Eating on the Go
December 3, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois
Michelle Brisebois writes about tailoring your products to your customers’ busy lives.
We tend to define our businesses in terms of the products we sell. Perhaps bagels are trendy one minute and whole grain products the next but we often just accept these trends at face value. Consumers don’t build their lives around our products – it’s really the other way around. Our products must fit into their world and the choices consumers make are likely driven more by lifestyle than a specific craving. The real “aha!” moment for every business comes when it adopts a “customer centric” approach to marketing. When you stop designing products to fit your operation (what works well on your equipment) and look from the outside in, magic can happen. To do that, we just profile our target consumer and create products based on demographics, right? That’s been our traditional approach but we’re discovering that the same consumer has very different purchasing styles during different occasions and times of the day. That’s because our consumers are living several different lives all rolled into one. We’re actually dealing with many different consumer profiles all within the same individual. It’s time to think of our strategies in terms of consumer situations rather than menus. The breakfast and the “grab and go” categories provide two of the biggest opportunities in this arena.
It probably won’t be too difficult for you to get inside the head of your consumer. If you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and you’re having trouble finding time to eat a balanced diet, you’re already living your consumer’s life. The first meal to go is typically breakfast. Years ago, Mom would pop out of bed and start her day in the kitchen preparing breakfast for the family. Today, she’s probably busy getting herself ready for work without the luxury of having time to ensure the family has breakfast. Ipsos Reid reports that 60 per cent of Canadians do eat breakfast every day yet 28 per cent say they don’t regularly eat a balanced and nutritious breakfast during the work week. The study also found that 34 per cent report skipping breakfast during the work week at least once. Of those who don’t eat breakfast regularly, 38 per cent blame lack of time. Canadians save time in the morning by skipping breakfast or by taking it with them. The Ipsos Reid survey indicates that 21 per cent report eating breakfast on the go. Breakfast is a key strategy in successful weight control because it provides the body with a more evenly distributed food supply and gets the metabolism going early in the day. With all the consumer focus on healthy eating, most Canadians probably want to have breakfast and would if it could be more convenient. The numbers indicate time starved boomers are buying more value added items. Frozen pre-cooked dinners and baked goods increased from 26 cents of every dollar spent on “other foods, materials and food preparations” in 1996 to 31 cents in 2001 (Statistics Canada, 2003). Why not create a line of healthy breakfast bars bundled with a bottle of orange juice and freshly brewed coffee? Thin, whole grain pizza dough can be made into a breakfast calzone filled with fresh fruit and a tiny layer of cream cheese. Whole grain bagels offered in manageable 3 oz. portions will allow customers to maintain their love affair with the bagel but in a moderate way. Bagels became popular because they were perceived as a healthy alternative to sweet goods. The super sizing of the bagel morphed it into a poor food choice. We just need to bring it back into a reasonable portion size to coax it on trend again. In addition to being tasty and healthy, bagels offered the final jewel in the triple crown – portability.
Baby boomers comprise 33 per cent of the Canadian population and they’re mostly in their mid-forties, with teenaged children to ferry from hockey to part-time jobs. The family car often doubles as the kitchen table. I recently hitched a ride with a neighbour as his daughter wolfed down a plate of spaghetti and a buttered roll in the back seat on her way to dance class. More than six out of every 10 meals or snacks sourced from Canadian restaurants were eaten off premise in 2004 according to the CREST/NPD Foodservice Information Group. NPD discovered that 60.7 per cent of all meal and snack occasions purchased from restaurants were eaten off-premise, compared to only 53.1 per cent of occasions just nine years prior. The increase in off-premise meals is the result of an increase in the number of drive-through occasions. Data shows that in 1996, drive-through represented less than one in 10 meal occasions. As of 2005, drive-through occasions accounted for more than one in five. Drive-through is expected to account for more than one in four restaurant meal occasions by 2010. If installing a drive through window isn’t an option, look for merchandising opportunities to forward-sell the next meal occasion. Display those healthy breakfast items the night before and create signage to promote taking the breakfast bars tonight to grab quickly in the morning. Work closely with your paper goods distributor to source innovative carriers to make munching on the run easier (and less messy) for your customers. Consider adding a morning delivery service if your operation is close to a large business centre with a decent sized base of potential customers. Healthy, upscale sandwiches are a very hot trend right now as the sandwich carrier becomes a big piece of the entrée’s taste profile. The sandwich’s portability makes it the perfect item to take upscale, tapping into both the grab and go and artisan trends. Make it a whole grain carrier and you’ve got three key consumer needs covered.
That busy working mom grabbing a breakfast bagel at 7:45 am is settling into her day at the office. The same customer at 5:15 pm is now possibly transitioning into her role as homemaker. Think about all the customers inside each of your customers and create solutions that target the different segments of their day.
Each consumer leads many different lives as they move through their day – the common thread to those day parts is the pace at which they’re lived. Our challenge is to keep up with them.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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