paula1-200x300At our Lipstick Economy blog, we talk a lot about the Single Women market in the United States and how often they are being overlooked, in favor of the nuclear family.  Back in February, we visited with our friend Paula Froelich, now Travel Editor at Yahoo!, about this growing single women market.  And it turns out she wrote this fabulous Newsweek article about Advertising’s Untapped Market:  Single Women.

Paula describes this group:   “Women over 35, unmarried, with no children and – most important from an advertising point of view – successful. With apologies to Helen Reddy, theyshould be too big to ignore. Single Indies spend around $1 trillion each year…and there are 28 million of them. Yet, in both advertising and media, this pocketbook powerhouse is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent.”

And our little contribution:  “People don’t realize what a large group of people were talking about,” says Jamie Dunham, president of the branding and marketing company Brandwise and a self-described “reformed advertising executive.” “This is not a small group. The Single Indie is almost a third of all adult women. And she has disposable income: She’s traveling, she’s buying things for her home, she’s getting a nice car because she doesn’t have the expense of a family household.”

More from the article:  “Last year, NBCUniversal’s Integrated Media group found that Single Indies were not just successful (accounting for 59 percent of master degree holders), they spent $22 billion on vehicles (five times more than independent men), $20 billion on entertainment, and $50 billion on food.”

So for marketers the message is clear.  You might need to move  from Real Housewives and focus on these highly independent, successful women who are buying for themselves and their extended family.




Luke Duncan

Luke Duncan

We asked Luke Duncan to tell us a little about marketing an artisanal brand and what we got was the “vent size” explanation of what goes on in small food marketing.  Here is what Luke told us:

I make and sell a line of premium, small batch cocktail mixers here in Nashville under the brand Eli Mason.  As a small business owner, I love networking with other small food businesses and finding ways we can work together to collectively grow the market for artisanal goods.  But I’ve noticed that sometimes I have trouble giving or receiving advice from other food manufacturers. It’s not that I don’t trust their experience, intelligence, or motives. It’s just that we’re playing in very different fields.

For example, if you make a family-friendly salsa, your path to success may lie in finding a few key distribution partners (including brokers) who can place your product in mid-level grocery stores across the region. You then advertise heavily in 3-6 states and try to push competing salsa brands out of your customers’ pantries, eventually ramping up to a national advertising campaign and truly mass production. Your margins are thin but you make it up in volume on a longer timeline.

Whereas if you sell a super-premium chocolate product, you may rely more on smaller retailers, special promotions, and storytelling to convey a sense of exclusivity. You can command higher margins per piece, but your volumes are much, much lower, and you can never sell in the big chain stores for fear of damaging your reputation.

In the world of premium cocktail mixers, I would be more likely to trade advice with the chocolatier than the salsa maker. Not because the chocolatier is smarter or better. (The salsa maker may be on track to sell their brand for $100 million in 5 years.) It’s just that our approaches are more closely aligned. Close, but not the same.


I’m beginning to suspect that one particularly important axis of differentiation among small food producers is how we understand and implement Blue Ocean strategy.  Simply put, “Red Oceans” are industries in which the rules are well known, the major players are established, and the markets are crowded. There’s blood in the water from so much competition. Examples include packaged breakfast cereals, frozen pizza, mass-produced candy, inexpensive coffee, dairy products, peanut butter, and rice, beans, and other staples. Even in a Red Ocean, there is still room to differentiate yourself on quality or service, but you will mostly be competing on price.

“Blue Oceans” are markets that have yet to be developed. Deploying into a Blue Ocean requires vision, innovation, and lots of time spent educating your customers. Because very few companies are playing in this space, you get to define the rules and market expectations. But your potential customers may not even know they need your Blue Ocean solution. It’s your job both to educate them on a problem they didn’t know they had, and to show them why your solution is best. Blue ocean strategy is more about differentiating yourself than simply competing on price or service, though price will always be a factor to most buyers.

In the food space, examples of Blue Ocean products include kombucha, alternative sweeteners like agave or stevia, gluten-free mixes, and Greek yogurt, which is currently exploding into a Red Ocean space (and making early-mover Chobani very wealthy).

The energy drink category is a notoriously Red space right now, but when Red Bull got started almost 30 years ago, those waters were Blue. So their long-term strategy hinged on educating the public about what it means to live the Red Bull Lifestyle: Parties, motocross, BASE jumping, skateboarding, etc. They built a marketing vision around this lifestyle because educating the public was critical to gaining marketshare in this new area of consumption. People didn’t always want more energy. They first needed an outlet for it, a way to put this product to use to further their own personal brands and lifestyles.

No market is completely Red or Blue, but you often must choose which strategy to pursue. For a marketer, your approach depends on where you’re competing.  Every mid-sized American city has a jam/jelly maker, a granola person or two, a premium chocolatier, a few innovative bakeries, three BBQ sauciers, and a half-dozen coffee roasters. And every town thinks theirs is the best. This is not a bad thing at all. If you make one of these products, your customers probably already use them. You can start selling your wares tomorrow without having to educate your (potential) customers about how to squeeze them into their culinary lives.  But you will also be limited in your growth potential unless you can truly differentiate yourself through quality, branding, storytelling, and more.


Eli+Mason+Full+Lineup+2014Eli Mason is a Blue Ocean product. Sure, cocktail mixers have existed for years (usually in the form of corn syrup, dyes, and artificial flavors), but premium concoctions for mixing up classic libations are a relatively new invention. A spirit-forward Old Fashioned in a bottle?! It’s the most delicious heresy.

When I work the Eli Mason booth at artisan food shows, I often get confused looks from customers. I bring them in with the promise of a free sample and then begin educating them about this category and how Eli Mason approaches it. It’s not enough to say, “Premium, hand-crafted cocktail mixer.” I also must explain that our products are spirit-forward (accentuating the base spirit, not covering it up) and use pre-Prohibition ingredients like Gomme Syrup for a rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.

In a Blue Ocean marketplace, everyone you meet is probably experiencing your product and brand for the first time. One of my retail partners likes to say that Eli Mason must be sold before it can be bought. That is, nobody comes in the door thinking, “How can I make a Mint Julep more easily?” But once they try it and find a place for it in their home bar, they usually come back to stock up. And when Derby season rolls around ….

If you want to compete in a Blue Ocean marketplace, you’ve got to be humble and always ready to learn. You’re a teacher now, and your job is to learn the best way to help others learn. You’re constantly experimenting and finding new ways to connect with potential customers: Videos, recipes, demonstrations, samplings, sponsorships, and so much more.

There is no inherent superiority to the Blue Ocean approach. The strategies you pursue and the markets you enter are more about your style than your IQ.  Competing in a Red Ocean marketplace is more about solving problems related to logistics, production, and growth.  Competing in a Blue Ocean is more about solving problems related to communication and branding. How to help someone see the value of your product. How to help them use your brand to further their own personal brand and become an advocate for your cause.

Do not get confused, however, about which marketplace you’re competing in. I’ve seen more than one artisan become frustrated when they keep solving Red Ocean problems and expecting Blue Ocean results.

Jaynee Day, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

Jaynee Day, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

We reached out to Jaynee Day, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to find out why we should give locally.  The facts about the need and 46-county area they help serve are staggering.  The Second Harvest brand is synonymous with the fight against hunger.

1.  What are some surprising facts about those at risk for hunger in Middle Tennessee?

•   Hunger impacts the lives of 1 in 6 Tennesseans and 1 in 4 children struggle with hunger every day right here in Tennessee.

•   There are 395,770 people in our service area who are food insecure, which means they do no know where their next meal will come from.

•   Food Insecurity Rates: Davidson Co. 17.5%, Weakly Co. 18.4% (highest in service area), Williamson Co. 8.9% (lowest in service area)

•   Every day, a neighbor, coworker or family member could be forced with the choice of paying for food or paying for other basic living necessities.

•   Almost one-third of the people we see seeking food assistance have incomes much higher than the federal poverty level, which means they are ineligible to receive help from federal nutrition safety net programs like SNAP or WIC. These families’ ability to access food from Second Harvest help relieve pressure on their expenses so they don’t have to make the tough choice of paying for food or paying for medical care, which allows them to get back on their feed, helping avoid falling deeper into poverty. We’ve also seen the number of people living in poverty slightly increase, about 5 percent, which means more and more families are making tough choices about paying for food or other basic living necessities.

•   Hunger doesn’t care who you are. It affects all types of people. According to the 2014 Hunger in America Study, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee serves 83,000 households a year, including 64,000 children and 47,000 seniors – and those numbers are unduplicated, which means we could serve some of those multiple times throughout the year.

•   Nearly two-thirds of our adult clients have attained a high school degree and almost a quarter have a post high school education. Now more than ever, we are seeing a trend of students seeking food assistance – people struggling with hunger are trying to increase their education level to drive employment opportunities, and, in turn, income.

•   One of the most eye-opening results of the 2014 Hunger in America study is the number of clients with medical issues. Locally, the number of clients with diabetes or high blood pressure is much greater than the national average. Illnesses and medical disorders can be caused by a poor and inadequate diet and can present a substantial financial burden causing tough choices and trade offs to keep food on the table. 80 percent of our client households report choosing between food and medicine or medical care in the past 12 months.

2.  Why is giving locally important to Second Harvest?

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee could not do what we do without our 450 plus non-profit Partner Agencies. Every dollar donated provides four meals to our neighbors in need within our 46-county service area through our partner agencies who distribute groceries and serve meals to our neighbors. And without our corporate partnerships we would not be able to fund all of our feeding programs to distribute food to our Partner Agencies. It is due to the collective generosity of individuals, businesses, organizations and government in our community that we are able to do what we do every day.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee gives thanks this season for the tremendous support that helps us fill the need in our community.

3.  How are ways we can give to Second Harvest during this Holiday Season?

•   Anyone can join Second Harvest to make a difference in the fight against hunger. Whether it is donating a can of food, a dollar to provide four meals or an hour of your time to help sort food, you can make a real difference for a neighbor in need. Visit our website, to learn more.

•   Celebrate the season this December by giving to Second Harvest, where good does the most good. Your donation will provide meals and groceries to those in need effectively and efficiently this holiday season – 96 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to our Feeding Programs.

4.  Tell us about the Backpack Program for school children.

The BackPack Program provides easy-to-prepare food for at-risk children on weekends and during school breaks when other resources are not available. A typical BackPack includes two canned entrees, such as chili and beans and franks, applesauce, two cereals, 100% fruit juice, shelf-stable milk and a snack. The Second Harvest BackPack program serves more than 6,700 hungry children each week at more than 100 schools throughout Middle Tennessee.

5.  What continues to drive you to assist the hungry in Middle Tennessee?

I am proud of what Second Harvest has accomplished throughout my 26 years with the organization. However, our work is not done. Children, families and seniors in our community are going to bed hungry, and it is our duty as an organization and our moral obligation to continue the fight against hunger until we create a hunger free Tennessee.