IDDBA's Christison Talks Trends, Predicts Changes

Food, fads, real game changers and predictions took the spotlight as Carol Christison, executive director of the International-Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, gave her always popular state of the industry presentation here at IDDBA's Dairy-Deli-Bake 2010 this month. Certainly the economy was a game changer this year, but so were other things like social media, Christison told attendees. The

HOUSTON — Food, fads, real game changers and predictions took the spotlight as Carol Christison, executive director of the International-Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, gave her always popular state of the industry presentation here at IDDBA's Dairy-Deli-Bake 2010 this month.

“Certainly the economy was a game changer this year, but so were other things — like social media,” Christison told attendees.

The quickness with which consumers can talk to each other via Twitter, Facebook and other new online venues can be a plus or a minus for retailers, depending on whether a customer has had a good experience or a bad one at the retailer's store, Christison said. That there is an immediate stream of information out there in cyberspace certainly should keep retailers on their toes, she added.

Women — who incidentally influence 50% of household purchases and 93% of food purchases — do a lot of blogging, Christison warned.

“In fact, 55% of women read or write blogs. They're online a lot, talking to each other, possibly about you [supermarket retailers].”

She cited one restaurant chain for its partnering with Facebook. In one successful recent promotion, the chain offering free coupons just for becoming a fan on Facebook.

“Papa John's Pizza got 148,000 new customers in one day by offering a free pizza for getting on their Facebook.”

And McDonald's, she said, is using a tactic in which “they're getting their customers to do their advertising for them.” They're encouraging customers to tell their friends via Facebook or Twitter where they are and what they're eating.

“It's called location-based advertising,” Christison said, as she pointed to some impressive statistics about Facebook users.

“There are 450 million Facebook users, and their average income is $61,000.”

There's no doubt people in general are more electronically equipped and connected than ever before, and Christison, with her special brand of humor, offered a phrase — mobile necking — to describe the fascination with, and preponderance of, communicating via social media.

“They're always looking down at their phone or computer,” she said.

Christison is known for adding new phrases and creative words to her audience's vocabulary. Indeed, IDDBA show attendees say that's something they love about Christison's annual talk. They have told SN they write down her unusually descriptive words so they can remember them. And maybe use them in conversation?

One of Christison's creative words that stood out this year was “splurchase.” A splurchase, Christison told her audience, is a purchase made by a price-conscious consumer who's allowing himself or herself a one-time splurge.

All the electronic availability these days has led Christison to make some new predictions. One is that paper receipts at supermarket checkout will soon be a thing of the past.

“Customers will sign up for their grocery receipts to be delivered by email.”

Consumers, too, will continue using more coupons than ever — probably because so many can be, and are, downloaded from the Internet.

“They especially like value-added coupons,” she said, because they like getting free stuff.”

Do-it-yourself projects are gaining ground with consumers, too, as money-savers and as a satisfying way to add new skills and knowledge about food. They're cutting up their own chickens, making their own cheese, and even finding out how to butcher beef and pork.

Christison named some meat companies that offer courses in butchering for laymen. One in New York's Hudson Valley offers a weeklong butchering course for laymen, but she also mentioned others that offer less intensive courses that run two or three hours.

“A supermarket retailer could do that, that or offer some other ‘teach and tell’ course.”

She strongly suggested retailers do some repurposing and teach their customers some skills they want to learn.

“That could bring loyalty, positive talk about you, and, who knows, you might be training your next employee.”