business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about an MSNBC essay about ten prototypical American foods.

They were, just to remind you:

1. New England Clam Chowder (Massachusetts)
2. Pastrami (NY)
3. Shoofly Pie (Pennsylvania)
4. Smithfield Ham (Virginia)
5. Po-boys (Louisiana)
6. Fajitas (Texas)
7. Chicago Hot Dogs (Illinois)
8. Chile Verde (New Mexico)
9. San Francisco Sourdough Bread (California)
10. Olympia Oysters (Washington)

MSNBC conceded that it was a subjective list and certainly worth debating.

One MNB user agreed:

How could they leave Philly Cheese Steaks off the list? Even here in the home of the BEST barbecue, Eastern NC style (go ahead – print that. I can hear the fighting now), the cheese steak has made inroads.

And I realize that the poboy is a cuzzin, but where is the all-American Hero, Hoagie, Grinder or Sub? Shoo Fly pie - a nice novelty, but, COME ON!!

Like we said, the list is subjective.

We noted yesterday that we would have put key lime pie and/or bread pudding on the list…but that’s just us. We also were rather proud of the fact that of the ten listed by MSNBC, the only one we haven’t tasted is Shoofly Pie.

Which led, not surprisingly, to dozens of emails from people in Pennsylvania offering to take us out for Shoofly Pie next time we’re in town, or recommending specific places to get this unique dessert, or just waxing rhapsodic about Shoofly Pies they have eaten.

All of which we appreciate.

It sort of proves the point we were trying to make – that this is a subject simply made for in-store promotions that can resonate with the customer and create a real consumer-retailer connection.

MNB user Chris Bowfinger had it right:

I read your comments regarding the MSNBC list of the top 10 foods that have helped define the US and I had to chuckle. Shoofly Pie was a great Pennsylvania-Dutch treat I got to sample every summer...I haven't had it for ages.

Secondly, it occurred to me that many "great opportunities" that present themselves to retailers, like the recipe contest/book, ultimately fall upon the shoulders of manufacturers. Time and time again retailers define themselves by their product assortment and not by a strong corporate branding, which in effect makes the brands they sell, and not the way they sell them, the retailer's positioning.

Retailers should not be depending on manufacturers for anything when it comes to these kinds of ideas. Maybe some support will come along, but the retailer that depends on manufacturers to make this stuff happen is simply ceding control of its destiny to outside forces.

Life, when you think about it, is a do-it-yourself project. And the conduct of commerce should be no different.

MNB user Kathi Trepper tapped into the mindset we’re talking about:

Coincidently, the Smithsonian hosted the Annual Folklife Festival on the Mall this past week and featured Food Culture in America. As a volunteer for the Culinary Historians of Washington (CHoW) I answered many questions about traditional American food ingredients and preparation- highlighting memories of the kitchens and food preparation of the past. Thousands of interested people attended and shared stories of their regional cuisine and traditions.

With the homogeneity of our food culture of late this was incredibly heart-warming to see and hear the continued interest in regional American foods! Many young generation visitors asked questions about basic food preparation- many had never seen a cast iron skillet- and spoke of tastes they remember from their grandmother's kitchen (NOT their Mother's !)

And, by the way, Whole Foods was a sponsor!

Almost as many emails came in yesterday responding to our story about a new listing of the world’s great beers and brewers.

Talk about passion.

MNB user Jerry Quandt wrote:

As a native Chicagoan with parents who still reside in Dyer, IN (near neighbor to Munster), and an avid beer drinker I have to say I am highly impressed (but not shocked) that 3 Floyd’s made it to #2 brewer with 2 beers in the top 20. I have been drinking 3 Floyd’s for the past 8 years and I have never experienced a brand more committed to building its customer base and working tremendously hard to keep it.

I don’t think 3 Floyd’s ever cared about selling one more case as much as they cared about losing just one customer. I guess that is the uncomplicated business focus of a small NW Indiana brewer who is not looking to make the country laugh at their funny creative commercials, or make them tear at a heart-wrenching tribute to our armed forces.

Beer like wine is about the enjoyment of being with friends and the refreshment it provides. It is about hanging with friends on your back porch, grilling some brats and talking about the stupid things we all did growing up together. It’s about sharing a lunchtime meal with a friend on a hot summer day. It’s about toasting another year gone by and the new one to come. But most of all its about sharing with the people in your life.

I live in Manhattan now and the bustle of the city and the pace of business here sometimes makes us forget how simple and easy life is.

Keeping focused on what is important. When manufacturing a product (whether it be a packaged good, a retail store or a small micro-brewed beer) there is nothing more important than your revenue stream...and that comes from people.

Clearly, we’re going to have to find some 3 Floyd’s beer and report back.

And MNB user Mark Chesney had another suggestion:

Now, that's a story worth reading after the holiday! I was pleased to see Kalamazoo Brewing on the list [I'm a Michigander by birth]. I thought I'd recommend to you one of my personal summer favorites from them: Bell's Oberon. It's an unfiltered wheat beer, sometimes served with a slice of orange. Look for it … you won't be disappointed.

We’ll add it to the list.

We live for this.
KC's View: