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!
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: