Information age put on steroids

by Dan Malovany
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The onslaught of the digital age has put the information age on steroids — and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

With the emergence of various social media outlets, the onslaught of the digital age has put the information age on steroids — and that’s not necessarily a good thing, noted Todd Wallin, president, Ellison Bakery, Fort Wayne, Ind.

“I had one of our customers tell me, ‘You can go from hero to zero in 1.3 seconds,’ and a lot of that is driven by Facebook or Twitter,” Mr. Wallin pointed out during an industry panel presentation at the American Society of Baking recent technical conference in Chicago.

In the past, food companies may have received a complaint letter via snail mail, and that complaint might have been shared with 10 of their friends.

“Now you get complaints, and in a second or two, it is posted on Facebook and Instagram and potentially 10,000 friends have seen it,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle today involves managing information — whether it’s right or wrong — through a plethora of web sites, communication channels and media outlets on the internet.

“We really need to get the information out there so consumers understand what they are buying and what’s in their products,” Mr. Wallin said.

Julie Nargang, vice-president of marketing for Chicago-based Azteca Foods, outlined the challenges of identifying consumer trends, evaluating their staying power, developing new products and eventually marketing them. Many trends go in and out of style.

“The word ‘diet’ isn’t used anymore,” Ms. Nargang said. “It’s ‘healthier living.’ It’s not that dieting has gone away. It has evolved into another lifestyle incorporated with the foods that people eat, the Fitbits that they wear and the workouts they do.”

Marketers have their work cut out for them to keep up with ever-changing forms of communication. 

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