Thursday, September 1, 2011 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Some Fast Food Gets a Fresh Makeover
Burger King is advertising fresh vegetables and introducing oatmeal, McDonald's is touting "real fruit" smoothies and Wendy's is promoting "natural" lemonade and summer salads.
Times are changing at fast-food restaurants -- sort of.
Spurred in part by the success of restaurants like Subway and Chipotle, who have found a winning formula in offering fresh, made-to-order items, fast-food chains better known for their greasy fries and gut-busting burgers are increasingly paying attention to avocado slices and apple wedges.
The shift toward fresher food comes as the giant chains gird for expected fierce competition in the years to come. The U.S. foodservice market is likely to grow less than 1 percent a year over the next decade, according to research firm NPD Group.
"It's going to be a real battle for market share," said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst with NPD.
That's left fast-food restaurants eager to attract more Americans of all ages and walks of life -- from weight-conscious teens to heart-conscious baby boomers -- who say they want fresh food and higher-quality ingredients.
"I think it's more of an attitudinal shift than a demographic shift," said Robert Passikoff, founder of market research firm Brand Keys. "You've got teenagers who are just as aware of calories and fat count and sugar count as parents."
Burger King, well-known for its creepy King mascot, recently announced an advertising scheme that would be more "food-centric," featuring images of fresh veggies and other ingredients. Last week, it added oatmeal to its menus.
There's also a marketing element to the moves. As more chains are asked to provide calorie counts on websites or in stores, restaurant operators are eager to show they have lower-calorie options, Riggs said.
But that doesn't mean customers necessarily want to take advantage of them. When NPD asked customers what they were looking for in healthy offerings, the No. 1 answer was "fresh ingredients," Riggs said.
"I think it was an eye-opener for many of us...that it wasn't all about calories and salt and low fat and those things that we thought it would be," she said.
That may explain why some fast-food makers have recently started showcasing beautiful pictures of fresh vegetables and touting real fruits without necessarily making their offerings low-calorie.
Wendy's lemonade may be made with sugar and lemon juice instead of high fructose corn syrup, but a large cup of it still packs 410 calories.
And the California Whopper Burger King began touting last week in a commercial filled with lush shots of fresh veggies? It also comes with bacon and other ingredients, all of which add up to 820 calories.
This fast-food version of healthy foods has drawn its share of critics. The New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman earlier this year described McDonald's oatmeal as "oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen."
Still, the 290-calorie dish has about half the calories as McDonald's hotcakes and sausage with syrup. In its latest earnings report McDonald's credited oatmeal with helping to improve its U.S. breakfast sales.
McDonald's says it has been working to make food healthier for years, pointing to moves such as reducing sodium in chicken McNuggets and phasing out super-size options.
But the fast-food behemoth has recently stepped up its efforts with initiatives such as a pledge to offer a healthier version of its children's Happy Meal, which will now feature a smaller portion of french fries along with apple slices.
Cindy Goody, senior director of nutrition for McDonald's USA, said the goal is to offer a variety of choices. She noted, for example, that someone craving a burger could choose anything from the 250-calorie basic hamburger to the 790-calorie Angus Bacon & Cheese.
Goody said the company also has traditionally made an especially strong effort to appeal to children and the moms who buy their food.
Those efforts appear to be paying off. Passikoff, the brand analyst, said his research has shown that McDonald's ranks No. 1 for customer perception of brand value and healthy choice. Subway ranks second.
Passikoff said McDonald's has traditionally been good at spotting new food trends, such as this one, although it can take a while for the company to perfect the taste part.
"McDonald's has always been one who has been quick to market but slow to delight," he said.
Still, that puts the fast-food giant in a better position than some other competitors, who are only now realizing that offering an average-tasting burger for a low price may not be enough, Passikoff said.
That may be part of what was behind Burger King's decision to adopt a more "food-centric" advertising campaign and introduce its own version of oatmeal nationwide. The company saw U.S. and Canadian same-store sales fall 5.3 percent in the most recent quarter.
But the company may not be completely abandoning its more traditional focus. A spokesman for Burger King said in an e-mail that the company could still bring back its former advertising mascot, the King, at a later time.
Other fast food joints also are taking steps to offer healthier options.
Jack in the Box's ads may still be aimed at young men with big appetites and a raunchy sense of humor, but it has said it will make apple bites with caramel an option with its kids meals. And Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are now offering turkey burgers as well as beef, although they're also using bikini-clad women to sell them.
Riggs, of NPD, expects that anyone who hasn't yet jumped on the fresh-food bandwagon may just be watching to see if it pays off for their competitors before following suit.
"This is such a me-too industry," she said.
(Source: MSNBC.com, 08/25/11)
||Boomers Will Be Spending Billions to Counter Aging
Baby boomers heading into what used to be called retirement age are providing a 70 million-member strong market for legions of companies, entrepreneurs and cosmetic surgeons eager to capitalize on their "forever young" mindset, whether it's through wrinkle creams, face-lifts or workout regimens.
It adds up to potential bonanza. The market research firm Global Industry Analysts projects that a boomer-fueled consumer base, "seeking to keep the dreaded signs of aging at bay," will push the U.S. market for anti-aging products from about $80 billion now to more than $114 billion by 2015.
The boomers, who grew up in a culture glamorizing youth, face an array of choices as to whether and how to be a part of that market.
Anti-aging enthusiasts contend that life spans can be prolonged through interventions such as hormone replacement therapy and dietary supplements. Critics, including much of the medical establishment, say many anti-aging interventions are ineffective or harmful.
From mainstream organizations such as the National Institute on Aging, the general advice is to be a skeptical consumer on guard for possible scams involving purported anti-aging products.
"Our culture places great value on staying young, but aging is normal," the institute says. "Despite claims about pills or treatments that lead to endless youth, no treatments have been proven to slow or reverse the aging process."
Its advice for aging well is basic: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, don't smoke.
"If someone is promising you today that you can slow, stop or reverse aging, they're likely trying hard to separate you from your money," said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago's School of Public Health who has written extensively about aging.
"It's always the same message: 'Aging is your fault and we've got the cure,'" Olshansky said. "Invest in yourself, in the simple things we know work. Get a good pair of running or walking shoes and a health club membership, and eat more fruits and vegetables."
But such advice hasn't curtailed the demand for anti-aging products, including many with hefty price tags that aren't covered by health insurance. These include cosmetic surgery procedures at $10,000 or more, human growth hormone treatments at $15,000 per year and a skin-care product called Peau Magnifique that costs $1,500 for a 28-day supply.
Another challenge for consumers is that many dietary supplements and cosmetics, unlike prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, aren't required to undergo government testing or review before they are marketed. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission do crack down at times on egregiously false anti-aging claims, but generally there's little protection for people who don't get hoped-for results.
Mary Engle, director of the FTC's division of advertising practices, said her agency focuses on the cases that could cause serious harm, such as bogus cancer treatments that might prompt an ill person to forgo proper care.
She said the agency lacks the resources to crack down comprehensively on ads with exaggerated claims that exploit customers' hopes for better looks or more energy.
"Often it doesn't rise to the level of fraud," she said. "There are so many problematic ads out there and we really have to pick and choose what we focus on."
In contrast to the caution of mainstream organizations, there are many vocal promoters of anti-aging products and procedures, including the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. It hosts annual conferences in the U.S. and abroad, and claims 22,000 members, mostly physicians.
In its mission statement, the academy says the disabilities associated with normal aging "are caused by physiological dysfunction which in many cases are ameliorable to medical treatment, such that the human life span can be increased."
One of the academy's co-founders is Robert Goldman, a doctor of osteopathic medicine. He contends that much of the resistance to the anti-aging movement comes from sectors of the health and pharmaceutical industries that feel threatened financially -- for example by the surging use of over-the-counter nutritional supplements.
"It all has to do with who's controlling the dollars," he said.
Though many anti-aging interventions are expensive, Goldman said people on tight budgets still can take useful steps such as drinking purified water, taking vitamins and using sun screen.
"People should be healthy and strong well into 100 to 120 years of age," Goldman says in a biographical video. "That's what's really exciting -- to live in a time period when the impossible is truly possible."
Olshansky, who over the years has been among Goldman's harshest critics, believes there will be scientific breakthroughs eventually, perhaps based on studies of the genes of long-lived people, that will help slow the rate of aging.
In the meantime, Olshansky says, "I understand the need for personal freedom, the freedom to make bad decisions."
A look at some of the major sectors in the anti-aging industry:
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Numerous companies and clinics promote hormone replacement drugs, including testosterone for men and custom-mixed "bioidentical" hormones for women, as a way to slow the aging process.
Many consumers have seen ads featuring muscle-bound Dr. Jeffry Life, now 72. He used testosterone and human growth hormone in his own bodybuilding regimen and recommends hormonal therapy for some of the patients patronizing his age-management practice in Las Vegas.
The FDA has approved hormone replacement drugs for some specific purposes related to diseases and deficiencies, but not to combat aging.
"Finding a 'fountain of youth' is a captivating story," says the National Institute on Aging. "The truth is that, to date, no research has shown that hormone replacement drugs add years to life or prevent age-related frailty."
Dr. Evan Hadley, director of the institute's Division of Geriatrics, says hormone replacement drugs can have harmful side effects. He said there is a need for more research, such as an institute study of testosterone therapy, to identify the potential risks and benefits.
"There is indeed potential that people can be healthier in old age," Hadley said. "But it still requires evidence about what's going to help and what's not."
Hormone drugs can be expensive. HGH shots can cost more than $15,000 a year, according to the institute. A hormone-based dietary supplement known as DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a precursor of estrogen and testosterone, is marketed online for $12.95 per capsule by Utah-based NutraScriptives.
Some proponents say over-the-counter DHEA supplements can improve energy and strength, boost immunity and decrease fat. The institute says there's no conclusive scientific evidence of any such benefits.
Life says he's a staunch advocate of exercise and healthy eating, but insists that hormone replacement therapy, under a doctor's supervision, is a crucial addition for some men, and that includes him.
"There's no way I could look and feel the way I do if all I had done the last 13 years was exercise and eat right," he said. "Even if you do everything right, if you have a deficiency in testosterone, you will lose the fight."
Life acknowledged that the cost of testosterone replacement, probably more than $5,000 year and not covered by insurance, could be daunting for some. But he contends the investment pays off in more vitality.
"It's hard to put a price on good health," he says.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 13.1 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures performed in the U.S. in 2010, a 77 percent increase over a decade.
One notable trend is increased preference for less invasive procedures that enable patients to get back to work and social settings without a long leave of absence.
The most popular of these is treatment with the wrinkle-smoothing drugs Botox or Dysport. They account for 5.4 million procedures, averaging about $400 per treatment. Other popular noninvasive procedures include soft-tissue facial fillers, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
More invasive procedures come at a higher price. Face-lifts can run from $6,000 to $15,000; the plastic surgeons' academy reported performing 112,000 of them in 2010.
Dr. Peter Schmid, who runs a cosmetic surgery practice in Longmont, Colo., says his field is flourishing because of evolving attitudes among appearance-conscious boomers. A recent Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that 1 in 5 boomers either have had or would consider cosmetic surgery.
"Cosmetic surgery has become table talk at home. There's a lot of satisfaction and acceptance from people who've had it, friend to friend, word of mouth," Schmid said.
While the noninvasive procedures cost less than a face-lift, the effects won't last as long and repeat treatments might be needed several times a year, Schmid said. He advised patients to calculate carefully which type of procedure makes the most sense for them financially.
Schmid, who is on the board of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, cautioned against any rush to try new procedures that get a burst of publicity.
"There's a certain vulnerability because everybody's looking for that quick fix, that fountain of youth," he said. "Many people will shop emotionally instead of objectively, before something has been tried and tested."
Some critics of the anti-aging industry are supportive of cosmetic surgery, provided the patient can comfortably afford it.
Professor Robert Binstock, an expert on aging at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine, told of a recently widowed friend whose spirits lifted after getting the bags under her eyes removed. "If you feel better looking in the mirror in the morning, fine," he said. "I have no objection to people being narcissistic."
One of the industry's booming sectors is anti-aging skin care, featuring wrinkle creams and facial serums. By some estimates, the U.S. market for cosmeceutical products -- cosmetics with medicine-based ingredients -- is approaching $20 billion a year.
The FDA, which oversees cosmetic safety and labeling, doesn't require manufacturers to prove the effectiveness of cosmetic products before they go on sale, and many ads make claims which critics say are exaggerated or unverifiable. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends consulting a dermatologist on what skin care products have been proved safe and effective in human studies.
Consumer Reports has ventured into the realm of anti-aging cosmetics several times recently, using high-tech optical devices and other scientific methods to assess the products.
Last year, the magazine tested nine face serums, available at drug stores for prices ranging from $20 to $65 and all claiming to reduce wrinkles.
"After six weeks of use, the effectiveness of even the best products was limited and varied from subject to subject," according to the review. "When we did see wrinkle reductions, they were at best slight, and they fell short of the miracles that manufacturers seemed to imply on product labels."
Earlier, the magazine tested wrinkle creams.
"Even the best performers reduced the average depth of wrinkles by less than 10 percent, a magnitude of change that was, alas, barely visible to the naked eye," it said.
Its top-rated product, Olay Regenerist, cost about $19 at the time of the testing. La Prairie Cellular, the most expensive at $335, was rated among the least effective.
Similar conclusions were reached in testing 16 over-the-counter eye creams.
"Even among the best-performing products, wrinkle reduction around the eyes was generally pretty subtle," the magazine said. "After six weeks of daily use, none came close to eliminating wrinkles."
It said the most expensive, Perricone MD at $95 a jar, was no better than cheaper drugstore brands.
One recent development in anti-aging skin care is the use of stem cell technology. ReVive's expensive Peau Magnifique is among the new products, claiming to "recruit adult stem cells into brand new stem cells."
Neither Consumer Reports nor the FDA has conducted any specific assessment of Peau Magnifique's effectiveness. On a Web site called Makeupalley.com, some customer reviews raved about it; others trashed it as a waste of money.
(Source: USA Today, 08/22/11)
||Part-Time Workers: More Fine With No Full-Time Job
Unemployment remains a huge concern, but the underemployment problem isn't as bad as it used to be. Fewer part-time workers are looking for full-time work -- because they don't mind working part-time after all.
Since hitting a peak of 9.5 million last September, the number of part-time workers who tell the Labor Department they are doing so for economic reasons rather than personal reasons has dropped to 8.4 million in July.
"It's not massive, but there is a marked drop during a period when we're not seeing an increase in hours," said Heidi Shierholz, labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
The vast majority of part-timers, defined as those who work less than 35 hours a week, are happy with their status. Those who would prefer full-time work make up only 31% of all part-time workers, according to the Labor Department.
That's still a lot higher than the 19% of part-timers who wanted a full-time job before the start of the Great Recession. But it's a modest improvement from the peak of 34% last September.
But economists don't have a definitive answer for why more part-timers are content to work fewer hours.
Part of it could be that workers who had been looking for full-time work have now decided they prefer the flexibility of a part-time schedule.
Shawn Boyer, CEO of SnagAJob, a job posting site for hourly positions, thinks some part-timers are discovering the advantages that go with the disadvantage of smaller paychecks.
"You get a person who didn't have a choice but to go into part time, and after adjusting to the lifestyle, they realize they have more of a work/life balance," said Boyer.
That was the case for Karen King, a suburban Chicago marketing executive for a midsize specialty retailer. When she had her hours -- and her salary -- cut by 25% in early 2009, she thought it was a disaster for her and her family.
"I was angry, I was bitter, I took it personally. I felt like I was taken advantage of," King recalled.
But soon she decided it was the best situation, even if it put a crimp in the family budget.
"I finally figured out the balance since it was forced upon me," she said.
Julia Claire was someone else who found herself changing her attitude about working part-time. A 2007 law school graduate who never intended to work part-time, she had trouble finding full-time work as the economy slowed that year.
So she started working for temp agencies that placed attorneys with firms for limited hours to help with big cases or big projects. She soon decided the part-time lifestyle was a better fit.
"When I saw the crushing schedules that firm attorneys are subjected to, I didn't think that's the way to live," she said. "I got used to living on less, and I found I was happier. My life was less complicated."
She recently started her own placement firm, Hire an Esquire, to help other lawyers who would prefer to be working on a part-time schedule.
Some employers say they actually have trouble convincing their part-timers to shift to full-time work. Eric Morgan, who runs Adaptivity Pro, a web design/Internet marketing business, said it would be easier to manage his staff if more of his 15 part-timers would want to work full-time.
He said some workers are spreading their hours between different employers and want to keep that flexibility. Others are students or semi-retired workers who are only willing to work a limited number of hours a week.
Another possible reason for fewer disgruntled part-timers may be (as amazing as it sounds in this job market) that more workers who had been on part-time hours have finally found full-time jobs.
Despite continued high unemployment, businesses have created 1.6 million jobs since last September. And those with jobs, even part-time jobs, often have an edge when competing for jobs with the 13.9 million unemployed job seekers.
"We've also seen people who have taken part-time jobs in different industries where they didn't have any experience before the downturn. They discovered they like the industry, they're good at it, and they've moved into full-time jobs," Boyer said.
(Source: CNNMoney.com, 08/29/11)
Daily Sales Tip: Remember Who You're Talking To
When meeting with a prospective customer, make your conversational tone one of respect. Suppose we carelessly utter to the prospect, "Do you know what I mean?" He or she just heard from us: "How could you possibly disagree?" A more respectful offering is, "I want to be sure I express this properly; so may I clarify?"
How about when the buyer poses the same question to us? Seize the opportunity to clarify the exchange of ideas by responding this way: Look into the buyer's eyes and state inquisitively, "No, I do not quite understand. Could you tell me more?" This may also persuade the customer to state his/her position in a way that might reveal critical motivations.
Source: Sales consultant/trainer Robert Menard