Archive for the 'consumer' Category

The Case of the King’s Fries

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

To say it’s been snowy around here lately would be, well, an understatement. Hit by two blizzards in five days, the Philadelphia area has been immobile.

Snowy Branches in Philadelphia

Before cabin fever sets in, most of us deal with this imprisonment with food. After all, we have to get all that shoveling energy from somewhere, right? And eat we did – hearty meals like turkey chili, turkey meatloaf, sausage & peppers, and from-scratch pancakes.

But the morsels that we were most looking forward to were two little impulse items I grabbed while stocking up for the Snowpocalypse – Burger King’s frozen fries in King Krinks™ and King Wedgez™, from ConAgra (launched Fall 2009).

Burger King King Krinks and King Wedgez

Housed in this oversized wedge-shaped cardboard container is a single serving of microwaveable French fries. The instructions are easy – Shake, Vent, Zap, Tap, Rip. First, shake the container to equally distribute the fries, then vent by opening on each side of the package where indicated.

Burger King Microwavable French Fries

Microwave for three minutes, then rip off the top. Presto – they’re ready to eat! Burger King branded fries fresh from the microwave, in a handy dandy FRYPOD®.

Burger King King Krinks Microwavable Fries

Burger King King Krinks Fries

Burger King King Krinks Closeup

The verdict? Pretty tasty! Both versions were well seasoned, if not a bit overly so (but frankly, on French fries, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!). The Wedgez were definitely the spicier of the two. Both tasted great on their own, and with ketchup. They had a nice texture – crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside, similar to an oven fry.

But, there were a few drawbacks in the process. The recommended three minute cooking time appeared to be way too long. For the Wedgez, this meant fries stuck to the interior packaging. And for both, the desirable texture quickly turned chewy and hard.

Burger King - King Wedgez

And how about the price? I found them on sale for $0.77 each, a bargain compared to the drive-thru (I believe non-sale price varies from $1.20 – $1.77, depending on the store). Maybe not comparable to the cost savings on a family-sized bag of oven fries, but worth it for the novelty, or for kids who are not allowed to use the oven.

So, would hubby and I buy them again? Certainly! (Of course, we’d reduce the cooking time a bit.) Maybe next time we’ll try the unseasoned Kolossalz™ too!

“Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.”

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I love that scene from A Christmas Story, when the little brother, Randy, won’t eat his dinner, and Mother and The Old Man have to rely on a combination of threats and games to get him to take a bite.

I love it because I was that kid. In fact, Mom and I once held a two-hour staring match over a forkful of peas. I still hate peas.

Sure, I was a picky eater. There’s no question about that. But sometimes, I think I was just bored with the options. Never again will I eat chicken baked in cream of mushroom soup – it was delicious, but I’ve had my fill for a lifetime.

Recently, I read an article from Reuters that stated the average mom in the UK relies on a rotation of nine meals to feed her family. Just nine! While the study was performed in the UK, I’m sure results in the USA wouldn’t be that far off.

Explanations were all pretty similar – time constraints, picky eaters, and expense. Most moms stick with what their families know and love, rather than waste time or money on something that may not go over well. Others also admitted to cooking two meals – something for the kids early in the evening, and a different meal for mom and dad, later at night. Most common are true comfort foods – spaghetti Bolognese, roasts, casseroles, stews and pizza.

When hubby and I first got married, I was on a mission to increase my repertoire. Pre-wedding, our weekly menu consisted of take-out, chicken and stuffing casserole, chicken tacos, and the occasional pasta night. To fight it, I forced myself to try one new recipe a week. Some were complicated, some were not. Some made it onto our regular menu, and some more, did not. The effort may have tapered off, but today we have seasonal favorites, quick options and more drawn-out weekend fare, and more importantly, vegetables! We may average more than nine, but there are definitely items we eat every 10 to 14 days.Meatloaf Cupcakes - mini meatloaf topped with whipped potato "frosting"

It’s important to add a little variety, but I certainly understand how hard it can be most nights. That’s what makes kit meals so important. Allowing minimal effort, but still a sense of self-preparation, kit meals allow many home cooks the advantage of trying out new foods, hopefully at a low cost. Comfort foods are great most nights, but exotic options can help to freshen things up. Take a look at ethnic cuisine, like Thai curry, tamales, and chicken tangine, to create more variety for your consumers.

There are also ways to deliver variety in prepared foods, while tapping into those conventional recipes that everyone loves. At the 2009 Innovation Roadshow, we featured Meatloaf Cupcakes – mini-meatloafs with whipped potato “frosting.” We varied the meatloaf itself, with Italian herb and carmelized onion flavors, and further extended options with the potatoes, in butter parmesan and brown sugar cinnamon sweet potato.

Just a little creativity and flavor can help consumers get out of a food rut!

A Question of Favorites…

Monday, October 12th, 2009

I was traveling in the mid-west last week, talking new food flavor trends. After finishing a presentation, one of our newest account managers, Olivia Klose, asked me “of all the foods you’ve tried, what’s your favorite. What would your last meal be?”

My answer was quick – “cereal, ice cream and French fries (with lots of Heinz ketchup).”

Chocolate Ice Cream

I spend my days reading up on the latest flavors, and researching exotic foods. While some become trends, and some fizzle out, the flavors that last are those we’ve known forever.

Worldwide, our favorite ice cream flavors are chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. And in beverages, orange, apple and lemon flavors top the list. Garlic, chicken and cheese are savory flavor favorites.

Comfort foods feel like home. They remind us of simpler times and have broad appeal. Once in a while, exotic flavors break the mold, and become new comforts. Examples include burritos, tacos, pomegranates (the fifth most popularly launched beverage flavor in the U.S. right now), fried rice and sushi.

Don’t confuse my message – we all like to try new foods, and add them to our regular diets. Heck, I have a box of savory Japanese KitKats® sitting next to me right now that’s testing my best will-power not to devour. But, like mom always says, sometimes less is more.

You know, with a little more time to think, I’d probably add to that last meal list my favorite diner’s tuna melt, my grandparents’ pasta sauce, my mom’s chicken cutlets, my dad’s meatloaf, and my hubby’s quesadillas.

Think about what foods you count amongst your own favorites, and I bet many of them will be what some may describe as “basic” or even boring. But don’t feel inferior – you’re actually right on trend. In the current economy, comfort foods and familiar flavors have resurfaced as consumer favorites.

Sneak Peek!! We’re debuting a few nouveau comfort foods at this year’s Innovation Roadshow. Register now to see them in person!

So this is where all of my free time goes!

Monday, July 20th, 2009

I recently read that women spend almost two years of our lives thinking about food! The study, conducted in the UK, found that the average British woman thinks about food for 44 minutes each day, or an entire day each month, which adds up to one year and 11 months over an average lifetime.At first, I gasped at this result. But when I think more about it, two years may actually be a little on the low side for me. Even removing all work-related food thoughts, I spend way more than 44 minutes each day thinking about food. And why not! I’m planning a menu for dinner, contemplating lunch, preparing breakfast, food shopping, fighting off ice cream temptations – it adds up.

So often, we paint food as the villain. Sometimes, we almost forget that it is essential – and even enjoyable! Hmmm…maybe we need one of these studies in the states.

Like sand through the hourglass…

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I’ve been reminded recently of how my tastes have changed since I started working at David Michael. I was a super picky eater – I’d turn my nose up at everything. If it looked “weird” or unusual, if it smelled funny, or if it wasn’t the norm, I refused to try it. But these days, things have changed, and I’ll try anything at least once. (Just not raw meat or fish – sorry, that still gets me.)But it can’t just be my work environment, can it? Sure, I’ve been exposed to more flavors and foods than I could have ever dreamed of – add to that co-workers with a real zest for flavor that can’t help but get you excited about new things. But, I’ve also matured (well, somewhat!), and have grown more experimental in my own kitchen. But is there something else? Have I simply been progressing along with other consumers – growing more open to ethnic flavors and exotic foods? After all, when your friends want to try the new Indian place in town, how can you turn them down?

Consumers are more adventurous these days. But, at the same time, they still harbor a number of preconceived notions about “weird” foods. (Like, say, my own personal refusal to eat sushi.)

Consumers like familiarity. My go to happy meal will probably always be chicken fingers and french fries, but my list of comforting favorites has grown to include goat cheese with pears, breakfast enchiladas with eggs and tomatilla salsa, and tzatziki on just about anything (including those chicken fingers and fries!).

Asparagus flavored licorice – a future trend?

Asparagus flavored licorice – a future trend?

Combining unusual and new flavor developments with more familiar ones is a great way to introduce new concepts to consumers. After all, isn’t that how we grew to love mango so much – by pairing it with peach? And now mango is the familiar flavor, helping to usher in lesser known fruits like guava.

Now is the time to get experimental…challenge yourself to try a new food at least once a week. A little hesitant? Combine it with something you love.

Thank Goodness It’s Free Chocolate Friday™!

Friday, May 29th, 2009

A lot of consumer product companies are pushing some sort of economic relief campaign right now. We’ve all seen the Domino’s commercials. And Wendy’s is trying their best to make “freakonomics” part of our language.

But there is one campaign that’s really caught my attention recently – the Mars Chocolate Relief Act. To say that I am a choc-o-holic is by no means, an understatement. And Peanut M&Ms, which I truly consider to be nourishment and refuse to get on an airplane without, are one of my two favorite candies.

Mars Chocolate Relief Act - Peanut M&Ms Chocolate Candy

So, when a co-worker (shout-out to account manager Jennifer “Jake” Higdon!) sent me the link to yesterday, I was literally drooling.

Every Friday, between now and September, Mars will give away 250,000 free full-size chocolate bars (M&Ms included) to website visitors. I’ve already added it to my calendar.

Using the site to promote that Mars’ confections are made with real chocolate, users can share their favorite chocolate-related tales, and even get coupons for more free stuff.

And, the free chocolate is limited to one-per-person, per week. So, I can enjoy my Peanut M&Ms all summer-long. Looks like it’s going to be a great summer!

No Foolin’

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

My sister and I are preparing for a little weekend getaway. I’m going through my usual pre-vacation ritual – washing laundry, restocking toiletries, and…printing coupons? That last one’s pretty new, but I’m stocking up. Two-for-one entrees…20% in-store discounts…free dessert. Heck, we even got the hotel room as part of a special promotion! The thing is, I’m not the only one shopping deals.

After the Super Bowl, Denny’s Restaurants gave away free Grand Slam breakfasts to diners. Today, the restaurant chain announced a buy-one-get-one-free Grand “Slamwich” giveaway for April 8th. Nope, this isn’t an elaborate April Fool’s joke – they’re at it again!

According to the Wall Street Journal, the last promotion brought in two million customers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. Normal traffic for those hours is typically only 200,000.

Other restaurants are increasing value for their customers too. Rumor has it that U.S. locations of Tim Horton’s gave out free sandwiches at lunch-time today. IHOP is running an all-you-can-eat pancake promotion. And those brown-bagging their lunches daily may be easily tempted by the $5 lunch deals a number of fast-casuals are promoting.

The Wall Street Journal article brings up a good point, though. Will consumers get too accustomed to these low-price deals? While they may eventually lose that full-price phobia, their expectations of value will certainly increase.

How many books would a cookbook cook, if a cookbook could cook books.

Friday, March 6th, 2009

I’m a gal that loves my cookbooks. And I have more than a few, covering subjects from chicken to gelato, and chefs from Rachel Ray to Jamie Oliver.

And I’m not alone. Over the past 10 years, cookbook sales have doubled, driven by Food Network faves Paula Deen and Rachel Ray. And these days, those books that focus on comfort foods are topping shoppers’ lists.

So when I spotted this article from Restaurants & Institutions this week that announced some of spring’s newest releases, I was interested to see which were hitting trends in consumer behavior.


‘wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal-and a Meal into a Sandwich (Clarkson Potter, March), by Tom Colicchio

I don’t know about you guys, but sandwiches have become a weekly cost-savings dinner in our household. Chicken salad and grilled cheese are getting a little old though – time for some new ideas!

Laguna Beach Farmer's Market
Creative Commons License photo credit: Island Life

Eating Well in Season: The Farmers’ Market Cookbook (Countryman Press, April), by Jessie Price and the editors of Eating Well

If you have not yet heard the term “locavore,” listen up. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact their choices are making on the environment. Not to mention the fact that locally grown produce can often be cheaper, and help support a farmer in your area. As a volunteer at my local farmers’ market, I can tell you that this movement is growing.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects (Ten Speed Press, June), by Karen Solomon

Sales of basic ingredients are on the rise, as consumers cuts costs by spending a little extra time cooking from scratch.


Well, that’s just a few of the new offerings. Other topics include timely ethnic – Asian barbecue and Indian cuisine – which help consumers recreate that restaurant experience at home; recreating classic recipes; and molecular gastronomy.

Are you a fellow cookbook collector? Do you use them regularly? What’s your favorite or most used? I’d love to hear from you! (My personal favorite is the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook – best chocolate buttercream ever!)

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