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Erickson Research Blog

All posts by Justine Erickson

3 Big Ingredient Trends You Should Know About

Food for a happy mood?  The ‘perfect’ sweetener?  A natural source for satiety?

Those are some of the beliefs around three ingredients that are gaining consumer popularity.  Here’s the (brief) lowdown on each of them…


Photo by dmourati

1)  Hot Peppers

Remember the Sriracha fumes kerfuffle of 2013?  When the court said ‘no’ to closing down production of the popular chili sauce, die-hard fans everywhere were relieved. However, it may be more than just taste that keeps them wanting to ‘feel the burn’ of the Rooster-branded chili sauce in their favorite dishes and on their tongues.

Based on the science of how spicy foods affect our bodies, it seems that when we eat them, our endorphins kick up. Result:  a natural mood booster.  Clever food marketers are tapping into this and introducing all kinds of spicy new products to tempt our palates and keep us happy and loyal.


Photo by tJj

2)  Stevia

Recently there’s been a resurgence of sugar bashing.  It’s been blamed for everything from obesity to aging.  Along comes Stevia — sourced from the rebaudiana plant — minus many of the scary health warnings that have been attributed to sugar and other sweet substitutes. Nowadays you can even find Stevia among the packets of Splenda, Sweet N’Low and sugar in many restaurants.

According to Food Business News, the use of Stevia in products may double by 2017. However,  a big challenge, according to the The New York Times (and not unlike other sugar substitutes) is keeping Stevia ‘natural’ while adjusting it for consumers’ taste.


Photo by CIAT

3)  Protein 

Unconventional ‘bars’ are popping up all around big cities, catering to cravers of niche products and services like specialty juices and upscale manicures — even hair blowouts.   Recently, I came across Protein Bar  — a one stop shop for protein-packed meals.

What has protein done lately to merit its own retail chain?   Well according to Food Business News, Americans are eating protein in copious quantities.  They believe high protein products are a healthy source of energy and keep them feeling full and satisfied.

Plants, in particular, are increasingly being touted as a healthy protein source.  One of several benefits is that they’re naturally low in fat and cholesterol. Bloomberg describes a plant-based high protein source called  ‘pulses’ — legumes that include dried peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils — being used by food manufacturers in both sweet and savory products.

So now that you’ve read this, are you craving a spicy, sugar-free, kidney bean smoothie?    More importantly, are your marketing efforts incorporating these ingredient trends?  If not, are there ways you can capitalize on them?

Why Native Foods Has Mad (Social Media) Skills

In a recent post, I discussed why social media is important for restaurants.  I mentioned companies — like Taco Bell and Red Lobster — that realize the marketing potential of social media and how they’re using it to their advantage.

The other day I came across this Facebook post from Native Foods Cafe — yet another example of a restaurant putting social media to good use.

Caption reads: “CONTEST!! Our talented Chef Alex created a delicious concoction of mushrooms, Native chicken, roasted red peppers and herbs and spices wrapped in vibrant collard greens. We are asking our friends to help us name this dish, the winner will receive a $25 Native Foods gift card, contest ends Saturday at noon. Happy naming!”

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There are so many things I love about this.  In no particular order, here’s what I think really works…

  • Describing their customers as ‘friends’ — creates an intimacy and feeling of community rather than the detached feeling of marketing to the masses
  • Making it about the consumer and not Native Foods — fans get to demonstrate their creativity and feel like their opinion really matters
  • Asking their brand enthusiasts to name the product for them – freeing up Native Foods’ internal resources/marketing team and probably their budget too
  • Seizing an opportunity to offer a product  in the language of their consumer — many companies don’t ask, try to brainstorm internally and guess the vernacular of their market (unfortunately, quite often, corporate category-speak doesn’t feel authentic to the consumer and does an inferior job of telling them what the product actually is)
  • Showcasing a new item in an interactive forum and building interest in it (which supports likelihood to try it)
  • Keeping customers engaged and thinking about the Native Foods brand — staying relevant, in a sea of choices, is an ongoing challenge for most marketers
  • Offering fans an incentive that is highly desirable and relevant to them (restaurant gift card) – and that gets customers into their store, trying their products…with very little cost to Native Foods

There are probably more benefits (feel free to post them below in the comments section) but these are the ones that stood out to me.  I will continue to keep an eye out for you restaurant marketers out there.  Stay tuned for more helpful insights and trend scouting from your friends at Erickson Research.

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Social Media For Restaurants — Why It Matters

food pic collageAccording to the most recent Erickson Research Food and Beverage Trends Report, 37% of U.S. consumers use social media for restaurant ideas and cooking inspiration.

Among them…

  • Facebook and Pinterest were used most over the past 3 months (58% and 41%, respectively)
  • 29% said they’ve used social media to share restaurants they’ve tried
  • 34% said they’ve used social media to find new restaurants to try

These figures confirm what food marketers have long suspected – social media matters when it comes to food. 
Read more →

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