This Foodie Friday, let’s talk about Big Food. No, not the somewhat passé trend of stacking a dish’s components into a tower. Big Food – the large food processors who account for a lot of what we have in our homes and, eventually, in our stomachs. There is a revolution going on and it’s one that provides some guidance for all of us no matter what our business may be.
You saw another manifestation of the revolution in this week’s announcement by Taco Bell and Pizza Hut that they will be phasing out artificial ingredients in their food. McDonald’s is getting rid of antibiotics and Subway will be making their bread without some unpronounceable substance which has been called the “yoga mat chemical”. I’m assuming those things got there to begin with in an effort to make the products more consistent, less expensive to produce, and more appealing. All of those reasons are kind of selfish when you think about it. They help the company while putting the long-term health of their customers at risk.
If you want an in-depth discussion of what’s going on with Big Food, Fortune has an excellent, well-researched piece which you can read here. It contains this quote from a Hershey executive:
Research had found that 68% of global consumers wanted to recognize every ingredient on the label, and 40% desired food made with as few ingredients as possible. “There is a connection in consumers’ minds between overall health, wellness, and knowing exactly what I’m eating,” says Hershey’s head of global R&D Will Papa. “Consumers want treats, and they want to know that the treat is really good and wholesome.”
Consumers are not just giving that lip-service. Organic food sales more than tripled over the past decade and increased 11% last year alone to $35.9 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association. And one analyst said that the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies have lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share since 2009.
Why is this important to your business? It demonstrates how we all need to be in lock-step with the changing priorities of our customers. It might be easy to write off a decline in sales to a bad quarter or the weather. It takes foresight and guts to recognize a shift in tastes (pun intended) and to disrupt everything from product formulation to your supply chain. Good companies might look to maintain sales and profits by cutting costs or running promotions. Great companies listen to their customers and respond. Which are you?
Given my topic this morning, this could be the shortest post ever. With respect to doing work for prospective clients or others without being compensated, it’s a one word proposition:
Let me explain, after my 7 years in consulting, why I feel this way. Yes, I do some pro bono work but that’s different. Helping out a charity or other worthy cause is different from helping a for-profit. Similarly, I try to be a resource for my friends, and have looked at many friends’ business plans, websites, social media plans, and analytics over the years with zero expectation of reciprocity (I know they will be there in a heartbeat if I need something).
What I’m talking about today is spec work. Obviously I realize you need to discuss the prospective client’s business issues with them ahead of time in order to figure out the scope of work. You might even want to begin to do a bit of a deep dive so you can pinpoint how best to move their business forward. That’s an exercise for ME, so I can establish a mutually beneficial working relationship and we (the client and I) make best use of the time they’re buying. Over time the focus of the work always changes as the business changes and grows, but you need to have a starting point.
That said, there is a difference between identifying the issues and opportunities and providing a roadmap to a solution. When clients demand lots and lots of spec work, I politely but firmly say “no.” Much of why people hire me is for the expertise that comes from experience. The strategic and tactical documents I give clients are roadmaps. They probably believe they can find people with less experience and knowledge to follow that map. They forget that the business road usually takes unanticipated turns after which it’s easy to become lost. Who gets the blame? The map maker (me!) so I’d like to be in the car with them to get them pointed back in the right direction.
A client paying for your advice is their skin in the game. It also makes them pay attention. I don’t like to spend my time providing guidance and observations that, ultimately, get ignored. Inevitably the recipient makes the mistake(s) that I warned were going to be the outcome of their direction or decision. It is a waste of both of our time.
Your job is to remind them of the value (NOT the cost) of what you bring them and then to deliver. The old saw about free advice usually being worth what you pay for it rings true to most clients. To me as well. You?
I have been thinking about a conversation I had with someone about the future of TV. OK, to be totally accurate, the chat was about the massive disruption that’s going on across all legacy media – newspapers, magazines, and radio as well as TV. I said that while that disruption is just now really beginning to be felt on a mass scale by TV, the TV industry seems to be learning from the mistakes made by newspapers and radio. I thought those learnings would help mitigate the disruption somewhat. Let’s see what you think.
Over the last year you’ve probably watched less live TV (other than sports and breaking news) than you have in the past. You’re not alone – live viewership of broadcast TV is down 30 percent since 2008 according to some measures. Time-shifted viewing is up quite a bit, however. Obviously it’s not a lack of interest in the programming but a desire to watch it on the viewer’s own schedule via whatever device is handy at that time.
Unlike the newspaper folks, who vigorously resisted the “what I want, where and when and how I want it” reality of the digital transformation, TV seems to be getting it. In fact, total overall consumption of video based content is skyrocketing. Admittedly some of that is from non-TV content sources (YouTube channels, etc) but as more TV content becomes easily available to cord-cutters and cord-nevers, I suspect what we’re seeing with CBS (CBS primetime is generating more viewers now than it did in 2003) will be true of most TV networks.
Some of my former colleagues in TV are finding ancillary benefits as well. None of us were ever delighted with the Nielsen ratings system and the vast amount of viewing and audience information that’s now accessible through other channels is incredibly useful from both a programming and a sales perspective. Frankly, the TV set is the viewing channel from which we get the least data and what information we do get is probably the least accurate.
All of the above is a long way of saying that despite my occasional jabs at TV clinging to their old business ways and traditional business model, I do recognize that they’ve quietly been changing and adapting to the new realities of digital disruption. It’s encouraging and a good lesson for any business. Do you agree?