Brooks Brothers joins with White House Historical Association to offer Presidential Collection

February 26, 2020

The White House Historical Association—a nonprofit founded in 1961 by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with a mission to protect, preserve, and provide public access to the rich history of America’s Executive Mansion—has just announced a first-ever collaboration with Brooks Brothers and a new collection of menswear accessories online and in  stores beginning February 25.

The exclusive Presidential Collection features the Truman Presidential Seal on a pocket square; as well as a selection of red, blue and navy ties; a red double-sided bow tie; a blue double-sided bow tie; and a navy bow tie. All items are 100% silk and are made in the United States. The cost from $55 to $89.50.

The Truman Presidential Seal was established in 1945 when President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9646 which officially defined the Presidential Coat of Arms and Seal for the first time. An eagle’s head—which originally faced right toward a bundle of 13 arrows held in its talons—was turned to face left toward the olive branch it held, symbolizing peace.

Brooks Brothers, established in 1818, is America’s oldest retail brand and has had the unique distinction of serving 40 American Presidents since its founding.

Items in this collection can be purchased online at shop.whitehousehistory.org; or at the White House Visitor Center at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.; or the White House History Shop at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.—both in Washington, D.C.

The White House Historical Association will continue its partnership with Brooks Brothers with additional exclusive collections introduced later this year.

Earlier this month, on February 17, the White House Historical Association announced the availability of the Official 2020 White House Christmas Ornament, commemorating President John F. Kennedy.

Research contact: @WhiteHouseHstry

Brands see big potential in ‘nighttime nutrition’

February 25, 2020

Late-night snacks are being legitimized and “healthified” by snack brands, in hopes of creating a new and profitable niche in the industry, Food Business News reports.

A small but growing number of products designed for pre-bedtime snacking are entering the market. They’re healthier than traditional late-night fare—and offer the added benefit of promoting sleep and relaxation.

Among them is Nightfood of Tarrytown, New York, which launched a “sleep friendly” ice cream line last year. Available in a variety of flavors—including Full Moon Vanilla, Midnight Chocolate, and Cherry Eclipse—the products contain more fiber and protein (and, yes, fewer calories) than traditional ice cream. Ingredients like magnesium and glycine promote relaxation; while ingredients that may disrupt sleep, such as excess sugar, fat and caffeine, are reduced or eliminated.

“Just being delicious isn’t enough these days,” Sean Folkson, CEO at Nightfood, told Food Business News. “Neither is just being different. You need to be different, but in a way that actually matters to the consumer.”

Folkson learned that the hard way: Nightfood ice cream wasn’t the company’s first functional late-night snack—but it looks like the company’s first successful entrant in the niche. It launched a sleep-promoting nutrition bar in 2015. The brand struggled to generate consumer excitement around the product, but, Folkson said its modest results led to an important insight: When it comes to late-night snacking, consumers aren’t searching for better-for-you products like nutrition bars. They’re reaching for more indulgent items like potato chips, cookies, ice cream or candy.

“I now understand that providing night snackers with nighttime nutrition bars is like giving an eight-year old a pet rock,” he told the business publication. “Interesting, but not exciting or life-changing. On the other hand, providing night snackers with nighttime ice cream is like giving that eight-year old a puppy.”

And other companies—among them, Nestle-backed Goodnight and Milwaukee-based Good Source Foods, also are jumping on the bandwagon.

Goodnight launched last year through Foundry Foods, an internal incubator from Nestle USA. Available in milk and dark chocolate varieties, the brand’s before-bed bites contain L-Theanine, magnesium and casein protein, which interact with metabolic processes related to sleep regulation.

“(Goodnight) is confirming our beliefs that people are looking for a natural remedy for something they normally take in supplement form such as melatonin,” Doug Munk, director of New Business Ventures for Nestle USA told Food Business News. “We are also finding people are looking to replace some of their junk foods before they go to sleep with something that is a little better.”

The company currently is gearing up to launch updated “Goodnight 2.0” products following last year’s successful test run.

Good Source Foods uses dried cherries, which contain melatonin, and lavender, which is known for its calming effects, to make its Evening Calm variety of chocolate clusters. Designed to promote sleep and relaxation, the chocolates also contain turmeric, honey, oats, and walnuts.

Nightfood, Goodnight and Good Source Foods are some of the handful of brands tapping into nighttime nutrition, which Mintel called “one of the most compelling and category changing trends” in its annual Food and Drink Trends report. More than 80% of consumers snack regularly before bed, Mintel said.

There may be a biological component driving consumers to the kitchen at night. Appetite tends to peak in the evening, when cravings for sweet and salty foods are strongest. Willpower weakens throughout the day, so the later it gets, the easier it is to reach for the cookie jar or bag of candy.

At the same time, interest in better-for-you snacks is at an all-time high. As many as 80% of consumers seek healthier snacks that pack an added functional benefit.

“Scientific research over the last several years has helped us more clearly understand why people snack the way they do at night,” said Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona and adviser to Nightfood. “It seems we’re biologically hard-wired to default to sweets, salts, and fats as it gets later in the day.”

This may explain why more than 50% of consumers report dissatisfaction with their own night snacking behavior, despite spending an estimated $1 billion per week on snacks consumed between dinner and bed.

“More than half of that money … is being spent in a dissatisfied way, by people that want something better,” Folkson said.  “That speaks to, not only the size of the opportunity, but the immediacy and the motivation on behalf of the consumer, which is really powerful stuff.”

Research contact: @FoodBusiness

The best thing since sliced bread: Washington State’s Bread Lab reinvents the whole-wheat loaf

February 24, 2020

Peek into people’s kitchens (particularly those with kids), and you’ll likely find sandwich bread. Simple and straightforward, this is an everyday kind of bread. There are scads of recipes for sandwich bread—perfect for everything from PB&Js to chicken salad to toast for breakfast.

But because sandwich bread is such a wildly popular pantry staple, there are also countless versions in any grocery store that are far from wholesome. Often, packaged sandwich breads are full of additives and preservatives. Food manufacturers add these ingredients to prolong shelf life, make the bread cheaper to produce, and promote a softer, more Wonder Bread-like texture to appeal to young eaters.

Now, a group of bakers allied with Washington State University’s Bread Lab—among them, “America’s first flour company,” King Arthur Flour, founded in Norwich, Vermont, in 1790– are on a mission to change all of that by creating the ultimate wholesome, nutritious, great-tasting sandwich bread, in a whole-wheat version.

The Bread Lab works to breed and develop varieties of grains to benefits farmers, processors, and end-users, while also enhancing access to affordable and nutritious food for all. And last year, at a meeting of bakers, millers, and teachers at the Bread Lab, the talk turned to sandwich bread. More specifically, could the lab revolutionize the current offerings?

And the bakers at King Arthur signed on to the challenge. Along with the 38 other Bread Lab members, they formed the Bread Lab Collective and. together, they came up with the concept of Just Bread: a pure and simple whole wheat sandwich bread that would appeal to everyone, from kids to adults. 

Among the criteria that members set for the new type of bread were that it should:

  • Be baked in a tin and sliced;
  • Contain no more than seven ingredients;
  • Contain no non-foods;
  • Be at least 60% who wheat-preferably, 100%;
  • Be priced under $6/loaf;
  • Return 10 cents from every loaf sold to the Bread Lab to support further research on other whole-grain products.

Today, King Arthur Flour has expanded to offer a baking school, a café, and a variety of flours and breads at its Vermont headquarters—as well as at outlets nationwide.

Jeff Yankellow, one of King Arthur’s resident bread experts, created the first version of the Just Bread recipe and other bakers followed with their own iterations.

According to a story on King Arthur’s blog, “Our vision is to spread the availability of Just Bread as widely as possible. Right now, you can buy Just Bread from a select group of bakeries and markets across the country, from Montana to Louisiana to Pennsylvania. You can find the list here.”

King Arthur sells between 350 to 450 loaves per week at our bakery in Norwich, Vermont. We also bake 10 loaves daily to donate to the Upper Valley Haven, a local food pantry.

But not everyone lives close enough to one of these bakeries! So the company has brought Jeff’s original Just Bread recipe online, so you can easily make it at home.

Research contact: @kingarthurflour

Flight risk: Charter jet companies report uptick in business amid coronavirus outbreak

February 20, 2020

With many commercial flights to and from mainland China have been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, charter and private jet operators say it’s been “all systems go” for them amid the global health emergency, ABC News reports.

Once thought to be reserved for ultra-wealthy jetsetters, these planes also have been contracted by governments, including e U.S. health authorities, to repatriate their own citizens from China or to send medical supplies to the impacted region.  

Specific data on charter jet travel is not publicly available, ABC News notes, but a handful of the major operators have said they have been flooded with requests.

“Over the last four weeks, the number of coronavirus related inquiries Air Partner has received across the business has increased,” Air Partner—a global aviation services group based in the U.K. that recently helped to evacuate 308 British and EU nations from Wuhan, China—said in a statement. “This includes increased private jet inquiries, requests for medical equipment cargo flights, and emergency evacuations.”

The carrier explained that it had taken precautions to protect healthy crew members and flyers. The aircraft were configured for the flights, with the upper deck designated for crew rest only so that there was clear segregation between the evacuees and the flight crew. There was also a separate section in the nose of the aircraft, which could be used as an isolation zone for passengers if necessary.

“The coronavirus outbreak has been an extremely difficult time for everyone involved and we are very pleased to have safely repatriated a large number of British and EU nationals on behalf of the U.K. government,” Mark Briffa, the CEO of Air Partner, said in a statement.

“Since the outbreak our offices around the world have been arranging flights on local charter aircraft as the world deals with the travel disruption and overall cut to capacity to the region,” Justin Lancaster, the company’s commercial director, said in a statement.

He added that in addition to flying passengers, they have transported 100 metric tons of surgical masks, and that “it has been all systems go since the epidemic was first reported.”

“Some customers have tried to avoid infection by flying with their families on private jets to avoid travelling on commercial aircraft with a large amount of people, whereas several organizations, as well as governments, have evacuated en masse on larger aircraft, such as an Airbus A380,” Lancaster said.

PrivateFly, a booking service for on-demand private jet charter, told ABC News that the company also has noticed an uptick in demand for private flights due to coronavirus.

Adam Twidell, the CEO of UK-based PrivateFly, told ABC News in a statement that the company is “certainly seeing increased demand for private flights out of China, and have had a significant number of inquiries over the past two weeks, from groups and individuals.”

Twidwell said that one was to “set up four flights out of Wuhan for hundreds of passengers for a government client in South America.”

However, demand has been so high, that the charter and private flight companies have told the network news outlet that they haven’t been able to meet all the requests they’ve received.

The coronavirus outbreak in China continues to dampen global economic activity. As of Tuesday, February 18, officials in the country confirmed 72,531 cases of coronavirus and 1,870 deaths due to the virus.

Research contact: @ABC

What’s in the cards? Americans have $21B in unused gift cards and store credits

February 19, 2020

What could be better than selecting and purchasing a present for yourself—but not paying for it? That might explain why gift cards were, once again, the most-requested holiday gift of 2019, according to research conducted by the Blackhawk Network as part of its Branded Pay Holiday Shopping Research series.

In fact, Blackhawk reports that—doubling the estimated 3.4% increase in overall holiday retail sales—U.S. consumers spent 7% more on gift cards during the 2019 holiday season than in 2018.

But now those cards are gathering dust: Fully 50% of American adults currently have unredeemed gift cards or store credits that are estimated to be valued at $21 billion in untouched money, according to findings of a survey released on February 18 by personal finance resource Bankrate. This whopping 10-figure number even includes airline redemption vouchers.

Indeed, Fox Business News reports, high-income households tend to leave the most on the table when it comes to unused gift card funds. On average, families that make $80,000 or more have $297 in unredeemed cards. This number drops down slightly for parents who have children under the age of 18, according to Bankrate, who instead have $274 in unredeemed gift cards on average.

Millennials between the ages of 24 and 39 also are leaving money on the table, with an average of $234 remaining on their cards.

Who spends the “free money” right away? Both Gen-Xers between the ages of 40 and 55 and low-income households that make under $30,000 are least likely to leave money on gift cards, according to Bankrate. In particular, only 46% of Gen X leave money on gift cards while 41% of low-income households do the same.

With all the demographics are factored, the average adult has $167 in unused gift cards or credits, according to Bankrate.

The question is, why? The people who haven’t used their gift cards have different approaches or reasons for the delay, according to the survey. Twenty-three percent said they re-gifted their cards; 22% said they lost their gift cards; and 8% said they resold at least one gift card.

Millennials are said to be more likely to re-gift their cards (at 27%), while Gen-Zers are most likely to have lost one card (at 33%)..

“Gift cards and store credits are real money, so treat them as such,” Ted Rossman, a Bankrate analyst, told Fox Business News. “If you’ve been holding onto a gift card from a store you don’t like, there’s nothing wrong with re-gifting it, using it to buy a gift for someone else, or even selling it.”

“You can sell unwanted gift cards at sites such as Cardpool, CardCash, and GiftCardSpread,” Rossman added. “You can also buy discounted gift cards from these sites. That’s a great way to save on an upcoming purchase. Look for consumer protections: For example, Cardpool offers a one-year guarantee on gift cards it resells.”

Bankrate’s survey was commissioned by YouGov.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness.

Going to the dogs: PetSafe extends travel and mobility product lines with new look and colors

February 18, 2020

Between 37% and 47% of Americans own a dog, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), and between 30% and 3% own a cat. And whether it’s a trip to the veterinarian or the park, at some point most of those pets will take a ride in a car. Others will travel farther with their owners—by car, rail, or air—or stay in a pet-friendly hotel.

Now, Knoxville, Tennessee-based  PetSafe has announced that it is expanding its travel and mobility product lines with six new products—including steps, ramps, booster seats, safety seats, cargo liners, and more. And the company says, to adapt to modern home and automobile design trends, the new product options feature neutral color palettes.

“We want to ensure our travel and mobility products not only satisfy functional needs, but also integrate seamlessly with today’s design preferences,” says Mandie Sweetnam, Travel and Access Category manager for nearly 30-year-old brand. “This will allow us to provide options that blend in perfectly with modern bedroom and car designs; while ensuring safety and joint health remain a top priority.”

The PetSafe CozyUp Folding Pet Steps, lightweight, no-slip pet steps that can be simply stored when not in use, is now available in gray. Additionally, PetSafe® is releasing its CozyUp Bed Ramp in white, which offers a gentle slope with a tufted carpet to help pets reach the bed.

A new navy color is available for the PetSafe Happy Ride Booster Seat, which features a polyester oxford shell and soft fleece liner that allows your dog to see out of the window during car rides. PetSafe® is also adding a navy option for its Happy Ride Dog Safety Seat, offering a sturdy, rigid frame for car rides.

The company is introducing a gray color for two additional travel products: the PetSafe Happy Ride Cargo Liner, which keeps your cargo area clean from dog hair and muddy paws; and the PetSafe Happy Ride Bucket Seat Cover, which protects your car seat from similar pet travel issues.

Research contact: @PetSafe

Founder of JetBlue is set to launch Breeze Airways in 2020

February 17, 2020

Twenty years have just flown by since David Neeleman founded Jet Blue; and now he has another air carrier—this one targeted at customers of midsize, underserved airports—ready to take off, The Boston Globe reports.

Called Breeze Airways, the carrier will begin operations at the end of 2020, flying to airports in the eastern United States; with plans to go national, and then international.

Breeze Airways is the fifth airline start-up for David Neeleman—with Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airways, and Azul Brazilian Airlines already in his portfolio—and last week, after more than a year of anticipation, he finally made it official.

“Breeze will fly nonstop service between places currently without meaningful or affordable service,” he said in a release. “Twenty years ago, we brought humanity back to the airline industry with JetBlue. Today, we’re excited to introduce plans for ‘the World’s Nicest Airline.’”

Neeleman didn’t offer specifics of how Breeze will be the world’s nicest airline (fingers crossed it will live up to the slogan), nor did he announce airports that would be served, the Globe said.

The airline will be headquartered in Salt Lake City, but in its application for an air carrier’s certificate, the company told U.S. regulators that destinations will be “secondary leisure markets” that are affordable to budget travelers. The application also said that Breeze will begin with routes east of the Mississippi, “primarily north-south.”

“Over the last decade, the major US airlines have consolidated and concentrated their efforts at fortress hubs,” the announcement for Breeze reads. “Resulting in diminished air travel options for entire segments of the country, with many routes now only served by connecting flights.”

Breeze has ordered 60 brand-new Airbus A220-300 aircraft, with deliveries beginning in April 2021, and has leased 30 Embraer 195 aircraft from Azul, which will deliver starting May 2020. The A220 will be used for nonstop flights between midsize markets; while the E195s, which are plentiful and inexpensive, can connect smaller markets.

Research contact: @FlyBreezeAir

Peapod to shut down grocery delivery in the Midwest and cut 500 jobs

February 13, 2020

Peapod, the grocery delivery pioneer developed by Stop & Shop in 1989, has announced plans to cease operations in the Midwest—a move that will mean the loss of 500 jobs, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

Customers of the online grocer who live in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana won’t be able to place delivery orders through the Peapod website starting as soon as February 18, the parent company of both the online grocer and its bricks-and-mortar originator, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, announced Tuesday.

About 50,000 people in the Midwest currently use Peapod, placing 10,500 orders weekly.

Chicago-based Peapod will close a distribution center and food preparation facility in Lake Zurich, a pick-up point in Palatine; and distribution facilities in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis — affecting 400 employees. Another 30 employees will be cut at corporate headquarters in the West Loop, and about 100 drivers will lose their jobs.

Chicago will remain the headquarters for Peapod Digital Labs, which runs the e-commerce technology for Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. grocery brands. Peapod Digital Labs employs about 450 people, half of them in Chicago, and plans to hire 100 more people this year.

Peapod is exiting the Midwest as grocery delivery heats up, the Tribune says. The value of the online grocery market more than doubled from $12 billion in 2016 to $26 billion in 2018, and some projections have it reaching $100 billion by 2025.

Peapod will continue to serve customers on the East Coast, where Ahold Delhaize—the Dutch parent of Food Lion, Stop and Shop, and Giant—is the region’s largest grocery retailer. The decision to cut service in the Midwest will allow the company to focus on a strategy that offers in-store, delivery, and pick-up options.

“Customers really want groceries to be available for them whichever way they choose to shop,” JJ Fleeman, Chief ECommerce Officer and president of Peapod Digital Labs, explained to the news outlet.

Peapod’s Midwest operation posed challenges because it was online only, so it didn’t have a network of stores to connect to the supply chain and it was more difficult to gain new customers who want to know the grocery brand where their fresh food is coming from, said Selma Postma, president of Peapod.

“This was a very difficult decision given our rich history in Chicago,” Postma told the Tribune. “We have a lot of loyal customers, we have a lot of loyal employees.”

Peapod’s Midwest operations accounted for about $97 million of Ahold Delhaize’s $1.1 billion in online revenue in the United States.

 Research contact: @chicagotribune

Now Alexa can help you unclog your toilet

February 12, 2020

Nearly 25% of U.S. homeowners now are using smart speaker devices such as  Amazon Echo and Google Home. But just how smart are they-and what can they do beyond turning on the lights, or TV, or security system?

Get you out of one of life’s most embarrassing, messy, and tenacious situations—that’s what. In fact, thanks to a new partnership with Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Cleanup,  smart speakers now are able to provide step-by-step instructions for fixing common plumbing problems (click for video).

According to a press release from the 85-year-old, Cincinnati based company, this represents the first phase of Roto-Rooter’s Voice strategy—which includes several interactive prompts on both devices, which can guide users through DIY tasks or simply summon a Roto-Rooter plumber to solve the customer’s problem.

To initiate contact with Roto-Rooter on Google Home, all a consumer has to say is, “Hey Google, talk to Roto-Rooter.” On Alexa, the consumer would say, “Alexa, enable Roto-Rooter. 

From there, the growing list of command prompts includes: “Hey Google, ask Roto-Rooter for DIY tips;” or “Alexa, ask Roto-Rooter how to fix my backed-up shower drain;” and “Hey Google, ask Roto-Rooter how to unclog my toilet.”

Roto-Rooter intends to continually improve and expand its informational offerings on both Google and Amazon devices. “Roto-Rooter’s marketing team understands this is yet another way for users to connect with our brand and become familiar with our service offerings, so as early adopters in our industry, we’ve created these voice skills to fill a void,” says Sally Bayer, VP of Marketing at Roto-Rooter.

“Nobody knows exactly where this technology will lead, but we know for certain that we want to be at the forefront of anything that pertains to our area of expertise,” she added.

Research contact: @RotoRooter

Kind expands into four new supermarket aisles—including frozen desserts

February 11, 2020

New York City-based Kind, the snack brand—which claims to have created the ubiquitous modern bar category (specifically, to-go bars with easily identifiable ingredientsn 2004, is attempting to extend its success to four new categories, according to a report by Fast Company.

“Since day one, KIND has been obsessed with upholding our brand promise – to create innovative, premium foods that are both healthy and tasty,” Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of the 16-year-old company, said in a press release. “While these categories are new for us, each is consistent with how we’ve always entered new categories – with an eye to creatively elevate people’s overall experience.”

Starting this month, you’ll see Kind expanding into four grocery sections:

  • Frozen desserts.Kind Frozen bars are plant-based, creamy frozen treat bars made from nutrient-dense nuts, layered with smooth dark chocolate and nut butter;
  • Treats. Kind Bark comes in dark chocolate flavors with various combinations of nuts.
  • Cold foods. Kind Nut Butter Bar is the company’s first-ever refrigerated, smooth and creamy nut butter protein bar.
  • Kind Clusters mix nuts with seed and fruit clusters, halfway between granola and snack mix.

Jumping into new aisles is a risky, high-failure venture for food brands, but, Fast Company notes, these forays are essential for growth: Kind has hovered around 5% of the bar market for years, facing steep competition from copycats and much larger competitors like Quaker Oats (owned by PepsiCo) and Nature’s Valley (owned by General Mills). The company has previously experimented with expansions into breakfast bars, granola, and fruit snacks.

Along with bitter rival Clif Bar, Kind is one of few still-privately owned ambitious food companies. (Kind received a cash infusion two years ago when Mars, the candy bar and pet food company, took a minority stake, paving the way for today’s category expansions.

Research contact: @FastCompany