Tag Archives: marketing

Avoiding fake hygiene ratings for a tummy-friendly Christmas

I can’t believe that nearly half of the UK general public (41% to be exact) never check food hygiene ratings for restaurants they’re about to visit.

On the one hand, I can see their scepticism about checking. Last year, the FSA warned many businesses about displaying fake ratings on their windows rather than the real McCoy, threatening prosecution. In the UK, businesses don’t have to display the hygiene rating sticker, but it’s becoming so commonplace around the country that windows without any stickers look ominously out of place. Some morally suspect restauranteurs have taken it upon themselves to manufacture a good rating, despite the possible health risks involved. (I can’t help but think it’s less much effort to simply clean your kitchen and practise good food preparation techniques.)

So, ahead of Christmas 2014, the Food Standards Agency is calling on people to check the food hygiene ratings of restaurants before booking Christmas meals, and this is better achieved by using the official app (which you can’t cheat).

So anyway, those statistics … Half of the UK don’t check ratings. Aaargh! It’s not worth the risk! And this is despite 39% of people reporting that they had a bad experience when eating out, and suspecting they contracted food poisoning from a restaurant or takeaway. In other words, you’ve already been burned and you still take the risk.

“The people we spoke to through our poll spend a lot of time and effort planning festive meals to make sure their family and friends have a good time, yet very few make food hygiene a priority,” said Catriona Stewart from the FSA. “It’s quick and easy to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating online. Just go to the FSA website (www.food.gov.uk/ratings).

“Most restaurants have a rating of 3 or above,” said environmental health officer Emma Richbell. “However, as an inspector, I often think consumers would be surprised at which restaurants fall short of good practice. I’d urge everybody to look at the official food hygiene rating, rather than chance it by choosing a place they think will be OK.”

Don’t take chances. If, like me, you love Christmas and want it to pass without any great mischief to your insides, download the app and have a very happy one. In fact, use Foursquare or Yelp and share the good vibes with everybody else!


Do you still love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?

I was pleased to read this week that Nestlé UK has launched a new campaign for confectionery brand Rolo, inspired by the chocolate’s original line, “Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?”.

I considered it as another one of those touchstone moments for forty-somethings until I read that the campaign ran for 22 years, which covers a few more people with my chocolatey sense of nostalgia than I originally thought.

There are five new videos that, according to Nestlé, explore ‘the tension between whether to eat your last Rolo or to share it with a loved one’, an issue I’ve grappled with for longer than you may care to tolerate.

Here’s the first video, inspired by one of my favourite films from last year, Gravity.

The next one seems inspired by the Tom Hanks film Castaway …

This rather more romantic clip, a departure from the film-inspired adverts so far, is a nice touch. I like it because it speaks to ordinary people who incorporated a piece of marketing into their lives and made it their own.

The woman in the next advert clearly has her priorities in order (and he needs a decent meal).

This final ad (my favourite because, at heart, I’m like a Rolo in a warm pocket) tugs at our emotions and rounds up what I think is a good, mixed set of commercials to push Rolo back into the minds of ever increasing chocolate-loving nations.

Mining social media to understand what we think about food and drink

The horse meat scandal just won’t go away, which is probably a good thing. At the beginning of last year, it was headline news for good reason, but why are we still talking about it 18 months on?

The reason is simple: we need to ensure it doesn’t happen again. As I said in an earlier blog, the crime in this case was that a nation that does consider the eating of horse meat as taboo was deceived.

What disturbed me most wasn’t the fact that we may have been eating horse meat all along, but the fact that no one told me. I’d like to have a choice over what I eat, so being honest and open about ingredients is top of my list. However, it’s only my opinion. In order to discover what everyone else thought about the horse meat scandal, researchers at Cardiff University have been busy looking at social media engagement from when the news first broke.

By analysing social media data, the researchers will discover public perceptions of the horse meat scandal for the first time, tapping into a rich vein of media coverage that revealed widespread fraud and uncovered the complexity of the UK meat supply chain and the extent of meat imports.

The project will investigate how the growing complexity of international food supply chains is giving rise to a new generation of risks and concerns.

It’s a massive undertaking, but an important one that may change the way we use social media for marketing purposes in all sorts of sectors, whether we’re mining it for positive change or for being able to sell a product in two years’ time.

The University’s Collaborative Online Social Media Observatory (Cosmos, of course) has been awarded an Economic and Social Research Council grant under its Global Food Security Programme (a joint initiative with the Food Standards Agency). The project is in collaboration with NatCen, the University of Warwick and the University of Westminster.

“Cosmos provides a unique opportunity to study the story arc of crises in unprecedented detail,” said computer scientist Dr Pete Burnap. “We have collected data from public Twitter accounts since 2012 and our database of more than three billion tweets will allow us to trace the unfolding of the horse meat scandal, pinpointing moments of escalation, de-escalation and duration.

“We can also mine the data to discover variation in levels of public sentiment and tension around the topic, as well as identify demographic characteristics of those involved and the geographic spread of the scare.

“This study will enhance understanding of the potential of social media analysis to access public perceptions and how these evolve, and to establish how social media analysis can be used in risk governance and engagement with the public about risks more generally.”

I can’t help but imagine a future of such detailed research being undertaken by the food & drink Goliaths of our day. Scratch that; they’re probably already doing it – mining our tweets and posts about flavours, regional trends and packaging choices. It’s not a bad thing. If they have the money to do it, it cascades down to those who can’t afford to do the research, which leads to more innovation and competition.

As Dr Luke Sloan from the Cardiff School of Social Sciences says, “The research will generate new empirical findings on public perceptions of UK food supply chains; what people’s concerns are, what influences these and how they may be best managed in the future.”

If the NSA can mine our data, so can we.

(My thanks to Fil Dunsky for the brilliant illustration used in this article.)

What happened to food & drink sales when England left the World Cup?

First of all, don’t get me started on poor team management, the rewarding of mediocrity and the instability of an autocratic football hierarchy. Let’s talk food and drink instead.

I’ve just found out that the England football team has cost UK supermarkets up to £55m in lost sales over the two weeks since they were unceremoniously booted out of the 2014 World Cup. (This is according to analysis of sales data from global market and shopper intelligence firm IRI.)

Compared with the four weeks preceding the start of the World Cup, sales of alcohol, soft drinks, bagged snacks, pizza, chilled party food and bread rolls, in the first week of matches, shot up by over £50m. After England lost to Uruguay, the sales peak of these products in the following week slumped by £38m.

So, not only did the England team fail to match our already low expectations in Brazil, they ruined the party mood so much that we decided to stop buying lots of unhealthy, yet tasty snacks and stuff just after their first game. I confess, I bought a new shirt that week instead of the usual Coca-Cola, Peroni and M&S cheese puffs (oh, they’re so good).

During the third World Cup week (week ending 28 June), after England’s Costa Rica match, sales dropped again, almost back to where they started. IRI estimates that the lost sales caused by ‘World Cup fatigue’ over the last two weeks could be worth between as much as £55m and £60m.

In some depth, here are more highlights from the IRI analysis:

  • The value growth for soft drinks reduced significantly, from 18% in week one to 9% in week two, and just under 6% in week three. Sales were £5.2m lower in week three of the World Cup than they were in week one.
  • Altogether, value sales of bagged snacks, pizza, chilled party snacks, bread rolls, baguettes, coleslaw, chilled salads and dips were £3.3m lower through the UK’s major supermarket chains in week three than they were in week one. Only sales of Scotch eggs grew, higher by almost 5% in value.
  • Ale and stout had sales volumes increase by 13.9%, the highest in sales volumes.
  • Champagne and sparkling wine continued to grow strongly, with volumes up by 13.3% and value up by 15.7%.
  • Cider maintained its momentum with volume and value sales in the last week, still up on the four weeks immediately prior to the World Cup (volume +2.7%, value +6.9%).
  • Net sales for beer, wines and spirits in week three were up by £5.7m compared to the same week in 2013. However, this was a £37.1m reduction in sales value compared to week one of the World Cup.

So, there are some positives to take from all of this analysis, such as Scotch eggs being cold comfort for our misery (who knew?) and Champagne sales increasing (I didn’t know there were so many Uruguayans in the UK). Otherwise, Mr Hodgson, you have a lot more to answer for than I first thought.

If you piled your cupboards high with football snacks and a few beers/softies, what did you get? I’d love to know what the most popular World Cup F&B brands were!

The vending machine with free Knacki Balls

If you have an immature sense of humour, now is the time to resist your instinctive urge to giggle while we contemplate a new marketing initiative in the vending sector.

We’re talking about Knacki Balls, a snack product from Herta (a Nestlé brand), and its new promotional video brought to life by creative directors Sebastien De Valck and Arnaud Pitz. Take a look …


Pitting your wits against retired Belgian footballer Leo Van der Elst looks like fun, and the video shows how much fun went into setting up this whole stunt. I’d love to see someone like Luiz Suarez do this one day (but take a lawyer with you, and some plasters).

As for the viral marketing something like this produces, even for a player many of us haven’t heard of, it’s just pure gold. And it still seems to have legs, despite there being many other examples of vending machine viral marketing over the last year or two, including Coke’s Hug Machine and the Strongbow Dark Fruit vending machine that was installed at one of the UK’s busiest train stations.

It’s been great watching the vending industry come on in leaps and bounds in terms of marketing itself, even if it’s still the big companies spending all the money.

Summer 2014 has provided ample opportunity to ride on the coattails of the World Cup with all sorts of football-related activity, and this has to be one of the more fun examples of how food and drink can capitalise on the broader socioeconomic zeitgeist.

Food and drink launches for the 2014 Fifa World Cup

It’s World Cup week again and my mailbox has been inundated over the past few months with all sorts of football-related food and drink content. I’ll share some with you.

Ben Davies, CEO and founder of VYPR, wrote a blog at the beginning of May, posing the question, ‘Will your limited edition product for the World Cup be a success?’.

Not long after, John Nevens from Bridgethorne offered some timely advice for brands looking to increase World Cup retail opportunities by targeting shoppers.

Rob Baker from Crimson & Co discussed the difficulties with the supply chain, taking into account the delays in construction of the various stadia, advising that ‘meticulous detail must be applied to any contingency plans in the event of failure within the supply chain’. Let’s hope the tournament passes without incident (other than a few extra-special goals that us mere mortals can only dream of).

I also saw a few interesting food and drink products that were themed around the 2014 Fifa World Cup, such as McDonald’s augmented reality packaging and various metal packaging from the likes of Ball and Rexam.

Check out this special Pinterest gallery of some of the more recent food and drink products to capitalise on the World Cup, and feel free to join in and add your own.

If you’re absolutely not interested in football, yet you feel that it was important to make sure you marketed your brand for this big occasion, I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comment below!

Striking the right balance between workers’ rights and business interests

If you’re in London, keep your eyes peeled for a tube carriage covered in Magnum advertising. It’s the latest method of celebrating the Magnum ice cream brand’s 25th birthday, which I feel like I’ve been celebrating with gusto since Christmas.

The new campaign from Unilever UK will run until the end of July, and I can only imagine how relieved the company is that the recent London Underground strikes have been settled.

The recent strike action by RMT union members was because of potential ticket office closures across the London Underground network. I read today that Londoners have supported calls to ban strikes unless more than half the workforce votes for them. This suggests that RMT and other unions have lost public support for industrial action, especially where it concerns public amenities such as public transport.

It made me think of recent examples of strike action in the food and drink industries, such as low paid workers at Greencore last year, and employees at Molson Coors in the UK.

Union members often achieve public support for strike action when it looks like workers are being poorly paid or are mistreated. When it comes to strike action affecting something we use every day, such as trains, buses and planes, opinions dramatically change.

It seems to be a constant battle between protecting workers’ rights and moving forward as a business. Managers at McVities Cake Company, for instance, recently argued their case for changing workers’ shift patterns at a factory in Halifax to ‘secure future production volumes and cut costs’. It was a move that looked, on the face of it, an attempt to protect the company from suffering business losses, but at the expense of salaries and some permanent jobs.

It’s difficult to side with one party or the other sometimes, as I’m empathetic to workers’ rights, yet I understand how businesses often need to make difficult decisions to look after its own interests.

How did the tube strike affect you? Do you buy tickets via the internet, through a ticket machine or via a ticket office? Do you buy Coca-Cola at your local newsagent or from a vending machine? What’s your stance on keeping things ‘human’ vs automated?

Enjoy your ice cream while you’re thinking about it.