Andrew Seymour takes a lighter look at some of the more intriguing industry titbits that have found their way into FEJ’s inbox or popped up on social media this week.
Hot to rot
Food photography is serious business and restaurant operators go to extraordinary lengths to capture their dishes in the most desirable way.
Those behind the lens are well-versed in the techniques of making food look perfect, from using glue as a milk substitute to stop cereal going soggy to the subtle deployment of a cosmetic sponge to give height to a burger or prevent a taco from spilling open.
Given that images of food are known to directly influence a consumer’s purchasing decision, it is little wonder that big chains spend millions seeking the ultimate shot.
So I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the marketing gurus at Burger King and the expensive brand consultancies they employ were in a room to conceive their latest advertising campaign and one brave soul suggested: “I know, let’s demonstrate how tasty our burgers are by photographing them covered in mould.”
Far from being ridiculed, the idea has become reality. Instead of featuring its flagship Whopper with the classic, flawless, and often perfect photographic style commonly used to showcase fast food products, the chain simply let its most recognised product rot to prove the point that it has now removed colours, flavours and artificial preservatives from its ingredients.
From the bun to the freshly sliced onions, tomatoes and lettuce, and the classic beef patty, the images show the real mould that grows on every piece of its iconic burger. The ads it has created even make a reference to the number of days that have passed since the sandwich was prepared, and a line reads, ‘The beauty of no artificial preservatives.’
A bit of reverse psychology is a technique favoured by many a top marketeer and the campaign has already set social media tongues wagging – which is precisely what Burger King probably hoped it would do.
Quite whether it leaves hungry punters craving its burgers is another question altogether, but full kudos for the impressive time-lapse video it produced anyway. View it for yourself below.
One of the joys of leaving near London and having children is that there is an abundance of museums to visit. The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the V&A Museum, I’ve battled the queue and endured (sorry, enjoyed) them all at one point or another.
But on a visit to Gram Commercial’s factory in Denmark last week I unexpectedly added another rather more obscure one to the list: a refrigeration museum.
Situated close to the factory where Gram produces more than 30,000 fridges every year, and open to members of the public who call and book in advance, is an entire building devoted to the company’s 120-year love affair with fridges and freezers.
Like many manufacturers in the industry, Gram has a fascinating story to tell. Founded back in 1901 when industrialist Hans Gram built a 100 square metre machine shop offering complete dairy plants, he was soon joined in the business by his brother Aage and changed the name of the company to ‘Gram Brothers’.
The pair then chose to exit the dairy lines and began making their own compressors before finding success in the ice cream freezer market. The post-war years laid the foundation for Gram’s expansion into the catering and bakery sector, with equipment from every decade on display in the museum (including the wooden exterior fridge below).
Nearly everyone who lives in the town of Vojens where Gram is based has some form of connection with the factory, serving as an important reminder of just how intrinsic manufacturing businesses can be to entire communities.
So if fridges are your thing and you’re ever in southern Denmark, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to the Gram museum. Just don’t expect to find a gift shop.
Could Bunzl swell your savings?
If you were looking to invest all your savings in a publicly-quoted business, a distribution company probably wouldn’t be at the top of your list, especially one with links to the catering equipment sector.
Well, you might want to think again. The Motley Fool – a respected financial website that offers independent investment advice – does a cracking job of highlighting stocks that could provide a tidy nest egg in future, and this week London-listed Bunzl caught its attention.
The distribution and outsourcing group has interests in numerous sectors, not least foodservice through its ownership of Lockhart Catering Equipment as well as a host of other catering supplies ventures around the globe thanks to the best part of 150 acquisitions in two decades.
Consumables, packaging, tableware and light equipment don’t command a high unit price, but when they are sold in bulk, the profit margins can be attractive. And that’s precisely where Bunzl excels.
“The company’s global distribution network allows it to sell at the best prices to customers, and negotiate discounts from suppliers,” notes The Motley Fool. “The company’s advantage is the fact its clients trust it to deliver what they need on time at the right cost. So, it’s unlikely they’ll move their accounts to a competitor just because it’s cheaper. As such, customers are usually quite sticky. That’s another significant advantage of the Bunzl business model.”
Over the past decade, the stock has achieved an annual total investor return of nearly 14% and currently supports a yield of 2.6%, its highest level in several years. Investors could double their money every five years if that run continues, The Motley Fool points out.
And as it also rightly observes, distribution is a tedious but essential business. The economies of scale involved make it difficult to get into overnight, leaving incumbents such as Bunzl to hoover up business.
For long-term investors that aren’t lured by more fashionable industries, Bunzl’s ability to make an art form out of moving boxes makes it a compelling bet.
A screw loose
‘Waiter, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!”, or so the joke is supposed to go.
Well, it seems Singapore Airlines has a different version of that after a passenger flying first class from Singapore to Auckland recently was forced to cry out, “waiter, waiter, there’s a screw in my soup!”
Apparently while sipping his pumpkin mushroom soup at 35,000 feet, he detected a sharp object in his mouth, which turned out to be a metal screw.
After filing a complaint with the airline, it wrote back to him to reveal that the missing screw belonged to a blender used by its in-flight catering provider to prepare food.
It promised that all catering staff had been briefed on the incident and reminded to check the kitchen equipment, before and after daily production, while the technical team has now been tasked with exploring other blender models with no exposed screw that could come into contact with food.
Unbeknown to the passenger, his complaint has set off a whole chain of events that will likely result in a new specification for that particular item of equipment and possibly even a new supplier.
His compensation? A £100 gift voucher.