Cornish pastie makers were very particular indeed about their offerings when I attended the Great British Cheese Festival. That was in 2010 but it runs every year.
A genuine Cornish pasty like this one (above) has a distinctive ‘D’ shape and is crimped on one side, never on top. The texture of the filling for the pasty is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), Swede or turnip, potato and onion and a light peppery seasoning.
Texture was integral to all exhibits at the festival. Of the dozens of cheeses I tasted, texture contributed at least as much to the overall flavour as did the aroma, probably because the tasting portions were small cubes or dollops which retained their texture but aroma tended to be muted, especially in the huge tasting tent. Even pictures of most of the farmhouse, artisan cheeses accentuated the rough, hand-made texture of the cheese wheels, enough to make a visitor drool.
The people there who were devoted to Protecting the Authentic Taste of Cheddar (the Avengers-like acronym "Patch") seemed to acknowledge this: "the texture is firm with rinded cheese being slightly crumbly".
Montgomery’s Cheddar boasts of its "brittle, broken texture"; Keen’s notes that the process of "cheddaring" is itself texture-laden, meaning "texturing the curd by hand, cutting it into blocks, layering and turning it".
Even in the other, non-cheese tents, texture dominated, mostly in what foodies call "mouth feel", being the feeling you get when you chew a solid food or swish a drink around inside your mouth before you swallow.
Such was the case with (pictured above) the Olive Oil & Truffles exhibit, with Pen-Lon Cottage Brewer and with the other ciders and ales I tried at 11.30am (whew, early!). Texture especially applied to the balsamic dressing made by Lorna for Gilly’s Foods of Great Coxwell, because I tasted the dressing on crusty bread.
More shopping next week ...
Management production staff at Fairfax Media have been slowly working their way through the "hold" folders this week while their colleagues strike against staff cuts and they have come up with this nice yarn (apparently written the day before the strike was announced) about the barista and coffee revolution in Australian restaurants.
At the Shop Your Way to Success test kitchen we too have been dabbling in single-source, single-origin brands from the local geniuses at Nelli Coffee, Clontarf, and this week we discovered this single plot variety (below) which offers something different ... precise growing, tender maintenance and coffee terroir previously mostly seen in grape growing and wine production. Seems it also offers "jammy apricot" notes ... who knew?
The central task of my Shopping News project has been to discover a new and better approach to consumers' needs and in my book I have called this "Agenda Finding".
Along the way ideas have surfaced which show potential for further development, not just as agenda-finders, but as new aspects of successful business models. Generally these fall into three categories: (1) packaging or wrapping, (2) quality assurance and (3) cost and pricing structures. I am also working on a fourth category, yield management, with my colleague Peter Moran ... something for future posts.
Primary producers such as these coffee growers and roasters, dairy farmers, miners and wine makers recognise the complexity of their products and processes and they put it on the label.
It's a great sales tool for every business (even journalism).
Complexity as a philosophical concept is an enormously deep and wide pool but it’s fairly easy to understand as a practical concept.
Manufacturers and retailers describe a wine by its colour, its bouquet, its mouth-feel, its age, its origin, and its flavour in a wide range of things called "notes", the sweetness, dryness, bitterness and sourness. Within these "notes", wine aficionados invent a dictionary’s worth of phrases and expression such as buttery, woody, "dead ants", yeasty and finish. Cheese makers do the same, and in fact most food manufacturers and retailers I have encountered researching Shopping News were able to describe their wares in many intricate different ways, each designed to enhance the appeal of the product.
Chefs take the same approach, which might explain the rise and rise of television chefs and recipe-book authors such as Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and Nigella Lawson. It looks as though they’re making the task of food sourcing, selection and preparation simple and easy to do, but if you look closer and listen more attentively, you’ll notice that they describe in great detail how they went looking for this precise kind of chilli (in Oliver’s self-admitted addicted case), this special olive oil from a particular region, a unique blend of rock salt and spices you can only obtain from high in the Himalayas or the Andes, or roe from a particular kind of scallop sourced from the waters 2km off the coast of Tasmania.
As researcher Martin Lindstrom says, every successful product has to have a secret ingredient.
Take milk. When I was young I learnt from my aunt the farmer that milk comes from a cow’s udder and emerges warm, tasty, simple and natural every time you milk the cow.
But those who collect, process, package and sell milk also know that while "milk is milk", it can be sold in many different ways, products, packages and prices, and this increases its value to the market overall.
Demand for milk, milk products and products with milk as an ingredient is so high in Australia that milk is the main weapon in supermarket price wars. When I searched the online shopping catalogue of one of Australia’s main supermarket chains in April 2014 using the one-word search term "milk", the database returned 458 products which included the word "milk" in their metadata description.
Milk is processed, packaged and sold on its own but also flavoured, powdered and enhanced; it’s in cheeses, dips, biscuits, cakes and sauces; other products such as soy and almond are ground and liquidised and sold as "milk drinks"; and a whole new kind of chocolate was invented, "milk chocolate". Even milk that is exactly the same is packaged, priced and marketed by different companies and they compete side-by-side on shelves around the world (play the clip above).
Or take medicine. The Australian Medical Council is responsible for advising the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing on which disciplines of medical practice should be recognised as medical specialties in Australia. The council’s list of recognised medical specialities is four pages long: everyone knows that doctors specialise in what they do but what most people don’t think about is that this allows specialists to conduct, package, market and most importantly, to sell specialist procedures in competition with other doctors.
Pathology, for instance, is divided into general pathology, anatomical pathology (including cytopathology), chemical pathology, forensic pathology, haematology, immunology and microbiology; surgery into cardio-thoracic, general, neurosurgery, orthopaedic, otolaryngology – head and neck, paediatric surgery, plastic and reconstructive, urology and vascular surgery. And general specialists (not your average GP) can work in "general medicine", general paediatrics, cardiology, clinical genetics, clinical pharmacology, community child health, endocrinology, gastroenterology and hepatology, geriatric medicine, haematology, immunology and allergy, infectious diseases, intensive care medicine, medical oncology, neonatal/perinatal medicine, nephrology, neurology, nuclear medicine, paediatric emergency medicine, palliative medicine, respiratory and sleep medicine, and rheumatology.
Ask any medical specialist who has to pay the bills at the end of the day and s/he’ll agree that these are not just areas of work: they’re areas of business and trade.
Let's meet here next week ... cheers!
Festivals are a special kind of market and I saw this in action at the Great British Cheese Festival in Cardiff, Wales, in 2010.
That autumn afternoon, I sheltered in a timber-lined 18th century tavern, the Rummer, opposite Cardiff’s landmark medieval castle.
Outside, people hurried past in the blustery streets or waited for buses, heading home after a busy working day. Next door, they paused in the arcades, picking up items for the evening, or maybe gifts for special occasions.
‘I wonder what they’re buying,’ I mused, over a pint of Hereford Pale Ale from the Wye Valley Brewery. ‘Cheese, probably,’ glancing at the placards outside the castle across the road.
But the cheese exhibits were only part of the festival. When I arrived next day it was about 11am and clear, also unseasonably warm.
The queue wasn’t that long yet and the crowds not that intense, although they would develop to much more of a bustle within hours. The first thing I encountered wasn’t a cheese exhibit at all, it was a pork stall.
Next week, inside the festival.
Big day at the shops today. We met Kent Lambert and his beard at the Redcliffe Jetty Markets (above) and viewed the crafts of the Colombian and Panamanian Embera Chami tribe.
We also discovered the (relatively) new premises of REWIND retro and vintage shop at Sandgate (see gallery below).
And we continue our extracts from Shopping News about the economic value of shopping.
For every shopper, there are also sales people. In the US, there were about 4.5 million retail sales jobs in 2008, of a total labour force of 139 million people, and these were mostly in clothing and clothing accessories stores, department stores, building material and supplies dealers, motor vehicle and parts dealers, and general merchandise stores such as warehouse clubs and ‘supercenters’.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were an extra 156,500 self-employed retail salespersons. In Australia, more than 10 percent of the workforce has a job in the retail trade, and the top 10 jobs by volume among them are: sales assistant (general), retail manager, checkout operator and office cashier, shelf filler, pharmacy sales assistant, retail supervisor, motor vehicle and vehicle parts salesperson, store person, purchasing and supply logistics clerk, and motor mechanic.
In the UK, according to the British Retail Consortium ‘retailing is at the heart of our towns, cities and neighbourhoods’:
One in every eight households has someone who works in retail and with 60 billion visits by consumers every year, retail plays a unique role in listening to and leading our communities.
How to make sense of all this? In the years I have spent travelling and shopping around the world and reading about shops, restaurants, tourism, marketing techniques and manufacturing, the key things which have stood out are: (1) how we get to the shop, (2) what we do inside the shop, and (3) what happens next.
In these three big categories we will keep in mind where the shop is located and how it looks and feels to the customer, including signage; how each product is made, packaged, labelled and priced; how stock is selected and acquired by the store ‘buyer’; how inventory is stored and displayed in the shop; the promises which are made to the customer before a purchase is made; crucially, how the money changes hands; and how those promises to the customer are fulfilled.
If you are in any of the disciples of marketing, merchandising, and consumer behaviour, you’re tearing out your hair right about now, screaming: ‘There’s so much more!’ You’d be correct, generally speaking. But for the current project of learning lessons from shopping, these three will get us started.
More next week ...
April 12: More people spend more of their days buying and selling than in practically any other occupation. We’re all either looking to buy or pitching to sell. In monetary terms, the number and worth of all the small buy-sell transactions that happen every minute in our everyday lives outweigh the number and worth of all the big ones that happen in Oval Offices, Cabinet Rooms and stock exchanges.
In most countries, buying and selling – referred to as retail sales – is what’s called a ‘main economic indicator’ and tells you how a country’s economic health is standing. In Australia, for instance, monthly retail turnover in January 2009 stood at slightly more than $19 billion, although it had just hit $25 billion in the Christmas rush a month before (up from $3 billion and $5 billion respectively in 1982). The biggest states – New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland – were also the biggest consumers, signalling the obvious that it’s mostly people doing the shopping, not just companies or governments.
They liked it even more in Canada, with monthly retail figures in February 2009 hitting $33 billion, likewise concentrated in the big population centres of Ontario and Quebec. Retail numbers in the United Kingdom hit £101 billion that month (having just peaked for Christmas at £136 billion) and in the United States for January 2010, all retail and food services ca-chinged up $322 billion. Imagine the picture if we included shopping mega-paradises such as France and Italy, South Korea, Japan, the so-called BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the African giants Nigeria and Ghana, the whole of South-East Asia and that other mass of humanity, the Middle East: all those shoe shops, markets, souqs, strip malls, villages, cellar doors and cheese shops!
Really, we’re talking the whole world. Society collectively loves the range of businesses typically surveyed in these figure sets: motor vehicle traders and parts suppliers; furniture and home furnishings; electronics and household appliances (including radio, televisions and computers and software); building materials and garden equipment; paint and wallpaper; hardware; food and beverage stores such as grocery stores and supermarkets; beer, wine, and liquor stores; health and personal care stores; pharmacies and drug stores; gasoline (petrol) stations; clothing and clothing accessories stores (men’s, women’s, family, ‘other’); shoes; jewellery; sporting goods; hobby, toys, games, book, and music stores; general merchandise stores; department stores; discount department stores; warehouse clubs and superstores; all other general merchandise stores; miscellaneous store retailers; office suppliers; stationery, and gift stores; novelty and souvenir stores; used merchandise stores; non-store retailers such as electronic shopping and mail-order houses; fuel dealers; food services and drinking places; full service restaurants; limited service eating places; and drinking places. Harder to count but more pervasive and more fun to visit are tourism outlets and the fresh produce, fish, fruit and vegetable and farmers’ markets around the world which operate sometimes on the ‘black’ side of the market (no paperwork, no tax, no questions asked) and which just as often barter, trade and work on handshakes. Then there are the so-called ‘flea markets’, known in some parts as car-boot sales, suitcase rummages and second-hand markets, where non-registered traders hawk craft goods for cash, alongside surplus home equipment or deceased estate goods.
Off to one side of this phantasmagoria but nevertheless essentially shopping are three behemoths: the real estate market, where buying and selling houses takes place in streets, apartment blocks, rural and semi-rural districts – even private islands – and online day and night around the world; the world’s financial markets, increasingly colonised by ‘citizen traders’, individuals whose participation, just like citizen journalists, has become enabled by digital technologies such as the Internet and mobile telephony; and there’s the growing list of online shopping, publishing and trading sites such as Amazon, iTunes, Lulu, Craig’s List, EBay, and the games site Steam, launched by digital development company, Valve, where more than 1100 games are stocked, which claims an active user base of 25 million gamers, and logged-in shopper numbers ranged from 1.28 million to 2.24 million in July 201062. For each of these big sites there are hundreds smaller ones online, selling shoes, clothes, books, travel and food.
Buy the full book now:
See you next week ...
Today we start the new weekly blog Shop Your Way to Success in which I will reveal some of the secrets of retail and publishing success I discovered in my book Shopping News.
Over the weeks ahead, I'll look at and explain 16 original and practical models for how businesses can attract and please more customers without compromising ethics or quality. It’s for everyone in business (but if you know anyone in media and publishing especially, share it with them ... they'll thank you for it).
You'll have the chance to join our FaceBook group Shop Your Way to Success and talk about sales and marketing strategies with other small and micro-business owners. Get hot tips from others in your shoes!
We'll have monthly giveaways and other "free stuff" for your business and news from retail, manufacturing and marketing.
Our featured video this week comes from 1977, so it's appropriate for 2017 ... a mature 40-year-old drop from Lindeman's wines.
We're featuring it because Lindeman's have stuck with their decades-old campaign of trying to surprise and delight their customers ... and they continue this approach today.
When you play the video, look through the comments and learn that acclaimed Australian author Peter Carey wrote ads for Lindeman's ... did he write this one? Let us know if you know ...
JOHN COKLEY PhD loves journalism and has written for and produced newspapers, magazines, books, broadcasting and online content since 1981. This blog is about changing and improving journalism, making it more profitable and better quality, about encouraging citizen journalism, and leading the world out of the old journalism and into the new. Read more about John here: