Food Inequality

My google search this morning uncovered the average cost of food per month for the typical American household (2.5 people) is approximately $550.

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What is the relevancy of this trivial stat? A sign!

Back in May I posted Share of Collectibles which detailed some statistics about the wealthy further highlighting income inequality in the U.S. Earlier this week I read an article concerning another prime example of income inequality. A new food-away-from-home trend has surfaced in California. Prominent high-end chefs who lost substantial revenue due to the Covid pandemic shuttering their restaurants or the fire damage which damaged wine county have found a new venue for their operations. Resorts (north of Los Angeles or Mexico) thanks to their indoor and outdoor space normally utilized for banquets (e.g., weddings). One chef in Ojai Valley orchestrated for 44 guests a 13-course meal complete with wine pairings from the renowned Krug Champagne house and Harlan Estate. Gastronomes paid $999.00 per ticket for the dining experience.

$999.00 per ticket! A lot of groceries for the typical American household (2.5 people) as I stated in my Blink. Food inequality, a byproduct of income inequality

Technobabble (a.k.a. Privacy)


I enjoy posting about consumer marketing, specifically consumer targeting. Have you been following the Apple and Facebook privacy feud? As one of my favorite columnists Paul Krugman suggests, when it comes to high tech, which is currently under global scrutiny, we need to cut through all their “technobabble.”

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Background in English – Privacy Is all about a tech company’s ability to track user’s behavior online (a.k.a. data) and sell it to advertisers targeting consumers. Facebook believes in the open internet with no limitation to tracking so it can fuel its ad business which generated approximately $25 billion in the first three months of 2021. They (Zuckerberg) got into a hissy fit late last year when Apple introduced a new iPhone operating system requiring each app to ask permission for tracking user data across the internet. Facebook claims permission tracking hurts small businesses to effectively grow since they cannot afford the data brokers, thus advertise competitively. Fact: Only 6 percent of U.S. daily users, closer to 15 percent globally (source: Flurry Analytics) opted to allow Apple to sell its data.

Thanks to a borderless digital space, the data is already out there! I am just highlighting the feud between Apple and Facebook. If you cut through all the technobabble, Facebook’s real concern is about transparency if consumers opted out thus it would threaten their advertising tracking business model – the ability for advertisers to trace purchase conversions for their ads. I am only addressing two of the tech behemoths. What about Google? They have minimal privacy features for its Android mobile software – advertising revenue is one of their driving engines.

I have been a long-time advocate it is time to reel in and regulate high tech. Big brother is watching! And listening. Another future area of concern is the utilization of voice profiling via voice technologies (e.g., Siri) by consumer marketers – analyzing the sound of our speech to provide behavioral clues.

Alexa, “what do you think about privacy?”

Shares of Collectibles


Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, millionaires are the new billionaires. The United States gained 56 new billionaires bringing the total to 659 (source: Institute for Policy Studies). The wealth held by a small bloc of Americans (10% households; approximately 70% net worth) increased by more than $1 trillion.

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The coronavirus windfall extends beyond the world’s 10 10 richest billionaires — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, LVMH luxury group’s CEO Bernard Arnault, etc. Collectively their wealth grew by an estimated $540 billion over this period.

Noticeably the stock market’s upswing thanks to government policy (e.g., Federal Reserve’s commitment to zero interest rates), benefited the wealthiest 10 percent of households. They own 88 percent of all stocks, thus capitalized on the 18 percent increase in the S&P 500’s total return during 2020.

Many on-paper gains during attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic may prove transitory. At last count, approximately 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion (note: they’re now worth more than $4 trillion) Bottomline: we probably will not know the complete impact on wealth and income distribution for a few years as a result of a new breed of investors, yield-hungry wealthy people buying shares of collectibles in lieu of bonds or shares in private equity funds They are buying fractional shares in collective assets like designer fashions (e.g., signature Hermes tote bags), exotic cars, memorabilia, race horses, etc. These collectable shares are traded until the owner of the market place sells the asset.

What impact did the pandemic have on collectible assets? Potential investors took advantage of spending more time at home, thus more time online researching information available via apps (e.g., Rally Rd.) catering to shares of collectable assets: taking equity in an object that you might not own outright, but might still prove to give you good dividends. What confuses me is how investors can place value to their investment assets or is it all about the bragging rights? Example: What is the true share value of Air Jordan 1s from designer Melody Ehsani sitting in the closet of a member of the Rally Rd, community.

Forever Relevant – Frank Gehry


I was sorting through some old newspapers, when I came across an article that piqued my interest. It was about Frank Gehry, one of my favorite architects, detailing all the current projects he is working on.

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At age 92 when most people retire or garden, the man continues to be prolific (building projects, Philadelphia museum renovation, an opera set, Los Angele’s Riverwalk, etc.). He is the truly “An energizer bunny.” Reading about Gehry Reminded me of my 2009 post: Lessons from Great Artists & Architects.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lessons from Great Artists & Architects

In my last blog posting, America’s Coach, I indicated that I have been inspired by some great people I never met, artists and architects that have guided me on my business journey. The list is long: Leger, Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Calder, Dali, Neel, I. M. Pei and Frank Gehry.

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Detailed below are the lessons I have learned from my favorite artists and architects:

– You must start with traditional training before you can breakout and create new ideas.
– Simplicity.
– Scale – sketches that lead to large masterpieces.
– There is no instant gratification when it comes to artistic creation.
– Artists serve people and live in a commercial world, but they need to discover how they can step outside the norm, take risks and slice their sliver/niche.
– When artists/creative people step outside the norm they must accept criticism, wear it like an article of clothing for a while, then toss it and move on.
– What makes it all worth it (the thrill) is the process of pulling together an achievement.
– Don’t compromise your values.
– Treat each client differently and special.
Harmony = Balance.

One final thought. Each one of the individuals on my list were larger than life, thus taught me the value of Joie de Vivre, the Joy of Living.

Actually, when I reviewed the list of great artists and architects above, beside their Joie de Vivre, I realized most continued to be very prolific and creative, thus experiment as they got older.

  • Picasso (90) experimented with betograves concrete engravings for his sculptures.
  • Chagall in his 90’s experimented with a new stencil technique called pochoir.
  • Matisse (74) created his famous Jazz series made from                     collages of colored cutouts.
  • Mior at 90 was quoted, “young people, future generations interest me not the old dodos. Miro began painting with his fingers.

Are you an “Energizer Bunny?”

A Cut Above – An Update


Once again kudos to Chipotle Mexican Grill. Last year I wrote about their innovative supply chain initiatives, plus recognized them for winning Marketing Dive’s 2020 mobile marketer of the year award. Last week I learned they formed another strategic alliance with cosmetics brand e.l.f to further leverage their target audiences.

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Last year during the pandemic, Chipotle and e.l.f. Cosmetics created a special virtual prom after-party for teens. Both companies have a core value of using ingredients that personify purity/sustainability, thus appeal to Gen Z. Note: The prom makeup kit e.l.f. assembled last year sold out in four minutes. The CMO of e.l.f. also indicated data revealed their products were purchased by a group of new consumers to their product line.

Now they are in the midst of launching the sequel (round two): A limited-edition line of beauty products inspired by the fast-casual chain’s menu. Chipotle will add to its menu a vegan Eyes Chips Face bowl inspired by the beauty brand. e.l.f. created custom food inspired products like an avocado-shaped sponge for applying makeup, eyeshadow colors that run the gamut from avocado to hot salsa, a red Make It Hot Lip Gloss and an Eyes Chips Face makeup bag. These items will go on sale on their company’s websites, apps, as well as numerous social media platforms (e.g., livestream selling platform Ntwrk and TikTok). Both companies announced they will make more product available given the results of their first collaboration. Brand synergy! Their smart marketing goal is to engage and integrate their brands with Gen Z culture.

Chipotle: Always innovating; A Cut Above!

Astonishing COVID-19 Domino Collapse


I have been binging on Netflix’s foreign language TV shows – streaming crime dramas and heists. In its quest to appeal to global audiences, Netflix is ushering in the new television era. Actually, binging is a byproduct of the pandemic lockdown. Overall, streaming services exhibited robust growth disrupting the entertainment business.

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Throughout the pandemic, I have published numerous posts about the COVID-19 domino collapse associated with different segments of business – travel, luxury watches, etc. For today’s post I would like to focus on theater chains.

Globally, analysts project 2020 box office revenue losses of $20-$31 billion. In the spotlight, market leader AMC threaten with bankruptcy, raised $1 billion to stop their hemorrhaging. Despite burning through some cash, Cinemark by contrast, thanks to innovation (e.g., private watch parties, where families or small groups rent full auditoriums for $99), believe they will come out of the pandemic relatively intact. Regardless, interesting week ahead for the entertainment business. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York City theaters can begin opening at 25% capacity on March 5. Theaters will need to assign seating to maintain social distancing, and a maximum of 50 people will be allowed per screening. California is expected to follow suit within the month. Note: New York and Los Angeles combined, account for 15% of domestic box office revenue.

Good news movie theaters are reopening. However, the market for streaming services (new services and subscribers) has exhibited strong growth (37%) during the pandemic lockdown of 2020. Back in 2020 Variety magazine conducted research about consumers’ anxiety over health and safety in public venues, specifically movies, thanks to the pandemic. Key findings: 70% indicated if costs were roughly the same, they would more likely favor watching a first-run feature from their couch; 13% at a local cinema, with 17% not sure. 

Sounds like a COVID-19 domino collapse for movie chains:

  • Less box office revenue.
  • Less employees to run the theaters.
  • Less concession stands sales (e.g., soda, popcorn, candy, etc.).
  • Less concession stands packaging materials (e.g., cups, popcorn containers, napkins, etc.).
  • Less sanitation products (e.g., cleaners, bathroom materials, etc.).

Long-term, how do you think major movie chains will manage in the new COVID era?

Trivial Rebranding


Last summer I posted Branding 2020 – Part I Responsible Messaging. In addition to the pandemic, racism in America was a noteworthy issue. Quaker Foods announced they were going to rebrand Aunt Jemima given the brand’s racial stereotypes. Last week PepsiCo. publicized the rebrand as the Pearl Milling Company. Trivial!

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I am an Aunt Jemima brand alumnus. I was the junior member of the AJ brand team back in 1986. We decided to rebrand Aunt Jemima by providing her with a graphic facelift – a fresh profile, plus removed her bandana. I remember the countless meetings, plus traveling around the country conducting focus groups listening to Afro-Americans voice their concern about racist branding. In retrospect, maybe a naïve advertising mishap only settling for a packaging redesign of her image versus a total rebrand including changing her name. Consequently, I wanted to get a better understanding of the origin of Pearl Milling Company. This is what I learned:

  • The current line of Aunt Jemima pancake mixes, syrups, cornmeal, flour and grits rebranded to Pearl Milling Company in the familiar red packaging, will arrive on supermarket shelves June 2021.
  • The Pearl Milling Company dates back to 1889, when a small mill in St. Joseph, Missouri developed a milling process producing flour, cornmeal and self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be known as Aunt Jemima.         
  • PepsiCo Inc.’s press release (a.k.a. corporate speak) indicted Quaker Foods worked with consumers, employees, external cultural subject-matter experts and diverse agency partners to gather broad perspectives to ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind. They also announced they will initiate a $1 million commitment to “empower and uplift Black girls and women” in addition to PepsiCo’s more than $400 million, five-year investment to uplift Black business and communities, plus increase Black representation at PepsiCo.

As I stated above, I remember the countless meetings we conducted back in 1986 to rebrand Aunt Jemima. I can only imagine the number of meetings already conducted and the future meetings needed to launch Pearl Milling Company by June of 2021. FYI: Other brands scheduled to rebrand thanks to the racial reckoning of 2020 include Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Eskimo Pie.

Back when I was a product manager in corporate America, rebranding was like a face lift. We wanted to refresh our brand messaging to sell more widgets. Rebranding in 2021 sounds woke: trivial rebranding!

Social Media 2021


Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on consumer behavior. Being a food futurist, my primary focus over the past few months has been the food-away-from-home channel. However, while conducting my research, it became obvious every aspect of consumerism is morphing.

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One major shift across all demographic groups was the speedy adaption to a digital world. Consequently, I thought this would be a good time to assess social media 2021.

  • Video, video, video! Because of the clutter, marketers will have to thoroughly evaluate which platforms are beneficial to reaching their target audience – TikTok, Thriller, Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight.
  • Far-reaching, relevant brand clarity across multiple social media platforms. Specifically, the story behind every brand – corporate policies, supply chain ecosystem, the human factor (e.g., employees’ health & safety in a COVID World), community engagement, etc.  
  • Influence marketing will morph beyond beauty, health, lifestyle and travel. Technology companies will craft their marketing content in the direction of reaching more influencers to mention or endorse their products.
  • Customer care will be a key area of focus for most companies. Their goal will be to cultivate humanized relationships in real time on all social platforms via information sharing and social engagement; one customer at a time. Sales will follow.        

With the overabundance of social media 2021 platforms, compounded by the excessive utilization of remote working/educational technology tools, I predict bad mental health will arise. People addicted to social media will experience dopamine rushes. Dopamine is known as the happy hormone, a neurotransmitter chemical in our brain. When released, we feel high levels of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction. However, too much dopamine can produce anxiety, stress, difficulty sleeping and mania.

Sounds like a potential business opportunity for technology detox centers or retreats!                                                    

Choking on Plastic


Earlier in the year, I challenged it was time to question the true relevancy of content published on line. A member of my readership added: A.) “Frame of reference” key when assessing information; and B.) Fact check! Today’s query: Environmentalist claiming we are choking on plastic. What is the relevancy!

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Back in my January 23rd Relevance post, I shared a story how the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) analyzed the nutritional value of movie popcorn. They learned that the typical medium size bag contained 37 grams of saturated fat. Was 37 grams good or bad? To communicate their findings and make them relevant to the public, the CSPI created a visual: they laid out on a table demonstrating how one bag of popcorn was equivalent to the saturated fat from a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined! Relevance!

In 2019, a study by WWF International concluded we ingest approximately the equivalent of 5 grams of microplastic per week which is the equivalent weight of one plastic credit card. Recently, Reuters photojournalist Kim Kyung-Hoon published a series of photographs of meals made of plastic to further sensationalize the study’s findings.

  • A plastic credit card placed between two burger buns to imitate the 7 grams of plastic someone could eat in 10 days.
  • Lego brick pieces on top of sushi rolls weighing 22 grams, representative of the plastic one could eat in a month.
  • A safety helmet weighing 248 grams equivalent to ingesting plastic for one year.

Shocking, but relevant images. For me, an opportunity to applaud one of the true unsung, focused heroes on our planet during these difficult times, Boyan Slat, CEO of The OCEAN CLEANUP. A link to an interview with Boyan. Very positive! I highly recommend you carve out some time to watch it.

Joyeux Noël