The fate of Brooklyn’s Great GoogaMooga: A food festival not in the making

May 22 2013

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After what was reviewed by many as an event failure last year, the 2nd annual Great GoogaMooga festival took place in Prospect Park in Brooklyn this past weekend with promises of several improvements meant to alleviate many of last year’s problems. While promoter Superfly was not at fault for the rain that caused the cancellation of Sunday’s programming, the fact that the event was not called off until hundreds of people were already in line and waiting to enter was frustrating for attendees and vendors alike. The one hundred-plus food and restaurant vendors were left “holding the bag,” with their already prepared foods and lots of it, after preparing additional offerings rather than running out of food as they did quickly during GoogaMooga’s first year. The vendors immediately put out a ‘cry for help’ in New York Magazine by mid-day Sunday (check out the power of social media here), collectively asking the public to patronize their restaurants instead, as their booths had been washed out. The management’s gross incompetence and level of brand mismanagement will hurt the future of GoogaMooga. 

On the other hand, Williamsburg’s weekly Smorgasburg Food Festival has been very successful, offering a variety of local treats in an outdoor setting. Although the food is expensive and lines are long for the most popular offerings, people are willing to pay for the overall experience—unique, artisan, locavore eats in a fun, sunny weekend setting. They do lots of things right, and establishing a sense of community is one of them. Smorgasburg began as an offshoot of the popular outdoor weekly market The Brooklyn Flea, and has expanded in an organic way, rather than starting big. People have watched Smorgasburg grow, and are committed to supporting the local New York based food artisans.

Ultimately, the problem with GoogaMooga is that the promoter failed to fulfill the brand promise, and didn’t come close to delivering what they had committed to, with a resulting damage in brand identity and equity. In its first year, attendees faced food and drink shortages, overcrowding, and frustratingly long lines. In its second year, GoogaMooga put its consumers last, and they felt it. 


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The Foodie's Delight

January 29 2013

The Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco just wrapped up it’s annual three day food wholesale extravaganza, where 1,300 new and established food producers show off their latest and greatest for buyers, and where the food world gets a jump on the 2013 market trends. Some of the projected trendy foods for the upcoming year include smoke-preserving, gourmet popcorn (although we've been eating this one for years), and barrel-aged hot sauces. Products like these are often produced in small batches and made with high-end and specialty ingredients. Americans are spending more on food, and there is a growing market for locally-made, "handmade" products. In NY, this trend has been ably represented by the almost twee, fetishized Brooklyn artisan food movement. 

How does one roll out a small-batch, personal food idea in the gourmet food market? Venues that provide exposure to reach the consumer willing to cough up the dough for specialty items include farmer’s markets, food festivals, independent gourmet groceries, and—if you’ve really hit it really big—Whole Foods, who try out artisan foods on a local and regional trial basis. There are also small-scale distributors that base their business around getting these specialty products out of their respective cities and beyond their local cult-following., for example, sends a monthly curated selection of specialty food items from all over the country in one small, fancy wooden crate. Sending a nicely presented container or unique, beautifully packaged foods is a wonderful gift idea. And they’re all pretty. Aesthetics and packaging play a large role in this new food movement—if we’re paying top dollar for a jar of lavender honey, we want it to look like we did so.  

So what's the take-away? While locally-made food is on trend, actually getting it out into the marketplace and onto consumer's tables is a long road. The brand story has to be completely aligned: taste, presentation, the name of the product or line of products, identity design, language and more. That is the front end piece, and many artisan food producers have a neat handle on this part of their business. The harder part, as always, is delivering the product for a price that consumers can stomach, and rolling out the brand into enough markets where one can sell a sufficient amount of units to break even, and ultimately, make a profit. The practicalities of margins and making money are always the issue when you are operating outside the mass market, no matter what arena you are in. 

USDA data showed that in 2010, Italians spent 14.4% of their income on food, whereas Americans only spent 5.5%. It seems that this number is rising, so there is clearly room in the market for new tastes and new trends. Pass the smoked pickles, please!

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Breaking Bread With The British

October 03 2012

I just can’t get enough of London this season!  In addition to my very exciting talk at the Association of Photographers in London, I will have the pleasure of presenting a half-day seminar for Dairy UK on ‘How to Become a Successful Brand: Learn How to use Branding to Expand Your Market Share.’

As I’ve continued to expand my own business into the British marketplace, an associate of mine recently sent me a link to a very posh shared workspace in Knightsbridge, near Hyde Park.  Shared workspaces are all the rage in my hometown of Brooklyn, and the amenities can vary anywhere from a half dozen private conference rooms and free coffee and tea, to an in-house full service shared printing and copying center.  But what caught my eye about the Knightsbridge office is that not only do they give you access to a temporary receptionist staff, but they also offer in-house organic caterers, who are happy to tailor their menu to your needs!  Cool!   

The potential for this niche market is brilliant, and very much on trend with the strides the British have made not only in the organic food realm, but in how they communicate the sources of their food.  More and more, packaged foods in England are labeled with both the ingredients they contain, and where they are sourced.  It’s reflective of a larger ground swell of commitment and pride in that what they produce and consume is made in Britain.  In the US, the luxury of having organic catering at a business meeting is extremely rare, and yet with our own farm-to-table movement is on the rise, (fingers crossed), shared workspaces here at home will be offering similar amenities, perhaps (fingers crossed) our shared workspaces here at home will offer similar amenities, which would be a way for them to uphold the ‘community’ aspect of their brand.

For more information on ‘How To Become a Successful Brand: Learn How to Use Branding to Expand Your Market Share,’ at Dairy UK, click here.

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Stand Up For Real Food! Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day!

May 19 2012

It’s always admirable when someone who has already achieved great success with their own brand uses it to raise awareness for a good cause.  Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, whose most recent venture on American TV is his ABC show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, through which he has made it his mission to change the way Americans eat.

This Food Revolution is about saving lives by inspiring everyone: moms, dads, kids, teens and cafeteria workers to get back to basics and start cooking good food from scratch.

Oliver continues his brilliant endeavor with his world-wide initiative Food Revolution Day, coming up on May 19, 2012.  Food Revolution Day: Stand Up For Real Food, will be an active way to pursue Oliver’s mission to “[save] lives by inspiring everyone: moms, dads, kids, teens and cafeteria workers to get back to basics and start cooking good food from scratch.”  Similarly, two of our clients, Cuisine Frozen Foods in Great Britain, and Slather Brand Foods gluten-free products, have maintained a mission from the get-go to promote healthy foods and healthy living. Cuisine Frozen foods is creating delicious and healthy food for children, all kinds of famlies, and for generations to come, using all locally farmed ingredients with no hormones.  Slather Brand Foods makes gluten free products made with all natural ingredients.

We hope you have a minute to make a donation to Food Revolution Day, and support the cause of preventing obesity world wide.  Obesity can cause many chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease, and it can be prevented by the food education that Jamie Oliver and our clients are fully engaged in. 


A Different Kind Of Director

February 08 2012


Who would have thunk it? Last week, I became a member of the Board of Directors of Cuisine Frozen Foods, based in Kent, England. This is a brand that had millions of pounds in sales as creators of ready-made frozen meals, a category that is wildly popular in Great Britain and Europe.  Originally wholesale only, selling to pub chains and providing private label to supermarkets, the brand will be resurrected with a new nam and new products over the course of the next year. We are going to be working with Cuisine on every phase of their introduction into the consumer marketplace. This is a project I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into. Ahem.

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