Thursday, January 25, 2007

Food, drink and consumer perception

Studying Champagne.. it's a lurk that alot of folks would envy. Hell, I do. Imagine being shipped off to Champagne to do any type of "research"?

Well, 'this guy' from the University of Otago, Dr. Richard Mitchell, current Head of the internationally renowned Tourism Department at the University and very well regarded in the field of consumer research, has done just that. He is soon away to investigate the perception of the Champagne region, THE sparkly beverage, how it has acquired its status of decadence and its constant place at the celebration table.

Before you roll your eyes, as my colleague initially did, consider the dollars and cents at stake with Champagne. Consider how often it is consumed, when and by who? What business wouldn't want to know, in intimate detail, the mind of the consumers, how to maintain the current and gain the confidence of potential consumers?

It may be offending to those of us who don't like to think we are being 'led' to consume, but the truth remains that much of what we buy, from washing powder to cocoa powder, and why it appeals to us, is determined by a whole range of factors. Advertising executives, marketing researchers and sensory scientists are all working on determining these influences and establishing means of predicting consumer preferences in order to guide product development. Companies have a huge invested interest in this information, after all, it is money in their pockets.

It abounds, but doesn't stop, in the food and beverage market. Nearly everything we purchase nowadays has had a fair to extensive design (from focus groups, trained panels, and predictive modeling) to it so we will buy.

However, champagne has something else.. romance, mystique, history and a big reputation. Lucky for Champagne producers, even in tougher economic times, it still maintains its prestigious place.

It's perception appears to be a mystery even to them.

photo credit: Inmagine website

Monday, January 15, 2007

World Bread Day

Back in October, while the rest of the blogging world was celebrating World Bread Day, I was lamenting the lack of time to participate..

However, it isn't that difficult. Proofing dough is by far the easiest task going and with a little organisation, bread would have been no trouble at all! I did manage to churn out some pizza via the exact same process but have only managed to get in some bread baking this past weekend.

Now while Christmas cake did give great aromatherapy.. it doesn't require the kneading.. that simple theraupeutic value that breadbaking provides. Not to mention the alchemy, the mystery, the history.. bread was sustenance, it signified abundance, and was often baked as a communal activity.

I love the attachment that every culture and every country has to its bread. Baked, fried, sourdough or unleavened.. Throughout my time in University, I have met many students that all miss bread from their respective homes and their childhood.

My earliest memory of bread was homemade by my mother.. 3 loaves a few times a week. My father preferred it and we were not given special treatment. A shame to say that we envied the store bought bread that our friends used to have packed in school lunches and munched the hearty crusts of our homemade sandwiches with disdain!

Today, we're making up for lost appreciation time. Bread just isn't eaten, it is smelled and savoured. I plan meals that I can soak up the flavours with its goodness. We even fight over the crusts!

They say better late than never.. and on that note,

Best for 2007 to All.