The topic is syrup this Foodie Friday – maple syrup specifically. You might know that I’m a fan of the work done by the Cook’s Illustrated folks. Despite their incessant hawking of yet another Cook’s product, the work they do is always spot on and I’ve never made anything using one of their recipes that hasn’t been delicious.
They do product tests as well and one of them concerned maple syrup. To me it also contained a business lesson. I’ll let them describe the test:
Sold side by side, genuine maple syrup and so-called pancake syrup (made with high-fructose corn syrup) can range from more than $1 per ounce for the real deal to a mere 14 cents per ounce for an imitation. But, price and product names aside, which tastes best? To find out, we pitted four top-selling national brands of maple syrup against five popular pancake syrups, hoping to find the best one for pouring over pancakes or using in recipes.
As you might guess, there was no comparison. Genuine syrup was easily distinguishable from imitation and was universally preferred in the taste test. As the Coke people learned a long time ago, consumers can spot and usually prefer the “real thing.” Fake brands taste “off” even if they are more friendly to the consumer’s pocketbook. Not only does authentic taste better but it sells better too.
The concept of authenticity has been researched. A recent paper in the Journal Of Business Research found that quality commitment, sincerity and heritage all contribute to consumers labeling a brand as authentic. Many brands ranging from food products to vodka to shoes use this notion to market their products and it works. As a story in the Times reported:
Several studies have shown that authenticity — real or perceived — can affect the bottom line. Brian Wansink, a marketing professor at Cornell University, found that when menu items had geographical or nostalgic labels (“traditional Cajun” red beans with rice, “Grandma’s” zucchini cookies), diners bought them more often and said they tasted better.
The real maple syrup just tasted better. Isn’t that something we’d want for our businesses too? We can get there by being real in all of our communications with consumers and holding our products to high standards, even if it means they cost a little more.