Friday, February 26, 2010

Kraft is launching a nationwide restaurant sampling tour for its Athenos hummus brand

Kraft continues to step up the marketing behind its Athenos hummus brand with the launch of a restaurant sampling tour and a “true or false” online game.

The sampling tour, which is part of the brand’s ongoing “100 percent olive oil” campaign, kicks off at Cellar 56 restaurant in Atlanta tonight (Thursday), followed by similar events in Denver and Chicago early next month. Participating restaurants in the three cities will serve up bite-size treats with Athenos hummus in hopes of giving diners their own at-home entertaining ideas, Kraft said.

Kraft, which owns brands like Kool-Aid and Jell-O, is also working with restaurant and entertainment guide Metromix, and US Weekly magazine, to launch a “true or false” quiz on the latter’s Web site. The brand is sponsoring a series of three-question quizzes, from which players must pick out one false statement. (The quiz topics are centered on pop culture and brand trivia.)

“What the game is all about is finding the truths in a line of questions, and in the process, we’re also revealing truths about the Athenos hummus brand,” said brand manager Marshall Hyzdu. Such brand trivia might include the fact that Athenos is sold in 11 different flavors, and is made with “real” ingredients, including chickpeas, lemon juice and garlic, Kraft said.

Agencies Razorfish, Digitas, Upshot, Mediavest and Edelman handled digital, creative, media buying and PR duties, respectively.

The goal is to strengthen Athenos’ positioning as the “only leading hummus brand made with 100 percent olive oil,” Hyzdu said. In its research, Kraft found that the notion of “100 percent olive oil” and real ingredients really resonated with consumers. “The reason is because Americans are really looking for real and authentic food options,” Hyzdu said.

Additionally, Kraft has enlisted the help of radio stations in its latest effort. Radio stations like Star 94.1 in Atlanta, Alice 105.9 in Denver and Chicago’s The Mix 101.9 FM will select listeners to participate in a series of live quiz events conducted by the station’s morning show hosts. Kraft is giving away a trip for two to South Beach, Fla., and is promoting the campaign via its Facebook page.

Athenos, which currently has a 15.1 percent share, or $46 million in sales in the refrigerated, flavored spreads category, said volume has grown nine percent (compared to a year ago), since its “100 percent olive oil” campaign was launched. For the 52 weeks ended Jan. 24, its sales were down 4.10 in that segment, though overall category sales were up 15.8 percent, per IRI. (Data does not include Walmart sales.)

Hyzdu said Kraft might extend the sampling effort to other major U.S. cities. The goal is to target cities with a high number of “urban dwellers, and young transitionals,” because those are the two groups where this message of health and real ingredients resonates the most, he said.

Kraft spent $72,000 advertising Athenos in both 2008 and 2009, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co.

Coffee Drinking May Lower Stroke Risk

Regular coffee drinking appears to reduce the risk of stroke, a new study indicates.

The study of 23,000 men and women who were followed for an average of 12 years found that "self-reported coffee consumption was inversely related to stroke risk," said study leader Yangmei Li, an epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in England.

Li was to present the findings Thursday at American Stroke Association's annual stroke conference, in San Antonio.

Overall, people who reported any intake of coffee had a 27 percent lower risk of stroke than those who said they never drank java, the researchers reported. Drinking more coffee was not associated with a greater reduction in stroke risk.

"This association was consistent in subgroup analyses stratified by sex, age, social class, educational level, smoking status, alcohol drinking, tea drinking, physical activity, plasma vitamin C and diabetes status," Li said.

And the reduced risk was "irrespective of the type of coffee consumed, caffeinated, decaffeinated, instant or ground," Li said.

Daniel Lackland, a professor of epidemiology at the Medical University of South Carolina and a spokesman for the American Stroke Association, said the new research isn't groundbreaking, but it does confirm previous findings.

"This is consistent with other studies that have looked at coffee drinking," Lackland said. But, he added, "nobody really knows the mechanism."

Studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes -- a major risk factor for stroke -- and also with a reduced risk of heart disease, Lackland said. But those studies generally have not been carried out with rigorous methods, he said.

"Typically, they rely on self-reports, how much coffee you say you drink," Lackland said. "But what might be two cups for me might be an entirely different two cups for you."

So, there are no official suggestions that people drink coffee to lower their risk of stroke, Lackland said. "There has been no study designed to produce the kind of evidence needed to make recommendations," he said.

More information

The current view of coffee and the cardiovascular system is given by the American Heart Association.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Drinking Green Tea Promotes Eye Health

Healthful substances found in green tea penetrate into tissues of the eye and raises the possibility that green tea may protect against glaucoma and other common eye diseases, according to a new report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The report is the first to document how the lens, retina and other eye tissues absorb these substances.

Researchers point out green tea catechins have been among a number of antioxidants thought capable of protecting the eye. Those include vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin; however, until now nobody knew if the catechins in green tea actually passed from the stomach and gastrointestinal tract into the tissues of the eye.

Researches conducted experiments with laboratory rats that drank green tea. Analysis of eye tissues showed beyond a doubt that eye structures absorbed significant amounts of individual catechins. The retina absorbed the highest levels of gallocatechin, while the aqueous humor tended to absorb epigallocatechin. The effects of green tea catechins in reducing harmful oxidative stress in the eye lasted for up to 20 hours.


Eating Out Leads to Weight Gain

Americans spend a large share of their food budget (42 percent) on food away from home (FAFH), which has been found to be less nutritious than food prepared at home. For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week increases daily intake by about 134 calories and translates to roughly two extra pounds each year, according to a new study from the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Using data from 1994-96 and 2003-04, the study applied fixed-effects estimation to control for such unobservable influences and found that, for the average adult, FAFH increases daily caloric intake and reduces diet quality. The effects vary depending on which meals are consumed away from home.

On average, breakfast away from home decreases the number of servings of whole grains and dairy consumed per 1,000 calories and increases the percent of calories from saturated and solid fat, alcohol, and added sugar (SoFAAS) in a day. Dinner away from home reduces the number of servings of vegetables consumed per 1,000 calories for the average adult. Breakfast and lunch away from home increase calories from saturated fat and SoFAAS on average more among dieters than among non-dieters. Some of the overall negative dietary effects decreased between 1994-96 and 2003-04, including those on whole grain, sodium, and vegetable consumption.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The average gram weight of a 16.9-oz. single serve bottled water container fell by 32.6%

New industry research suggests that the average gram weight of a 16.9 ounce single serve bottled water container has fallen by 32.6 per cent over the past 8 years.

The research, performed by the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), found that the average PET bottled water container weighed 18.9 grams in 2000 and 12.7 grams in 1998.

The BMC estimated that this means that more than 1.3bn pounds of PET resin have been saved in this time period by the bottled water industry through container light-weighting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Colombia coffee growers look to roast for revenue

With some Colombian coffee farmers struggling to stay afloat, two coffee-growing cooperatives have launched a business model to market their roasted coffee directly to buyers and improve their revenues.

The trend of growers turning to roasting is no novelty in countries like Peru, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Mexico. But it is new to Colombia, the world's No. 3 coffee exporter and a top producer of high-grade arabica beans.

One of the cooperatives, known as Asoprounion, representing 400 families in the southern province of Narino, already sells fresh-roasted specialty coffee to local and international buyers, with interest from Argentina to Canada.

Asoprounion began producing 7,000 kilos (15,400 pounds) of processed coffee per month in December and expects to sell 14,000 kilos of coffee per month this year.

"We are a coffee association that not only produces coffee, but also transforms the beans into a value-added product that gets sold at a much better price than producing just green beans," Luis Carlos Burbano, head of Asprounion and producer of specialty coffee told Reuters in an interview.

Like Asprounion, 10 other coffee associations in Narino signed up to produce 140,000 kilos per month this year looking to win the palate of local and international drinkers.

"With processed coffee, we will increase net profits, which will be reinvested in our communities to improve the quality of life of coffee producers," Burbano said.

Following the success of Narino, a coffee growers' cooperative in the municipality of Genova in Quindio province this month inaugurated a roaster that will allow producers to grind their beans and sell directly to customers.

"Intermediaries of the coffee business got the premiums on our specialty coffee. The idea with this project is that those premiums go to the pockets of coffee producers," said Jorge Hernan Lasso, Genova's agriculture secretary.

Asoprounion expect to sell a pound of its roasted beans at $14 to $17 in international markets compared with the $2.5 per pound of Narino specialty beans.

Genova coffee producers say they will be happy if they obtain at least $8 per pound for their processed coffee. Quindio, the fifth largest coffee producing region in Colombia, accounts for 5.8 percent of the country's total production.


Narino, which produces one of the best specialty coffees in the country grown on high volcanic slopes, plans to produce 240,000 70-kilograms bags this year, 72 percent more than the 139,280 bags produced last year.

About half of Narino's green beans are sold to the U.S. coffee chain Starbucks (SBUX.O) under the origin brand Narino Supremo. The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation sells the remaining coffee to Nespresso, Nestle's (NESN.VX) brand.

But Narino wants to secure a better price for its specialty coffee. The Narino governor's office has requested a certification of origin to guarantee the department sells 100 percent Narino coffee.

The state's growers are currently negotiating with new buyers in Japan and the United States.

Volcanic soil along with the cloud-covered climate in the area provides an ideal environment to grow high-quality coffee and the province accounts for 3.4 percent of Colombia's total coffee output.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The nation's high unemployment rate is resulting in declining breakfast traffic

The nation's high unemployment rate has thrown millions of people out of work, scared shoppers away from stores and threatened the economic recovery. Now it's taking a bite out of breakfast.

Breakfast sales had grown at a ravenous pace during the boom years as busy workers scarfed down sausage biscuits on the way to the office, fueling a $57 billion business and accounting for as much as a quarter of sales at some fast-food chains. Chains opened earlier and expanded their morning menus to accommodate the traffic as lunch and dinner sales flatlined.

But as the jobless rate hit 26-year highs fewer people headed to work, and even those who did worried about their spending. So they poured bowls of cereal at home or simply slept in, putting breakfast on the back burner.

"Typically, if you're unemployed, you're not getting up at six and not going through the drive-through," said Jeffrey Bernstein, an analyst at Barclays Capital. "There is a direct correlation between unemployment and breakfast sales."

In the five years before the recession hit, breakfast sales jumped 64 percent, according to NPD Group, a consumer-behavior research firm, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors in the industry. But traffic slowed as the economy tanked and the ranks of the jobless soared. By the time unemployment hit 10 percent in the fall, breakfast traffic was down 4 percent.

This month, executives at Burger King reported that traffic rose during every meal except breakfast in the most recent quarter. They blamed unemployment for the falloff.

McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner has said that breakfast sales at its 14,000 U.S. restaurants were rocky in areas with high unemployment despite overall growth.

Wendy's jumped onto the breakfast bandwagon three years ago, only to end up scuttling its menu amid poor sales. It hopes to relaunch the menu next year.

"When people start feeling economic stress, they tend to trade down," said Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president at WD Partners, a food consulting firm. "When they lose their job, they trade out."

The decline is also part of the broader trend of Americans eating more meals at home because of tough economic times. Food consulting firm Technomic last month lowered its annual forecast for restaurant sales to a drop of 1.6 percent, driven in part by weaker fast-food sales.

But breakfast stands out because of its explosive growth before the recession. In addition, it is extremely profitable: Coffee is mostly water, and eggs are cheaper than beef. Bernstein estimated that breakfast sales at McDonald's accounted for about a quarter of its revenue but 35 percent of profit.

Kathy Hasty, senior director of hot foods at 7-Eleven, said breakfast at her chain traditionally held up well during recessions even as other meals suffered — but other downturns didn't come with double-digit unemployment. By late last year, sales of breakfast sandwiches were down 8 percent.

Cultural historian Barry Glassner said Americans have an unusually complex relationship with food, influenced by convenience and status. We want our food quick and easy, and at the same time we use it to show our rank in the pecking order. Fast-food breakfasts, he said, can fulfill both purposes.

"In America, it's considered a mark of our industriousness that we're very efficient in our meals," said Glassner, a professor at the University of Southern California. "In other times and places, you would be seen as a little crazy."

Restaurants are trying to reinvigorate breakfast sales with new menus, lower prices and even giveaways. 7-Eleven launched a sunny ad campaign to combat the morning-meal moratorium with a new product: a sausage, egg and cheese burrito rolled last month at two for $2 or $1.19 each. That's a deal compared with its cheapest breakfast sandwich, which cost $2.49. Hot-food sales jumped 6 percent after the launch, the company said.

McDonald's introduced a breakfast version of its popular dollar menu last month featuring five items: a sausage burrito, sausage McMuffin, sausage biscuit, hash browns and coffee. The $1 breakfast menu was designed to give the chain "a strong national voice" on the meal at a time when customers are concerned about value.

Restaurant chain Denny's gave away about 2 million Grand Slam breakfasts recently in a nod to the tough economy, particularly for the 44 percent of its customers who make less than $45,000. The company said breakfast sales held steady while dinner and late-night dining drove down sales at established locations by 7 percent in the third quarter.

"People are so thankful for having an opportunity to have a free meal," Denny's Chief Executive Nelson Marchioli said.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A growing number of casual-dining chains are adding healthful options to the menu that focus on flavor rather than calorie or fat reduction,

Eyeing momentum around menu-labeling regulations and a public that seems ready to eat better, a growing number of casual-dining chains are adding healthful options to the menu. What’s different about many of today’s newest good-for-you foods is a focus on flavor rather than just the reduction of calories or fat. It’s an approach that’s more culinary and less clinical than what has often come before.

“I think in the past, the industry has tried to take things out of foods to make them better health-wise, but most of the time that affects flavor,” said Kerry Kramp, chief executive and president of Sizzler USA, the 191-unit, Culver City, Calif.-based family dining chain, which is touting healthier soups and salad bar offerings. “But we look for ways to impact the flavor in a positive way, to make compellingly flavored food that is also good for you.”

To that point, Mintel Menu Insights, a service that tracks U.S. menu trends, predicted “a sharp increase in good-for-you food and drink” in 2010. It expects tomorrow’s healthy menus to feature “inherently nutritious items — those with fiber, omega-3, vitamins and antioxidants — that deliver on flavor too.”

Sizzler’s kitchens now make fresh pico de gallo, guacamole and soups in-house with much less sodium than the vendor-made products they formerly used. For example, its Chicken Tortilla Soup now has 560 milligrams of sodium per serving, nearly half the former amount. New lighter salads like Spinach Cranberry, Asian Chopped and Cucumber Tomato have been approved by, a website that tracks nutrition on restaurant menus.

Also looking to prove the power of flavor plus health is Fox Restaurant Concepts, a 27-unit multi-concept operator based in Scottsdale, Ariz. It partnered with nutrition authority Dr. Andrew Weil in 2008 to open True Food Kitchen, a casual Phoenix eatery showcasing high-quality local and regional ingredients in healthful Asian, Mediterranean and California-style recipes. Since then, the 190-seat restaurant has become the company’s busiest restaurant, serving nearly 5,000 covers per week. A second location is poised to open in Newport Beach, Calif., in June with at least two more units planned. Growth capital has come in the form of a loan from P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc., also based in Scottsdale.

“We worked very hard to open up not as a health-food restaurant, but rather as a really good food restaurant that happens to be healthy,” said executive chef Michael Stebner.

His creations include Shrimp Dumplings with shiitake mushrooms, ginger and cilantro for $10 and Sashimi Tuna with avocado, cucumber, tomato, edamame and ginger for $14.

At P.F. Chang’s, which has 197 Chinese casual-dining restaurants, cooks and servers are eager to accommodate patrons’ special food requests, said Gregg Piazzi, director of culinary operations. That may take the form of cooking items using the lower-fat stock-velveting method rather than by stir-frying, or adding more vegetables to a dish or creating gluten-free offerings. P.F. Chang’s also is one of a growing number of chains to have a staff nutritionist.

On the menus at Ciudad in Los Angeles and the Border Grill restaurants in Santa Monica, Calif., and Las Vegas, dishes like Turkey Tostada, priced at $14.50, and Wild Mushroom Quesadilla, priced at $13.50, are marked with a small green leaf logo, which signifies dishes that boast at least 80 percent plant-based ingredients. These so-called “Good for the Planet, Good for You” items are offered for customers who may wish to reduce their consumption of meat because of the associated environmental and health impacts, said co-owner Mary Sue Milliken. A self-proclaimed “meat-loving chef,” Millken said she and her family are eating more produce and less animal products at home.

What was surprising, Milliken said, was the realization that a number of the most popular dishes at the restaurants were already in the 80-percent plant-based niche and did not need to be modified to earn the logo.

“I think we’ve always been the go-to girls for really balanced plates with lots of flavorful vegetables and garnishes,” said Milliken.

Read more:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ben & Jerry's will go fully Fair Trade

Ben & Jerry’s announces its commitment to go fully Fair Trade across its entire global flavor portfolio. From Cherry Garcia to Chocolate Fudge Brownie, all of the flavors in all of the countries where Ben & Jerry’s is sold will be converted to Fair Trade Certified™ ingredients by the end of 2013.

Ben & Jerry’s was the first ice cream company in the world to use Fair Trade Certified™ ingredients starting in 2005, and today it’s racing ahead as the first ice cream company to make such a significant commitment to Fair Trade across its global portfolio.

Company co-founder Jerry Greenfield said, ”Fair Trade is about making sure people get their fair share of the pie. The whole concept of Fair Trade goes to the heart of our values and sense of right and wrong. Nobody wants to buy something that was made by exploiting somebody else.”

Ben & Jerry’s Fair Trade commitment means that every ingredient that can be sourced Fair Trade Certified™, now or in the future, is Fair Trade Certified™. Globally, this involves converting up to 121 different chunks and swirls, working across eleven different ingredients such as cocoa, banana, vanilla and other flavorings, fruits and nuts. It also means working with Fair Trade cooperatives that total a combined membership of over 27,000 farmers.

Rob Cameron, Chief Executive of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) said, “Congratulations to Ben & Jerry’s on the scale and the depth of this commitment to take their whole range Fair Trade. Tackling poverty and sustainable agriculture through trade may not be easy but it is always worth it, and Ben & Jerry’s has demonstrated real leadership in laying out this long-term ambition to engage with smallholders, who grow nuts, bananas, vanilla, cocoa and other Fair Trade-certified ingredients. Ben & Jerry’s, like all of us in the Fair Trade movement, believe that people can have fun standing up to injustice and campaigning against poverty while enjoying some of Ben & Jerry’s best-selling favorites like Phish Food and Chocolate Fudge Brownie, how cool is that.”

Farmers selling Fair Trade products earn a better income, which allows them to stay on their land. Fair Trade premiums also allow for reinvestment in their farms, their families, their communities and their future. Fair Trade means that certified farmers are using environmentally sound practices to grow and harvest their crops in a sustainable way.

About Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., was founded in 1978 in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, USA, by childhood friends and dedicated activists Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. The two friends started their ice cream careers with a $5 ice cream making correspondence course from Penn State University and a $12,000 investment ($4,000 of which was borrowed). They soon became popular in the local community for their innovative flavours, made from fresh Vermont milk and cream and large portions of whatever ingredients they felt tasted good on the day of making! While they both disagreed at times over flavour combinations, what they did both agree was that they were in this business to create some good in the world and enjoy themselves while they earned a living. Ben & Jerry’s, a Vermont corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward and a commitment to the community. The goal of the company’s social mission is to integrate a concern for the community into as many day to day business operations as possible while maintaining the product and economic missions. The move to fair trade ingredients is driven by that commitment. For more visit

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oats Thwart Atherosclerosis

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have discovered certain compounds in oats hinder the ability of blood cells to stick to artery walls, further indicating the same compounds hold promise to provide other health benefits.

Researchers previously showed that phenolic antioxidants in oats actually obstruct the ability of blood cells to stick to artery walls. Compounds, called “avenanthramides,” from oats significantly suppress the adhesive molecules that glue blood cells to artery walls.

Researchers now are working on determining the anti-inflammatory and other effects of oat avenanthramides and their derivatives using several animal models and colon cancer cell lines for testing purposes.

A 2006 study demonstrated for the first time that avenanthramide-c arrests smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation, which is known to participate in arterial lesion development. Unhealthy SMC growth contributes to the development of atherosclerosis, which can eventually lead to heart attack. Vascular endothelial cells, and to a lesser degree SMCs, also are involved in the synthesis of heart-healthy nitric oxide. The researchers found that avenanthramide-c treatment of human SMC significantly and dose-dependently increased nitric oxide production in both SMC and endothelial cells.

The results suggest that the avenanthramides of oats may contribute to the relaxation of arteries and the prevention of atherosclerosis by increasing nitric oxide production and inhibiting SMC proliferation. Earlier studies conducted by the researchers also showed consumption of oats reduces blood pressure.

Another study suggested avenanthramides decrease expression of inflammatory molecules. Because chronic inflammation of the arterial wall is part of the process that eventually causes disease, inhibition of inflammation through diet, drugs or key nutrients is considered to be of great benefit in preventing atherosclerosis.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The top 10 coupon categories in 2009 were: 1. Ready-to-Eat Cereal; 2. Yogurt

On the heels of recent research indicating coupon usage increased in 2009 for the first time in 17 years1, today released its annual data regarding digital coupons. The data reports an increase in printed savings of over 170 percent during 2009. Compared to growth metrics for coupons inserted into newspapers, which range between 8 and 16 percent,2,3 digital coupons dramatically outpaced the growth of its newspaper counterparts, by more than 10 to 1. Incorporated reported that almost $1 billion in savings was printed from the network last year and released other industry metrics as well as an overview of 2009 corporate milestones. The company is the recognized leader in digital coupons, including online printable, save to loyalty card and mobile promotions.

“For the first time in almost two decades the use of coupons increased in 2009, in part due to the growth of digital coupons as more consumers made them part of their shopping routine and more brands tapped them to engage with their consumers,” said Steven Boal, CEO of Incorporated. “We expect the adoption of digital coupons will continue to accelerate in 2010 as consumers and brands alike increasingly adopt them, and as we continue to enable companies to engage with their consumers with coupons in innovative ways, including mobile and social media initiatives.”

Printed Saving Approaches $1 Billion

Printed savings from and the digital coupon network in 2009 exceeded $858 million. The 170 percent increase over 2008 represents even faster growth than the company experienced the prior year (2008 grew 133 percent compared to 2007). The company believes that key factors influencing the growth included increased consumer adoption of online printable, save to store loyalty card and mobile coupons and increased use of digital coupons by brand marketers, including manufacturers and retailers alike.

Increased Consumer Interest

Representing over 20 percent of the U.S. population, more than 45 million American consumers are now using online coupons, up from 38 million in 2008. Of the 45 million online coupon users, almost one third (13.1 million) does not clip coupons from their Sunday newspaper, a 140 percent increase over 9.4 million in 2008.4

Coupons/Rewards was the 5th fastest growing Internet category in 2009, increasing 36 percent (based on unique monthly users, Jan to Dec), outpacing other advancing categories such as Personals, Email and Search.5 Additionally, reflective of trends in the consumer vernacular, Internet queries for coupons and related terms increased significantly on search engines during the year. Specifically, searches on Google for “Printable Coupons” and “Online Printable Coupons” increased 186 and 178 percent, respectively.6 In addition, Yahoo! reported that “Coupons” was No. 1 on its list of economy-related queries for 2009, followed by “Unemployment,” “Stimulus Plan,” “Cash for Clunkers,” and “Student Loans.”7

2009 Demographics

The consumer who prints digital coupons has an average household income of $97,000, a 23 percent higher income level than the U.S average. 34 percent of those who print digital coupons have a college degree (up from 32 percent in 2008), compared to 30 percent of those who use newspaper coupons and 27 percent of the general populace. Users of digital coupons have higher household incomes and are better educated than users of newspaper coupons and the general population.8

Coupon Usage by Category

Cereal was by far the most popular coupon category in 2009.9 It was followed by other perennial favorites, including Yogurt, Snacks, Condiments and Pizza. Reflecting an increase in popularity of non-grocery food coupons, top advancing categories included Restaurants and Entertainment, which ranked No. 6 and 8, respectively.

The top ten categories for 2009 are: 1. Ready-to-Eat Cereal; 2. Yogurt; 3. Sweet Snacks; 4. Refrigerated Dough; 5. Salty Snacks; 6. Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR)/Casual Dining; 7. Nutritional Snacks; 8. Entertainment; 9. Condiments; and 10. Pizza.

Coupon Usage by City

Atlanta topped the list of the Most Frugal U.S. Cities, with the average user in the Georgia capital saving over $531 with coupons from the site in 2009. As measured by the Savings Index,10 Tampa, Florida followed closely in the number two position.

The top 10 couponing cities, with corresponding savings index, are: 1. Atlanta, GA 918; 2. Tampa, FL 522; 3. Cincinnati, OH 511; 4. Saint Louis, MO 468; 5. Minneapolis, MN 351; 6. Nashville, TN 308; 7. Charlotte, NC 306; 8. Cleveland, OH 272; 9. Pittsburgh, PA 254; 10. Kansas City, MO 254.

Business Milestones

“2009 was an amazing year for, and we made tremendous strides on all fronts of our business. Not only did we approach $1 billion in printed savings, we also introduced exciting new products, including our mobile applications, and continued to expand our IP portfolio,” said Boal. “In addition, we attracted new customers that catapulted into the Top 50 largest U.S. Web properties and signed on many new partners and clients, further cementing our leading position as the go-to source for marketers wanting to coupon-enable their marketing programs.”

Consumers. In 2009, surged into the Top 50 largest U.S. Web properties. In October, with 19.5 million unique monthly users, was at the No. 39 position, ahead of, for reference, at No. 41.11 attributes the growth to consumers’ increased comfort online, more coupons offered by a wider variety of brands, as well as the economic environment.

Clients. For years, has been the go-to source for brands wanting to coupon-enable their online marketing campaigns, including online display, email, social media initiatives. In 2009, the company added new major consumer brands to its roster of clients. In addition to adding new clients, existing customers issued more offers and more widely distributed those offers than in 2008. Brands are moving more and more of their coupon promotions budgets to digital coupons, and some brands have stated that they are dedicating 100 percent to digital, abandoning long-term relationships with the free standing newspaper inserts.

New Consumer Products. The company released several new products in 2009 and introduced new ways for consumers to save money or shop better.

  • In addition to providing the largest selection of online printable coupons available anywhere, introduced new types of digital coupons, including Save to Card and Show & Save. In addition, the site also added coupon codes with which consumers can save on their online purchases.

-- Save to Card – allows shoppers to save coupon offers directly to their store loyalty cards. The paperless, virtual coupons are automatically deducted at checkout. Save to Card currently works with loyalty cards from Safeway, Vons, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Pavilions, and Carrs. Additional retailers will be added in 2010.

-- Show & Save – enables shoppers to either print a local coupon offer or simply show the coupon on a mobile device at checkout at the retailer or service provider. Collectively, over 12,000 coupons are available and offer savings for a wide variety of local restaurants, retailers, and services — from pizzerias to plumbers and dry cleaners to dog walkers.

-- Coupon Codes – gives access to hundreds of thousands of online coupon codes that provide discounts or free shipping on online purchases from over 40,000 retailers.12

  • Mobile App. The free application for the iPhone debuted in the Apple App Store, making it easy for mobile users to browse and select coupons they can print, save to their grocery store loyalty card or redeem at point of sale by showing coupons on their mobile devices.
  • Grocery iQ. introduced Version 2.0 of the critically-acclaimed Grocery iQ shopping list application, adding barcode scanning, real-time list synchronization and integrated coupons.
  • HP App. Pre-loaded on many HP web-enabled printers and available in the HP App Store, the HP App lets users browse and print coupons and recipes with the swipe of a finger directly from the printers’ TouchSmart panel.
  • Surecaster. With this new coupon targeting tool, marketers can deliver unique coupon offers by the behavior clusters consistent with their brand's targeting strategy. Offers are varied based on brand, competitive and category data.

Expanded Distribution Network. partnered with a host of publishers to introduce branded coupon galleries. Publishers added to the list include major magazine and online lifestyle sites, as well as many newspaper and TV sites. In addition, thousands of new publishers implemented Brandcaster, an easy-to-use, self service solution to monetize Web site traffic with coupon offers that visitors print without leaving the site. The distribution network is by far the largest of its kind.

New Retail Partners. announced new retailer partners, which launched online printable or Save to Card coupon galleries. New retailers include A&P (and its banners SuperFresh, Waldbaum’s, Pathmark, The Food Emporium and Food Basics), CVS, Duane Reade, H-E-B, Kmart, and Walgreens. This list joins existing partners, including Kroger and Safeway. Additional retailers are expected in 2010.

Data not otherwise cited is internal data.

1, 3. Inmar, Press Release, January 25, 2009

2. Marx Promotion Intelligence, a division of TNS Media Intelligence, Press Release, January 6, 2009

4, 8. Simmons Market Research, Summer 2009 and Summer 2008

5. Nielsen, December 2009

6. Google Insights for Search, for U.S. searches during the period beginning Jan. 4, 2009 and ending Nov. 28, 2009

7. Yahoo! Press Room, Dec. 1, 2009

9. Internal Data

10. Savings Index ranks cities (with a population of 300,000 or more) based on each city’s total printed coupon savings on and the network in 2009 relative to its population size. With an index of 918, Atlanta residents are nine times more likely to print coupon savings than the average American city dweller.

11. Nielsen, October 2009

12. RetailMeNot, Monthly Data Report, November 2009

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some 45% of consumers plan to buy candy for Valentine's Day

Here's a telltale sign that the economy hasn't snapped back: Anticipated spending for Valentine's Day is lower this year than it was last year, when the recession was looking particularly bleak. A survey by Brand Keys finds respondents expecting to shell out an average of $103 this year, down 5 percent from last year's figure. Men plan on spending $133 for the occasion; women expect to spend $72.

Cards are the most popular category, with 85 percent of respondents planning to buy one (or more). Other categories on which many people expect to spend are dinner/entertainment events (58 percent), gift cards (55 percent), flowers (45 percent) and candy (45 percent).

Fewer will be buying jewelry (15 percent), stuffed animals/balloons (10 percent), perfume/cologne (10 percent), lingerie/clothes (10 percent) or books/CDs/DVDs (5 percent).

Of course, whatever people buy for Valentine's Day, not all the gift purchases are entirely voluntary. In an Ipsos Public Affairs poll conducted for, 10 percent of respondents agreed "strongly" and 11 percent "somewhat" with the statement, "I purchase Valentine's Day gifts for my partner because I feel like I have to do so to not get in trouble." There was an unsurprising gender gap in the responses here, with 31 percent of the men agreeing (including 14 percent "strongly"), vs. 10 percent of the women (5 percent "strongly").

Thirty-nine percent of the Ipsos respondents agreed that "Valentine's Day is very important in my relationship." But that's not necessarily a good thing, as 9 percent (12 percent of men, 7 percent of women) agreed that "Valentine's Day is a stress on my relationship."

Still, the Brand Keys survey offered an indication that the holiday will not be a major disappointment: The proportion of men who expect to celebrate the occasion by having sex is matched exactly by the proportion of women who have the same idea (25 percent each).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

High bacteria levels found in packaged leafy greens

For the more than 31 million children who participate in the National School Lunch Program (N.S.L.P.), food safety help is on the way. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Feb. 4 announced several new initiatives to assure the safety and quality of food purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the N.S.L.P. and other food and nutrition assistance programs.

"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our nation's school children," Mr. Vilsack said. "We must do everything we can to ensure that our kids are being served safe, high quality foods at school. Today's announcement demonstrates our commitment to constantly improving the safety and quality of foods purchased by U.S.D.A."

As part of the effort, five U.S.D.A. agencies have set forth initiatives geared toward raising the food safety standards and testing protocols in schools to be more in line with that of restaurants and food retailers

Monday, February 08, 2010

The national volume of sales of grocery-anchored retail centers grew 6.6%

Don’t doubt the power of produce.

Not much is expected in the way of new retail construction in 2010, but there is a cluster of projects underway bucking the trend that have a common thread: a grocery store as an anchor destination.

Brentwood-based PGM Properties LLC, Florida-based The Barclay Group and Franklin-based Southern Land Co. have all recently broken ground on grocery-anchored retail centers. Though some have been on the drawing board for some time — Southern Land Co. originally expected its Whole Foods at the company’s McEwen development in Williamson County to be open last fall, and The Barclay Group originally planned to open its Publix-anchored Market at Salem Cove in Murfreesboro in early 2009 — the projects point to a relative strength in the retail arena.

According to data from California-based Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, the national volume of sales of grocery-anchored strip centers grew 6.6 percent in 2009, to $3.2 billion worth of transactions. The sales volume of single-tenant and multi-tenant retail sites, however, fell by 33 percent and 56.3 percent, respectively.

“From a retail perspective, grocery-anchored retail tends to be necessity-oriented,” said Paul Gaither, a senior vice president at the Nashville CB Richard Ellis office. While consumers may be spending less at grocery stores at the moment, for instance, they’re at least still going inside. As a result, such developments are taken as a safer bet by lenders and private investors.

While other retail centers may have 10-year leases and cotenancy stipulations (which allow Tenant A to get out of their lease if Tenant B leaves), grocery stores tend to have longer leases of up to 25 years, a big plus in a time of instability.

Having a grocery store as an anchor tenant doesn’t remove all risk for a retail landlord, however. As Gaither notes, “If they ever leave, you’re in deep trouble.”

It’s not unheard of. As noted by Dudley Parker, a principal with PGM Properties, whose Publix-anchored Bowie Commons is to open early next year, Bi-Lo and Winn Dixie stores have gone out of business. Just the same, he said grocery stores are “about as stable of a tenant as you can get in today’s market.”

Even with a tenant with good credit, financing still can be difficult, said Paul Neuroth, senior vice president of retail leasing for Southern Land Co., who said the firm’s Whole Foods project was delayed while “funding had to catch up with the deal itself.”

Jimmy Granbery, CEO of Nashville-based H.G. Hill Realty Co. LLC, said grocery-anchored developments have been the mainstay of retail development, even in the good times.

However, they are changing with the economy. For instance, developers are decreasing the amount of additional retail space, in the form of a strip center or outparcels, that accompanies a grocery anchor. A project that may have once called for 20,000 square feet of additional retail may now call for 10,000 square feet. H.G. Hill is completing a Publix-anchored center on Charlotte Avenue in West Nashville, that will include 15,000 square feet of retail space.

And as Gaither said, “There’s just fewer retailers looking for space.” According to CB Richard Ellis, Nashville-area retail vacancy continues to hover around 6.7 percent.

Though grocery centers are persevering, their construction doesn’t portend a recovery for the overall retail sector.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Chocolate candy registered $4.3 billion in sales in 2009

Despite the gloom of the recession that enveloped the nation last year, with its impact still being felt, U.S. consumers have not given up on chocolate even as they cut back on other frills and took steps to curtail spending in virtually every way possible.

"Chocolate kept selling through the recession; people kept buying chocolate and eating chocolate," said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior food and drink analyst at the market research company Mintel. "Chocolate is an affordable little indulgence for many people to enjoy, even when they have to give up other things. For many people, it's a nice tradeoff. Skip dessert and have a nice piece of chocolate when you get home."

The "affordable indulgence" factor apparently was an important driver of chocolate sales in 2009, which generally were up in convenience stores, supermarkets and specialty food stores, although in unit sales generally declined.

According to The Nielsen Co., chocolate bar dollar sales of almost $4.6 billion in the convenience channel represented a 5 percent jump over 2008, but unit sales were off by the same amount. (Convenience Store News is a subsidiary of The Nielsen Co.)

"The major factor in convenience stores has been that in-store sales have lost ground because people stopping for gas are simply not going inside the store to buy snacks or lunch," Mogelonsky pointed out. "People are trying to save money. Many people are not stopping on the way to work because they are not going to work, or if they are, they bring food from home."

But for many people, depriving themselves of that convenience store candy bar or extra cup of coffee generates a sudden urge to spend money on something little, but extra good, like a fancy chocolate when they buy groceries or are pass by a gourmet chocolate shop at the mall, she said.

In the food, drug, mass merchandising channels, including Walmart, Nielsen reported 2009 chocolate candy sales of $4.3 billion, a 3.6-percent increase, on top of a 4.7-percent jump the previous year. However, unit sales were off by 7 percent. Chocolate miniature sales of about $1.1 billion were up 8.7 percent, following a 1.2-percent boost in 2008, while unit sales dropped 3 percent. Dietetic chocolate sales of $172 million climbed 3.6 percent compared to a slight 0.4-percent increase in the prior year. Unit sales were up, but only by 0.2 percent.

Those higher sales numbers compared to lower unit numbers represent price increases taken by some major manufacturers over the year, but they may also indicate increased interest by consumers in higher-priced premium brands -- the "affordable indulgence" factor.

Last December, Mintel reported chocolate sales worldwide rose dramatically -- by 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in China and the Ukraine, for example. Each country has seen steady sales growth since 2005, and Mintel predicts continued growth through 2013. In Britain, the chocolate market produced 5.9 percent growth, with 3.2 percent in Belgium, a country that claims to produce some of the world's best chocolates, showing a sales increase of 3.2 percent. Overall U.S. chocolate sales increased 2.6 percent over 2008, Mintel reported.

"It's clear that despite economic trouble this year, the world's chocolate lovers didn't deviate from their favorite treat," said Mogelonsky. "Even in countries not known for chocolate consumption, sales are on the rise."

Manufacturers say many consumers are also growing more interested in organic and fair trade products, especially on the West Coast, where consumers frequently ask questions about those items as well as about the health benefits of chocolate. That trend is expected to grow in other areas of the country as well. Chocolate, particularly the dark varieties, is loaded with flavanols, which help to lower blood pressure, promote healthy blood flow and balance certain hormones in the body.

What's Next?

The National Confectioners Association's (NCA) 2009 Confectionery Industry Trend report predicts chocolate will emerge as one of the largest growth drivers for the confections industry "in new, delicious and exciting ways."

According to the report:
-- Chocolate and cocoa will pop up more frequently as a key ingredient in main courses alongside salmon, chicken and steak, according to 73 percent of experts surveyed.

-- Flavor infusions that combine chocolate and spices, salts, herbs and floral flavors will become increasingly popular as consumers embrace pairings, according to 43 percent of insiders.

-- Sweet and savory chocolate duos, like chocolate and bacon, and even chocolate and cheese combos, will be popular in stores and on menus. In fact, 78 percent of experts said chocolate and these sweet and savory duos will provide the most surprising flavor combinations.

-- Chocolate will drive the organic market, according to 70 percent of experts surveyed.

-- More than one-third of experts said consumers will become more knowledgeable about the global origin of the chocolate they enjoy.

Experts also forecast that the potential health benefits of chocolate will continue to be evidenced. Nearly half of those surveyed said consumers can expect to see more research into the potential health benefits of milk and dark chocolate, including exploration of naturally occurring cocoa compounds and positive effects on mood and blood pressure levels.

In addition, one in three industry experts said U.S. trends will have the greatest impact on the dark chocolate market globally.

The report predicted limited-edition candies will prevail. Thirty-five percent of experts said experimentation with new flavors of classic favorites will be a leading trend within limited edition candies, such as introducing dark chocolate versions of classic milk chocolate candies and experimenting with flavor fillings.

Some of these trends are evident in new products and line extensions recently introduced in the retail marketplace.

For example, Cape Code Provisions LLC converted six products to an all-natural recipe. In its Harvest Sweets brand, milk and dark chocolate covered cherries and blueberries are now all natural. In the Cape Cod Cranberry Candy brand, dried cranberries are now coated with all natural milk and dark chocolates.

Decadent tastes LLC, Ferndale, Wash., announced that its L'ESTASI DOLCE Sweet Ecstasy brand of Asian-Fusion confections and gourmet wine truffles recently received top ratings from, an online guide for consumers. Cited by the rating service were the company's Lemongrass Ginger Truffles, Mint Ginger Truffles and the Cabernet Truffle.

Last June, Nestle launched its new Kit Kat, Aero, and Coffee Crisp bars, all of which use dark chocolate "to attract a mature, health-conscious new audience." The products contain 70 percent cocoa content, "successfully elevating Nestle's presence as a provider of quality dark chocolate," according to the company's promotional materials. Since the launch, shipment sales have increased 45 percent, with consumption sales up 14 percent compared to the previous year.

C-stores registered 2% annual growth in foodservice customers between 2005 and 2008

Convenience stores are poised to garner a growing segment of the foodservice business, recording steady increases in customer traffic as opposed to traditional quick-service restaurants (QSRs), according to one industry researcher.

Presenting information before about 250 attendees at CSP's annual Convenience Retailing University conference, David Portalatin, director of industry analysis for The NPD Group, Houston, revealed statistics showing c-stores sustaining a 2% annual growth rate in foodservice customers since 2005 (with a dip to 1% last year), as opposed to 2% increase in 2005 to a decline of 2% in 2009 for QSRs.

Among the factors attributing to the steady increases was customers' age, he said, noting the emerging challenge of retaining Baby Boomers as they move from industrial parks to neighborhood lifestyles while still appealing to the 18 to 34 year-olds who seek healthy options and value.

"You've got to appeal to Baby Boomers as they transition their lives to other places without alienating the [18 to 30 year-olds] who are coming on board."

One of the elements needed to lure health-conscious customers was freshness, with that being defined in NPD studies in the following ways:
  • I can see it being prepared, 43%.
  • Made with fresh ingredients, 39%.
  • Item has a "sell by" or expiration date, 8%.
  • Aroma, 4%.
Items that also enhance the perception of value include fresh fruit, breakfast, salads, sandwiches and baked goods.

"There's an opportunity to move a lot of foot traffic if we can make it happen."

Today's economy is also playing role with regards to foodservice at c-stores, he said. Lower prices (58%), better quality (41%), variety (32%), promotions (32%), fresh-made foods (31%), healthier options (29%) and cleaner food-prep areas (29%) were all emerging demands, NPD studies revealed.

Offering value—and more importantly, the perception of value—is an area of great concern, as dollar-menus and broadly advertised specials present a challenge to the c-store channel. In particular, Portalatin (pictured) felt retailers were behind the curve with regards to advertising promotions in the general media. A show of hands confirmed his theory as only a small portion in the room said they did.

C-stores may be losing out on the value equation even when they currently hold an advantage, with Portalatin saying the average ring at a QSR is $5.29 as opposed to $3.18 at c-stores. He said c-stores still own the lower price point and must leverage it to their benefit.

"Convenience as a value will lose steam in a recession," he noted, but added that coming out of a similar recession in the 1990s, consumers did return to convenience-minded norms.

One of the last points Portalatin made emphasized the growing importance of grocery loyalty programs tied to fuel. He said that 76% of fuel bought at Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle Inc. and 51% bought at Cincinnati-based Kroger Cos. were linked to in-store loyalty programs. More and more, the larger grocery chains are finding the lure of accumulating fuel rewards as a powerful incentive to drive traffic and sell more merchandise.

"I can't make an assessment of gross margins," he said. "But it will move more consumer foot traffic than what we've observed in 30 years. [Fuel rewards are] a powerful incentive."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

FDA Wants $4 Billion for Food Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting $4.03 billion to transform food-safety practices, improve medical product safety, protect patients and modernize FDA regulatory science to advance public health. The request is part of President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget—a 23-percent increase over the agency’s current $3.28 billion budget.

The proposed budget includes $318.3 million in support for the Transforming Food Safety Initiative that reflects President Obama’s vision of a new food-safety system to protect the American public. FDA will set standards for safety, expand laboratory capacity, pilot track and trace technology, strengthen its import safety program, improve data collection and risk analysis and begin to establish an integrated national food-safety system with strengthened inspection and response capacity.

“The FY 2011 resources will strengthen our ability to act as a strong and smart regulator, protecting Americans through every stage of life, many times each day,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “This budget supports the ability for patients and families to realize the benefits of science that are yielding revolutionary advances in the life and biomedical sciences.”

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting $4.03 billion to transform food-safety practices, improve medical product safety, protect pa

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting $4.03 billion to transform food-safety practices, improve medical product safety, protect patients and modernize FDA regulatory science to advance public health. The request is part of President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget—a 23-percent increase over the agency’s current $3.28 billion budget.

The proposed budget includes $318.3 million in support for the Transforming Food Safety Initiative that reflects President Obama’s vision of a new food-safety system to protect the American public. FDA will set standards for safety, expand laboratory capacity, pilot track and trace technology, strengthen its import safety program, improve data collection and risk analysis and begin to establish an integrated national food-safety system with strengthened inspection and response capacity.

“The FY 2011 resources will strengthen our ability to act as a strong and smart regulator, protecting Americans through every stage of life, many times each day,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “This budget supports the ability for patients and families to realize the benefits of science that are yielding revolutionary advances in the life and biomedical sciences.”

Shoppers Loyal to Price, Values

Support for ethically produced foods in general has withstood the pressures of an 18-month recession and is growing, despite the tough economic conditions. In fact, nearly 30 percent of shoppers have specifically purchased locally produced food over the last month, double the number in 2006, according to new consumer research released by food and grocery analysts IGD.

“These figures prove what we have been saying throughout the recession—shoppers are looking for both value and values. They are not simply looking for cheaper food in tough times, they also expect the grocery industry to support their moral and ethical values,” said Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive, IGD.

Survey respondents said their main reasons for supporting local food were it fresher and they wanted to support the local economy. Additionally, 57 percent said they purchased local food because it has not travelled as far and is fresher; 54 percent wanted to support local producers and farmers (up from 28 percent in 2006); 34 percent wanted to support local retailers (up from 18 percent in 2006); and 29 percent wanted to keep jobs in the local area (up from 14 percent).

When asked what improvements they would like to see to their food and grocery shopping experience 31 percent wanted more local products available to them, compared with 12 percent in 2005; 20 percent wanted a farmers’ market or farm shop to be established nearby, up from 15 percent in 2005.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

About 47.2% of consumers will purchase candy for Valentine's Day

As husbands and wives across America continue to focus on reining in their spending, it seems couples this year plan to spend less on each other but more on their family, friends, co-workers…even their pets. According to NRF’s 2010 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, couples will spend an average of $63.34 on gifts for their significant other or spouse, compared to $67.22 last year. The average person will shell out $103.00 on traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise this year, similar to last year’s $102.50. Total holiday spending is expected to reach $14.1 billion.*

With Americans cutting back on the amount they spend on their significant other, friends and co-workers can expect a little bit more this year. The average person will spend $5.37 on friends, up from $4.74 last year; $4.29 on classmates and teachers, compared to $3.59 last year; and $2.84 on co-workers, slightly up from the $1.94 they spent in 2009. Family pets will also feel the love this year with the average person spending $3.27 on their furry friends, up from $2.17 last year. Spending on family members will remain the same ($20.94 vs. $20.95 last year).

“While some may view Valentine’s Day as cliché, many people still look forward to giving significant others, friends, family and even pets something special,” said Tracy Mullin, President and CEO, NRF. “Rather than not give anything at all, consumers will instead focus on small, thoughtful gifts for the people who mean the most to them this year.”

As in previous years, men will spend nearly twice the amount women spend on the holiday. The average man plans to shell out $135.35 to impress the people in his life while women only expect to spend $72.28.

Personal and practical gifts will resonate with celebrants again this year as more people will look to sweaters, winter accessories and other clothing options (14.4% vs. 10.2% in 2009) in place of jewelry (15.5% vs. 16.0% last year) or an evening out (35.6% vs. 47.0% in 2009.) Traditional gifts such as greeting cards (54.9%), candy (47.2%) and flowers (35.6%) remain popular choices.

“The economy has forced consumers to rethink their gift giving practices,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “Personal and unique gifts will speak volumes this Valentine's Day as consumers dig deep into their hearts and not their wallets."

When it comes to where people will shop, most will head to discount stores (40.9%), though department stores (31.1%) and specialty stores such as florists, electronics stores and greeting cards and gift stores (21.4%) will also see a share of holiday foot traffic.**

About the Survey

The NRF 2010 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to Valentine's Day. The poll of 9,578 consumers was conducted from January 5-13, 2010. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch’s syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 8,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2009 sales of $4.1 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations.