Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Food & Politics Memo: U.S. Presidential Candidates and Grocery Stores, An NSFM Friday Fishwrap Redux

In our February 29 edition of our semi-regular Friday Fishwrap column we wrote a brief piece or item titled: "Election Year Memo: Presidential Candidates and Grocery Stores," in which we matched each candidate for U.S. President at the time up with which grocery stores they would shop at, and which supermarket chains potential voters for each candidate shop at. The piece is reprinted below in italics:

Election Year Memo: Presidential Candidates As Grocery Stores

Speaking of U.S. candidates for President (we like segways. Not the scooters, the word transitions.) Our evenings of late have been consumed primarily by two activities: writing this blog and watching the Presidential debates and related coverage. So, naturally, we got to thinking about what the Democratic and Republican candidates for President have in common with grocery stores or supermarkets.

As a result, we bring you our very own version of, "Presidential Candidates and Grocery Stores:"

Barack Obama: Obama is the Whole Foods Market, Inc. candidate. Like a Whole Foods' store Barack is eclectic, smooth, thoughtful and urbane. But, like Whole Foods, Obama also comes from humble origins. Whole Foods targets its stores primarily to the well-educated; college grads and post-grads. College educated Democrats are choosing Obama over Clinton big time.

But, also like Whole Foods Market, Obama does not want to be viewed as elitist, which he isn't. He wants organic foods for everyone, just like Whole Foods' does. And, he is appealing more and more these days to lower and middle income Democrats. Just like at Whole Foods,' the message is important.

Like Whole Foods Market, Obama has crossover appeal. He attracts independents and even some Republicans, along with Democrats. there's even a group of Independent and Republican voters termed "Crunchy Cons," who are supporting Barack for President. These folks are conservative, but don't embrace the traditional GOP line. They shop at places like Whole Foods Market, are generally young and well-educated, are environmentalists and health-oriented consumers, and are looking for political and social change. They aren't liberals though...we like to call them "Whole Foods Market Conservatives."

Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton on the other hand is trying to appeal to everyone, especially lower and middle income Democrats, who are proving to be her base of support. That's why Hillary is the Wal-Mart candidate. Her motto, "I'm ready to assume the duties of President on Day One," reminds us of Wal-Mart's can-do attitude. Her pep-rallies also remind us of how Wal-Mart store managers rally the troops every morning before the store opens by leading them in the "Wal-Mart Cheer."

Just like a Wal-Mart store, Hillary can be all things to everybody. She can out-Liberal the Liberals and out-Conservative the center-right. Similar to Wal-Mart, Ms. Clinton has had to be the "Low-Price Leader" in her race against Obama, as he has beat her in fundraising hands-down. Her cheerful optimism even reminds us of the Wal-Mart smiley face:)

And, of course, Hillary is no stranger to Wal-Mart, Inc. She spent a number of years on the mega-retailers board of directors when she was First Lady of Arkansas during her husband's two-terms as the state's Governor.

John McCain: Johnny Mac, as his friends call him, is without a doubt the Trader Joe's candidate. Like Trader Joe's, McCain is small, but stout. He packs a huge punch into a little frame, just like the small-format specialty grocer packs tons of goods into its 10,000 square foot stores.

McCain also is quirky, just like TJ's operations and product mix. Johnny Mac might one day present himself as a "Conservative's Conservative," then do something "liberal" like being the only Republican to vote against George W. Bush's famous tax cuts, saying, "They benefit only the rich."

Lastly, with tongue planted firmly in cheek of course, rumor has it that some of McCain's U.S. Senate colleagues used to call him "Two-Buck Mac" for the amount of money he likes to spend when he bought them lunch. As we all know, Trader Joe's is famous for its $1.99 bottle of wine nicknamed "Two-Buck Chuck."

Mike Huckabee: Huckabee is the Kroger Co. candidate. He's a little bit upscale--well educated, dresses well, loves good food, is articulate--but is mostly still just folks. Like a typical Kroger store, Huckabee isn't going to knock your socks off. He's likes to say, "What you see is what you get." That's sort of Kroger's motto in many of its store banners.

Huckabee, like Kroger, also is essentially middle-America. Although Kroger operates supermarket chains on the left and right coasts in the U.S., they are known as the grocer for middle-America primarily. Huckabee also has left and right coast tastes--he plays the base guitar with a rock band, loves appearing on talk shows in Hollywood and New York City, as well as loves hosting Saturday Night Live--but has firmly positioned himself as the favorite of middle America and Christian Evangelicals. Huck is just a small town preacher from Hope, Arkansas.

Kroger, though, has been moving into the natural, organic and healthy foods' categories in a big way the last couple years. So has Huckabee. He lost a couple hundred pounds over the last few years by giving up a high-salt, high-fat and high-carb diet for a healthy one. He also says he eats natural and organic foods as much as possible. Weight loss and diet is a major plank in his platform in fact.

So, there you go. As a voter you now have an additional variable--grocery stores--which you can use in choosing which Presidential candidate you will support and vote for in the 2008 election. Consider it a public service offering form us to you. You can read the full February 29 Friday Fishwrap column here.

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo: Today's New York Times' Dining and Wine section has a piece by writer Kim Severson titled, "What's for Dinner? The Pollster Wants to Know," in which the writer discusses with various marketing researchers, political experts and pundits what types of foods voters for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain (Mike Huckabee dropped out of the race since we wrote our piece in Friday Fishwrap on February 29) would eat and which grocery stores they (might) shop at.

The latter aspect (grocery chains and stores) is very similar to our piece in the February 29 Friday Fishwrap column. The Times' story is fun and interesting---and we give them props for the excellent angle. We aren't suggesting the New York Times' writer read or got the idea for the piece in today's Dining and Wine section from reading Natural~Specialty Foods Memo, as we are merely a low-budget, little food and grocery industry blog.

We do know though that our February 29 Friday Fishwrap "Presidential Candidates and Grocery Stores" item got e-mailed around by lots of people because a few days after it was published we recieved a couple notes with forwards of the piece from one reader to another. Those who e-mailed us said the enjoyed the concept, analogy and item/piece and had passed it on.

The Times' piece takes a bit different take in the grocery store area than we did, saying for example Hillary Clinton voters would shop at Whole Foods Market while Barack Obama voters shop at farmer's markets.

We don't get that one. Hillary is positioning herself far too mainstream and centrist to cater to Whole Foods' shoppers. That's Obama's dead-on target market. He even had an "arugala moment" a few months back.

We agree Obama voters would shop farmers markets along with Whole Foods though. But Hillary is the Wal-Mart candidate. We stick with that. The Time's piece is fun and interesting--as we hoped our little item was--and has some good insight into political as well as consumer product marketing.

Instead of "you are what you eat." It looks like Natural~Specialty Foods Memo and the New York Times are suggesting "you vote what you eat" and "where you shop for groceries." Read today's New York Times' piece here.


Pundit Mama said...

I beg to disagree that the Crunchy Cons are voting Obama. Anyone conservative on ANYTHING at all wouldn't vote for him. He is the most liberal person in the US Senate.

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo said...

But...We personally know a number of 'Crunchy Cons" in places like Austin, (Texas), California, Idaho, Montana, Chicago, Indiana and elsewhere, who not only say they are going to vote for Obama if he gets the Democratic party nomination, but in many cases are either working on his campaign or have changed their registration from GOP to Dem so they can vote for him in the primary elections (or are doing both of the above).

We aren't saying Obama will get all of the "Crunchy Con" vote--but maybe 40% or so, which could be huge for him?

Even Mark MacKinnon--a noted "Crunchy Con" of sorts--(GW Bushe's political advertising guru who is now doing some work for John McCain)has said if Obama gets the Dem nomination instead of Hillary Clinton, he will not do any advertising work against him for John McCain.

So, pundit mama...DO you thing the "Crunchy Cons" will vote in overwhelming numbers for McCain?

What do others think?