according to a Concentric Marketing survey.
Then, if they trust the product they bought and
like it—more than eight in 10 say they’ll tell their
friends about it, typically via social media.
So who can actually teach convenience store
owners, workers and suppliers a thing or two about
transparency? Well, how about one of the world’s
most successful fast-casual food companies, Panera
Bread? And odd as it sounds, how about one of the
priciest and most exclusive sellers of anti-aging
beauty products, Tata Harper?
Both brands walk the transparent walk, something
every convenience store owner and employee will
ultimately have to learn how to do in order to appeal
to the new demands of millennials and Gen Z.
Let’s start with Panera.
Roughly one year ago, Panera did something few
national chains had ever done: It published a list of
all the funky ingredients it had removed—or planned
to remove—from its food. Panera dubbed this the
“No-No List.” Specifically, it’s a comprehensive list of
150 ingredients, from BHT to maltodextrin to sulfur
dioxide, that Panera either already had or was removing from its foods by the end of 2016.
“We are saying: This is who we are, and this is
what we believe in,” says Sara Burnett, director of
wellness and food policy at Panera.
But it was years in the making. Way back in 2005,
Panera put together an executive nutritional working
group that included founder Ron Shaich. Over the
years, the group has worked on everything from
menu labeling to food policy.
Central to Panera’s success, however, is that it
was making the moves to a more transparent menu
long before data even showed that consumers
wanted it. Back in 2004, Panera first introduced
chicken raised without the use of antibiotics. At the
time, the antibiotic-free chicken cost the chain about
twice as much per pound. Now, all of its chicken is
antibiotic-free and much of the fast-casual industry
is only starting to catch up.
Bruce Horovitz is a former USA Today marketing
reporter and Los Angeles Times marketing columnist. He can be reached at brucehorovitz@gmail.
com. Bruce’s monthly “Endcap” column calls out
trends and ideas that should be on your radar as
you look to the future.
But Panera is open about what it hasn’t yet
achieved, too. It still preserves some of its deli turkey
with nitrites—though it plans to eliminate them by
the end of this year.
Of the 150 menu items it vowed to reformulate one
year ago, it still has 30 left to fix, says Burnett. “By the
end of this year, we’ll be done,” she says.
Beyond Panera, there are powerful industry
lessons to be learned about transparency—not the
least of which is from Tata Harper, the skin care
specialist whose high-end products might seem to
be the very antithesis of convenience store merchandise. Its special skin cleansers, sold at places
like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, start
at $48, and its super natural skin serums can fetch
$365 a bottle.
It’s all about knowing the customer. Tata Harper
knew that many consumers would pay a premium
for make-up if they knew everything in it was 100%
natural. “The things you use on your body every day—
twice a day—are the things with which you want to be
most careful,” says Tata Harper, who co-founded the
company along with her husband, Henry.
“Customers don’t like feeling like they’re being
tricked,” says Henry Harper. “Authentic and transparent brands are the future.” How does he know?
Well, how about the fact that his company’s average
skin care order reaches upwards of $200.
But transparency can be simple, says Napoletano,
the brand strategist. Perhaps a retailer’s best reflec-
tion of its transparency is how it treats customers
every day, she says. “Think about the best customer
service experience you’ve ever had. Try to deliver
that with every transaction.”
Nothing is more transparent than kindness.
Customers don’t like feeling like they’re being tricked.
Authentic and transparent brands are the future.”