazon will offer food stamp recipients free delivery on AmazonFresh purchases of $50 or more and free delivery on Prime Pantry orders for purchases of $35 or more. It also has excellent options for affordable shipping for smaller orders.

What’s more is that SNAP participants won’t need a Prime membership to use their benefits on Amazon. This will not only increase access to food for more remote customers, but it will also help combat the public health crisis by making healthy food affordable and easy to get.

5% of Walmart’s domestic revenue already hails from purchases made using SNAP benefits. The USDA’s pilot program will further expand that reach, and the Arkansas-based retail giant is looking to make 275 grocery pickup stores eligible for the pilot.

Though the pilot has been rolled out recently, plans have been in the works for years. The 2014 Farm Bill laid the foundation of the pilot as it authorized the USDA to evaluate options for online purchasing using SNAP.

The pilot has the potential to be a game-changer and address the issue of economic inequality and limited accessibility that leads to food insecurity. Finally, healthful food will be readily available in low-income communities.

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Feeding large breed puppies

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As scientific research has progressed, feeding growing puppies has proven to be a complex task, especially for large breed puppies. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), “large breed” refers to dog breeds that typically grow to an adult weight of 70 pounds or more.

Unlike smaller dogs that remain relatively similar in size throughout their life, an average large breed puppy undergoes a 70-fold increase in size during its first year. This rapid growth must be met by adequate nutrition to ensure a healthy transition to their adult size.

There are several key nutritional factors that must be considered when formulating a recipe suitable for the growth of large breed puppies.

Energy Intake

Bones and joints are particularly vulnerable to improper development when rapid growth occurs. Several diseases of the skeleton of dogs can be influenced by improper feeding practices.

Large breed puppies are predisposed to some of these diseases, as they are genetically programmed to grow much faster than their small breed cousins. For large breed dogs, ensuring a puppy grows at the right pace is crucial to promoting skeletal health and longevity.

Overnutrition, or feeding too many calories, can contribute to fast growth and excessive body weight, causing stress on the developing skeleton. This is especially an issue in large breed puppies which have an inherently lower bone density compared to growing small breeds.

Therefore, it is key to remember that although a chubby puppy might look happy, excess body weight may result in serious health issues later in life. To help address this issue, diets specific for large breed puppies are often formulated to a recommended moderate caloric density of approximately 3.5-4.0 kcal/g, with the goal of discouraging both overnutrition and rapid growth.

It’s important to follow the feeding guidelines included on the pet food label and adjust the amount as needed to maintain an ideal body weight throughout the life of your dog.

Calcium and Phosphorus

Research has shown that increased levels of calcium can have detrimental effects in growing large breed puppies. Unlike adult dogs, puppies do not have the ability to regulate or limit the absorption of dietary calcium from the food they consume.

Because of this, excess calcium fed to large breed puppies can increase the risk of abnormal joint growth and skeletal malformations. In addition, the amount of phosphorus in a diet can have effects on bone metabolism in growing puppies.

Too much phosphorus in the diet can lead to decreased calcium absorption and the development of soft bones, while too little phosphorus can lead to poor weight gain. Therefore, diets for large breed puppies are carefully formulated to target adequate levels and an optimal balance of calcium to phosphorus.

In 2016, the AAFCO Canine Nutrition Expert Subcommittee (CNES) published an upper limit for calcium specific to large breed growth formulations that restricts the calcium level in these products to 1.8% on a dry matter basis (DMB). This change in regulations has altered how the nutritional adequacy statement is declared on a bag of dog food formulated for puppies (growth) or all life stages.

These statements now indicate whether a recipe is appropriate for the growth of large breed puppies by stating either, “this food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life stages including the growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult)” or, “except for the growth of large size dogs (70 lb. or more as an adult).”

For a recipe to be considered appropriate for the growth of large size dogs, the calcium level must be below 1.8% DMB. Therefore, it is important for consumers to read the nutritional adequacy statement on pet food labels to ensure they are feeding their growing puppy a food that meets these unique calcium requirements.

Additional Supplementation

Because of their unique nutritional needs, diets formulated for large breed puppies often include supplemental ingredients to support optimal health. For example, to cope with stress on the joints from carrying around their larger bodies, some large breed puppy diets are supplemented with New Zealand green mussels, which are a source of chondroitin sulfate and essential fatty acids. When incorporated into kibble diets, green mussels have been found to significantly improve joint pain and swelling.

Ingredients that contain glucosamine, or glucosamine as a supplement, are also sometimes added to diets for their joint health benefits. However, there is a lack of evidence of the safety and efficacy of glucosamine for growing puppies, so the addition of glucosamine or glucosamine containing ingredients to puppy diets is often recommended to be done so only under veterinary supervision.

L-carnitine, a molecule that helps the body use fat as an energy source, is another ingredient that may be found in large breed puppy foods to help promote a healthy body weight. Since some large breeds are also genetically predisposed to certain heart diseases, L-carnitine is often used in combination with taurine to support optimal heart health.

Summary

It is clear that large breed puppies have very specific requirements that need to be met with tailored nutrition. To ensure that your large breed pup is getting the proper nutrition they need to safely grow to their adult weight, it is imperative to choose a diet specifically formulated for the growth of large breeds.

Next time you are walking down the aisle in a pet food store, don’t hesitate to ask what large breed puppy recipes they have available!

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The increasing health benefits of walnuts

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Based on several research studies, walnuts may be thought of as the superfood of nuts. A few years ago, studies indicated that a diet including walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, and slowing the progression of, or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

More recently, breast surgeons Mary Legenza, M.D., of Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center, and James Morgan, M.D., formerly of St. Mary’s Medical Center, linked walnut consumption as a contributing factor that could suppress growth and survival of breast cancers.

In their clinical trial, changes in gene expression in the surgical specimen compared to baseline were determined in each individual woman in walnut-consuming (n=5) and control groups (n=5). RNA sequencing expression profiling revealed that expression of 456 identified genes were significantly changed in the tumor related to walnut consumption.

A Penn State study, one of the first to try to uncover which parts of the walnuts help support heart health, showed that eating walnuts also may help lower blood pressure in patients at risk for cardiovascular disease. Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3, and the researchers wanted to pinpoint whether the major contributor to heart health was ALA or other bioactive components, such as polyphenols.

For this study, the researchers recruited 45 participants with overweight or obesity (ages 30 to 65 years). After a two-week run-in diet that included 12% of calories from saturated fat, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 study diets, all of which included less saturated fat than the run-in diet.

The diets included one that incorporated whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of ALA and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts, without any walnuts.

All three diets substituted walnuts or vegetable oils for 5% of the saturated fat content of the run-in diet, and all participants followed each diet for six weeks.

After each diet period, participants were assessed for cardiovascular risk factors, including central systolic and diastolic blood pressure, brachial pressure, cholesterol, and arterial stiffness.

Each treatment diet had a positive effect on cardiovascular outcomes, but the diet with whole walnuts provided the greatest benefits, including lower central diastolic blood pressure, in contrast to brachial pressure.

According to Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State, walnuts are a good substitute for saturated fat. Instead of reaching for fatty red meat or dairy products for a snack, we should consider having some skim milk and walnuts.

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Nutrition initiatives, educators aim to make food deserts history

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Eating the proper foods, drinking plenty of water, and taking the correct vitamins are incredibly important to survival. These take on greater importance when children are involved. Having access to healthy foods is a very important component to developing minds and bodies. Grocery stores that sell vegetables and fruits are necessary to aid kids and teenagers as they grow up.

Unfortunately, in many communities, nutritious food options are scarce, creating challenges for finding balanced meals. These areas are called food deserts.

The United States Department of Agriculture describes food deserts as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. USDA states that, “This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. 2.3 million people (or 2.2% of all U.S. households) live more than one mile away from a supermarket and do not own a car.”

Areas scattered with fast food restaurants, liquor stores, and convenience stores selling microwavable sandwiches would fit this description. As someone who has lived in these environments, I can tell you that it is challenging to find healthy options.

Growing up, my mother, as well as many friends’ parents, worked evenings and sometimes overnights to support us. Many times, my mom would leave dinner for my brother and I to warm up as she worked. Most of the time it would be something healthy — baked chicken, green beans, and soup. Sometimes it would be hamburgers, hot dogs, or spaghetti.

When she didn’t have time to cook, she would put money on the table for us to buy something. As young kids, my brother and I didn’t know how to cook that well, so we went out and bought something quick. He and I didn’t have the patience to cut vegetables or boil a pot for pasta.

Plus, this was our chance to get what we wanted. What middle school or high school kid doesn’t want to eat cheeseburgers or pizza and drink soda? Looking back on it, one reason why we chose to eat like that is not only that those were the only options within walking distance, but they were also the cheapest.

When I lived in the Tenderloin, a low-income neighborhood in San Francisco, I could walk out the door and see many different food options. The pizza shop up the street sold three-dollar slices; the diner two blocks away had doughnuts and pancakes; the Vietnamese restaurant made Banh Mi; the convenience store two blocks made large sandwiches; and the liquor stores, one across the street, were filled with candy, chips, cookies, and beer. With the exception of the Vietnamese restaurant and the twice-weekly farmers market, none of these selections were healthy. It is no wonder why obesity is rampant in these economically scarce areas.

Jennifer L. Black and a team of researchers at New York University’s Department of Nutrition published a study that stated, “Residents in low-income urban areas are more likely to report greater neighborhood barriers to physical activity, such as limited opportunities for daily walking or physical activity and reduced access to stores that sell healthy foods, especially large supermarkets.”

Over lunch, Amanda Lesky, a clinician and health educator, and I talked about the significance of food in her upbringing. “We ate a lot of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and meatloaf and let’s not forget about the ubiquitous Velveeta,” she said.

Lesky, who grew up in Lowell, Michigan, reminisces about soda being readily available, “I thought it was just another drink. If it is available, get it. This became a behavior.” Seeing the impact that poor food choices made in her life, Lesky changed her eating habits and began learning about nutrition.

“I made a conscious decision to go organic when I started to read and find out what foods I should eat. Getting involved in the San Francisco public health community has trained me to understand that agriculture and food play a huge role to your health… I think about how certain food and can impact disease like cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

“As a person of color,” Lesky continued, “I also recognize how diabetes and heart disease run rampant among POC.” Lesky is also the co-founder of The Food Education Project, a program that teaches K through 12 children about food through the “environmental perspective.” “They learn about how to grow and cook their own food,” she says. “We are making sure kids understand the programming through their lens.”

With more than 20 million people in the United States living in food deserts and the obesity rate in the United States rising, the fight to bring nutritious choices to impoverished areas has taken on greater importance. In Detroit, Fair Food Network launched The Detroit Grocery Incubator project in 2012 to help seed more grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods in the city. The project provided technical assistance and training to a cohort of entrepreneurs interested in opening grocery stores in the city.

Education programs such as Lesky’s Food Education Project in the Bay Area and the Food Lab at Stony Brook, a project started by Stony Brook University in New York, provide food literacy to communities. Healthy Corner Stores Network, an initiative started by The Food Trust, aims to increase the availability and sales of healthy, affordable foods through small neighborhood stores like bodegas. Additionally, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation is a project dedicated to providing affordable housing works to improve healthy food accessibility in my old neighborhood.

In the end, giving everyone access to healthy foods is paramount to reducing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. However, the underlining issue of environmental racism must be discussed.

Many people who live in food deserts happen to African-American and Latino, and the urgency to provide these communities with eating options other than fast food and corner stores has never been present. I believe this to not be an accident, and too many of my people around the country are faced with the same eating choices.

Looking back on my life as a young black man, picking up an apple wasn’t always an option, but soda was prevalent and candy bars were always around. Still, with the emergence of farmer’s markets and initiatives such as former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, healthy food access is becoming the important topic it should be.

It delights me to see families in the Tenderloin stocking up on fresh vegetables, organic eggs, and other farm to table options. I love when young kids are choosing water over soda and bypassing the greasy burger for the lean turkey sandwich.

WebMD published a report in 2016 stating that children are starting to eat healthier; including more whole grains, fruits, and dairy in their diets. This is a great sign. Hopefully these foods are reaching kids and adults that live in places that I come from.

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A food lover’s guide to Nashville

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Nashville is known for its status as “Music City,” where country stars and historic record companies abound. But it’s also home to several unique food traditions that will offer visitors a true taste of Tennessee.

The best vacations are full of new experiences, and that includes the cuisine! Here’s a food lover’s guide that will introduce your taste buds to Nashville.

Biscuits

Start off your morning with a Southern staple. Whether you’re looking for classic biscuits smothered in gravy or a fresh take on this traditional dish, Nashville serves it all. For an all-day breakfast menu that includes old-school biscuits and country gravy, dine at family owned and operated Nashville Biscuit House.

If you’re looking for a more customizable biscuit experience, check out Biscuit Love in The Gulch. Their brunch concoctions include sweet and savory options with a wide variety of ingredients on a biscuit base.

Barbecue

Known to locals and tourists alike as the father of BBQ in downtown Nashville, Jack’s Bar-B-Que on Broadway is a fan favorite. Its award-winning sauce and iconic flying pigs have been delighting guests since 1976, and it is located right across the street from the historic Ryman Auditorium.

For whole-hog, hickory-smoked BBQ that often creates lines out the front door, dig in to Martin’s Bar-B-Que. The meat is roasted on the pit daily to ensure flavors are always fresh. In addition to traditional Tennessee pork BBQ, Martin’s also offers smoked turkey, sausage, and beef brisket.

If you want to tuck in to a Southern-style meat-and-three, pull up a seat at Edley’s. You’ll find a wide variety of must-try Southern dishes on the versatile menu, including fried pickles, catfish, brisket tacos, and of course, BBQ sandwiches and plates.

Image: Prince’s Hot Chicken/Facebook

Hot Chicken

Nashville’s biggest claim to foodie fame is spicy hot chicken. If you can handle the heat, there were countless places to dine on this painfully delicious fried feast.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is the birthplace of Nashville hot chicken, and it is still thought to have the best original recipe. Dip your toe in the water with some “mild” hot chicken or put your taste buds to the test with “XXXHot,” the spiciest chicken on the menu.

If you don’t want to wait in lines full of other tourists to sink your teeth into the original hot chicken recipe, there are excellent alternatives all over the city. Whiskey Kitchen in The Gulch serves theirs up in an iron skilled with a side of chipotle mac and cheese.

Southern Comfort Food

If you’ve never sat down to a Southern home-cooked meal with all the fixins, then bless your heart. Take the opportunity to sample a heaping plate of steaming hot Southern cuisine while you visit Nashville.

Since it first opened its doors to travelers on Highway 100 back in 1951, Loveless Café has been serving up smiles. Highlights from the menu include their famous country ham, a biscuit sampler platter, chicken and waffles, country fried steak, hot chicken, catfish, pie by the slice, banana pudding, and a selection of 16 sides.

While you contemplate your order, sip on Nashville’s most iconic beverage: fruit tea (composed of iced tea, lemonade, and fruit). As a true mark of Southern hospitality, if you fall in love with one of the Loveless Café dishes, you can probably find the recipe for it on their website.

Dessert

Need some sweet treats after these hearty meals? Nashville’s dessert scene delivers.

Head downtown and snack on a candy creation that dates back to 1912. Goo Goo Clusters are circular candy bars made with chocolate, caramel, marshmallow nougat, and nuts. You can try the whole variety of Goo Goo products and even learn how to make them at the Goo Goo Shop on 3rd Ave.

Cool down with a massive milkshake from Legendairy Milkshake Bar. Their signature shakes are each topped off with a tower of sugary confections that spill over the rim of the Mason jar and take this dessert to a whole new level (literally). With names like “Death by Chocolate,” “Breakfast of Champions,” and “The Majestic Unicorn,” there’s a flavor for everybody.

Take a bite out of a famous 100-layer donut from Five Daughters Bakery. This family-owned pastry business creates cronuts (croissant and donut hybrids) rolled in sugar, filled with cream, and dipped in a sugary glaze. They also specialize in vegan-friendly and healthy paleo desserts so you can dine there on any diet.

It’s safe to say you’ll expand your palate when you dine in Nashville. Hunt down a few of these traditional treats and you’ll be eating like a local in no time. You might come to visit for the music, but you’ll stay for the taste of the South.

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US farm populations continue to decline

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The 2017 Census of Agriculture, released in early April 2019, shows that the amount of total land devoted to agricultural use continues to decline in the U.S. and the number of farms is declining.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there were 2.04 million farms and ranches in the U.S. in 2017, down more than 3% from 2012. The agency went on to say that the amount of land devoted to agriculture declined by nearly 2% to 900.2 million acres from 914.5 million acres in 2012.

The report shows that the average size of farms in 2017 was 441 acres, up from 434 acres in the 2012 census, and that 96% of farms and ranches in the nation are family owned. Likewise, the government numbers show that there were about 273,000 small farms of one to nine acres, representing 0.1% of all farmland in the U.S. Large farms — 85,127 — of 2,000 or more acres made up about 60% of total farmland.

There were 76,865 farms making $1 million or above in 2017. However, on the other end of the spectrum, 1.56 million operations generated less than $50,000. Out of the total value of farm production totaling about $389 billion in 2017, two-thirds of it came from farms making $1 million or more.

The average age of farmers also is ticking up, to 58.7 from 57.5 in 2012; 36% of whom are women.

Dairy farm populations continue to shrink, too. In March 2019, the USDA reported that licensed dairy farm numbers in the U.S. declined by 2,731 farms, a drop of 6.8%. There was a total of 37,468 licensed dairy farms in the country, down from 40,199 in 2018.

Wisconsin, the leading dairy producer in the U.S., saw the most farm losses, followed by Pennsylvania. Wisconsin saw 590 farms close in 2018, a 6.5% decline, even though the state did not see much of a decline in total cattle: there were 1,270,000 cows, down 5,000 heads from a year before.

Pennsylvania, the No. 2 dairy state, lost 370 farms in 2018, down 5.6%. The number of cattle heads dropped substantially, losing about 25,000 for the year, or nearly 5%.

Michigan experienced a 13% decline in the number of farms lost, which is a substantial loss. No states saw farm numbers increase, but 12 states did report dairy farm numbers remained unchanged: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

In a long-established trend, the number of farms is declining at a slightly higher rate than the acres being farmed are. So, there are fewer farms, but the farms that remain get bigger.

However, according to 2016 data released by the USDA, individual farms are seeing an increase in size on average because acreage isn’t disappearing as quickly as farms are.

Farms that earn between $500,000 and $1 million saw a 0.6% decrease in the number of farms, even as acreage used for farming increased slightly. In contrast, the largest group of farms, those earning more than $1 million annually, saw acreage decrease faster than the number of farms declined.

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Starbucks’ mobile app: Creating a venti impact in customer loyalty

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Starbucks may have been ahead of its time in 2008 when it introduced its Starbucks Card rewards program. Encouraging coffee enthusiasts to register for a “frequent buyer” card, fans of the coffee chain found themselves drinking their way from Welcome Level through to Gold Level status.

As smartphone technology improved over the years, the loyalty program went hand-in-hand with Starbucks’ mobile app and mobile ordering system. What was originally seen as a form of convenience is now inspiring retailers to hop aboard the mobile loyalty program train.

The Starbucks rewards program began with a simple premise — visit 12 times, and receive a free beverage on your 13th visit. In 2016, the program changed, with each dollar spent rewarding visitors with 2 stars. Earn 125 stars and you receive a free beverage or food item of your choice.

While some were quick to criticize the amount one would have to spend in order to earn a free drink ($61.50), Starbucks has made it simple for registered members to have their stars add up. Double star days and weekly challenges (i.e., “Buy a coffee and a breakfast sandwich to earn 50 bonus stars”), have helped customers earn free items faster than ever before.

Starbucks recently changed its program’s offerings again, allowing customers to earn upgrades and free coffees faster than ever before. And their competitors, as well as retailers in general, are continuing to take note and create their own loyalty programs.

Last spring, Recode noted that the Starbucks app has long been one of the most successful payment apps in the U.S. — more so than Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. Research firm eMarketer said it was likely that Starbucks would maintain this lead for the next few years, as 23.4 million users in the U.S. alone had made an order on their mobile-and-pay system, accounting for 12% of transactions in a single quarter.

Given these statistics and the current smartphone landscape, marketers have realized that customers are on their phones quite often. With the convenience of a mobile app, customers are able to track their progress, reload their registered Starbucks Card, and be notified of upcoming bonus events.

I spoke with Donato Catizzone, a programmatic advertising account manager, who frequently uses Starbucks’ mobile app. Originally, he used the app to streamline the ordering process and limit the level of miscommunication that can occur, but now he’s found that collecting stars for free drinks is a huge bonus.

“I’m not typically a person that will stick with a brand just because of rewards, but the mobile order and in-app payment feature has made me rethink going to a competitor that doesn’t have this,” he shares.

A recent piece by Marketing Land states that “brands that relied so heavily on TV advertising in the past are still learning how to market appropriately in a mobile world.” While consumers continue to cut the cable cord in favor of streaming services, corresponding commercials and offers have found a new identity in the mobile sphere.

It goes on to state that customers who have taken the time to download a company’s app are among the most loyal customers the brand has — and their advocacy is ripe for brands to develop. Whether it be through video content or push notifications, apps have been an exemplary way to deliver content to a receptive audience at any time.

Catizzone sees the positives of branded mobile apps: “It puts the option of being marketed to in the hands of the user and creates a less intrusive image. Once I download the app, I choose to see what promotions and news the company will be promoting.”

Where do we go from here? Mobile loyalty programs are still in their early stages and are continuously being developed.

Catizzone points out that one deal-breaker is an app’s user interface: “If the app feels complicated or doesn’t make me feel like I’m benefiting from using it, I will likely delete and download a better one.” Companies would be wise to ensure an exceptional user experience should they wish to avoid a Snapchat layout fiasco.

Even though online shopping and order-ahead pick-up services have led some to predict the “death of retail,” mobile engagement helps keep customers coming back even when they aren’t experiencing an in-person interaction. In fact, the offers might be helping them make more appearances than they originally would have assumed.

What’s an extra trip to Starbucks in order to redeem a free iced caramel macchiato? The app and its bonuses are poised to reign in the years to come.

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Fresh food purchases, delivery apps cause worry for traditional grocers

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E-commerce and Amazon have disrupted the grocery business, and the wave of changes has yet to die down. A recent report released by Wolfe Research says that pressure on grocers, especially conventional supermarkets, will intensify in the coming months.

An interesting find from the report is that fresh food purchases are set to grow. But instead of benefiting grocers, it seems it will benefit e-tailers more.

Younger consumers are making fresh-food purchases online or from mass merchandisers instead of traditional grocery brands. About 29% plan to decrease their packaged food purchases while 34% plan to purchase less frozen food.

The grocery industry has admitted that accelerating changes are hard on them, and now big chains have stepped up to the challenges and have begun redefining their operations to meet the impact of Amazon and a growing demand for e-commerce.

Restaurant delivery is cutting into grocery spending. The advent of restaurant delivery apps has changed the way people purchase food and has led to rising food-away-from-home purchases.

With healthy meals on offer on these apps, this has become a convenient solution for busy families that have no time to cook but want to eat healthy at the same time. A recent USDA report stated that food-away-from-home CPI had risen 2.9% in the last year while food-at-home purchases or supermarket food items rose only 1.2%.

For retailers like Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market, Aldi, and similar chains, these new developments will hit their businesses hard. Along with fresh foods, they have also heavily invested in prepared foods and ready-to-eat meals.

When first offered, these options were lapped up by consumers, but now close to 41% of those surveyed say that they plan to cut down on food-at-home purchases and purchase fewer prepared foods and ready-to-eat meals. These are going to be substituted by delivered restaurant meals, and along with growing grocery delivery, they will cut into profit margins for traditional food retailers.

To survive, they will need to make even greater investments and push some of that money towards fresh food delivery. If done well, however, things may not be as bleak for these chains, as more consumers intend to make more fresh food purchases. About 39% of respondents said they planned to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables while 24% intend to increase their fresh protein spends.

Slowing population growth and increasing private-label spending are other major worries. 40% of respondents are willing to buy private label compared to one year ago, and the number is said to rise to 20% more in the next year. For discount chains like Aldi, this will mean more price competition and advantages over traditional retailers. It could also deflate prices on private label items as well as branded items, further cutting into retailers’ profits.

The Food Marketing Institute’s 2019 Power of Produce report laid down the threats as well as some innovative ways that grocers can use to draw shoppers across demographics who are turning away from traditional produce departments.

While Amazon has been a veritable threat for traditional grocery, all’s not well for the e-commerce giant. With 58% of respondents being Prime members, only a dismal 3% said that they purchase fresh produce and meats from Amazon. Clearly, Amazon needs to up its game here and make its consumable offerings more appealing to drive growth.

It has, however, been a trend-setter for online grocery shopping, and more CPG companies are shifting their spending of shelf-stable grocery and household essentials to Amazon instead of traditional retailers.

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Are restaurant owners, managers, and consumers on the same page when it comes to going green?

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“Americans crave foods that not only nourish them but also help sustain the planet.”

This was reported in the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast survey. Trends including “zero-waste cooking,” “hyper-local,” and “veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine” made the top 10 list for 2019.

The good news is that some big restaurant chains, such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, have already taken action in responding to these sustainable trends, even though a study from 2016 suggests that consumers might not want to make a concerted effort themselves to eat at a green restaurant.

Do owners, managers, and consumers think alike when it comes to the green attributes that matter the most to the restaurant business?

Restaurant owners, managers, and consumers represent three different stakeholder groups in the restaurant business. According to stakeholder theory, various stakeholders of a business may show particular interest in certain aspects of operations based on their interests. In this case:

  • Will consumers value those green practices related to their own well-being (e.g., serving organic or healthy food) more than others?
  • Will managers pay more attention to those practices that can help them improve restaurant operations?
  • Will restaurant owners focus more on the green practices that can help them increase profits?
  • Do these three stakeholders have different expectations about consumers’ willingness to make extra efforts to dine at a green restaurant?

With those questions in mind, I conducted a study with Yung-Kuei Huang, an assistant professor at National I-Lan University in Taiwan, where we asked 386 consumers, 115 restaurant managers, and 80 owners to rate the importance of the exact 12 green practices that a restaurant can undertake on a seven-point Likert scale (1 = “Not Important At All”; 7 = “Extremely Important”).

All informants resided in the United States at the time when the data was collected. The results are reported in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, including the following highlights:

The top 3 green attributes rated by restaurant consumers, managers, and owners

Consumers:

  1. Minimizing harmful waste (5.61 in a 7-point Likert scale)
  2. Participating in recycling programs (5.59)
  3. Using recyclable products, such as paper towels, toilet paper, take-out containers, and so on.

Managers:

  1. Practicing energy efficiency and conservation (5.71)
  2. Practicing water efficiency and conservation (5.67)
  3. Serving organic food/ingredients (5.59)

Owners:

  1. Serving organic food/ingredients (5.96)
  2. Serving locally grown food/ingredients (5.84)
  3. Practicing energy efficiency and conservation (5.70)
  4. (tie) Practicing water efficiency and conservation (5.70)

Consumers’ willingness to make extra efforts to patronize a green restaurant

When being asked if they believe consumers are willing to make extra efforts to patronize a green restaurant, owners (96.25%) are significantly more likely than managers (85.02%) and consumers (63.04%) to say “yes.”

In other words, close to 40% of consumers stated they were unwilling to make any extra efforts to dine at a green restaurant, whereas only 14.78% of managers and 3.75% of owners expected consumers would do nothing extra.

In this study, consumers’ “extra efforts” were further measured with three different specific items, including “percentage increase in price,” “increase in wait time,” and “increase in travel distance.” Once again, managers and owners are more optimistic than consumers, including:

  • Percentage increase in price: 19.02% (average score among consumers) vs. 33.66% (managers) and 31.85% (owners)
  • Increase in wait time (in minutes): 19.70 minutes (consumers) vs. 19.99 minutes (managers) and 23.69 minutes (owners)
  • Increase in travel distance (in miles): 14.70 miles (consumers) vs. 21.30 miles (managers) and 29.80 miles (owners)

Conclusions and Implications

Consumers, managers, and owners of the restaurant business have their own priorities in terms of what green practices matter the most to a restaurant. Restaurant owners and managers are generally more optimistic than consumers on the extra efforts that a consumer would make to dine at a green restaurant.

Restaurant managers and owners, as well as the suppliers who sell green products and restaurant equipment, are highly encouraged to refer to the research findings as they develop effective marketing communication strategies towards these three stakeholder groups.

It is good to see airlines, restaurants, and hotels are switching to more sustainable products because consumers expect more than just their own well-being.

Are we doing enough in sustainable tourism? What immediate and future actions can restaurants take for our planet and a greener future?

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