Sayonara 2009As I look back on this past year, I can’t help but feel liberated at the notion that maybe, just maybe, our economy will undergo some serious weight-lifting routines in 2010.
For instance, consumers are cooking at home more, but restaurants are fighting back by conjuring up some pretty sweet deals at an affordable price for families looking to escape the trappings of the kitchen.
Casual dining chains such as T.G.I. Friday’s, Max & Erma’s and Applebee’s are continuously changing up their menus to offer low-cost appetizers or five-course meals for under $20. McDonald’s and Burger King irk the price competition with their $1 menu war, which includes Double Cheeseburgers. (Wait until the fat tax kicks in, though).
There are other trends that will gain traction in 2010, according to my crystal ball. Companies are spending some green to go green.
For example, SunRidge Farms’ Pajaro, Calif., facility is complete with 540 solar panels, which brings in 70-75% of its power. Its semi-trucks use biodiesel, and the company initiated a bike-to-work program where employees receive $5 a day for peddling to work versus driving a car, says Mark Devencenzi, national sales director for the producer of bulk candy, confections, nuts, trail mixes/snack mixes and granolas.
As reported in SF&WB’s June State of the Industry issue, nearly 33% of every Frito-Lay SunChips bag is made from renewable, plant-based materials. According to its Web site, savings from going green will be used to rebuild tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kan., in an environmentally friendly way.
Meanwhile, bakers and snack producers are lining up to release the next best allergen-, wheat- and gluten-free product. While my heart goes out for those suffering from Celiac disease, I don’t understand why healthy individuals would want to transform their eating habits to abide by a gluten-free diet.
I mean, imagine Ms. Won’t Try having to change up her diet? Armageddon, here it comes.
Then there’s the array of bakers and snack producers thriving to produce the next “hot” item, and believe me, some of them are on fire while others are stranger than fiction.
For example, caffeinated Perky Jerky, created by Performance Enhancing Meat Snack Co., contains about two cans worth of an energy drink. LesserEvil Brand Snack Co. developed Veggie Krinkle Sticks, which deliver 60% less fat that other veggie chips.
Of course, these are just to name a few.
Even ingredient suppliers are flexing their own muscles to create innovative products by developing exotic flavorings that deliver uniqueness, mouthfeel and better-for-you offerings.
Whether it’s Cargill’s cocoa powders and flavored compounds or Fleischmann’s syrups and malts, many companies now offer a lineup of problem-solving solutions.
Then there’s the social media outbreak. Forget snail mail. Companies are using their Facebook and Twitter accounts as a forum for consumers to offer feedback, vote on products and flavors and share their stories.
For example, Utz Quality Foods’ new team of better-for-you products was developed from input by its Facebook fans.
It’s virtual health at its best.
Don’t get me wrong, 2009 wasn’t all that bad. Most of my friends and family have been able to maintain their jobs and keep their homes. We’ve all remained healthy and determined. And I’ve managed to open up my taste buds for a little adventure.
But I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it’s about freakin’ time this year is over.
I think we’re all in position to amp up our businesses, beef up our operations and plow through 2010 like a hurricane.
It’s time to take off the chains that have tied us down to our office chairs, forcing us to work more hours for less money.
It’s time to free ourselves from mundane routines and expand our minds, our creativity and our ability to be us.
While 2009 was the year for change, 2010 is the year of the tiger.
Hear it roar.
Marina Mayer, managing editor