Caught My Attention 010 (170518)

A bit of a mix in this edition of Caught My Attention, but the major threads today are social media and grocery, with bit of hot sauce and umami for flavor. I still haven’t gotten into a rhythm in doing these posts that I want, but I’m working on it. I guess a bit of a milestone tho, as this is #10.
Dave’s Insanity Sauce was probably one of the super hot hot sauces that I ever experienced. I say experienced since it definitely was. At the time, I hadn’t yet been versed in the world of hot sauce and little did I know that Dave’s Insanity was made with capsaicin extract – that is, the stuff that makes chiles hot are pulled out and concentrated to make an extract that is not naturally produced. So I put a few huge slugs into a big pot of chili and had to double the ingredients, then it still wasn’t edible but I made it so I had to act big and force a few bowls down. I paid the price. Anyway, through the years I have watched the Dave’s brand expand and not long ago they came out with a line of non-hot pasta sauces that were very tasty. And now they are going even wider and introducing a line of overnight oats. Also using a Kickstarter campaign “to build community.”
(link to NOSH: Dave’s Gourmet Goes From Fiery to Natural Foods)
It intrigues me how some brands can really be made on social media. Some people think, “oh social media is easy, just post every so often on fb and I’m good.” But I know it is a whole lot more than that. It takes a ton of time and energy to put in the effort needed to truly be successful. That is why there are now media agencies providing this as a service. Or brands are doing it in house with a full staff. Here’s an article on a ‘healthy’ ice cream that has quickly raised in popularity. They say they have not paid any influencers, but they do have a full staff (“more than a dozen communications and marketing staffers”) that create social media content everyday.
(link to Bloomberg: This Guilt-Free Ice Cream Is a Cult Hit, Thanks to Instagram)
Amazon has been in the news with their testing of brick and mortar grocery stores. Now it looks like Walmart is testing the waters too thru their operation. Recently I have been hearing more about how the general public (the non-first adopters) are increasingly getting comfortable with buying food and home staple products online. And now these companies are seeing if they can persuade shoppers to buy perishables online too.
(link to Mashable: Walmart’s is following Amazon’s lead with its own brick-and-mortar grocery store)
I work with several small food product producers and it used to be that getting into Whole Foods was a badge of honor. Something that a brand just starting out strived to do, be on the sheleves of a major retailer and Whole Foods made it attainable through their support for the small startups with their Local program. They even had Local Foragers whose role was to search out these brands, vet them, and help shepherd them through the corporate system. The recent belt tightening and the investor pressures that WFM has been going through is making it much more difficult for the small producer. I have been seeing this personally in the recent year or two, it’s not a new development but people are now seeing and feeling it.
(link to Omaha World Herald: Changes at Whole Foods could mean fewer local products on the shelves)
I get asked about umami, what is it? It is the savoriness of something like mushroom or tomato. It’s been around for a long time, but largely ignored by the Western world. Here is a bit of history on it.
(link to Quartz: The incredible taste of umami was proven in 1907 in Japan—but ignored by the West for a century)
Recently I have been daydreaming about what it would be like to purge my life of most of the physical belongings and get an RV or fancy 4×4 Sprinter and just drive. It’s probably the influence of the glitzy lifestyles portraited on social media. Again, people don’t realize the work it takes to have a successful social media brand, or to make a living doing it. Here’s a glimpse into both vanlife and social media management. It’s work.
(link to The New Yorker: #Vanlife, The Bohemian Social-Media Movement)
The headline here caught my eye, Asian and Whole Foods. It is kind of interesting that we need to describe things like that, but I guess it does easily get the idea across. Like the large Thai cash and carry place in LA that many Asian (and non-Asian) restaurants buy supplies, known as the Thai-Costco – many then think it is an actual Costco. It’s not, the name of the place is LAX-C. Anyway, here is an article about a small grocery chain with Taiwanese roots, focusing on quality organic foods. I need to check this place out.
(link LA Weekly: The "Asian Whole Foods" Is Expanding Across The San Gabriel Valley)
Along some of the same lines as a few of the articles I’ve mentioned in this post and other recent ones, grocery retailers are trying to keep up with society doing more shopping online and maybe trying to lure shoppers in with better/healthier goods that they are not as comfortable purchasing online. Here they talk about how the center of the store where typically the canned goods and things like lunch baggies are found, is getting small as consumers buy more of those item online and how the retailers are trying to enhance the outer aisles of their stores.
(link to NYTimes: What’s New in the Supermarket? A Lot, and Not All of It Good)

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