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Say hello to the 'nourishing nineties,' a time when thought for food is 'healthy.' (News from the United Kingdom)

Say Hello to the `Nourishing Nineties,' A Time When Thought for Food is `Healthy'

Well here we are in the '90s at last. The last time the decade came around - and I was not present - it was described in the U.K. as the "Naughty Nineties." One wonders what adjective will be ascribed in 10 years' time.

As the 1990s begin, the word "green" must be the bookmakers' favorite as certainly this environmental movement is still only at the "veneer" stage. Yet somehow it is likely that there will be major political, economic and social changes of some dramatic nature that we cannot even think of now. And although - through the continual advance of amazing rapid communication systems - the planet is getting smaller, the changes ahead are apt to be varied on the continents and sub-continents. No part of the world is likely to escape some form of political upheaval over a period of a decade. The extraordinary developments in the East European "bloc" during a matter of months illustrates that nothing is impossible. We might even see peace break out in the Middle East or Northern Ireland, or perhaps witness major changes in South America, Africa, India or China.

Economics will remain in the headlines in the United States, Japan and especially Western Europe as the EEC struggles towards centralization of its monetary systems and a free market after 1992. Social (or lifestyle) changes will be taking place all around the globe, even in some of the well established lands such as the U.S.A., Australasia and some parts of Europe. Maybe in those quarters the "Materialistic Eighties" will give way to a more altruistic era where the quality of life at last becomes the dominant factor.

It will be the changes of lifestyle that will most concern manufacturers and distributors of food products both in the developed and, increasingly, in the under-developed parts of the world. One of the main causes of dissatisfaction within Eastern Europe is indeed a shortage of staples and the complete absence of "luxury" foods. Similarly, in other corners of the planet it is absolute poverty coupled with food shortages that should be the greatest problem for the politicians and economists.

So "nourishing" might be the descriptive word used to sum up the '90s ten years hence. And the food industry will continue to have to play a vital role as provider, while remaining a major employer of labor because not all production will be taken over by "robots."

One of the developing industries in this decade will be worldwide tourism, which will provide more opportunities for the entrepreneurial food distributor. But there will be a far greater need to recognize and supply what the increasingly more affluent and more discernible consumers really want.

Much of the power in marketing comes from listening and learning, and to succeed in highly competitive national and international markets, organizations must attentively receive the feedback from the people and react accordingly - and profitably! It certainly is not simply a matter of replicating what is successfully being done at home in markets overseas. Just printing different language on the packages won't get the job done.

This underscores the important need for some companies to considerably improve their packaging imagery and their customer guidance. In addition to the well established tin, frozen and, sometimes, refrigerated segments, there is the developing ambient long-life sector. And maybe during the '90s the irradiated food option will become acceptable, as well as legal. Customers need to know just what they are buying, how long the product is going to remain in good condition and under what storage circumstances, and finally, how best to cook it without benefit of a degree in home economics.

Some confusion can arise because packets of frozen, refrigerated (or chilled) and even long shelflife products look so much Then there are those large food companies and retailers who use a well known brand for products in different markets. Consumers do not always readily appreciate that a brand has diversified into a product range that has to be treated differently.

On `Sub-Branding'

"Sub-branding" is a fairly new marketing tool, but new products do not always fit easily into the previously chosen and promoted sub-brands, and the result is sometimes a "sub-sub-brand."

Kellogg is using the Common Sense sub-brand on a range of oatbased cereals, and on some of its Eggo frozen items. Heinz has more than one sub-brand, and is investing heavily in the promotion of Weight Watchers products. Findus, in the U.K., has almost made Lean Cuisine into a sub-brand. In the same market Birds Eye was an early exponent of sub-branding with its Country Club vegetables, Steakhouse meat products, Captain's Table fish items and Menumaster meals. Recently it has introduced, with a launch budget of 8-million [pounds], Menumaster Healthy Options - a range of low fat dishes "created for the healthier way your customers live today." Campbell has backed a premium range of cakes using the Occasions sub-brand with a 750,000 [pounds] launch budget.

Outside frozen foods, this writer was rather taken by QuakeAwake, the sub-brand attached to two new hot oat breakfast cereals from Quaker. Its promotional package is reported to be in the range of 5-million [pounds]. Did it take Kellogg to prompt Quaker into paying more attention to the oats market, which it had almost exclusively owned?

While on the subject of Kellogg, the British Marketing Week magazine has announced that that company has been judged to be the best at marketing in a recent retailer survey. Heinz was the only other straight food firm in the Top 10, coming in at the tail end of the pack. Mars/Pedigree Petfoods and Cadbury were rated second and third, respectively. Two large retailers, Marks & Spenser and Sainsbury, were in the fifth and sixth positions. There was not one frozen food company in the Top 10, or even in the separate Top 10 food sector! Perhaps the launch of "Healthy Options" will help to get Birds Eye back in the frame next year.

I read that frozen foods "may be left out in the cold as Europeans warm to the convenience and perceived healthfulness of chilled foods, particularly ready meals." This notion was among the pronouncements in a Frost and Sullivan research report, from which it can be deduced that the European chilled foods market is already worth about US$40 million in sales. Such information flies in the face of the torrid time chilled foods had in the U.K. during 1989 as the result of one food scare after another, mainly in the catering sector.

So the battle is already joined as the '90s unfold with "healthiness" review of the U.S.A. food market, entitled "What America Eats," has been conducted by MRCA Information Services. It details how Americans are consuming fewer so-called "All American" foods - especially the traditional bacon and eggs breakfast. The report stresses that U.S. citizens "are not demonstrating an unpatriotic palate (!), but simply showing greater awareness of the healthfulness of the foods and beverages they consume." And we all know that what America eats today the rest of us are likely to try eventually. So, yes, we could be witnessing the dawn of the "Nourishing Nineties."

Giordano Gets His OBE

Richard Giordano, chairman and chief executive officer of the BOC Group (industrial gases), has been made an Honorary Knight Commander in the Order of the British Empire for contributions to the industry. He is the first American to be feted as such.
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Author:Webb, Kenneth J.B.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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