A Spice Odyssey
From teas and martinis to breads and muffins, spices are everywhere
this year. Those of us who didn't have great cooks for parents first
learned about spices in second grade geography classes starring Marco
Polo and the ancient Spice Routes through what used to be Persia to
the heart of today's Middle East conflicts. This year spice fever and
thoughts of the new year lead to thoughts of a favorite-spice poll and
a 2001Spice Odyssey. Right after sending out the spice poll, we received
two gifts including mulling spices and learned of P&G's new venture
in spice and flavor marketing. Our conclusions:
- Spices this year
are hot as well as cold, in as well as out.
- The next millenium's
cosmonaughts could discover spice instead of life on Mars.
- Spices and flavoring
are as important to food as money is to the market or love to our
Our holiday season
poll results that showed nostalgia to be a primary factor in peoples
favorite spice citations at this time of year. We strongly suspect that
spice poll results would be different at a different time of year --
that the nostalgia factor was holiday-induced. Aren't the holiday's
prime times for nostalgia as well as spices? Haven't we all believed
in the nostalgia power of cookies since we learned about Proust's Remembrance
of Things Past - four whole books worth of life memories triggered by
a single cookie? Proust's life memories were French, but MANY
of our American panelists told us that cinnamon evokes memories of grandma's,
grandpa's, moms, aunts, uncles and cousins and childhood cozies in general.
It's amazing and market noteworthy that all of the spice-triggered memories
we heard about were good memories.
So what were the
favorite spice and flavoring winners? Make this an ode to Garlic and
Cinnamon. We can't see any way to put them together, but they are the
big and clear-cut chad-free winner and runner up in our national spice
poll - and people who love them say they use them in just about everything.
plants turn toward and open in the light. Such plants are called helio-tropic.
We suggest flavor-tropic as a new 2001 designation for
consumers who seek out specific spices and flavors. Just calling them
foodies or flavor-seekers or gourmets is to gloss over their flavor
drivers and behaviors.
Some consumers are much more flavor-tropic and flavor-fickle than others.
They get cravings for cinnamon that won't be satisfied with ginger,
for Chunky Monkey, not just for ice cream; for dill when only dill and
neither tarragon nor basil will do, for Triscuits, not just for crackers,
for Garlic and Onion Pizza, not just for pizza, for the flavor of Campbell
Chicken Noodle when Progresso Chicken just won't do, and for garlic,
garlic, garlic - the flavor craving that can be satisfied in an almost
infinite variety of forms. Some change favorites slowly as they age:
"Lemon is my favorite now. I used to like chocolate more but
now find it heavy and overwhelming."
What Spices Do
- Give "it"
- Bring out the
- Make it unique
- Make it yours
- Make it special
- Create enticing
appearance, aroma, and taste,
- Improve the taste
- Make dishes refreshing
- Smooth over rough
What Spices Do
- Warm the heart
- Bring good memories
- Touch the center
or the soul
- Relieve stress
- Create excitement
- Surprise guests
- Make cooking
- Add to creativity
- Encourage thankfulness
The Homey Power
In 1st Place:
The best money making ideas are often based on simple truths that a
bright entrepreneur recognizes and responds to. So may be the origin
of Cinnebonn - which offers cinnamon and sugar liberally sprinkled and
melted on hot dough at a high price. It works because so many people
love cinnamon in and out. It's homey and comfy and aromatic and cross-cultural.
It makes home feel and taste and smell more like home. Consumers love
the flavor in and out, and in all the places that Sam I Am enjoyed his
Green Ham and Eggs.
- I like cinnamon.
It does so much for foods. I always like to have a shaker of cinnamon
and sugar to use here and there. It gives desserts, plain ones even,
a homey touch. Makes me feel comfortable in my home.
- Cinnamon -
enhances appearance, aroma and taste Gives desserts, plain ones even
a homey touch. Makes me feel comfortable in my home. Use it in cookies,
cakes, and hot cider, in my Potpurri burner, in a sachet bag. It seems
to warm up the food or beverage and to warm me and bring good memories.
- Cinnamon was
my first thought. It makes pies, puddings soooo good and it smells
delicious coming from the oven or in the kitchen.
- Cinnamon in
meats and vegetables (brisket tzimmis), in desserts (rice pudding),
in sweet baked goods (coffeecake, sticky cinnamon buns), in beverages
(coffee, hot chocolate) AND for my husband's orchids (after making
a cutting, "seal" the leaf/stem with cinnamon!) It flavors
the food and makes me feel warm and fuzzy", I think!
- Cinnamon &
hazelnut flavoring go together for me. Cinnamon makes fruit special
& hazelnut does that for coffee & cocoa. I like the flavoring
at home, although I order hazelnut coffee at Starbucks. These spices
make my fruits un-mundane & coffee and hot chocolate delectable
with hazelnut favor. They relieve stress and create a satisfying break.
-- In anything I can think of - baked goods (the traditional way),
in chicken cacciatore, mid eastern dishes, etc. in meats it adds a
mystery taste - it is like vanilla - a comfortable spice but can be
used in a variety of ways.
- Cinnamon is
my favorite spice. It gives a special flavor to fruit and baked goods
and the house smells so good after.
The Healthy Power
In 2nd Place:
From meatloaf to mimosa, no other flavoring agent makes people feel
healthy and hungry at the same time. It's the main zing for people who
don't get turned on by the hot and peppery spices.
- Garlic smells
up my fingers and gives me and all with whom I dine bad breath but
it makes the food more interesting.
- My favorite
flavoring is garlic. I like it in, on, over, under, or beside any
food except deserts. It gives everything a wonderful taste. And it
is good for you, too.
- Garlic and
Herbs by Mrs. Dash - I like spices added in the cooking process, gives
it zing and brings out flavor. Hot Sauce added after.
- GARLIC without
question. I can use it in almost everything. I like it powdered, crushed
cloves, whole cloves like putting them in a roast. I also understand
that it is good for the heart and that is great but not the reason
I eat it. I also simply LOVE the flavor.
- Garlic is
my very favorite flavoring. My hubby says I like to put it in everything
but ice cream! Garlic especially works well with fats: e.g.: garlic
toast, sausages, oil & vinegar-based salad dressings, etc.
- Garlic and
crushed red pepper. Usually I put them in just about anything....
eggs, meatloaf, hamburgers, spaghetti or anything in the noodle family.
They even heat up soup and chili not to mention sour cream and mayonnaise
dips. Wine goes with garlic and red pepper. If not wine, then a morning
mimosa. Lunch could be sparkling grape juice. What does it do for
me. Brings back memories of my dad cooking in the kitchen when I was
just four or five. He is still with us it is just the best memory
I have of my dad.
- Garlic is
my favorite spice. I use it on all meats, stews and casseroles. I
also like Basil.
Vanilla for the
love of white food:
In 3rd Place:
Vanilla makes whatever it's in more fun to eat/drink.
Vanilla for ice cream, cakes and desert. Enhances the flavor. Makes
the food taste better.
Vanilla-I especially appreciate what vanilla does for soymilk, which
I consume a lot of these days.
Vanilla ... in just about everything. French Toast, Coffee ... ice cream.
It's a comfort food, smell taste. I even like vanilla candles.
Curry is delicious and compelling. I crave curries and don't get them
often enough. Feel sure they will become more popular in this country.
Dill - see verse below.
Ginger. In soups, sauces, cookies, tea, more. Soothing to the
stomach. Makes me want to eat more.
Lemon. It touches me
Mace partnered with chocolate: in cakes, puddings, etc. subtly
enhances all other flavors and excites my taste buds
Mint makes dishes refreshing and often surprises people if not
used too heavily. Makes me feel good because the food tastes good or
the tea more refreshing.
Oregano. I just love it in soups, salads, and sauces.
Rosemary makes chicken less like chicken again.
Soy sauce is my favorite flavoring. It has some salt, but definitely
a taste.... anywhere, anytime, with any food.
Two respondents answered our Sesasonal-Seussical spice question in verse.
The question we asked was: "Do you eat it (your favorite spice)
in or out? In a car? In a bar?"
Our garlic poet
shall be anonymous with:
Garlic in the kitchen, Silly, Where I use it willy-nilly.
In the dip and in the salad, Marinade, and all that has it...
Panelist Wendi Winters,
wins our poet laureate award for Spice Whirl, her (here abridged) dilly
of an ode to dill:
I like dill in smashed potatoes,
Or, as part of a dressing on tomatoes.
We also like to watch it when the wind blows.
Sprinkled on grilled fish, it makes a great dish.
My kids and I like to smell it with our noses,
Kids 1,3 & 4 say it smells better than roses,
Kid #2 likes to water it with the hoses.
Sure, we like
it in a car, we like it near and far.
We can shake it from a jar, we can pick it fresh and green,
then it's so tasty we could scream!
You can grow
it in your yard but please take heed,
It spreads like a weed. Better to buy it in a store
Where you find spices galore, Rosemary, Parsley and s'more - including
dearest dill, we're in a whirl.
Among spices, it's our pearl.
Fresh and whole spices are musts for most foodies that we know, but
many of our respondents defended dried alternatives - some actually
preferring dried to fresh and others saying that they use whichever
"Spice favorite is dried oregano. I use it IN sauces and salad
dressings, stuffing, etc., and ON things like meats and pizza, of course.
It may sound odd to prefer the dried to the fresh, but it is right THERE
- I don't have to go out and pick it and wash it and strip it off the
stems (we do have some trying to grow in pots on our deck). It adds
a lot to whatever it is put in or on, but it is hard to describe exactly
what that is!"
Ghost of Christmas Past
Consumers who felt betrayed by the vote count and court rejections felt
and behaved like betrayed spouses in breaking marriages. They experienced
anxiety and depression about the democracy that some had previously
experienced as the core of their being American. What was shaken went
beyond concern about politicized courts to an intangible they understood
as their birthright - even to what some psychologists call the schema
- the armature on which people build personalities. The feelings of
betrayal were just widespread and profound enough to negatively impact
Christmas shopping during late November and early December. The analysts
and economists looked at consumers' falling confidence in the economy
and the stock market. But during this holiday season, aches in many
peoples' feeling centers were overshadowing the stock market and the
sales in shopping centers. Betrayal is a miserable feeling that isn't
alleviated by Prozac or Christmas shopping.
Current Brand Challenge
After reporting on the No-Name movement in last month's edition, we
heard from young adults who want to stop being billboards for brands.
One told us that her brand preferences are her own business.
Their parents are telling us that buying brands means expressing performance,
taste, appearance preferences but doesn't mean buying safe. They have
heard about safety problem headlines associated with gold standard brands
(Coke, Cargill and Sara Lee as well as Ford, Firestone, Concord and
Johnson and Johnson) are among the shining stars that have been hit
and wounded during the last year. With safety problems happening to
the world's best and brightest, buying brand is no longer a safety guarantee.
And with the mergers
happening everywhere, and the merged companies getting still bigger
by merging with other companies, consumers are feeling more distanced
from everyone but their local stores who are beginning to seem like
they may be safer than the giants that until recently were perceived
as super-sanitary, super-safe, and super-reliable. That's happening
here as well as in Europe. A visit to Paris during the height of the
mad-cow scare confirmed that many supermarket shoppers felt safer about
returning to their local butcher to buy meat because they felt that
the independent butchers knew the sources of their supply on a individual,
first name basis.
Many consumers have
been learning more than they ever wanted to know about legislatures
and courts. Some of what they have been learning and feeling spilled
over to this year's holiday shopping season. Even the Wall Street Journal
described this year's election as the first political election staged
like a Coke versus Pepsi war for market share.
Like the candidates,
the winning brands may be the ones from organizations or companies who
best know how to work the system. But at one important point, that is
where the match-up of the brand marketplace and the candidate marketplace
Most branded products
and services have to perform in use before consumers buy them again.
For most purchase, consumers don't have to wait years for an election
in which to affirm or change their choice. Most branded products and
services have to live up to their positioning or lose consumers' business.
Brand positioning is different from political spin, because if a brand's
promise or position is better quality or higher fashion, it almost always
has to deliver on its promise or pretty quickly fade and die.
What a trust-building
opportunity this offers to brands and stores that consumers can rely
on. When courts lose their credibility and technology giants lose their
market power, reliable consumer brands could be one of the few institutions
that consumers can count on.
Skepticism is at
an all time high. Many feel burned by political shenanigans while believing
that some brands can be counted on to perform as expected, day after
and courts are always corrupt, while brands are sometimes trustworthy.
- I trust brands
and companies and I don't trust politicians or courts (courts especially
after the Monica and OJ fiascos). If I trust a store or a brand and
I get burned, I can complain to the store or bring the product back.
I may even get a coupon! If I trust a politician or a court and I
get burned, then what? I can't bring anything back and as far as I
know, no coupons!
- I think consumers
trust the companies they buy from more than they trust the politicians
who take such a large portion of their income.
- Right now
I have the most trust in the local merchants who we know, there are
few of them left, but we know them and can complain to them in person.
As H. L. Menkin once said, the only difference between local politicians
and the national ones is that with the locals you recognize the face
of the person who has their foot on your neck.
Others have projected
their increasing skepticism to business as well as politics:
- This (election)
is going to leave the consumer much more conscious of big business'
efforts to fool the public.
- We distrust
brands, stores, and companies because they will do anything and say
anything to get the consumer to buy the product. But this distrust
is no way near as strong as the distrust of politicians because we
don't have to buy a second time, if we are unhappy.
- I think the
consumer was rather naive years ago into thinking big corporations
were sincerely concerned about getting our trust, which we gave them.
To all our readers,
our best wishes for a happy and profitable new year filled with opportunities
to earn and reward your customers' trust.