Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Happy Halloween Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat


You Need Something Other than Candy

For Dinner!

Grocerant Niche

Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat is Perfect

Friday, October 27, 2023

Do you want to Grow Share of Stomach


The fact is insights matter if you are selling food.  Restaurants, Convenience Stores, Service Deli’s, Bodegas all need to know how they are doing compared to others selling meals and meal components for the same dayparts according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Regular readers of this blog remember that The NPD Group and IRI team-up when the food industry turned down, they did evolve and change their name to Circana. Fortunately, they did not have to sell themselves to magazine or newspaper to survive, they continue to serve our industry on the complexity of consumer behavior. Through advanced analytics, cross-industry data and subject matter expertise, Circana provides insights and research that helps clients unlock business growth.

Here is some good news from Circana, “The U.S. restaurant industry continued to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-related losses in February, with traffic up by 2 percent year over year, reported Circana.

Visits to quick-service restaurants, representing 82 percent of total restaurant industry visits, grew by 3 percent during the month of February vs. the year-ago period. Alternatively, full-service visit growth was held back by a 13 percent decline in dinner traffic, the segment's busiest meal daypart. However, the segment increased visits at morning meal and lunch. Overall, visits to full-service restaurants declined by 2 percent in February compared to one year ago. 

Total restaurant traffic at the morning meal, breakfast and a.m. snack has fully recovered from pandemic losses, Circana reported. Morning meal restaurant visits grew by 10 percent in February year over year and are up 2 percent from three years ago. Whereas total restaurant lunch visits were down 1 percent in February vs. one year ago, and dinner traffic was down 3 percent.  

"We're seeing strong customer traffic at breakfast and morning snack, which means consumers are looking for convenience and portable meals and snacks," said David Portalatin, Circana food industry advisor. "On the other hand, dinner and lunch visit growth has been slower due to home-centric behaviors being stickier at these dayparts. At lunch, consumers have other choices, including bringing items from home or going to a workplace cafeteria, offering subsidized pricing or no-cost options. Additionally, the higher average check for lunch and dinner may make them less appealing to some consumers."

Just like convenience is a factor in breakfast and morning snack growth, it is also a factor in off-premise ordering like drive-thru, carry-out and delivery. In February, off-premises traffic represented 72 percent of the total restaurant traffic. Although on-premises visits have increased since the height of the pandemic, dine-in traffic is down double-digits from three years ago. 

"The morning meal growth is a clear sign of what consumers are looking for when using foodservice," Portalatin added. "Moving forward, enticing consumers with convenience, whether portability, ordering ease or speed, appears to be where the demand currently is in the foodservice industry."

Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing tactics look more like yesterday than tomorrow?  Visit GrocerantGuru.com for more information or contact: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us Remember success does leave clues and we just may have the clue you need to propel your continued success.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

What’s Hot and What’s Not for 2024


The ongoing uptick in foods that are better for you and provide you an incremental benefit are still driving the growth in the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared grocerant niche according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. 

If you are planning a new menu, want to introduce a new product or add something new to the shelf of your restaurant, convenience stores or bodega then you might be interested that last week, Whole Foods Market’s Trends Council unveiled their top 10 anticipated food trends for 2024 in the retailer’s ninth-annual Trends predictions report. Below is some of what they found, enjoy.

Caffeine with added benefits, going back to basics in the plant-based category, complex heat from global peppers, and water conservation and stewardship are all among the food trends expected to rise in popularity across the industry in the next year.

Each year, the Trends Council – a collective of more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members, including foragers, buyers, and culinary experts – compile trend predictions based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing and studying consumer preferences, as well as in-depth workshopping with emerging and existing brands.

“Our annual food trends predictions list is a way for us to pull back the curtain for customers and share insight into what our buyers and culinary experts are keeping on their radar for the upcoming year,” said Cathy Strange, ambassador of food culture for Whole Foods Market and member of the Trends Council. “From specific product ingredients and flavor trends to growing movements in the food industry, we can’t wait to see these trends gain momentum in the year ahead.”

Whole Foods Market’s top 10 food trend predictions for 2024:

Put the “plant” back in “plant-based”

The OGs of plant-based cuisine are making a comeback, putting the “veggie” back in your veggie burger and shrinking labels all over the plant-based category. We’re seeing new and emerging protein-forward products with mushrooms, walnuts, tempe,h and legumes in place of complex meat alternatives. Even plant-based milk alternatives are participating, with some brands simplifying labels to just two ingredients — perfect for the vegetarian purist.

Use the whole cacao

Utilizing by-products like cacao pulp has been practiced in other countries for centuries, and now brands are spotlighting the whole cacao with their craveable products for even more consumers. At EARTH University in Costa Rica, where student researchers are tackling some of the biggest systemic environmental issues, the typically discarded cacao pulp is being made into jellies and jams. The emergence of cacao fruit powders in 2023 also presents an opportunity for brands seeking a new sugar alternative without compromising on sweet, ambrosial flavor.

Buckle up for buckwheat 

Gaining popularity as a cover crop to support soil health, buckwheat is a superfood seed containing protein, carbs, and fiber. Plus, it’s naturally gluten free. You may have seen it in the form of soba noodles, but with more brands on a mission to improve agriculture for your favorite products, you may see buckwheat in everything from plant-based milk alternatives to crackers and granola.

Fancy faux fish

With tinned fish and caviar taking off earlier this year, it’s prime time for the fancy fish trend to dip its fins into the vegan pond. Thankfully, some worthy plant-based seafood brands are stepping up and bringing the flavor and texture needed to rival the real thing. Watch out for carrots in place of lox, trumpet mushrooms for scallops, and the root vegetable konjac getting its moment in sushi rolls and poke bowls.

Clean & conserve: water stewardship  

Brands across the aisles are promoting water conservation, and consumers are listening. New water brands use water from fruit by-products, which would otherwise be discarded. With the growing trend of regenerative agriculture, a Regenerative Organic Certification also requires soil health initiatives that ultimately conserve water. And it doesn’t stop at conservation — non-governmental organizations are showing their support of farmed oysters, leveraging aquaculture to filter water and help restore coastal ecosystems. Lifestyle brands are also pushing water-conscious products like dry shampoos, shampoo bars, and laundry detergent sheets.

Complex heat 

Complex heat continues its evolution with global peppers taking off in every aisle — and the trend is only getting hotter. Specialty varieties like Scorpion Peppers, Guajillo or Hungarian Goathorn Peppers are found fresh, whole, ground, or pickled, and a new wave of botana sauces and chili oils are popping up in condiment aisles nationwide. Pepper-infused drinks are going beyond kombuchas, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, with ready-to-drink beverages like canned tepache filling up the fridge with a refreshing kick. Even Taj√≠n is expanding from candies and cocktails to spicing up grocery store sushi, desserts, and more.

Noodle news

Shoppers have been finding ways to dress up their instant ramen at home for years now, but as brands step up their game, noodle lovers can take on less of the workload. Even better, brands are creating more gourmet options to rival the classics without certain preservatives and added MSG. As people seek simple and instant meals, noodles are bringing all the ease and comfort of a warm bowl with quality ingredients and tantalizing flavors.

Little luxuries

TikTok creators have brought “Little Treat Culture” into the zeitgeist, and we’re on board. We know firsthand the power of a treat, like an impulse macaron buy or a fizzy, functional and flavor-forward bev. Brands are getting in on the trend by considering both cost and format — like individual serving packages that add joy without breaking a budget.

Women’s health: from taboo to top of mind

This year on social media, we’ve seen hormonal remedy recipes go viral, including raw carrot salad for estrogen management, seed cycling energy bites for each cycle phase, and “sleepy girl mocktails.” We’re seeing more brands making products to support periods, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, and even sleep that address life stages and symptoms previously swept under the rug. Food innovators are introducing specially formulated bars and snacks for cycle health, like menopause energy bars, at industry trade shows and conferences.

A better boost  

Whatever your go-to source of caffeine, there are new ways to get the absolute most out of your morning or afternoon pick-me-up. Combining a boost with benefits has never been easier, thanks to new coffee and energy drinks with added mushrooms, probiotics, and more. There’s never been a better time to search the “clean caffeine” space for your next obsession.

Don’t over reach. Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Food, Foodservice, Grocerant, Sales Technology Required


Regular readers of this blog know that Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® can hardly work his iPhone but he has pontificated time and time again on this blog on the value that technology can bring to your retail food establishment.  Today we want to share the on the value that an integrated e-commerce app can bring you company written by Kathleen Furore.  Here it is:

Mobile integration. It is something convenience store operators must focus on as they strive to build a seamless omnichannel shopping experience — one that will engage customers, build brand loyalty and communicate the specific brand message the retailer wants to convey, according to Meghan Wang, strategist for strategy and analytics at Newton, Mass.-based Paytronix, a provider of SaaS customer experience management solutions for c-stores and restaurants.

For Eric Rush, director of marketing for Tri Star Energy, the Nashville, Tenn.-based parent company of Twice Daily convenience stores, an integrated mobile app is more than just an option, it is a necessity — and one that Twice Daily has embraced.

“In order to even be considered as a destination during key times of the day, today’s c-stores need to include some form of alternative ordering, if not all of them,” Rush stressed. “For our loyal guests, our app has essentially taken on the role of the storefront or forecourt. It is the first thing they see when they are considering us as their breakfast, lunch or snack destination.”

Mobile integration, of course, does so much more than just drive foodservice sales.

“An integrated e-commerce app will provide guests a simple way to engage with your brand and streamline their purchases. An integrated app optimizes inventory management through real-time data on stock levels,” Wang explained. “It enhances customer experience through tailored promotions and loyalty programs, and it can provide meaningful data back to the business on customer behavior to help shape more personalized marketing strategies in the future.”

Optimizing Your Guest Engagement Strategy

Before a convenience retailer can deliver a brand message, collect data and ultimately build long-term loyalty, they have to be able to reach customers where they are, at any time of day. Today, that “where” is on a mobile device — which means a store’s mobile app should play a critical role in the retailer’s digital guest engagement strategy.

As Wang noted, there are myriad benefits that mobile apps deliver from a customer engagement perspective. 

“Apps enable stores to send targeted notifications about promotions, new arrivals or special events directly to customers’ phones. Operationally, they allow for a streamlined experience in which customers may utilize mobile payments and track order fulfillment,” she said. “The app can also collect valuable data on customer behavior, preferences and purchase history, which can then inform more personalized recommendations and tailored offers, making customers feel valued and understood. Finally, stores can incorporate gamification elements within the app, such as quizzes or challenges, to engage customers and encourage more frequent interaction with the brand.”

Yatco Energy, the Northborough, Mass.-based operator of 20 convenience stores throughout New England, recognized the important role mobile apps play when it was in the early stages of building its digital presence. The company’s mobile app “has been our first step toward having a digital presence,” said Yatco Vice President Hussein Yatim. “It stemmed from the company growing regionally here in New England and really trying to push the Yatco brand and presence to consumers.”

Twice Daily’s app is also key to engaging customers, according to Rush, who said the company “has taken on a significant increase in our digital strategy over the last 12 months.” 

Upgrading the company’s mobile app experience with the help of the new Mobile Experience Builder from Paytronix was an important step in refining that strategy, which also included “a total redesign of all of our websites and increased organizational focus on the loyalty program and mobile ordering,” he said.

The Mobile Experience Builder is a self-service tool that enables brands of all sizes to publish content in real time to their mobile apps — something that previously had been possible only for companies with the resources to invest heavily in custom mobile app development.

“With this focus on creating a stronger value proposition and finding ways to ensure the guests are aware of that value, we have strengthened our ability to communicate through other channels like SMS, email, social and other digital platforms,” Rush added.

Delivering Your Brand Message

What role does a mobile app play in delivering the specific brand message a c-store wants to convey? According to Wang, it provides a platform for consistent branding, personalized interactions, storytelling and engagement.

A well-designed app — one that is easy to navigate and use — reflects positively on the brand and creates “a strong and lasting impression of the brand” by providing unique value to the customer, she said. “Stores can communicate their message and engage with guests through customized content, push notifications, and in-app surveys or feedback opportunities.”

Yatim shared that Yatco’s mobile app has played “a very significant role in delivering the Yatco brand message,” which has been especially important because the company co-brands its fuel with major oil companies.

“From the consumer perspective, it sometimes isn’t clear what the brand is since our c-store is Yatco and our gas brand is another brand. The app has helped customers know that we are differentiated, and that starts in the store,” Yatim said. “We have used a variety of strategies to communicate our brand and the value it provides to customers. We have run various campaigns that give customers substantial discounts on gas or free items in-store relatively easily. That has helped position Yatco as a brand that is competitive and creative with what we offer. … As more and more consumers sign up on the app and become frequent users, it promotes brand visibility and recognition.”

Since implementing its more robust digital strategy, Twice Daily also has used its app in several ways to communicate its brand promise. 

“The biggest change we made was to bring Member Pricing offers into the app through a web view. This has allowed us to display all of the member prices, along with contest information and new items/LTO [limited-time offers] without having to stick to any app limitations,” Rush explained. “It has also allowed us to use that link as a call to action for other digital/social advertising to show potential guests what types of offers and campaigns we run without them first having to download the app.

“When the guests are believers in your brand promise and trust you, they are far more likely to allow your app to take valuable space on their phones,” he observed. 

Building Brand Loyalty

Top loyalty guests overwhelmingly represent the highest spenders and most frequent visitors, according to the “2022 Paytronix Annual Loyalty Report.” As c-store shoppers increasingly demand that loyalty be accessible through easy-to-use mobile apps, it’s not hard to see why giving customers a way to interact with your loyalty program via an app is so important to bottom-line success today. 

“Through a combination of convenience, personalization, rewards and engagement, a well-crafted app will keep customers closely connected to the brand,” Wang explained. “By creating an efficient ecosystem, it will not only make shopping easier, but also help foster a deeper emotional bond between the customer and the brand.”

Wang noted that many brands rely on third-party apps to handle things like online ordering, but she cautioned that this isn’t the best way to engender loyalty.

“While the third parties are great for bringing in new customers, they stand between your brand and your customers. Building brand affinity means having your own place on your guest’s phone — then, they come directly to you,” she said. “But you also want to build in incentives to own this real estate, which could mean special offers, discounts or items that aren’t available through the third parties.”

This kind of customization is something Twice Daily anticipates offering in the near future.

“The further we get into the digital transformation, the greater our ability is,” Rush said. “We will be able to create a customized app approach for each guest based on their habits, their likes and what motivates them to continue coming to our stores.”

Unleashing the Potential of Mobile Application Management

In today’s dynamic convenience store landscape, staying ahead demands more than just offering quality products and services. It means understanding consumer behavior and delivering personalized experiences. Convenience stores must control their own digital experience through the mobile device to make this work. 

Modern consumers have come to expect an effortless shopping experience that transcends physical boundaries. That’s why an integrated e-commerce app has evolved from being a competitive advantage to a fundamental necessity. 

By integrating real-time updates, personalized promotions and tailored messaging into their mobile apps, c-stores can deliver a great digital brand experience and gain valuable insights into customer behavior. The competitive edge is in the integration of a complete guest engagement solution through the mobile app.

Personalization: The Crux of Engagement

Beyond wanting it easy, customers want it to be personal, especially from those few apps they choose to keep on their phones. To connect with customers effectively, convenience stores must do more than just offer an app — they need to make sure it works smoothly with their digital guest engagement systems like online ordering, loyalty and CRM. 

By using data about what customers like and what they buy, convenience stores can suggest products and deals that truly matter to customers. This not only encourages people to use the app, but also lets stores send them special messages and offers that are just right for that guest. It’s all about making customers feel important and understood.

A mobile app transcends its role as a digital storefront; it becomes an extension of the brand itself. To this end, consistent branding, personalized interactions and storytelling are crucial. A well-designed app that aligns with the brand’s identity reflects positively on the business. Through customized content, push notifications, and in-app surveys or feedback channels, companies can effectively communicate their message, enhancing brand recognition and loyalty.

More than just an e-commerce tool, a mobile app that offers convenience, personalization, rewards and engagement enables c-stores to create an efficient ecosystem that not only simplifies shopping, but also nurtures a deeper emotional bond between customer and brand.

Taking Ownership of the Customer Experience

Of course, customers have many choices and a brand’s app may be competing with the third-party aggregators. Those aggregators have a place in the overall marketing ecosystem, often by bringing in new customers, but capturing those guests and offering them additional value through a mobile app is key to increasing customer lifetime value. 

Efficiency in Mobile Strategy

Achieving this level of sophistication takes time, energy and planning. And, of course, c-store executives are already stretched thin. That’s why it’s key to balance the different cost options against the needs of the brand. That is, you shouldn’t underinvest to the point of hurting the overall brand experience, but investing heavily before you’re ready can be equally as damaging. 

Finding that right balance with the right partner will make the end result fit your needs while still offering room to grow. For example, a technology partner that offers guided processes can expedite app development, enabling a team to design and launch an app efficiently. Further refinements can be made as you grow and gather both data and insights, making the process more manageable and cost-effective.

As c-stores continue to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by the mobile landscape, it’s evident that the key lies in understanding and adapting to evolving consumer expectations. Whether through personalized experiences, efficient integration or cohesive brand messaging, the power of mobile applications in customer engagement is undeniable. Businesses that embrace this power stand to thrive in a digital-first world.

In case you did not know, Jeff Hoover is the director of strategy and analytics for convenience store brands at Paytronix. He’s an experienced marketing professional with a multifaceted background working on both the brand and agency side, including brand management at Kimberly-Clark, Scotts Miracle-Gro and Wendy’s.

For international corporate presentations, regional chain presentations, educational forums, or keynotes contact: Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions.  His extensive experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator, consultant, brand / product positioning expert, and public speaking will leave success clues for all. For more information visit GrocerantGuru.com, FoodserviceSolutio23ns.US or call 1-253-759-7869

Monday, October 23, 2023

Graze Craze Centennial Millennials Welcome


Do you want to go out and eat, mix and mingle, with friends?  Well if you do Graze Craze wants you to do just that, as they have elevated the Charcuterie into an invitation to have fun.  According to the team at Foodservice Solutions® eating out or eating in is more fun with a Graze Craze Centennial Charcuterie option.

Recently, Graze Craze Centennial unveiled an exciting update to its menu with enhanced charcuterie board options to elevate their customers’ grazing experience. Starting November 1, the expanded menu features a wider selection of delectable options paired with larger serving sizes sure to satisfy the most discerning taste buds.


Graze Craze Centennial remains committed to quality and sourcing of the finest cheeses, cured meat, fresh fruits, and artisanal accompaniments adding in more Colorado-made products to heighten the experience. With the enhanced offerings, some prices will be adjusted to reflect these changes to maintain their commitment to delivering top-quality charcuterie.

Lisa Collins, the Owner of Graze Craze Centennial, emphasizes the importance of customer loyalty to their success: “Since our doors first opened, we’ve remained committed to consistent pricing and quality, fostering trust and loyalty with our customers. Today, we’re at an exciting juncture, and these changes signify our dedication to providing the exceptional products our customers have come to expect. Our mission has always been to craft unforgettable and enjoyable charcuterie experiences, and this evolution is our way of taking that to new heights.”

To take advantage of these exciting changes and get the best value, orders placed by October 31 will receive current pricing paired with the enhanced offerings rolling out November 1. This means more value and high-quality charcuterie, just in time for the holidays.

Collins adds, “Our unique catering solutions are designed to make you the host of your dreams. Save time, money, and the headache of organizing an event. It’s a recipe for success that not only leaves your guests thanking you for an amazing experience, but also has your friends begging to know your secret.”

To order a unique and visually stunning charcuterie board hand-crafted with the freshest and highest-quality ingredients, visit our website at https://www.grazecraze.com/centennial-co.

In case you did not know, Graze Craze Centennial provides an experience beyond grazing with innovative charcuterie boards that offer a unique, affordable way for small and large crowds to connect over exceptional food. Make an impression at social events, family gatherings, business luncheons, or large wedding receptions with hand-crafted picnic boxes, platters, and grazing tables.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us or 253-759-7869