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Quick Tips: Pumpkin is the new bacon and other food angles

pumpkin

In this feast-filled week, food dominates. But before diving into Twinkies and pumpkins, here’s a timely suggestion from Rick Adamczak, a staff writer for the Daily Reporter in Columbus. 

  “Black Friday is obviously busy for retailers and restaurants, but it’s also busy for other businesses,” Rick says. “In Central Ohio, for the zoo, golf courses (if weather’s OK), movie theaters, bowling alleys and ice skating rinks Black Friday is also a busy day.”  He makes a good point, especially with a very mild weather forecast in most parts of the nation — what other small businesses are  hoping to erase some red ink over Thanksgiving weekend? 

Twinkie twists.  Since the cliff-hanging fate of Hostess Twinkies, cupcakes and other cake foods still dominates  headlines, you might want to make another run at it beyond the empty-store-shelves angle, though that and the notion of creme-filled treats on eBay is amusing.  At my giant Kroger store the other day, I found nary a Hostess product and a worker told me customers “cleaned us out as soon as they heard the news.”   Some ideas:  Are local commercial bakeries swooping to fill up this shelf space, especially in a season of snack indulgence?  Are pastry chefs and artisan bakeries creating knockoffs?  (Earlier this year I had two luscious bite-sized confections from a restaurant pastry cart that were styled as miniature chocolate Hostess cupcakes, for example.)

More substantively, what other businesses are anxiously awaiting the outcome of mediation between Hostess and its unions?  Wheat producers in your region (here’s a link to the National Association of Wheat Growers state member list, truck drivers, carnival stands that sell deep-fried Twinkies, convenience stores — what is the ripple effect beyond consumers when a product folds, or is threatened to? 

Another local business angle:  Take a look back at popular local brands that have faded away or been absorbed by larger firms, from regional soft-drink and snack makers to bygone restaurants with famous specialties to bakeries, candy-making firms and other iconic consumable producers.  Take a look at the competitive pressures, changing consumer tastes, financial issues, management issues (lack of interest by subsequent generations in a family business, for example), regulatory or supply matters and other business angles that explain why some businesses thrive and others wither.   Readers will appreciate a nostalgia piece this time of year — people in my area still reminisce about a certain salad at a now-defunct department store chain’s tea room — and you might find a local cook, caterer or self-styled expert who can tell readers, via a sidebar, how to replicate their bygone delights.  Multimedia of old advertisement, jingles and factory photos would be fun, too. 

Pumpkin is the new bacon.  The New York magazine piece by that name caught my eye the other day and the bright orange squash does seem to be enjoying quite a bit of limelight lately, from Starbucks’ lattes  (and the more pedestrian pumpkin-flavored Coffee-mate) to dog treats to pumpkin beer.  I even noticed pumpkin hand lotion in an organic food store recently, and the seeds are being touted for their health benefits. It’s a little late in the harvest season for a big blowout on the topic but you might nose around holiday restaurant and catering menus, or keep an eye out for related products, or talk to farmers about plans for next year’s crop and varieties.  Still time for a fun feature that will set you up with new sources for a January report on the food trends so important to restaurants and retailers.

 

In Agriculture, Beats, Featured, Retail | Lifestyle, Small | Private | Non-profit, Story ideas.

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