Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Classics

As I prepare to travel up to New York tomorrow, I was reminded of some memorable Thanksgiving family dinner scenes captured in film.

Read On:

· Home for the Holidays – Directed by Jodie Foster. Great cast; Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning and Dylan McDermott.

· Scent of a Woman – Al Pacino – Whoo-ah!

· Pieces of April – A punk, played by Katie Holmes, invites her suburban family into NYC for Thanksgiving dinner. She even sets her table with little paper turkeys.

· Avalon – Lou Jacobi’s classic line as he walked in late for his family’s Thanksgiving dinner: “You cut the turkey without me!”

· Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Steve Martin and John Candy. A John Hughes classic!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving film scenes? Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

America’s Eating Conundrum – Part II

Earlier this week, I shared the results of a major survey that indicated Americans want to take advantage of the health benefits of food. Conversely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 33.8% of all U.S. adults and 17% of our children are obese. America’s Eating Conundrum Part II.

Read On:
There is an overabundance of articles postulating why America is fat. Some advocates blame food companies like Kraft, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola, McDonald’s to name a few, for bombarding us with their advertising. As a result, we have become wired, thus desire sugary and fatty foods. Others point their fingers at our schools for not menuing enough healthy options (blame it on budget cuts) given our children are eating one to two meals plus a snack per day at school. Psychologists attribute obesity to societal forces; our increasingly hectic and stressful lifestyles inhibit our ability to make the healthy choices all the time. Then there is the “Big Two” theory, reduced exercise and increased food consumption. Bottomline, Americans are ingesting more and more calories than they are burning.

I decided to google to find out the number of calories the average American consumes per day – 2,700. I also found out some other interesting statistics about our average annual eating consumption detailed below:

· French Fries – 29 lbs./year
· Pizza – 23 lbs./year
· Ice cream – 24 lbs./per year
· Soda – 53 gallons/per year

I am proud of my industry, foodservice, for stepping up to the plate in the fight against obesity by offering more healthful choices. Unfortunately, according to a Technomic report, only 23% of consumers polled are most likely to pick healthful foods when eating out. Again I circle back to the psychologists who attribute obesity to societal forces. Do we eat out for convenience thanks to time deprivation, our busy lifestyles? This much I do know. According to data released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, obesity and obesity-related illness currently costs the US nearly $170 billion a year. Some health official are projecting this dollar amount will more than double to $344 billion by 2018.

So what is it America, are we going to eat foods that are healthy or are we going to continue to eat unhealthy. Sounds like an Eating Conundrum to me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

America’s Eating Conundrum – Part I

The International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) survey indicates that Americans want to take advantage of the health benefits of food. However, approximately one third of all adults in U.S. are obese, trending to 50 per cent by 2030. It seems like we are experiencing an eating conundrum.

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Today’s post is the first in a two part series about America’s Eating Conundrum. I would like to address the IFIC survey.

Earlier in the year, IFIC conducted an online survey among one thousand randomly selected adults to measure America’s knowledge about the health benefits of functional foods (foods and food components) that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition. In addition, the IFIC wanted to learn whether these foods are part of the respondent’s diet. Detailed below are some interesting findings:

· A majority of U.S. consumers are confident they have control over their health, 67% “a great amount” and 28 % “a moderate amount.” No surprise, the leading factors that play “a great role” in maintaining and improving overall health were food and nutrition (73%), exercise (63%) and family health history (39%).

· 87% of the respondents agreed that certain foods have benefits beyond basic nutrition, 90% can name at least one food. When asked unaided, Fruits/Vegetables topped the list of functional foods (70%). Fish/Fish Oils came in second (18%).

· Good news! 9 out of 10 people (up from just under 8 in the last IFIC survey) can name as least one food and its associated health benefits (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids for reduced risk of heart disease).

· Respondents indicated that they struggle to incorporate key food components into their diets with the top three barriers to more frequent consumption being: expense, taste and availability.

Candidly, I struggle with the last bullet point. When it comes to eating healthy, I firmly believe it is ultimately an individual decision. Expense, taste and availability should not present any barriers here in America, the land of the plentiful. Conversely, if you want to eat unhealthy, there are no barriers here in America, the epicenter of Fast Foods. Consequently, somehow based on the current obesity statistics, the topic of my next post, apparently Americans make unhealthy choices.

Are you eating healthy?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Cheesecake Barometer

Black Friday is two weeks away, a day that retailers will be monitoring closely to measure holiday sales during our tentative economy. Will consumers continue to be frugal, cut back and buckle down this holiday season? Not according to the Cheesecake Barometer.

Read On:
Leading consumer psychologists and marketing academics indicate that shoppers eventually get tired of exhibiting self-control all the time despite less discretionary income. Eventually they break down and indulge, but will pare back on household staples. Recent retail sales validate their hypothesis. The items that are selling are not high priced, but are considered fun, like cosmetics, premixed cocktails and coolers, wine, handbags, etc., Products associated with household chores are on a downward trend – fertilizer, weed killers, bleach, car wax, shoe polish to name a few.

Thomson Reuters reported that sales for U.S. chain stores rose 3.4% in October compared to October 2010 for the 22 retailers they track. These sales were less than what Wall Street analysts were projecting (4.5%) and the 5.1% recorded in September. However one area of indulgence that exhibited strong retail sales is what I title the “accessorize/makeover category.” Consumers, especially female consumers, might not be able to go out and buy a new outfit, but they can enhance their existing wardrobe by buying a new, expensive handbag or a pair of shoes. Then there are cosmetic accessories which jumped 22 percent in the last year according to the Chicago market research company, the Symphony IRI Group. They also reported that sales of body scrubbers increased 21 percent and nail polish 10 percent. Estée Lauder recently announced that their North America division recorded its strongest business results in a decade. Their major competitor L’Oréal reported their first half profits for 2011 were up 12 percent.

So by now you are probably wondering what the Cheesecake Barometer is. Earlier I stated that consumer physiologists are telling us we cannot be good all the time. We need to treat ourselves and satisfy our urges. What could be better than a slice of cheesecake? Approximately 700 plus calories for a basic slice; 1,326 calories if you visit your local Cheesecake Factory and order a slice of their Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple cheesecake. Yes, Symphony IRI also reported that in the past year sales of cheesecakes have risen 22 percent. Thanks to the Cheesecake Barometer, it appears we are going to experience strong holiday sales.

Will you be treating yourself to a slice of cheesecake on Black Friday?