a peek inside the fishbowl

15 May, 2008

Blue Menu wrap: in one scene

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Giveaways and product reviews|Recipes and Food

Setting: Loblaw HQ. The office of Galen G. Weston, CEO.

Opening shot: Sandra, a youthful, trim, friendly, executive assistant enters the office of Galen G. Weston. She knocks lightly on the doorframe.

Sandra: Mr. Weston?

GGW: Yes?

Sandra: We need to sit down and discuss the Healthy Eating Challenge we ran with the bloggers.

GGW: Bloogers?

Sandra: Bloggers. It’s a term for people who keep journals on the Internet.

GGW: Ah yes, of course.

Sandra: We gave Loblaws gift cards to certain individuals and asked them to take on the Healthy Eating Challenge. The idea was they’d write about the products they really liked…

GGW: Oh yes. And they’d tell their friends in their bloogs, I mean blogs. Blogs. That’s really a stupid-sounding word, isn’t it?

Sandra: Yeah…

GGW: Remind me why we did this again?

Sandra: Well, the public relations firm we’ve been dealing with showed us a stack of studies. And as you know word-of-mouth is the best kind of advertising any business – large or small – can hope for. It’s more effective than television, radio, or traditional print advertising. Interestingly, those studies show that it doesn’t actually matter whether or not that “word of mouth” comes from your neighbour over the back fence, or the blogosphere.

GGW: The what?

Sandra: The blogosphere, it’s how bloggers refer to as their virtual community.

GGW: Go on.

Sandra: Blogs have regular readers, fans, if you will, people who return to their favourite blogs again and again … they become regular readers because they’re entertained, or they like what the person has to say, or they agree with the author’s viewpoint or whatever. Ultimately it comes down to this, blog readers tend to trust the author’s judgement. And if the author recommends something, it is very likely the blog reader will want to try it.

GGW: Right-o. I was just testing you! Ha ha! So where are we with this Healthy Eating Challenge?

Sandra: Well, there’s Andrea in Ottawa. She just completed her month.

GGW: Who is she again?

Sandra: Originally from the Brampton area, 35, married, mother of two girls age 7 and 9. Unlike the other participants, her personal challenge was not about weight loss, it was mainly about healthy eating and finding new things her kids would eat. She has a background in journalism, and has done some food-related writing as well, but for some reason she likes to use words like ‘yowza’ and ‘bob’s your uncle,’ which is unusual given the fact that she’s a published writer. But we thought that quality was endearing and made her approachable. She’s funny, smart, creative, and is fairly hard core about environmental issues… cloth bags, recycling, natural cleaners, composting, those are all a big deal for her. For Mother’s Day she asked for, and received, a ceramic bird house and a cement mixer. That’s gotta tell you something about the kind of person she is.

GGW: I think I remember her. She likes to take photos, and she fit that Westboro demographic we were looking for. So, what has she written about us?

Sandra: Well, she’s nuts about our almond butter…

GGW: [laughs] That was funny. Nuts! Almonds! Ha ha!

Sandra: [chuckles] Yeah. She wrote a lengthy post about how much she liked it, which was great. But on the flipside …

GGW: There’s a flipside?

Sandra: Yes.

GGW: What is it you’re not telling me?

Sandra: She really really didn’t like our mayonnaise-type dressing. In fact, she called it [looks down at her clipboard] a ”lucky white paste,” and that’s a quote.

GGW: Yucky? That sounds like something a seven-year old would say. Was she quoting her kids or something?

Sandra: I’m not sure she even let her kids try it. I think she was going to squirt it directly into her garbage and recycle the container.

GGW: Well okay, one good and one bad. She was the one keeping a detailed food log, right? Did she keep it going for the whole month?

Sandra: No, in fact, she gave up at the end because realized she was ingesting an inordinate amount of bread and cheese and has been craving salty snacks, so she gave up writing it all down at the end. She’s chalking it up to… uh, how should I put this?

GGW: What?

Sandra: Uh sir, this is really awkward, [lowering her voice] female issues sir.

GGW: [shifting uncomfortably in his seat] Egads. Do we really need to talk about this? I get enough of this talk at home.

Sandra: I can leave it out of the shareholder’s report sir.

GGW: And the investor’s report?

Sandra: That too.

GGW: And the annual report. Don’t forget the annual report.

Sandra: That goes without saying sir.

GGW: Okay, so this past weekend she’s gone a little haywire. So can we summarize her findings somehow?

Sandra: It’s hard to know where to begin. She didn’t follow the menus to the letter. She seems to know what works for her family and so she improvised, but mostly using the dishes we listed on the website. However, she has adopted a number of new products and will be adding them to her grocery list. She really likes our cereal products, for example. She really appreciates the fact that she can read the ingredients on the back of a Blue Menu item and recognize everything on it. The multigrain instant oatmeal was a particular favourite of hers, mostly because she believes in the benefits of whole grains and she likes the fact that she can add her own sugar. She thinks that many factory-made products are too sweet and that this contributes to rising obesity rates.

GGW: What did she think of the other cereals?

Sandra: She really likes the soy granola (as does everyone in her family) and the Blue Menu line of sliced breads, although that wasn’t a big switch for her because all of her family’s bread consumption is already wholegrain.

GGW: Research does indicate that this is the trend across the board…

Sandra: Oh, and the new burger buns. She raved about them. She mentioned that her local Superstore can’t keep them on the shelves.

GGW: Please make a note. Double shipment to Westboro.

Sandra: [writing it down] Yes sir. What else can I tell you about her? She makes herself a fruit smoothie every day. She figures it’s a pretty good way of getting her daily fruit and dairy. She adds a spoonful of ground flax which proves what we’ve always believed to be true about our shoppers – they are keen to improve their health. But she is very disappointed that we changed the no-name brand mixed frozen berries.

GGW: Remind me again?

Sandra: Remember? We changed the design of the package, reduced it to 2 kg from 2.75 kg and kept the price the same?

GGW: Oh yeah.

[awkward silence]

Sandra: She did come up with a few recipes we might want to consider adding to our website.

GGW: Like what?

Sandra: Her husband barbequed the Blue Menu chicken skewers and she chopped it up for homemade pizza, using one of our BBQ sauces as a base, some red onion and a sprinkling of feta cheese.

GGW: Sounds good, run it by our team. Is that it?

Sandra: Well, not really. Um, she had mixed feelings about a number of our prepared meals sir.

GGW: What do you mean, mixed feelings?

Sandra: She really liked the ready-to-serve Blue Menu black bean soup, and she wrote a lengthy post about the benefits of lentils, but I mean the frozen stuff.

GGW: Like the meats?

Sandra: Yes, the meats. Even though they are lower sodium than the other brands she still finds them too salty. And even though she’s a busy mom (she works from home, remember), she realized that making her own marinade and skewering her own chicken is fairly manageable if she’s organized about it. She wasn’t crazy about the idea of spending $18.00 for a box of chicken breasts. That being said, she does admit that some of the products are a good fallback food for when she’s too busy to prepare a full out meal.

GGW: Fallback food huh? Fair enough. Demographics are showing that there is a renewed focus on health and more and more people are returning to ”proper” cooking and relying less on processed foods. But you know, it sounds like she’s not a big fan of meat. Did she try the soy dogs and soy burgers?

Sandra: Yes. And she really liked them. In fact, she’s currently debating whether or not to strike their meaty counterparts from her diet altogether. She actually prefers the vegetarian options. Oh, and her most thrilling discovery was that her kids liked the soy dogs. She was totally surprised.

GGW: That’s good, considering what goes into a regular hot dog. [shudders] 

Sandra: Um, she also had a number of non-food related suggestions sir.

GGW: Really? She’s rather opinionated, isn’t she? What else?

Sandra: [looks down at her clipboard] She is asking Loblaws to consider offering reusable produce bags to customers (this is in addition to the regular shopping bags we already sell at each of the stores), zip-lock bags for deli meats, radically increasing the amount of local produce we sell… and this one pertains specifically to the Westboro location of the Real Canadian Superstore… giving patrons more incentive to be green, like adding better bike racks (she lives a five-minute bike ride from the store and often doesn’t have a place to lock her bike), parking spaces for Vrtucars and priority parking for hybrid vehicles. In fact, she’d like nothing better than to see mini-vans and SUVs and hummers relegated to the back of the lot.

GGW: What? That’s crazy. My god! We’d have a revolt on our hands if we did that!

Sandra: Oh I know. That’s just insane. Oh, and she wants us to start carrying the larger box of All-Bran Buds so she doesn’t have to keep asking her in-laws to buy it for her at Costco. And some time ago she wrote an email to Loblaws HQ asking about the stores eliminating plastic bags altogether. I happen to know she never received a response. I don’t think that was actually assigned to anyone…

GGW: Nevermind. But I think that this experiment with the bloogers, er, bloggers has proved to be quite fruitful. What do you think?

Sandra: Personally, I think it’s been a success sir.

GGW: Do you think she thinks it’s been a success?

Sandra: I think she thinks it’s been a lot of work. And that she’s never spent so much time reading labels and thinking about what her family is eating. And like many mothers out there, she takes her family’s nutrition and health very seriously. It’s been stressing her out, but I’d say on the whole, yes, she’s satisfied and happy with the addition of a few new products to her culinary repertoire.

GGW: Well, I’m happy to hear that. I’m happy for her too.

Sandra: Me too. And now she’s planning a different challenge, a healthy eating challenge of her own design.

GGW: What’s that?

Sandra: You’ll have to read her blog Mr. Weston. I think you’d find it pretty interesting.
[fin]

Backstory – past posts concerning the Healthy Eating Challenge:

You know what tastes like yucky white paste?

a bit about faux meat

newfound addiction

Dinners and desserts

Music, food, habits

The beginning of an oatmeal revival?

So this is what I had for lunch today

The tomatoes that spurred an entire post

Blue menu: a bit about soup

Blue mom, Blue Menu – the kickoff post


6 Responses to "Blue Menu wrap: in one scene"

1 | words words

May 15th, 2008 at 9:53 am

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I truly believe all CEOs respond in shock with, “Egad!”

Thanks for confirming this.

“Gadzooks!” is their fallback.

2 | porter

May 15th, 2008 at 10:11 am

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Thanks for that entertaining summary. FYI you introduced me to PC almond butter and those flat burger buns which I LOVE! I didn’t expect you to recommend any prepared frozen dishes (or that my family and I would like them)….and I did look at the soy hotdogs and couldn’t bring myself to buy them…I’m kinda with Mark on that one!

3 | J.

May 15th, 2008 at 11:37 am

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I really enjoyed reading this post. :)

4 | Marla

May 15th, 2008 at 1:57 pm

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Yes, I too tried the almond butter – which I find too runny, but will slop on my muesli bagel once in a while anyway.

It was an interesting experiment – and well-summarized. I’m working on one for my family, along the lines of what’s currently popular: Eat well. Not too much. Mostly plants.

We’ll see how that goes.

5 | andrea

May 15th, 2008 at 2:01 pm

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Hey, that’s the same as my new challenge! What is it they say about great minds? ;)

6 | JPDaigle

May 16th, 2008 at 8:07 pm

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Some day you should post the smoothie recipe. It sounds so simple, but I’ve never actually managed to make a great one. (As good as the ones from Booster Juice anyway – wonder if they use full-fat yogurt or something…)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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