Consumers want to be able to look the brand straight in the eye without the brand blinking, Goldman says. They want to trust it. But that trust is always on the line. Consumers complained, for example, about a new bottle last year that was 22% lighter and which was specifically designed to create less waste. What made consumers balk was that the design change — to use less plastic — made it look like the bottle had less product. "They thought we were selling them air," says Goldman. So the bottle was quickly redesigned again to make it clear that there were no shenanigans.
Folks also want to trust the Honest brand to keep them healthy. "Fifteen years ago, people were choosing organic to save the world," Goldman says. Now, he says, they're choosing it "to save themselves — and that's a much more powerful driver."
•Concoct nostalgic food. When football season begins this fall, it won't be an accident if you find this appetizer on the menu at your local Applebee's: Brew pub pretzel and beer cheese dip.
"The trick for us was giving customers the sense that they were at the stadium, but in a way that would be unique," says Melissa Hunt, who has been a senior chef at Applebee's for six years. After all, she asks, what's more emotional than fall, football and gathering with friends?
So, instead of a traditional salt pretzel, Applebee's opted to rethink how to make a culinary connection between the bond at a ballpark and taste expectations at an Applebee's. That meant less salt and more pepper and herbs on the pretzel. It meant a pretzel that was crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. And, of course, what to add to the cheese dip to give it the cosmic flavor and smell of sitting in stadium seats: beer, of course.
•Sell better-for-you stuff. At Panera Bread, the internal name used for its food-development team is the "lust" team, because "food is such a sensual experience," says co-founder Ron Shaich.
Shaich said Panera's basic goal is to prod consumers to "fall in love" with the restaurant: "That's what I wake up first thing in the morning thinking. If you love this place, that's all that matters. Everything else will take care of itself."
So he works on the emotional cues that hit consumers at their core: no artificial stuff, antibiotic-free meats, fully posted calorie information and intangibles, he says, such as serving food on china plates instead of paper.
The chain recently starting selling a Fuji Apple Roasted Turkey Salad with turkey meat that doesn't taste like it's from the deli. Rather, he says, it looks, feels, smells and tastes like it's from one of the most memorable spots of all: the Thanksgiving table.
"This is real turkey," says Shaich. It's cut 1/3 inch thick. It's also a hit, he says, with early sales surpassing expectations.
•Cater to "mouth feel." Some 29 years ago, Gary Hirshberg started with seven cows and an idea: to make organic yogurt for the masses. His company, Stonyfield Farms, is now the nation's fourth-largest yogurt maker.