Friday, March 20, 2009

Save $$$ & Calories

I want to take time out to acknowledge labeling laws that now require chain restaurants (15 or more stores) to display calorie, fat and other information. However, I believe chain restaurants are missing the boat and should become more proactive when it comes to nutrition.

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March is National Nutrition Month. I commend Mayor Michael Nutter of my hometown Philadelphia, “Cheesesteak Capitol”, who signed a bill in February requiring chain restaurants (15 or more stores) to display calorie, fat and other information. The law takes effect on January 1, 2010. New York City and California already have passed similar legislation. However, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Philadelphia’s law is the strongest law passed to date.

Philadelphians will now be in position to make decisions about the caloric intake of their diet. One regional operator, Wawa, Inc., a convenience store chain, announced it will post the information on in-store menus and eventually on the touch screens customers use to place their orders. Mayor Nutter will sooner or later have to call in the nutritional police at some point, given that no two sandwiches made to order at Wawa will be the same, thus yielding exact nutritional posted.

Candidly the real policing starts with the Philadelphia consumer. Portions are key when it comes to caloric intake. Wawa is not the place to go for smaller portions. Fundamentally, portion control is an area where the restaurant industry has been negligent, since a large portion connotes value. Few chains to my knowledge have explored smaller portions. Those who have, have been unsuccessful. So now I advocate that the window of opportunity has arrived for chain restaurants to get proactive, thanks to the down economy. Instead of just promoting the new value meals, which consists of smaller portions, why not emphasize that the new meals are less calories too, a more responsible marketing position, in light of the fact we know America is fighting a war on obesity.

One chain I applaud who recently utilized this strategy was la Madeline ( They first executed a LTO (Limited Time Offer) on their menu called Smart Choices, which bundled existing menu items that were nutritionally sound. For $4.99, guests could choose a meal less than 500 calories or $8.99 for a meal under 800 calories. When discussing Smart Choices with la Madeline’s COO Phil Costner, I learned that during the LTO, they experienced their fair share of bargain hunters, thanks to the economy, but it was la Madeline’s core guests that drove the LTO. Thanks to the promotion’s success, Smart Choices evolved into a permanent part of la Madeline’s menu. In Phil’s words, “Favorable nutritionals brings real value to our menu.”

A smart 2 for 1, save $$$ and calories.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

National Frozen Food Month

The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA, founded during a meeting at the Yale Club in NYC in 1945, initiated the March National Frozen Food Month promotion 21 years ago to stimulate frozen food department growth in Supermarkets.

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Highlights for March Frozen Food Month 2009 are detailed below:

- NFRA is partnering with Dream Works to leverage the theater release of Monsters vs. Aliens utilizing the creative concept: Frozen Foods – Monstrous Value. The promotion theme will be used in their national FSI, on POS materials and on NFRA’s website.

- A three-page FSI, including coupons and product photos of the participating brands, circulated to 37 million consumers, appeared in last Sunday’s (March 1) newspapers. Where you one of the recipients? Also a $10,000 consumer sweepstakes was communicated in the FSI. Consumers can enter online: Do you feel lucky?

- POS materials featuring the Monsters vs. Aliens will be highly visible in the frozen aisles of your local supermarket. In addition, press releases and radio spots will be distributed to media outlets across the country communicating the numerous savings consumers will reap by buying frozen foods.

How effective is Frozen Food Month? For nine out of the last ten years, the frozen department dollar growth in March has outpaced sales in the rest of the departments by approximately 4%, plus within the frozen food department the percentage change in dollar sales versus prior year have consistently increased, as high as 6% in numerous documented cases.

Sounds like a good time to go down to your local supermarket, buy several frozen pizzas to stockpile that you can enjoy later when you rent Monsters vs. Aliens from Netflix.

Maybe you will be the lucky winner!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


March begins with Starbucks introducing packages of Via Ready Brew instant coffee ( in Seattle and Chicago this week, as well as breakfast value meals nationwide. March is also National Frozen Food Month, National Nutrition Month and Woman’s History Month.

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Starbucks critics are saying that Howard Schultz is taking a huge risk – instant coffee (two varieties: Colombia and Italian Roast) and value meals are off-brand strategy, too mainstream. Personally I believe Starbucks will now lose the aura of an Italian espresso bar, which was the spine of their whole concept. Time will tell. Therefore I plan to circle back at a later date to present a review of their new strategic initiative.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
- Bill Gates