Charlottesville vendor Good Phyte Foods talks value-added product development

My great pal Stacy Miller has always had her mind set on constant learning through the experience and ingenuity of farmers and other entrepreneurs in her local community. This podcast is fascinating for the detail that she offers about product development, marketing concerns, trends in snack foods, and the props to farmers markets and FMC of course (and an honestly humbling plug for the Dar Bar but let’s leave that aside for now although I remain grateful that my name rhymes with bar.)

I think Stacy is an impressive exception to most of the types that she represents, but this is still a great example of how a value-added business can offer authenticity to market messaging, how to avoid “diet-dogma” (which is such a Stacy-like riff), how these innovative vendors can illustrate the market farmers story through storytelling and through lovely presentation of their ingredients offering healthy, delicious snacking.

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Day carts bring new faces to Reading Terminal Market

“We found ourselves in this incredibly competitive environment where you want to test new concepts and give customers something new,” Gupta said. “We needed a way to bring in some of these hyper-local entrepreneurs, these small-batch products that you can find at farmers’ markets. And the way to do that was to lower the barriers to entry.”

The wheeled carts, left over from the market’s days as a train station, already were being leased to a few businesses that needed no refrigeration — like Lansdale’s Boardroom Spirits and newcomer Birdie’s Biscuits — for use as pop-up stands in the center of the building. The feedback from customers and owners was good, Gupta said, so last fall he and members of his team started working with the Health Department on turning the former Wan’s Seafood into a flexible space for multiple kiosks. The space has no built-in cooking station, but other than sinks, refrigeration, and the proper permits and licenses, it turned out little was needed for businesses to start selling ready-made food.

http://www.philly.com/philly/food/reading-terminal-market-day-carts-20180124.html

What’s new at the grocery store?

Nielsen, a research and consulting firm, said last month that for the first time in a decade, shoppers were making more trips to stores, but coming out with less in their baskets. “They’re not stockpiling their pantries as much,” said Jordan Rost, the company’s vice president for consumer insights. “They’re really buying more fresh produce and prepared meals.”

 

 

Mr. Ruhlman predicts that much of what is sold in the center of the store — the cereal, canned soups, detergents and Ziploc bags — will be largely bought online in the not-too-distant future as food shoppers become more accustomed to e-commerce.

Give em a nudge…

I love when artisanal producers find a way to urge shoppers to become more than shoppers. One of the possible metrics that may  be added someday to the Farmers Market Metrics program at Farmers Market Coalition is measuring how market shoppers influence their friends shopping and also how they share ideas and tips about local items with other retail outlets. How many times do market shoppers ask their produce manager to stop carrying out of state items and instead stock locally available items during the seasonal high point? How many shoppers are the carriers of information about market items availability for their neighbors and friends?

My guess is plenty…

The Matzo Project uses that same energy to expand their reach across the US of their wonderful crackers.

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How great would it be if markets offered blank cards to their shoppers so they could leave a note and share news of a market offering with their friends and even a few select retail outlets?

 

How “healthy” confuses people

As a secular retail anthropologist and a farmers market consultant, this article is like a bite of my market vendor’s satsumas right now:

DE-lightful!

 The healthy = expensive intuition is just one of “a universe of mental shortcuts” that we rely on to choose food, and many of those shortcuts also appear to be flawed. Previous research has described a “supersize bias,” for instance, in which consumers ignore calorie counts and other health information when presented with a meal that seems like a good value. The majority of Americans also embrace what’s called the “unhealthy = tasty intuition” — the belief that food must be unhealthy to taste good.

Obviously, that last line is the one markets should consider and maybe even draw part of their marketing strategy from it. If used properly, a message like “delicious tastes found here” can be an inviting message and could draw a wider audience to markets than the buy local messages that our field has long employed. And clearly better than using “healthy” to entice eaters who are not in the grips of a healthy living focus.

From the report mentioned in the article:

Schulte-Mecklenbeck, M., Sohn, M., de Bellis, E., Martin, N., & Hertwig, R. (2013). A lack of appetite for information and computation. Simple heuristics in food choice:

According to our findings, people are inclined to rely on simple strategies that limit search when making food choices. In addition, our participants paid more attention to the dishes’ image and name at the expense of nutritional information such as caloric and salt content… However, previous investigations (using, for instance, self-reports and eye tracking) have also concluded that many consumers are reluctant to make use of food label information.

I saw this very thing during my days as a buyer at Whole Foods, and as an office building convenience store chain general manager and even before that, when working back in the 1990s on a campaign to increase the number of organic items in Giant Eagle stores. In all of those instances, I noted how people would evaluate the healthy food with a confused look, often moving with almost a sleepwalker’s mien. In contrast, their physical behavior became very purposeful and focused once on aisles with less choice or less scientific data to absorb (like soda or paper goods). That the amount of data to process for many was simply too much was my takeaway. As an example, I remember a farmers market coworker who had come to healthy food late in life told me that “all” he bought was organic produce and since Whole Foods “only carried organic” he bought all of the produce he could not get from farmers at that store only. I shared the news that no, Whole Foods didn’t ONLY carry organic produce and that the pricing signs were color coded as to whether they were organic or not (and that most was not organic).  He was in shock to find that out; turns out he had never noticed the color coding or the words organic or conventional on the signs, probably because there was so much for him to learn as he began to shop there.

So that was a good example of shopper overwhelm. And from someone who was savvy enough to work at a market too.

So this is the type of aha that I wish for each of you. I also suggest that spending some time on research like this will be helpful to understanding what and how to dole out the info that is vital to any successful marketing/outreach campaign.

The Washington Post

27 days…or less

Bloomberg: On average, the companies surveyed have just 27 days worth of cash reserves – or money to cover expenses if inflows suddenly stopped – according to the JPMorgan study, which analyzed 470 million transactions by 570,000 small business last year. Restaurants typically hold the smallest cash buffers, with just 16 days of reserves, while the real-estate sector boasts the biggest, at 47 days.

I’d like to see cash reserves and other business practices as metrics for Farmers Market Metrics in a later iteration. My sense is that the internal data of a market’s (and of its businesses’) bookkeeping and accounting-norm practices can be collected under the term “Resiliency” and offer advocates some wonderful data in order to extend the lifespan and/or decrease the learning curve of new or expanding farmers markets and its businesses.

It has long seemed to me that many small businesses within markets mistake cash flow for profit which often leads to surprising exits from  those markets. Therefore, the more  a market understands the difference between these two for itself and can begin to assist its types of business with establishing baselines for this data, the more that the USDA and other supporters can be encouraged to offer even more detailed assistance.

Bloomberg

Designing Better Shopping Experiences

Using a variety  of research methods, students with disabilities and conventional students at San Francisco State University studied “how the principles of Inclusive Universal Design practice can promote equity with respect to access and use of the physical environment.” Their findings can certainly assist market organizers and their methods should influence how we gather data.

The Symposium & Workshop sought to orient and prepare students with disabilities to educational and professional career opportunities in the design disciplines. There were three primary goals and collaborative interfaces.

(1) To introduce inclusive human-centered design applications in the design curriculum at SFSU that will orientate students, both the students with disabilities and conventional university design students to the holistic benefits of design education and practice that go beyond the exclusive and limited convention of mainstream design applications.

(2) Exposing students to inclusive participatory design empathy methodology.

(3) Identifying and creating design concepts for the product environment and interior space that facilitates one’s ability to access and manipulate the active learning and recreational environment at home, or at school.

This approach to data collection and design is available to busy and to “under-resourced” food organizers through resources and trainings available for purchase, and in online and in-person individual and group trainings.  The two companies that I usually send people to are Luma Institute for their wonderful resources on how to use this process (I also took their in-person course, thanks to FMC and the Knight Foundation) and Ideo, which has influenced some food system funders, like Ford Foundation. Both offer online individual and group courses.

I would suggest that this sort of professional development is exactly what can be included in grants or even sponsored by neighboring businesses of a market to undertake as a team. This approach is similar to the methods that are either included (or will be) in the Farmers Market Metrics program,  in tools such as the Marketshare section of Market Umbrella’s site and in the Farmers Market Toolkit instruments on the British Columbia Farmers Market site.

The final newsletter  includes  findings from these two projects:

Students Design Shopping Cart for Elderly Community

Supermarket carts are solid enough to lean on, but collapsible “granny carts” often used at urban farmer’s markets do not provide appropriate support for people with mobility issues, Fisher explained. “The idea of a cart is not exotic, but (it’s) important to my life,” Fisher said.

After conducting multiple interviews in the aging community, Lopez and Renard realized the need for a supportive personal cart is widespread. Renard said existing carts are generally constructed with weak materials with little attention to aesthetic.

“People put a little bit of thought and design into (portable carts), but they just paint (them) that nasty old-person beige,” Renard said. “Just because people are aging, they don’t want ugly products. They want something that fits their needs but is also stylish – (a product) they aren’t embarrassed to use.”

They credit their inspiration to Dr. June Fisher, an 82-year-old occupational health physician and Bay Area product design lecturer who worked closely with the duo throughout production.

She said she looks forward to having a CityCart of her own, something supportive enough to navigate a farmers market and pick up a few heirloom veggies without relying on someone else.

“The design came from a particular person’s need – my need,” Fisher said.

Designing a Better Shopping Experience with a Holistic Approach to Aging in Place

Several methods were employed such as group and individual in-depth interviews, immersive observations, shadowing and experience mapping session. By means of these methods it was conceived that elderly face several physical challenges while shopping.

These challenges are mostly due to their physical decline, are mainly coherent with the existing literature most of which have not been responded for many years. The main areas of concern were the large size of food packages, standing in long checkout lines, reading the labels, using the carts and baskets, size and layout of stores, shelves and location of products.

The study showed a very social aspect to shopping experience. Participants found shopping to be an experience than can be fun and social. The nostalgia from old ages and existing cultures around the world were two main sources of comparison for the elders. Elders showed to be very perceptive of personal social interactions of them as customers with the seller or store staff. They desired to personally know the staff and be known by them. They liked the staff to remember them and their preferences. They looked for a personal relationship with the staff; one that helps building trust in both parties. They also liked to make conversations and take advice from them on which food to buy or how to cook a special dish with the food and more. Talking of advice was always hand in hand with ‘trust’.

Findings showed that the seniors associated the personal familiarity with the seller and making regular conversations with him to sense of trust towards the seller. The general view of shopping environment was an environment for shopping, having fun and social interactions. They were specifically enthusiastic about communicating with the younger generation and truly appreciated the young people’s patience when they needed more time to learn.

The participants liked to be specially treated, not in a manner  that suggests they are not capable of doing it themselves or that they are old, but a special care based on friendly relationships,

One of the prominent findings of the research was elders’ discomfort when standing in long lines. Some had to physically strain while standing, finding leaning on the carts to be the only option to alleviate the hardship. Also, over the course of study a few times people brought up the idea of a resting area where they could sit for a while and take a breath. The combination of these findings led the researcher to design a service to address the mentioned issues. The service is called, “Valet Checkout”.

These methods can reduce the learning curve for markets and increase the likelihood of success in the final design.