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How do you engage with a brand these days? Is it through their website? Through in-person experiences?  For most people, their preferred engagement is through social media channels, the most popular of which is Instagram.

With the rise of businesses using Instagram to increase their appeal to a new audience, having  an Instagram Business account is a critical need. Originally used for friends and family to share stories through pictures, businesses soon caught on to the popularity of the social channel and began using it to promote their businesses and products. Fast forward to 2019, and Instagram has more than 1 billion users monthly, 25 million of which are business profiles. And it’s estimated that 600 million people use the platform to discover new products.

Or in some cases, engage with beloved, established brands, like Oreos. With more than 1.6 million users, the brand uses Instagram to invoke nostalgia for your favorite childhood cookie with recipes, photos, and more.

Consumers–particularly Millennial consumers, who make up the bulk of Instagram users–increasingly seek out companies that share their values, and Instagram serves as another connection point for brands to engage. Tito’s Vodka, for example, uses its Instagram account to connect with the pet lovers in their consumer base, and promote pets in need of homes–as well as their vodka, of course.

If you’re new to the Instagram game, or a veteran still trying to keep up with fast-changing trends, have no fear! Here are the top five best practices for optimizing your Instagram account:

  1. Create an Instagram Business account. First things first, you need to make sure your Instagram account is set to a business account. And bonus, it’s not hard to do.  (Within the app, find settings, then scroll down to “Switch to Business Account.” Once you have a business account, you can add in pertinent business information like store hours, your business address or a phone number.)1 https://business.instagram.com/getting-started With a Business account you can get real-time metrics on how your stories and promoted posts perform throughout the day, insights into your followers and how they interact with your posts and stories, and more that will help you be more successful using Instagram for your business.
  2. Give your audience an experience. Instagram was created to give users a way to convey a message through visuals. So do just that! Meller, an international sunglasses brand, highlights the importance of effectively engaging with potential customers online using engaging visual content. It brought them a 13% increase of conversion rate just by integrating this shared experience into their e-commerce store.2 https://hi.photoslurp.com/blog/instagram-best-practices-content/ Think about your branding and the messages you convey on any other social channels you use–everything should be cohesive.
  3. Use #hashtags. Branded hashtags improve your company’s discoverability while also helping consumers connect over shared interests and values.3 https://www.shortstack.com/blog/instagram-business-tips/ Creating hashtags for your company will help your audience find posts that circle back to your business. When using hashtags, try to use at least two or three that can appeal to a wider audience, because #visibility #discoverability and potential #newcustomers are what we want #right?
  4. Collaborate. Gone are the days where consumers  turn to Google to look up reviews about a certain brand or product. Today there are  influencers–people who get paid to review or sponsor brands or products. If you collaborate with an influencer, your brand is more likely to be discovered, and have the appeal needed to entice your audience.
  5. Use Software. Managing an  Instagram Business account will be a lot different than a personal account. The content and campaigns that you create will need to be strategically posted during your specific audiences peak use time. Using an automation software can help you schedule future posts, know the best times to post (like between 10 am and 3 pm, according to one source), and give insight into key analytics that you will want to track.

With these tips, you’ll be a business savvy Instagram user in no time. But one last thing you should do–add your Instagram Business account to your RangeMe profile! Suppliers aren’t the only ones using Instagram–retailers are as well. Retailers look to Instagram to discover the newest brands and trendiest products for their stores. By ensuring your Instagram account is on your RangeMe profile, you are leveraging  another channel to potentially connect and showcase your products to retailers.

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1. https://business.instagram.com/getting-started
2. https://hi.photoslurp.com/blog/instagram-best-practices-content/
3. https://www.shortstack.com/blog/instagram-business-tips/
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In my previous post I wrote about how retailers are figuring out how to attract Millennials and Gen Z. These two demographics are important not just because of the sheer number of people who fall into these two generations, but because the way they shop and consume is vastly different than generations before them. We looked at what makes them tick, and how they feel about retailers, and in turn, how retailers are feeling and responding to them. The upshot? These generations are the future of retail, and it’s up to retailers to start strategizing what that means for their success.

“Both of these groups have incredible buying influence and power now, and as they age this will increase,” says Courtney Albert, director of Innovation and Marketing for the Parker Avery Group. “They will continue to dictate the future of the industry. Though each group has different general shopping habits, both are pretty savvy and quick when it comes to who they want to spend their money with.”

Adapting to generational changes

Creating a shopping experience for Millennials and Gen Z is key, whether that’s pop-up stores, beefing up your online channels, or putting major effort behind your social media. But for those retailers who aren’t sure where to start when strategizing how to reach these consumers, I went back to the experts to get some of their advice.

I wanted to get their opinion on what first steps retailers can take to put them on a successful path. Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillan Doolittle, says it starts with understanding.

“Get to know them as individuals, and what they really need,” Stern says. “They are not just a generation—a Millennial in her late 30s living in the suburbs is very different than a 25-year-old living in the city.”

It’s kind of funny to talk about individualism when you’re looking at the big picture of these demographics, but it’s true. The members behind these two generations span a huge age range, and for a retailer to be successful, they’ve got to be conscious of the actual people they’re serving. Consider where they are in their lives, who they are, and what kind of person they are.

What’s more, says Albert, diversity within the retailer is important. “Diverse hiring practices make a huge impact,” she explains. “Having people in the room that are part of these generations as well as people who aren’t provide a great start to making these kinds of decisions.” She adds that observing how each group interacts with the retailer’s brand is a good starting point for attracting Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Paying attention to the feedback they’re providing on brand and customer experiences is also key.

The time is now for retailers to develop a strong strategy to attract Millennials and Gen Z. These two generations are powerful in number and they know what they want—and they’re not afraid to speak up. And if they’re not getting what they want from one retailer, they’re also not afraid to spend their dollars at the retailers that will deliver (and I don’t mean groceries to their doorstep).

How are you seeing retailers attract Millennials and Gen Z consumers?

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Consumers have had enough. They’re outraged about the massive volume of plastic waste from retail products, which harms oceans and landfills – and this public backlash is affecting  retailers and consumer goods brands.

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, and the average U.S. family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags annually. And each bag takes at least 500 years to degrade in a landfill.1 The Problem With Plastic Bags. The Center for Biological Diversity. 2019. Also, Greenpeace reports 12 million tons of plastic enter our oceans annually.2 Wyler, Rex. The Ocean Plastic Crisis. Greenpeace. October 15, 2017.

In response, global activist groups have initiated “plastic attacks,” in which they pay for products then leave the packaging behind at retail stores to force retailers to deal with the waste.3 Ryan, Carol. Plastic Is Big Food’s Next Headache. The Wall Street Journal. December 28, 2018. Consumers are also speaking out against the unsustainable business practice of shipping plastic waste recyclables to less developed countries where they can be illegally dumped or burned.4 Common, David. Plastic Waste: The Supermarket Challenge. CBC News. January 11, 2019.


“2019 will be a tipping point”
~ Wall Street Journal
5 Ryan, Carol. Plastic Is Big Food’s Next Headache. The Wall Street Journal. December 28, 2018.

Governments and international bodies are also taking action. In March, 170 countries, including the U.S., pledged to “significantly reduce” the use of plastics by 2030. This month, the UN issued a new report proving that nature everywhere is declining at a speed never previously seen.6 McGrath, Matt. Nature crisis: Humans ‘threaten 1m species with extinction.’ BBC News. May 6, 2019.

The urgent environmental imperative to reduce plastic creates new opportunities for retailers and brands to develop innovative, eco-friendly products and sustainable business strategies.7 Kelkoo Group. Top five consumer trends set to shape retail in 2019. Retail Week. January 29, 2019

Reducing plastic can be profitable
Consumers today actively choose companies that share their values, such as sustainability, and retailers and brands are taking the desire to use less plastic seriously. One-third of U.S. consumers support a tax on all plastic food packaging, and 38% would be more likely to frequent supermarkets that offer fruit and vegetables without plastic packaging.8 Seigner, Cathy. Survey: One-third of US consumers favor a tax on plastic food packaging. Grocery Dive. August 23, 2018. Millennials and Gen Z are most likely to reward companies with strong sustainability programs.9 Fleming, Molly. Plastic waste: Why brands need to look beyond the PR opportunity. Marketing Week. February 6, 2018.

Reducing plastic has evolved into a business necessity. Investors now ask manufacturers to measure and report how much plastic packaging they produce each year, and how they plan to reduce that amount to support corporate social responsibility initiatives. As alternatives to plastic packaging, retail companies are turning to sustainable alternatives, including cardboard, paper, aluminum, glass, bioplastics and even edible plastics. Major brands acknowledge the need to shift away from plastic to packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable; however, choosing these alternative materials will increase manufacturers’ costs.10 Peters, Adele. A coalition of giant brands is about to change how we shop forever, with a new zero-waste platform. Fast Company. January 26, 2019.


62% of consumers like companies that believe in reducing plastics and improving the environment
~ Accenture Strategy
11 Shayton, Sheila. The Rise of Purpose-Led Brands: Q&A With Accenture Strategy’s Bill Theofilou. Brand Channel. December 5, 2018.

Plastic reduction is also a health and wellness issue, especially in the grocery channel. Last year, the American Journal of Pediatrics warned that certain chemicals in plastic food containers can leach into food and beverage products, and interfere with children’s hormones, harming their long-term growth and development.12 Rabin, Roni Caryn. Chemicals in Food May Harm Children, Pediatricians’ Group Says. The New York Times. July 23, 2018.

Leaders in lowering plastic usage
Here are some recent examples of what major consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands and retailers are doing to reduce plastic waste:

  • Walmart: The retail giant’s plastic waste reduction efforts include working with private label partners to achieve 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging for private brands, and 20% post-consumer recycled content in private brand packaging by 2025. The company is also decreasing private brand plastic packaging.13 Vembar, Kaarin. Walmart unveils plan to reduce plastic packaging waste. Retail Dive. February 27, 2019.

  • Amazon: To make recycling easier in America, the e-commerce leader invested $10 million in the Closed Loop Fund, which finances the creation of recycling infrastructure and services in U.S. cities. Amazon states its investment will keep 1 million tons of recyclable material out of landfills.14 Shu, Catherine. Amazon puts $10M in Closed Loop Fund to make recycling easier in more American cities. TechCrunch. October 16, 2018.

  • Trader Joe’s: To eliminate 1 million pounds of plastic from its stores, the grocer announced it will  no longer offer single-use plastic bags to customers, will replace plastic produce bags and Styrofoam packages with compostable alternatives, and avoid using compounds like BPA in packaging. The company is also reducing how much produce it sells in plastic packaging.

  • Kroger: The grocer is phasing out single-use plastic bags completely by 2025 across its chains to reduce plastic waste.15 Kennedy, Merritt. Attention, Shoppers: Kroger Says It Is Phasing Out Plastic Bags. NPR. August 23, 2018.

  • IKEA: The furniture retailer will phase out all single-use plastic products from its stores and restaurants by August 2020. IKEA will phase out plastic straws, plates, cups, freezer bags, bin bags, and plastic-coated paper plates and cups, and replace them with alternative materials.16 Butler, Sarah. Ikea commits to phase out single-use plastic products by 2020. The Guardian. June 7, 2018.

  • Starbucks: Since an estimated 4.4 billion straws are thrown away each year around the world, Starbucks took a leadership role in the retail industry, vowing to ban plastic straws from its 28,000 global locations by 2020—eliminating 1 billion plastic straws.17 St. Louis, Molly. 5 Brands That Actually Did Some Good in 2018. Adweek. December 19, 2018.

  • Procter & Gamble: The company’s Fairy Ocean Plastic bottle is made entirely from post-consumer recycled plastic and ocean plastic.18 Goldsberry, Clare. Procter & Gamble launches Fairy Ocean Plastic bottle made with 100% recycled plastic. Plastics Today. October 11, 2017.

  • Evian: Announced it is adopting a 100% circular approach to plastic use by 2025 to keep plastic in the economy and out of nature through recycling. (Currently Evian bottles are made from an average of 25% recycled plastic.19 Fleming, Molly. Evian issues call-to-arms to brands to do more on plastic waste. Marketing Week. January 18, 2018. )

  • Nestlé, Unilever and Coca-Cola all committed to making their packaging 100% recyclable by 2025.20 Ryan, Carol. Plastic Is Big Food’s Next Headache. The Wall Street Journal. December 28, 2018.

To reduce single-use plastic packaging waste, a coalition of CPG leaders created a zero waste platform called Loop to offer reusable containers for products like toothpaste and ice cream.21 Peters, Adele. A coalition of giant brands is about to change how we shop forever, with a new zero-waste platform. Fast Company. January 26, 2019. Founding partners Procter & Gamble and Nestlé have joined PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars Petcare, The Clorox Company, The Body Shop, Coca-Cola European Partners, Mondelēz International and Danone as the initial partners involved with Loop.22 Rosengren, Cole. CPG giants partner on reusable packaging. Retail Dive. January 24, 2019.

Reducing plastic in retail is a global trend. UK grocer Iceland announced plans to eliminate plastic packaging in its private label products by 2023. Competitor Tesco informed suppliers it wants to stop using non-recyclable plastic packaging and Waitrose is phasing out black plastic trays, which are hard to recycle.23 Butler, Sarah. Ikea commits to phase out single-use plastic products by 2020. The Guardian. June 7, 2018.

As the anti-plastic movement builds momentum, retailers and suppliers need to work together to develop sustainable packaging alternatives that protect people and the planet. At a minimum, retail companies need a clear action plan to reduce their use of plastics. Progressive companies that successfully reduce their plastic waste can gain a competitive edge and earn consumer loyalty by showing consumers they’re listening and adapting to their demands for less plastic.


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1. The Problem With Plastic Bags. The Center for Biological Diversity. 2019.
2. Wyler, Rex. The Ocean Plastic Crisis. Greenpeace. October 15, 2017.
3, 5, 20. Ryan, Carol. Plastic Is Big Food’s Next Headache. The Wall Street Journal. December 28, 2018.
4. Common, David. Plastic Waste: The Supermarket Challenge. CBC News. January 11, 2019.
6. McGrath, Matt. Nature crisis: Humans ‘threaten 1m species with extinction.’ BBC News. May 6, 2019.
7. Kelkoo Group. Top five consumer trends set to shape retail in 2019. Retail Week. January 29, 2019
8. Seigner, Cathy. Survey: One-third of US consumers favor a tax on plastic food packaging. Grocery Dive. August 23, 2018.
9. Fleming, Molly. Plastic waste: Why brands need to look beyond the PR opportunity. Marketing Week. February 6, 2018.
10, 21. Peters, Adele. A coalition of giant brands is about to change how we shop forever, with a new zero-waste platform. Fast Company. January 26, 2019.
11. Shayton, Sheila. The Rise of Purpose-Led Brands: Q&A With Accenture Strategy’s Bill Theofilou. Brand Channel. December 5, 2018.
12. Rabin, Roni Caryn. Chemicals in Food May Harm Children, Pediatricians’ Group Says. The New York Times. July 23, 2018.
13. Vembar, Kaarin. Walmart unveils plan to reduce plastic packaging waste. Retail Dive. February 27, 2019.
14. Shu, Catherine. Amazon puts $10M in Closed Loop Fund to make recycling easier in more American cities. TechCrunch. October 16, 2018.
15. Kennedy, Merritt. Attention, Shoppers: Kroger Says It Is Phasing Out Plastic Bags. NPR. August 23, 2018.
16, 23. Butler, Sarah. Ikea commits to phase out single-use plastic products by 2020. The Guardian. June 7, 2018.
17. St. Louis, Molly. 5 Brands That Actually Did Some Good in 2018. Adweek. December 19, 2018.
18. Goldsberry, Clare. Procter & Gamble launches Fairy Ocean Plastic bottle made with 100% recycled plastic. Plastics Today. October 11, 2017.
19. Fleming, Molly. Evian issues call-to-arms to brands to do more on plastic waste. Marketing Week. January 18, 2018.
22. Rosengren, Cole. CPG giants partner on reusable packaging. Retail Dive. January 24, 2019.
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Peanut butter and jelly. Pen and paper. RangeMe Services and Suppliers. Some things are meant to work together. There are many steps to bring a product to market, and it can be daunting for a supplier to figure out how and what is needed to get their product into retail stores. Business and product insurance are one of those needs.

It’s common for suppliers to not know where to begin when it comes to choosing the right insurance provider– let alone any business service provider– and that’s why we launched RangeMe Services. RangeMe partners with the best experts in CPG insurance to help suppliers complete all the necessary steps to get retail ready. Read on to learn firsthand how a supplier, Mahina Cup, connected with insurance provider Bunker on RangeMe Services.

Insurance on the mind

During her time backpacking through India, Mahina Cup founder Alila Grace became starkly aware of the limited access women had to proper menstrual products and how the menstrual products they did have were polluting the country.

As a frequent backpacker, Grace chose to use a menstrual cup because it was easy, sustainable, safe, and a single cup lasted 10 years. The idea for the Mahina Cup was born and Grace worked closely with local Indian women to make bags for the menstrual cups which she sold to other tourists. She also took the time to educate women about their health along the way. Her business moved forward at a casual pace until she put her roots down in Hawaii where she went full steam ahead to bring her product to retail.

The business grew steadily through local sales in Hawaii–until Grace learned about RangeMe, and discovered how it could help boost her business to the next level. She signed up immediately and hasn’t looked back.

“RangeMe has allowed our brand to connect with retailers who are excited to carry something that is local, eco-friendly, and mission-based,” Grace says.

Mahina Cup’s growth expanded quickly, and RangeMe has provided assistance through the process. As a smaller brand, Grace found it nerve-wracking to work with larger service companies. She wanted advice and answers when she had big questions and decisions looming, like who to turn to for insurance, but she wasn’t getting the responses she needed–until RangeMe Services came into play.  

Move over Google Search

In order to get her brand RangeMe Verified, which would show bigger retailers her brand was retail ready, Grace knew Mahina Cup needed insurance. So she began her search for the right insurance provider on RangeMe Services.

“The reason I used RangeMe Services was that it was easy and right there. I didn’t have to do a Google search and research on my own, I just did a RangeMe search,” Grace explains. “I trust RangeMe and know that they are pulling in the best of the best for their suppliers.”

After reaching out to several insurance providers, Grace decided to go with an online insurance broker, Bunker, for multiple reasons. Of the different insurance groups she spoke to, she knew  Bunker was a good fit from the start, as the company specializes in small businesses and helps suppliers with the coverage they need for their next retail contract.

“Once I decided to go with Bunker, they were awesome. They facilitated a connection with a national insurance company and they were always available and responsive.  It’s the personal connection that makes the difference,” Grace says. “I like to feel like if I have questions about insurance, I know where to go now, instead of being sent to a 20-page FAQ.”

“Insurance is an important part of every business relationship, but it can be confusing and intimidating for small businesses to navigate on their own,” said Bunker CEO and Co-Founder, Chad Nitschke. “We try to make the insurance process as comfortable as possible so that people like Alila Grace can focus on building a business that will change the world, and know that we’ll keep it protected.”

With the search for an insurance company behind her, Grace is confident in making the needed decisions to move her company forward, and continue its growth. She’s even utilized RangeMe Services to find a shipping provider to get Mahina Cup where it needs to go. While this process can be intimidating for suppliers, knowing she has the right support systems in place allows Grace the peace of mind to focus on making Mahina Cup the best it can be.  

RangeMe Services is here to help our suppliers reach their goals of getting ready for retail. Explore Bunker and other Service Providers on RangeMe Services here.

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It seems like just yesterday Baby Boomers were the hot topic in consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail. And while they’re still a mighty generation, the conversation has shifted to focus on Millennials, with Gen Z following close behind. (Sorry, Gen X. Looks like we’re getting skipped over…again.)

Millennials have surpassed Boomers as the largest generation, and both Millennials and Gen Z have been raised with a shopping mentality that vastly differs from generations before them. (Gen Z, for example, has never not known online shopping.) And for retailers, that means that they’ve got to redefine their approach to consumers. Baby Boomers shop one way, and the younger generations another. The challenge is that the two exist simultaneously, and while retailers are well-versed in attracting Boomers, new strategies are needed to attract the younger generations.

But to do that, retailers have to first understand the new generations they’re courting.

To know them is to love them

Millennials, says Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillan Doolittle, still like to shop at retail stores. But, he adds, “They are more channel agnostic—however it is most efficient to get their shopping done. That means they are shopping more stores and channels and are used to almost unlimited choice. They are huge sharers, so social media tools are critical.”

Technology is critical to connecting with Millennials, and retailers must have it in their toolkit. “Millennials have grown up in a world with technological convenience and personalization, and expect that when interacting with retail brands,” says Courtney Albert, director of Innovation and Marketing for the Parker Avery Group. Millennials, she adds, are looking for retailers that align with their lives and expectations, not the other way around.

Technology is also critical, perhaps even more so, to connecting with Gen Z. “This is the generation that does not remember a time without the Internet and a digital presence,” Albert notes. “Their lives are an open book, and because of this transparency, they expect the same from brands and retailers.” Like Millennials, Gen Z also has the expectation that they will interact with retail brands, just as they would with family or friends, via the same channels, Albert adds.

These digital natives, Stern notes, are increasingly mobile-driven. “They have grown up with, and live on, mobile devices,” he says.

Retailers respond

Knowing this information about these two generations, it’s up to retailers to make sure they’re meeting Millennials and Gen Z where they are. And investing in technology is the first step in that meeting.

“There has to be more interaction and crowdsourcing, giving them the opportunity to help shape the brand,” Albert says. A retailer’s strategy must go beyond leaving a review or sharing experiences, she says. It’s got to be about connecting and interacting with other customers without a middleman, or investing in services like buy online/pickup in store or subscription services. This, Albert says, “offers time-saving and easy transactions that fit into the lifestyles of these shoppers, especially Millennials.” In-store investments that create more open spaces, offer free wifi, and floor resets that provide a new experience on every visit appeal to Gen Z consumers who gravitate to in-store, Albert adds. “This might seem counterintuitive because of their substantial online presence, but retailers are winning them over with things like pop-up shops that feature influencers or one-of-a-kind experiences,” she says.

But what about those retailers who aren’t yet focusing on Millennials and Gen Z? Our experts have some words of wisdom for them in my next post. Stay tuned!

*Why yes, I do realize that the demographic I’m discussing may or may not get the play on the slogan I used to title this post.  

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Consumers are hungry for healthy, convenient foods – and the foodservice industry is proving it can deliver.

According to recent figures, the U.S. consumer foodservice market reached $587 billion in 2018 and experts predict sales will exceed $633 billion by 2020, representing an impressive 8% increase.1 Market value of consumer foodservice in the United States from 2015 to 2020 (in million U.S. dollars). Statista. 2019.

Foodservice offerings located within grocery stores can fuel sales, as shoppers demand more fresh foods and better-for-you groceries found around the store’s perimeter. Supermarket prepared foods and in-store dining have grown nearly 30% since 2008, accounting for 2.4 billion foodservice visits and $10 billion in consumer spending in 2015.2 Skrovan, Sandy. Supermarket foodservice goes upscale: Will shoppers bite? Grocery Dive. March 6, 2017. In addition, the commercial foodservice industry serves hotels, airlines, hospitals, university campuses and casinos.

Earlier this month RangeMe parent ECRM hosted a Foodservice at Retail efficient program planning session (EPPS), and a Commercial Foodservice EPPS in Braselton, Georgia, to address the needs of various foodservice stakeholders.

The retail-focused event connected buyers from retailers like Amazon, Kroger and UNFI/Supervalu with food and beverage suppliers of ingredients, prepared foods, equipment and supplies, and grab-and-go meal options. The commercial event attracted buyers from companies like AMI Inflight, Inc., Desert Diamond Casinos and Joey Restaurant Group.

Both events connected foodservice buyers and suppliers and discussed exactly what’s in demand for effective product discovery and strategic sourcing while proactively adapting to emerging trends to stay competitive.

In addition to roundtable discussions about the latest industry trends, the events’ highlights included news about:

  • Grocerants: Kelley Fechner, Director – Customer Solutions at Datassential shared her predictions on how grocerants (restaurants inside grocery stores) will evolve over the next decade to drive traffic amid increasing competition and complexity.

  • Better-for-you megatrend: Michael Hahn, General Manager at Diversified Marketing shared practical tips for retailers to adapt their foodservice offerings to capitalize on unrelenting consumer demand for healthy food and beverage items.

  • Market forces: Stephanie Nicklos, Director of Foodservice at ECRM, shared a strategic overview of external factors that challenge retail foodservice growth and how to adapt, including embracing online sales, home delivery and restaurants.

  • Competitive differentiation: David Arens, Divisional Merchandise Manager – Consumables at Exchange spoke about the power of competing with creative and unique on-premise foodservice offerings that drive traffic to retail stores.

  • Talent management: At the Commercial Foodservice EPPS, Donald Burns, Founder and CEO of Off the Range Ventures, LLC shared his proven experience and tips to help foodservice companies attract, train, and retain top talent.

Unlike trade shows, these EPPS sessions allowed foodservice stakeholders to share information ahead of time to match buyer needs to supplier offerings. Attendees received a curated list of appointments that allow productive, focused one-one-on discussions designed to ensure a good fit that could drive business.

Attending EPPS session helps suppliers, retailers and foodservice companies set themselves up for success. As consumers seek convenient, local, culinary and healthy food offerings, companies in the foodservice industry can collaborate to deliver a unique consumer experience to drive revenue and long-term loyalty.

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1. Market value of consumer foodservice in the United States from 2015 to 2020 (in million U.S. dollars). Statista. 2019.
2. Skrovan, Sandy. Supermarket foodservice goes upscale: Will shoppers bite? Grocery Dive. March 6, 2017.
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Kellogg’s recently released a new cereal called Caticorn.

In case you’re not a nine-year-old, a caticorn is a cross between a cat and a unicorn and is the ultimate in mythical creature cuteness these days. So naturally, they should be made into a cereal.

And not just any cereal, but a cereal that is pink and berry flavored and sprinkled with edible glitter.

Because who doesn’t need a little more glitter at breakfast time? Especially on those days you really don’t want to go to work. If that’s not an innovative way to make someone happy in the morning, I don’t know what is.

Needless to say, it got me thinking about new products. (Shocking, I know.) Pink, berry flavored, glitter covered cereal—that’s a little out there. But being “out there” is what gets people’s attention, right? It certainly got mine.

But at what point does a little off-the-wall cross the line into plain wacky? And how long can wacky products really last?

Let’s look at some info on consumer packaged goods (CPG): As shoppers, we buy the same products over and over and over again (about 150 of the same products, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review). As suppliers, the article notes, 75 percent won’t hit the $7.5 million mark in their first year of sales.1 https://hbr.org/2011/04/why-most-product-launches-fail

Just looking at those two facts alone can have a lot of people about to launch new products biting their nails and looking around worriedly. Add in the fact that you have a product that some might consider downright weird, and the odds of a successful product launch can shrink even further.

Does that mean that people with oddball ideas should just keep them quiet and leave the marketplace to more staid CPG products?

No! Obviously not, otherwise how boring would that be? Ugh. Grocery shopping would be terrible without any new products to peruse, and we’d all end up bored wandering the aisles, zombie-like, remembering the halcyon days of when new oatmeal flavors were introduced on the regular. And maybe that new flavor wasn’t our preference, but maybe we’d be willing to give it a try once in a while. Because what may seem wacky and weird to one person is innovative and amazing to another. It’s all in the eye—and taste buds, or sense of smell—of the beholder.

But if your product is a little “out there” or is so out-of-the-box it’s not even a recognizable shape, be realistic about its prospects, and be realistic about what the product can and can’t do, what it is, and what it isn’t, who it’s for, and who it isn’t for. Kellogg’s, to go back to them, for example, probably realizes that after the novelty of glitter cereal wears off, all consumers will be left with is  residual glitter that will inevitably wind up in their homes (because glitter. gets. everywhere. no matter how hard you try and keep it at bay). So unfortunately (maybe?) for all of us, Caticorn cereal is a limited-time-only product. But who knows, maybe if Caticorn cereal is an off-the-charts hit it could become a regular in the Kellogg’s lineup—rather than a product that is here and gone almost as fast as its mythical counterpart.

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1. https://hbr.org/2011/04/why-most-product-launches-fail
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Keto? Vegan? Paleo? Gluten-free? With all the different diets out there claiming to improve your health, it’s difficult for consumers to determine which diet to follow. But what diet works for one consumer may not work for another. Enter Viome: an at-home test kit that determines your gut’s microbiome health who is disrupting the traditional notion of “diet” and what food is best for you.

Learn how this innovative health brand leveraged the retailer connections they made on RangeMe to transform their business from an e-commerce brand to a shelf-ready product you can find in stores.

Not all diets are alike, nor should they be

“Your microbiome is dramatically different from person to person,” says Rob Pellow, account manager at Viome. “We all share 99.9% of human DNA, which makes us very similar in that regard, but we probably share less than 1% of our microbiome. We’re very different.”

Viome’s at-home test starts with a customer sending in their sample which Viome studies to identify all organisms in their gut. The technology assesses whether or not these organisms are producing nutrients or toxins from the foods the customer consumes. The information is sent to Viome’s AI engine which recommends a personalized diet a customer should follow in order to achieve a balanced gut.

From doorstep to store shelf

While shopping for groceries at a Whole Foods Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for participants of a scientific study she was conducting for Viome, Alison Sjue spotted a bright blue RangeMe flyer. The flyer touted the benefits of RangeMe, encouraging suppliers to get their products in stores. After reading it, she immediately thought, “You’re damn right our products should be on shelves here.” That flyer was the turning point for Viome.

After joining RangeMe, a potential new sales channel presented itself: brick-and-mortar retail stores. After posting their products on RangeMe, a major drug store retailer reached out to Viome to bring them on for a pilot.

“This retailer was our first push to provide a product that was shelf ready that had enough support behind it to make Viome ready for in-person commerce,” says Sjue the Project Manager at Viome.

To bring their complex product to retail, Viome’s challenge was educating consumers on what, exactly, Viome is. When a kit is ordered directly from Viome’s website, consumers are already familiar with Viome’s purpose. The Viome kit arrives in a sleek black box with no information other than the company name, and customers register online to have their results processed.

But that wouldn’t work on a store shelf, where Viome needed not only to set itself apart but also educate and connect with consumers via their packaging. ”We’re not Apple, we can’t put an iconic black box on a shelf and expect shoppers to know what Viome is,” Sjue jokes.

To help shoppers understand what they are buying, Viome created a packaging sleeve presenting information about the company and product. Inside includes straight-forward instructions. The team also placed motion-activated video players next to the product on shelves to elevate the learning experience.

“We completely changed our shopping cart and registration experience to accommodate the retailer and make it an easier experience for everyone,” says Sjue.

How Viome uses RangeMe to grow

RangeMe has helped Viome change the way their business operates by moving from an online-only brand to selling a product within retail stores.

“We went from cold calling and little success to bringing on people like Rob to manage our distribution, marketing, and sales,” Sjue says. “RangeMe has not only allowed Viome to grow, it has also encouraged the company to expand, in a scalable and easy way.”

And expansion means more name recognition. It may not be the household name of Apple just yet but Viome is steadily growing and reaching more consumers every day. Viome became RangeMe Verified which played a big part in creating more visibility for the brand to get in front of some retailers, and having other retailers reach out to them. And that’s a great feeling.

“Nothing,” Sjue says, “feels better than a buyer seeking you out.”

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Although grocery shelves are currently stocked  with chocolate bunnies in anticipation of Easter, consumers have grown less willing to fill their shopping carts with products high in sugar. Americans’ per capita consumption of sugar and other caloric sweeteners fell in 2017 for the third straight year, and the use of refined sugar has also declined.1 Siegner, Cathy. 70% of US adults are concerned about sugar consumption, study finds. Food Dive. December 13, 2018. Here’s a look at the emerging trend toward less sugar so grocery retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) suppliers can keep up with consumers’ evolving tastes.

Experts speak up about sugar

As recent studies have linked sugar to health concerns, medical experts have become more vocal about sugar’s harms. Most notably, last month the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Heart Association (AHA) called for taxes on sodas and energy drinks, which are leading sources of sugar in the diets of children and teens.2 Thompson, Dennis. Major Medical Groups Call for Soda Taxes. WebMD. March 25, 2019.


The average child consumes 30 pounds of sugar
from sugary drinks per year – enough to fill a small bathtub
3 Thompson, Dennis. Major Medical Groups Call for Soda Taxes. WebMD. March 25, 2019.

Excess sugar in kids’ diets has contributed to soaring childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes, and experts also link sugar to tooth decay, heart disease, fatty liver disease and even death among children and teens.4 Gibson, Kate. Tax sugary drinks, urge pediatricians and Heart Association. CBS News. March 25. 2019. That’s why, by 2020, the new Nutrition Facts product label will be required on all food and beverage packaging, and it will require manufacturers to specify the amount of added sugar in each item.5 Siegner, Cathy. 70% of US adults are concerned about sugar consumption, study finds. Food Dive. December 13, 2018.


Informed consumers shun sugar

As consumers have gained transparent access to more detailed product data than ever before, they have become more informed about their food choices, including reasons to reduce their sugar consumption. A new Ipsos study found 70% of Americans are  concerned about the level of sugar in their diets. Categories of sugary foods that concern respondents the most are soda and carbonated beverages; juices; candy; desserts; canned fruit; condiments; and flavored coffee.6 Siegner, Cathy. 70% of US adults are concerned about sugar consumption, study finds. Food Dive. December 13, 2018.

In the meantime, the booming trend toward a health and wellness lifestyle and natural foods has sparked sales of low-sugar, high-fat ketogenic (keto) diet products. Last year the global keto market accounted for $9 billion in sales and is expected to exceed $12 billion in 2024, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 5.3%.7 Ketogenic Diet Food Market – Segmented by Type (Supplements, Beverage and Meals), Distribution channel (Hyper/Super Market, Food & Drink Specialists Store, Convenience Stores and Others) and Geography – Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2019 – 2024). Mordor Intelligence. September 2018.

Low-sugar innovations

In response to consumer demand for less sugar, CPG suppliers are reformulating their existing recipes and creating low-sugar product innovations.  Grocery retailers and suppliers also have adapted to the declining demand for sugar across diverse grocery categories:

  • Amazon recently announced plans to lower costs of Whole Foods products, including keto-friendly foods for sugar-conscious consumers.8 Amazon to Boost Grocery Presence With Price Cut Strategy. Zacks Equity Research April 02, 2019.
  • Kroger announced its product development team is working on developing healthier foods, including products with lower sugar content like seltzer waters and light agave syrup.9 Chayes-Wida, Erica. Kroger reveals the hottest healthy foods coming to grocery stores in 2019. Today. October 28, 2018.
  • Starbucks revamped its Frappuccino recipe to appeal to consumers seeking fewer calories and less sugar.10 Chayes-Wida, Erica. Starbucks is changing the formula of its classic Frappuccino — here’s why. Today. September 5, 2018.
  • PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have experimented with new and better-for-you options including Pure Leaf iced herbal tea and smartwater antioxidant, respectively, to convey a healthier image and enhance sales.11 Siegner, Cathy. 70% of US adults are concerned about sugar consumption, study finds. Food Dive. December 13, 2018.
    12 Gillettpepsicola.com 13 Moye, Jay. Introducing smartwater antioxidant and smartwater alkaline: Enhanced Premium Water Offerings Hit West Coast This Month. Coca-colacompany.com. October 8, 2018.
  • Nestlé has developed a new type of sugar the company says can reduce sugar use in chocolate bars by 30%.14 Siegner, Cathy. 70% of US adults are concerned about sugar consumption, study finds. Food Dive. December 13, 2018.  
  • Mondelez announced plans to launch a Cadbury bar containing 30% less sugar.15 Eagle, Jenny. Reaction as Mondelez to launch 30% less sugar Cadbury bar. Confectionery News. July 20, 2018.
  • Kellogg agreed to the sale of its Keebler cookies brand to Ferrero in order to focus on cereals and snacks, and adapt to rising demand for low-sugar, healthier items.16 Kellogg agrees $1.3 billion cookie sale with Nutella-maker Ferrero. RTE. April 2, 2019.
  • Mars Wrigley Confectionery released low-sugar, high-protein versions of Mars and Snickers chocolate bars in the UK to adapt to changing consumer tastes.17 Tatum, Megan. Mars & Snickers bars to get less sugar and more protein. The Grocer. September 28, 2018.
  • Tyson Foods has expanded beyond meat processing by investing in a startup that sells mushroom-based food ingredients to reduce sugar content without compromising taste and nutrition.18 Harsch, Jonathan H. Customer demand revolutionizing the food supply chain. AgriPulse. March 4, 2019.

These findings show that the trend toward less sugar in CPG products is pervasive across grocery categories and unlikely to subside anytime soon.  As a result, grocery retailers and CPG suppliers may wish to consider how effectively their assortments reflect this consumer trend so they can adapt their products and stay competitive to ensure a sweet bottom line.

   [ + ]

1, 5, 6, 14. Siegner, Cathy. 70% of US adults are concerned about sugar consumption, study finds. Food Dive. December 13, 2018.
2. Thompson, Dennis. Major Medical Groups Call for Soda Taxes. WebMD. March 25, 2019.
3. Thompson, Dennis. Major Medical Groups Call for Soda Taxes. WebMD. March 25, 2019.
4. Gibson, Kate. Tax sugary drinks, urge pediatricians and Heart Association. CBS News. March 25. 2019.
7. Ketogenic Diet Food Market – Segmented by Type (Supplements, Beverage and Meals), Distribution channel (Hyper/Super Market, Food & Drink Specialists Store, Convenience Stores and Others) and Geography – Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2019 – 2024). Mordor Intelligence. September 2018.
8. Amazon to Boost Grocery Presence With Price Cut Strategy. Zacks Equity Research April 02, 2019.
9. Chayes-Wida, Erica. Kroger reveals the hottest healthy foods coming to grocery stores in 2019. Today. October 28, 2018.
10. Chayes-Wida, Erica. Starbucks is changing the formula of its classic Frappuccino — here’s why. Today. September 5, 2018.
11. Siegner, Cathy. 70% of US adults are concerned about sugar consumption, study finds. Food Dive. December 13, 2018.
12. Gillettpepsicola.com
13. Moye, Jay. Introducing smartwater antioxidant and smartwater alkaline: Enhanced Premium Water Offerings Hit West Coast This Month. Coca-colacompany.com. October 8, 2018.
15. Eagle, Jenny. Reaction as Mondelez to launch 30% less sugar Cadbury bar. Confectionery News. July 20, 2018.
16. Kellogg agrees $1.3 billion cookie sale with Nutella-maker Ferrero. RTE. April 2, 2019.
17. Tatum, Megan. Mars & Snickers bars to get less sugar and more protein. The Grocer. September 28, 2018.
18. Harsch, Jonathan H. Customer demand revolutionizing the food supply chain. AgriPulse. March 4, 2019.
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I recently read about Secret Deodorant’s new casting call for its “All Strength, No Sweat” campaign, which plans to use inspiring stories from real-life women while unveiling four new products.  

Storytelling is all the rage these days. Brands are using this powerful marketing tool for the three Cs (as I call them)—catching, connecting, and convincing consumers that their products are exactly what they need. Grey Goose, Huggies, and Maltesers have all seen success from the use of storytelling, and countless other CPG brands are heading fast and furious down the storytelling path.

But if you’re still not convinced your brand needs to embrace storytelling as part of your marketing plan, here are three reasons why you should be.

1.     It forces you to focus. Storytelling helps you engage better with consumers, and can create a deeper connection, but not if you can’t get to the point quickly. You only have a few seconds to grab a consumer’s attention and hold it long enough to relay your brand’s attributes. You’re not sitting around a campfire sharing long, rambling stories of yore, after all. If you have 30 seconds to tell a story, you have to really hone in on those brand attributes that are imperative to share and tighten that connection with the consumer.

2.     It sets you apart. Does your brand have an interesting origin story? Are there things about your brand that none of your competition can match? Of course you do, and of course there are! But unless you can craft the delivery of those attributes in an interesting way, your customers may never know. And that’s where storytelling comes in. Instead of force-feeding these interesting tidbits about your brand to your consumer, going for the hard-sell, if you will, when you share them via storytelling, you differentiate yourself from the competition, bringing consumers in as you share a piece of yourself, and inviting them to do the same. You’re not telling consumers what they need, you’re helping them expand their world.

3.     It puts your consumer first. In the age of personalization, where consumers want any and all information tailored to meet their needs, storytelling allows brands the opportunity to do just that. If one of the essential points of storytelling is to connect with consumers, a brand can’t share just any old story, or a story consumers have heard so many times they could practically tell it themselves. Brands need to think about what their consumers want to know, and what they need to hear, and curate their story to meet those needs.

When a brand wants to catch, connect, and convince consumers, storytelling is the marketing tool of choice today. If you’re not using it for your brand, chances are you’re missing out on so many opportunities to show your consumers that they matter, and that you’re listening.

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