Thursday, November 2, 2017

Perceptual Mapping Assignment

I looked at five different supermarkets in the New England Area - Walmart, Hannafords, Shaws, Market Basket and Whole Foods. My research into customer priorities indicated that they most valued low prices, high convenience, and valued healthy options as a third consideration. My estimates for market share were based on global trends and local data. I valued their price, convenience, and the availability of local options based on global trends, local data, and my own personal experiences at each chain. 

As you can see on the maps below, Walmart dominates the market and distinguishes itself with low prices, high convenience. It has some healthy options, but not as many as it's competitors. Each brand clearly inhabits and caters to a unique market. For instance, the high prices and middling conveniences of a whole foods is balanced out by their healthy options. Hannafords and Shaws run closer to the middle of the map with reasonable offerings in each category, but less extreme distinguishing characteristics. I was particularly interested in Market Basket. Market Basket is a relatively new and unique company. They are a very convenient in store experience, but do not offer online orders. Their products are quite inexpensive (they even match or are lower than Walmart prices in many cases), but their availability of healthy options practically matches Whole Foods. Even though they are much smaller than the other brands on the list on a national scale, Market Basket has found a market in the New England area that they very successfully cater to.

 My hypothetical client for this case is Market Basket. Strategically speaking, they have differentiated themselves from their competitors very well and clearly with their low prices and multitude of healthy options. Their decision to sacrifice the relative convenience of online order for a more wholesome store experience, low prices and great products has paid off well so far. Their main competition in terms of low pricing is Walmart, and my greatest concern would be that if Walmart starts offering healthier options that consumers will choose the more convenient option. If there is little difference between two brands, and one is more convenient, customers are more likely to choose the convenient option. Market Basket is also limited by their lack of access to national-level resources. At present they should persist with their strategy, but continue to look for ways to innovate and keep an eye out for their competition entering their market segment.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Google Analytics - Special Diets & Food Trends

INTEREST OVER TIME - 1/1/04 to 9/10/17 - 5 Topics: Gluten Free, Paleolithic Diet, Organic Food, Celiac Disease, Veganism

I am diving into the world of Google Analytics for a Marketing class at the University of Southern Maine. For anyone who stumbles across this post, I hope it is a useful comparison of the popularity of various allergen-related search terms over a period. 

 For the purposes of this essay I am analyzing three different special diets and comparing them to organic food and celiac disease. Specifically, I used the following topics and disorders for the google analytics comparison (the colors correlate to those on the graph and map):

Topic: Gluten-free
Topic: Paleolithic Diet
Topic: Organic Food
Disorder: Celiac Disease
Topic: Veganism

Given the close relationship between a diagnosis of celiac disease and adopting a gluten-free diet, I expected to see a correlation of interest. Similarly, I expected organic food to increase in interest at the same time various diets (often associated with organic food) increased in interest. I included veganism and the paleolithic diet due to the ways they are often associated with the gluten-free diet. The paleolithic diet is a relatively new fad, often adopted by people already committed to a gluten-free diet. Veganism was popular before the gluten-free diet was generally acknowledged, and is similarly often adopted by or confused with the gluten-free diet. 

I reviewed interest over time in three different intervals – from Jan 1, 2004 to the present, for the past 12 months, and for the past 30 days. My findings were as follows:

January 1, 2004 to September, 2017 – 13 year overview
Organic food started off as the most popular topic, and has held steady at an average of 23. Celiac disease started off as the third most popular topic, and has held steady at an average of 13 from 2004 to the present. By contrast, the three search terms related to special diets – gluten free, paleolithic, and veganism, all started increasing in popularity around the same time – 2011 to 2012. While the interest in veganism continues to grow, the gluten free diet and paleolithic diet both peaked around 2014, and have decreased slightly in popularity since then. The paleolithic diet shows the most frequent and intense variations in interest, and appears to be decreasing in interest sooner than any of the other search terms. Organic food and Celiac Disease have not varied as intensely in interest, and there does not appear to be a strong correlation in an interest in diagnosis/general healthy eating and special diets. 

September 2016 to September 2017 – 12 month overview
Veganism is now of the most interest. Veganism, Paleolithic Diet, and Gluten Free Diet peaked around the holiday period – December/January. Gluten free and veganism went up again in April. Celiac Disease and Organic foods held steady with little variation. There appears to be a correlation between the holidays and research into dietary needs.

August 10, 2016 to September 10, 2016 – 30 day overview
Veganism, Paleolithic Diet, and Gluten Free Diet receive more interest on weekends. Organic food and celiac disease receive little variation.

There is no direct correlation between interest in celiac disease/organic foods and the diets that I researched. Instead, interest correlates with other concerns. In the short term, people are more interested in special diets on the weekends, most likely because they have more time away from work to prepare food for themselves and others. Over the course of a year, people are more likely to show an interest in food diets around the holidays when they are preparing food for family, giving gifts, or trying to lose weight. Some variation on “recipe” searches were among the most related queries for each dietary topic. I’m not sure how to account for the increase in interest in all three diets starting around 2011/2012, but there is a general trend towards healthier eating that has been evident for the past 20 years ( The popularity of the paleolithic diet already appears to be dropping, most likely since it is more of a “fad” diet than the gluten-free diet which is based in medical needs (i.e. celiac disease). The vegan diet is still exponentially increasing in popularity, most likely since it serves many different concerns – religion, ethics, health, sustainability, etc.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Snicker-doodle Cookies, Paleo

Every time I went off to school I would receive weekly updates from my mom about brownie Wednesdays, amazing home cooked dinners I was missing out on, and the fabulous food I could be making if I had access to a fully equipped kitchen rather than a my dorm room. In retaliation I sent back the occasional pictures of the brownies I had made, the cookies I pulled together, and my weekly apple crisp marathons. I discovered this snicker doodle recipe a little late in the game. It is adapted from the Delighted Momma blog to use up the ingredients I had on hand. The result is an amazing cookie that is soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, and received rave reviews from everyone I fed it to. The recipe doesn't make very many, the entire batch is clustered together on the tray in the picture above. :)

Snicker-doodle Cookies, Paleo
Yield: Makes 30 cookies

1 1/2 cups of almond meal
1 tbs of coconut flour
1 egg
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of melted shortening (I use palm shortening)*
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 tsp of cinnamon + extra for rolling dough in
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1/4 cup coconut sugar (optional for rolling dough in) **

  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Cover the cookie dough and place in the fridge to chill for one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Roll the cookies into small balls (about 1 tbs) and coat in cinnamon and coconut sugar.
  5. Use the bottom of a cup or jar to flatten them out (hands work too).
  6. Place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
*  The original recipe called for coconut oil, but I didn't have any on hand (and it was insanely expensive at the only store within walking distance). I found palm shortening to work really well.
** In the original recipe, the cookies were only rolled in cinnamon, which is undeniably healthier than a cinnamon sugar blend. I really liked the crisp outer crust and flavor provided by the coconut sugar, but I leave the decision up to you.

Adapted from the Delighted Momma paleo snicker-doodle recipe

Double Chocolate Chip Coconut Flour Cookies, Paleo

I ran out of almond flour while I was at college living out of a dorm room with only a few weeks left until graduation. I wanted to make cookies for a class presentation, so instead of going out to buy ingredients that I would have to add to my luggage for the the return trip home, I decided to search for a coconut flour based recipe instead and ended up adapting Carol Lovett's coconut flour cookie recipe from her blog Ditch the Wheat. They were a huge hit! Soft, chocolatey and satisfying, most people compared them to brownie bites. I only meant to use them as an emergency measure, but they have become a favorite already :)

Double Chocolate Chip Coconut Flour Cookies
Yield: Makes 30cookies

1/3 cup palm shortening
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp coconut flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup dark chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using a mixing machine, mix together coconut oil and coconut palm sugar. *You can cream it together and it will result in a lighter more cake like texture.
  3. Slowly add one egg at a time to the mixture.
  4. Add vanilla, coconut flour cocoa powder and mix until incorporated.
  5. Add baking soda and salt and mix until incorporated.
  6. Lastly stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the cookies by tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet with at least 2 inches apart. *These cookies spread out very thin and almost double in size.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a wire rack to cool.
To get a crispy cookie you must either - freeze the cookie after it has cooled and keep it frozen or When you are placing the batter on the trays use only a tiny bit to make a mini cookie. Bake at the same temperature and for 12 minutes.

Adapted from Carol Lovett's blog, Ditch the Wheat

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Paleo Vanilla Frosting and Doctor Who

So far I've tried about four different paleo white frosting recipes. Chocolate frosting is a sinch. In it's worst incarnation it might resemble chocolate ganache, but it's pretty straightforward. Vanilla frosting on the other hand doesn't have a whole lot to distract from the inherent flavors of the shortenening/oil and sweetener. Invariably the results taste like whatever is used to sweeten them, and since coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and palm shortening are the standard paleo oils, they result in frosting that looks good for all of a second before it slides off the cupcake, or hardens into a chunky mess in the fridge. I'm always impressed by the pictures authors manage to pull together before their creations fall apart.

This recipe suffers from the standard shortcomings. It tastes lightly of maple syrup, and it does harden right up in the fridge, but it's the best I've found so far. It tastes a bit like marshmallows (probably because of the arrowroot starch and coconut flour), and before fridging it holds it's shape pretty well. Eating it quickly (within two days if left out and within a week if fridged) is advised because otherwise it will start to separate, but it is by far the most pleasing frosting I've made so far.

However! Unless you're determined to make vanilla frosting (as I was), it honestly makes more sense to use glazes/frostings that don't need to mimic an impossibility. Vanilla meringue frosting (basically eggs whites whipped with maple syrup or agave nectar) is delicious, as is maple cream (which I can't find in the supermakets, but is available at some specialty food places, farmers markets, and craft fairs), and fruit juice sweetened chocolate fudge (see donut recipe).

To my shame, I neglected to take a picture of the frosting before consuming it all... So I've attached a screen capture of  the picture from the book that I hope tempts you into trying it out!.

Vanilla Frosting

1/2 cup palm shortening
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
2 teaspoons coconut flour, sifted
pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Place all the ingredients, except the coconut oil, in a medium bowl, and use a hand mixer to blend until fully combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the coconut oil, blending until completely smooth.

Frosting can be stored in the refrigerator up to a week. Let it soften a bit at room temperature and fluff it up with a hand mixer before using.

Notes: Makes 1 1/4 cups

Source: "Paleo Indulgences" by Tammy Credicott (this is a fabulous book! The recipes are different, the  ingredients are practical and accessible, and everything I've made so far has been delicious)

In completely unrelated news, I am an avid Doctor Who fan, and am making my sisters hand painted TARDIS t-shirts for Christmas. One of them was kind enough to model it for me. :) I'm currently trying to decide what to add to the back... most likely there will be a swarm of invading daleks attacking the ship  :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Snickerdoodles (or Chocolate Chip Cookies), Paleo

 Before going paleo, I had the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and absolutely delicious. I scoffed at cookbooks with their multiple variations on a simple recipe, and considered myself fortunate to have hit gold early on in my cooking career. One diet change and 5 or 6 different cookie recipes later, I've realized that there is no simple answer to the cookie dilemma. This recipe has so far been the most rewarding, and provides a flat, moist, almondy cookie. The snickerdoodle version is particularly pleasing to the palate :) It's also remarkably forgiving. The original recipe calls for anything between 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of honey, and 2-3 teaspoons of vanilla. Inaccurate measuring should lead to interesting, but still tasty results :)


2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (leave out if making choc. chip cookies!!!!)
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (leave out if making choc. chip cookies!!!!)
1/2 cup shortening (butter-flavored if possible)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup honey

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (only for chocolate chip cookies!!!!)


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine the flour, salt, and soda and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the shortening, vanilla, and honey together.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Then stir in the chocolate.

Scoop into small balls onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. You can press these down a bit, but the cookies will usually flatten on their own.

For Snickerdoodles, omit the chocolate and include the cream of tartar and cinnamon. Bake at 350 F. for 8 minutes.

Notes: There are a lot of variations on this recipe out in the multiverse. This is the one we've found that works best for us flavorwise and in consistency.

Vanilla Donuts (or Cupcakes), Paleo

I have been gifted with an early X-mas present, a Donut maker that works surpisingly well with Paleo recipes. So far I've tried making chocolate and vanilla donuts from the cupcake recipes in Elana's Gluten Free Cupcakes cookbook, and they both turned out really well. Next I'm planning to attempt a punpkin/gingerbread flavored batter to see if I can eliminate the need for a glaze. The donuts only take about three minutes for each batch, so it's fabulous instant gratification :) For glazes I used maple cream (soooooooo yummy!) and Fruit-sweetened dark chocolate sauce.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (try to use fresh)
4 large eggs
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners (watch out for soy coloring!)

In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil, agave nectar, and vanila extract. Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined

For Cupcakes:

Scoop 1/4 cup of battter into each prepared muffin cup.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost and serve.

For Donuts (If using the Babycakes donut maker):

Fill each donut reservoir with about 2 tbs. of batter.

Cook for 3 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool completely before glazing. I used maple cream and paleo chocolate fudge.

Servings: 9
MIX THOROUGHLY!!!! Otherwise they stay dense and compact.

Very tasty with chocolate frosting :)

From "Gluten Free Cupcakes" by Elana Amsterdam.