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Life is sweet in the King Valley.

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Discover the Italian spirit of the King Valley’s winemaking families, at La Dolce Vita wine and food festival.

16 + 17 November 2019.

Discover the Italian spirit of the King Valley’s winemaking families, at La Dolce Vita wine and food festival.

In Spring, the winemaking families of the King Valley open their cellar doors to warmly welcome friends old and new. Celebrate the season in the Italian spirit, with food prepared by nonna or a renowned local chef, both new and museum release wines poured by the winemakers, and festival fun for all, big and small!

The King Valley is the Australian home of Italian wine styles, pioneers of Prosecco and innovators of Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.

Drink in the big, blue skies, mountain views and lush green vineyards of the region in Spring. Enjoy the generous hospitality of the winemaking families, and make memories with your friends and family – life is sweet in the King Valley!

Participating wineries are: Brown Brothers, Chrismont, Dal Zotto, Darling Estate, King River Estate, La Cantina, Pizzini, Politini, Sam Miranda, Symphonia

Official site / tickets here

chrisLife is sweet in the King Valley.
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Plant based challenge

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Ben Cooper analyses the relationship between the “clean-label” trend and the growth of the plant-based protein market – and examines whether clean-label concerns will support the plant-based category’s continued growth or present challenges.

The “clean-label” trend has been a feature of the packaged food market for decades, but while it has become a steadily more influential as the years have gone by, clean-label cannot be claimed as the catalyst for the recent explosion in the plant-based protein category. 

In fact, while some of the consumer motivations underpinning the clean-label trend may also be prompting consumers to move away from meat and dairy, plant-based alternatives can themselves be subject to criticism on clean-label grounds. This has been most vividly illustrated by the debate surrounding the new generation of meat “analogues”, led by Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat.

While the underlying consumer sentiment behind clean-label can be expected to remain a driver of growth in the plant-based protein category, clean-label concerns may present an increasing challenge as the market matures.

Clean in comparison

Clean-label concerns most relevant to plant-based protein foods relate primarily to long ingredients lists, the use of novel or unfamiliar ingredients, criticism that products are “highly processed” and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). That “clean-label” has come to represent a broad range of product criteria, extending beyond ingredients and additives to include processing and technological innovation, is significant for plant-based brands as the most likely comparison they will face will be with meat and dairy.

Michele Simon, executive director of US trade body the Plant-Based Foods Association (PFBA), believes the assumption that beef or cow’s milk are single ingredients has to be challenged in order to judge fairly whether plant-based meat and dairy replacements are highly processed. 

“There’s this whole host of steps to go into in meat production that are hidden from the consumer,” Simon says. Pointing out this typically begins with extracting semen from a bull and artificially inseminating a cow, Simon then asks: “Do you know anyone who has made a hamburger from scratch in their kitchen?”

The suggestion that plant-based protein products are highly processed is nevertheless a common line of attack by the meat and dairy lobbies, along with the idea that traditional meat and dairy products are made from one natural ingredient. Plant-based meat alternatives will almost by definition have more ingredients and involve more processing than the products they seek to replace. However, research suggests consumers not only appreciate the nuances Simon points to, but are far more concerned about the amount of processing in meat and dairy production than that found in the plant-based sector.

“Consumers are usually concerned first and foremost with how ‘processed’ meat and dairy are today, and it is this processing that makes meat and dairy unhealthy in their eyes,” says Dr Sarah Marion, director of syndicated research at US research firm Hartman Group. “All animal products become tainted in their imaginations, and so, rather than being a clean single-ingredient food, meat and dairy have become suspicious, highly-processed foods, full of unknown chemicals and contaminants that are the by-product of the factory farming and slaughtering system.”

Moreover, Marion suggests consumers have these concerns, regardless of what they may see on labels. “Meat and dairy producers – especially the big ones, who control most of the meat production in the USA – have a long way to go to rebuild trust with consumers. In effect, consumers perceive that there is so much that is “dirty” going on behind the scenes that it doesn’t matter what’s on the ingredient panel.” 

By contrast, Dr Marion continues, plant-based “has become, to a certain extent, synonymous with ‘healthy’, similar to what happened to gluten-free a few years ago”.

Interestingly, and possibly further showing how consumers are considering these issues in a broader context than just ingredients, Dr Marion says consumers do not tend to speak in terms of “clean-label” as such. “Clean-label is more of an industry term, and not something we hear consumers say.”

However, this seems to speak to a more nuanced approach to evaluating product attributes. “We see both qualitatively and quantitatively consumers understand that they’re eating a processed product, but they make trade-offs and concessions in every area of their food lives. This product offers them an alternative they see as both better for them and better for the planet. And there are a range of products available, from more to less processed.” 

Taste, variety, and a variety of health benefits are the top reasons for purchasing plant-based products, according to Hartman’s research. However, with regard to drawbacks, expense was the most important factor (38%), followed by “they don’t taste very good” at 23%. Once again suggesting consumers may view product complexity somewhat differently in relation to plant-based foods than for meat and dairy, processing was further down the list at 19%, while only 13% of consumers cite “it’s hard to tell what they’re made from” as a drawback.

Some may argue the attention focused on Beyond Meat and, particularly, on Impossible Burger have attracted as unhelpful. “There is too much emphasis on those two brands,” Simon says. “While, yes, they are seeing a lot of success and popularity right now, there’s a lot more competition coming into the market when it comes to those types of beef-life products. There’s already a range of meat alternatives on the market that provide the consumer with a range of options. Let’s look more holistically at the entire category and the opportunities and range of options that that presents to the consumer, whether that consumer’s looking for a minimally processed tofu or tempeh type of product or a more indulgent Beyond Meat experience.” 

Other companies, either because they are more wary of the risks or more convinced of the potential benefits, will make clean-label a higher priority when launching plant-based foods. Nestlé, for example, has looked to ensure its Incredible Burger has strong clean-label credentials, which also means its plant-based protein range is in tune with its company-wide approach

“Nestlé is committed to creating tasty and nutritious food with ingredients lists that people recognise,” a Nestlé spokesperson explains. “We are taking the same approach in plant-based foods such as our Garden Gourmet range. Our Garden Gourmet Incredible Burger for example is vegan and has one of the simplest and cleanest ingredients lists in the market.”

UK plant-based dairy specialist Plenish also places clean-label high up the agenda. “As a brand we focus on giving customers everything they need and nothing they don’t,” says head of innovation and technical Nicola Oaten. “Our main 1-litre tetrapak range tend to uses between two and four natural ingredients.” Electing not to include additional ingredients as stabilising agents, as some competitors do, in favour of offering consumers a very clean label presents technical challenges, Oaten continues, though this can be overcome by the comparatively low-tech solution of advising consumers to shake the bottle before they drink.

Meeting taste and textural challenges

Hartman’s research shows even the non-purchasers of plant-based protein foods are still very concerned about the amount of processing in meat and dairy supply chains. “The only place where regular meat/dairy really wins out for non-purchasers is taste,” Dr Marion tells just-food. “The implication here is pretty clear. If plant-based food companies can convince consumers about taste, the meat and dairy industry is in trouble.”

However, as the questions over Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat suggest, it is in the pursuit of meeting demanding taste or textural characteristics that the envelope may be pushed from a food technology standpoint. In particular, the development of novel ingredients to provide functional or taste characteristics could precipitate clean-label issues. 

While making a meat-free burger taste like a beef patty represents a challenge for food technologists, making it bleed like meat might have seemed to many, until very recently at least, an impossibility. The scientists at Impossible Foods found it could be done, and the marketers chose branding which sought to reflect the technological achievement, perhaps rejecting Improbable Burger as rather prosaic.

That Impossible Foods’ use of soy leghemoglobin, or heme, to mimic the bleeding of red meat was not universally greeted as a technological master-stroke, as it may have been in other sectors, but with some suspicion, should not come as a surprise. Food is different from other products. Being risk-averse about consuming something unknown is essentially evolutionary. That said, visiting a Burger King is, or should be, a very somewhat different experience from the experimental foraging of early man. 

Food safety regulations in most markets may provide sufficient reassurance to counter an instinctive wariness on the part of consumers but how companies communicate with consumers about such ingredients is probably just as important. It is too early to judge whether Impossible Foods has made mistakes in how it has introduced heme to consumers. Notwithstanding the media coverage, it is likely to receive greater direct scrutiny by consumers now it is being launched in retail.

Heme has received GRAS (generally recognised as safe) certification from the US Food and Drug Administration, which came as no surprise to Professor Mark O’Brian, Chair of the Department of Biochemistry at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, New York, and a renowned expert in the study of heme. “The quantity of heme in our blood system is equivalent to over 1,000 Impossible Burgers, and so I am not surprised that animal testing of leghemoglobin showed no negative health effects. Heme is present in meat and so there is nothing really new about heme in food. The structure and biochemistry of leghemoglobin is well-understood, and thus there is no reason to think that it will be different than heme proteins that we routinely eat.”

Impossible Foods has sought to balance achieving desired product characteristics with the risks introducing an unknown ingredient to consumers might pose. While consumers appear to have given plant-based products some leeway on clean-label criteria because of the positive comparison with meat and dairy, they may be more demanding when it comes to the introduction of novel ingredients.

Simon adds: “I believe I feel like we need all solutions on the table, and PBFA is technology-agnostic. We just feel like whatever solutions that are out there to solve this problem we’re in favour of. But at the end of the day the consumer will decide if they accept the technology in these foods. I mean every food is some kind of food science. It’s just a matter of degree and novelty, and that’s really going to be a marketplace decision.”

Heavy lifting

Products like the Impossible Burger, functioning as an entry point into plant-based for meat consumers, could have an important role to play in encouraging consumers to try plant-based meat alternatives. 

The changes in global agriculture and land use required to meet climate objectives, as outlined in two reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past 12 months, is dependent on nothing short of a transformational shift in protein consumption, specifically requiring consumer uptake of a plant-based diet on a massive scale and corresponding growth in the plant-based protein market globally. In other words, the plant-based protein category will be required to do some heavy lifting in relation to climate and food security goals. 

Groundbreaking innovation may be key, so ensuring consumers are correctly informed about new technologies or ingredients, and not misled by a disproportionate reaction to issues. “Certainly, fear of the unknown can inhibit innovation, and both the scientific community and food producers have to do a better job at educating the public,” Prof. O’Brian suggests. Moreover, he warns: “We cannot assume that clean-label goals are in sync with solving problems of climate change and food security.”

Scepticism about heme, not least within the plant-based foods sector, may be as much due to the fact that it is genetically engineered. Impossible Foods attracted further controversy when it chose to source GM soy for the Impossible Burger. In the plant-based category, GM is a particularly sensitive issue, which Prof O’Brian regrets.

“Agriculture represents about 10,000 years of high-tech solutions to food problems,” he says. “Population growth and decreased land use for agriculture will require new solutions, some of which will include genetic engineering (GE). The anti-GE message is not consistent with the overwhelming amount of evidence showing that food from GE plants are safe. Moreover, GE offers solutions that environmentally-conscious and organic food advocates value such as reduction in environmental degradation and decreased reliance on some pesticides.”

Dr Marion says: “Based on our experience watching other natural categories mature. And yes, we think that prioritising clean-label – without sacrificing taste and other sensory aspects, of course – will best position a plant-based company for the long haul. We have no reason to suspect that consumers will become any less interested in “natural” foods with simple, recognisable ingredients (at least in aspiration) in the near future.”

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chrisPlant based challenge
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How to Design Food Packaging That Captivates Consumers

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Great food packaging isn’t just about having the most eye-catching labels or the most innovative package shape. It’s about designing packages that draw in consumers while clearly identifying your brand. Here are some tips for creating packaging that is sure to be a hit.

Brand identity

Whether it’s in the store, on tv, or in an ad, the packaging is often the first interaction a customer has with your product. To stand out from your competitors (and draw buyers in), clear, identifiable packaging is key.

Before designing your packaging, take some time to define your brand identity. What products are you selling? Who is your main consumer? What values does your brand stand for? Knowing these answers will help drive design elements, like color, size, and materials.

Brand identity is also a huge factor when it comes to expanding your product line. Having easily recognizable packaging and branding will make it easier to sell new items to customers who are already familiar with (and loyal to) your existing offerings.

Not food – but look at the motion 😉 Just checking you are paying attention.

Consistency

Consistent packaging can help give your brand a professional edge and stick with your customers, even if your business is just starting out. If you’re constantly changing up your logo, colors, and designs, customers won’t be able to find your products on crowded store shelves easily.

To help keep things consistent across your catalog of products, keep these guidelines in mind.

Font and type choices: Using the same font on all of your packaging is one of the quickest ways to tie everything together. And don’t forget capitalization — if you choose to use all lower-case, all upper-case, or a mix of the two, apply that to every package label.

2. Color scheme: Following a set color scheme in your brand can allow for a wide variety of design options while still maintaining a feeling of unity. Whether it’s distinct, complementary colors for different product lines, or the same few colors on every single package, color has a significant impact on consumers buying habits.

Extensibility

Being able to alter your packaging for new products can make it easier to expand your brand without the need for an entire rehaul.

For example, imagine you’re creating packaging for your brand’s very first product, which is coconut water. You’ve settled on a killer package design that features coconuts as the star. Your label features coconuts, your design & color scheme feature coconuts, maybe your package was even created to look like a coconut.

However, a few months later you decide to expand and introduce a new line of pineapple juice. Your original design concept is so coconut-centric that you’re now facing a difficult challenge to create consistent packaging for the different varieties of products you’re hoping to offer.

To avoid this costly and time-consuming dilemma, always plan your packaging design with an eye to the future. Although you can still include elements of a specific product in your design, make sure that the design can be easily adapted for the future.

Practicality

Just because a package may look impressive and blow your competitors out of the water, doesn’t always mean it’s the most practical of choices. Practicality includes the functionality, shape, and size of the package. And this doesn’t just apply to the ease of use for the customer, it can have an impact on a store’s decision to stock the product (or not).

Most packages are designed to be displayed one way on the store shelf. But including multiple facing options can make it easier to get your product approved by buyers even when space is limited. For example, look at standard toothpaste packaging. Most toothpaste is displayed horizontal box, taking up more width on a shelf than height. But including a second side display option on an alternative side of the packaging gives stores more freedom in shelf arrangement.

Practicality can also mean making your products hassle-free for stores. Let’s go back to toothpaste for this example. Packaging toothpaste in a box can make it easy to stack on shelves, but if there is imbalanced weight distribution (such as top-heavy toothpaste in vertical packaging), keeping those boxes upright on the shelf can be a challenge. If stores are continually struggling with keeping impractical or unbalanced packages from falling on the floor, chances are they’ll drop those products from their lineup in a flash.

Some questions to consider when thinking about practicality include:

How easy is it to open this product?

How does this product fit where it’s intended to go? (Cupboard, refrigerator, freezer, etc.)

Is ease of use being sacrificed for design?

Materials

The types of materials used in packaging can play a huge role in both overall costs and customer perception. While materials like plastic and packing peanuts may be cheaper when packing goods and shipping them to stores, they may send the wrong message about your brand values, especially for environmentally conscious brands.

However, if you choose to go with eco-friendly packaging such as compostable bags or recycled paper, your overheads will be higher, but you may score more points with specific groups of shoppers.

Whichever packaging route you choose to take, make sure that your materials are consistent with your brand values.

chrisHow to Design Food Packaging That Captivates Consumers
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4 Marketing Strategies to Build Your Food Brand

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Marketing is the heart of every successful business. Having a great product can result in repeat sales, but marketing is the first step in creating awareness about your brand. As Chron.com shares, “Getting a new product out for customers to see and try out is the first step in selling that product successfully. Even the best product will do little good for the public if they do not know it exists.”

Here are four solid strategies to help boost your marketing, no matter your budget.

1. Subscription Boxes

Whether it’s wine, unicorns, or macarons, there is now a subscription box for just about everything. Sent out weekly, monthly, or quarterly, subscription boxes are curated collections of niche products meant to target people with specific interests. And, if used correctly, they can be a highly successful addition to your marketing strategy.

While in-store food sampling and demos reach people who are in a store at a specific time, subscription boxes have a much farther influence. They are used to target your ideal customer and introduce new people to your brand, even those who are outside of your niche. According to McKinsey & Company, “15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis, frequently through monthly boxes.” The e-commerce subscription has grown to a whopping $2.6B industry, making it a viable marketing tool for the foreseeable future.

Finding a subscription box that fits your brand is as easy as a simple Google search. Looking at the websites and social media accounts of different subscription companies will give you an idea of the products they curate, and the product feedback from subscribers. If you manufacture various types of flours made from unique ingredients like bananas or chickpeas, then boxes like My Bakers Box aimed towards home bakers could be an excellent fit for your brand. Or if fitness fans are your target audience, then boxes like HealthyMe Living or CoreGains might be a better fit.

If your brand is consistently coming up with new and exciting products, like unique candy flavors or different coffee blends, you can even curate your own subscription boxes. Companies like Cratejoy allow you to make boxes and market them to the thousands of customers already using the site.

Subscription boxes aren’t for every business. Some boxes contain sample size packs of products, but others include full-sized products, which means an upfront investment either way. But if it is within your budget, subscription boxes can be a great way to convert users into buyers.

2. Sponsoring or Donating to Community Events

Sponsoring events around your community has multiple marketing benefits. Not only are you involved in events that target your ideal customers, but it also increases your business’s overall social responsibility. Social responsibility in business is the idea that a company’s profit-making ventures should be balanced out by activities that provide a benefit to society. This can be especially beneficial to small businesses looking to establish themselves in local markets.

One of the easiest ways to get involved with community events is to provide free samples. While handing out samples may not seem like the most effective marketing strategy for smaller business (after all you’re spending money without any guarantee on return) they can provide a considerable boost to your company. Samples have been shown to increase sales, in some cases by as much as 2000%.

Own an energy bar company? Local charity races or marathons draw in the types of customers that would respond best to your product.

If providing free samples is out of your budget, then just getting involved locally can still have lasting benefits. Showing that you care about the community can build trust in your brand, and provide consumers with a positive attitude toward your business.

3. Influencer Marketing

No matter what type of product you’re selling, there’s a niche-based influencer out there that fits perfectly with your brand. Influencers use their social media accounts, blogs, and websites to reach thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of followers daily. In fact, according to Penny Baldwin, CMO at McAfee, “80% of the Internet’s impressions are driven by just 6% of its users.”

Finding the right influencer comes to down to a few key factors: their reach, relevance, engagement, and authenticity. If you can identify influencers with shared values to your brand, chances are their followers will be interested in your products. Social media users tend to view influencer reviews as being more authentic and have a higher likelihood of purchasing the products recommended to them.

The cost of working with an influencer comes down to the type of marketing they will be providing, and the size of their audience. Smaller influencers can charge hundreds of dollars, while the largest influencers can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single post or video. Digiday breaks down the influencer price scale as:

  • Instagram: $1,000 per 100,000 followers
  • Snapchat: Starting at $500 per campaign in 24 hours
  • Youtube: $2,000 per 100,000 followers

It’s also important to take into consideration the type and frequency of sponsored campaigns an influencer has previously done before working with them. While many influencers take the time to create thoughtful content for brands that fit their online persona, others frequently promote a vast variety of products, making them appear insincere and their promoted campaigns, less effective.

If you’re struggling to find the right influencers in your niche, websites like BuzzsumoInfluencity, and Followerwonk are excellent starting points. They can help you to identify the online reach and specific niche of influencers, and can also help you build in building your online presence.

4. Social Media

Influencers aren’t the only way to harness the power of social media to promote your brand. Social media is one of the most cost-effective and efficient methods of marketing for businesses, no matter your budget size. It increases your brand awareness and helps to increase brand loyalty and reach more potential customers.

Getting followers to engage with your brand is a great way to strengthen your online presence. Own a company that manufactures protein powder? Encourage your Instagram followers to share pictures of their protein shake creations using a custom hashtag. Launching a new product? Run a Twitter giveaway to generate interest before your product even hits the shelves.

Learning about the demographics of your followers provide an easy way to determine the appeal of your brand and who is interested in your products. Social media dashboards like Sprout Social and Brand24 give instant information about social media growth, follower interactions, and follower demographics, allowing you to learn what posts are working for you, and which ones aren’t.

Social media is also a great way to test how your product is faring against current market trends. Searches on different platforms provide a quick overview of currently trending products, allowing you to compare how your products fit into the current marketplace. Conducting polls on your platforms, or asking followers to provide their opinions on specific products is a speedy and effective way to gather customer feedback.

To make the best use out of your social media, plan on posting regularly. How often can depend on the platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), but posting once a day is a good general rule to start out. The best thing about social media is that it is a highly customizable marketing strategy, so play around to find what works best for your brand!

Pod Foods

chris4 Marketing Strategies to Build Your Food Brand
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