• Blending Ads and Content

    The world of non-traditional advertising continues to get more complicated. First there was paid product placement, wherein a good or service is imbedded into the content of a film, television, show, video game, etc. Initially, it was a surprise to see real products imbedded into the content of popular programming, but now it has become rather biquitous and overdone. The next frontier appears to be the internet and a phenomenon known as the "native ad". This is a rather innocent name for what may better be termed "stealth advertising". Why?

    These ads, which comprise the lion's share of revenue for mediums like Facebook, Twitter, and others, are actually paid messages that blend in with the content of a website. What's the problem? Consumers should be able to tell the difference between content and advertising, and marketers shouldn't attempt to confuse the two. Such efforts are unethical, possibly illegal, and certainly serve to undermine the credibility of the "news" site offering the content. It's a bad deal all the way around, but in the quest for online revenue, the practice seems to be proliferating. These ads, in order to fend of the regulators, often feature a tag that says "sponsored", but the tag is often difficult to see. More disturbing is the trend towards dressing up these unpaid messages to further confuse the consumer, and it is clear that there will have to be some regulation here in the future. Calls for more regulation with regard to traditional product placement (i.e.e, more disclosure) have fallen on deaf ears in previous years, and the European Union even recently legalized the practice.

    What will happen with online content? Will news sites be concerned more about the credibility of their content or about the revenue generated by paid advertising? I think we all know the answer to that one!

  • Black Friday Bunk

    Every year it's the same thing. Black Friday deals abound. Christmas displays sit along side Halloween displays in more and more stores every year. Buy! Buy! Buy! Yet the reality of shopping during the holiday season, as you might guess, is largely an illusion created by marketers. Let me explain. Some discounts are good ones (especially the limited supply "door buster" deals), but most products are actually much cheaper if purchased earlier in the year, a fact revealed in a Wall Street Journal study last year. The study tracked dozens of products across multiple categories over a period of three years and found that prices are inflated during the holidays for the vast majority of products. Surprised? I'm not.

    Marketers have been over discounting for many years and the recession made things much worse. Many shoppers say that a discount of under 40% doesn't even register with them. And while the friendly competition encouraged by this promotional frenzy can be good for consumers in the short run, the long term effects of over-promotion are now fully understood. And it ain't exactly rocket surgery. You see, when retailers are forced into such draconian pricing schemes they eventually must build the discounts into the products themselves in order to make the necessary profits. In other words, the 45% "discount" is negotiated with supply chain members well in advance and is built into the price at all levels of the supply chain. Something with a "list price" of $79 and sold for $45 was never intended to be sold at the list price. This isn't really discounting, or what we call "sales promotion" in marketing, but really a pricing strategy, which is distinctly different from the techniques marketers use to "promote" their products.

    What does all of this mean? Obviously consumers will eventually catch on to the tactics, but in the meantime the illusory pricing and door buster sales will continue. Retailers must now offer the same deals online that they do in the brick and mortar stores and are under increasing pressure to match one another's prices. Because of the price pressure, retailers aren't making as much money as they used to during this important buying season, so it will ultimately become less valuable to them. Black Friday will "creep" earlier and earlier into Halloween, and people will eventually become desensitized to the whole thing. We can only hope...

  • Canadian Football Gets Boost

    Listening to sports talk in Toronto is a lot like listening to sports talk here. Lots of opinions. Lots of talk. One of the things that you will hear after a while is the perceived  threat that the NFL poses to the Canadian Football League. Rumors that the Buffalo Bills might move to Toronto aren't unreal, as the team already plays some "home" games over there, but the fact that 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border (and its sports teams) is not lost on its citizens. And it's true that the NFL is as much if not more popular than the CFL in Canada, but does the venerable league really have anything to worry about?

    Not really. Even if the Bills move there, the fact of the matter is that the CFL is a well differentiated product. The league plays during late spring, summer, and early fall so it doesn't compete directly with the NFL. The game is largely the same, but there are a few important differences. The major difference is that there are only three downs on a 110-yard field with 20-yard endzones, conditions that make for lots of passing and big plays. There is also an extra player on each team to take up the extra space. Many of the players were very good in college and played at U.S. universities, but there are also a number of Canadian players out of universities up there. In short, it's a pretty cool game, and much like the indoor football game, is different enough from the NFL and NCAA products.

    The traditional eight teams have been around for a long time, and there was a failed expansion into the U.S. in the 1990's, an event that I don't even remember at all. What was the commissioner thinking? After retreating to its home market, the league has enjoyed success ever since, and it will add a new team in the nation's capitol of Ottowa very soon. This leaves the Atlantic seaboard (the "maritime provinces") for expanding to add a tenth team which is also in the works. Halifax, Nova Scotia seems like a logical place. TV viewership in Canada is up dramatically over the past five years, and you can catch some games on ESPN here in the states. It's too late this year, however. The Saskatchewan Roughriders won the 101'st Grey Cup this year, and the league seems to be on its way up.

  • Wearable Tech...Fad or Trend?

    Here come the smart watches! Since marketers have seemingly exhausted ideas for developing and selling smart devices that can be carried around, it's now time to introduce smart devices that we can wear. No, I'm not talking about the invasive ankle bracelets that make it easy for the corrections system to keep tabs on its 'clients", although these "accessories" are indeed smart. I'm talking about the wearable gadgets that track everything from heart rate and blood sugar levels to sleeping patterns and calorie information. Is all this really necessary?

    Just because something is technologically possible doesn't make it marketable. It is unlikely that healthy people in their 20's and 30's, the most coveted age demographic by marketers, will develop an obsessive need to monitor their health since they are healthy anyway. These products, it would seem, should be aimed at those 40 and up, a time of life when health problems begin to present themselves. Smart shoes, targeted to young people, have already been on the market for years and the results have been mixed. And smart glasses have just arrived!

    It is likely that the wearable tech category, like so many others before it, will grow in fits and starts. Early products may eventually become laughable (think Palm Pilot), and marketers will have to make these devices look cooler than they look now if wide adoption is the goal. Otherwise, a nice, defensible niche will have to be found and nurtured. Ultimately, it is important for marketers to remember that these accessories that we wear and carry around with us are extensions of our indentities, our "social selves". As such, marketers must connect with consumers on an emotional level, a task that isn't easy for technology companies that are not named Apple.

  • Lululemon Stumbles Again

    The company was just getting over its much-lampooned "quality control" problem involving its see-through yoga pants, and now it has another PR problem to contend with. Lululemon's founder offended customers last week when he suggested that larger sized people should shop elsewhere. In essence, some women's bodies "just actually don't work" with its products, and therefore thay aren't for those women. The fact that a man made that statement is bad enough, but few women are likely to empathize with that sentiment regardless of who said it. Not a cool thing to say.

    That fact that what he said may indeed be true is immaterial, and marketers engaging in targeting should always endeavor to avoid insulting large groups of people (no pun intended). Although I agree with the idea that most people look absolutely grotesque in yoga pants and that they should probably be banned outside of the yoga studio, the fact of the matter is that you can't say something like that publicly when you are representing a brand. It is very likely that the problem remains in the product's overall quality, and efforts should now be made to repair the company's products and image. So, with that in mind, what would you do? Would you issue a retraction of sorts, or just let the problem go away? Why?

    Keep in mind that Abercrombie & Fitch also had a recent issue over exclusionary sizing which resulted in some angry folks and bad publicity. Certainly, we need to dramatically downsize as a society, but it isn't Lululemon that should lead these efforts. It's best for marketers to go along with important social trends as they present themselves rather than against the flow.

  • Natural Under Fire

    Well I warned 'em! Knowing that the industry would eventually attract regulatory attention, ten years ago I organized an natural products industry task force to define what constitutes a "natural" ingredient. The purpose was to create a framework for marketing "natural" products, including labeling guidelines, advertising rules, and other important self-regulatory elements in the absence of government regulation. For some reason the FDA was not interested in properly regulating this $150 billion product category by providing guidelines for marketing these popular products. The result was the industry's adoption and refinement of the definition as well as a certification for product packaging called the Natural Products Association (NPA) seal. Since then thousands of products now feature this self-regulatory affirmation that the product is truly "natural", but the vast majority of products sold in the industry do not feature any certification at all, an dthere is no legal obligation. So what's an activist to do?

    Sue! In the past two years, over 100 lawsuits have been filed against companies that use the term "natural" in their positioning, but whose products feature highly questionable ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, ascorbic acid, and others. Companies such as Pepsico, Campbell Soup and even natural products industry pioneer Barbara's Bakery are quietly removing the term from marketing efforts due to this judicial onslaught. In the absence of meaningful FDA regulation, and in the presence of a half-hearted effort by the industry association to self-regulate, the only recourse is to use the judicial function and sue these companies. And guess what? They are all settling!

    The issue is clearly out of control and our dire predictions have come true. The majority of Americans neither understand nor trust products marketed as natural despite several decades of runaway growth. The lack of regulation has created a mess, and the industry has been quietly collecting plenty of money and turning the other cheek when it should be leading efforts to get this sorted out. Luckily, there is an act of Congress currently in the works so the debate will be forced, and the industry will wind up on the defensive. It would have been so much easier if everyone had been working on this all along.

  • Hulu To Play Both Sides

    Everyone knows about Hulu, the ubiquitous online video outlet, but not everyone knows that the company is in talks with several pay-TV providers about potential agreements. An idea called "Hulu Plus" (featuring original content) is being floated to Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, AT&T, and Verizon, and others, which is clear evidence that Hulu is trying to become more integrated with pay television. Why the move?

    Hulu is controlled by 21st Century Fox and Disney, not exactly small players in the media universe. Both companies are integrated in just about every way, and a move to address the Pay TV market is just part of this strategy. Creating a new product (Hulu Plus) in a new market (Pay TV) is knows as a "diversification" strategy in the famed Ansoff Matrix of product/market development. The company was originally launched in 2008 as an alternative to YouTube, but during the past few years Hulu has played a much larger role as support for the pay-TV industry by offering delayed content.

    The most probable outcome of all of this is that Hulu eventually becomes a sort of intermediary, or conduit, through which content can flow between pay TV and online. This proposal could not only help Hulu achieve its growth objectives, but also serve to greatly simplify what has become a rather complex industry. Consumers would no longer have to sift through myriad apps, and life would be good. At least that's the plan. Let's see what happens.

  • Can Mercedes Rediscover Prestige Mojo?

    There was a time when Mercedes was one of the most prestigious brands in America. A few decades ago, most wealthy people drove Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz cars and there was certainly a cache that went with driving these prestigious cars. We don't see too much of Rolls Royce these days, but Mercedes has maintained a presence and therefore much of its brand awareness. The problems for Mercedes started years ago when the company merged with Chrysler, wherein the product quality quickly dropped, and with it the Mercedes reputation for high quality. Granted, this merger was a horrible idea in the first place and as such only lasted a few years. To compound the problem, marketers also decided to introduce lower priced models to expand the market in the U.S.. The result? They sold lots of cheaper cars, but the strategy diluted the prestige postioning that Mercedes had worked so hard and spent so much money to achieve. If my housekeeper shows up in one of those cheap models, the theory goes,  I will endeavor to switch to a BMW or Audi in order to address my need for social esteem. And this is exactly what happened.

    Can Mercedes regain its exalted place in the mind of the consumer? Probably not. There are still too many price points for the brand to regain its luxury positioning, and the company wants to offer 30 new models in the U.S. If Mercedes continues to be all things to all target markets, it won't succeed. It must focus on the high end, the middle, or the low end, and it looks like the middle is where they want to be. One such model will be offered for $30k, a far cry from the expensive vehicles the company used to be known for. mercedes wants younger buyers, and these folks do not have very much purchasing power, nor are they as concerned about esteem as previous generations. Mercedes must be as positioned a high quality, value brand that appeals to younger Gen X'ers and Millennials if the company is to achieve its objectives. Offering high end vehicles at this point are probably a waste of time, and certainly the company should offer nothing under 30k. Become known for what you want to become know for (in this case the middle ground), and then stick with it. That's the best way to manage a brand.

  • NFL Has Final Say On Franchises

    We are certainly aware of all the negative publicity surrounding the Washington Redskins and the general call for the NFL franchise to change its insulting name. The league has done an incredibly poor job of handling the situation and has not yet applied the necessary pressure to address an issue that will never go away. But, you say, the Redskins are an independently-owned company and they can do whatever they want? Right? Wrong.

    True the Skins are independently-owned, but much like the indedendent owner of a Subway franchise, there are very strict rules that all franchisees must follow. A Subway owner in Dubuque, Iowa, for example, cannot decide to sell burgers or refuse to participate in the money-losing "Five Dollar Footlong" promotion. After all, the parent company, Subway, has a brand to protect. Indeed there has been much litigation over the past decade to help legally determine just what powers a franchise owner does have. The verdict? They don't wield much power, and this is generally a good thing.

    The NFL is a major brand, and the Redskins are just one of many franchises under that brand. It is in the NFL's best interest therefore, in terms of brand management, to drop the proverbial hammer on any franchise that might paint the league in a negative light. Each team has its own branding issues to deal with, and right now Washington is making the league look bad. The NFL can and should force the team to change its name. And it's not as if the NFL is always this reticent to defend the brand, as the league recently announced a warning to stakeholders that teams cannot do their own stadium deals, which is exactly what is happening in Los Angeles with the proposed Farmer's Field. Sure, LA needs an NFL team. It's a huge market. But when and how and where it is done is ultimately up to the league to approve. This is the way brands are supposed to be managed, so it's time to deal with the elephant in the league's living room.

    So, what will happen? Ultimately the name will have to be changed since it is a disparaging term to the group being represented (Indians and Seminoles are not generally considered to be disparaging terms, so it's not the same thing). Ask yourself what has happened to the Cleveland Indians' controversial mascot over the past few years? This iconic image is no longer sold by the MLB franchise, and Chief Whats-His-Name (with the rather racist, bulbous red nose) is quietly fading into history. Obviously a brand name is harder to change than an image/mascot, but that doesn't make it any less necessary. Hey, NFL. Do it now before things get worse, and don't let your franchise owners push you around. After all, you have a brand to manage!

  • Crawling Crocs Ready To Walk?

    Oh those colored, plastic clogs. Ten years ago they were simply everywhere, and the company is still valued at around $1.2 billion, although far below its peak six years ago. 200 million pairs were sold in 90 countries, but the fad was short-lived and the shoes quickly became the footwear of choice for old people and nurses. Crocs, as a result of this rapid shift in consumer tastes, began to differentiate its product mix in an attempt to leverage the well-known brand name with new product introductions. It hasn't worked out so well. Once you are known for something, it's hard for a marketer to teach consumers otherwise.

    Fashion is a fickle beast, and Crocs has had trouble keeping up with the times. The company is now attempting to take itself off the public stock exchange and "go private", a strategy of choice for those companies that need major restructuring. It's much easier for a privately-held organization to make sweeping changes than it is for a publically-traded company to do so, so that any massive restructuring can be done in private and without punishing the stock price.

    So who cares? It will be interesting to see a new Crocs emerge. What kind of products will it offer? Will it look at all like the old Crocs? Will the company attempt to create a new fad? Stay tuned.











  • Trans Fats Finally Banned

    If you are a food marketer and you didn't see this one coming, then shame on you! This is the biggest non-story of the year. several years after the FDA required marketers to disclose the presence of trans fats on labels and the ever-vigilant New York City banned the use of the ingredient altogether, our beloved and rather slow-moving FDA has finally done the inevitable -- issue an outright ban of the ingredient.

    Trans fats are a man-made fat invented as a cheap alternative to animal fat, and most fast food companies have already eliminated the ingredient as a result of the aformentioned actions and in anticipation of sweeping legislation. I'll bet you didn't even notice. Some companies, however, decided to take a wait-and-see approach, which will now most likely result in a mad scurry to reformulate products without significantly affecting the consumer experience. This is a poor decision on their part. It is so much cheaper and more efficient in general for a marketer to continually scan the market so she knows when uncontrollable, external environmental factors such as legal and regulatory actions will present themselves, than it is to do things reactively. Trans fat is the worst of all possible fats for the heart, and its demise was predicted by just about everyone.

    ConAgra, makers of Marie Callendar's desserts, is one such company. It turns out that trans fats are excellent for use in pies and are known for their flake-enhancing properties. This ingredient will be hard to replace, but the company will have a couple of years to make changes, and it is highly unlikely that this food behemoth was caught blindsided by the legislation. Who knows why the company waited so long, and a company of that size probably already has some experimental formulas in the R&D phase of product development. Still, it would have been better to have been more proactive.

  • Blockbuster Finally Busted

    Unless you have been in a federal maximum security prison for the past 10 years, you might have heard about the idea that technology has been busy creatively destroying one industry after another. Music, movies, books, and other product categories have been digitzed, cloudified, and otherwise transformed, making things very challenging for some of the slower learners. Blockbuster was one such slow learner. First it failed to adapt to the mail-in business pioneered and dominated by Netflix, and then it failed to develop the digital streaming model, instead opting for what we call "harvesting" in product life cycle management.

    Harvesting is like a twelve-step program. First you have to admit that you are powerless and have lost the game. Unprofitable stores are closed immediately, and profitable stores remain open until marginal costs exceed marginal returns and then are subsequently closed. A brand can last a very long time in the decline stage of the product life cycle, and all that is left at the end is a handful of independently owned franchises which, in turn, wither away over time without the marketing and logistical support from the corporate parent. This is very, very common, and it explains why there are still stores in operation that still sport the brand name of a long liquidated retailer.

    In Blockbuster's case, about 50 independently-owned and operated stores in the U.S. as well as some overseas locations will remain open, down from a high of almost 6,000 locations. Whatever brand equity is left at this point will erode over time, and eventually all locations will either be closed or renamed. Dish Network, the company that bought the troubled retailer several years ago for a mere $234 million, wanted to bring it into the digitized 21st century, but with less than 2,000 locations left back in 2011, it was too late. The original owner, Wayne Huizenga, sold the company in 1994 for $ billion. What a difference twenty years can make.

  • Wal-Mart Latest Web Glitch

    Glitch. It seems like this word is used everytime something on the internet doesn't work in the way the engineer intended. The government's new healthcare website is obviously an extreme example (an uber glitch), but glitches are fairly common now and have become a cost of doing business in the world of e-tailing. Recently Blooingdale's experienced a pricing glitch wherein items were offered at prices that were too good to be true. And they were, but the upscale retailer immediately fixed the well-publicized problem, apologized, and then went on to honor those purchases, thereby not angering its upscale base of customers. This was a good idea. It takes a lot of money to get and keep those customers, so what is a few hundred thousand dollars in the scheme of things?

    Wal-Mart experienced a similar glitch last week, and customers snapped up televisions, computer monitors, treadmills, and other expensive items for less than $10 each. What a bargain! But instead of honoring the transactions and owning up to the problem, however, Wal-Mart has decided that customers would instead get $10 Wal-Mart gift cards. Ouch. So why the huge difference in customer relationship management strategies?

    The answer is simple, and the strategy has to do with profit margins. Bloomindale's is a prestige retailer and as such enjoys huge margins relative to Wal-Mart, a downscale retailer who, as well know, operates on razor thin margins. This is how we get the low, low prices. Is failing to honor these promises smart? In a word, probably. The folks who shop at Wal-mart, by and large, really have little choice but to shop at Wal-Mart. It is the low price leader, and folks shop there primarily for that reason. Bloomindale's on the other hand, spends quite a bit of dough on customer acquisition and retention and therefore has much more to lose. So angry Wal-Mart customers can either go to Target and pay more or to a dollar store, which has become the proverbial bottom of the retail barrel. Methinks that the vast majority will stick with Wal-Mart, and that the glitch will soon be forgotten

  • Must Whole Foods Go Downscale?

    The natural products industry has enjoyed unfettered growth for the past 40 years. That growth has slowed since the recession, but natural and Certified Organic products are growing much faster than their mainstream counterparts. Whole Foods Markets, in what may be the shape of things to come, has finally succumbed to pressure from mainstream grocery stores and discount natural format chains like Sprouts and has begun lowering its outlook for future sales and profits. Is the party over?

    Not likely. But the "Whole Paycheck" image that the natural foods giant has earned over years of vastly over-pricing products is one that the company would like to change. And market conditions ain't what they used to be. There is hyper-competition in an industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in sales, and as a result price points have come down over the years. The old Whole Foods model may be a bit dated, and the chain now offers more discounts, value-oriented brands, and has increased the use of price matching tactics.

    There is also an increasing threat in the legal environment against products marketed as "natural" as over 100 lawsuits have been filed in just the past two years, challenging the use of the term. This is a huge problem for the industry and for consumers since the federal government, for whatever reason, has neither adequately defined the term, nor does it want to regulate its use. In the absence of regulatory enforcement, there is little choice but for activists to turn to the judicial branch. These lawsuits aren't going away any time soon, and industry associations don't seem to recognize the threat since no collective action whatsoever has been taken. Yet slowly, several companies are removing the term "natural" from their marketing communications. It is important to remember that Certified Organic is defined, regulated, and different from "natural".

    There is an elephant in the living room. More than one in fact. Will the industry wake up and smell the Certified organic, Fair Trade coffee? My twenty plus years of experience working in it tells me that it will not.

  • "Mexican" Coke Keeps Cane Sugar

    After the recent announcement that Mexico will enact the world's first wide-scale junk food tax, Mexican Coca Cola bottler Arca Continental has announced that it will keep using cane sugar and will not switch to the far cheaper high fructose corn syrup for its "Coca Cola Nostalgia" products. This is good news for U.S. consumers since they prefer the taste of cane sugar four to one over corn syrup in taste tests. Yet American bottlers continue to use the cheap alternative to sugar (it runs about three times cheaper), and affacianados flock to locations that sell the importaed stuff in the skinny bottles.

    In the U.S. corn syrup replaced beet sugar as the choice for manufacturing beverages many decades ago. It is far cheaper than other forms of sugar, and if you haven't noticed, we have an over-abundance of corn, a relatively useless crop. There is so much corn that the government mandates its use in gasoline ( a form of subsidy) despite the fact that it actually lowers gas mileage. Corn is used because it is cheap and not because consumers prefer its use. And Mexico doesn't grow as much corn and would likely have to import it from the U.S. which would make it more expensive.

    Corn syrup has also been correlated with increased levels of obesity and its use would conflict with the recent government efforts to combat this social ill (Mexico has the highest obesity rate in the world). Did the government pressure Arca Continental in its decision? Was it an act of goodwill on the part of the company? Was the decision a result of good strategic thinking in realizing that U.S. consumers think cane sugar is much tastier than corn? It will be interesting to see what happens to the use of corn syrup in Mexican products as a result of the legislation.

  • Will Price Matching Save Best Buy?

    We all know that brick and mortar electronics stores have been suffering for years. Circuit City and Soundtrack have already exited the competitive landscape, and some observers believe that Radio Shack and Best Buy aren't too far behind. The primary problem with Best Buy, unlike Radio Shack which suffers from a major identity crisis, is Amazon. Stuff online can be had for cheaper than stuff from the stores simply because it is costly to operate brick and mortar locations, and some of that cost must ultimately be passed on to consumers.This means that Best Buy prices are higher than Amazon's on average, and that the store often acts as a "showroom" where models can be sampled, but the buying is done later online often from online competitors. What to do?

    The answer is price matching. In an age of consumer empowerment, it is easy to comparison shop using a plethora of mobile devices, and stores like Best Buy have been put at a competitive advantage. The only answer is to guarantee to match the prices of other retailers, even if it means taking a loss. Better-trained clerks can help differentiate the store as one that is focused on providing superior customer service (a la the Geek Squad), and these salespeople can upsell and cross sell products to increase store margins. In addition, Best Buy would do well to remind consumers that buying from it will get the product into their hands much quicker than waiting for delivery. Looking at the product mix is also important. Offering products and related services that focus on integrating and making easier the at-home technology experience. There are many other ways the brand can differentiate itself, but Best Buy marketing strategists had better get moving. The industry waits for no one.

  • The Stuff in the Bottle

    Many of the world's largest cosmetics companies have reportedly backed out of a plan to agree to tighter regulation in the U.S., including more safety tests and banning certain ingredients. The plan is to ease consumer concern about the healthfulness of the products they put on their bodies. A quick internet search will reveal that much of this stuff is outright nasty, and this collective concern has driven the incredible growth of the natural and organic personal care industry as well as having spawned a movement among the scientific community called "green chemistry". More importantly, the European Union has already banned many synthetic compounds outright, and the personal care industry has grown tired of a patchwork of laws across 50 states, desiring a uniform federal standard instead. So why the change of heart?

    The association representing the industry's interests, the Personal Care Products Council, told the FDA that it couldn't accept the deal being negotiated at the time. But individual companies like L'Oreal and Revlon maintain that they are still negotiating and are interested in the public's concern. Much of this may be simple PR spin, since no company wants to appear to be poisoning its customers, but these companies do have a long term interest in making a deal happen. You see, industries generally don't want government regulation at all, preferring self-regulation. Government prefers this method as well since regulation is very unwieldy and very costly. Once it is clear that regulation must happen, however, it is better for the industry to be proactive and work with officials to craft new laws. These new laws then will theoretically better serve the interests of the public and the businesses that serve it.

    It all makes sense to me, and this regulation has been a long time coming and should be no surprise to the industry. I personally have been addressing cosmetic chemists and marketers in a professional capacity for the past 15 years through speaking and writing about natural ingredients and green chemistry. The future is finally here, and the natural products industry will be watching to see what happens with regard to mainstream personal care products.

  • Sriracha Latest Sauce Fad

    Twenty years ago it was hot sauce. Almost overnight there were hundreds and hundreds of brands with names like "Dave's Insanity Sauce" and "Death". Like all fads, this one came and went rather quickly, but like most fads, the after effects never truly go away. The result of this flurry of new product development was that 90% of the sauces were gone after five years, and the remaining 10% have enjoyed sharing a rather large pie.



    Shortly after this happened (and maybe as a result), there was a "dipping grill" fad in restaurants around the country. This fad also faded, but now having a varietry of sauces to choose from is a fairly common practice in higher end restaurants. Fads do leave their mark on society, although I am not sure what mark the Macarena made. That was a rather embarrasing one, if you ask me.

    The next new thing appears to be Sriracha, a hot sauce that has been getting quite a bit of manistream and social media attention lately. It's so big that Subway, purveyor of what could be the blandest-tasting food ever made, has very smartly decided to exploit this fad and is offering Sriracha-flavored products including a chicken melt and a steak melt. PF Chang's, Pei Wei and 45 other chains have already added new dishes featuring this popular sauce. Why Sriracha? Who knows? There sure are a lot of choices out there, and I have no idea why or how this particular sauce emerged only that is was found exclusively in upscale Thai eateries only five years ago.. It simply arrived!

    Globalization has made consumer tastes around the world a bit more...well...worldly. This stuff simply wasn't available in the past, and people liek trying new things. Not too terribly long agio, it was Tabasco, Cholula or nothing. And fans of the new sauce say it's not about the heat, but about the flavor. This may help Subway products taste better, but what about prepared dishes that already have a signature flavor. Would Sriracha ruin the product? Probably. For this reason, it is unlikely that it will become as commonplace as Tabasco because the prupose of hot sauce is to enhance the flavor, not to change it. Ultimately it might be a disadvatnage for makers of the special sauce. We shall see. For now, it is simply another fad.