TrendWire, October 2010

TrendWire, October 2010

Food & Drink

TrendWire, October 2010


The Food Channel Trendwire
October 2010 • Volume 24, Number 7 •

Genetically-Engineered Salmon Headed for Our Plate?


The Food and Drug Administration recently completed three days of hearings and public comment on the effort by AquaBounty Technologies to market farm-raised salmon that’s been genetically modified to grow twice as fast as normal salmon. These fish have a growth hormone from a close relative, the Chinook salmon, inserted into them.

The hearings, conducted by an independent panel, ended without the FDA reaching a decision on whether the Massachusetts company can proceed with sales of the “frankenfish,” which it calls AquaAdvantage salmon. Next steps include an Environmental Assessment of the salmon, followed by a mandated 30-day comment period. The agency says it has not set a timeline for making a decision on whether to allow AquaBounty to move forward with sales.

If the FDA were to give its approval, it would be about two years before these AquaAdvantage salmon would reach the market. It would be the first such scientifically altered animal food product to reach our dinner plates.

The two primary issues are whether the salmon would be safe to eat, and would it be safe for the environment.

FDA staff had previously issued a report, finding the genetically-engineered salmon to be as safe to eat as normal salmon.

But some critics of the report felt the safety tests should have included more data. One of the chief concerns is what would happen if these fast-growing fish were to somehow escape into the ocean and breed with other “natural” salmon.

The words “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” raise red flags for many people—and when hormones are mentioned in connection with foods like meat and dairy products, additional alarm bells go off for many.

On the other hand, we’ve all heard about the dwindling numbers of Atlantic salmon and other species in the ocean today. Salmon that grow to maturity in half the time would likely help ease some of these overfishing issues.

Take the nutrition quiz on frankenfish and other GMOs (genetically modified organisms):

We’re already eating genetically modified foods

The fact is, there are a great many GMO’s in the marketplace today. The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that approximately 80 percent of the packaged foods on grocery store shelves contain at least one genetically-engineered ingredient. The most common are soy, corn, and canola.

Currently, up to 45 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered, as is 85 percent of soybeans. It’s been estimated that 70-75 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves—from soda to soup, crackers to condiments—contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Regardless of the decision on salmon, there’s much more on the horizon. In labs and on experimental farms you can find:

 • Vaccines and other pharmaceuticals grown in bananas and other plants
 • Trademarked “Enviropigs” whose manure doesn’t pollute as much
 • Cows that don’t produce methane in their flatulence

And in the far-off future, there may be foods built from scratch—the scratch being DNA.

During the past 15 years genetically altered plants have been grown on more than 2 billion acres in more than 20 countries.

While countries in Europe and elsewhere view GMOs with suspicion, scientists in the U.S. and China are for the most part forging ahead.

Back in the 1990s, opponents of genetically-engineered crops weren’t taken seriously. Today, these naysayers claim they have been proven right—that pollen from genetically modified crops has caused weeds and insects to become resistant to the anti-pest modifications.

But scientists who work on genetic engineering argue that most of these concerns are overblown, and believe they’re working for the greater good.

With world population expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050, genetically engineered food may be our last best hope to avoid massive global starvation.

David Ervin of Portland State University in Oregon chaired the committee that issued a report on the subject for a 2010 National Academies of Sciences study. The report found no major environmental risks associated with current genetically modified corn, cotton, and soybeans. As for the future, “You just have to be very cautious,” Ervin said.

But are we ready to eat frankenfish and chips? Stay tuned. And check out The Food Channel’s pick of “Frankenfoods” as one of the Top Ten Food Trends of 2009.

Cause Marketing Making a Difference in the Food Business

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you’d have to be practically color-blind to be unaware. Pink ribbons and other pink stuff are seemingly everywhere, especially if you’re a football fan. There’s pink all over the field in October NFL games—shoes, towels, wristbands, and caps are all decked out in the hue.

Restaurant chains across the U.S. are in the pink for the cause, too. Village Inn restaurants are dishing up special pink versions of their French Silk pies, with proceeds going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. And CKE Restaurants, Inc., parent to Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, announced this month that it had reached its goal of raising $1 million for breast cancer programs.

Both chains offered incentives for guests to participate in their cause marketing efforts. The cause wins, and the restaurants come out ahead, too, in positive P.R. as well as (hopefully) sales.

Cause marketing efforts happen every month of the year in the food business. More than ever before, it seems. A few examples:

 • Arby’s restaurants nationwide raised $2.15 million for Big Brothers Big Sisters between May 3 and June 13 this year by asking customers to add $1 to their orders.
 • Pepsi Refresh Project. The soft drink giant has allocated $1.3 each month to worthy local projects around the country. The program goes global in 2011, expanding in to Latin America, Europe, and Asia.
 • Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out. During last month’s Great American Dine Out week, more than 4,000 restaurants nationwide teamed up to help end childhood hunger, using coupon promotions, special menus, merchandising sales and more to raise upwards of $1 million.
 • Craft Beers Give Back. Breweries including 50 Back Brewery, Abita Beer, Fireman’s Brew, and Finnegan’s Irish Amber have brewed up special beers to raise money for causes such as America’s troops, victims of the Gulf spill disaster, and the National Fallen Firefighters Association.

Diana Hovey, senior vice president of marketing for Corner Bakery Café, spoke at a panel discussion entitled “Drive Sales with Social Media and Cause Marketing,” in connection with the Great American Dine Out. She said getting involved in cause promotions benefits a brand’s reputation, its employee engagement, and its guest engagement. She said Corner Bakery’s staff “loved that their efforts could contribute to a solution to ending hunger. Our customers did, too.”

“We all know that cause-related marketing campaigns can help drive purchases, build brand image, and strengthen the emotional connections that customers feel for a brand,” says Michal Ann Strahilevitz, associate professor of marketing, Golden Gate University. “However, not all cause-marketing campaigns will be equally successful, and there are several factors that might lead one campaign to be more successful than another.”

Strahilevitz says her research demonstrated that the success of a cause-marketing campaign was greatly influenced by the nature of the product being promoted. More specifically, charity incentives work significantly better with pleasure-oriented products that are perceived as frivolous (e.g., a chocolate sundae or a cruise) than with task-oriented products that are perceived as practical (e.g., garbage bags or a washing machine).

In a second series of studies, Strahilevitz said her research demonstrated that for hedonic, pleasure-oriented products that are perceived as “frivolous,” consumers are willing to forgo a substantial price discount in order to choose a charity-linked brand.

A good example of a “frivolous” product might be White Castle’s burger-scented candles, introduced this summer. The candle not only fills a room with the inviting aroma of sizzling grilled hamburgers and onions, but also supports a great cause. The $10 item benefits the science and advocacy organization Autism Speaks. Available on the chain’s virtual store web site, the candles sold out in 48 hours. A White Castle spokesperson says more will be available for holiday gift giving.

Strahilevitz sites additional research that suggests consumers who are less involved with causes in general view local causes more positively, because, even if they are not personally relevant to them, they feel good about helping their own local community. The Pepsi Refresh Project, although a national program (soon to be international), makes it a point to award grants to worthy local projects.

Make it local, make it relevant and compelling, make it simple, and make it fun. Those seem to be the common denominators to successful cause marketing campaigns. And, oh yeah, they’re good for business.

Craig Culver: Co-Founder, Co-Worker

Craig Culver has put a lot more than his name into the fast casual chain that started in a small, rural Wisconsin town. Since 1984 Culver has been putting his stamp on Culver’s, a 422-unit chain in 18 states that prides itself on its ButterBurgers, frozen custard, and warm hospitality. But before that, Culver did his homework. During college he worked at the family restaurants and after graduation took his degree and headed to McDonald’s, where he spent four years before founding Culver’s. Along with his wife, Lea and his parents George and Ruth, Culver took a vision and created a niche-market restaurant that has turned industry heads for years.

Culver has deep roots in the Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin, community where he grew up and graduated from high school. It was there that a root beer stand provided the foundation from which the Culver’s concept grew. The first successful Culver’s franchise was opened in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 1990.

Culver sat down for an in-depth video interview with Ellen Koteff, editor-in-chief for Food ChannelPRO. Conversation highlights:

 • The importance of treating customers as “guests” and employees as “team members”
 • Recruiting employees that have a good heart. “We can build on someone who has a good heart.”
 • The secret to keeping a steady flow of customer traffic throughout all dayparts
 • The “cult following” that Culver’s has been able to build
 • What it means to be “Culverized”

Upcoming interviews in the “Leaders with Guts” video series include Sally Smith of Buffalo Wild Wings and Todd Graves of Raising Cane’s.

Coming in November: The Food Channel’s Top Ten Trends in Side Dishes

Have you noticed how side dishes have started to elbow their way to the center of the plate and into the spotlight? Health consciousness is part of it. The struggling economy is another factor. It’s become acceptable—even trendy—to order a variety of delicious sides and downsize the meat portion. The Food Channel in conjunction with CultureWaves®, the Food Futurists, and Mintel International will present its top ten trends in sides. It’ll be front-and-center in November, so be sure to tune in then.

FoodChannelPRO is the new beta site where food professionals can go for inspiration, menuing information, education and more. Partners in the new venture include Johnson & Wales University, CultureWaves®, MenuMax, Mintel International, Penton Media, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), Manifest Digital, and Noble.

The Food Channel® also publishes a great consumer newsletter, called FoodWire®. To receive a copy, please register your email address at

Follow The Food Channel on Twitter and Facebook to track more food trends.

©2010 Food Channel, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Food Channel® TrendWire™ newsletter is published by Food Channel ( Editorial comments, project consulting inquiries and subscription inquiries may be directed to Kay Logsdon at Additional trend-focused editorial comment and blogging is available at The TrendWire™ newsletter is distributed electronically once monthly, or 12 times per year. Its contents, in whole or in part, may not be copied or reproduced in any form without permission. All quotations must credit The Food Channel TrendWire as the source. Comments are the opinion of the editor and do not necessarily represent the views of Food Channel, LLC, its parent company, Noble Communications Company, and/or its subsidiaries or associates.

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