Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday Fishwrap

End-of-the-week industry news, information and ideas

It's Not Your Grandmother's Pumpkin Pie: Fall Harvest Spirits and Craft Beers Take Their Inspiration from Pumpkins

Fall not only marks a change in the seasons and signals the upcoming holidays, it also is a time when numerous food and beverage companies introduce fall-themed products and promotions. Fall also is a time when food retailers create fall harvest themed promotions in their stores using many of these products introduced by their suppliers. We've found a few new fall-themed adult beverage products we believe deserve highlighting, which we do below for our readers.

Upscale, Infused Vodka's Kick-Off Fall and Holiday Season

Modern Spirits Artisan Vodka, a small, artisan vodka producer based in Monrovia, California, has created three all-natural flavor-infused vodka's for the fall season.

The spirits company's first fall creation is called Pumpkin Pie. The vodka is infused with pumpkin puree and the spices cinnamon and nutmeg. It's a slightly yellow-orange color--just like a real pumpkin pie--but is subtle and not overwhelming in its taste.

The vodka brand's creators suggest enjoying the Pumpkin Pie vodka cold as a sipping vodka (great after a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner they say), or in one of the numerous cocktail recipes found at their website.

For example, their Everything Nice cocktail was created just for fall--and for the holiday season. The cocktail calls for 2 ounces Pumpkin Pie vodka, 1 ounce heavy cream, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and a dash of orange liqueur. They suggest serving it in a graham cracker-rimmed martini glass for a festive flair. We think you can skip desert and just have the Everything Nice cocktail after your holiday dinner. After all, It does sound as much like a Thanksgiving or Christmas after-dinner desert as it does a cocktail.

The second fall harvest season infused Vodka produced by the artisan company is Candied Ginger. It's described by its producers as "sweet and demure one moment and assertive the next." It sounds to use like an interesting Christmas Eve drink.

The third infused Vodka for Fall is for the many chocolate lovers who also like a shot of premium vodka. Chocolate Orange Vodka is a combination of premium dark chocolate and the heart of a fresh, ripe orange. The company says chocolate-orange infused vodka will remind drinkers of fall all year round. The creation of the premium chocolate-infused drink also is good timing. The chocolate market--especially premium dark chocolate products--is booming, and the combination of chocolate-infused cocktails, such as martini's, is all the rage in bars, clubs and restaurants.

Modern Spirits Artisan Vodka was created by a husband and wife team, Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew. Both are foodies and didn't like the taste of straight vodka. They began experimenting with various flavor infusions at home for their personal use, and before long started a company based on the idea of infusing vodka with various natural ingredients.

The company produces and markets numerous infused vodka's in addition to the three fall flavors described above. These varieties include: Celery Peppercorn, Pear Lavender, Three Tea, Black Truffle, Grapefruit Honey, and others.

Being foodies the couple also creates their vodka varieties with an eye towards pairing them with food as well as for sipping. You can read more about the company, their infused vodka's, and get recipes (food-pairing and cocktail) and other information here at the specialty vodka company's website.

Fall Harvest Craft Beers

Pumpkin and Beer: A Sweet and Spicy New Trend

Pumpkin Beer is all the rage this fall season. Breweries of all sizes are crafting pumpkin beers as the popularity of the specialty brews has been growing for the past few years.

The Kansas City Star reports that "pumpkin beer was a fad that became a consumer trend that became a full-blown seasonal right of passage, one glass of liquid pumpkin pie at a time."
Making pumpkin beer isn't new--even George Washington crafted the spicy brew. But what's new is its popularity. In the fall of 1986 Bill Owens, owner of Buffalo Bill's Brewery, a craft beer company in Hayward, California, commercially made and distributed the first pumpkin beer in 200-plus years. Since then brewers large and small have produced and distributed the fall-themed beer to much success, especially in the last few years.

Retailers also are cashing in on the trend, offering selections of and promoting pumpkin beer from various craft breweries during the fall season. "Tad Brewer (yes, his real last name), a beer manager at the Lukas Liquor Superstore in Kansas City, told the Kansas City Star he's seen the growth of pumpkin beers over the last few years. "People get a taste for it," Brewer said, "and it just keeps going. "When you think of beer, you don't normally think of pumpkin. It strikes a little intrigue. But we sold twice the amount we did last year, in just a few weeks." Read the full story from the Kansas City Star here.

Hold The Pumpkin, But Add Fresh Hops: Unique New Fall Craft Beers

Just like the farmer, food producer, chef, winemaker and food retailer, fall is an important time to the beer brewer. Two of the four primary ingredients in beer--hops and barley--grow in the fields and are harvested in early fall. For centuries brewers throughout the world have created and introduced new beers in the fall--including special fall-only brews. Below are a few new craft beers which have come to our attention for the fall season market.

One of the most interesting new developments for beer brewers in terms of celebrating fall harvest season, and introducing new beers for the season, is the adding of fresh picked hops to the brew kettle. This new, fall-style of beer goes by a number of names: fresh hop beers, wet hop beers, harvest ales. or "Lupulin Nouveau," which is a play on words to Beaujolais Nouveau wine, and to lupulin, which is the sticky, fragrant yellow powder that clings to hop flowers.

Chico, California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was the first brewery in the U.S. to make fresh hop beer, with the introduction of its popular Harvest Ale in 1996. Until this year, Harvest Ale fresh hop beer was only available in draft for sales to bars and pubs. However, it's been such a popular fall harvest brew the company decided this year to produce four-times as much of the beer as they normally do, and to make it available nationwide at retail in the U.S. in 24oz bottles.

According to beer experts, fresh hop beers like Sierra Nevada's Harvest Ale are a truly fresh product. They change flavor every day they sit in the brewing tank, the keg or the bottle in the store or at home. As such, the beers--like Beaujolais Nouveau wines--are best drank right away.

For the brewer, the process of making the fresh hop fall beers is time consuming and as much art as science. They spend much more time than they do in making other beers. The key for the brewmaster is to try as best he or she can to get a taste balance between the malt and barley in the beer and the fresh hops, which normally aren't used in beer making.

Fall...And Food & Beverage Retailing

Sensory Marketing: Starbucks' Secret is Partly in the Aroma

Nothing says fall is here more than freshly-brewed coffee drinks. Be they a basic espresso or cappuccino, or newer, fancy coffee drinks made by the likes of Starbucks.

In fact, it seems Starbucks has cornered the market these days on creating and marketing upscale coffee drinks in their popular retail stores. The phenomenal success of this coffee retailer lies however not only in the taste of its numerous varieties of popular coffee drinks, but also in the aroma they create throughout the store, appealing to consumers' sense of smell.

"One of the keys to the phenomenal success of Starbucks has been that its stores offer a consistent and appealing sensory experience," writes Roger Dooley in his Neuromarketing blog "The music, colors, and lighting are all important, but clearly the wonderful coffee aroma is what dominates ones senses on entering a Starbucks outlet," Dooley writes.

In other words, much of the key to Starbuck's retail success comes from the aroma the coffee retailer creates in its stores. In the story in his Neuromarketing blog (11-01-07), Dooley talks about research that shows 60% of the sensory experience of drinking coffee beverages comes from the retail environment--including the aroma retailers like Starbucks intentionally create in their coffee brewing process.

We tend to agree the aroma in a cafe like Starbucks has a certain sensory effect not found when brewing coffee or espresso in the kitchen at home. Regardless of the quality of coffee we use to make a coffee drink, the kitchen just doesn't take on the aroma of a cafe. That has to do with lots of things--the difference between commercial and home coffee brewing equipment, the higher brewing temperatures used by retail cafes, and of course the sheer volume of coffee drinks the coffee retailers make compared to what you make at home.

In his piece, Dooley also talks about what food and beverage giant Nestle is doing with its Nespresso coffee subsidiary, to bring the enticing aroma of the cafe into consumers' kitchens via its new generation coffee brewing and espresso machines. Nestle figures if they can make your kitchen smell like a Starbucks cafe then you are more likely to drink--and buy--more coffee. And if you use their "cafe style" machine you need to buy your coffee from them. It's sensory marketing at its best in many ways, and a good lesson to all marketers that taste is far from the only sense consumers use when choosing what they buy and where they go for prepared foods and beverages.

Food Retailing and Fall: European-Style Food Halls
In Europe, Upscale food halls begin to team with fall and holiday specialty and gourmet foods in November. Fall harvest beers, wines, breads, biscuits, cheeses, deserts, confections, holiday gift baskets and other foods begin to line the shelves and fill-out bountiful displays throughout the food hall departments. Caviar, smoked fish, truffles, champagnes and other luxury foods and beverages for the Christmas season take center stage in the fall.

Fall promotions also are plentiful--as are Christmas and New Years'-themed events. Seasonal foods and beverages, special for the holidays, are sampled in-store as a tradition. The retail environment in these food halls makes shoppers feel ready for the change of seasons, from summer to fall--and gets them in a holiday mood.

United Kingdom-based 300 year old department store retailer Fortnum and Mason operates what arguably are the most famous of all European food halls. It's food emporium, located in the department store on Pickadilly in London, is a food lover's and shopper's paradise. The food hall holds daily high teas throughout the year, serving only the finest teas, biscuits, scones, preserves and marmalades.

A store employee builds a display of Fortnum and Mason brand tea in the London store's food hall. F&M brand tea, the retailer's own, is sold throughout the world and considered one of the best quality premium teas on the market.

During the fall months of November and December, Fortnum and Mason is jam-packed with seasonal and holiday foods and beverages (and shoppers). The food hall also is decorated in fall and Christmas holiday themes. Fortnum and Mason is the "official" holiday food shopping venue for the British royal family. The upscale retailer was awarded official warrants decades ago naming it the "Queen's food retailer."

Another famous British food hall retailer, Harrods, goes equally all out in its fall and Christmas holiday merchandising in November and December. Harrods is the largest department store operator in the UK. The retailer's food hall is packed with upscale spirits and wines for the holidays, along with foods of every type, including fresh produce and cheeses and meats. Like at Fortnum and Mason, high-end luxury foods and beverages take center stage.

The fresh foods section at Harrod's food hall in it's London flagship department store.

Gourmet confections, especially premium chocolates, play a big merchandising and display role at Harrod's in the fall, as well as throughout the year. High-end chocolates from throughout the world are offered, with prices ranging from reasonable, to others having prices that well exceed the cost of a month's rent for most Brits.

A new entry into the UK's popular food hall merchandising format is the John Lewis Department Store chain, which also owns Britain's premier upscale grocer, Waitrose. John Lewis opened its first department store food hall on Oxford Street in London last month. It's been very successful, and the company says it plans on opening more food halls in some of its other UK department stores. Since John Lewis owns Waitrose, it's leveraging that experience in specialty, gourmet, ethnic, natural and organic retailing for its new food hall operation.

The John Lewis/Waitrose food hall is putting a major emphasis on seasonal and locally- sourced fresh as well as packaged goods for the fall and holiday season. For fall the upscale retailer is featuring numerous harvest-themed fresh and packaged foods and beverages: fresh produce, meats and cheeses; gourmet and ethnic seasonal packaged foods; and wines, beers, spirits, juices, and fresh fruit-infused sparkling beverages, along with numerous other seasonal and holiday delights.

British-based food blogger Julia Parsons, who lives in Kent, England, and works near the new John Lewis food hall, has a well-written piece in her blog, A Slice of Cherry Pie, about the new food hall. It's an informative and good first-person account.

In addition to the UK, upscale department store-based food halls are popular in France and Germany. In Berlin, Germany, the famous KaDeWe food hall, located in the basement of the department store, packs more fresh and packaged foods, beverages, cheeses and other goods into it's 7,000 square-feet than perhaps does any other food store in the world. Its gourmet floor contains specialty and gourmet foods and beverages from throughout the world. Ethnic food products are a big offering as well.

KaDeWe gets into the fall and Christmas holiday season in a big way. German-made breads, confections, cookies and other domestic foods and beverages share space with fall and holiday delights from throughout Europe, Asia and North America, including the U.S. (For a good overview of the KaDeWe food hall and its product selection read this article from the Gourmet Retailer magazine.)

One of the grandest food hall operators in the world is France's Galeries Lafayette, which is the largest department store retailer in Europe. The upscale retailer has 65 department stores in France and one in Berlin, Germany. It's Paris flagship store, a 10-story classical wonder, has a huge food hall offering fresh and packaged foods and beverages from all over the world. Nothing is too upscale or exotic for the food hall to merchandise. French wines and foods have massive displays in the food hall in recognition of the country's reputation as a gastronomic powerhouse. It's Berlin department store also has a grand food hall, nearly on-par with the one in the Paris store. Most of the retailer's other department stores have food halls as well, although not quite as grand as the ones in the Paris flagship and Berlin stores.

The food hall in the Paris, France Galeries Layfayette department store features a white table cloth restaurant, along with a number of more casual restuarants in-store.
In the Paris and Berlin stores in particular, but in others as well, Galeries Layfayette makes a merchandising splash for the fall and Christmas holiday season. Currently, the food halls are featuring lots of French fall foods and wines, reflecting on the fact that France is the largest agricultural producing region in Western Europe. Fall gourmet cheeses, winter wines, rustic fresh breads and more are making a splash, merchandised lavishly in the food court.

Europe isn't the only region in the world where food halls are growing in popularity. In Japan, the European invention is becoming extremely popular. Upscale food halls in the basements of department stores in Tokyo and other Japanese cities are drawing throngs of shoppers of all ages. Food & Wine magazine describes the scene as hectic and exciting in these Japanese food halls, which offer foods from Europe, the United States, Australia and other nations in addition to Japanese-produced foods and foods from other Asian countries. (Read more about how the European food hall concept is sweeping Japan here.)

For fall, the Japanese department store food halls are featuring lots of European foods: fresh sausages, cookies, confections and beers from Germany and the UK; cheeses,wines and other foods from France; hearty foods and sauces from Italy; and olive oils and other fall foods from Spain to name but a few offerings.

The department store food hall format has only seen moderate operations in the U.S. Upscale department store retailers like Macy's, Nieman Marcus, Marshall Fielsd and a few others operate modified food halls in a number of their urban stores in cities like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Dallas and others.

Macy's probably comes closest to a full-scale European-type food hall in its New York City and San Francisco department stores, which have large specialty and gourmet food departments named The Cellar. Macy's has The Cellar food departments in all its stores, but the New York and San Francisco departments are the largest and most extensive in terms of product selection.

Numerous large cities in the U.S. also have what are called market halls, which are similar to a food hall but different in that they aren't located in a department store, and rather than being operated by a single entity, each of the vendors in the market hall is an independent operator.

Public markets--like Pikes in Seattle, Washington and Ferry Plaza in San Francisco, also are growing in popularity in the U.S. These two particular public markets are huge buildings, featuring food vendors of every type. Like the market halls, and unlike the European food halls, the public market vendors are all independent like the market hall retailers. Despite this fact, the large public markets are very similar to the European food halls in terms of product selection, quality and offerings, although they feature more natural and organic foods, and a much larger selection of fresh produce, meats and seafood.

Grocer Whole Foods Market has adopted the European food hall format for its new store in Oakland, California. The stand-alone, food hall-style store's design was influenced to a large degree by the Galeries Layfayette food hall in Berlin, Germany, according to the grocer. However, the new Oakland Whole Foods' food hall store has a very local focus, celebrating the San Francisco Bay Area's status as a major trend setter in the food world. The store/food hall is an excellent nod to the European food hall in design, while putting a local focus in its merchandising.

Fortum and Mason recently announced it plans on building a large department store in New York City. The store would include a large European-style food hall, featuring the retailer's Fortum & Mason brand specialty and gourmet packaged foods, along with specialty foods from throughout the world, as well as those produced in the U.S.

If The British retailer builds this store with the food hall in Manhattan as it says it will, it could act as an impetus for U.S.-based department store retailers to look more closely at creating (or expanding) food halls in their U.S. stores. Although somewhat modified from the European model, Macy's The Cellar is one of the retailer's highest grossing departments in many of its U.S. stores.

Fall 2008 would be a good time for Fortum and Mason to open its New York City department store food hall--just in time to feature in the U.S. the fall harvest bounty of international foods and beverages that the food halls throughout Europe feature so well.

No comments: